Monday, 4 November 2013

Playing Shops

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

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

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

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

Enter the shop.

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

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

Plus we are having fun.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Giving the 'Happiness Advantage'


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit

Friday, 13 September 2013

Brain Quest

Cosmo was lucky enough to be bought a gift from one of the boys we live with, all the way from the United States!

The gift is a set of flash cards called 'Brain Quest' which I had never heard of, but they are brilliant. Each little pack is a notebook full of strips with different categories of questions on and answers on the card behind.
Brain Quest Grade 3 Revised 4th Edition
Cosmo was bought a grade 3 pack, bearing in mind that he is pre-K age, I was a little skeptical, but actually he really likes them. The math and science sections are still easy, but language arts, social studies and miscellany are all brand new to him.

Actually, it turns out brain quest have a huge website with downloadable resources and apps for the iphone/ipad too. It's only £2.99 so I've bought it and we'll be playing it later on today.

These sets are a great way to build encyclopedic knowledge, which is perfect for the developmental stage we are currently at.


The app is AMAZING! It allows up to three users, so the kids can work at their own level each time they come back and not miss any stages/have to start again.

It's easy, multiple choice style means that even Lychee can play as I read the questions and she has to choose an answer. It's great for reading practice as I ask 'Which describes a girl? He or She?' and she has to look at the two answers to work out which one says 'she'.

Obviously Cosmo has zoomed through to level 24 in just half an hour, but he's enjoying it and building knowledge, so I'm really pleased. I also have no idea how many levels there are, but it hasn't shown any signs of being completed any time soon.

£2.99 well spent :0)

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Cousin day and the natural history museum

This week saw the first 'cousin day' that we are attempting to add into our schedule. The plan is to have my sister and her kids over for a day and take turns teaching them, giving one of us child free time every fortnight so that we can get more done.

Depending on what your criteria is, cousin days was a success. 

Work was slow, distracted... Etc but everyone had fun. The children learned a little about life cycles of various animals and then each gave a presentation ins particular one. Cosmo chose snakes.

Lychee coloured some butterflies and we talked about symmetry. I was fairly surprised to see that she actually understood the concept. 

On Tuesday we went to the natural history museum with our homeschool co-op and had a great time. 

Cosmo was a little upset because his digital camera got broken on the bus, but he soon enjoyed looking around, particularly when we got to the human biology section. 

Lychee's favourite part was the butterfly exhibit (no surprise there!) and as well as loving all the butterflies she was completely overwhelmed with all the beautiful plants and flowers. She could not be a girlier girl. I have no idea where she gets it from! 

The children were both excited that they already knew the life cycle of a butterfly, but enjoyed stamping the stages on cards provided and watching the chrysalises hatching. 

You can see more photos on our travel blog if you use the links at the top :0)

Friday, 6 September 2013

Art and maths

Yesterday was sunny and my kids got excited about having an 'art' lesson outside.

The only problem is, I had planned to do maths. 

Problem was easily solved though, because it turns out, if you think about it carefully enough, art and maths overlap quite a lot. 

First lesson was pattern recognition. Cosmo loves patterns, but lychee has struggled with being able to repeat a pattern in the past. 

With a bit of help though, we coloured in a huge area of paving slabs using chalks in a repeated rainbow pattern and talked a bit about colour theory (primary colours blending through secondary colours... etc...)

Cosmo helpfully brought up colour temperature too, so we discussed that briefly, because this term our co op is focussing on light, so I figure wavelengths will be worth knowing a little about. 

Then we made a giant number line, by writing one number on each paving slab of our path. I used our 'mathematical reasoning' book and had the kids work out exercises by running along the line instead of drawing arcs on a page. 

It all went pretty well, and there was also some fun naughty and crosses, pictures of hearts and people's names scribbled around. 

Who knew you could fill an entire day, just playing with chalk? 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Gulliver's Land!!


Well the time finally came (actually it came a lot quicker than I imagined it would!) and Cosmo had saved up enough money to take, not only his own family, but also his cousins to Gulliver's land theme park.

He was so incredibly pleased with himself, although he got a little embarrassed with all the 'thank yous', it was obvious he enjoyed them, but just didn't know how to respond.

