What I learned when we moved

You might have guessed by the blogging hiatus that we finally moved into our new house in Cornwall. It’s been two weeks, in fact. The general chaos and the lack of internet meant that I just about managed a few updates on Instagram.

Other than that, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in mystery boxes, plodding through that stage where the house looks worse before it gets better. Finally, it’s got better. We are starting to settle and from even before we got unpacking, this has felt like home.

There’ve been a few surprises in it all and I don’t just mean the literal rubbish we accidentally moved with (and yes we did).

For a start, I was caught off guard by my need to mourn Bristol the moment we left it. I believe now that this was a natural and necessary part of the moving process and I’m grateful that we got to do it while in temporary accommodation in stunningly placed Crantock.

I’ve been similarly amazed at the gusto with which I’ve thrown myself into life here so far and how genuinely excited I’ve been about it all. I’ve never driven this much or been this adventurous about where I’ve taken the children on my own (this might explain why I got the car stuck in deep sand in Porthtowan last week and had to literally be dug out by kind strangers!). For years I’ve been pretty pathetic when it comes to meeting new people, allowing others to take the initiative but it’s as if I’m being released by the decision to be more intentional.

Moving cross country with a family has made this the most pressured of our moves but, in a sense, it’s been easier than any other I’ve made. Maybe it’s down to being that bit older or that the kids give me a convenient way into meeting people or even just a deep peace about this being where we’re meant to be in this season of our lives.

We were forewarned that moving can affect children in unexpected ways but we still needed to remind ourselves and each other that this is why they were waking up, why they were having nightmares, why they were regressing to younger behaviours.

Reminders helped us to re-baby them, to try to be understanding, to find ways of reassuring them. Feeling stretched by being so long in an in-between place, far from where our eventual destination was, we kept needing to be reminded.

A friend at church today asked whether we feel like our nomadic life is behind us and that’s an astute description of where we’ve been not just for two months in Crantock but from the time we decided to move here when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Delilah. Feeling unsettled certainly has affected my parenting, sometimes in ways I wish it hadn’t.

Yet they have adapted so well, our five and three year olds. Talitha talks about old friends and was brilliantly excited about the birthday party we went back to Bristol for a couple of weekends ago. Already she’s making new friends here too.

Ophelia is also starting to play with other children and talk about them. She is starting to develop friendships. The friendship between the sisters has really kept them going through this time of unpacking and distracted parenting. Still, they’ve needed us and it’s been hard to get the balance right between trying to get stuff done so we can get back into a life rhythm and making sure that that pursuit doesn’t take over our lives. I won’t pretend I’ve even mostly got that right. Who knows, aye?

They’ve also been such a help to me with Delilah who is going through an extremely clingy phase. They’ll sit and play with her or show her books while I sit her down for the few moments she’ll tolerate it. Upside to the clinginess and Delilah not crawling yet – we’ve been able to sort a lot of the house out without worrying about her getting into all sorts.

Something that’s shocked me, though, and not in a good way, is how controlling I become when I feel out of control. I knew this about myself before but the stresses of this move have really thrown focus on it. There is such a burden on my heart to make sure I don’t take this out on my family. But I do. I’m working hard on it but I know it’s a process rather than something that can be quickly fixed. It’s going to take a lot of slowing down my responses to situations and continually reflecting and asking why I’m doing what I’m doing.

If anything, rediscovering this reminds me that I can’t do this without the help of the One who parents me so gently and isn’t at all controlling. I’m finding that moving out of the familiar is giving me fresh spiritual avenues with God appearing in places I did not expect.

We originally weren’t supposed to move until next month but the quick sale of our house in Bristol and the struggle of Laurence driving down to Falmouth every week sped the process up. With Spring now in the full swing and Easter on its way, we couldn’t have better timed warming into a new place.

I’ll do a house tour, room tours or something similar at some point but we’ve only just managed to clear the floors. Although maybe there’s something in sharing the mess so we all remember we have chaos in common?


