Sunday, April 29, 2007

Been a Busy Weekend…

…but I'm finally feeling 'ready' for this baby to arrive J. I went to Ikea yesterday and spend too much money (as one always does in that place), but came home in my Mum's Astra with a new mattress for Joel's bed (the primary purpose of the trip), a whole new set of baby bedding (see piccies) - now need to rake out the old stuff and freecycle it all, but I just wanted the bed to be fresh for this one - dunno why, but Caleb has taken the cot-bed duvet onto his bed (rather attached to the cover) and it's big enough, so I don't need to buy him a new one for a while this way. The Ikea cot-quilt is so cheap J - always a good thing and the cover is blue, but really pretty & unisex and as the baby is sharing the room with Jake it can't be pink even if it is a girl L !

What else did I buy - cushions for the kids mammut stools to stop us all getting sweaty botties ( ! ), hanging pots and tubs to hold all the 'changing stuff, lotions and potions,' a rail to attach to Jake's wall for his half-dirty clothes to go on (he's so untidy - I can but try…), a bin for Mum and some bath mats for her work - oh and a light to attach to the top of Jake's bed as a reading light for him. So a fair bit really!! I love that place J. My next big expedition (when money allows) will be to buy the Trofast I want to get to re-design the storage in the girls room, which is currently beginning to fall apart and is not very good use of the space anyway. But the bank account needs to catch us up a bit first!!

It's been a beautiful weekend here - hope it has been for you too. I just feel lifted by this weather (and it's cheaper to get the washing dry!), but I do feel very tired now and hope this baby will choose to arrive sooner rather than later. I am significantly bigger than I have felt with the other 7lb-ers, so I think this one will be more on the Ellie scale (almost 10lb) if it doesn't arrive on time. On the whole I feel well, and not hugely uncomfortable - only hindered & encumbered really, especially when it comes to doing normal things - like picking things up and putting on socks - another reason to be grateful for nice weather!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


…what a little verbal motivation can do. The promise of doing Hama, craft and arty stuff this afternoon prompted a concerted effort to get the essentials out of the way this morning, so maths and English were done by 11.30 (playgroup run time). That's to say - Joel did a couple of pages of MEP maths & a mental maths exercise that he does every day, four pages of S&S English (finished the book he was on) & his Bible study. Boo did Bible study, Handwriting, MEP maths (2 pages), S&S English & about 15mins on EC Literacy. Phoebe did Bible study, 3 pages of her S&S Numbers book, Headsprout and about 25 minutes on EC. Only thing really left to do, which I will get them to do at the end of the day, is Spellingtime - I never get much protest about that. It will be good when the website eventually get 'math time' up and running too. The kids all want to get going on that. Don't know what it is about that website, but it's enjoyable/tolerable to all of them!

It's now almost 2pm and the kids are fed, watered and have played for an hour in their room (Barbies as always - groan..!) and outside for a bit too (stroking rabbits is a major incentive to go outside!), so now to embark on the afternoon's activities. I wonder what creations will come forth. I bought some cheap Hama from Aldi (sorry Merry), not so much for the beads (which I have no idea what they will be like), but for the patterns, which are the kind whereby you can put the board over the pattern and match the colours underneath. My little ones find that so much less frustrating and immediately rewarding than having to follow the lines of a printed pattern, which confuses them and takes too much time for their attention span and more often than not means they don't actually complete what they were doingL.

Oh - and now the request to do cookery…hmm, I think not - that's one I always need to get my head round more in advance and get the 'stuff' in for, so it's not that easy - especially with 5 little ones' fingers in the bowl/pot!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

A tired horse…    

…leading a weary donkey! That's how school felt today, but we got there in the end! We all seemed to have a bit of a busy weekend and it knocked the stuffing out of us all I think. That, accompanied by the daily battles with Jake when he gets in from school to do anything but play on the PS2 … and being almost 37weeks pregnant now. Perhaps I should have just cut my losses today, but somehow I can never seem to just do that, especially when it's only been one week since the Easter hol's.

Suddenly Ellie too has decided she wants to join in with 'school' in the afternoons, so I have got out a couple of S&S books for her and working with some nice basic concepts with her. I pleased with what she's achieving actually and I only let her do a little - stopping before she starts to scribble! I want her to know the difference between books she can do as she likes with and 'school' books - where she has to do as she is asked.

