Ten Things That Bring Me Joy

Some adopters on twitter, @_MrsCrumpet and @imperfectlyblog have put up a list of topics for blogging about this October here.

I thought I would give it a go.

The first topic is Ten Things That Bring You Joy. Which seems like a pretty easy start.

  1. The boys making me a cup of tea. The only thing better than a cup of tea, is a cup of tea that someone else makes for me.
  2. Driving in the rain. I feel so cosy in my car, with the rain pouring around us.
  3. The view out of my kitchen window. We moved last year and have a much bigger garden than we had before. Every time I see it, I am grateful.
  4. Getting into bed, feeling physically tired. I don’t get as much exercise as I should. But, when I do manage to move about and actually get a real workout, I feel a great satisfaction at the end of the day.
  5. People complimenting my children.
  6. Books arriving in the post.
  7. Looking at the calendar and realising that I don’t have any plans for the evening and don’t have to take the boys anywhere.
  8. Eating raspberries.
  9. My husband coming home earlier than I expected.
  10. Finding something that I had lost. Sometimes I think it’s worth losing things, just to feel that huge relief on finding them again.
Advertisements

A Week of Home Education – Secondary 2

This year has been a very successful one for Eldest. He’s been working very hard and is making great progress. He’s hoping to take his first GCSE – maths – next summer. He’s also become much more mature and responsible.

Monday

Eldest got up before me, ate breakfast and finished his Physics and Maths with a bit of help from my husband.

When I got there, it was just in time to help him finish off his English – reading the implications of estate agent adverts.

School work over, for the day, Eldest headed out to the garden to varnish some batons for the caravan.

He came inside and read his library books. We had chocolate biscuits.

The post brought a letter which led to a bit of impromptu life story work before lunch. I think that being together all day is very helpful with things like this. It gives the boys plenty of chances to talk things through as they occur to them.

After lunch, we went climbing with a group of home ed friends. Eldest enjoyed chatting to his friends, eating snacks, and climbing.

He put another coat of varnish on the batons, when we got home. He read his library book for a while, then played on his laptop.

Youngest dropped a toy squirrel in a water butt, so Eldest helped me free it. He has much longer arms than I do! He is also rather indulgent of Youngest, and usually willing to help with his minor dramas.

Eldest and my husband got on with putting the felt on the roof of the caravan. They worked until dark, but they got it done.

Tuesday

I had a hospital appointment first thing, so my husband looked after the boys. Eldest got all his school work done.

I came back in time for lunch, then took Eldest to the library. He’s been volunteering all summer, helping out with the reading scheme. He’s enjoyed himself a lot, chatting to the children, handing out stickers, helping with library events and with tidying up the back room.

He returned in the early evening and put a load of laundry on, then played Minecraft on the Xbox until tea time.

Wednesday

A neighbour came over first thing to tell us that Eldest’s rabbit was in their garden. So Eldest began his day by helping return the escaped rabbit.

He had breakfast and made a start on his Maths (drawing sine and cosine graphs).

We went out for a trip to a wetlands centre. We had a lovely walk, Eldest joined in with pond dipping and owl pellet dissection.

He also carried the snacks so we could stop for biscuits and a drink halfway through our walk.

We came home for a late lunch. Eldest finished off his Maths. Eldest’s not keen on listening to explanations. So, when he got stuck trying to figure out the amplitude and frequency of the waves, I directed him to the Usbourne Illustrated Dictionary of Science. This is a fantastic book with lovely, clear explanations to loads of common STEM questions, ideal for the boys to find out answers by themselves.

Once he’d sorted out his Maths, Eldest moved on to Chemistry. He needed a little bit of help, but it went smoothly.

He finished off with his English.

We had a snack, then Eldest settled down to read ‘Never Let Me Go’.

He mixed some dough to make bread rolls, and helped me to make fishcakes and chips for tea.

Thursday

Eldest played with his rabbit first thing. Then he had breakfast and started on his maths. He needed a few hints with his trigonometry this morning. He’s finding it trickier to work out unknown angles than he found unknown lengths.

