Last Friday was Esther’s second birthday. As it was only two weeks after Tabitha’s birthday, she had some understanding of it and was very excited!
In the morning she had a wonderful time opening her cards and presents.
I’m not sure who was the most excited about the play kitchen!
We collected Nanny and then drove to Watermouth Castle, where we met Auntie Hannah, Auntie Jennifer and Auntie Kirsty. Esther had a wonderful day with her five cousins.
I can’t believe it’s been two whole years since “Bumpy” arrived. Esther is absolutely adored by all of us and therefore in danger of being rather spoiled. She is stubborn, affectionate and hilarious! She seems to have grown up a lot recently.
She can almost recite numbers up to ten, but usually misses out “one” and “eight”. She can recognise and name the numerals 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. I didn’t have a clue she could do this until one day she pointed at the digital clock on my phone screen and started reading out the digits! She can instantly recognise groups of two objects and often shouts out things like “two dogs” or “two bikes” while we are out walking. She can also count larger groups of up to six or seven objects but sometimes loses track.
She can recognise and name the following shapes: circle, square, triangle, star and heart. She is pretty reliable at identifying the colours red, blue, yellow, green, purple and pink. She knows loads of different animals and has a wide repertoire of songs that are recognisable, even if the words aren’t very clear. She never wants to go in the pushchair anymore so she walks everywhere, which can be very slow!
She isn’t very tall and has several one year old friends who are almost the same height as her. She has ringlets at the bottom of her hair which are beautiful when freshly washed, but get tangled and matted while she sleeps. Speaking of sleep, she has only slept through the night about five times in her entire life! The day after her birthday we moved her cot into Tabitha’s bedroom (at Tabitha’s request) so we’ll see how that goes. So far she is sleeping better during the night but it’s harder to get her off to sleep at bedtime. She has been potty trained for a couple of months now and is also dry at night.
Life with a toddler can be exhausting and very frustrating at times, but Esther is an amazing little person who is so much fun to be around!
Tabitha’s birthday fell on Good Friday this year. She had been counting down the weeks and days for ages.
Her present from us was an art set, which was Aaron’s idea.
She was also thrilled with her enormous helium-filled balloon!
In the afternoon she had five friends over for a party, complete with party games, party food and party bags, just as she wanted.
She had a lemon drizzle cake again, same as every year, as it is the only kind of cake she likes. This was actually the second attempt as Esther destroyed the first! I left it cooling on the kitchen side while I went shopping and came back to discover that she had climbed up and eaten most of the top! So I stayed up until midnight baking another.
Granny and Grandad came to visit in the evening and gave her a lovely book about how to draw animals. The celebrations continued on Saturday as we went for an Easter egg hunt at Auntie Jennifer’s house with all the cousins, and Tabitha opened some more presents. Hope you’ve had a wonderful birthday sweet girlie, you have no idea how special you are!
Apologies for the long post and many photos. This is what happens when I don’t post for over a month! I find myself using Instagram to post snippets of our days instead of blogging.
We’ve been making an effort to go along to the local home-ed group’s events whenever they are accessible by public transport. So far we’ve met at the swimming pool, an adventure park and Ilfracombe Museum. The museum was really interesting, especially the nature section, but Esther was in a terrible mood that day! Afterwards we had a picnic lunch on the beach. However, we didn’t stay long as it was freezing cold.
We’ve had some nice family days out at the weekends too, including a visit to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. It had lots of hands-on exhibits which the children really enjoyed.
We have been using The Good and The Beautiful’s language arts curriculum for some of our English work this term. Tabitha enjoys it as there is a wide variety of activities in the lessons. This video was taken back in early January and her reading has improved so much since then! She is now steaming through the Biff, Chip and Kipper books. Aaron is less sure about TGTB. His reading and spelling is quite advanced but we need to work on his grammar. He likes the art appreciation which is included in some lessons, but he finds some of the exercises very tedious. I’m not sure whether or not we’ll continue to use it long-term.
Aaron has started reading these “Murderous Maths” books and finds them very amusing! I’ve been setting him a chapter or part of a chapter at a time, and then getting him to do relevant worksheets from www.worksheetfun.com.
We’ve also been playing some maths games recently to convince Tabitha that times tables are not as scary as she thinks. This gave me an idea and we’ve invited one of Aaron’s friends to join us for one afternoon each week to do some maths games and hands-on activities, starting after half term.
We’ve had lots of playdates with the girl next door. She and Tabitha get on really well. It’s so easy for them to just knock on each other’s doors and ask if now is a convenient time to play. Aaron gets a bit jealous sometimes but hopefully having his own friend round on a more regular basis will help!
I had a nasty virus towards the end of January, so we had a few pyjama days and a week of not doing very much. Aaron and Tabitha were both really helpful and offered to look after Esther in the morning so that I could go back to bed for a little while.
These two photos make me chuckle. In the second I unintentionally captured Tabitha stopping to pray and Esther picking her nose!
