Sunday, 24 November 2013

Advent Activity Bags


I did these last year and I’m doing them again with a few modifications to make it run more smoothly!

Last year I was heavy on the home-made, time-intensive activity options, this year I am reining it in and replacing them with activities that are easier and quicker to pull together and less daunting for me!
I browsed my Christmas Pinterest board for ideas again but also used some things that are unique to our family….
  • ·         Write letters to Santa (we do this on the 1st to give me time to rustle up their request if at all possible…. They ask for one thing for them, one for someone they love and something for the whole world)
  • ·         Make Christmas biscuits (ambiguous enough so that if I feel like putting together the ingredients for the Rudolph cupcakes I can, or if it boils down to cookie cutters and butter biscuits that fits too!)
  • ·         Set up for a party (we aren’t spending Christmas with my parents this year so will be having a special pre-Christmas rendevue with nibbles and drinks to exchange gifts)
  • ·         Visit the Christmas market (an annual special event to ride the enormous old carousel, browse the shops and eat hot-dogs by the fountain!)
  • ·         Make hot chocolate with marshmallows in (Idris LOVES hot chocolate so this is for him!)
  • ·         Make a gingerbread house (with the kit from Ikea – told you I wasn’t doing homemade this year!)
  • ·         Visit Hooties to look at the lights (a warehouse near us with a darkened area for trees, lights and inflatable decorations)
  • ·         Lolly stick snowflakes
  • ·         Paper village scene for the windows
  • ·         M and m’s nativity poems – make to give to friends
  • ·         Call some family to wish them the best of the season
  • ·         Decorate oranges with cloves and ribbons
  • ·         Make candy cane mice
  • ·         Make thank you notes ready to go (these will cover all the children in one – separate ones have proved over ambitious to get sent out in the past!)
  • ·         Take a box of food to the food bank
  • ·         Make oreo-pops
  • ·         Hama bead snowflakes
  • ·         Make paper chains
  • ·         Make mince pies
  • ·         Make paper snowflakes
  • ·         Make strawberry santas
  • ·         Toast marshmallows on the fire
  • ·         Decorate the tree (always done mid-December the day after Daddy’s birthday)
  • ·         Hang up the stockings!

Apart from the few things that are date fixed like decorating the tree and writing letters, I have made a little stack of the papers in the cupboard and I will pick one to go in every day depending on whether I have the resources needed or the energy required!!

The bags came from Ikea last year, and they have three chocolates in each of them from a variety of Christmas chocolates that I found around and about…. This year’s new addition is a Christmas joke in each bag – I had a real giggle finding jokes to write out and I know the girls will find them hilarious, especially Faith, our resident joker!

I’d love to hang them all down the banister with the tinsel and the lights but last year Idris quickly worked out that they contain fun things to eat and I fear that all the chocolates would get scoffed in a day if I did so they are in the dresser to be drip fed!!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

An Amazing Mathematical Story!

I've done a lot of research and reading over the summer about maths as I wanted to find a definite way forwards for the girls to suit them and their strengths. Eve is dyscalculic and struggles with the rote learning and formulaic side of maths but excels at the visual-spatial side of things and Faith is a whizz at formulae and mental maths but isn't so confident applying it logically to solve problems.... I have been plucking up the courage to dive in with some problem solving and today just so happened to be the right time!
I was unpacking a package of maths cubes and the girls began playing.......Eve made a hexagon and Faith made a square and I asked them to predict how many pieces they would need to make a second layer around the first one.... Eve had used six and predicted twelve for the second round... a good guess and based on sensible reasoning! She in fact used 18, and then thought that the third round would use 24, it in fact used 30 pieces to Eve's surprise!

I introduced the idea of recording what she was investigating on paper and gave her a notebook that I'd got ready a few weeks ago for just this purpose!To my amazement, she began to write..... and wrote and wrote and wrote, not only did she write about it, she turned her information into a maths mystery story for someone else to work out! For a dyslexic and dyscalculic child to jump enthusiastically into the two things she struggles with most was just magical to watch!

Halfway through I stopped her and we chatted about the emerging pattern in her investigation, she needed a little prompting to see it as she got cross with me for asking her things that she didn't know.... this is her stock response to many new situations in maths, she panics, shuts down mentally and gets upset, refusing to allow herself to think, automatically assuming that she won't know the answer! With a little patience and coaxing she talked me through it, telling me that the gap between 6 and 18 was 'two sixes' and between 18 and 30 was also 'two sixes' and that she thought that the gap between the next two would also be 'two sixes and therefore the next layer would need 42 pieces to complete.

She had got a bit tangled up in the idea of it being linked to the six times table but it was useful to be able to link it to the number of sides that a hexagon has. Faith had found a pattern in her squares linked to the four times table and I helped them to see that there were four sides to the square and there was a link there also. I'm looking forwards to suggesting that the girls investigate a triangle in the same way, and seeing if they pick up that it has three sides and that there might be a pattern to look for linked to threes.......

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Here's Rose!!


Well..... five and a half weeks later, here are some pictures of our beautiful baby girl...... she was born in the night like her big brother and she weighed 8lb 6oz. We've called her Rose..... Dewi brought me a tiny red rose bud from my favourite rose bush in our garden and gave it to me, and that evening when we were alone together and had time to talk about her name, we realised that we had both been thinking of Rose for just that reason, so Rose it is!
Here, Rose is about 3 1/2 hours old, meeting her brother and sisters for the first time and having a cuddle with them all!
Idris is very taken with his baby sister - I thought he might be a little bit jealous as he has always been very attached to us, but his attachment is obviously secure enough that there is room for another without a worry! People say that toddlers regress when a baby sibling is born but after five days Idris decided that nappies were old news and he wasn't wearing them anymore! What a star!
This is Rose snuggling on my dad when she was a few weeks old... she really loves her cuddles and likes to be held for most of the day but she sleeps really well at night..... what's that all about? I kept waiting for reality to kick in and for her to be wakeful in the night like the last two babies have been but no.....this girl likes her sleep, for which I am truly grateful as like most people, I function better on better sleep!!
Idris loves to snuggle with her and so do her sisters and it's a real help having willing arms to snuggle her when things need doing, although I can't leave Idris to snuggle as he will drop her in a moment to do something else!!
Rose lurrrves a warm bath.... preferably with me but as a bath for me is a rare occurence round here at the moment, she gets dunked in with Idris instead!
We've had a sad time this last few weeks with the sudden loss of Dewi's uncle and his grandmother a few days after. We spent time with dewi's family preparing for the funeral and Rose came into her own for giving comforting snuggles to anyone who needed them.... and there were lots who needed so she had lots of snuggles! Here she is with Dewi's Mam the day after the funeral (it was her Mam that passed away).

