what we’re enjoying this week 6

I enjoy looking over the photos from the week, reminding myself what we’ve been up to. Here are some memories from this week…

Matt took the big two kids swimming on Monday evening…what will be a weekly event but rotating which kids swim and which one stays at home with me. Joseph had me this week. We had bath time, with baby of course, who then happily went to bed and left Joseph and I doing what we do best together….(in pyjamas)..

‘Tummy Ache’ has to be Joseph’s all time favourite game. How that boy is passionate about food! Which brings me to this…

And this..

The attempted baking has been relentless, bless his heart. So we made a plan. Order cheap ingredients for him to use in his play kitchen corner, which he can mix to his heart’s content….herbs, spices, cheap rice, even some dried fruit and chocolate drops. Then we can put the ingredients back into jars to be used by him again the following day. A kind of ‘this is your space, this is mine’ approach to kitchen life.

‘Idiots!’ I hear you cry. Yes. It was messy. They couldn’t believe their luck and all got involved, obviously having no concept of making the ingredients last a few weeks. It just gave us another area of the house to tidy and clean up, he might as well have done it in the kitchen. Duh! So that plan’s been dismissed. However, there is hope of a new phase, a slightly less chaotic one…Toast! Doing a little woodwork in the garden with my biggest boy yesterday morning (ahem), Joseph asked me if I’d like some toast. Oh yes please; Joseph bringing us wooden food from his play kitchen is quite usual, one of his favourite things. But he came back with real toast….oh! So you can use the toaster without burning yourself or the house down then, big surprise. Great! This new gift is much encouraged by us. Cheap white bread and homemade jam (from the fruit in our garden, darling) a plenty. He’s happy, we’re happy (who doesn’t like toast and jam?) And it gave me confidence to let the boys make our scrambled eggs for lunch…really, no help required, except for the small offer of guidance to ‘keep stirring’ and ‘take the eggs off the heat just before they’re cooked’. But even Matt is familiar with this guidance, or more obsessive fuss of the cooking of scrambled eggs. I’ve noticed lately he’s actually become fearful of cooking my eggs, such is the wrath he has previously endured. Sorry. Must be more gentle in the kitchen.

The eggs were perfect! 

And Zachary has learned to put a load of washing in the machine 🙂 But I’m showing off now..

We’ve been painting with watercolours…

And some of this sort of painting…..

We’ve had this doll house for nearly 3 years, a birthday present for Keziah. It came from an eBay seller and was painted in not the most tasteful fashion, but I’ve never gotten round to doing anything with it. So, we are doing it up a bit. I was going to paint it white but we had a huge tin of yellow paint that’s never been opened. It looks quite nice. Still needs another coat or two. This is how it started…

I’ll show you the finished result when it’s done.

There’s been more woodwork this week. We (not me obviously, the royal ‘we’ that is) made a couple of desks for bedrooms, out of an old unused wardrobe. I’ve scrawled through a lot of desks on eBay, looking for those old school desks where you can lift up the lid. Have you noticed how much more people charge on eBay for something old, just by sticking the word ‘retro’ in? It was very satisfying to recycle instead.

And Zachary has enjoyed building with his new pile of soft wood. I tried to get him to make a mini house (I’m such a girl) but he had other ideas. Here he is painting his weapon….

Everyone loves this book at the moment. And it can bring a few moments of quietness while we search the pages. Time to breathe.

I love hearing my daughter read to her younger siblings. Moments of peace to cherish…

We’re settling into a fortnightly library visit routine. Two weeks seems a good amount of time to read the books enough. It’s interesting to see which chosen books get left with little notice and which get a lot of attention. This time, I chose a gardening book aimed at children (for my own use) I know nothing. Except how to make soup for the birds….an idea I pinched from someone else’s blog, which came in handy when the kids were hungry, tired and restless after watching a film. We had to wait about half an hour before tea and they just needed a little fresh air pick-me-up. They loved it!

