Wednesday, 16 October 2013

2 years later...

TWO AND A HALF YEARS since I last posted!!!  I had basically given it up but thought that maybe it would be nice to continue so that the children can read this when they are older.  The truth is that I just don't have time these days.  When I last posted I had a 4 year old a 2 year old and a 9-month old...well now number 4 is here and she is 12 months old already!

So update on everyone:

Finn is now 7 years old.  He would be in Year 2 at school but we are home educating and it is going well.  His reading age is approximately two years above his age - he has just read Demon Dentist by David Walliams in two days!  We went from learning the phonetic alphabet and simple three-letter words; Bob books and then onto Oxford Reading Tree - up to about Stage 6 by the end of "Reception" year.  Then for about half of "Year 1" he progressed from Stage 6-12 and then found he could just pick up any book he wanted to read it!  In the last six months he has read all the Wimpy Kid books, all the Tom Gates, Jeremy Strong, Horrid Henry and some David Walliams ones amongst many others.  He also likes reading Horrible Science books.  His Maths skills are fairly good and he works on exercises on an online program and is currently working through Year 3 exercises.  I have introduced other subjects - History and Geography and he has just started to take a real interest in Science.  So I am very happy with his progress so far.  He is happy to stay at home.  I ask him all the time and let him know he always has the option to go and try school if he wants to, but he always says he doesn't want to.  He goes swimming on a Saturday with his friend Oscar.  They are still great friends which is really nice.  We also meet up with another home educating family every fortnight who have two boys 10 and 7.  They all get on great together so I am happy that they have this "socialisation" that they lack by not attending school. 

Jacob is now 5 years old.  He would just have started Reception year at school.  He goes swimming on a Saturday, and does Gymnastics class on a Tuesday.  We have started to sit down and do workbooks and learning the phonetic alphabet just as I did with Finn.  It is very obvious that it doesn't come as naturally to Jacob as it did to Finn.  I think he just learns in a different way.  He is the kind of child that you could leave a broken toy in front of him and he would figure out what to do with it or mend it - he like to learn by doing rather than by sitting and reading about it.  So I know that reading will take a little longer for him.  But that doesn't worry me, I know he is perfectly able and an intelligent child in a different way to Finn.  That is one of the great things about home educating, it's not a "one-size-fits-all" approach to learning like it has to be in school.  Finn will happily sit for hours reading a book on rocks and geology, whereas Jacob would rather be in the garden digging up soil looking for rocks!  I believe that both of them will learn in their own way and their own time.

Primrose is now 3 years old.  She likes to sit at the table and do her "school work" at the same time as Jacob (she has a basic alphabet work book that she colours in!).  She tries to join in answering questions when I am going through the alphabet with Jacob and I can see the two of them beginning to read at the same time.  They would only be a year apart at school so we may well find that a lot of learning for them will be done together.  Primrose loves colouring-in and has good concentration levels when doing this and jigsaws and crafts.  She also loves playing on the tablet namely Angry Birds - she is almost as obsessed with it as the boys are!  Her vocabulary is brilliant for her age and she is a very happy child.  She goes to pre-school gymnastics class on a Tuesday and Ballet and Tap class on a Saturday.  She loves both and although she is a little shy and hardly says a word in her classes she is still very confident and is not at all bothered about going off and doing something without me or her big brothers!

And now there is Poppy.  Poppy turned 1 last month!  She is a lovely baby - almost toddler!  Poppy was born with a congenital cataract in her left eye.  She had it removed and had an artificial lense fitted when she was just six weeks old.  Her eye is an on-going issue for us.  I don't want it to be something that takes over and defines her but sometimes that is how is feels.  We have to patch her good eye for five hours a day and she has glasses that she is meant to wear all day.  It is a constant battle and we have the constant worry of further surgery that she needs on the eye as it turns and has a secondary cataract forming and then there is the risk of glaucoma developing.  It is hard not to get hung up on it and worry and stress about it but I also have to remind myself that it could be a lot worse.  Apart from that she is a totally healthy and normal 12-month old - almost cruising and desperate to become a toddler to keep up with her older siblings!

I have another blog for Poppy to record her journey (that I need to try and keep updated!)