She really does love her babies. And other people’s babies too!
She has been interested in matching recently. Tabitha and I made her these cards to match with her wooden Holztiger animals. Another time she lined up all the Grimms semicircles and started colour matching with the little wooden peg people.
I recently took Esther to her first ever toddler group at the library. She has plenty of siblings, cousins and friends, so I’ve never felt the need to “socialise” her. But I thought it might be fun and Aaron and Tabitha could look at books or play on the computers while we were there. She did enjoy it (especially singing Hokey Cokey at the end) but wasn’t very interested in the stories (even though she loves books at home) and kept wandering off.
This was Aaron reading her a story (with all the voices and sound effects!) at my parents’ house a few weeks ago. Tabitha can now read to her as well, which is lovely.
Aaron and Tabitha have recently started group swimming lessons. Tabitha started in a lower level but is moving up to Aaron’s class next week. Their instructor is the same one they had for private lessons, which is nice. However, Aaron has been rather unimpressed by the behaviour of the other boys in his group!
Tabitha is very excited about taking part in a ballet show later in the year. She has been hoping that they would put on another show ever since she started three years ago! She would quite like to try another kind of dance as well (modern or tap) but those classes clash with swimming at the moment. We have so many weekly activities now that there isn’t much wiggle room!
At the beginning of the month, Esther decided that it was time to start potty training. She got the hang of it really quickly with hardly any accidents. After five days she was reliable enough to do long car journeys and days out. She has had a bit of a blip this week with several accidents, but she’s also got over her fear of using the toilet so it’s going pretty well on the whole.
This week has been half term and it has been so nice to spend more time with Colin. Saturday was pouring with rain so we went to the National Marine Aquarium. Esther shouted “fish” or “shark” whenever we saw one and she soon learnt “ray” too. Then she saw the turtle and she loved it so much that it rather spoilt the rest of the aquarium for her! She kept saying “no turtle, more turtle!”. We bought her some turtle bath toys to bring home.
On Monday we woke up to sunshine and decided to go out for a walk. However, it soon turned into rain and we headed towards Mole Valley Farmers instead. On the way it began to snow quite heavily and the carpark was white when we arrived! After a mooch around Mole Valley, we drove up onto Exmoor in search of snow. There wasn’t much to be found, but we did have a lovely walk and saw a hydro power plant with an Archimedes screw and a beautiful rainbow. Colin also spotted his biological father and grandmother, which was the first time he has seen them since he was ten. We found it rather ironic that his grandmother smiled and made a nice comment to the children as we walked past, but had no clue that they were her own great-grandchildren!
I had a gallbladder attack (the first in a long time) during Monday night so on Tuesday Colin took all the children out for the day with his sisters and their children. Wednesday was spent with a lady from church and her visiting grandson. He’s quite a bit younger than Aaron and Tabitha but they get on well.
Friday was a beautiful sunny day. Aaron and Tabitha had been at a sleepover and swimming in the morning, but when they got home we drove to Westward Ho! to meet up with Colin’s sister and her children on the beach. I’ve barely used my camera recently (camera phones are so convenient but the quality is always disappointing) so I made a special effort to take it. We had a lovely time playing in the stream and building sandcastles and dams.
The tide was coming in, so the adults and older children decided to build mounds and see whose would be washed away first. I was standing well back (I was using my telephoto lens) with the two toddlers. I had already moved our bags and belongings back several times to what I considered a safe distance. A small wave came in and surrounded the mounds. Tabitha was the first to run as she didn’t want to get her shoes wet, and Aaron followed soon after. At that point it still seemed like a normal wave, but a second or two after these photos were taken we all realised that it wasn’t.
The water just kept coming and coming! I picked up Esther, grabbed hold of my niece and ran. At some point she was washed off her feet and I fell with her. For a few horrible seconds I couldn’t get up or lift her out of the water. Thankfully her mum caught up and took her so that I could get up with Esther. Once the two toddlers were safely on the slipway I looked round to see Colin trying to catch the rucksacks and shoes which had floated off!
We have since looked at my photos for reference and measured the distance on Google maps. As far as we can tell, that single wave covered about 400 ft of the beach! None of us had ever experienced anything like it before. I’m thankful that we all made it out safely and that we were even able to recover all of our belongings (although I kept telling Aaron and Tabitha that people are far more important than things!). My camera was around my neck and got completely wet when I fell, so it will be recuperating in a tub of rice for a while.
Back to reality on Monday! We’ve got lots of exciting things planned over the next few weeks but I’m a little concerned we may end up being too busy!
I’m not quite sure how it happened but my biggest baby turned 10 on Saturday!
He had some lovely gifts from friends and family including a thesaurus, some French cheese, a shark encylopedia and some enamel sealife plates! Mostly he asked for money, as he has been saving up for a Nintendo Switch.
