New knowledge and Missed Events.

We’ve enjoyed a few more days in lately. Some of them admittedly have been down to my disorganisation! I’m usually a pretty organised person when it comes to getting to events but in the past week we’ve managed to miss our film festival showing and a planned day out to the Manchester Science Festival. I feel a bit annoyed with myself as they were both important events in our Home Ed calendar. Despite booking the film a month or so ago and having it written on the calendar I only remembered we should have been there several hours after it finished! So we didn’t get to enjoy the ‘Earth’ documentary on the cinema screen. 😦 Today I’d planned for us to go to a ‘Planetary Odyssey’ which is part of the Manchester Science Festival. The excuse for this one is possibly even worse – there was too much house work to do. 😦 We’re going on holiday in a few days and I just can’t bear coming home to enormous mountains of laundry and beds that really need changing. The washing up pile had become so huge that we actually couldn’t eat lunch until I cleared it! So although it’s a bit of a rubbish theme for a Home Ed blog I think the theme of the week has to be disorganisation!! I hope I’m not alone and can find some solidarity with other Home Ed parents out there!

So what did we manage to do? I did remember to take them to Wood School. A is still really happy about being able to go on Thursdays now. This weekend I did an introductory course in NVC (Non Violent Communication). The teachers at Wood School use this form of communication, so the parents with children who attend were invited first to the course. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. The kids went to stay with my very good friend who has looked after Jessy on and off since he was about 4. They had a Halloween show and fireworks display to look forward to. I really enjoyed the two day course. It was taught by Penny Vine. (http://www.pennyvine.com/index.htm) She was wonderfully down to Earth and has a whole hoard of children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren so her experience is vast. I was pleasantly surprised that NVC seems to be a bit more flexible than I’d imagined and really can be used in any situation. Some of it was revisiting old ideas I have learned from parenting books over the years. I’ve felt the need to abandon a lot of my old ideas since realising that Jessy often needs a different approach that is more clear and structured with less complicated language. The course gave me hope that I can mix some of my old ideas with an approach that suits Jessy which felt so relieving and reassuring. I’ve already felt calmer and more thoughtful, although I’m under no illusions that it will turn me into a sudden saint!!

My friend picked me up with the kids and after making a quick stir fry at home we headed to our local park which had a fair and fireworks display. We’ve been lucky as it’s usually on in the first week on November when we’ll be away, but it’s early this year. The kids enjoyed some rides and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hear a single complaint about the fact the rides cost double this time but I gave them the same amount of money so they only got half the rides. A has been afraid of fireworks ever since she can remember but we were pleased to discover that this year she didn’t feel frightened anymore and she happily watched the display.

On the ghost train

On the ghost train

VIP ride!

VIP ride!

This week is half term so there was no Wood School yesterday. The kids were very interested in the cards I brought back from the NVC course. They show feelings and needs, with the idea being that our feelings are linked to a need or needs that are being met or unmet. So for example if you are enjoying time with friends you could find the feeling card for ‘Happy’ and the need card for ‘companionship’. The children’s pack is illustrated and uses simpler words. The teacher suggested that Jessy might find them useful. He struggles a lot to articulate his feelings verbally and even when he does I think it is often inaccurate. Children who find this hard, often find a visual aid useful. He did use the cards to tell me how he was feeling and which need he felt was being met. A was fascinated by them and we worked with them for about an hour. Here are some examples using the cards:

NVC children's cards

NVC children’s cards

A has also continued with her hamster projects. She’s very excited about her plans to build her own cage. We’ve had a few tricky moments with her struggling with the concept of needing to modify designs to suit your own purposes as she became very determined to copy the plan she’d seen to the letter. I think she is beginning to understand that we need to make a few changes (such as adding a lid because we have two cats and we don’t want the hamster to get eaten!) and gradually relaxing into the idea that a project often involves changes along the way. We visited the local pet shop to stock up on supplies and have a little look at the animals. The lady who runs the pet shop gave A some spare bars from bird cages to use in her projects. I’m wondering what she’ll create with them!

Today Jessy helped me to change all the bed covers. Usually I have a very sore back after doing the three beds and my back has got worse recently with being pregnant. He was a really big help which meant I wasn’t in nearly so much pain afterwards. We looked up ‘Barbados’ on the map and A proved she has more geographical knowledge than I do as I didn’t have a clue where to look but she found it using what she already knew.

When I realised we weren’t going to make it out to the Science Festival we decided to carve pumpkins instead. We had a hilarious journey home from the shop yesterday. I told the kids they could choose any pumpkin as long as they could carry it home themselves. A picked a huge one! Jessy picked one a little smaller, but proportional to his size, his was possibly even larger! Luckily they both found it very funny as they struggled and found places to stop and rest and tried not to drop them. They both got the giggles which made it even harder to hold on to them and by the time we got home we were all laughing!

Pumpkin hilarity!

Pumpkin hilarity!

This was the first year when both the kids designed and carved the pumpkins completely themselves. Jessy needed a little help scooping out all the pips and strings. He had great fun trying though and a good sense of humour about how little he managed to get out despite trying hard! A threw herself into the messy business and despite much face pulling seemed to enjoy it!