So Rose is 5 weeks old already and as I sat feeding her yesterday, saw that her toes were pushing into the ends of even her biggest sleepsuit, so we got out some bigger clothes yesterday, and to my surprise, they didn't drown her! She's very slim, but long like the others..... and her little hands and feet are soooo delicate and slender. Idris had big spades for hands and hobbit feet even as a little baby but Rose is delicate and slender! I love how they are all so different even as tiny little new borns! We get lots of lovely smiles from Rose now, she really is a sweetheart and I forgive her my messy house, pasta-heavy menus, and lack of brain power!



Friday, 19 July 2013

News Flash: Unborn Baby Sabotages Blogging efforts!

It has been a whole month since I posted anything at all! There are draft posts waiting to be finished and lots of ideas in my head of things I wanted to write about..... BUT....... It is hot here, has been for two weeks now, I am 38 1/2 weeks pregnant and all my energy is taken up by feeding my family simple food, doing maintenance level cleaning and washing, and then going to bed early! There are a few bits of organisation that I'm trying to finish up to make home educating with a newborn a little easier and they are taking priority over my time when I have some spare energy!! So for now I'm going to admit defeat and let things slide!

I WILL be posting about my lovely boy who is TWO very soon...... I can't believe it! He is coveting a bike of his own..... will he get one? You'll have to wait until he opens his presents!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

What IS Living Maths and How Can I Use it?


Living maths is attributed to Charlotte Mason as she referred often to 'living' books. She actually termed it the 'living teaching' of maths and it has morphed into living maths along the way. I'm really interested in it as a concept for teaching maths at home as the other CM aspects that I've adopted have worked so beautifully well. Recently I've been researching quite a bit about living maths, what that means and how to go about it and this post is a round-up of the information that I've found out and some thoughts about that!

How I came to be here.......
I've been dabbling in it for the last year and have gone on a bit of a journey.... I started out buying a stack of maths story books that I found from the living maths book list written by Mama Jenn that tallied with the maths skills outlined in the National Curriculum. I put together a few activities for each book and we read it every day and did a different activity that illustrated the maths concept in the book. The girls really enjoyed it and it was very effective for concepts such as symmetry and even place value but when I came up against multiplication, I got stuck!! That prompted me to buy a book for teachers to explain to ME what children needed to learn about maths and how they best understood it. That was a good move and I felt much more confident but it lead me on to realising that I couldn't 'teach' some of the concepts in one session and expect it to sink in. Some skills had to be practised over and over like reading does and that meant daily maths........

............which brought me back full circle to where I'd started, wondering how to do that without resorting to a dry boring workbook based curriculum that could completely turn the girls off maths. My age-old curriculum issues arose again as I looked around - they jumped here, there and everywhere - in the name of daily practise but without any seeming logic or continuity, they didn't have explanations, and they all went about it in a different order. Some used manipulatives which I was keen on but didn't fit with my philosophy on how I want the girls to experience learning. Most of them relied on the memorisation and retention of 'maths facts', Eve finds this kind of rote learning nigh on impossible which rules that route out!

I came to a few conclusions about my thinking on maths and where we are now:
  • We can't 'do it all' just like we can't with science and history either but I also don't want there to be glaring gaps that will hamper later maths for the girls.
  • The girls have very good practical maths skills using time, weighing and measuring, handling money etc.
  • They learn by themselves - I know this as they come running in to tell me that 3x4 is 12 or that 70-20 is 50..... but they aren't sure of the terminology and what written symbols mean.
  • The living maths that we have done so far has sunk in and been retained and used, most notably place value.
  • I believe that expertise builds up and stems from truly understanding the subject and seeing it's links to other aspects of life and how it can be used.
  • I want the security of feeling like we have a logical sequence and I'm not just attacking random subject matter and from our literacy approach I know that little and often builds nicely into confidence and understanding.
  • I want the flexibility to scoot ahead or to stop and expand on things that confuse or enthuse the girls.
What I found out about Living Maths........
With all this in mind I launched into my research determined to find the perfect fit once and for all! Some useful resources that I found on the way were the Living Maths Yahoo group, Living Learning Lists from the blog 'everyday snapshots', a fantastic article on squidoo entitled Charlotte Mason on Math, another by the same author called Transitioning to Living Maths and a vast amount of thought provoking information here. Because 'living books' has become a term synonymous with a Charlotte Mason style education, it seems natural to assume that 'living maths' means that maths is taught purely from books alone. Having dabbled in this method myself I am strongly questioning whether it is enough as after all, she didn't advocate teaching children the mechanics of reading by simply reading to them, although very very important, so how can we teach the mechanics of maths by reading about it to them? There must be more to it!

Charlotte Mason didn't use the term 'Living Maths', rather she referred to the 'Living Teaching' of maths. This suggests to me that she believed that maths should be brought alive for the children, and she didn't rule out any particular ways of doing that. Her recommendations followed a pattern of using manipulative materials followed by visualising those materials and methods with mental arithmetic and then moving onto written maths problems once mental arithmetic was secure. Problems should challenge the child without overwhelming them, this is important when doing maths from a CM perspective as she placed importance on accuracy and getting things right first time without retrying it, it will be up to me to ensure that I pitch things at the right level for them. Charlotte Mason believed in a solid foundation of the basics, she disapproved of a child bashing through sums and problems without a true grasp of what they were trying to do. My favourite principle of a CM maths program is that you shouldn't 'overteach', she didn't want parents to get in the way of a child's learning, this is fantastic because it gives me confidence that a well chosen pathway and well-chosen materials will do the job nicely without me having to battle my own maths insecurities to facilitate it! 