After he finished, I got all the boys together for the next session of our Jekyll and Hyde project (we began two weeks ago). We rarely do lessons all together, since we have quite a big age and ability range, but this has been going well so far. We read chapter three, taking a few paragraphs each, and talked about the book. Then the older boys completed a page of their CGP workbooks and Youngest filled out a page of his tailor-made workbook.

Eldest did his History next – a couple of pages about canal building. Then he got on with his Geography.

Nana arrived for a visit. Eldest made cups of tea, and Nana brought biscuits.

Eldest finished his Geography and made lunch, using the rolls he made yesterday.

After lunch we showed off our caravan and collected some apples. Eldest played Scrabble with Nana.

We all went to a garden centre café for cake.

Back home, Eldest played with his rabbit again. Then he read for a while. We chatted a bit about the GCSE reading list. Nana used to teach English in a Secondary School, so she was interested in how the options have changed. Eldest talked about his opinions of the books he’s read so far. He’s happy with a range of nineteenth century books (he said he liked ‘Silas Marner’, ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, ‘The War of the Worlds’; but would rather not study ‘Jane Eyre’ because it’s “too miserable”), but he’s struggling to enjoy the more modern texts, currently he likes ‘Animal Farm’ most.

After Nana left, we watched TV together until tea time.

Having finished ‘Never Let Me Go’, Eldest took ‘The Sign of the Four’ up with him to read in bed.

Friday

After breakfast (stewed apples with sugar and raisins, that he made in the microwave), Eldest made a start on his Maths. In preparation for next year, Eldest has been doing an extra Maths lesson on Fridays. Surprisingly, this was his idea.

We went out to meet friends at a fossil museum.

After a tour, we had a snack in the cafe and Eldest chatted to his friend. Then we came home for lunch.

Eldest finished his Maths and read First News. Then he went upstairs to get ‘The Sign of the Four’ to carry on with that.

When I did Youngest’s History lesson, Eldest joined in. We read a chapter about Caesar together, looked at some maps, then the boys made felt flags. I use the Story of the World reading and activity book for Youngest’s History lessons. Most weeks, Eldest joins in.

After History, Eldest played draughts with Middly.

They played a few games, then Eldest read some Sherlock Holmes. Having finished ‘The Sign of the Four’, he’s moving his way through the rest of the series.

He went outside to feed and play with his rabbit. He tidied up and hoovered the living room, then played Minecraft on the Xbox with Middly.

Saturday

After breakfast, Eldest went to the shops with my husband and Youngest, to pick up a newspaper and some masking tape.

Then he built the steps for the gypsy caravan. Rain intervened, and sent him back inside to heckle Middly & my husband’s game of Scrabble, and to read a bit more Sherlock Holmes. He also put a load of laundry on.

The rain had cleared by the time we’d finished lunch, so Eldest returned to his step building.

He got the steps finished and gave the outside another coat of varnish. He fed his rabbit. Then he came inside and played on the Xbox.

Sunday

After breakfast we went to church. Eldest’s not a big fan of the singing, but he likes the biscuits and chatting with his friends. He took a tennis ball out to the grass behind church and played catch with friends, after the service.

Back home, he played chess with Middly. Then, after lunch, he played chess with my husband. He went outside to play with his rabbit. He read for a while, he’s still enjoying the Sherlock Holmes collection, he’s on ‘The Hound of the Baskevilles’ now.

After a while, he went into the garden to play with Youngest.

When Youngest came inside to do some drawing, Eldest went to the garage and made a snapping crocodile out of wood. Then he brought it into the kitchen to paint.

Eldest and Middly played draughts before tea.

Textbooks

These are the books that Eldest’s using at the moment. He’s moved on since last year He’s on track for his age group with most things, slightly ahead with Chemistry and Maths. Now he’s approaching the age for taking GCSEs, we’re beginning to make some choices. Exams can be rather pricey for home educators, so we’re going to limit him to six GCSEs and three A-levels, which would be sufficient for the degree course that he has his eye on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering his science preference, he’s aiming for Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English Language and English Literature at GCSE. He probably won’t take exams in Geography or History, but I think we’ll keep them going for the sake of a rounded education.

Reflections

This week has been slightly less sporty than usual for Eldest. Swimming and Multisports clubs start up next week after the summer break. His after-school clubs start next week as well.

