Friday, 14 February 2014

Kindness Jar

Oops, it's been a week since my last post!  Well, we've just been too busy having fun!  Lots of visits to friends and visits from friends this week - it's been lovely (although a big bedroom-tidying session is now in order - but that's a small price to pay for having so many wonderful friends to play with).

Anyway, this morning started with the boys all bundling into my bed (Hubby had already vacated).  We were generally chatting about the usual topics (you know: Mario, friends, minecraft, poo, etc...) and then I remembered something.

"Boys, do you know what day it is today?" 
"That's right, and do you know what's special about today?" (this followed by a deluge of suggestions, some more likely than others)
"Um... chocolate spread in our sandwiches?"
"We get to play Minecraft?"
"We're going to see the Lego Movie?"
"Daddy's home?"
"Um, well... I was actually thinking of it being Valentine's Day"
So I read the story of St Valentine to them as written here and we talked about valentine traditions. 
Then I had an idea...

You see, lately there has been a bit of a grouchy vibe going on here - owing probably to a surfeit of germs, an abundance of weather, an increase in hormones and a general decrease in the amount of hours spent asleep.  Every one has been fractious, squabbles have lasted too long, and more mediation has been needed than I have patience for.

So I invited the boys to play a game.  In the spirit of Valentine's Day, rather than going around beheading people (as per the fate of the eponymous saint), we were going to find ways to be kind and loving to each other.  For every kind or loving deed that we did, we were going to drop a marble into a jar... and just see if we could fill the jar up over the course of the day.  Not for rewards, other than maybe just that of choosing their favourite marble and hearing a satisfying clunk as it dropped into place.  Absolutely no suggestion of marbles being removed for bad behaviour... this was just about focusing on the positives.

They started off great - lots of cuddling, drawing of pictures, giving of gifts and helping with jobs.  Interest waned a little over lunch, but then picked up again afterwards as I gave the jar a little shake, we counted the marbles so far, and tried to think up some more ways to be kind and loving...  Happily enough, we actually ran out of marbles before we ran out of loving deeds (I am sure there must be more marbles somewhere in their rooms... we really must get tidying up!)  That didn't really matter though - their filling of the jar had ebbed and flowed somewhat, but the point of the game had been successfully made.

Encouragingly, I realised that one of the reasons why the marble jar filled up sporadically was more to do with the boys forgetting it was there than because they weren't doing kind things.  Actually when I was paying close attention I saw that they were still being nice to each other (mostly), but just forgetting to add a marble - so that reassured me that there is a lot of unseen kindness in the house anyway - but it was still a success because they made a conscious effort to be loving and kind, and there were definitely far less squabbles throughout the day.  Long may it continue!

love note to me from Youngest


Friday, 7 February 2014

Fun on Friday

Having had a fairly intense couple of days, we were all the mood to skive today.  Well - not exactly skive, as we had no commitments to avoid - but suffice to say, nobody was going to tackle any structured work, least of all Mummy!

So this morning we went into town (because I am able to drive locally now - hooray!) and we posted some postcards for Postcrossing.. we are really enjoying receiving them from all over the world, it's quite addictive!  I even had some of my own photos turned into postcards so we could send cards showing genuine pictures of our local area...

While we were in town we bought some new T-shirts for the boys, and some cakes from the bakery to have with lunch - so it turned into a really nice little trip out.  Shopping isn't something I usually associate with pleasure, but it was a lovely little trip - probably because we didn't have to get too much done, so we just had fun and got home again quickly.

When we got home the boys just wanted to draw - so draw they did.  They particularly like making lots of tiny cards to play games with - a sort of cross between top trumps and collectors cards, all of their own design.  Unfortunately they do tend to get scattered about and lost very quickly, but I try not to stress about it as long as they're happy and busy (and they tidy up their mess)!

