Thursday, December 14, 2017

Our Home-Education Story

We have been home-educating for 14 years.
Our home-educating adventure began when my youngest son Joseph (now 19) was bullied (for want of a better word), in his primary school.  He was so young, just 4 then 5 years old.

It was heart-breaking to see my child change so dramatically.  He went from being a happy-go-lucky, confident, always smiling sort of boy, who was the first in the classroom every morning eager to learn, to being incredibly withdrawn, hardly talking to anyone, lacking in self-confidence and with such sadness in his eyes.  At the time Joseph wore glasses and had an eye patch for the treatment of a lazy eye.  He was also receiving speech therapy for speech dyspraxia – thus making him an easy target for the ‘bullies’.

I tried talking to the teachers, and I had numerous appointments with the head mistress of the school.  I tried to discuss my concerns.  All that knew him had noticed a change is his personality.  Staff members mentioned that he didn’t seem to be as happy as he had been, and they noted that he had gone very quiet in class and he wasn’t as keen to learn as he once had been – but no-one would admit to there being a problem. “It’s just a phase.”  “Are there any problems or changes at home?”  “How is the relationship with his dad? And his siblings?”

The teachers were handing over parts of Joe’s broken glasses to me 2, 3, sometimes 4 times a week, but could offer no explanation as to why

I was exasperated.

Joseph became incredibly withdrawn, barely ate or spoke, his behaviour regressed and he spent hours alone in his room.

I started trying to spend as much time as I could helping out in his class – taking pupils for reading sessions, swimming, attending walks and days out.  I was desperate to know what was happening and why such changes were occurring.  I noted that Joseph just sat in class without speaking, for hours he didn’t speak to a single soul and the teacher allowed that to happen – she never asked for his vocal input during lessons.

My heart was breaking.

I was scared.  Just how long do you allow such damage to be done in the hope that it is ‘just a phase’ as the so called experts suggest?  How long do you sit back and watch?  How much time has to pass before the damage becomes more permanent and you can’t get that child you once knew back?

It got to the point that my son was actually being physically sick on the way to school.

Enough was enough.  He was just 5 years old.

I started looking outside of the school for help.  I spent hours on the internet searching for ‘bullying’ and ‘school phobia’ and fortunately Education Otherwise (one of the charities set up to support home-educators), kept appearing at the top of the search listings.

A spark of hope.

At that time I had absolutely no idea that home-education was a legal option here in the UK.  I strongly believed that all children had to attend school.   I didn’t know anybody that home-educated, and it seemed like such a huge and daunting responsibility to take on, but I was desperately concerned about the deterioration in Joseph’s self-confidence and general happiness.

After a great deal of research (and a few more trips to the opticians to repair broken glasses), we made the decision to de-register Joseph from the school.  We did think that maybe we could transfer to the other local primary, but were worried about the damage that could be caused if he suffered similar experiences there too.  Initially it was thought of as a temporary solution.  I think that helped me feel better about taking the plunge – it was just going to be for 6 to 12 months in order to rebuild lost confidences and self-esteem.

But it worked so well for us.

Home-education naturally fitted in with our lifestyle, and we noticed a change in our son within weeks.  We decided to de-register our daughter Chelsea (then aged 7) too.  Not for the same dramatic and damaging reasons as her brother, she certainly wasn’t bullied, but we had a few niggles about the system that we had previously tried to ignore.  We had also lost a lot of faith in the staff at the school after the situation with Joseph, the trust had been broken and I knew that wouldn’t be resolved any time soon.  Knowing that we had another option open to us gave us a way out of an uneasy relationship.  We didn’t have to put up with and try to ignore things any more.

Home-education has worked very well for us, and continues to do so.  We are a close family unit, and I feel that the relationship with my children has really benefited from time spent with them day to day.  When we first started out on this adventure, my husband worked nights.  With the children at school they were hardly ever able to spend time with their dad.  Once out of the system, they were able to spend far more time with him, which was a benefit to us all.
home education, homeschooling, home-educating, parenting, family life, blogWe have found freedom.  A freedom that permits us to explore the beauty that is around us, the freedom to follow our own passions, and the freedom to treat each child as an individual with their own way of learning and their own way of doing things.

