Seasons of Joy : All things are possible…


Ribbet collageSeasons of Joy

This is the follow on post from last week’s Addiction post.  It is a post I have not looked forward to writing.  Using God’s word to try to explain something which has ultimately been a personal revelation from Him to me feels like a huge responsibility.  Articulating it clearly and accurately feels hard and I feel clumsy in trying to do so.  Please bear with me.  This post is important to me.  I want to write it, and I want to write it well.

You may remember last November I went in for an operation which would hopefully rid me of some fairly major issues I had been having since the birth of B4.  Around the same time I felt a kind of hopelessness regarding my weight.  It occurred to me that over my life time I have lost a gazillion pounds, and yet still remained large.  Life stretched ahead of me with this pattern repeating itself; that mentality of if I could be ‘good’ for x amount of weeks/months and I could lose x amount of pounds all would be well and I would never struggle with weight issues again.  That mentality was and is a lie.  My weight was a symptom of a deeper problem, it was not the problem.  The life which lay ahead of me would be a life half lived.  It would be a life spent chained to the shackles of food.  I was becoming literally and metaphorically speaking weighed down by calories.  But worse than that.  The way I saw myself was being distorted under this weight.

In that moment I handed my battle over to God.  And I waited expectantly, knowing something would happen….‘those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles’ Isaiah 40:31

And it did.  I put on a stone over the next week, the week spent recovering from the operation.  Really?

Deciding to put the matter to one side knowing deep within that God would be dealing with it, I reminded myself that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).  I was still fat but I was at Peace.


Sometime in January I felt that God prompting me to read the Bible until He told me to stop.  It was clear to me that He did not want me to study it.  He wanted me to read it and listen.  He would show me what He wanted me to hear.  I speed read and have done since I was in school.  I had never thought to speed read the Bible because it seemed to me to be a bit irreverent and yet that is what I felt led to do – speed read the Bible and trust God to stop me at the important bits.


Oh, and I was to read The Message translation.  I had bought The Message, in large print, for the children when they were little to make the Bible more accessible to them, but I had never used it as my own study Bible.  However I did as I was told and borrowed C12’s Message Bible.  It wasn’t clear at first why God chose the Message but the more I read the more I realised how perfect it was for this project.  It is very easy to read which means large amounts can be read in a relatively short time and it was truly a pleasure to read.  However, the main reason it was so perfect for me at this time was my unfamiliarity with it.  This meant that passages I had read umpteen times before were new and fresh to me, holding treasures I had previously overlooked.


I read, every minute I had.  I told no one what I was doing.  I read Genesis through to Deuteronomy and then felt led to Proverbs, after which I read the Gospels, Acts and lastly Romans.  Every time I felt prompted I wrote a verse down.  If you could only see the mish-mash of verses in my note-book.  Very few of them were about food.  Many of them were proclaiming the sovereignty of God.  Bit by bit I was building up a picture of the Claire God wanted me to be and the gaping space between that picture and reality.


I intend to share more at a later date but suffice it to say my whole world was rocked and I was tossed out of the zone of comfort.  It was exciting, truth be told.  Words, good Words, from the mouth of God, were going in me at a speed I could hardly digest.


During my holiday in Northern Ireland I had more time to read and my notebook quickly became full of verses which God deemed important for me to know.  All the time the picture became sharper.  My family asked what I was doing, so I shared.  My lovely mum-in-law and I chatted for hours about what I was finding and what it might mean.  And then came the day which changed my life and the way I thought about myself forever.


And I will be sharing that part tomorrow.  For now I am going to hold my breath and press publish.

Precious Memories


This is the post I usually use to document all the stuff that went on outside of school learning, only this week I took absolutely no photos.  Can you believe it?  I’m not sure that has ever happened before.  I think I’ve been a bit preoccupied by my follow up post to Saturday’s post ‘Addicted, but no Cold Turkey’.  Thank you to everyone who left a message.  I always okay any personal post with Gary, and after he had read it I shared my fears over what people might think.  His reply was that he thought I had some really lovely readers and the last thing they would be doing is judging me.  He knew you would all be supportive and you really were.  Between comments on my blog and emails I have been very blessed by you all this week.  So thank you for that.

