Thursday, 31 January 2013

Fun Day

We had more of a fun day today.  This morning we took LG to playgroup and then visited a friend’s house so that I could play violin with her oldest girl.  I love having someone to practice with, it is so much fun.  While we were upstairs fiddling, the boys were downstairs colouring cards for Daddy and building stuff.

After we collected LG we disappeared to Nanny and Grandpa’s for the afternoon.  I have given up trying to insist on any work being done while we are there as it is a place of Fun and Games.  The stress and tears involved in are just not worth it!  So instead LB1 watched David Attenborough documentaries and lined up some dinosaurs.  That may seem a strange occupation for a seven year old but lining things up is one of LB1’s favourite things.  he was so proud of his “pose” as he calls them that he asked me to take some photographs which of course I did:

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LB2 did lots of drawing.  His drawing is improving so much and he just loves it.  He showed me some pictures he had done for Nanny at the weekend:

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Above we have Robin, a policeman and a baddy.  I think the baddy is supposed to be someone specific but I can’t remember who…

Below we have Batman and Twoface (I think?).  I love them!

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LG, Nanny and I played lots of games and then did a little bit of cutting and sticking for good measure.  Chapter 3 of our story will have to wait for tomorrow morning, in between preparations for Daddy’s birthday.  Everyone is very excited – we will be making cakes and decorating our kitchen to surprise him.

We did have a few wobbles today.  LB1 had a few tears over some unusual things.  The first occasion was playing a game at our friends house this morning when he suddenly burst into tears because I wasn’t winning.  At teatime he had more tears because I didn’t get any apple pie for dessert (I actually didn’t want any but he thought I had been left out).  After his tears last week because I didn’t get any orange squash I’m a bit worried about what is going with him.  It really seems to concern him if things aren’t fair for me.  I have been trying to remember if I have said something recently that might have caused this concern.  He even asked me this afternoon if he could have pocket money so that he could save it up and buy me a present.  I’m a little bit worried about him.  He is not really one for cuddles but I think he might need an extra bit of attention over the coming days.

Enjoyable :)

We started today by reading a bit more of Framed.  LB1 asked for it and seems to be really enjoying it.  I too want to know what happens and keep sneakily reading ahead!  It is such a lovely book though I am such a sop I find myself welling up at the oddest places which the children find a bit weird!

Then we worked on our story together (Chapter 2 at the bottom of the post).  We talked a lot about different ways of saying “said” as we had a lot of speech in this chapter.  Even LG joined in and found it great fun to decide what she might say in the given circumstances.  They were all acting out the story – no sitting still in this house :/  The boys really wanted to move on to Chapter 3 but I think it works best in small chunks as it gives us all a chance to think about what will happen next.

After a bit of play and tidying we then trouped off to Sainsbury’s as it is Daddy’s birthday on Friday and we are planning a surprise party.  We bought some food and a couple of little presents and we’re looking forward to decorating the kitchen on Friday morning.

We dropped the things off at home and then quickly made our way to Enjoy-a-ball.  LB2 had been once, last year but was not keen to go back on his own – he is surprisingly shy.  This is a special home ed class so I was really keen for him to try it again.  Now his big brother wanted to go, of course, things were different!  I forgot to take a picture of the boys after their session but they had a great time.  LG is still too little (Enjoy-a-ball starts at 5) but there is a room next to the hall and she had great fun running around and playing with her new friend Z:

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We had to run after class this week rather than hanging around to play as LG has ballet and had to get there a little early to try on her new outfit:

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  As you can see she was thrilled!

I have been avoiding the whole pink ballet outfit thing but they are having a performance soon and everyone has to look the same.  So we now have the full kit.  I was more concerned about the practicalities – it looks awfully cold – but we bought a cardigan to go with it too and I’m on the look out for some leggings.

LG loves her ballet and tap class.  it is almost too girly for my tastes but I can’t deny her as she enjoys it so much.

