Not Back to School week 2017!

Because it’s a bit of a tradition, and I like being able to look back, here we go. Usual caveat that every week is different, etc.

Monday

This week is when many classes and groups kick off again – and thinking about how this upcoming term is going to be the most scheduled term we’ve ever had (half hoping it’s great, half expecting it to break us so we all agree to go back to a more relaxed pace!), we thought we’d stay in.

Then we discovered Spider-Man: Homecoming was on in our local cinema, and it’s cheap ticket Monday, so that was much of our morning.

M is obsessed with Spider-Man lately (again); S was less keen and brought a book along to read in the cinema, but alas, she forgot a torch.

(S has become obsessed with graphic novels – the longer non-comic book ones aimed at 9-12 year olds. She heavily recommends El Deafo as well as anything by Raina T. If you have cash to burn, send an Amazon gift voucher. Our libraries and finances cannot keep up with her pace!)

Afterwards we came home and much Lego/Playmobil fun was had. Mondays from now on will involve S going to drop off educational provision in the woods, so it feels special to have time for the both of them to just play!

Late afternoon M had gymnastics class with a friend, while S played with hers. She then had her first non-recreational gymnastics class; she was on her own with girls much older than her, and it was much more intense than the recreational classes she is used to. She survived.

Earlier in the day M ran round the block with hand weights, pumping them up and down while running (lots of this sort of tiny thing happened this week – I didn’t document it as it would be too crazily long!)

M suddenly asked for ‘muscles training’ in the evening so I found Tae-Bo videos on YouTube (#billyblanksforever!) and he did two full length videos aimed at adults. He did these two weight lifting videos every day this week.

Tuesday

First day back to a very busy pottery class after the summer break. Clay, glaze, inspiration.

Afterwards we all had a picnic/play in the park. Was nice to be back! We were there till around 1:30, when I had to take S to Spanish class. A friend offered to have M round her house – he and his friend had some quality Lego time.

S and I arrived ridiculously early at Spanish, so we went for a walk. Happened to stumble across an awesome music store – she played some broken chords on the various pianos until we discovered there was an entire room devoted to percussion instruments. She’s thinking of giving up piano to have drum lessons, so it was great to get to try out some digital kits.

Spanish was Spanish – learning how to describe circus related stuff, this week. She really enjoyed it.

Then back off to pick up M – it was my birthday, and my gorgeous friend made me a cake (which she unfortunately dropped on the floor.) She left me and the kids alone while she ran to the store to get milk, and the four of us promptly fell on the cake pieces like wolves. Bare hands and all.

Wednesday

Normally we’d be at forest school on a Wednesday, but this week our lovely friends from London were down and staying in the local area.

We met them at Slimbridge Wildlife and Wetlands Centre – or whatever it’s called. We spent a full day in the soft play, welly boot land, and somehow missed out on seeing the birds – except for the geese and swans near the entrance, who swarmed the children once they realised the kids had grain to feed them. One of my friend’s kids may now have a permanent bird phobia. Whoops.

Driving to and from our meet up, we listened to Short and Curly. It’s a podcast about ethics aimed at children – and it’s totally awesome. Ethics is a fascinating area of study, full of critical thinking, morals, debate, challenging our own ideas. We all LOVE it.

Thursday

Thanks to Groupon and the friend who spotted a deal on there, we headed off to the Mendips winter sports centre with five other families. The kids got an hour of tobaggoning on the dry slopes – which were much faster than I thought they’d be.

Everyone loved it; no one broke their skulls open.

Afterward, we went to the top of the ‘alpine lodge’ for lunch. Very unfortunately, M had an airborne allergic reaction to … something?

He responsibly asked for meds and took himself outside for fresh air. It was minor at that time, nothing out of the ordinary.

About ten minutes later, my friend looked out the window and saw him gasping for air/coughing.

Queue a very tense twenty minutes. No epipen was given – and luckily a nurse was on the trip with us.

M proceeded to give all his friends a lesson on how to administer an epipen.

We elected to head home rather than carry on to Chew Lake with friends – closer to hospitals if needed.

Thankfully he was fine. We cancelled our emergency GP appointment, and Suzy took both kids off to Woodcraft Folk for the first session of term. Luckily it was an outdoors session with plenty of fresh air!

That evening S and I spent a good chunk of time reading our own books in her room. Was very cozy.

Meanwhile M took proud ownership over a new Spider-Man costume, courtesy of Grandma! Lots of running around outside with it on.

Friday

Crack of dawn piano lessons were cancelled as their tutor was ill – God help me, I was so relieved and happy for a chilled morning!

Back to Capoeira late morning. I cannot recommend this more – miles better than our previous martial arts experience. Kids remembered their moves from before summer, which was great. Lots of fun and excellent music on a very rainy morning!

S wanted to have friends back to ours after class, but honestly I was too tired! We went home – kids played, we watched Night at the Museum, etc.

Just a chilled out way to end the week.