Hoping tomorrow will be better for us all J


Thursday, April 19, 2007

BMO vs ED City

BMO only covers yrs 3-6 atm. They are planning to have the KS1 package before too long (I shall sign up for that too). It is heaps cheaper than EC and is one payment for as many children as you want to add on to it! It is designed as SAT revision and does assume some previous knowledge of the topics - It doesn't actually 'teach' the child as such, BUT I think it can be used as a major teaching tool. There is enough in it to actually teach the topics with - iyswim. And there is enough repetition to make it stick without being boring! You can even turn off the little characters that 'chat' to the children (which mine find irritating). The certificate is printed at the end of the day with all the 'scores' for what has been done on (one for each area - maths, science & English), but you have to remember to print it before you change subjects or it forgets what you did. However in the teacher's area it does keep a record of what each child has achieved. This is not however a 'progress report' like you get with EC - it's just scores, 8/10 etc.. You can assign certain 'topics' - but not PER CHILD - what you assign for one you assign for all. It does not quite have the functionality of EC in that respect. It's a lot more basic! J

I like EC - but do find parts of it frustrating. The kids find it a bit slow at times and get confused because it uses the same activities in all areas of the Curriculum - so they think they have 100% stuff when they haven't (they did something in Maths and don't realise they need to do the same activity in English too - now called Literacy).

Also the phonics is very inconsistent in its methodology, which I have emailed them about - still not heard back though! I do like the fact that it is SO customizable though and their progress reports are a god-send to me, as I can't always be on the children's shoulders!

Hope that helps some of you with questions - fire away if you have more!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Do you know the answers..?

I cannot rave about BrightmindsOnline enough. Today my 8 yo and my 6 yo hand in hand were learning the seven life processes. This is Junior 1 level science and Boo is really not struggling with it, just needs the odd bit of prompting here and there.

So, can you tell me what 'MR NERG' is the mnemonic for?

And, do you know what all living things are made of, as opposed to what all non-living things are made of? (one word answers)

Jake has also done the whole of this section and I think it's really helped him too. He did some work on Materials today though (one of last terms topics for us) and I was shocked by how little of the vocabulary he understood. How can an almost 10yo not know the meaning of 'transparent'? I think it is all linked to his 'auditory-memory' problems (as diagnosed last year and largely ignored by the school). I think he is taught too much from the front in spoken word, then they do worksheets - fair enough - but there is very little hands-on science happening from what I can tell and it worries me, because this is how Jake remembers - when he sees and does things with his hands it is much more likely that information will be retained by him. In actual fact I think most of my children learn that way - like their dad! So with the ones I have at home we do stuff lots of ways; we read, we do worksheets, we 'play' with the information and we regurgitate it. The older ones write down what they've learned in words, charts and diagrams - whatever. The younger ones draw pictures and tell me what needs to be written to go with them. And so my 8 & 6 year olds are better able to express their knowledge (in words and pictures) than my 10 yo is L.

Anyway - remains to say that I am very impressed by the level of BMO (as I will now call it) and highly recommend it to you all!

On a less progressive note; I have restarted Phoebe on Headsprout - back to episode one (bless her). She 'gets' the lessons as she does them, but fails to retain them to the next day. I really am wondering if she has similar problems to Jake, only difference is she is SO afraid to get things wrong she goes mute and won't even give it a go L It is worrying and I don't want her to feel a failure by setting her back, but I also don't want to race ahead when she doesn't have solid blocks to build on! Headsprout is VERY repetitive (to the point where I think she would be bored, but she isn't), yet she fails to retain anything beyond the span of the lesson time. What she learns today she forgets tomorrow.

Not sure where to really go from here…not an auditory learner for sure - really struggles with 'hearing' sounds correctly, so 'feel' becomes 'fill', or 'full', and 'fr' becomes 'fur' - really hard to work on that. She consistently hears 'vvvvvvvv' as 'fffffffffffff' too - Hmmm!

Not a kinsthetic learner - I don't think - in that even hands-on activities have not really helped her retain (might try play-dough letters though, not done that yet).

Not visual - I don't think - or she would be remembering more of headsprout than she is, as it is very visual!