I overheard her talking to her brother today.  “All princesses go to the ball” she said, then paused.  “Except Belle, Belle didn’t go to the ball.  But that was ok because the Beast was lovely and gave her a ball at home.  Ohhhhhh do you think we could have a ball at home?  I would love a ball at home!”  And then they had a long discussion about what to wear and what food to bring :)  I have resorted to telling her that lab coats come in sparkly pink in order to encourage an interest in science!

Finally, the next instalment of our story, The Missing Snowman:

Chapter2: Looking for Clues

“Darn it he’s gone!” cried J “Now L and E can’t see our snowman. Pathetic. Just Pathetic!” He angrily kicked a lump of snow with his foot.

“How did it happen?” said S crossly.

“Teenagers?” said J.

As he spoke Mummy, L and E walked up behind him.

“So where is our lovely snowman?” asked Mummy.

“Where has it gone J?” said L.

“I’m very sorry to say that it’s been smashed.” J replied.

“Yes, and we need to find who did it.” said S punching the air.

“But how?” said Mummy “We didn’t see them do it.”

“Oh! Why not look for clues?” exclaimed L.

“But what clues?” said Mummy, puzzled.

“Well, these footprints are bigger than J’s.” said S, examining the ground closely. “How about we follow them?”

“Yes” agreed J. “Look here, there’s only one print where they have stood and kicked the snowman. It’s them alright.”

Everyone looked carefully at the footprints to see which way they had gone. After a moment, E, who had been quiet all this time, said softly “I think they are going this way.” She pointed back across the field and towards the shopping centre.

“Let’s go!” cried S.

“Yes! I really want to find out where they are.” shouted J, jumping up and down in the snow.

“When we find them, can we take them to jail?” asked L

“No,” said J darkly “It’s not illegal to smash a snowman. It’s just a snowman after all. But we’ll teach them a lesson. A snowball in the kisser that is!” And off they all marched, following the footprints.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Writing Together

Today was better.  I managed to tidy up at least yesterday so no chores today.  Tea is already made (and I am waiting for the chorus of complaints as it is tagine and therefore repels small children) but it is at least made!

We took LG and her friend to playgroup this morning and then the boys and I came back home to do some writing (the plan had originally been to go swimming but that was thwarted at the last mo).  My sister had explained shared writing to me and so I thought we would give it a go.  The boys had sat with Daddy at the weekend and outlined the story about our disappearing snowman from last week.  Remember him?  Here is their story mountain:

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We downloaded the sheet here if you’d like to have a go.  There are lots of other resources online too though if you just google “story mountain”.

I was a bit dubious about shared writing.  I thought I would simply be writing a story myself and couldn’t really see how that would be helpful.  But the process was quite illuminating.  The boys were very excited for me to write the story for them – it seemed to free up their ideas.  It also helped them to discuss their ideas and try different ways of including them in the story as I could type so much faster than either of them could write.  We started out with a draft of the beginning section, that outlined where we were and what happened.  We then went back to it and read it over and over, including things, and taking things away.  We thought about our descriptions and went back and added some more in.  We thought about what the scene looked like and felt like and tried to remember that the person reading it hadn’t been there so we needed to include all the details.  Obviously there were some things that I added too but it was a real joint effort.  And most importantly the boys saw me working on it; refining and rewriting until it sounded just right.

I am now very excited about this as I think this practice is a great way in – they are generally not too enthusiastic about story writing, seeing it as almost a kind of witchcraft.  I have included the beginning of our story at the bottom of the post – let us know what you think and watch out for Chapter 2 tomorrow!

When we collected LG and friend from playgroup there was a very nice surprise waiting for me when I took her friend home:

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The clever bread friend who gave me the pizza recipe had baked us a loaf.  Doesn’t it look just perfect!  I am so impressed and so were the children.  After taking everyone’s orders for bread and butter, and bread and jam we were left with this:

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And after second helpings, there is now one lonely slice left.

