Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Ends of November

Its been a busy week in the Barras household, a week that has seen us go from 4 to 6 to 8 children and back down to 4 again. We had a birthday party and are now on a two day countdown to Ruben's 10th Birthday. I keep reminding him, as I do every year, that he should have arrived on the 19th! He told me on Monday "But mum I wanted to be born on the 30th so can we just leave it at that?" Fair enough! I think I may be in some sort of denial as having all four children in double digits in two days time is quite scary for me. When Ruben was born Bailey was 5, Piper 2 and Cordelia 1 and even though it does feel like 10 years ago it doesn't at the same time?! Its also strange to think that 7 years ago we made the decision to home educate and I was gathering lots of information and tentatively telling family and friends our plans to remove the eldest three from school after Christmas. That means our 7th year home educating anniversary in January to look forward too. In 18 days time my eldest daughter is also going to be a teenager, making two official teenagers in the house, I always get a little emotional towards the end of the year and am feeling it even more so this year.

We have spent much of the week planning for Ruben's Minecraft party, I've spent a lot of time reading blogs about Minecraft party ideas and Hubby has spent most of the week making some fantastic party game ideas. The girls are helping me with party food so its all covered and we have a very excited boy on our hands. He has had a haircut this week-much shorter than his normal haircuts but still longer than he initially wanted. We popped into the village craft shop for some party bits and pieces and found these fab mini animal projects. Ruben chose a Lion. All the pieces come in a small egg and then you just peel the foam pieces and stick it all together, he thought it was brilliant.

The girls had two of their best friends over to sleep on Monday, they haven't seen each other since August so there was a lot of catching up to do! They stayed for most of Tuesday too so there were lots of Monster High/LPS/Animal Jam games going off in between watching Mean Girls and drinking hot chocolates. Ruben's friend D popped over to see us on Tuesday, he has just gotten into Minecraft so Ruben was able to give him some help and tips on the game and we got to discussing the differences between the Xbox and PC games. Bailey passed me one of his gaming magazines to read an interesting article about Minecraft and its educational values. I'm really beginning to see the educational value for Ruben as his reading skills have come on so quickly and I think that's why he is now wanting to be on the game so often. He has built the most amazing rollercoaster track this week, and was explaining to me how the redstone makes the cart speed up because of the energy. This lead to us talking about the periodic table and watching the periodic table song on YouTube-amazing the places conversation can take you. we also ended up watching the Lowry song and spotting some of the paintings we had seen there when we visited last month. At the peak point on Tuesday we reached 8 home educated children in the house and it was still pretty quiet! Was eerily quiet when Ruben's friends went and hubby took the girls to drop their friends off and it was just 2 children in the house again!

Bailey has been concentrating on his game board this week, he has been re painting some of his scenery ready to go on the board. As well as doing his Maths and English work, he was supposed to go in to college on Tuesday evening to do a controlled English assignment but we have put it off a bit longer to give him some much needed time to work on some of his writing skills. He has also built his brother a really lovely present this week for his birthday!

Yesterday was my goddaughters 10th birthday, her and Ruben were due on the same day, she had a Vampire party so Cordelia and Ruben dressed up and had a fantastic time. Ruben literally didn't sit still the entire party, he just kept dancing and wasn't fazed that he was the only boy there in a sea of Vampire girls! Piper decided not to come, she really isn't one for parties. Hubby did their face paints and we managed to pull some things together quickly for their costumes, I think they look super scary...

This morning we spent at least an hour being educated on Minecraft music videos for Ruben's party by Bailey and the girls. I am amazed at the effort some of the people have gone to with their videos and some of the songs are just brilliant! I'd much rather listen to that than the actual Minecraft music which drives me crazy, I know lots of friends think its relaxing but I can't stand it. Lots of time spent making more things for the party (no wonder I am dreaming about Minecraft so much at the moment!) before we all, yes even Bailey, headed out to Meadowhall for the last bits of our Christmas shopping. We had tea out too which was a nice change as its quite a rare treat. The shops weren't too busy and the children enjoyed looking in the Lego shop. We are so organised for Christmas this year which is a great feeling, I have even managed to decorate the plain Christmas stockings I bought for the children two Christmasses ago! I'm hoping to have a crafty December without the stress of Christmas shopping and am setting myself a challenge to blog daily throughout December.....we'll see if that actually happens...

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Dr Who. 50th Anniversary Tardis Cake

We've all had a rotten cold, sore throats and coughs this last few days so no one has felt like doing much. Cordelia has caught up on the CBBC Junior Bake Off which has inspired her to try and be a bit braver with her own baking. She is having to learn the art of patience very quickly, a useful lesson that is perfectly learnt through baking.

