Making It Up as we go along Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:46:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The calming wild. Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:37:37 +0000 It is no secret that I am fond of outdoor time. Most days I try to get outside even if only into the garden, camera in hand. You can find little secrets and treasures everywhere, even in your own garden, if you look carefully. It’s all about perspective.

Dandelion in morning light
I have two favourite walks at the moment – around the local wood, and to the beach. The wood is small, but adequately supplied with a range of flowers, suitably backlit with gorgeous rays of sunshine.

woodland flowers
Really though, it’s the beach I head for. From sunrise, to sunset, there’s always something worth seeing there, and it’s always a place of calm, with the repetitive waves washing away my worries.

Oh, and pebbles. Can’t beat a good pile of pebbles. Particularly pebbles with holes in 🙂 (Do you know how long it takes to balance pebbles to get them in a photogenic pose?

Do you know, even just going through my pictures to write this post has made me feel happier and calmer? There’s something to remember when grey days hit.
I was inspired to write this post by Sara of me and orla, when she mentioned on instagram that it was possible to apply for an open position with the CSCollective. I’d love to be a part of something like that, a creative group focussed around outdoors and escape, but even if I don’t get chosen, I’ve enjoyed the process of applying.

Now, what shot to finish off with? The moon, of course. What else rounds off the perfect outdoor day? (Except maybe friends and hot chocolate around a campfire… *wanders off, deep in daydreams*)

(For anyone who is interested, my photos are mainly taken with my Canon powershot, as described here.)

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Sustained by strangers – the blogging community. Wed, 13 Apr 2016 17:29:46 +0000

A moment to rest. Before my guest lecture this afternoon, I had time to explore the very beautiful Bath Spa university campus, and I was almost overwhelmed with the carpets of colour on the beautiful lake walk. Then I pushed right out of my comfort zone, and spoke to a creative writing class about blogging, about the home education community we built around our blogs in the early days that sustained us, about using writing to explore and strengthen my ideas of me. I read out some of my favourite posts. And now I'm paused on the way home, a little bewildered and bemused but very grateful for yet another new experience, courtesy of the blog. The basis of my notes (I wandered somewhat) will be live on the blog in a minute. #momentsofmine #mymindfulyear #tfispring

A photo posted by Jax Blunt (@liveotherwise) on

I’m not here today. (Well, obviously I’m here, but I’m not at home.) Given that I’ve set this to post itself at 9 am (wonders of technology eh?) I’m hopefully somewhere between Cambridge and Bedford, maybe in a roadside cafe enjoying coffee, maybe on the road towards Bath Spa university. (I’m not. I didn’t finish the draft last night, so I’m currently titivating it in a McDs on the way home.)
I delivered a guest lecture to a creative writing class, at the invitation of Mimi Thebo. Which was fun. And because I believe in sharing, here are (most of) my notes, in the form of a blogpost, obviously.

First of all, my form or genre.

Basically I blog. I’ve been blogging for nearly 13 years, which makes me a complete dinosaur in blogging terms. I started on blogger, because wordpress didn’t exist way back then, but I’ve had sites on all sorts of platforms, from livejournal to tumblr. My main blog sits on self hosted wordpress, on its own domain Yes, the title is Making it up. It refers to our lifestyle – I live pretty much by the seat of my pants most days, not big on planning and Making it up as I go along sums it up nicely.

The blog was started to maintain community. I’m a home educator – I’ve currently two children at home of mandatory educational age, one 16 year old in school since September and a 4 year old who won’t be going. Way back in 2002 ish when my eldest child was two years old, I started looking for other home educators, and I found quite a few on an email list, spread all around the country. We emailed, lots, got together for camps, and at one of them, all decided to set up blogs, connected by a blog ring. Our blogs were our chats over the garden fence, our blog ring our virtual village. It takes a village to raise a child, after all.

A blog as a virtual diary is one thing. It didn’t stay that way. A few years back blogs became big – parent blogging became a thing, and brands wanted to deal with us. It was easy to get caught up in writing things for other people, and as other social media grew – twitter, facebook, g+ and so on, it also became easy to lose sight of what the writing was meant to be about.

For me, writing was about processing, understanding, recording.

I wrote through home education, job changes, and miscarriage. And miscarriage.

I wrote through the loss of my sister.

And I wrote through happier changes, new babies, a move to the seaside and a return to home education.

There’s kind of two types of blogger out there. There are people who write because they can’t not write, there are people who are pros, who’ve made their writing into a living. I think it’s hard to be both, because for me the best posts are the ones which resonate with people, which you can’t plan ahead, or make topical, or craft.

