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So, last Saturday we went aboard the ferry home, crossing from Belfast to Liverpool overnight.   Gary slept with the older ones in a cabin, I slept with the littles in another cabin.  It was a stormy night, which the little ones slept dead to the world the whole way through.  Unlike their mother and father.  Gary slept on and off but assured me he had not been scared (Uhuh).  And me?  I was awake all night clutching onto my mattress praying my little heart out as the boat went up and down at an alarming rate often coming down before my body had caught up.  I’m not entirely sure what help I thought my mattress might be if we did suddenly capsize but it was nevertheless comforting to hold on to anything.

It also crossed my mind that if I was left suspended mid-air due to the rockiness of the boat, what on earth was happening to our car, which was parked on the top deck.  I had images of it bunny jumping over board.  I even looked up on the ipad whether a Stenna Line ship had ever drowned, figuring I would work out the probability that we, also, would drown.  It was probably a good job that the free WiFi wasn’t working at its most efficient at that moment in time because being ever so slightly of the impatient disposition I gave up after half an hour of waiting for it to connect me to the last twenty ships to go down in modern times.

I have one thing to say.  Never again.  Ever.  Never ever.  Ever.  I don’t care that it was only a small storm.  And equally it matters little that the cars are belted onto the deck and so the likelihood of them bunny jumping to their demise is even slimmer than it had been in my mind the night before.  I will never spend a whole night on a ship ever again.  Ever.

We then had a five-hour drive home.  I found it slightly disturbing that I was still rocking even after disembarking the boat and driving for a couple of hours.  It was a weird sensation to attempt to attend to the most basic of hygiene needs with a toilet that kept moving.  At that point I told myself to pull it together and man up.  Nothing was moving.  Not even the loo.  Five hours later we arrived home, ate and went to bed.  Even I was in bed by 8 and slept right through until the next morning.

And it was due to the aforementioned diatribe that I decided on an unschooling week.  I needed a holiday.  That said we had a lot which needed to be done, y’know chore-wise, and not one to selfishly keep things to myself I happily split them with my children.  I know, how great a mother am I?

The house stank of dog due to no vacuuming being done whilst we were away.  My mum very kindly looks after the dog, cats, rabbits and chickens whilst we’re away.  She had little spare time in which to vacuum.  So I did every room.  The smell was still there and it was revolting.  So I went a bit mad and spring cleaned the whole house (dragging the children into it as well, of course).  After opening all the windows, we took all the rugs out for an air; stripped the sofa of all the washable covers (Oscar had obviously been using it as a bed, if the hair was anything to go by); bleached, yes bleached all the tile and wooden floors; carpet cleaned the rugs; washed and dried the sofa covers and lit a few candles.  Soon it was all smelling like roses again.  Actually it smelt of a mixture of apple and cinnamon (candle), bleach and cleaning fluids, but anything was better than the smell of dog, so I was happy:

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It was kind of lovely to watch the children disappear off into various corners of the house to pursue their own fun.  L and C decided to ‘put up a shop’ for the victims of Ebola.  L began making some octopuses (or should that be octopi?) from wool and painted some cards to sell:

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In contrast, her sister used some material from our rather large stash and sewed a pillow case just like that, which she then proceeded to place on her bed, followed by a second one which she placed on L’s bed.  Either she had forgotten about the Ebola victims or there was something they weren’t telling me about their health!

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T spent hours in his bedroom planning world domination.  Actually he was in the depths of planning his car washing business but one gets the feeling if he wanted to pursue world domination he might just have the determination to succeed.  Any time he needed to blow away the cobwebs he sauntered outside, after throwing on his new gardening overalls, to tend to his beds:

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The picture bottom left show our rather lovely stack of logs for burning in our log burning stove.

We have also been spending a few sessions in the garden with the sole aim of clearing it.  To be honest, no one is desperately enthusiastic about the gardening delights which await them but everyone is pleased once they are out and working and we all love looking at the results which occur quickly when there are seven people working together:

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Our goal is to have the whole site cleared of rubbish, wood and anything else which is cluttering it up by Christmas so we can start our back garden nature study in the new year.

