The internet, ice and irritability – a usual day!

Today has been a mixed day for us; I didn’t sleep well last night due to a snuffly nose so I was entirely to blame for the negative parts to our day!

The Ps are getting very excited about the week to come as it consists of the Stinker being home, a couple of sleepovers and lots of fun day trips and get togethers (if everything goes to plan that is!). I love that they are so happy about seeing family and special friends but, when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, the excitement of three small (but oh so loud) people can be difficult to cope with! I have tried to remain calm and find some moments of sanctuary in the sun today (My attempt to complete a Headspace meditation was however completely unrealistic!) but I did lose my temper with the big Ps a few times about silly things 😦 Poppet actually went off quietly at one point and came back about 45 minutes later with a little owl she had hand sown and a card apologising for being rough with Piccalilli! I of course then apologised to her for overreacting and, after a big hug, we moved on.

I’ve been asked by a few people what a typical day looks like for us. I think it’s changed since I last wrote about A Typical Day and today was more like our current ‘usual days’, without any real ‘structure’ but with a lot of natural learning happening. I guess this is because the big Ps are now much further away from the school way of thinking and I’m also much more relaxed as I have been reassured, by spending time with fellow home edders, that they WILL learn without being forced to do so (also with the fantastic resource known as the internet, which we use daily to answer at least one question – today it was “How do magnetic drawing boards work?” following our discovery learning a few days ago.)

Although I was slightly irritable, the good parts of today were fantastic (as shown in the following photos):

Pickle and Piccalilli spent a lot of time in the garden finding ice and crushing it, looking through it, seeing if it floated in our stream, watching it melt ~ generally learning through discovery again.

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They all enjoyed playing with the trundle wheel that the Stinker has borrowed from work! They competed with each other to see who could go the furthest distance and lots of maths talk came from this.

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When we were all feeling in need of some quiet time this afternoon (Should that say I?!) they all got out the tablets and played various different ‘learning’ games.

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Poppet also practised her recorder and did a little bit of music theory, while Pickle revisited magnets and used the magnetic drawing board some more.

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Oh, and Piccalilli tried to squeeze a baby doll into a backpack! She learnt that it is possible if you persevere!

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Snakes, rats, oxen, tigers and… ponies!

After a difficult day with Pickle yesterday (a common occurrence at the moment!) and a very reassuring and motivating chat with some fellow home edders (more experienced so full of wise words) I decided that we were all in need of a very different day today.

I have realised recently that I often try to do too much and please too many people. Yesterday we went to a home ed meet up and celebrated the Chinese New Year. While there, a warm-hearted tiger reminded this snake that I didn’t need to think so much about other people and unless I was happy then I had very little chance of making others happy. When we decided to home educate my aim was to be as autonomous* as possible (without losing our bedtime routine because I really need some time without my children around!) I know that I like to have some level of control in my life and have been guilty of trying to control the Ps (completely impossible with a stubborn rat, persistent ox and charming snake to contend with!) However I am also fully aware of our reasons for home educating (another post that I will write one day) and check myself regularly when I notice the ‘teacher’ in me coming out!

So today was all about me taking a complete step back and having NO expectations of myself or the Ps. I had to accept that I might not get all the laundry done and the Ps might not put their clothes away but I was adamant that we would have a different day…

And it really worked. When the big Ps awoke I calmly explained that we had visitors arriving in an hour and pony club this afternoon and I left it at that. Pickle didn’t want to get dressed before breakfast whereas Poppet got straight into her jodhpurs! Pickle disappeared downstairs while we were getting dressed and was very pleased when we arrived to announce that she had managed to spread butter and Nutella on a piece of bread for herself! While the rest of us ate breakfast Pickle got the drawing board and a magnet (they have been enjoying playing with magnets recently) and realised that she could use the magnet to draw with. They all proceeded to get very excited choosing different fridge magnets to see the different marks they made (“It must be filled with iron or steel filings” pronounced Poppet). I very quickly felt reassured that they are learning all the time and an autonomous approach is definitely the one for us.

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Following breakfast and science (!) I told the Ps that we were going to be joined by a couple of friends and their 2 year olds shortly. Pickle decided it was time to get dressed (no prompting or fussing which is our usual routine), Poppet joined her upstairs to put their clothes away (again no prompting), our friends arrived and we had a lovely morning playing playdough and chatting.

