Tough Days

I actually stopped and rewrote this post a few times for the simple reason that whenever I admit I have had a tough few days I normally get the response – “So just stick them in school ” – which is NOT happening so honestly is it NOT a helpful comment.  But the result is I am very careful about what I say to anyone except for a handful of other home educators.

Let me start by saying my husband and I are committed to this home education journey we believe it creates the best learning environment for our sensory kids and we have been doing it long enough that we can see the incredible benefits and we KNOW the kids are learning amazing things and thriving.  That is not up for debate.

But there are days when I struggle.  I never imagined I would be a full-time-stay- at -home-educator.  NEVER !!!!  It was not planned.  But then I never thought I would have 2 incredible kids you happen to have SPD, kids who don’t fit the school model.  When we first decided to do this we agreed to do it for 1 year and then we would reassess.  But honestly after I found my feet and got into it I knew it was the best fit for the kids.  No Question. (We are now going on 7 years)  But knowing that does not mean that there are not days when I get frustrated, days when I just want a break, days when I don’t feel like working on Maths or reading about some new animal.  Some days I just need a break.  I do.

But it really is me, not home-education as such.  I am bad at switching off.  I am always reading up about something, planning something, organising something.  And I don’t take time to just Stop and step away,  have a break.  I don’t do that.

I also worry a LOT, I worry about the work we are doing, the work we are NOT doing, I worry if we are getting the written work to outing ratio correct, I worry if we are spending too much time on History or Reading too much (yes I worry about that), are we doing enough practical activities, I worry that I have not taught either kids an instrument yet (I play 2), I worry about which 3rd language we should learn, oh I could go on and on.

There is honestly only so many hours in each day and there is just so much we could do.  The options are endless and there is no way we can fit it all in.  Never going to happen.

But the more I do this the more I am changing my approach to what home education means.  Yes I want my kids to be able to read and write, do Maths, understand the past and how it impacts us, know physics, know about the different countries etc etc etc.

But what I want more than anything is that they become Life-long learners.  I want them to enjoy learning, I want them to find a topic they are interested in and then totally sink their teeth into it.  I want them to understand that no-one will ever know everything but you can always learn what you don’t know.

So on those days when I feel like it is all getting too much for me I have started a new policy – we STOP.  Just STOP.  I breath, switch off social media and go back and look at old photos to remind myself of how far we have come.  And the only thing the kids are expected to do is read something that day.  Just read something they enjoy.

We did just that recently and guess what – I felt better.  I reminded myself how much these 2 incredible kids have already learnt and how they are making amazing progress with some of their sensory challenges.  Sometimes I need to do that, just remind myself of the progress, that we are getting there.  It might not be in the straight line that I had originally mapped out but one thing I have realized about our scenic learning routes is – in the end the kids actually learn a lot more that I had orginally planned.  I just need to keep reminding myself of this.

And the other amazing thing I also realized is I already have Two Kids who LOVE to learn.  They have areas that they find fascinating and boy when I step back they are actually really good at directing their own learning.  When I take a day’s break they still continue without anyone asking them to.  They both read about topics they were interested in.  My youngest drew a bunch of pictures based on what he had read and my oldest wrote a story about it.

Winter walk. ofamily learning together





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Why I prefer printing colouring pages to colouring books

When we first had kids I fell into that mindset of buying colouring books and they were never used and then I would see another one in the store and think “Wow this is the one!” and buy that and guess what 1 picture coloured in and that was that.  That was when I started searching on-line for pictures and it  is still what I use 90% of the time.

Using websites to download and print colouring pictures means the kids can choose pictures / topics that they are interested in and when we find a set that they really love we can print them out multiples times and the kids can do as many different versions as they want.  When the kids were younger they both loved this animal pack of colouring pages from Twinkl Resources (Free to download), I printed certain pages from that pack sooooooo many times – they would colour them in over and over again, paint them or use them for collages.