On leaving a place

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that we finally did it. We moved to Cornwall. Just over a week ago, we packed up our house, put most of our belongings into storage and drove to the holiday let we’re staying in while we wait to move into the house we are buying. The experience has been exciting and draining and about time. No more half the week without Laurence after six months of it being so. No more three-hour motorway epics each way for him, week after week.

It has also been destabilising. I knew it would be.

I moved countries when I was 19, leaving Trinidad and Tobago to come here to the UK, to Brighton specifically. I was leaving behind a familiar climate and culture but the timing also meant I was leaving my mother’s house and my childhood. We left Brighton for Bristol a year after I’d both graduated from university and got married (because wedding planning accompanies writing a Masters’ thesis so well). I was barely warming into doing something with my journalism qualification and I struggled to find work when we moved, which psychologically made settling into a new city unbelievably challenging.

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Bristol instead saw me become a mother, and I knew that I wanted to be at home with my baby. We began to talk about home educating her while still expecting. We chose a lifestyle that neither of us could have predicted. I felt the relief of a good fit, of feeling my decisions match my convictions about myself. I also felt a lack of agency from not working full-time for money. I questioned my motivations and abilities. Becoming a mother made me lose and find myself over and over again. It was utterly destabilising. I am familiar with feeling something like what I am now feeling.

There is little balance right now. I feel great highs, exhilarated by the move and where we’ve moved to. I drink in my children playing so happily, so naturally on the beaches. I feel great lows. The loss of community, of familiar markers, of a routine. I delight in this concentrated time with my children, enjoying the kind, hilarious, creative people they are. I despair at my inability to cope with life with them. I worry about my choices. Every alternative looks appealing.

I know this is temporary. I mourn to move on. It is not petty or ungrateful. It is a natural part of leaving a place I loved.

On leaving a place


When everything is changing

2016 was a year I didn’t blog so much. I was tired from growing another baby. I was daunted by the task of raising my older two. I was (am?) dealing with personal grief that can’t be discussed here. I watched too many of the people I love struggle. I felt too many things. I couldn’t organise my thoughts. I didn’t know what I believed about a lot of things. Coming here often seemed inauthentic. Saying something real was exhausting and terrifying.

Yet I’m still here, writing, and I can see the good things the last year gave us. 2016 will always be the year Delilah was born and filled our minds with that arresting light unique to new babies. By dredging up a lot of uncomfortable things about myself, the year has given me the opportunity to begin to face what really lies behind conflicts with my family, particularly with my children.

We’ve just come back from a three-week trip to Thailand as you might have seen if you follow me on Instagram. It was a real privilege to make a holiday of my brother-in-law’s wedding, and an opportunity to spend much needed time together and to reflect.

More than ever, I am convinced that God is in it with us. Not that there are answers to a lot of our questions. Or that I can expect circumstances to radically change. If anything, this year taught me that a lot of life’s hurts don’t go away. They simply dull over time. But I believe that He is walking with us, even as we learn to live with pain.

This year brings huge change for us. This month, in fact. We’re finally moving to Cornwall, where Laurence is already working. That too brings a mess of different feelings. I’m excited about being near the sea again and about the lifestyle it offers. I’m looking forward to getting rooted in new communities in ways we possibly didn’t pursue enough here in Bristol. I hope it means we’ll get more time together as a family now that Laurence won’t have to go away for work.

Still, it’s hard to leave the friends and family we have in Bristol. I think of those outside of Bristol and know that we are moving a lot further away from them too. We signed contracts on our house some time ago and I got emotional about selling the house two of our children were literally born in; a house that only one of the three is likely to clearly remember. I can’t think about any of that too much, to be honest.

So much would be easier about staying yet we’ve felt strongly that we needed to go. Right now we float in liminal space. We are packing up the house, decluttering, booking things in, ticking points off a checklist. Then we will be staying in a friend’s holiday let, waiting to move into a new home. We must embrace uncertainty for now. There can be no “once we’ve done this, we will feel settled”. More patience is needed than that. More patience and, for me, more writing too.


