Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of Year Review 2017

It's funny because I thought I had done one of these pretty much every year but a quick look on the blog reveals I haven't done one since 2014! Anyway, as someone who is quite a reflective person I love to look back on things and this year is no different. Even on a bad year there are always highs, there are always things to be grateful for, always things to be proud of, always memories being made, lessons learned and always exciting plans ahead. If I had to sum up our 2017 as a family I would say that from the start in January right until the end in December hospitals featured heavily. We lost a very much loved grandma, the third family member in 10 months to pass away. We lost our lovely male cat Thunder when he was killed on the road a few weeks ago.  Cordelia had her tonsils removed at the beginning of December leading to two weeks of recovery just before Piper's birthday and Christmas. So the last part of the year has been very emotional and pretty draining when you are also running your own business from home and processing a large amount of Christmas orders.

I find Christmas a strange time of year for us as a family too, we don't have huge families that we spend time with. Its pretty much the six of us and since Christmas is so geared up to spending time at home/playing games/eating meals together-all things we do on a mostly daily basis. In fact I think it would be quite impossible for us to spend any more time with our children!! It leaves me wondering what Christmas actually does mean for us as a family, I used to love Christmas so much but as I get older I am definitely getting more synical about the consumerism aspect and the message that comes across from advertising.

We had a very chilled Christmas this year, we stayed at home instead of going away which we have all decided was definitely not as nice as going away like last year. We decided against Christmas lunch and instead opted for a laid back buffet with plenty of options for all of our food requirements; vegan/vegetarian/meat eaters the rest of the day was spent playing board games (Ticket to Ride, Cards of Humanity and Exploding Kittens) and watching a few films. Boxing day we all took Loki for a big walk and then continued playing games. We had a trip to the cinema to watch Jumanji-which we all thought was very funny and The Greateset Showman-mixed reviews from us! We had a trip to the Trafford Centre in Manchester to spend Christmas money and in between we have watched lots of Christmas specials on the TV, films, took Loki for walks and played a lot of Cards of Humanity. I am still not sure about the game to be honest but the teens love it and I don't know if I have ever laughed as much so...

I will go back to the start of the Year:


We had a trip to London to Grennwich Maritime Museum for an exhibit about Emma Hamilton. Piper and I had read quite a lot about her previously and so were really excited to learn more about her and see items belonging to her and Nelson. We bought membership which meant we also got to see the Cutty Sark-another place of the list! I took the children years ago to see it after we had watched a TV documentary about the fire and remodelling of the ship. It is very impressive and well worth a visit. I was hoping we would get back down again as our membershipslast 12 months but time escaped us!


We had a trip to the Thackarary Medical Museum in Leeds, another place on our list for ages. Again I think we spent most of the time there either in stitches from laughing or feeling sick-It's an interesting museum but not for those of us that have weak stomachs or senses of smell! We had a lovely walk in the Peak District and a greta laugh when hubby fell down after telling us all to be careful!


We had a few nights away in Shropshire with a hot tub :-) it was pretty lush and we had views over the fishing lake too. Very relaxing. We visited beautiful Powis Castle, walked up a mahoosive hill called The Wrekin, visited the Iron Bridge again and National Trust's Attingham Park. Finally took Piper to Calke Abbey, she's been wanting to go for ages! It was so cold but beautifully sunny, a perfect Spring day.


We celebrated both Easter and Cordelia's 15th birthday-only the second time it's fell on Easter Sunday! We went to the cinema to watch Beauty and the Beast for the second time, she really loves that film. I started a new hobby; with all my spare time and my love of Instagram I decided to start penpalling. It has been so much fun and I have met some amazing people and several home educators living in other parts of the world. Always nice to meet like minded people. I have even got Piper and Cordelia into it too. I also started Postcrossing and have built up quite a collection. It's wonderful to get so much lovely mail instead of boring bills!


We visited Tattershall Castle and Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire, making use of our National Trsut membership. We also took the girls and Ruben on their first ever trip to Skegness, which was actually very funny. They all had a go at go-carting for the first time which was such a lot of fun to watch. Hubby showed what a colouring expert he has become when he dyed Piper's hair two colours, something she has wanted doing for ages. It looked so cool. We had a great time working at MCM London with both girls coming with us this time. Cordelia and I went down on the train and had a beautifully sunny day in London, enjoying St James' Park and stationery shopping. 