A huge event in our house this weekend was the Dr Who 50th anniversary special on BBC1. We are all big fans of the Doctor here. Cordelia decided upon a Tardis cake to celebrate! She picked a new chocolate orange cake recipe which she then decorated with jam and sugar paste icing. She made glacé icing the finish the Tardis off, all of this was done entirely by her own hands-she found a recipe, lined a cake tin, made the mixture, put it in the oven, timed it, took it out of the oven, cut it to shape and finally iced it all by herself. We think she did a fantastic job, especially given she was feeling under the weather.

We all loved the episode, we kept shouting "we've been there" whenever the Tower of London was on (and decided we must take Hubby with us next time!) and now can't wait for the Christmas special :)

Some bonuses to being sofa bound have meant that I've managed to virtually finish all of my  Christmas shopping so I'm expecting a busy week of parcels. I even made lists for when I briefly popped to the shops so that I could get what I needed and back out again military style. Ruben and I noticed lots of Christmas decorations around...,

I think he makes a rather cute reindeer :)

Piper and Ruben have made good use of our new Lego room this week, we turned the office into a space for the children to use a Lego/playmobil room. It's a much better use for the room as it was just becoming a dumping ground for the business. The children are enjoying having a room downstairs all to themselves, they have been playing with the a Hobbit lego in anticipation of the new film in a few weeks. They want to see it on Christmas Eve again like we did last year :)

Bailey has really struggled with his English this week, I was so relieved when he started this course that the workload and pressure would be on someone else but it turns out I was pretty wrong. Whilst the courses are great the level of support and feedback has been very under whelming, meaning that we are now having to take on much more than I had anticipated. Although, this has made me feel incredibly fortunate that i'm in a position to do it and also another reason I'm glad it's my job and not someone else's. It might have felt like a step away from home education at first but it feels like a step much closer back now. It's all so new to us and such a learning curve.

I'll leave this post with some grass-moustaches from Ruben & Cordelia....

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Warhammer boards, Snow Gollum, Baking

A home day today after yesterdays super cold but fun day out. We are being so productive at the moment which is great, everyone is finding things to do and being creative without any force-a rare occurrence. 

Bailey has begun work on a games board for Warhammer, my father in law got him this huge piece of wood as a base so now Bailey is designing the board all by himself. Great planning skills. He has spent ages today on it so I 'm going to keep taking photos as he goes along.

Ruben is ahving a huge Minecraft addiction at the moment, which to be honest is proving a bit of a nightmare as too much screen time is detrimental to him so I'm making myself unpopular by making him take regular breaks away from the laptop. I know there is a lot of argument for allowing children to have as much screen time as they want and they will judge it for themselves but maybe they don't have to deal with the meltdowns from such time? I'm more of a moderation kind of mum. Each to their own.

The last few days he has been able to create Minecraft related things away from the computer. Last night he did lots of MInecraft drawing with some graph paper I found in the art cupboard and today he made himself a snow gollum from a tea bag box and some paper

He also made some Fimo party food for his creatures with a little help from Cordelia.

And he also made some Minecraft diamond swords from Hama beads.

And a pickaxe

We spent the morning watching Bear Grylls "Get Out Alive" which made for some great conversations about survival, plus it was based in New Zealand so there were lots of LOTR talk too :)

The girls have spent the day reading, playing Minecraft on the Xbox, sorting out unwanted Barbie items to sell and Cordelia has baked some yummy chocolate cookies.

After a homemade meat and potato pie for tea followed by leftover millionaires shortbread, the girls, Ruben, hubby and I all sat and watched CBBC's Junior Bake Off. Cordelia has now decided to enter for next year!

Donna Nook Seals

Yesterday we made a 160 mile round trip to Lincolnshire to see the Grey Seals at the RAF Donna Nook beach, its the first time we have been and I'm hoping not the last because it was such an amazing experience! A friend told us he had visited on Sunday and what an amazing thing it was to see so we wanted to see for ourselves. It was a really cold day, only 4 degrees with a really biting wind but we stayed for an hour watching and walking up and down the path.

This pup here must be a couple of weeks old as one of the volunteers told us they fill out really quickly due to the mother's milk being so rich.

There were thousands of them covering the beach, the noises they made were so human like, it sounded like lots of babies crying.

A mother seal or cow as they are called protecting her pup from the cold wind by laying across the top of it

There were lots of information boards all along the path which was great as I know nothing much at all about the Grey seals or why they come here to Donna Nook to have their pups and breed.

All four of the children were so impressed, when we arrived and parked we walked up and as soon as Ruben could hear them he just ran straight ahead to see them, it was such a sweet moment!

The seal pups had the biggest blue eyes

This one was only a few hours old as you can see the afterbirth in the photo too, the younger they are the more yellow/golden they are and their fur is all saggy, this is only up to 3 days old and then they fill out really quickly.

Such sweet faces!

