Yearly Wrap Up 2014


When I look back on the past two yearly wrap ups, I can see just how much of a struggle 2012 and 2013 were.  Each wrap up was tinged with the feelings of being overwhelmed – by cancer in 2012 and burn out in mid-2013.  This year is a different story.

I began the year feeling stronger than I had since B3 had been born.  She was, at last, sleeping through the night and Gary and I had some respite.  I had reached the two-year anniversary of being cancer free – an important mile stone with Invasive Melanoma.  Things were looking up.  However, I was still plagued by the insomnia I had endured since a young child and I was anemic from health problems resulting from B3’s birth.  Whilst not exhausted I was still permanently tired.

This year my fabulous GP figured out what caused the insomnia and put me on a very low dose medicine.  This was not a sleeping pill but a medicine which has become the off switch for my highly creative and busy brain.  I now happily get up to 10 hours sleep each night.  This GP, at the same time, referred me to a consultant who investigated the anemia and in November I had a very successful operation which has sorted out many health issues.

This year I also embarked on a weight loss journey.  Prior to the operation I had lost almost 26Ib.  The operation stopped me focusing on my weight for a short time, but I am now back to trying to shift these excess pounds.  I am hopeful I will reach my small goal of a 30lb loss by the end of the year.  My incredible husband has joined Slimming World with me.  Whilst I have never joined Slimming World before, I have walked this path many times before.  This coming year might just be my year for finally conquering these fat cells once and for all.  Having the support of Gary, following the Slimming World’s healthy eating plan (which is a plan the family can follow and requires no counting, weighing or measuring) and making exercise a priority for our whole family means that I am hopeful for the results I desire.

School wise we have gone through many changes this year.  We embarked on project based learning  at the beginning of the year, with the children taking on self chosen topics based in the middle ages for further study and culminating in a medieval banquet:

The three older ones look a little nervous as their presentation time approaches

T12 focused on the War of the Roses, making a video to reflect what he had learnt:

He used the map of Britain we made last year to show the positions of each battle fought during the war of the roses, illustrating which side won

C12 put her hands to good use whilst learning about fashions during the medieval period.  She focused her learning on peasant and noble fashions, making dress up for her dollies to demonstrate her learning:


C11 had decided to be one of the fasion house (which probably didn't exist -  a bit of artistic license was called for here)  Her presentation was basically about advertising her dresses.

L12 surpassed all our expectations of what an 11-year-old could achieve by researching medieval banquets, and then fairly independently organised and put on a banquet all of her own, designing everything and cooking everything:

And brought it to the table

A3 with her trencher

I think it was one of our most successful and interesting school terms.  It was homeschooling at its best!  We have not been able to replicate the success of those ten weeks during the rest of the year, although the native American unit came close.  Next year we will make a foray into deep project based learning again, mixed with some unschooling in an attempt to experience the wonder of those previous ten weeks.


This past year has also seen my older children shoot up, in size and in maturity.  T12 has surpassed Gary in height, has had his voice drop now three times and was asked to pay adult fees when he recently went to have his hair cut.  Life is good for T at the moment.  He has made a few close friends, is on the rota to help with AV at church and is one of the helpers in B3’s Sunday school group.  He still fences, sings in a choir and will soon begin a Condenders of the Faith club with his sisters and good friends, K11 and B13.  He and C12 have worked very hard on their relationship over the past wee while, choosing to love each other even when it is hard, and both have been rewarded with a reblossoming of their previous closeness prior to hormones.


Adolescence has a lot to answer for and having three going through it at the same time has made for some tricky times over the past two years.  The three older ones had always been particularly close for siblings, having spent their entire childhood in some imaginary game or another.  When T hit his hormonal stage he pulled away somewhat which broke his sisters’ hearts.  Adolescence seems to be a time of introversion in terms of thoughts and Gary and I have trained and retrained our three eldest to try to think outside of themselves.  It has been gratifying to see that such training does pay off and I have come to realise the importance of the parental role in helping tween children to navigate the often tumultuous journey through adolescence.  As I write this the three of them are upstairs in T’s room playing The Bird Table game with much laughter and enjoyment, happy noises floating down the stairs.  I am grateful that I have a son who was able to see the bigger picture of family relationships instead of focusing on small niggly irritations.