We didn’t go out anywhere special. We discussed it a lot in the week before his birthday and couldn’t settle on anything. So we stayed home, ate popcorn and played our first family game of Cluedo instead. We also had visitors popping in throughout the day.
One of Aaron’s favourite foods is curry, so in the evening we got a takeaway.
Happy 10th birthday Aaron! I am very proud of the lovely young man you are growing into.
We’ve been home educating for over five years now but 2017 has probably been the hardest year yet, for various reasons.
Back in January Colin started a new job in a secondary school, so we have suddenly found ourselves limited to weekends and school holidays for family outings and holidays. Of course those times are much busier and more expensive! He also needs the car to get to work as the buses don’t run early enough, so we can no longer use the car during the day. This has limited our outings and also means that we have to spend more time shopping as I can only carry 2-3 days’ worth of food on the pushchair (I really need to get organised and start shopping online again!). I’m so glad that Colin has a job that he enjoys, especially after some awful ones last year, but I have to admit that the loss of freedom has been a difficult adjustment for me.
Aaron and Tabitha are naturally becoming quite keen to go to “daddy’s school” when they are old enough. This was a little unexpected as Aaron previously insisted that he wanted to be home educated right the way through school, college and university! I am somewhat reluctant to send my children into the system, especially after hearing about it first hand, but I’ve always said that they can try school if they want to and Colin’s school is actually a lot smaller and nicer than our two local secondaries. However, this does mean that our home-ed focus has shifted a little and there is now more pressure to master skills by a certain age.
A big milestone this year for both Aaron and Tabitha has been learning to swim. At the beginning of the year they were both non-swimmers who hated getting water on their faces. Now they can swim many lengths of the pool in different strokes and spend most of their time underwater! A local home ed group has organised scuba diving sessions for the last couple of years, and Aaron is very keen to join in if they do it again next year. Likewise, they will now be able to join in with the home-ed surfing school if they want to.
All the children caught chicken pox at the beginning of the year. I was relieved in a way, as I didn’t want Aaron and Tabitha to catch it as teenagers or adults. Despite that disruption, our spring term was very productive.
In April Tabitha purchased two pet guinea pigs which she named Patches and Pepper. We spent quite a few Saturdays and evenings building a custom hutch for them. Sadly Aaron’s budgie Pixel died in June. She was being treated for air sac mites but unfortunately the survival rate is low and she didn’t make it. The children were obviously very sad and still get upset if anything reminds them of her.
Somehow everything seemed to go wrong over the summer term. I can’t even remember what or why now, but we didn’t get much done and I had a definite case of the home-ed wobbles!
September saw our first family holiday abroad, which was very exciting. Aaron and Tabitha had a wonderful time visiting new places, trying new foods and speaking a different language. Those memories will stay with them forever, and hopefully we can save up for a few more holidays before the children’s passports expire!
A huge blessing this year has been having Christian home educators move in right next door to us! They have two daughters, a little younger than Tabitha and Esther. The eldest girl often comes round to play or Tabitha goes over to their house. We’ve always been fortunate here with our neighbours, but this family is extra special and it’s really lovely to have neighbours who are so friendly and willing to help each other out. They knock on our door if they run out of butter or toilet roll. I knock on their door if I need someone to watch the children for a few minutes while I run an errand. If only they had a boy for Aaron to play with it would be absolutely perfect!
During this year we began to suspect that Tabitha may be dyslexic, which was supported by initial screening tests. She also has some difficulties with attention. Now we are considering whether or not to save up to get a full assessment and diagnosis. It has been heartwrenching to see her want to read and yet struggle so much. However, she has made really good progress over the last few months. She knows a good number of words by sight and can decode many five and six letter words. Her confidence is still really low though and she often claims that she can’t read.
Over the year we’ve done projects on sharks, rays, the Ancient Egyptians and volcanoes, amongst other things. Aaron continues to be fascinated by the natural world and is beginning to show an interest in conservation and environmental issues. Tabitha is currently interested in art and has produced some lovely drawings (so lovely that we didn’t believe she had made them at first!).
My main goal for next year is to make more of an effort to arrange both an outing and a social activity or playdate every week. I’ve recently bought a lightweight pushchair that folds quickly and easily with just one hand, with the intention of taking more trips by bus and train. Babywearing is no longer an option due to my hip pain and our existing pushchair is too big and awkward to be practical on public transport.
I’m eager to see what 2018 will bring. Happy New Year everyone!
Hanging the last ornament on our Jesse tree on Christmas morning.
This year Aaron and Tabitha both bought gifts for each other and for Esther with their own money. They chose really well and it was so sweet watching them open their gifts!
This year we invited Colin’s parents for Christmas dinner and Colin did nearly all the cooking. It was delicious but there was far too much food! We both vowed to keep it simple next year so that we can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the children.
We spent Boxing Day at my parents’ house with my brother, sister-in-law and Granny. Sadly Colin was feeling ill so he stayed at home.