Animal collage craft,a peacock, easy for young kids to do at home and you can use art supplies that you have

And that is the beauty of being able to print the colouring pages out, the kids are not restricted by how often they try something new on a page.  They know they can retry the same picture over and over again until the get the result that they want so they can get a bit creative and have some fun.  Like my son’s blue elephant in a sandstorm

Blue elephant in a Sandstorm. Elephant template from Activity Village

I printed out multiple copies of the Elephant colouring page from Activity Village for him and he created all different kinds of elephants and different backgrounds and then combined them together.  He knew he was not restricted to just one copy so he had some fun and experimented.

And my daughter’s felt tip pen and water picture.  I don’t think she would have been so brave as to try “painting over the felt-tip pens with water” unless she knew I could reprint another copy of the picture if it went horribly wrong (when we first tried adding water to her felt-tip pen pictures she was very uncertain they would work).  The picture below is part of the Peter Rabbit set from Twinkl Resources.

Picture from the Peter Rabbit pack from Twinkl using felt tip pens and water

And of course there are so many other uses from colouring pages.  We used a peacock colouring page to create a times table poster , butterfly colouring page to introduce doubling and halving and they are perfect for window art / suncatchers.

Using butterfly colouring pages to create window art

Personally I like the freedom that downloading colouring pages gives us, we can print them as often as we want, we can print them onto card for crafts or even used them in maths lessons.  And really importantly for me it gives the kids that extra courage to know that they can try a page more than once.  If they don’t get the picture exactly how the want, we just reprint and have another go, for me that is important because I want the kids to experiment with art and colour and not be scared of making mistakes.

Mrs Mactivity Spring Flower Wreath with daffodils. Great spring, easter activity for kids

The stunning flower wreath above is from the Mrs Mactivity site – MrsMactivity Spring fun. 



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Review -Understanding Maths – Number Patterns and Algebra Workbook

We are big fans of the Schofield & Sims workbooks and last year we used one of the workbooks from their Understanding Maths range (The Geometry One) and I was so impressed with it that I bought a few more of the other workbooks included in the Understanding Maths series.  This is not a sponsored post, this is just me sharing what is included in a workbook that we have used and found helpful.

I bought my daughter the Understanding Maths: Number Patterns & Algebra and the Understanding Maths: Practice books

Schofield & Sims Understanding Maths the Number Patterns and Algebra workbook and the Practice workbook. Key Stage 2 Maths for the UK

The Understanding Maths: Number Patterns & Algebra is written in the same Schofield & Sims style of their other workbooks – they stick to three colours which means the pages don’t become visually overwhelming, they don’t cram multiple ideas onto 1 page, 1 page = 1 idea or concept, the work is set out in a very logical fashion so as you work through the book it does build on some of the earlier concepts, but equally you can skip to sections that you want to focus on (we did the Roman Numeral section first and it is on page 23 and 24 and then we went and started at the beginning).

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At the top of each page there is a brief explanation (we like this as it means the kids can read it themselves and then if they understand they can work independently).

Example of the explanations included in the Schofield & Sims Number Patterns and Algebra workbooks

Also they do include Progress Test pages in the book which we personally use as a summary revision of the last few pages and actually find it very useful. (and yes all answers are included at the back of the book).

Schofield & Sims Number Patterns and Algebra workbook for Key Stage 2. An example of a progress test

We like this workbook and I think it is worth the £4.95. I find it ensures I am not leaving gaps and that I cover everything in a logical manner.  The one thing I will point out is it is NOT a detailed practice book like their Written Calculation workbooks – there are not pages after pages of examples.  So we have added our own extra practice (and have found the Practice book I mention below useful for this) but I have also just written our a few extra sums for the kids to do just to reinforce it.

The Book covers – counting on in 10’s, 100’s, 25’s etc, recognising multiples, working out numbers in sequences, fraction and decimal sequences, negative numbers, square numbers, Roman numerals, cube numbers, finding factors, prime numbers, explaining a formula using words, symbols and letters, simple algebra sequences.

The Understanding Maths: Practice is a practice book which covers all topics included in the Understanding Maths series (so Addition & Subtraction, Multiplication & Division, Fractions, Decimals & Percentages, Number Patterns & Algebra, Problem Solving, Geometry & Measurement and lastly Statistics).  For each topic the Practice book includes around 8 to 10 pages of practice.  And it is just that it is extra examples, there are no explanations of the concepts – these explanations are in the individual books.  This is 100% an extra practice book.

