Journey into Unschooling

Awesome August

August 24th, 2015 by becki

August has so far been an amazing month. A month of reflection as I turned 40 and took stock of the last ten years of our unschooling journey. On my 30th birthday I was newly pregnant with Alfie and hiding my exciting secret at my birthday barbecue. So much has changed since then and I have grown together with these three wonderful children. There are some sorrows along our journey, as we lose Nanny to the evil of Alzheimers for example, but many, many joys. This last decade has been totally awesome.

So, what have we been up to this month?

We had a lovely day out at Rodbaston Animal Zone with Nathan, Bex and Violet. This is a wildlife park that is part of the local college, used for the students training in animal care. They also have the World Owl Trust lodging with them whilst their new centre is built in Dudley. Alfie loved holding the barn owl :-)

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We spent a fantastic couple of days staying in the Peak District with the Kelly crew. A lovely, sunny day at Chatsworth, paddling in the Cascade, climbing trees, admiring the amazing gardens and tasting the vegetables in the kitchen gardem.

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After tea and a night in the youth hostel, we headed to Eyam Hall. The children enjoyed doing the trails around the house – a code breaker involving looking for facts in all the rooms for the big three, and an I-Spy for the little ones. We walked over to the playground afterwards to let off some steam, before heading home for tea at the Crown Carvery.

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Back home, Amber and I spent the day with Nanny whilst Dad went to London to get Matt’s flat ready for his visit. We had a lot of drama when the carers got Mom stuck on the stairs and we had to phone for the paramedics to carry her back up, after trying everything for an hour to no avail. Mom was happy eating roe and chips on the landing ;-) Amber was a star, doing her magazine and keeping everyone entertained. When Great Uncle Martin turned up later, he was treated to a Minecraft tutorial :-) I was pleased to get out for my birthday curry with the lovely Elaine, Bex, Jenni, Kate and Clare, after all the drama!

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The next day we met the lovely Charlotte, Mark, Katie Rose and Bella the dog at Branston Water Park for a play, walk and feeding the ducks :-)

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The next day we travelled to Canons Ashby NT for a fun day with Uncle Steve, Aunty Andy and cousin Toby. The kids had a great time playing hide and seek, exploring the gardens and playing garden games :-)

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The next day we went to Nanny and Grandad’s for lunch and to see Uncle Matt, Mei and Great Uncles Martin and John. It was lovely to see Matt and Mei Mei over from Singapore :-) We took a walk down to the local playground after lunch.

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The next day was a trip to Calke Abbey NT with Elaine, Jacob and Jess, where we explored the amazing new wild woodland playground.

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The following day was my 40th birthday! Four whole decades!! How quickly they have flown by! We headed into town to continue our Big Hoot owl hunt, with a lovely lunch at Cherry Reds and a coffee break later ;-)

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The next day we went to the cinema to see Two by Two, followed by and awesome afternoon at Cannock Chase with Rachel and her five fantastic small people :-) There was a bit of drama when Alfie got stuck in a tree, but luckily Cian managed to guide him down!

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A day of contrast next – a lovely spa day at the Fairlawns with six wonderful friends – Sally, Sally, Bex, Sarah, Rachel and Elaine. The kids enjoyed a day at home with Daddy after a busy few weeks.

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Next day, a play date with the wonderful Miriam, Caleb, Flynn and Niamh. Lots of fun – and lots of protests at home time (notice Miriam’s encumbrances whilst trying to exit!)

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The next day – Sutton library for new books and audio CDs, lunch at Pizza Express and a walk in the park to find more Big Hoot owls :-)

The following day – gardening and crumble making with our garden picked fruit, followed by an afternoon of fun at Phoebe’s Fireman Sam themed 4th birthday party :-)

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The next day, fun at Brixworth Park with Granny and Grandpa. Alfie completed the summer quiz trail, the girls raced Granny on her scooter, and Poppy made new friends in the playground.

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A lovely day paddling in the stream, making clay tree spirits and getting stuck in mud with the Kentish crew at Northycote Farm came next.