Eldest has become much more helpful over the last year. He’s a really useful guy to have around, which I appreciate hugely. He doesn’t always enjoy his school work, but he gets it done, and is starting to get a sense of his own progress, which is encouraging to him. He feels proud of how far he’s come, and that seems to keep him going, even though the subjects that he finds uninspiring.

Building the caravan has been a great experience for Eldest. He’s been a huge help and had enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing his work add up to something solid. Volunteering at the library has been great for him, too. It’s been really encouraging for him to feel useful in the community. We’re very proud of the young man that Eldest is growing into. I’m optimistic about the year ahead for him.

Our Favourite Board Games

Growing up, I played board games a lot with my family. Now, I play a lot of board games with the boys.

We buy board games quite a bit, and are often given them as gifts. We do play all our games, but actually there are only a few that get played over and over again.

So, just in time for Christmas, in case anyone’s looking for ideas, here’s a list of our all time favourites.

  • Scrabble – an established game, that most families have, but still worth mentioning. We love this game. When the children were young, they played on a team with an adult. But, now they’re able to play independently. They even managed to beat me once! It can be played very competitively, or you can open up the board and help other players find spaces for their words.
  • Concept – this game is brilliant fun! The board is beautiful and the pieces are extremely pleasing to handle. It’s all about communication, so it’s a fantastic game for bringing the family together.

  • Dobble – perfect for a quick game. This game can be easily picked up by even young children. Much more fun than snap!
  • Mastermind – perfect for introducing the concept of logic to little ones. You can start off with only four colours to make it easier, then bring in more colours to add a bit if challenge.
  • Cluedo – a slightly more advanced logical reasoning game. The murder theme delights my boys and I have enjoyed watching them figure out strategies.
  • Da Vinci Code – this is a quick game, perfect for when you just want to play something for ten minutes. It works as well for two players as it does for three or four. The aim is to guess the numbers on your opponent’s tiles.
  • Dixit – a lovely game that involves making up short stories or phrases to go with a range of beautiful picture cards. The rabbit playing pieces are very pleasing to hold too. This is a really delightful game to play.

Story of the World – Review

I bought The Story of the World Volume One Ancient Times and the accompanying activity book about a year ago.

My original plan was to use this for Youngest’s History lessons. I was particularly attracted by the international focus. History books produced for the UK market are very English-focused (which is completely understandable, given the focus of the National Curriculum), but I wanted Youngest to have a slightly broader knowledge of history. We have also listened to A Little History of the World a couple of times in the car, which has a different approach again, and has been fascinating.

In the event, both Eldest and Middly have joined in with almost every session. Each week, I read a chapter of the book to the boys. I ask them some questions from the Activity Book. Then the boys ‘narrate’ the chapter back to me. ‘Narration’ is a key component of Classical Homeschooling. We don’t follow Classical Homeschooling ourselves, except for this one lesson, but I have found that the boys responded well and enjoyed it. It fits in alongside our other schoolwork and compliments it well. The action of retelling a chapter in their own words has helped develop the boys’ expressive and listening skills.

After the narration, we move to the table and do ‘Map Work’. This is very simple (as befits a course aimed at young primary aged children). I photocopy a map from the activity book (the pages are perforated and you could just use them straight out of the book if you only had one child, but the book gives limited photocopying permissions for those with several children). Following the instructions in the Activity Book, the boys trace rivers, circle city names or colour in territories. Over the many weeks, these activities have familiarised the boys with a lot of maps. There are colouring pages in the back too, I usually only give those to Youngest, since the older two have little interest in colouring.

The Activity Book then has a few suggestions of different activities to compliment the lesson. Some of these have required quite a bit of set-up time, others have been very easy to arrange. I pick whichever I think will appeal most.

All the boys have enjoyed this course enormously. I am going to buy Volume Two and work through that next. I definitely think it’s worth getting the Activity Book as well, since that’s where all the resources are. I don’t think it would be possible to use the Activity Book on its own, all the story is in the main book, the Activity Book only contains follow up questions.

The tone is very friendly and light. The language is simple. It is perfectly pitched for primary students, though the older boys have found it interesting.

