Saturday, 31 December 2011

Woburn Safari Park


We scored some free tickets to Woburn safari park this week, that had to be used before new years, so we decided to go today.

We had a great time, despite appalling weather, because there's loads to do inside and out.

In fact, despite being there the entire day (seriously, we were the last car to leave and the ranger had to kick us out!) we didn't get around everything.

Lychee's favourites were no surprise - anything fluffy which could be petted. Weirdly she wasn't as excited by the marmosets as she was with the Russian hamsters at pets at home. I can only put this down to their lack of movement. She also gave us a new recognisable word 'tiger' which is funny because she says 'tiger - rah!' with exactly the same intonation that Cosmo did.

I was surprised by Cosmo's favourites though. He just loved the sea lions. Unfortunately we missed the show, but he still just loved watching them swimming around.

We did make it to the penguin feeding though, which he also loved. I was surprised to learn that Chilean penguins can only hold their breath for two minutes. Kind of lame for an animal associated with the ocean...

We got to see the lions really close, and a wolf was irritating a bear so close to our car that a ranger came and chased them away. Cosmo had been concerned he'd be scared of the lions, but when it actually came to it he was fine.

Both kids especially loved it when monkeys jumped on our car.

All in all - an awesome day out. To see all of our photos, visit our travel blog.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

2012 Seven Steps Curriculum Planner

If you haven't come across the newbeehomeschooler that is something I intend to rectify with this post. She's based in Texas, but her advice and support are beneficial to any home educator, particularly new ones like me.

She has a step-by-step guide on how to build/customise your own yearly planner which promises to make planning your home school experience run a little bit smoother.

This week she has posted some new designs which are just beautiful.

I don't know about you, but I know I'm much more likely to use something if I think it's pretty :0)

There's weekly planning guides, reading logs, child or 'class' scheduling, teacher scheduling and so much more.

So what are you waiting for? Go take a look!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Wonder Weeks

I haven't read the wonder weeks, but my friends in cumbria swear by it. It's a book for parents of babies, which helps to predict when developmental 'leaps' will occur - resulting in crying, clinginess and crankiness.

I think the idea is that knowing why your child is acting up (and that it should only last a short time) will help you have more grace and give you strategies for helping them through a difficult time.

Like I said, I haven't read it, but if you are interested, the wonder weeks are giving away the introduction and first chapter on their website Christmas Giveaway.

The Wonder Weeks

Saturday, 10 December 2011



We have joined up with a homeschool co-op where we live and now attend a 'musicianship' class on tuesdays. The teacher is brilliant, totally sensitive to our special educational needs, and the children are learning pitch, rhythm, conducting and having a great time.

The games they play often involve using their whole bodies to show variance in pitch or volume, and listening carefully, as well as having a chance to try out different instruments.

Afterwards there is a choir with some older children, but sadly we've not managed to stay for that so far. The first week we went Cosmo was overwhelmed with so many people and got very distressed so we left. This week some of the older children weren't being very nice to him. He didn't seem aware, but I couldn't stand by and let them bully him even if he didn't know it. I called him over and he suddenly realised something must be wrong. Incredibly embarrassed he demanded that we leave right away, so we did.

I'm really hoping we'll manage to stay for choir at some point before christmas (only one session left).

It breaks my heart to see him being picked on, but then I remember that this would have been ten times worse in school, and that I wouldn't have been there to intervene.

I'm so grateful that we still have the option to home educate in this country. If we didn't, I think I'd emigrate.

 Airplane pictures

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Joy of Duplo

We've always loved duplo, and Cosmo got a ton of it for his birthday. Any toy that can be enjoyed by a 15 month old and four year old at the same time is always good, but one that can be used in so many different ways is an absolute God send.

Here are some of the uses we have found for it:

  1. Building towers (obviously)

  2. Sorting (by size and or colour)

  3. Following instructions to build a specific item

  4. Social stories (using the characters to act out situations we might encounter)

  5. Counting/multiplication/subtraction/division

  6. Pattern recognition

  7. Building words (use dry wipe marker to write letters on blocks)

  8. Building sentences (use dry wipe marker to write words on the blocks)

And I'm sure there are many more too. Please comment if you think of any I've missed.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Space Party!