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A visit to Cannock Food Bank with HE friends to see how it all works. Alfie got a chance to work in the warehouse labelling donations, sort and label goods and pack emergency boxes. He loved it and it was very humbling and rewarding. Afterwards we picked up the girls and some chips, and headed to see Nanny and Grandad, and Matt and Mei Mei before they flew back to Singapore.

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The kids had a well earned quiet day at home whilst I had lunch with old friends Sally and Jo the next day.

Back on our adventures at the Lickey Hills the next day though! More playground fun with friends, more owls, a chance to try archery, badminton and basketball and, of course, more mud!

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New chickens, Bluebell, Diamond and Lord Business collected the next day – a rescue of ex caged hens by Fresh Start for Hens.

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Lots more gardening and house chores, plus gate sanding and painting, whilst we supervised the new chickens integrating with the ten oldies. We harvested a big boxful of apples, which Amber turned into crumble :-)

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Today, Alfie went on an amazing adventure at Warwick Castle with HE friends, whilst the bgirls and I had a lovely lunch at Pizza Hut with Caroline, Lauren, Martha and Tom. Happy days! And who said HE kids don’t socialise???

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Summer Holidays

August 1st, 2015 by becki

We have survived two weeks of the summer holidays!! I have to confess to a feeling of rising panic before the summer holidays. We just don’t do crowds, and summer holidays means all our favourite places are over run with crowds. Luckily, we have managed to find wonderful places to go and things to do, and so far we are having amazing fun :-)

We managed to fit in a last ice skating session with lovely friends, before the session that we attend was suspended for the summer holidays. At least it gives us an opportunity to get Alfie’s skates sharpened – well, for wonderful friends whose children regularly attend ice hockey lessons to get them sharpened for us anyway ;-) There was an end of term gymnastics session, which included a bonus bouncy castle, as well as the usual gymnastics equipment.  We fitted in a last swim with Bex and Violet, before the pools got over run.

We went to Sudbury Hall and Museum of Childhood with the Kentish and Kelly clans. All the kids loved the museum of childhood, where they got to see and play with toys from all ages, as well as learn more about the life of children in the past – complete with trip up a chimney ;-) The adventure playground and surrounding trees to climb were well received, and Alfie went on a trip around the old hall with friends.

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We enjoyed a last, quiet cycle and play in Beacon Park with the Hupfield posse, before the schools broke up that afternoon.

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We visited Nanny and Grandad.

We had a lovely lunch at Bella Italia, and a wander around the Coventry Road Transport Museum.

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We met the lovely Sally, Evie and Finn for fruit picking (and tree climbing!) fun at Essington fruit farm, coming away with boxes of delicious strawberries, raspberries and sugar snap peas :-)

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We had a lovely time making peg dollies and hatching eggs at the Chase HE group, followed by a play at Redwood Park with lots of HE friends.

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Followed by toasting marshmallows of course ;-)

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We used our Dyson Challenge cards to inspire our science day, which was amazing fun :-)

We found out that there is a lot to consider when building a bridge, including both the dead weight of the bridge, the load and external factors, such as weather. We had many attempts at our spaghetti bridge, and found it bore very heavy loads best when it had strong, Megablok pillars to support it.

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We watched an egg being sucked into a heated bottle.

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Used lemon juice to write invisible ink messages.

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Attempted to make cardboard chairs, using no fastening or sticking aids.

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Tried lots of different packaging and cushioning ideas for our egg drops :-) The hcickens all stood outside the door waiting to eat the broken eggs :-D

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Cleaned copper coins in cola.

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Made cardboard shoes.

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Then made jam tarts :-)

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The next day we had a mad, buzzing house full of children from four different families, having lots of fun. Holly’s best friend Cadi stayed for a sleepover.

A quiet day needed after all the fun – a trip to Dobbies Garden World, then chill out time, making cardboard marble runs.

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Holly accompanied me to the optician to choose new glasses, followed by the library for lots of new books, and the playground.