L12 and C12 absolutely hate growing up, with a vengeance!  They find the ups and downs of hormones difficult, although they are dealing with it all much better than a year ago.  Both sometimes come crying to me, begging me to make them carefree children again.  They are also tall for their age and, as vast as my laps are, fitting them both on for a cuddle is now a thing of the past, and something all three of us mourn.  Of course, I want them to grow up.  I mean I completely don’t want them to stay as children forever, but really, does childhood have to be so short?  I blinked and here they are trying to figure out boy-girl relationships and make-up.  They’re not old enough, I tell you!  More to the point, I’m not old mature enough!  I just thank God, again, that he led us to homeschool so we could all be together, building the most wonderful closeness that even hormones can’t rob us of.

My family.  Happy, happy sigh!

Parenting this age is much more complicated than parenting littles, and yet, I think, is probably more rewarding.  I enjoy the heated discussions, their opinions, them standing their ground (respectfully and sometimes very humorously) against their father and I; but I also enjoy the tender moments, their openness with both Gary and I.  I love the way they look to their Daddy to cherish and protect them.  How Gary always steps up to the challenge and how, if Gary is not around, their big brother steps in to protect them.  I pity their future suitors because they’ll have not one but two fiercely protective men to get through first!

My little two are such a special joy to me.  I understand now, in a way I didn’t with the older three, just how quickly this time flies by.  A6 is growing into such a placid, eager to please young lady.  And yet, alongside the eagerness is a gentle confidence:

Ribbet collageww4

And then there is B3.  A more rambunctious, mischievous, fun-loving child would be hard to find.  Highly inteligent, she keeps us all on our toes.  She is also loving, cuddly and just adores her big brother and sisters, knowing how to wrap us all round her little finger to ensure all goes right in her world!

Is she not the cutest science EVER?

Yes, it has in deed been a good year and I am looking forward with joy and anticipation to the coming year, trusting it will also be filled which much learning and many good things.

I wish you all a merry, merry Christmas and much joy for your own year ahead.

‘See’ you all in the new year!

 photo 50ee37ee-4f60-43f2-83eb-bb7deb75fd49_zpsbacda61d.pngWeekly Wrap-Up

Little House on the Prairie Unit Study


This contains all my Little House on the Prairie posts from the summer of 2013.

aaa little house on the prairie old fashioned photo

Little House on the Prairie Summer

A Summer of Little House Living – Our Plans: Outlining our 10 week plan

Everyone painting hard

Little House on the Prairie Unit Study: Week 1: Painting the Little House; Prairie Pancakes; Salted Pork; Corn bread; Paper Dolls; Button String; Mattress; Rope making; Rag rug

A4 with her button string

Little House on the Prairie Unit Study: Week Two: Grinding corn; Hasty Pudding; Sour dough starter and sour dough bread; Button Lamps; Prairie kitchen garden; Ladder making; Knitting a dish cloth; Pillow Case Nighties; Peg Hook; Rag rug

I showed the girls how to do it and they followed my instructions really well.  I was really surprised to learn A4 could tie a knot.  When did she learn how to do that?  She was able to do the whole thing independently, B2 needed help to tie the raffia.

Little House on the Prairie Unit Study: Week Three: Curtain making; Prairie kitchen garden; Net making; Hammock making; Curtain pole and hanging the curtains; Hay sticks; Soda biscuits

Using the overhand knot

Little House on the Prairie: Week 4: Sharpening an axe; Chopping wood; Stacking wood; Plant labels for our kitchen garden; Blueberry pie; Home made yogurt and cheese; Staining a rocking chair; Basket weaving; Natural medicines; Marigold buns


Little House on the Prairie:  Week 5: Basket weaving; Stove making; Little house sign; Plaque for inside the Little House; Molasses popcorn balls; Stuffed Prairie Hen, with all the trimmings


Little House on the Prairie: Week Six:  Prairie kitchen garden; Laundry soap balls; dish soap balls; Cloth dyeing with natural dyes; Making a Rag doll; Making a table cloth; Making stove; Butter making; Soda bread; Jam making


Little House on the Prairie: Week Seven: Prairie dressing up; making downstairs curtains; holding a prairie tea party; making fresh lemonade; making prairie biscuits; making a tea towel; making a toy butter press; making a sink unit; pulling radishes from kitchen garden; making cod balls.


Little House on the Prairie: Week Eight:  Laundry, laundry and more laundry….1800s style!


Little House on the Prairie: Week Nine:  Shelves, coffee pots and mugs, vegetable garden,  olde worlde photo

The kitchen area

Little House on the Prairie: Week Ten: The end of unit prairie Party

The older ones kindly let the littles go first

Little House on the Prairie: What next?