Cosmo loves to prepare for guests, much more than he enjoys having them. Take thanksgiving for example - if you spoke to him anytime from august to November you would have assumed it was his favourite time of year. He was desperate to help make a pumpkin pie and decorate the house, but when our guests arrived he spent most of the dinner in his room by himself asking to be left alone.

So when he wanted a birthday party, you can understand me having concerns. Having spent the weeks running up to his dinosaur party excited and preparing, he spent the hours before in tears because he was scared. It was all fun in the end though.

So this year he wanted a 'Space Party'. Despite spending much of the morning balancing between tears and giggling manically he managed to stay downstairs for the entire party. There were some tears and I was sad that he refused to be part of a group photo at the end, but overall I'm glad we did it.

As with the dinosaur party, Cosmo was involved in all of the preparation, from making the pinata's and wall decorations, to baking his own birthday cake. We learnt loads during the process and spent hours on youtube watching astronauts in zero gravity training and space shuttle launches. He even made a playlist that he wanted to have on in the background of the party.

If you want to see a video of the party it's here:

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bible Islands

We have just bought a member ship for 'Bible Islands' and it is fantastic.

Cosmo had been playing far too much jumpstart for my liking, and though I wanted to encourage his computer skills and fine motor (dramatic improvement since he started using a mouse), I wasn't always keen on the content. To their credit, jumpstart have a little note saying which areas are designed for each age group, but the problem was that there was nothing to stop a curious three year old clicking on an area designed for 11 -14 years old. To be honest, he also found the 3-5 year old content a little too easy and dull.

The constant ' to access this feature, ask your parents if you can become a member' was also really starting to upset him, to the point that when someone in the queue at the library asked about becoming a member he got really upset.

We talked a LOT about getting him a membership, but we really felt that some of the content was just unsuitable. We let it slide for a month because we thought it might just be halloween stuff, and by thanksgiving they would be done with it, but that hasn't been the case. The reality is that a lot of the game areas are based on enchantments, witchcraft and ghosts. It's are real shame because the educational content is fantastic.

That's when we rediscovered Bible Islands. You get a 7 day free membership to try it out, but even before that was up we knew we were going to buy it for him. He absolutely loves it, the games are simpler, he's drip fed scripture, and he's actually learning hebrew.

Yes, you heard that right. My 3 year old is learning hebrew.

More annoyingly, he's picking it up faster than I did.

Pushing my jealousy aside, I can see that it would be great to have him learn as we will be able to encourage and help each other with it. I'm shocked at how quickly he is picking up the alephbet, but I guess to a child who has just learnt all the alphabet, number and mat symbols, throwing in another set is no big deal. He learns through games like 'pairs' and earns reward coins. The coins can be used to go to the cinema (a new Max Lucado Hermie & Friends Cartoon every day), buy and trade cards for albums which tell bible stories, and much more.

There's logic puzzles and quizzes, a museum, an art gallery (where you can create works of art and showcase them, as well as looking at other peoples), geography and biology... and we've only just begun.

I think it's going to be worth every penny.

If you want to know more (please note, I am not affiliated or receiving any benefit for plugging this) here is a video I found on youtube.

Rock Candy!


We've really been enjoying watching the Frozen Planet series on BBC iplayer as a family on Sunday afternoon's. Lychee pretty much sleeps through it, but Cosmo is fascinated. So much so that the other week he clicked 'more like this' and found 'The Secret Life of Ice' and begged to be allowed to watch. It looked educational so I figured 'why not'? In fact, it looked a little too educational. I didn't think he'd last more than a few minutes.

I was wrong.

Not only did we end up watching the entire episode, he asked LOADS of relevant questions. I was amazed. The bit he found most amazing was how ice crystals formed under pressure (hot ice) and how supercooled water could form crystals instantly. In fact he though crystals in general were amazing and so we decided to look at them a bit more closely.

We made Rock Candy lollies.

