Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Little Baby Feet!

Just look at these adorable little shoes - made with love by my wonderful sister in law. She even found some Welsh Rugby Union transfers to put on them as a nod to my husband's Welsh heritage (AKA fierce support of the Welsh National Team!). We were so touched to receive them - most baby shoes fall off straight away so aren't worth the bother but these stay put as long as you need them for. Not to mention the fact that Lorri is a busy mum of my gorgeous six month old nephew so how she finds time to sew gifts is beyond me! Thanks Lorri! XXXXX

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

......... And Breathe....... Slow Down!

I got all wound up and anxious last week, about everything and nothing, how much I wasn't doing, what I was doing, and ended up circling round unhappily doing nothing and enjoying nothing. Then realised what a fool I was being, took a deep breath, sat down with the children and...... suddenly found myself relaxing and laughing.... amazing what perspective threading a few beads on a wire with one's daughters can give you!

So I have resolved to stop winding myself up - Idris is just five weeks old, the house is clean (ish), there are meals on the table (mainly of the home cooked nutritious variety) and I have time for every one's needs (including my own) when I'm not wasting time worrying so I will keep reminding myself to sit down and play every time I feel anxious and I think I'll be much better!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

In which I resign myself to not being able to make jam!

This is Dewi and the girls harvesting the remainder of our plum crop for this year. Sadly two large branches snapped under the weight of the fruit leaving the tree not nearly as handsome as it used to look. I had already tried to make jam two weeks ago and despite following to the letter the instructions in the book, I ended up with a large quantity of plum syrup.... like the blackberry syrup I ended up with last year and the strawberry syrup the year before..... you get the picture! So last week Dewi decided to make the jam using the damsons from the little tree in our trellis hedge. Cue twelve jars of rich, densely purple damson jam two hours later!! It's like Yorkshire puddings all over again - mine flat and eggy, Dewi's light, crisp and mountainous!! I can live with that - one less thing for me to do!!! I'm taking the first jar to my friend's house tomorrow, we will make scones with the children and then test the jam together!! So if we made jam with the damsons, what of the plums you ask? Well they are fermenting away in my under stairs cupboard as part of Dewi's plum cider experiment!!!!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A Homemade Barefoot Walk!

Eve and Faith are so enamoured with barefoot walks that I wondered whether we could make our own....... it was really good fun and took about twenty minutes! We swept the path alongside the vegetable patches first then gathered various materials that we had on hand. The blue colour are seed trays lined with rubble sacks to hold the contents so they can be returned to their rightful places after use! We used beach pebbles, bark strips, a towel, sunflower leaves, twigs, sand, rubber chippings, gravel, rice, hay and of course..... mud and water...... no self-respecting barefoot walk is ever without mud and water! I set ground rules - one way only so we can return the chippings etc without them being full of mud and no potion making with the mud as I can't face the clear up job at the moment!!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Barefoot Fun at Trentham Gardens

The girls managed to squirt each other with the jets on the fountain!

This is Faith's eye peering through a huge sculpture inspired by the molecular make-up of carbon!

This is the girls in the thick of the barefoot walk - I did this as well and found it a uniquely unpleasant experience! Yes my feet did tingle but that could easily have been the five minutes in very cold water washing off the mud afterwards! I did not enjoy the sensation of squelchy mud followed by various painful variations of hard and spiny things to walk over!! The girls announced that the one at Conkers is better because it has more mud and water than this one!!

Dewi sent them off by themselves to go round again. I hate them being out of sight but they relish the freedom and as there was a set route and it looped back to us, I swallowed my doubts and let them go! Here they are running back triumphantly! 
We went round the monkey forest as well and here is one of their new babies!
We had a thoroughly lovely day and Idris enjoyed snuggling in the sling and gazing up at the forest canopy above!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Home Ed on the Hop!

I have been panicking a little in recent weeks wondering how on earth I will fit in all of the things that the girls need as well as tending to our new baby boy. Then things happen to remind me that there is plenty of time to fit everything in, especially if I jump at chances that present themselves. Above is Faith this afternoon. She asked Dewi to make her a rainbow book with lots of coloured paper, then asked me to write her a story about a pig. So I wrote it a sentence at a time and she read them then drew a picture to illustrate. She has just begun to read but read some CCVC and CVCC words easily, and with help worked out some CCVCC ones and some digraph sounds like 'cake' as well. I made it a very silly story so she was keen to read each installment! Two hours and sixteen pages later she declared it was 'the end'!!!! 
There is a lot of word play in our house at the moment and I used Eve's experimentation with long and short vowel sounds to do a quick spelling lesson on an envelope bound for the recycling box! The 'pressure off' approach suits Eve anyway so this was pretty effective!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Watching a Farrier at Work.