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Amber made us all pancakes, before we headed out to spot some owls in Sutton for the Big Hoot, and then home to bake Nanny’s birthday cakes and do some gardening.

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Nanny’s birthday! A lovely day of Alfie’s homemade rocky road, Amber’s homemade birthday cake, Holly reading books to Nanny, chip shop lunch and lots of cards and presents :-)

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A lovely day out at Dudmaston NT with the Williams and Kelly broods. It appeared no other visitors wanted to venture to the dingle and woodland playground, so we had it all to ourselves.

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Alfie had a dental appointment, then we headed to Erdington Big Hoot owl spotting. Amber did lots of play dough, and Alfie made butternut squash jambalaya, and shared out the lychees that we bought.

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A lovely trip with friends to watch Home at the cinema, then lunch in IKEA.

An amazing day out with lots of friends at Weston Park. Thirteen happy children running riot on the adventure playground, riding on the train, getting lost in the maze and exploring the parkland.

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More Big Hoot owl hunting, perfume making, house cleaning and magazine doing :-)

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What a lovely couple of weeks :-) Here is hoping that August will be as awesome :-)

Summer Fun

July 12th, 2015 by becki

Sunshine and showers, outdoor fun and indoor games :-) Making the most of our last bit of peace before the schools break up :-)

A walk down the canal to the Brownhills Canal Festival. The parrot rescue tent, and the birds of prey rescue arena were very popular. The kids were in fits of laughter over the parrot dancing to the music from the live band playing :-)

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Making a chocolate fudge cake, which we took some of to the hospital for Grandad to share (Nanny doesn’t like chocolate fudge cake)

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Fun and games at a friend’s birthday gathering at Come Into Play.

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Ice skating and gymnastics fun.

Swimming with the lovely Bex and Violet. Lots more practicing of underwater swimming :-)

Kenilworth Castle fun with lots of our HE friends.

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Friday Club fun at the Arboretum – playing in water jets, climbing, swinging , shops selling sticks and flowers, and cooperative Terraria playing :-)

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Oak Park fit n fun day.

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Harvesting potatoes

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Cooking up a storm to take food parcels round to Nanny and Grandad, now that Nanny is home – lasagne, tomato soup, vegetable soup, jam sponge pudding, rocky road :-) They were gratefully received :-)

Immersive animal fun at Peak Wildlife Park. Holly took the pictures of the penguin :-)

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More ice skating with friends and gymnastics fun.

Fun and games with friends at Victoria Park HE meet.

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Wolseley Home Ed Explorers – den building, role play and wild fun :-)

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Fun in the sun at Tettenhall Pool

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Sutton Library for more books and audio CDs, buying books from Waterstones with pocket money, lunch in ASK Italian.

Making fairy cakes and jammie biscuits for Nanny and Grandad, then visiting to deliver them :-) Looking after poor ill Tilly (sour crop)

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Painting, making up stories, cooperative Minecraft, watching Edwardian Farm, sewing bags, trampolining, practicing gymnastics, imaginative play and Lego creations :-)

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Ups and Downs

June 27th, 2015 by becki

The past couple of weeks have been full of highs and lows. Nanny was admitted to hospital, and remains there nearly two weeks later, which was an obvious low point. The stress, worry and difficult decisions to be made, and the sheer exhaustion of daily hospital visits on top of the children’s busy lives. The children have been absolute stars though, coming with me on a rotational basis, one child each day. Alfie has been the delight of the ward, spending anything up to half an hour in a big embrace with Nanny, and taking the attentions of the other patients on the bay very well! Holly has made cushions for both Nanny and Grandad, with their initials sewn on. Even Amber has been a happy ray of sunshine on the elderly care ward :-)

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We have tried to keep things as normal as possible for the children, amidst all the phone calls and visits. Lovely friends have been our saving grace, and we have managed to have lots of fun. We have kept up our usual weekly ice skating with friends, and gymnastics classes. We spent a lovely day at Avoncroft Museum of Buildings. The lady in the medieval house was amazed at the knowledge the children brought with them from previous visits to places like Moseley Old Hall and the Ancient High House, and they enjoyed learning more from her. They had a lot of fun re-enacting air raids (with more serious discussions on the realities of war too), and being shown how the windmill worked. The highlight was, of course, the working telephone boxes through the ages, where they could really call each other. The slooow dials amazed them (and me – how did we cope??)

