Boring what we did updates

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E (age 6) and I are doing Five in a Row again. I’m tired, so it’s an easier way to manage, just like when Astrid was new. We started this week with The Story of Ferdinand and so far we’ve been doing the topics through conversation, which is working fine for her. She’s a very switched-on, thoughtful, articulate child, really. The selfish little horror. I think she’s got about the perfect balance for Being Six Years Old. She’s a delight.

As long as you don’t try to read her reading books while she’s using them to teach herself to read. If you do it FOR her you are HINDERING her ability to LEARN how to do it FOR HERSELF. YOU HAS BEEN WARNED.

I got L (age 8) the Beyond Five in a Row set and she has read almost the whole curriculum manual already – in three days – and most of The Boxcar Children and she and E made a Lego boxcar today and acted out the book very carefully – L read the book, said to E “And now you say ‘must be five blueberries’” and E said “Must be five blueberries,” and L said “‘Or even ten’” and E said “Or even ten,” all very obediently. Never works for me.

A hasn’t been in hospital or seen by paramedics for over a week. Her last one was mild concussion from jumping on the bed. She likes jumping.

Making tea and drinking it was WAY better than a temper tantrum.
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And we began a balsa wood model, no photos by request, and painted with acrylic, and baked, and briefly looked at baking powder, water, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Oh, and fractions.

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I’m most interested in the 6yo and the 2yo teaching each other to read. The 6yo really cares about the rules and gets cross when books do easy to read texts “wrong”.

We have loads of stargates in our house: they are in the children’s eyes

We went stargazing this evening. The eight-year-old wouldn’t keep quiet so we could point stuff out to the six-year-old, because Vega emits some hundred many times light more than the sun — five hundred? I wasn’t listening, because I was trying to show the 6yo the Big Dipper — and she thinks Altair is a really romantic name for a star.

We actually went out to show off the fig tree we planted yesterday. When we dug the old dead weeds out of the pot, we found an ants’ nest inside, and spent a little while watching them carrying eggs around (“Nah, I’ve seen ant eggs before, Mu-um,” “LARVAE, Mum, LARVAE,”) before emptying the soil out and replacing it with freshish compost. I think the ants will be able to rebuild their civilization in the old soil’s new location. Except for the ones which crawled onto us as we dig and met a sudden and untimely end.

Today

went incredibly badly and I spent much of the day in other people’s foul tempers and some of it in my own. But towards the end, after I had read FOUR CHAPTERS of the scintillating intellectual treat that is £$%^& Noddy and eaten most of the chocolate cherry flan on my own because only one child wanted to help me, the 6yo started repairing a stool she picked up at the side of the road on Friday, and I forgave them almost everything.

I was glad to go stargazing though. A little enthusiasm after a day of negativity goes a long way.

And I have no idea at all what happened with the formatting for this post. Whu?

The toddler (2 year old) is identifying letters when she passes street signs, and demanding “What dove dat shay?” of almost all written matter.

The 6 and 8 year olds are creating a binary counting system for a stuffed hedgehog, because it can’t count past 2 yet.

The 6 year old has somehow made me explain single-cell reproduction and evolution using only my hands long after bedtime in the light spilling in to her bunkbed from the open bedroom door.

The 8 year old seems to have sorted out fractions and percentages herself and is working on probability. She’s a bit careless with basic addition and subtraction, but can do it when she focuses. Money is no longer a mystery to her (though she can’t quite understand that the physical notes, coins etc have value; they are just numbers and tokens to her).

History and animals are still the biggest hottest things in town.

I just heard them yelling “Should we turn the gravity on?” “Oh yeah, I don’t want to cling onto this chair forever.” “Of course, I’m trying to steer myself upstairs and -” “Aughaughaugh!” “- gravity’s on!” “Phew.”

It’s back to school season. The stationers’ in town are all jam-packed, everywhere is selling backpacks off cheap, and the weather has suddenly turned gloriously sunny again after a fairly disappointing August.

It is both sunny and not dangerously hot, so I’ve been encouraging the children to practice on their balance bikes again. It’s a thing where at least one of them will need nagging practice to overcome her self-doubt, which is a shame, but these things happen. I saw a glimmer of pride in her today, and we might get more of those soon.

With the help of a generous friend, I took my three children to the cinema to see Brave. It was great! We went into town a little early to pick up a hat for E and a replacement wallet for me (turns out 14 years was as much as the little thing I picked up on a stall off Oxford St when I first moved to London could handle), and had something to eat from McDonalds, and then went to the cinema in time for the film – we deliberately skipped the trailers.

I had earplugs for the older two girls, which helped, but even so it was so loud my eldest had to leave early. We think that she’ll enjoy the film on DVD when it comes out but this was the final test of the cinema experience and we are now certain that it’s not for her. Even when she enjoys the film, she hates the noise. She’d have liked the cinema I used to go to in Stillorgan in the early 1990s, I think.

My middle daughter sat on my lap crying with terror for quite a lot of it but ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT and came out beaming and bouncy. The toddler danced to the music and was a bit scared of the bears. And I had a great time and enjoyed it a lot and admired the animation enormously. It’s not often I see a non-Ghibli film I approve of, and this was one.

To round the outing off, we went for donuts afterwards, and then came home.


Today, I went out and weeded the allotment for some Alone Time, and the children were babysat and went to the playground. After lunch, we went to the library to play games (and borrow some books, obv) and came home via the supermarket where we got ice-cream cones. We’re almost at the stage where we can send them even to the big supermarket alone, but not quite.

