reflections on our home learning 11

I really have no idea how we have notched up 11 weeks already. It is a week with which on the one hand I would like to go back and start again. A week when I responded differently, when I approached the week differently. Birthday weeks with family celebrations add excitement and hyperness to the mix and I have not worked out how that looks when trying to cover lessons. Evenings have not been ours. And I have realised how vital that day to prep the 7-8 weeks in detail is, having done it for the first half of this term but not as detailed this time due to the way the half term holiday unfolded. I have an overview of the week and the material to cover but I am simply one session ahead of Bob if even that at times and he sees through that and I am not impressed with myself either, leading to me getting ratty and finding any reason other than myself to blame .

Having said that I would like to go back and start again I have to let it be the week it has been as I cannot go back and re do it. And this is where these times of reflecting and prayer are so important. I can look back and see where I need to say sorry, where I need to forgive, ask for forgiveness, extend and receive grace and mercy. Be honest with myself, with God with others. And when I write it down like that I am struck by how relational life is. One cannot give and recieve without relationship, without others and so I stop and am thankful that my life is filled with relationships. Relationships that grow and blossom through the acts of redemption, grace, mercy, and thanksgiving.

And this weekend we have a big celebration of life with Zog turning 3 and Kanga turning 1. We will be surrounded by family and my mind goes to all those who have loved our family along the way who are scattered far and near. I had my ideal how this weekend would look, the homebaked menu, the detail and attention. This week though I have been reminded of how life is filled first and foremost in relational ways and so I have laid down my ideals for the sake of those I love and spent time with them even if it has not been perfect because I have had to wrestle with the letting go and allow the supermarket to be the main provider of the menu. The relief that swept across Mark’s face when I laid my ideal down and said yes when he offered to go and buy the food made the wrestling far easier and worth it. That is the blessing and gift of living life relationally first. It is not simply a life lived for others without any thought to self. For to truly live for others will mean a wrestling of ones own dreams and ideas and a need to lay those down and unless I am alone in this, we do not do that without an internal wrestling and so live is lived both outward toward others and inward as we genuienly lay down ourselves.

It has also been a week when grammar and maths have played second fiddle to character as Bob has had to step back and allow the attention and gifts be toward Zog and Kanga. It is often a hard lesson for other siblings at this stage in life to allow others to recieve all the gifts and attention and one’s own birthday can seem forever away. But when both your sibilings get to revel in all the celebrations and gifts at the same time and you have to stand back and let them play first with their new toys as well as have a Mum who is present but distracted with trying to keep what she can of her ideal for the party alive and wrestling with what she has to lay down it stretches one thin. Bob has done really well with delighting in the others and helping them get excited but he is ready for us now to move on to normality, to Advent, to events that he has equal particiaption in.

As for lessons they have carried on, we are off schedule but I am at peace with that. That sentence alone shows we have come along way as I would never had been at peace with that or dared admit that 11 weeks ago.  We are picking up on lessons I had not timetabled such as character and sibling friendships. We are growing, we are learning, we are finding our feet in this journey and adapting the pace of lessons. And tomorrow we will feast with family in the deep dark wood and enjoy Gruffalo cake and Owl icecream along with some roasted fox, scrambled snake and knobbly knees and give thanks for the youngest two in our family who are full of life, adventure, fearlessness and determination. I cannot think of a better way to round off a week that has been a reminder of living relationally.

reflections on our home learning 10

Colds have continued to have the upper hand this week, especially for Bob and myself. This has meant that once again this has been a week of going with the flow which is the gift of educating at home. Bob’s colds are intense and draining on him, and considering how healthy he is otherwise, I am willing to go with him on these. His sinues become so painful that wearing his glasses is sore which impacts his concentration and focus on reading and writing. Sleep has been unsettled if not fully disrupted and stamina is low for all of us. It has also been a week when unscheduled potty training has started and Kanga has viewed naps as utterly unnecessary and ignoring all indications that they would be highly beneficial for all of us if she did nap.