I found during this week that car rides, as ever, are where kids continue to request maths challenges. M’s mental maths are off the chart – you know, if we used them!- and he particularly has been requesting more and more difficult problems. I’m still loving how we can cover a variety of topics within one thing – maths, ethics, language – and not even realise we are doing so until it’s reflected on later.

All in all, a great week -next week even more things start back up. I have a feeling I may revert back to drinking caffeine!

Advertisements

Worksheets!

S likes what would traditionally be thought of as schoolwork – worksheets, writing, drawing, etc. Suzy thought of the idea of doing worksheets, so today I made one based on Dalmations, her deepest desire and greatest love. She liked it so much she requested another straight away.

20141105-102016.jpg

The great thing about homemade activity sheets is that they can completely cater to the individual child – their present interests as well as their ability levels. S can do free writing well, she likes drawing, she’s recently discovered Barbie through a magazine she was bought.

M hasn’t ever been interested in writing, aside from the letter M (!), and he would rather dictate what he wants drawn rather than draw it himself. He likes staying at home and having lots of time for free play, so I was surprised when he asked for a worksheet. And, like S, as soon as he finished one he requested another.

20141105-102105.jpg

I don’t know that these will be a daily thing, though both kids are currently saying they’d like them to be! This is another great thing about home education. This week they want morning worksheets – fine! Let’s make them fun and relevant. Let the kids help design and plan them, or see if they’d rather have a surprise.

Next week they may not want to touch another worksheet for a month, and that’s fine, too.

The way things change.

20140916-173254.jpg

Today was magic. Mayhem at pottery class, all day at the park (including a three hour grass fight with friends old and new!), Tang Soo Do in the evening. The sort of day where you have a million moments of laughter and are too happy to actually notice how much you are enjoying yourself. But you can tell.

It’s in the skin dyed green by endless grass rolling. The way we all look a bit disheveled, and in fact that one of us was nude when we arrived at marital arts, and had to quickly don the uniform in the car park. The endless bags I’m lugging back into the house – freshly painted and fired pottery pieces, carrier bags full of cheese toasty plates and banana peels.

Today S went up to another girl we’ve seen around a bit. She got it in her head that this girl ought to join the grass fight. She went up again and again, introducing herself and her friends. Extending an offer to play. She wasn’t too upset when the girl didn’t respond….and she was overjoyed when she eventually ran over, handing S handful after handful of fresh, soggy grass. S also noticed another girl hanging around the edge, hope in her eyes and grass in her hands.

How things change. This is the child that has said on multiple occasions that she doesn’t need any more friends. She has enough! The girl too unsure to reach out. Today she did. She pulled two kids into a large game, and everyone was happy and running and laughing. And I saw my glowing child, and I noticed her noticing what it was like to help make other people feel included.

Yesterday we had swimming lessons. S swam unassisted for the first time, not quite believing she was doing it. M said on the car ride there, ‘I can swim with my face in the water. Today I will try to do it with my whole body under water.’ And he did.

How things change. This is the boy who three weeks ago could not swim. Now he’s diving underwater and swimming lengths and willingly practicing, joy streaming off his body like the water droplets he leaves in his wake. This is the child that effortlessly charms people, and it’s a good thing he does, because he doesn’t like instructions, constrictions, repetitive things. He likes to soar. And there in the water, he’s found a place he can fly, he can be free, he can accomplish exactly how much he wants to accomplish. I see his joy at doing this powerful thing on his own, how his confidence grows even wider and deeper, and how he will willingly do this thing over and over, because he’s the boss of this very wet success.

Last week both kids had their first grading at martial arts. S passed her purple belt easily, as we thought she would. She loves Tang Soo Do and takes it seriously, her face shining the whole time we are there. M also earned his purple belt; how proud they are of these tiny little badges to sew on their uniform. And the focus badge they earned, despite M yelling out in the middle of the grading at watching friends, ‘We gonna get a badge! A focus badge!’

How things don’t change. M’s friendly exuberance. S’s perfectionist leanings.

But how things do. They grow up, out, sideways, upside down. They are trying new things, spending whole days splashing in water, throwing grass and making beautiful large clay bowls shaped like leaves.

How my life has changed, changed from what it could have been.

And all I feel is happy. And lucky, so lucky. We have this much freedom, this much joy, all these people to laugh with. We have grass to throw, and miles to swim, and stuff to kick.

This, my friends, this is the life.

Mega minecraft maze…ostensibly built for the children…

20140913-222151.jpg

Just made the kids something fun to find tomorrow! Not sure I will keep the rules section as is, but for now I’m pleased. Lots of little nooks and crannies to discover – a house, several gardens, mini art gallery, swimming pool, cheddar cheese area, snowman corridor, lookout platform, survival station, chicken farm, etc.

The plan is to add new stuff to our Adventure World map until we have a whole world of awesome – can’t wait to see what the kids build!

Have I mentioned I LOVE minecraft?