I’m not anti-school by any stretch of the imagination. 

I am well aware that many children absolutely thrive within school, and I’ve always made it clear to my children that if they ever wanted to go I wouldn’t try to persuade them otherwise.  But school doesn’t suit everyone – just as home-education wouldn’t and doesn’t!  We have to choose what we feel is best for our own families and situation, and we should be able to do so without criticism or judgement.

When the children first came out of school, we tried to replicate their school day and did school at home.  We tried to be structured – complete with a timetable and lesson plans.  I was desperate to prove that I could do this.  Desperate to prove that I could be a successful home-educating mama, and that I wasn’t letting down my children in any way.  I wanted to make sure that we fully covered everything that would have been covered at school.

I failed.

I got upset and frustrated when our days didn’t go to plan, and it wasn’t long before I realised (and actually admitted to myself), that playing at schools wasn’t going to work for us.

I started to relax. 

I began to research how children learn, different learning styles, and different ways of home-educating.
science
I soon realised that we didn’t have to sit at a table from 9am-3pm.  We didn’t have to write pages and pages, and we didn’t have to plough our way through repetitive workbooks.   Instead my children could learn in many other ways – discussions, reading books, using the internet, watching television, visiting places, talking to people, going to clubs and associations.   The list is never-ending.

To coin a home-ed phrase – the world is our classroom.
home education, homeschooling, home-educating, parenting, family life, blog
I now have six children.  They are aged 21 months, 4, 10, 13, 17 and 19.  The youngest four have never stepped foot inside of a school building.  The eldest has now found her independence and has flown the nest.  All have a love of books and reading.  All have inquisitive minds.  All have amazing personalities and a zest for living life.

At times we find ourselves the ‘talk of the town’ when out and about.  Occasionally we are stopped and questioned about the children not being in school – and reactions to the home-educated response are mixed.  Some people are curious, asking lots of questions and being quite positive and interested.  Others are very negative and tell us how they find it hard to believe that we are allowed to do such a thing.  I’ve also been told that I am ruining the futures of my children.  I’ve learnt to ignore those that don’t understand.  It’s not personal.

Of course, the home-educator lifestyle isn’t always rosy.   I rarely have time to myself, and many people have remarked on how they couldn’t cope with having their children around almost 24/7.  I was the kind of mother that missed my children when they were at school and I relished the time with them during the six week holiday break.  Some mum’s count down the days until the school is reopened.   I learnt a long time ago that my home was ever going to be as clean and tidy as I would like it to be, and sacrifices have had to be made to make things work, particularly financially and materialistically, but it is definitely, without a doubt been ever so worth it.

I see my children happy and thriving, with a real thirst for learning.
home education, homeschooling, home-educating, parenting, family life, blog
And Joseph?
home education, homeschooling, home-educating, parenting, family life, blog
The one responsible for my looking for alternatives and thinking outside of the box?  He is an amazing lad.  He is kind, caring, and considerate.  He is the first to hug me when I’m upset and will help anyone with anything.  I’m so very proud of the man he is fast becoming.  I am thankful that we had the opportunity and more importantly the choice to home-educate.  It literally feels like it’s been a life-saver for me and my family, and certainly for Joseph.  I daren’t even consider what the alternative outcome might have been.

Home-education won’t suit everybody, just as the school system doesn’t.  But for me and mine, and so very many others, it’s the perfect lifestyle.

How do I get started?