I came across a box of board games at our local charity shop; whose takings are going to take a serious dip once we leave the area; last weekend. So the week has been spent introducing Bob to Ludo, Chinese Checkers and Draughts which has been lots of fun and has allowed for some maths and logic to happen by the by. It has also been a week when we see the fruit of his perculating thoughts. Bob often takes things onboard without you realising and then mulls them over for an unknown period of time and then starts talking about them out of the blue and now even expressing ideas and thoughts in writing and detailed pictures, which are still done with either only a grey pencil or biro and any suggestion of including colour is met with resistance. This perculating takes courage on our part because it takes time and there also needs to be space given to Bob to just perculate and not always be adding new things or simply plodding on in order to keep up to speed with my timetable of lessons. But then we have a week like this one where colds have slowed us up and given him the space he needed to start processing and articulating his thoughts and we are once more reminded of how he learns best.

One such example of his perculating mind this week was on quiet time when I could hear him chatting away quietly and realised he was speaking French. He has been doing French once a week this term and while it has often been talked of as the highlight of his week there has been little evidence of Bob actually speaking any French. That is till this week when on quiet time he has taken to talking to Zog in French and teaching him animals and colours along with his lines for the play they are going to be doing of Owl Babies. And clearly Zog is taking it on board because now when we read Owl Babies when we come to Bill’s lines which Bob has to learn they both say them.

And as always if I am willing to admit it I have been learning more about myself. This week both through a great book we are reading on marriage and also as I see Bob wrestle with emotions, self awareness and consequences of actions and see the mirror held up to myself of my own stubborness and rebellion. I feel so much for Bob as I see so much of myself in him in his reactions and because it is only really now that I am seeing them so close am I seeing them for what they truly are in me. And so I have no idea how to help him navigate these feelings constructively as I do not know the best way through them in myself yet. What I do know is that I long to protect him from them and the long term impacts they have if not faced up to before reaching 40. But he is only 5 and so working out how to help him appropriately while working out how I need to address them in myself looks different even if ultimately the gospel is the only way forward for us both.

It has also been a week when I am reminded how much the children respond to where I am at spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is also interesting as I think about how it is my spiritual loops and battles that Bob picks up on even if I have said nothing to him, while Zog responds to my emotions. We are in the process of working out the next step and I am an all or nothing girl and so with word of a possible opportunity which we are waiting to hear more on I have already searched right move for a home for Joshua’s Tree, (and found one), discoverd a couple of churches and a home schooling community all in the same area. But while we had hoped to hear more this week re the opportunity we have not, (there was never a point when we were told we would hear this week, it was the self imposed time frame I put on it) and so I have been looping myself in all sorts of ways without trying to let the children be aware. Despite not letting them know about this situation both Bob and Zog have picked up on and acted out of my spiritual and emotional lop the loops.  It will be intersting to see how Kanga responds to me but seeing it written down like this reminds of the importance of building in her and myself a confidence about our physical bodies from early on. I do not want her to grow up hearing me speak negatively about my shape which for the most part I do not have an issue with. It is not the figure I once had but it is the body that carried 5 little ones for different lengths of time and the gym has not been my prority. But twice recently a comment has been made suggesting that a new baby is on the way, which it is not. This has been hard to hear and has knocked my confidence and my resolve to not resent the added curves I have gained but I do not want Kanga to grow up body fearlful from the start. I know where my mind has taken me on that journey and I do not want that to be her path.

I think if you had given me this description of how one of our 10th week would look like back in August just as I was drawing up my nice neat timetable I would have laughed, smiled, walked away and panicked quietly inside. Surely by week 10 we would be will under way with our routine and pattern. But sitting here this week I am much more confident that we have all grown and learnt new things about our world, our family and ourselves since last week and have even made some progress with maths and Bob has read aloud some great stories. Learning thankfully happens whether you intend it or not with children.

reflections on our home learning 9

What a difference a week can make so far as the weather is concerned. Last week a picnic lunch in the park and t-shirts. Today the wind and the rain and the chill have decidedly moved us away from our Indian summer into very definite UK bleak late autumn. And with the change in weather have come the colds which have left everyone feeling under par and out of sorts. I have stayed strong till today but this evening I have joined the rest of my family. Thankfully I was up for going out yesterday which was my first full day out without children since Kanga arrived 3 weeks short of a year ago.

