Seven ways to amp up your garden as a learning space

In partnership with Groupon

Sunny warm days not quite here just yet in Cornwall (I was wearing my winter jacket yesterday!) but we’ve had the odd summer-like day and that’s been enough to lure my children back into the garden. They’ve pretty much decided to live there now.

So I’ve been thinking of ways to improve the space so they can get the most out of it. We love lazy days at home and if we can make those days spent outside, all the better. Here are a few things we’ve done and a few on my list to get going over the coming weeks.

1. Take nature walks in your garden
When I was home educating with a newborn a couple of years ago, I relied on being able to head into the garden for a bit to give us all our hit of the outdoors without having to actually leave home. Taking it easy was definitely the season we were in.

Since moving to Cornwall, I’ve felt we always need to be going somewhere exciting to really get into nature, even if that means taking to the woods across from our house. But that can put a lot of pressure on our time in busy weeks so actually, being able to treat a potter around our little garden as a nature walk can be quite freeing.

So last week, we did just that, observing the wildflowers in our garden. It may be that you take the time to check out some snails and read about them or keep some bird books by the door so the kids can identify what they see or even just note the questions the kids ask while playing outdoors to suggest finding answers later.

Invite nature into your garden
On that note, could you invite more critters into your garden? A friend made a pond with an old tub and this year, a frog laid it’s eggs in it – amazing to watch! We’re looking forward to getting a pond going ourselves. If we attract frogs, hopefully they’ll also help combat our slug problem.

Even with less space, you could hang a bird feeder or build a bug hotel. Great for observation and much needed, especially during the winter.

Take your read alouds and projects outside
If you have more sedentary activities you’re working on, you could suggest taking them outside, whether it’s painting or writing, a maths workbook or a science experiment. I often take a stack of books out and read them aloud on our garden bench while the kids play or make daisy chains.

A couple of years ago, Talitha had a morning routine for a while of checking the tomato plants and sitting at the table on the patio to write down what she noticed about them. It could be investing in some new garden furniture or even keeping a picnic blanket to hand to encourage everyone to take projects out there.

Make it a play space
Forget learning through play – play is learning. A really simple way to get young children to spend more time in the garden is to set it up as a play space. There are so many options from putting up a trampoline to building a play house to getting a rocker or a water table.

We actually have a very tiny garden so we’ve opted for a mud kitchen, which at the moment is just a table Laurence made from an old pallet, some kitchen bits we were getting rid of anyway and a corner of the garden that the kids are allowed to dig. I’d love to set up something more organised and visually appealing but they love it even as it is.

Get growing
Of course an obvious way to spend time learning outdoors is to grow things. We currently have salad in our front garden and we’re planting sunflowers and a wildflower “meadow” this week. Even if you just plant a couple of pots, there is so much to learn from that process, especially if the kids can eat what they grow.

Observe the weather
Get a rain gauge and an outdoor thermometer up and the weather patterns suddenly become very interesting! We need to get a chart going so the girls can note their findings.

Have a picnic
Finally, take a break outside. Eat lunch or dinner there. Move poetry tea time on to the grass. It pretty much makes our day whenever we do this and meals in the garden can lead to interesting conversations about all sorts of things around us.

Are you working on any garden projects with your kids this year? Do you have a garden bucket list for the Spring/Summer months, maybe?

Thanks to Groupon for working with me on this post


Eight reasons we home educate

I started this post on a day that took it out of me. I’d texted a friend earlier admitting that I was finding everything too hard, that school looked like an attractive option. And actually, come September, I could have two kids in school since Ophelia would be reception-aged.

Almost as soon as I’d offloaded and she’d empathised, though, I knew that I didn’t mean it, as is often the way. The reasons we homeschool run deep, our third year in.

Every now and then someone asks why we home educate. I wrote a little bit about it back when we were just starting out. With some real life experience under our belts and a lot more thinking time, the reasons have expanded and gathered more weight so I thought I’d share some of them with you.