Here's the video of our fantastic day out:

Monday, 15 July 2013

Yes He Is (Death is Not Natural)

Okay, so this isn't technically a homeschooling resource, but I recently discovered this website that is full of media to make sharing your faith on things like facebook and twitter easier. The thing is, it has such simple, clear summaries of the gospel, that it is actually perfect for little ones to get a grip of the metanarrative of the gospel.

The website is called Yes He is and you can see a sample video, called 'Death is not Natural' here:

Lovely animations, which would make a great change to devotional time, and with a few basic questions you could easily make it a comprehension task, whilst all the while reinforcing the truth of the gospel. 

Go to and you can view hundreds more videos and images that portray biblical truth in a simple and eye-pleasing way :0)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Managing Money: A learning opportunity almost missed!

Pocket money has been something that has come and gone several times in the Gracie household. We always tie it to some form of responsibility, and initially it goes well, but Cosmo gets bored. Currently pocket money is tied to him independently completing a set number of worksheets each day from our Timberdoodle curriculum, without complaining. 

We have always had 'spend', 'save' and 'give' jars, and he must put a little of his money into each jar, although the ratio is determined by him. He has historically been very generous with giving, kept  enough to spend on 99p toys from poundland, but not really been motivated to save beyond putting a small random coin in... until he had something to save for. 

Saving with a goal in mind has inspired him. He recently told me that he wanted to save up enough money to take the whole family to Gulliver's land (family ticket = £90). I had laughed it off and explained that it was a lot of money and would take far too long to save up his pocket money. He worked out that it would take just under two years, and that he felt he could wait that long.

A little later I read this blog about a four year old who saved up to buy herself, and her baby brother, iPads. I realised that we had a fantastic teaching opportunity, which I was missing by assuming he was incapable. 

So we had a chat about how to raise extra money for his goal. He has donated some toys to a local charity shop which pays him £2 a bag. He has also discovered ebay and listed his duplo set there (three days to go if you want to bid!) and is planning on selling his 'Swim fin' too. Grandma has been paying him 'a penny a pine cone' to collect kindling for her fire and a small amount for watering her plants. Even little Lychee got in on the action, attempting to sweep the Grandma's kitchen after a BBQ so she could earn some 'Gulliver money' to give to Cosmo.  
What I love most is his little determined character isn't undermining his giving attitude. He still puts money in his give jar. He still took the best bits of duplo (in his opinion) to save for his cousin Jonathon, and most notably, as well as saving £90 for our family ticket, he now also wants to save £180 so that he can take his cousins with him. 

We've created a spreadsheet for him so he can add to it when he earns money and watch his goal drop down. He's so excited and I nearly missed all this because I assumed he couldn't do it. 

Let your kids dream big.

*Update is available here*

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Drawing Lessons For Kids

I recently picked up a book called 'Drawing with Children: A Creative Teaching and Learning Method That Works for Adults Too' by Mona Brookes and it is fantastic! 

She gives examples of the differences in children's drawings with 20 minutes of tuition, an hour of tuition etc... and it's really hard to believe. In all honesty I thought the pictures might be a little exaggerated.

I was wrong. 

But let me take you back a little. Initially, despite my concerns that the pictures were probably 'enhanced' by adults, I really liked reading the first chapter on how to conduct a drawing lesson. Simple things like pointing out symptoms of visual fatigue helped me realise why cosmo can do twenty math sheets with 40 questions on, but struggles to complete one with 100 (the font is too small). 

This week I asked Lychee if she wanted to do her own lesson with mummy. We spent all of approximately three minutes with her completing a drawing exercise from the book. I was actually quite impressed with her ability to copy. I've never asked her to before, so she usually just scribbles. 

Here is what she produced (mine in black, hers in yellow).

Not bad for a two year old, right?

She then went on to do her first ever recognisable drawing. It's a picture of her cousin.

I'm not going to pretend I knew who it was, but it is definitely a face! 

More interesting, is that since then, with no prompting, she has started colouring inside the lines. So when we made Daddy this card for Father's day, she would usually just scribble over my writing and picture. She took great pains this time to keep inside the heart.