I suspect this week might be summed up more along the lines of go with the flow. For many in the homeschooling community unschooling is a style they have embraced so I do not want to trample on toes and I know little about it but I suspect this week might mirror their style of learning more than the classical education approach we are more generally following. Especially today, because while some may say that today looked unruly, chaotic and crazy, learning was happening by the bucketful and so I do not want to write it off. Unschooling, partly because I have not given time to research it and partly because anything which has a hint of disorganisation (however structured it actually may be) causes me to run in the opposite direction. Today though I realised learning was happening. We were watching the Birds of Prey in the BBC series Wonder of Animals and the next thing is I have Bob and Zog dressed up as birds of prey having found their biggest jumpers, to act as wings, and toy animals scattered around the house as prey. They then were re-enacting the behaviour of eagles and other bird of prey while Bob gave a flying commentary on all that he had learnt about these birds.

One highlight for me this week was on Wednesday which is known as Bonfire Day here.  We focused our learning around one of my favourite Naughty Little Sister stories by Dorothy Edwards. The story is called The Bonfire pudding and we used the story for writing work, narrative, reading and maths, baking and science. I had not yet succumbed to the cold and was trying to spur the boys on. In it the grandmother and little girl make the family Christmas pudding. Rather than pudding we made the christmas cake which I have made withe the boys for the past couple of years on the 5th Nov.

We had great fun on Tuesday with our co-op group for art and music and nature walk. For art we used conkers we had collected on another walk to make paintings to wrap around rainmakers which we made for music and then on the nature walk we used our sense of sight.

While there has been learning going on for the boys I feel this week has been about my growth in self awareness and understanding. Partly I had offered an off the cuff prayer of becoming more honest and more self aware with myself, with Mark, with God, with others and God unsurprisingly has taken that off the cuff prayer and turned things as He often does on its head. This week without knowing, though I would not put it past Bob to know in some way, God has opened my eyes to myself through our son Bob and his reactions and responses. The very ones that usually wind me up, for me to come face to face with in myself this very week.

He hates change of plans or gets very nervous about new places and people. It is not that I did not know that about myself either but I had never embraced it and named it for myself. When I stopped to listen and feel those moments in myself I realised how full embodying they are and while it is necessary at times to push through them there is nothing wrong in stopping and heeding them first. That has made me sit up this week and give more time to Bob as he fnds himself in those places, for while I as an adult may be able to make some attempt at articulating that very physical response how we can expect him at the age of 5 to do so, especially when I have neved modeled ot him that I feel the same. I have simply turned my feelings in military drill mode to get out the door, if for no other reason than to try and beat my own feelings back so that we get out the door at all and go somewhere new.

A different moment of learning came for me when I suddenly heard myself talking to a friend at the start of the week after a couple of days of little adult conversation and there was no stop button for my tongue. Not only was there no stop button, I was aware of how fully physically I was feeling my reaction, my cheeks reddening from below my neck line, my heart rate racing. It was not that I had anything exciting per sa to share but I was giddy with excitement in talking to a friend and I was reminded in that moment of how I wrestle when Bob starts telling us or someone about something in hyper mode. I want him to breathe, to calm down, to slow down, to give the other person a chance. And I realised in that moment two lessons, though both are similar. Bob’s love langauge for want of a better way to describe it is time. He craves reading with people and talking about topics of interest with anyone and some days there just is not enough time or will power on my behalf to give him all the time he needs so when someone finally listens or shows an interest he just goes for it. I am no different but as an adult I have tried to minimzie it before ever embracing or naming it in myself.  Mark and I have both recognised that we are in a season where we do not have the level of community and friendships we had at Regent and because we are in a season here where we are not here for the long run building that level of community here where others are or appear to be more rooted makes that harder for us and for them. But we are made by God to be in community, we are made to be with others, to walk life together with others. And when I don’t get conversation that feeds the soul and allows me to offer something to the table I binge talk when the moment comes along and then withdraw embarressed and check myself to keep my mouth shut the next time so others have a chance and don’t get time to contribute. The later is not a healthy response. Bob and I while both introverts we also need to be able to communicate and talk with others regualrly and for that not to happen leads to hyper over flows. What I need is to take time to be with others and was blessed by Mark making that happen yesterday when I got to spend the day with a friend. It is not easy in a season with 3 at home and one still nursing and evenings unpredicatable and exhasution but it can still be done, we just need to be intentional for both Bob and myself.