These are photos from before Idris was born. A family that also home educate invited all who wanted to go, to watch the farrier showing their horses. It was a glorious day with plenty of seats in the shade for heavily pregnant mummies to relax in and a huge green field with dens and trees to climb for the children!
Eve took these photos of the farrier at work. Both girls were really interested in it and I can remember enough from my youth spent at the local stables to be able to explain it all!
After the shoeing was finished, Karen tacked up two of the ponies and the girls had a ride (well - they managed to beg three goes each actually!!)

Karen was so kind and generous all day, we even helped shampoo and condition the little grey pony after all the riding was finished! Faith in particular is absolutely horse mad so she really loved her day.... She was naturally balanced on the pony as well and very relaxed riding him. I so wish we could afford riding lessons for them but at the current prices it is impossible...... perhaps a bit of digging around and bargaining might unearth a more affordable option if they are still mad keen next Spring! But shh don't tell them, I'd never hear the end of it!!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Junk Modelling Station

Eve's latest craze is junk modelling. I am glad as for a long time I have felt mildly guilty that we don't junk model enough. Suddenly she has begun to make very creative things from paper and card. Above are shoes made from a foam camping mat, card and sellotape! Faith's have worn through she has run around in them so much this afternoon!

I was beginning to tire however of all the associated detritus being scattered across my living room floor, and me being the main person to actually tidy any of it away despite asking. So... I went back to my Montessori roots and thought about how to set it up so it was manageable for Eve and less annoying for me! And I came up with a 'junk modelling station' on the outside table that is under a covered area. It consists of a laundry basket (the red one under the table) with scrap materials in , a red wooden tray to corral all finished and in progress models in, a bag for rubbish (the green one) to be sorted for waste and recycling, and little bins with scissors, tape, stapler etc in ready for use. With a very small amount of training she will be using this with minimal distress to me!

I find it fascinating to watch her create and to see where the seeds of her ideas have come from. I made the body and string legs and arms of this doll on Thursday, then Eve made all the clothes for it. She watched me make it very carefully and since then has experimented with using string and knotting it to create hinges and fix things together.

I am planning to add to the materials she has once our community arts recycling facility re-opens at the end of Summer.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Idris in the Tummy Tub!

My Nana gave this to me before Eve was born. It has a line to fill to and baby sits in a foetal position in the water with a couple of fingers for chin support. Idris seemed to enjoy it and the girls loved to help. We just gave him a quick wash as he is such a greedy feeder he ends up with milk everywhere and was beginning to smell more milky than he should!
My cousin once remarked that it looks from the side as if you have pickled them in a jar!

He was happy to be snugged back up in a towel afterwards though! Another item getting good use for a third time round!!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Planning and Organisation

Edited to say: I wrote this the week before Idris was born and am now trying to action it with baby in sling!

I hesitate to write about this to be honest..... I have started a planning post many times and then deleted it, for the reason that I don't really know the best way yet to plan for my children. I like the idea of planning a year ahead and collecting resources, books and materials for the whole year then stepping neatly through my plans week by week. The truth is that this just wouldn't work for us at present. One of the main reasons is that my eldest daughter changes her preferred style of learning regularly so committing to plans for a year of learning maths by a certain method would be a costly and time-consuming mistake. Her needs change regularly as well and sometimes something that I've planned out carefully in little stages, she suddenly leaps through!

Up til now I have been planning a few weeks at a time, probably four to six weeks and then fleshing it out on a Sunday night and ordering, printing and making resources then for the week ahead. I would like to plan a little more ahead than this though and reduce the intensity of my Sunday night 'sessions'!!! This allows me to be responsive but also allows me to feed the inner 'organisation demon' that I have within!!!!

So that is one decision made....... plan objectives for a few months at a time.... agreed.

So how to plan and what paperwork to use? My organisation demon hankers after folders and notebooks with neatly printed sheets covering annual, termly, monthly, weekly, daily and lesson planning. But this wouldn't work for the same reasons outlined above.... it isn't responsive or flexible enough and also....... it's a MASSIVE amount of paperwork that I simply don't have the time or inclination (once the initial enthusiasm has worn off!!) to keep up with!

For the last few months I have been trialling a very simple weekly planning sheet that I found online and I really USED, ticking things off, adding notes and to-do lists and having out in front of me whilst we do lessons. It is lots of bits of paper hanging around though and I'm not organised at filing them So I have acquired an academic diary.... A4 size with a week to view and a section for notes. I plan to use a pencil and ruler to section the pages further for the areas I wish to plan for and the children.