If you want to have a go, the basic instructions are here. We made it a bit more exciting by doing jars with different coloured food dyes and flavourings in them, and put them in our boiler room to speed up the process. The most interesting part was that some of the colours/flavourings behaved differently and the crystals came out all different shapes and sizes, so we were able to talk about large crystals forming more slowly than small crystals etc...

I'd really encourage you to have a go with this experiment. It was great fun. Even a three year old (properly supervised with the hob) is able to carefully measure out the correct amounts of the ingredients and stir until they are completely dissolved.

I wish we'd taken photos, but we didn't, so here are some I stole from google, but they look pretty much the same.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fun start


It's not often I recommend paying for something, so I won't ;0) but I am recommending a book I recently borrowed from the library. Maybe your library has a copy too?

The book is called fun start by June Oberlander, and it's full of great ideas to help you encourage your child's motor skills, language and manners. It gives you an activity per week, from birth to age five, which are age appropriate, but more importantly easy and cheap (if not free)!

Games like practicing tiptoeing with a little song to improve balance a rhythm, opening and closing a safe cupboard (to satisfy the obsession with working out doors) and matching socks to encourage a feeling of purposefulness as well as hand eye co ordination.

The book also has a great section at the back devoted to solving common behavioural dilemmas, such as biting, throwing and 'lights on and off'.

There are short checklists at the back too, which give you an idea of 'average' development for each age group, so you can see which areas you could be helping your child work on, and which he/she is already excelling in.

I'm really enjoying this book, in the most part because the co-op we really want to join wont allow us to until my children are 'school age'. Which is another two years! I personally believe education should begin at birth and a book like this helps encourage mommas like me, who believe this, but don't know where to start.

On the same note, the homeschool baby looks like its going to be a great new resource. Add it to your reader and thank me later.


Thursday, 29 September 2011

Shana Tova

We've been celebrating Rosh Hashanah, although we are Christian, we believe the Hebrew festivals are a shadow of Christ's life and of things to come.

Rosh Hashanah celebrates the anniversary of creation, and one of the things we have been doing is telling the creation story at breakfast and dinner each day by candlelight.

Cosmo is now very good at telling the facts of the story (the order things were made in, what Adam and eve did) but still struggles with questions like 'how did God feel when they disobeyed him?' or 'what do you think Adam and Eve felt like when they left the garden?'

I know it's in part because of the ASD, but it still always surprises me how well he can memorise facts, but how difficult he finds interpretation.

We've really enjoyed making a trumpet out of paper mâché and decorating it too. You can find directions on how to make the basic trumpet shape here. Cosmo especially likes waking daddy up with his trumpet in the mornings!

20110929-090841.jpgIsrael enjoy fruits dipped in honey, a reminder of sweetness, as they wish each other a 'sweet and good new year'. We had fruits dipped in honey, and chocolate sauce, because nothing says 'sweet' to my children like chocolate!

Cosmo helped make the sauce, by melting chocolate in the microwave and stirring in double cream and milk. He's actually getting pretty good at using the microwave without help and can stir without spilling everywhere now. Hooray for fine motor improvement!

Most excitingly, he also wrote hi own name in a 'Shana Tova' card we made to send his cousins. Lychee painted the front and he wrote inside. It's the second time his managed to wrote his name, the first time being nearly two months ago, with no attempts in between.

It is frustrating to know that he can, but won't practise. He's still very unenthusiastic about writing or colouring, but lychee is the complete opposite. Colouring and painting are her two favourite activities.

Later today we shall go and perform our 'tashlikh' or 'casting off'. We are going to throw some stones in the river as we confess our shortcomings, to remind us that God will wash away our sins. This has been cosmos favourite part of the festival in the past, and I'm sure he will enjoy it this year too.

So, have a sweet and good new year, may your name be inscribed in the book of life!

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Here's an easy way to boost your child's vocabulary, which let's face it, if it makes communication easier and prevents frustration, is always worth a try!

When you introduce her to a new word (for instance 'cup') show her lots of different ones (eg mug, glass, beaker, red, blue etc). Researchers in America did an experiment where they introduced 18 month olds to the word bucket. Half the group were left to play with identical blue buckets. The other half were given big ones, small ones, different colours, with handles, without handles etc...