We had an amazing week in Cornwall, all 6 of us-yes even Bailey joined us since he had finished his first year of University. We were so lucky with the weather and had the most amazing weather including a huge heatwave. Bailey celebrated turning 19!!!We visited St Agnes, Perranporth, Newquay,  Padstow, St Michael's Mount, St Ives and Penzance before we headed off to Devon for another lovely week. Bailey headed back home as he had other plans. We had amazingly hot weather and visited Plymouth, Agatha Christie's House Greenway, Torquay, Paignton, Bodmin, Brixham, Weymouth, Dartmoor National Park-where we saw wild ponies! We certainly made the most of our time there. We came home a day early after we heard the sad news that hubby's grandma had passed away just days before her 80th birthday.


We celebrated hubby's last birthday in his 30's-the big 4-0 coming in 2018, with a low-key picnic in Botanical Gardens with plenty of Pokemon-Go hunting going off and some sunshine. We said our last goodbyes to a lovely Grandma who we will miss very much, the second funeral our children have attended in less than a year. We kept busy and enjoyed the summer despite poor Piper's allergies really kicking in and making her feel pretty miserable. We took Cordelia's friend on his first trip to a castle up at Bolsover. The girls and I satrted bullet journaling. Hubby and I had a work trip up to Glasgow for 4 days where we got to see quite a lot of the city and surrounding area inbetween working at a Gaming show. Must take the kids up there as there is so much to see! Then another work trip took hubby and I to London where we paid a visit to the Saatachi Gallery-such a cool place! 


Had a trip to the Sculpture Park in Yorkshire to see the Kaws exhibit. We used to come here so often. In fact one of my my popular blog posts came from a visit here Look but don't Touch. The girls got to dress up and come along to Sheffield comic con where we had a stall. Cordelia even entered the cosplay competition which was very brave of her! We visited Sheffield Museum for an exhibit on Doll's Houses-something that was a big passion for Piper for so many years. We had one of our biggest shows of the year at Insomnia 61, with both boys and Cordelia tagging along. Ruben came for 3 out of 4 of the days-its one of his favourite places! He had so much fun and even bumped into some old friends from last year and an online home ed friend too. 


We celebrated Not Back to School at Broadsworth Hall and Gardens, somewhere we used to visit a lot. I had a birthday. We had our first trip to the Chatsworth Country Fair-a bit disappointing to be honest and very rainy! We went to watch Victoria and Abdul-continuing one of our favourite topics/interests about Queen Victoria. We have loved watching the ITV production of Victoria so much. A visit to Rufford Abbey for an Autumnal walk-again one of our old favourites! Hubby and I did a big show at the NEC, our third show of the year there with EGX, Bailey came along to talk to the game developers. Bailey satrted Year 2 of his uni course and the girls decided they quite fancy doign some IGCSE's after nearly 10 years of autonomous education. We are still working on getting into the mindset of formal education after such a break and probably looking at exams in 2019 rather than 2018..


Started with a lovely 5 day break in Glastonbury, again one of our favourite places. It was even cooler this time around (especially because we were staying in a lovely cottage and not camping in a tent in a soggy field) because Piper has been really into Wiccan teachings this year and if you are going to find anything suitable for that its going to be here. Probably one of the most alternative places in England. She bought several Wiccan books, crystals and jewellery and it had a fantastic Vegan supermarket! The girls tried to talk us into moving down there they loved it so much.. Whilst we were here we walked up the Tor again and recreated an old photograph of the girls and I from 2012. We visited Bath again-this time no rain hurrah! And even went back to Weymouth for the day-we love it there and they have the most amazing Vegan Ice-cream-we visited Wells and had a drive through the stunning Cheddar Gorge. On the way home we had our first trip to the Cotswolds visiting the home of Brum-one of Bailey's favourite kids programmes as a small child, so I had to send him a Brum postcard haha!, We had a lovley walk from Upper Slaughter to Lower Slaughter too, very picturesque there. We also stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon on the way home, always a favourite for us as the place hubby and I got married 18 years ago. We had a day trip to Blackpool to see the Illuminations again, we went for the first time last year and enjoyed it. Hubby and I had a day in London making our first visit to Kew Gardens and watching an NFL game at Twickenham stadium. It is so starnge to be able to go off and do things by ourselves but I suppose that is the bonus of having teenagers and not small children anymore! Cordelia started volunteering at a local charity farm, she absolutely loves it and comes home smiling every week. She gets to feed and clean out pigs, chickens, goats and horses so she is very happy. She doesn't like the sad side of farming though and has already had to say goodbye to some of the animals that have passed away due to illness. She is very glad to have gone vegetarian last month though..  We had another Comic Con in London again so Cordelia and I again went on the train and had a day at the British Museum meeting up with Piper and hubby at the hotel. The girls had a great time at the con but poor Piper had a migraine attack on the last day, thankfully she could sleep in the car in the underground carpark but not a lot of fun for her. The first ever halloween where nobody got dressed up and went trick or treating which made me a little sad. I bought treats from Hotel Chocolat instead to try and keep things halloween-y!


