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Month: March 2011

New Homeschool Curriculum

New Homeschool Curriculum

Today we began a new curriculum that taught us an amazing amount in a relatively short (3 hour) period.  It is a cross disciplinary curriculum that embraces visual, kinesthetic and auditory learning styles allowing students to use manipulatives and their own reasoning skills to decode problems and create inventive scenarios.

Today we explored…


teamwork, negotiation, ethics…

personal responsibility (tidying belongings, respect for space)

Geology & Biology

peer to peer tutoring…


life skills (food preparation) coupled with an Al Fresco dining experience…

and of course animal identification (as well as caring for animals, personal confidence, self control, feelings of excitement and joy)…

The cost of this amazing curriculum?  Well in one version of ‘cost’ it is simply time and the cost of driving to a beautiful piece of nature.   But in terms of the benefits received from a beautiful day spent in the spring sunshine; truly priceless.

Making Spring

Making Spring

In lieu of actual spring ( it was -14C here yesterday) and the colours that it brings along with it, we have tried to create a little in our own home.  Some sweet treats, some coloured paints to celebrate the equinox.  It’s not much but it is keeping us going while we wait.

The temperatures are set to rise this week, hopefully giving us the chance to tumble outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine.  The boys both have spring colds (Huwyl particularly) and need a bit of warm weather to dry them up.

Come on Spring, we are all waiting!

A Single Moment

A Single Moment

Joining Amanda in this Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savour and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link in the comments, I’d love to see what you’ve been up to!

Wishing Spring weather for everyone this weekend!
Wanting more?

Wanting more?

An ex-pupil of mine got in touch with me today on Facebook, a lovely lad I taught some A-level English to.  Good understanding of poetic form and  character, lovely handwriting.  He’s now living in New York working for Prada.  Seriously.  I can’t tell you how exciting it is to get news like this and not just because I am able to in some way take credit despite having no more contribution to his life success than a solid understanding of the double time structure in Othello and the importance of Iambic pentameter.  Which on reflection probably wasn’t that much of a contribution.  But to know that someone you have been connected to has achieved a level of happiness and success, that they are really fulfilled is exceptionally pleasing.  Plus it is just supercool to say you know someone who works for Prada.  People might think I am cool.  Well they might.

After chatting with my ex-student I was thinking about times gone by and times right now.  I was reflecting on a pretty sucky day where things had jangled, there were dischords, there was, not to put too fine a point on it, bottom leakage all over the house.  I handled this with some fortitude and some shouting, it was just one of those days.  As I contemplated this young man’s success I considered, not for the first time, that I don’t think I feel about this stuff the way I’m supposed to feel.  I have a sense that I am supposed to see my life differently than I actually do.

Now this may well be an example of me making things up for the sake of having something interesting to think about, it wouldn’t be the first time I had created a thesis of life based on not much evidence (my belief that electricity has a plan for example).  But with this one I think I am on solid ground.  When I look at popular culture I don’t see myself.  I see mums, stay at home mums, working mums, kidnapped mums, frustrated mums etc etc but I don’t see my life.

I am a qualified, ex-professional who is now at home with young children.  We have the classic ‘mum losing her temper’ moments that we are all familiar with in real life and in popular culture, we have the perfect moments where we sit and read and paint together, more often seen in advertising or on music videos, but what seems most pervasive is the attitude that being a mum isn’t enough. I feel as though, when I hear the news of a friend leading a glamorous life in a big city, I am supposed to look around and find my life wanting.  I’m supposed to have the ‘I used to have a corner office you know’ kind of conversations.   I’m supposed to envy women who go to work every day, wear make up and have money for posh shoes and smart coats not covered in bottom juice.  But I don’t.  And I find myself wondering at my own contentedness.  Where is my role in society, who am I in the world?

I don’t ‘work’ so I’m not contributing to the economy, I don’t send my kids to school so I am not participating in the community in the way many mums do.  I’m not on any committees, I don’t do charity work.  But nor am I resentful of my friends who do work (despite the fact that I’d like them to be around so I could see them more), I have no negative feelings about women working or wanting to work.  I have been a working mother myself, I taught at a college for 2 years before I had Neirin; we did daycare, we did labeling everything and filling in forms about foods and vaccinations, likes and dislikes.

But then I sat in the office with my boss, talking about returning and Neirin was playing on the floor.   She was reluctant to give me the hours I needed and was telling me all this stuff about what had gone on in the 9 months since I’d been gone.  And I thought “I don’t give a s**t”.  And that was it.  Years of training and work, years of loving what I did and caring about it.  Suddenly it just wasn’t there for me anymore, that ‘thing’ was gone.  That simple.