I am so mindful we are privileged to be able to home educate and that it just isn’t possible for everyone. Perhaps this list is partly an attempt to remember not to take this opportunity for granted.

The chance to grow together
We never liked the idea of sending our kids to spend most of their waking hours away from their family. Childhood lasts a few short years. We just want to enjoy being together. And actually, it turns out that they’re not keen on the idea either. I asked Talitha tonight whether she’d like to go to school at some point and she essentially said that she wouldn’t mind going some of the time but would rather spend most of her time with us. I kind of think, at six and a half, fair enough.

I also see great value in the time our children spend together. My mind is regularly blown by the thought that, had she gone to school, Talitha and Delilah would never have had time at home together apart from weekends and holidays. Who knows whether that might have altered the dynamic between them? And yes, the three don’t always get along perfectly but it’s interesting to observe them develop in their negotiation with and empathy for one another. I’m certain that having an abundance of time to connect with each other and work through these processes helps.

Freedom for our family
We are grateful that school does not dictate the way we spend our time, structure our day or define our values. And I don’t just mean we want to avoid the stress of school runs and take holidays in term time. Actually, we’re trying hard to make decisions democratically as a family and this is far easier to achieve without school. If we need to take a slow day at home, we can. If we need to spend hours outdoors, we can. If we need more time to play or snuggle or have bigger conversations, we have it. If we need to take a few months to totally change our rhythm we can – and we did this both when Delilah was born and when we moved from Bristol to Cornwall.

Autonomy for our children
Directly related, we want our children to be able to make real decisions about their lives, right now. That means we actively choose discussion over dictation and try not to impose arbitrary rules. We’re on a real journey with this, so sometimes we catch ourselves slipping into familiar authoritarian patterns but on the whole, we’re aiming to model self-control and create a consensual environment where everyone’s voice is heard.

Time outdoors
Even when we lived in a city, we prioritised time outdoors, even if it meant hanging out in our garden or going to the park around the corner. We may have more access to natural beauty spots now but the aim has always been to spend a lot of our time outside, giving all of us the opportunity to become familiar with local fauna and flora, align our bodies and minds with the changing seasons and move as much as possible. Admittedly, we go out less in deepest winter but, generally, the kids are spending most of their childhood out in nature, which has always been a priority for us.

Time to pursue interests
Most of these reasons centre on time because that’s the gift home education gives us. I appreciate the time our children have to work on the things that matter to them. For Talitha, that’s mainly time to read books and play with her sisters. She also has time to practise her violin in the mornings, when she’s feeling fresh and motivated. For Ophelia it means making things, dancing and having me read to her.

Both get to spend time on life skills because we are unhurried. So I can say yes when they ask to help me cook and clean or to make their own breakfast or try to fix something that’s fallen out of place or torn. Not that they always want to do these things, obviously, but their desire for independence often drives them to work out how to do things for themselves and they have time for that process. It’s interesting to see what this abundance gives them the time to do at every stage.

A tailored education
With three children with varying temperaments and timelines, I have a small sample confirming to me what most of us know, that children are all different. Yes, it’s possible that a nurturing school would be mindful of their needs but I severely doubt that any classroom could match the attentiveness of our adult-child ratio. We have spent far more time with dinosaurs and Ancient Egypt than the national curriculum would allow, for instance.

Learning is unhurried and driven by delight. We’ve been loosely keeping nature journals and for weeks the kids vetoed every topic I suggested, insisting that they wanted to keep finding out about birds, drawing birds, setting up bird feeders, looking at videos, reading books, identifying them in our garden and listening to them on our walks.

They’re also free to learn the way they want to. At the moment that looks like lots of read alouds, trying things out from magazines, listening to podcasts, drawing and roleplay. I’m mostly interested in them developing positive associations with learning and with learning how to learn.

