Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Lilo!

My little blondey turned 6 today. It doesn't seem like yesterday that I was approaching that 21st day overdue and deliberating over what I was to do if that day arrived - and just as it did, so did my little girl - only not so little, weighing in at 9lb 10oz!!

Happy Birthday my little fairy! :D

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The weather here has been, to  put it mildly, WILD! Now I know what living at the top of a hill in a less than sheltered location feels like! Yes there are plenty trees, but it’s still pretty exposed. Strangely though I kind of enjoy listening to wind billowing around the place (even if the kids really don’t!). I getting used to going to sleep to that noise now. It’s seem kind of quiet when the weather finally decides to calm down. We’ve had almost 2 weeks of it now (maybe more, I’ve lost count). I’m not sure our bunnies appreciate it as much as I do though!

The pants thing about such rubbishy weather is the lack of ‘going outside’ to run off steam. I can’t abide running in the house, even in a big house – quite frankly it is too dangerous, but I do appreciate the need for the kids to burn off somewhere…

I am grumpy as…what’s a good metaphor?… an old woman! I think maybe I’m brewing the bug the kids are sharing between themselves (runny tummy, temperature, heavy cold – in that order). Def had the tummy this morning :( Did not help my mood at all!

I’m not going to lay myself bare here tonight, but suffice to say, today was NOT a good Mummy day :( I lost my patience too quickly and easily and I was less than encouraging of my children’s efforts – this of course will not encourage them to be creative at all (see below). I wish I could stop shooting myself in the foot!

We are having an ‘auto’ week. I seem to be interspersing with these lately. 2 weeks on boxes, one week on auto! Basically I tell the kids what they must do in the day and they are free to keep themselves busy learning whatever they like and by whatever means for the rest of it. It’s not working terribly well this week (although it has been better other weeks), but that might be more me than them! I’ve decided we all need to sit down and have a family conference about what we like/dislike about the workboxes, what we can change to make them work better, and how I can change to help the children learn better (will I want to hear this?!); I’d like to address expectations and ‘goals’ (I think maybe it might be good for the older children to set themselves some to work towards – to encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning a little more). I don’t want the workboxes to become a ‘timetable in a box’ (which I am in danger of slipping into out of sheer laziness and lack of creativity). I know some people do actually choose to use them that way, but I was hoping they would instil more independence, more creativity and more diversity into our learning. I think diversity is possibly doing ok – and probably independence (in terms of getting on by themselves, but not so much in terms of thinking for themselves), but creativity is dragging her heals! I’d like to know what the children think though…

All in all a rubbishy kind of day – didn’t even make it Little Drama Group :(.  The children failed to tidy away the mountain of ‘stuff’ that they had strewn around in the ‘school room’ through the day (which should of course have been tidied as they went along…) before it would have been worth leaving. By the time they were done the group was about to start and it’s a 20+ minute walk to the village, so not worth going. I was cross (a bit beyond reason I think), especially as I think they are letting Kel’ (leader) down, as they are supposed to be practicing for a little ‘sharing’ at the end of term, but there have to be consequences sometimes don’t there?! I just hate that those have a knock-on effect of others and in our case (where 4 children are involved) that is felt quite severely. I shall ask them to apologise for their absence next week.

Yesterday was a little better though and I had fun with Lilo and DD in the afternoon making biscuits. The pics are on my 365 :D It turned into quite the little cottage industry! I can be a good Mummy too – I can!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Home Education Parliamentary Petition


Home Education Parliamentary Petition

I even did something that is not me - I signed up as a co-ordinator (scarey) - that might make me a bit busy for the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Skills

Stitch decided it was time to learn to use a pair of scissors. He's doing really well. He still needs helping to get his fingers in the right holes, but once I had his fingers placed he VERY quickly got the ideal of opening and closing his hand to use them - I showed him for about - oooh - 30 seconds!!

He has also decided he want to learn his colours, hence the strewn pens on the table. Each time he takes a lid of he says to me 'pink?', to which I am supposed to respond with the correct colour! :D I'll think he will pick it up quickly.

He enjoyed playing with this Colour Wonder set too (as did DD) - such a clever idea :D!! The only trouble was he didn't understand when the middle section refused to colour in and he just kept putting the paint there which essentially wastes it and tbh, I don't think it is generous enough to start with. He was most upset when I encouraged him to change picture (to one without any blank bits), but after a short sulk he did do so. Lesson learned - select the picture you ask the toddler to do CAREFULLY!