How I am approaching Living Maths.....
I found that Charlotte Mason's approach to maths wasn't that far removed from what I thought it would be and how I am planning on approaching it already. I have chosen a four fold approach this year influenced by where the girls are in their maths development, what has worked previously and what I think I can manage with a newborn and a toddler!:

  1. I have chosen The Dyscalculia Toolkit by Ronit Bird as our main spine. It is designed for children aged 7-14 and is aimed at supporting children with learning difficulties in maths..... HOWEVER I think it is a brilliant scheme for all children and it fits really well with Charlotte Mason's explanation of the living teaching of maths as it focuses on maths facts but without a heavy reliance on memorisation - it shows logical ways to get there by reasoning rather than rote learning. It also places an emphasis on understanding backed up with concrete experience of using manipulatives before moving on to mental working out and then written problems. From my personal wish list, it ticks the boxes of providing a logical sequence of small incremental steps that can be tackled at a rate that suits my children. It isn't designed to be a curriculum, but rather a 'pick and choose' selection of activities and games but as I want to ensure that the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are secure by the end of this year, I am going to use it as a curriculum, set-up in much the same way as I use The Reading Reflex. I will post more about how I'm doing that another time! 
  2. I have purchased the first book in the Life of Fred series and will be trying this out with the girls, I've read a range of reviews on it but think we need to try it out to see how it suits us. It will fit nicely into our book basket but I'm unsure of whether the 'jump about' nature of the stories will be sufficient as a standalone curriculum in the long term, although it does follow it's own sequential course building up to high school level. The tone of the stories isn't my cup of tea and there doesn't seem to be much material to allow practise and repetition which over the next year might not suit ME as I don't want to be having to prep extra things to go along with it!!
  3. The third and final aspect that I'm really looking forwards to from a personal interest point of view are living books on maths. I was inspired by this living math through history curriculum and very nearly bought it if it wasn't for a review that praised it highly but said it was pretty much a series of book lists and you needed to do many hours of prep and organisation yourself to utilise it. As they are kind enough to make their book lists freely available I chose instead to trawl through them and choose some interesting books that will tie maths to the history and science that we are doing this year, making it 'live' in terms of linking all the subjects together as a whole, which was another of my personal requirements. I am particularly looking forwards to these as my maths experience in school was limited to formulae and processes with very little enjoyment! I'm going to intersperse these with some of the living maths books that we already own, utilising the method we've found successful before of tying practical activities to them to teach concepts such as time, fractions, measurement and more.
  4. Be mindful of taking advantage of opportunities to measure, weigh, tell the time, use calendars etc on an informal, real-life basis
I haven't worked out yet how I will fit these different aspects in and there is much more to say on the subject of living maths books and the Dyscalculia resource book, but they will have to wait for another post or two, especially as I am so spoiled for choice with the book lists that I can't decide what to get! There are things I would like to bring into our maths that I simply don't have the time and capacity to achieve at the moment. I keep reminding myself that I can't do it all and neither do I have to..... we can try new things another year and I think what we have for this year is rich and varied enough! In the meantime, you can browse through my Charlotte Mason Pinterest board and my Maths Musings Pinterest board for more ideas and inspiration on teaching maths in a CM way!




Saturday, 15 June 2013

Teaching Toddlers to Cut

I took these pictures quite a few weeks back now but felt compelled to write about them today due to the incredible difference in Idris's cutting skills in such a short time. I can remember sitting with Faith for hours at a time whilst she mastered scissors and it was a pleasure to be able to replicate that for Idris! I had noticed that he was becoming more interested in the tools that the girls were using and was naming things like 'sizzies'. I picked up a pack of coloured electrical tape in the pound shop when I was in town ready for him..... and off we went as soon as he said 'sizzies, me'
I love the concentration on his face and his opening and closing mouth as he cuts. He started out using one hand on each scissor handle. I gave him proper craft scissors that were sharp enough to cut well but without pointed ends. Blunt toddler scissors simply frustrate children when they are learning to cut and do them no favours as in struggling to cut with them they could hurt themselves more. I have two pairs of scissors with looped handles that spring back open when released and only need squeezing to cut with, without having to worry about which fingers go in which holes. I have left and right handed pairs as you never know which way a little one is going to go! Faith loved cutting with them but Idris eschewed them in favour of a pair the girls were using! I also have a pair that has a small plastic spring on one handle that when folded down helps the blades to spring open easily again..... they came in useful later on.... for the first stage, just let your child hold and move the scissors how they feel comfortable.
It is useful to hold the paper up for them, at right angles to where they are cutting so that they only have to concentrate on moving the scissor blades, not on manipulating them to get them round the paper. You will sense when is the right time to start letting them do both. You can see from the picture that Idris quickly moved on to attempting to use the scissors with one hand only. It wasn't very successful but I said nothing and let him guide his own progress!I also avoid saying too much about which way up to hold the hand...... words get in the way of a concentrating toddler and they will find their own way! Faith was 16 months when she started cutting, Idris is about 22 months here. The first step with learning to cut is usually 'fringing' around the edge of a piece of paper, making a single cut then opening the scissors and making another cut.
With the electrical tape I held that out tight so that they scissors would cut first time and then Idris either showed me where to stick it or put it down for himself. It is nice to use the coloured tape as they can see where it has gone better than clear tape and allows choice of colour too.... Idris was keen to pull out the tape by himself, another reason why electrical tape is good for toddlers as finding and keeping the end is easy and it doesn't wrap itself up quite so much as clear tape!! It also has the benefit of strengthening fingers and increasing co-ordination and control!
After about an hour cutting and sticking, Idris stopped, looked up, gave a huge sigh then jumped down from the table and took his card with him to show Daddy what he had done with the sizzies.... the picture was ceremoniously pinned to the kitchen door with his big sister's pictures and he was so thrilled, he kept coming back to look at it and say 'me, sizzies'!!!!
Roll on a few weeks and he has asked to use scissors quite often. He likes to carry them with him and although I balked at this to start with I then decided to allow it within the parameters of it being a blunt-ended pair and of him carrying them properly with the blades in his hand and pointing down. He forgets a lot but if I say 'carry your scissors properly please' he immediately turns them round again! He has tried cutting all sorts of things and has developed really good cutting skills, so much so that he now cuts one handed, in straight lines across a piece of paper and at a furious pace! Under the table is littered with pieces of snipped paper several times a day at the moment! 

Today's interest was in cutting boxes, it was fascinating to watch him try different techniques and angles until he found one that worked. The recycling bin is a great source of materials to practise cutting skills on - catalogues, thin cardboard boxes, plastic fruit boxes, wax paper cups..... all provide a new experience! Other things to give your toddler to cut up are play dough, drinking straws, vegetable peelings and leaves and thin twigs from the garden!