I may not love every moment of every day but honestly, who does?  I remember plenty of frustrations, bad days, crazy bosses, boring tasks.  And great stuff, moments of laughter, fun, energy and feeling a connection to these amazing people who are just beginning their lives, who are just beginning to realise who they are and what they could be.  But the thing is I have that now.

All the stuff I loved about my job I have in the moments of greatness with my kids.  All the stuff that drives me crazy is a bit different but I remember that there will always be ups and downs, good and bad;  that’s life. I choose to do what I do, it’s not because there were no options, my religion prescribes it, my family demand it, there is no good daycare or because I couldn’t ‘cut it’.  I was good at my job but I’m good at this too.  And this lets me be with two people who 1) drive me mental and 2) fill my heart with incredible joy and make me feel that somehow I was chosen to do something amazing, to be their mum.

And I think about my mum and what I remember from being young.  I remember making lavender bags and painting eggs at Easter, being forced to eat mashed potato (still hate it) and being told off for reading under the covers.  Home knitted jumpers and a large collection of nighties.  And I remember my mum just being around, just being there.  I’m not perfect, I’m often not patient or even great company but I am here and I am trying.

When I look around the depictions I see of mums are often frustrated, angry, fed up and dreaming of ‘more’.  That’s ok, that is how it is for some but there are a lot of us, not wandering through a Swiss meadow of perfection in eternal sunshine,  but doing our best and who want this. So when I hear about what others are doing I find it interesting, exciting, lovely.  I love hearing stories from my friends about what they are up to, whether they are at home, working full time, whatever.  But when it comes right down to it for good or bad, bottom juice or no, this is where I want, with all my heart, to be.

Ostara Rising

Ostara Rising

Normally we would be tucking the kids into bed at this time but instead we bundled them up into their warm clothes and off we went.  We drove, literally, into the sunset (well we were going west but we could certainly see the sunset) as we headed off to our land.  Twilight was falling around us as we stomped onto our fields, finding the going easy in comparison to our last visits when the snow was knee deep in many places.  Even since Tuesday the snow had retreated to a few pockets lingering in the shadows of hedges and tree lines, turned blue by the dimming light.

The blue sky in the east deepened as the colour rose in the west, the orange, yellow and red holding firmly to the treetops creating a halo for the forest.  Our forest.  We walked around freely, the children heading to a now familiar pile of sticks and a handy jumping rock.  I reveled in the freedom the lack of snow gave, the tall grass and weeds have fallen under the weight of winter, creating a blanket across the still frozen land.  I could feel the ice still clinging firmly beneath my feet but the grasses give a feeling of spring.  I am beginning to imagine what this place will look like as the season turns from monochrome to fecund.

Huwyl was charged with the responsibility of holding The Big Torch and he bore it admirably, lighting the way as the last vestiges of the sinking sun clung in coloured wisps to the top branches of the trees.  But it was not the beautiful sunset we had come to witness, it was the rising moon.

Occurring only every 2-3 decades the ‘Supermoon’ appears 30% larger in the sky due to a shift in positioning.  With this phenomenon concurring with the equinox we knew where we needed to be.  Watching her golden face rise slowly above the hills and fields, framed only by the bare tree branches along the road, was a breathtaking sight.  Her benevolent smile glowed at us as we laughed in pleasure at the clear sight of her.  No houses blocked our view, no street lights tainted her light.  We stood in the increasing darkness and marveled at her beauty and in our joy at being there to witness this moment.

Standing in the place where we will make our home, the place that already offers us such joy and solace, we couldn’t help but feel that this light filled night was just for us.  Rising over the dawning spring she seemed pregnant with possibility, surveying her domain and seeming pleased to see our faces glowing up at her.  Like her we see a future full and bright, we see beyond this moment to delighted imaginings of what will be.  The darkening sky brought forth the light of the stars, each pinprick so much more visible than in town.   Despite the brightness of the moon’s face each one stood out clear, as if not to be outdone.  The children climbed sleepily into the car, ready for warmth and home and I knew I had to go too.  But I could not resist one more moment to soak it all in.  The tiny tint of colour above the forest, the blue-white stars firmly secured in their firmament, the glowing moon plump and heavy rising inexorably on the eastern horizon.  And I said the only words that I could think of to capture my feelings in that moment, a moment I will carry with me for as long as I can remember it.

I said “Thank you.”

A happy Ostara to one and all.

A Single Moment

A Single Moment

Joining Amanda at Soulemama for this week’s special, ordinary, wonderful moment.  Something to savour and remember.



Wishing everyone a happy weekend with lots of chances to get outside!



Yesterday was glorious and truly felt like winter is on the wane.  We were in the fresh air for most of the day basking in the bright sunshine, we came home with red cheeks and lungs filled with outside.

