Friday, 1 April 2016

Home ed 'school holiday' musings

We've barely left the house this week. We've been a bit poorly and school holidays are our chill-out time at home, by choice. We prefer to visit places during term-time when they're less busy and many of our usual groups and meet ups stop in the holidays. 

If we hadn't have been ill, we'd planned quite a few low-key outings to see friends, just a little trip out each day, but as it turned out we spent our week at home instead not wanting to pass on our germs! 

It's nice to have some space as a family at home. I've noticed slower-paced weeks have positive effects on behaviour too. The kids have really enjoyed each other's company this week. They've done all sorts of fun creative things together. Their imagination, thoughtful ideas and the stuff they come up with in their play makes me feel really proud of them. It's been lovely to watch this week especially, with having so much time at home, and it's so important to nurture their sibling bond. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Exploring Central Florida

We found some great little places to explore today while on our mini-roadtrip through central Florrida from Naples to Legoland. We mostly drove along the Highway 17 and first stop was at the Cracker Trail Museum. 

Inside the museum was loads of intriguing exhibits from American Indian times to history in more recent times. Many of the exhibits surprisingly linked in with books we've read this year, and I had many a proud moment when Eden without any prompting, recalled moments from the stories. We were reminded of Little House in the Big Woods; Ma's kitchen utensils and butter making and Pa's smoke house. The museum had a full size canoe and lots of American Indian artefacts that reminded us of Paddle to the Sea. Eden pointed out a chair just like the one that Van Gogh painted. It's times like this that I realise just how broad an education she is receiving without any effort, and how effective learning through 'living books' using the Charlotte Mason method really is. 

After our museum visit we stopped for a picnic at Paynes Creek State Park, it felt very off the beaten track and we were the only visitors there. After a play at the playground, we followed one of the trails over a suspension bridge, enjoying the wildlife and nature around us, with Eden and Asher role playing imaginatively along the way, using sticks as swords and telescopes. 

We passed some other interesting sights while driving; while passing through Arcadia we saw a cowboy! And we passed several trucks filled to the brim with oranges, which overspilt into the road everytime they turned a corner, on their way to a huge orange factory where we saw glass windowed rooms filled with the fruit, ready to be processed! 

Photos to follow as they're all on my video camera. A wonderfully unexpected and educational day on our way to Legoland!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The countdown continues

We've been busy having fun with our countdown most days for the last couple of weeks. The kids and I have an ongoing joke as we keep unintentionally spotting Mickey heads everywhere! In bowls of Cheerios, spoonfuls of peas, and yesterday for pancake day one of my pancakes was the shape of Mickey, completely by fluke! I'm glad the kids are enjoying the countdown, it prolongs the fun and anticipation. Asher asks me every night before bed how many sleeps until we go.

Here's a round-up of some of the activities that we've done over the last couple of weeks.
We've covered geography and history by mapping out the countries showcased at Epcot, and reading a biography on Walt Disney.
We've made toy story cupcakes
We've planned out the attractions that we want to visit using Disney's map guides
We continue to work our way through our Disney movie library, and have watched lots of YouTube videos of Walt Disney World. They're so exciting! 
We've made some cute cards to give to Mickey and Minnie wth photos of the kids meeting them on our last visit 2 years ago. We've also made some personalised luggage labels for our suitcases. 

 Today, I've made a start on packing, while we still have time to shop for any gaps in things we need before we go. Not long now! 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

DIY Child's Disney Beast Costume

I finished making Asher a Beast costume yesterday, and I know I'm biased but I think he looks super-cute in it! 
As I discovered a few weeks ago, Beast costumes are really hard to find. There's none available to buy directly in the UK. When we go to Disney, we have a meal planned in the 'Be Our Guest' Beast castle, so a few weeks ago I showed Asher a photo of the Beast costume and asked him if he'd like one, and he was adamant that he didn't, which was fine. Fast forward to last week, now too late to order from abroad for it to arrive in time, and all of a sudden Asher is asking for the Beast costume. Usually I would've explained the situation and said unfortunately it was too late. BUT on this occasion, I thought he would make a very cute Beast, so looked into making my own costume for him instead. 

Hanging in the back of my wardrobe, is a blue jacket that I wore a couple of years ago to a wedding. It is the perfect colour to match the Beast's dinner jacket. I thought it was worth a shot at re-purposing it.

