play dough bakery

We made play dough on Monday and spent the next few hours using it to make play food for our bakery and shop. We haven’t used playdough for ages. I think I threw it all out..way past it’s life…when we moved. I fancied making some with the kids and found a basic recipe with lots of extra ideas for different ‘flavours’ on this blog .

The basic recipe is really easy. I knew I had cream of tartar in the baking drawer, bought accidentally ages ago. 

2 cups of plain flour, 2 tbsps veg oil, half cup of salt, 2 tbsps cream of tartar, 1-1.5 cups boiling water, 

food colouring (optional) ..or check out the blog for gorgeous more natural flavours such as oranges and lemons, gingerbread, lavender. On the to do list. Yum.

A few years ago I made some playdough when Keziah was little (where have those years gone!) and used a salt dough recipe but just found the salt content too much; even being in its presence made me really thirsty!

We had loads of fun. It was interesting doing something that was more pitched at a preschool age level, but the older two just took it a bit further with the bakery signs and money exchange in the role play. I think we were at it for a good three hours.

Thee was even music in the cafe. 

I loved being the customer and playing different roles. I get a little bit carried away. I ended up moving in with the chef, waiter and shopkeeper of the bakery to work with them. We also became pilots and midwives and had to fly around the house in our aeroplane helping women deliver babies (you can spot my influence, I think 😉

It was a great activity and will definitely be repeated.

Leigh Woods

We’ve discovered Leigh Woods in the last few days and had a gorgeous afternoon there yesterday. There are acres we still haven’t discovered yet. It’s full of paths to walk and some of them have ‘difficulty ratings’ for cycling so Matt is hoping to go with the kids and bikes soon. 

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I remembered my camera this time, so got a bit snappy happy. Indulge me if you will.

I think the play area has been built or developed by Bristol Steiner school. Leigh woods is National Trust owned although it’s free to enter. The play area was fab with lots of logs to balance on, a few swings and ropes and a fab stick den! In fact there were stick dens all over the woods that people have made and left for others to play in.

 

This was my favourite bit…..steaming hot chocolate out of our flask. One of my better prepared afternoons; appreciated by all of us.

Bliss.

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!

feasting on play

I truly delight in watching my children play. It’s when I see how wonderfully they are made. Their ability to create and be free and to imagine brings me joy. There are many activities they enjoy doing and they have enjoyed being taught or led in music, gymnastics, dancing, football, swimming and I’m sure many other things. But it’s when they are free to make up their own story that the real benefits of ‘play’ emerge. Their creativity is unleashed, they grow in confidence, they learn to use their voice and body, they learn how to have relationships and resolve conflict, they learn to lead and follow and persuade and negotiate. They practice expressing their emotions and develop empathy for others. 

Having been home educating for just a couple of months, I can look back and see changes in them already. One that most obviously stands out is the difference at the beginning of the day. Initially, they all seemed to be demanding my one to one attention, to play a game with them or sit and colour with them. I found I was pulled in several directions and it was difficult to meet everyone’s needs. Now, they seem to have got the hang of staying at home. They’re used to the usual routine of not leaving the house, they realise they’re not going anywhere and neither am I…so there’s no rush for my time. On most days, the mornings, after Matt has left for work, are relaxed and they have all developed more ability to manage their own time, to find things to do…some having found this more difficult than others previously. They might sometimes need a prompt or an idea, but often my idea will be rejected and they just need a few minutes to think of something. I’m reluctant to interrupt their flow of play when it’s going well.

There are still many sibling disagreements, but they are generally playing really well. Especially the older two, being only 15 months apart in age. They really are the very best of friends and it’s lovely watching their relationship flourish. I hope as the younger two grow up that more special relationships will emerge too. I love to watch the older ones help and delight in the younger ones. But it’s also hard to see them be left out or rejected and I’m quick to step in and offer to be a playmate when required.

I’ve really made more effort to play with them these last couple of weeks. I know in my heart of hearts that it offers such a gift of love to them to kneel down (in the crumbs) and join in their game. It’s a gift of my time and energy…but the more I do it, the easier it becomes, and they welcome my ideas…but more often love to lead. And how nice for them to call the shots and be in charge for a change. I’m getting used to the words, ‘Mum, pretend….’

 

 

 

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?

stretch

I wasn’t surprised that my children showed an interest in an old and very beautiful Chess set that I put on display when we moved house. It had been hidden away in a cupboard for a long time so they hadn’t seen it before. I was, however, surprised by my own sudden burst of energy to try teaching them how to play. I honestly thought it would be too difficult for them to grasp and have been pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm for the game. It’s the latest craze in our family, with several games happening each day. Matt had to correct some of the ‘rules’ I had taught them, and also has introduced me to a few rules I never knew about…..Did you know that if a pawn makes it over to the other side, it can become a Queen? And she is a versatile lady!

I’m sure playing Chess is doing wonders for these growing minds…not just remembering what each piece can do but planning and strategy. I enjoyed playing with Matt yesterday and trying to actually win, rather than trying not to win when playing with the kids (I made a huge error of judgement when I beat one of them for the first time, thinking they were in the mood to cope with it!!)

There are plenty of websites telling you how to play if you can’t remember either! Enjoy…..