Losing my cool…

So I’m usually writing about the fun aspects of home educating, with the odd traumatic day thrown in for good measure, but I don’t often write about the days where I lose my cool and wonder why on earth we are doing this!  Last week I had one of those days and have avoided thinking about it too much since. However, I kind of see writing as therapy and figured it was time to get it off my chest…

Our mornings are generally slow and steady as it’s rare that we have to rush out of the house before 10ish. This is one of the lovely aspects of home education (although on those occasional days when you really need to be up and out it’s definitely harder!). So the day I lost my cool was no different to usual; we didn’t have to be anywhere in a rush so the Ps played happily upstairs while I sorted things in the kitchen. Little Piccalilli came down as she wanted her breakfast, but the big Ps continued in their contented play.

As it neared 10 o’clock, and I remembered that we had to be out in half an hour, I called upstairs that it was time to get dressed. Well, you’d have thought I’d just thrown a grenade up there and declared war by the reaction that followed… Suddenly the calm, peaceful morning turned to chaos and the happy siblings turned instantly into enemies. The screaming started, followed by a lot of banging, followed by loud shrieking (which I think was meant to be crying in an attempt to get me to go up). I tried to ignore it initially – isn’t that the done thing? Let them sort it out themselves? Don’t get involved in every sibling battle? Well, after a few minutes of screeching and obvious physical fighting I thought I’d better check that nobody was truly hurt…

When I got to the top of the stairs, Poppet was standing in the middle of the room naked and screaming – Pickle was nowhere near her and I couldn’t work out what the fuss was all about! I lost my cool instantly… I screamed at her to get out. She screamed at me that Pickle had been sitting on her and hurting her (which seems to happen a lot!). I screamed at Pickle that that was inappropriate behaviour. She screamed at me that Poppet had taken her clothes away. I screamed, they screamed, we all screamed… and no ice cream was involved at any point!

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I completely lost it; I told them I was leaving; I told them they were going to school the next day; I really lost it…

Thankfully I had a tiny bit of self control left and on hearing Piccalilli downstairs calling for me “Mummy stop shouting”, I realised I had lost it and went downstairs. Piccalilli got me a tissue and we had a big cuddle.  When the big Ps came downstairs they were very remorseful, as was I, and we talked it through.  We discussed why getting dressed and other transition times always seem to be so difficult and we discussed the types of behaviour that we all displayed that was negative and how we should have behaved. We wrote and signed a new family contract and agreed to have another meeting in a week (tomorrow) to discuss how we were getting on.

I am not proud of losing it.  But I am proud of how we dealt with it and turned it around. We are all doing pretty well at sticking to the new family contract but transition times can still be tricky… we’re working on it though!

 

New Year, New Challenges…

I don’t often bother with resolutions as it feels like setting yourself up for a fall! I do like to set myself little challenges though so have given myself a few challenges for the next few months.

  1. Mindfulness – The lovely Stinker gave me a beautiful colouring book for Christmas. I plan on using this regularly and doing lots of colouring and relaxation with the 3Ps
  2. Meat-free – We have decided to avoid buying meat throughout January for a few reasons including the high cost of good quality meat. I’m not at all daunted by this as I’m not really bothered about meat, although I might miss bacon! I have a feeling this challenge will extend further than January…
  3. Dry January and February – I read recently that unless you’re an alcoholic it’s pointless having dry months, but I think this is a silly statement to make. We are doing it for health reasons (to lose a few excess kilograms!) and to save money.
  4. To write another blog – Don’t worry I plan on continuing to write this one on a personal level but I am thinking of writing one giving advice about different aspects of home education and healthy living… I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on!

Holiday Happiness…

So, for us Christmas was over on Sunday – the big girls went to the Panto with their Nanny and Daioo (Granddad) and while little Piccalilli slept, the Stinker and I took down the decorations and tree (which was practically bare by the time we’d pulled everything off, so it’s a good job Christmas is done for another year!). Since, Piccalilli occasionally disappears off and returns to tell me that the Reindeer had gone – this has bothered her more than anything else as he was filled with chocolate coins most days by our Elf! I love the Christmas break, but I’m also happy when the house gets back to some level of normality… Saying that, I don’t enjoy the holiday coming to an end!

