social skills

Something I was led to expect, by home educating, would be that our children would have more contact with people of different ages, especially adults, as they spend more time out and about. And many home-ed families have commented that their children grow up to be more confident talking to adults and enjoy spending time with people of all ages. I really hope this will be the case. 

I have certainly noticed how our children have more opportunity to socialise with older people (people older than they are). I notice it more in the ‘cringe’ moments, as they are still learning the social skills of how to talk to people, how to ask and answer questions, how to ask for something. They are learning opportunities!

I’m relishing these opportunities. For example, Zachary’s ‘product’ didn’t fall out of the vending machine (it was a kiwi, honest!) so I encouraged him to go to the reception desk and ask the lady for help. She told him to ask at the cafe and he confidently did! I had actually observed another Mum do this a couple of months ago. I was struck by it, as it wouldn’t have occurred to me to encourage the child to ask for help…I know I would’ve just done it for them. So I was inspired by her. And how brilliant for these kids to be learning such assertiveness at this age. I was so proud of him! 

My elder three children were confidently chatting to another Mum and her young daughter while we were out and about. I wasn’t close enough to hear them but the other Mum later told me they had introduced themselves. And this week I’ve enjoyed watching them chat to the nurse at the doctors surgery (she had quite an audience as they watched Rafael have his injections!) and our health visitor. I often feel quite ‘watched’ when we’re out of the house. Children often draw people’s attention and having four of them, I think people sometimes watch to see me juggle them all! It’s so nice to receive compliments and encouragements and for people to be patient with the kids and give them time. Those occasional frowns give you a thick skin as a parent! And I would be happy to have £1 for every time someone has said ‘You’ve got your hands full’!

The children are becoming accustomed to people’s questions. What’s your name and how old are you? Why aren’t you at school?! People’s reactions and questions about home schooling differ….I still say ‘we are home schooling at the moment’. It’s easier to be able to tell people that it’s come out of circumstances initially…people don’t feel you’re making such a point about it. But I’ve also been led to expect I will have to answer for and defend our decision to people continually! So I’m trying not to mind so much. 

‘And you’re doing the home schooling yourself are you?’, I’ve been asked a couple of times….Er yes (I’m not sure what they were picturing in their mind)! 

Each family is so different and we are coming across loads of different ways that home educating families live. For us, at the moment, it does not look like school. That doesn’t mean we don’t learn anything…it’s just not a quasi school environment. It’s our home and it will be different. I have, in days of insecurity, brought out the workbooks and sat with the kids to ‘do their work’, but in my heart of hearts I believe in a more child-led learning approach. That children learn best when they’re motivated to do so. That the early years of free play are crucial and full of goodness…that they were meant to be. And we are still in those early years.

This doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing. We put things in our children’s path; things we sense they will enjoy and want to discover and learn about. They were born curious and we need to nurture that curiosity and model a life of learning.

One of my tasks is now to help the children communicate this when people in the public ask them why they are not at school!

The other day, I was watching another home-ed family, as the older boy (he must be about 15 or 16) scooped up and played with his younger sister, almost acting like another parent to her. She clearly delighted in him and he in her. It was a beautiful moment to witness and I’m sure their relationship has been nurtured by spending so much time together as a family. This boy just didn’t seem to care about what was or wasn’t ‘cool’. He loved his little sister and was happy to be effusive about this in a public place.

These moments are giving me such joy and thankfulness that we are doing this. I think I’ve been trying not to be too evangelistic about home education. (And some days I do not feel evangelistic about it!) I don’t want to be annoying if you’re not a home educating family. But many moments this week, I have just felt such a deep joy that we are doing this. I know it’s good and – even when I’ve been tearing my hair out, the moment passes – and I’m still so glad. So privileged I know, and so very glad!


what we’re enjoying this week 15

We’re on the move….

With a successful new ballet class for Keziah. She has waited so long for a ballet class, trying a couple before but them not quite working; being too difficult to juggle with everything else. She really loves ballet (like me!) and I’m hopeful this will be a great new addition to her week. New ballet shoes means dreaded sewing of elastic for me…as a rule, I hate sewing. I’m rubbish at it and it makes me cross! I only had a thin spindly needle, with no thimble (I’m sure you’ve bought me one, Mum; sorry I don’t know where it is!) and plasticky yucky thread….but needs must for a budding ballerina and I got there in the end, spitting and muttering under my breath….

