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Category Archives: Family Life

Springtime in the Garden

Death

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Decay

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Ruin

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What a sorry state my garden is in. It needs a lot of TLC. So for the past few weekends I’ve been nursing it back to health.

I’m amazed at what’s survived and what hasn’t. This Dicentra (Candy Hearts) is in a small pot attached to a fence. We had the coldest winter on record for something like 20 years. I thought for sure it was dead.

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But on closer inspection, I saw new leaves peaking through the mess of dead foliage. And now look at it; you can even see several stems loaded with magenta flower buds.

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But the Geranium, the huge geranium snugly nestled in the flower bed, died. (Oh, darn. I’m so sad that great big, ugly plant is gone lovely plant is gone.)

Here are a few newly-acquired plants:

One of my all-time favourites: Dicentra (Bleeding Heart). I’m not sure this is the best spot as it’s a bit shady. I’ll have to keep an eye on it. (We’ve recently ripped out the shrubs around it; I hated those things.)

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Magnolia, planted next to the Bleeding Heart.

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Hellebore:

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An Azalea, potted up.

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These plants were purchased at the fantastic Mockridge Nursery. If you’re anywhere near Manchester and like to garden, you must go. The prices and quality are unbeatable.

Gardening is a totally new experience this year. Last year the garden was a blank canvas. It was daunting, but exciting. This year we’re enjoying some of the fruits of last year’s labour, and if anything it’s more exciting. Last year when I bought plants, I simply bought what I liked that was affordable with little to no thought as to where I would put it. I bought too many things and ended up with plants in pots that should have gone in the ground or the flower bed, and plants in the flower bed that should have been in pots.

This year is different. I’m seeing the space that needs a plant and thinking, ‘what shall I put there?’ And the annuals, rather than the perennials, are going in pots.

We’re hoping to build another flower bed and some sort of bird-attracting tree in the back.

We have this Snowy Mespilus bought last year for £1.79 at Morrison’s. It was tiny and we didn’t think it was going to make it, but here it is, sprouting leaves. It’s in a pot until we can figure out exactly where we want it.

I also need to find a spot for my Wisteria, which I also thought was dead, but is coming to life.

One dinky strawberry plant, bought for 99p which gave us ONE strawberry last year, has produced 8 or 9 plants. I’ve transferred them to the vegetable patch. I can’t wait to see how many berries we get this year.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2010 in Family Life, First Grade, Gardening, Michelle

 

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Now that I have a new blog for  posts about my art, we can get back to ‘normal’ here. I was feeling a little guilty that I hadn’t been posting about homeschooling. That’s what most of my readers come  here for, to read about homeschooling. Not painting. But if they do want to read about my painting, they can do so here.

I wasn’t going to set up a new blog, because I thought it would be more work and hassle than it’s worth and take up too much time, but I’m happy I’ve done it. WordPress makes it easy. I only need to log in once, and I can switch between blogs so easily. At the top of my screen, it no longer says ‘my dashboard.’ It now says ‘my dashboards,’ so I can click on which one I want via the dropdown menu. I can also choose to create a new post for the other blog while I’m still here with just one click, and vice-versa.

I like having things separated. I can’t explain why, I just do. It feels neat and orderly. The other blog is also a resource centre, with links and book recommendations, etc, so those interested in watercolour don’t have to sift through the homeschooling stuff to get to the art stuff. It’s also nice to see a different layout.

Did I mention that I have a new blog?

Despite my obssession enthusiasm for watercolouring, we are still managing to homeschool. But because the week before was cut short, we used this week just gone by to finish up the previous week’s work, which left us with some free time. And not only have I been  painting, but so has Esa. He’s also been using acrylics.

He recently did a bike swap. He had a Radio Flyer Twist Trike (bought at half-price), but has sort of out-grown it. So he gave that bike to a younger cousin, and the older brother of this cousin gave Esa his bike which he’d outgrown (got that? 🙂 ) I didn’t see the point in spending £60-80 on a brand new bike that he would only ride for about 2 years when there was a perfectly good one in my sister-in-law’s shed. I also had a suspicion that Esa wasn’t wanting a bike to ride, he was just wanting to buy a bike for the fun of it. But I was wrong. He loves riding this bike. He’s been out every day, pedalling around our driveway, and in the evenings dh potters about outside while Esa rides on the road (we live nearly at the end of a no-outlet street, so it’s pretty free from traffic),and takes him other places to ride. He even took him on the cycle path near Tesco today while I did the shopping.