Tabitha and Esther were given these beautiful dresses with matching handbags by their Nanny.
Between Boxing Day and New Year we went to stay with Colin’s aunt, uncle and two cousins (not to mention the two dogs, five cats and flock of chickens) at their new home in the New Forest. The journey there took a ridiculously long time due to the traffic, but we saw snow which was exciting! One of Colin’s sisters and her two children also came, so it was quite a houseful. Esther loved all the animals and helped to collect the eggs. She slept really well through sheer exhaustion! I am hoping she will keep it up back at home but somehow I doubt it.
When I was little, my mum kept a notebook of all the things I did and said. With my own children, I have recorded many of their milestones on this blog (and the blog that preceded it). It’s nice to be able to look back sometimes and remember what they were like. Esther is now 20 months old, so it’s about time I did another update.
She says over a hundred words now (it’s getting hard to keep count) and sometimes puts two together. Some of her words are very clear, whilst others are harder to understand if you don’t know her or the context. For instance, “guck” is her way of saying “milk”! She counts to three and when Aaron asks her “what is one plus one?” she will shout “two” and hold up two fingers! Of course she has no idea what it means! I’ve put a list of the words she currently says at the bottom of this post, as it is of little interest to anyone except me. She has a VERY loud voice which can be a little embarrassing in church or other quiet places when she suddenly starts shouting! She also says “goodbye” to everyone very enthusiastically when she is taken out of the church service!
Her favourite songs are “Hello, hello, how are you?” from Mr Tumble, “Rockabye Your Bear” by the Wiggles, Ring-a-ring-o-roses, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Row Your Boat and Old MacDonald. She joins in with the actions and some of the words. She sings more or less in tune, so I can usually recognise the song when she starts singing. She often asks to play “tishoo” which means I have to sing Ring-a-ring-o-roses while she jumps (usually on the bed) and then falls down at the end. More recently she likes to make her toys play “tishoo” too too.
Her favourite toys at the moment are our Holztiger wooden animals and Duplo. She likes to build towers and then knock them down. She can do simple peg puzzles. She has a shape puzzle which Aaron and Tabitha gave her for her birthday. She pretty much ignored it until she was 18 months and then did the whole thing one day. I then bought her a fruit puzzle which she quickly mastered, and Aaron has bought her some two-piece puzzles for Christmas so we’ll see how she gets on with those.
She is a fairly good eater, although sometimes she’ll simply refuse to try things. Potatoes are a firm favourite and she’ll ask for ours when she’s finished all the ones on her plate! She can feed herself peas on a fork without dropping many. She can drink out of a glass and gets her own bowl and cutlery out of the cupboard when she sees me preparing food.
She enjoys swimming. She kicks her legs and has started trying to use her arms as well, so she can propel herself when wearing armbands. She blows bubbles in the water and sometimes asks to be dipped under the water. She can jump with both feet off the ground and has just begun to walk rather than crawl up the stairs. She likes to climb and spends a lot of time on the table, especially when we are trying to do work on it. She has a little bike which she scoots around on. She often tries to do the sideways splits and comes close to succeeding. She absolutely loves dancing! Yesterday was parents’ evening at Tabitha’s ballet class and Esther was really funny trying to copy the older children. She also likes to copy the ballet moves on The Wiggles.
She enjoys going out and about for walks. She can walk quite a long distance when she’s in the mood, but is also more tolerant of the pushchair now than she used to be. If we just need to nip out quickly she will cry when we get back to the front door because she wants a longer walk!
She’s a little too good at turning on taps! She enjoys baths and is very good at tidying away her bath toys without being asked when she’s finished. Her hair is getting quite long and rather untidy at the back. Sometimes I put it into pigtails which looks cute, but she rips the hairbands out within minutes.
She is very affectionate and gives us all lots of cuddles and kisses.
She is very particular about her bedtime routine. She lies down in our bed for milk and insists that “bear” also has to be lying down in the bed. He has to have his head on the pillow and have his body covered with the duvet, otherwise it’s just not good enough! After milk she goes in her cot and I have to offer a drink to bear, baby and then her. Next I have to kiss bear, baby and Esther and finally I have to stroke their heads and say goodnight!
Esther's words at 20 months
Somehow I never got round to posting about the shark and ray project we did back in the spring. So here it is, along with Aaron’s video that I promised to share!
You can read a little bit about how it started here. At the beginning of the project I spent some time brainstorming with Aaron (who wanted to focus on sharks) and Tabitha (who wanted to focus on rays) individually. We thought about what they wanted to find out, where they might be able to find information and how they could share their knowledge.
We learned about the unique features of sharks and rays, and practised identifying them using a classification key.
We studied different kinds of shark teeth and their functions, and then had a go at making our own shark teeth out of clay.
We joined in the “Great Eggcase Hunt” and learned all about mermaid’s purses. Since then we’ve often found some on our trips to the beach.
Aaron put together a model of a shark showing its anatomy. He really enjoyed this!