Saturday, 8 June 2013

Idris at 22 months

My sweet boy turned 22 months a few weeks back, and is motoring on towards being 23 months - that is so close to two years old, which is coming round sooooo quickly!! He continues to delight and amaze us and is such a joyful little person...... as you can see from the series of pictures this month, he has discovered the thrills of swinging! He seems to feel safe in the strap seat which hugs him securely and begs for Daddy to push him 'more push peeeeeze'!! Dewi of course responds by pushing him far higher than I feel comfortable with but I bite my lip and smile as he squeals with delight and yells 'peek boo' around the edge of the frame and sticks his tongue out at me!!!
Some other physical skills he is working on:
  • HUGE jumps into the swimming pool - almost bombing, then bobbing back up with a big grin on his face and his eyes wide open!
  • Pushing the girls 'scoot toots' (scooters) around the patio, watching how the handle turns the wheels and picking them up and putting them down, then propping them against things.
  • Climbing ever more challenging structures - whether they are designed for climbing or not!!
  • Carrying a can half full of water and watering plants
  • Cutting with scissors - equally proficient with both hands
  • Tripod grip holding a pen and drawing tiny little circles and marks - he finds it fascinating that he can make small marks and appears to be ambidextrous at the moment

He has discovered tools, to be more specific, hammers..... it started when Daddy, Grandpa (bomp bom) and Dadcu built a wooden cabin in the garden. They all three had hammers and Idris seems to have decided that men have hammers and therefore HE must have hammers (notice the plural here!!). This led to his first major injury of a split finger after he dropped one on his hand.... it has healed nicely though and hasn't put him off! Dewi found him a nice LITTLE hammer and he went all round the garden trying it out on different surfaces, he was enchanted with the 'ting' it made when tapped against the metal bird bath!!
Although he has a wide and varied vocabulary and his understanding is fantastic, he is a boy of few words at present, these few words can sometimes be pretty repetitive though!!

  • He tells little stories like "Bomp bom - dog - oh oh" which was about him throwing a toy dog out of the car window as we were leaving my parent's home and Grandpa had to run up the drive to rescue the dog and give it back! Another one was "cat - shace (face - he can't make 'f'' sounds!) - scatch" accompanied by a gesture, when my friend's cat scratched his face one time. He really loves to tell stories.
  • He purposefully learns new words by pointing to things and looking at me with a questioning look asking for me to name it, then having a go himself. Like most toddlers, he has his own unique sounds that I regularly have to translate for others!
  • He tells the punchline of books before we get there which makes me giggle, and answers the questions or joins in with the words he knows. He has a stock four favourite books that we read over and over at bedtime.... I've tried sneaking a new one in but it isn't accepted!

This is a rare picture - my tough little cookie rarely cries when he tumbles or bangs himself and if he does it is short lived as he comes with the offending hand or leg held out for a kiss better.... cue instant end to tears!! He can tell me now that something is 'sore' and can show me where which helps! The best bit about this last month is that he has started to spontaneously dole out cuddles and it makes me so happy to have his little arms wrapped around my head or neck and squeezed and then a careful kiss planted on my lips!!
This is Idris at his happiest - helping Daddy with whatever Daddy is doing and watching carefully how it is done then mimicking it. He is very much a man's man and starts to talk about his Daddy as soon as we head for home if we are out without him! I love watching him grow up!!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Building and Maintaining Homeschooling Momentum


If you are anything like me, then building and maintaining a momentum with education at home is something you will have to work at! It is all too easy to start out really enthusiastic about an idea, book, or curriculum, only for the first flush of interest to subside and for another potentially great opportunity to fade into the cupboard to gather dust! So why is is hard to build and maintain momentum? What are the pitfalls to avoid and what tips and techniques can help you to succeed? I'll start with where I went wrong and what I do now to build and maintain a happy flow to our schooling!

Why is the flow hard to start and harder to keep going sometimes?
Part of my problem is that I want to DO everything........ I want to teach them to play the piano, teach them to draw and paint, bring in a foreign language, facilitate sporting and social activities, do lots of hands on science experiments, as well as make sure the basics are really thoroughly covered in a way that they will truly understand and gain lasting benefit from rather than just going through the motions...... this is the perfectionist in me showing her colours!

Over the last few years though I have realised that if I try to do it all, then it isn't all done well, with enthusiasm and passion and enjoyment, and the more I try to plan, the less actually happens. Also, in the UK, we have no minimum hours of teaching/attendance to record and no statutory subjects to cover; whilst I embrace this freedom with joy and gratefulness as it allows me to tailor the children's education to their own needs and interests, it is a double edged sword as there is then no-one outside the home to be accountable to and I work quite well with deadlines and requirements to meet!!

So how can you BUILD momentum?
  • Make it a HABIT! I often read articles about schedules versus routines and which might be a better fit for your family but it suddenly clicked recently upon reading a series of blog posts about schooling multiple ages that for us it is neither schedules nor routines, but HABITS that make the difference! This was a eureka moment for me..... I am planning to go back to this series (scroll down for the list) and read them properly to see what could be useful to adopt within our family. Forming habits isn't just for habits of doing lessons, but for things like quiet time, or when to fit in the myriad of other things that vie for your time and attention, like blogging (ahem) or paperwork, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and so the list goes on!
  • Do it YOUR WAY! It is easy to feel overwhelmed when you read of the mountains of subjects that other homeschooling mothers manage to shoehorn into their day and to feel that you too should be doing that, or writing your own curriculum or teaching it in a spectacularly well organised schoolroom, or all of the above...... well DON'T!! Look at how your family works and fit it to that, store it all in a plastic box in the garage to pull out once a day, curl up in an armchair to do it, take it to the beach with a picnic, do it in the evening or weekends if that's when you work best, write your own or buy it in if that suits you better - whatever you do, make sure you have chosen that way for YOUR reasons and not because ti looks glossy on someone else's blog...... you are far more likely to stick with it if it is designed around your family and therefore fits well.....
  • It won't all fit well so DITCH IT if it doesn't work and try something else! Knowing that you can ditch a misfit will make you feel more relaxed about trying something new.
  • MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME...... multiplication songs in the car, audio stories on during lunch, reading and narration with a cuppa and a snack, have one child read to you during another's swimming lesson, be creative! This leaves you time to enjoy each other's company or for you to have a well-earned cuppa whilst the children are busy playing after a fulfilling and enjoyable morning..... there I go mentioning a cuppa again, can you tell how I like to relax for ten minutes??!!
  • Build in ONE THING AT A TIME........ jumping in with a really full-on week of scheduled lessons and work to complete can be exhausting and demoralising. Pick your priority subjects and introduce one or two things at a time, get to grips with them, then add in other things as the weeks go by.
And how can you MAINTAIN that momentum?
I believe that building momentum is the most important part. If you have built it well, then even when the unexpected comes along to disrupt your homeschooling plans, you will continue with your core priorities as they are part of daily life and slot in easily. In our house the core subject that carries us through is phonics and reading. Come rain or shine we slot them in, and I have taken some lessons from how I set up the phonics programme when considering how I will build and maintain a different looking momentum this Autumn with a new baby and a toddler livening up the environment! 
  • Make CAREFUL CHOICES of curriculum that will fit pleasantly rather than jar with your children's learning styles, interests and your family circumstances. I have written about planning your own curriculum here and here, with a third post to follow soon.
  • READ IT THROUGH from start to finish before you begin so that you are familiar with it and know where you are headed through the year.
  • GATHER SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT before you start and have everything on hand and easy to grab. If you have to go searching around for materials each time you want to use them, you are more likely to let it slip, rather than just grabbing them and getting on with it when the time is ripe.
  • Know when to TAKE A BREAK or leave it for the day..... if your children are getting frustrated, or everyone is tired, there is a virus working round family members that is pulling everyone down, then leave off the lessons for a few weeks until the time is right to pick it back up! A few weeks break from  just one subject can bring amazing leaps and bounds in understanding and capability, without having done anything on it in the meantime! I have experienced this in my children, previous learning seems to consolidate in the break that you take. I am right now taking a break from phonics with my youngest daughter. She is becoming fidgety and frustrated with the activities but really enjoying reading books to me as well as being read to so backing off is in both our interests.
  • Just as importantly, know when to GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! Drop a few of the balls you juggle constantly by putting some convenience foods on the menu for a week or so, or saying 'no' to a commitment outside the home. Making one or two temporary changes can create just a bit of space that means that your priorities can keep taking the top spot and keep that momentum rolling on!
  • Finally, WRITE GOALS for yourself. I don't write goals for my children as I want them to learn at their own pace and to their own rhythm. I do write goals for myself though, to keep myself on track with the things that I need to provide and facilitate. I learned a particularly effective way of goal-setting last year at a seminar I attended and I'm going to try it out on home education goals this coming year!
I haven't yet perfected the art of building and maintaining momentum, but I hope that by sharing what I have learned so far, it will help some of you to find an educational rhythm to help you flourish! I add to my ideas on my homeschooling pinterest board, if you are after any further inspiration!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Curriculum Planning Made Easy Part 3