Little House on the Prairie: American Folk Museum Part 1

Little House on the Prairie: American Folk Museum Part 2

Little House on the Prairie: American Folk Museum Part 3


Review: My Book of Little House Paper Dolls

Review: Little House Books for Younger Readers

Review: My Little House Craft Book

Review: The Little House Cook Book

Review: Inside Laura’s Little House

Little House on the Prairie: Button String

Incr-Edible Science: Making a Sour Dough Starter

Stories of America Past

Sweet Marigold Buns

Making Raggy the Rag Doll


 Dressing Up Clothes


Visit my Language Arts Page for more literary fun

Mr Men School (Ages 3- 5)


Apologies for the excess posts coming out at the moment – I’m attempting to create a more organised blog by having posts containing the same theme all in one place!  This page will contain all my Mr Men School posts:


Mr Men School (Ages 3-5)

This is a home made curriculum I designed for my two younger children.  Usually at five they would be on Five in a Row, but I knew my three year old would struggle.  As I want to school them together I decided to use the Mr Men books as a basis of a curriculum I could use with both of them at the same time.

Mr Men Easter Adventure Box

Introduction to Mr Men School

Language Arts

Making a Mr Men Alphabet Tool Box

Encouraging a love of Reading

Building Reading Comprehension

Narration with Mr Men

Partnered Reading with Mr Men


Making a Mr Men Number Tool Box

Making a Mr Men Measuring Tool Box

Making a Mr Men Days of the Week Box

Learning directional and positional concepts with Mr Men

Learning opposites with Mr Men

Arts and Crafts

Five Modelling Ideas to Use with Mr Men

Making a Mr Men felt Toy

Hand Made Mr Men Puppets

Creating a ‘make a Mr Men character’ felt kit

Making a ‘feed me’ Mr Greedy

Examples of Mr Men School in Action

Mr Tickle

Mr Greedy

Mr Happy

Little Miss Bossy

Little Miss Naughty

Little Miss Neat


3rd Mt Men Birthday party

6th Little Miss Splendid Spa Birthday Party

Click for more Language Arts posts

Before Five in a Row (Ages 2-4)


In a quest to organise my blog a bit better, I am attempting to gather posts with similar themes together in one place.  These are all my Before Five in a Row posts.

I used Before Five in a Row with my pre-schoolers as their very first ‘structured’ school.  It is a literature based program with which we do many, many activities.


Visit my Language Arts Page for more literary fun

Precious Moments


This has been a great week of love, laughter and friends and you all know how happy that makes me.  Choosing to take it easy during December has been a really great decision and we are reaping the benefits every day.

Ribbet collagefri1

Last Friday evening we began what we hope will be a weekly Keepers of the Faith Club.  We are doing it with Lorna’s family.  Lorna is taking the older girls for their Keepers of the Home, I will be taking the younger two for a simplified version of the Keepers of the Home whilst Gary and Andrew (Lorna’s husband) will be taking the two boys for their Contenders of the Faith.  The children will have a book each from which to choose activities for which they will become competent enough in to earn a badge.

It was gratifying to see how excited all the children were about doing this.  B13 and T12 worked together really well and picked a few topics to concentrate on.  The girls took a little longer on account of there being too many leaders and not enough followers (ahem).  The one topic the all agreed upon wholeheartedly was learning about etiquette.  The picture above shows their enthusiasm at starting immediately.  So they balanced their (keepers) books on their head and walked around trying to look lady-like (which is hard to do when you have two mothers looking on in stitches!).

Saturday saw the return of our annual decking the halls:

Ribbet collagefri2

Gary lit the fire and whilst the boys put up the tree and added the lights, the girls decorated the biscuits we had made minutes before and heated up some hot chocolate to go with them and the stirrer we had made a couple of days before hand.  We used my Granny’s tea set to make it even more special:

Ribbet collagefri3

I laughed at B3 trying her absolute best to be careful with the china.  The marshmallow stirrers were a huge hit with the candy canes being used as impromptu smoking vessels and decorated into hearts:

Ribbet collagefri4

Once finished Gary and T12 tried to help B3 pop the angel atop the tree:

Ribbet collagefri5

Once up the rest of the children joined in and worked hard at putting up the decorations, including the cinnamon ones we had made during the week:

Ribbet collagefri6

It was fun listening to them exclaiming over decorations used for years and recanting special memories which went with them.  At last it was finished:

Ribbet collagefri7

Then we settled down to some Christmas charades.  Oh my goodness, I don’t think I have laughed as much for a long time.  I had a stitch at the end!  I took loads of photos but for the sake of everyone I have only included a few.  Great memories:

Ribbet collagefri8

Ribbet collagefri9

Ribbet collagefri10

Too much fun!

