Black holes, Green holes, Muddy holes

My girls love art. They also love getting messy outside. Put the two together and they are in their element!

I don’t like to prescribe what they do in terms of their learning. We are not completely ‘unschooling’ but I do like them to have choice and ownership over their learning – this can lead to chaos with art!

It was lovely and sunny yesterday afternoon and we’d decided we needed a quiet day at home following our ‘adventure’ the previous day. Poppet and Pickle wanted an outdoor activity so I sent them down the garden to collect leaves – mean Mummy I hear you say! They happily took to their task while I settled Piccalilli for a nap. By the time I joined them they looked like two little gardeners, with rakes in hand and a huge pile of rainbow coloured leaves.

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They decided to make a Space scene (as that’s what they had chosen for their topic this month). “Let’s make black holes”, said Poppet, so they busily created ‘green holes’ (as Pickle renamed them!)

They asked my advice and opinion; we discussed colours and patterns; I enjoyed watching them buzzing around the garden looking for the correct colour of leaf… but essentially they made their own creations. They reminded me of the art of Andy Goldsworthy and I felt very proud!

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Today they disappeared off down the garden with the memory of yesterday’s successes in all of our minds…

An hour later they returned… covered in mud! And I mean covered, clothes and all! No art had been created, but a big, muddy hole had appeared and two little girls joyfully jumped into a warm, bubbly bath!

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Good days, Bad days

In our family we have good days, bad days, happy days, sad days… We love this book and the simple message it gives. No matter how much you wish for happiness, no illness, perfection even,  you can’t have them all the time. Life is about opposites and our family life seems to follow this pattern perfectly – why is it that we can’t have two consecutive ‘good’ days?

Yesterday started out with the feeling of a good day – you know the ones where everyone wakes up happy, willing to get dressed and eat breakfast with no squabbles? (I should have been prepared though because Monday had been such a good day!)

There was an air of excitement as we were going to meet some relatively new homeschool friends with the plan of a museum visit and picnic in the park. I thought I’d make it more exciting, so while everyone was happily scoffing their porridge (lots of energy for a busy day!) I checked the train times – 20 minutes was a push but I knew we could do it!

Action stations: lunch in the bag, spare clothes for Piccalilli, who’s recently toilet trained, and into the car for the short drive to the train station. We managed to squeeze into a little space with our big girl car (Piccalilli’s name for the seven seater!) and rush over the bridge to platform 2 to wait for our train. So far so good…

Once onto the train, a kind man moved to allow us to sit together on four seats and everyone chatted excitedly about our adventure. The ticket lady gave the girls special tickets and explained all sorts of technical things about the machine she used and the tickets! The teacher and homeschool mum in me was thinking how great an educational experience this was, but mostly I was just enjoying watching my girls’ excitement and enthusiasm for a day of adventures.

We arrived in the city, checked the return train times (I didn’t want to be stranded!) and set off to find the museum and meet our friends. All still going so well!

I managed not to lose anyone on the walk through the smelly streets (Pickle’s observation but I guess when you live in the countryside the city can seem quite stinky!) They even held hands happily and continued to chat about the day ahead.

The museum was fantastic and the girls had so much fun dressing up as Romans,  making stewed brain and putting on shows for us… Three hours flew by.

Suddenly it turned from good day to bad day, healthy day to sick day, fun day to ‘how on earth will I manage’ day!  Poppet doubled over in pain with horrendous stomach cramps so we went to the toilet, with no luck. She couldn’t even manage to walk so we squeezed her (luckily she’s pretty tiny for a seven year old!)  into the back of my friend’s double buggy and went to the park hoping she’d improve. It got worse. I spent 15 minutes in a grotty public loo with her screaming in agony while I tried to comfort her and hush her in case anyone called the police (it honestly sounded like she was being murdered!) Still no luck.

We squished her into the front of the double buggy this time, so my friend’s girls could clamber on the back (I’d decided it was a carrier kind of day!), and traipsed back to their house in the hope that Poppet would improve after a warm drink and rest. It got worse still! She lay on their sofa screaming intermittently. At one point a kind neighbour even came round to check that everyone was ok because she was that loud! The other four girls had a great time playing (I have no idea how they could focus on their game!)

So I was stuck in the city with a tired toddler (who by this point had a dodgy tummy and had been changed four times!) a tired five year old who had already trekked across the city twice and a seven year old who couldn’t walk. I laughed a lot, mainly thanks to the wit of my new friend – what can you do?  Cry or laugh! It was going to be a near impossible journey home involving a buggy, a bus, a train and a car with the combination of my increasingly difficult three children – who thought adventure was a good idea? Why didn’t I just drive?

In the end I resorted to calling the Stinker to rescue us. Of course he came and is now the hero, renamed Super Dad (Poppet even designed a costume for him today that she’d like me to help her sew!)

I’m not bitter but would love a bit of recognition for my part in the day!!

Footnote: Poppet is fine now. When I was little I occasionally suffered with the same (so I was very sympathetic) and it was never explained but it stopped in my teens.

Cold Feet and Conkers

“Autumn days when the grass is jewelled…” I often find myself singing this as I skip down the garden to feed the chickens on these misty mornings – okay, I might not be telling the full truth.  It is true that I often have that song running through my mind, but the skipping part is definitely a long way from reality.

For me autumn is full of contradictions…

I love collecting conkers on a crisp October afternoon – throwing sticks into trees to knock them down, stamping on the shells to pop out the smooth, shiny gems, getting home and drilling holes for family conker tournaments.  Oh, and putting conkers in the corner of every room to deter spiders (does this really work?!).  But I do not love having cold feet while I do this.  Is it me or does it feel too soon to put the winter boots on?  In fact, cold feet seem to be a theme for me at this time of year.  Last night while lying in bed I sent the Stinker a text message telling him of my chilly issue (he was only downstairs but don’t tell me you never text your partner when they’re in the same house!).  His response: ‘Put some socks on’ – sexy!

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Back to autumn… I love the changing colours – they are so vibrant and varied: deep purples (not the band!), rich reds, warm oranges, sunny yellows.  We love our family trips to Westonbirt Arboretum at this time of year kicking through the rainbow of leaves.  I also love the beautiful autumnal skies – early morning sunrise through the fog (I have to admit I don’t see many of these!) and early evening sunsets.  I often wish I was an amazing artist (believe me I’ve tried!) so I could capture those colours forever, but I have to accept they are a beauty to hold in my memory.

If only these beautiful colours were visible every day, but sadly I find this time of year to be dominated by dull, grey days which I’m sure no-one loves.  Linked to this of course is the lack of sunshine (I’m a summer person – give me the sun 12 months a year please) and with that the need to wear so many more clothes.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a naturist, but I am happier in less clothing!  I’d also be happier if I didn’t have to keep sorting out my wardrobe.  I can hear the Stinker questioning this as I do quite like a sort out, but I had only just got my summer wardrobe organised then the colder weather set in!  It’s not that I really care about fashion, but I can’t really wander around in shorts and vest tops in October can I?! Actually, maybe I could – I do love a log fire, but that’s another story!