19 December 2014


Maths was one of my favourite subjects at school but I know that I am likely to be in the minority.  Sadly there are too many who not only hate maths but were actively put off the subject by poor teaching, we don't all learn the same way and this is a subject that can be hard to learn if you are not taught in a way that you understand.  A few months ago I posted about a day in our learning life, maths didn't really feature at all in that day.   Some of my fellow home educators teach maths along with English both important subjects and skills to have.  At the moment I don't teach anything and I have yet to be convinced that I need to teach any Maths but time will tell.....

My children have both learned to count in their own time and in their own way.  In many ways counting and understanding numbers is one of the hardest concepts to understand for a young child,  especially as when you get beyond ten the numbers don't follow a pattern, eleven, twelve....  It is not surprising really that many children leave primary school unable to count or understand numbers.  It is one thing to be able to count to ten or further but it is another skill to be able to use and manipulate those numbers.  It is important to me that I do not mention adding up, taking away or multiplication until I am absolutely sure my children have fully understood numbers.  In my opinion this skill needs to be there first, it would be a bit like trying to build a house without digging the foundations properly.  What do I consider to be fully understanding numbers?  Well I think they need to be able to count in the correct order, both forwards (1 - 10) and backwards (10 - 1), if you ask them a number they know what comes next without having to count out up to that number. Playing board games with them is an excellent way of helping this skill.  The dice will also help with pattern recognition which is another maths skill.

My eldest prefers to learn on his own, he resists most activities I suggest.  This does not particularly concern me but has meant that if I want to ensure that he is learning maths skills all the time that I find resources that enable him to find out about maths.  I have bought a few maths stories from this series but I was very disappointed in them.  The concepts were at his level but the story was so simple and basic, they are a simple picture book style with a few sentences on each page, that he just wasn't interested in them.   I have yet to find any stories that are entertaining for him to read and at his level of maths understanding but I will keep looking..........if you have any recommendations would love to hear them!  I discovered a series of books which have fitted the bill but are sadly not stories,  Murderous Maths are like the Horrible History books if you know about them but are about maths not history.  We have found a few of the books in secondhand book shops and now have quite a collection.  I have realised in the last week that he now understands the concepts of fractions and percentages learnt about through these books.  I also bought one of the books by Rob Castaway who has written many books on Maths.  I have found him reading this on many occasions so we may be adding more of his books to our collection.  He also asks questions, which we do our best to answer by helping him to understand how we got to our answer, rather than just giving him the answer.

I have yet to work out how my youngest will want to progress with maths.  She is still at the learning numbers stage.  We are playing lots of board games and a set of number games that I acquired called NumberStart by Living and Learning.  We are also make good use of the book mentioned in this post, Learn to Count.

We have a box of cuisenaire rods which I bought as I used them as a child and loved them.  They have not been used much for actual maths but the children do love making pictures with them, I am sure that this is a useful use for them but I have yet to work out what they are actually learning by doing this.  There are many resources that you can use alongside these rods but my eldest has not been interested in any of these, maybe my youngest will when she is older.

That is what maths looks like in our house at the moment!

17 December 2014


November.  A month of fading colours.  A birthday celebration.  Candles at breakfast to give us light.

They have been replaced with the white of snow, the deep green of the evergreens, the brown of the plants and the blue grey skies.

The colours of the seasons are beautiful when we look them out.

15 December 2014


...this week of...

...happiness seeing my brother and how he has improved in the month since his accident, a quiet week at home hiding from the Christmas madness, a walk in the woods in less than good weather we all thought it was great fun!

...sadness at the insidiousness of advertising

...creating bunting, rows on a scarf, a finished vest, a sock, Lussekatter

...reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and  Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase by Louise Walters, to the children Tumtum and Nutmeg's Christmas Adventure by Emily Bearn, and these picture books you can read a short review of them here, 285. Anthony Ant's Creepy Crawly Party by Lorna and Graham Philpott, 286. Anthony Ant's Treasure Hunt by Lorna and Graham Philpott, 287. Sparkle Street: The Daisy Disaster by Vivian French, 288. Where in the World is Bob? by James Bowen, 289. Polly's Pink Pyjamasby Vivian French, 290. The Gift by Carol Ann Duffy, 291. Otto the Book Bear by Kate Cleminson.