Independence by choice
This may come as a surprise to some but one of the reasons we home educate is to allow our children to develop their independence on their own terms. Just as the goal of attachment parenting is to give babies a secure base to move from the familiar to the unfamiliar, our hope is that our children will move into new environments with confidence and optimism.

In addition to this, we want them to be settled in their values and sense of self and to trust themselves so that when they do separate from us, they’re able to think critically, make sound decisions and relate to others compassionately. At the moment they have small opportunities to separate, whether that’s going to a friend’s house, playing that bit further away, going to a class or a group. As they ask for more, we’ll work out what that looks like.

Socialisation opportunities
I thought I’d include this because one of the most frequently asked questions about home education is how children socialise and yet this is one of the reasons we’ve chosen to do this. We love that the children have time to play extensively with friends and that we can be on hand to help them navigate challenging social situations, should they need it.

They also get to play and develop friendships, more often that not, with children and adults of varying ages, getting the chance to explore lots of different roles in their interactions and to develop their social confidence in an atmosphere that looks a lot more like real life, because it is.

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I have a workshop airing today (23/02/2018) at the online Start Homeschooling Summit. I’m speaking on how to homeschool older children with a baby. The summit has been going for a few days and finishes tomorrow and you can access it for free until then. There’s an opportunity to buy lifetime access to the workshops afterwards and they cover all styles of homeschooling from classical to unschooling. Do check it out. The links I’ve included here are affiliate links so I get a percentage if you decide to upgrade to the paid bundle but I really think it’s worth having a look even if you just take in a few videos for free today and tomorrow.


Our homeschooling month – September

September brought with it that predictable back-to-school feeling, even though we don’t particularly pay school terms much mind. Learning is woven into our living. A book is read while a baby is fed, French phrases are practised conversationally over meals, giving and spending pocket money sparks addition, subtraction and multiplication. We don’t do school at home.

Yet after a summer of disruption, with visitors coming through and home ed groups pausing, we’ve been craving routine again. The weeks are gradually taking a recognisable shape as we refine where to go and what to commit to.

We’re probably doing more groups than we need to but I feel like though we’ve made some great connections, we’re still building our community and it’s worth keeping the net wide, staying open to meeting new people and going deeper with those we’ve already connected with.

Talitha spent the summer counting down to Beavers starting again. She’s now invested which was a big deal for her. She’s also started violin lessons, practising every day. Ophelia started a fun dance class, something she’d set her heart on. She was so excited she wouldn’t even let us stay with her for the trial lesson.

We’re following Story of the World, an engaging read aloud history curriculum, supplementing with Usborne books, online videos and the accompanying activity book. Talitha also went to a history workshop at the local museum which will be running monthly and tying in with what we’re reading about. This time she learned about the Stone, Bronze and Iron Age, handled models of artefacts, ground wheat and made a clay pot.

For the last couple of years we’ve dipped in and out of Exploring Nature with Children, a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum that weaves together science, art, literature and nature study. We’ve started keeping to it a bit more now that local friends are following it too. This month we covered seeds, mini beasts, the Autumn equinox and Autumn leaves.

Our read alouds have included finishing off Moominpapa by the Sea, flying through Milly Molly Mandy and digging into Heidi. Talitha read an adaptation of the last and asked if we could read the real thing. When we got started I worried that it would be too dense but she’s truly enjoying it, hungry for the next chapter and talking about it later in the day. Ophelia’s read alouds are Winnie the Pooh and Frog and Toad. She’s a bit obsessed with the latter! Both have fallen in love with the stories, illustrations and poems in Storytime magazine. Come back tomorrow for a review of it here on the blog. (Edited to add: you can read my review of Storytime here).

Maths, reading and writing naturally come up in our day to day lives whether in games, cooking, list making, letter writing or imaginative play. However, we’ve continued to enjoy Life of Fred, which explores maths concepts through funny stories. I’ll order the next book soon. Our Spielgaben set has seen some building and small world play but we’re finding it chaotic to get small parts out with a whirlwind toddler who wants to get into whatever her big sisters are doing. The older two have continued to enjoy Reading Eggs and Mathseeds. Talitha often pulls workbooks off the shelf for down time or disappears to curl up somewhere with a book. She’s reading Little House on the Prairie at the moment, which we’ll also read aloud soon.