We started November with an overnight stay at Warwick Castle in their Knight's lodges. It was like a family sleepover and a lot of fun. We had a day at the castle first exploring all of the outside whilst the sun was shining and watching the birds of prey soaring around the castle walls. We had a rare treat in going out for tea to the nicest Pizza Express ever, best ever pizza's and atmosphere before a spooky walk around Warwick i the dark and back to the lodge to watch Buzzfeed unsolved (Girls current obsession and now hubby's too!) day 2 of the castle we explored all of the inside, which was well worth the visit. So many beautiful paintings, furniture and my personal favourite-a clock that belonged to Marie Antoinette! I took Piper for a Vegan freakshake at a cool vegan fast food place in Sheffield, we are so lucky to have so many places offering vegan food in Sheffield! We put the Christmas tree up earlier than ever despite none of us feeling very Christmassy yet but hoping that it would help and also because we wouldn't have much time in the next few weeks. Hubby and I took Ruben to Chester for the night to celebrate his 14th birthday, we had a lovely time in Chester going around the shops and having tea at Pizza Express. The next day (his actual birthday) we got up early, had breakfast at a cafe and headed to Chester Zoo. He might be big (taller than me and nearly the same size as his dad!) but he still loves the Zoo!! Back home for presents, he wanted a microphone for his Youtubing and editing-his set up now resembles a radio studio in my opinion-and cake!


We lost our poor cat Thundercat when he was run over, super sad as he has been with us since being a kitten and been part of our family for 10 1/2 years. Losing a pet is incredibly hard and that's two in two years now. Very emotional for all of us. Cordelia finally had her tonsil surgery, she has been waiting a while after struggling with tonsil stones. It's not a decision taken lightly as she is incredibly needle phobic and actually nearly fainted in the waiting room, so we were lucky enough to be moved to a private room. It was a super quick procedure only taking 25 minutes but she was very emotional when she woke up and the sight of her vomiting blood meant that hubby ended up on the bed next to her...Very distressing for both of us but thankfully Cordelia was really out of it so can't remember most of it. It was a 12 hour day inside the hospital but felt way longer and we were so glad to be back home. Several days of not a lot of sleep ensued, I had to wake up to give her medication regularly so she slept in bed with me and poor Hubby was relegated to her bedroom! But thanks to a lot of rest and care (I'm thinking of a career in nursing in the coming years haha) she recovered just in time for us to celebrate Piper turning 17. She actually didn't ask for anything for her birthday but thankfully we know her so well that we got her things we knew she'd love! She was thrilled with her Vegan Doc Martens :) and we got up extra early on her birthday and drove into London for the day. Was lovely to see the Christmas Lights in Carnaby Street, although a little too busy for Piper, then she and I headed to St Martin's Theatre to watch Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. It was brilliant and she loved it, I had promised to take her one day when we visited Agatha's house in June so pleased I could make it happen. Piper started her first job volunteering at a charity shop, very proud of her because it is right out of her comfort zone but she is enjoying it and learning so much. We celebrated the 60th wedding anniversary of the children's great-grandparents and I managed to get a picture of them all together :) before having a very chilled and quiet Christmas just us. Cards of Humanity has featured heavily this year, we played it for quite a bit New Year's Eve before watching the fireworks on the TV and singing along to Mr Brightside!

It's been a tough year but we are all healthy, happy and looking forward to the adventures 2018 will bring us. Next month we are celebrating 10 years of home educating which is amazing, somedays it feels a lot longer and then other days it feels like no time at all!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Not Back to School

Celebrating Not Back to School with a trip to Brodsworth Hall, a place we spent many a fun day playing in the playground and discovering all the secrets in the garden.

The children are all too old now for the playground but I still made them stand next to the wooden boats where they would play swallow and amazon's for what seemed like hours! I have to try and find the old photos of them inside the boats because they were so little!

