The evening draws near…

Happy Halloween and blessed Samhain from our family to yours.

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Resources for Home Educators…Part 2! Some stuff for non HE families, too.

See Part 1 for an explanation of these free resources, along with some other great free and fun things! Hey, who doesn’t love post, am I right?

Booktime
Free book pack for reception age HE children. I think these are ones they’d get in school. Unfortunately they don’t do them for other ages! (If you are in the US, check out the Dolly Parton scheme, open to all. Not sure what it is called but it is free books every month!)

Grain Chain

Posters, posters, posters. A few on various grains and how they get from fields to the table, one on the sorts of breakfast people eat in different parts of the world. The site also has ideas for related activities and other fun stuff.

Water Aid

More stuff for HEers. Stickers, activity ideas, a poster. We’ve received ours but been too busy to open it!

Met Office
Free online resources for any age child, home educated or not! Only briefly looked through the site, but we will definitely be delving more deeply. M has a serious interest in extreme weather! A little digging through the site also yields downloadable posters…one on tornados, which will be printed in this house as soon as we put new ink in the printer…

Open University
Open to everyone, not just the HE community…

The OU does some free short courses, but they also distribute free print resources on programmes they produce with the BBC. If your child (or you!) like a certain programme, keep an eye out at the end. They will often direct you to these resources. Alternatively, click the link above and you can see what is currently on offer. Virtually every HE home we have been in has the giant seasons poster hanging somewhere! Ha.

Dyson Engineering Box
I’ve known about this since the kids were about one, but I am saving this for when they are older! I’ve heard lots of truly excellent feedback on it from other home educating families with older children. You get a vacuum to dissemble and reassemble. Sounds very fun for kids who like to tinker and understand how things work. The only caveat is there is currently a huge demand and backlog…so if you want to borrow this kit (which is posted and collected for free!) I would probably wait a few months before requesting it.

Again, please do leave links in the comments for other great resources so I can keep these lists going! I’m already working on part 3….

Matchsticks and marshmallows.

Today our little home ed group of friends ventured into the woods for spooktacular fun. And it was. Fun, I mean. It was also frustrating, exhausting, joyful, mysterious, fighting, curious, dog wrangling, screaming.

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An army of children mixed potions from ingredients like crushed Phoenix feathers, bog water, and mermaid scales. They made ghosts to send flying with a good old fashioned parachute bouncing. They tried to eat apple halves hanging from trees and ended up playing tennis, using the aforementioned ghosts as paddles. Some pressed clay faces onto trees.

Every now and then hell would break loose. A quickfire punch here and there, someone falling from a hammock and slamming to the ground, people screaming in terror if dogs came too close.

A friend said, ‘Hey, I read that blog post from the day when you lost your shit and came over, then we all talked about how hard it can be. And that was like the best day of my life, and it was purely down to how shit your morning had been.’ We laughed, and then another child related incident broke up our chat.

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We made a fire in the damp, damp woods…discovering that matchsticks and marshmallows appeared to be the best possible fuel. We swung high in tyres, played tug of war, crammed together in a hammock. Kids ran and laughed and climbed. People used facepaint to colour their nails. Creepy balloon shapes full of water, dangling from a branch, were fun to squeeze, hit, and kick. We ate marshmallows, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cornflake cakes.

People were upset when friends wouldn’t do exactly what they wanted. Every adult conversation was cut short by various heartbreaks or emergencies. We discovered the ‘joy’ of weeing outdoors when girls are wearing waterproof bloody trousers. One kid collapsed on the ground and sobbed after begging to go home. Another screamed and thrashed when his toddler heart was cracked in half because he had to give someone else a chance on the tire swings.

The adults exchanged glances; we laughed.

The kids hit trees with soft plastic tubes, making a cacophony of sound and music. They screamed with excitement as the adults moved the parachute over their hands. One bent quietly over her mother’s wellies, painting them with facepaint. Some made giant brooms. Some wore werewolf masks and chased each other. We smelled like mud and smoke and more mud.

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It was the way these days can be. Small moments of peace and ease, quickly followed by discontent and control struggles.