History was fun this week - consisting of making and playing a game about Roman architecture. They played in teams of two - the younger team won!! :D

DD made these 3D dino-puzzles that he has, but it was still a bit hard for him. He roped in Lilo, but even she found them hard. With some help from yours truely they did get a couple completed before the Stitch came along!

Today we talked about the passage of time on Mars and what it might be like to live there. The children were amused to consider that Bugs, Taz & Minnie could all have a driving license already if they lived there (leave you to work out how!). We talked about why living on Earth is so good and what we would all miss if we didn't and had to live in an ecosystem to survive. Bizarre thoughts! 

Bugs and DD have both had 'challenging' weeks. Bugs has been seriously argumentative with all and everyone, but mostly Taz and myself - that makes everything so much more stressful for me to begin with. DD has been loud, screechy and ratty all week. He is either shouting, yelling or screeching about something nearly 90% of the time. He has worn me down this week: my voice is completely shot. So much so that I have decided I have to take a rest from singing AT ALL until after Christmas - no choir, no band :( . I have lost 3-4 notes in my middle range - NOT GOOD! My throat is not sore though and I attribute the loss mainly to spending most of my days raising my voice above 7 children's banter and noise. I try to keep my 'classroom' quiet and calm, but end up yelling to do so!! BUT - DD is the main culprit. There is something about his pitch of voice that goes right through me and when exaggerated by sheer volume and wailing, drives me nuts!! It is his voice that I have to contend with so much of the time but he is too young to  really understand the damage it is doing :(. I could do with going on a silent retreat and not talking for a week, but that is NOT about to happen! The struggle with DD though is that he is a one-to-one kid in a one-seven family! He was great today when I sat down and did some book work with him - page after page of it! He is bright enough, picks things up quickly, is interested and relatively keen to learn, but he does not wish to work independently AT ALL and when he is told he must he will always find something to whine and cry about. It's not easy. I cannot assign any more of the big kids time - they already spend at least one 'slot' a day with Stitch to keep him out of mischief and occasional slots with DD too, but I can't let him have a helper all day - it's just not possible and he must learn to work alone some of the time, but the process is painful - esp for our eardrums!!

Change subject... Minnie has been doing some science experiments - this was always a favourite of mine :D -

I've been doing some experimenting too - with 'actions' in my new Photoshop Elements 7 that came in the post on Monday (YIPEE!) -

Other than that it's all been pretty normal round here :D
The girls are practising for Christmas the play (at church) and singing the same songs over and over, but that's normal this time of year and I actually quite like it :D

They are doing one at Little Drama Group too, but they haven't brought the scripts home yet for that one!

That'll do for now.

Plans for next term - sort out some fun lapbooks for the small ones to do and try to finish off Lilo's ABC Lapbook with her (nope we still haven't)! I think it will be good review for her now and help firm up some of the sounds she still forgets too much of the time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Life Happens!

It's been another one of those weeks...On the Saturday after my last post we all trooped over to visit SOTP for the day. The girls (including moi) attended M's party while Paul took the boys off swimming and for a coffee-&-cake (in Sainsbury's!). In the evening we enjoyed finishing off the party food and catching up a little. I wish we saw more of each other - the children like each other so much :D Sunday was Sunday, but it also yielded the delivery of a new computer tower, as our old one is definitely on it's way out, or loaded with errors and in need of some TLC. The delivery inevitably meant me spending many hours (all night in fact) moving files over and installing the necessities to use it Monday morning for school. I then set to trying to make the old tower a little bit happier (and HD emptier) to nurse it through to it's death - we can at least enjoy an extra PC while it is still breathing! It's STILL backing up now (onto MoZY) and when it eventually finishes I will take it back to a fresh installation of Windows & Office and leave it at that. We'll see how long it lives for! The new tower has a massive 1TB Hard Drive, but just-in-case I fill it up with photos, we have also bought an additional 500GB External HD (which currently is hosting the back-up files of the new PC until I switch the online back-up over). It's complicated and boring, but it'll be worth it! The new tower is virtually silent and VERY quick - AND it doesn't crash every half and hour!! :D

As a result of my total absorption in the setting up of new and old PC's this week the kids had to self-educate & self-fill their boxes if they wished, but basically the orders were to keep out of my very grumpy way as much as possible! I did manage to teach a history lesson and read a couple of stories - the rest was VERY free range and involved WAY too much screen time for my liking. This week will be back to normal - I hope!
There were some interesting bits though; We were visited by this little fella;

This was a real treat. He normally flys off the minute we step foot outside, but he decided to fly in today. He wasn't panicked (or didn't seem it), so I took the opportunity to snap him. I only got one shot though. He flew into the lounge and we opened a big window which he immediately flew out of, much to Taz's disappointment, who was desperate to hold him, or get it to feed from his hand.