Having said that, one of the most popular posts on my blog, is actually a rant about the DPF on my Mazda car, so what do I know? And when I asked friends who are bloggers for their favourite/ best post, Sarah from maison cupcake sent me this about chocolate semolina pudding which is a recipe, and a story from her life.

If I were going to be a different kind of blogger, I guess I’d like to be funny. For example, I hugely respect The Bloggess. (Are we all OK with bad language? May contain swearing. Does contain swearing.) As well as being funny though, for six year running, the Bloggess and her readers have made Christmas for hundreds of people. You’ll want to read about the annual James Garfield miracles. (Sixth annual)

Then there’s Her Melness. She started writing when her husband died suddenly. She writes with clarity, simplicity and insight, and I find her inspirational.

Or how about someone like Cynthia at Musings of an Aspie, who was a fountain of knowledge for me, when I started exploring late diagnosis for autism.

I could go on all day listing people who have inspired me, who still inspire me. I meet new bloggers online regularly – and there’s always something I can learn from them, no matter how much I think I already know. So yesterday I was sent this post, about the naming of names which is all about what stories are ours to tell – worth reading for any blogger.

But now, having talked about my blogging history, I’d like to read you some of my blogging. I’ve selected three favourite posts, but don’t worry, I’m not going to read you my best performing ones. You don’t need to know about rubbish Christmas trees, or camping lists today. Instead, let’s have tired tweeting, unheard cheerleaders, so, autism, and we’ll finish with desiderata of blogging.

If any of that has inspired you to start blogging, here’s a couple of ideas to get you going. When you start you’ll want a Hello World style post – your first blog post. I don’t recommend mine 😉 You should also have an about page, which is a permanent introduction for people to refer to – think carefully about what goes here, and remember to update it regularly. And finally, if you’d like to do some slightly more exploratory writing, I’ll refer you to one more favourite post of mine, which is based on a writing exercise with instructions available online – Where I’m from.

(If you do have a go at any of this, pop back and leave me your links, I’d love to read.)

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Q Pootle 5: Pootle the Explorer – review and giveaway Mon, 11 Apr 2016 14:53:33 +0000 We’ve been fans of Q Pootle 5 since way back when – our first encounter was via a library book when Small was actually small 😉 I love Nick Butterworth’s work, the story is straightforward, the illustrations are clear, and above all else, it’s fun. (I particularly love Colin the cat.)

When I heard Q Pootle 5 was coming to television, I was a little nervous. Not all stories make the transition well after all, but I needn’t have worried. The animation is pretty much perfect, so close to the books, and the stories are just as gentle. Hearing that there was another batch of episodes available on DVD was great news, and the little ones love them just as much as the older two loved the book.

(Or indeed as much as they love the book – we’ve continued borrowing it time after time from the library over the years. Not sure why we don’t have our own copy yet!)


Q Pootle 5: Pootle the Explorer is released today, 11 April, courtesy of Abbey Home Media, and to celebrate we are offering one lucky person the chance to win a copy.

Q Pootle 5 and his friends, Oopsy, Eddi, Stella, Ray, Groobie, Bud-D and Planet Dave, love to have fun in Space, finding adventure and tackling the everyday problems of the final frontier! Now is your chance to own seven spectacular episodes from the much loved series created by popular children’s author and illustrator Nick Butterworth. There is also a fantastic poster featuring all of your favourite characters included with the DVD.

Don’t miss out on this exciting prize! Enter today via the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you’re not lucky enough to win, you can pick up the DVD from today at a variety of retailers, including Amazon: Q Pootle 5 – Pootle The Explorer – WITH FREE POSTER [DVD] (affiliate link).

Disclosure: we were supplied with a copy of the DVD for review purposes. I have received no further recompense for hosting this giveaway.

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder

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Sunlight on a Sunday. Sun, 10 Apr 2016 22:14:13 +0000 Inspired by the weekend hashtag project on Instagram, I went looking for light and shadows in the garden. 

Here are a few of the pictures I didn’t use on there. 

When light is time.


Daisy. Because, well, daisy.

Blowing a rainbow.


The Instagram pics are in my sidebar, or pop over there to check them out in detail.

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On autism, girls and school – commentary on a research article. Sat, 09 Apr 2016 16:31:08 +0000 11375181_933715053353508_1533604844_n A friend linked me to this interesting research article, the experience of the hidden curriculum for autistic girls at mainstream primary schools. It got me to thinking, about autism, girls and things that are hidden in plain sight.

The hidden curriculum under discussion here isn’t quite the same as the one that springs to mind when I think of the term – but then again, I’m a home educator and I’ve read John Taylor Gatto: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (affiliate link).