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We had a lovely time with lots of friends at Tettenhall Pool.

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Fun with the Friday Club gang at the Arboretum splash pad and playground, followed by a visit to Grandad.

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An all you can eat buffet breakfast, shopping and gardening. Making Father’s Day cards for Daddy.

A barbecue to celebrate the summer solstice. Painting a canvas of Jasmine using acrylic paints. Vegan chocolate brownies. Exploring nature’s pallette and entering a competition. Woodland spotting jigsaws. Father’s Day breakfast for Daddy :-)

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Visiting the Herbert Art Gallery to explore the Children’s TV over the last 50 years exhibition. Making films, exploring rocks, minerals and shells. Trying on chain mail and helmets, sniffing medieval toilets, exploring the impact of WW2.  Sliding down bannisters in the gallery square. Being inspired by multi-storey car park spiral ramps to discuss castle spiral staircases and design Minecraft spiral staircase filled towers.

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Swimming with friends, swimming further and further underwater.

A lovely, sunny day out with friends at Drayton Manor Theme Park and Zoo.

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Fun with more friends at Monster Mayhem soft play.

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Library for new books, yet another sunny barbecue :-)

We will stay positive through it all, because we have each other :-)

 

June Fun

June 14th, 2015 by becki

So far, June has been a lovely month, full of fun and adventure.

A trip to Ikea for breakfast and a visit to Nanny and Grandad.

Swimming with friends, followed by gymnastics class. Both girls have started gymnastics, as well as Alfie, so it is truly a family affair :-)

An amazing day in the sunshine at Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock Bath with friends. This has been my favourite theme park out of all the ones that we have visited. Fantastic rides, really friendly staff and great facilities. Plus, as it is aimed at children, no gangs of men and youths!

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A fantastic trip to Wolseley Centre, completing a picture scavenger hunt challenge, climbing trees and paddling in the river :-)

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Friday Club fun in the Arboretum water jets with lots of lovely friends.

Cooking cakes and soup.

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A visit from Nanny and Grandad, plus lots of gardening and playing in the sunshine.

A lovely home ed meet up at Lower Drayton Farm. Making lovely new friends, scavenger hunts, matchbox challenge, nature walk and trampolining fun :-)

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Ice skating with friends, Pizza Hut lunch, gymnastics and jigsaw fun ;-)

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A night at the beautiful YHA Jordans, set in the woods. We now have YHA membership, ready for lots more fun and adventures :-)

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Two amazing days at Chessington World of Adventures, and a night in the themed Azteca Hotel,  with lovely friends. Ten children, rides galore, swimming and breakfast buffets :-)

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Quiet times at home to recover from our adventures. Nature magazines, sticker books, solving code challenges, and lots more fun.

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World buffet lunches and library for lots of new books and audio books.

What an amazing month June has been so far :-)

 

A Month of Contrasts

May 31st, 2015 by becki

The past couple of weeks have been in stark contrast to each other. A few weeks of manic busyness – every day filled with adventures, home just a place to sleep and grab a new picnic. Then, just as we were looking forward to slowing down a little for half term (avoiding the crowds!), a stomach bug strikes and we end up slowing down completely! As awful as illnesses are, in some ways it was a welcome break from the mad rushing about. A chance to craft, build with Lego, watch documentaries that had stacked up on Iplayer for the kids, just chill out and be together at home. Not to mention spring cleaning, and sorting out the playroom. Three big bags of toys given to a toddler friend, new bedroom furniture for the girls and lots of housework and gardening done. Now we are ready for the adventures of summer :-)

Here are some of the highlights of the end of spring.

