Home educating during advent and Christmas

Ah, the season of Advent. One of the most exciting, magical and also stressful times of the year! I took the edge off it this year by bowing out of wider-family gift-giving traditions. Sorry family. It definitely made a big difference to my month, both financially and in terms of time and headspace.

Hannah, at 20 months, was really getting into Christmas this year! She was constantly asking for her “sheeshus candar” meaning her picture advent calendar – the girls have one each for bedtime – and playing with “Sheeshus and Mummy” from the nativity, and getting excited about christmas trees, and they both played a daily game of pointing out the fairy lights when we were driving after dark.

I always like to have a real tree, a spruce rather than a fir, as they have that Christmassy scent. Normally B&Q will do but as they didn’t have small ones, this year we ended up having a bit of an adventure! Picture the four of us at a christmas tree farm, sliding over the mud as the rain soaks through our coats to the clothes below, the girls somehow finding it magical to run between the trees while waiting for grumpy mummy to identify the one that fits her exacting standards…


Well, the tree was beautiful and barely dropped a needle. Next year we’ll go earlier in December, and we’ll plan to avoid the rain! I think it could become a nice tradition.

For our advent calendar we used a beautiful set of origami envelopes that Jeff made last year. Inside each one was an act of kindness/generosity/forgiveness, that kind of thing. I say each one…I didn’t get properly organised ahead of time so we ended up doing it on some days, and on other days I made a poor excuse to Freya about why we wouldn’t open it that day. Yeah. So, it was well-intentioned but poorly executed. I feel sad because what it really demonstrated was that being kind/generous/forgiving maybe isn’t as much of a priority to me as it should be if I want my daughters to grow up valuing those qualities! It has led me to reflect on how we can live out those values more as a family, in ways that involve the children. 

Since first discovering Milton Keynes Museum in October we were very excited about our fourth visit – for Victorian Christmas! Well – it was really busy and I think I’d recommend going on an ordinary day, the first time you go anyway! But after being too hot and crowded with mulled wine and carols in the drawing room, the girls loved making a craft in the victorian schoolroom. We then got tired/frustrated/grumpy (me most of all) until tea and cake in the cafe calmed us all down. The Jeff took Hannah off for a drive and a nap and Freya and I revisited the now-quiet kitchen. Here we toasted a slice of bread by the fire, and the kind volunteer showed Freya how to peel roast chestnuts. Then we swept the kitchen floor together while the lady talked to us about what the house used to be like when it was really lived in. The kitchen has such a large oven because it was the farm kitchen, baking enough bread to feed all the farm workers every day. The family had their own kitchen in what is now the toy room. The groom’s bed was in a nook over the bread oven – nice and cosy. These are Freya’s favourite moments in museum visits – she finds a way to chat to the staff one-to-one.

At home we’ve enjoyed a few Christmassy activities: making satsuma pomanders was extremely absorbing for both girls, and Freya made some puff pastry mince pies pretty much by herself except for rolling out the pastry.

She sometimes needs encouragement to see a task through to the end and I don’t always know whether to push her to finish it or accept that she’s had enough. I don’t want to force anything but sometimes she just needs an extra boost…I guess we have to judge each instance as it happens.

I enjoyed playing my parents-in-laws real piano on Christmas Day..my piano progress is slow but when I get to play a real piano I love it!


After the busyness of Christmas we needed a few days for the kids to decompress. We took them to the RAF Museum in Hendon where they could run around to their hearts’ content. It was really quite awe-inspiring to stand next to all these enormous aeroplanes and contemplate the science and mathematics of flight! There was a large room that was once full of brilliant experiments for children to do, but all but a few had pieces missing or were just broken. One image below shows Freya examining a game with which you could experiment with where to make a plane drop its cargo so it would land in the right place. It all worked…except the cargo was missing. How fun that would have been! I imagine they don’t have the funding to repair them all yet. I hope they do someday. At the start of the visit I told Freya how my grandfather had been an RAF engineer. Later, she played at being an engineer fixing the planes:

I’ve been reading a blog series “30 days to transform your play” on An Everyday Story http://www.aneverydaystory.com/30-days-typ/ As with many things at the moment I have found it quite overwhelming as I try to assimilate all the things I should/could/want to be doing. However, I thought I’d just try one simple thing, and I made some plain play dough (see http://www.aneverydaystory.com/2014/04/07/30-days-to-transform-your-play-day-7/) I gave it to the kids along with some matchsticks. Hannah will often play with play dough for a very long time but on this occasion it particularly grabbed Freya’s interest. She was constructing this thing and getting frustrated by parts falling over. I talked to her about the concept of ‘trial and error’ and she really took it on board.

So Freya has completed her first “term” of home education. I am feeling both hopeful and apprehensive about the year ahead. I worry I’m not doing enough. They’re both changing so fast and I worry that I’ll miss opportune moments in their development for certain types of learning. I’m looking forward to going away more as a family. I’m glad that we have good friends and good family. The evenings are already that tiny bit lighter.

Linking up with Beautiful Tribe, Enchanted Pixie and Along Came Cherry for This Homeschooling Life.

This Homeschooling Life

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