23 November 2015

What a difference a year makes.....

As the light fades on a Sunday evening, I go round the house closing the curtains, the fire is lit and candles are burning the house is cosy and warm, we are snug against the cold outside.  As the weekend draws to a close I try hard not to dwell on where my husband has flown off to work for the week, but instead on the wonderful weekend we have had.

I asked for you to send me your spare sunshine in my last post, but it seems I should be careful what I  wish for.  My weekend started on Friday morning with a drive via a couple of places and ending up in the late afternoon at my brothers house.  I was heading east into the beautiful and low winter sun, not the easiest of driving conditions.  Our second stop was at the rather wonderful Eureka!, a museum for children, big and small.  This was our second visit and we still haven't really 'done' the whole musuem, it is a huge place which is just as well as there were seven school parties sharing the space with us.  The noise in some of the rooms was a little over whelming but it was worth it.

As a child I remember going to visit an aunt and uncle who didn't have any children, they lived in a huge rambling house which was the perfect place for my brothers and I to play.  I had to remind myself of those wonderful memories the first time I took my children to visit my brother and his partner a few years ago.  After that first visit they kept asking when they could go back again.   It made me so happy to know that they wanted to spend time with them, my extended family were so important to me when I was growing up.  This time last year our visits were tinged with sadness and relief after a horrendous cycling accident my brother had one early morning in October.  If I see a cyclist without a helmet it always makes my stomach flutter, my brother would not be with us if he hadn't been wearing a helmet and whilst I know that not many of you are likely to be cycling in the early morning dark on a city road with an unlit skip, please wear one when you go out on a bike, wherever you go.

Living in a back to back on four floors is not the ideal house when you have a huge scar on one leg, extensive damage to the other knee and two broken fingers on one hand.  A year on none of those injuries are visible and my brother is back cycling his six miles to work each day.  So this visit felt different, all the sadness at the loss of mobility was gone and we spend many wonderful hours building memories, with a visit to the rather wonderful Saltaire.  Sadly I forgot to take my camera with me so I am not able to show your any pictures, doubly sad really the light was perfect........a good excuse to return again another time.  It was everything I imagined it to be and more.

We had two late nights sitting chatting and playing many of the board games my brother and his partner own they are not usual run of the mill ones and this one in particular was a great hit with us all, so much so that I think we will find a copy in our house by the end of next month.  Those late nights meant that when we returned home and I tried to write a menu and shopping list it seemed to take me forever.  We usually shop on a Friday but with being away it got shuffled back a few days, I really should have written it earlier in the week when I was less tired.  The supermarket was the last place I wanted to be on a Sunday afternoon but needs must, if we want to eat this week.

We closed the weekend with a bath, a story by the wood burner and an early night, we have some sleep catching up to do with as we have a week of lovely things to look forward to.  I hope you had a lovely weekend too, enjoy your week ahead.


We woke on Saturday to a dusty of snow at my brothers, it seems it did the same at home although it is still hanging around....... 

Joining Karen

19 November 2015

A window into a day

Just over a year ago I recorded everything that we did in a day and then posted about it, I thought it would be interesting to do it again* as things are always changing on the learning front in this house.  I am sure that most home educators, whatever route they choose, have many wobbles about what they are doing.  Should I have more structure to our day, should I follow a curriculum, should I just let them go in whatever direction they want to?  What we all want is the best for our children whether their learning takes place mostly at school or all at home and being in sole charge of that can feel like a somewhat daunting task, if we let it.  If I relax and enjoy it and plan what I need to and not worry when that plan doesn't always work, then there is always tomorrow.

Cameron has changed a huge amount in the last year.  He has gone from not really wanting much input at all from me to looking to me to help me and guide him in his learning.  I am not teaching him, we are not having formal lessons but there is a definite need on his part for a little more structure.  That structure brings with it a happy, peaceful child who is interested in so much, less structure and he flounders and looks lost.

I was woken by Alice informing me that she had a wobbly tooth after which she got into bed with me for a cuddle.  Cameron came in a few minutes later and opened the curtains declaring that we must come and look as it was quite bright outside.  This is all relative you understand as it has rained pretty much everyday this month so far, it was still cloudy but the cloud was white rather than grey.  We all looked out the window for some time observing the birds in the garden and the field on the other side of the road.  Cameron correctly identified some small birds in the field which I could only do with binoculars.  He has most definitely overtaken me in some bird identifying stakes he can do so by their behaviour and flight now.