Ta-da..... another decision made..... keep it simple with a large yearly diary that keeps itself filed and I will actually use!!

And now...... how much detail should I plan in? Again I love the idea of using glossy pre-prepared curriculae for all subjects and trotting them out day by day as my children enthusiastically plough through them and information burns itself into their brains....... erm..... fantasy land again!!!! I have looked at many on-line and paper curriculae and although many have their merits they just don't suit us...... they have a prescribed route through and contain information that is irrelevant to my children and/or miss out information that is pertinent. They either come across as a list of questions, or they present a detailed 'script' for me to follow which feels hollow to me!

So after considerable thought on the matter I have decided on planning what we should try to cover each day and then fill in the actual content weekly as we go to allow the flexibility my children need. this gives a structure to my plans (did you see the demon pop up again??!!) but suits our needs as a family also. I will detail these subject areas another day I think! I will use a range of resources and sources to flesh out these areas and keep in mind the National Key Stage Curriculum followed by UK schools but not be a slave to it!

And how will the school year pan out? I have decided to follow 'year round' schooling rather than the set school terms here in the UK. I find it easy and pleasant to spend a sunny hour or two doing lessons in the summer when most schools are off. But in the depths of winter it suits us to take a month off to re-charge and have fun around the Christmas period, both me and my husband find we have lower energy around this time and the house is harder work to run in the poor weather so it isn't optimal to be trying to put energy into schooling as well! We also take a week or so off when burnout threatens one or all of us or illness hits us!

I have one final trick up my planning sleeve for the year ahead.... the 'workbox' system! I have always liked the idea of it as a system but couldn't see how it could work for us so haven't used it. So why is now different? Well for two reasons.... I put out all the children's work on the dining table every evening ready for the morning. This works well but the table is then out of action for any other activity and looks messy as we work as well.... we have to shunt things around all the time! Completed work and resources needed are stashed/dumped in these display boxes (see picture below) and I hate it!!! We have one family room in our house (a traditional 1930's semi-detached) and it has to serve all purposes.... we live, learn and I work as a childminder all in the same space. It would be fab to have a school room but it just isn't possible.

The second reason was that I saw the perfect storage drawers to serve as 'work boxes' (see below!!!) they will tuck neatly away in the corner of the room and mean that I can slot each activity and resources needed into a tray and the children can clear them back into the tray when done.... tidier, more effective and oh so pretty in those rainbow colours!! Thankfully there are two pink ones so no arguing on that score. I still have some working out to do to create a simple working plan for the work boxes and I'll share that when I'm done. When I am done.... I am claiming those display shelves back for Dewi and I's treasured possessions!!!!

After all that I'm not actually sure when I will start my simple new system as we are due our baby any time now and I'm not entirely sure when we'll be fully operational after that wonderful event! As a stop-gap I have found some nice workbooks that tie in with the children's current interests and we will continue to ask them to read to us once or twice a day. Watch this space!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Crafting with One Arm!

When Idris was five days old the girls needed some regular 'mummy input' so we all sat around the table and made things! It was really lovely to have every one's ideas work together to make the 'junk gymnastics equipment' that was the girl's goal for the session! Above are the uneven bars - Faith's favourite piece of equipment.

Here is a trampette made by Eve using paper and a balance beam in the background made from a cardboard tube, some suede from the craft box and a fair bit of sellotape!

This is one of the gymnasts made from a craft stick and dressed in a ribbon leotard with pipe cleaner arms - the brainchild of Faith! It was interesting trying to make the leotards with one arm under a sleeping babe!

Daddy and Eve working together on the balance beam!

Faith's gymnast trying out the uneven bars!

|Faith busy giving her gymnasts an identity!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Beach Babes...

We spent the last week on the coast of West wales, staying with Dewi's parents. We have always gone when our babies are very young so that they get to spend some of those precious first days with their Mamgu and Dadcu (welsh names for grandparents) as well. We love the sea..... we take a deep breath when there and Dewi is always at his most relaxed there. This was Idris's first view of the sea..... and he slept peacefully through it!

It was high tide and Faith enjoyed watching the multitude of different boats and vessels leave the harbour.

Whilst Eve took her first deep sea swim by leaping from the sea defense.......

She left her mouth open like in the swimming pool and was most surprised to find out that sea water was salty!!!!

And Dewi couldn't resist getting in on the action.... except he jumped off the harbour wall like he used to when he was a kid..... we spent all week picking through pebbles, searching in rock pools, paddling, swimming and a lot of sitting and gazing from me.... either at the sea or at Idris!