A Morning Victory!

I am a little worried that I might be tempting fate with this post. But, on the other hand, it’s about time I had some good news to share! So, I’m going to risk it.
Mornings have been tricky for a long time. The boys like to get up early. I’m not sure how early exactly because they prefer to do this while the adults are asleep. They creep downstairs and eat things. It’s a bit inconvenient. It means that I’m not always sure what food I will still have in the house at any point. They also tend to pick unhealthy foods and oversized portions.
I don’t want to go into detail about all the things that didn’t work for us, I don’t want to over-share a story that belongs to my children as much as it does to me. But, I know how reassuring I find it to hear that other families struggle with trauma fallout, so I do want to share some of our struggles.
Anyway, this week we have put a box of cereal, two spoons and two bowls out on the table. The boys have got up each day, come downstairs, helped themselves to cereal, then returned to bed.
They have seemed less tired. We haven’t noticed them taking anything other than cereal.
I am beyond thrilled! I am so proud of the boys for controlling themselves so well. I am rather impressed with my husband for thinking of this latest strategy.
I’m not sure why we’ve had this breakthrough. Homeschooling has helped, the boys are far less anxious now. Getting older has helped, they are – slowly – building self-control, and a bit of trust in us. I like to think that our regular timetable of snacks has helped. I strongly suspect that all my chats about the inconvenience of disappearing dairy products has never helped!
We’ve never had success in asking the boys to help themselves to particular foods before.
Of course, one week in is a bit early to celebrate a success. But, life can turn into a dull slog without making excuses to celebrate. And one week of doing well is worth celebrating! Maybe the boys will be back to old behaviours tonight, but, even if they are, it won’t be because I took a moment to be proud. And, even if one week is all they can manage now, that’s still one week of impressive self-control.
Weekly Adoption Shout Out

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Studying Stars

Middly asked to learn about stars.
I had a handy kit, so I started there:

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We made a simple model of lunar and solar orbits.

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We did a simple experiment to find out why we can’t see the stars during the day. We covered a torch with paper with a stat cut out. We looked at the star light in the dark, then turned on the lights and saw our mini star vanish.

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I found some worksheets which encouraged the children to try and create their own constellations.
My favourite activity, though, was marking galaxies on Zooniverse. We’ve used Zooniverse before (there are relevant projects for most science topics), it’s quite exciting to play a part – however small – in big research projects.
”Adventures

Teaching Music

We are not musical people.
Neither my husband nor I can play an instrument (though my parents made great efforts to help me learn). We don’t really listen to a lot of music, just a few family favourites.
But, when we decided to home educate, I was determined that the boys shouldn’t miss out on music lessons. So we are doing our level best to give them musical opportunities.
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We have a board game which teaches a bit of theory and music history.
We began using bells to make music. It’s a very simple set, and you follow the colours.
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We enjoy playing with these, we get to practice working together and the boys are able to create simple tunes of their own.

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We wanted to try some different instruments. So we have a set of ocarinas and a set of ukuleles that we are learning to play together.
We use the CDs and books from The Ocarina Workshop to learn the ocarina, and Ukulele for Dummies to learn the ukulele, with a bit of help from YouTube and my brother.

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(If you’re wondering about the colour choices, there’s a post about that.)
We’re very lucky to have several music teachers in our home ed group, so the boys get a chance to have proper lessons from time to time, and group singing most weeks.
At one of these sessions, we were introduced to Wak-a-tubes, so I picked up a set to play with.
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Music has been one of those things that we are all learning together, hopefully it will be enough for the boys. But, as usual, I will appreciate any tips!
 adventures in homeschool home education link up