Here’s a handful of our favourite activities:

Building an aquaduct – the Activity Book had plans and even a salt dough recipe.

Making a lighthouse – using a plan from the Activity Book.

Building a siege tower out of Lego.

Making and painting clay bowls.

A Week of Home Education – Secondary School 1

Middly’s been having a slightly tricky time recently. I try not to share anything that I think might embarrass him. But, I think that the reality of home educating adolescents can be tense at times. This week is probably a fair representation of how things are going at the moment.

Middly is of secondary school age. We’re taking his school work quite seriously now, and he’s making good progress. I still try to leave a lot of free time every day, however.

Textbooks

These are his current workbooks. He is still slightly further ahead in Maths and Science than he is in the essay subjects. He’s making steady progress since last year in all his subjects, so we’re pretty happy with how things are going.

Monday

Oma and Opa were visiting this weekend and stayed on Monday.

Middly got up, made himself breakfast and made a start on the work laid out for him.

He enjoyed his maths, which was rearranging formulae and proudly showed his Opa what he’d been doing.

I checked his work and he moved on to English.

Geography was a bit more of a struggle. He misunderstood a graph in his textbook and was upset when I tried to explain. Things became a little heated, so we took a break. He went upstairs to calm down.

After twenty minutes, he felt calmer and we talked through the Geography together. He completed the exercise. Then we headed out into the garden to help with the gypsy caravan project.

Middly loved hammering in floorboards!

It’s quite a big project and we began to get a bit tired. We left lunch rather late, which wasn’t very smart. I have been getting a bit dizzy and faint during my pregnancy. About two, I started feeling rather unwell and decided to stop DIY. Middly came into the house with me and made me a snack.

Then he harvested some courgettes from the garden and we made pasta and sauce for lunch.

After lunch, Middly had a go at joining in with the caravan building, but he lost interest and got a bit silly.

Oma took him up to the club house. They cleaned up the club house together and played table tennis.

Eldest took cake up to them as a snack.

When we started putting the caravan walls up, Middly helped a bit more.

Then, he and Oma went out to get fish and chips for tea.

Tuesday

Middly got up and read for a while. Since Oma and Opa were planning on leaving today, I thought a light school work day would be a good idea.

Middly needed a bit of help with his maths (Cumulative Frequency Graphs), but it went smoothly.

He found his Biology pretty easy. His History was about Bloody Mary, so I got out our copy of ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs’ for him to look at. Opa chatted to him for a bit about that period in history.

Oma played Flower Happy Families with Eldest and Middly. Then it was time for Oma and Opa to leave. We waved them off and Middly ran after them with Oma’s forgotten sweater.

We grabbed our picnic and set off to s home ed meetup at a roller skating rink.

Middly skated with his friends, played Bulldog and Dodgeball and ate sweets.

A few families went on to the park after skating. We ate our picnic, chatted and Middly played on the park with his friends.

When we came home, he played in the clubhouse for a while, then read a library book.

Middly made chocolate milk for himself and his brothers.

Then Middly and Eldest played chess together.

After their game, Middly played with his rats for a while.

We had a chat about reading books. Since Eldest is due to start his English GCSEs next year, I’ve printed off s list of potential texts to study and stuck it to the fridge. The plan is for Eldest to read all the books on the list this year, then make an informed choice of texts for GCSE. Middly has decided to have a go at reading through the list too. We chatted about which books he was interested in and he decided to start reading ‘A Christmas Carol’. He read till tea time, then took it with him when he went to bed.

Wednesday

Middly followed my husband downstairs this morning, which was a bit of a pain as he wanted to leave early to see a client and the rest of the house (well, mainly me) didn’t really fancy getting up early.

Middly was unimpressed that my husband was heading straight out to work. Having woken the rest of us up, he went back up to his room again.

I made a couple of attempts to engage Middly in the morning, but he wasn’t ready. He joined the rest of us for lunch, then went back upstairs.

When it was time for Youngest’s history lesson, I invited Middly to join in. The older boys often join in with Youngest’s history lesson. We’ve been working through ‘The Story of the World’. Today we read about Julius Caesar. The boys answered a few questions, coloured in some maps, played a battleship-style game, then made mosaics. We used a kit that I bought from Baker Ross a few years ago. It’s been a while since we used the kit, and all three boys enjoyed it.

