Proud moments and party fun.

The highlight of this week for me has been the Doctor Who 5oth Anniversary Special! We went to see it at the cinema and I think I was even more excited than the kids. Jessy is a fan but A says she doesn’t really get it. Jessy dressed up in his dalek costume and brought about squeals of delight from many a Doctor Who fan. The cinema was packed and playing Doctor Who music throughout the building. I think they were showing it on several screens at once. There were good dollops of humour and a very clever plot twist which will allow lots of new possibilities for future episodes. I won’t add any spoilers!

The kids have been quite crafty this week. They both made little Worry Dolls at Wood School and later in the week Jessy brought home the beginnings of some Christmas crafts he’s carving and decorating. He’s finished Santa. One of the others is going to be an Elf and I think the other will be a Christmas tree. He also made a hedgehog out of a flour and water dough. It’s all about hedgehogs at the moment!

Worry Dolls

Worry Dolls

Santa Claus and two unfinished bits.

Santa Claus and two unfinished bits.

Jessy's hedgehog.

Jessy’s hedgehog.

We’ve also started our Christmas craft at home as I realised we’d better get a move on with the Advent Calendars. Last year Jessy and I made one for each other. This year I made one for A, she made one for Jessy and he made one for me. A enjoyed making them and is now making an extra one for her Mum. We all felt really happy and excited about them afterwards. It takes me back to my childhood when the excitement of advent calendars was the little picture rather than chocolate or toys. Having home made ones makes it even nicer. A has enjoyed finding inventive ways for the doors to open by cutting different shapes or altering the directions.

The calendar A made (top) and a Barbados themed one by Jessy (bottom)

The calendar A made (top) and a Barbados themed one by Jessy (bottom)

I’m really enjoying my new Thursday routine. After dropping the kids off at Wood School, I get a bus into town and grab some breakfast. Then I do a little Christmas shopping while the shops are still quiet. After that I wander down to Pregnancy Yoga at the Buddhist Centre. Last week I met a friend for lunch and this week I went downstairs to the vegan Earth Cafe for a delicious and healthy lunch. On the way home I spotted a little grocers selling pomelo, Jessy’s favourite fruit which can be hard to find, and sugar cane which I knew he’d love. He was very excited by both when he arrived home from Wood School. My friend S helpfully cut up the sugar cane – it’s as tough as tree bark! We all enjoyed some.

Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

I enjoyed an evening with my friend M on Friday. She’d asked me to go through the basics of what I learned on the NVC (Non Violent Communication) course with her. It was good to get out the notes and refresh my memory. We then both tried an exercise using the ‘feelings’ and ‘needs’ cards. I thought about an incident which had upset me recently when I’d got very cross with the kids for not tidying the playroom when I told them to. I knew I’d handled it badly. Using the cards and some of the other techniques I’d learned, I managed to look at the situation from the perspective of my feelings and needs and then think about the children’s feelings and needs. I came out feeling more compassionate towards both myself and them, and it released a lot of the anger and tension I’d been feeling. I’d certainly like to learn and explore more about NVC.

We had a busy weekend with early morning starts both days. A had her end of term Stagecoach performance. Jessy and I popped to a local library and then a cafe while she had her final rehearsal. She’d missed 3 weeks of Stagecoach due to our holiday and other circumstances so she’d had very little time to learn or rehearse. Her group did a shortened version of The Wizard of Oz. A played background characters due to having missed so much time, but I was impressed at how well she’d picked up the routines. Jessy particularly enjoyed the performance of ‘Oliver’ done by children his own age.

A in the Emerald City.

A in the Emerald City.

On Sunday it was their friend’s birthday party – a Treasure Hunt in Dunham Massey Park. At first I thought my friend was brave to do an outdoor party in November, but as she pointed out, all the kids going attend Wood School so they’re used to being in the great outdoors in all weathers! I sat in the lovely cafe with a book while they all hurtled around the park. They all had a brilliant time and I joined them as the hot baked spuds and sweet potato chips arrived at the picnic area to warm everyone up! It was a great idea for outdoor party food.

Hot baked spuds in the park.

Hot baked spuds in the park.

Time for cake!

Time for cake!

251120132085

Fuelled by hot potatoes the kids all ran around catching the falling leaves in the park, and for the third time recently I smiled and thought how much I enjoy simple, non commercialised children’s parties and how much the kids enjoy them too.

