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)