I know that at this time of year the numbers of home-educating families tends to increase.  I believe this is due to a number of factors including disillusionment with the school system upon returning in September – especially struggles with settling into a new class with new teachers – the fact that a child has reached school-age and a parent deems them to be not ready or doesn’t wish for them to enter the system, and what I hear time and time again:  That a parent has ‘had their child back’ throughout the long summer holidays and they can now see how school attendance changes him or her for the worse.
One of the range of questions that I am always finding in my email box is “But, just how do I do it?  I mean, how do I get started?  What do I do??”
The very first thing you should do is to ensure that you have followed the correct de-registration process for your area.  Here in England that is by sending in a letter stating your wish that your child’s name is removed from the register.   There are examples of such letters available on the internet for you to base yours on, such as the one here.
When faced with the ‘how do I do it?” question, I always start by saying that there is no right or wrong way to home-educate.  The beauty of home-education is that you find a way of doing things that suits you and your family.  What works for one family may well not work for you.  Children are all different, their learning styles are different, every family’s lifestyle is different, so every family needs to find their own routine and method that fits with them.
There is a definitive trail of thought that an adjustment period, or ‘de-schooling’ is necessary for those coming out of the school system.  This is generally suggested as 1 month for every year of schooling the child has completed,and it is thought of as beneficial for both parent and child.  The idea is that time is needed to ‘free the mind’ from the structure and pressure of the system and for parent and child to reconnect and start to repair any possible damage that has been done.  Basically this transfers into the real world as steering away from academic study with workbooks and the like, and enjoying living life – baking, spending time in nature, following any hobbies, etc – also known as chilling out!
When it comes to doing actual ‘work’, some families find that they need the structure of a timetable and planned lessons.  Some families are completely at the other end of the scale and are completely autonomous with their days, totally going with the flow.  Either is ok.  Both have been proven to get results.  Many are eclectic, mixing and matching methods to suit.

You have the choice.  You are also free to adapt, make changes, and admit it’s not working at any time.
You don’t have to follow the National Curriculum.  You are free to teach what you think is necessary and you are free to allow your child to follow their own interests.  Sometimes people like the security of following the NC and that’s ok too.  I particularly find this to be true for those wanting their child to return to school in the future for whatever the reason, or for those unsure about what to teach and wanting to know that their child will keep up with their school-going peers.
But, if you don’t follow a curriculum, what can you do instead?
It can feel overwhelming.  There are so many resources out there, so many work books, so many tools for learning.  There are oodles of reading schemes, numerous math manipulatives, and a whole host of science kits and equipment, not to mention the thousands of history, geography and other non-fiction books and materials.
DO NOT buy anything.  Not just yet.
I know from personal experience that it is so easy to fall into the ‘need this to be a good home-educator’ trap.  Before you know it, your home is filled with workbooks covering all subjects and stages, along with numerous text books and learning equipment that would rival any prestigious academy.  A whole new world is opening up to you and enthusiasm is oozing.  I totally get that.  Sadly though, personal experience also suggests that many of these things will sit gathering dust whilst you look at a flailing bank account wishing you had the money for something that would be genuinely useful.
I suggest that time is taken to consider all options.  That you meet with other home-educators either online or in-real, and you ask them what resources they have found useful over the years.  You may be surprised at the results.  Workbooks for example vary greatly in content.  Some are colourful and cartoon-like, some are more no-nonsense get to the facts.  Some offer explanations and reasoning whilst others assume knowledge of the topic is already in place and are used in more of a revision like role.   I have a huge pile of books bought on a whim which my children have absolutely no interest in writing in because the style either bores them or the real content just isn’t there.  I wish I had had someone with me to tell me to stop opening my purse when seeing the workbook ‘bargains’.
Remember:  Bargains are only a true bargain if the purchase is actually used or liked!
There are a few buy and sell groups aimed at home-educators on Facebook and yahoo groups where people can pass off their unwanted resources, it’s well worth joining them.
If I had to make a list off the top of my head of our ‘go-to’ resources, it would look something like this:
  • Paper (white – plain, lined, and squared, and coloured), pens and various art mediums – paints, crayons, pencils, watercolours, etc.  Crafty Crocodiles are rather marvelous for all things child artsy and craftsy.
  • The internet.   One mahoosive resource in itself.  One day I will get around to writing up my go-to internet sites list.
  • A printer.
  • Libraries – I often borrow a book then find out I want to buy it anyway.
Although a rather short and succinct list, genuinely it’s enough to get started.  The internet has pretty much everything you need both free and on paid for sites.  If I were to add a few other things that we often use these would include:
  • Microscope (and a telescope to a lesser degree).
  • A Laminator.
  • A globe and wall map.
  • Nature identification books (and hundreds of other non-fiction books bought via Amazon, charity shops, and the Book People in the main, during our 11 years of home-ed.
  • A Chemistry set and various science kits.
  • An Electricity circuit set.
  • Various math manipulatives that range from buttons and beads through to a set of cuisenaire rods.
  • Wooden letters (which I use alongside flash cards which I make myself and laminate).
These resources are added to throughout the year with things to match the topic we are studying.  This way I know that things are more likely going to be beneficial and actually used instead of pre-buying in the hope that one day they will get a look in.
When it comes to studying a topic, we choose to do cross-curricular projects.  Others I know study individual subjects, categorising individual time for Literacy, Numeracy, Science, Geography, History etc, just as I was taught at school.  I tried that, it didn’t work for us.