On the Sunday we all journeyed to the lovely 12 century chuch Gary and I got married in to watch the older children’s choir perform the Christmas nativity through song.  I wasn’t allowed to take photos during the performance but here they are just before:

Ribbet collagefri11

C12 sang a solo and I had tears streaming down my face.  I was so proud and completely blown away by her beautiful voice.  They all had a wonderful time.

On Wednesdays Gary and T go to fencing together which means I have some lovely older daughter time with my twins.  After Christmas we will be using this time to continue with our Proverbs 31 study.  This week we used the time to wrap presents.  This year we have done something a little different.  Last year we did stockings (I think the first year for us) and Gary and I filled them.  It was costly, as you can imagine.  This year each child has bought each person in our family a stocking present and an under the tree present:


I’ve been a bit lapse taking photos of the rest of the week, on account of some last-minute school planning for my little ones, so I have little else to share; plus the fact Gary has just returned from work!  So I’m off.

I do hope you all are having a very merry Christmas season with much fun and laughter.

Weekly Wrap-Up photo 50ee37ee-4f60-43f2-83eb-bb7deb75fd49_zpsbacda61d.png

Mr Men School: Building Reading Comprehension


Reading comprehension is an important skill to build.  As an adult good comprehension skills will mean being able to read a letter and fully understand its contents, or being able to follow instructions such as in a recipe or google maps.  These are all excellent reasons to encourage reading comprehension.  The best reason of all, however, is to help the child enjoy their reading to a maximum.  Reading is not going to hold much enjoyment if the book is not understood or the story is not followed.  One of the joys of learning to read is that feeling of complete immersion in a book, whereby one becomes so involved in the story it is as if they are living it themselves.  This is an impossible state to reach if one’s comprehension skills are lacking.

I did not need to teach comprehension skills to my older children.  Reading was second nature to them, almost from the start.  They immersed themselves so fully that during the very next imaginary play they would dress up, becoming one of the characters and acting out the story (which of course their similar aged siblings would also have read and joined in, together creating story tale magic).  A6 not so much.  I have been on a quest this year to encourage A in her reading, and to help her enjoy it a bit more.

These are a few of the things I have found which have helped:

  • Narration

The main way I check A6’s comprehension is through narration or retelling what she has heard.  I have written about how I do narration using pictures.  Just the fact that A6 knows I am going to ask for a narration means she is more attentive and listens carefully.  I don’t always ask for a full narration, sometimes a quick summary is enough to check she has understood.

  • Questioning

My best friend, Nik, is a teacher.  When A was five I had the pleasure of observing Nik reading to her.  Every page she would carefully read and then, automatically, ask A questions about what she had just read.  In addition she discussed the illustrations and patiently answered any questions A had.  It did me good to see this in action, because I would not have naturally thought to do this.

Next time I read to A I tried doing the same.  It felt a little forced and unnatural and I was surprised when A6 responded so well, and enjoyed the discussion.  I realised that her comprehension was so much greater than her reading and that the interactive questioning and discussing built upon her strengths instead of focusing on her reading weakness.

This type of listening, thinking and discussing allows A6 to analyse and predict the course of the story fairly accurately.  I could see her linking the current Mr Men text to other books she had read, or to things which had happened in her own life.  A6 also likes to ask questions.  A lot of questions.  Like all. the. time questions.  It nearly drove me nuts, because instead of spending her reading time reading she would ‘waste’ it asking questions.  I thought she was maybe procrastinating or letting her attention wander, but I now realise (better late than never, I suppose), that questioning each and every word and picture helps her to make sense of what she is learning, increases her vocabulary and ultimately makes the experience of being read to or reading to me much more enjoyable for her.

  • Vocabulary Focus

As an off shoot of the questioning and discussion, we would naturally discuss vocab.  I would check her comprehension of certain words, although over time  realised that she would automatically ask if she was unsure.  When she asked I could then look more closely at the rest of the text with her and the context in which the word was used.  I would then ask her to hazard a guess as to what the word she was stuck on meant.  More often than not she was able to proffer an accurate explanation.