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I love holidays mainly because we get to have the Stinker around more (the biggest bonus of him still working as a teacher!) and relax together. It’s definitely not all smiles and happiness though… So here is my roundup of the highs and lows of Christmas and New Year 2015-2016:

Highs

  • Piccalilli’s enjoyment of the whole Christmas period – she’s the perfect age for the magical moments and watching her little face light up every time she realised that more chocolate coins had been delivered really made my day many times!
  • Lazy mornings in bed – ok, so as we home ed we often have slow mornings but these are always missing the Stinker who leaves early for work. So lazy mornings with all of us present are lovely.
  • Quality time with extended family – we see some members of our family often but to spend quality time chatting, playing games, and just being together is great.
  • Three happy little girls – well, they weren’t happy all the time (see Lows below!!) but on the whole they enjoyed the excitement of Christmas and the lovely presents they received.
  • Feeling proud – Poppet made us very proud on a couple of occasions. Firstly she played her recorder and cornet (both of which she’s only been learning for a few months) in a concert with the home ed band she is a part of. Secondly she sewed us all Christmas presents – I became an emotional wreck and cried when I opened the pillow she’d made for me!! I’m expecting floods of tears next Christmas when she makes me something even more intricate with the sewing machine she got from Father Christmas 🙂
  • Laughing lots – Pickle is turning into a fantastic comedienne and often has us in stitches. Her little impromptu sketches can be hilarious and I particularly love watching Poppet and Piccalilli laughing uncontrollably at her!
  • Theatre trips – we were very lucky to be taken to see Annie (thank you Auntie Krusty and Uncle Big Dan!), which was amazing, although the constant singing of Annie songs since is starting to grate on me (and I can’t get them out of my head!). The big Ps also had their annual Panto trip with Nanny and Daioo which they always love 🙂

Lows

  • The weather! It would have been lovely if it had snowed, or even just stayed dry – the rain really does make things more difficult, although we did still get out as much as possible and the New Year’s Day walk was great fun, especially when the big Ps (who had not been getting on well for a few days!) decided to roll in the mud.
  • The bickering – I know it’s normal and I live with it daily but I do wish they’d stop during the holidays!
  • The trip to Hospital – luckily nothing major but of course I felt awful because it had been me who had opened the door and trapped Pickle’s finger in the hinge ripping her nail half off (but her fault really for standing behind the door to have a strop!)
  • The end – as I said earlier, I really don’t like it when holiday times come to an end 😦

Parks, Paddies and Promises!

This time of year can be pretty stressful for everybody, but when you’re trying to juggle getting organised for the big day (and beyond) with keeping three hyper girls from exploding… well, let’s just say I’m in need of a break!

The past week or so we’ve spent a lot of time either walking to (the long way!), at or walking home from our local park – it’s nothing to shout home about (and even less so since the council removed the house and slide to stop teenagers’ shenanigans!) but the fact that it’s a stone’s-throw from home makes it the perfect escape on damp days when we need to get out.

Our last visit resulted in a huge paddy by Poppet about the fact that Pickle wanted to swing higher than her! But at least we were out getting some fresh air – positive thinking and all that 🙂

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Poppet’s paddies – it could be the name of a book, although I’m not sure who’d want to read it! Joking aside, her ‘moments’ are currently more regular with more gusto and I don’t know if it’s an age thing or something else…

Yesterday evening Poppet was due to be invested into Beavers. She’s been going since September and even went on camp last month (see Different Directions…); she was so excited about saying her promise and the Stinker and I were invited to watch. As soon as we arrived I saw her demeanour change – it’s hard to describe but it’s like she goes into herself, physically shrinking away from a situation. The next thing I knew she was over with us, crying and trying to clamber up on me. It’s difficult to know the best response in these situations so I often find myself trying to cajole her to do whatever it is she is shying away from: “You’ve been so looking forward to it”, etc. But Poppet is very stubborn so that was that – no promise.

However, five minutes later the tears started again (as I thought they would) when the realisation set in that she had lost the chance to do something she did really want to do! Luckily the leaders are fantastic and waited until the end, when nearly everyone had gone, to do Poppet’s promise with her.

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The Stinker is understandably concerned that she needs to overcome this issue, but my thinking is that, no matter how stressful I find her paddies, we need to find another way of dealing with them. We’d both predicted that it would happen last night so maybe we could have altered the outcome by changing our behaviour (or just not turning up to watch!)

Does anyone else have any experience of these sorts of issues and any golden nuggets of advice you could share?