Now we choose a topic and I incorporate many subjects into the one project.  
Topics get chosen by the children themselves.  We hold regular discussions to review how everyone feels things are going and what sort of things the children want to learn about.  I input what I feel about our routine, and everyone has a voice regarding what they feel is working or otherwise.  We make a list which continuously gets added to as interests develop, but I find it is important for me to have something to work from.
As an example of our cross-curricular study, if we were going to do a project on Ancient Egypt, we could…
  • Look at the location, noting river areas and landscape  (Geography).
  • Measure distance from our own location and figure out scaling (Numeracy).
  • Discuss what life was like, kings and queens, imports and exports, food, and clothing. (History).
  • Find out about religious beliefs, gods, and customs and rituals.  (Religious Education and History).
  • Make costumes and try to recreate recipes. (Arts and crafts, Numeracy, Cooking, History).
  • Build a pyramid, make a sarcophagus .  (Numeracy, Arts and Crafts).
  • Look at writing – hieroglyphics.  Create own messages using picture code. (Arts and Crafts, Literacy).
  • Examine mummification, the beliefs, and the science behind it.  Mummify a chicken!  (Science, History).
  • Case study the life of a child, or the life of a wealthy family compared to the poor.  Write a diary like entry about what life is like and the expectations put upon a child during the time.  (Literacy, History).
  • Write a newspaper style report about an event that happened.  (Literacy, History).
  • Make a poster advertising a special day or event.  (Literacy, History, Art and Craft).
  • Writing a poem (Literacy).
The list goes on and on but I’m sure you get the idea.  Remember throughout that all discussions held will include using verbal and listening skills.
This basic outline can be used over and over for a variety of subjects.  As examples, topics to study could include:

  • Ancient Greece
  • Romans
  • Tudors
  • Victorians
  • The Weather
  • The Water Cycle
  • Life cycles (Butterflies is a good one and easy to do ‘hands on’, as is frogs, or chickens).
  • Animal Habitats
  • Nocturnal Animals
  • Life in the forest or oceans
  • Electricity
  • Crystals
  • Growth – Flowers, vegetables
  • Religions of the world
  • Various countries.
  • Pond life.
  • Animal study or Pet Care Routine
  • Self Sufficiency
I could list hundreds of ideas but I’ll stop there.  I usually type in the topic name followed by ‘for kids’ on google and that often comes up with a wealth of easy to understand websites.  I’ll then start collating the resources that I feel are usual, typing and printing either as I go or at a time when the littliest people are sleeping.  I’ll have a notebook at my side (I’m still an old fashioned paper and pen kinda gal), and will make a note of websites that I really like, ideas for study, and things to do or places to visit.   I will then check out Amazon for any craft packs, books or activities that relate to the topic, and look through the Bookpeople and Ebay for the same.  I will also continuously check out charity shops and buy and keep things back that I think will be useful if they relate to a planned future topic.

I must reiterate that this is our way of doing things and what we have found works for us.