This homeschooling life – Our October

OK, so with more than half the month gone, this post is way overdue. Suffice to say, I’m finding life a bit overwhelming right now and whenever I sit down in front of a computer I just think about all the tough bits, stress out, then go watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix instead. Healthy. But Jess, Polly and I committed to this linkup a year ago and, darn it, I will keep going.

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Actually, as I sat down to write about what we got up to in October, my first thought was, “Asbolutely nothing! It was a chaotic month and there’s nothing to show for it.” But then I looked through my phone. We actually had a lot of fun together, even if it was mostly stopping to look at little ways the world changes at this time of year.

We had a lot of fun with leaves, printing, painting, sketching. We also read some poems about leaves changing colour in Autumn. It always amazes me when poetry is a hit, the words washing over the children even if they don’t totally understand what’s happening in the poems. I suppose that’s my experience of them too.

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Also, since October is basically pumpkin month, we used pumpkins as a canvas for painting and carved them on Halloween. I regret not letting the girls have a go for themselves. Certainly Talitha could have managed it but I was impatient to get it over with and risk averse, which meant they got less out of the experience than they could have done. Ah well.

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We spent a couple of weeks in Cornwall, housesitting for friends on their farm. The plan was to get to know Cornwall a bit more before we move but we wound up having to house hunt some more because we had to pull out of the house we were going to buy. We’re still looking, as it turns out.

Going there allowed us to visit National Trust properties. We met up with home ed friends Jess and her kids at Killerton on our way to Cornwall and went to Lanhydrock once we were down there. The older kids had fun doing a scavenger hunt around the house at Killerton and I wound up having an awkward conversation with someone there when he realised my eldest was school-aged but not in school. We’re bound to have more and more of these the older she gets so I’m trying to model courtesy and positivity but it was a reminder that sometimes the conversation is better off kept short.

Talitha went to a couple of home ed workshops without me this month. One was a fossil workshop at Bristol museum. She’s still mad on dinosaurs so it was a nice fit. The other was a mathematics day at At Bristol science centre. She had a brilliant time at both and I’m sure she learned lots but do you think she’d tell me much about what she did? Typical.

We also did lots of activities around Diwali in October, which was a fun opportunity to learn bits about India and about my home country, Trinidad and Tobago, too. We made air drying clay diyas, played with henna, coloured rangoli patterns, watched videos and photographs online and had a Diwali day at two different home ed groups, one in Bristol and one in Cornwall.

Our read aloud this month was My Naughty Little Sister. My mother bought the collection for the girls from a charity shop in the summer and I could not have predicted how much both of them would enjoy it. They found it hilarious, loved the pictures and Talitha asked lots about the era the book was set in because so many things were different. I think they strongly identified with the little sister too.

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Yet all these things are just details. I don’t feel that at their ages it really matters what they learn so long as they’re exposed to a reasonable range of things. Talitha is asking hundreds of questions a day. Learning is happening, whether I’m ready or not. I’m just trying to support that. And not go crazy when I feel like I can’t possibly take listening to another question. She’s reading everything or trying to, and she’s working out sums and subtractions in the things she sees – there is no stopping that. Even if she weren’t doing those things now, she’d do it eventually and what difference would that make in the long run?

This was a hard month, though. She and I clashed lots. I questioned a lot of my choices and felt like I had too much happening and not enough space to process it. Toddlers are hard work. Babies are hard work. I flitted back and forth on my educational philosophy. I wish I could be hardcore, radical and set on what I believe about family life or just about anything, really. But I’m not. I’m open to a lot of ideas and I probably think too much.

I look back on the month and I don’t know if I did it right. I just know I tried my best and we got through it and we will get through this month. When we do, I’ll hopefully remember how good it was more than how hard it was.

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Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess and Polly. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



This homeschooling life: Our September

I’m a bit late with this update but, hey, that’s life with a five year old, two and a half year old and very soon to be three month old. September was a busy month and, as ever, I’m glad I took pictures to remind me of some of what we got up to. Here are a few of the highlights.