In fact, they were so engrossed, they were really reluctant to go out again, but last night there was really heavy rainfall, and reports were coming in from all across town of lots of flooded areas... nothing too serious thankfully, but I knew the country lane a five-minute walk away from our road would be sure to be flooded as there is usually a sizeable puddle there after relatively small amounts of rain - so I asked the boys if they would come for a walk with me because I wanted to have a look to see how big the puddle had got.  They weren't too keen, but agreed to do it for me (very sweet of them!).  Well, when we got there, it certainly had flooded and covered the road, as I suspected - and we all had lots of fun splashing in it - as I suspected!  First we waded from one side of the "puddle" to the other, turning down a kind offer from a passing Range Rover to ferry us to the other side.  I got about a third of the way across before remembering - or rather, being reminded by a cold wet feeling in my feet - that my wellies had holes in, and Middle and Youngest had so much fun splashing that their wellies very quickly filled up too.  Eldest was the only one who kept his feet dry - but even that was a close call as the water level wasn't far away from the top of his boots!  Anyway, suffice to say we all had a thoroughly enjoyable time playing in the 'ginormous' puddle - and then came home for a change of clothes and a hot chocolate.  It was the perfect antidote to a bit of a trying week - I strongly recommend puddle-jumping as stress-relief.  We know how to have fun!

 The "Ginormous Puddle"

These trees usually stand in a dry ditch, a couple of feet deep...

Flooded fields, where we usually walk

Emptying wellies when we got home!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Brave (Wobbly) Wednesday

The worst thing anyone ever said to me about our decision to home educate is "You're brave!"  I know: I've been let off lightly.  I almost feel I'm letting the side down by not experiencing the usual flak of ignorance that most new home educators seem to endure, but there you have it: I obviously have remarkably supportive and intelligent family and friends!  Even the "you're brave" comment wasn't really bad - maybe slightly patronising, but not hostile.

Anyway, having thought about it often since then, I've decided that the person who said it had a point.  Not from the point of view seemingly shared by so many that it takes some kind of bravery to want to be with your own children full-time:  I enjoy being around my children, even more so since they left school and the anxiety/ stress-laden exchanges that used to be so familiar have become largely a thing of the past.  However, from the point of view that I am treading a path not chosen by many, that I am shouldering a responsibility that most choose to delegate to "professionals"... then yes, I am coming to agree: I AM brave.

Forgive me if that sounds indulgent.  I could do with some cheerleading really - it's actually been quite a wobbly week, and today was not the best day.  I knew the forecast was bad, and general household health is such that we are not able to just waterproof-up and go dancing in puddles, even if the trees weren't whipping their limbs about alarmingly in the howling wind.  For that reason I had chosen a couple of lovely invitation-type indoor activities to strew for a nice change of pace.  I was looking forward to it.  Sadly we didn't get to do either.  The boys didn't even spot one until almost tea-time, and the other, not at all!  We spent this morning doing first MathsWhizz (which was actually quite nice as each of the boys took it in turns to snuggle next to me to complete their exercises on my laptop), and then some English workbook exercises, which reeeeealllllyyyyy dragged.  We hardly ever do Maths AND English in any one day, but the boys had been to the park yesterday and wanted to leave their maths until today, so it was their choice really, but it didn't go well in the end.

It just turned out to be a heavily parent-led day, with me having to chivvy them to finish their "work".  We haven't had a day like that for such a long time, and I was wondering why, as none of us work well like that.  I think I have to accept that I've been 'wobbling' a bit.  It started with the realisation that if (it's a considerable 'if') the boys - particularly thinking of Eldest at the moment - want to take GCSEs at some point, they are going to need to have to have "kept up" in certain subjects with their peers in school.  However, that statement really sits in contradiction with my strongly held belief that education is neither a race nor a competition.  Hence the wobbling.  Anyway, I remembered that way back when we started our Home Ed adventure I felt that we just needed to focus a little on Maths and English, and let the rest flow with the boys' natural interest - and although our approach is very seasonal, we have pretty much continued on that theme, because that is what continues to feel right for us, and apart from today's hiccup, it seems to be working.

