Friday 27 March 2020

Home Learning - One Week In

The children broke up from school on Friday and the weekend was quiet but didn't feel that different.  Monday morning came around and I felt prepared, excited even.  I had a schedule, ideas, space and time, the only thing that was missing were children that actually wanted to do any of it.  This first week has been a week of experimenting, listening, changing expectations and learning.  Day 1 left me in tears but slowly we are working as a team to find what works for us.  I have found that the days are exhausting, being the only parent to four (Ed is working very long hours so isn't around other than for bedtime) and trying to be everything and so I promised myself I would get my big camera out every day, so that I can keep something I enjoy going as well as finding a way to document this strange time in our lives.  

Day 1

Day 1 was tough and I think taking a photo of a little face pressed up against a window shows this.  I felt trapped and I think my frustrations rubbed off on the kids.  They didn't want to do the p.e videos that the rest of the country are loving, they didn't want to do any kind of formal learning and other than painting our rainbows for the window, everything felt very hard.  There were lots of tears (nearly all mine) and I had to give myself some space to find a way through.  We ended the day with a family meeting and coming up with a reward chart together, the kids helping choose the tasks and rewards.

Day 2

I realised that getting outdoors is really important to my mental health and I need to prioritise it.  The day was so much more relaxed and everyone was happier.  Our block is busy with foot traffic so we drove to a deserted part of the coast to get some outdoor exercise whilst still strictly social distancing.  The sea air calmed all of us, we did maths questions written in chalk on the floor and the bigger boys attempted to teach the younger ones how to hopscotch.  I felt so much more positive and there were no tears!

Day 3

By the time the children go to bed, I am exhausted and desperate to collapse in my bed with a book.  The house really needs a clean and a tidy but there is only so much I can manage at the moment.  You can see in the background how much washing up I have but in the foreground you can see that we are learning our own way, baking together.  We followed along with a live cook with kids session on my laptop and did more practical learning.  This summed up our day really as we focused on gardening and baking rather than literacy and numbers.  I want to start taking this as an opportunity to teach them the things that school can't and hope that they are bright enough to catch up on the more academic subjects when schools go back.

Day 4

I remember spending time digging in the garden as a child, I remember the excitement of finding worms, even though I didn't want to touch them and there are times in the day that it feels like I am sharing those memories with the children.  They took the tuff spot outside and made a bug house with a worm hotel.  One child (there is always one) was more than happy to pick up the worms and inspect them and they loved getting muddy and playing outdoors.  There have been stressful parts of the day (as there always are) and we have pretty much taken a day off of school work but that is ok, I am ok with that decision.

Day 5

The final day of the week, it marks one week since the schools shut and it feel like both the longest week ever and strangely one of the most enjoyable.  Without distractions and appointments, the endless school runs and swimming lessons, we are learning to just be.  I am getting the hang of what structure works best for us and they are looking forward to the their favourite bits of being at home, like the pretend coffee shop we made this afternoon after decorating the cakes we had made this morning (and burnt).  They are already asking about things we can do again next week and I am feeling less overwhelmed and more ready to embrace this strange period which feels like both a terrible time and a gift at the same time.  

It has been a strange week and I have enjoyed following other people's journeys on social media but I have also had to step back and realise mine will be different.  There are people reading more, writing more, baking more, crafting more.  There are people who will be better at this than me but I am the best one for my children and at the end of the week I am confident that they feel secure and loved in this difficult time.

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Saturday 21 March 2020

The Start of Home Learning

It still feels a bit too normal, like a quiet weekend at home.  We didn't go out today but I kept busy cleaning, tidying and rearranging things in the house to hopefully make the coming weeks of home learning a bit easier.  I have seen people talking on social media about the best way to approach it with a divide between those that are going for full on routine and those that think focusing on survival is where we are at and anything else is a bonus.

I am someone who likes to be busy, and I am happiest out the house and with friends so I know that it might be me taking the longest to adapt to our new normal.  Because of this, I have made us a daily schedule which we are going to try and follow for the next week.  I am sure by the end of the week there will be changes, either it is too rigid or maybe they thrive better with more structure - who knows? I do know that this is going to be a learning curve for all of us though and I will make sure that all 6 of us have an input in how this social distancing looks for us.

