Making It Up as we go along Sat, 25 Jun 2016 06:23:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 It’s a beautiful day Sat, 25 Jun 2016 06:23:14 +0000 image

to be in a field with friends.

Try it sometime πŸ™‚

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Schleich horses in the garden. Wed, 22 Jun 2016 07:42:19 +0000 image

When I was little, one of my favourite books was Fly-by-night by KM Peyton. (Amazon. ) The 11 year old Ruth is pony mad and ends up with a completely unsuitable pony in her back garden (my memory is insisting she wins a horse from a cereal competition, but the internet is not verifying this) and the story goes on from there.

This may have been the start of my pony dreams. I devoured every book about pony clubs I could get my hands on – when we did eventually get a pony of our own (long story) it didn’t work out like it did in the books. Does it ever? Despite this, I really wish there was some way we could have a pony now – I think the little ones in particular would love riding.

In the meantime, the next best thing. Schleich Horse Club toys. With the standard Schleich attention to detail (the toys are hand painted) these are durable, beautiful play sets that will last for years of imaginative play. We were sent Horse Club Schleich Eventing Rider Toy (amazon link) and Horse Club Schleich Horse Feeding Playset (amazon) and obviously headed out into the garden with them immediately.


Smallest is a huge animal fan. She played with these for hours. The foal is particularly cute, although the whole set is just gorgeous.

The eventing rider set includes removable saddle and bridle although the rider is always in a seated position, so that’s not quite as good to include off the horse. My only caveat with this would be to note that the reins do come off the bridle, and they are kind of fiddly to put back on. The toys are marked as being unsuitable for under 3s due to small pieces – I’d say this particular one is unsuitable for any child who likes dismantling things, but isn’t quite so good at putting them back together. *looks at Tigerboy*

You cannot go wrong with Schleich toys. Whether you’ve a pony fan in the family, or you just want to have one (or let’s face it, you are one yourself πŸ˜‰ ) these are a wonderful addition to a toy box, and will give hours of happy play.

Disclosure: we were sent these toys for the purposes of review, Amazon links are affiliate links, all opinions are mine.

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You should be here. Tue, 21 Jun 2016 11:08:26 +0000 Once in a lifetime should have been within your years.

Miss you little sister.

And I know this song is about a parent, not a sibling, but it’s close enough.

(if you don’t know the back story, it’s here.)

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10 ways to celebrate 10 years of Augustus and his smile. Tue, 14 Jun 2016 12:21:01 +0000 Augustus and his smile by Catherine Rayner is a very lovely book. It’s about being sad, and finding ways of not being sad. Including dancing in the rain, and going on a very long walk through nature. It *always* makes me smile, and quite often inspires me to go out for one of those walks to see what I can spot, and I was thrilled to be asked to help celebrate the 10th anniversary edition. (It’s shiny and gold and really rather beautiful. See? Amazon links are affiliate links.)

Augustus and His Smile 10th Anniversary Edition

So then I wondered what I could do to celebrate. And I decided that I would come up with 10 ideas to share.

1) Buy (and/or read) the new 10th anniversary copy of the book πŸ™‚ (Handy Amazon links above. Other bookshops are available.)
It’s got a shiny gold cover! (Did I already say that?) And if you do, a donation is made to David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s TigerTime campaign.

2) Go on a nature walk. I did exactly that this afternoon, and it was wonderful. Yes, I took my camera, why do you ask? πŸ˜‰

3) Visit a tiger. We did this last week, as we went to Colchester Zoo for a home education session, and they have Amur tigers there. Obviously Tigerboy wanted to go see them, so we did, and got a really good view.


4) Sponsor or adopt a tiger.
Various zoos and organisations allow you to sponsor one of their animals. For example, Colchester:

5) Dress up as a tiger. Probably works best if you’re small and cute πŸ˜‰

6) Dance in the rain. Jump in puddles. Splash!

7) Play sleeping tigers. (Wonderful excuse for a nap, and don’t we all deserve one? )

8) Paint/draw/stick your own tiger pictures.


My attempt here too.


9) Have a tiger party – tiger bread anyone? It’s stripy πŸ™‚

10) Invite other people to come up with their own tigery suggestions – so over to you? How should we celebrate 10 years of Augustus?