Not only that, but she was able to draw X marks for kisses under her name. 

Both my kids, after a few minutes of 'teaching' went on to spend hours and hours the next day drawing hundreds of pictures using the symbols from the exercises we had done the day before. Their enthusiasm for drawing this week has been incredible. 

If anyone is wondering whether or not to buy this book, I highly recommend it. 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Literacy and nutrition

I'm passionate about early childhood literacy, and also about nutrition.

Head on over to my main blog today to see why these two things are linked:

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Boys Brigade and Awards

This weekend was Cosmo's first ever Boys Brigade awards night and it was brilliant! 

The boys had some fun drama sketches for us, involving dressing up as super heroes and he was proud to be the only 'black lightning' amongst so many batman's and mr Incredibles.

The awards section was hard for him as the bugle and the clapping was very loud, I haven't decided whether next year it would be less distracting to have him in ear defenders or whether that would be worse than having him cover his ears each time. 

He enjoyed receiving his one year service badge, but much to his (and my) surprise he also won the arts and crafts trophy! 

You may recall that we had some trouble getting him to engage in arts and crafts, particularly anything involving paints or glue because he didn't like getting sticky. Well, in the last year or so that has all changed, so much so that he has now decided he wants to be an artist when he grows up. 

He had actually announced that to me when we were working in Grandy's birthday card that morning, so it was really affirming for him to receive that arts award that evening. 

I love how boys brigade challenges him and affirms him in such meaningful ways. Belonging to a club has been a real confidence boost to him. I think he thrives in an all male environment too, and once a week I don't mind indulging that. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Illustrating a Book

I have a hard time getting Cosmo to enjoy art work, but this project grabbed his attention immediately.

We had picked up an exercise book that has blank space at the top of the page and lines for writing underneath. I'd hoped he might like to write a story book or something, but he had an even better idea. 

'Let's make a book to teach my cousins about Shavuot and we can give it to them!'


He wasn't keen on the idea of doing the writing himself, he didn't think they'd be able to read it, so I agreed to do that part if he helped me remember how the story went. We ended up using a video to remind us from YouTube - how did people homeschool before google? 

His illustrations are brilliant and I'm so pleased he had the confidence to do it. 

We are going to take the book around to his cousins this afternoon so they can enjoy it this evening. 

Happy holidays! 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Learning by Colouring

I write a lot about what I'm doing with Cosmo, and sometimes is can seem like Lychee is just along for the ride. That's only about 50% true. Half the time she really is just watching what her older brother is doing, but I'm okay with that - in fact she learns really well by watching him!

Other days I am intentional about what I'm doing with her, but the reality is I've already done it and blogged it once before with her brother, so it doesn't often make a post.

Today I decided to write about her though. Yesterday her brother was entertaining himself nicely with Reader Rabbit, and she asked me if we could do some colouring together.

Yes, together.

I didn't watch her and tell her she was doing a good job, I joined in and we coloured each page together, because she likes it better when we do a project together like that. 

I wanted to work on reading and following instructions, so we chose a book that tells you what to do. She's not free reading yet, but she is capable of having a guess at a word if she's given some clues, for example seeing the "L" at the beginning of the word threw her because she wanted it to say "truck" and she'd never heard "lorry". 

I read the instructions to her, deliberately pausing and asking her key words, for example "colour my body... What colour does this say?" running my fingers under the words. She only knows one colour that begins with "R" so she answers "red".

This method is great because you are setting her up to win and reinforcing the sight words. Where just showing a flash card with the word "red" on could have been any word, limiting her options to 'it must be a colour' encourages critical thinking, as well as reading.

Lysh is also into numbers right now, in a big way, so we counted things on the pages and practised writing their numbers next to them.