After our friends left Pickle and Piccalilli decided they wanted to play in the garden while Poppet wanted to finish her playdough model of a chair and to help make some lunch. Everyone was happy, including me 🙂

After lunch we started to get ready to go to the city farm for pony club. I allowed 45 minutes preparation time (more than double what I would usually allow!) during which time Pickle happily got changed into her jodhpurs, all three Ps hid from me and I didn’t once get stressed or raise my voice because I knew we had plenty of time to spare. Our drive was fun with lots of singing (more Annie!) and even the loss of my car keys when we arrived didn’t upset me (it did worry me slightly but we found them eventually so all was ok).

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No jodhpurs! (This is actually from last month – afraid I forgot to take pictures today cause I was so chilled!)

The big Ps did fantastic riding and all was calm, so when they requested hot chocolate and a film upon returning home the answer was a resounding yes. It gave me an hour to reflect and sort our dinner…

The conclusion… As much as we possibly can I’d like to continue with the autonomous approach to home education. Our children are bright, naturally inquisitive creatures who will flourish I am sure of it 🙂

 

*Autonomous education – A process of learning which when employed by home educators goes much further than schools using the same term. In short by autonomous education home educators mean that the child leads the education and the parents become the child’s facilitator. The child chooses the subject, method and context of any learning that is undertaken. It is believed by those who espouse it that this is a far more efficient, child centred method of education than any that coerces the child to learn by imposition. (Home Education UK)

The most important thing when making solar powered toys is…

… to wait for a sunny day!

The big Ps have been really enjoying learning about where energy comes from, so I thought it was the perfect time to tell them about the solar powered toys I’d bought for them to make.

In some ways it was the best time as they were so enthusiastic about making something that is ‘green’ after they have been learning all about renewable energy. In many ways it was the worst possible time: I have been feeling under the weather today; Piccalilli was having one of those days where she just wanted to be picked up (not easy when you’re trying to make an intricate robot!); one of our hens has been poorly so she’s in a box in the dining room requiring regular water from a syringe; there was no sun!!

Anyway, we did it and it looks great, but we have no idea if it works or not!! Let’s hope for a sunny day tomorrow 🙂

Learning to tie shoe laces in 10 minutes… honest it is possible!

Recently Poppet has mastered the art of tying shoe laces. She’s been able to tie knots for over a year but bows were a write-off at that point! Last week she learnt to do her bows in about 10 minutes!

‘How is this possible?’ I hear you cry. Well, here are my three top tips to make this challenging task a lot less stressful (for child and parent!)

1. Wait until they’re ready!

Over a year ago Poppet first asked if we could teach her how to tie laces. So we dutifully bought her a fake wooden shoe (well, she didn’t have any real ones with laces – they’re all velcro these days aren’t they?!) and showed her how to do it.  After a lot of tantrums (from her and us!) the wooden shoe was relegated to an under bed storage drawer and forgotten about. When she said last week that she wanted to learn to tie laces again we had a little hunt and luckily retrieved the shoe!

2. Make it fun 🙂

There are lots of ways to make learning fun and with lace tying it’s actually remarkably easy:

  • Before getting on to actual lace tying, spend some time playing lacing games – cotton reels or beads on laces and lacing cards are great. You don’t have to buy lacing cards as it’s easy to make your own (although the Early Learning Centre ones are strong, cheap and colourful), but the most important thing is to have a firm, fray free end to your laces.
  • Try tying on a large scale – we had a go with skipping ropes in the garden. It was fun and we had a lot of laughs getting out of the knots we found ourselves in!
  • There are also some cute rhymes (some of which I remember from 30 years ago when I learnt to tie laces on a cardboard picture of a shoe with holes punched in it!) The rhymes mainly seem to revolve around bunnies but, with a bit of imagination, I’m sure they could be adapted to suit any child’s interests. We stuck with a version of the bunny rhyme from my childhood: Over, under, around and through, meet Miss Bunny, pull her through.
  • If you need to model the process it can be best to sit behind your child with your arms around them – Poppet found this hilarious!