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13 Sun, 29 May 2016 21:34:38 +0000 Hard to believe that I’ve two teenagers now, but I do. Small, the baby named ironically because he was anything but (9 9 since you ask) is 13 years old today.

He’s a wonderful, kind, quirky, gentle boy, full of intelligence and surprises. 

Right now he’s growing like a shoot, and has braces so his appearance is changing drastically. He’s suddenly working on tall and thin, which is how he was born come to think of it, and his main hobby just now is speedcubing (thank you to Twitter friends who recommended cubes for him!)

Let’s see what the blog remembers of him through the years πŸ™‚ 

Those are pretty good memories.

Happy birthday Small. 

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A day in pictures (snippets of Saturday) Sun, 22 May 2016 09:44:40 +0000 As I’ve mentioned on twitter, I’m going through a low period at the moment. I’ve stepped back from social media a little because it doesn’t help to see all the things happening that I’m too far out of the loop to take part in.

Yesterday though, I tried something a little different to help myself through the day. I started with a plan. Or more loosely, some goals. Not todos – a list is pretty much guaranteed to send me into a flat spin at the moment.


And then, I set to doing one thing at a time.

I did washing up and washing. (I have now located 7 pairs of daughters black school socks. This is a major triumph. )

I took small children out into the garden with musical instruments and then brought them back in and made cookies.


For cookies out of a packet they were really rather good. Must find a reliable non packet recipe – I tend to end up with over crispy giant biscuits rather than gooey crumbly joyful treats. (If you have any links/recipes suggestions gratefully accepted in the usual places.)

I went for a walk. It was short, but it involved one foot in front of another which was the aim.

I painted.


It didn’t look much like the subject, but it’s a start on something a little different. (Find the inspiration on Instagram, via the sidebar widget. )

And then we threw in a bonus family film night, watching Maleficent on Netflix. Which is utterly wonderful.

And there was (homemade) popcorn.


I didn’t sew. Or read. Or blog. So today those are higher up the list. (Hence blogging in my pjs while drinking coffee.)

All in all, it was a lovely day. And I ended it feeling brighter than I started so I’m calling that a win. Tell me about your turn it around, make it better strategies?

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Netflix and science – Project Mc2 and Adrienne’s Volcano Fri, 20 May 2016 09:19:12 +0000 Adrienne's VolcanoNetflix has been a focal part of our family life here for some time now, with everyone in the family having a favourite viewing occupation. A fair bit of our family film night viewing is supplied via Netflix too.

I hadn’t fully incorporated it in our home education though, even with discovering Magic Schoolbus is now streamed through the service. (And apparently they are making new episodes too, more on that when I have it.) However, for British Science week we were introduced to Project Mc2 with doll *and* science experiment. Well, it would be rude not to, really.

Project Mc2 Adrienne’s Volcano Core Doll with Experiment

I have to say that the doll worried me a little. About the only scientist she reminds me of is Bernadette out of Big Bang, but when I looked into the actual show it appears we just lucked out and got sent the one overly exaggerated feminine character. Basically they’re a bit like the Spice girls, with a sporty one, a geeky one, etc and we got the baby doll one. There are running jokes about her running in heels in the programme (running jokes, get it?) and there are plenty of other characters with more varied wardrobes. Basically, all tastes catered for πŸ™‚

The experiment that came with her was the old favourite volcano. I say old favourite, as I’ve done it several times with the bigger children, but it turned out the little ones had never seen it, so there was much excitement as we set up in the garden. (Definitely an outside experiment, given the inclusion of food colouring.) Be aware that the instructions that come with this are American – not that it makes a lot of difference, but the terminology changes πŸ™‚

Here’s a (ridiculously quick) timelapse video of the volcano in action.

Don’t blink. Sorry. Will try to film again in real time! (Thought I was being so clever…)

Anyway, the show is still a big hit here, so if you’re looking for something with a sciency take for your kids, give it a go on Netflix.

Disclosure – I have been very happy to be a part of the Netflix Streamteam. We were sent the doll/volcano to review. I have not been recompensed for this review. netflix stream team

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How does your garden grow? Thu, 19 May 2016 08:00:46 +0000 Colourfully. I planted irises last year to grow myself a new header. They bloomed partly when we were away, so I didn’t get the pictures I wanted. This year the single blue one has flowered in the rain.