So now I will finish with a selection of photos from the last year

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Spring is here!

Since I last blogged what has happened?

- My eldest boy is now 4 and a half and due to start school in September - yet we are still planning to home educate. Since the beginning of March he has been reading three letter words. He knew all the alphabet and the phonetic sounds so I thought I would try him out with a few easy words such as "sat" "cat" etc. and he totally surprised me by sounding them out and reading them. We try and do a few new words and have story time every afternoon. This is not always easy though as his little brother is a handful and we have recently got a playstation 3 which the 4-year old is becoming obsessed with. He has already completed Little Big Planet 2 and also loves the sonic racing game. I tried to hold off letting him get into computer games but I think as long as the time they have on it is limited and they don't play any age inappropriate games then I can't see how it is a bad thing. The only way I think it is bad is when he gets so obsessed with it that he wakes up really early in the morning to go and play it before I get up and turn it off and then talks about it all day and keeps asking if it is 5 o'clock yet (as that is when he is allowed to play it). It is starting to bother me a bit but I figure as long as he still has time doing other things and still does some "school work" then I'm not too worried.

- My 2-year old is a real terrible two now. Every day is a battle with him and some days it gets me down. We had an incident with him swallowing lavender oil a few weeks back and had to spend the night in hospital. Luckily he was fine but things like that are just a daily occurrence and it makes life difficult.

- My 9-month old is now crawling and tring to pull herself onto her feet which has made me think, "where has my baby gone?"!

Today the weather has been like summer and so they have been in the garden which has helped as some days it is difficult as the boys have too much pent up energy when they are in the house too long.

We made a simnel cake and the boys had their tumble tots and gym bobs classes. I've also crystalised some primrose flowers ready for Prim's Christening on sunday. I'm making her cake and plan to put the flowers on top. Having everyone round to our house after so we are hoping the weather stays nice!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Home Ed Group

For the last two weeks we have been atending a home education group. It meets up at a village hall approximately 20 miles from where we live every thursday. We met some lovely families there and it really did instill a lot of confidence in me that home education is something that can work - and hopefully work for us. I am becoming a lot more confident about telling people when I used to dread the subject arising. That said I do still go for the easy option when I speak to some people. My four-year old is due to start school in september and as he is fairly tall and nearly 4 and a half now we get asked practically on a daily basis by anyone from a tumble tots instructor to the library assistant to the local vicar (we had him round the other evening to arrange the baby's Christening) questions such as, "Do you go to school now Finn?", "When do you start school", "Do you go to nursery?". A lot of the time I still reply, "He is due to start school in September" and "No he isn't at nursery as he does a lot of other activities: tumble tots, tennis and swimming". It just seems easier to say that rather than tell them we plan to home school which will inevitably lead on to more questions. That said, I bumped into a mum from my mums and tots group who I hadn't seen in around three years today: she asked if Finn was at pre-school and what school I had chosen for him. I told her that he didn't do pre-school and told her the school choices that we made last year and then said, "but I plan to home-educate him - at least for the first year anyway". So now I am getting more confident in telling people but adding that we may just do it as a trial for the first year. I don't really think that will be the case - I want to home educate for as long as it works for us all - and I guess I'm hoping it will work and that they will never go to school unless they want to. But the truth is I really don't know how it is going to work for us. At the moment it works quite well. I think Finn will be quite academic: he has a brilliant memory and is always happy to learn and some days it is difficult to get him away from the TV and sit and do some "school work" but once I have his attention he will happily sit and do writing, sums, practice reading, drawing etc. for a good hour. He also loves stories at bedtime and is currently having The Magic Faraway Tree books being read to him (usually by daddy) at bedtime. He is happy to lie and listen and imagine it all in his mind as there are only a few sketches in the book. He loves books and knows all the alphabet now (and most of the phonetic sounds) so I'm sure when the time is right he will start to read. I have no idea how home education will work for my other two though. Jacob is very energetic and has a very short attention span - he is only 2 so this is quite normal - but I just cannot imagine him ever sitting down and listening to me teach him anything as he has always been very independent (baby-led weaned as has never let me feed him) and totally different to his big brother. That said he picked up potty training a lot quicker than his big brother I think mainly due to observing his big brother use the toilet. So hopefully he will follow suit and want to learn things like his brother.