The boys have been invested at scouts (don't know if I mentioned they started going a few weeks back)- leading to 3 hours of sewing on of 11 badges for me this week. I don't DO sewing, but needs must! At least they will only be one at a time after this!!

They already have taken apart and reassembled an engine (leading to a mechanics badge) and last week did the first part of a first aid course. This week they are going over to a flight simulator in Manchester (too cool!) as part of work on their Aviation badge. It helps that one of the leaders is a pilot!!

Hopefully this week will be a little more interesting to blog about!! ;D

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Glorious Waste Of Time..!

If you had your way and you were 4,6,7,8,11 or 12 how would you spend your time? I know when I was any, or all of the above ages I was pushed outside for 'play-time' each morning, lunchtime and afternoon whatever the weather. I hated it, as did many others, and tried to spend as much time as possible during those break times sitting on the loo, or washing my hands in warm water! I would even strike up conversations with the prefects (who I didn't necessarily like in the real world) just to hang out the time INSIDE - where it was warm & dry! Consequently, now that the weather has turned significantly colder I do not 'force' my children to play outside. I do have rules like "No running in the house - if you want to run around, wrap up and run around OUTSIDE!", but I don't make them go if they don't want to - they just have to stop running! Every now and then I do suggest to them that they might like to make the most of a dry day and play outside for a while, but seldom do they take up my suggestion. Then, every once in a while, an idea takes them and I can't keep them in..! Two days ago Taz took it into his head that he wanted to make a football goal in the adjacent field to us, which belongs to our neighbours but who have said the children can play in there. The field was full of ferns (I mean REALLY full) when we moved in. Over the summer the children made a pathway into the middle and built a den with branches and ferns and had lots of fun in there. As the ferns began to dye back Taz decided he might as well flatten it all out properly and make it more of a play space, so he trooped in there one day with the girls and trampled most of the middle of the field flat. THEN he thought he'd try it out as a football pitch! It really is the most unlikely pitch - it's uneven, it slopes, it has a fern carpet underfoot, but he liked it :D It IS big and not so easy to loose a ball - and if you did the fences are low enough all round to hop over and collect it from the next field. SO, he collected three long pieces of scrap timber from the top of the pile of rubble/rubbish sitting in our garden (left over from the renovation of the house and garden before we moved in) that is waiting for a skip to collect it all. He lumbered them over to the field, spade in hand and dug holes for the posts. He measured it out and sunk them down so that the tops were level. He did a fantastic job, but was not able to figure a way to get the cross bar on. Today Paul did that for him with the longest nails I have ever seen in my life! Now they have a football goal that is really a perfect size for them all, in a big field, with a fern pitch to play on - brilliant!! Not only does this provide them with a lot of fun and motivation to play outside, but me with plenty of photo opportunities!! ;D The best of it is, it's not only the lads who want to be out there (in fact Bugs is not so keen), but the girlies too. And another great thing is how multi-purposed they have made this field. They have had a hollow amongst the remaining ferns (their house) and behind the trees is their dance/recording studio, complete with branch-microphones and a dance floor!! It's brilliant to see my techno-addicted children playing free in a fern field. The only thing that worries me is the way they chose to dress! While I wrap up warm in several layers, Minnie is out there in a strappy top and TweetiePie in a T-shirt - crazy kids!! OK, so they were running around, but it is COLD up here!!
Of course playing footy took a chunk out of their school work on Wednesday, and when they realised this, this was, of course, a great incentive also to do the same the next day!! But I was only to happy to see them outside, knowing that there are so many days of winter ahead of us when they will be unable to go outside. I want them to get the very most out of living where we do just now and of being children. I know that even though they didn't have pencils in their hands they were learning none-the-less, just a different kind of lesson than the one I had planned :D There's something about this place that makes me want them to have more fun, makes me want to have fun with them - it's something that's been missing for WAY too long - and I am so pleased to be here and to have rediscovered the zest in life. Of course, life is never a bed of roses, but a carpet of ferns will do me just fine! :D
I won't post a stash of pictures here today, but if you want to see some more then you can check out the last two days over on my 365 blog :D But just so you can see the goal post and the relative size of the field...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

She Can't Read...

...but apparently she can write just fine!