I am going to be looking after my three year old who is usually in nursery two days a week and the three boys who are currently in Reception, Year 2 and Year 4 so there is quite a wide range of learning abilities but all of them are too young to be off working on their own like many of the secondary school children might be.  With that in mind, this is how our plan currently looks

We are going to start the day with some family yoga or other physical exersize.  I have been recommended Cosmic Kids on youtube and also The Body Coach is doing live videos at 9 each morning.  We usually walk to school and I like the fact the children stretch their legs before being asked to sit and concentrate so it is something I want to continue.

Between 10 and 11 we will be doing paper learning.  The boys all have some worksheets from school, we will write stories, look at books and I will be encouraging them to write letters to their friends as well.  I have a few wipe clean work books if Cora wants to join in, otherwise I will leave her to play with her toys quietly.

Between 11 and 12 we will be doing practical learning.  I want to teach them to bake basic recipes and I have lots of porridge oats so we can try some snack bar recipes.  We also have vegetables to grow in the garden so we will have days where we focus on that and I will (reluctantly) do crafting and art with them too.  I think I might see what mood they are in each morning before I choose which!

Between 12 and 2 we will have lunch, have quiet play and I am going to encourage them to help out with some chores too.  I am hoping this quiet time might be a good opportunity to introduce them to Blue planet and other educational programs.

Between 2 and 3 we will be doing more home learning but online.  We have enough laptops and computers for them to have one each and there are loads of online resources and websites.  Dylan already has log ins for TT Rock Stars and Spelling Shed and all three have maths sites they can use.  We have tried Reading Eggs with them before which we all loved and I know that starts quite young so I might encourage Cora to get stuck in with this too.

Being outdoors and getting exersize is so important to us all so between 3 and 5 we will go out, either to emptier parks or quiet beaches.  At the moment we are socially distancing rather than on lockdown so we will make the most of local spaces.  If things change then it will be done in the garden or via videos to encourage energetic play.

From 5 it will be the same as a normal school day.  Free play, screen time, dinner and maybe a film night if it is a non-messy dinner!

And finally we will do quiet time in their bedrooms before bed where I can go round and read with each of them.

I am sure our plans will adapt but having something in place makes me feel happier and they are used to the routine of school so it shouldn't be hard to adjust.  Ed will be working upstairs during the days so it will be just the four of them and I and I am both excited a little at this new challenge and terrified of how I am going to keep them all entertained. We will fit in some face-timing with their friends and family where possible too and hopefully we can settle into this new pace of life.  I will hopefully continue to write about what works for us and what doesn't and how we are all adjusting. 

How are you approaching the coming weeks? Are you more of a structure or free-play parent?
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Thursday 12 March 2020

The Ordinary Moments - Another Day, Another Beach

I am really enjoying documenting the ordinary moments, our simple saturdays and everything else but I feel like a theme might become obvious.  We live to close to the beach, it has too many possibilities for us to ignore it and whenever we are struggling with something to do or the children need some fresh air and to run off some energy, it is where we end up.

I love the beach in summer when we can cool off in the sea, eat ice cream at any opportunity and soak in the sun but there is something so special about it in winter too, especially on a milder day.  There are hardly any people which means the children can have so much more freedom with where they can run to without having to worry about losing sight of them.  They love to draw on the walls with the chalk that is everywhere and we take buckets, spades and balls still.  The beach is where I see their imaginations emerging more as there is nothing but space.

On this visit, we did decide to try paddling in the sea although it was still super chilly! I asked the little ones to just dip in a toe and feel it but they of course understood this to mean walk in up to your ankles and jump around a bit.  We stayed down there until our feet got too cold and then went and found a warm cafe for a hot chocolate.

The children never get excited when I mention a visit to the beach, I think we go so much that the novelty has worn off but as soon as we get down there they just love it, they feel free and they play so well without any walls to bounce off.  It was another ordinary day for us, a different beach to the local one we walk to, but the same sea.

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Monday 9 March 2020

Two and Two

The children are all really close in age, when Cora was born I had 4 aged 4 and under but the biggest age gap is in the middle.  They have always fallen into two pairs really, the bigger boys and the little ones (who until recently were referred to as the babies). Archie grew up faster to keep up with Dylan and the little ones seemed to even out somewhere in the middle, acting more like twins at times.  They have an amazing relationship most of the time (although they are more than capable of fighting too) and sometimes at the weekends now, we end up splitting the children so they can do different things.

