Thursday, 28 April 2011


Middle son has spent a fair amount of time over the last few weeks making a "freezer." The idea was his alone and there have now been several versions and many, many ice cubes used. He has done all the work-I've contributed the materials only.

Version 1:

A large box covered in foil-the ice cubes melted fast leaving a wet floor and soggy box.

Middle son wasn't happy with this attempt and so worked on

Version 2:

A smaller box again covered with foil but filled with insulation aka as shredded paper and over this a layer of foil:

He covered the outside with more paper and shreddings
This version kept ice cubes from melting for one and half hours. He is now working on the version 3 with an insulated lid and thicker insulation.

It will be a fair time before this design is up to keeping next week's dinner frozen but I've been really impressed by his work on this and also his interest in how "real" freezers work which has sprung from this.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

5-a-Day books: week 3

We rather limped through last week, with Easter, and family illness taking me out of town on a couple of days-one without the children. It was good though to have some books set out to grab without too much thought.

Five in a Row probably also didn't get our best but I was impressed. I managed to buy volumes 2 and 3,secondhand, on a home education list, last week, so I'm eagerly awaiting them.

This is what we did "rowing" Madeline:
Day 1: found France on the world map and put the "button" on the map. Looked at photos of Paris.

Day2: ate croissants for breakfast and baguette for lunch.

Day3: talked about symmetry and looked at bridges for symmetry. We counted the number of girls in each of the two straight lines and talked about how many there would be in three straight lines. Ideally, we should have counted this out using objects or pictures but we were having a picnic while travelling and I didn't get that far.

Day4:talked about the appendix and different things to do to be healthy including  talking about the privilege of having clean water.

This week has two public holidays and probably more trips out of town so we will give Five in a Row a rest until next week. These are our 5-a-Day books:

Daisy by Jane Simmons- a simple story about a duck which is much loved by both children.

Alfie's feet by Shirley Hughes. Our copy was brought at a jumble sale over fifteen years ago and has been read again and again so looks rather "loved."

The jolly barnyard by Annie North Bedford. Rhyming story of how animals treat the farmer on his birthday-there are some amusing touches.

The tale of Jemima Puddleduck by Beatrix Potter.

Mr Little's noisy train by Richard Fowler- a fun story with noises and flaps.

Happy reading!

Monday, 25 April 2011

He is risen

I've been rather absent-serious family illness has meant time out of town, time thinking and time catching up.
Anyway, these well known verses struck me yesterday. They seem so appropriate in the midst of illness in someone who loves the Lord, and were a comfort to me.

Love's redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight, the battle won;
Lo! our Sun's eclipse is o'er,
Lo! He sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
Death in vain forbids Him rise;
Christ has opened paradise.

Lives again our glorious King:
Where, O death is now thy sting?
Once He died our souls to save;
Where thy victory, O grave.

King of glory! Soul of bliss!
Everlasting life is this:
Thee to know, Thy power to prove,
Resurrected God of love.

Charles Wesley

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Learning for Mama

Over the last few months, I've begun to feel a bit unfair as I run through Scripture memory work with the children.

Unfair to them as it seems that they are the only people who have to work on memorisation and unfair to me as I'm not getting the benefit of learning God's Word.

I can't really learn alongside them as I was blessed with parents who helped me learn Bible passages and I suppose that I tend to teach them ones I know-easier isn't it? Don't need to constantly check whether they are right or not.

But it has been many years since I have actively worked on learning Bible verses; about time to change my ways and to hide God's Word in my heart.

Then, the Lord's Day before last, I heard a very helpful sermon on the beginning of Philippians. Sometimes, God's Word really hits and I was very challenged about a Christian way of thinking. Philippians seems such a challenge to think in the truely God-honouring way and a few days after this, Caroline announced a challenge to learn Philippians in a year. The challenge obviously had my name on it but it may have your name on it too. The challenge starts on Easter Sunday and Caroline has a supporting blog. It would be great if many of us could do this.

Monday, 18 April 2011

5-a-day books: week2

We have enjoyed the first week of 5-day-books. Mr Exuberance was particularly keen on "We are going on a bear hunt" and "10 in the bed".

 I had wondered about Miss Belle and whether she would require a separate list. Generally, she listened although she was occasionally busy with other activities.

Generally, the children have wanted to have more books read. I suspect because the scheme has increased their focus on books.