Instead we are told:

The hidden curriculum is widely accepted to be ‘that we are not taught directly yet are assumed to know’ (Myles and Simpson 2001, 279). It includes rules and customs, perhaps, fashions or trends, and may change and evolve over time; critically, though, it is always implicit and unstated (Myles, Trautman, and Schelvan 2013). Variables include age and gender, ‘culture and circumstance’ (Endow 2010, 2).

Which in turn made me think of Jennifer O’Toole’s The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens With Asperger Syndrome (affiliate link). I’ve read part of that – it annoyed me somewhat because the rules aren’t consistent. Most people don’t follow them at all times and some people get away with breaking them at will, while others very much don’t.

But what’s the effect of the hidden curriculum, and being completely oblivious to it? For the girls in the study it’s wide ranging, and a little heart rending.

The study followed three girls of primary school age to see how they interacted, what they thought of how everything worked, what their parents, and what their educators thought. What is most striking for me is the differences between those views.

So we hear:

The criteria for completing a task successfully were not always made explicit for Amy or Gem, which impacted on understanding and achievement. In a science lesson, Amy’s group got an equally valid but different result to their teacher, Mrs F, but Mrs F would not accept or discuss an alternative answer


Gem struggled when teacher instructions were inconsistent, confusing or without rationale. Her teacher asked a lot of ‘test’ questions, such as when had they drawn a silhouette before and why was she not able to throw the javelin well; Gem was told her answers were not the ones the teacher was thinking of (although they were valid).

The existence of one ‘right’ answer is a difficult thing for many children to cope with – for a child already struggling with isolation, anxiety and the environment they are in, this could well be overwhelming.

And when the adults that are supposed to help you completely misunderstand you? This is a common theme for parents:

This masking of difficulties was most successful by Gem, whose teacher questioned the parents’ approach to discipline as Gem only exhibited explosive behaviour at home: ‘I don’t have to cope with anything’.

(I am very much hoping that at the end of this study the teacher received some training to understand how autism works, how children can spend the whole day squishing everything difficult inside themselves, only to explode where they perceive themselves to be safe. In other words dear teacher, you are not making that child feel safe, while the parents very much are.)

And as for this approach from a SENCO?

’. Amy said that it would help her if there was somewhere at school she could go to be on her own. However, the SENCO stated that she had ‘had to discourage’ the time-out space as Amy had wanted to spend too much time there.

Did you not think to ask WHY she wants to spend time there? And what else you could do to reduce the requirement for it, rather than just saying no?

I could go on snipping bits out of this article with increasingly desperate commentary, but if you’ve any interest in autistic girls and education, the best bet is for you to read it yourself. If you are a parent, you are going to feel dismay when you read that teachers didn’t bother to access external information and support, favouring their own interpretation/ assessment over parents and indeed professionals. However, you might want to arm yourself with a copy of this article, and wave it around a bit. If you are a teacher, there’s a huge amount in there for you to pick up on and use to critically evaluate your own interactions. I have mainly highlighted the negatives. For a third girl in the study, there are a lot of positive outcomes, and it is largely about the environment being ASC friendly.

One of the things that springs to mind is from our own experience – I took time to explain communication requirements to a swim teacher once upon a few years ago. When she fed back to me a few weeks later, she agreed that my assessment and suggestions were spot on. She also said when she adapted her communication to suit the needs of the autistic child, the rest of the group performed better.

This says to me that this hidden curriculum is more hidden from ‘normal’ children than you’d think, and that clear communication, well crafted expectations, and staying on top of feedback helps *all* children more than you’d realise. Food for thought, this autism awareness month?

Full academic citation: R. Moyse & J. Porter (2015) The experience of the hidden curriculum for
autistic girls at mainstream primary schools, European Journal of Special Needs Education,
30:2, 187-201, DOI: 10.1080/08856257.2014.986915 (pdf link)

Further reading:
The most recent instalment of my experience of autism past diagnosis “Autism, anxiety and mindfulness” You can find everything I’ve written on autism by checking out the autism tag, linked below the post.

Previous book reviews on related topics.

Nerdy, shy and socially unacceptable

Nerdy, shy and socially unacceptable

Pretending to be normal

Pretending to be normal

From here to maternity by Lana Grant

From here to maternity

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Beach days. Fri, 08 Apr 2016 16:20:02 +0000 Yesterday.