I also had the pleasure of my two youngest asking to play dressing up.  It brought back incredibly fond memories of my older three who spent their entire childhood in one make-believe world after another.  My younger two had not shown much interest in spending their young years doing the same and my older three have long since grown out of dressing up.  So you can imagine my delight when I overheard the four girls deep in make-believe play:

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They chatted, danced, taught their younger sisters all they knew and all four were in dress up the whole time.  Ah, be still my beating heart.  Childhood is such a blessing:

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Last but not least a couple of photos which I included because I thought they were gorgeous:

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Life’s kinda fun, don’t you think?

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Rest, Relaxation and Restoration in Northern Ireland

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We have just returned from a couple of weeks of holidaying in Northern Ireland.  I love Northern Ireland.  Gary, of course, loves Northern Ireland and all five children love Northern Ireland.  It is familiar, friendly and fun.  My incredible mother in law also strives to make it restful, relaxing and restorative.  Gary and I lie in bed in the morning for as long as we want, she does all of the cooking and no sooner do we wear something it is washed, folded and back in our drawers to wear again.  We are surrounded by farms, countryside, mountains and some of the most glorious beeches in the world.  We feel free in so much space.  One’s eye view is uncluttered and goes on for miles:

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Our holiday consists of a lovely balance between spending time with family, visiting old haunts and taking the opportunity to enjoy just being together.  Each time we visit home Gary’s parents arrange a family get together.  Gary has four brothers and one sister and between us all we have 16 children!  Family gatherings are large and noisy!

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With lots of hilarity occurring when beards were bought in to challenge Uncle Tim’s:

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We also squeeze as many extra visits to them all as well as friends as we can without them getting fed up with the sight of us!

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We also visit our favourite beaches and of course Cheeky Chimps, a soft play area where we spent hours burning off energy during the older one’s younger days:

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The rest of the time is spent enjoying being together as a family:

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Which of course entails hours and hours of fun at the beach:

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T dragged his father out of bed before dawn to drive him up the  Slieve Gallion mountains to get photos of the sun rising:

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Happy, happy sigh….we have determined to save up every penny in an attempt to visit Northern Ireland twice each year.  Honestly, these are the best holidays of our lives.  Thank you everyone (especially my mum-in-law, Heather), who make such an effort to welcome us and make us feel at home.  None of us want to leave and we miss you all terribly.

The Angelicscalliwags Homeschool: Quiet Time

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I mentioned in a few of my posts about our children taking a period of quiet time every day, after which I received an email asking me about the mechanics of this time.  This post is in reply to the email.

Why do we, almost without fail, do quiet time each day?

When the older three were babies and it was three babies versus one weary mummy, their nap times were my salvation!  I purposed to continue them for as long as possible.  The day eventually came when T was ready to be awake rather than nap.  My heart sank because the reality was that those times of quiet renewed me for the afternoon ahead.  They helped me regroup and turn off so that I was able to be the mummy I wanted to be.  So quiet time was born.  It started with T simply lying on his bed for an hour or so whilst his sisters slept.  I made up a basket of goodies for him to play with and/or read.  The girls napped, he had some down time and I, I maintained a little time to relax and read.

Shortly after the girls began to stop napping for so long and eventually dropped napping all together.  The transition was simple, as were the rules.  They were each given a basket of goodies to play with, which were only available at this time.  They had to remain on their bed and remain quiet.  They were not allowed to talk to each other or play with each other.

It really was very successful for two of my children.  L did not enjoy being on her own (although her sister was in the bed beside her) and she did not enjoy trying to play by her self.  The other two thrived and looked forward to this time.  Once L was reading fluently she too enjoyed them as much as the other, so I am glad I persevered.

Start as you mean to go on

It is never too early to train a child for quiet time, nor is it ever too late.  That said, transitioning a child from nap time to quiet time is probably the simplest method requiring the least amount of training.