My younger children are calling out for a little bit of direction at this time.
They want to be given a bit of work to do – not much, but some.  They want what they describe as ‘school work’ and I facilitate that request.  Some families don’t do project work, some do.  Some families don’t study in what could be deemed as the conventional sense and have no ‘work’ to show that learning is taking place.  That’s ok and it worked well for us for a good few years.  As a parent, we don’t need to see oodles of handwriting and pages of study to know that learning is occurring.  We have the time to talk more than any class and teacher could ever do.  We can discuss facts, figures, and locations etc, and hundreds of questions can be asked and a reply given – things don’t have to be written down as proof that the child has listened and understood.  We don’t have to prove to the powers that be that learning is taking place in the way that a school teacher does with their record keeping and box ticking.  We don’t have to discuss a child’s progress with an anxious mother or a keen for high marks father during parents evening.  We can witness progression first hand as a parent.  We can see learning as it happens, everyday.  We can celebrate those light bulb oh-I-get-it-now moments and help with the struggles as they occur.  We are in the very privileged position of being there, sharing that learning experience and able to see the growth and development in all areas over time, far easier than a teacher with a classroom full of students ever could manage.
Over time I assure you will find your own direction.  You will find your routine and your way of doing things.  The true beauty of home-education is that you can mix it up, try it out, and adjust as necessary.  You can be structured one week and be unschoolers the next.  You can be structured for Maths and English lessons, and relax on the rest.  You can set aside study time in the morning, afternoon or evening – or have no set aside time at all – whatever works best for you and your kids.  You can have late bedtimes and late rising – some of our best, most fruitful discussions have come about at midnight and beyond.

You will find your own path and travel along it your own distinct way – that’s what makes home-education work for so many, it is completely tailor made to suit you and your family.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Catching up on our days...

I’m a little late with the new year greeting I know, but finally I feel we are finding our feet again and starting to feel our way around some sort of daily rhythm.
2016 was a great year for us in so many ways.  It had so much going for it – until the closing months when things took a difficult turn.  Our eldest daughter was in and out of hospital from September until just before Christmas (thankfully she is doing a whole lot better now!), and we received awful family health news which took us on a downward spiral.   We were knocked for six for sure and it puts a whole lot of things into perspective.  Don’t take a single day for granted – live life to the full, each day is an absolute blessing to be grabbed hold of and hugged.   Who knows what the effect on 2017 will be, but for now we stay positive and march on.
Talking of marching, we have had a few lovely lane walks recently – trying to get back out there, needing to experience the fresh air and great outdoors.  For me, there is something really healthy feeling and invigorating when I’m out strolling with my family, especially when we return home to a hearty home cooked meal.   It’s a feeling that is hard to beat, and I know I’ve said it before, but when you live in such a beautiful area, with views like this right on your street – well, what’s not to love?
I love the fact that even the younger ones are happy to just go for a walk.  They don’t need to go where there is play equipment, they don’t need to go where they can ride on things or do stuff – they are just happy to stroll, chatter and take in all they see.  I love that.
We have made a start on tidying up the outside space we have in preparation for the coming months.  For the past few days we have had copious amounts of rain which have meant we are almost back to mud bath field again, but we can’t really complain about the winter weather experience thus far.  The younger ones have been enjoying spending time outside with me, sometimes helping with whatever task I am doing, and sometimes exploring alone.
Amara found an old unused birds nest…
I’d really like to turn our outside space into a wonderful child orientated area, with plenty of learning experiences available and space to just be.  I’ve got a few ideas whirring around in my head that I would love to bring to fruition in the coming months, so watch this space!

So on to today.

Our morning started nice and relaxed – one of the big bonuses of home-educating for sure.  When I think back to the mama beast I used to be during our time within the school system, I shudder.  I was shouty mama.  I was frustrated mama.  I was desperately trying to be organised so things run smoothly in the morning mama.  I was failing at it mama.   It is such a relief to be able to start the day at our own pace now, particularly when Amara hasn’t had a good night’s sleep and she is able to lie in until her body is ready for waking – it makes for a much happier young lady.
We pottered around doing our own things for a while.  The chickens and ducks needed cleaning out, the goats needed tending to – choosing today to stay in their stable as the rain was thrashing down hard!  Cats needed feeding, the dog needed a stroll out, laundry had to be started, the old piano apparently needed to be played, and so much more.
When all had been done, we piled into the car to run a few errands around town.  We took the opportunity to explore the local charity shops which proved to be a wise mood as we picked up quite a haul including an electronics kit, fuzzy felt, and a magnetic maths set.
Once home our charity shop purchases were immediately brought into action.  The electronics kit was a fabulous buy at just £2.50…
You can find out more about the kit here:  Cambridge Brain Box Primary Plus 2 Electronics Kit
Amara really liked the fuzzy felt set, and this magnetic maths set.
Today was just about exploring the new things.  No instructions from me, no lessons, no expected learning outcomes or plans – just open the boxes and explore.  Feel the pieces, experiment, and go with the flow.
As we were all together in the same room, I thought it would be a good time to start up our family reading time again.  We started reading a new chapter book  – The Ice Thief by Susan Gates.  We read the first two chapters today and even Callum enjoyed it, and he isn’t big on fiction books, much preferring the non-fiction variety.
I had printed out a few things for us to do today with a focus on the Chinese New Year celebrations, but they shall have to wait until tomorrow – another plus to home-education, we can go off on a tangent when we feel like it and don’t have to worry about sticking to timetables and lesson plans.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Catching Up