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Aphablocks

Talitha finished the Alphablocks Reading Programme right at the beginning of the month. We hadn’t planned a break over the summer holidays as our routine wasn’t formal enough to warrant that but we ended up having a break nonetheless. The birth of a baby sister and an extended visit from my mother saw to that. When things started to return to normal, Talitha was super keen to finish the last couple of magazines in the series. On one hand, she was really pleased to get there (she has a thing about finishing things) but, on the other, it was all a bit, what now?

So we cracked out a Gold Stars Ready for School workbook that my mum picked up while she was over and Talitha is finding that a lot of fun. She’s continuing to read the Oxford Reading Tree books but, really, she’s having a go reading everything now. I think she enjoys the freedom it gives her, that she can get on with a lot of things on her own while I’m doing things with the other two. The Alphablocks Reading Programme has been a huge hit here and I’ll probably consider getting it again for Ophelia when her time comes. I’ll do a full review some time soon.

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Art

Tie dye was a definite highlight of September. I was surprised at how well Talitha was able to cope with it on her own. I must admit it was a bit stressful helping Ophelia do it when she had no real understanding of why she needed to wear gloves and Delilah kept waking up in her sling. Still, we muddled and the results are above.

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Chapter Books

After we finished The Enchanted Wood, Talitha wanted to read Matilda for Roald Dahl Day. We managed to get it started before the big day. We’ve found it thrilling so far – still a few chapters to go. I’m trying to decide whether we’ll attempt the film. Talitha’s seen the DVD in a shop and is interested. For Roald Dahlm Day at our home ed co-op, Talitha went as Matilda and Ophelia was Mrs Fox from Fantastic Mr Fox.

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Calendar Time

We were doing a “daily learning notebook” from Confessions of a Homeschooler which Talitha loved for months but then got bored of so we forgot about it after a while. We’ve followed the same pattern in quicker succession this month by starting another one, this time by Homeschool Creations. I admit to feeling a bit annoyed about this as, although I was following a request, I printed it against my better judgement. After doing it most days, she declared that she didn’t want to do it anymore. So, I’ve just left it out. She may come back to it or not but if she mentions printing another one in the future we may have to discuss what it is about the idea that she likes.

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Spielgaben

The Spielgaben love is going strong here. The girls forgot about it for a while over the summer but are back into it in a big way now and both of them have had a huge leap in what they want and can do with it now. Usually, I just get one of the books out and choose something I’m going to make and inevitably they start joining me. Ophelia usually tries her own version of what I’m making. Talitha looks through and chooses her own. Then I suggest we try one of the activities in the learning resources and usually it’s a yes. Otherwise, I count things in ones, twos, fives or tens which both of them find interesting. They’ll often join in.

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365 Science Activities

Talitha was given the Usborne’s 365 Science Activities book for her birthday and usually asks to do something from it at a time when I had my hands full of baby or something else and couldn’t find any of the materials. So we agreed to make time for it and have actually scheduled in “science experiment time” two days a week where she and Ophelia choose an activity in advance so I can make sure we have what’s needed. So far, we’re all learning a lot!

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The Maritime Museum

We finished off September with a week in Cornwall. We’re moving out there so needed to spend some time getting to know the place. We met up with other home ed families and went along to a home ed group so that was really helpful in terms of visualising what our week might look like out there. We also spent a day and a half in the Maritime Museum in Falmouth because the girls really enjoyed it. They had a Viking exhibition on which I hoped might inspire as I’m a bit dinosaur-ed out. Of course, I pointed out something they’d made from amber only to jog Talitha’s memory of something she’d seen fossilised in amber in a dinosaur book she’d been reading!

They have actually become really interested in Vikings but that’s more thanks to Cressida Howell’s How to be a Viking, which we bought from the gift shop. It makes sense that fiction is a catalyst when I consider that my interest is piqued by The History Channel’s Vikings. They did enjoy the exhibition, though. In fact, our time at the museum warrants its own post, really, which I will also hopefully get to soon. Above, they’re checking out snow fox pelts and a walrus tusk a Norse woman is trading.

