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

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Self harm, Cahms, Anxiety

I wrote this last year in June but I've spent a lot of time wondering whether or not it should be posted. It's quite personal but I really think it's important so....

I haven't written a blog post for quite a while so this feels a little strange but I'm hoping it will be cathartic for me. Yesterday culminated in months of appointments with cahms (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) for our eldest daughter, she has been having mental health problems since the beginning of 2014. Despite our close relationship, and being home educated we didn't actually know that our daughter had actually begun self-harming a few months previously. Luckily for us, she did tell us, one March morning she was waiting outside our bedroom when I came out and I could tell by the look on her face something was wrong. It was a really scary moment, and I had the awful feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach when you know something is wrong but you don't know what it is. It made me feel sick and anxious all at once as we sat her and I on my bed and she told me she had been cutting herself. I can't describe the feeling of hearing those words, it was excruciatingly painful. And if I felt that bad I knew she must be feeling even worse.

Mental health problems run in my family, my mother has been on anti-depressants for as long as I can remember. She is an incredibly troubled person and I don't think it was a coincidence that at the time my daughter was struggling mentally, my mother was coming around at different times of day and night, usually in tears or close to, sometimes bruised, sometimes hungry and in various forms of moods but rarely in a good one. At the time she was in the middle of a marital break-up, her fifth to be precise and things had turned violent and rather nasty. Since this was how my childhood had always been I was used to these scenes and scarily they had become "normal" to me or at least my "normal". That's not to say that it is easy to see someone you love in great distress or being abused. But my mother can give as good as she gets and can be equally as abusive and violent. I have been on the other end of that so I know this to be true first hand. Stupidly and rather naively I didn't see how my daughter, who was 13 at the time, was being affected by her behaviour. I'm not saying that this is the sole reason for the issues which followed, far from it. It is one tiny piece in a huge picture. Rather more I am reflecting on how issues which have affected my own mental health have played a part in my daughter's mental health.

We didn't go to the doctors straight away, we thought we could deal with it as a family. It was a decision that felt right to us at the time, we are a close family and sine we work from home we are around a lot of the time. Still the self-harm continued, one night to a very frightening incident when she cut too deep, threw up and nearly fainted. She did ask for help that night and so I was with her and caught her when she nearly hit the bathroom floor. There are a lot of things I've done as a mother of four children but nothing as heart breaking as fixing my daughter after she had harmed herself. Nothing has ever caused me so much pain. I wanted to fix her, to put all the pieces back and make her whole again. Put the smile back on her face and the cheer back in her step. It didn't happen like that of course, because mental health problems can't be antiseptic wiped and plastered like a cut can.

I actually understand it, the self-harm, I don't want to if I'm honest but I do. The need to feel something and the release you must feel when it is let out. But once she had told us, the release wasn't as good and the guilt of doing something that you know is causing pain to others brings a whole new set of issues with it. The self-harm lessened but her mood got worse and then the panic attacks began. We reached a point where we hadn't slept properly in months and were just feeling pretty desperate so we booked an appointment with the nicest doctor at our surgery. Her dad took her, for some reason I always think the doctor's listen more when it is the dad that goes-like it must really mean their worried, not just being on over-protective mother. The doctor was very patient and refereed us to CAHMS.  It took from October that year until July 2015 before we got an appointment. We did try a private counsellor in that time but it wasn't really of any help to her.

The process with cahms has been slow, waiting for appointments and then they decided on an assessment for ASD. As our eldest son has Asperger's and our daughter showed some possible signs, we filled in the questionnaire where she scored 14, the cut off for testing is 15 so they decided to go ahead with all the assessments. In that time we got to know the counsellor Louise very well. Our daughter liked her too. She got quite frustrated with the process and different assessments and we had lots of emotions we had to deal with in the meantime. But ultimately we pulled together as a family, I'd like to say we had the support of other family members but that wouldn't be true. We had some close friends that knew but we mainly worked through it all between us. I'm lucky because I have the most amazing husband and one of the things I love about him is his ability to be the most compassionate father. The children really don't know how lucky they are to have him because they don't know anything else, they've never had another dad. But I do. I see the strain of what we've been through in the past two years has taken on him.