The older children dropped naps at age 5, A dropped hers way before.  It was a bit of a shock to me when an 18 month old A suddenly stopped napping during the day.  However, I did exactly as I had with the older three and transitioned smoothly into quiet time.  The older ones already had quiet time after lunch so A was effectively doing a grown up thing in her eyes.  She was still in a cot which made keeping her in her bed simple.  Each afternoon I tucked her down for a nap as usual, except this time I added a box full of toys at the bottom of her bed.  Naturally as soon as she got tired of trying to get to sleep, up she popped and played with her toys quietly in her cot.

B3 has only just dropped her naps and is learning to enjoy quiet time as well.

A Time to be Alone

As the children have got older I have found that quiet time has become an important cornerstone of their day.  This no longer happens because I need a break but because the children all really enjoy and look forward to this daily time of quiet.  The world wants us noisy, wants us busy, wants us hurried.  This down time slows us.  It allows us all time away from each other which helps to encourage good relationships.  The older ones in particular almost seem to need this time and will often take themselves off without me even asking.  We are with each other almost 24 hours a day.  It does us all good to be separated for a short time each day.

How long do we have quiet time for?

Quiet time has traditionally been about an hour, although these days it is only for half an hour due to time constraints with the older children’s school work.  We always have it after lunch, when everyone’s tummy is satisfied and they are all full up and slightly soporific.

What do they do?

When the older three were little we invested in this quiet time because it was so necessary for my continued sanity!  Each child had a basket full of quiet toys (think magnetic shapes, felt pictures, books and the like), as well as a child’s cd player (bought for pennies at charity shops) and a selection of cds.  As they became more used to it we realised that the cd players were more trouble than they were worth and gave them back to the charity shop!  In their place I played a bible storied cd in the back ground which they all really enjoyed, as well as playing with their quiet time toys.  Often, during a growth spurt a child would fall asleep listening to the cd.  It was wonderful, because without even trying they automatically slept more during the times they needed it.

These days it is a far more casual affair, simply because I have no need for sanity control anymore!  Over the years the younger ones have used this time to do more ‘Before Five in a Row’ activities or ‘Mr Men activities:

the basket and it's contents

Or even Thomas the Tank Engine activities:

Her quiet time basket

The older ones have used this time to read the historical novels I buy to go along with their studies.  These days we use it as an excuse to do reading we might not always have time to do otherwise.  As the older ones grow up they are being exposed to lots of influences which might not always be positive, or give out the messages we as parents would like.  Dr Who fits into this category for us.  The children have friends who really enjoy watching the Dr Who series and have kindly lent it to my children.  Instead of banning it completely we have explained to the children that we need to balance out what they are being exposed to by ensuring they are watching these films through Christ based specs.  To this end, Gary and I invest in films with a Christian message as well as books by written by favourite Christian authors.  Some of the books I will work through with the children, others they read during quiet time:

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They find this much more palatable than a complete banishment of Dr Who, and we are able to discuss our concerns with them without a barrier of attitude to hurdle over.  Until the age of about ten I would have been an incredibly protective parent, but as they’ve matured I’ve seen how important it is not to ban them from everything which may be negative but to encourage them to have a biblical perspective on all things so they are able to make their own minds up.  Quiet time is one such way of achieving this.

Currently T is working his way through Jim George’s A Guide for Young men to make right decisions:

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The girls are working their way through Elizabeth George’s Guide for Girls to make Right Decisions.  They work through the study questions together:

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I have also just recently bought the following books for them to work their way through with or without me:

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The little ones are simply given a few books to read or look at.  Half an hour is an easy amount of time for them to be flicking through books:

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And of course it is time for me to catch up on some reading:

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I think I have covered everything!  Does anyone else do quiet time with their children?  Do you have anything to add which may help the original emailer in her own pursuit of quiet time?  Feel free to share!

Financial Studies for the 2014-2015 School Year

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This was one topic all three older ones wanted  as an elective.  The younger two are just starting to show an interest with A6 methodically counting her money over and over again.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to find something that would be suitable for all ages from 12 down to 3,  so I was chuffed when I found that Dave Ramsey carries lots of materials for children as well as the adults teaching the children.  Dave Ramsey probably needs no introduction but it is his method we are turning to in order to save up our money and pay off our mortgage.