Or it might just be that she is a bit of all of these, but has retention problems. I feel a bit lost!! I'm hoping that with lots of repetition, encouragement to try (if I can hold my patience when she won't!) and slowly, slowly edging forward we will just 'get there' in the end. I'm not sure what I'll do if she doesn't learn to read by the end year (i.e. Dec) - that'll be a whole new ball game for me. None of mine have had a problem up til now - not like this one - and my whole 'curriculum' is geared towards reading children. She is SO bright in other ways I feel she will be really hindered if she simpy can't do it, yet I do recognise that there are kids out there who really can't learn to read at this age (if ever) and if it turns out that way I shall be asking for lots of advice!!

That'll do me for today.

Btw - now I've figured how to blog from Word again (having Office 2007 J has made that possible) you will be probably be hearing more from me. Picassa has got easier too, so picture posting is simpler too - all good news!! Blogging from Blogger was a fiddle - this is easy J and I get my smileys too!

We Have Houdinies

What is it about the pets I own - they all seem to be great escape artists! This morning I awoke to the sound of "where are the rabbits?" - of course I panicked, especially when I then heard Joel saying the neighbourhood cat was about! Anyway, a few minutes later both rabbits were found and safely coaxed back into their run - and the cat was around but not being aggressive towards them thankfully! It seems to be a common theme with me. I once had a hamster who could escape from any form of confinement - cage & exercise wheel. And as a kid I had a cat who was rather keen on straying away from home (despite being spade). Thing is - I know Paul was the last one to close up the hutch after he put the rabbits to bed last night, so it was unlikely to have been open in anyway. Not sure if the cat was inquisitive enough to let them out, or whether they managed it themselves - either way we need to better secure the hutch (ho humm). Fortunately we no longer live on a madly busy road and although Beth had go out to the front, she was in no real danger - other than from the cat! Why is keeping pets never simple J.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Good Start

Two days into a new term and the enthusiasm is blowing me away. I don't know when I remember two weeks break doing the kids so much good. Maybe it was the fact they could spend the majority of it in the garden, I dunno, but they have been just fab the last two days!

Phoebe is up and raring to go in the mornings and thoroughly seems to be enjoying her little bit of school at the moment. Boo is her usual enthusiastic self J and even Joel has kicked up very little fuss. BrightmindsOnline has definitely been a good move for him. In fact yesterday I had him and Boo working together on Junior 1 science (life processes) and while some of it was a bit above Boo's head they both came out of it with a good understanding of what the seven life processes are (what all living things have in common) and they were both able, with a little bit of assistance, able to record them in their 'science' exercise books. I was really pleased with it. Jake did the same work when he came home and didn't do much better at it than them!

I've got Jake doing 30 minutes of BrightmindsOnline when he comes home from school (if he has no other homework) because I really feel his educational level is dropping L. I did the MEP maths Year 5 assessment test with him over the hols - he struggled with some of the year 3 level work and only got about 70% overall, which works out to Level 3. When you think that he was working at Level 4 when he entered school almost two years ago this is a bit disheartening and when we discuss things at home that I know he has covered at school I realise that he remembers very little of it - in many areas, but especially science and maths, which used to be his strong points. It really saddens me and I really worry about it, but at the same time I am still not sure I can cope with adding him back into the mix at home the year after next. I think I shall continue to work with him more outside of school, without overloading him, and gently coaxing him back into the feel of HS, with the hope that he will see its benefits and not kick against me too hard. Honestly speaking though, I think even he can see that he is not doing as well as he was and he is a little disappointed with himself. Tests have always, strangely, been fairly good motivators for him. I guess that he has always thought of himself as one of the 'clever' ones because initially he really was, but now he is bog-average (if not less than) and he is not too happy about that himself. I think the MEP test was a bit of a jolt for him and working on Brightminds - particularly the science part - has made him realise just how much he has forgotten/never learned/really does not know/really should now and needs to know! Poor kid - I feel badly about all this, but at the same time, I know I couldn't have had him at home these last two years - or next either for that matter. He is still too much of a trigger in this home (not only for me) and I need him to be a little more together/mature before I can take him home again. Then I fear we will have a whole bunch of 'catch-up' to play which will not be easy either!

