All the time in the world. 


Should we make shields, should we make flags? Where are the bamboo sticks? I found the sticky tape!

Let’s play a card game. Let’s have a battle. Let’s swing from the chin up bar, hold the baby, spend an hour or two out in the drizzle. Ew, I found a dead earwig!

Where are the pencils, can I have some toast? Do you like the bread? I made it! Bring your teddy, everyone being the teddies upstairs. 

Let’s have enough popcorn that our stomachs explode. I’m doing Lego, let’s do that imagination game. Can I see the baby’s fingernails?

What’s this thing (abacus)? Look, I’ve made a pattern. Watch me, I’m pretending to fall to make you laugh. Hey, I read this sign hanging by your bed, why is it there?

Five and a half hours. They did stuff outside with paintbrushes, while we talked about the lies our siblings told us and the lies we told them. (I told my sister squirrels lived inside green beans when we were kids.) 

Five and a half hours of noisy shrieking, with interludes of peaceful quiet and absorption. Playing, creating, filling entire plates with mounds of popcorn. 

Not bad. Not bad at all. 

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Today we are lucky.

Today was cow diarrhoea between my toes.

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It was lots of pirate accents, some dodgy pirate jokes. (What do pirates like looking at in the night sky? A starrrrrrrrrr.)

It was wooden swords, it was crying and/or laughing children, it was rolling down hills and getting muddy.

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It was playing croquet. Then using the croquet set to build a castle, ride horses, have sword fights, find wood louse families, practice bowling…and cry over how hard croquet was. To sit squashed up against each other and slide down concrete walls. To run away, over the horizon and down a hill, and have no grown ups worry or fret.

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It was hunting for treasure, running in the rain, roasting in the sun. Rolled up pirate maps and little golf pencils, playing in every tree we saw, ice cream dripping down faces and drying like pirate beards.

Today was texting with friends who wandered off, imagining boat battles in a dried up lake, wondering about that guy who kept taking pictures of leaves. And keeping a safe distance from the rock and roll speedy red van delivering post.

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It was shouting out to hear our joyful echoes, and exploring a place full of rusty farm implements (!), and being Frodo and trying to bring a golden ring to a lava filled mountain. Milking statue cows, getting stuck in an empty fountain, running…running…running. Mud coating our bottoms, our boots, our backpacks.

We are so lucky this can be our every day. Even when it means we have to come home and wash cow diarrhoea off our feet, even when we get tired from walking for five hours, even when the rain pours down and bathes us as we run back into our house.

Lucky.

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Most of these pics were taken by our friend, the mother of the other three joyful children pictured! We are especially lucky to have such great friends to share adventures with.

Spring has sprung!

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Today was one of those accidentally perfect days that reminds you how great your life actually is. There was nothing extra special or out of the ordinary; just a lot of nice moments strung together.

So much of the niceness in our life lately is bare feet, sunshine, playing out for hours even though it is still chilly when the wind blows. Even though we got caught in a hailstorm yesterday, even though one minute you’re in a t shirt and the next you shrug a sweater on.

There is mud, and there is that creeping fullness of summer, the feeling that days are long, lazy, full of whatever you want them to be. Everything feels a bit cheerier, a bit more possible.

I sit here just now, home after being out all day. One kid is upstairs waiting for pictures to print so they can be coloured and added to our treasure hunt. The other is sitting outside in the front garden, chattering away in what seems to be an exciting narrative. We spent all early morning outside, running in socks on the damp grass. Then the biggest chunk of the day at a friend’s house, and the late afternoon outside at a farm playground with friends. It was all sorts of casual, I had a chance to really talk with my friends (the kids and the grown ups!), M and S got to spend some good time with their friends, and I spent the afternoon laughing with the sun in my eyes rather than sitting indoors eyeing the clock. We went out for a ‘sneaky dinner,’ and came back to this resumption of individual projects and peace.

See? Perfect.

Play is the most basic human way to learn, to be, to experience joy.

We met some families at a local place this afternoon. One of the benefits of being a home educator is having great museums, local attractions, etc all be crowd free during school hours, so my heart sank a bit when a school group of thirty kids walked into the reception area. Our plan was to head to the soft play first, and I imagined all the ‘big kids’ totally dominating the space.

