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Month: December 2013

It B’aint All Bad

It B’aint All Bad

What is there to say? How to summarize a year like this?  Work, travel, family, fun, castles, cooking, friends, love, madness, cows, farm, hot, cold, rain, rain, rain….snow, ice, sunrises, laughing, fields, moments, milk, hugs and kisses.  Too much to say and more.

3659_10151324521961036_1964973888_n 483607_10151324521396036_2057321398_n 485224_10151339383556036_40896759_n 537330_10151324521281036_215523533_n 168820_10151365903381036_1264528177_n562341_10151339442966036_1325465337_nDSC_9960 DSC_9851 DSC_9839 DSC_9830 DSC_9817 DSC_9808 DSC_9803 DSC_9778 DSC_9770 DSC_9726 DSC_9723 DSC_9684 DSC_9585 DSC_9544 DSC_9491 DSC_9394 DSC_0306 DSC_0284 DSC_0242 DSC_0197 DSC_0164 DSC_0159 DSC_0144 1044830_10151460012896036_1194805046_nDSC_0528 DSC_0578 DSC_0580 DSC_0593DSC_0637As I try to wrap my brain around the fact that a year has passed (insanity), that I turned 40 this year (yay!), that my hair has been about 6 different colours, that we now own 3 cows, 2 breeding pigs and about a billion chickens it all seems simultaneously normal and bonkers.  It seems just weeks ago we were in England with my family but it was 8 months and so much has happened since then.  It has been a year of work, of building, of falling down exhausted and getting up again.  Of making new friends and discovering how many other people feel the same we do about food and farming and life.  Of drawing on the sustenance that is family and holding on tight to that life raft of support.  Of standing, in awe, at what nature paints on the sky or the grass we stand on.  Too much to sum up in a pithy way, and not necessary either.

So here is to a year well lived, to work done and good times enjoyed.  I look forward to taking the lessons learned forward into a joyful, productive and peaceful new year.  Sending blessings to everyone reading this for a great turn of the year and for wonderful months to come.

Happy New Year!

The Lull

The Lull

Ok, if I’m honest (and let’s face it I always am) this is the bit I really enjoy about Christmas.  The formal celebrations are over, the rush, the work, the pressure is all done and now we can just be.  We can enjoy time together and days with no major agenda.  We can work on our own projects and take time to build lego sets for hobbits and underwater creatures and spaceships.  Or not.  Or we can just watch a movie.

DSC_0573 DSC_0581DSC_0582DSC_0576This Christmas has been an unusual one for me in lots of ways; for one the homestead/farm is taking up a lot more of our time and no matter what, no matter if it’s Christmas, Boxing day or any other day those animals need looking after.  For another poor Stephen got really sick on Christmas day which made things even more low key.  Making Christmas dinner is usually his thing but this time I did it, with helpful instructions from the pile of poorly on the sofa when it came to cooking the beef (from our neighbour’s farm) and timing the chicken (our own) just right.  Once the excitement of the present giving was over it was a necessarily low key day followed by a similarly poorly ridden Boxing Day.

Not that I’m complaining!  We always plan for quiet days over Christmas so we didn’t feel like we were missing anything as we piled on the sofas and watched movies and fun christmas shows.  Boxing Day dinner was supplied courtesy of Christmas Day Leftovers and after the house had been tided and cleaned post the present mayhem, we managed to settle down and have a peaceful day.

DSC_0589 DSC_0597 DSC_0609 DSC_0610Of course the work of the farm continues, the chickens who are currently camped out in the polytunnel still needed feed and water, eggs need to be collected, pigs need their nosh and buckets of water need to be hauled out to them.  Cows need milking, oats need to given and milk needs to be processed and stored.  Cheese and butter still need to be made and used;  the milking machine still requires cleaning, as do pens and sties and bedrooms.  If we are to stay warm we must make a regular trek to the wood pile and bring in wagon loads of wood, to pile up in the burning heat of the furnace that keeps the cold at bay once the sun goes down.

This regular rhythm of chores, though, has finally settled down to a maintenance level.  We know what needs to be done and can accomplish it relatively quickly each day, especially if both of us are working together.  It is all starting to feel familiar and even the challenges that winter is throwing at us are being woven into the fabric of each day.  I know to a lot of people these responsibilities would seem onerous but to us they are just part of our family life.  There are times when the evening chores seem like a bridge too far but it takes little time in the fresh air for nature to do her work, I invariably come in refreshed and grateful for quiet time ahead.