All of the children learnt the word 'bucket'.

But here's the twist - 6 weeks later the children who were show. A variety of buckets were learning an average of 10 words per day, whilst those in the blue bucket group learned only 4 words per day (very typical for children that age).

So get some variety in your toddlers life! She'll thank you for it later, with plenty of new found words!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Sex Education

Who'd have thought I'd be starting sex education with my three year old?


But after listening to Mary Flo Ridley on FamilyLife today I thought I'd put some feelers out. We started off watching an episode of 'Mr Roger's Neighbourhood' on YouTube, which was thoroughly enjoyed by both kids, then we sang the 'Every body's fancy' song for a few days. After a while I asked if he knew what we were singing about and he said no. I told him we were singing about private parts.

From then on he couldn't get enough of singing the fancy song. He quickly grasped that boys were 'fancy on the outside' and girls were 'fancy on the inside', but really wanted to see what a girls fancy parts on the inside looked like. We took a trip to the library, but it was actually not helpful at all. Every children's book devoted to the human body either;

a) didn't mention the reproductive system or

b) talked about being gay/straight/bisexual and/or how to have safe sex (different types of contraception etc) which I didn't feel was appropriate for a three year old.


But Granny came to the rescue, having kidnapped the plastic model from the biology department at her school, she came over and let us take it apart and put it back together. It even has a tiny baby which fits inside the uterus, he loved that and was fascinated that it wasn't in the stomach. We chatted about where wee comes from and he had a look inside the heart. It was a great way to have a look inside and she showed him which of the girl parts came out to make space for the boy parts so that he could see we were mostly the same inside with just a few changes.


What a great resource it is to have a biology teacher for a grandma!

For those who are interested, Mr Roger's 'Every body's fancy' song goes like this:


Some of us are fancy on the outside

Some of us are fancy on the inside

Everybody's fancy, Everybody's fine

Your Body's fancy and so is mine


Boys they are boys from the beginning

Girls they are girls right from the start

Everybody's fancy, Everybody's fine

Your Body's fancy and so is mine


Only the boys can be the daddies

Only the girls can be the mommies

Everybody's fancy, Everybody's fine

Your Body's fancy and so is mine


I think you're a special person

And I like your insides and outsides

Everybody's fancy, Everybody's fine

Your Body's special and so is mine
You can see it at 3:40 in this clip.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Free Movies!

Did you know that as a home educator this autumn you and your children can go and see some free movies? Not only that, they are giving away free educational resources to go with the movies.

You need to check in with your local cinema about what's available, but if you live in Bedford you can see Rio, Cars 2, Rango, Winnie the Pooh or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

So... who wants to come with us?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Summer update

We've had such a busy summer, I can't believe how quickly 9 weeks flies by!

My littlest sister got married, and cosmo was the most handsome little page boy you ever saw, we went on our first ever family holiday, we've moved house and this Friday we have tenants movin into the house we own.

At the beginning of the holidays we got the final diagnosis that cosmo is indeed autistic, albeit very high functioning. It's interesting to note that the paediatrician was very clear to me that this label does not affect his potential or necessarily his development. It's a diagnosis of the way his mind works, not what it's capable of.

For example, I've been told before that autistic children don't know how to recognise other peoples emotions. What we've discovered is, although cosmo hasnt learned to differntiate emotions by himself, once you teach him the cues (eg tears = sad, shouting = angry, teeth showing = smiling/happy) he can readily spot these cues in other people. He also picks up details that help him process what others are feeling (the boy must be tired because he is wearing pyjamas).

I won't deny the summer has been very hard for him. A lot of people, a lot of change, but he's been doing very well. I'll be glad to get back into term and a bit more of a routine with him though. It should help calm things down a little.

This week he has learned to write! He can write his own name, so I'm confident he could write many other words (he happily spells them with fridge magnets) but he is completely unwilling to try. In fact the only reason he wrote his name is because he got a cars sticker for doing it. I'm not pushing it. I know he can and we'll practise later. I'm just excited because this is a huge step forward in his fine motor control.