In part 1 I talked about why it was so great to write your own curriculum and in part 2 I went into the nuts and bolts of how to go about putting one together. In this third post on curriculum planning, I'm going to show you what I have gathered for my own children for the coming year, with a few explanations of my choices along the way.

A big passion of Eve's is sewing and I wanted to expand on this for her. I decided to look for some books about UK cotton mills and a story about sewing also with a view to building up some knowledge of different stitches. As we will be reading these going into the Winter, handcrafts are always a useful addition! I have:
  • Mill Girl - A Victorian Girl's Diary 1842-1843 by Sue Reid - We haven't read a diary format before.
  • Look Inside A Victorian Mill by Brian Moses - This has photographs, drawings and short sections of text that can expand on concepts that come up in the Mill Girl Diary
  • Victorian Fashions - A Dover Colouring book by Tom Tierney covering the period 1837-1877. I often include some high quality colouring pages as the girls enjoy colouring whilst they listen to me reading, it also shows what the fabrics being produced by the mills were used to make.
  • The Mary Frances Sewing Book by Jane Eayre Fryer - This is a reprint of an early 1900's book, so towards the end of the Victorian era. I think Eve will love it, it is charmingly written with tools from the sewing basket telling the story through text and poetry, with sewing tuition in each chapter from basic stitches up to hand sewing doll clothing. Eve has a beloved rag doll named Jemima that was mine as a child (although I didn't love her as Eve does!) and she will love making her some clothes.
Another strong interest of Eve's is designing and making things. She is quite the little engineer without really knowing it. Faith too has begun to come up with ingenious solutions to building problems. To further this interest I have:
  • Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You can Build Yourself by Maxine Anderson. It is available for free download from here although I had to be patient to get it through my oversensitive firewall and then persuade my printer to print it!! It's a delightful book, part biography, part 'how-to' instructions based on the detailed notebooks that Da Vinci kept throughout his life. It is split into five main sections  each representing a collection of ideas and inventions that Leonardo was fascinated by.
  • Bridges! Amazing Structures to Design, Build and Test by Carol Johmann and Elizabeth Rieth - This is a great book covering science, technology, important figures and construction challenges. 
  • 13 Buildings Children Should Know by Anette Roeder.
  • From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers, Architecture for Children by Christine Paxmann.
  • The Story of Architecture, 3000BC -Gothic Period by Hillyer and Huey - This is a golden oldie (and smells it too!), it ties the architecture studies really nicely to the history programme that we are using.
  • I'd like to add something in here on a British architect/engineer or a female one also.
Faith has asked some searching questions over the last year and I have some books telling the story of evolution:
  • Born With a Bang by Jennifer Morgan
  • From Lava to Life by Jennifer Morgan
  • Mammals who morph by Jennifer Morgan
  • The Tree That Time Built, a celebration of nature, science and imagination selected by mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston - this is a book of poetry covering nature, science and evolution with Darwin's diaries made into poetry form.  
  • Who Was Charles Darwin? by Deborah Hopkinson
  • What Mr. Darwin saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom
  • Island, A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin - A truly stunning book putting evolution into a living context so simply and beautifully with illustrations and text. My parents have spent time sailing around The Galapagos and have photos and first hand accounts to complement this book - exciting!
Building on the evolution idea and feeding faith's passion for all things natural, I have collected a few books on birds. I chose birds as they have some obvious adaptations within the species to notice and discuss such as different beaks, types of feathers and feet. I am anticipating that this list will grow throughout the year so it isn't yet complete:
  • Seabird by Hollings Clancy Hollings
  • Owl Puke by Jane Hammerslough - this contains an owl pellet to dissect and I plan to get another so there is one for each girl!
  • The Boy Who Drew Birds, A Story of John James Audobon by Jacqueline Davies
  • Just Ducks by Nicola Davies
  • I am researching adding a novel by Michael Morpurgo here. They often tackle ecological and ethical subjects with accurate historical and geographical detail and a good dollop of human traits thrown in but the content isn't always suitable for younger readers so I want to be sure before I pick one!
An interest in Kings and Queens has resurfaced after the recent discovery of Richard III's remains in a carpark! I have books collected last year to feed this interest, they are:
  • Our Island Story by HE Marshall
  • My Amazing Book of Kings and Queens by igloo books
  • The Ladybird book of Kings and Queens by Louise Jones
  • The Usborne Kings and Queens Sticker Book by Sarah Courtauld and Kate Davies
  • I-spy Kings and Queens
My Mum sourced the majority of the monarchy books after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, but we didn't get around to using them as the other projects we had going rolled on. I am planning to use these to dip in and out of as we come across the 'characters' in Our Island Story, and build some visits into it as we have such a rich heritage of amazing places all around us! 