For this week, we are planning to read

Ox-cart man by Donald Hall. This is already a favourite with Miss Belle. A Caldecott medal winning book from the US describing the seasons on an old farmstead.
This is the bear by Sarah Hayes. Both children already like this book. The font is large and the rhyming text is simple with some words that my beginning reader can manage plus she already knows most of the text by heart. Hopefully, a win-win.

The Lord builds the house illustrated by Johannah Bluedorn. A beautiful book with the Authorised Version (King James) of Psalm 127 and detailed illustrations of family life by Johannah Bluedorn. One of the older children learnt this Psalm by having this book read aloud.

 Amazing machines by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker. Mr Exuberance loves this book. It is really four books in one and my book for this week is Terrific trains. In reality, I don't think I've often lifted this book without having to read all four stories. Fun rhymes and great for children who love machines.

Madeline  by Ludwig Behelmans. I wrote about Five in a Row. Madeline is a featured book and we are planning to "row" this book with an activity each day, well probably not Good Friday. There are some brilliant ideas around this at
Creekside learning.

Happy reading!

This is linked to 5-a-Day books at Imagination Tree.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Around and about

This is a rather ecclectic selection but anyway...

Trisha has posted a short quote from Spurgeon about why we need a command to pray. I hadn't read this before but it rings so true.

One of my friends, Lisa, commented about my post on 5-a-day books reminding me about Five in a Row. Even more, she has kindly lent me her copy of volume 1. Five in a Row is a preschool curriculum based around reading a children's book each day for five days. The curriculum then suggests activities, one of which is used each day. The activities are around different areas including language, maths, history and geography and art. There are more activities than days but the idea is to limit the extras to one a day.

I've thought about Five in a Row before but not used it as I thought that I could invent the activities myself. Probably true, but in the busyness of life this just hasn't happened. So, I'm planning to "row" my first book next week. This book will also be one of our 5-a-Day books.

This week, we were able to harvest rhubarb from our garden, for the first time. Not a massive crop as we didn't want to weaken the plants but enough to make rhubarb crumble ice cream-my favourite rhubarb recipe.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Icy Spring

Several months ago, Miss Belle and I made ice sculptures. Now that it is Spring and there are so many more flowers around, she asked to make more but with a more Spring theme.

This is so simple. We wandered round the garden picking flowers-a favourite activity. The flowers were put into a muffin tray,a loop of string was added to each hole, water added and the tray frozen.

The next day, we took the tray out of the freezer, removed the icy sculptures and hung them in the garden.
Of course, they didn't last long but then we could talk about melting and why it took a shorter time than in January.

Miss Belle could do most parts of the activity herself. She needed some help with the loops of string and with removing the ice from the tin.

I'm linking this to It's Playtime.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Five day books

Anna, at Imagination Tree, has written about "5-a-day books". "The idea is that you choose 5 titles from among your usual books (or from the library) and read them every single day for at least a week."
The aim being to help children with their talking and listening skills.

There is going to be a link up and there are plenty of ideas in the comments section on Anna's post today.

I love reading to my little ones although I find it takes more of a conscious effort to read to #5 than it did to our eldest.

This list is a balance of favourites and books which we haven't really read to Mr Exuberance. This list is mainly planned for Mr Exuberance who is almost 27months and the youngest of five. Some of them look a bit battered having been much read!

-Ten in the bed by Penny Dale-this is a favourite already and we sing this.

-Webster's walk by Jill Dow-I haven't read this to Mr Exuberance yet but since it is about ducks it is likely to popular.

We are going on a bear hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury-classic book which we haven't read much to this child. Most of the others knew this by heart; he doesn't yet.

Just like Floss by Kim Lewis-We've only read this once before. I love the pictures in Kim Lewis's books and her book "Baa" has been read and reread.

Hairy Maclary's caterwaul caper by Lynley Dodd-already a favourite with its fun, rhyming text.

Our fourth child, Miss Belle, is almost four and half. I have wondered about a list for her or whether to use the same list. She often listens happily while I read to her little brother but does have some preferences of her own: Madeleine and early chapter books. I have wondered, before, about the lack of progression in picture books "The hungry caterpillar" is read to babies and toddlers who learn it by heart and then appears again, if they go to school rising five, perhaps comfort reading at an insecure time-I don't know.
I would be fascinated by other people's thoughts on progression in picture books.
For this week, I have decided to use the same list but may use a separate list in future weeks.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The ways of the Lord

I recently had the privilege of reading my Mother's testimony. In this she quoted the first verse of the lines below. I hadn't seen these before.