 

 

Christmas crafts: spiral Christmas trees

Sunday was all about making the house as Christmassy as possible with lights and decorations. It also involved Christmas crafts that all the Ps could do together while I cooked dinner and the Stinker felt sorry for himself (after a night out on the razzle dazzle!)

Spiral Christmas trees

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  1. Draw a spiral on your green paper or card
  2. Decorate with stickers or draw pictures, ensuring they stay between your lines (I was amazed by how well Piccalilli did hers!)
  3. Cut along the lines carefully
  4. Decorate the other side (we did this after we had cut out as otherwise wouldn’t have known where our lines were!)
  5. Hang up 🙂

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We all (yes all five of us!) enjoyed making these trees and they look very effective. We are planning on making lots more!

Oh, and if you like the look of the little Father Christmases hiding above, have a look at my post on Loo Roll Father Christmases!

Changing routines for the better.

‘For health and sanity, build good routines. But disrupt them now and then, too’ Psychology Today Sept 14 2010

We are naturally creatures of habit, meaning that routines usually make us feel safe and secure. There are many benefits of having routines in a family where the children outnumber the adults, but these routines can also cause problems of their own on occasion!

For us, bedtime exists. I know this might sound like a strange comment, but I’ve met many home ed families for whom this is not the case – I understand that this works well for some families, but I find that we all need some sort of bedtime routine and therefore time to ourselves in the evening.

However, since we started home edding, and so usually the Ps are less stressed and tired out, we have been finding bedtimes to be a particularly difficult part of the day. So we took the scary step last week and changed our bedtime routine. The Stinker commented after the first (and successful!) evening that it felt like such a big change because we’d essentially been doing the same thing for at least five years!

When I say routine, it certainly wasn’t a strict one and the Ps were fine with occasional change (if we had a night away, etc), but we used to go upstairs together and share the whole bedtime experience, which was becoming increasingly tense and noisy and therefore not the relaxing time it aimed to be!

Pickle put up the most resistance to the change, which was interesting considering she always used to be the one who ended up angry or crying! But I think she’s now realising that the new way is better for her because she gets more attention from the one-on-one bedtime!

Essentially we are now staggering bedtimes – not at a paticular time but whenever the Ps are tired and early enough to give the Stinker and me some time! It makes perfect sense and we have tried it before, but for some reason it’s working this time whereas it didn’t six months ago!

Our old routine had definitely gone down the route of having a negative effect on all of us. The new one is currently a much happier road to travel, but has also made us all aware that it can be good to try a different way when the old one gets too tough. Happy bedtime everyone 🙂

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Taken a few months ago when bedtimes were still light, but Piccalilli has the best place to spend the evenings!

A review: The Juicer Comic

Poppet and I were asked to review The Juicer Comic, so this post is our thoughts on the comic and associated resources which are available on the Jack Cherry website at Jack Cherry, where anyone can get a free trial of the comic.

It is a comic aimed at 7-11 year olds to increase their resilience and confidence and deal with issues such as bullying. It comes with activity books and an online video or actual workshop for groups (such as schools, cubs, etc) or individuals – everyone can use it 🙂

Poppet enjoys comics in general (she is a retro Dandy and Beano fanatic!) so she liked the format. She read the story and first commented on how she was glad she no longer attended school (as it was based in a school) but then her focus went to the characters and the setting didn’t seem to matter at all. She was particularly outraged by one of the negative comments ‘such a girl’ as we often discuss feminist issues (at her level!) and how comments like this are unacceptable. So she instantly felt an affinity for the main ‘nice’ character.

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Poppet loved the follow up activity book and particularly enjoyed designing her own positive fruits (the theory is that if you put positive fruit/thoughts in, you get positive juice/feelings out).

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Her main thoughts about the comic were:

  • It was funny in some places – “I liked it when the juicer exploded”
  • It made her think about the difference between people who have good and bad thoughts – “It’s better to think good thoughts so you are happy”

We would both recommend this resource as an aid to help groups understand the importance of positivity with yourself and others 🙂

 

Our Christmas Traditions: part 1

For me Christmas is a chance to include a bit of magic in our lives and to spend lots of quality time with family. I am not religious, but I do feel that it is important that my children know the origins of the celebration and not just the current consumerism focus that seems to have taken over.  I find Black Friday intolerable and the Ps know that gifts do not always have to cost loads of money, if any at all.