I’m looking forward to many more days shared with friends under blue, blue skies.

Happy 2nd Birthday

Happy 2nd Birthday

It has been two years since this little bean slipped peacefully into the world.  His birth, like his life, has been defined by inexorable progress all made at his own speed.  Mostly far too quick for my liking!  This little one who is now not so little and yet very little at the same time.  Today some of my lovely friends came together with us to celebrate this special little person.  This boy who is, at all times, his own self.

I’ve spent two years in his company and yet this little person is still a mystery to me.  So much himself, his mission in life clear to him if not to me.  I marvel at his determined progress, the way he flies at things full tilt.  His affection, his mental agility as well as his physical feats that thrill and terrify me.  His cheeky smile that wins me over every time, his certainty of his importance among us, his place in the world right there.  In the centre of our hearts.

Happy Birthday my two years boy.  I love you so very much.

Spit and Polish

Spit and Polish

I’ve been thinking a lot in these last weeks about our daily routine, there have been elements that work and some that don’t.  One of the things I’ve struggled with is getting in a bit of a ‘project’ once or twice a week.  Finally, this week, I seemed to have settled on a rhythm that worked well.  Around 2pm seems to be a good time for us to get ourselves into the kitchen and over a bit of an awkward hump in the middle of our day.  Having something to work on as a team brings us together, moving us steadily through an hour that seems to catch us all at a low point and giving a sense of achievement that makes for a more positive remainder of the day.

This week we’ve made two (yes that’s two) different kinds of furniture polish from natural ingredients.  So as well as doing some science I’ve also managed to trick encourage the boys to clean.  The first we made was a natural liquid from lemons and olive oil from this great recipe.  Huwyl measured out the ingredients and we looked at how the liquids sat in layers at first and then emulsified to make something new.  See, science.

Next we got a little more ambitious and made up a lovely beeswax polish recipe.  This was a team effort with Neirin chipping in as we measured the sweet almond oil (I wanted something a bit lighter than olive oil).  Huwyl and I worked together on grating the delicious smelling local beeswax into pale curls of honey scented shavings.

Watching Huwyl take on the varied tasks so readily and with such confidence and capability gave me a little jolt.  He is becoming so able and not such a helpless little guy.  I love being able to take advantage of that, getting him active and engaged in our activities.

As he stirred the wax and oil together we watched them merge and change; no longer two elements but now one new thing.  We added lavender and enjoyed the sweet wafts coming up out of the hot pan.  I kept expecting Huwyl to get bored and wander off but he stayed with our ‘experiment’ to the end.  He stirred the cooling mixture, noticing the coagulation and eventually transferred it all into a pot to store.  He rubbed the mixture all over his hands and arms (you can’t do that with Pledge) and insisted I do the same, we kept sniffing our hands and talked about how soft our skin felt.

Later, with the sunshine strong enough to allow for  the patio door to be open as the boys played on the deck, I rubbed the mixture into my 100 year old kitchen table, bought at a flea market by my parents 10 years ago.  The polish soaked into the bare wood, stained by countless painting experiments and decades of use, the soft mixture disappearing into the grain giving it a warm luster.  Though the boys played outside in the deep snow, our kitchen smelled like the warm days of summer.  Even into the evening, the boys asleep and snoring, my skin still held the smell.  Honey, with a hint of lavender.

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday

I don’t know what kind of Tuesday it is where you are, but in the hearts and minds of all true blue Brits this is a special day.  Shrove Tuesday.  Also known as Pancake Day.  Traditionally this is the day when families use up their eggs, milk and flour in preparation for the fasting of Lent.  But as we are big fat heathens we just opt for the pancake part and leave the rest to those more virtuous.

I am not one to pass up an excuse to eat pancakes for tea forgo important cultural traditions,  a big batch of pancake batter has been made and is chilling in the fridge awaiting the pancake frenzy of tea time.  As we live in Canada we are legally obliged to provide maple syrup with all pancake dishes (you don’t want to mess with Canadians on this, their calm exterior is but a diaphanous veil covering a savage interior when it comes to the golden liquid) but I am slowly converting my children to the delights of the only acceptable topping on a pancake, lemon and sugar.

In order to fully test the batter it was necessary for me to make a teeny little sample just to check all was working well.  Thin, soft on the inside and crisp along the edges, the sweetness of sugar and the tang of lemon merging perfectly to make a delicious syrup that perfectly compliments the pancake itself.  Sigh.  Pure tea time bliss.

Happy pancake eating one and all!

P.S.  Anyone using the word crepe will be dealt with extremely firmly.  In this corner of a foreign field that is forever England, this is a pancake.