We had another go at Middly’s chemistry. But, it went a bit wrong. I left him to calm down in his room for a while.

I had planned on going out this afternoon, but at this point, I decided it wasn’t going to work. Fortunately, we keep most of our trips low key and easy to cancel.

We had a Biscuit Reset (what’s a Biscuit Reset?) and tried again.

This time, we finished the chemistry (hurrah for the posh biscuits that Oma bought me!) and Middly got started on his English with enthusiasm. His lesson today is designing a game. We had a chat about what he might use to make the game. I found some clay for making the counters.

I helped him to laminate the board of his game. Then he did his maths. It was about drawing plans of shapes from different angles, which he really enjoyed.

Middly helped put away toys in preparation for guests coming over this evening. Then he and Youngest had a go at playing the game Middly made. Then they played the game that Youngest had made in imitation of his big brother.

The mosaics were dry and ready for grouting. We did that together.

Middly struggled a bit and I suggested he went upstairs to cool off.

A group of friends from church arrived. We were hoping to get the roof of the caravan put up, but it poured with rain. So we ate a meal together, chatted, and the children played board games.

Thursday

Today began really well. Middly came downstairs a bit later than usual, in a good mood. He made himself some breakfast and got his handwriting done. He made a real effort to firm his ‘f’s correctly, which I was very pleased by.

Then he got on with his physics. He needed a bit of help, but grasped the idea once we talked it through.

Middly noticed that we’d forgotten to put the bins out this morning, so he did that, fortunately he noticed before they were collected.

After washing his hands, he did maths, which was simultaneous equations. I worked through an example with him, then he was able to solve several independently.

The boys ate cake for a morning snack. Then Middly played with the marble run for a bit.

We all went to the library to drop Eldest off for his volunteering shift. Middly picked up a reserved book by Arthur Ransome, read a book about Karate for a while, then asked me to help him look for something by Edward De Bono. We managed to find The Happiness Purpose, so he took that out.

Back home, Middly heated up some baked beans and jacket potatoes, and served them with a side salad for a late lunch.

He’s finished reading ‘A Christmas Carol’, so he marked that off on our chart.

He read for a while, played on the trampoline in the garden, then came back in for a snack.

After eating an apple, Middly played Lego Dimensions on the X box with Youngest.

We all went out to pick up Eldest. Middly played Pokémon Go in the car.

Back home, Middly played Minecraft Xbox with Eldest, until tea time.

Friday

We use Fridays to catch up on school work that didn’t get finished during the week. Unusually, this week there’s no catch up work to do.

Once he’d had breakfast, Middly read library books for a bit. He asked me what Marxism was and why De Bono refers to it as a religion. So we chatted a bit about socialism and about the similarities between religious and political beliefs.

We tackled the second chapter of our Jekyll and Hyde project, which we began last week. Middly’s reading is very clear and expressive. He found a cartoon strip at the back of his workbook, which gave us all a laugh. Middly is especially fond of the light-hearted tone of CGP workbooks.

The post arrived while we were working. As soon as he was done with Stevenson, Middly sat down to read First News (we’ve been getting this children’s newspaper for a few years now, and the boys still enjoy it).

We ate cake. Eldest had a shift at the library. Middly looked at some books with Youngest whilst we were dropping Eldest off. He played Pokémon Go on the way home.

Middly made us mushrooms on toast for lunch. Then we did an earthworm survey in the back garden.

After we’d washed our hands, Middly hoovered the stairs and the kitchen. I try to get a bit of housework done on Friday afternoons. Middly’s a very thorough hooverer.

He played with his rats for a while. Then he started reading ‘Pigeon English’ (another one of the potential GCSE texts).

We went out to collect Eldest. Middly fiddled with the radio during the car journey. Once we returned, he started making bread rolls, but it went a bit wrong. So, I finished the rolls and Middly took a break in his room.

He came down for tea, and we watched TV together until bedtime.

Saturday

Middly ate breakfast and read library books. He went to the shops with my husband to pick up a newspaper.

The weather is much more promising today, so we pressed on with the caravan project. Middly did some varnishing.