But if the novelty does wear off, then we’ve not wasted precious £’s.

Here he is pretending to fall.

I haven’t mislead you; I am going to talk about homsechooling. Here goes.

We’ve got an issue with math. Esa is saying that math is hard and he doesn’t like it.

Oh dear.

That’s not good. Esa’s always enjoyed math: numbers, counting, patterns, working out his own made-up addition and subtraction equations.

Some might say a change in curricula is warranted. And a year ago, I might have agreed. But that’s not what I’m going to do. I’m going to do one of the following:

  • Completely unschool math.
  • Use the Teacher’s Manual from Singapore math as a guide for what to learn, but use games and activities instead of the workbooks. (We may do a few of the workbook problems on the dry erase board.)
  • A little unschooling, a few planned activities, a few workbook pages.

I’m leaning more towards unschooling math altogether. I know he’s motivated mathematically and will pursue it. But I’m reluctant to ditch the curricula altogether because he has learned a lot of math, much of it he has enjoyed, and the workbooks have been great for his reading. The instructions are written at his reading level and he’s learned the importance of reading the instructions first.

I’m not totally sure where we’ll go with this. I’m going to have a look at next week’s lessons and see what I can do with it. I’ll make a few plans and we’ll try it out. I want him to be able to dig deeper into something if that’s what he wants, a bit like we do with history and science.

We’re cutting out the artist study notebook. It just seems like busy work. I don’t want to have to tell him to stop narrating so I can write or type things out. I want the narrations to be more like discussions, and less like work. Maybe we’ll start them again when he’s older and an independent writer.

Our phonics lessons have gone up a few notches in difficulty. Esa’s now learning sounds such as -tious and -tion, and the rules associatied. Fortunately, we’re nearing the end of our phonics instruction. Reading is coming along well and he seems to be enjoying it a little more. He’s also begun to read things silently.

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The Universal Wishlist has finally arrived at Amazon.co.uk. I LOVE this thing! I’ve been able to add things like our microscope and art supplies to it; it’s great! It’s really going to help me to budget and plan purchases without having to visit multiple sites. What a time-saver.

 

Sleep Over

A few days ago, Esa went to his cousin’s for his first sleep over. Whilst packing his little pull-along suitcase, he chattered away about the merits and risks of taking this item or that. (“Hmmm…I might lose this…and I probably won’t even play with that…do I need 6 pairs of socks, or just 5? Shall I bring my perfume?”) When his auntie arrived to collect him, he shot out the door, the wheels of  his suitcase straining under the weight of his over-packing. Forget a goodbye hug and kiss; he didn’t even look back to wave! He jumped into the car, whooping it up with his 3 cousins while my sis-in-law and I chatted about the adventure the little munchkins were going to have.

That evening, I stayed up way too late playing Barn Buddy and Gardenhood reading and writing a blog post. The next day I ventured into town and had a nice long look at (WHSmith’s limited range of) watercolour supplies and books. Esa’s at that age now were he doesn’t really enjoy shopping, unless it’s for toys or clothes for himself (although he does like grocery shopping). So, I try to go alone now. I often go while he’s playing football Saturday mornings, but that only gives me an hour. I was able to have a long, leisurely look at things. I bought a bunch of stuff, and then returned all but one book. (Damn WHSmith and their 20% off voucher!)

I then did a little painting and reading and thoroughly enjoyed my time alone.

When I collected Esa the next evening, he was exhausted. Apparently, they’d all woken up at 4am, giggling and whispering. My sis-in-law informed them of the ungodly hour and told them to go back to sleep. Which they did. Until 6:30. Esa never gets up that early; he usually sleeps until 8. They played hard and had a great time. When we got home, he had some milk and fell asleep on the sofa at 7:30.

A lovely time was had by all…especially me. 🙂

The next day? We ditched lessons and had an art day. Esa decided to paint with watercolours.