3. Stay calm!

I know this can be easier said than done, but I would say that if things are getting too stressful then maybe your child isn’t quite ready.

Good luck and let me know if you beat our 10 minutes!

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!

 

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 🙂

 

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!

The Pickle Returns

Today I saw a different side to Pickle since she left school…

I am aware that deschooling (getting out of the school way of thinking and behaving) can take months, and during this time children can regress and generally be hard work, but Pickle has been taking this to extremes! In school she wouldn’t say boo to a goose and was always impeccably behaved (not herself!), then horrendous at home. Many people say they prefer it this way, but not me – I’d just like my kids to be themselves in all situations, and hopefully generally nice 🙂 I used to help out in Pickle’s class and found her behaviour quite upsetting really.

When we removed her from school the horrendous side took over and the compliant side completely disappeared (Goodbye Dr Jekyll, hello Mr Hyde!) I know I wanted her to be her but I really hoped this angry, defiant, aggressive her wasn’t going to hang around for too long. She also started to tic quite badly, something that we’ve noticed in Pickle since she was quite young, but always seems worse at stressful times – cue questioning if we’d done the right thing and me nearly having a breakdown after a particularly bad week.

Things have gradually improved and Pickle seems a lot happier to be her. Although her angry side still rears it’s head occasionally, we are all learning better how to respond (generally with a tight hug) and situations are diffused much earlier and with less shouting and stress all round.

She has been quite reluctant to sit down to learn on the whole (she found the whole ‘sit-down learning’ at school very boring!); this is something I’ve not been worried about as she’s still deschooling, is only six anyway and can learn in many more ways than sitting at a desk (see Where do we learn?!) but with a very keen older sister, I think she has felt some pressure to join in with activities (from Poppet, not me!)

Today however she chose to join in with no requests (I often ask her if she’d like to as I’d hate for her to feel left out) or pressure. Poppet and I were sitting up at the dining room table making really long number lines to practise counting in 3s, while Pickle and Piccalilli were playing on the floor in our newly created small world area (to make room in the lounge for our Christmas tree!) Pickle observed from a distance for a while before asking if she could join in, but could I help her to draw the lines? ~ of course 🙂 She focused on her number line for nearly an hour and was really pleased with her learning.

I’m sure the lack of pressure to be involved helped and I hope that she continues to enjoy learning alongside her big sister…

Wildfowl, Wet Bums, Whinging and Wrestling!

I love days like today when a theme emerges by itself and everyone goes with it and embraces it… That makes it sound like we had an idyllic day but from my title you can probably see it wasn’t all plain sailing!

We decided to head out to meet a good friend and her 2 year old daughter at our local WWT (nothing to do with Wrestling, a lot to do with Wildfowl!) After some membership issues, a spilled cup of tea and a tantrum from Pickle, we made it to see the birds! All four girls had a great time feeding them and Poppet was thrilled that there were so many of her favourite Nene (pronounced nay nay) Geese.

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We got chatting to one of the volunteers about migration, which we’d started discussing on the journey there. It was good to hear confirmation that the things I’d been telling the Ps were correct! (Strangely, the theme continued on our weekly trip to the library this afternoon where the librarian read a story about birds migrating ~ great coincidence!)

We headed off on our usual route to the otters, via the smelly ‘mingoes and managed to avoid Wellyboot land, ’cause we didn’t want to get too wet and cold…

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When we got to the far end we had the playground to ourselves and the girls had great fun climbing, swinging and digging (with a bit of whinging and wrestling thrown in for good measure!), while we drank extortionate hot chocolates (although they were good!) My friend enjoyed sliding down the wet slide – cue soggy jeans and much hilarity (and a lost phone, which she had to return to find hiding under the slide later!)

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The girls had the most fun jumping in puddles and of course getting wet, making our earlier avoidance of water completely pointless!

Tiredness, and therefore stroppiness, was creeping in by this point and that was just the grown ups 😉 So we headed home for naps and a quiet couple of hours ~ all in separate rooms doing our own thing peacefully and calmly ~ before our library visit which Poppet particularly loves and always gets chatting to someone about the benefits of home ed!

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Another great day spent outside with nature and a lot of impromptu learning ~ I also love home ed ❤