Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Easter Holidays and Pet Eggs

The Easter holidays were so much fun. We had beautiful weather and it was great to spend lots of time playing outdoors, digging in the garden and general enjoying the sun.

The children played their first ever game of cricket, watching the new baby tadpoles in our pond, and even took part in some of the planting out.

We started our 'Kitchen Chemistry' online course and they loved experimenting with molecule density using the toaster from the boy's kitchen and a bin bag, and experiment that was repeated with a hair dryer and a mini hot air balloon on a camping trip over the Easter weekend.
Heated molecules are less dense
The children also went to the energy show at the science museum in London with their dad and had a fantastic time as well as Cosmo going camping in the peak district with daddy to climb a 'mountain'.

We had a lovely time celebrating passover with my sister's family and some friends, and the children took great joy in the charoset (I used mango, pear and cinnamon with walnut) as well as joining in with some really fun songs.

 But the part the children have been most excited about this Easter is getting their 'pet eggs'.

We currently have ten eggs incubating in the school room and the children cannot wait to see them hatch. They've been very diligent in checking the temperature regularly and topping up the water and the eggs are due to hatch Thursday or Friday.

I'm sure I'll manage to film it, and will post it here after. The baby chicks will then live in our house 6-9 weeks (weather dependant) and then move out into the chicken coop and run that we have built for them in the orchard.

Exciting times!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Reading Practice

I made a playlist of flash card videos that we use with Lychee for reading practice - so I figured I'd post it here in case anyone else wants to do some practice with little ones.

It's for children learning sight words or 'whole word' reading methods, NOT phonics.

Enjoy :-)

Thursday, 23 January 2014


Learning Self-Regulation

I've heard over and over of parents who allow their toddlers to self regulate with food, claiming that if we leave them to it and don't interfere with 'on demand' feeding that children will learn to recognize their own hunger cues and equally know when they have had enough.

I like the principle - but I don't know anyone who has made it past about three years old.

photo credit
The reality is that society dictates we should eat at certain times, and it's kind of awkward if you refuse lunch whilst everyone is seated at the table and 20 minutes later you are hungry but mum has put everything away. So you either end up telling your kid when to eat - or feeding them junk because real food takes time and preparation.

Still, like I said, I like the principle.

It's something Cosmo's doctor told me about when he was very young and I was getting frustrated about him just wanting to watch the same DVD on loop, or when he just wanted to read the same book (or sometimes even the same page!) again and again. He said he's trying to puzzle something out. I assume that because he can read the words, he's got all the information, but particularly for children who learn to read early, being able to understand what they are reading may take more time.

He asked me to indulge him.
Read the same page 50 times if necessary, move on when he is ready.

Gosh, that took a lot of restraint from me, but it worked! He would watch the 20 minute DVD on loop (brilliant baby by the way if anyone is interested) but then he'd know everything on it and never choose to watch the same one again (at least not for a long time, and when revisiting an old DVD it was for comfort, watched once and then relegated to the 'I've seen that' pile).

We've been up against this battle again recently, only this time it's grated on me even more because his current obsession is Minecraft - and I am not a gamer.

Everything in me wanted to limit him to 20 minutes a day - or some other such rule - but having been through plenty of other past obsessions I let it play out properly.

My mum bought him the game for Christmas and for a couple of weeks I was convinced it was all he would do with all of his free time - and then we hit our breakthrough. He just turned around and said 'I think I'd like to take a break from minecraft for a little while'. He started playing legos with his sister again (boy, has she missed him!) and at the end of the day, it's only really been a two and a half week obsession.

He still enjoys playing minecraft, but he's also enjoying other things too and he doesn't play it for hours at a time.

So, here are my top tips for surviving obsession phases:

1) Try not to worry about making everything meaningful. I like to relax and read a magazine sometimes, or watch a movie. Not everything I do has value other than relaxation and not everything your child does needs to either.

2) Respect what they value. I don't love minecraft. I don't think it's awesome. But my son does and I wouldn't like it if he told me I couldn't look at pinterest because he doesn't think it's cool. Live and let live.

3) Find ways to work it into other things they might enjoy. Cosmo is currently working on a book of tips for his Dad so that he can learn how to play too. It's still Cosmo's favourite topic, but thankfully it's away from the computer screen!
Top tip for Minecraft... but also life in general...

4) If you really need to limit their time on something (eg. I don't want him sat at a PC all day) rather than saying no to it, find something else that will take up some of that time. If Cosmo wants to spend all his free time on the computer, but I don't want him to spend more than an hour, I need to find tasks that will take up all but an hour of his day, then he can play as long as he wants without a conflict. If you tell them they can't do something (or they can only do it for a limited time) it becomes the craved for 'forbidden thing'. I'd rather say 'of course you can play - right after we get back from the park and have picked up the groceries'.
We also have a rule where nobody has free time until they have completed their curriculum based activities for the day.

If you have anymore strategies, let me know. It might sound like I have it all sorted, but I really don't. It pains me to wait out an obsession, but it's totally worth it in the end. The result is a happier, less frustrated child, who learns how to self regulate their own time.

Saturday, 11 January 2014



Maybe this isn't news to some of you, but I have only recently discovered the awesomeness that is DIY.org.

From what I've gathered so far, it's kind of like the online answer to why I went to brownies - to earn badges. Only these badges are way cooler. They're chunky, hexagonal, embroidered patches, and you earn them for completing three tasks in a skill area. 

You simply upload a video or photo of yourself completing a task, someone reviews it and validates your reward. 