And that is what I enjoy the most about the Christmas holidays, the quiet lull of time without a check list of how it must be spent.  No where to rush too, no appointments to keep.  The anticipation of starting a new semester is still a little way off and the possibility of projects and fun and even some relaxing grown up time is still all ahead of us.  Today Huwyl is off at riding camp (where hauling water is ‘amazing’ unlike at home where is sucks big time), Daddy and Neirin are working on a lego extravaganza while I sit here in the oddly peaceful and tidy(ish) house listening to their strange tangential conversations.

DSC_0628DSC_0626This afternoon I’m planning on doing some baking with just one boy at my side, indulging in the pleasure of giving him my undivided attention.  I’ll be picking up a tired and horse smelling lad and finding out what other things are ‘amazing’ when at horse camp, looking for the little signs of a growing up boy that seem to be ever present right now.   Tomorrow we are dropping the boys off for their first dual sleep over and Stephen and I will be spending an entire 24 hours together, just the two of us.  All of these things, these details, are what makes this time so lovely to me, regular and routine somehow seem special and lovely.  In the meantime I wonder what Stephen and I will talk about when it is just the two of us…

Ah yes the kids.  And the farm.  And the kids on the farm.  Good stuff.

On Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve

The storm that has been kicking North America’s botty for the last few days has finally abated, the snow and ice rain receding and leaving behind cobalt blue cold.  From Friday to Sunday we battled against snow and ice, trudging through calf deep drifts with buckets of feed and water, feeling the ice pellets slip down the back of our jackets or listening to the tiny hiss of snow landing on snow.

On Friday my friends forged through terrible driving conditions to come and share part of the solstice with us.  Cosily we spent time and watched as the snow fell and fell, coating everything; but we knew the ice rain was coming next, a much more dangerous cousin.  So after sharing our celebrations everyone headed off to hunker down for the weekend.

But this morning, ah this morning.  Bright and clear and (-28C) a tad brisk, but…

DSC_0588 DSC_0591 DSC_0592 DSC_0594 DSC_0595 DSC_0602As the new sun rose, tinting the world with hues of summer, I couldn’t help but stand in awe of this place I have the privilege of calling home.  A shining world made of diamonds and glass, the reward for days hiding and rushing, dodging ice and cold.

DSC_0616 DSC_0628 DSC_0624 DSC_0619 DSC_0617Even the most mundane things were covered in sparkles and light, reflecting the dawn in a way that seemed as if it was shining in each flake at once, transforming summer chicken coops and fences into Faberge creations.

DSC_0628 DSC_0634 DSC_0633 DSC_0632 DSC_0631Last night we finished the last of our Christmas shopping, a few books that still needed to be bought.  We were out after dark, later than we ever normally would be, dipping our toes into the world of commercial Christmas and then heading home again to our cocoon.  But this morning, this is what makes the heart soar and fly.  Crunching through a crystal crust while marvelling at the presents nature has wrought.  Noticing a head of Goldenrod encased in sparkling glass, a magical bouquet beyond our making.

DSC_0636DSC_0639 DSC_0643 DSC_0640Without meaning to sound trite (but of course sounding it anyway) I was reminded that the true meaning of Christmas is not in the gifts we buy, not matter how much we treasure them.  It’s outside, the world that we walk on every day and often forget to be grateful for it’s strange miracles.  It’s the way the sun catches the light on an ice encrusted branch, it’s friends taking time to be with us, it’s long distance Skype calls to those far away but always close in my heart, it’s crazy excited kids, it’s bumping into your beloved on the daily chore run and feeling as full of joy at that meeting as I did 19 years ago.  It’s laughing at the stunning beauty while our faces are pinched hard and our toes protest that it really is time to go inside.

DSC_0637DSC_0622DSC_0647It’s all that and more, lots more.  More than I have words for and quite possibly more than I deserve.  But, knowing that, knowing how chance and luck have worked along side determination and struggle, I grab it with both hands and hold on tight.  I grab it all with both arms and squeeze the joy right to me, right inside me.  I let it sit and fizz away as I watch my wonderful family enjoy this day, as I connect to those far away that I wish I could squeeze close but settle for seeing their lovely faces and hearing their laughing voices instead.

I am blessed and I hope so are you.  Sending everyone rapturous joy this yuletide; stay warm, stay safe and have a very, very Merry Christmas.