I'm not at all, by any means, an expert sewer, I've never had lessons and only know one stitch on my machine. I HATE hand sewing and am a pragmatist and like to just get on with things and see quick results, hoping for the best and a bit of a fluke that things will turn out ok in the end. So a bit of snipping here, and sewing there, and some accessories off eBay and Asher's Beast costume was made! I am so chuffed with the results! Total fluke but I love it! Now my 3 year old better not change his mind on the night! 😆

Friday, 22 January 2016

Disney: meeting the characters

This week we've been looking forward to all the character interactions while we're at Disney. We've talked about who we saw last time and who especially is on our list to meet this time. We've 'fast passed' (booked for free in advance so we don't have to wait in queue) some of our faves and some of the most popular characters - eg Anna and Elsa! 

We've spent some time talking about politeness and queue etiquette. The kids can practice their social skills, we've discussed how it's polite to say 'hello' and to greet the character by their name, to speak up clearly and to look them in the eye. We've discussed how they can politely ask for autographs using their manners and to remember to say thank you and goodbye. We've also talked about asking the characters some relevant questions eg asking Cinderella what shoe size she is, or asking Ariel how she got to her grotto when there's no water. Eden wants to ask Anna if it hurt her when she was struck by Elsa's power. 

The kids need no encouragement to colour, so we've spent some time this week colouring in some printables, which we'll take with us to give to the characters we meet. I love this website's collection of Disney characters for colouring, and they print out really well from the iPad.

We're continuing to get to know the films and characters, so have been watching Disney movies and have been in the Disney Junior website to play some games here

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Disney countdown: Memories, resort tours and Mousekeeping envelopes

The last few days we've continued our Disney countdown by looking at photos and watching our YouTube videos from our short visit 2 years ago, talking about what we remember and who/what we're looking forward to seeing again. Last time, Eden was 4 and missed the lights parade, too exhausted to stay awake, despite us trying to wake her! She's seen the videos we took, and is really looking forward to seeing the parade for herself this time. Asher is just generally super-excited and the countdown is really helping his understanding of all things Disney, and what to expect. 

We've also watched YouTube videos of the two resorts that we'll be staying at, at the start and the end of our holiday (seeing my sister in the middle). The Art of Animation resort looks particularly fun and exciting! The kids had the biggest smiles on their faces while they watched a tour of the resort! 

Eden made some 'mousekeeping' envelopes to put a tip in each day for the housekeepers as a thank you. I found the template to cut and stick them ourselves on this cool blog here:

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

DIY Mickey Mouse pizzas

Today, we did some cooking, making homemade Mickey Mouse pizzas. They were yummy! And we have some leftover pizza for tomorrow, bonus! 

Disney Countdown

We're very excited to be going to Florida in the spring, to visit my sister and her family. We've taken the kids before, but this time now that they're a bit older, as well as seeing Jo, we plan to spend longer than we have on previous visits in Orlando, going to Disney! 

The first time we visited, we just went to Seaworld. Eden was only 15 months at the time. I have such fun memories of her just beginning to run at that age. She was very entertaining as we visited the park! 

Below is a photo of Eden about to get dunked by a bucket of water above her, and Luke's comical reaction! 
Two years ago, we had Asher with us too, it was just before his second birthday. We visited Seaworld again, and also Aquatica, which we LOVED! But we also did just one day at Disney, at Magic Kingdom. It definitely whetted our appetite on Disney Magic, and it truly was an amazing day that we made the most of, from park opening to dark after the parade finished. 
This time, both kids are old enough to fully appreciate a Disney experience, and I've loved planning our Itinery! I thought it would add to the excitement and anticipation if we started a daily Disney Countdown to when we go. I have a different, simple, activity planned for each day as a fun 'project' for us, to help with planning, preparation and packing! 

We'll cover history, geography, cooking, arts and crafts, dress up and imaginative play, computer skills and lots of other learning opportunities along the way! In our family, we love making memories together, and I know the countdown in itself will provide memorable moments before we even get there! 

Yesterday, Eden started us off with our countdown by suggesting we make some bunting - fab idea! I went onto Twinkl, an education website that I use a lot, and made some DIY 'we're off to Disney' bunting, which the kids then coloured in and added Disney characters to. 

I'd also pre-prepared a countdown calendar, with the traditional crossing off the days until we go. 
I'm going to enjoy keeping a record of our activities in preparation over the next few weeks. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Eden is 6 today!