Thy ways, O Lord, with wise design,
Are framed upon Thy throne above,
And every dark and bending line
Meets in the centre of Thy love.

With feeble light and half obscure
Poor mortals Thy arrangements view,
Not knowing that the least are sure,
And the mysterious just and true.

Thy flock, Thy own peculiar care,
Though now they seem to roam uneyed,
Are lead or driven only where
They best and safest may abide.

They neither know nor trace the way,
But trusting to Thy piercing eye,
None of their feet to ruin stray,
Nor shall the weakest fall or die.

My favoured soul shall meekly learn
To lay her reason at Thy throne;
Too weak Thy secrets to discern,
I'll trust Thee for my guide alone.

Ambrose Searle 1787

Toddlers who can't sleep

I've always known that in well regulated families, the young children sleep for a couple of hours around lunchtime and then go to bed at 6.30pm and wake at 6.30am. This is a sign that the parents have their act together. They can spend time together in the evening or go to a Bible Study knowing that the other parent only has to act if there is a fire or the roof falls in.

Image: Dynamite Imagery /
And we've never been this well regulated family. At best, the children sleep after the allocated hour and at worst they are up all evening. One child stopped sleeping in the day at a year. The others have managed a nap to just over two. We've done many of the things suggested-well ordered bedtimes, controlled crying, routine but failed. More recently, I was advised to feed the toddler at 4.30 then only to allow two books, no screen time or exciting play before bedtime two hours later. I haven't succeeded-we wish to have our evening meal as a family so eating at 4.30 just doesn't work and he does have to have something to do-I haven't managed to arrange unexiting play with four siblings around.

We have had two toddlers who find sleep very. very difficult and another one with moderate problems.

What happens: they sleep well until aged twoish then drop their afternoon sleep and learn to climb out of a cot. Often, about this age they seem to sleep lightly and may wake in the night if they hear a noise or have even very mild ezcema.

Why: I've felt much better about this since I found out that my husband slept badly as a toddler and was strapped into his cot because he would otherwise have climbed out. Even being forced to stay in his cot, he stayed awake for "a long time". Now, he sleeps about 5 hours a night. I can't totally excape blame-certainly not being in the eight hours a night camp.

What makes it worse: changes in routine especially being away from home. Having guests isn't great. Other people manage to have sleeping children when they have visitors. Me-well, at best there are thumps and a vague noise of children talking and at worst, there are little visitors.

Solutions:What are they? Anyway, a few thoughts. Punishment doesn't really work-I've tried. Some elements may merit punishment-appearing when there are visitors when they have been asked to stay in bed.

After many years of this, it seems that the underlying problem is not needing as much sleep as "Average toddler". Appreciating this does help.

Things that have helped are
-not persisting with the afternoon nap once it is obvious that the child is dropping it. It is better to have the child up in the early afternoon than in the late evening-I know! They may need a nap every four or five days for a while. It is worth trying to avoid late afternoon car journeys at this stage.

-accepting that holidays make things worse. Having a night walk is less stressful than forcing a wakeful child to sleep. Not going on holiday with families whose children sleep conventionally.

-having visitors around when the child is awake and can learn to participate in hospitality. If this is not possible, then allowing them to greet the visitors and then go to bed with a picture book and a clear statement about consequences of reappearing. It is unkind to say that the child has to go to sleep-this may not be possible.

-remembering that this does improve. The lack of sleep doesn't go away but once the child can read then it becomes much less of a problem.

-be thankful. This time round this is easier as the fact that this toddler is almost certainly the last, having been born when I was well over forty. It is a joy and privilege to have these little ones even when they can't sleep. We need to teach them how to handle problems and to pray about them.

Just a few thoughts-not solutions-our toddler was wide awake at gone 11pm last night-but hopefully may help fellow sufferers!

Saturday, 2 April 2011


The younger children and I are just back from a trip, out of town, to take Grandma to a reunion.
An opportunity to enjoy the sea, for the first time, since last summer.

I sat and read, between chasing a toddler and finding dry clothes for people who paddled further than intended. The children enjoyed the sand.

The younger children were able to see the house where Grandma, and Daddy, used to live. They hadn't seen this before.
Then, lunch in the country.

Now we are home. Thankful and tired. Hopefully, ready for the Lord's Day and then to tackle the last few days of term.

I'm thinking more and more that education isn't just linked to terms and bookwork but am more and more challenged by the enormity of what is involved.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Deuteronomy 6v4-7