I Want Doesn’t Get

I Want Doesn’t Get

I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as Christmas Fatigue?  It seems to have happened to me for the last few years, I begin December feeling festive, ready to celebrate the Christmas season but, by the time we are within a week of the actual Christmas I feel terribly weary of it all.

I really don’t want to seem like a Scrooge, I love Christmas time, the food, the down time, sharing gifts with my family.  I love searching out presents for the boys, knowing how much joy they will be received with, anticipating their enjoyment for the day of Christmas and through the year; I love buying thoughtful gifts for my loved ones and sharing time with friends we don’t get to see enough.  What’s not to love about all that?

DSC_0488 DSC_0489 DSC_0491 (1)Well that’s the thing, all of that is good and wonderful, all of that is what Christmas is all about.  It’s the other stuff that starts to creep in, to intrude on my world and my vision of what it’s all about.  It’s advert after advert (I barely watch tv but even I’m aware of it) telling us what we must have and desire. One slogan for a store is even “I want that”.  Really?  A common phrase in our house and one I grew up with is “I want doesn’t get”.  For us it is a reminder to use nicer words to ask for something but I think the message actually runs a bit deeper, and is something that our society as a whole could benefit from thinking on.

“I want” is not enough. I know we are encouraged to think it is, to think that to ‘want’ is somehow a good thing but really, it isn’t.  Want implies greed, it implies demanding more than we are due, it implies a lack of care for anything outside of that.  It is the childish impulse we try to guide our children away from, to help them outgrow.  Yet all around us grown adults work on a hamster wheel to fulfill the wants, while ignoring the needs; the genuine human impulses that are at the core of who we are and must be fed to keep us happy and healthy.  It’s the fancy computer game/mobile phone/toy of choice wrapped up in a big red bow, but the absence of real awareness, time and care.

I’m not trying to lay the woes at the world under the christmas tree, I adore the process of sourcing and giving gifts, but it can be done with care and consciousness and really should be.  We try to source as much as we can used, it saves us money and allows us to be generous with the kids’ whims.  There are toys we would never have bought new that they’ve really enjoyed and things I would have invested in at 3 times the cost that have gathered dust, forgotten.  The boys are not attached to things coming in a package, they just enjoy the thing itself and the fun it brings them.

DSC_0492 (1) DSC_0496DSC_0498I understand that not all things can be bought second hand ( if someone doesn’t buy new there would be no second hand!) but I think that we can all purchase with care and consider how these items will be used through the year.  Is it a toy that encourages creativity?  Will it bring joy and comfort to the receiver?  Does it reflect your care and love? Or is it simply a tick on a list born out of a sense of obligation, given and received with no real love on either end?

Yesterday we spent the morning with one of our dear friends, she threw a craft party for the children, a chance to come together and create.  Each child made several crafts and then they got on with the real business at hand, playing and making as much noise as possible.  My friend opened up her home (and wallet) sharing what she had with others, presiding with kindness over each creation, each bobo, each question no matter how convoluted.  All of these things were given with generosity and warmth with no thought of personal gain other than the chance to share time and laughter.

As I stood back and sneakily snacked observed the children, I saw kids who were friends and strangers playing happily together, games invented, abandoned and returned to, noise being made both creatively and for the sake of it; Mums who’d never met chatted on the sofa and my own sweet boy entertaining a little girl with Down’s Syndrome just because he wanted to see her smile and because he really doesn’t notice the funny quirks that people ‘call difference’.  All this happened because of one friend’s kind heart and willingness to share it with others.  A gift indeed.

DSC_0495So when I hear “I want” blasting out of my computer screen I grit my teeth and wish that there was an advert exhorting us to be generous and kind with our time and hearts not just our wallets.  I bite down on bitterness that this time of family has been hijacked by commercialism that preys on people’s love for one another, a love that is real and genuine and too precious be bought and sold.  I feel angry.  I really, really feel angry.

Then.

Then I do what I really ought to have done in the first place, hit mute and shrug it off.  I remember my friends who give their time to teach their own and other children all sorts of wonderful things.  I look forward to the gatherings of pals and kids that litter our social calendar, grateful for the communion it brings.  I think of the time our loved ones take to call, or email or send a silly joke, to write on Facebook or send a festive card.  I think of a year of hugs and visits and lots and lots of love.  And that’s when I know that it’s all silly nonsense, that most people get it and that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded with people who know that the real gifts cannot be wrapped.  That the real gift is the thought and love that went into the present under the tree, a token of the warmth, deeply felt, too important and too big to put into words.