ATM both Boo and Joel are working through some the MEP maths material, which is mostly review & consolidation for them (that was the intention), but at the same time gives them another way of looking at maths - a different perspective to Singapore. I believe it is important for them to see that maths does not always LOOK the same and they need to be able to work with it whatever the presentation. My intention next is to cover a bit more Miquon with Boo and maybe start it with Phoebe too who seems really keen on numbers and number work and much as I don't want to quash that by formalising it, I do want to capitalise on her obvious ability with numbers and I think Miquon will do that for her. She sat at the table saying "I had four chocolate fingers and then I ate one and had three. Then you gave me two more, so now I've got five. If I eat these I will have 6 in my tummy!" - so, that's addition, subtraction and more addition all thrown in (4-1=3, 3+2=5 & 4+2=6, or 5+1=6) and I do not even prompt it - she just does it! So whereas reading and letters are a slog for her, numbers just seem to come naturallyJ.

Now…what to do tomorrow..?

My eldest boy characterised!
I just love this picture and he hasn't appeared here for a while so I thought you'd like to see him!

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Belated Easter pics...

Cadbury's Cream Eggs - How do you eat yours?

Cram it all in...

...or with a little more finesse!!
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Baby Rabbit Pics - Beth (black) and Rosie (grey)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Just A little Ditti you might find amusing!!

In the year 2007, the Lord came to Noah who was now living in England and said, "Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living creature along with a few good humans.

He gave Noah the CAD drawings saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I start the rain for 40 days and 40 nights." Six months later the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard –but no Ark.

"Noah !" he roared. "I am about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"

"Forgive me Lord" begged Noah "but things have changed. I needed Building Regulations Approval because the Ark was over 30 sq m. I've been arguing with the Fire Brigade about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbours claim I should have obtained planning permission for building it in my garden as is it is development of the site even though it is a temporary structure, but the roof is too high.

We had to go to appeal to the Secretary of State for a decision. The Local Area access group complained that my ramp was too steep and the inside of the Ark wasn't fully accessible, the the Department of Transport demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of removing power lines and other overhead obstructions to clear the passage for the Arks move to the sea. I told them the sea would be coming to us but they wouldn't hear of it.

Getting the wood was another problem. All the decent trees have Tree Preservation Orders on them and we live in a site of Special Scientific Interest set up to protect the spotted owl. I tried to tell the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls – but no go.

When I started gathering the animals the RSPCA sued me. They insisted I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a restricted space.

Then the County Council, the Environment Agency and the Rivers Authority ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they had done an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.

I am still trying to resolve a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission on how many BMEs I'm supposed to hire for my building team.

The Trade Unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I only use CSCS accredited workers with Ark-building experience.

To make matters worse Customs and Excise seized all my assets claiming I am trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species. So, forgive me Lord but it would take 10 years to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun shone and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"

"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it!"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

We've got babies in our household...

...but before you all get really excited, they are baby RABBITS! These are a late Easter present that has long been promised. They are absolutely gorgeous. One is blue-grey and called Rosie. She is the girl's rabbit. The other is all black and called Beth - she belongs to the boys. I'll post pic's in a couple of days when they've settled in better and more up to a little handling. The kids can't wait to get a cuddle - understandably (nor can I!), but they need to wait at least till Monday.

Other than that we collected Jake's bed today and typically Ikea were out of the right size mattress, so the poor lad still doesn't have his bed as he really needs it., but he is up there tonight on the flop-out sofa chair as a mattress. It'll tie him over for a week, til we can back up to Ikea - nightmare! The boys rooms do look really good now though - clean and much less cluttered (I love Trofast). Joel is especially chuffed because he does seem to have significantly more room. Jake says he doesn't really have enough room to play, but in reality he has enough to do what he ever does in his room - lego, Knex, subuteo - that kind of thing. And afterall - he still has more room than we do in our room!

The baby hammock has been suspended under our bed (only place we really could put it) and now I need to get one of these bean2bed bags to snuggle up on under there in the night for feeding and/or sleeping! All the clothes are sorted and I feel we are more or less prepared for the arrival of No7 - as ready as we'll ever be kind of feeling!