It was so cute how they laid on  their backs

They were really inquisitive and showed no signs of being bothered by all the humans and their cameras taking photographs. This seal kept moving his hands as if he/she were clapping.

Mother seal playing with her pup in the sunshine

The mother seal lays on her back so the pup can get to her teats to feed

We just missed this seal being born by 5-10 minutes, already it was so confident moving away from its mother.

One of the volunteers spent ten minutes talking to us about how long the seals have been coming here for, how the numbers of pups born are increasing each year. In the 1980's it was around 50 pups to last years 1500 pups born. The pups born here have a better chance of survival,  10% of the pups born die here but compared to further up the course which is 25% its a dramatic difference. We could here the Bulls (male seals) fighting and warning each other off. When the cows have looked after the pups for the first three weeks, the pup is then weaned and goes off by itself, leaving the mother to breed again before she goes back out to see. The Grey seals are pregnant for about a year and come back here again to birth, they can have up to 25 pups in their lifetime.

Days like this remind me how great it is to home educate, having the freedom to just get up and decide this is where we are going to go. All the money we have paid to go to zoos over the years and all this visit cost us was £1 to park and the petrol to get here. The experience was really priceless as educational value was so high.

In the car on the way home, happily eating sandwiches and warming back up no one complained about the drive-a four hour round trip- and Cordelia even drew these pictures, inspired by the real life seals:

Back home and Cordelia decided to make Millionaire's Shortbread again, this time with salted caramel, it was delicious and created quite a fuss when I posted a photo on fb :) We also sat and watched episode 3 of Sky One's brilliant new comedy Yonderland from the writers and actors of Horrible Histories it is compulsive viewing!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Autumn Inspiring Art

As the weather was dry this morning and we are expecting a really cold weather front our way we made the most of it by taking the dog for a walk.

The colours at this time of year are spectacular and it makes for such a lovely scenic walk. I felt like we could be in New England in the US-a place I've always wanted to visit in Autumn.

Cordelia had a great time trying to catch falling leaves from the trees which she collected in a little bag. We spent a lot of time talking about party games to play at Rubens upcoming birthday party, and discussing how well Cordelia did at her horse riding lesson yesterday-she galloped for the first time! I love the lack of interruptions whilst we are on walks :)

Bailey has been concentrating on this weeks English work and also installed a Minecraft Mod for Ruben's Minecraft pc game. When we got back from the walk-which turned out to be 4.5 miles according to the map my walk app-Ruben played on Minecraft, Piper sorted some plant pots out with new flowers she had bought from the dolls house shop at the weekend and Cordelia used her collected leaves to make this beautiful picture :)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Hull Museums Quarter, William Wilberforce & The Deep

This week we had a day in Hull, we have visited several times before and only gone to The Deep Aquarium and home again so this time we decided to see what the museum quarter was like. We took Rubens two friends R & M along with us as Bailey didn't want to come along as he was busy with his coursework. The Deep was a little busy with a school group but not too bad, its our third visit in a year and will probably be our last in a while now our 12 month ticket has run out.

Last week I started a project with the children about slavery, I found some great online resources from:

Liverpool Slavery Museum and also some information about William Wilberforce, the Map of Slavery Products proved a really informative talking point for us. Its something we plan on working on much further with the children. A great coincidence then when I found one of the museums in the quarter to be William Wilberforce's house. I was a little concerned as its such an intense topic and I have had to talk about some uncomfortable things that unfortunately do happen in life. Rape and sexual exploitation are not comfortable topics to discuss but I think they are important to be aware of, rape is a word that is used frequently at present and I'm noticing more and more how it is featuring in programmes that I want the children to have an understanding about it. It is a sad but incredibly relevant topic and I'm glad that we are the ones to teach them about it.

The museum was really good, there was a lot of reading but I think some of the messages made an impact on the children. Its not just a topic that is part of history but an ongoing problem worldwide and so it was interesting to see where it all began and where it is now. Even though its a new topic for us the children knew some of the things they saw as we'd discussed them, including the map of slavery products and also the trade triangle. There were also quotes around the house that the children recognized like Martin Luther King and Anne Frank.

The Hull Museum was really impressive too, there was a huge Woolly Mammoth-which impressed all of us! Lots of information about the Bronze and Iron Age and a really spectacular Roman display including mosaics which were found in Lincoln. Really unexpected gem of a museum I can't believe we haven't visited before!

The children's favourite I think though was the Transport Museum. It had some fantastic old vehicles such as trams, buses, cars and carts as well as shops set out from the 1930's onwards. The children just ran off looking at everything, and as it was really quiet when we visited it was perfect for them. I did think it funny when they spent so much time in the phone box as this wasn't even that old! They all loved the arcade area which had arcade games from the twentieth century, they enjoyed the Laughing Policeman the most I think.