 

The potato pots have done well. I think leaves are a good sign anyway. Thanks for the tips, Mum 🙂

The imaginary world continues. It makes me smile to stumble upon a story waiting to continue….I’m not sure what’s been happening here but it looks as if the animals are about to devour Mrs Noah!

And I’ve been enjoying myself too….it tastes so good (hardly surprising with the amount of sugar!)

We had a day out to a local ‘attraction’ this week. We enjoyed the farm animals, loads of outdoor play areas, sandpit diggers and zip wires. Well, they enjoyed it while I stood around wishing it would stop drizzling. Then someone needed the loo and I knew it had to be time to introduce the indoor play barn. A huge soft play centre. You know the drill….

You walk into a new one. The kids go wild…it’s amazing! The best place we’ve ever been. They run off screaming and yelping. You sit in an uncomfortable plastic chair with a crap cup of tea, regretting not having brought anything to read. You keep hearing your children make happy noises, reassuring you they are not buried under plastic balls or coloured mattresses. At least they’re having fun, you think, as you start to wonder if you’ve actually got tonsillitis. After an hour and a half, I could bear it no longer and thankfully they were ready to stop running, drink 3 litres of water and be bribed back into the Great Outdoors, with a packet of Starburst from the machine…just to make them more thirsty. Thank goodness we still had the train ride to enjoy (£4 for exactly 3 minutes of pleasure). 

Home time then, via a lovely little Starbucks I have found, which is usually quiet and has provided relief from the rain two Thursdays in a row (while Angel cleans our home). We take colouring books and stories and I enjoy a nice coffee. Oh ok, we’ll share some muffins too. I had a moment of hysteria in there this week; reading a story, holding baby who has just learnt to pull my hair with two hands pulling each side of it, Joseph on my knee and the big two sitting closely on each side of me. Trying to hold the book where everyone could see, read the story while having my hair pulled on both sides..ding dong ding dong. I lost the plot and thankfully laughed rather than cried. What’s funny Mum? they ask. It’s hard to describe to them. Bless you lovelies, you have no idea how demanding you are.

Thank you God for Saturdays, for Starbucks; the coffee, the background piano jazz, the anonymity. For space to write and read and be thankful for the days that we’ve had this week.

my Angel

I have a confession….I have a cleaner.
In the early weeks of our new house, knowing I would struggle to keep it clean with all the kids at home every day, I asked a friend to recommend a cleaner. She recommended a lady she knew to be a great one and very reasonably priced. For the purposes of this blog, I will call her Angel. After some discussion about hours and requirements, Angel started cleaning for us 3 weeks ago. She is a God-send, worth every penny.

In our first conversation, she actually said she is passionate about cleaning. I couldn’t believe my ears…this is the woman for me, I thought…I pursued her like a stalker until she agreed to come! She uses phrases like ‘get right in the corners’, ‘deep clean’ and ‘get carried away’. Go for it love, come on in, welcome, enjoy yourself, clean your heart out. And she does, for 4 hours. I think I love her.

I find it hard to describe just how messy our house gets at the moment, but I’m sure you can imagine some of it….paper, pencil shavings, paintbrushes dress the table, paper and card cut-offs on the floor, mating with the peas and spaghetti from the last meal. Theres always a few Shreddies left over from breakfast to find as I crunch crunch crunch my way round the house, books and Lego bricks scattered everywhere, cardboard box dens, clothes abandoned all over the house in favour of a new dressing up outfit, clothes waiting to be washed, clothes drying, wellies and crocs left in the middle of every room, coats dropped wherever they were taken off…not to mention the relentless pursuit of mixing ingredients from 3 year old, baby muslin cloths thrown around every corner in the hope of them being there at the appropriate moment (which of course they never are), baby sick puddles splattered wherever I’ve walked, used nappies waiting to go in the dustbin (I know, I’m embarrassed).

So Angel comes every week and works her magic (oh yeah baby!) and it’s the most wonderful gift to walk into. Floors swept and clear, clean sinks, bathrooms, surfaces. Things folded. It’s a different and more peaceful house to the one we left behind earlier in the day. I cant quite stop myself snapping to the kids to take off their shoes on the mat! I creep around as if browsing an antique shop….the kids make themselves at home.