Second official Not Back to School week!

Last week the kids would have been starting their second year of school. Instead:

Monday

Their grandparents took them to swimming lessons. M apparently did his first swimming with face in the water, trying to time breathing and strokes. They have a private two-to-one lessons with the most amazing teacher. She’s fast becoming the official swim teacher of Bristol’s home ed community!

Both kids had Tang Soo Do in the afternoon. This is a mix of schooled and home ed kids (well, us and our friends make up the home ed component, but we’ve got our eyes on converting a lovely mum who isn’t too keen on school. Ha!)

Tuesday

Every other week we have a home ed pottery class. It is THE only activity we’ve done where neither kid has ever wanted to take a break from it. It’s us and three other lovely families we see quite often anyway, so it can get quite loud and crazy – which is not to everyone’s liking! It’s proper pottery, going from sculpting clay to firing to glazing to firing. S currently making fish ponds and tea sets, M still slaving away at his ever growing collection of spaceships.

After pottery we all stay to play and drink tea in the garden. There’s a trampoline and swing set, so we often stay about an hour before heading to the park along with people from the home ed class after ours. This week featured the (surprisingly large) Not Back To School Picnic, which was handily in our usual pottery park. There was swimming, ice cream eating, monster chasing, and whatever they got up to when they were out of ear shot!

Wednesday

Gymnastics! I could write several blog posts on gym and the various conundrums we have, but I will say both coaches are fantastic. My kids are now among the oldest in the sessions, as it is not geared for home ed kids so has younger ones in. We often meet home ed friends in the class, and S is coming around to the idea of moving up to the big kid classes with a friend. friend, are you reading?! No pressure but you’d better do this!

After gym this week we drove round to a large park and playground by some other friends’ house. Spent a nice few hours trying to stick to the shade, whilst marvelling at the very odd misty fog shrouding the land…whenever the sun wasn’t blazing down and making us all melty. Stayed pretty much all afternoon.

Thursday

Met friends at the Scrap Shop……another place completely deserving of its own post, and I will do one soon. But home ed people can go on the list to get into the warehouse bit. Imagine a huge warehouse full of every sort of junk/treasure you can imagine. You get loads for less at four pounds! Except this week. We bought a tyre. Wtf.

After the scrap shop we went to a city farm/playground. Spent a huge chunk of time there, much of it was me debating about a scheduled tour of a shiny new police station. Due to my mix up with tickets, we weren’t going to the same session as friends. M didn’t want to go, S did. We went out to dinner, when suddenly everyone decided that no, we did want to go. We had plenty of time so I plugged the postcode into the sat nav and away we went. Then my sat nav betrayed me, we accidentally got a driving tour through an ugly industrial area, followed by two villages in the country, followed by my wife’s instructions betraying me, followed by me wanting to cry.

We gave up. Then out of nowhere (not sure where I had the energy from) we went to the shops to get a few things we needed, which morphed into S buying her first pair of slippers she’s actually worn once we got them home. Bunny slippers, of course. Suzy met us there and it was like a bizarre twilight family trip.

Friday

My brithday! Stayed in today, as it was quite a full on week. Can’t remember what all we did, but I remember us talking about the wheel of the year and making a cool seasons wheel picture. Lots of lego, lots of garden time, lots of reading.

This day, like all other days when we are at home, was full of snuggles and random projects, S writing in her diary, minecraft (all three of us are working hard on building a family world which IS pretty awesome. Cake mountain, a cabin house, villager island, a shark rollercoaster, pirate ships, cave houses), YouTube, angry birds figures, the superheroes and their houses revival, etc.

Kids and Suzy then took me out for a lovely surprise dinner out!

Phew!

A fulfilling and very busy week!

From sea to shining sea.

Last September, my children were ‘due’ to start full time school, mere days after turning four years old. Instead of going to school, we went to Italy.

20140707-054637.jpg

We ate a lot of gelato, learned a bit of Italian, and explored the always wonderful Boboli Gardens. I’d been there years before, alone with Suzy, and it was a curious experience going back with our children. So much the same – things unchanged that had been so for hundreds of years, but interacting with them in new ways.

20140707-054854.jpg

We wandered small alleyways, rode tall busses, ate even more gelato. We stayed in a big old amazing, secret wonder of a place with twisting hallways and low ceilings. It was lovely.

20140707-055155.jpg

That first week of official school time was spent immersed in another country, melodic words flowing around us, chatting to people and touching old statues.

We are now approaching what would have have been their last week of the school year. We’ll be spending that time in America. We’re here now, awake since 3 am, in that curious black space of nighttime jetlag. Lightening strobes the sky, thunder has been rumbling for six hours. I don’t know what this trip will bring, but I know it will add to our lives more than any other thing we could have been doing with this time.

What an amazing blessing. Starting this ‘school’ year in Italy, exploring England and Wales throughout the months between then and now, and ending things here, sitting at my mother’s kitchen table.

20140707-055849.jpg