Winter Work

Winter Work

This is our third winter on the farm and, I have to say, is different to the others in many ways.  This year we have more animals to look after through the winter, much more responsibility and things that have to be done.  Gone are the days of a quick chicken chore run and back to the fire, these days there is milking, pig chores, a large flock of chickens, a wood furnace to be stoked…and that’s before we start breakfast.

Despite working furiously all summer and fall there just never seems to be quite enough time to get everything prepared, there is always work left over, jobs not quite finished, things we really wanted to get done but…well time runs out.  This year it seems to have run out rather abruptly with the coldest December that I can remember since we lived in Canada.  Weather that we normally wouldn’t see until January made it’s appearance at the end of November and shows no sign of abating.  For the last week we’ve been heading out into sub -20C temperatures, with today being a lovely -38C.  Ah Canada, how you love to winter it up.

DSC_0520 DSC_0523 DSC_0529I don’t want to complain because we love our life here, but winter farming can feel like a lot of work.  Things go wrong (like water lines freezing when it hits -30), snow piles up and things are just a lot harder.  Did you know milking machines really don’t like cold weather? Did you know that the inside of your nose will freeze when it gets below -20?  Did you know that pigs absolutely refuse to get their own breakfast no matter how many times you tell them where the feed bin is?  Did you?

Ah well, such it is and somehow in the midst of it all there is also a grim satisfaction.  There is the feeling of knowing that this is good work, the kind that makes your body better, that makes your spirit stronger, that makes your life a bit more meaningful.  Because if we don’t go out and feed the animals, they don’t get fed.  If we don’t decide to spend the day before a storm stacking hay bales outside the cow barn to block the wind (even though it was -35C with a frostbite warning) then no magical pixies will come and do it for us.  If we don’t crack the ice off the pig’s water and haul out buckets of warm water mixed with tasty whey, well there will be some extremely unhappy pigs in the pig pen.  This work matters, it is necessary.

DSC_0524DSC_0530DSC_0521This morning, while Stephen was freezing himself senseless doing milking in the cow barn, I took down the pig’s breakfast, trekking through the ever piling snow.  As I walked, tucking my chin into my coat to stave off the burning cold air, I noticed that the snow was turning pink.  I turned to face the blooming dawn and saw the sky stained rose, the clouds lit up by the climbing sun.  The world glowed, ruby and glistening.  I stood for as long as I could, banishing the cold with sheer determination, I stood and looked at it all and soaked it in.  As the air frosted the inside of my nose and frigid breezes bit my cheeks, I felt happy to be doing this winter work, this necessary work, this work of life.

Dairy Thoughts

Dairy Thoughts

Since our cow Wander started to produce milk in October, in fact since we decided to buy a milk cow back in the spring, my mind has been consumed with the possibilities of a home dairy.  For the last 2 months our fridge has been stuffed with milk as I learn how to use this magical liquid, adding products to my repertoire, and fridge, as we go along.

DSC_0473 DSC_0474 DSC_0476Since the first weeks of milking I’ve been making butter, which then yields buttermilk, as well as lots of yoghurt for my yoghurt loving boys; and it has been the most wondrous butter and utterly delicious yoghurt any of us have ever eaten.   But looming on the horizon like and white and curdy spectre, was the true and certain knowledge that cheese making was an inevitable part of my future.

Please don’t misunderstand me, misunderstand me not, I want to make cheese.  I have been contemplating and reading and watching videos for the last 6 months about making cheese, but it is a bit of a nerve wracking business. You’ve got to get the recipes and buy the equipment and really what are curds supposed to look like anyway?  Luckily for me Wardee at Gnowfglins has all the information in one place, a Cultured Dairy e-course that takes you step by step through it all, including videos so that you know that you are on the right track.

DSC_0477 DSC_0479 DSC_0480 DSC_0483So this week, following my recipes and videos to the letter, I’ve made soft cream cheese (insanely delicious) and a feta cheese, which is currently seasoning in my fridge ready to go into brine and begin aging in a few days time.  I spent most of Sunday tending my curds, checking temperatures, cutting, cooking and checking again.  It’s a consuming process but in exactly the right kind of way and at the end of it you have cheese, what could be a better outcome?

So with a kitchen full of whey (Do you need some whey?  I’ve got some.  I’ve got lots.) a fridge full of milk and a brain full of recipes I can definitely say that more cheese making is  in my future.  Mozzarella, quark, hard cheeses, cottage cheese….it’s all dairy all the time round here.  And since I broke my cheese making duck I feel that I have crossed over into another world somehow, a world of real self sufficiency where actual skills are required.  A world, let’s face it, made of cheese.