To begin with I read the following book by myself:

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This book gave me a great overview of Ramsey’s goals and also gave me a longer term outlook of where I wanted the children to be financially during their teens, during university and beyond.  As a resource I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I had researched his children’s resources and came across these books and pack:

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There are six books which will be perfect to read aloud, especially to the younger ones.  The topics include working, giving, saving, and of course spending:

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I am really looking forward to reading through them with the children.

The financial packs were costly for what they are and I umm-ed and ah-ed about whether I should get one to share between five children or one each.  Whilst I think it would absolutely be feasible to share, the point of me buying in curriculum was to save me precious planning time.  For this reason I bought one pack for each child:

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Each pack contains an audio book, calculator, chore chart, spend/ give and save envelopes as well as an activity book for the child and a parent guide:

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This, in addition to the training we have already given them, I hope, will set them up for life.

I will do a review after we have been using it for a while.

The Time of Our Lives…

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We’ve just spent a magical couple of weeks back home in Northern Ireland.  This photo was taken the day before we left, and we all found it hard to leave such a beautiful country and the equally beautiful people who live there.

Thank you all so much for all the lovely comments you have left over the past two weeks.  I’ll be answering them all as soon as we’ve returned to some sort of normality and look forward to catching up on all your blogs.

T12’s Electives For the 2014-15 school Year

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T12 is by far my most studious child.  Whilst he hates writing with a passion he truly loves to learn, and because of this is highly self motivated.  He would love to unschool and I suspect would thrive quite well learning independently anything that caught his interest.  However, he is certain he wants to go to university and is certain he will do it without getting into debt.  He is serious about his future and very willing to put in the hours to make it happen.

Elective wise he really had to try hard to limit himself to just a few subjects!  He has a lot of interests and a lot of learning he wants to do.   His problem is one of time or lack thereof .  Here is his (shortened) list of electives:

Photography

He has been interested in taking photos ever since his grand parents bought him a camera a few years ago.  He often asks to go for a walk so he can take pictures of all things nature related.  He wants to have some time each week to photograph and has asked to have a blog to showcase his pictures.  He also wants to begin entering competitions and so his goal is to improve both his knowledge and technique.  We did a lot of research between us to find something that would fit his needs.  The result is a hodgepodge of ideas, links and pins from which he will choose each time he does his photography each week.  The hodgepodge includes investigating these links and this pinterest board:

Space

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I’m fairly certain his interest in space comes from all he is learning in his physics.  We have already completed the Apologia Astronomy course a few years ago, this time he wanted something much more in-depth.

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I found two sources of courses (!) which he will work his way through in tandem.  The first is this course which uses lots of information from NASA.  The second is a downloadable program of study especially designed for home schoolers containing photos which will go very well with the first course mentioned.  T will work through this course during his elective time at his own speed.  He has asked for it to be an interest led course, whereby he learns in the best way possible for him and I won’t be requiring any writing out of him, only what he wishes to produce.  As he will be doing a lot of writing in other studies I am happy to give him free rein on this.

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Cooking/Home skills

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T wants to learn how to cook and how to do so frugally, so that if he chooses to study at university away from home he will be able to produce large amounts of healthy food within his budget.  He has also asked to learn skills he may need around the house.  For this we are using the male version of the girls’ home making book:

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This looks like a really helpful book, and whilst he already has certain skills mentioned I think it will help make sure we cover the most important ones.  I took a photo of the contents for anyone who is interested:

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For his cooking, he wants to learn how to cook proper meals not baking.  For this we will be using a couple of Delia Smith’s books, although not the same ones his sister is using:

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Gardening

T12 and the girls worked on making room in our log pile for the new logs to be stored and seasoned

His last two options are gardening and finance.  We have already made the decision to garden together as a family and I think this will suit T really well.