Wishing a happy 6th birthday to our awesome daughter Eden, who lives upto her name and fills our home with 'delight' everyday! 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Autumn on the fields

Today we spent an enjoyable hour walking over the fields across the road from our house. I worked out its been around 3 months since I last took the kids over there for a few reasons. Firstly, our guide dog puppy Viking left us at the beginning of August and we really miss having him as an excuse to get out for a walk! The day before he left us, there was a fire on the field nearest our house, we watched the fire engine put it out and soon after that the farmer put a barbed wire barrier across our usual entry onto the footpath running along the field. The alternative walk is steeper and more overgrown, lowering the appeal of taking a quick walk for some fresh air. A few weeks ago I discovered that the barrier has been taken down again. We've also been extremely busy the last few weeks in the midst of having an extension done to our house, and we always seem to have stuff planned in the diary taking up our time away from the house. This week is half term for schools in the area, and as I've mentioned before, we tend to hibernate a bit and spend more time at home while the crowds are out. I must make more time in the diary for our nature walks across the fields, we all really enjoy them and learn lots from them. 

I can't believe it's nearly November and still pretty mild at the moment! When we got home the kids went straight to the garden for more outdoor play. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A lovely autumn day spent outdoors

We had our twice monthly home ed meet-up at Clent Hills this morning and spent a lovely 4 hours in the fresh autumn air! This is the fourth time we've met in the natural play space. All the kids seem to love exploring it; there's bramble patches, dens, tree stumps to step across, wooden huts and sticks. Lots of sticks! We usually bring along a couple of activities as a back up for bored moments, but the kids are far more interested in doing their own thing, so our activities have so far stayed in the bag. 

Today, the kids demonstrated a fantastic bit of team work and initiative all on their own. 7 of them, ranging in age from 18 months through to 7.5, worked together to move a 12ft long, large log from one end of the play space to the other. It was impressive to watch them busy at work, navigating their way around the various natural obstacles in their path and problem solving. 

We aim to finish the meet up by lunchtime. Today way such a warm, sunny autumn day that a few of us decided to walk to the top of the hills instead of going straight home. The kids did very well considering most of us (me included) hadn't gone prepared with enough food for hungry tums, so energy was flagging on the way back down. 

All tha fresh air is tiring and Tuesday afternoons are turning into DVD afternoons while we catch our breath. Today, My Little Pony was the pick. After a few episodes and some snacks, we read some stories and poetry together before tea. 

We're on week 10 of a house extension at the moment, and today the door to our new utility went in, meaning that we have a secure back garden again. The kids were keen to play outside after tea and spent 45 minutes before it started to get dark, jumping on the trampoline and picking the last of the raspberries. Eden spotted the half-moon and decided to do a nature journal entry, which was a nice finish to the day. I had a sit down on our newly created decking area outside the new conservatory, watching the kids play, feeling content and enjoying the lovely autumn weather! 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Starting out at forest school

This morning we went along to our second time at forest school, run by our local park rangers. The rangers have cleared a special place for us to meet in the park, complete with a fire square and lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. 

Today, the kids helped build a den, first finding large sticks for the roof, then 'branchier' sticks to cross-cross across the top, and finally adding some 'thatch' from hay cut earlier this week in a nearby field. Eden loved helping one of the Rangers take a wheelbarrow to collect the hay, she told me her favourite bit of today was jumping up and down on the hay bales to compact it. She also proudly carried the sharp shears over to the den area and I watched her confidence grow through the session as she realised her helping was useful and making a difference. 

Asher at the moment is a little shy in taking part in activities. He has had some behaviour problems over the last year, which have massively improved more recently by carefully modifying his diet. But over the last few months I've found it heartbreaking to watch his self-confidence take a bit of a knock, I think probably linked to his behaviour and natural consequences, sadly, of his behaviour. For example his low tolerance to frustration at not understanding an activity leads to him quickly and impulsively losing control beyond the point of going back, and therefore missing out. Forest school is great for building up his confidence. Today, he helped to pick sticks of differing sizes, putting them in the correct pile ready for building up the fire. He's a strong and capable boy outdoors, tramping through the tangles of ivy, brambles and stingles, snapping twigs beneath his feet. 

Asher's a kinaesthetic learner, and so he's in his element at forest school and it naturally fosters a 'can do' attitude in him. This afternoon at home ed group, it was so lovely to see the fruits of this so soon afterwards. Probably for the first time, he joined in confidently and happily in the activities. Usually, he would be very reluctant to join in an 'unknown' activity that he doesn't understand. Today I watched him go with the flow, much more settled and comfortable with the unknown. 

I love that home education gives me the opportunity to be at my children's side, watching the small everyday triumphs, which may seem insignificant to an outside eye, but to me, their mum, who knows them better than anybody, I see these, and treasure these moments.