We've also been working on a few other things since we moved including potty training (hell for about 4 hours, but relatively painless for the last few days) and choosing his own clothes.

Now that cosmo has a wardrobe he has been allowed to choose his own clothes each day (much easier than digging through drawers) and my father would be proud. He likes to choose smart shirts, everyday, regardless of what activity we are doing. I'll let it go for now, but once the novelty wears off I may have to have a word about choosing appropriate clothing.

We've also been at the library a lot. We've been taking part in their summer reading program and Cosmo loves that every book he reads sends money to sick children. He considers library books to be his 'work' like daddy, because he's earning money (even if he never sees it).

Lychee has been working hard too, her confidence in the swimming pool has improved massively and her speech is coming along well in terms of intonation and vowel sounds. 'heyow' for hello and 'mimimi' for milk etc... And she now reads about 50 words, nearly time for fast mapping...!!!

Saturday, 18 June 2011


The Puritans used catechisms, creeds, and confessions to disciple their flocks.  A catechism is the process of instructing believers both young and old in the basics of the Christian faith.  The Greek word for "instruct" or "teach" is katecheo from which we get our English word "catechize."


Catechisms provide basic summaries of the church’s teachings to ensure that all members of the church understand the essentials of the faith for themselves. Most catechisms generally have questions and answers accompanied by biblical support and explanations.


The Puritans developed their own catechisms, including theWestminster Catechisms in the 1640s. Written to provide children, new believers, and church members alike a short but comprehensive summary of the Reformed church’s doctrines, theWestminster Catechisms are the most important and influential of all the Reformed catechisms.

Helpful Catechism Resources


Have any good ideas on how we can use catechisms in the church today?

Let me know in the comments section.


Monday, 13 June 2011

Cynical? Me?

Last week Cosmo's daddy was tucking him up in bed and during their chat Cosmo asked Jesus to be his friend. His dad was very pleased with this, but I was pretty cynical. The fact is, I don't think a three year old understands what he is saying when he says something like this. I think what he means is 'right now that sounds cool' rather than 'I want to dedicate my life to God'.


Turns out I might be wrong.


A few days later, it was Sunday and time to go to church.  We've had a little trouble recently, because there is a boy in children's church who doesn't get on with Cosmo. I'm told that Cosmo didn't start it, but I'm not dumb enough to think that he is completely innocent either. I've walked in to see him kicking that boy.


Over breakfast though, Cosmo suddenly announces that today, at church, he is going to forgive his nemesis. Really? I think, but out loud I say 'what a great idea'.

'Yes', he continues 'because God and Jesus have forgiven me and I am going to forgive him'.  Cue my jaw hitting the floor. Maybe he really does get it...

'And then I can ask him if he wants to be Jesus' friend too!' Now I really am wandering if this is all some elaborate dream, but I hold back on my excitement and think it is probably best to reserve judgement until after church and see how they manage 90 minutes in a confined space together.


I needn't have.


When we went to get him from children's work the leaders were all gushing about how wonderful he had been. Further questioning has revealed that his nemesis did not want Jesus to be his friend :0( but that despite having been spat on and told that he was hated, Cosmo did not retaliate and continued to forgive. In fact, by the end of the session his nemesis seemed to have forgotten all about their feud and was willing to sit next to him during the story time.


Wow. I am completely floored. I really have nothing else to say, but Wow.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Happy Shavuot!


Yes I know this post is late, I was hoping to run it in the week running up to shavout so that you could enjoy the celebration too, even if you've never heard of it, but I forgot. Sorry about that, but you could always enjoy it next year?

Shavout is a time when the Jewish people celebrate the giving of the Torah. It is also the date of the birth of the church and the time when the first christians recieved the Holy Spirit. What gifts! The Word of God, followed by the Spirit of God. It really is a time to be celebrated.

Obviously you are welcome to celebrate in anyway you choose, but I thought I'd share how our family celebrates to give you some ideas.

Firstly I plan a special meal. It's traditional to eat plenty of dairy as milk is all the nutrition a new born needs. Likewise, we are God's children, and his word contains all we need.