  • Reading Aloud

It goes without saying that I read a lot to my younger children.  That said, I really don’t read the quality of books to them I read to my older ones.  By the time they were four we had read Swiss Family Robinson, Robinsoe Crusoe, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  It hadn’t occured to me at the time that these were fairly tricky books to understand, I just read.  With A I have held back based on the fact I thought she would have neither the concentration nor the understanding to listen to harder books being read out.  I wonder had I just gone ahead without over thinking it, whether she would be reading more fluently now.  This coming year I will be choosing some wonderful books to read aloud, some picture but some more complicated chapter books.  I know from experience that this will increase her vocabulary and help with her reading.  I have just one question – why did I not do this before?

  • Drawing a Picture

Another simple way of ensuring the children have an understanding of what is being read to them is to ask them to draw a picture of the story.  I do this frequently with the older ones, asking them to display their knowledge in a way which makes sense to them.  It is a fabulous way to test understanding in a non threatening way.  The older children have created Mine craft worlds, Knex models, Magnetix models, Lego models – you name it they’ve done it!  For now though, I just ask A6 for a picture, which she loves to do.

Most of these suggestions are common sense.  But in my case, common sense doesn’t always prevail.  I write this post to myself so that next year I can continue the journey I have started to help my little girl enjoy reading to the same extent as her older siblings.

Mr Men School: Five Modelling Ideas


Our art is always based on process not product.  That said, the children enjoy making something that is recognisable to the picture they began with in their heads.  Here are a few of our more enjoyable projects trying to replicate some Mr Men and  Little Miss characters:

1.  Junk Modelling

Junk modelling is a cheap, environmentally friendly and most importantly fun activity to do during a rainy day.  Anything which will ultimately be thrown out can be used as long as it is clean and has no sharp edges.  Card, containers, bottle tops, buttons, fabric scraps, sweetie wrappers, tubes….they can all be transformed with just a little bit of imagination.

Making things from junk is a deceptively simple activity for children old and young, requiring visionary and lateral thinking, the use of design and problem solving skills as well as the satisfaction of a new and useful end product.

Mr Men, being made of simple shapes and block colours, are very easy to model with junk.  We save up all sorts of rubbish which the children then turn into Mr Men characters with the help of white glue, scissors and stacks of imagination.  After creating the actual shapes of the characters the models can then be collaged with coloured paper or painted with a thick acrylic paint.

Mr Tickle was the first attempt.  We used stuffing, a flour bag, toilet roll, tape and paint:

The girls filled a flour bag full of polyester filling from an old duvet and I taped it down.  they then painted the filled bag and four toilet rolls which would be his arms.  We also found a blue pot, which when taped upside down to the sack would work well as a het.  Here the girls are painting everything

It was successful and they thoroughly enjoyed the process:

dsc_0776mr tickle

 2.  Plasticine or play dough models

Play dough and Plasticine is always available to my little ones to play with.  Play dough is their preference because of its malleability:

Is not that the coolest looking Mr Tickle in the world?

However Plasticine has great colours which means they are perfect for creating Mr Men and Little Miss figures.  It is made even more special if older siblings come along side and not only help with the modelling but also put on an impromptu play using the Plasticine characters as puppets:

And they even took a bow at the end!

3.  Paper plate models

Mr Men and Little Miss characters just beg to be made into paper plate models, so we obliged and made a few!

B3 concentrated her efforts on a Mr Bump.  She painted him blue and I helped her to wrap a real bandage around him a couple of times.  We added felt features and feet:

Ribbet collagemrbump

She did a great job and enjoyed it so much, she and her sister made a few more:

Ribbet collagemr nosy

4.  Mr Men collages

We have done lots of collages over the past year.  Collage making is another activity which is easy to do using bits and bobs found free (in the home or in the environment).  Our favourites have been using paint strips to make a Little Miss Naughty:

Isn't that a great collage?

Anything pink I could find around the house to make a Mr Greedy:


And combining paper plate models with collaging to make a Little Miss Sunshine:

Ribbet collagemisssun

5.  Making a Mr Men toy

Mr Men are so simple to make on account of their very regular shapes and colours.  Over the past year or so the older girls have sewn their own Little Miss Twins to give to B3 as a birthday present:


The little ones have used a kit to make a Mr Bump (B3) and Little Miss Sunshine (A6), which they still love to take to bed each night:

Ribbet collagepm2

And there you have it.  Five modelling ideas to go along with our Mr Men school!

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