I’m writing this from a Polish bakery/cafe on my local high street that I’ve finally gathered up the confidence to step into. The coffee’s fine and the music’s loud but I’m glad I managed it. I have also just bought bigos ingredients from the Polish supermarket across the road. It’s so nice to be surrounded by Polish voices, which I mostly understand, but I feel trapped inside my own mouth because I can’t summon up the vocabulary to engage with the staff…until I give up and use English.
I’m delayed in writing this month’s This Homeschooling Life post because two weeks ago, on my last ‘day off’ (no work and no kids) I spent the entire day clearing out my utility room, instead of blogging. More on Konmari in another post possibly…
When I stopped to reflect on the last month I felt a dark fog settle over the images in my mind’s eye. It has been a hard month; my mental health took a bit of a(nother) plunge – not sure why…the dark evenings are a factor – so it has been a month overshadowed in my head by guilt, anxiety and inertia.
One guilt-inducing scenario, as always, is my inability to prepare and provide activities for the children. Sometimes my best laid schemes go agley when Hannah won’t nap and fusses her way through the afternoon when Freya and I might have been having a nice time with a workbook or something arty.
Anyhoo, to remedy this a little, I took the kids to a Montessori playgroup that welcomes even school-aged Freyas. It was very friendly and nicely arranged and Hannah got stuck in straight away. Freya took a while to warm up but soon enough was pegging the socks on the ol’ Montessori clothes line, painting with interesting implements and, her favourite, washing up. She’d wash up all the time at home if I let her (unfortunately the water and suds aren’t kind to her eczema-prone skin so we ration it). Another home ed family we are getting to know was also there which was lovely. Afterwards we went to a local park together. The sun was shining and the colours in the park were beautiful. I really needed a morning like that and so did the kids. Freya is keen to return to the playgroup. I’m a bit worried about the cost but Jeff’s attitude is more “they’re only little once” and Hannah hasn’t had the opportunity to attend all the lovely groups that Freya did as a toddler, so I think maybe I can relax about it and take them when I want to. Maybe it’s a way of being kind to myself too.
When I do manage an activity at home, I have found that pitching it first at Hannah’s ability works quite well. That way it’s something she can easily join in with, and Freya will inevitably want to do it too and will develop it up to her own level. For example here is a Montessori-style (this post isn’t sponsored, honestly) fine motor skill/sorting activity aimed at Hannah, and when she got bored and Freya had a play, she was interested in forming patterns with the different items in the tray, and then it became a recipe that a witch/princess was cooking.
Freya has told me that in this year of being 5 she would like to learn French. I asked what the success criteria are, and she said “I will be able to speak to a French person in France.” Which is a pretty good goal. She has been vaguely interested in French since her fourth birthday (when I first suggested learning a language) so we’ve been doing little bits. (Once when my dad and I took the girls swimming, Freya was swimming through “la mer” to “la plage” where she would eat “une glace au chocolat”.) We’ve been reading and listening to some Max et Mathilde books, although we took a break for while – now that she can read so well I wonder how she will engage with them differently? She has been choosing French children’s vocabulary books at the library, so now that she is pushing the agenda more herself I’ll up my input.
Our home ed community continues to be a highlight of the week. The merry band are growing together, learning how to play together and to make space for each other. Most of all I love to watch them running together on the grass.
We tried out Rainbow Guides a few weeks ago. I wonder whether Freya could do with a small amount of time doing her own thing away from family, and when she talks about missing nursery she always relates it to her beloved teacher Miss Wing, so I think she’d enjoy having another teacher-type adult to see every week. Maybe her ballet teacher is enough, except that they don’t have time for conversations, so probably not. Anyway we went along. I sat at the side of the hall. The children sat around a table making a craft. Freya was the only kid who talked! She tried to engage all the leaders and the two girls next to her. It seemed pretty hard work. Then it was time for games, and the tables were turned. All the other girls were very enthusiastic about the games while Freya was immediately out of her comfort zone. My heart went out to her as she became rooted to the spot on her turn of Duck Duck Goose. Everyone just stared at her, until eventually the leader said “don’t you WANT a turn?” I beckoned her to come and sit with me until she felt ready to join. She didn’t join in. Because I know her, I know she was anxious about getting it wrong. The leader had made a point of “remember, only four ducks before a goose” – presumably some kids go round and round and it slows the game down! I could see Freya angsting about exceeding the four ducks accidentally. I could have cried when no-one reached out to her in her obvious discomfort.
On the walk home I asked if she wanted to go again, trying to make it clear she didn’t have to. She said “I’d like to get to know the girls better.” In the end I’ve decided to wait for her to mention rainbows again, and in the four weeks since, she never has. Maybe she’ll be ready to enjoy it when she’s older, and maybe not. The best bit was walking together in the dark down the hill and down the high street and being able to have a chat, just us. I’d told her that if she ended up doing Rainbows weekly, Daddy would pick her up on his way home from work. I think that’s what she was most excited about. So maybe what we actually need to do is make time for a weekly or fortnightly Daddy-Freya date.
Of course the highlight and grand finale of October was Freya’s 5th birthday. She asked for a family day out Milton Keynes Museum, where Jeff had taken the girls for the first time two weeks previously. She was very keen to show me everything! It’s a hands-on museum “where history comes to life”. It was BRILLIANT! Highlights included toasting our own bread in the Victorian kitchen and doing sums in the school room on a slate. I’ll dedicate another post to describing it in all its brilliance…probably in December after we’ve been back for a third visit for VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS when you can go dressed up! Cannot wait!
Linking up with Beautiful Tribe, Enchanted Pixie and Along Came Cherry for This Homeschooling Life.