He lost interest after a while, and went to the clubhouse to play table tennis against the wall. I love having that space for the boys to retreat to. During these tricky adolescent years, it seems important for them to have bolt holes away from the rest of the family.

Middly played on his roller skates.

After lunch, he alternated between helping Eldest and my husband with the caravan, and playing on the trampoline.

Though he played a lot, Middly got quite a bit done on the caravan as well, which was a satisfying way to end the day.

Sunday

This morning was a bit of a rush. We grabbed breakfast and headed out to a farm park where we met up some family.

Middly enjoyed playing with the younger children, chatting with the adults, and eating a lot.

Reflections

Middly is progressing well with all his lessons, and usually finds his work pretty easy once he settles down and does it. He’s having some trouble focusing at the moment and is rather irritable. Though, I don’t think he sees it this way, I suspect that a lot of this trouble is more related to the struggles of growing up than it is to the immediate environment. It’s hard for all children to develop their independence and I expect that being home educated exacerbates this struggle. I am very pleased that he is keeping on track despite his feelings and I hope that he’ll be pleased too.

Arguably, this hasn’t been a typical week, since we’re not usually building a gypsy caravan in the garden. But, I think most weeks have something going on, whether it’s a birthday, a DIY project, an illnesses etc. There’s never a week where nothing unusual happens, so I think it makes sense to look at how we got home education around the vagaries of life.

A week of home ed for my primary school child

I have done these typical week posts a couple of times now, and I really enjoy focusing on one child at a time. I’m starting with Youngest, who would be in primary school. This is what he was up to last year.

Monday

Youngest slept in. He wandered downstairs about half nine, and ate his breakfast while playing with Lego.

I asked him to get dressed, and brought a set of clothes down to encourage him.

Once he was dressed, he read to himself until I asked him to read me a chapter of his reading book. He is reading through the Oxford Reading Tree series ‘Project X’. His current reading books are usually twelve or so chapters long. He reads a chapter and day, so they take a little over a week to get through.

We agreed a fifteen minute break before finishing school work. He played Lego again.

This morning, Youngest did a double page spread from a science workbook – he was designing his own animal and habitat, which he loved doing – followed by a page from a maths workbook.

He reluctantly tidied some Lego mess, before getting back to playing.

We went to the library together, dropping off Eldest, who’s been volunteering there over the summer holiday. We picked up one book I’d reserved for Youngest, and he chose two more.

When we got home, we ate lunch. Then Youngest read his library books for a while.

When he was ready, Youngest asked to do his history lesson. His brothers frequently join in with his history lesson, but this week it was just us. We read a chapter of The Story of the World together. Then I asked Youngest a few questions and he told me what he remembered. We coloured in a map of China to show the extent of the Qin Empire. Then we coloured in some tangrams, cut them out and spent a while making pictures with them.

After we tidied away our history stuff, Youngest ran out into the garden to play.

He tried to catch a bird for tea (!) but it got away, so Youngest came back inside to design a bird trap.

He played outside again, switching to a super hero game, until he got hungry. Then he came in and ate a bag of crisps.

After his snack, he read library books again.

I decided to make a start on sorting out Youngest’s books. I try to sort through books a couple of times a year, to get rid of any we don’t want and to arrange the rest so we can find things more easily.

Youngest helped me sort his books into piles: Donate, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Activity and Other. We have a lot of books! We took a break after an hour because we were getting a bit worn out. We had a snack of grapes, then Youngest settled down to read some books he’d rediscovered in the course of our tidying.

We ate tea, and all watched a bit of TV together before bed. My husband began reading a new book to Youngest as a bedtime story.

Tuesday

Youngest got up before me this morning. He’d already eaten his breakfast and played a super hero game in his bedroom, when I got up he came over to tell me about his game. He was Bio Boy and he was fighting his enemy Mole Man with the help of his Meerkat sidekick.

I sorted out some clothes and he got dressed and played with Lego for a while.

I asked him to help me prepare for Science Club by getting some spinach leaves from the garden and mixing up some bicarbonate of soda in water. Both of which he was happy to do.

Then he read me a chapter of his reading book. After that, he tidied up the Lego.