And a successful new football club for Zachary this morning.

Yey for active groups! After a lot of searching, these are steadily coming along. Without school and in a new city, these groups seem even more desirable, as places to make friends. So now we have swimming, ballet and football. Tick, tick, tick.

And this little boy is going to be a mover! His rolling will soon become commando crawling I think. He’s already lifting his bum, trying to move around…

We’ve had some really lovely moments this week. A couple of mornings, the eldest three have played beautifully, building dens in the house…

Or even playing in the bath!

On both occasions, they all played together for ages, which is blissful for me! I love listening to them and it’s nice not having to referee any squabbles that might be getting out of hand.

Yesterday morning, I listened to them play in the bath and took advantage of the chance to read and rest….after a very bad night sleep with Rafi. He may be teething or may just get cold in the middle of the night. I’m not sure; but whatever it is, he just wants to come in bed with me and nuzzle from about 3am. So rest was needed.

I bought a few beautiful old books from the second hand bookshop at our local National Trust place. They were 50p or £1 each and are gorgeously old and smelly and I’m determined to read them all. I recognised a couple of them, others are new to me but sounded like a good old read. I’m using my iPad a lot to read blogs…which has become a lovely part of life….but there’s nothing like a good old book! Here are the new additions…

You can’t see the first one…it’s Sense and Sensibility, which I’ve never read (or seen the film). I’m starting with Winds of the Day, by Howard Spring. Never heard of it but I love it’s bright green colour and the first few pages are a lovely read. Have you read any of these?

One of our highlights of the week was, after buying these books, the children came to sit with me on a circular picnic bench in the courtyard. I had parked myself there, with my new books, while they played nearby. They wanted to pretend to be Mummy and each sat ‘reading’ one of the above books. We sat there for a good half hour, swapping and comparing, commenting and reading a little of these books. Zachary enjoyed spotting words he recognised and has since been fascinated with these ‘smelly old books’ as we call them! I helped him learn a random and rather complicated sentence, which he was very proud of. I read a lot to all the children but have not pushed at all for him to read these last few months, waiting for him to be ready and interested and motivated..knowing, as a mother does, that he wasn’t quite ready. It takes courage to wait but I have. And this week, I have seen the first sparks of interest and motivation. These I’m sure will ebb and flow, but I will tell everyone he learned to read with William the Conqueror!

The sketching was another highlight this week.

And Monday morning… some camping play in pyjamas, followed by tea and chocolate cake…I am enjoying breaking the rules of life (why don’t we eat cake at 10am?)!

And Rafael is loving tucking into his food!

You can spend a lot of money home educating your children! Well, I’m enjoying two new crucial investments….  A very warm coat and a very good flask!


Early on Sunday morning, I was pondering how to help the kids with drawing, having very limited skills myself. They enjoy drawing but can regularly become frustrated if their picture/object doesn’t look as they want it to. Shouting ‘it’s rubbish!’, screwing up their paper, that sort of thing. They believe that their own and others’ drawing is either good or bad and listen too carefully to each other’s comments and opinions. This hasn’t come from us….we treat everything they do as a masterpiece! Our encouragement to just enjoy drawing and making, to play with it and enjoy the process seems to fall on deaf ears.

So, I decided they needed to see me drawing, struggling, practicing, improving….and enjoying it. I felt in the mood for some sketching. I did a couple of very informal drawing seminars over the summer and learned some principles for drawing faces. I really enjoyed it and, while drawing is something that doesn’t come naturally, I realised I can learn some skills, improve and actually enjoy it! I particularly enjoyed drawing faces and it helped me appreciate the individuality of each person and how wonderfully and differently we are all made!

The kids really enjoyed me drawing them. I think they liked the attention and I used it as an opportunity to shower them with some love and praise. The older two sat still for ages and then joined in and drew some pictures of me and Matt. Here are a few of our masterpieces…

I love the crossed legs on that one!