As the week continues, of course we gradually lose that order and cleanness, but thank goodness we have it at some point. As I hear Matt upstairs reading and settling the kids into bed, I think I will just do a little dance around my tidy floor, thanking God for this amazing woman who takes so much joy (and a bit of cash ;-))in cleaning our home.

what we’re enjoying this week 5

We finally made the pyramids, well they did. I wonder if we could use materials a little less plastic, a little more natural, more ‘soulemama’ as we’re starting to say in our house (please check out her blog at soulemama.com and be inspired!) After posting that I was going to ask my Mum what a flat pyramid shape was called, Matt kindly informed me that it’s a triangle. So that’s embarrassing then. Moving on with the week…

 Our Monday started with a pleasing carpet picnic in pyjamas. We didn’t have anywhere to be and made the most of it. There was music and dancing and cakes 🙂

 Insects are fascinating to the kids. They will stop most things in order to check out a spider or fly. At this point, I was trying to encourage them to tidy up some toys, but obviously trapping the fly and studying it, before sacrificing it to one of the cats was more interesting…of course.

 A new mop bucket arrived! So we must fill it with water. Queue Me….I wonder what will float in the water?

 My biggest boy is rarely happier than when he has tools in hand. He was inspired by watching the man fit a new phone line in for us this week and immediately set to taking apart our out-of-use (broken) TV set to inspect the inside. 

 Actually fascinating. But I couldn’t tell him what anything was.

We are planning some more resources for our little builder. I’m very aware that I can provide for and encourage activities that I myself enjoy and find easy. So that’s not building or fixing or any kind of tool-work. Matt can enjoy this with the kids when he’s at home but there are many hours in the day without him and Zachary would love more opportunity to build. Queue delivery of a pile of wood. 

Me and Zachary have enjoyed some collage work this week though. All the kids have joined in in bits, but it’s mostly been me and my biggest boy having some special crafting time. It was restful and joyful with relatively little frustration, unlike trying to draw something together. I struggle to draw things ‘realistically’ and can relate to the kids’ frustrations when they can’t get something to look how they want it. I try and encourage them that art is about expression and enjoying yourself but they are not hearing that! And there is something in learning a craft, so maybe it’s something we can learn together. I find myself buying a lot of books lately! 

We are very happy to receive ideas and inspiration for crafting and making.

Joseph went to a wonderful Steiner kindergarten before we moved and I remember they used a wet-on-wet painting technique (I think this is what it was called) to help the children to mix and enjoy colours, rather than ‘painting a picture’ which usually involves an object or person….And so quickly the kids get into ‘mine’s better than yours’ which is highly frustrating to listen to! Is it possible to completely irradicate this concept from their minds? Or is it a necessary concept to understand the world we live in? Perhaps I’m being idealistic. Visionary, I like to think.

I’ve been trying to change some of the language I use with the kids this week. The author of the the Unschooling book I’ve just read challenged me about how I talk to the kids about tidying up. I tend to use really negative phrases like ‘this mess’, and talk in a way which they learn that tidying and cleaning up is not an enjoyable thing (not helped by that flippin awful Cinderella story they love to read….she was made to do all the housework!) Matt and I were debating whether we can get the kids to tidy up or do certain jobs for some pocket money…to lighten the load for us. But I’ve always wanted them to join in with household tasks just because they are part of the family and not only for the incentive of money. But then, they don’t join in and I’m tired of my own voice trying to get them to do stuff….so the debate continues. In the meantime, I am choosing joy in the daily tasks of wiping many surfaces and picking up toys, inviting the kids to join with me, but not forcing them; because they learn through imitation…

Oh…and I’ve also just filled two large boxes with plastic toys that I don’t want to keep picking up…to be stored in the garage until further notice! In the meantime, I will encourage my children to play with wood and watercolours and knitted dolls. Ok, so they can keep the Lego too.