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

1 Peter 2:1-3

We always eat tagliatelle with cream cheese and chive melted over it, tossed with chopped mixed peppers. I know it sounds boring to eat the same thing every year, but it's only once a year, not every week, and it means I don't have to think about shopping/cooking too much. No-one complains about having roast turkey again at christmas, right?

We also try to serve lots of sweet things, a strawberry and lime smoothie with plenty of honey always goes down well (blend a punnet of strawberries with the juice of a lime, two cups of water and add honey to taste).

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

It's traditional for Jewish families to read the book of Ruth on Shavout. I love this, because I bet they have no idea why. I'm told it's because it's a story about lovingkindness. I'm not really sure what that has to do with the festival, but I do know something else; Ruth's story is a story of a gentile bride being redeemed and counted as God's people. It's a beautiful love story, but more importantly a picture of Christ and the church. There's a great study on this here. What story is more fitting to celebrate the day that God gave His Spirit to His gentile bride, the church?

The final tradition is to read each other stories from the bible for as long as we can stay awake. Staying up all night reading God's Word is a rare and beautiful time to spend with family. This is where homeschooling comes into it's own, because we all get to have a lie in the next day!

It was so precious to hear Will helping Matt tell the story of the 'ten rules' that Moses was given (another great passage to read on this night). It's also worth having plenty of snacks ready for your late night to sustain everybody. Cheesecake is a good option (more dairy) as is ice cream and anything else sweet. I found candy letters this year. Great for spelling out 'sweet words'.

So if you don't already celebrate Shavout, think about it. It really is one of my favourite biblical feasts.

Friday, 27 May 2011

We have had a week of 'firsts' it seems!


This week Cosmo baked his first loaf of bread and his first ever cake from scratch, following a recipe and measuring all the ingredients (age 3 years 5 months). I obviously helped with the oven and holding the bowl still whilst he vigorously mixed it, but both the bread and the cake turned out to be totally edible, and two people have asked for the cake recipe as it was so good! [You can find it here]


He also learnt to use a calculator. He loves maths, but I'd never shown him one as I thought it was best if he learnt the concept of times tables etc using old fashioned lego bricks to work out the answers. However, this week his addition and subtraction have become much faster and more accurate, and his times tables are really improving. My mum thought it would be fun to show him what a calculator does. Would you believe this is his new favourite toy? He has even taken it to bed with him instead of a book!

The most exciting part for him is that he can now work out sums including numbers up to 9999 (he understands four place values thanks to more.starfall) where previously he only worked in figures up to around 30 (running out of lego blocks, plus attention span!) but the calculator always gives him a fast, accurate result. He's still not happy about the idea of division. I think we need to work on the concept with the lego bricks a bit more, but he's confident with multiplication, addition and subtraction, which I've got to be honest, I never expected him to be at this age.


I've frankly been stunned by how easy this has been so far. I thought teaching concepts in things like maths would be very  difficult and I wouldn't know how to explain it properly. The reality is, if I just keep showing him plenty of examples, he actually picks up the concept himself.


I hope Lychee is this teachable...

But the thing I am probably most proud of is that this week he worked out from his pocket money which coins he needed for the sweet he wanted at the corner shop (4x5p) went and chose the sweet, queued up and purchased it all by himself. Obviously I went with him (can't account for other people) but for his part he was completely confident and competent to make this transaction by himself. He thanked the clerk, but when we got outside he was disappointed when he realised he had forgotten to add 'please' when answering the question 'what would you like?'


We are lucky that the local corner shop seems to have the same staff in every sunday afternoon, so he is quite confident interacting with them. It would be interesting to see what happened if I took him to a different shop. I wonder whether he would still manage to complete the transaction or whether he would be shy?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

My Baby can read too!

I write a lot about Cosmo's development on here, and not so much about Lychee so far. I feel like this is fairly predictable as she is so much younger and doesn't do much at the moment.

However we have had a fairly major break through recently, and using the YBCR system she is now (at 9 months) consistently recognizing the words 'tongue', 'wave' and 'hi'.