Badges are awarded for all kinds of stuff, my kids are keen for the backyard farmer, Lego master and minecrafter badges; but the range is as diverse as architect, bee keeper and dancer to mycologists, geneticist and sys admin!! 

Here's a video my kids made for one of their 'backyard farmer' skills.

The only downside to this whole thing is that it's based in the USA. Although their postage charges are very reasonable ($2 to ship to England) it obviously takes a while to get over here. Long enough that Cosmo is questioning me about whether there is a real badge or if it's just on the website (which incidentally, would still be fun to so if you didn't want to invest in the patches...) 

Each kid gets their own "stream" of activity which other people can follow, and they can follow others, either to keep up with what a friend is doing, or for inspiration. 

The best part is that as a parent, you get a log in too. The site emails me to approve everything my kids upload, so there is little to no chance of anything stupid being naievely posted online - unless you naievely thought it would be okay too, which you can't really blame your kid for... 

We think this is awesome, and it's a great boredom buster when you are scratching for ideas to do with the kids. A lot of the skills don't require much equipment and are pitched at several levels, so whilst my backyard farmers are planting celeriac, someone else might be caring for livestock. 

Definitely worth a poke around in your free time, and if you do sign up, message me your user name; the kids and I would like to follow you :0)

In unrelated news, lychee has enjoyed drawing cats this week. 

Lego electro city

Today the kids had the opportunity to attend a Lego workshop where they built a city with other children.

All the children were told they could build anything they wanted to be a part of the city and my children both independently chose to build farms! 

They had a great time, but I've injured my right hand which was incredibly frustrating to them. They wanted my help, but my left hand is like the Incredible Hulk, smashing through their carefully planned buildings. 

They quickly learned it was easier just to get on by themselves.

This horse was found by a friend, who recognised Lychee was building a farm and offered it to her. 

She spent half the morning singing a little song about him 'this is my horse that Wesley bought me for a present...'

This is her completed farm, which Cosmo quickly amalgamated into his own... 

But lychee was content to build a park opposite, with a lake to walk her puppies around and a waterfall. 

The next stage was building circuits to light up the cities. 

Here it is all lit up. 

It was a fun morning and really excitingly lychee even put her hand up to answer a question - an incredibly bold move for her!

Unfortunately, she didn't answer when called on, but it's a start...

Monday, 4 November 2013


Playing Shops

Cosmo had a good grasp of money from a very young age. We have given him small amounts from the age of two and allowed him to manage it in various ways, and he picked it up fast. The children's Granny took them on a shopping spree and gave each of the children £10 and he was very careful to work out what he could buy to ensure he spent to his budget exactly. It's something we've done before for Christmas/birthday money and he really enjoys it.

I like this approach. We use YNAB's budgeting software and  one of the first four rules is to 'give every dollar (pound) a job'. Even if that means allocating it to savings or emergency funds.

Lychee has had little interest in money, and despite being given the same amount as her brother on a shopping trip, she will choose one small item and show no interest in budgeting and doesn't want the rest of the money.

It hasn't really bothered me, but maths wise I think she should at least be able to recognize coins.

Enter the shop.

We have built a little shop area in her room, and initially play involved paper money that the children made themselves - mostly £99 or £10000000000000 notes. Recently though we have given her a little purse with some spare coins and she has been having so much fun with it.

Playing shops today I realized she is now recognizing 20p, 5p and 1p fairly consistently. She still has no idea about 2p, 50p or a £1 coin, but we are getting somewhere.

Plus we are having fun.

Thursday, 26 September 2013


Giving the 'Happiness Advantage'

This weekend I read an interesting article in the Times about 'Dolphin Parenting' Which was Shawn Achor's reply to 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom'.

If you haven't heard of Shawn Achor I highly recommend listening to his TEDtalk on 'The Happiness Advantage' in the video below.

I've never been comfortable with the Tiger mom style principles, and although it's a little corny, I do love the 'dolphin parenting' idea. We have been able to implement a few of his ideas into our daily  homeschool routine and I'm already seeing positive outcomes.

So, if you want to join me in 'Dolphin Homeschooling' here are the ideas we are using so far:

1) watch a funny video on youtube and laugh about it together. 
Yes, daily. Laughing together is not only fun, but it releases endorphines which help you learn faster and retain information for significantly longer. Plus it's bonding.  

2) write down three things that you are grateful for. 
Teaching your child to scan the day for positive outcomes, within 21 days this becomes a habit, so make a month (or longer) of daily gratitude journalling.

3) One happy memory.
Also in our journal we write out one happy memory/favourite thing that happened today. I write this for Cosmo, as I don't want his emotional experience to be limited by frustration of spelling etc... I let him tell me his happy memory and then I ask leading questions like 'what happened next?' and 'how did you feel about that?'

4) An encouraging/positive note.
My children have facebook accounts. Don't worry, they don't know their own password and they are only friends with family members. It is useful for this exercise though, where I ask him to send one encouragement or note of praise to somebody.

Shawn Achor points out that IQ isn't really a great predictor of success or happiness. How positive you are and how well connected you are with your support network are much more important predictors of both. These exercises done daily will build habits, and habits become character and destiny, according to someone much smarter than me.

'Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny'

                                                      -Samuel Smiles
 In just three days my son is already way more positive. He is finding all kinds of things to be grateful for, he's stopping during the day to point out that 'this is going to be my happy memory when we journal!' and he's saying encouraging things to me and his sister.

This stuff works, so let's give our kids the Happiness advantage :0)

Photo credit