Life, learning, business and fun – just about sums up these past few months.  Nothing remarkable to report, but happily enjoying our days.
Surely it can’t be October already?  Really?  This year has just whizzety whizzed by at lightening fast speed, it’s quite scary.
Things have been trundling along merrily here.
My little peg doll business is growing beautifully – and I am so so so very proud to be able to say we no longer claim a housing benefit top up or council tax benefit due in the main to my earnings.

That feels AMAZING!

It has been a goal of mine for a long while and finally it’s been achieved.
Who’d have thought that little wooden characters such as these…
Wooden Peg Dolls UK
family-1-4
would be helping to pay the bills!
All the work behind the scenes – the CE testing, the website building, the networking, the Etsy shop stocking, the packaging designing, the post office runs, the list goes on and on and on before we even think about the designing and the painting – has been worth it.  Well worth it.  If you fancy finding out more you can check out the website at www.peggies.co.uk or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/peggiespegdolls – apologies for the blatant self-promotion, but it is helping us continue our home-education journey and all support is much appreciated.
Of course, the downside of the business building is the struggle and juggle to fit even more into my day.
Although I’m very blessed to be at home all day with the children, I do feel we could do with a better routine to ensure that nothing gets missed.  I am very fortunate to have a supportive husband who is happy to do childcare at the weekends if he is not called into work.  This means that I can have (more or less) uninterrupted painting time to catch up with any orders due out.  This weekend I will be putting together a plan of what I would like our week days to look like – whether it develops into fruition is a different thing of course, but we can but try.  We have started attending a local home-education group that is run fortnightly and the children love that.  They have really settled into it so it seems so that’s great.  Whether or not we attempt to join other groups in the future remains to be seen, but I’d really like to build up our social network a little and there is so much going on around the Devon area.
Taisia (turning 6 at the end of the month) is very much seeking more structured ‘learning’ time.  She is wanting to ‘do school’.  She is talking a lot about school at the moment – or at least her idea of school as seen on children’s TV.  She likes the idea of all the learning stuff, but doesn’t want to go.  So I am going to have to up my game somewhat and start planning.
Amara (who will be 3 on Monday) is wanting to do all that her next in line sister does.  It’s driving Taisia a bit batty to be honest, but she does try to be a good ‘big sis’ the best she can.  So I am going to start looking for ideas that can keep Amara occupied whilst I spend time with Taisia, and things that Taisia can do solo without my help whilst I spend time with Amara.  Did I mention the juggle?
Callum and Tiegan are just, well, erm the lovely Callum and Tiegan!  They haven’t changed much, still go with the flow types, happy to see where the day takes them.  Current interests for both include Minecraft, Marvel, and Clash of Clans – which is lovely as they spend a lot of time discussing things and making battle plans.   Tiegan is still an avid book reader, and Callum is mad about football – much of his time is spent outside football training and fitness building.  He is still fascinated by Geography and loves looking through books to learn things like the flags of each country.
Joseph is past the home-education stage now.  At 18 he is a great young man with a lot to offer.  He has a great sense of humour and we laugh together pretty much daily – he is a great feel-good tonic to have around!  Joe is avidly interested in politics and has been following the Labour / Corbyn situation closely.  He now wants to work towards becoming an MP.  For now he is learning about marketing and business strategies to help me out.  He is also learning about photography.
Chelsea will be 21 this year – just wow!  She has flown the nest as some will know, but we talk for almost an hour on a pretty much weekly basis.  Chelsea’s Ulcerative Colitis battle is still ongoing, and she has been having a few flare ups.  But she sounds incredibly happy where she is and that’s good enough for me.  She is still studying Psychology and English Literature and as far as I’m aware it’s going very well.
With being so busy over the past few months, photo taking (other than the little wooden folk) has been severely lacking.  I really miss it!  I’m going to make a conscious effort throughout October to get back to documenting our days again as I really used to enjoy the regular writing and the record to look back on, and I know that many enjoyed reading!
The younger girls have been enjoying baking – last weekend they spent time in the kitchen with their dad making Apple and Apple and Blackberry pies – after we went fruit picking down the lanes.   With views like this, it’s a joy to take a stroll!
view
The girls love been hands on (and some would say messy!) in the kitchen.
pie-baking
But the fruits of their labor were delicious!
pie
Milo pup is growing into a really gorgeous family member.  Amara absolutely adores him and the two are becoming firm friends.
friends
I think these two are best buddies #classroomfree #simplechildhood #homeed #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #pupsofinstagram #puppylove #dogsandkids #sleepingbabies
We've been duck feeding at the canal…
duck-feeding-togetherduck-feeding-with-milo
And enjoying lovely walks through National Trust owned land.
knightshayes-walk
Some of us also enjoyed cookies!amara
I shall be popping back on to offer a couple of book reviews over the weekend and share our daily plan if I manage to get around to it.  For now it’s putting away the grocery delivery and back to the painting table for me!