We visited the aquarium on multiple occasions, which was a brilliant opportunity for the children not just to learn more but also to see things they had already learned about in books and documentaries first hand. They had some fantastic conversations with members of staff.
We had a go at writing acrostic poems. Aaron wrote a few different ones for “shark” but Tabitha and I found that “ray” was much harder!
In addition to the things pictured here, we borrowed and read books from the library, watched lots of Youtube videos (we particularly liked the Shark Academy series), searched for answers to our questions on the internet, drew pictures of sharks and rays, composed shark-inspired music, learned about food chains, ecosystems, sustainability and much more. I’ve probably forgotten a lot as it was quite a long time ago now!
Our favourite part of the whole project was the video Aaron made about why sharks don’t sink! It was our first attempt at making a video so we learned a lot about editing.
On Saturday we went to the Eden Project, as they were offering free entry for teachers and home educators. As we are both, we could get enough free tickets to take Colin’s mum along too. It’s a nice place to visit, but we are not so fond of the journey. The first time we went was a nightmarish home-ed coach trip when Aaron and Tabitha spent the whole time being sick. I felt terrible and was very close to begging the driver just to let me off in the middle of nowhere! This visit was not much better, with multiple stops due to Tabitha and Esther being sick. But we got there in the end, not much the worse for wear.
We weren’t expecting to see much growing outdoors at this time of year, but actually there were lots of interesting shapes, colours and textures. I’m so glad that Aaron and Tabitha are happy to spend time just appreciating the beauty of nature. I think many children their age would have complained that they were bored as we wandered around.
I tried to get a decent photo of the three children together, but it just wasn’t happening!
Esther loved these little birds in the rainforest biome. They popped out of the undergrowth quite frequently and she would follow them for a little way, before waving “bye” and coming back to us.
After a late lunch, we found an amazing hollowed-out tree trunk which the children (and Colin) enjoyed playing in.
We took a very long route home so that we could stick to fast, straight roads. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop Esther throwing up repeatedly. She carried on being sick throughout the night, so it seems like she caught the virus that Colin had a week ago. She’s feeling much better today though.
I’ve been snapping away today and thought I’d share what home educating can be like with a toddler around. Please excuse the poor quality photos, my phone doesn’t do well in low light levels.
This morning we went for a quick walk in the park straight after breakfast. There is a tree by the entrance which always has fantastic pile of leaves around it in autumn. Mummy Esther loves to kick and stamp on them when they are crunchy, but today they were wet and soggy.
Tabitha found a lone conker, which she and Aaron used to play an energetic game of “conkerball”. Esther spent her time picking up leaves, chasing after dogs and joining in for the occasional kick.
As soon as Esther sees us gathered around the table or on the sofa, she wants to join in with whatever we are doing. I sometimes try to set up an activity for her, but she’d much rather copy us! A piece of paper and a pot of crayons helps to stop her scribbling in Aaron and Tabitha’s books.
She spends a lot of time crawling across the table and I spend a lot of time taking her off! Today I was thankful she only got hold of the eraser as she can’t do too much damage with that.
She and Tabitha had fun stacking our Holztiger animals when we stopped for a mid-morning break. These are Esther’s favourite toy at the moment.
Standing on her tiptoes and reaching up to place the animals on the table kept her busy for a while.
Then she climbed up onto the table and proceeded to throw them off one by one! She did get told off once I realised what she was doing.
Tabitha’s writing this morning was about pancakes, so we decided to make some for lunch as a treat. Esther “helped” me. And by that I mean she dropped handfuls of flour all over the stove and dipped both her hands into the batter, making a huge mess!
Peace at last! Esther usually has a 1-2 hour nap after lunch, which means we can do activities that wouldn’t be suitable with the toddler tornado around. This afternoon Tabitha enjoyed dissecting some flowers that were past their best and identifying the different parts under the microscope. By the time Esther woke up, Daddy had arrived home from work and Tabitha was about to head out to ballet.
This morning we woke up to beautiful blue sky. Colin is off work sick, so I decided to seize the opportunity to go somewhere in the car. We quickly got ready (which isn’t actually that quick by the time everyone is appropriately dressed and I’ve packed the coats, hats, gloves, binoculars, camera, field guide, changing bag and pushchair) and off we went to Fremington Quay. We wandered along the quay, watching the many fishermen and spotting little egrets, oystercatchers, redshanks, mallards and gulls. Then we set off along the Tarka Trail, towards a nature reserve called Home Farm Marsh which we’ve never been to before.
We saw so many robins along the path! We also spotted a pair of song thrushes. I remember seeing them quite regularly as a child but sadly these were the first I’ve seen in years. When we got to the nature reserve, there were three sets of stiles and all the gates were padlocked. Not very pushchair friendly! I did consider leaving the pushchair in a hedge but the children weren’t keen on this idea. Then Esther fell down on her bottom into a very muddy puddle, so we decided to turn back.