These little ones still need to run around, they need fresh air and freedom and they are easier to handle outside the house rather than in it.  The older boys, whilst still only 7 and 8 can cope inside for longer and enjoy quiet time to do their Lego or play games.  Ed and I are very different here (which works well at these times) as I would always rather be out, and I opt to take these two usually and go exploring.  He loves being at home and has the patience for Monopoly with children which I am definitely lacking! It feels strange having such a gap in what they want to do when they are all so close but it is lovely having the opportunity to indulge them all too and we make sure to spend time as a family as well.

These photos are from a recent weekend where we drove to a different beach to normal armed with a bucket and a ball.  We walked around the town and stopped for pancakes with Grandma, their Aunty and cousin and played out until dinner time.  We had a wonderful day and I loved being out with them.  The bigger boys had an afternoon of board games at home and maintain that they had more fun! 

I know that this age gap grows and shrinks, that it may get bigger before it gets smaller again and eventually I will have four teenagers but for now I am enjoying being able to spend time with them in pairs doing the things they love.

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Wednesday 4 March 2020

5 Animal Books for Children

This World Book Day I wanted to share five of our favourite animal based books for primary school aged children.  These are all books that we have had for a while and enjoyed and satisfy my children's curiosity around animals for a while.  If you are looking for a book for a young animal lover then check these out!

(please note some title links are affiliate links)

10 Reason to Love a Lion
written by Catherine Barr
Illustrated by Hanako Clulow

This book is part of a series (we also have one about penguins) and features beautiful illustrations explaining why lions are such amazing creatures.  We love talking about the pictures and find it very informative. This is enjoyed most by my younger children but older ones can read it independently.


This is an interactive book that older children can explore on their own.  It is full of information on a large variety of animals but also has puzzles and challenges throughout to encourage them to stay engaged.  If you want to encourage a reluctant reader this is great as each page is a different animal and the writing is broken up with games and illustrations.

Chris Packham
Jason CockcroftThis book covers a variety of species but linking each one in a way that makes it flow as a book to read to younger children whilst still being factual.  This is one we have read as a bedtime story as it slots in with other fiction books easily.  I love the way it is written and how children are often integrated into the images.

Sophy Henn

This is a larger book than the others to accomodate the fact it is actually lifesize.  You can hold the book against you to get a real idea of a toucan's beak or a lion's roar but the book is simple enough for younger children to explore on their own too as everything is easy to understand.  The pictures are bright and inviting and this is always a favourite in my house.

Curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom

We have a few books from this series and they never disappoint.  This book is like an illustrated encylopedia of animals and I love the drawings.  This is one that we bring out when the children are curious about a specific species but we also enjoy opening it on a random page and seeing what we can discover.  This is a big book and one that I see us keeping for many, many years.  

I would love to hear of any animal themed book suggestions for children!

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Tuesday 3 March 2020

The Ordinary Moments - Walking Home

Next month I find out what school this tiny girl will be going to.  I already know really, she should be pretty certain of a sibling place as she already has a brother at the infant school we have chosen but it is still a step closer to her starting school, something I am both ready for and dreading at the same time.  I will miss those snippets of time I get with just her whilst her brothers are at school.

She does 2.5 days a week at nursery, we look after my nephew all day on one day off and see friends all day on the other usually so it is that afternoon after nursery that is our real quiet time together.  Sometimes we stay at home and cuddle on the sofa or she plays quietly whilst I get things done and sometimes we go out for a little wander, to the park or the shop or down to a cafe.  The school days fly by now (I thought I was going to have so much free time!) so it is never long before we have to start the school runs but I love those moments with her which will be harder to come by in a few months.

I know that right now mainstream school is the right place for us, I know she will be ready in September and she is going to love it, I am looking forward to having more time to work, socialise (and nap) without little people around but I will miss this one on one time that I get with her every week.

These photos are from a walk home, we had popped over to a friends house and the fastest way back was through the park.  I love that they capture a variety of her cheeky faces, and the last photo just as we got back to our house showing how long her hair has got now that she isn't a baby anymore, the way it falls on her back.  If I could freeze these moments to revisit when she gets bigger I totally would.

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