It’s beautiful. But not quite what I want looking for in a header. Hm.

I could use an Honesty picture or two?

Or maybe a little roadside refugee?

(Herb Robert I’m told. I’m learning lots about flowers via photography.)

They cut these daisies down shortly after I took these photographs. I’m glad I have pictures.

So tell me, do any of these pictures inspire you, design wise?

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Playing home education bingo. Wed, 18 May 2016 13:25:30 +0000 a b c 1 2 3 chalkboard Most of the time I’m happy to talk about home education. I love to chat about the different ways children learn to read. (Phonics. Picture books. Reading eggs. Montessori materials. Osmosis.) I can enthuse for hours about following interests, the value of playing online games, how great the world of nature is and so on.

And other times, it feels like I’ve said it all before, and that I’m banging my head against a very big, very solid brick wall.

When I go on facebook and the home education groups are full of people pulling their year 6 children out of school because they’re fed up of stressed children who aren’t being children, and yet some Baroness feels she can blog about parents feeling entitled, and failing their children by taking action to protect them from that stress.

But the principle that parents should co-operate with teachers and the school in the orderly testing of their children must be beyond argument. It was a terrible example to set to their children – that is, if you don’t like what today holds, or you find it stressful, just skip it.

(You’ll want to sit down before you read the rest of that article. Or even better, protect your blood pressure, and don’t go there)

Yes, that definitely feels like a very solid brick.

No, Baroness Deech, it is NOT a principle carved in stone that parents should cooperate with teachers and schools in the testing of their children. Perhaps you could explain to me how testing enhances the educational process? Because I don’t remember that research. Or perhaps you could point me to the national agreement that shows precisely *how* learning archaic language terms will help our children reach their full potential, because I must have missed that one too.

Another set of things I seem to have missed are the law changes that require home educators to register with their local authorities. They much have happened, surely, given that Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, pontificated about the process on Radio 4 the other day. (You can read another home educator’s take on that here .)

No, they haven’t happened. Sir Michael is either badly informed, guilty of wishful thinking, or just completely misspoke.

Hard to tell which.

As a home educator, if your children have never been registered with any school, you don’t have to tell anyone that you are home educating. You just carry on with the education that you’re offering.

If, and only if, your children are in school, then you need to inform people. The process differs in the different parts of the UK, but in England, in a mainstream school what you do is deregister by informing the headteacher. It is then UP TO THE HEADTEACHER to inform the local authority.

Not the parent. And the local authority do not have to follow up on it – they have powers to make informal enquiries IF it appears that no (suitable) education is being provided. Many local authorities overstep this line, and many home educators spend a lot of time supporting newcomers through this minefield. I do a fair bit of it myself, in the online world.

It’s another tick for home education bingo.

Along the path to home education, it’s almost impossible to escape conversations about socialisation. It’s difficult to know what this refers to – for some people they are talking about friendships, for others they are talking about children acquiring the unwritten rules of society. Here to tell you that both of those things can and do happen out of school, so it’s kind of a red herring either way.

Another topic that will probably come up is neglect – you can reply that home educated children are subject to exactly the same oversight as every other child, with local authorities social services departments having perfectly adequate powers to investigate. In fact, many home educated children are referred to social services just because of people’s ignorance around home education. Education is not a welfare issue, no matter how many times people talk as if it is.

Tomorrow I will probably bounce back and be my usual cheerful and patient self regarding all of this nonsense. I’ll paint, sew, cook, explore nature, read books, troubleshoot computer programs and assist my children with all their home education activities, just like I am doing today in and around this rant. I’ll do it with a smile, probably.

It would really, really help if people like Baroness Deech and Sir Michael could get their facts straight and stop spreading misinformation in the meantime.

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Snippets of beauty Sat, 14 May 2016 22:30:17 +0000 I really miss my snippets posts, but at the same time, I feel really awkward about writing here at the moment. 

But I know the longer I leave it without writing, the harder it gets.


Big is in full on GCSE prep mode. It is, as they say, on.

Small did his first iGCSE mock today. Be interesting to see how that went.

Smallest read me half a Meg and Mog book this afternoon. They were a fab investment, they’re pretty much perfect for her just now.

Tigerboy is in a throwing phase. None of the others did this. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next. I think.

And I’m still taking pictures. And sewing.

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