When we showed our membership card, I hesitantly inquired to see if the staff member knew the school group’s schedule, so we could avoid the play area when they were there. She brightly said, ‘Oh, don’t worry. They are here to do only educational things, so they won’t be doing any playing.’

Things we (meaning any of the three adults and seven children in our little group) learned today while just playing:

the definition of friction
What happens on a slide of you are barefoot or in socks? Is it easier to go up or down with bare or socked feet?

bravery
A boy in our group desperately wanted to attempt the death slide, but found it too scary. With us cheering him on and his mum offering some physical help, he did it. It took a lot of false starts, a lot of courage, and some clever adaptations and he succeeded like a champ.

trust and friendship between ages
M also wanted to go on the above slide, and did so with the help of his grown up friend. She held her toddler on her lap, and M’s hand, and both boys had HUGE smiles on. M went down the slide three times with her, happy to take the steep leap of faith and joy while trusting another human to be there with him.

what an allergic reaction looks like
I was asked this in regards to M, as someone was eating something with sesame in and wondered what would happen to M if he had any. We talked about hives, swelling, airway constriction, and what would happen if any of this stuff occurred.

joy
Death slides with friends, chasing each other, racing down not so scary slides.

cooperation
The kids needed to work out how to share two tractors that had no power source. This proved no problem, and they took turns riding and pushing each other.

imagination
Balls from the ball pit were diamonds. Various colours were worth more or less, the ballpit alternated between a cave and a deep diving pool, people pretended to be miners or animals guarding the diamonds.

physical dexterity
Trying and accomplishing new feats, sometimes on their own, sometimes with advice or encouragement for others.

dealing with hurt feelings
One child was confused and hurt by the actions of others. They had to talk through their hurt, and the others involved needed to understand why they had hurt someone, and how to reassure that person it wouldn’t happen again.

reading
What does that sign say? Does this sign say this?! I knew because of the picture, and there was an R and I know what sound that makes.

maths
How do we divvy up the diamonds fairly? If only two people are allowed on the big slide at once and there are three of us, how can we suck another person in to our game so no one goes alone?

self belief
My ideas are good ones. I will try them out. Others might like them and join in, or they might not. I’m having fun. I can try this new idea and see what happens. I’m awesome. And if I need help, I know I can ask without getting laughed at or ridiculed.

basic tasks
Can I get these waterproof trousers off alone? If I cry will someone help me? Is it possible to actually do this thing? (Yes!)

freedom
I can choose to play alone, with one other child, with lots of my friends, with the grown ups. This can vary throughout the day, depending on my mood. I can choose what I want to do and who I want to do it with.

friendship
My friends are all different ages. They all have unique quirks, and my relationship with each of them is different. Some are grown ups, and I get frustrated when they want to talk to each other (!), but this is part of learning to respect other people’s friendships, as well.

generosity
I worked on colouring this picture for a half hour, and I made it for you. (I, Alison, was given an amazing picture by a child, and it will be going up in our kitchen! Our whole house is full of blue tacked pictures and projects stuck to the wall and hanging from the ceiling, and each one is valued. They are even more special when given in friendship!)

…..

I could go on and on. Literally probably for the next hour. Playing, and the use of imagination and conversation, encompasses so many things without even trying. And it stitches them all together so effortlessly and with such joy. It is impossible to be engaged in play without learning, often on a very deep level.

Play is a miracle.

We love mud. Usually.

I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to see if we went to the woods last Friday. Some of you probably have been unable to sleep, the anticipation was so great.

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WE WENT. It was colossally muddy, a bit chilly, and everything was very wet, but it was fab. In a massive forest, and one of those playgrounds that mostly consists of huge stumps, trees on their side, a quirky balance beams. The highlight was, of course, the manic rush through the woods afterwards to hunt a dragon, swords and sticks at the ready.

It was altogether lovely, but I’m still thankful it wasn’t pouring with rain!