Monday was the usual flurry of Wood School, Martial Arts and Scouts. Jessy and A were really excited as they got the second yellow band on their white belts which they weren’t expecting. They’ve been told that if they keep improving at the same rate they should earn their yellow belts after Christmas which they clearly felt proud about. Jessy decided to put on a weird and wacky outfit to collect A from Scouts and went out looking like this!:

261120132088

Today at Circus Skills they practiced plate spinning and after a lot of perseverance they both managed to get the plate spinning in the more difficult impressive way they were being taught – another proud moment! Jessy was rushing to finish his ‘Home Safety’ badge booklet before we left for Cubs and just managed it. I hope he’ll get away with it being a week late although as he said to me “I’m not really bothered about the badges.” He does seem to like it when he gets them though!

Free range gerbil & fractions.

It’s been back to Earth this week after our wonderful holiday. It all seems a bit like a dream. The icy weather has really been biting today and it really does feel a world away from the sunny beaches of Barbados, even though both are actually on Earth and very much in the same world really!

The kids were actually really happy to get back to Wood School, especially A who is still enjoying the newness of all the freedom and time to explore and play outdoors. I seem to have spent the week trying to catch up on the extra housework from being away. This sounds like a paradox but I’m sure I can’t be the only person who experiences this. Why is it that the less time you spend in the house, the more housework there seem to be? I think small pixies come into my home and create laundry, washing up and general chaos. One day I’ll catch them and put a stop to this nonsense!! I had some help with the housework from A today which I really appreciated. I often feel that it can be harder work getting the kids to pull their weight in the home than it is to get on and do it. The problem is that I really do need their help. We’re lucky enough to have a large house and I enjoy home educating and I’m even happy to be single at the moment. The combination of all these things, however, means that I really can’t manage it all on my own. Add in my ongoing pain issues and being pregnant and it leaves me feeling pretty grumpy a lot of the time recently. I noticed what an enormous difference it made to my mood when A did a wonderful job of tidying and dusting the living room. I felt relaxed and happy and genuinely appreciative. I’m looking forward to relaxing this evening in my living room rather than sighing and huffing and puffing in frustration at all the mess! I think it’s time to put a bit more effort into getting ‘Happy House Hour’ up and running again in order to reap the long term rewards.

Jessy isn’t having much luck with his pets this week. After the untimely demise of his poor cat Penny-Patch, his little gerbil Alicia then got loose in the kitchen. She’s been happily wandering free for a couple of days now. At first we were worried as there are large holes leading into the wall cavities. Jessy made a huge barricade out of boxes, chairs and washing powder boxes to try and stop her getting to the holes. It became rather difficult to come and go in the kitchen. We did fear that she was lost for good after not seeing her for a while but we’re now becoming familiar with her favourite hide outs, we just can’t catch her! I did manage to get her in a box but she leapt out again. I’m almost becoming resigned to having a free range kitchen gerbil although I’m not happy about the hygiene implications. I think we might have to resort to a humane mouse trap.

Jessy and Penny earlier this year.

Jessy and Penny earlier this year.

Alicia the escapee gerbil

Alicia the escapee gerbil

A is keen to start working towards some badges for Scouts which prompted us to have a look at the available badges for both Cubs and Scouts. I do wish they gave you a handbook like they did when I was young, nowadays you’re expected to look it all up online which doesn’t feel the same somehow. Jessy has decided to go for the Pet Care badge as he is already caring for his pets so he’s part way there. A found a Circus Skills badge which will tie in perfectly with the Circus Skills group they do on Tuesdays. She also decided to go for the Writers badge and sat down immediately to write a poem about going to Scouts. She’s really enjoying Scouts and had the benefit of their first trip away this Friday when she went caving. I was a little worried she’d get scared and not enjoy it as she can suddenly become anxious about all sorts of things. She arrived home though at nearly midnight full of excitement about her underground explorations. The next day she drew some pictures of the different things she’d seen and said she’d like to do some writing about the caves as part of her Writers badge work.

We had friends round to play on Saturday and again today. I feel like we haven’t had as many friends round recently so I’ve enjoyed seeing them play, although it did take quite a lot of effort to keep them all off the computers. I feel as if the screen time has stretched out a little and that Jessy and A haven’t been playing as much as they did previously. I think this often happens as the days get shorter and colder and every year I worry about it!