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I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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Encouraging their 2nd language

From day one of being parents we have spoken to the kids in our own home languages (I grew up in an English home and my hubbie grew up in an Afrikaans home).  We have stuck to it and now both kids happily chat in both languages.  But I am the stay at home parent, the one doing the day-to day home education activities (please don’t get me wrong my hubbie does a LOT with the kids and is very involved but he does go to work 5 days a week), so naturally the kids are stronger in English. My oldest appears to be more language minded and reads Afrikaans and even writes a bit but her younger brother does not really try to read Afrikaans, that was until the past holidays.

One of his Christmas pressies was a book all about South African snakes – Kinders se Slange van Suider- Africa – he loves learning about reptiles – only this book was in Afrikaans (The Afrikaans word for snakes is Slange).  To begin with he just paged through the book and then he sat with his dad and his dad starting reading it to him.  I am not sure I have ever seen him concentrate so hard.  Normally when his dad reads Afrikaans books he listens but does not try to follow, this time he was really studying the words.  And after just a few pages he was picking up some of the more common words and recognising them. His dad was thrilled and I must admit I was blown away.

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But then I sat and went through our other Afrikaans books and none of them were on the topics that he is really fascinated with (I mean REALLY fasinated with).  They are story books, nice story books but nothing fact based about the animals or dinosaurs he loves to study.  And that is exactly how he picked up reading English so quickly – we used books on topics that he was desperate to learn about, but somehow I seemed to have forgotten that when it came to Afrikaans.

I have been amazed to watch him over the past 2 weeks – he keeps going back to his Afrikaans Snake book and he gets his dad to read him page after page and he follows, really follows, he stops his dad if he gets lost.  He is finding words, phrases that he can now read and he is thrilled.  One book, one well written book on a topic that he is fascinated by and I can see the progress and I can see how much he is enjoying it.  It is not learning because he has to learn, he is learning because he wants to.  He wants to be able to read his Afrikaans snake book from cover to cover and he wants to be able to chat to his dad and uncle about the snakes that he is reading using all the correct Afrikaans terms.

And just to reinforce what her brother was showing us (Give a kid a topic they are fascinated by and they will fly), my daughter started baking from Afrikaans recipes – she loves baking but we normally stick to English recipes that I know. So yes I am going to listen to these two and we are going to make sure we do more 2nd language activities based on their favourite topics.

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Sensory Christmas

I find Christmas tough.  I always loved Christmas time as a kid but since I have had my own and they have struggled with all the noise and chaos around the festive season it has become a bit more challenging for me.

Christmas is a bit of a sensory nightmare, everything seems to be louder, busier, more crowded, people are closer, more in your face.  So I lot of the more traditional Christmas activities do not suit us.  Every year we try a few – like going into London to see the lights, taking the kids to buy gifts for close family, going to see the reindeer etc but after just a few outings the kids start asking to stay home.

So when I start seeing all the wonderful photos and stories of all the other kids enjoying the festive activities my heart aches a bit and I get a bit despondent.  Social media can be really tough in this aspect.  As much as I love the fact that it connects me with friends far away it can also rub the fact that your kids are not doing all the “normal activities” in your face, over and over again.  For the most part I have learnt to just scroll on past and try remind myself we are on our own journey and everything is happening at our pace, and this normally works, but somehow over the Christmas period I find it harder and it gets me down.

I wish we could be out enjoying all the fun activities.  And I know some friends and family don’t understand why we aren’t.  They think the kids manage fine, they don’t see the fact that one of them stops eating properly, their sleep goes crazy or the fact that the stimming starts going ballistic, they don’t see the tears over socks when we are trying to get ready – yes tears over socks / shoes / jackets that don’t feel good can be a massive thing when the kids are overwhelmed.  I get that.  I do.

Before we started doing our sensory journey I never understood what life with sensory kids would entail and I probably would have been just like the other parents, I probably would have just thought “those kids are spoilt”.

We have 2 more days of unusual festive activities and then the big unwind begins.  I have learnt after Christmas and having guests to stay we need a LONG unwind session, with lots of outdoor walks and long reading sessions under a heavy blanket before we can really get back into our normal rhythm.