Monday, July 25, 2016

All about the bees

We had a lovely day today, meeting up with our local home-education group once again for a Bees Workshop.
We met up in a fantastic outside space which was just a 10 minute drive from our home – super handy for us, and for once going out didn’t need to be a military operation with a checklist for all of our needs.  Joseph decided to give the workshop a miss and stay home with Milo the pup.
Upon arriving at Byway Woods, near Bickleigh Castle, we were met by Nick from the Tanglewood Project based in Crediton.  There was lots of Bee keeping equipment for the children to look through and touch, and the questions soon came rolling in from excited voices wanting to know more.
Once the majority of the attendees were deemed to have arrived (around 40 or so children, plus adults), we sat down to listen to Nick talk about bees and his 9 years experience of keeping them.
Bee Keeping Talk
Nick covered so many topics from the different sizes of different bees, through to swarming and the necessary tools and equipment, and we were all lucky enough to receive gorgeous honeycomb to look at and eat.  Once the interactive talk was over, we got the opportunity to pick up and touch the items that had been brought along and ask yet more questions!  There were a lot of very curious minds there today.
honeycomb
hands onbees
Just as the Drumming workshop last week, the event was very laid back and relaxed.  None of the children were forced to participate and all had the freedom to wander off and play if they preferred.  The weather was once again beautiful, and you really couldn’t blame those that wanted to be off and explore the surroundings.  It was such a stunning setting, with quite breathtaking views and oh so peaceful.
Beautiful Devon
We had lunch – again, a very relaxed affair, with children coming and going as they wished.  I barely saw Taisia.  She was ultra confident today, off and gone with her friends and talking to both adults and children alike.  Callum and Tiegan also spent a lot of time with their friends today, and Amara (aged 2) spent her day flitting to an fro, spreading her time amongst all three and me.  I was able to spend a fair bit of time chatting to the other mama’s which was lovely.  Slowly I am re-building my confidence within group settings, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt comfortable and I’m so grateful that people have been so welcoming.
Once the hoards were fed, we packed up belongings and literally headed for the hills – a really lovely walk of just a small part of the approximately 100 or so acres.  Amara walked with me – although independently as per the norm at the moment.  A small voice of “I want to do it myself” is quite the mantra at the moment.  Taisia was walking way off in front.  Many a time I could be seen standing on tippy toes trying to ensure she was still within sight – often she wasn’t and my heart pounded for a moment until her long plait could be seen in the distance.  Callum and Tiegan walked with friends and happy chatting could be heard.
horses
Once back at the field where it all began, there was more nattering amongst parents and playing amongst children.
It was an absolutely lovely day and one I shall remember with a happy heart for a long time to come