 

Blogging Break

The Thursday after our holiday ended, dh left for a short holiday to Morocco with his brother and some friends. I had every intention of continuing with our lessons.

But, well, you know…

We were good until Wednesday which was my husband’s first day off from work before leaving for Morocco. He wanted to go out, so we skipped lessons that day. I thought, “we’ll make it up on Saturday.” We were going to be holed up in the house anyway because of the protest going on in town that day.

On Thursday dh was due to leave in the afternoon. “We’ll do our lessons in the afternoon,” I said. The afternoon rolled ’round. We did history, read a Greek myth, copywork,  reading, and handwriting. When it came time for math, we just couldn’t be bothered.

“We’ll do lessons on Sunday as well,” I said.

Mmm-hmmm.

Friday came. “We’d better go out today,” I said to Esa that morning, “because it’s nice out and we won’t be able to get into town tomorrow. I’d also like to go to Hobby Craft to check out their watercolour stuff. Daddy hates Hobby Craft, so we’ll go now. We can take our time.”

So we went to Hobby Craft and I got a few little bits, nothing big. Esa wanted a silver metallic pencil.

By the time we got home, we were exhausted (we’d walked it there and back). No lessons on Friday then, either.

By that point I decided to give up on doing lessons until dh got back. If he’s on holiday, so are we, I thought. So we finished our stuff later in the week. The funny thing is, when our holiday ended the week before, I though to myself, “I could really do with another week off…”

So what did we do, apart from our trip into town?

We watched several movies (Esa watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory four times...gotta let our hair down sometimes). We were completely chilled out. I relaxed the rules a bit and we had a lovely 4 days.

Esa played various made-up Star Wars games, played with Lego, set up a restaurant, coloured, and kept his room immaculate. He likes to clean and rearrange his room…I don’t know where he gets it from 😉

I read, cooked and baked, painted a little, researched watercolour painting online, drooled over browsed Ken Bromley, tidied a little, and did some indoor gardening (sowed seeds, potted up the cucumber plants, planted my sweet peas into large pots and staked them).

And you know what? I’d like even more time off.

But I can’t do that; it would be irresponsible. Esa’s ready to get back to his lessons, so we must get moving again. It’s not that I don’t want to do lessons, it’s just that I’ve got so many other things I’d like to do,  but there just isn’t enough time. The garden is calling out to me, my watercolours are glowing with all their beguiling colours, just waiting to be dipped into, and that fat stack of books has temptation written all over it. But there’s so little time. I’m already getting up an hour earlier than I usually do in order to make more time for things.

Something’s gotta give.

I spend the majority of my time on 3 things:

  • Housework
  • Homeschooling
  • Cooking

None of those can be cut out or reduced. I spend just enough time on the housework to keep things orderly and semi-presentable. I cook enough to nourish us and prevent trips to the takeaway. Homeschooling is an ever-changing thing; we spend as much time on it as we need.

So what can I cut out?

I’m trying to find ways in which I waste time. I spend a good amount of time reading Yahoo! Group posts and writing blog posts. Each post takes something like 1-2 hours, with photo uploads, link insertions, editing, etc. I also spend a lot of time keeping my pages of links and curricula current. I reckon that I spend something like 4 hours a week on this blog. I love my blog. But right now I’ve got other things that I want to do, and 4 extra hours would be great.

So I’m going to cut back on my Yahoo! Groups and have a blog break.

I don’t imagine it will be a terribly long break. I know the urge to write and share will take over and I’ll be posting again soon. It may be a few weeks, or a few months. We’ll see.

 

Re/From the Archives: Things That Go Bump in the Night

This post was from April 9th, 2009:

I think Stiggy has been sleepwalking. It started quite a while ago and only happened a few times, but it’s happening more frequently. The other night, he came into my bedroom (hubby was downstairs still). I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘Tummy yummy!’ in a happy voice, doing a little dance-like movement. So I asked him what he wanted. He said, again, ‘Tummy yummy!’ I asked him if he wanted to get into bed with me and he got in. I asked him something else (can’t remember now), but he didn’t answer me.

Unfortunately, he’s not always so happy when this sleepwalking occurs. One time, I found him sitting at the top of the stairs in the dark (kind of creepy) crying. He would not answer my questions, and he would not move from his spot. I tried for nearly 20 minutes to get him to bed. I didn’t want to forcefully move him, so I told him I was going back down stairs and he still did not move. After 15 minutes, I went back up and he allowed me to put him back in bed.