There comes a point where you start to hear your own voice in the children and we have definitely reached that point. It’s uncomfortable! ‘If you don’t….then I won’t….’ they say to each other. Hmmmm, sounds like me of old…..’if you don’t come back to the table, you will sit on the step’. The other day, I told my daughter I didn’t like the way she was speaking to me…..and she replied she didn’t like the way I was speaking to her. And she had a point! My children copy my behaviour and the way I speak. The greatest way to teach your children to be kind and respectful is to be kind and respectful to them. 

I’m trying to make some big mind shifts and I love this quote from the writer Maya Angelou…

‘You did what you knew to do at the time…when you knew better you did better’

As our understanding of human beings develops; how we learn, how we grow, we should allow ourselves and others the grace to change, not judging what went before us, trusting that they did what they knew to do at the time. I became a parent only 7 years ago and my understanding and approaches have changed in just that time. I am passionate for us to discover how we were truly meant to live…and how my children were truly meant to live, and with that I offer myself and those around me this same grace and understanding. 

Thanks for joining me on the journey.

screens

Today, the kids played a cute game. They had put the music from Toy Story 2 on, which I have on my phone. My daughter likes remembering what’s happening in the film while she listens to the music and they started acting out the scene….I think it’s one where Jessie is being rescued by Woodie, as they climb out of a plane…something like that.

It reminded me why I have got rid of the TV (again)…
Many of the pure unschool-ers (my current research obsession) are happy for their children to choose how they want to spend their time, all the time, and for some of them this includes unlimited access to tv, computer games, iPads etc. They will report that, because the children have so much freedom and nothing is restricted, they actually choose very well. They may have periods of time where they watch more media, but generally they don’t watch it all the time. While I can understand the theory of this, I just can’t go there.

My fear is that they really would spend many hours every day in front of the TV or iPad. I don’t have this fear with other activities, but there is something different about screens, isn’t there? It can be kind of addictive….we probably relate to this as adults. Once we’ve switched it on, it can be hard to switch off. And from experience, I know that my kids just play so much more when the choice for TV isn’t there. There’s nothing bad about tv in itself, but it’s what it stops you from doing…it stops you living life.

So, it was fab to see them act out this scene from Toy Story and reminded me why I don’t like much TV myself…..although we will occasionally get into a series, especially when I’m spending hours feeding a newborn, (Downton Abbey or anything midwifery related for me!), I don’t like to watch much….and I think it’s because I feel like I’m watching others live life rather than living it myself….I feel a bit left out of the fun!


But we are not total abstainers…it’s film afternoon tomorrow and we all look forward to that. It’s so nice to enjoy it as a treat rather than something we do every day and is usually combined with popcorn eating and snuggling together under a massive blanket. The last couple of weekends we’ve enjoyed watching something on a Sunday afternoon when Matt is around too….a nature documentary on insects one week (fascinating….have you ever seen slugs mating?! Google it!) and a film the next…’Marley and Me’ which I love….but I felt a bit bad as one of our boys really cried when the dog dies (along with me…it was a bonding moment!) But so good to enjoy a film that’s not a ‘kid film’…
Any recommendations for good family friendly films that are enjoyable for adults to watch too?

what we’re enjoying this week 4

I feel like its been a slow week…that we haven’t really ‘done’ anything. There’s been no project work, nothing that would resemble a school classroom…but then I’m not really trying to achieve that. Perhaps I just feel a little disappointed for not having anything to show off on my blog! The kids have done lots of things that kids love this week….dressing up, baking, painting and more painting (mostly of that messy kind I showed you last week !), climbing at the playground, reading stories together, dancing around to music….