School has been really good this week.  I am seeing fruit to the regular training I have given the children over their lifetimes.  They all do their chores without being asked and always begin their maths without me having to remind them.  Do you know what a blessing this is?  They have a heavy chore list each morning yet they are done without complaint and generally to a high standard (although I must insert here that my high standard is probably considerably lower than yours!).

Ribbet collageday2

Schoolwise, the children have been working through their Conquer Maths each day without any worry and are slowly making progress.  Once again I am so grateful to Conquer Maths for helping my girls get to grade level.  A6 has begun Conquer Maths with Gary at night time.  I still use a couple of different curriculums during the day with her but Conquer Maths is the one I want her to learn to use independently.  We have started her on Reception age level knowing that she will work her way through this very quickly.  I am hoping by September she will be completely independent, only needing help when she doesn’t understand.  I am still working through grade level maths with a couple of other curriculums.  B4 has begun reception age maths using Heinnemann maths which she is really enjoying.  So all in all maths is good!

During our morning meeting we are working our way slowly through chapter five of Who is God? as well as reading through the Mystery of History Volume three each day.  We are also currently doing an explorer study on Christopher Columbus and so I read out of our main biographical book about him.  I have plans to extend the morning meeting to include the younger children.  At the moment they listen and play with play dough but I am thinking of starting the meeting with more books geared towards the little ones.  We have our morning meeting for an hour each day so I think we could fit in some littles’ time as well.


Mum is still listening to A6 read everyday as well as reading aloud her current read aloud chapter book, vaguely following the Sonlight curriculum, just using the books they recommend.  She is doing really well, although even in the quiet of mum’s house her biggest hurdle is still her concentration.  Mum has started her writing too, which she also struggles with due to concentration issues.  She writes just a few words each day but mum makes sure she does those few words really well.

The older ones are still using Cover Story and still LOVE it.  Writing is something they all enjoy now and I never hear moans of complaint from them.  Whilst the older ones do Cover Story independently I focus on the littles.  I try to do FIAR with them each day as well as some read aloud of the Dr Seuss science books.  A6 in particular likes them so I think we will be doing more with them over the next few months.

We are still ploughing away with IGCSE  Biology, covering DNA replication, Mitosis and Meiosis.  It has been very hands on and the children seem to understand it well, even the child who likes science the least.


In our history we have been focusing on Michaelangelo as our artist study.  I will be posting next week but we have all had a ball and the work the girls have produced has been really lovely.

C12 began back at her singing lessons and has almost finished the song she has written to Gary.  L12 also began back at trampolining and immediately completed her level seven badge.  She is now on level eight which once she has finished that she will move up a class with older children, which she is very excited about.  T13 has decided to stop fencing as he had gone as far as he could without competing, which we were reluctant to have him do due to the time required taking him to and from competitions.  He understood completely, thankfully, and has decided to focus on his biking.  He is currently trying to find a mountain bike club he could join and is going on a long bike ride with just his daddy once a week in lieu of a fencing class.  They went yesterday and really enjoyed themselves.

Apologies for this being rather heavy on the writing but low on photos.  I shall try to do better next week!  Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Weekly Wrap-Upspecial needs and homeschooling blog lomkupCollage Friday

Genetics: Cell division – Meiosis



We are currently working through the specification for an IGCSE in Biology.  The following is copied straight from that specification and is all the information we need to know about meiosis:

Understand that division of a cell by meiosis produces four cells, each with half the number of chromosomes, and that this results in the formation of genetically different haploid gametes.

Know that in human cells the diploid number of chromosomes is 46 and the haploid number is 23

The specification mentions the terms diploid and haploid.  Ploidy refers to the number of chromosomes in a cell.  Cells with two sets of chromosomes are refered to as diploid cells and cells with only one set of chromosomes are called haploid cells.