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I gave a few suggestions on how to create an outline but other than that the designs and carving were done with no help at all. A carved Jiji the cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Jessy carved a skull. We were all very pleased and impressed by the results:

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We’ve put them out on our porch. We’re going away for a week the day after Halloween so I’m terribly sorry but there will be no blog next week as I will be sunning my self on a Barbados beach! Woo hoo!!

Sinking: Quicksand and Beyond

I didn’t write my blog last week because it was my niece’s birthday and instead of going to Cubs we went out for a Japanese meal with my sister, my niece and nephews, and Jessy’s Uncle and Nana.

Me with my 15 year old nephew Charlie, Jessy and my niece Anais on her 10th birthday meal.

Me with my 15 year old nephew Charlie, Jessy and my niece Anais on her 10th birthday meal.

It feels a long time ago that Jessy and I headed out for a day trip to Corby beach near Liverpool with my friends W and her 5 year old son, D. It turned out to be quite an eventful trip as I sunk in quick sand up to my knees! I had to leave my boots behind and wade through, falling as I went with my arm also disappearing into the sinking sludgy sand. It was pretty frightening! We flagged down some lifeguards to rescue my boots, but the journey home wasn’t much fun as I was caked in wet muddy sand. Add to that the rotten crab claw Jessy had picked up which covered his hands in unbelievably foul-smelling rancid dead crab juice and it didn’t turn out to be the best day I’ve ever had! After 2 trains I gave up and we got a taxi the rest of the way home! Despite the drama the boys enjoyed themselves and the company was good! We also got to see the sculpture installation by Antony Gormley called ‘another place’. It consists of many human figures dotted across the beach which sink and appear with the tide.

One of the figures in the art installation.

One of the figures in the art installation.

Jessy on Corby Beach

Jessy on Corby Beach

Jessy has found a new interest in construction. He spent his pocket money on a construction kit which uses ‘kid wood’, a kind of foam which acts as a wood substitute. The tools are plastic allowing a mess free and safer way to try out construction work. Jessy thinks it is brilliant which I’ve been a little surprised about considering he does real woodcraft using real tools at Wood School. He says he likes not having to worry about hurting himself which I think frees him up to think more about the construction. His first creation was something he pieced together as he went along. He calls it the ‘Jessymabob’.

The Jessymabob in mid construction. (Jessy was dressed in his Hogwarts uniform!)

The Jessymabob in mid construction. (Jessy was dressed in his Hogwarts uniform!)

The finished Jessymabob along with a person he made afterwards.

The finished Jessymabob along with a person he made afterwards.

As he liked it so much I ordered a larger kit and some spare kid-wood and tools. Jessy made this chest with hinged lid with a little assistance from me. He was very proud of it.

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We’ve watched some interesting videos this week. Firstly the world’s smallest ever video ‘A boy and his atom’, made with actual atoms!

We watched the supporting videos about how it was made too. Jessy asked about conception and foetal development. It’s on our minds at the moment as I’m charting my ovulation in order to have fertility treatment. He asked about my miscarriage and wanted to know how babies develop so we watched some videos about that and then ended up watching a documentary about conjoined twins Abigail and Brittany Hensel. That led to some interesting discussions about thinking about the feelings of others and imagining about how it would feel to have people take pictures of you because you looked different. The twins had said they found it upsetting and Jessy was asking why.

This week we began my latest idea to get Jessy involved in chores around the home and it has certainly been the most successful so far. I call it ‘Happy House Hour’. It’s an idea from FlyLady that I used to do years ago. Once a week you spend an hour doing housework but you only work on each thing for 10 minutes. It makes it feel more manageable and it’s surprising what you can get done! I put a strong focus on us doing this with a happy attitude. We put on Jessy’s ‘Come and Praise’ CD to jolly us along. It went brilliantly. The 10 minute tasks seemed very manageable to Jessy and he joined in with a big smile and felt great afterwards. He said our house felt so happy he wanted to draw smiley faces all over it!

I’d love to say that this has been the general attitude in our home lately, but if I’m honest we’ve been having a difficult time. Jessy and I seem to frequently fall into ruts of wasting large amounts of time arguing and it’s been particularly bad the last few weeks. It’s led to me feeling quite miserable. I’ve cried a lot this week and had days where I’ve felt like an utter failure, convinced Jessy will end up on an awful talk show regurgitating the things I’ve said in my worst and most angry moments. 😦

I have some things on my mind related to this ongoing conflict which I’m not going to post about here yet but may end up talking about if my ideas come to anything. Some days have been wonderful. The day we did Happy House Hour was a beautiful flow of co-operation and happiness, however, the next morning was awful and left Jessy so out of sorts he spent the morning trying to climb over the very high entrance gates at Wood School needing two teachers to stay with him. They called me to explain the problem, and I was about to go and pick him up when we decided that they could go and sit with him in the potting shed to help him calm down. I actually felt better about leaving him there where the teachers are all NVC (Non Violent Communication) trained and I knew they would handle him better than I was managing!

It’s nerve-racking to put this stuff in a blog, but I feel that as parents we owe each other a little honesty. It’s lovely to post about out activities and our happy days in the park, but perhaps it is then only fair to post about when it is tough. So I’ve been sinking. It started with the quick sand and then carried on at home. I’ll just keep doing the best I can.

Jessy by the climbing rock at Longford Park last Tuesday.