It started out with him just sitting up in bed and looking around, maybe saying a few words, then laying back down. Beginning around age 4, I noticed he would get out of bed, walk around his room a little, then get back in. This only happened maybe 4 or 5 times. But in the last 3 months or so, he’s gotten up about 6 times. Normally, when he wakes up in the night, he’s alert, responsive, and cooperative, but when he’s sleepwalking, he cannot answer my questions and when I try to get him into bed, he often pulls away from me.

I’ve been reading about sleepwalking, and I can’t see any reason for Stiggy to do it. He’s not on any medication, and does not have any of the risk factors mentioned. It could be genetic, I suppose. For now, we’re just keeping the upstairs baby gate shut so he doesn’t fall down the stairs, and praying he grows out of it quickly.

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I’m not sure if he’s totally grown out of it, but he hasn’t done any sleep-walking in months. Fingers crossed.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2010 in Family Life, First Grade

 

Easy Days

We had a most agreeable week off. And I’ve been thinking, ‘we must do this again…hang on a minute, haven’t we done this before?’ The simple answer is: no, we haven’t. Sure, we’ve had time ‘off,’ but it’s either been due to illness, religious reasons (fasting), going away, or because hubby’s taken time off work and we always end up going out. I don’t think we’ve had a single week of just Esa and me at home, chilling out, doing what we want. So, we must have more of that. It was so lovely, so relaxing, so refreshing, so enjoyable. I’ve reworked our last 15 weeks of first grade to include a second week off.

What did we do? A whole lot and a whole lot of nothing. Esa, for the most part, played. He spent hours and hours outside, he coloured, he looked at books, he built ‘houses’ out of blankets, chairs, and pillows. He dressed up as Darth Vader and played out elaborate scenes of fighting and drama. He set up a cookie shop where you could get 1 cookie for £4 or,…deal of deals, 2 cookies for £10. (We then had an impromptu lesson on doubling and discounts.) You paid, chose the shapes of your cookies, and the cookies were rolled, cut, and baked. Play-doh cookies are the best!

Sometimes he was bored. And once he even said he wanted to do lessons (!). But for the most part, he loved his time off.

So what did I do? I read a lot, planned a lot, looked at Amazon a lot, shopped a little, and got excited about nature journaling a lot. I wasted time, which I felt guilty about, then remembered that I was having time off, and since I thoroughly enjoyed the time-wasting it was truly time well-spent. Never once was I bored. As expected, it just wasn’t enough time.

In this photo, I’m attempting to draw Van Gogh’s Irises. I’m using a brush to soften and blend the pastels. I don’t know if this is a ‘real’ technique, it’s just something I thought might work. I like the effect.

The weather was glorious, although I didn’t spend too much time outside. There’s still a chill in the air, and unless I’m moving around, it’s just too cold for me. At this point, there isn’t much gardening for me to do yet.

I spent a lot of time working through Keeping a Nature Journal. I’ve totally fallen in love with this book. I’ve been taking copious notes, I made a small shopping list (tin pencil box √, A6 sketch pad (to carry

in bag) √, small pencil sharpener, small ruler, compass √, few more sketch pencils, Pilot fine-liners, fixative), and I’ve added about 7 books to my wishlist, and of those, I’ve purchased 3:

These are books that I’ve purchased for me. I’m mentioning this because so much of what I buy is for homeschooling,  but the lines between ‘real life’ and homeschooling have blurred so much and it was kind of a shock when I consciously thought  about the fact that I’d chosen these books for myself. Not only that, but I’m benefiting so much from our homeschooling and I now have this new obssession interest. Of course, once I get going with them, I’ll be able to pass on what I’ve learned to Esa. And when he’s a little older, he’ll be able to read them himself and get more from them.