On the way back, Aaron suddenly stopped and held up his hand for us to be quiet. He had heard rustling in the bank. A few moments later a weasel popped its head out! I’m really glad I took my long camera lens, as I was able to zoom in enough to get a couple of shots. They’re a bit blurry as it was a gloomy area, but I’m pleased to have captured it. After a few seconds it disappeared and then Tabitha caught a glimpse of it in another spot. This is only the second time we’ve seen a weasel in the wild, so it was very exciting!
We headed back towards the estuary and the children played underneath the old railway bridge for a while, throwing stones in the water. Esther thought this was great fun!
Despite my warnings, Aaron almost got stuck in the mud. Just look at the state of those boots!
By now Esther was feeling rather uncomfortable in her wet clothes, so it was time to return to the car.
Our nature walk didn’t quite turn out as I’d planned, but seeing the weasel definitely made up for it. Aaron listed it in his top three favourite nature spots, along with the kingfisher he saw recently! We’ll go back to explore the nature reserve another time, preferably with Colin and a sling!
Esther has recently been interested in putting on shoes. She kept getting my shoes out of the shoe cupboard and proudly putting them on! I moved the children’s shoes to a lower drawer so that she could reach her own instead of mine, but it still wasn’t ideal as she would sometimes trap her fingers in the drawers. So I decided to create a little space for her coat and shoes to encourage independence. Our small entryway is already pretty full with our shoe cupboard, pushchair, hoover (we don’t really have anywhere else to store it) and Aaron and Tabitha’s coat pegs, but this doesn’t take up much space.
The wooden peg hooks came from Sainsburys. I first saw them in a post by Tales From a Happy House and knew they would be perfect for the job. The little rucksack contains Esther’s hat and mittens. The cube chair can be turned over to give three different seat heights, so it will last well as she grows.
The rope basket contains her wellie boots, shoes, socks and slippers. I bought the slippers in the hope of stopping her wearing shoes inside the house, but so far she has refused to wear them.
She can put the wellies on all by herself. Shoes are a bit harder but she can usually get her feet inside and just needs help with the zips.
She has a waterproof coat and a warm winter coat on her hooks. I haven’t hung her all-in-one rainsuit or snugglesuit there as she won’t be able to put those on independently for quite a while. We’ve started teaching her the same Montessori method for putting on a coat that we used with Aaron and Tabitha.
And just so you don’t go away thinking she’s a little darling, here’s a picture of her launching a shoe through the air in frustration! (She’s still a darling though… sometimes!)
We got up super early this morning (for a Saturday, anyway) and drove to a nearby seaside town to watch the stormy waves at high tide. Upon arrival we discovered a newt in the middle of the car park, so we had a quick look at it before moving it to a safer spot. I don’t know much about newts as we rarely see them, but I think it was a female smooth or palmate newt. We walked around the seafront and harbour in search of the best waves. It was very windy and the rain was lashing down most of the time. Esther got splashed by a huge wave even though we were standing well back, and decided to watch from the safety of her pushchair from that point onwards. Everyone else got thoroughly wet. Afterwards we went for an all-you-can-eat hot breakfast buffet to warm up!
I’ve become really bad at blogging regularly. I think it’s partly because it’s so much quicker and easier to post snippets of our days on Instagram, and then it seems silly to repeat it here. Also, I’ve got out of the habit of keeping my camera handy and tend to mostly use my phone camera instead. It’s more convenient as it fits in a pocket and I usually have it with me, but of course the quality isn’t as good and a lot of the photos turn out blurry! My main reason for blogging has always been to preserve memories, so I’d like to get back into the habit of posting more regularly.
We’ve been making an effort to include more exercise in our week. Living in a maisonette with no garden and no soundproofing for our downstairs neighbour means that we can’t exercise at home, but we’re fortunate to have a big park just down the road. Aaron, Tabitha and I have fun using the exercise equipment at the park, pushing ourselves a bit more each time. Then Aaron and Tabitha run laps around the outside of the playground, trying to beat their personal best. We do some aerobic exercises and then finish off with some stretches, which Esther does her best to copy, before heading into the playground for a while.
Not having the car means we have to walk everywhere, which is a great way of getting some nature study in. It’s getting a bit too cold for butterflies now, but we saw loads on our nature walks in September. We didn’t know what this first one was so looked it up when we got home and discovered it is a comma.
Lately our nature walks have been focused around leaves and seeds. Esther loves both and can now say “conker” very clearly!
Aaron spotted a kingfisher a few moments before this photo was taken!
A microscope has been on my wishlist for ages, and I finally got round to purchasing one. I spent a long time debating whether to purchase a stereo microscope (light source from above means that it can be used to look at 3D objects), a compound microscope (light source from below means that it can be used to look at thin slices on glass slides) or a duo scope (two light sources so it can do a bit of both). In the end I went with this Brunel DM6 stereomicroscope for now, with the plan of buying a compound microscope later. These photos were just taken with my phone but we may eventually get a proper camera device. I did a lot of microscopy at university so microscopes are something I get excited about!
