Friday, 21 November 2014


Cosmo has recently discovered his new favourite sport - Free running.

There's a club near us in Milton Keynes and a friend has set up a day time class for home educated kids and it is so much fun.

Two hours every Tuesday of this:

During which time Lychee and I get to go shopping together, which is nice. It's always fun to get some time 'just the girls' too.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Making Candy

We made our own 'pulled taffy' the other week using pure honey and just adding a few essential oils for flavour and it was so fun! I'll be honest, my kids did not particularly like how it felt on their hands, but I had a lot of fun and they were so proud of their finished products.

If you want to have a go it is super easy. Just boil some honey with a candy thermometer until it reaches 140c for at least five minutes. Then tip it out on a non-stick sheet and use spatulas to move it around until it's cool enough to touch.

At this stage you need to grease your hands with butter and then you just pull and fold, incorporating as much air as you can. When it's only barely warm add a few drops of your favourite essential oils (we used, peppermint in one batch, lemon in another, orange in a third and left one plain). Essential oils are volatile, so it's best to add them as cool as you can get away with if you want the flavour to last.

When you've twisted and pulled as much as you can and the candy is pretty hard, you can cut it into shapes, wrap it in waxed paper and store in the fridge.

Even though they didn't like getting messy (there were tears over butter on hands) the kids enjoyed watching the process and learning how candy was made.

The second time we made some honeycomb. I adapted this recipe I found, but boiling the honey again, but I added a mix of 50:50 bicarbonate of soda and ascorbic acid (vitamin C powder). The acid in the vitamin C ensured we got a good reaction from the baking soda and we had a slightly chewier than I'd have liked honeycomb. I think next time I need to boil the honey a little longer.

Still, the kids really liked this one. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Art Class

My children are so into art right now. Cosmo has been teaching Lychee about the art and crafts he does at boys brigade throughout the week. Last week it was blow painting fireworks (she liked that a lot).

This week we missed brigades :-( 

In lieu of her 'art class' from Cosmo, I decided to get out our sketch books (darn it, I lost mine) and follow some really cute lessons that I had found on pinterest (you can follow my homeschool art board here).

Today we started with exploring different types of lines.

I drew this:

Cosmo drew this:

And Lychee drew this:

Tomorrow's lesson: Shapes

Monday, 22 September 2014

Music Appreciation

I found a link on pinterest for How to Teach Music Appreciation The Charlotte Mason Way and I've decided to add it into our schedules this year.

The author suggests picking one composer each term, listening to a piece of their music daily and changing it each week (easily done whilst we are on copywork or something else). We then also need to discuss and learn about the composers life and learn about them.

I think part of the reason I'm so excited about it is that we have really been enjoying a fantastic audiobook which includes the story of Johann Sebastian Bach and I had no idea what an amazingly faithful overcomer he was.

We're going to start with Debussy this term, because I like his music, then do Bach in January (for contrast and because I already have a biography of him) and the Chopin in the summer (because I like his music too.

If you are interested in doing this with us, I've made youtube playlist with some of their music so you can play it easily on your phone, tablet, laptop etc... whilst your littles are working to help familiarise them with the music.


And I'll add more as we get through them, so just keep an eye on the playlists in my channel, or let me know if you make your own and I'll add a link to them.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Community Tree Trust

Lychee went for a play date with a friend today, and Cosmo went to an activity day with the community tree trust organised by our home ed co-op.

He's had so much fun, taking plant cuttings, building scarecrows, identifying nuts, pressing apple juice and so much more. He particularly enjoyed learning how the storm kettles work (like a chimnea with a water jacket).

Here's the video:

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Ickwell Nature Reserve

Lychee woke up, now officially a four year old, and decided to commandeer one of my T-shirts as a dress. More and more she is wanting to wear my things, be it slippers or hair clips, she's just so desperate to grow up. When all the other children are playing she likes to have a cup of tea with the mummies. Sometimes I can't decide whether she really is shy or if she just really wants to be a grown up.

To be honest, she looked remarkably cute in the T-shirt/dress (more so than I did!) so I'm going to let her keep it.

The T-shirt was originally my little sisters (I got a massive new wardrobe when she emigrated -sad story) and I love it. The 'Beloved' logo is cute enough, but what you probably can't quite read underneath is the red script which says 'because you never looked more beautiful than in His eyes'. I really do love the One Truth brand clothing.

Lychee wore it to come on a fun day out with some friends at Ickwell nature reserve. Several people were camping for the whole weekend, sadly we had to leave because I had a wedding today.