We all got dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast.  We have taken to trying to eat this together something we manage some mornings.  At this time of year we often light the candles we have on the table and we talk about what we are going to do during the day and what time we want to do the things we have planned to do at home.  Four days of the week we are at home all morning and then go out in the afternoon, three of those days we have lunch at home too.  I try and drink at least two pints of water and then wait half and hour before eating my breakfast so I don't always manage to eat with them but I do sit at the table with them even if I am not eating.  Alice has taken to wanting to play a board game during breakfast something we started in September and has carried on.  On that morning the game was Bus Stop, a great game for practicing addition and subtraction, so it was maths for breakfast.

Straight after breakfast they usually have some time on the computer/tablet.  Cameron was using Lego Digital Designer to record a model he made with lego so that he can make it again in the future should he need to break it up,  Alice was watching Numtums (more Maths) on CBeebies.  They usually do this most days and it gives me a chance to do jobs round the house like the tidying, changing the beds or hoovering.  On that morning it was the washing that got my attention, emptying the sheila maid of yesterdays wash and putting it away before putting a new load in the machine.  I love the smell of line dried washing but it has been a while since I have been able to hang any outside, however we have a sheila maid in our bathroom which we use with the window open its a sort of half way house as even on a cold wet day the washing will dry in 24 hours.  I also put some beetroot to roast in the oven for tea and sewed a few seams on a quilt I am making and a present for my nephews.  I am loving having my sewing machine permanently ready to go, it has transformed my sewing experience, it is so much more productive.

When Cameron had finished up on the computer we had a game of fraction dominoes.  I went on a maths course earlier in the year.  Despite it being the subject I am most confident about helping my children to learn I am always on the look out for new ways to learn this valuable subject.  I knew that the lady running the course was very into learning through games so I hoped to pick up some new ones, which I did.  I also realised that Alice needed regular maths sessions each week if she was to progress beyond numbers 1 - 5 (which is where she was at at the start of the course in March).   So I now plan at least three, sometimes four, maths sessions each week.  They are not usually very long but as they are one to one I don't think they need to be.  I can see a definite improvement in both of their maths skills since introducing this back in the late spring.  Alice can now count beyond 100, do basic addition and subtraction, knows all her number bonds up to 10, and has just been learning the concept of multiplication.  Cameron is now confident at complex addition and subtraction, he knows most of his times tables and is competent at division.  He was really reluctant to learn his tables so I moved onto fractions, percentages and decimals.  I introduced the concept of fractions, wrote a few on our blackboard to show how they are written down and what they represent and then starting using the first set of fraction dominoes.  We have worked our way through the sets, by set three we were on to equivalent fractions (now he could see the importance of those dreaded times tables) and now we are onto to equivalent fractions, percentages and decimals.

At some point in the morning we devote some time to project work.  We have just finished a project on the human body, we are taking a short break from projects before our Advent celebrations so they wanted to use that time to do some work on Beaver and Scout badges.  I had spent some time the previous day going through all the badges in their scouting sections and printing off what they needed to do.  Alice decided on the Cooks Activity Badge and Cameron the Model Maker Activity Badge.  Cameron went off to build a complex lego model, a passport control complex of buildings whilst Alice learnt all about healthy eating and started to write it all down.

Whilst I was making dinner** Cameron emailed a couple of pictures of his model to his Scout Leader (ticking off a requirement for his Digital Citizen Badge - they are very 21st Century these scouts now you know) to ask if he could bring his model to the meeting that evening.   He is going to work on a Local Knowledge badge next which requires him to produce a map of all the facilities within a 5K radius of our village, in the New Year we are going to do a project on the weather so he can complete his Meteorologist Badge.  Alice got the cuisenaire rods out and starting making a picture of us all out for a walk in the sunshine, now that would be lovely can you send us some if you have any to spare?