The weather was beautiful today. Blue skies and quite mild until a huge dark cloud rolled in and we had to hide under a tree for shelter.

The staff at Brodsworth Hall today were brilliant, they all talked and told us different facts about the house, it's owners and furnishings. It really helps the place come to life when you have staff that are so invested in the history of the place.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Meanwhile Home Education Continues and Bailey meets Benedict Cumberbatch....

I've been a bit amazed in the last month since I started the blog back up, it had over 5,000 views which I am pretty sure was more than it used to get. No idea why though?

I always get excited about the start of September, I always feel its more like a January to me than the latter part of the year. Something about the beginning of Autumn always makes me feel lighter and happier. I feel experienced enough as a home educator now not to worry about buying workbooks, or worrying about whether my children should do exams. I am more than confident in how my teenagers are developing and learning and am happy to leave the worries of "are they learning enough?" behind.

I think the thing that is more different now than ever is that I am no longer comparing myself with other home educators or their children. Some of that I think has come from seeing my eldest child go on to university, I used to think that was the big goal and I would feel accomplished as a home educator and a parent but that is not the case at all. Bailey is doing incredibly well at uni, he is a very intelligent, articulate and focused man and whilst I am incredibly proud of him I am not surprised at how well he is doing. He is very determined and I have 100% faith in his goals and what he will get out of university. However, my views on further education have changed so much in the last few years and I've realised it is not what it once was. Maybe I am getting more cynical in my old age but I have started to see university as more of a business, the huge debt you have to get in now to get a degree is just crazy.

I can't believe Piper would have left school last month because she doesn't seem ready at all so for the next year at least (who knows?) we are continuing on with her home education. She did actually apply and get a place at college studying Art and Design but decided she's just not ready for college yet. She has had quite a rough time of things and so currently just getting her well again remains our main focus.

Contrary to popular belief, we as home educators anyway, don't hibernate for the school holidays. I know a lot of HE families do but that has just never been our way. We have actually been really busy enjoying the summer, sleepovers, days out, comic cons etc. My house seems to swell a bit with even more teenagers during the school holidays but I don't mind.

As yet we don't have plans for September, we normally go away but I think we might stay home next month. We have a big show at Insomnia 61 coming up, Ruben is so excited as he loved it there last year. The last part of the year is such a busy time for our business that I'm thinking we might plan a trip somewhere for next year, hubby has the big 4-0 birthday next year and it would be great to do something special for him..

Some of the things we have been up to this summer:

Cosplay continues to be a big part of our lives, especially for the girls! They are hugely into a series called Voltron at the moment, even meeting a couple of the voice actors back in May at London Comic Con. For Sheffield Comic Con this weekend they dressed as Haggar the Witch (Piper) and Lotor (Cordelia) Cordelia even entered the cosplay competition, she didn't place this time but it was a really good confidence boost for her.

We had a rare August day of Sun last week and went to see some of the new exhibits at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, obviously Loki had to come too..

We had a trip into York too, it was insanely busy-felt like we were in London there were so many tourists but we had a lovely day anyway.

Hubby and I had a big show in Glasgow so we managed to go and see some things that we had been wanting to visit for ages, it was so, so lovely to have a weekend by ourselves even if we were working too:

Loch Lomomnd

Glasgow, we stayed in the hotel right next to this massive crane!

The Kelpies, they were amazing and it was so cool to see them with no one else around as normally the area is so full of tourists. You can see a tiny me stood beneath them for scale.

We saw about the Falkirk Wheel on a program about Lego years ago, it was so cool to see but we must come back and see it working next time.

We also had a weekend in London working at the Film and Comic Con, Bailey came down on the train for one of the days and paid to meet Benedict Cumberbatch!

Imagine finding out your son is taller than Benedict?! Haha, he had such a great day and got him to sign his Hobbit art book too. A day he will never forget. I stood with him in the queue whilst he waited for his photo with Benedict and we got talking to a really cool guy from California. He gave Bailey lots of gaming advice for his course and we shared parenting adult tips lol! The girls were very jealous that Bailey had met Sherlock Holmes but were pleased to hear it was lovely in real life. Hubby even got to talk to him very briefly about NFL and found that he is a fan of the NY Giants..!

Hubby and I discovered the Saatachi Gallery for the first time and walked miles and miles and miles in London-just for a change haha