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:


  • 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

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Some Simple, Tasty New Menu Ideas!

 I have had the book 'River Cottage Veg' for quite a while but haven't cooked much from it. Last week however, inspired by my husband's sudden dislike of sausages (another story but I blame the horse meat fiasco in the UK recently) I delved back into my cookbooks for some hearty, filling, main meal ideas. Now my husband always claims that he eats EVERYTHING...... but when you get down to the nitty gritty, it is everything bar aubergines, sweetcorn, beetroot, fennel....... you get the picture..... so cooking from veggie recipe books can be walking a fine line!
I first tried out the Spinach, Penne and Cheese Spouffle, a take on souffle but with pasta added to give it some oomph. I was so thrilled that it turned out just like the photo in the book that I took a picture before serving it!! In my experience there aren't many recipe books around where this happens! It was a thumping success and has been added to the favourites list!! This would be a great meal for baby led weaning I think too! I looked to see if the recipe had been published online but it hasn't and I don't feel comfortable copying it out of the book - you will just have to buy it!!
The second recipe I tried was for stuffed chillies, although I adapted it to use peppers as I wanted to make it as a main meal and I didn't think the children would enjoy chillies, nor did I really want to traipse round several supermarkets looking for the right chillies! Again I was really happy with the end result, and the filling made with beans was a really nice change - I have always made stuffed peppers with a rice filling before now  but think I like the bean filing more. I found the recipe published here for your enjoyment!

I'm looking forwards to trying more recipes from the book - it is always encouraging when the first two that you try are delicious, easy, successful AND popular with the rest of the family!!

Friday, 3 May 2013

In Which I Realise that I have Overcooked it!

I had planned to focus on myself a little more as my now 27 week pregnant body was telling me I needed to but did I listen? Erm, nope! Last week was a whirl of attending and reading at the thanksgiving service of a dear departed old friend, running two home ed group sessions, one on blind awareness and one on rocks and minerals, tamping out several tonnes of wet concrete with my husband and continuing to decorate the children's rooms.......
The children were fascinated with the process of pumping and tamping concrete!
....... bad move, I felt great at the end of the week but as the adrenaline wore off over the weekend, I began to feel rather rough, physically and emotionally and have had to spend this week healing! I have learned that to heal I must do NOTHING, so the laundry piled up, meals drifted towards to convenience end of the spectrum, e-mails went unread and unanswered and suddenly today I felt much more like my self again! Would it be easier if I learned that doing too much is counterproductive and tends to land me in a heap? Well, yes but sometimes needs must and doing all those things will bring benefits in the end!

I have had dental, optician and midwifery appointments in the last week also so I am looking after me too! The hypnobirthing midwife is just wonderful and was very reassuring - yet another ally in my quest to have an unpestered labour and birthing experience! I have made progress in some of my 2013 goals also, furthering friendships with a fabulous bonding afternoon at the park and continuing to build on the children's homeschooling! I am not particularly enjoying reading a book on the kindle app on my tablet and phone but I do appreciate the fact that it is there ready and waiting for the few precious minutes that I have to read!
I have this delightful scamp of a little boy gambolling around constantly! He loves to help me cook - and clean up after as you can see, but is currently covered in scrapes and bruises from his outdoor exploits. For example today he was determined to learn how to push a scooter around and tried it out on all sorts of surfaces. I then heard him calling for me and when I went to seek him out, I found him standing on top of the guinea-pig cage WITH the scooter looking rather pleased with himself! I have no clue how he got up there!

I have an enticing pile of beautiful and engaging living books gathered to one side of me. I am really looking forwards to getting into them with the girls and sharing them here on the blog. I am hoping to make some time in the coming week to finish writing about how I plan our 'curriculum'. I had hoped to have done so by now but the delay has been productive as I have come across a couple of ideas through blogs and pinterest that will enrich my plans and help them to blend well into daily life! I even found one of the books that had been sitting in my Amazon basket for a few pounds in The Works today, a third of the Amazon price - serendipity!

I will leave it there - as usual with me there is plenty more to say ;-) but I am off to bed with some hypnobirthing relaxation exercises!