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.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Pizza Express workshop

This morning Eden took part in a visit to Pizza Express with some other home ed families, to make her own pizza. She learnt some useful skills such as correct rolling technique and how to prepare her pizza dough base. She listened and followed instructions really well. She also showed a lot of self control (I must admit more than me!) because she didn't want to tuck into it until she'd shown Asher, grandma and grandad and do 'a big reveal' of her pizza for them. She waited so patiently for them to get home, even when I suggested we just have one slice each while we waited (naughty mummy, but I was so hungry! Eden made me wait though). 

It was a good morning, this is the second time we've done this workshop. It was a smaller group of kids today, only 8-10 instead of 30, and the small group worked much better as the staff had more time to help the kids individually.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A very busy summer!

It's been a crazy few weeks through the second half of the summer holidays and into September. 
A lot has changed for us, not least because our lovely guide dog puppy Viking has moved on from us and started his training with Guide Dogs staff at Leamington. He's doing really well and we're really proud of him, but we miss him loads!! 
Just a week after he left, extension work started on our house. We're having quite a bit of work done and new rooms built. So far it hasn't affected us too much as they work on the exterior as much as possible. It's exciting! 
My freelance nutrition work has been keeping me busy. I love working, and feel very blessed with my job! It requires a fair bit of organisation and planning to fit it in around the kids, but I wouldn't have it any other way. This month I've had the opportunity to revisit my university campuses. I graduated 10 years ago and it's been great to take time to reminisce and to see how far I've come and where my studies have taken me! 
We've also fitted in 2 breaks away, making the most of not having Viking's needs to think about. Mid-August we camped in the Peak District at a beautiful place next to some caves and waterfalls. The kids loved playing with other kids on the camping field. We cycled the Tissington Trail (I was SO proud of Eden and Asher cycling 4 miles!!) and we loved exploring the caves. 

At the beginning of September, we went on our annual 'StrickCamp' family getogether. We had an awesome time on a trek all together as a family! The staff at Ride on the Beach trekking centre did a brilliant job meeting everybody's needs from age 3 to 70+ to give us all a great experience, shared together! 
We also had a fantastic time following this at WEHEC home ed camp! 

Final update and exciting news is that Luke and Eden, who podcast at won FIRST place in the kids and family category of the UK podcast awards. Super proud of them both! Here they are with their trophy! 
With the schools being back we're back into full swing with our home ed activities now. Today we went along to a new group we've started with our friends, called Woodpeckers. It's kind of forest school like, but also just a great time for the kids to get together and enjoy the outdoors with each other. The group is working SO well and the kids and grown ups are all having a blast. Here's a pic from today: I've never seen so many kids get so muddy, but it was fabulous fun! (and nothing a bio wash can't fix at home!)
So all in all as you can see, we've been very busy and in the midst of it all I've lost track of our time outdoors total for the year. Maybe I'll restart next week! 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Great Outdoors wk 29-33: 25 hours

The summer holidays here are well underway which is a strange time of year for us. We're spoilt in term-time when we're out and about, in the school holidays everywhere is so much busier, we tend to hibernate a little. The weather has been cooler and cloudier for the last few weeks which hasn't tempted us much out of our hibernation! Added into the mix, I've been working and we've said goodbye to our lovely guide dog puppy who has gone off to carry on his training now. It was a sad day and we've needed to keep busy. 

There have been plenty of fun times out and about though. We've visited Warwick Castle with friends. We've been to the local park play days also with friends. And the kids have been practising their bike riding which has made me feel very proud. 

Last Monday we went into Birmingham to find some Owls on the Big Hoot trail. It was lots of fun, we all really enjoyed it! We found 27! A good start! The trail is on until the end of September, so plenty of time for us to find some more over the next few weeks. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Great Outdoors wk 26-28; 37 hours

The downside of all the lovely weather we've been having over the last few weeks is that I'm forgetting to post our time outdoors total at the end of each week, although I am still keeping track. The last few weeks have included a lovely heatwave, which we made the most of by going to a nearby Lido, and had an amazing time there!
We've had lots of other outdoor adventures too, trying to make the most of the lovely summer weather that we're having. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Stay at home Mondays and an awesome visit to the fire station!

Today has been a brilliant day of home education! Most days the kids choose to stay at the table after breakfast, pottering with activities, working to a loose rule of 20 minutes max per activity/topic, and before we know it we've done a day's work in our PJs before 9am!

I look forward to Mondays being our 'home' day. I try and get all our washing done on Mondays. And we do our 'Charlotte Mason Feast subjects' - composer study (we're listening to Rachmaninoff this term) and picture study. Today we started looking at a new artist's work - Mary Cassatt. Last night I did a brief Google search to find out some interesting facts to tell the kids about her, which I try to do to help them build connection and relationship with the artist. For us today, this included her growing up in America and moving to France (we have family living in both places), her teacher being Edgar Degas (coincidentally our previous picture study focus for the last few weeks) and the fact that she was blind for 10 years before she died, meaning she had to stop painting (we have a guide dog pup living with us so the kids were interested in why Cassatt didn't have a guide dog). I showed the kids her self-portrait, before introducing her first picture in our picture study. I think I'll save how we go about studying a picture for another blog post... 

After finishing our table work this morning at 8:30am (just as most kids at school are starting!), the kids had a bounce on the trampoline in the garden and then Eden, with my help, made a cushion for her bedroom that she'd been researching how to do yesterday. She was very excited about this! We continued watching our Muzzy French DVD with a snack and then had a quiet time before lunch. 