Our friends arrived for Science Club. We were looking at plants this session. We did the leaf disc experiment, tested for oxygen collected from a pond plant using the glowing spill test, compared cress grown in the light with cress grown in the dark, made glowing spinach and dissected some carnations.

We also had lunch together, and the children played in the garden. They harvested some apples from the tree outside.

After our friends went home, Youngest had a snack of chocolate milk and an orange. Then he did some handwriting practice and a page of maths. Then he played with Lego again.

Youngest went back outside to play. I got his water pistols down for him (he has a pair of water pistols and a pair of bibs with targets on them), and he played with Eldest. They drew a target on the wall and Youngest shot that with a water pistol for a while, before moving on to running about the garden shooting various plants.

He got quite upset when he dropped the water pistol on the patio and broke it. But, we calmed him down, glued the pistol back together and gave him the other one to use while the glue dries.

When my husband went out to collect apples, Youngest helped him. We had tea, then Youngest went to bed, he was very excited about continuing the library book at bedtime.

Wednesday

After breakfast, Youngest played with his fixed water pistol. He read a chapter of ‘Tornado Riders’ to me. Then he tied a plastic rabbit to a string so that he could swing it round and play tornado riders! I suggested he took that game outside.

I called him back in, he was still playing tornado riders, and he did a couple of pages of a science workbook.

One of the things Youngest’s enjoyed with this series of science books has been the investigations at the bottom of the pages. Today, he ran around the garden collected deciduous and evergreen leaves. He wanted to keep his leaves, so he stuck them to a piece of paper and I showed him how to laminate it.

He did a page of an English workbook, then he read ‘Murderous Maths: the Perfect Sausage’ for a while.

I gathered all the boys together and we started our Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde project. We read the first chapter, taking it in turns to read a few paragraphs each aloud. Then the older boys completed the first page of their workbooks from CGP and Youngest completed the first page of the workbook I made him. It went really well, which was a pleasant surprise.

We ate lunch. Then Youngest and Middly came with me to drop Eldest off for a library shift. On the way home, we stopped at a garden centre and bought a houseplant to take to our friends tomorrow. Youngest helped me to choose a pretty pot.

Back home, we found that ‘The 104-Storey Treehouse’ had arrived. Youngest sat down to read that.

When he finished reading his book, Youngest got himself some paper and made his own comic. His spelling is rather strange and he frequently reverses letters or entire words, but I think it’s good for him to do independent writing, so I only tell him spellings if he asks me to.

I did sharpen a pile of colouring pencils for him. Then we went outside to feed Eldest’s rabbit.

Middly was looking at pitch and amplitude in his Physics lesson today. When we got the laptop out to do some experiments with soundwaves, Youngest came over to see what we were doing.

I think all the children gain from having different ages around. Middly got to practice explaining sound waves simply and Youngest found out things we probably wouldn’t have been teaching him yet. It made the lesson fun for both of them.

I went to collect Eldest, Youngest chose to stay home and read ‘Esio Trot’.

We all went to a friend’s house for a BBQ. Youngest had a lot of fun playing on scooters and in the wendy house with his friends.

Thursday

Youngest started drawing straight after breakfast and was not keen on being interrupted to get dressed. He did so, eventually, and was happy to read a chapter of ‘Tornado Riders’ to me.

He tidied away his drawing things and read ‘The 104 Storey Treehouse’ for a while. He did a couple of pages of his comprehension workbook and started a page of maths.

We went to a friend’s house for lunch. Youngest played Star Wars with his friend, then they played with a water table and dug in a soil bed with toy diggers. They also drew pictures together.

When we got home, Youngest finished his maths. He still needs a bit of help. He likes to use number lines for most of his sums. Because he draws on the number line for each sum, I print off lots of number lines for him to use.

After that, Youngest played with his cuddly monkey. His game got rather loud and his big brothers were still working, so I sent him into the garden to play.

When I checked on him, he was trying to sail on the pond in a sledge! My husband took him to help harvest courgettes for tea.

Youngest put his toys away and drew pictures until tea time.

Friday

Youngest read a Black Panther book to himself. Then he got dressed and ate breakfast. He read me a chapter of ‘Tornado Riders’.