Cosmo and Lychee had great fun climbing trees, catching insects with her new bug hunting kit and generally building dens and stick fighting with lots of new friends.

Cosmo's highlight was teaching other children how to use his fire steel to make little fires. He just loves it when he is confident in a skill that takes others a bit of practice. It's a great way of getting him to talk more easily when he is feeling shy.

Lychee's favourite part was catching crawdad (my kids love that song) and cooking them. She didn't eat them, but both kids loved running around checking the traps and seeing how many were there. We of course, did eat them and they were very delicious.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Wicksteed Park

It's the end of the summer term and our home ed co-op decided to celebrate with a visit to wicksteed park.
It was awesome.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Our musical garden

Behind the scales I built last week there's a secret passage that led to a massive compost heap. 

We dug all the compost out and used it to build our raised beds, but it left us with a massive crater that was just begging to become a play space. 

A few xylophones and some tambourines later and we have what the kids are calling their 'musical den'. 

All that was needed was a little fishing wire for hanging some cheap plastic instruments.

And a screw driver to remove some of the fun parts from said plastic instruments.

And the best part is that now all the noisy play can happen in the garden making our home a much more peaceful place ;-)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Baby Chick update


Five hatched, five to go...

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter Holidays and Pet Eggs

The Easter holidays were so much fun. We had beautiful weather and it was great to spend lots of time playing outdoors, digging in the garden and general enjoying the sun.

The children played their first ever game of cricket, watching the new baby tadpoles in our pond, and even took part in some of the planting out.

We started our 'Kitchen Chemistry' online course and they loved experimenting with molecule density using the toaster from the boy's kitchen and a bin bag, and experiment that was repeated with a hair dryer and a mini hot air balloon on a camping trip over the Easter weekend.
Heated molecules are less dense
The children also went to the energy show at the science museum in London with their dad and had a fantastic time as well as Cosmo going camping in the peak district with daddy to climb a 'mountain'.

We had a lovely time celebrating passover with my sister's family and some friends, and the children took great joy in the charoset (I used mango, pear and cinnamon with walnut) as well as joining in with some really fun songs.

 But the part the children have been most excited about this Easter is getting their 'pet eggs'.

We currently have ten eggs incubating in the school room and the children cannot wait to see them hatch. They've been very diligent in checking the temperature regularly and topping up the water and the eggs are due to hatch Thursday or Friday.

I'm sure I'll manage to film it, and will post it here after. The baby chicks will then live in our house 6-9 weeks (weather dependant) and then move out into the chicken coop and run that we have built for them in the orchard.

Exciting times!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Reading Practice

I made a playlist of flash card videos that we use with Lychee for reading practice - so I figured I'd post it here in case anyone else wants to do some practice with little ones.

It's for children learning sight words or 'whole word' reading methods, NOT phonics.

Enjoy :-)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Learning Self-Regulation


I've heard over and over of parents who allow their toddlers to self regulate with food, claiming that if we leave them to it and don't interfere with 'on demand' feeding that children will learn to recognize their own hunger cues and equally know when they have had enough.

I like the principle - but I don't know anyone who has made it past about three years old.

photo credit
The reality is that society dictates we should eat at certain times, and it's kind of awkward if you refuse lunch whilst everyone is seated at the table and 20 minutes later you are hungry but mum has put everything away. So you either end up telling your kid when to eat - or feeding them junk because real food takes time and preparation.

Still, like I said, I like the principle.

It's something Cosmo's doctor told me about when he was very young and I was getting frustrated about him just wanting to watch the same DVD on loop, or when he just wanted to read the same book (or sometimes even the same page!) again and again. He said he's trying to puzzle something out. I assume that because he can read the words, he's got all the information, but particularly for children who learn to read early, being able to understand what they are reading may take more time.

He asked me to indulge him.
Read the same page 50 times if necessary, move on when he is ready.

Gosh, that took a lot of restraint from me, but it worked! He would watch the 20 minute DVD on loop (brilliant baby by the way if anyone is interested) but then he'd know everything on it and never choose to watch the same one again (at least not for a long time, and when revisiting an old DVD it was for comfort, watched once and then relegated to the 'I've seen that' pile).

We've been up against this battle again recently, only this time it's grated on me even more because his current obsession is Minecraft - and I am not a gamer.

Everything in me wanted to limit him to 20 minutes a day - or some other such rule - but having been through plenty of other past obsessions I let it play out properly.