Our Island Story is the only 'classic' Charlotte Mason curriculum book that has made it on to the list this year. I say 'classic' as it appears on most of the online curricula that you can access. Charlotte Mason herself encouraged the use of new and fresh books though so I have embraced that within my planning, making the books relevant to the girls and the times that we live in. I think I have managed to cover a good range of genres and to interweave the subjects that I want to cover. I learned from last year's book lists what worked well and what didn't and have incorporated that knowledge into this years but I'm sure there's much to learn still!

I read 'chapter' books separately to the girls at bedtime as they have different tastes and really enjoy the one-one attention this gives them. Faith likes animal stories, so I have 'The animals of Farthing Wood' by Colin Firth and James Herriots treasury lined up, whereas Eve likes historical novels with a strong female character, so we have enjoyed What Katy Did and Heidi over the last year and are currently reading 'The Secret Garden'. I'm not sure yet what we will move onto!

We do a fair bit of science and up to now I have planned and written the lessons as things came up that sparked an interest (see my science page at the top of the blog for some of the things we have done). This is wonderful but time consuming and with a new baby on the horizon, I know that I'm not going to be able to do that for some time. With that in mind I am busy making Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding into an 'off the peg' curriculum by bagging up the materials needed for each lesson ready to grab and go in the rare times that both toddler and baby will allow it! We have covered a lot of the material already but it will be good to fill in the gaps and tie understanding together. We tend to read books related to the science that we are doing as we go, so those titles will get added in throughout the year also. Some examples of the science living books we have read are 'The Pebble in my Pocket' by Meredith Hooper and Cracking Up: The Story of Erosion (Science Works) by Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly.

I am using The Reading Reflex for phonics progression still which is showing results and is pleasant to work with for all of us so worth continuing with!

I have been dabbling in using Living Maths as a way of teaching maths concepts but have stalled a little (OK a lot!) over the last few months as other ways of enjoying maths have come up. I am still really interested in using living books to teach maths but as I'm currently reading a lot about it and researching books to use and thinking how we will go about it - scheduled or spontaneous? through the history of maths or topic by topic? Insisting on learning maths facts or focusing on keeping them excited and interested? There is still a way to go before I make those decisions so maths for now is a 'watch this space' item on the curriculum list!!

We are also going to be teaming up with another family to do Story of the World together once a week which again is still in the discussion stages but I'm looking forwards to teaming up to do it as the girls really enjoyed it when we started it (and then unfortunately abandoned it) before!

In the next and final part I will sum up some of the things that I have learned about writing your own curriculum, as well as some of the questions that I still have and write about how we incorporate the books into our days and how we use them - I have some new ideas to try to make the most of the times when the girls are eager to do something!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Well Hellooooooo Nesting Instinct!


I find it incredible how, when I committed last week to finishing certain things off before the end of the month, just the setting of a deadline has spurred me on towards getting my priority projects completed! The children's bedrooms are decorated finally, after doing a creative jigsaw effort with Faith's wallpaper to avoid buying a third roll just to finish off around the doorway!

Idris's room is a blank canvas ready to be settled into. He seems very keen on the idea of a bed like his sisters have...... I'm not sure how I feel about him moving out of our room but we need the cot space for the baby this Summer so if he's ready to move on then I don't want to hold him back. It's better that he moves when he feels ready than because the new baby arrives and we need the space - I don't want him to feel pushed out!
My lovely Mum did an amazing job this week tracking down the materials that I needed for our science next year. She e-mailed saying she was going into town and did I need anything, so I e-mailed the list back to her thinking that she'd keep an eye out for things whilst she was out and pick up a few bits towards it for me. Instead she treated it as a challenge and sourced everything on the list that she could and tracked down Internet deals for the rest!

I am working on typing up the lists and plans that I need, I have a few more books to order and then it is finished up and will be ready to go. I am also working on saying 'no' to things that are just one step too far for me and will stress me out and cause anxiety - I am rereading the hypnobirthing book and remembering how important a positive mindset is in staying relaxed! Whilst finishing up my planning I have happened upon  lots of great ideas but am being really good and merely noting them down and pushing them to the back of the pile for A.N.Other time instead of following up all the interesting bunny trails I come across!

After a few weeks of negative comments from strangers about home education and expecting a fourth child, I have had several really complimentary remarks instead this week which has been really lovely and boosted my peace of mind again!! I am feeling really confident and comfortable with what I have sorted and planned and with the progress that the girls are making. I have a few posts lined up over the next few weeks covering all that when I have completed my priorities and have additional time to write once again!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

June is 'Make One, Freeze One' Month!!


As part of my preparations to welcome the arrival of our baby in the Summer, I am designating June as my month to fill the freezer with ready to cook and partially prepared meals. I was inspired by a blog post I saw about using the freezer to your advantage with batch cooking and preparing ahead (I can't find it now!).

I've gotten off to a lip-smacking start already with two packages of meatballs, two of honey-lime chicken skewers and one each of shepherds pie and fish pie mix. I'm keeping a running tally of what is in there and what is needed to complete the meal, such as rice, vegetables, mashed potato topping and so on.

The plan is that I can meal plan using that list as heavily as I need to once the baby is here and my husband has returned to work after his leave, to lighten the load a little! The shopping receipts have shocked me a little the last couple of weeks until I remembered that I was buying double of some ingredients in order to make one and freeze some. I'm going to plan several meals a week that I can do that with through June, including trying out a few things to see if they freeze OK or not!!

To make it easier I have the following things in stock:

  • Disposable roasting pans to put whole meals into as I don't have enough casserole dishes to store in the freezer. They are very shallow which should work great for defrosting and reheating and reduce the risk of cold spots (plus get dinner on the table quicker!!)
  • Ziploc freezer bags - great for storing sauces, part meals such as the fish pie mix and marinaded meats in as all the air can be squeezed out and they can be flattened down to stack neatly making the most of the space.
  • Permanent markers to label and date, although I strongly doubt there will be anything left there after three months!!
  • Plenty of tin foil and cling film to double wrap meals to prevent freezer burn damaging the food and ruining the taste.
Here are some of the meals I am making and freezing:
I'm also experimenting with freezing waffles and breakfast muffins as the children and I like to have a treat breakfast one of the weekend mornings when my husband is on nights and I want to continue that!