I went for a walk in the afternoon (I try to every day) and stopped in at a bundle of book, sorry, charity shops on the way. Books acquired? A few. Oops. And then the Works where I resisted a beautiful book on how to crochet a doll and all the accessories for it (This book: (affiliate link) My Crochet Doll: A fabulous crochet doll pattern with over 50 cute crochet doll clothes and accessories I may go back as it’s £4 in the Works) and flicked through a bunch of how tos and workbooks on CBT, mindfulness and meditation. Then instead of buying any of those, I went down to the beach and piled pebbles on each other to take photos. It was very relaxing, and quite meditative in its own way.

And it stopped raining on me, and the sun shone, which was good.

And today.

Today we managed to leave the house without it raining on us. Before we went out we read some of the very lovely picture books I picked up yesterday (which included the wonderful The Snow Leopard by Jackie Morris which has the most beautiful pictures in it and as Smallest observed, sounds like poetry. (affiliate link)

We got rid of some books (see, books *can* leave the house as well as coming in) and then went to Clarks where we discovered once again that my children’s feet don’t really grow in the winter. How *does* that work? And then we went to the Works for bubbles to blow on the beach, and oops, a book on how to crochet a doll 😉

And then we went to the beach where Smallest dug a moat and built a hill and Tigerboy blew bubbles and threw sand (gah) and I took photos (you’re surprised aren’t you?)


If I have tempted you to buy the crochet a doll book, here’s a handy the Works affiliate link.

linked up with Country Kids at Coombemill Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Little moments of happy Sun, 27 Mar 2016 22:45:01 +0000 We visited Kentwell Hall. We saw flowers and baby animals and Tudors and a rainbow. Somewhere during the day I found a few moments of happy.

A boy in a puddle.

A peacock under a tree.

A few moments of a day. A starting place at least.

And tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

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Snippets and snapshots Sat, 26 Mar 2016 19:35:19 +0000 {missing} my weekly round up – I know I’ll regret those holes in the archives when I’m looking back at our lives.

{feeling} like wading through mud would be easier than living through days steeped in depression. I want to be happy. I can’t remember how. I can’t find any energy to do things that might help, and it feels like the small things I try too often go wrong. One day at a time feels like an eternity.

{trying} to still keep doing and being.

{remembering} Kentwell.

{counting} achievements. Today I found the bottom of the washing basket; went swimming with three of the children; found most of the pieces I cut out years ago for a blanket coat for Smallest. Or possibly Small. Whichever, I think it will fit Smallest. I had planned to make it up today, but see swimming.

{making} Audrey Hepburn. I had to frog her chest area – the instructions weren’t clear enough for my slightly foggy brain, and I basically managed to put her breasts on the side instead of the front. Not a good look. Even in a little black dress as they are. Still trying to keep going though.

{painting} wet on wet, watercolour. Do we like?

{wishing} yesterday’s weather hadn’t been a one off. We even picnicked in the garden, it was so warm. Glorious. 

{begging} for nominations in the MAD and BiB blog awards. Links are in the sidebar, pretty please and thank you.


Big has finished term two. Only one more to go. Fingers crossed it’s all going well. She had to rearrange a college interview due to sickness, but hopefully we have that sorted now. Small is loving his iGCSE course, and is coping well with it. Which is good as he had today off with a stinking cold. Hohum. Smallest is doing well with her swimming – great confidence in the water, so different from the last time I took her. Her main problem appears to be natural density – she sinks 😉 Tigerboy moment of the day when approaching the elephant water slide – you don’t need to catch me, Big, I’ll be fine. Seconds later he disappeared under the water, and had to be fished out. Look on his face when he came up had me quite literally crying with laughter.

Have a few more pictures. (I’d put them in a gallery but mobile WordPress doesn’t seem to know about galleries sadly.)


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Pet Parade play garden with exclusive kitten. Thu, 24 Mar 2016 16:33:21 +0000 My children love my blog. They particularly love my blog when big parcels containing toys arrive.

This particular parcel had a Pet parade play garden, including an exclusive kitten, and they didn’t know where to put themselves – the excitement was almost too much.

From the top – the box has carry handles, so that you can cart your new set around with you wherever you go. This is a good thing I’m told. However, the set has never made it back into the box here, as it’s definitely toy of the month, so that hasn’t been an option 😉

Pet parade play garden

As well as handles, there’s a plastic window with hole so that you can try the toy before getting it out. Given how well it’s attached to the box (I *hate* packaging that requires screwdrivers, I think there ought to be regulations against it!) this was a good thing.