We read a chapter of his Geography book together, then made an earthquake model using a shoebox lid and some sand. Youngest added Lego men for a more dramatic effect.

He really enjoyed moving the model plates apart and together, watching how the sand formed ridges and mountains. He continued to play for quite a while. My husband walked through the living room, so Youngest explained his model. I think that having people who can listen as the boys explain their learning is incredibly helpful. It boosts Youngest’s confidence as well as securing his understanding.

Youngest added dinosaur models and played very happily with the sand. He continued to simulate earthquakes with dramatic reactions from his characters.

Eventually, he finished his game and helped me to clean up. Honestly, I think that the clean-up took a lot longer with Youngest’s help than it would have taken without. Sand got everywhere! But, I like the children to get involved in cleaning up and they can’t learn without practice.

On Fridays, we do a bit of cleaning. Youngest cleaned the sink, bath and loo in the upstairs bathroom.

We had lunch. Then, he played with his marble run.

Last week, Youngest made up a recipe for Chocolate Pie. I bought the ingredients for him and we had a go at making it together.

We used a short crust recipe from my recipe book, as Youngest’s recipe just stated ‘pastry’. I also persuaded him to add a bit of cornflour to make his filling set.

It was a lot of fun, Youngest loved being in charge. A lot of his instructions needed additional details, so it was a great way of looking at how to write comprehensive instructions.

Youngest played on the trampoline for a while. Then Oma and Opa arrived for a visit. Youngest was very excited to show them his marble run, and his pie. We all had a slice, and it was pretty good.

We watched ‘Swallows and Amazons’, had tea and Youngest went to bed. Oma read him a lot of bedtime stories.

Saturday

Youngest played with Lego and drew pictures. This weekend, we have been building a gypsy caravan in our garden. Youngest helped a bit with measuring and counting out planks.

Then he helped Oma and Middly to make cheesecake and to cover a fruit cake with marzipan and chocolate.

We all watched Jumanji together in the evening.

Sunday

Youngest hasn’t been enjoying Sunday school very much recently. He stayed in the main church during the service, drawing pictures. After the service ended, he played chase with his friends.

Back home, Youngest drew pictures and played with Duplo.

After a late lunch, he played Jumanji with his Oma. Then he helped collect apples from the garden.

Reflections

Youngest has made a huge amount of progress in his writing this year, which has been exciting to see. He is still a very independent child, who comes up with lots of his own project ideas. He’s content to entertain himself.

He remains a keen reader. He reads a variety of books of different lengths and complexity, fiction and nonfiction.

Educating Youngest is a lot of fun. He’s a lively and inventive child. I am excited to see where his education takes us over the coming year.

The Dangerous Myth of the Pelican

There an old myth about the pelican. In times of famine, the mother pelican is said to peck at her own breast and feed her chicks with her own blood. The chicks literally suckle on the life blood of their mother, growing stronger as she weakens. Until, presumably, she dies and they fly off to make their way in the world.

It’s a terrible picture of parenting. I am sure that most parents aren’t inclined to be quite so literal about it, but still the drive to pour oneself into one’s children is a strong one.

So many parents I know will go without food, without sleep, without all sorts of basic comforts, in order to secure the comfort of their children.

The problem is that the more we deprive ourselves, the less strength we have to weather the storms of parenting. I am – slowly – learning to put boundaries around what I need.

If I get hurt, I take a moment to look after myself, I make a fuss of my little injuries with plasters or lavender oil, just like I do of the boys. Sometimes I need mothering too and, since I’m the only mother here, I need to make sure that I do it myself.

When my things get broken, I replace them. It’s a little decision, and probably seems obvious to most people. But, it’s really changed things for me. I don’t have to do without. I can replace my things and carry on.

I am slotting tiny treats into my daily life: soap I love to wash my hands with, reserving books for myself at the library, adding a pot of olives to a picnic. I know myself and I know what little things I love. It’s good for the boys, too. They deserve to see an example of a parent who can keep themselves happy.

When things get tough, I look after myself. I have a few quick-fixes to clear my head in tough moments: Biscuits and tea, mindless games on my phone, texting a friend, going outside to see my garden, burning an essential oil.

I’m not a pelican and I am glad of it.