Jessy’s mind is still active though as he showed me today when he came to do a little mental division of fractions while I was doing the washing up. He’s always been good at spotting number patterns and he told me that if you want to work out half of a fraction you just have to leave the top number the same and double the bottom number. He asked me what half of 3/4 is and I went through a complicated process to work it out only for him to tell me he already knew because of the pattern. At first I told him it wouldn’t work for all fractions but then realised he’s quite right and it does always work! We tried some different ones and then tried simplifying the answers when necessary.

I finally made it back to circus skills after 3 weeks of hospital appointments on Tuesdays. It was lovely to see how much the children have improved, particularly on the trapeze. A has decided to steer clear of the trapeze now though as she fell off last week and was really struggling. Jessy surprised me today by agreeing to perform in the Christmas show! He’s never wanted to do anything like that before, but when he heard the performance is only 5 minutes long he felt he could manage that. I feel quite excited! A is going to be the Ring Master and Jessy is going to be on the trapeze with a friend.

Jessy has just got back from Cubs and after all my talk of badges we realised he completely forgot to complete his Home Safety Badge booklet which he was supposed to take back today! Ooops!

I’ve really noticed a change in the baby’s movements this week. I can actually feel kicks now rather than just squirms and my belly looks huge! I’ve been getting together a few bits and pieces including treating myself to some clothes from a brand called Molo which I adore! Here are my favourites!

201120132069

201120132070

My version of buying ‘gender neutral’ just involves buying whatever I like, so I’ll either end up with a boy wearing ponies and pink or a girl wearing blue lizards! (and vice versa of course) Well, that’s it for this week.

Beautiful Barbados: A Home Ed Holiday

I’ve ended up with an unexpected child free day and night due to the hospital messing up my scan appointment date so I completely forgot it’s ‘Blog Night’ until now! It turns out my appointment is tomorrow rather than today (as the wrote on my notes) so the kids decided to stay over at their friends house rather than come home only to go back tomorrow anyway.

I didn’t write last week as we were doing our bit for World Schooling (that’s where people Home Educate whilst traveling the world, I read an article about it recently!) otherwise known as having a holiday in sunny Barbados! I’ve never been to the Caribbean before and this was a real treat to myself; a chance to relax in luxury before the baby comes and have a holiday to remember forever. It didn’t disappoint and really was like being in paradise. Actually the mosquitos would have to go – they have no place in paradise, but otherwise we’re good to go!

One of the great luxuries of Home Educating is being able to go on holiday outside of school holiday times (without the worries of fines and repercussions.) Schools seem to be getting stricter and stricter about children taking time out for holidays, and yet, it seems obvious to me that a holiday is such an enormous opportunity to learn. You’re immersed in a new place, a new culture, a new climate, possibly a new language and that’s before you even start ‘doing’ anything! So here’s a look at our holiday through a Home Ed lens:

I first took Jessy swimming when he was 4 months old and we’ve been regularly. Despite this he seemed to grow more wary of the water as he got older and has always has an intense dislike of water on his face which has hindered his progress and enjoyment somewhat when it comes to swimming. I bought a couple of snorkel sets for the holiday though and was really pleased to discover that the mask helped Jessy feel confident enough to finally put his face in the water. Once he got the hang of snorkeling there was no stopping him!

Ready to go snorkelling

Ready to go snorkeling

Face in the water!

Face in the water!

In between the copious amounts of relaxation (adults) and play (kids) we went on a few trips. The first was to Harrison’s Caves. It’s one of only 4 caves in the world that you can travel through on a tram which meant I could go, as my wobbly swollen legs wouldn’t have managed otherwise! Before we went into the cave we saw a film about how the island of Barbados was formed. It’s a young island in geological terms and is mostly formed from coral. We heard the story of how the first explorers crawled on their bellies in the dark in order to discover the phenomenal caves with huge open taverns. The guide talked about where the water in the caves comes from and how a lot of it is fresh enough to drink. We learned that stalagmites and stalactites form at a rate of 1cm per 200 years which was hard to comprehend when surrounded by some pretty large ones! These two, for example are expected to join up and form a column in about 20,000 years time. It made me feel like a rather insignificant little blip in the big scheme of things!