Once out, there’s minimal set up – mainly putting bits where they are supposed to be. It’s a good quality set, easy to set up and solid. The main point is the use of magnets (and this is also where it should be noted this is very definitely NOT for young children) that allow the kitten to play with various bits of the set, like the mouse that can be chased and the goldfish pond.

close up kitty

There’s even a lead that attaches to the harness so that you can take your kitten (excitingly named Kitty here 😉 ) for walks, or help it play with the ball of wool. Oh, and don’t forget Tweety pie in the cage.

kitty on table with bird

All in all, this does have plenty of play value, and has been a big hit here, and that’s without them seeing the webisodes on youtube. (No, I’m not showing them the episodes on Youtube.)

This particular set (there are many) retails at around £24.99 as in here at Amazon Pet Parade Play Garden Playset for Kittens and can be bought from a number of retailers. All the animals fit in all the sets, and Argos currently has a deal on puppies, two for £15. (Hm, Easter, tempting…)

Disclosure we were supplied with the set free for review, Amazon links are affiliate links.

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Let’s talk about the A word. Wed, 23 Mar 2016 16:52:13 +0000 theAword
Maurice (Christopher Eccleston), Alison (Morven Christie) and Joe Hughes (Max Vento) in The A Word. Photograph: Rory Mulvey/BBC/Fifty Fathoms

So. BBC one showed a new drama, The A word, last night about a family discovering their son has autism.

It’s very well acted – unsurprisingly given it includes Christopher Eccleston on fine, if somewhat grumpy form (possibly because he seems to suddenly have become old enough to be cast as grandad, which must be a bit of a shock for all concerned). The young lad playing the autistic boy in question is playing what he’s been asked to play very well.


Despite articles raving about it (The A Word is a beautifully believable drama about autism and family tensions is just one of the many I found) I’m personally having a few problems believing it.

Within this family, we’ve been through the diagnosis process 3 times.

It’s never been easy.

First time around, the GP, who seemed to have his own belief issue with autism as a condition insisted that the problem was down to a chronic ear infection, saw us monthly for 3 months, and then prescribed 6 months of penicillin. I didn’t fill the script, did transfer to a different GP and finally got the referral that we actually needed. The child in question had had his hearing tested regularly throughout childhood, received speech therapy for lack of speech, and was at the time I caved and sought referral beyond being a handful and was regularly physically attacking me if I attempted to thwart his wishes and do something like get him to leave the house. There were other clues that all was not well, but this is supposed to be a normal length article.

I know I don’t know every autistic child (or indeed person) on the planet, but I’ve seen a fair few meltdowns and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that resulted in the child lying quietly face down on the floor. Or just slapping someone once and then stopping in apparent shock.

Also, during the diagnostic interview in the programme, the doctor(?) asked for school reports, and the family said oh we didn’t bother with those. And then the diagnosis tootled on? I know quite a lot of home educating families who have been told that they can’t access diagnosis as the child isn’t in school and it can’t happen without educational reports. (Which is wrong, incidentally, but unfortunately for a lot of children, medical professionals do not know everything, and very often are prejudiced against anything outside the norm. Our paediatrician was a lot more clued up, and just visited us at home and him at beavers, in order to see him in a social situation.)

What I’m trying to get at is the diagnosis procedure in the program wasn’t in the slightest bit believable. Ignoring the lack of educational reports, it missed out the stage where the parents, tearing their hair out, are either fobbed off, put on a waiting list, lied to, or told that it’s just poor parenting and they need to attend classes. Yes, all of these things happen and accessing diagnosis can take a very long time. (Do NOT get me started on accessing support.)

Oh, and despite us being told that this isn’t yet another Rainman lookalike, it *is* about a little boy with savant like skills for learning music lyrics.

Head. Desk.

Please. Please be aware that autistic people can be male, female, young, old, bright, not so bright, have learning difficulties or not, often have a variety of co morbid diagnosis like epilepsy or joint issues (look up Ehlers Danlos and weep) and so on and so forth. What they rarely are is savants.

Yes, yes, I know the A word is fiction. But it’s fiction that once again cements a stereotype in place, and means that people like me – female, adult etc will be told more often that I can’t be autistic. Like I was by the GP I approached to access diagnosis myself, who couldn’t get me out of the room fast enough.

He was wrong. I am. And many more people are going to be misled by this, and it doesn’t help any of us.

(And as for the throw away prejudiced remark anti home schooling in the trailer for the next episode – really? Just what does the BBC have against home education??)

Further reading:
The most recent instalment of my experience of autism past diagnosis “Autism, anxiety and mindfulness” You can find everything I’ve written on autism by checking out the autism tag, linked below the post.

Previous book reviews on related topics.

Nerdy, shy and socially unacceptable

Nerdy, shy and socially unacceptable

Pretending to be normal

Pretending to be normal

From here to maternity by Lana Grant

From here to maternity

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