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Do you home educate? Please do consider linking up any post about something you’ve been up to below. All approaches welcome! x

Other posts in this series:

What I learned from our first year of home education
What I loved about our first “term” of home educating
Why we want to home educate

Every month, I’ll give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a new linky I’m hosting with blogger friends Jess and Polly. If you blog, consider linking up.

This Homeschooling Life is a linky sharing a week, a day or even just a moment from your life as a homeschooling family. We are hoping it will be a great way to discover new blogs and learn how we all do things differently.

The linky will open at 8am on the first Monday of every month and, throughout the rest of the month, the hosts will share your posts on their social media channels.

The Hosts:

Adele who blogs at Beautiful Tribe
Polly who blogs at Enchanted Pixie
FACEBOOK / TWITTER / PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM

The Rules:

1. Link back to one of the hosts. You will find the code for the badge at the bottom or if you prefer you can use a text link.

2. Link up a post from your month, no more than 3.

3. Link directly to a specific post, not your main blog.

4. Follow the hosts on at least one of their social media platforms.

5. Visit and comment on some of the other blogs linking up.

6. If you share on social media then you can use the #thishomeschoolinglife so we can all find each other.

This Homeschooling Life

An InLinkz Link-up



We’re moving to Cornwall

It’s been a bit quieter here in the last couple of weeks. Those who follow me on Instagram may have seen that we were in Cornwall, in and round Falmouth, to be specific. We actually weren’t on holiday, though staying in a caravan and hanging out on the coast did make it feel that way. Laurence was working the whole time we were there. When I’ve mentioned in recent updates that he’s been working away, that’s where he’s been. We’re moving to Cornwall.

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We made the decision when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Delilah (who’s now ten weeks old, can you believe it?!). We agonised over it, prayed about it. It’s such a good opportunity for Laurence, doing work he enjoys in a part of the country he’s longed to move back to. It’s a chance for our kids to grow up immersed in the outdoors. And I get to live near the sea again, something I’ve been aching for.

Still, we’re moving hours away from family and friends we will miss. Stepping out into the slightly unknown. Even after a week down there, imagining what our life there could be like, I felt my stomach knotting itself on the motorway back to Bristol. Saying goodbye is hard. Change is scary.

In a sense, I’m already a long way from home. In another, I don’t know where home is anymore. It’s not as drastic a move as going back to Trinidad and Tobago would be. My family is my home. My home is a moveable thing.

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The children and I spent the week looking around Falmouth, meeting up with home educating families I’d make contact with online and chilling in the caravan. We spent an entire day in Maritime Museum (as in almost opening to closing!) and they still asked to go back the last morning we were there. Another day we visited Trellisick Park, a stunning National Trust property near Truro. We also made it to a home ed group in a community garden.

I’ve been so touched by the welcome we’ve received from people we met up with. Strangers have made us feel like friends. That’s made me feel a lot less anxious about the move.

We’ve only recently made the news public, partly because we wanted to tell people as we saw them but also because I needed to spend some time down there to wrap my head around what we were doing. I’d previously only been to that bit of Cornwall for maybe half an hour at most. Now that we’ve accepted an offer on our house here and had our offer accepted on a house down there, the wheels are fully in motion. We’ll be visiting a couple more times before the big move but it’s on. It’s happening. Hopefully in January.

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The children are excited about the move but it’s hard to tell how much they really understand, that being there means not being here. We’re not making a big thing of it, though. They’re little enough that the adjustment may well be simple enough. There’s no point worrying them by harping on about something that’s overwhelming even to an adult.

We met Laurence for fish and chips on the beach after work and he took them swimming in the sea on the weekend. So far, that’s what the move means to them. They delight in meeting new friends and finding new places. It looks like the one with the most mixed feelings is me. But I am excited by the prospect of new places, new people, new plans. I really am.

I struggle with the idea of there being a prescriptive, singular plan God has for each of us. At the same time, I’m so aware that this is an opportunity to ask fresh questions about what it means to live intentionally, pursuing purpose. I wish I could say it was clear what this means in the context of this move. All I can see right now is an opportunity to make little decisions prayerfully, trusting that wherever we go and whatever happens, we are not alone.