After dinner we headed out in the car to their French class.  Back in September at one of the home ed meet ups we go to one of the mums was lamenting the fact that the french class she started for a few children was no longer viable as all the other children had gone back to school and her two didn't want to do it on their own.  Several mums said they were interested and now the class is back on.  They have been to three sessions now and are absolutely loving it.  I have always known that there were a few subjects that I would not be able to easily do at home, languages being one of them.  Cameron learnt some French when he was at nursery but I found it really difficult to keep that up once nursery had finished.  The class is one hour and the teacher speaks in French the whole time, she does it through songs, lots of actions and repeating sentences over and over.  The drive to the class is fairly long, as is most of the driving to and from activities we go to.  We have taken to borrowing audio books on CD from the library and listening to them, so our listening this time was Alice's Stories by Tim Kennemore.

Once we got back home, after a very wet drive home witnessing two accidents on the road, it was time for cooking tea.  Cameron laid and lit the wood burning stove, Alice tidied up and I cooked Beetroot and Feta Salad and Falafel.  Tuesday is a busy day for us as once we have eaten its time to clear up and prepare for Cameron and myself to go out, Cameron to Scouts and me to orchestra with my husband away a lot at the moment this takes some organising.  When I walk out the door to go to French I know that every minute of the rest of my day is accounted for!  I don't get home until nearly 10pm so the children are sound asleep I have to wait until the morning to find out how their evening has been.  Cameron got his model maker badge and the Scout of the Week award (Alice came home with the Beaver equivalent the day before) I am not a fan of rewards, in fact I loathe them but I know that these were received with pride and that neither of them will have changed their behaviour to get them.

So it is probably time for me to end this really long post, I hope I haven't bored you to tears rambling on about my day.  I had hoped to share more photos with you but it was such a dull dark day that my photos were not worth sharing, except the domino set which I thought you might like to see.  It was interesting for me to read and compare with this time last year, I wonder what our day will look like in another year?


*Tuesday 17 November
**midday meal, my granny grew up in the North of England so it was always dinner in our house, despite growing up in the South where it is more usually called lunch.

15 November 2015


Like I have read on so many blogs recently we too have been celebrating a birthday in our house this week.  Cameron celebrated eleven times round the sun on Thursday with a quiet day at home and a friend for tea, which were his requests.  Daddy suprised him by returning home a day early from working away and spent the afternoon at home with us.

So eleven years of being a mother, the best eleven years of my life so far.  We forge this journey together you and I, learning from each other.  I don't always get it right and am always grateful that you are so understanding of the mistakes I make.  You are a gentle, sensitive soul.  You have changed so much in the last year, making my heart swell and sing so many times.  When I talk to grandma about you and what you have been doing she tells me that I was the same, this makes me happy as I know all will be well.

You have moved into a new level of independence.  You were a Beaver Scout for a year when you were seven but decided that Cubs was not for you.  When you discovered you were old enough to start Scouts you went off by yourself to the first meeting.  You have made your first friend in the village, someone whose house you can walk to, a friend to go off on bike rides with, walks with and hang out with all things you have done over the past months.  This has not been without its problems, especially when we lost each other in the village in the dark, but you used your head and worked out what to do and we found each other with a hug.  You were upset but calm, happy to be safely reunited

You have made some big decisions about friends.  About what they mean to you.  About other people's behaviour.  We have long discussions about big issues.  You are thoughtful but not judgemental.  I can see that some things you are still grappling with and others you have sorted for yourself.

You are looking to me more for guidance with your learning.  Seeking out a bit more structure than you have wanted in the past.  We have been talking about the future of your learning, school or not to school for now we are sticking with the latter.

It feels like it has been a big year, with growth both physical and mental.  I feel we have grown so much closer, we talk about everything and anything something you have not found easy with in the past.  I hope we can continue on that path for your twelfth year round the sun.


11 November 2015

Letting in the Light

As we move through the Autumn the days get gradually shorter and in my part of the world this is often accompanied by gloomier days.  Whilst I love the cosiness of this time of year I know that by February I am ready for it all to end, but for now I am enjoying all that this season brings.

Today is a day to celebrate and let in the light.  Diwali is a well known festival celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs to mark the end of the harvest season and the victory of light over darkness, a common theme in many festivals at this time of year as I wrote about last week.  We love to read the story of Rama and Sita at this time of year.