The older two seem to have found a good flow of doing things independently and together now that Ophelia is happy to entertain herself with dress ups, duplo or the play kitchen and will seek out Delilah or me when her big sister doesn’t feel like playing. They also play well together and though they do fight, I’m grateful for all the time they get together. They’re also building on friendships outside the home and it’s exciting seeing Ophelia start to forge her own as she gets older.

Their big interest at the moment is ocean animals – unsurprising when you go to the beach every week. Serendipitously, this is also the theme one of the home ed groups we go to has been working on. Last week they did mammals and we visited the seal sanctuary as a little family field trip. As another happy coincidence, our first two issues of science magazine Whizz Pop Bang have covered seeds and the ocean, nicely tying in with stuff we’ve been exploring and helping them take it further. The kids have also been looking at ocean videos on The Kids Should See This and borrowed lots of ocean books from the library.

It’s impossible to pin down everything they’ve been working on. I find Talitha’s crafty creations and Ophelia’s many knots tied everywhere. Ophelia is working at writing her name. Talitha is teaching herself cursive. Delilah has worked out how to climb up slides (not ladders).

I oscillate between loving this life we have together and wanting to escape it, mainly because I worry that I’m not good at it. I am too often controlling and am working at letting go, apologising to my children and forgiving myself so I can change. I worry that we do too much. I worry that we don’t do enough. I worry that I don’t know how to just be with my children. I need to see other adults. I need to stay home and recover from putting myself out there. My kids need time and space to rest, process and create. They need to be out seeing other children and trying new things. Balance is a rare find. Yet moving into October, it feels like everything is slowly settling.


Home education in times of chaos

I skipped out of doing a home education update for the last couple of months. It’s just been too much with three weeks in Thailand then the house move. Though we’ve now moved out of our home in Bristol, we haven’t moved into our new home near Falmouth. We’re staying in a holiday home near Newquay. It’s beautiful in this part of Cornwall but it’s also a bit remote both from Laurence’s work and from the groups we’re likely to join with, ongoing.

So the days with the kids are pretty long and we’re all doing rather a lot of driving. There is so much to enjoy about being here, though, and I’m looking forward to continuing to make the most of it with some days out planned to locations that will be a bit further away once we’ve moved.

I only say this to explain that I wasn’t sure I’d give an update this month either because we’re still feeling unsettled. Then again, transitions and times of being out of routine are also a part of home ed living so I thought I should write about that too.

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With the chaos of new baby, travels and house move it’s been difficult at times to maintain any sort of predictable rhythm to our days but one thing has remained the same. We read a lot of books and spend a lot of time outdoors. I was also making time to listen to Talitha read but we even fell out of a routine with that. She was instead left to read to herself or her little sisters, which she preferred at the time. Then, suddenly, I realised she was really reading everything, even chapter books. In fact, she started reading ahead in The Folk of Faraway Tree both because she didn’t want the session to end and also because then she felt less scared when I read the next chapter.

It’s become a habit for her to take books to bed, rushing independently through the bedtime routine so she could get into bed and curl up with whatever book she’s reading. Sometimes she manages fine on her own. Other times, she’ll enjoy reading then ask me to read the same chapter of whatever book again so she can learn any words she wasn’t sure about.

Her questions about reading or writing pretty much direct where we go in those areas at the moment. I’m just amazed by how this is all coming together, almost on its own. Ophelia too has started picking out letter sounds. Her progression is already incredibly different from her sister’s. It’ll be equally fascinating seeing how that takes shape too.

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Balancing their needs has been particularly challenging lately with one or the other making it clear when they’re feeling neglected. I often feel like there’s not enough of me to go around. At the same time, they’re learning important lessons about patience, independence and compromise.