Anyway, we went along to this group and it was lovely to meet lots of other families that home educate. The only problem was that it lasts all day and it was just a bit too long for me and my three. Most of the other children are a fair bit older and all the activites that are set up each week are largely for over sevens. This meant that my two boys spent the whole day playing with toy cars in the baby area and then making paper aeroplanes with some of the other young children. They had fun but the session was just too long for them when that was all there was for them to do. So we've decided that we will go back to this group when they are a bit older and can actually take part in some of the activities. In may we will find out if Finn has got into his first choice school and I'm dreading it as it will be time to decide. The thing is we have decided but I don't want getting this form throught the post to change my mind and make me doubt if I am doing the best thing. It is so difficult to know as a parent if you are doing the right thing though when all other parents around you are sending their kids to school. Do you follow the pack or be brave and dare to do something different because you believe it is (hopefully) the best for your child?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Home Schooling :)

In the last few weeks I have finally come to the conclusion that as of September I will home school my 4-year old.

I haven't heard about whether he has been accepted into the schools that we chose last year (when I still hadn't decided), and now I actually feel like I don't want to know. I always said to my husband that if he only got into our third choice school then we should definitely home school - yet if he were to get into our first choice then I was worried that I'd feel confused again as to what was the best thing to do. However, the last few days have appeared to bolster my plan to home school, at least in my mind anyway. One thing that occured this week was when my 4-year old went to his tennis class. He goes there with around a dozen other children ranging from age 4-8, and two of his friends that he has known since they were babies (from a mums and tots group). Well, he has always got on very well with these two friends, but this week he came home and told me that they had been running away from him saying, "we're not playing with you". It made me feel so sad for him but told him that they were just being silly and that he should try and ignore it. Incidentally these two children go to the same small pre-school (linked to the small village school that is our first choice) and seem to largely just play with eachother when they go to pre-school, which is why I think they were being like that with my son. I think that maybe they are so used to playing with just eachother that they don't want to include anyone else and I think that is possibly an example of the institutionalisation that can take place within school environments - which laughs in the face of those who believe that their children are attending school in order to socialise.

We also went to one of my son's friend's birthday party this week. It was a nice party held at the local leisure centre with a room of soft play and there were over a dozen four-year olds there and younger siblings. What I found interesting to observe was the way all the four-year old boys were very hyperactive and almost veering on the violent with one another. I remember my brother and his friends being like this when they were around seven years old and I think it is quite normal but I didn't realise that four-year old were like this because my son isn't. His "best friend" (in his words) is three weeks younger than him and one of the children that we've known since he was a newborn from the mums and tots group. They get on very well but what I'm observing more and more is how they play lovely with the train track or cars but then said friend wants to play wrestling or pretend guns and my son just wants to carry on with the trains and cars and doesn't seem to "get" the fighting games. I wonder if it is something that occurs more if the child goes to nursery or pre-school. I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing as they are only play fighting but I just found it interseting to note that my son is the only one that doesn't go to a nursery or pre-school and he was the only one not "fighting" at this party. And that is not to say that he is not sociable as he is a real chatterbox and not at all shy. I think it is actually a great thing though that he doesn't just follow the pack and engage in the play fighting just because that is what everyone else is doing. I'm good friends with his friend's mum and she said to me at the party that she's always telling people about her friend who has three children who are so happy and well-behaved and and how we are planning to home school - which she says she thinks is a wonderful thing to do ("you're so patient and just a natural, unlike me," she said). I felt really surprised that she thought that about me as I don't think I'm anymore patient than anyone else really and I never thought my children were that well-behaved ("you should see us at home", I said!). But it was nice to hear someone say that about us.
Anyway, these were just a few things that have been on my mind and have helped me to believe more and more that we are doing the right thing by deciding to home school. this space!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Thankful Friday