Back to the grind stone on Monday, but it shouldn't be too much of a grind because I've taken measures to make it easier for a while... I've signed up for Brightminds Online for £20 (as many kids as you like for that price) to help me out over the next term/year! Great thing about that is that it covers all of KS2 (yrs 3-6) for Maths, Literacy and Science. (if anyone wants the voucher code to get the delivery charge knocked off (obviously unnessecary) let me know and I'll send it to you (it came on an email, so it's perfectly legit!) - so that's Joel pretty much sorted - and Jacob too should he need any of it! There is so much material in there!! Couple that with MEP maths (some of which I notice he can do online now too if he wishes to) / Singapore maths, S&S material which I have in abundance and EC and he'll be busy enough! :-)

Then I have Phoebe doing Headsprout and loving it - and doing really well with it too I might add. It's definatly right up her alley - even with the need to translate the American accent for her! She is also working on EC quite a bit and doing quite well there, but there are bits that annoy me about that site - it has some major inconsistencies at the 'phonics' level that I have noted and emailed them about - no reply as yet though :-( And the one other site I am making use of for her a fair bit is Starfall - free and fun, but also American! Then there's always the Reader Rabbit CDRom which she loves and between all that lot I reckon she should do pretty well. For a little bit of written work and for 'Maths' we are using Schofield and Simms pre-school materials, but she is beginning to devour those at a pace now and has nearly worked her way through the whole 4-5 mateials now, so we will be ready to start with the 'reception' level work in September as planned (actually she would technically be Yr1, but she is no where near ready for that level of work yet - she would be so lost at school!) and for Jolly Phonics is we still need to do it (i.e. if she hasn't learnt to read through Headsprout and Starfall by then. I'm hoping Brightminds will release the online KS1 materials soon too and we'll sign up for that too - it's great value for money!

Oh and then there's Spellingtime which I've got them all signed up to and they seem to quite like that too :-)

Abbie is quite happy with her S&S materials, her MEP and/or Singapore maths and her online stuff (mostly EC for her atm) and quietly buzzes away at it :-)

I guess I shall need to put in some other less rigorous stuff too, like arty stuff and geography (kids are really loving A Child's Geography) and then of course we have the tad's for our science study atm. They are looking pretty healthy at the moment, so that is great :-) We are anticipating dozens of little frogs sometime soon-ish! They are in a really big old fish tank now, which we were given, so they have plenty of room for there to be so many.

That'll do for tonight. I hope you all had great Easter holidays and had some rest - hasn't the weather been fantastic?! :-)

Blog soon - Cx

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ahh...and then there was normality!

We have had a friend staying for the last ten days with her three children, and although it's been really lovely and the kids (hers' are 5, 3 & 18 months) have got on fabulously, isn't it just always a calm feeling when the visitors are gone and home feels like it belongs to you again! V. if you read this don't get me wrong, you are more than welcome any time, but I think you get my meaning!! :-)

One big achievement that has been made this holiday (so far) is that Boo has learnt to ride her bike. Albeit she needs to practice getting started and stopping, but essentially she can ride along, so that's a big YEAH for her!!

The weather has been glorious today, and we have all really enjoyed the sunshine, but the tadpoles do not look so lively on it. I added some clean water and moved them into a bigger tank today, but I think a few are already dead :-( That said we still have plenty of live ones and I might just have to go fishing out the dead ones tomorrow (nice!!).

Tomorrow - hoping the weather is going to remain pleasant. Should be going to fetch Jake a new bed - it'll be such a blessing to get him into his own room. He just went to bed in a rage over his PS game - hit Joel and woke Caleb. Not sure how we'll deal with all that when there's a new baby in his room, but at least he won't be lashing out/waking up his other siblings. I'm hoping that maybe it'll be less of an issue once he has more of his own space...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Picture Post:
Thought it would be able to blog the last few days/weeks in pictures (mostly from my new phone :-) )
We are taking a look at tadpoles - just because we can at this time of year and these seem to be a resiliant bunch! They have been frozen and revived and then yesterday had their tank filled with stones - pulled out, put through a sieve and reintroduced to the water - and they all seem fine!! Need a bigger tank though before they turn carnivorous and start eating each other!
The children are really enjoying them and looking forward to seeing them develop. They are each keeping a little log book :-)
Ellie working on her Reader Rabbit game (nursey level) and doing considerably well actually. She seems to suddenly be changing into more a little girl and less of a toddler!
Caleb being his usual impish self!

Phoebe concentrating hard on a rather easy towe, but trying to build it really high, so working on balance and position and that sort of thing...!

Caleb is concentrating on physical developmental skills - and being gorgeous!!

Abbie busy grafting away at her English :-) She is so uncomplaining - it's so refreshing!