Anyway here is our story:


The Missing Snowman

Chapter 1: The Missing Snowman

It was a bright winter’s day with thick ice and snow on the ground. J, S, L, E and Mummy were walking from playgroup through the park. Their fingers and cheeks were pink because of the bitter cold and their clouds of breath were visible as they walked. The previous day, Mummy and the boys had built a fantastic snowman in the park. He was almost as tall as J and they had dressed him in J’s hat and scarf. He was a very good looking snowman! J and S were excited to show him to E and L.

As they got closer, J and S looked anxiously into the distance. The snowman was not there! 

“Perhaps you just can’t see him.” said Mummy

“Come on J,” said S “Let’s run closer.” So the boys sped off across the field.

“We still can’t see him.” said J.

The boys arrived at the spot where the snowman had been. There were only lumps of snow. J’s hat was hanging on a branch and his scarf was tied tightly around a tree trunk.

The snowman had been smashed!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Not the Best Day

I should probably leave it at that.  Moaning returned with a vengeance.  Could this have anything to do with Daddy letting them eat sugary cereal and play.  Hmmm!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Another Snow Day

Well Friday started with the best of intentions (don't they all!).  I'm starting to feel more comfortable now and  I'd had lots of ideas for activities to fill the day when I got a text from the mum of a friend of LB1.  LB1 had a good friend at school, P, who had left school some time ago.  It transpired that he was back for a short time and had stayed with another friend of LB1 the night before.  The mum now had two boys to entertain on what should have been a school day - so would we like to go to the park?  Daft question really!

So after a bit of sorting, tidying and washing (I'm not usually so houseproud - I'll explain later) we donned our socks, coats, second coats, scarves, mittens, hats, second pair of socks and wellies and ventured out into the cold and snow.  It was very cold on Friday.  Then we got to the park and I suddenly realised what a really stupid mum I was.  Because we saw this:

The snow had been here almost two weeks and I had spent the time wondering where on earth I could take the children to sledge.  Lots of places came to mind that were too far to walk.  It had never once occurred to me to come to the park with the lovely slope - and we come here all the time!  I hadn't even brought the sledge. FAIL!

Fortunately D's mum came to my rescue and the boys took turns flinging themselves down the hill.  They had immense fun.  The snow was due to thaw on Saturday (and did) so this was going to be our last chance - and it was definitely worth ditching lessons for!

And LG played on the swings and the climbing frame - even though it was rather frozen!

After an hour though, the cold got the better of us and LG was crying because her toes were hurting.  And to be fair so were mine so we said goodbye and trudged back home.  We had already arranged to meet up with D, P and a bunch of other friends at the softplay after school.  P was going back home to Iran and we may not see him again so we wanted to make the most of it.

Once home I set about making some food.  Largely because it costs quite enough to get three children into a softplay without buying them tea too!  And there was no way they would last until we got home after a mornings walking and sledging followed by a couple of hours of relentless fun at the softplay.  So I made pizza.

Now I'm not trying to claim I am a domestic goddess (I know. Washing and cooking pizza from scratch all in the same day – ok maybe I am a domestic goddess) but this recipe is from a friend and it's so good and easy that I had to share the results.  You can find the recipe here.

You can also see there the garlic bread I made, also a recipe of hers - delicious.  And just what was needed to fortify us for another trip out into the sub-zero afternoon.

We did find time for a little bit of work.  LB1 was keen to try different kinds of pizza topping and I suggest that we try a few and then we could all vote and then we would find out which was our family favourite.  Ahhh he said but you and LG don't like meat on your pizza - so the meat pizzas would never win.  So I explained a little bit about averages and how we could average the score for the meat pizzas just using the three meat-pizza lovers:

So this is another activity for next week - I can feel charts, graphs and questionnaires coming on - as well as a LOT of pizza :)

Friday finished with a long, slippery, slidey, icy cold walk to the high street, lots of fun in the softplay and the same freezing cold walk back home.  But oh it was worth it and I had three very, very tired but happy little people.