...learning about Castles, how to identify trees in Winter, St Nicholas, St Lucia, a fairy house and garden, gnomes, angels

...thinking about all those who do not have a warm house at this very cold time of year

...wondering if I have time to make some bunting for our house

...hoping to get all my Christmas makes finished by the weekend

...enjoying this

...looking forward to finishing a scarf this week which it feels like I have been knitting for months (I have!) the end is now in sight......

12 December 2014


We make many choices in life, many of them we forget about in minutes but those major ones, the important sometimes life changing ones that we don't make in minutes and can last a lifetime what are they based on.  We can agonise and think deep based on our past experiences, our beliefs, who we are and how we are.  It is interesting to find out what lies behind a choice but when they are different it seems that others think they have the right to question and criticise but I don't believe we should ever sit in judgement.

Over 20 years ago I made the decision to stop eating meat.  I was a student and had compete control over what I was eating after years of my mums wonderful cooking.  I found myself buying the same sort of food that she cooked including meat which I realised I did not really enjoy eating that much, so I stopped buying it.  I remember well cooking my first packet of lentils, they tasted revolting.  I cooked them in water and nothing else, they are pretty bland without an added flavour of some kind.  It was a steep learning curve, cooking anything involved a bucket of ingredients and more time.  Although my initial decision was based on dislike I did eventually give up fish and then food with animal products such as gelatin and isinglass as I came to think more about the ethics of the food I was eating.  I am not a massive fan of labels but I am vegetarian, I eat eggs, cheese and yogurt (pure milk makes me ill) which apparently makes me a lacto-ovo vegetarian.

There are many choices we can make when it comes to the food we eat, I have chosen a vegetarian diet but I would not, ever, try to persuade anyone to do the same. I really struggle with vegetarians who get on their high horse and ram their diet down others throats.  It is important to me that anyone making such an important decision has done so for their own reasons not mine.  I am not bringing my children up as vegetarians and in my household I am the only one who doesn't eat meat and fish.  I cook it, occasionally.  The meat we buy always comes from a farmers market and we have visited some of these farms.  At the moment I am wrestling with milk, not physically that would be rather messy and ultimately rather smelly.........., no it is the ethics of its production, keeping a cow in an endless cycle of pregnancy or birth in order to ensure a continuous supply and after four to six years they are, unsurprisingly, exhausted.  But it is so easy to be so far removed from our food these days isn't it.  However we buy our milk it is just a white liquid we keep in the fridge we have bought it and know nothing about the life of the cow that has produced this for us.  But not buying milk would for me mean no more cheese and yogurt both of which I love and eat in large quantities, choices are never easy are they?

For now I will continue as I am, partly because to not make a choice is in fact a choice in itself but also because I need an alternative.  Cheese is an important source of protein for me and more importantly for my growing children.  If we stopped eating dairy cheese the alternative is cheese made with plant ingredients including soya, I am yet to be convinced that these are a better alternative.  So I continue to give it some occasional thought along with the thoughts that all the pulses I eat are not produced in the UK and the food miles they rack up to get to me are probably way too high................hmmm I  am off to do my shopping!

10 December 2014


I try to make as many of the presents I gift as I can.  During the year the birthdays often pile up one on top of the other leaving me frazzled at times until I remind myself that it is ok to buy some presents, I only have so much time.  At Christmas there are many presents to gift all at once, in years past I have knitted many of them.  I am not a particularly fast knitter so find myself starting projects in August to get them all done in time.  I really didn't want to continue with this as it means that for half of each year I am knitting Christmas presents and the Autumn birthdays don't get a look in, so I have turned to sewing.  Oh so much quicker and some of the bit and pieces I have made using small pieces of fabric in my stash.  Stash is perhaps giving it a status that it is not worthy of, I only buy material for specific projects my stash consists of the leftover bits.

When I visited my mum earlier in the year I noted that she was using a sturdy paper bag to carry her music and stand to her lessons and the orchestra she plays with.  Always on the look out for ideas for presents I decided to make a bag.  I measured the paper bag and used those measurements to construct something myself a lined bag with a magnetic closure to stop all the contents spilling out.  I had a dabble at a spot of appliqué on the outside it's not something I would want to do loads more of but rather adds to the bag don't you think?

I always need a few small presents to gift to the children of friends we spend New Year with, flicking through one of my sewing books I found the very thing, (a place for) everything baskets.  Small pieces of fabric, a small amount of ribbon and some interfacing and you can make something which looks lovely and is useful too.  What more could you ask for in a project.  I have ended up making six of these so far, they are so quick I can whip one up start to finish in an hour!  Perfect!  I am going to make three more for this Christmas and I can see these being the birthday present for many children next year maybe with a wee piece of treasure inside?