Meiosis is a form of cell division which forms gamete cells, however in its case the daughter cells are not identical either to each other or to their parent cells.  Instead of containing the parental diploid number of chromosomes, the four daughter cells contain a haploid (or half) number of chromosomes.  It is a specialised form of cell division which occurs in all sexually reproducing Eukaryotic cells including animal, plants and fungi.

Before I actually told them anything, I asked them to think about what they already knew about cell division (ie mitosis) and try to work out how one parent cell might replicate to make four daughter cells, each with half the amount of genetic material compared with the parent cell.  They were all flummoxed.  I gave them a hint about how mitosis might be used with some changes to create haploid daughter cells  from a diploid parent.  T13 figured it out immediately, followed quickly by the girls.  They all realised that in order to obtain four daughter cells a parent cell would need to go through mitosis twice, and in order to create daughter cells with half the chromosomal material one stage would need to be left out of the second mitotic division.  They agreed that there would be no interphase stage during the second division.  Bingo!

To help consolidate this new found knowledge of meiosis we all watched the following video:

The most important thing for the children to understand was that meiosis describes the event which allows our bodies to create gametes.  Human gametes are otherwise known as sperm and egg.  A diploid human cell contains 46 paired chromosomes, whereas the haploid cell contains only 23.  Gametes are a haploid cell.  The sperm contains 23 of the father’s chromosomes whereas the egg contains 23 of the mother’s chromosomes.  Thus when they join together during the process of fertilisation they with form a zygote cell which will contain a complete complement of paired chromosomes – 23 from the father and 23 from the mother.  We would be covering genetic variation and mutations during our next lesson.  For now though, I wanted to focus on how the process of meiosis is able to form four haploid cells from one diploid cell.

With this in mind I asked the children to do a similar exercise which they had done for mitosis.  I gave them plates (cells), labels and jelly beans (chromosomes) and asked them to produce a simple model showing what happens to a cell during meiosis:


This model really was a very simple representation of meiosis, and wasn’t quite as accurate as the mitosis one we had made the day before.

You all know that we love any kind of hands on activity so I set about creating a tray full of the makings of a more complete meiosis model – a meiosis stages print out, labels and playdough in different colours:


Meiosis is essential a replica of mitosis which happens twice, although the second meiosis (known as Meiosis II) does not include the interphase stage of mitosis as no more chromosomal material is required for the formation of the haploid cells.  You might remember that interphase is the stage of mitosis which allows the cell to replicate its genetic material.  As only half the amount is required to form the haploid cell no more genetic material is required:

meiosis stages


With sheet in hand the children worked as a team to create all the stages of meiosis from playdough:

Ribbet collagemeiosisplay1


If I had known it would take almost two hours to complete I possibly wouldn’t have started.  I mean surely there are better things to do with our time than play with play dough?  That said there was lots of chat around that table as we talked through some teen issues which were obviously bothering them.  There was also lots of fun, as well as heaps of laughter.  And if they learnt nothing, it was still probably worth it for the relationship building banter.

Having now spent time learning about mitosis and meiosis I asked the children to compare the two.   I had printed off a venn diagram for them to fill in as they went along.  This was great preparation for the short essay I wanted them to write comparing the two cell divisions, under exam conditions, which they will be doing tonight.

Our next genetics lessons will be focusing on genetic variation and how it is achieved.

Please see the science and maths page for all our lessons from the IGCSE Biology (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

Genetics: Cell division – Mitosis



We are currently working through the specification for an IGCSE in Biology.  The following is copied straight from that specification and is all the information we need to know about mitosis:

Understand that division of a diploid cell by mitosis produces two cells which contain identical sets of chromosomes.
Understand that mitosis occurs during growth, repair, cloning and asexual reproduction.

We watched the following videos to introduce the children to mitosis.  The first is an animation by the Amoeba sisters and the other is a dance set to a song which explains mitosis.  The third is a rap which I really thought was spectacular explaining mitosis written by a biology teacher.  This last video I showed to the children two or three times a day for a week, hoping they would internalise some of the lyrics!