Utilising the freezer on a more long term basis to make menu planning and cooking easier has long held an attraction for me and I would like to get to grips with it. It often seems to involve crock pot meals from freezer to crock though and I've not had much success with that when I've tried it. I picked up a couple of pins recently on my recipes board on pinterest, specifically this one and this one which have encouraged me to have another go sometime..... perhaps in the Autumn!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Toddlers and Tools!!

Idris's latest passion is tools, more specifically hammers, or 'am' as he calls them. It has been sparked by the cabin building that went on in our garden a couple of weeks ago. It made a huge impression on him as not only was his Daddy wielding tools but his Grandpa (bomp bom) and Dadcu (dee) also. Idris is very much a man's boy..... most female relatives he can take or leave, he will even abandon his Granny's knee if preference for bomp bom!

We have had many conversations about tools since, including a half hour stint sitting on the floor of a certain hardware store comparing the merits of various garden tools and an earnest chat with the man behind the trade counter about the power drills behind the counter and the fact that Bomp bom drank tea too!

Dewi managed to find him a small wooden mallet that seems to satisfy his desperate need to have a hammer in his hand ALL THE TIME!!! I just loved watching him get to work on these wooden off cuts......
Holding them different ways......
Really hitting them as hard as he possibly could, with some fabulous facial expressions to go with it!
Shuffling round and trying it this way.....
..... and this way......
....and this way......
Steadying it with his hand and putting a boot on it just like Daddy does.....
And loving the physical challenge of handling a long piece of wood!
You can't beat the real thing for satisfying toddlers needs and interests...... a toy tool bench just wouldn't have cut it for Idris!! He is still fascinated with the metal hammers though and sidles up to them whenever he can, just touching them with longing in his eyes..... he did sneak one away and as I saw him and was about to ask for it back, he dropped it and split his finger open....... steri strips are a wonderful invention and as usual he was a tough cookie and once he'd stopped being cross about having a bandage around his hand, he was fine and it is healing nicely. Has he learned a lesson from this and now keeps away from the adult tools when Dewi is working? What do you think?? I am watching him like a hawk!!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

One Thing at a Time!!!

This is my rustic herb box that Dewi built a couple of weeks ago from the remains of the wood that built that the huge raised veg bed..... It is in an unused corner of the patio that gets plenty of sun and hopefully will encourage me to use more fresh herbs now that they are close to the back door! The day he built this I had a long to-do list but decided to sit in the sun and talk with him and the children as he built it. It was wonderful...... then I went back to doing a hundred things at once and It's not wonderful!

I know we ladies pride ourselves on multitasking and I applaud that..... when it is the kind of multi-tasking that involves cooking dinner, putting laundry on, packing a swimming bag and writing a shopping list whilst a toddler sits on the worktop chatting to me and chopping mushrooms. What I am struggling with at the moment is the kind of multi-tasking that I am doing. I have so much that I want to get done before the baby arrives and it will be beneficial for us all but I'm juggling too many unfinished tasks and I'm really struggling!

I have been wondering why I haven't noticed any cravings yet and why my urge to clean hasn't kicked in..... then I realised that I am so busy doing other things that I haven't got TIME to notice what my body is doing..... and when I do notice, I ignore it and carry on regardless, which isn't healthy as I've been struggling emotionally as well as physically over the last few weeks.

So..... I have made a deadline..... on the 30th May, Dewi and I are going out for a meal whilst my parents look after the children and that is my cut off point. I will celebrate what I have achieved and put all non-finished items on the back burner and start taking it easy! This will be my last pregnancy and I don't want to spend the last ten weeks of it consumed by anxiety and exhaustion! I have looked over my to-do list and prioritised the items........ finishing the children's rooms and completing my curriculum plans for next year are my main priorities and I am focusing on those things for the next two weeks! I work well to a deadline so it is useful to have one set for rounding everything up by!

I will be planning and doing things through June and July but will make caring for myself a priority and will only spend time on things that I enjoy doing and want to do. I'm sure that it will all end up on a to-do list with goals and many ideas laid out but that's just me!!
These are some of the moments I want to enjoy more of..... Idris investigating what sounds an "am" makes when he taps different materials......
..... and the girls making themselves sandals out of cardboard and tape!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Montessori Giveaway!

Just a quick post to let you know about a fantastic giveaway being hosted on the blog 'What DID we do all day?'....... I know that a lot of the talk around here lately has been about Charlotte Masonesque topics but I love Montessori - I taught both my girls to read using Montessori activities and incorporate the philosophy heavily into how I am raising my little boy..... must blog about that sometime! Anyhow, here is the link, good luck!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Curriculum Planning Made Easy Part 2



In Part One I talked about why it was great to write your own curriculum and the areas to think about before you started. In this post I will discuss the nuts and bolts of how I go about actually putting a curriculum together for a year, from conception to 'finished product'. In reality I don't view it as a finished product as I leave room for it to grow with us through the year! I have been strongly influenced by the philosophy of Charlotte Mason in that the basis for our curriculum is books, wonderful, captivating, living books!

Halfway through the 'academic' year, around March time, I start looking ahead to what we will cover over the following year. Usually I wonder what on earth I'm going to plan - didn't I already use up all the good ideas for this year? And what is my youngest daughter actually interested in anyway? After a brief blank period some ideas begin to form and it all comes together in the end!! When I come to a brick wall I tuck my lists away for a few weeks and leave my subconscious brain to mull it over until I have a flash of inspiration or stumble upon an idea that kick starts my creative juices once again! It is definitely an organic process for me that grows over time, it isn't something I sit down and bash out in a few hours.

Where to Begin....
So where do the ideas come from to use as a foundation for building the curriculum on? I start with what fascinates my children. I go for the enduring passions rather than passing interests as the material won't be used for a few months. Sudden interests can be accommodated as they come up as they can't be foreseen! My eldest daughter loves to sew and create, and my youngest daughter loves animals. Below is a tidied up version of the part spider diagram part flow chart that begins the process:

Sewing:

  • Stitches - make a book like Granny did as a child? x-stitch project? sampler?
  • Patterns - making and following a pattern? Actual clothes? Doll clothes? Hand sewing or machine?
  • Machines - history of, domestic and commercial machines, weaving/looms..... mills?
  • History of cotton mills - life of the workers?
  • Fabrics - where come from? What used for? cotton/tweed/tartan - UK fabrics? How made? sample books?
  • Threads - cotton/wool/nylon - how made and properties - raw materials.... trade routes? Transport methods and systems?
  • Fashion - history of, designers, process?
  • Tie to time line?
As you can see, there is way more than we could possibly cover in a year, even if we wanted to! Allowing the ideas to flow means that even when you start with a tremendously broad topic such as 'sewing', or ones that are too advanced or unworkable (like getting the sewing machine out with a toddler and new baby in the vicinity!), these can evolve into the perfect solution.  As an example, some of the ideas here are conceptually a little advanced for now such as looking at the composition, properties and uses of various threads and fabrics but are well worth keeping in mind for future years though as sewing is an enduring passion of Eve's.