During my youngest's birthday party earlier this year one of the mums was finishing off a sewing project, she was making something that I knew I would want to make for myself and maybe as a gift at a later date.  I haven't got round to making them for myself but thought they would make the perfect gift for my brother and his partner.  The pattern can be found in this book which is full of projects to make reusing and repurposing fabric you have to hand, I have to confess that I bought the fabric, just enough, to make these.  These are hot pads or trivets and have padding inside, I did repurpose some old towels for that part.

I still have some bunting to make and the last two knitted projects are progressing well on the needles.  I hope that I will not have the frantic Christmas Eve finishing off and wrapping up as I have in years past.........

Linking up with Nicole

08 December 2014


...this week of...

...happiness getting my Christmas cards made, finding a lovely way to celebrate Advent with the children, a quiet week at home, orchestra rehearsal

...sadness at the tragic death of a young woman and her baby in the news this week

...creating a toddler vest, a slowly growing scarf, Christmas Cards, an Advent tradition, stars, fabric storage baskets, fabric trivet/hotpads

...reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, to the children Tumtum and Nutmeg's Christmas Adventure by Emily Bearn, and these picture books you can read a short review of them here, 278. Nat the Cat's Sunny Smile by Jez Alborough, 279. Pip and Posy: The Big Balloon by Axel Scheffler, 280. The Crocodile Under the Bed by Judith Kerr, 281. Walk with a Wolf by Janni Howker, 282. Suddenly by Colin Mc Naughton, 283. Use you Imagination by Nicola O'Byrne, 284. Angelina's Christmas by Katherine Holabird

...learning about Castles, Dinosaurs, Advent, St Andrew, St Nicholas, minerals and rocks, how to tie shoelaces

...thinking about presents!

...wondering about casting on a pair of socks

...hoping that I can finish the last few bits on my Christmas present to my brother and his partner

...looking forward to seeing my brother at the weekend, he is recovering well from his accident

05 December 2014


A few weeks ago I seriously considered giving up writing this blog.  I have many ideas for future posts but I do find writing them very time consuming, writing does not come naturally to me, but in the same week I read something that made me change my mind.  It really helped to put things into perspective.

I was articulate as a child, still am, I am a confident speaker happy to stand in front of a room full and people and talk.  In my last job I had to do this frequently, my audience volunteers who in their professional lives were often older and far higher up the management ladder than me.  Armed with a card of word prompts I could deliver presentations, workshops and training sessions without hesitation, but ask me to write a letter, which I had to do often, it would take me all morning.

At 18 just before sitting my final school exams, one of my teachers informed me that she thought I had wasted the previous two years studying English as I was never going to pass*.  Aside from the fact that no teacher should ever speak like that to a student, what she and all my other teachers in the 14 years I spent at school failed to recognise and help me with is why I had such difficulty writing.  The flow of my words was disjointed, I rambled and often didn't make sense, I scraped through exams and my essays were always given low marks.

So when I was reading in a chapter in a book by Michael Rosen about reading and writing....'it's not just a matter of learning off pat some good words or sentences, you have to learn the special kind of 'voice' that is the writing 'voice','  it made me stop, completely and the fog cleared.  I read on about other facets of writing that can be hard to learn such as commenting on what it is we're actually writing or the way that you explain are more types of writing voice.  Was I perhaps trying to write using the wrong voice.  Could it be that for all of these years I have been trying to write using my speaking or talking voice.  I am not so stupid that I didn't realise that there was a difference between these two forms of communication but I had no idea, practically, how they were different.

It explains to me why my teachers were always surprised at my inability to do well in exams or essay writing when I came across so articulate.  It explains why my boss in my last job informed that he was hesitant to take on as my writing skills tested in interview were poor.  It explains why for years I had jobs where writing was not integral part of the job.

So why on earth would I even want to blog.  Well I have always wanted to improve my writing and be better at it.  I am never going to be a blogger who can sit at the keyboard and rattle off a quick post ** but, maybe, just maybe I will find that writing voice that has been eluding for so long.......


*I did pass A Level English, with a C grade (these exams are graded from A - E, A being the top mark)

**It usually takes me a whole day, on and off (more on than off) to write a post of this length.