My mum bought him the game for Christmas and for a couple of weeks I was convinced it was all he would do with all of his free time - and then we hit our breakthrough. He just turned around and said 'I think I'd like to take a break from minecraft for a little while'. He started playing legos with his sister again (boy, has she missed him!) and at the end of the day, it's only really been a two and a half week obsession.

He still enjoys playing minecraft, but he's also enjoying other things too and he doesn't play it for hours at a time.

So, here are my top tips for surviving obsession phases:

1) Try not to worry about making everything meaningful. I like to relax and read a magazine sometimes, or watch a movie. Not everything I do has value other than relaxation and not everything your child does needs to either.

2) Respect what they value. I don't love minecraft. I don't think it's awesome. But my son does and I wouldn't like it if he told me I couldn't look at pinterest because he doesn't think it's cool. Live and let live.

3) Find ways to work it into other things they might enjoy. Cosmo is currently working on a book of tips for his Dad so that he can learn how to play too. It's still Cosmo's favourite topic, but thankfully it's away from the computer screen!
Top tip for Minecraft... but also life in general...

4) If you really need to limit their time on something (eg. I don't want him sat at a PC all day) rather than saying no to it, find something else that will take up some of that time. If Cosmo wants to spend all his free time on the computer, but I don't want him to spend more than an hour, I need to find tasks that will take up all but an hour of his day, then he can play as long as he wants without a conflict. If you tell them they can't do something (or they can only do it for a limited time) it becomes the craved for 'forbidden thing'. I'd rather say 'of course you can play - right after we get back from the park and have picked up the groceries'.
We also have a rule where nobody has free time until they have completed their curriculum based activities for the day.

If you have anymore strategies, let me know. It might sound like I have it all sorted, but I really don't. It pains me to wait out an obsession, but it's totally worth it in the end. The result is a happier, less frustrated child, who learns how to self regulate their own time.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Maybe this isn't news to some of you, but I have only recently discovered the awesomeness that is

From what I've gathered so far, it's kind of like the online answer to why I went to brownies - to earn badges. Only these badges are way cooler. They're chunky, hexagonal, embroidered patches, and you earn them for completing three tasks in a skill area. 

You simply upload a video or photo of yourself completing a task, someone reviews it and validates your reward. 

Badges are awarded for all kinds of stuff, my kids are keen for the backyard farmer, Lego master and minecrafter badges; but the range is as diverse as architect, bee keeper and dancer to mycologists, geneticist and sys admin!! 

Here's a video my kids made for one of their 'backyard farmer' skills.

The only downside to this whole thing is that it's based in the USA. Although their postage charges are very reasonable ($2 to ship to England) it obviously takes a while to get over here. Long enough that Cosmo is questioning me about whether there is a real badge or if it's just on the website (which incidentally, would still be fun to so if you didn't want to invest in the patches...) 

Each kid gets their own "stream" of activity which other people can follow, and they can follow others, either to keep up with what a friend is doing, or for inspiration. 

The best part is that as a parent, you get a log in too. The site emails me to approve everything my kids upload, so there is little to no chance of anything stupid being naievely posted online - unless you naievely thought it would be okay too, which you can't really blame your kid for... 

We think this is awesome, and it's a great boredom buster when you are scratching for ideas to do with the kids. A lot of the skills don't require much equipment and are pitched at several levels, so whilst my backyard farmers are planting celeriac, someone else might be caring for livestock. 

Definitely worth a poke around in your free time, and if you do sign up, message me your user name; the kids and I would like to follow you :0)

In unrelated news, lychee has enjoyed drawing cats this week. 

Lego electro city

Today the kids had the opportunity to attend a Lego workshop where they built a city with other children.

All the children were told they could build anything they wanted to be a part of the city and my children both independently chose to build farms! 

They had a great time, but I've injured my right hand which was incredibly frustrating to them. They wanted my help, but my left hand is like the Incredible Hulk, smashing through their carefully planned buildings. 

They quickly learned it was easier just to get on by themselves.

This horse was found by a friend, who recognised Lychee was building a farm and offered it to her. 

She spent half the morning singing a little song about him 'this is my horse that Wesley bought me for a present...'

This is her completed farm, which Cosmo quickly amalgamated into his own... 

But lychee was content to build a park opposite, with a lake to walk her puppies around and a waterfall. 

The next stage was building circuits to light up the cities. 

Here it is all lit up. 

It was a fun morning and really excitingly lychee even put her hand up to answer a question - an incredibly bold move for her!

Unfortunately, she didn't answer when called on, but it's a start...