A less well known festival also celebrated today is Martinmas.  St Martin lived in France for most of his life and has become the patron saint of children and the poor.  He symbolises kindness and the importance of sharing with everyone.  Lanterns are often made to protect the small flame of the candle, so that we can safely carry it into this time of darkness.  We met with friends on Monday and together we made lanterns, sang songs, shared a story and food.  Our wee people have returned to our seasonal table with their lanterns.

Now I shall be turning my attention to Advent preparation.  The Festival of Stones which I wove into our lives last year, along with St Nicholas Day, St Lucia Day, Hanukah and the Winter Solstice.

07 November 2015

Remembering Traditions

At this time of year people all over the UK are lighting fires and setting off fireworks, there may also have been some trick and treating going on, and the baking of soul cakes, treacle toffee and parkin.   The origins of all of this is much disputed.

The Celts celebrated their New Year at this time of year with their Samhain festival, we now think of that as being the 31 October but given that our current calendar has only been in use since the 1750s (in the UK) it could have been on any day at this time of year.  It was more likely to have been linked to the moon and night time* hours.  All the Celtish festivals were celebrated on the Eve, which is how this festival may have transitioned over time to All Hallows Eve and then Halloween.

This was a time for communicating with your dead ancestors, paying your respects, they were often perceived as hungry and in need of nourishment, places would be laid at the table so that they could join the feast.  A spirit of the dead invited to such a feast was a geist, a german word and the route of the words ghost and guest.  It is thought this gave route to the Christian festival All Souls Night.  Celebrating on the eve meant that this time belonged neither to the Old Year or the New it was 'in between' a time when the dead could pass from one world to the another along with Faeries, Elves and other mischief makers.  It was only safe to go out in disguise......

It is a time when we are heading into the dark (in the Northern Hemisphere), the earth dies and rests waiting for the returning sun to germinate its seeds.  Mother Earth has often been represented as a goddess, it is thought she was represented in black at this time of year.  Over time the dark nature of the goddess became an object of fear and for many years suffered persecution, witch hunts, or could be the scapegoat for disasters, natural or otherwise.

All this mischief and evil spirits roaming the earth needed warding off.  In some places Rowan was used or a offering of food to appease them, or carving turnips into faces and putting candles inside.

Fires have most likely been lit for centuries at important times of the year not only as a light in the darkness but as a means of rekindling and celebrating.  It is thought that all fires were extinguished at Samhain and new ones kindled from a main ceremonial fire.  If this ritual continued for centuries it could have become connected with Guy Fawkes, a man who was part of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605.  We know for certain that parliament decreed in 1606 that November 5 should be kept as a day of thanksgiving for lives spared.  The burning of a guy on the bonfire is a Victorian addition.

Over this weekend we have Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday to the date of the Armistice of the First World War.  A time to remember all those who have fought and died for peace in our country.  Services are held, wreaths laid and a two minute silence observed at 11am the time of the armistice.  As a child there would be many veterans of WW1 at these services, now they all dead and we are approaching a centenary of the end of the War.  The technologies available now mean that we have many records which will, we hope, survive for many a year.  But like all the traditions celebrated at this time of year will it change over time particularly after many generations?

Whatever the root or origin of a festival, they will always change through time, a melting pot of influences bringing people together to celebrate. The changes they have seen over time seem all the more poignant in a year of such terrible unrest in the world. Persecution is a dreadful human trait. There is a thread of remembering running through this time of year, pulling all these festivals from the past, present, and hopefully the future, together. A time of reflection.

We have been remembering our ancestors who are no longer with us. My children have sadly lost a grandparent young, this is an important time of year for us to bring his memory alive. To talk about the happy times we had together, look at pictures and treasured objects. This is not something we did a few years ago, as he was still with us, so we have created a new tradition in our family, born of a need to keep memories alive. It seems natural then that our ancestors through time would have wanted to do the same.


* The Romans recorded the Celts as measuring their calendar in nights rather than days

03 November 2015

Busy Hands

Now that November has started it feels like Christmas is only round the corner, apologies if you didn't want to be reminded.  In years past I have been in the middle of a frantic period of making gifts from a list which seemed to grow as fast as I could complete anything.  Knitting everything meant that I had to start back in August but spending five months of the year making Christmas presents was not something I wanted to do every year.   So far, this years list doesn't contain much knitting what is included is not cast on as yet, so I currently on the needles is several projects for myself which seems rather indulgent........a cardigan using the blue yarn, it was one huge skein that I bought really cheaply from a friend of a friend I have guesstimated the length.  I have been creating fairisle swatches for the yoke as I don't want to play yardage chicken* with the blue yarn, I think I need a creamy coloured yarn as well which means a trip to the yarn shop........