Aaron bought a triop kit while we were in France. We used the microscope to examine the detritus containing the triop eggs and were able to identify water flea eggs (the light brown semicircles with two dark dots). We did see initially see some tiny creatures in the water, but unfortunately they disappeared after a few days. We’ve still got half of the detritus left so we can have another go and hopefully get some triops this time.
I’m so glad I bought these Playmags when they were on offer back in the summer! I had been tracking them on camelcamelcamel so was able to grab a quick bargain, and I’d like to get another set if the price ever drops again. I was worried that Aaron might be a bit too old for them but all three children have played with them loads. If I had to get rid of all but a very few toys, these would definitely be on my keep list.
Tabitha’s aunt and uncle took her horse riding for a very special treat!
One of the cousins celebrated his 3rd birthday at the end of September and Auntie Jennifer threw a fantastic party with lots of fun games!
Tabitha caught the knitting bug again. She spent days working very busily on a scarf which she is planning to give to one of our neighbours for Christmas.
We came across this Crayola Easy Animation Studio and Aaron was really keen to try it. There is a colouring book to design and scan your own skins and backgrounds. Then you can pose the mannequin to create animated videos. It’s faster and easier than stop motion animation because you don’t have to take lots of photos or move the object in small increments. He has made some great karate videos! Sadly our home ed karate class has come to an end after two and a half years, but for now Aaron is continuing to attend the normal evening class.
Esther is very much into trains at the moment. She can build a track by herself (although the two ends don’t join) and gets upset when her “choo choo” runs out of battery.
I’ve been intending to write a proper post about our curriculum and resources for this term, but it has been sitting in the drafts folder for weeks. Our days always start with Bible reading.
Our main English resource this term is How to Write a Paragraph. I read a review by Angelic Scalliwags back in the summer and thought we’d give it a try. We haven’t really done any formal writing before and I was expecting it to be a bit of a battle, but actually both Aaron and Tabitha are rather enjoying it! It’s a 12 week course which builds up skills very gradually. In some ways it’s rather easy for Aaron, so he tends to be a little silly with his answers, but it still manages to keep his interest as many of the concepts are new to him.
Tabitha still insists that she can’t read, but recently she’s reading a lot more words that she sees in her everyday environment. I got out our old pink series Montessori work to boost her confidence a bit, which she really enjoyed.
Some hands-on maths with Tabitha to check her understanding of certain concepts.
Esther is at quite a tricky age to keep occupied while we are doing our schoolwork. She wants to see what we are doing (preferably from the viewpoint of my lap!) but also likes to wriggle, destroy things and climb all over the table! I’ve been making some activity trays to try and keep her busy, with varied success.
This week we went to a seminar for Christian home educators about fossils, dinosaurs and the flood. We could only stay for two of the three sessions as we had to get back for Tabitha’s ballet class. Aaron found it particularly interesting. He said afterwards “I always knew evolution wasn’t true, but today I saw the evidence!” He bought a cast of a fossilised baby Coelophysis footprint as a reminder of how easily all the animals could have fitted on Noah’s ark. (Sidenote: yes, I believe in a literal 6 day creation, a young earth and a global flood. I also have a degree in bioscience so I like to think I’m not a complete crackpot. No, I’m not teaching my children fairy tales. I want them to question everything and be able to back up their opinions with science.)
Today we played in the park on our way to a friend’s birthday lunch. I made an effort to take my camera with me for once!
When we got home, a parcel was waiting for Aaron and Tabitha. A few days ago I came across Happy Little Explorers on Facebook and Etsy. Sophie is a home educating mum who puts together amazing boxes of items to inspire children’s curiosity. I asked her for a box of natural items that we could look at under our microscope. The children were thrilled to open their parcel and unpack the contents!
The next morning was lovely and sunny, so we made the most of it by having breakfast in the garden.
Then we set off for a nice long walk around the country lanes and tracks nearby.
It was suggested that this pony looked rather like Tabitha with its wild mane!
Esther ate a balanced lunch of cherry tomatoes (the gite owners gave us two huge bowls of homegrown tomatoes) and leftover birthday cake!
Then we had a lazy afternoon playing and reading books, with a bit of packing and tidying in between.
In the evening we went out for a meal in La Haye-du-Puits. Again, there was an open fire to cook your steaks in front of you. The food was delicious but the service was rather slow, and Esther got very tired towards the end.
We got up early the next day to pack the car and ensure the gite was clean. Then we headed to Cherbourg, via La Haye-du-Puits for breakfast and a large Intermarche at Valognes to pick up a few things to bring back. The crossing was rougher this time and I was very glad I had given the children travel sickness meds. The car journey back home was awful, as we hit lots of traffic queues and Esther was miserable. She was really happy when we finally got home and danced a little jig around the front room! My wonderful in-laws (who had been looking after the guinea pigs) had left a pile of birthday cards, cakes and presents on the table for me, which was a lovely surprise.