Fleshing it Out.....
Having narrowed down my ideas to one or two strong veins that I want to go with, I start looking for books that bring the subject alive. I aim to build a selection that covers many different genres of books such as autobiographies/biographies, historical fiction, factual books, poetry and so on. I was inspired by 'The Book Whisperer', written by Donalyn Miller to do this. Although aimed at teachers guiding older children through literature classes, it is a motivational read! 

Within the genres I look for titles that cover a wide range of subject matter, for example:
  • History
  • Geography
  • Human Factors such as personality traits, relationships, decision-making etc
  • Ecological Issues
  • Important historical figures such as composers, artists, inventors and leaders.
I don't try and cover all genres and subjects for every topic I am building a book list for. The idea is that I cover all these genres and subjects over the course of a year, giving the children a broad range of ideas and styles of literature to feast on! Sometimes the important figures are not who you would expect them to be. When I researched books to bring Robert Scott's race to the South Pole to life last year, I discovered a most amazing, inspirational man named Tom Crean who possessed seemingly herculean strength and endurance, and with compassion, humility, ingenuity and lashings of courage! I'd never heard of him before but he saved many lives on several expeditions and was a bonafide Irish hero, his biography was the lynch pin that held our studies together! These figures should ideally be contemporaries of the time period you are roughly covering, or linked in some way for example a story of Tchaikovsky's early career to complement a study of ballet.

I find book suggestions using two main avenues to get me started:
  • A Google search will yield plenty of results, but you will have to play around with your search terms, refining the words and phrases until you begin to come up with the sort of material that matches what you are after. This can be a useful way of finding ideas for a topic in the first place, or you may go back and add to or change the ideas you jotted down in the first planning phase. As well as directly leading you to books, Google may throw up websites, blogs and book lists that are valuable mines of information and book ideas!
  • An Amazon search - after you have hit on one good book, the site will bring up similar books that others searching the same topic have looked at. This often has a snowball effect and you gather a number of books pretty quickly. I always look inside the books if the option is available and read reviews, or look for reviews on the net to decide if they are of the type and quality that I want, and to find a suggested age-group if it isn't clear. I check out authors and series that we have enjoyed before also.
Filling the Gaps.....
I let the books sit in my amazon basket for a while before I order them.... a cool off period if you like! I buy books rather than use the library for two reasons - our local library tends not to have many of the titles leading to frustrated searches and time poorly spent, and I want to build up a library of wonderful books both for the younger children to tap into and for us to have to go back to and build upon in the future.

Once I order the books I look them to over to make sure they are what I expected and consider the growing collection of books as a whole before adding more. I look at where there are gaps and how they could be filled. For example, there might be five or six books for our sewing topic, but only one or two for building and architecture, therefore I will focus on finding another one or two for building and architecture. Alternatively I might note that there are a few great historical fiction books but no biographies or poetry, nudging me to focus on those genres to build on what is already there. I often return to a search engine to research the areas I am focusing on before looking for specific books about those people, ideas or subject matters.

A Few Final Pointers.....
  • You don't have to do it all at once, remember the mantra of 'less is more' and 'quality over quantity'!
  • Don't be afraid to explore complex issues and ideas, but at the child's current level of understanding.
  • Don't be afraid to try something new - if it doesn't work out then learn from it and move on!
  • Go for about 20-30 books over a year - my list is on the lower end of this which leaves room for other avenues of inquiry that pop up through the year!
I hope that you find this useful and that it inspires you to be creative with your curriculum writing. The final post I will write will be a round-up of the book choices I have made for the coming year, along with a few explanatory notes of how they all tie together and how we will use them!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Idris at 21 Months!


Idris has found his climbing feet - he is really brave and adventurous in playgrounds now, and loves to sit for ages on the roundabout whilst older children spin it or follow them up the climbing frames. He's really confident and if he needs instructions one time, he's got it then! He's a tough old cookie too, only wanting acknowledgement of a bruise or fall before heading determinedly off again.
He is beginning to explore crafts a bit more, dabbling in painting and getting to grips with 'sizzies' as he calls them. Below he is proudly showing Dewi his picture before we ceremoniously pinned it on the kitchen door along with the girls pictures. He was very taken with having it up there to see!
He really loves books now. We have piles of books everywhere and he will announce 'book' then plump down next to or on you and open it up. We talk about the pictures often instead of reading the story and point out new things or suggest what is happening. This builds up and the next time we look at the same book, he points those things out. favourite books at the moment are Shirley Hughes 'Noisy Noises' and 'Two Shoes, New Shoes', an animal noises book with a howling wolf and Dear Zoo.

I have stopped trying to record all of his new words. He has had a word explosion but they are quite often words that are infrequently used so I don't hear them often enough to think 'oh that's new' and write them down! He strings several words together to convey his meaning, but not really sentences yet, but his is very knowledgeable and makes the most wonderful expressive eye contact as he talks with me! One word of note that he came out with was when he pointed across a field to a rugby came and proudly announced 'Butt ball, mum, butt ball'...... oh the shame of our son naming rugby as football.... I did laugh telling Dewi about it!
All of a sudden, playthings seem to interest him more - he enjoyed pouring rice into the grain silo on the farm and then letting it out again - as well transporting the rice all over the place, including into the water tray......
..... which provided for his love of pouring backwards and forwards...... but which also got transported all over the place!!! He has also enjoyed trying to match keys to the correct doors in the little animal hospital we have so he could put the animals in and out, matching a few shapes into the shape sorter till, some simple peg board puzzles and two piece jigsaws, and putting coats and shoes on and off the doll.
A poorly Idris curls up and falls asleep on his Daddy's lap - he looked so tiny all of a sudden! All in all this little boy is such a wonderful gift - my heart swells every day watching him play with his sisters, how they care for him and how he responds. He is so compassionate when they hurt themselves, running to put his arms around them with a concerned expression on his face. He has utter confidence that they have his back, often turning to them with his arms out if he hurts himself or becomes upset. Our family is the centre of his world, he falls asleep singing 'Ebe, Aith, Daddy, Moo-oom, Idis' over and over, all is just as it should be