I’m still trying to decide what format I want my nature journal to take. Here’s a list of pros and cons I’ve draws up:

Ring Binder Pros:

  • Clean, neat
  • Doesn’t matter if you ‘mess up’ a page
  • On-going
  • Can move pages about
  • Can insert dividers
  • Can use different types of paper (lined, blank, graph, sketch, copy, watercolour, coloured, etc)
  • Can insert folders and other storage

Ring Binder Cons:

  • Don’t like using plastic sleeves
  • If sleeves are not used, holes much be punched in paper
  • Pages may not fit properly in sleeves, so will need to be trimmed or mounted (if too small) onto A4 paper
  • Notebooks difficult to store, do not look nice on shelves, cannot stack easily or at all.

Sketch Book Pros:

  • More visually appealing
  • Nicer feel, more book-like
  • More portable
  • Other paper can be mounted (but time consuming and may make book bulky)

Sketch Book Cons:

  • Pages ripped out if a mistake is made
  • Cannot add pages
  • Cannot move pages around

For the time being, I’m drawing on loose sheets of copy paper, sketch paper, and watercolour paper until I decide. Decisions like these are enough to stop me in my tracks and prevent me journaling, but KNJ has helped me keep things in perspective: it doesn’t matter what format you use, as long as you use it. I’m leaning more towards a combination of the two: I’ll draw on loose paper, then mount it in the sketch book. If I change my mind, I can always tear the pages out of the sketch book and insert them into a ring binder. I may end up keeping two books: a sketch book for sketches and the ring binder for more elaborate work, such as watercolours. We’ll see.

 

We Need a Break

It’s been quite a while since we took any time off, and I think Esa and I could both use some free time. So, what are we going to do with all that free time? Well, Esa will do a ton of playing, I’m sure, but we’re also wanting to do lots of read alouds. Here’s some of what we’ll be reading:

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

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The Usborne Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece. Esa’s loving this book. We’ve been reading a little each day. I was going to just read a few sections, but he wants to read through all 140 pages.

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Heidi. I love Heidi. I read it for the first time about a year ago and I think it’s one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to share this book with Esa.

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D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. Esa has really loved reading Greek Myths. Our library has a few versions, but he’s wanting a book of his own that we can pick up anytime to read. So I chose an edition that the library does not have, and one that many have raved about.

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We read this excellent version of Aesop’s Fables last week, and Esa loved it. We also own the Milo Winter edition, which we  may read from, or may we may listen to the accompanying CD, this coming week.

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For my birthday this year, I got several DVD’s, and I’m hoping to watch one or two of them:

Emma. This was on television a few months back, and initially I didn’t like Romola Garai’s portrayal of Emma, but after a while I warmed to her.

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Northanger Abbey. I really enjoyed this book. It’s quite different from Jane Austen’s other novels and I’m really looking forward to watching this one.

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Persuasion. For me, the movie adaptations have been a gateway to the novels. That normally isn’t true, but with Jane Austen it is. I have tried reading Persuasion a few times, but I keep putting it down. I’m hoping after I watch this film the book will be more approachable.

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Coraline. I’ve seen this movie already, but I love it. The book is written by the same author as The Wolves in the Walls, and The Graveyard Book which I’m hoping to read soon.

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I’ve also got a ton of reading I want to do, too. I’ve started reading The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I’ve really enjoyed these fun, lively, warm books, although at times they’re a bit predictable, but in a fun, “I know what’s going on here!” kind of way.

This book has been sitting on the table, calling out to me every day. But I just haven’t had the time to sit with it do the necessary poring over it that it needs. I’m hoping to work on it this week.

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I love Wuthering Heights. I read it in school ages ago, and I’m wanting to read it again. The verion pictured is fabulous. It’s a pocket-sized book with an attached ribbon bookmark. It fits so nicely in the hand! I have the complete works of Jane Austen in the same format.

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Art. I’m quickly becoming addicted to art. I get so immersed it in that I’m totally unaware of what’s going on around me. I lose all track of time. I love it, and I’m hoping to do some sketching this week.

If the weather’s decent, I plan to get out into the garden and do some diggin’ and sowin’.

And we have plans to make a gingerbread Parthenon. Yeah.

To be honest, a week just isn’t enough to do all I want to do. I just know I’m going to get sidetracked with housework and other duties. Argh! I will try my best to make the most of it.  Chances are good we’ll have a few days of some of the above, and a few days of not going much, which is important, too. We all need time when there’s nothing to do. It is, after all, free time.