Quiet Time Lantern – wet-on-wet watercolour tutorial

Quiet Time Lantern – wet-on-wet watercolour tutorial

I am over at Playful Learning today writing about how to make a Quiet Time Lantern for the dark and wintery nights.

The first part of the making the lantern is to do a wet-on-wet watercolour painting, this is a lovely and easy art form and great for sharing with a mixed age range.  I’ve been doing this kind of art with the boys since they were really little, it allows them to play with colour and yet produce something pretty (rather than tempura mix brown) which can be used in other crafts.  Cards, labels, seasonal decorations…all can be made from the colourful creations of even the youngest children, helping them to see that their art is of value and has a life beyond it’s creation.

To make a wet-on-wet painting you will need:

  • Watercolour paper
  • Watercolour paints (I have a relatively cheap set of the tube ones but plan to invest in some premixed ones in the  new year)
  • A clean flat surface
  • Paint brushes
  • Small sponges (optional) for younger children

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If you are using the tube paints you will need to mix the paints with water first, I have some little glass dishes I do this in, I restrict the palette to 2-3 colours and aim to choose colours that will blend well and will create other colours when they mix.

While you are mixing the paints pop your water colour paper into a sink of water.  I know this seems like an odd thing to do but the paper is thick and needs to have a lot of water on it to create the right kind of back ground.  Just a few minutes is sufficient, then shake off the excess water and pop down on your painting surface.  You can use painting boards for this but I just put them straight onto our school table.

Give your children access to the paints and brushes and go to it.

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This kind of painting has a different mood from a more craft oriented style, by that I mean it lends itself to a kind of meditation approach, soft and slow with no specific outcome in mind.  It can take time for children to move away from the idea of painting ‘something’ and instead just become involved with the movement and colour wet-on-wet painting offers, but once they do they usually love it.  I find painting alongside the boys helps to set the tone for the their own work as does some nice music and reminders that we are working gently and quietly for this project.

I hope this helps to get you started on your wet-on-wet painting adventure!  If you would like an idea for using your finished creations why not pop over to Playful Learning and perhaps make your own Quiet Time Lantern.  I’d love to see your lanterns if you do!

 

Playful Maths

Playful Maths

I’ve recently spent a lot of time thinking about maths.  A lot.  Not so much the maths itself but about how I teach maths and how my children learn maths. I’m currently undertaking an e-course through Stamford University Online called How To Learn Math, which has opened my eyes to so many possibilities and helped me to address many of the poor lessons I absorbed as a maths learner myself.

I’ll try to come back to this topic a bit more when I’ve finished the course and I’ve developed some of these ideas but basically there are some fundamental principles that I’ve been getting wrong.  Messages that I received that I’ve been passing on to my children, with a negative impact on both them and me.

See I’ve always hated maths, I loathed it.  I felt stupid in maths class and even as an adult, taking courses as part of my post graduate when studying teaching, I was in tears in a room full of strangers.  It was crazy nonsense to me and I couldn’t make sense of any of it.  Now this may make me sound like the worst possible person to teach a child maths but here are my thoughts on that:

1) I am INCREDIBLY motivated to make sure my children don’t have the same experience I did;

2) I can respond to their specific needs and pace, I don’t need to be an expert to do that and;

3) Many actual maths teachers are terrible at teaching maths.

There, I said it.  The way maths is taught in schools is largely bad.  And do you know how I know that?  Because the nice lady on the Stamford e-course told me so.  There is a whole section at the beginning about how many of us are scarred by our experiences in the classroom and how things need to change in order to help everyone be as successful as they can be in maths.

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{Number Pegs activity from Playful Learning the book                                                        The fractions activity is from the post Playful Learning – Learning With Circles }

 

So here are some of the key things I’ve taken away from the course so far, they may seem small but to me they have been profound concepts that are already altering the way I teach.

1 – Maths is not about natural ability, most of us are capable of being good at maths.  I found this idea shocking as, like many people, I always saw maths as something of a gift.  You either have it or you don’t.  This is what is known as a fixed mindset and is the kind of mindset that prohibits learning.  If you believe you are rubbish at maths and can never improve you won’t.  In order to grow you require a growth mindset, allowing you to accept change and develop; but in order for that to happen you must…

2 – See mistakes as positive.  What?!  But mistakes are bad aren’t they?  That’s why we call them mistakes!  I mean we all say that ‘we learn from our mistakes’ but really we know that is tosh and that being good at stuff is what counts (and if you can be good with no effort so much the better).  But in fact our brains benefit from making mistakes, our synapses fire much more when we make and subsequently correct mistakes, more even than when we get it right.  That’s right, we learn more by getting it wrong.