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Last year he made elaborate plans for our garden and began but soon became overwhelmed by the tasks he had set himself.  This year he will have the whole family working with him and so hopefully he will feel like the garden is more manageable than he did when he was out on his own.  He has always enjoyed being out in the garden and has found it so helpful to counteract the effects of the ups and downs which accompany these hormonal years he is now in.  I am excited about working in our garden this year and learning alongside my son.

We will be covering finances in a unit study which incorporates the entire family.  I’ll be posting about that later on in the week.

L11’s Electives for the 2014-2015 School Year

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L11 is my calmer twin, who essentially takes after my mum.  She likes things to be just so and adores being in a strict routine.  She does not enjoy having her routine changed.  That said she is much better than she used to be and, with A6, is probably my most easy-going child.  L11 likes to know what her day holds, what our expectations of her are, and thrives when she is tootling along under her own steam but within the boundaries a routine gives her.  She is loving, patient and incredibly cuddly.  She will often turn so her back faces me and lean gently on me, asking me silently to wrap my arms around her.  She loves anything which requires her to use her hands – art, loom bands, jewellery making and drawing.  She and her sister spend hours drawing pictures with a constant dialogue flowing between them describing what is happening in their drawings, what each character is saying and doing, creating absorbing picture worlds.  They have done this since they could talk, the other almost always finishing off the sentence of her twin.  L11 is also incredibly sensitive, both in herself and towards other’s feelings.  She does not enjoy being teased and T, who is a natural tease, is very sensitive to how his words and actions affect her.  She enjoys a close relationship with all her siblings.

L’s electives for this year are: first aid, cookery, home making, art and learning more about money and finances (both of which I will share about in another separate post).

First Aid

L is a natural care giver.  She offers me cups of tea throughout the day, loves to prepare simple lunches for everyone, and is always the first to offer to cover someone else’s chores if they are ill.  Her choice of learning more about first aid did not surprise me.  She has shown an interest in nursing since a very young age and that was what she wanted to do until she discovered baking, and then art.  I was at a loss for a while what to use to fulfil this requirement.  Eventually I found this:

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The first is a DVD for basic first aid.  This DVD is used widely in the work place to teach first aid to workers when it is hard for the workers to get to courses.  The book is a DK book and looks very good.  My degree is in nursing, so I am particularly looking forward to seeing how she does with this (quite expensive) ‘curriculum’.

Cookery

This was of no surprise at all.  L is nothing if not consistent in her loves.  She enjoys baking thing the best and so she and A6 will be baking together each morning to make a snack for our morning meeting.  Whilst she is very willing to work alongside A6, she prefers to be in the kitchen alone.  She sees it as her domain and is not one she particularly likes sharing.  I think working with her little sister, who adores baking almost as much as she does, will be good character training for her!

In addition to her baking sessions each day with A6, she will also be using one afternoon a week to work her way through this series:

DSC_0403electivesShe has enjoyed making many recipes from this set of books but this time wants to work her way through them systematically.  The books really are fabulous and full to the brim of helpful tips for beginner cooks.  What we all particularly like about them is that the recipes are ‘grown up’ ones.  She will choose the recipe she wants to do, write a list of ingredients, cost them, buy them and then cook for the family with them.

Home Making

She and C11 will be doing this together.  I have bought them a set of these books each:

DSC_0396electivesI think if L had a different mother she would find this area much more natural than she does.  Sometimes more is caught than taught and I’m not good enough to have thrown very much her way which will be useful in this area.  However, I am always looking to improve and am quite looking forward to learning along side them.

Art

L already has water-colour lessons with a friend of ours (thank you Pat!), which she thoroughly enjoys.  I spent a long time coming up with something.  I am very creative, but not necessarily good enough at the drawing/ painting aspect of art to be able to pass anything on.  We had talked about her taking more formal art classes but they are very expensive where we live and therefore out of our budget.  I have found a video course which looks incredibly good and is usable for a year from the date of purchase.  It is fall based but I’m guessing we could modify it to fit with other seasons.  I showed L11 and she was very excited:

The Art of Fall: Mixed Media Art Course for Kids | Flourish | alishagratehouse.com
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And that’s it.  L is so looking forward to the year ahead, and rightly so!

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