Lilo wrote this today completely unprompted by me during her 'you choose' time. I only had to help her to add the 'a's on the ends of Hana & Montana. She sounded it all out completely by herself and even wrote the capital letters! I think reading is just around the corner somehow :D

Actually to say she can't read is not accurate really - she can, sort of. She can sound out completely phonic words and today read 'grown-ups' in the context of learning that 'ow' says 'oh!' She is doing fine, but I don't think she has realised until this week that she can read and that writing is within her grasp too - she was pretty chuffed with this little sentence!

DD made a leap today too - he redid a puzzle from a couple of days ago, only this time entirely unassisted. 40 pieces - all by himself!! It took him about 30 minutes and he stuck at it until it was done - major, major progress!!!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Out Of touch

I don't know about you, but sometimes life just runs away with me. I wasn't 100% over half term - had a raging sore throat and a bit of a temp to boot. I'm largely over it now, but it did make 'catching myself up' over the holiday just a bit more challenging. I had loads of stuff to do and sort for the church Sunday School (now that I am in charge of the rota and resources, etc...), I had a stash of marking to do and the following week to plan. I wanted to get some more materials printed of for DD & Stitch, but that didn't happen in the end. I also wanted to finish up some photo editing I had promised to some friends. I finished one set, but only just started on the other - sigh! Put that together with visitors either end, sleep overs and a birthday (Taz turned 11 on the 24th), it all got a bit busy, busy. Not that I mind that, it's just I still feel like my tail is lost somewhere!! :D
Life ticks along anyway. H'ED is going well. I'm thinking that, in the light of current potential legislation, I might stop talking about 'home-school' as, although I have a school room and, to all intents and purposes, we have a fairly structured school in our home, I would not like to think that I will be forced to continue this way if I should choose to move away from it even more than I have in recent times. My children's education is more valuable to me than my system - so from now on I will call it H'ED as that better fits with how I feel our nation should view what we do :D
Anyway - H'ED is going well..! Stitch is beginning to get the hang of not being such a pain and is a good deal more involved in our day than I remember any of the others being a toddlers. He has his own little supply of resources which he has free access to. I haven't changed this around as much as I would like to due to a) lack of time, b) lack of creativity, c) lack of courage (i.e. there are lots of fantastic ideas out there I could use but I can just envisage what Stitch would turn them into!!). But he has his favourites that he has a go at every day, sometimes more than once and he spends a LOT of time playing on PoissonRouge - or rather roping in someone to play on it for him as his command!! :D Each other child has a 'slot' in their boxes to spend time playing with him and now that he has got used to that he is responding well to it and is not demanding that it be me quite so much. I too, try to make at least one slot in each day to spend time with him, but it's not always easy.
Bugs & Taz are doing well with their new Science and English materials. It is interesting and challenging enough without being too much for them. It's good to have them working on something together, although in reality they often do it separately because Taz is a fast worker and Bugs not so, but at least they can compare notes :D
DD has suddenly started to blossom: He has got the hang of things that six months ago were way beyond him. He can now tell me the beginning sound of most words (still struggles a bit with 's' and 'z') and find another picture that begins with the same sound.
He can now match up pairs of things that 'go together', like hat & coat, salt & pepper - which shows a vast increase in his comprehension of language and the world around him.
He can also count up to about 14 quite reliably and count out objects up to about eight. Beyond that he loses count of objects and as he can't 'count on' yet it gets a bit difficult!
He knows all his colours - although for some reason has begun confusing blue and purple on occasions, and interesting some shades of blue and green. My dad and Taz are blue/green colour blind, so maybe he is too - not tested yet.
He can verbally label numbers 1, 2, 3 and sometimes 4 now - so that's progress too. Matching up the numbers on his workbox is really helping with that without even deliberately working on it - learning by the back door I call it :D
He knows the names of most of the basic 2D shapes.
He can complete simple sequences (ABABA..., ABBABB..., ABCABC...)
He can hold a pencil correctly (most of the time, and when he gets it wrong it's only to put his 2nd finger on the pencil instead of under it).
He can almost write his name independently and has fantastic pencil control when writing inside 'hollow letters' or over dotted ones. :D
He forms the majority of his letters correctly and understands about starting at the top and ending at the bottom, also about working left-right, top-bottom, which he does now about 90% of the time instinctively and no longer makes a fuss about it when prompted to do so the other 10%!
He DOESN'T yet know very many letters (only 'curly c' and 'kicking c', 's' and 'o'), but tbh - I don't really care - he is enjoying himself and I can see life beginning to make real sense to him now. In the light of this, he now can put together full sentences - including all the 'little' words (I, it, the, on, to, etc...) and asks more sensible questions than he used to, with genuine interest in the answers. He sometimes can then follow up with a subsequent question. This is a real marked improvement in his speech and makes life so much less frustrating for all of us :D His diction is gradually improving too, although he can still be hard to understand at times, especially when he has mis-remembered what something is called, or how a word should sound. When he does this, we not only have to work out the sound of what he is saying, but also what he is meaning!! He still gets a little frustrated with this, but mostly he gets that we don't understand him now, and tries to say whatever it is more slowly and carefully, rather than just screaming at us (and making it worse) - and when he does that we can usually get to the root of what he means eventually :D He is then able to hear us say it correctly and repeat it back without error.
I don't know what the Early Learning Goals are for a Reception age child (and I don't really care either!), but I am happy that mine is doing well and achieving to the best of his ability and I am sure that he will continue to make happy progress with the way we are doing things now.