Mitosis is a type of cell division whereby a parent diploid cell replicates itself exactly to form two identical daughter cells.  The daughter cells contain identical sets of chromosomes.  In order to illustrate this I gave the children 4 paper plates, 3 labels saying Parent Cell, Daughter Cell and DNA replication,  and 20 jelly beans (5 sets of four different colours).  I asked the children to demonstrate their understanding of mitosis using all of the items I had given them:


It took some time but they created a great model:


As can be seen the parental diploid cell has 4 chromosomes.  During the DNA replication stage these four chromosomes multiply to become eight chromosomes (two identical sets of the original four).  The chromosomes move to allow the parent cell to split into two daughter cells, each daughter cell containing the exact DNA material the parent cell contained.

Next I handed them a sheet which had all the stages of mitosis but was unlabeled.  I asked them to label each stage (pictured is my own labeled version):

mitosis stages


I had pinned a fabulous video which I unfortunately can’t seem to post but it shows mitosis actually as it happens.  To see this fabulous video see here.  I can’t tell you what an honour it was to be watching this with the children.  The sense of awe when one realises that this process is ongoing in our bodies.  We have an amazing Creator!


I also gave them a print out of some onion cells at various stages of mitosis.  The goal was for them to be able to match the stages with some of the pictures:

onion cells mitosis


We then came to the activity the children had been looking forward to all week.  Oreo cookie mitosis.  Oh the fun!

I photocopied them this Lab  and handed them some Oreos, toothpicks, icing pens and thread sprinkles:


They completed the lab and ended up with a heap of Oreos decorated to show the stages of Mitosis:



Tomorrow we would be exploring Meiosis and comparing the two.

Genetics: DNA Replication



We have looked quite extensively at the structure of DNA as well as carrying out a study on the scientists who first discovered its structure and making our own models:

The three different DNA models together

The next thing the children needed to know about was DNA replication.  This would be fairly important  for their cell division lessons on Mitosis and Meiosis as the first stage of both includes the DNA replicating itself prior to cell division.

As you can see from above the DNA strand is made up of two strands joined together as a double helix by paired bases.  Before a cell divides its chromosomes needs to be replicated exactly.  This occurs by the two stranded DNA molecule ‘unzipping’, thus separating the double helix into two separate strands:



As they separate free nucleotides lock onto the bases, forming new strands.  the new, exact copies of DNA are thus formed as shown above.  GCSE bitesize have a great little animation showing this which the children viewed until they felt they fully understood.  The video can be accessed here.

I also had them watch another animation.  It was more advanced than the children needed but I still felt there was value in watching it:

We also watched the following video.  I liked this one more because I felt the animation was a little more realistic and less simplified whereas the audio and explanations were easier to understand with less information:

In order to check the children understood what they had learnt we used one of the models they had already made.  I printed out the three very simplified stages I wanted them to know onto card.  Their task was to illustrate these stages using their model:

  • The DNA spiral unzips:

Ribbet collagedna replication 1

  • Free nucleotides lock onto the bases:

DSC_0051dna replication

  • Two copies of the original DNA spiral is formed:

Ribbet collagedna replication2

This was a fairly quick and simple lesson, but was nonetheless important knowledge to possess ahead of our next two lessons on cell divisions – mitosis and meiosis.