Our times away and now in the holiday home have shown me that they really don’t need much in the way of toys. We have books, a few crafty, arty things that the girls have been freestyling with, Duplo, Lego, Hama beads, cuisennaire rods and that’s it.

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Seeing what’s happened with the cuisenaire rods has been pretty interesting because they’ve not played with them for ages but now, with less stuff out, they’ve been loving these. They primarily build with them, without any interference from me, but sometimes Talitha uses them to work out sums she’s not sure about. It’s really sparked an interest in number bonds for her. I notice her working on the same concepts across day-to-day play and conversations, using her pocket money and these rods. These concepts have also been coming up in Mathseeds, an online game she plays. She’s had a revived interest in working on written maths in a workbook she was doing, which was a surprise. Some of her questions were really challenging my ability to explain so we’ve started looking at videos on Khan Academy together, which she’s enjoying more than I could have expected.

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While venturing into these new spaces with my 5.5 year old, I have to keep remembering that my very nearly three year old needs puzzles and picture books, play and singing and dancing a-plenty. I sometimes have to be firm about carving out time to do what Ophelia wants to do now.

We’ve been in Cornwall for a couple of weeks now and have started meeting up with home ed friends we met when we came house hunting last year. We’ve also tried a couple of groups so far and have more visits planned this week. It’s such a relief not to worry about the community aspect of our choices. Though, just to contradict myself, we’ve also just spent a lot of time on our own, mostly on beaches. Right now we’re just getting our bearings but I’ve no doubt we’re going to be just fine settling in.

Home educating through chaos

Actually, what’s been hardest about this time of change has been the spotlight it’s put on how stretched I am, personally. In times of overwhelm, I find myself inwardly screaming “Me too! Me too! I have needs too!” Things are often out of balance, messy, imperfect. I don’t have all the answers about how to fix that, though I do have a few ideas (I need to get back to volunteering and some other work, for one).

Whereas in times past I would have felt guilty about not having it all sorted, treating feeling overwhelmed as if it were a moral failing, I’m actively trying to resist that vicious cycle. I’m also trying to savour the times when it’s all just fine and when I’m feeling thankful that we’re able to choose to live this way. There are a lot of those too.
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Every month, I give a little update on what we’ve been up to as part of This Homeschooling Life, a linky I host 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 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



Two months with Delilah

So how’s life with our third baby so far? Ask me again tomorrow. It probably depends on the day.

Delilah turned eight weeks earlier this week and it never stops amazing me how much happens in such a short time with babies. I’m not even just talking about the stuff you expect with a new baby, like the high-speed growth or the suddenly meaningful smiles. Sure, she’s breaking out of her 0-3 month clothes and we’re enjoying more awake time. She’s moved well out of sleepy fetus mode and is now looking like her rather than every other newborn (actually, she looks a lot like Talitha except much chubbier). I look back on this past month and it’s impossible to reflect on time with her in isolation. Every week her presence changes life for our whole family.

The month started off with me being pretty stressed over her eczema. On reflection, she started developing the tell tale rash from week two but I thought it was just baby acne. Then suddenly, it was seriously intense, angry spots and red, rough patches everywhere. I took her to the doctor who gave me a cream. That didn’t help. It seems to be trial and error with eczema. Meanwhile, her poo was coming out in full cappuccino foam and it was hard to imagine that the two might not be linked.

This bothered me more than I’d expect. It seems a bit silly – it was a relatively small thing – but my newborn just didn’t look right. Her skin should be soft to the touch and it wasn’t. I was paranoid that everyone was looking at her wondering what was up. I worried that it would start making her uncomfortable as she got older, if it wasn’t already, since she was starting to pass her hands by her face a lot.

A visit to a kinesiologist threw up the suggestion that it was cow’s milk protein bothering her. In retrospect, she’d become completely covered the day after I’d binged on fancy cheeses. I’d already cut it out and it seemed to be getting better. I’d also started using colloidal oatmeal which was like a miracle cream.