As I mentioned above, usually Monday's are our 'home' day, but today I decided to take advantage of a local home ed visit that had been arranged at the fire station, and I'm so glad we did! It really was brilliant! Never mind the kids, I learnt so much! I'll leave the photos below to do the rest of the talking about what we got up to there! 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Watching caterpillars turn to butterflies.

Last September we picked some caterpillars from the garden. 
We kept them in our butterfly garden, bought from a couple of years ago. 
We fed them fresh nasturtiums everyday. 
8 days later we had our first chrysalis, we were so excited!
All winter we've waited patiently. 
I read up on 'over-wintering'. 
We kept the cage high up in our dining room, occasionally bringing it down and giving the netting a poke, watching the chrysalis do a teeny tiny wiggle, thus confirming it was still alive in there.
A couple of weeks ago a butterfly emerged! We fed it some sugar water from a plate before releasing it. 
But we still had our first chrysalis. 
We've waited some more. Just yesterday I wondered about moving the cage outside into the fresh air, but hadn't quite got around to it.
Then this morning, we spotted the butterfly emerging slowly out of that first chrysalis. We watched it wiggle out, wings curled up, slowly unfurling them, sitting there drying its wings before taking its first flaps. 
It was fascinating! 
And the most amazing of all - we worked out it had been in chrysalis form for a massive 259 days! Awesome!!

Monday, 22 June 2015

The great outdoor wk 24 and 25: 27hrs 15

The last 2 weeks have been a bit hard because chicken pox has hit the household, limiting where we can go. We've harvested our first fruits from the garden and allotment, the strawberries as always are a winner and we have lots this year as the plants establish in the garden. Hopefully next year we'll have even more on the allotment too! 

The kids have really come in loads in their cycling ability. Eden's learnt to push off by herself and Asher's learnt to whizz along instead of walk his balance bike. 

We've also managed some fun times at the parks with friends, inbetween bouts of infectious chicken pox! 

We have at least another week ahead at home, as Asher now has chicken pox. Fortunately the kids are loving the garden which helps a lot. 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Down the allotment we are harvesting...

Gooseberries and rhubarb. We popped to the allotment this morning as another excuse to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Our rhubarb plot is on it's third year now, and it's really taken off! We have far more than we can eat or even freeze! We've tried a few different recipes to the standard rhubarb crumble, the highlight definitely being rhubarb ice cream! Today I cut the rhubarb patch back a lot, leaving only the smallest, thinnest shoots on each plant. I wonder if it will encourage even more growth this year or not? 

Last year we planted a few gooseberry bushes, given to us as cuttings from another plot holder. We harvested a small handful this time last year. Today, Eden really enjoyed the task of picking the gooseberries (despite it being a prickly job!). We picked from just one bush, with more than enough to make a gooseberry fool for tea later. Looking forward to more gooseberries over the next week or two and much like for the rhubarb, I need to research some different recipes to make use of them! 

Rockpooling at Crackington Haven

During our holiday last week in Cornwall, we spent an afternoon at Crackington Haven beach. I have fond memories of this beach from growing up. Running from the top of the beach all the way down to the sea is a fast-flowing stream. My siblings and I spent many a happy hour as children sailing boats, building dams and finding the fastest route for boat races! 

To the left of the beach at low tide is a fantastic collection of rock pools. We took our fishing nets and scrambled among the rocks looking for interesting catches. 

I was so chuffed to find 2 crabs, one of which I spotted scuttling through the seaweed. We filled a couple of buckets with water and were able to get a close-up look at them. Later, we identified that these were shore crabs, the most common type of crab in the UK, recognisable by the 'teeth-like' edging along their shell. A great entry for our nature journals! 

Here's our beautiful boy Viking, happy in the sunshine on the beach! 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Great Outdoors wk 23: 27 hours

A fantastic week of fresh air spent in Cornwall! The weather started pretty badly - with weather warnings for rain and strong winds! Despite this, we started off our holiday with a lovely nature trail walk close to where we were staying and mostly under the shelter of trees. 
The weather picked up by mid-week, and we enjoyed lots of outdoor time at The Eden Project, a farm park, Tintagel, a couple of national trust properties, and of course, the Beach! 

Visiting Eden Project

We had a great time last week down in Cornwall! The weather at the start of the week was pretty bad. We'd planned to visit the Eden Project on Wednesday and it turned out to be a beautiful day. 

The Eden Project is one of my favourite places ever! I was last there with the kids in September and a visit to Cornwall isn't complete without a trip there in my opinion. The Eden Project first opened in 1999 and I've visited a number of times in the last 15 years, watching it develop, it just keeps getting better! Particularly with having young children now there's loads for the kids to do. If you're thinking of visiting with kids, have a look at the Eden Project website which lists all of the activities the kids can explore. There's also fun activity trails to print off to help kids (and grown ups!) with getting to know more about the plants in the biomes. Asher loved the land train down to the biomes, pulled by a BIG tractor. When we got to the bottom, the first thing he said was 'I want to see the dinosaurs!'. I was so surprised that he'd remembered this from September, although sadly for Asher the dinosaurs weren't there this time for him. 

This time, we had Viking our guide dog puppy with us too. Dogs are allowed on site as long as they're kept on a lead and in the outside spaces. With Viking being a guide dog we could take him into the biomes with us too. The whole day was great training for him, he spent a lot of time lying down, waiting patiently and people watching! I was very proud of his behaviour. 
I can't wait to visit again!