Learning My ABC’s: Five Ways to Reinforce Letter Learning (Bb)



  • I wrote out the letter Bb onto a piece of card stock and gave B4 some play dough to make up the letter from, using the home made play dough letter mat.  This activity helped B to see and make the shape of a Bb:

Ribbet collageletterb2

  • I wrote a big B and little b onto the chalk board and B4 sprayed the letters with shaving foam.  This activity helped her to remember the shape the letter Bb made:

Ribbet collagebbbbbbbbb

  • I filled a ziplock bag full of paint and using a Q tip B4 created the letters B and b by writing them in the paint.  This activity helped her remember how to write the letter B:

Ribbet collageletterb3

  • I made up a Bb basket full of bits and pieces I found around the house which began with the b sound.  This activity reminded her that letters made the beginning sounds of words and allowed her to practice her recognition of the b sound:

Ribbet collagebecs6

  • Using the home made black board table I wrote lots of letters all over in chalk being sure to include four capital B’s and four little b’s (four because she is four years old and it is therefore easy for her to remember). Using a peg with a wet cotton wool ball she splodged each B and b she found.  This activity was to help her to recognise the letter Aa even when hidden among many other different letters:

Ribbet collageletterb1

Next week I will have five more hands on activities to reinforce letter recognition.

Seasons of Joy: Addiction But No Cold Turkey


Ribbet collageSeasons of Joy

Warning: Brutally honest post ahead.

This doesn’t seem an appropriate post to be in my seasons of joy series, I know.  Thing is this series is about me.  It is my journey through the often murky waters of Life.  My fight, if you like, to find Joy in every season.  In order for me to authentically talk about those things which give me joy, I must also face those things which steal my joy.  This post is about my struggle to deal with the biggest robber of my joy – food.


I almost wish I could just not eat. Going without food seems to be a sensible option whilst trying to kick an addiction to it. But one simply can’t not eat.

I mean a recovering alcoholic doesn’t touch alcohol; a recovering drug addict doesn’t touch drugs.  I know, because my dad was an alcoholic, that just one glass is not a possibility. Succumb to that one and the rest, as they say, is history. Followed by much regret. I know my father hated it when he fell off the wagon. There was nothing about it he enjoyed except that feeling of the first drink. Just before he died, he lamented that alcohol was the one thing he had been unable to control. And it had ruined his life, his career, his marriage and ultimately his relationship with his children. That first drink after abstinence almost made the abstinence worth while.

One can’t stop eating altogether, unless one wishes to die.  Of course I want to live. But I want to live my life fuller, healthier and, I think, ultimately happier.  I want to live a life where food is not my driving force.

I don’t know what the answer is. I come from a family of addictions. My father with alcohol, my grandfather with alcohol, my uncle died of alcoholism as did my auntie. In fact the coroner made the comment that she didn’t understand how she had survived as long as she did given how pickled her entire insides were. I don’t drink alcohol. At all. I have never touched drugs and I have never even smoked. No, I have a milder addiction. Or maybe not milder but more socially acceptable or more easily hidden. It doesn’t make me behave in a silly way. I do not lose my inhibitions, I do not do anything I might regret under the influence and some might say apart from being overweight there has been little effect on my life. I have a happy and healthy marriage, five beautiful children, I live the life I dreamed of when I was a little girl at home with the rest of the family, all of us lost in our own version of hell. I have a degree, am well educated and well read. I am fairly confident and generally have an upbeat, cheerful disposition.

To all intents and purposes I am normal.

Except I’m not. I eat too much. I eat until I am full, and then I eat some more. I only like the feeling of being full and yet that same feeling disgusts me. I think I am ugly. No matter that my lovely husband tells me otherwise. No matter that I am told frequently I look like my daughters and to me, they are absolutely beautiful. No, when I look in the mirror I see a monster. You see, I know I am no better than the various family members who have battled their addictions all their lives. I don’t see the physical reality of me, I see the actual reality of me. The reality of stuffing my face, the reality of knees which give way when I stand up, the reality of the aches and the pains, the reality of someone who is made dirtier by an addiction she has no ability to control or even know where to start to control. And that someone? That person who makes me sick to my stomach? It’s me.

How do I control an addiction which is slowly killing me? How can I change the way I feel about food when I can’t go cold turkey? How do I give up food, without giving up food?

Since Christmas I have been searching for the answers to these questions and more.  I have had somewhat of a revelation which I would like to share.  And it might just be the most important post I ever write about a God for whom nothing is impossible and about a Battle which has already been fought and won.


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