Long car journeys with the boys

We’re about to head off on a couple of holidays as a family, each one involving drives of four to six hours.
It’s not the first time that we’ve taken the boys on long journeys, and we’ve been honing our technique over the years.
I’ve posted before on the incredible usefulness of hats.
So, I thought I’d share the selection of activities we will be taking:
1) Electronic games (we are fine with using electronics to occupy the boys for half an hour or so).
2) CDs, we will be taking a mixture of music we all like and story CDs (we love this series of CDs about Great Inventors, Great Scientists, Great Explorers etc. It’s informative and lighthearted enough to keep everyone engaged.
3) Sticker books and comics, we will be purchasing new ones for all the boys because there is nothing more interesting than a new toy! And, shamelessly, we will be using movie tie-ins to get that little rush of joy (we rarely buy movie tie-in stuff because my husband and I are culture snobs, but that does mean the boys are thrilled whenever we do).
4) Fiddle toys, these will also be new because a new fiddle toy is distracting and soothing at the same time. We like tangles – though you have to be careful as some can be taken apart into small pieces for throwing or swallowing – if your kids are into that sort of thing 😉 – and stretchy caterpillar toys – though these don’t last very long.
5) Sweets. Every twenty minutes we give the boys a little gift / bribe. These are a selection of sweets, coins – to add to their holiday money – and vouchers.
6) Vouchers. We make up our own vouchers, which the children can ‘win’ by keeping their hands and feet to themselves and restricting themselves. Vouchers have things written on them like: choose a song for us all to sing, we will pull over at the next opportunity and buy ice cream, everyone in the car will say one great thing about you, you can choose to sit on any seat in the car for the next half hour, and anything else we can think of that the boys would really like.
7) Cuddly toys. We’ll let the boys pick which ones to bring. They’ll play with them a bit, and having toys in the car might encourage them to snuggle down for a nap, if we’re lucky.
8) Reading books. Since we are – actually – very lucky indeed, both of the big boys like to read and can read in the car without feeling ill. They prefer familiar books to new ones so we don’t have to buy anything here!
9) A list of car games. It’s easier if we think of games in advance, it saves trying to think whilst the children scream. So, here’s our list. You’ll note that some games are named after family members, this was a ploy we invented when we drove to the South of France, we asked everyone to suggest a game for the journey because games that other people have suggested are much more interesting to the boys than games suggested by mum and dad!

The List of Car Games.
• I spy.
• I don’t spy (you say “I don’t spy a toy (or any other category of thing, animal, say, or fruit) that begins with a T (or and other letter, obviously)” everyone else guesses toys beginning with T.)
• Twenty Questions.
• Uncle’s number plate game (you look for a type of car or a numberplate with A on it, then one with B on it, until you’re all the way through the alphabet, from Audi to Zaffira).
• Grandad’s guess what we’ll be passing in one minute game (everyone guesses what we will be driving past in one minute e.g. a bridge, a red lorry, some cows; we wait a minute – with a loud countdown – and see who guessed right).
• Close your eyes and put up your hand when you think exactly one minute, or thirty-seven seconds, or any other unit of time, has passed (the driver is the judge and must keep their eyes open, obviously!)
• Singing. We let everyone choose a song. Songs which allow us to fill in the gaps, like If You’re Happy and You Know it, and Old MacDonald, go down well.
• Auntie’s Story Game (tell a story together, taking in in turns to add a line).
• Good News, Bad News (someone starts by giving good news, the next person gives bad news, it carries on alternating until the story gets too absurd to go on; e.g ‘the good news is we’re going on holiday; the bad news is the car won’t start; the good news is we can take the train; the bad news is the trains are all full; the good news is Mr Tumble came by in his bus and offered us a lift; the bad news is only four of us can fit in his bus etc.).
• Print off maps so the children can see where you’re going; and give them each a chance at giving directions.
• If I were a giant, I would squash . . . (a memory game, we’ve done many types: I went to the park and saw; I went to the shops and bought; I made a sandwich and in it I put; but the giant one is most popular in our house and car).
• Consequences (everyone gets a piece of paper we all write a girl’s name, then fold over the paper to hide what we’ve written and pass it over to someone else, on the new paper everyone writes a boy’s name, we fold and pass again, then we write where they met, what he said, what she said, what they did, what the consequence was and what the world said) and Picture Consequences (the same, but instead of writing, we draw a head, a body with arms, legs, feet, then write a name).

10) We stop! I look at our route and work out four or five possible stops. Then we stop when it works best. If the boys are asleep we drive past a possible stop. If the boys are restless, we pull over at the nearest possible stop. The National Trust, Forestry Commission and RSPB are very handy for plotting places to run about.

I keep everything needed for these activities in a big bag at my feet along with tissues, wet wipes, plasters, bottles of water and snacks. We always have more ideas than we expect to use. There’s always at least one flop, and it’s hard to predict which one it will be, so we like to have a few extras, just in case!
We also make sure we also have a new toy or comic each for the journey home. Most of the games can be repeated, but a new toy always lifts the mood a bit.
It takes us an hour or so to prepare for a car journey, but, the upside is that our holiday starts as soon as we get in the car!

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out