It was the way this life can be. Big moments of laughter and discovery, quickly followed by exhaustion and deep sighs. We are so lucky for friends who get it. For other adults who laugh when one of my children does something bossy or mean or crazy. For other adults who don’t mind when I laugh whenever their kids do the same thing.

It’s a shared experience.

One of the best bits of the day was just sitting in a hammock with my kids, the commotion of the Halloween party at our backs, only the deep woods for us to look at. They leaned into me, my arms their pillows, and we rocked. For five minutes we had such joy and peace…..

And then we didn’t.

Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

Pumpkin carving.

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Design: drawing, ideas, imagination, creativity, art.

Cleaning: sensory play, motor control, sorting seeds from guts.

Carving: fine motor skills, strength, safe knife handling, history and religion (why do people carve pumpkins? What is Samhain, what is Halloween?)

Seed baking: maths (the timer, measuring ingredients), science (temperature), literacy and research (googling and reading recipes), cooking.

More seeds: taste testing, maths (volume, finding suitable container), motor skills in pouring or picking up seeds.

It’s all there, all the time. Everywhere you look, everything you do. You are learning. So are your kids, if you have them. You can’t help it.

But I maintain the most important lesson is joy. Sniffing pumpkin meat, adapting and sharing when one pumpkin is too rotten to use….and making an excellent two face pumpkin. Being brave enough to stick your bare hands into a sloppy, unknown mess. Laughing as you squeeze slippery seeds between your fingers. Trying to pull a knife out of a pumpkin, a small King Arthur and his orange stone.

Joy, joy, joy.

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The after eights edition of my extrinsic rage.

Tonight we go back to martial arts, and it’s got me thinking: how many people are raised with an obligation to just get through the broccoli so they can get to the chocolate cake?

If desserts/puddings/junk food whatevers are labelled and valued as treats, it can actually devalue other foods. The treats are seen as desirable, more worthy and delicious than the other food. (And if you’re thinking, yeah, but they are! perhaps cast an eye back to your own childhood!) So kids stop looking forward to the carrots, the entree, the banana. They want the biscuits, the juice, the sweets.

This post isn’t about food. I have a lot to say about food, but here it is just a metaphor.

Because I wonder if all these extra bribes and treats will teach the kids that martial arts is something to get through, some sort of weekly obligation, and if you manage to put up with it all you get toys. Because of course kids like toys. Mine effing love them. They’d probably do just about anything for the chance to earn a toy. Fair enough, I guess. Toys are awesome.

But bottom line? Martial arts is awesome, too. No, really, it is…no, not just because bribes are being thrown at you, uh….no, I know it’s all a subtle attempt to control kids…yeah, but…I….

Oh well.

original post on this topic

Halloween lanterns!

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Here’s a fantastic thing we made last year, and it’s certainly in keeping with the junk art/stuff you have laying around the house crafting we like to do.
All you need is glue, tissue paper, a bit of black paper, old salsa/olives/whatever jars, and possibly scissors.

Slather glue on the jars and apply small bits of tissue paper. The more you put on, the brighter the colour. We’ve done jack o’ lanterns here, but it would translate nicely to monster faces, ghosts, the night sky and stars…anything you can imagine, really.
And as long as all the tissue paper is on the outside and not on the rim, you can pop tealights in. Pro tip: I bought 78862 battery powered tealights on ebay last year. They’re great as kids can turn on and off at will, with no fire worries.

Have fun with this craft! And tweet me at @alisonmariemay if you make it, so I can see!

Halloweenify your house!

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There are two things my kids love: Halloween and collecting stuff as we walk along.

You name it, I have it. Bags of conkers, acorns, bark chips, pinecones, pebbles.

So today we combined our love of the spooky and fun with all the gently rotting natural craft supplies we have. This is really easy and fun, and I carried on painting by myself long after I was abandoned by everyone else. What? I didn’t want to waste the paint. *ahem*

Conkers are ideal little pumpkins. Acorns make sweet ghosts. And apparently pinecones make good creepers, endermen, and diamond Steves.

The undisputed favourite of mine was the hunks of bark (collected off the ground, not ripped off a tree). I’ve painted some as funny monsters, or kids in Halloween costumes.

I don’t know what we will do with these. We have a nifty shallow plastic box we may use as a Halloween scene – and we’ve plenty of sticks and twigs to add to the autumnal flavour!