Yesterday we had the results of all the assessments, our daughter doesn't have ASD, we weren't sure but we were leaning more to not as the day grew closer. The assessments showed she has high social anxiety, which when I looked at the report and saw all the observations that we had made about her throughout childhood written down made so much sense. It seemed to explain so much. At the same time I felt so guilty because I have such high anxiety I feel responsible for "passing it on" so to speak. Louise said that there are studies showing anxiety can be passed genetically down and also during pregnancy through the womb. I can't remember not feeling anxious ever, I am an over-thinker and an over-analyser. Its pretty exhausting and so many times I have explained these feelings to my daughter, I've explained that I understand and given her some techniques that I use to cope when things get too much for me. Louise also explained to her that although the anxiety could have been passed on from me that it came from a place of great love and that being anxious can't hurt you or stop you from doing anything. The next part of the process is waiting for cognitive behaviour therapy to help her manage her anxiety. Amongst all of the assessments her intelligence was also found to be superior in some areas and her overall IQ is very high, Louise said she thinks her to be very cool and quirky and she hasn't seen anyone score so highly on verbal comprehension. This goes back to when she was classed as "gifted and talented" along with her younger sister in school at the age of 6. I will say that I felt a bit of relief with that, I had worried that being home educated might have changed that and they somehow might have lost it like a pair of socks in the dryer. How stupid to think such a thing, but like I said I am a worrier, an over-thinker, a guilt-carrier. In fact, Louise said that due to the nurturing environment and alternative schooling that our daughter had received this had developed her skills even further. It shouldn't feel a relief because I know all of this deep down but there is nothing like hearing it from someone else to alleviate all your fears. She also told us we were a wonderful family and that as parents we had done everything we could have done to help her through it all. This was not the first time she had told us this, at another meeting between hubby, her and I she told us that we had done an excellent job of allowing our children the freedom to express themselves-through different fashion, hair colours and artistically. The way we had taken time to learn about things that were important to our children, whether that be social media, meme's, music, fashion, LGBT issues, anime. All of that showed her how committed we were to helping and supporting all of our children through the tricky teen years.

In retrospect, none of that actually means that we can stop mental health issues developing or our teenagers hating us at times. We are not a couple of miracle workers. What we are is two parents who love and respect our children enough to want them to understand themselves better, cope with the pressures of modern life-social media being high up there! We want to be here even when it gets ugly and messy and things get said that shouldn't and it all becomes too much. And sometimes it does become too much for us, as hard as we try, there are times when it all seems to big a mountain to climb and it'd just be easier and less stressful to sit on this pretty little ledge and look at the view from down here rather than at the top of the mountain. But, as in so much of life, the climb to the top is always worth the extra effort. It's always worth the blood, the sweat, the tears and the sleepless nights. Because worrying and questioning it all is what makes us good enough for the job in the first place.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall

Whilst in Cornwall we found the most magical beach, it was a hell of a climb down to be honest but just the view from above was so stunning we couldn't wait to explore!

This was the view from the top..

The steps!

The steps down were so steep and there were so many of them. But when we got down there, there were so few people and it felt like we could be anywhere in the world.

So many little coves started to appear as the tide went out and there were all these gargantuan rock formations, all weathered away by the sea and forming lots of different shape. One looked like a witch's hat and another had a huge window inside it. There were caves you could go really far back into, rocks to climb and so many rock pools to explore. Some of the rock pools were deep enough to even swim in!

There was a huge pile of the largest rocks and we could just glimpse some beach behind it and saw a few others clambering over them. Hubby and Bailey went to explore taking Loki and were gone for over half an hour; curiosity got the better of me and I attempted to climb over the rocks and see where they had gone too. It was a really tough climb over, the girls and Ruben decided to stay where they were and just enjoy the views from the rocks. But of my goodness it was so worth the climb. It was like something out of a film and apart from Hubby and Bailey there was no one in this cove at all.

Looking at those blue skies makes it hard to believe we were still in the UK!

Ruben was worried about starving but thankfully we had brought rations with us-he is ALL about the food that one.

It was such an amazing day, I hope we get to go back and visit another time but for me this beach will always be an incredibly special memory.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Greenway House, the home of Agatha Christie

Piper has been an Agatha Christie fan for as long as I can remember, I think she started reading her books when she was 8 or 9 years old. A few years ago I remember seeing that the National Trust looked after Agatha's holiday home in Dorset so I knew if we were ever nearby we would have to visit!