This has been an eye opener for me both in reagrds to how I respond to Bob in those moments and how I help him to embrace and name his physical and emotional responses in those moments and seek ways with him to navigate them and likewise with myself and how to prepare for times in advance which we need to go through and are goind to push us out of our comfort zones and how to direct our steps to minimise those events where possible. What this embracing, naming and working out will involve and look like I am not sure, but having come this far I know I do not want to go back.

Bob is continuing to love his French class and they are a doing a play of Owl Babies and he will be Bill in it. We have been encouraged by his teacher who having been unsure how much he was getting from the class before half term has realised that while he may not say much he is understanding everything fully and that one on one is happy to talk with her in French. But that is true Bob, he will not do something in public unless he is fully confident he has it right. So I am not holding my breathe on him actually performing as Bill but for now I am happy he has been included and wants to be Bill. Zog is making great strides off his own back as far as counting goes, not simply counting 1 to 10 etc but actually able to count and identify numbers of objects. He still struggles though with age and numbers and so thinks because he is two he should get two pieces of cheese, two DVDS, two cookies etc and when we are counting people he has to be counted 2nd because he is 2. So he is in for a surprise in 2 weeks when he turns 3. And not to be out done by either brother Kanga has well and truly found her walking feet and the kitchen bin and the toilet and the tin of yeast which must go all places with her.

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reflections on our home learning 8

Writing this on one of my favourite sofas, at my in laws, as we celebrate one nephew’s 2nd birthday and get to meet our newest nephew this weekend. It has been an incredibly warm sunny day for the 31st Oct and so we took our time travelling down and had a lovely lunch and run around at Lydiard Park in Swindon. Bob and I also managed to get Maths and Science in this morning before leaving as we were both awake early and made use of the early morning.  Science included an animal report on the hummingbird bringing back wonderful memories of them on our porch in Vancouver.

It was interesting to see how Bob was over the half term, entering into it tired and wrestling with self proclaimed brain mush. Simple activites such as putting socks on had become impossible. By the end of the week though he was asking for lessons again which was a real encouragement. He determined that his brain was back in gear when he was able to put his socks on again himself. Monday morning though in reality took a bit of effort for us all to get back into the swing of things. I have also found the week harder going as the time change and a teething Kanga working on her molars has impacted on the amount of sleep we have been getting or rather not getting. I have not been as well prepared for each day’s sessions which I can still deal with at this age and while Bob’s reading is not yet fluent but once he gets going fluently with his reading I am going to have to make sure I am fully prepared and ahead of the game.

With Bob gaining confidence with writing I have moved us on from tracing writing to using Writing With Ease. Week 1’s book that the exercises have been based around has been Little House in the Big Woods. Having read it as a girl I was exicted to revisit it but also apprehensive as I was unsure how the boys would take to it. I need not have feared on that front as they have totally embraced it and love to act parts out. What I had not antipcated was the whole hunting role play and fascination with Pa’s gun and traps that has followed.Fighting and guns is part of boys play that I have struggled with and so have had to wrestle with myself this week as I have been the one to introduce them to this book and that Pa’s actions are about providing meat for his family to survive the long winters. When I read the books it was never the hunting that caught my attention so I have been caught unawares at how much of the story is set around Pa and his hunting gun to which our boys have gravitated toward. It will be interesting if we find ourselves using the same material when Kanga is Bob’s age and how she would respond to the Little House books.

Tuesday at Pitville Park was a great time and pleasantly warm in contrast to the week before so Zog enjoyed the time as well. I think we might need to invest in thermals and lots of layers for him to be able to enjoy it as cold weather is something he does not like, in stark contrast to Bob who is very happy to be out and about in the wet and cold. The stream was deeper than it has been as Bob discovered but happily made his way home with squelching wet wellingtons.