I’m still totally embracing damp weather. Our plans yesterday to meet with friends fell through, so we drove to Bath, met Suzy for lunch, and then had a quick play in a park (it had a big slide leading right down to an overflowing river. That bit was awesome!) despite the black clouds swirling overhead. Nature repaid my efforts by not cracking the heavens open until the literal second I’d shut the second kid into the car. Of course I got a bit wet, but hey, I’m a rainy day goddess now. Or something.

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Today after pottery, the nine kids and four grown ups in our home ed pottery class all ended up at a friend’s house, after having a quick outdoor play at the pottery teacher’s house. Let it be known, it was not my idea to shun the outdoors today! Had a really lovely time, and we are now back home for some de-muddying and hot chocolate-ing.

I promise this won’t just become a log of what we do each day, but come on. I’ve been trying to recapture my youth, when I lived outdoors with no electricity for five months a year without thinking I lived an odd life. I thought it was a remarkable life, and I was amazingly lucky to be living it.

I’m getting back to that place.

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Stone circles, the zoo, family’s houses, softplay germpits, and…the woods?!

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As I wrote my post on Monday, bemoaning the endlessly grey, rainy English weather, the rain miraculously stopped and some weak sun filtered through the clouds.

I tell you, it was action stations. I jumped up from my chair and was like, ‘Let’s go out! Who wants to go out??!?! LET’S DO THIS!’ An hourly weather forecast promised a few rain free hours, so we jumped into the car and went to the zoo.

Let me say this: the hourly weather forecast is a liar. A dirty little liar. Oh, it was bright enough (read, not dark gray) to leave the raincoats in the car and wander far enough into the zoo to not be able to easily return to the car. We sat down in the outdoor eating area, sheltered by a large canopy, and the heavens opened. When it calmed to a drizzle, we carried on.

The height of awesome was running for the meercat house as some sixth sense let me know shit was about to get real. We made it just as a total monsoon hit. It was hot in the meercat house, and being crammed in with the other six people who were braving the zoo made it hotter. The kids asked to go outside.

We did. The roof extends and forms a sort of porch like shelter – which was fine until gale force winds slammed a wall of rain into our shocked faces. We ran back to those meercats like hellhounds were at our heels.

But you know what? We stayed pretty dry. We had an AWESOME time – the zoo was practically empty and we spent ages looking at various animals. It sort of bolstered my going-out-in-the-rain confidence….which is saying something, considering a group of people planning to go spend the day in the woods Friday suggested they stage an intervention for me, since we have yet to make a woods meet up because it is always raining. Always.

Monday was so great that even though I messed up our Tuesday plans, we ended up spending the day at Suzy’s mum’s house. Lots of running around, drawing, building with blocks. Wednesday we met two other families at a local soft play, and the kids had a great time discovering various hidey-holes and running around together.

Today I woke up wedged halfway between wanting to go on an epic adventure versus wanting to remain unshowered and in slippers. I’m trying to find some cooler places in a slightly wider radius, and discovered a mine/caving system that we loosely planned to go to (a continuation of the Minecraft obsession), but we ended up going to a stone circle that, while very near to us, we’d never been to.

I’m in the process of making a list of 100 things to do in 2014, and visiting a new stone circle made it pretty high on the list. So off we went!!

It was fabulous. Lots of mud, tonnes of standing stones, and bizarrely friendly cows that kept approaching us. We were the only people there, and all you could see was rolling hills, a church tower, the occasional house secreted away in the hills. It was amazing. Afterwards we ate lunch in the boot of the car (it’s big, folks) and the kids ran around sans coats.

We came home to no wind and actual sunshine (!), and they were immediately barefoot in the front garden, looking for ants to watch and feed, playing with cars, finding the only remaining daisy. No coats, no sweatshirts, no problem.

So while I started the week upset about our lack of snow and the constant rain, I’m approaching the end thankful for living somewhere with very mild winters.

You’ll be reading this Friday morning, though I’ve written it Thursday night. Friends have threatened to pull up outside our house and honk horns until we emerge to join them for a trip to the forest….so hopefully while you read this, we’ll be staying dry (please god) and exploring a bit of the woods we’ve never seen before.

I hope your weeks have been incredible. We have a new tradition of evening dance parties and I tell you, this whole dancing to various songs of my youth in the evenings and going out in the day despite the weather….it makes for a good time.