I have borrowed this idea from another blog that I follow and I think it is a nice idea: to log every Friday all the things you are thankful for. It makes you appreciate all you have in your life that is good and helps if you are feeling a bit negative. This time of year I am automatically feeling a bit down. Partly I think to do with the weather: lack of sunshine and cold dark nights, but also because I am reminded of my mum even more so than usual at this time of year. It was at the beginning of December three years ago that she was taken into hospital (four and a half weeks before she then passed away). It has put a permanent damper on Christmas for me really. I used to really love Christmas and I still like it and know that it will still be a nice time of year for me (having three children certainly makes it fun) but it will always remind me of my mum. Today we had some bad news, my husband's uncle (his Dad's twin brother) died. He was sixty three and had bowel cancer. It is really sad, especially for the close family that he leaves behind and that has brought back a lot of memories for me about my mum today. It seems that when you lose something in your life it helps a bit to look at what you do have in your life so I thought that I would do a thankful Friday post today.

This week I am thankful for:

- Three lovely healthy children who make me proud and happy every day and a wonderful husband.

- Hot drinks - hot chocolate, tea and coffee have helped warm me up in these freezing weather conditions we are currently experiencing.

- The boys "after-school" clubs - gym bobs, tennis and swimming they really enjoy them and I feel they are really productive.

- Friends: they can make you feel so much better after a cup of tea and chat.

- Knitting: my therapeutic past-time that I enjoy doing in the evening when the four-month old will let me! I order loads of stuff from here and I love the fact that I can actually get nearly anything I need from there. I recently ordered a toy from there that I couldn't find anywhere else when I searched the net!

- Chocolate!

The list could go on really, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Halloween 1990 vs. Halloween 2010

This year I went trick or treating for the first time in approximately 20 years! I went with the kids for their benefit (obviously!) but was surprised at how much fun I had! The last time I went trick or treating was circa 1990. Back then the supermarkets in this country hadn't jumped on the band wagon selling all sorts of paraphanelia from pumpkin costumes for babies to skull-shaped drinking goblets: it was no way as commercial as it is now and more up to you to improvise at home.
So the last time I went trick or treating I was most likely a witch, dressed-up in a black skirt of my mum's, a black jumper, a bin bag as a cape, some black face paint as lipstick and a homemade cardboard witch's hat. My brother was most likely a ghost (a white sheet with eyes cut-out) or a scary monster: dressed in black clothes with a simple scary mask. Once we were dressed-up we would venture out with a carrier bag (most likely Sainsbury's or Tesco) to collect our treats in and a scary rubber spider or snake as the 'trick'. I remember a lot of the kids in our village would use eggs as their 'trick', we never had any thrown at us on our doorstep but most mornings after the night of Halloween we would find remnants of egg and shell on our driveway. As for the 'treats', I remember one lady being totally unaware that it was Halloween and she said all she had was some biscuits and so we got a digestive each! I also remember one lady giving us a small box of cereal each! The rest I think gave us sweets of some kind, but what I do remember is having to work a bit more for our treats: a lot of the people that did open their doors (and some didn't) expected a trick before they would give the treat! This year when I went out I noticed that all the people that answered the doors were there with a bowl of goodies already in-hand.
My children this year were dressed as skeletons (and the baby was a pumpkin but she fell asleep before we were due to go out so she stayed st home with daddy!). All their outfits were purchased on-line from a well-known retailer (Tesco!) along with Halloween pumpkin buckets to collect their treats in and even a bat torch to take out with them. We went around our Close first and then ventured around the rest of the housing development. We quickly realised that the best houses to go to were the ones with pumpkins outside - as this gave the message that they were entering into the spirit of Halloween! There were some amazing scenes: one house had two huge pumpkins (home-grown) with excellent carvings; another house had lights illuminating cobwebs all over the house and when they opened the door the adults were all dressed-up and music was blaring - they were obviously having a party ! Another house had fake legs and arms hanging from their front door with fake blood and hand prints on the windows! I was truly amazed as to how much effort some people had gone to! My four-year old and two-year old absolutely loved it. It became a real game to run around looking for the next house with a pumpkin, and there was a fight for who got to ring the bell or knock on the door first! They both came home with a bucket nearly full of treats and they both slept like logs that night! Although I don't necssarily agree with all the commercialness of Halloween these days I think it is probably more fun than it was in my day!!