So briefly on to the weekend and an explanation of my industriousness on Friday.  I am not one for letting housework interfere with our home ed but as the day was already chopped up I decided to make life a bit easier for Daddy by doing a few chores.  I am not around much at the weekends at the moment as I am studying towards a degree and need to get out of the house to concentrate.  We still do some stuff on weekends - our plan is little and often - so no weekends or holidays as such but then we don't sit at the table for hours and hours either.  LB1 is finding it a bit hard to adjust to this as it is very fixed in his mind that learning occurs Monday to Friday between 9 and 3.  He grabbed me yesterday morning, before I left for work, to complain.

"It's not fair" he said "My friends don't have to go to school on a Saturday"

"And they don't get to go sledging on a Friday either" I replied.

There was a silence and then a very grudging "I get your point." which did make me smile!

So I left a few bits and pieces to help Daddy as he is new to this too and from what I can gather there was lots of lego building, game playing, story planning and maths done which I will fill you in on when I look through it on Monday.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Asda and the Big Bang

Today was not a day for doing much.  The snow is still thick here and going through that awful melting stage that makes it difficult to walk through.  LG was at playgroup today which meant a forty five minute walk to the high street.  As I can't expect the boys to then spend the same amount of time returning home only to do the journey another two times (even I would balk at three hours walking) we headed to Asda for a potter and some toast.

As seems to be the case though even a walk to Asda seemed to cover quite an amazing range of subjects - we covered the Terracotta Army of China and the Emperor's mausoleum, how we know the earth is round, Copernicus, the horizon - as well as discussing the third and final talk we were going to this evening.  So we did do some work!

We also concentrated on learning to cross the road safely.  I say the same things every time we cross the road and while LG seems to be taking it on board her older brothers appear still to be oblivious and so I thought I may need to be more forceful at insisting they start looking for traffic.  I used a little bribery by explaining to LB1 that when I felt confident he would be able to walk to the sweetie shop by himself.  With MONEY.  Oh yes.  That sharpened his mind!  I made him walk in front and talked him through each crossing.

Learning to cross the road

There is still a lot of practice to be done but it is a start!

When we arrived home after a long morning my new noticeboard arrived - hurrah! I was so excited! Little things :)
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Then after an early tea we headed off to our fourth and final talk of the week. As daddy was working late all three tiddlies were coming with me and I must say were very well behaved. Even LG watched quite a detailed talk on the origins of the universe and explanation of the Doppler Effect with only occasionally whispered questions such as "Mummy what is the MOS FEAR." Ha that would be the atmosphere then!

The talk ended with quite a fun demonstration of a "big bang" by lighting a balloon filled with hydrogen.


And then they asked for volunteers to inflate the universe which Lucy was insistent she wanted to do! The boys also took their turn but only once they realised there was chocolate in it for them.

A good day.  Looking forward to tomorrow and our snowman themed writing.  We went to visit our lovely snowman as we walked through the park and discovered he had been smooshed.  The boys were very sad but then I suggested we think of a story where we could track down who had broken our snowman - or perhaps he had wandered off to meet his friends... they were very enthusiastic.  We also have to finish our snowman instructions from the other day so am looking forward to a day of imaginative writing tomorrow.

Here's hoping the snow will go soon!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A Clean Slate

Today was better :)  The outcome of my thinking was that perhaps I needed to lay off the "Let's do some work" approach and concentrate on the "I'm your mummy" part.  I thought that perhaps some of the battles and tears were derived from me not understanding why they wanted to be at home.  Yes they need to be educated, yes they need to learn, but maybe I need to be mummy for a couple of weeks - after all we are quite new to this.

I wrote a note to the boys and hung it from their main light last night so that it was dangling on a level with LB1's face.  It said "Don't get dressed.  Come and have stories from mummy instead."