I am loving the way things tick round here now - I really am. It is all so much less pressured than it was when I started out with Bugs 8 years ago now - sometimes I really wish I could turn back time and get to enjoy him as a 5 year old again. Everyone told me at the time to "make the most of it - they grow up so fast" and all I kept thinking at the time was "good - this is a nightmare!" He was so full on and so hard work, but he was so funny and so full of life - so creative (yet not imaginative - which made it difficult to channel his creativity) and he just LOVED to be with me and do stuff with me. He loved looking at books and colouring and had a zeal for learning. He asked what anything and everything said - on bus shelters, road signs, everywhere, he would ask me "what does it say?" Now, I wish I had that time again - then it annoyed me! :( Now, I wish I had 'got' him as a little kid (I SO didn't) - now, I am enjoying 'getting' the young man he is becoming before my eyes. I love him to bits - I just wish I could do his toddlerhood again for him. I would do it better this time - I know I would! I watch myself with my now pre-schoolers and I love every minute (well not every, but a lot) of their mischief and naughtiness! I don't find their questions as annoying (I just switch them off when I've had enough and they soon get tired of asking - better than yelling to get them to stop and upsetting them) and have more interesting answers to give them. I try to explain the world in a way I never saw the need to before. I find them funny and interesting - and I love to watch them grow as people without feeling the need to hurry them on to the next stage. Of course there are many things that I still struggle with in my home - noise being the chief annoyance (particularly shouting to and at each other too much of the time), screaming (in anger, frustration, annoyance, or pure irrationality sometimes), throwing of things (especially if it's something of mine!), and the constant MESS everywhere - no matter how much I pick (or get the children to) up there is always more accumulating somewhere! But I wouldn't actually want life any other way just now - they will all be gone from here before I know and I just feel in my bones that I will miss it all - all those things that drive me crazy just now will be gone from my life and I will wish for them back again - so maybe I shouldn't complain so hard just now and maybe I should just live for the moment, for the here and now and keep it close while I still have it with me :D

Enough sentimentality - time for pictures;

DD loved this very simple activity - it's been buried in my cupboard for eons.
I'll get it out again for certain ;D

Stitch giving his orders!

When it's wet outside...

Scientists in the making :D

Lilo having fun and learning on Moshi Monsters - love it!

Lilo colouring her new Snowman puzzle (£1 for 2 - bargain!) with her new
not-so-cheap triangular Staedler pens!

Lilo finishing a 49 piece puzzle - solo :D

Stitch playing with his new 'pens' (paint dabbers). He had been given paper, but he discarded it because he likes to line them up, take all the lids off, knock them all down, count them (with me of course) and then match all the lids back on again - it's his own little game :D!! Occasionally he 'writes' with them!

DD doing some handwriting practice. These are homemade Write-0n, Wipe-off strips and I thought he might do one or two - he did them all :D He did get bored towards the end and it showed in his effort level, but on the whole these were excellent for him and he enjoyed them. A boy who likes to write - is that possible?!
The finished result (can't really hide the names here!) - the Nathanael one was the first he did - Daddy was the last - you can see the decline, but it's still good :D

Stitch considering his next move!!

Lilo playing on Tux Paint - she loves this too (they all do) and I liked the pattern she achieved with this colouring. It's not all colouring - they can paint and draw on this independently.

A puzzle (40 pieces) that DD did on Monday. I only gave verbal help and as he got to about half way I just left him to it - he completed it independently and I was very pleased with him. His concentration was good for this one :D

(WARNING!! - last photo - scroll down - is of a rather LARGE SPIDER who crawled out to visit us (bringing along lots of 'behind the cupboards' debris) and who the kids were fascinated with - it's Minnie holding it, not me - I'm not afraid of them, but I'd rather not hold them this big!!