It was fun, and she loved showing them to Cosmo and telling him how hard we had worked on it. I love her team spirit. My son just wants to do everything by himself with, no help, so that he can say "i did it!" when he achieves something. My daughter really wants to work together on everything, and the doing is so much more important to her than the outcome. Every child really does have a totally different nature in built! 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Stable Day

Yesterday was stable day with our homeschool co-op. The children had an amazing time learning about how to care for horses, in fact Cosmo's favourite part of the day was mucking out the stables! They learned about feeding and grooming, caring for tack and they also got a riding lesson.
Photo: Serious concentration required for trotting!
I was so proud of him, because he had been really worried about taking part, but despite initial nerves he did do it and really enjoyed himself.
Photo: William riding Todd
Photo: Starting to enjoy riding :0)
I think this is also the longest time I have ever left him anywhere (10am-3pm) without an adult he knows well. It was obviously helpful that his cousins were in the class and he knew some other children too, but I was so pleased with the way the owners of the stable made an effort to make him feel comfortable too.

Lychee was insanely jealous (the stables only had insurance for children over four years old) and spent most of the day pretending to ride horses.
Photo: Someone is very jealous that William is on 'stable day'. She is practicing horse riding on logs...
But before you feel too sorry for her, she did get to spend an afternoon playing in the woods with me and Cooper, and in the morning we took her to the Japanese Koi Company aka the free zoo. If you haven't been, and you live locally, you are missing out.

They have raccoon dogs, armadillos, spiders, snakes, bunnies, frogs, birds, all kinds of fish and turtles etc... it really is both fun and educational.
Photo: A red snake at the Japanese koi company

Here's the video:

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Yesterday we spent the morning at the woodland ways bushcraft centre - it's awesome.

I was totally impressed with the way the guy handled a large group of 2-6 year olds, kept their interest and even let them use his fire steel!

Then we had a picnic in the park with friends.

So glad the sun is coming out again!
Lychee using fire steel
then admiring her tiny flame

My mum was really horrified that the children were allowed to use real tools and have open flames, so I made her this video :o)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Writing and Sibling Love

Yesterday Lychee wrote her first word!

It was on the chalkboard in the school room, and she chose to write her brothers name. After walking in and announcing that she was going to do it, she started with the second letter, but with a little encouragement she got the whole word.

I was so proud of her, but when asked if she wanted to try another word she threw down the chalk, snapped 'no' and ran out the room. We need to work on manners for sure!

Still, I love that she chose to write her brothers name and not her own. It's such a reflection of her darling little heart. She loves her big brother so much and 'brother' was the first recognisable word she said, long before 'mama' or 'dada'.

Sibling love. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Lychee's growing up...

Today Lysh went to her first swimming lesson alone.

Without Cosmo, and without her two cousins.

She was so good, and although a little nervous, she tried really hard and did everything asked of her.

My baby's growing up!!

Thursday, 4 April 2013


We recently got a new puppy!

He's a labernese (a labrador crossed with a bernese mountain dog).

photo credit
plus this:
photo credit
equals this:
Photo: Cooper on his way home :0)
Photo: Best buddies :0)Photo: Learning stairs

A whole bundle of fun! It's been really great for the kids already this week, building cosmo's confidence around animals, and helping with his separation anxiety (I can now take the laundry upstairs and fold it and he hasn't once cried about being on his own downstairs - this may also have something to do with it being school holidays and he's always more settled knowing that dad isn't at work - even if he isn't in the house!) 

Lychee's speech is coming on rapidly and she talks to the puppy LOADS. 'Don't eat me Cooper!' is one of the first things she says to him before shoving her fingers in his face and giggling when he nibbles at them (luckily he has a very gentle mouth). 

We're so excited about having this new addition to our family, and can't wait until his vaccinations are complete and we can book into puppy training classes. We've found a local class at 9am on a monday morning that we can book him into, which is perfect because it means the kids can come and really take a part in his training. 

As they get older I will be giving them more and more responsibility (already they have some 'chores' with the puppy - Lila gives him his regular 'hugs', William is helping me to teach him recall) and I think that this will be a great addition not only as our family pet, but in helping grow the children in character and emotional maturity. 

Yay for dogs and homeschool!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Growing in Compassion


We don't have a TV license, but we have always kept a television to watch movies on and use the Wii. Don't worry, it's totally legit. 

Initially we had a very small 15" TV which we kept up on a high shelf. I didn't want it to dominate the room and be a constant temptation to the children to ask for DVDs.

But then our TV broke, and being the frugal people that we are we got our next one off freecycle. It was quite a lot bigger, if I remember around 21", but it only lasted six months. The next freecycle offering we got so a whopping 44".