He didn't see it!!! Ha.  So like him.  He arrived by my bedside fully dressed proudly proclaiming that he'd got dressed, brushed his teeth and made his bed.  Bless him.  They did eventually all assemble in my bed, then I brushed my teeth and they all disappeared again but after a bit of fraughtness on my part we did manage to do some reading together.  I read the beginning of The Magic of Reality to them (a bit over the head of LG and LB2 but they did try) and then we continued with Framed by Frank Cotterell Boyce which is such a lovely book (and I do love attempting a Welsh accent!)  We started it a while back but the references were a bit lost on the tiddlies.  As research, over Christmas, they watched 9 episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Netflix and now seem to be enjoying it a lot more :)

Anyway mid chapter we moved downstairs, started breakfast then without really noticing moved on to a bit of drawing and writing...

LB2's picture of his toys - The Gruffalo, a purple stegasaurus and green dinosaur.

LG's picture of Fifi (of Flowertot fame)

LB1 starting his "Instructions for building a Snowman"

First draft - no tears but a lot of frustration.

It wasn't exactly idyllic but it was fairly painless for a change.  I managed to potter in the kitchen and prepare tea while they were busy.  We listened to our Percy Parker times tables (2, 5 10) which is so ridiculously catchy we were soon all singing it.  Then at 12pm I gave them a couple of hours to run around and blow off a bit of steam.  Normally we would be out and about but with the snow and because we were due to go to another talk this afternoon we stayed in and crashed about a bit.  I insisted on a bit more sitty down stuff at 2pm and got out our maths workbooks whilst Lucy played on Reading Eggs. (The maths stuff was downloaded from here and we're finding it very good so far.)

LB2 flew through his maths and really settled down well to work this afternoon.  I will have to remember the trick of not saying the "w" word to him before lunchtime.  LB1 on the other hand was very down, negative and full of "I can't do it"s.  I sat next to him and helped him through each question.  He could do most of them very easily indeed but it seems that any new format upsets him or rather throws him and he finds it so easy to doubt his own abilities and give up.  So far there hasn't been a single piece of work he hasn't declared as Rubbish.  That's something else I need to look at and work on as until we can unblock that I'm worried he won't really be achieving his potential.

Then at 3.40 we headed off to town again for the talk.  LB2 seemed keen to come and as last night the lecture theatre was only half full (presumably put off by the weather) I thought it safe to take him along. Sadly the lecturer had a very strong accent and while it was very interesting I think LB2 couldn't really understand enough of what he was saying and so became a bit fidgety.  Still LB1 and I enjoyed ourselves!


So overall not a bad day.  We made some progress and I felt a little bit better.

Oh and note to self.

One kilo of rice does not fit in the slow cooker. <face palm>

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Snow Day

After Monday's histrionics, yesterday I thought perhaps another approach was needed.  In case anyone hasn't noticed it's been snowing here for a while now and we hadn't really been out and enjoyed it much.  So after taking LG and her friend to playgroup the boys and I headed to the park for some snow fun.

So far so good!  There was a bit of complaining about the cold but I ignored them and started to make a snowman.  LB1 caught the bug and started making the head whilst LB2 sat on the sledge for a bit before eventually deciding to go and look for sticks for arms and whatnot.  It turns out that rolling giant snowballs is quite a workout for your glutes and by the end I was pretty tired.  The boys wanted me to rush off to Sainsbury's to buy a carrot nose but I persuaded them that we could manage just fine with sticks...

Ta da!

What do you think?  We were pretty impressed with our handiwork!  As there wasn't time to stomp all the way home in the snow and then stomp all the way back again (I don't drive in the snow - much to the disgust of the children who have pointed out every car on the road with an accusing "They can drive in the snow mummy") we headed to the "cafe" which is really our local Wetherspoons.  (We call it the cafe mostly because I don't want strangers thinking that the children's favourite place is a pub ;-)

And here is where things started to go wrong again.  LB1 dissolved into wracking sobs when I accidently reminded him that the last time we came I didn't buy enough squash and so ended I up with none.  The first of many tears yesterday.  Tears I don't really understand and I'm still learning about.

