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 ūüôā

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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 ūüôā

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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 ūüôā

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

Christmas Traditions part 2 aka Parenting without punishment!

‘However exasperating a child’s behaviour may be, it’s still – in most instances – age-appropriate.’ Psychology Today June 19 2015

I try to remember this when the girls are pushing boundaries and my buttons; I try to remember that they are only little; I try to remember that I don’t agree with reward and punishment, bribery and threat.

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘convincing’ our children to do what we need¬†(want) them to do – if we are in a rush to go out, bribery can be the best way to cajole them along. Then I feel guilty and wish I’d just started organising everyone ten minutes earlier!

My aim is to raise three strong girls who are confident in themselves and know their place in the world and the effect they can have on other people. I want them to be themselves and not be afraid to show their true feelings and opinions, ¬†but with an understanding of how to do this respectfully. ¬†Having three strong-willed young ladies can be very trying at times, but I try to remember that I don’t want to mould them into mini-mes (even though two of them are appearance wise!) and their personalities are actually developing positively – we often get lovely comments on how kind, caring and helpful they are from both strangers (at trips to the library or museums) and new home ed friends. ¬†So on the days when they are pushing my buttons, ¬†I try to remember these positives.

So, back to our Christmas tradition part 2 РElvis the elf! I know that some people use an elf to warn their children that someone is sending messages back to Father Christmas about their behaviour,  whereas our elf is actually a kindness elf (inspired by The Imagination Tree) who gives the Ps ideas of different activities they could complete to be kind and helpful. Last year he suggested ideas like: taking some unwanted toys to the charity shop and buying some food for the Foodbank.

Despite the focus on kindness and lack of threats, the Ps have decided that Elvis reports back to Father Christmas about their behaviour as well as the kind things they do. I guess this is difficult to avoid in the threat-heavy society that we still appear to live in, but I’d really like the Ps not to feel this negativity. I think that no longer attending school, where the focus on reward and punishment (or at least lack of reward!) is understandably so high, means they will move away from this way of thinking. ¬†I just need to remember to avoid the bribery and corruption! Wish me luck…

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 ūüôā
  • 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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 ūüėČ 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 ‚̧

Let the festivities commence…

Today I was feeling a bit under the weather, so we gave Monday group a miss and had a productive day at home.

Dare I say it, but we seem to have inadvertently started¬†Christmas¬†in this home ed household! The first task was writing letters to the big man, as other family members have been asking for gift ideas. You wouldn’t think this would be such a tricky task but, due to recent birthdays and an abundance of toys in general, the big Ps struggled to come up with many ideas – sorry to disappoint family members but I think you’ll be buying¬†some surprises! Piccalilli was adamant that she’d only like a Ponyo toy (phew!) and a lolly ūüôā

 

 

At two of the groups we attend there are due to be some Christmas sales where the kids can sell items they have made. ¬†So this afternoon we started making our products – bubble bath and soaps. Poppet is also keen to sew some decorations, so we have a shopping trip for material planned for tomorrow. I love the idea of the Ps learning about enterprise (maybe they’ll make millions and look after me and the Stinker in our old age!) and they really enjoyed discovering how to make the different products – I just hope they sell some!

In the past I would have said it was too early to start Christmas (and would hold out until December) but I think it’s perfect timing this year, especially now the weather has changed to wintry. ¬†In fact I might turn our house into a grotto! ¬†Anyone for gluhwein? Oh not me, ¬†I have to wait another seven days! !