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Our Week

This week has been a lot of fun.  We have been really enjoying the experience of having a new puppy around, and Milo has certainly been making himself right at home.  He has captured our hearts already that’s for sure.
We have been settling into a lovely evening routine with him.  Just as the light starts to fade a little, we go outside and start bedding down the animals for the night.  Our trio of goats are brought into their stable abode and fed and watered, the chickens are counted as they sit on their perches and the runner ducks are gently herded.  Water buckets are cleaned out and sat waiting, ready for refilling in the morning, and feed buckets are brought down to the food room ready for the morning routine to start all over again.
Then we sit.
We sit and look to the skies.
As darkness begins to fall, the resident bats begin to flutter.
It’s a sight I don’t think I shall ever tire of.
They flip and twirl, loop and swirl, to and fro – dancing through the air as there wings flap at amazing speed.  Often we feel them just pass our heads, and respond in awe with agasp.
Often we are accompanied by the hooty toots of the neighborhood owls.  We have various species surrounding us and love listening to their call and answering sessions as we sit in otherwise silence.
Bat watching in the dark. Love our life and home #classroomfree #homeeducation #welovehomeed #unschooling #family #kidsoutdoors #screenfree #kidsinnature #outdoorfun #batwatching #simplelife #simplechildhood #makingmemories
Bat watching in the dark.
We are so blessed to be living here.  So so so very blessed.
Milo is loving the field to run around in too, this picture was taken with the flash on so apologies for the poor quality, but he looked too cute not to share!
Milo
We have spent a lot of time outside this week.  Last Saturday we went for the lovely long walk where both Lee (husband) and I took photographs – and Taisia did too!
camera girl
I love sharing my passion for photography with my children, and feel very lucky to have a husband that also shares my love.  It means between us we have a great opportunity to create a fabulous album of family memories.
me
photography
happy childrenstrollCallum and me
prettyflying with wings
On Sunday of course, the big day had arrived and it was picking up doggy time!  Oh we were so excited!!
We stopped off at the beach on the way home to break up the journey a bit, and the children had a great time exploring and beach sitting.
Taisiaclimbing
Of course Milo had to be carried all of the time, but we did snap this quick pictures when his paws touched the ground for a mini-mo.  I think he looks like one of the family already.  Who’d have thought we had met him less than an hour before?
milo
Monday saw us pottering around at home and getting to know our new pup, as he got to know to us.  He slotted into our family readily and settled in remarkably quickly.
Tuesday was trip to the vet day.  Milo was weighed (2.4kg), and had his first lot of injections.  He took it all in his stride and didn’t really care one jot.  Tiegan, Taisia and Amara all came along for the experience, and they found it very interesting and a lot easier to get through than the last time we were there.   Just a few weeks ago we had to have one of our cats put to sleep after a suspected rat poisoning incident – we were heartbroken.  It was nice to have a positive vet experience this time around.
I had a lovely phone call from Chelsea. We chatted for almost an hour.  Oh how I miss her!  But she sounds blissfully happy and enjoying life and that’s all a mama can ask for.  Her studying is going well and health wise her colitis is under control – there is just the matter of a liver infection to deal with at the moment.  Hopefully that will be sorted swiftly.
Wednesday was African Drumming day – so much fun!  New friends were made, new things were learnt, and a great day was had.  The children are still talking about it now with much glee.
Thursday was mama catching up with peg people painting for orders day.   Luckily Milo was great entertainment! I had ordered a dog book which arrived so the children read through that and discussed all the ins and outs of dog care and training whilst they played with the pup.
And Friday was trip to town, visit to the post office, and start our Pokemon Go adventures day!  We found 7 if anyone is interested, I am not sure who enjoyed it the most – me (at 41 years of age!) or the children.  Couldn’t help but raise a smile each time we saw others stopping and phone staring.
Each day has been filled with plentiful discussions – political viewpoints and news in abundance (have I mentioned that Joseph wants to become an MP?),
It’s been a great week.  Home feels like a really happy abode, the children are smiley and joyful, and we are all in good health.  Plans are being made for where we can take the pup when he is allowed to be on the ground, and we are looking forward to Lee having two weeks off in August so we can share lots of quality time as a family – with Milo in tow!