After a few weeks of no cow’s dairy, her poo settled down and her skin was clear. A couple of times, I forgot and ate something with cheese or sour cream in it and later that day, the rough red patches returned, along with an uncomfortable baby. Then, earlier this week, I finished off the girls’ ice creams. Within hours the rash appeared and I spent the evening with a fussy baby whose poos were once again foamy and, for the next 24 hours, green. So, it’s safe to say I’m pretty convinced the cow’s milk is a no-no for the time being. Hopefully she outgrows it.

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Meanwhile, life has taken an interesting turn lately with Laurence working in Cornwall for half the working week. We’re both finding this something of an endurance test. For him, it means a lot of driving and staying in different places. For me, the days are long with a newborn, never mind with a two-and-a-half-year old and a five-year-old from wake up to bedtime. This might make some chuckle but I genuinely underestimated how stressful I’d find this. I think I actually forgot when making this arrangement while pregnant what newborns are like and what a juggling act it was making the adjustment from one child to two.

In truth, so far I’m not finding the jump from two to three much more difficult than that last leap. If I had to compare them all, I’d say that zero to one was the hardest in terms of being totally transformative, both because it’s an identity shift becoming a mother and because of Talitha’s specific breastfeeding problems. The jump from one to two meant accepting that not everyone’s needs could be met and that we just had to muddle through as best we could. Two to three really has been just a case of adding another.

That is immensely hard work but the necessary mental shifts have been made and the family framework is already there, if that makes sense. If anything, the difficult bit is psychologically adjusting to being back here again, holding and feeding a tiny baby and rousing at various points in the night.

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From a practical point of view, Ophelia still needs lots of holding and cuddling. She’s a much more physical toddler than Talitha was and it’s proving challenging trying to find other ways to meet that need at times when I just can’t put Delilah down or am feeding her. Having said that Ophelia seemed to be weaning, she still asks for a bedtime feed maybe two or three times a week though it generally lasts moments, sometimes more. She’s re-learned how to latch which was a big surprise and has made the whole thing a happier experience for us both. I’ve started offering again and she doesn’t always say yes but she seems to get a lot of comfort from knowing that it’s still available to her. I don’t feel like we’re tandem breastfeeding but I suppose we are.

She’s hit that stage where anything can become a control issue and I’m having to either learn when to let things go or to slow right down and try to understand where she’s coming from. My mantra at the moment is “Respond, don’t react.” Realistically, I’m finding that a struggle to put into practice, especially if they’re both crying at the same time. When that happens, something in my brain goes into panic mode, telling me to run away or throw a tantrum myself. I’m just grateful we haven’t yet had an episode of all three crying at once. I’d probably just join them if that ever did happen.

Having been here before means I know that this won’t last forever. We will all adapt and I will learn how to relate to Ophelia. That doesn’t mean it will suddenly click and all run smoothly, and it won’t be about instant fixes and perfect formulas. It never is. It will be long, slow, gradual and messy. But it’s all about getting to know each other and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

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As for Talitha, it’s been tricky finding the time and energy to do the things she wants and needs to do. It’s been a lot of trial and error. Maybe more error than I’m ready to admit to myself. She’s been surprisingly patient but I have needed a lot of the time to just get on with it and stick a crying baby in the car where I might have spent time at home calming her down first. Mostly, we’ve found ways to work around the situation by taking what we’re doing on to the floor, reading while Delilah breastfeeds or naps and making the most of a sling.

It’s not perfect. I do find the millions of questions difficult to deal with in the middle of nappy changes but then I’d struggle with them anyway. There have also been days when they’ve watched more TV than I’d like or I’ve been asked “What can I do?” more times than my sanity can take or when hardly anything gets ticked off our to-do list.

In the scheme of things, though, life is ebb and flow and this time is short. Meanwhile, they’re learning important lessons about waiting for one another, creatively entertaining themselves and spending valuable time together as siblings.