This week they were exploring the sense of touch and had some home made playdough dyed with elderberries which they enjoyed. Then at our bench for hot chocolate they rolled out their dough and gathered items of nature to make faces. Well all but Bob, who, having watched the Great British Bake Off masterclass which included bread rolls, practised his knotted bread roll skills. Below is Zog’s face. He has really taken to drawing people and their faces this past week and so as well as this piece of work both sets of grandparents are being presented with portraits he has drawn of them and mounted.


All in all for the first week back after a week off it has been an encouraging week as we have got back into our stride, adjusted to the routine again and learnt all sorts of new facts and rediscovered books.

Not really a PhD Update

I’ve wanted to do a PhD update for a while, but I’ve been too busy doing a PhD to deal with writing one, so this just a brief post, with a pretty picture, to stand in its place.  ???????????????????????????????

I’ve just finished my work on Exodus 3-7 and have moved on to Sinai, to where Moses brings Israel to God in chapter 19-20. This a really intriguing chapter with a lot of going up and down the mountain, and a lot of making absolutely crystal clear how unapproachable God is in his awesome, not to say dangerous, holiness.

As I turned to the commentaries on this passage I’ve found comments that drive me to frustration, especially when commentators try to “improve” the order, or smooth out difficulties.  However I’ve also found comments that are wonderfully encouraging so I thought I’d share this quote, from Childs’ commentary on Exodus as he reflects on how the New Testament relates to the picture of God in Exodus 19-20:

“The new covenant is not a substitution of a friendly God for the terror of Sinai, but rather a gracious message of an open access to the same God whose presence still calls forth awe and reverence”

In a day where many seem to try and drive a wedge between the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the gospels this is a wonderfully refreshing comment to come across.  Old and New it is the same God, but in the New access is given to all who will come through Jesus.  Or, to put it in the words of the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12 – read this after Exodus 19):

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. …

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Soul food and Sabbath rest

It is Friday night, my time in the week to reflect and write. This week has been half term so my thoughts tonight are an attempt to savour and share if at all possible some of the wonder of yesterday’s soul feast that I got to enjoy. But as is the case when we have been without deep nourishing soul food for any length of time a rich feast, while amazing in the moment, it can leave us feeling somewhat out of sorts the next day. My children will testify to the fact that while I seemed alived and energised yesterday, today they were met with a very out of sorts, grumpy mum. That is not to detract from the meal itself but the reminder that I need soul feeding more regularly than is happening at present.

This was a gathering to which Mark and I had been invited but in the end only I went while he took all 3 children to their delight around the Natural History Museum in Oxford. It was during the time of prayer at the start that I realised I felt just as I did as a small child filled with excitment over Christmas morning and all that awaited. Prayers that flowed from the hearts of men and women who have been loving Jesus for years. Those years have not all been filled with highs but they have been years through which genuine love and delight in Jesus have been forged.

Two of the threads of the day that I have come away with is that of Sabbath rest and our humanity in it fullness and they weave together so well.

We are created by God on His final day of work. He then rests. We enter the world and being our live with God in a place of rest. This is echoed in the rhythm of the day which in Hebrew thinking is one of night followed by day. We rest and then get up and enter into the good works already prepared for us by God. He has been at work before us and we are invited in to His work to revel in it and enjoy it as we were with creation. And in the life of Jesus we see one who knew His Father’s work and was able to not heal everyone and provide for every need. He sought time alone, He sought time with His friends away from the crowds and on the cross He was able to say ‘it is finished’. Not that every need had been met, that every illness cured but still He said it was finished. The work He had come to do was finished.

So as I consider heading to bed am I able to say with confidence ‘it is finished’ for the work God has invitied me into in this day? If not is that because I have sought to fill the day with more than God has asked of me this day? Have I greater expectations on what I can achieve in a day than God? Do I think my productivity and busyness reflects my faith and God more clearly than having faith in God to show His presence to others when needed? Am I willing to rest and allow Him to be sustaing and keeping me at the start of this new day approaching?