Only 20,000 years until we finally meet!

Only 20,000 years until we finally meet!

051120131975

051120131959Our next trip was on the Atlantis submarine. We took a boat ride to the submarine. A had never been on a boat before and none of us had ever been on a submarine. We were all impressed to discover it was a real submarine. A had asked if we would have to climb through a little hatch and down a ladder and I’d said I thought it was only like that in films, but sure enough that’s how we got in! We descended to 143ft which felt very exciting! There were lots of fish to spot, as well as a huge eel which looks green but we learned is actually blue but covered in yellow slime. In fact colour was one of the unexpected interesting things about being on a submarine. The kids soon noticed that all their clothes looked different colours. Greens went yellow, reds went purple and pale colours went white. Our tour guide explained that it happens because the water filters out many rays of light from the colour spectrum, so colours look different.

071120132024

071120132012

071120132008

071120132020

We saw the eel shown in the bottom corner

Our final trip was a turtle spotting trip on a glass bottomed boat. We were taken quite a way out from the shore, first of all to see a sunken ship and secondly to look for turtles. We all put on life jackets and snorkel sets and climbed down the ladder at the back of the boat. Before we left A had adamantly said she would not snorkel out in the sea. No amount of attempting to alleviate her fears would change her mind. However, once we got out there she found her bravery and despite being nervous at first she turned out to be the most enthusiastic of everyone! It was quite hard work swimming back to the boat, but great fun being whizzed along the last few metres holding onto the float at the end of the rescue rope! The fish were spectacular – huge shoals of silver ones right near the surface, beautiful blue neon spotted black ones, pink and green ones, yellow and black striped ones – so many! My friend S spotted an enormous one the size of a small shark but I’ve forgotten it’s name. I saw it from the safety of the boat!

At first it looked as if we weren’t going to find a turtle and everyone was a bit disappointed. Going up and down the ladder was hurting my legs and the boat was making me seasick and we were about to head back. A, in her new found enthusiasm wanted one last snorkel though and as I pointed out, I’ve just spent 3 months feeling permanently sick so I could manage a few minutes more! It was lucky we stayed as the turtle emerged! There was a great flurry of shoving on snorkels as all the others rushed to get back in the water, mostly simply jumping in over the side of the ship. The turtle was coaxed to the surface so I saw it from the boat and the others swam out to be near it and even stroke it. A named it ‘Sylvester’ which the guides seemed to find amusing.

We enjoyed other wildlife during the week too. Every evening as the sun went down the crabs came out on the beach. The kids loved trying to catch them and eventually got this little fellow. A rather large one crawled into the swimming pool which gave us a good view! Apparently it happens a lot – it was still there the next morning!

One of the many crabs.

One of the many crabs.

We also saw this snail outside the caves. There were lots of others on the surrounding leaves.

A large snail.

A large snail.

One evening the kids were very excited to find a tiny turtle on the beach. A local man told us it must have hatched early as they aren’t usually around at this time.

Tiny turtle.

Tiny turtle.

I found some tiny millipedes only a few centimetres long. They’re probably quite regular sized millipedes really but our pet ones at home are about 8 inches long so they looked tiny to us!

The trips were wonderful, but as always I’m sure the kids learned just as much from the hours of cooperative play. They certainly didn’t lack for physical education either as their water acrobatics showed!

091120132051

071120132035

It would be a shame to tell you what we got up to without showing you how beautiful our surroundings were, so here’s just a taster:

View from the hotel balcony.

View from the hotel balcony.

031120131908

041120131921

071120132034

061120131987

Our homecoming was unfortunately a sad one as our cat Penny-Patch suddenly collapsed and died in the kitchen shortly after we arrived. She was only 3 years old and it was a huge shock. She was Jessy’s cat and having to take her to the vet and make decisions about her cremation was a very sad moment of learning.

While I got some much needed rest after an 8 hour flight, no sleep and unexpected trauma, the kids opened up the big bag of clay that had arrived the day we left for Barbados. A made a lovely collection of little hamsters and accessories but I could only find these ones to photograph. Jessy made a transmitting device and a smurf hat. I’m not sure what the others are!

131120132062

131120132063

Well, it’s bedtime for me! Hope you enjoyed our Home Ed Holiday!