And they came home in a hurry and ate their Booja Booja in waffle cones with hundreds and thousands just in time to change for Girls’ Brigade.

(Let us skim over the toddler discovering the age-old tactic of Lying Face-Down On The Supermarket Floor And Crying. No-one enjoyed it.)

L(8) did a science experiment. Actually, it’s ongoing. She’s testing the effect vinegar, water and air have on chicken bones. The answer is “not much after 18 hours.” We’ve been getting along much better in general, and I’m learning how to tie her physical and emotional and mental stuff together to create a new wholeness for her, an integrated self-experience, or something. That seemed fine until I wrote it down and now seems really woo-woo and poncy. She has also recently developed an interest in cooking, which is great.

E(almost 6) has been cooking up a storm and is very competent at separating eggs, peeling and chopping, pouring, and so on. Not so hot on measuring. She relies on L to use the microwave for her, because it’s very high up. She’s also ploughing on with learning to read, and writing a fair bit.

A(very nearly 2) is walking, talking, climbing, dressing herself (can’t manage socks yet), using the toilet or potty, counting to two and sometimes three, and learning more about names and how they work – she can now answer “what’s your name?” with her own, actual name.

I’ve been painting and selling paintings at another blog for a while and then I opened an Etsy Shop and it’s very exciting, for me and for the children – they find the process of painting, selling, using the money to buy more canvas, etc, novel and exciting. E in particular is very vocal about it.

Dishwasher maths – what’s nine and nine and three? Ten and ten minus one-and-one plus three… EIGHTEEN!

Checking up on the peas, carrots, mange tout, and berries – they are growing, hurrah!

Weeding with a hoe.

Playing in ever-changing groups of children aged under one to over eight.

Shopping for food.

Making toad in the hole.

Pronouncing de-sigh-zhuns, and other words which are interesting to read.

Running around yelling like mad.

Climbing.

Sliding.

Drawing.

Checking the post and using limited reading skills to hand it to the right recipients.

It’s been a busy day.

Today we did minimal housework, ate lunch, went to the library, paid fines, got a couple of new books, made a note that Owen’s Animals are there on 30 June, got the bus to the hospital, went to a museum, walked halfway home, got a bus, came home, ate, did bedtime. It was, unlike most of my days recently, fine.

We nipped briefly in to the Museum of English Rural Life for maybe an hour today. I’ve lived here for ten years and we’d never been before, which is mad considering how very close to the hospital it is and how often we seem to be there, but today we were in Paediatric Audiology so that someone could look at the toddler’s tonsils, and when we came out there was the museum, just across the road. So in we went.

It was lovely. We’ll have to go back to do it properly, but there is lots of extra information attached to the displays, some dressing up clothes (we love the Roman clothes in the Silchester Gallery at Reading Museum), and 14 rats to find (we managed 8 between the three of us, today). There’s a working model of a threshing machine, which I enjoyed; they are major plot points in several books I can think of, from Laura Ingalls to Walter Macken. There are also several films to watch, which we might do next time.

There was even stuff in the shop the kids could afford – a Victorian girl paper doll with four outfits, and a pencil, and some Kendal Mint Cake.

I’ve abandoned all my principles and it’s working. After the most awful week we’ve ever had, I think, I drew up checklists for the girls – make bed, brush hair, clean teeth, get dressed, do some literacy stuff, do some maths stuff – and made a 30-minute screen session conditional on a completed column of ticks.

And it’s working. And I’ve learned something.

Spelling isn’t awful or miserable for the seveneight-year-old (Oh my GAWD she’s EIGHT!) if I don’t combine it with writing. So if we use Bananagrams letters, it’s much easier. And if we use words that combine and form other words, it’s exciting and interesting. And if she chooses every second word, that’s good too. I haven’t worked out the limits yet, but we’ve had eel-heel-wheel, ape-cape-escape, and quick and queen, and pocket, paleontology, packet, polycarbonate, rocket, and things like that. I’m hoping that working on spelling will translate into reading more accurately, too, which will help her pronunciation of words like polycarbonate and paleontology so I’ll know what she means before she writes them down.

She’s extremely keen to play Settlers of Catan again and we’re going to do it as soon as she has cleared a space on the dining table and set up the board. Hopefully it will take less than two hours this time.

My own ticklist makes me take my pills and eat my meals, so that’s good too.

We’re trying to get up a pattern of painting on Mondays. We had three other children in yesterday, and one of mine and two of the visitors painted, so that was lovely. I might need a better source of very cheap canvas and boards or this could get expensive quickly. Any suggestions?

We played a game of Settlers of Catan today, with the seven-year-old, me, and the five-year-old teamed up with her daddy. The children grasped it pretty quickly and enjoyed it quite a lot. It took a long time, because we hadn’t played it in about eight years and the children had never played it before, but it went well and we want to do it again.

We also did some spellings with Bananagrams tiles, which worked much better than doing them with handwriting; handwriting is complicated enough for the seven-year-old that it’s no fun to add another thing to the mix.

The five-year-old read to me from the Reading Eggs books we got in a package, and tackled one she wasn’t totally confident with and got it all right. She won’t usually tackle reading she’s not sure she knows.

And it turns out that the seven-year-old can quickly, in her head, work out fractions of an hour. I had no idea and it will be really useful.

And the 21-month-old can breathe, which is brilliant, and count to two, and recite to five sometimes.

It has been a satisfying day.

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