Daddy’s head is the easiest to draw….

I feel a bit embarrassed sharing my sketches….because I have in my own head ‘they’re rubbish!’ (Don’t tell the kids I said that). But honestly blogging and all that. Who knows, I might share some more in a few months and they will be more realistic! Although it’s clearly not my primary gifting, or even close, I was quite pleased with them. There was something about each one that did actually resemble the child.

It was a lovely activity to be doing so early on a Sunday morning. I had to really look at their faces to draw them. It surprised me that I don’t have more detail of their faces imprinted in my mind. We look at each others’ faces all the time, but we don’t often really look at each other in that much detail. I encourage you to have a go with your loved ones.  

What we’re enjoying this week 14

After a lovely long weekend spending time with family and friends back in Yorkshire, Matt has been off work for most of the week so we’ve all had more time together. Some days have been slow, others jam packed full of activity….Thursday was the latter. We had a slower start and made that mistake of inviting the kids to watch a film on the iPad while we got things ready to leave the house. The transition from watching media to coming back to the real world is never easy but everything seemed magnified on Thursday….everyone seemed to be having a meltdown about something….missing wellie socks, ill-fitting jumpers, not wanting to get dressed at all. Then, when we seemed to be getting near to the point of leaving the house, the knock at the door reminded me that I’d arranged our food delivery to come!

Well, we finally left the house without anyone seriously injuring anyone else..and made it to the stables, where a friend keeps her horses. Helping to groom them was a first for us all. The kids loved it, in differing amounts. Everyone loved the grooming and feeding and leading them to their fields. There were mixed responses to the couple of (friendly) dogs hanging out there. Our kids are so different in many ways and I am always in awe of that. I know nothing about horses…I have the MuckBoot wellies and that’s about it! All the gear; no idea. So, it was such a treat to have someone teach the kids a bit about them.

Keziah was particularly in her element!

I made a ‘note to self’ that looking after animals is not comfortable work…it was freezing!

I absolutely insisted that we needed to go to Starbucks to warm up before heading to the museum. Warm coffee!

We had our first trip to the @t bristol museum, which was fab! It’s a science museum which is great for children. Well, I presume it is aimed at children, although it’s fun for everyone. Museums just seem to do much better these days at being interesting for young people and get that most people don’t learn by just reading information….and touching and doing things is fun! I left my camera in the car (doh!) but we took a couple of snaps with Matt’s phone. They don’t do the museum justice at all…there is so much to do there. The kids want to go back now! Oh, and they do discounts for home educating families..yes please 🙂 

This was the construction area….we also made animated films, experienced ‘being in the womb’ (my favourite of course), made hot air balloons fly, tried out the Archimedes Screw, did a 3D internal organs jigsaw puzzle and watched food decay. From afar, I watched an eyeball dissection, but mentioned nothing of it to the kids…wasn’t sure how that would go down…or maybe I was just being a wuss! We missed the Planetarium show but will go back another day for that.

Our busy day was nicely rounded off with a trip to a shopping centre so I could try on some coats (searching for a very warm winter coat that will last me a while!) and a pizza restaurant. Yummy….even Rafi enjoyed his pizza! 

The slower bits of our week have been pretty normal for us….lots of craft. Lolly sticks, polystyrene balls…within hours of returning home, the floor looked like this..

And the table…

And my clean hand towel…

I’ve had a lovely day and been power reading this book . I don’t find much time for reading, although I love it. But every so often I find a book I really want to read and delve right in. I’ve been feasting on it today, knowing there’s not much spare time around here! And it’s making for some interesting discussion in the home.

See you soon friends x



what we’re enjoying this week 13

Our greatest fun and greatest learning, as usual, has happened in the great outdoors this week…

We had a trip to the seaside…a sandy one…last weekend. Sand and water are both great to play with, and even better when combined…



And a lovely day out at Blaise Castle, making the most of the fabulous playground there…as I watched them play and joined in a little, I amused myself imagining this was our physics lesson. Certainly, there is much value in imparting knowledge to children (when they’re ready for it), but how much deeper I think they will receive and remember it when they have already experienced it…



Back home to do our new puzzle. They wanted to finish it ‘before daddy gets home’. I really am not at my best being rushed (understatement of the year, Rach). This would have been far more enjoyable for everyone if I’d managed to persuade them we should do it slowly!