Then thinking through our humaness, I need look no further than my children’s animal encylopediea and smile considering that if God can be this entertaining and creative with all these animals then it is more than ok for me to enjoy life too. You don’t create all these animals and then create people to enter into it all to be gloomy. This is not about what is beneficial/allowed but simply about enjoying life in all its fullness to the beat God placed within you with the purpose of enjoying life and taking delight in life.

Rest and delight energises and restores us, they lift us up and set us right way up with God, with His work, with those around us. This coming week my prayer is that I will allow Sabbath rest to shape my days, seek the company of friends to delight in the wonder of creativity be it the colours of creation, a meal, music, dancing with my children, time with my husband and seek His calling into works of homecare and teaching that He calls me day by day to.

And maybe then the next soul feast I get to savour will not leave me feeling so out of sorts the next day because there has been a day by day soul meal in Him taking place.

reflections on our home learning 7

It is a very good job that we have a week’s holiday now. We are not heading off anywhere exotic but we are laying aside formal lessons and filling our days with other activities like dentist appointments and haircuts as well as time with friends and craft projects. Bob announced his brain could no longer work on Wednesday night and that it had all turned to mush and I have to admit Thursday’s lessons needed more patience and will power than either he or I had so I called things to a halt a day early. Having breezed through (2 – ? = 1), his inability to work out (? – 1 = 1) was the final straw at the end of the maths lesson.  Another great reason for home educating, when the learning is not happening lets not force it.

This morning saw the boys get into a great imaginative game that had them happily occupied while I failed on at least two attempts to get Kanga to sleep. The weather has been rather damp this week and so cabin fever has reared its head, so I was encouraged and blessed to see sibling play today going well as there have been plenty of less harmonious moments this week between the boys. I rested in the knoweldge that neither Bob or I had the focus for lessons and that he and Zog were now doing what I had longed to see happen all week – playing together happily.  I know there are many parenting books, blogs and gurus say that even in wet weather your should get properly kitted out and get out doors with children every day. There is no such things as too much rain, it is all about the clothing. While that is not a problem with Bob and infact he is more than happy to be out and about on adventures in the rain and cold, Zog is not impressed with cold or rain and ensures all around know this however well dressed he is for the occassion. Zog loves being out doors and has wanted to get out lots this week but his disgust when he gets out and realisese that it is still wet is not a happy moment. He is less than impressed with my lack of ability to control the weather and volume of water falling from the sky.

It was also a week where my whiplash that occurred last week got the better of me at the start of the week and I have had my head elsewhere pondering questions relating to our future and what is our next step? These along with some other things on my mind this week and some poor quality sleep has left me feeling less than on the ball or together in my days. Combined with the wet weather days have felt long, hard and muddy inside and out.

I did manage to use the time on Tuesday when the whiplash had me resting for the day while Mark had the children getting lesson materials and plans printed and organised for the 8 weeks from after half term to Christmas. Realising that it is a week longer and how this week has been a battle for us all I may need to factor in a small break around week 4 to enable us to keep going for the full 8 weeks. I have also adjusted and tweeked some of the lesson plans we were following to make allowances for how Bob is doing, where his strengths are and which areas need more work. Knowing that children his age are alreayd being streamed at school for abilities makes me thankful that we can simply change things up with no impact on his confidence or moral at this young age.

Its been a week when I know my state of mind and grumpiness has meant moments have been lost, that Bob, Zog and Kanga have all been impacted and in turn reacted at times because of the circumstances. What has been helpful is using our emotions chart as that helps us all see how each other are doing as well as expressing our own feelings so we can try and work together to over come when the range of emotions covered is unsure, frustrated, silly and disappointed.

The wonder of animlas on BBC iplayer has continued to inspire the imagination of both boys, Bob continues to read more and more words, is asking all sorts of questions to gain understanding and clarity about the world around him. Zog continues to dive deep into the world of numbers and Kanga sees no need in day time naps if her brothers do not need them and continues to trail them all day long, unless there is an unguarded staircase or open door to escape up or through. We have all grown, we have all learnt more about ourselves and the world around us even if we cannot articulate it coherently. It may be a week that seemed in the moment to be lacking any structure, any teaching, but looking back learning never stopped.