Feasting on Play…….Something I have enjoyed this week is watching my daughter play. As she gradually gets more used to having loads of free time again, it really is like she is feasting on it. She can entertain herself for hours, happily making up stories with little people and props. Any toys we have sorted into groups (happyland, play mobile, Lego, doll-house dolls, plastic Disney dolls, soft dolls…I really could get carried away) don’t stay that way for long. Their play isn’t limited to keeping their stories within the boundaries of my organisation. I’m now wondering why I bother to continually tidy them into separate baskets…purely for my own pleasure obviously. Anyway, it’s really lovely to watch and listen to her. She’s still mostly oblivious to me watching her and I’ll be sad if and when she wants to play only in her room. I still remember dancing around our living room, as a young girl, pretending I was performing to a crowd…then noticing my mum watching me through the hatch into the kitchen. I didn’t feel embarrassed but its the feeling of beginning to be aware of those around you watching and enjoying you. I guess it’s the start of empathy, which is a good thing, but there’s something a bit sad about children losing their blissful state of unawareness of those around them…..they seem to lose a bit of freedom. 

The dressing up box has been rediscovered and this seems to help them all play together somehow..less fighting, perhaps because they play out different roles rather than be themself. 

There’s been a lot of baking this week…some of it supervised, some of it not so. I came downstairs yesterday after enjoying a lovely phone call with a friend to find that the boys were in the middle of baking something. Their choice of ingredients wasn’t a bad one, but there was no measuring, no greasing of baking trays and probably not enough mixing. Anyway, I indulged them and let them bake their ‘cake’…

It almost looks like chocolate brownie, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled; it was ‘interesting’ we decided! Perhaps the currants were the defining ingredient..

I think the boys in particular would make and bake in the kitchen for most of the day. They love it! They’re always ready to help with stirring, mixing and chopping for mealtimes. It can be hard to celebrate because of so many hazards in the kitchen! But I want to encourage them in their passion for food, something I wholeheartedly share! And let’s face it, where sugar, butter and eggs are concerned, you can’t go far wrong, can you?

We even used the opportunity to do ‘repeated patterns’…. I think this officially counts as numeracy!

I’m still struggling to navigate a new city and find groups that we will all enjoy rather than be exhausted by! I’ve had some low moments this week and am missing friends. I want to really celebrate this season of living without the ties and demands of school, but also be honest with you about the reality. This week at times, I’ve wondered if I can do it….followed by thinking ‘oh heck, I’ve started writing a blog about this journey, I can’t give up already’! But I am motivated by the assumption that its got to be do-able. I believe we were created to live in family and community and that it must be do-able for everyone in our family to enjoy, grow and thrive in life outside of our culture’s created education system. It wasn’t ‘in the beginning’ after all….I’ve been enjoying reading a book about unschooling philosophy….I’d probably describe it as the far left of the spectrum on home education. But that’s probably for another post…..

Anyway, I’m just starting to connect with some others in the home ed world, as well as the church community we’re a part of, and will hopefully find a kindred spirit soon. It’s nice that loved ones are only a phone call away. But it will be nice when I can enjoy some friendships closer to home too. I need a bit of a boost of ‘refreshing people’ at the moment…a bit like a smoothie, a ‘hit’ of quick tasty energy!

Here’s a few moments from the week….

Making shapes with our food (child led learning!)…

Always a favourite….

Is it ready yet, Mum?…

And the prize for ‘hilarious moment of the week’ goes to our 3 year old who, in protest about having sweet potato for tea, put ‘The Menu’ on the time-out-step! …

And someone who we all enjoy…..he has started rolling over this week! Every new day, whether he is doing new things or seemingly just as he was yesterday, he is delighted in and enjoyed by all of us. The beauty of babies! He does lighten our lives so much 🙂 

 

Blessings to you all and thanks for sharing my journey…

 

what we’re enjoying this week….3

Busy Bodies….Our week has been quite mix and match. A bit messy, but that was expected as we hadn’t planned our home-time. I go with the flow a lot. The flow this week led us to looking at our digestive system in a book about bodies that we own. After looking at the diagram and following the food through the system – with a little role play of course – I got the kids to draw round me on a big sheet of paper and we filled in some of my internal parts! It was nice that this all happened spontaneously, led by their genuine interest. The photo isn’t very clear but it was fun…and there’s lots more pages of the book to work through…..

Guess what the favourite job was…..