And it broke.

It lasted a good while, but finally a friend was selling his (huge) 72" flatscreen LCD TV, so we bought it from him for a great price.

Cosmos response: This is amazing!!! I can't wait until it breaks and we get a cinema!!


The thing is, he had a really similar response to his pets. For his second birthday some friends bought him a pet fish, who we called Finley. Cosmo was devastated when Fin died (selfishly the same week Lychee was born!) but cheered up significantly when he got new fish - Ross and Franji. Interestingly, he didn't have the same response when Franji died within a week of getting home. In fact, his response was positive joy, because 'Now I get to go to the garden centre again and choose another fish!!'

Over the coming series of fish it became apparent that he did not have any attachment issues to a particular animal, he just liked being in charge of feeding it and checking on it regularly.

However, his current fish (Eugenie) killed Lychee's fish (Greg) yesterday. He'd been hassling him for as long as they'd shared a tank and poor Greg spent most of his time hiding in a toy volcano. When I told Cosmo that Greg had died, he had the predictable response of 'Will I get to choose Lychee's new fish? '

However, twenty-four hours on and it seems he's been considering it more than I'd given him credit for. Today he's been concerned that Eugenie was bullying Greg because 'I used to kiss Eugenie through the glass every morning and I started kissing Greg too. Maybe Eugenie was jealous and that's why he killed Greg. If we get another fish I'll try not to love it as much as Eugenie'.

Obviously I assured him that some fish are just bullies and nothing he could have done would have increased Greg's odds of survival, but the boy was welling up.

It seems he does care about his pet's after all.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Knowledge Quest Geography


Just a quick heads up for those of you who, like me, have a little geographobia (despite having a geography teaching husband, I have never studied geography and find my lack of knowledge in this area disturbing!) Knowledge Quest have kindly made their 'GLOBALMANIA: Master world Geography in 7 months or less' text available as a free download (RRP $14.95)

It's a big file, but they've split it for smaller downloads too.

Enjoy mastering the world!

Maths, Maths, Maths!!

We have a current maths obsession in our house. Cosmo has always loved numbers, even as a small baby, but recently I discovered a website called, which has the most ridiculous amount of practice papers for maths as free printables. 

Cosmo has fallen in love with the 1 minute Math Facts section and completed over twenty of these in one sitting. Still unsure of the concept of a test though, he handed me a paper to mark declaring proudly 'there are two mistakes on this one'. 

'Well if you know that already, why don't you correct them before I mark it?'

'No Mummy! You have to try and guess which ones they are!'


Still, once I pointed out that getting 100% would earn him a gold star sticker, we had perfect score sheets every time. 

I also found a little app for Lychee's maths skills, which I think I may be too late with, but I'm going to try anyway. It works on the same principles that I teach reading with, that by flashing the cards quickly to a child under two years they learn to associate the image (word) with the sound and it's unconsciously learned. 

photo credit
This app claims that babies don't count. They just know how many are there (to a certain degree), but haven't learned to associate that number with a name or symbol. The app flashes up randomly placed red dots on a white background and tells you how many there are. The lessons start with numbers 1-5. They then build up in difficulty. In one minute a day, the developer tells us, you train your baby to recognise numbers without counting. This makes them faster processors of information over all as adults (because really, if the only benefit was not having to count stuff, it's probably not worth bothering with - just count).

I'm not sure it will work, but for one minute a day I'm willing to give it a go. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Gracies XL

Cosmo has been enjoying playing with some video editing software and has come up with a fun trailer for a movie about our family becoming superheroes. He chose all the videos and photos for the storyboard template himself, and all the clips where he is in a read cape and Lychee has chocolate on her face were written and directed by him :0)

He also did the typing for the inserts. Unfortunately the iPad keeps inserting apostrophes into things (like Gracie's when he types Gracies) and he will not allow me to correct them, so you'll have to excuse the grammar.

The 'XL' thing is a bit of a joke in our family as Cosmo and his dad like to wrestle, and they add 'XL' to their names to give themselves wrestling identities. Without further ado, I give you 'Gracies XL - the trailer'.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Orchard Toys

We were lucky enough to receive some lovely Orchard Toys for Christmas from a relative, and it really has been one of the best presents they received.