Everyone wants to put the last piece in….negotiation skills!

Mummy, let me show you how I can fold this tissue…Look, I can make squares!….now I can make a rectangle! I’m sure there’s a lot of maths genius going on in there…not that I want to pigeon hole anyone 🙂

Zachary chose a Horrible Histories magazine last week so we’ve been reading that…lots of toilet humour which goes down well! It certainly makes History more appealing for the 5 year old boy.

Stories are still a plenty in our household. We are loving the library and have a great turnover of books going through.

The big two have started a weekly swimming lesson with a home education group. The pool are giving the lessons for the same price as a school group, so they are a bargain at about £1.50 per child and we are all enjoying getting to know some other home ed families. I’ve had some lovely chats with other home ed mums this week and it has lifted me considerably! What a difference it makes to meet other families in similar situations, or those who have gone before you, to have empathy and receive encouragement. 

That, and some lovely trusted friends who I know quickly responded to my text cries for prayer. Simply, ‘I’m really struggling, please pray for me’ and they did. This week has been so different to last, not hugely in our circumstances or environment but in my spirit….I have felt held in prayer, known hope, patience and joy even in the challenging moments…thank you ladies.

And I think I m starting to make friends 🙂 

baby led weaning

Well the time has come for our baby Rafael to move on from his milk-only diet. He turned 6 months old this week and, although I started weaning much earlier with our elder two children, with Joseph I left it later and tried baby led weaning…and was converted! There’s a great website here for more information on baby led weaning….it’s really all about letting the baby feed himself, rather than putting food into his mouth. They learn to chew before swallowing, not the other way round. And you can give them (mostly) whatever you’re eating as a family so it’s an easier, more sociable way for them to start enjoying food. 

I think it creates happier eaters because they are in control. It’s great for their use of motor skills but is very messy! Joseph has generally been a much more adventurous eater than the older two…though now, age 3, he’s having a break from that to do the usual independent trying-to-survive-on-biscuits-when-I-can-find-them. Grrrr to young children who won’t eat their meals then whine about being hungry!

I have to confess to being a little sad that this stage has come for Rafi. It signifies him growing up a bit and, although babies are adorable and in some ways much more enjoyable in the next six months, I grieve the passing of the early months….and, well (can I say this out loud?) I don’t want his poo to stop being milky poo! Milky poo is so lovely isn’t it (only to the mother of course, any other baby can keep his milky poo to himself)? And food poo is everything but lovely. 

Here’s how we got on..slowly…this week. We started simply with some banana and pear pieces…very slippy though!


That got a bit boring so we dived in head first with a chicken and roasted pepper wrap…what the rest of us were having. This was much easier for him to hold. Wraps are great as you can stuff all sorts into them..

 He tried a lemon and raisin pancake at one point too. I mashed some banana into it to help him eat the banana without it slipping out of his fingers. 

I need to read up for some recipe inspiration. Any ideas welcome…:-)


All About Me

I’d heard about Lapbooks from a couple of different people in the Home Ed world. They quite possibly use them in schools as well. They seem to be a more creative and interesting way to record learning, an alternative to sheets of paper in a file…and something that uses less storage space. After a bit of Googling and YouTube-ing, we have started one. I thought a project about ourselves would be an easy place to start. I’m sure one could make an amazing Lapbook about Egypt but lets not get ahead of ourselves now! 

You start with a large piece of card. I think this is A2…

Fold the edges into the centre…

And inside you can do what you want…

These have since been filled in with some of our body measurements…

Keziah has written a little book all about ballet, which she loves…

Zachary has really enjoyed drawing and labelling some of his body parts to go in an envelope. Guess what this is..?

Did you guess?

And is compiling a little book about his favourite dinosaurs..

It’s been fun and a much more interesting way to learn than those workbooks! I’d like us to do one about Autumn this month, but the clock is ticking now and December should definitely be focussed on Christmas!

I’ll keep you posted.