A lovely play date with Caleb, Flynn and Niamh. Trampolines, Terraria, Peppa Pig and lots of fun :-)

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Ice skating fun with the Jones-Thomas clan – and Daady’s first go at ice skating! He was an expert by the end!

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Alphabet dragons, back home in the warm. Gymnastics for Alfie, with level 5 badge and certificate to take home :-)

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An amazing day at Moseley Old Hall with the Kentish, Kelly, Hewitt-Hardacre and Williams crews. The treehouse in the woods is amazing! Alfie enjoyed the guided tour around the house, tying in its history with our recently visited  Boscobel House, another stopping point for King Charles II fleeing his captors.

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Afterwards a trip to Ikea for tea in the restaurant, and choosing new furniture.

A lovely, sunny day at Rays Farm with Elaine, Jacob, Jess, Bex and Violet. Stroking the goats, marvelling at the owl with the owlet tucked under its wing, exploring the fairytale forest, and admiring the alpacas :-)

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Fun at home.

Hama bead creations

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Making tomato soup and vegetable soup

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A rainbow scarf knitted by Holly for Alfie’s Fluffy.

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Playing a game of Frustration with Grandad

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Naptime!

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Local library for more books and CDs, with a quick go on the playground at Holland Park.

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Making salt dough

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Modelling with and then painting salt dough

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Potato and carrot “cheese” – amazing stuff!!!

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A welcome breath of fresh air at Forge Mill Farm once everyone was on the mend.

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Cheeky Petal, who decided to launch a gang attack on poor Jasmine the cat ;-)

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Tilly, who suffered a prolapse this week and had to have a minor op at the vets.

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Alfie made the third of his recycled robots – a Polybot, made from a polyhedrom with drinking straws to hold on its limbs and a brushbot motor. Boy is it fast!

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Playdough fun

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Vegan chocolate brownies

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Garden blooms

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A nature hunt in Shire Oak nature reserve

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May Madness

May 16th, 2015 by becki

May has been a month of ups and downs. Sadly, just after the death of Buttercup, we also lost Rosie. She clung onto life for another week after her vet visit, but the antibiotics and TLC sadly were not enough and we lost her. She enjoyed a sun bathe on her last couple of days of life, after 19 months of freedom with us, enjoying her retirement.

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We also had a scare with Pru, who we took to the vets with similar symptoms. It seems it may have just been a broken egg though, and she has perked up and rejoined her sisters after a week of TLC and Nutri-drops.

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So far in May we have also had visits from Nanny and Grandad, two fun days ice skating with the lovely Jones-Thomas crew, two gymnastics classes and a couple of dentist trips.

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We had a fun day at Space Hoppas soft play with the lovely Elaine, Jacob, Jess, Bex and Violet

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A fantastic day at Lower Drayton Farm with lots of other home educators. We got to tour the farm on a tractor ride, explore the rapeseed fields, feed the llamas, feed the lambs, stroke a rabbit, guinea pig and duckling, play with all our friends and generally have a fun day on the farm, despite the rain.

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We had fun at Friday Club, including a drumming workshop.

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Amber and I went to Izzi’s prebaby afternoon tea party.

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We spent a fun day at Boscobel House and the Royal Oak.

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We had a trip to Mere Green library for lots of new books, before meeting Granny and Grandpa for lunch at Taybarns.

We had fun swimming, with Alfie and Holly further perfecting their underwater swimming skills.

We had a lovely day at the Wolseley Centre for Flynn, Calen and Niamh’s birthday celebration.

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We had a breakfast buffet at Taybarns with lovely friends, then a day exploring Coombe Abbey country park.

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We met Charlotte and baby Katie Rose for lunch.

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We built working recycled robots

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Made a moon dough zoo

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Read lots of books

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Did lots of cooking

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Hatched a dinosaur

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Built the Sagrada Familia in Nanoblocks

 

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And generally had lots and lots of fun :-)

 

 

End of April Fun :-)

May 3rd, 2015 by becki

A lovely day out at Conkers with friends – riding on the train, burying each other in wood chip, monkeying around on the playground, den building and enchanted forest exploring.