But through all the craziness that Christmas, a break in routine, noise and chaos brings to our little family I am still determined to try to celebrate the small victories.  I need to. Victories like the kids trying mince pies for the first time and actually liking them (although it turns out they only liked mince pies from 1 shop), the kids managing public transport better than ever before even though it was crazy busy, and my darling daughter finally being able to use a hairdryer without it freaking her out. (For parents with non-sensory kids hair dryers have been a huge issue for us.  We have never been able to use them on the kid’s hair, in fact when they were younger the noise hair dryers made meant taking the kids to have hair cuts was a big NO).

Sensory challenges. Using a hairdryer

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2019 Calendar

We have had a lovely break over Christmas and I am very slowly starting to think about our home education again – although to be totally honest both kids have been learning a lot over the break – trip to a Science Museum, a lovely exhibit about animals in the dark, using a compass, researching British Kings and Queens – all unplanned and self-led.

But I do need some sort of plan in place just so I feel a bit more organised.  I started off by printing out the 2019 Calendar pages from Activity Village to use as a planner for my own work activities – I like this set because you can choose from different colours / pictures for each month.

Activity Village 2019 Calendar pages

For my “work” planner I just attached the pages together with some colourful ribbon.

Activity Village 2019 Planner, Calendar pages

And I printed a second set out for the kids (well – really my daughter).  She likes to have a schedule of what is happening and because we often do workshops and museum trips with friends a monthly calendar tends to work a lot better than a weekly one.  She is also starting to become a bit of a planner and likes to plot out possible learning topics on her calendar.  I must be honest I love this as it is great for me to look at to get some ideas and inspiration.  For the kids calendar we actually inserted the pages into a small file, mainly because my daughter wanted to have some pages behind the calendar so that she can start making lists (not yet sure what these lists are going to be).

Using the 2019 Activity Village pages for some planning

But like I said I am only very slowly getting back into the swing of things, so 2 sets of calendars all sorted and it is back to the couch to drink more tea and watch yet another festive movie.




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Snap Circuits

We recently gave my son a Snap Circuit set for his birthday and we have all been so impressed with this set that I thought I would share some photos and info on the set.

Now there are a number of different snap circuit sets that you can buy and I honestly have not investigated all of them.  I knew I wanted a basic set, something  to get us started and this particular set was one that one of his friends has and he liked it.  It is the Snap Circuits Jr. – SC-100

Snap Circuit set

The set comes with all the goodies that you need to complete 101 different circuits (you just need to add 2 AA batteries).

Snap circuit Junior set what comes with the set

The set also comes with a manual which sets out each circuit – showing diagrams of how they are set up and explaining a bit about them. (If you lose or damage the manuals you can download copies from their site)

It does have an age recommendation of 8 years and over and my son was given it for his 8th birthday and he was absolutely fine.  In fact he happily sat and worked through the first set of circuits all by himself without any input from my hubbie or myself (he had seen his friend use this set so he was already familiar with the different components).

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His older sister who had never tried a snap circuit before also managed to work away at the circuits by herself.  The only time she needed input was when she wanted to adjust some of the circuits and she wanted to check with us that she was on the correct path.  I love this, I love that after building a recommended circuit she is finding ways to adjust it, change it and then can discuss why the changes she made worked or didn’t work.  I actually spotted that there is a design tool on the website that the kids can use to design their own circuits.  We have not had time to really do this (my daughter did draw a few of the circuits that she created) but after Christmas we are definitely going to give this a go – Snap Circuit Designer

We have only had this set for a week now but I am very impressed with it.  I like the way the manual is set out with the examples, I like that you can order replacement parts if needed and I like that we can always move onto more complex sets.

The circuits are proving a hit with both my kids, they especially like the ones when you can make the fan fly or when there is noise (from a parent point of view the noise may be slightly irritating but I look at it as an educational irritating noise – he has some far noisier toys that really irritate me that have NO educational benefits).


Disclosure – This is NOT sponsored.  We bought the set and really like it so wanted to share. 

I do include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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