Again!….we’ve had lots of stories and books this week. We all love a good snuggle and story time on the sofa. Mostly, I read to them, sometimes they read to each other. One day this week, my daughter read 8 books in a row to her littlest brother, bless her. Their requests for the same stories over and over again demonstrate how children learn through repetition. My instinct is often to give them a variety, but I remind myself that reading one book several times as requested is good for their growing minds. We joined our local library and the kids were all SO excited by this I felt quite bad for not having taken them for so long (but when I accumulated a £26 fine a few years ago, I gave up on the whole thing!). Start again. 

Their chosen books were a mixture of fiction stories and factual books about things they’re interested in…Egypt and Pirates at the moment. So hopefully they will lead us nicely into some light topic work. They jointly built a ‘pyramid’ out of duplo together this week – their idea – which was a gorgeous moment of sibling team work…. Their finished work was wonderful but not actually a pyramid….a flat one, whatever that’s called (I’ll ask my Mum!) Do you correct them? I didn’t….didn’t want to discourage them in their proud moment. 

 We’ve also done a fair bit of letter writing this week. Moving away from family and friends has been a good prompt for this! I’ve found there’s been much enthusiasm for the idea of sending a letter, but this can turn into frustration about spelling or pictures that didn’t turn out as they hoped….and me trying to answer several requests for help at once. Breathe. 

So that’s the literacy box ticked for one week 🙂

 Painting…I’d hoped they would use the watercolour paints a bit more, but having not been exposed much to this sort of painting, they still want red to be RED and blue to be BLUE, so more often choose this sort of painting….

…which makes for a lot of mess. I’m getting used to it.

We’ve enjoyed the outdoors a lot this week and have had some really hot weather. Discovering that our garden is lined with hundreds of blackberries was a highlight, and they have given us some tasty jam for our favourite snack…

I’m loving reading up about home education. There’s loads of info online and tons of blogs out there which inspire me. I’m particularly interested in the concept of ‘unschooling’ and just wish I had a bit more time to read about it. I’d encourage you to have a google if you’re interested. There’s useful info and stories to inspire whether your children are at school or not. 

On Sunday evening, I had a lovely chat with the local education authority appointed home-ed supporter (a teacher) who really encouraged me. She was friendly, supportive and made me feel free to enjoy this time with the children and not be under pressure to learn particular things. She will visit me and has resources to help if I want them. I had half expected a bit of a ‘fight’ in choosing to home educate but have been pleasantly surprised by how supportive and helpful the council have been. Thanks!

I’ve also been welcomed into the county home-ed network and enjoyed a social gathering with them this week. It was nice to see the kids start to meet some other friends too. We are still working out what groups and activities to join and will hopefully try a couple this week. But sometimes I find less is more and busying ourselves getting to and from different places can be more stress than its worth. One of the challenges of family life with several children is meeting and balancing everyone’s needs. One child thrives on time with other people, one thrives on time alone and I’m not sure about the other two yet! For myself, I could do with meeting a couple of friends who refresh me (I miss you back in Yorkshire!), but I’m usually at my happiest when it’s just me and the kids pottering at home, enjoying each other. 

And I’m loving this chance to blog about my life, so if you’ve got this far, thanks for indulging me. 

 

 

not-so flower power

I was drawn to do this more out of a desire for beauty than anything else. Inspired by a children’s science experiment book I picked up, we set about trying to dye the petals of these white carnations. The illustration led me to expect the edges of the flowers to turn red, green or blue as appropriate (we tried one of each). The picture in the book was gorgeous and I had high expectations for a beautiful way to show the children how the flower drinks water. I was happy enough with a simple explanation but Matt introduced us to the concept of capillary action! 

As you can see, it didn’t work. Epic fail in fact. I’m not sure why..maybe we should have cut the stems shorter or put more food colouring in. But I thought I’d share with you what I suppose is our first official science experiment (if you don’t count baking, which of course we do!). If you’ve tried this more successfully than me, advice is welcome. We’d love to have another go….