So I had a chat with Eldest and talked about what he might want to do.  We looked at the possibilities of GCSEs and gently looked at the gap between where he is (with maths for example) and where he will need to get - and agreed that he does need to keep up with MathsWhizz and his English workbooks.  It's just that after today I need to be careful to just stick with alternating those subjects so that he and his brothers don't feel overloaded!  AND, I need to remember that if they are having a day where it drags, that it's fine to just lay down the workbooks and move on to something more enjoyable (it's not like it was going in by that point anyway - it was just futile "work"). 

Days like today remind me that Home Educating does have its down-side.  I rarely see the down-side to be honest, for all the great reasons that I usually blog about.  But today I was reminded that yes, as home educators we do need to be brave.  It can be scary.  It takes courage to commit to holding your child's future so fully in your hands.  There will be days when it feels like a risk/ a gamble/ some kind of dodgy experiment.  I am just so thankful that we are so blessed to have such an awesome community of people all travelling similar paths, offering encouragement and wonderful, wise experience.  We have those cheering us on who trod the path before and whose children completely flourished as a result.  We are surrounded by courageous ones: all determined to offer their children a better life, with better opportunities; all of whom decided not to delegate responsibility to someone else, but to take the risk because we all know deep down that taking the risk will be so utterly vindicated.  So today - has it been wobbly?  Yes.  Brave?  That too!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Moochy Monday

We had a bit of a slow start this morning: Eldest and Middle both said that they wanted to do some writing for English today, but neither of them could find inspiration.  In the end they both decided to have a go on Reading Eggspress instead.  They both enjoy collecting the Animal cards that are awarded for completing a 'lesson', and Middle in particular really enjoys 'Quote Quest' - but I have to say I don't think I'll be renewing their subscription.  Reading Eggs is brilliant for little ones learning to read, but once they finish that it is quite a leap in content to that of Reading Eggspress, and I have got fed up of e-mailing Reading Eggspress to point out all the errors in their comprehensions.  I think the boys would be happy enough to carry on, but I am not convinced that it is worth the money.

Anyway, once that was done, Eldest moved on to designing some Angry Birds layouts, and Middle and Youngest wanted to do an experiment, so we did a yeasty balloon one...
We poured a sachet of yeast, two crumbed up sugar cubes, and half a cup of warm water into a bottle, then fitted a balloon to the neck of the bottle and waited.  We checked back on the experiment at regular intervals, and the boys were pretty excited to see how big the balloon got.  Sadly we didn't have the ingredients to make our own bread as that was the obvious next request they made - but we might be able to do it tomorrow.  It would be nice to be able to show them the air bubbles in the bread compared to the air bubbles in the yeasty liquid today.

just started                                              after 20 minutes

after 40 minutes                                            after 60 minutes

 "Major Angry Birds Battle"
"Bad Piggie Fight"

Also today we had a look at Russia.  We received a Postcrossing postcard from Sochi on Friday afternoon when all the boys were otherwise occupied, so I put it aside to look at today.  On Saturday (a very busy day) we then received another one from the US.  That has also been put aside as the boys weren't interested in looking at two in any detail on the same day.  Anyway, we followed the same pattern as with our first card: we looked it up on the globe, in an atlas, and online.  Then Youngest wrote down the name of the country, Middle wrote down an interesting fact (capital city), Eldest wrote down two interesting facts (size and major products), and Middle drew the national flag.  Another nice little activity.  We might even have a look at some of the winter Olympics, as ther interest has been piqued by the card...

Other than that there has just been a lot of mooching today - bits of reading, drawing and playing... we've all been getting over colds lately and have been left feeling a bit flat.  It'll be nice to get out of the house tomorrow and have a change of scenery - and maybe we'll change our approach for the whole week too - even less structure and more time outdoors usually does the trick - here's hoping the weather is kind to us...