You have to book the car park in advance-so bear that in mind if you are planning a trip- but there are other ways to arrive at Greenway; you can arrive by boat and steam train. I don't have sea legs so that was ruled out for me and I would have loved to arrive by steam train but our budget didn't allow..

The house and grounds were really busy when we visited, but it was a very warm week in June. The house is full of collections of all sorts of things,, Victorian shell pictures, stamp boxes, pottery, smoking pipes and of course a collection of Agatha's books, first editions all signed by her.

The staff are really great to talk to and I'm not sure what it was about us (it was me, the girls and Ruben as hubby was outside enjoying the sunshine with Loki) maybe the eclectic hair colour collection? Or maybe the rareness of teenagers but all the staff in the downstairs rooms wanted to talk to us. The first room had a really endearing painting of Agatha aged 4 years old, she was slumped in a chair with her doll and looked very bored, as a child of four made to sit for a painting quite would I suppose! The actual doll from the painting was sat in the chair underneath the painting;

She doesn't actually look the same as the doll in the picture but it made me think about Piper and her doll collections at one point and I told the staff member we were talking to about our trip years ago to the Vina Cooke Doll Museum. She said it sounded fascinating. She got talking to us all about our hobbies and in particular Cordelia's art.

The next room we went into was the sitting room and housed Agatha's beautiful piano, I never knew she was a trained concert pianist until the staff in the room told us. She got up halfway though playing ballet music on the piano and said "I've come to talk to you because you look like such an interesting group of people" that made me laugh! We found out that Agatha was home educated too, I think I probably knew that but had forgotten. We were told some wonderful stories about Agatha but I'm not revealing them because it felt like a really special moment being told some secrets!

I think for me a really special moment was seeing Agatha's wardrobe!! It still had her original clothes and some of her daughter's too. I adore vintage clothing and would have loved to have looked through the wardrobe properly and maybe even tried things on but obviously I couldn't. Felt like a magical moment to be stood there though looking at all her dresses.

There were photo's in the gift shop and one in the house of David Suchet who played Hercule Poirot with the staff. He had also signed a copy of a screenplay for one of the episodes that was filmed at the Boathouse. It was the Dead Man's Shoes story. Piper was really excited to be able to visit the boathouse which is in the grounds of the gardens and has stunning views, it was used to film one of the death scenes from the Poirot series.

The battery was referenced in the book Five Little Piggies. The views are stunning from here, you can see right out on to the River Dart.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

We had a lovely week in Cornwall at the beginning of June. We were so fortunate with weather and during the whole week didn't see a drop of rain-rare for a UK holiday. We were supposed to be travelling for two weeks through Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland but given the current climate of things none of us really wanted to and so we cancelled our booking and opted to stay in the UK instead. 

We are so lucky to have such beautiful places here in the UK, and it was amazing how very far away we felt from everything whilst we were staying there. It is only the second time we have visited Cornwall, and I am really in love with the place.

Our second day-the first day was recovering from the 7 hour drive, swimming and a trip to beautiful Perranporth beach- we headed to Penzance but noted how close we were to St Michael's Mount and so had a slight de-tour. I have seen so many photos of this place but it is a truly magical place. The weather changed quite dramatically even in the two hours we were there. Unfortunately, dogs aren't allowed on the beach :-( so we had to walk on the path instead. Ruben hopped on to the beach to look for stones though. 

How grown up the four pesky hobbits are now. Bailey (19) Ruben (13) Piper (16) and Cordelia (15)

This is the view from St Michael's Mount. When the tide is high you can only reach it by boat and I was amazed to find out that there are 30 residents living on the island full-time. What an interesting place to live!

I think I would get a bit fed up with all the visitors though, we couldn't visit the castle even though we are members of the National Trust because we had Loki with us and no dogs are allowed in the castle or gardens. So we will have to come back another time.

By the time we had walked back to the car the clouds had broken and we had some sunshine :-)

Ruben looking for stones

I'm back...we're back

Hello old blog. I missed you.

I missed writing about our adventures and all the places we visit-and we do visit a lot of places!

I also missed writing about our alternative education, I don't much call it home education any more because it doesn't feel right, if you see what I mean? It never did to be honest. Alternative fits us better. I also think it is a shame not to write about the four pesky hobbits but I will obviously not be revealing everything they are up to.

That's pretty much all there is too say. You might notice my name change to. It was way overdue.