Day 6 of our holiday was also my birthday. Tabitha gave me a card which she had made several months ago and a beautiful scarf she had bought at the street market in Barneville-Carteret, with the help of Uncle James and Auntie Jess. She is such a sweetie! Here is Esther modelling the scarf.
My parents had booked a meal for all of us at a lovely little restaurant called Auberge de l’Ouve, tucked away in the countryside by a river. We arrived early so that we could go for a walk before lunch. Aaron and Tabitha were very excited to spot some boar in the forest!
The meal was delicious. Some things, like Colin’s enormous prawns for his starter and the lamb and beef steaks were roasted over an open fire at one end of the room. Aaron had duck for his main course which was absolutely amazing and made everyone else a teeny bit jealous! My dessert came with a candle on it and everyone sang happy birthday.
We had hoped to go kayaking on the river afterwards, but were informed that the weather was not good enough. After an unsuccessful search for other similar activities, we ended up at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, where there was a playground and a 12-15th century chateau. Aaron was in his element here, explaining various features of the castle to Grandpa.
We had a lazy evening back at the gite.
None of us were very hungry after such a big meal at lunchtime, so we mostly ate leftovers. My brother James had secretly bought a couple of big cakes at the patisserie that morning. The chocolate cake did have “happy birthday” candles on it, but they started melting everywhere while I was putting Esther to bed and had to be removed! The fraisier cake was absolutely amazing, so light and moreish!
Afterwards we played “Take Two”, which was greatly enjoyed by everyone during our holiday. To play, you place scrabble letters face down in the middle of the table. Each player takes five tiles to start, which they turn over at the same time. The first person to use all their letters shouts “take two” and everyone takes two more tiles. At the end you count up your score, doubling any letters used twice and deducting any unused letters.
Once it got dark, Aaron and Tabitha played outside with glowsticks.
The children declared that they were bored, so we drove to Carentan in search of a playground.
We had a little wander around the town, and Colin pointed out bullet holes in one of the buildings. We bought some lunch from a boulangerie-patisserie and ate it outside.
We drove a short way to Utah beach, famous for the D-Day Landings. Colin was very keen to go to the museum there as this is a period of history he has studied extensively. He was shocked to find that it was quite biased towards the Americans and barely mentioned the British involvement in the Invasion of Normandy at all!
Then we went to explore the beach outside. It was huge and rather desolate compared to the beaches on the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula. It took us ages to walk down to the water as it was so far away. We saw the oyster farmers going past on tractors and found an enormous oyster shell.
Grandpa and Esther had fun playing with the stacking cups before bed.
The day started out a bit drizzly but seemed like it would clear up.
After breakfast we went out for a walk. This path was not far from our gite and used to be an old railway line. We saw some interesting things, including an elephant hawk moth caterpillar and a stinkhorn mushroom. On the way back, we took a detour through Saint-Nicholas-de-Pierrepont, which is the closest village to where we were staying.
By now the ground had dried up a bit, so when we got back the children played in the garden for a while.
In the afternoon we went south to the coast and found a lovely beach, although we took a wrong turn and drove rather a long way round to get to it. Colin, Aaron and Tabitha headed straight to the sea to explore the rockpools. They came back once the tide had covered the rocks and Tabitha was excited to discover hundreds of sandhoppers! Aaron was less keen on those and had a bit of a meltdown.
Back at the gite for hot chocolate, baths and yet more playing in the garden!
We woke up to rain, so the children played indoors instead of going out into the garden.
As the rain showed no sign of letting up, we decided to head back north to Cherbourg for the day. We wandered around looking for a restaurant to eat lunch, feeling rather cold and wet. Most places were closed, but eventually we found one that was open. The service was absolutely amazing. There were bottles of water on the table before we’d even finished sitting down, the children’s food arrived within minutes and every time a bottle of water or basket of bread came close to being empty it was whisked off and quickly replaced. The food was delicious too.
We spent the afternoon at the Cite de la Mer museum. The entrance hall was filled with deep sea diving machines, all totally different shapes and sizes.
This shows the size of the manned chamber in the Archimedes. It was tiny compared to the unmanned part of the craft!
The main tank in the aquarium was 11 metres deep, making it the deepest in Europe! Aaron and Tabitha were particularly excited to see the sharks and rays, and Esther kept signing and saying “fish”.
Esther was too young to be allowed on the submarine, so my mum and I stayed with her while the others took a tour around Le Redoutable. They were amazed at how big it was inside. Then we had a quick look around the Titanic exhibition, which wasn’t particularly interesting.
Back at the gite, Aaron and Tabitha helped prepare food for dinner. These tomatoes were absolutely beautiful with their different colours and patterns! It almost seemed a shame to eat them.
Then the girls snuggled up with DDS for a bedtime story.