All that said, of course making it magical does take time and money.  So today (the Sunday closest to 1st Dec) is traditionally our Christmas tree buying day; for the past few years we’ve visited a quaint little farm where we can buy the tree and get into the spirit of Christmas with their craft fair and Christmas activities.  This year they also had a Shetland pony dressed as Rudolph which the big Ps sat on – we’d assumed that the £2 per child would include a little walk around, but no! (Sometimes Christmas gimmicks really are a rip off!)

This afternoon was spent in the lounge with the fire blazing, decorating the tree with as many ‘balls’ as Piccalilli could possibly fit on (all quite low down!)

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I know some people don’t agree with starting Christmas until a few days before the actual day, but for us it’s all about having a magical build up to the big day and making the most of it while the Ps are young enough to really enjoy it.

Tomorrow our elf will arrive to begin our Christmas tradition part 2…

Money matters…

Since we started home ed the third most common question (after the one about socialisation and the one about my sanity!) is “how much does it cost?”

Well the answer is that annoying rhetorical “how long is a piece of string?” We don’t have a specific home ed budget but we do budget in general,  so our home ed funds have to come out of our weekly funds for food, fuel and all social/sporting activities.

Obviously it varies from week to week, and I think we’ve got costs down significantly since we started home ed due to the fact that in the beginning you want to attend everything, but our weeks can include:

Monday social group and hula hooping for the big Ps  £5

Tuesday alternate pony club for the big Ps £10 or trips to museums on the train £5

Wednesday social group £4 and alternate band or recorders for Poppet £20 per term

Friday Forest school monthly £10

Obviously on top of this we have the fuel to get to these places and the inevitable extra food costs of having everyone at home full time.  We also spend a small amount on extra resources like some felt for the sewing that we did today, but to be honest I bought these sorts of things even when the Ps were at school.

We luckily don’t have the costs of uniform, shoes, school trips, keeping up with other kids…

But I guess the biggest cost is the fact that I can’t really work and home educate, although we are trying to find ways to make this possible, so any bright ideas would be appreciated!

Feeling thankful…

If you’re American you are probably celebrating Thanksgiving today and although this tradition is not part of our culture I am still feeling thankful today for:

  • The Stinker – I spent my morning out shopping while he was at work… It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the lifestyle we’ve chosen to make our lives happier for now (not me shopping all the time I hasten to add!) I’m thankful that he’s happy to support me and the Ps in every way possible.
  • My parents – I’ve said it before (in Mum’s the Word…) but if it wasn’t for my mum and dad we, literally, wouldn’t have the life we have now. They help us out in so many ways and we are eternally grateful for their support and guidance.
  • My big blister – As I’m sure is the case with all sisters, we have gone through stages where we weren’t close, but my sister is my best friend and I trust her implicitly ~ she would be the one, along with her lovely husband Uncle Big Dan, to become the Ps guardians if the need were ever to arise; in the meantime we really appreciate the time they give to them, and us! (We had a lovely surprise visit from her today when she was extremely lucky to meet Father Christmas and Rudolph!)
  • Extended family – As I’ve said before, I’m lucky to have a small close family and we love spending time with Grauntie Jane, Gruncle Jim and cousins Marie and Joe. Their time and support over the years have also helped us to get where we are and I have many happy memories of the younger me having lots of fun with my lovely cousins 🙂
  • Old friends – Today I spent the morning catching up with an old friend (not old old, but you know ‘old’!) Despite moving away from each other (we used to live one street apart and now it’s close to 45 minutes) we try to meet up as much as possible at our halfway point – shopping, cuppa and cake anyone?! Don’t mind if I do! Old friends are so important – they know you from a time before and it’s always good to reconnect with that old you and to share fantastic memories with fantastic people. Last weekend I also saw some old friends and despite the conversations being interrupted often, by the children who now outnumber us, it was just nice to spend a few hours in their company.
  • New friends – Over the five years since we left the city to live in the country I feel lucky to have made lots of lovely friends through different areas of life: dancing and exercise, craft groups, baby and toddler groups, school, home ed groups, neighbours and now blogging! I’m very thankful for the friendship and help of these lovelies in many different ways over the years: from childcare to the loan of a wheelbarrow to the delivery of some 3p sweetcorn (you know who you are!)
  • The Ps – They are all I ever wanted (as I wrote about in Stop, I want to get off!) and despite the challenges they bring, I am so thankful to have them, and their bonkers ways, in my life.

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So today I have been thinking about all of the wonderful people who enrich our lives, therefore this post is dedicated to everyone who knows me – thank you 🙂