We got home with a couple of hours to spare before we headed out into the snow again.  I managed to persuade LB1 that we could practice sending emails again and he sent a few to family members.  LB2 busied himself with drawing and I sat feeling like a failure again because I wasn't succeeding in interesting them in anything.  It was panning out to be another tough day.

Fortunately, in order to distract from the mummyisrubbishitus that my three had contracted, LB1 and I had another talk to go to so off we all set to meet Daddy from work (who was taking care of the younger two) while LB1 and I listened to stuff about the sun.

The talk was good and pitched quite young so very understandable but unfortunately a couple of things had LB1 in tears again.  I'm starting to realise that perhaps he reacts to some things differently and I need to make allowances for that.

Anyway we got home pretty much in one piece and after all little people had been dispatched to bed I had a big Think.  And then a Talk with daddy.  The long and short of loooooots of talking and loooooots of thinking is a new approach.  A bit of a different way of doing things which might at least quell the amount of crying that's been going on.  Will it work?  No idea.

Monday, 21 January 2013

One of those days…

Today we started early. I am trying to explain to the boys particularly that getting on with stuff as soon as we get up means that we are getting things done and they have more time to do what they want to do. That is leaping around the house, playing on the Wii, reading Calvin and Hobbes...  Unfortunately even starting early seems to cause upset, pouting and astoundingly loud complaints of WHY?

We are having a lot of meltdowns at the moment. It is taking every ounce of my patience! At school if there was something they didn't understand I think there would be inward turmoil, but it would be pent up until hometime when I would bear the full brunt of their frustrations in one long rooooaaar. Now, probably because they feel comfortable at home, they feel quite able to strop and huff at the slightest problem.

Should I be pleased that they are relaxed and secure enough at home to meltdown? Or should I be concerned that they are not learning acceptable behaviour patterns! I don't know. My instinct says that if I am patient and repeatedly explain the benefits of being wrong that it will stop distressing them eventually. I hope...

That's the hardest thing about home ed at the moment - just not knowing. Not knowing if I'm doing the right thing. Oh the comfort of being able to blame someone else!

The nice part is of course spending more time with them. I had felt as though I had lost them when they were at school. So much of our day was rushing and shouting: Get Ready; Put your shoes ON; Brush your teeth; WHERE is your book bag?; We have to go NOW!  Now we are more relaxed.  The boys are up and dressed and teeth brushed by around half eight.  Later than usual at the moment I think partly because of the dark mornings.  (And partly I suspect because they are reading with torches after bedtime.)  Now I know where they are up to with their maths, writing and spelling and such like.  Now I know what enthuses them and what causes tears.  And that's nice because they are so little still I think and I feel I should know all that stuff.  I'll keep remembering that when I get frustrated :)

So things started well:

Maths workbooks

Building circuits

and more circuits...

Mummy I made everyone breakfast

...and then dissolved into lots of tears because lovely boy no2 didn't want to do STUPID FRENCH, and his lunch was HORRIBLE, and his sister was HORRIBLE AND HE DIDN'T LIKE HER ANYMORE!  Oh it was fun in our house today.  A day that really made me feel like reconsidering our plans.  A day that made my heart sink.

Eventually a very reluctant LB2 agreed to come and talk to me.  He looked very, very tired.  It took a while of quiet talking but he caved in and gave me a cuddle.  This is one of a few spectacular meltdowns of the past few days and I have wondered if there are other things going on - perhaps a growth spurt or a bug that hasn't surfaced yet.  He is almost, but not quite yet six and a middle child so there's a lot going on there without the whole growing stuff to boot.  Deep breaths...



But eventually the day got better when lovely boy no 1 (who is seven and a very important half) and I ventured out into the wet and melty evening to see a lecture by Richard Dawkins about his book The Magic of Reality. It really is a lovely book full of gorgeous pictures (if you get the hardback version) and a very simple (but not dumbed down) way of explaining things. The lecture really just talked through the contents of the book but that was enough to get LB1 very interested and I personally enjoyed the answers to the questions at the end. And as a bonus...

lol :)