It's a little earlier than Cosmo (not surprising as we got her started on the system earlier) but also a little less consistent than he was. She started to recognise words a month or two ago, but didn't always respond to them and only recognizes a few. Cosmo showed no signs of recognition, but then at around 10 months he could suddenly read with a startlingly wide vocabulary.

Not sure if it's a boy/girl thing, just thought it was interesting to note.

If you are interested in using the Your Baby Can Read system, you can buy it here.


Milton Keynes

This week Matt's class at school were doing a project on Milton Keynes. It came up in conversation at the dinner table, so Cosmo decided that he too would like to do a project on Milton Keynes.


Unsure of exactly how to proceed I decided that I would ask him what he'd like to know about Milton Keynes and see if we could find out the answers using google. Some of his questions weren't answered exactly (e.g. 'how many parks are there?' turned into 'how much area is devoted to parklands?') and some of them I flat couldn't find the answers to ('how many cars are there in Milton Keynes?') but there was plenty there to work with.


I'm also really proud of his drawings. For a long time he has refused to draw anything other than '1's or 'l's. I think this is a real confidence issue. He has just been unwilling to try to draw anything he wasn't confident he could succeed at.  He drew a railway track and a bridge (unfortunately I wrote on the picture upside down, but once he told me what it was I realised it was actually pretty good!) and trees that were incredible. I still had to talk him through how to draw each bit ('draw some brown lines to make trunks, not do some green scribbles at the top') but once I had taught him to draw a tree, he was drawing them all over the place!


We also found someone called the 'Milton Keynes Guru' who answers (publically) any questions you might have related to the city. Will composed a lovely email for him including questions like 'Are there any cars in Milton Keynes that are as fast as Lightning McQueen?' and 'Are there any car companies, like DinoCo, based in Milton Keynes?'


We put it all together in an A3 presentation to show Matt and Cosmo talked him through it when he got home.


You can see our booklet here.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Not the royal wedding...

It's hard enough to get my kids to sit through a real wedding, of people they actually know. Let alone one on TV.


My sister's kids, now they are a different breed. They were so excited that the princess (?) was going to marry the prince. They wanted to watch the entire thing in absolute awe.


The thing is, we suspect Cosmo is ASD and he thinks everything he sees on TV is real anyway at the moment, even if it's just a cartoon. As far as he's concerned, it's just another prince marrying another princess which is really something that happens every time he's at his cousins house (they enjoy watching disney).


So we decided to take advantage of the fact that everyone else would be otherwise engaged, and spend the morning at the somewhat empty museum of natural history and the pitt rivers museum in oxford. I'd never been, but my sisters kids have and they absolutely adored it. The best part? It's free.


Cosmo was super excited because we got to ride on a train and he really loves trains. What I hadn't banked on was how much Lychee would love trains too. I have never seen her as excited as she was grinning out the window and flapping her arms madly. They really are like two peas in a pod!


So we got to the museum of natural history and it was brilliant. Giant dinosaur skeletons, glow in the dark mineral caves and bugs galore. Cosmo's favourite was a giant Katydid which he went back to over and over again.

and kept telling us 'I like bugs!!' which is the title of a book he got out of the library last week. It's obviously done the trick, because he has gone from being super scared of them to thinking they are really 'cute', so definitely worth looking for if you have a toddler who has a little phobia.


The crocodile was also a big hit.


Now remember how I said my sisters children were of a different breed? And how they loved the Pitt Rivers museum? Well, those two statements couldn't have been truer as we entered the exhibition.


Not only was it too dark and crowded for his liking, he thought all the ceremonial masks and shrunken heads were terrifying. So we didn't end up staying very long at all! Instead we met up with his aunty Caitlin who is studying at the university and went for dinner and a walk around some of the colleges with her instead.


It was a lovely family day out but summed up well when we got home and I asked Cosmo what he had learned today. His reply:

'When there are two bits of road together it's called a dual carriageway and you can drive on it really fast'.


So much for educational objectives!!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Making Fifteens

Today we had some friends over to help us make fifteens. They are great because they require no oven (it's like a fridge cookie) and only minimal adult supervision. The only thing you need to measure is the condensed milk, everything else is counted.