And finally (for now)

3 – Speed does not equal success.  This may seem like a small detail but in fact is central to our perception of what makes us successful in maths.  Speed in class, speed in tests, getting the answer first.  I don’t think I’m the only person who associates being quick and being good at something.  But this is the enemy to understanding, the rushing through things without strong understanding.  I was rushed and I rush in turn, leaving behind the hope of really getting it for the short term satisfaction of the right answer.  This is a mindset I’m hoping to abandon in favour of allowing my boys to really understand in their own time. If that means sitting on the floor for 40 minutes working with manipulatives to do 5 subtraction questions (like we did yesterday) then that is what we do.  And we’ll do it everyday from now on.

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{Santa Geometry Activity from Ed Emberley’s website, December activities.                       The wonderfully inspirational Picture Pie book by Ed Emberley.}

The course is taught by Jo Boaler and she uses a great quote by Fields Medal winner Laurent Schwartz.  The Fields Medal is like the nobel prize except harder to win, so I’m going to assume he’s a pretty clever chap.  Yet he talks about how he was often the slowest in his class and how he always worked slowly throughout his career.

“What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other.  This is where intelligence lies.  The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant.  Naturally, it’s helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory.  But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.” Laurent Schwartz

This idea that being quick wasn’t important was like a boulder being lifted off my spirit.  I had never realized what an ingrained idea this is until I challenged it.  Why is it good to be quick? Why can’t we explore things deeply and with real understanding?  Well we know why of course.  In a classroom understanding is not the main goal, it can’t be; proving that the ‘standards’ have been met and that the school is doing it’s job is always the first priority.  Not because teachers or parents or even politicians want it this way but because when we judge one another by a ‘norm’ instead of by looking at individuals in a way that respects them as distinct, we lose the opportunity to really connect.

So the idea of speed being king has also gone out of the window.  It’s a relief all round I can tell you.  I’m taking on board what Jo Boaler says about learning, that we should always be at the edge of our understanding and therefore making mistakes and growing from them.

Another idea that is being reinforced by this course is that maths is not arithmetic.  Arithmetic is a part of maths but maths is so much more and that we have to work at strengthening the whole maths brain not just the memorization part of it.  This is something Stephen and I have been talking about for a while and we’ve begin drawing in other elements.  We’ve incorporated games to introduce strategic thinking, apps that allow for more fun, stories to touch on maths concepts, songs and rhythmic movement to reinforce learning  and generally tried to approach things with a more varied perspective.

With that in mind I’m making sure that our maths hour includes not just our textbook work but work that works on skills and on building what I’m starting to call the ‘maths brain’.  The part of the brain that works on logic, spacial recognition, reasoning and strategic thinking.  This goes beyond simply working on arithmetic and begins to incorporate other elements, especially those of creativity and movement, in order to solidify learning.

One of my go-to resources when exploring any topic is Playful Learning.  I’ve been a fan of Mariah Bruel who runs and orchestrates that website for years, and my admiration has not diminished since I had the chance to make small contributions to her blog over the last year or so.  Her charm and warmth shine through all of her work and she has a wonderful knack from bringing together ideas in ways that creates clarity and inspires action.

I’ve owned her book (also called Playful Learning) since it came out and regularly use her resources page as well as the wonderful contributions on her blog to give me some ideas for inputting more creativity into my teaching.  Today’s maths lesson with the boys came almost exclusively from Playful Learning related sources so I thought I’d share them for anyone else seeking a bit of inspiration.  I’ve popped a link beneath each photo so that you can find these resources easily yourself.

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{Freeform geometry creativity from Neirin at the top followed by his pattern work based on the Learning With Circles post.  This was the making patterns activity. }

Today when I was talking to Huwyl about a correction he needed to make (in a different subject) we talked about how the word ‘mistake’ has such negative connotations, I said I wished I had another word I could use instead that expressed our new understanding of the value of mistakes.  He thought for a minute and then said “You could just point at the mistake and say ‘Your brain needs to grow here’, then I’ll know I need to look at it again. ” That moment alone, from a child who has been horrified by mistakes, smiling up at me over a spelling correction felt like a huge shift.  I feel like we are finally finding our way to where we want, and need, to be.