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Ice skating with lovely friends

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A wonderful afternoon at the owl sanctuary with lots of HE friends, where we learnt so much about owls.

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A fun day at Drayton Manor theme park.

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Friday Club guerrilla gardening fun

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Followed by red mountain exploring

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Art gallery exploring

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Game playing

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Cushion sewing

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Cooking – butter bean burgers, and making scones and rocky road for Nanny and Grandad’s visit :-)

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Magazines

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Sandy Glades

May 3rd, 2015 by becki

We had an amazing holiday at Sandy Glades holiday park in Berrow. The weather was gorgeous, our lodge – in a private gated park – was amazing, and we had lots of fun. Here are some highlights :-)

We stopped off enroute for a picnic and play at the beautiful lakeside park, on the seafront of Portishead.

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Our lodge was amazing. I especially liked having a totally separate utility room, so all the sand and dirt didn’t tread inside. We even fitted in a swim on the first afternoon, in the holiday park pool.

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The next day, Alfie had a go at Water Walking in the holiday park pool. It was great fun, but very tricky :-)

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We also walked down to Berrow Beach, and explored the holiday park play areas. We even had a duck visitor to our lodge :-)

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We had an amazing day at Puxton Park.

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A lovely day at Weston-Super_mare in the Seaquarium and on the beach. We even got to feed the fish – and had the whole Seaquarium to ourselves!

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On the way home we stopped off at Tyntesfield NT. They had an amazing woodland playground trail for the kids. We also explored the orangery, kitchen gardens, and old saw mill.

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What a fantastic holiday :-)

Easter Antics

April 19th, 2015 by becki

April so far has been characterised by illness :-( We have all had a horrible bug that has given us swollen tonsils, sore ears, cold and flu symptoms and the worst lethargy ever. Alfie and Holly have also had bleeding noses, and Holly blistered, weeping ear lobe. Lovely! It also seems to take weeks to stop feeling tired and exhausted to the bone. All of us have been so flat, washed out and tired :-(   There have been events cancelled, early home time, having to sit and chill rather than having fun with friends, grumpiness and general lethargy. It is horrid to see your child desperate to play with their friends but too tired :-(

We also lost our beloved Columbian blacktail hen, Buttercup :-(

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It has not all been doom and gloom though, so here are some pictures of what we have managed to salvage from April so far!

Aldridge Easter fun day, with carvery lunch in the Crown.

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Vegan Easter eggs on Easter Sunday

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Making vegan cupcakes for friends

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Kingsbury Water Park fun with Alice, Saule, Jacob, Jess, Caleb, Flynn and Niamh.

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Birthday lunch with Nanny and Grandad at Buffet Island.

Alfie trying out the Big Shot die cutting machine he bought with his birthday money.

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Painting cardboard dens in the garden.

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Marbling fun before an afternoon in Beacon Park with Dylan, Aaron, Phoebe, Caleb, Flynn and Niamh. Holly started to feel ill with sore tonsils, so Alfie stayed on with his friends and got a lift home with Sarah.

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Library and playground fun.

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Making birthday cards for Aaron.

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Fun times at Aarom’s 7th birthday party.

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A lovely playdate with friends

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Homemade moon sand fun

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Chilling out after swimming

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Making tarka dhal to eat after gymnastics, where Alfie had a great time trying out the new bars.

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Trying out new ice skates at Telford ice rink HE ice skating session. Holly loved hers straight away, and Alfie soon got used to his and loved them too :-) We braved the park with friends afterwards but it was packed!

A fun day out with Cruz, Brooklyn, Aaron, Dylan, Phoebe, Jacob, Jess, Flynn, Caleb and Naimh at Amerton Farm.

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Friday Club fun, making Hama bead creations, followed by play in the Arboretum.

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