Cosmo counting his marshmallows out

So the recipe for those who'd like to try it goes like this:

15 digestive biscuits, crushed
15 chocolate buttons, smashed up
15 marshmallows, chopped up
15 glace cherries, chopped up
150ml of condensed milk
A few handfuls of shredded coconut
Mix everything but the coconut together to form a dough.
Roll it into a sausage shape.
Roll the sausage in the coconut.
Wrap and place in the fridge until firm, then slice.

I find the best way to let a preschooler chop things is to place them in a mug and use big scissors. The cherries/marshmallows can't escape and the blades are nowhere near fingers. However, if you have friends over, sometimes it's best to just let the mummies do the chopping!


This recipe is great for encouraging counting, and will probably be the first recipe I allow Will to make unsupervised in the future, as there is no heat and not a lot can go wrong.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

How did I teach Cosmo to read?

I get asked this question sooooo many times, so I have finally got around to becoming an affiliate for the program. If  you would like to know more about it, ore purchase a copy to start teaching your little ones to read (I highly recommend it!) they are doing a 30 day money back guarantee at the moment, so it's well worth a look.

Your Baby Can Read

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Monday, 31 January 2011

2011 Challenge

''If you’re going to risk and maybe fail, fail at something that matters. Fail gloriously so that even in failure, lives change''
-John Acuff
What a great quote. You can find it in John's new book and you should. He is one of the funniest and most honest people I've read.
But that's not why it's my quote for the year. It's my quote for the year because I want to get more done in a way that is life changing and glorious. I may fail spectacularly, but if we learn from it, then it wasn't wasted. I regularly tell Will that it's okay to make mistakes, that is how we learn. Will it ever sink in if I don't model it for him?

So I've been thinking about it a lot lately and my personal conclusion is that as educators and parents we would do our children a great service if we told them it's okay to fail.  "If something appeals to you, try it!  Give it your best effort and maybe it'll work out well.  Maybe it won't.  It's okay to try and fail!"  I think in our society our appreciation of childhood (and adult) excellence and success far outweighs our appreciation of real effort.  The dangerous outcome of that for some is a sense of defeat before they even try.

Acknowledging that great plans and best efforts might nonetheless fail and that sometimes failure is perfectly okay will remove the fear of the social stigma and embarrassment of failure.  These same kids will pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again or try something else without a sense of total defeat from the first failure.

Remember, Michael Jordan went home crying when he was cut from his high school basketball team because he wasn't good enough.  The rest is history.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Daily Devotionals

Okay, so things have been a little hectic recently (buying a house, serving an eviction notice on the previous owners who refused to leave, renovating said house, car breaking, christmas, new year, relatives, house guests, sick children, etc...) and I have had much chance to be blogging, so my apologies for that. I haven't forgotten you and I will try to do better!

I'm sure I've blogged before about devotionals, if I haven't I certainly intended to. We have a family devotional time, which my husband leads, at breakfast and dinner. But I want my children to regularly build into their routines their own devotional time (quite a tall order for a 5 month old and a 3 year old!)

Still, even though they probably can't manage entirely alone yet, I want to have the habit set. So we are going to start visiting the Kids 4 truth website everyday. If you've never been on it I encourage you to. It really is a great resource. There are new devotionals put up every day, written in a style that is simple for children to understand, and for non-readers (or lazy readers!) they have audio files with the devotional read out to you. They are well produced and short enough to keep the children interested.

There's also some great little animations for older kids, the watchmaker would make a particularly interesting study alongside some basic apologetics.

We've also been enjoying the very silly, but fun and wholesome jellytelly from Focus on the Family. It introduces and explains bible verses, but also fun facts about 'God's amazing animals', 'Missionary stories' and much more. There's new free content available weekly, but you can also register for free and subscribe to get more content.

With the kids being ill it's been a real blessing to have access to this kind of material instead of nickelodeon or cBeebies on all day. What's great about content like this, is that there is a start and a finish. When the show is over, it's over - and I don't have to deal with nagging about being allowed to watch the next thing which has been advertised.

I'm still looking forward to warmer weather, stronger immune systems and longer days to get outside though!