......in the meantime a sock for me, my knitting is very colour co-ordinated at the moment!

Other projects include some wee presents for friends, a story sack in planning, quilt squares and a birthday bag for Alice's friend, she wants one now, of course!  I am trying to find that all important balance of making some gifts and ensuring that I have time to do so within family life.  I always buy a few too as some of my family are difficult enough to choose gifts for as it is, without spending the time making something that I am not quite sure they will like or want.   It is of course early days and come this time next month I may be feeling slightly overwhelmed by my own planning.........


*when you are not quite sure if you have enough yarn to complete a project.

Joining Nicole

30 October 2015

Experiments and Suprises

I am sure I have had tongues wagging recently in my village.  I realise it is rather conceited of me to believe that people have been talking about me behind closed doors but I am good at giving them ammunition.  I am the quirky woman who does things rather differently which will always set me apart from the long term inhabitants of the village where being different is not the norm.  We are feeling our way through the maze, not entirely successfully, of children being more independent which I am all for, but I couldn't be making a bigger bosh of if I tried.  I managed to lose a child between my house and the village hall, a walk in a straight line along the same road, turning up at a meeting, late, interrupting it because I couldn't see Cameron and then walking back out again.  You see, great fodder!  So as I stumble around not doing a very good job of it, I realise I need to take a leaf from my mothers' book, arrange a return time and ring me if you are going to be late.  We always had a pocket full of 10p's which probably wouldn't get you far these days, even if you could find a working phone box.  But first things first a watch with a battery that makes the time right, one step at a time eh?

I have joined Facebook.  I haven't joined in the party just crept in the back door and am watching slightly bewildered from the kitchen.  My local home ed groups use it, a lot, I was missing out on stuff going on relying on friends texting me which wasn't really fair on them or to be honest terribly reliable.  I may make it my mission to be the person who has been a member the longest and has no friends.

Talking of kitchens my benign neglect in my own has led to some interesting suprises recently.  I have started making my own yogurt again, I have found a way to make it just how I want it, bits of lots of recipes.  I have come to realise that some recipes are a bit like fairy tales once they are written down they become static and sometimes redundant as they only really work for the author. Take sourdough starters, something else I have been dabbling with, the state of your starter can depend on so many variables that become more intuitive over time, it would be better to talk to your neighbour about it than someone blogging thousands of miles away, but when you don't have a sourdough baking neighbour the blog will have to do.  The recipe is then a starting point rather than an end in itself, seeing it like this takes you on a much more productive and enjoyable journey.

Today is the day that we didn't meet the deadline to apply for a place at secondary school for Cameron.  I have been mulling this over for some time now, as regular readers here will know.   I had thought I had made my decision but a chance conversation with someone at orchestra got me thinking again.  As the head of a very small localish secondary school I can't say I wasn't, initially, tempted by what she had to say about her school.  But aside from the practicalities of having to drive him there and back everyday it is the curriculum that I have issues with and that won't change with the size of the school.  So for now we are committing to the home, it doesn't feel any different for now and probably won't for a while, when his peers make that big step I know that it will mark another different step in our journey.  Six years ago this day felt like a long way off, now it is has come and gone and life continues, rolling slowly onwards.

Autumn is a good time of year for foraging, if you are a dab hand at it all year round is good but I am not so tend to do more at this time of year.  We picked rosehips way before the first frost, which is supposed to improve the flavour, and made syrup with them, well strictly I didn't because it didn't have any sugar in it.  I used it on my breakfast it was a little tart but the fresh fruit helped that.  A few days after it ran out I started to feel the beginnings of a cold, a garlic syrup was recommended to me.  The four days it takes to brew were full of aching fever that wrapped me up completely in its grip, the first day after my first dose I was so glad to be free of it.  The recipe calls for a lot of garlic so I was glad to be able to use my own, once the cloves have steeped they can be frozen and used in cooking, a ready supply of peeled garlic.  Now I am feeling a little better I will be on the look out for more rosehips...........