Having games that are simple enough for the whole family, or even just the two children, to play together has been so much fun. We have put together a games cupboard over the years, and whilst its always been in reach, we've told the children that they cannot play games without adult supervision because of small parts that might get lost.

Not so with orchard toys. In fact the game pieces are chunky and vibrant enough for a two year old to tidy up by herself and be confident that she has got every piece.

The easiest game, that the children play happily together without adult intervention, is 'Farmer's Lotto'. Everyone takes a card, then you take turns to turn over a card and see if it matches your card. The first person to fill their card wins. The catch is that you have to say the name of the animal and make the sound it makes if you want to keep the card.

Farmer's Lotto
Simple enough for a small child to play, but really helpful for our littlest in building confidence to speak (she has a mild speech delay).

The second game is called 'slug in a jug' and is slightly more difficult, but is doing wonders for her sight word recognition and for her brothers ability to create sentences.

It's basically pairs, but instead of matching, you have to find a rhyme! Each card has a picture on it, but also the word printed in bold so that whilst the child gets a big hint from the picture, they are still seeing the word.

Phonemes are colour coded so that children can easily see that "ea" in "pea" rhymes with "ey" in "key" or that "bowl", "mole" and "goal" all rhyme, despite their different spellings.

Slug in a Jug
For our youngest, she simply has to say the words and recognise whether they rhyme. For our son, and any adults playing, you have to say a sentence including the two words - hence the name "slug in a jug".

They're great games, and honestly slug I'm a jug would be easily replicated with homemade flash cards.

The official Orchard Toys cards are really nicely made though, and I highly recommend them.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

British Children Are The Unhappiest

This Sunday one of our pastors was talking on service and he threw in the fact that a study done by UNICEF showed that British children were the unhappiest in the industrialised world. 

He then showed us the following quote:

"British children are trapped in a cycle of compulsive consumption as parents shower them with gifts to make up for their long working hours... 
...While children would prefer time with their parents to heaps of consumer goods, parents seem to find themselves under tremendous pressure to purchase an excess of material goods for their children... 
...Parents in the UK almost seemed to be locked into a system of consumption which they knew was pointless but they found hard to resist," 
                                                       - UNICEF 2007

It's something I feel I've instinctively always known. I came from a dual income family, but I know I was much happier (despite feigning embarrassment) when my mother left her well paid London based job (which required us to have an au pair) and took up working at my school. It was less pay, and she probably didn't feel that she was reaching her career potential, but we spent more time together.

We homeschool because we feel that no amount of money you could offer me for a second job would be able to buy enough stuff to make up for the amount of childcare my children would have to be placed in. 

It's not just about having me around all the time, it's about them being together too. In a school system (or any OFSTED style childcare) they would be split in different classes because of their age differences. My favourite summers were when my sisters and I did things like riding camp, because we were in the same class, over ones were we did holiday club (which was fun - don't get me wrong) where we wouldn't see each other all day. 

We are in the really fortunate position of living where my husband works. There's no commute for him, he literally walks through the back door and he's at work (or sometimes even tells his tutor group to come for breakfast in our living room) so we get the maximum time with daddy home possible. He also get's school holidays where he can spend plenty of time with me and the kids. 

Sometimes it's hard work. Sometimes there is tears and tantrums and I would love to just get an office job somewhere and have a full day of peace and quiet, but we'd miss out.

We'd miss out on these valuable years building family relationships - and that's worth losing a second income every time. 

Friday, 11 January 2013

Bike Riding and Building

Lychee got to have her first go on her new (to us) bike yesterday!

She has actually had it since Christmas, but it's taken us a while to get around to adjusting the seat. Cosmo helped with his birthday tool kit and was very proud of himself. The montessori tools have been a great investment and he has really enjoyed helping daddy to do odd jobs around the house, including doing all the measuring and a lot of the screwing together for the new bench in our entry way.

But without further ado, I bring you Lychee's first moments on her bike!
(I think the dramatic music is encouraging. She loves to watch herself back on film)