Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!
What a glorious month April has been! No April showers here, but some rather arctic winds. We've also had a good stretch of lovely, warm spring weather, which has made it feel easy to be outdoors. We've even caught the sun on our cheeks!
This past month has been somewhat dominated by childminding as we had one of my ex-mindees join us for the duration of the school Easter holidays. It was so, so lovely for Bean to have a friend to play with for such a long stretch. She's really missed the type of play where she can get down on the floor with a good friend, in her own home, and play together with her toys.
It's been interesting to reflect on how my provision is having to evolve to meet the changing needs of the children as they grow older. These two nine year old's enjoyed revisiting some of the play that filled their days when they were little. However, this type of play alone was not enough to sustain their interest for the entire day, as it often did in the past.
I offered cooking, arts and crafts, games and gardening too, which was useful when they came looking for something novel to do, but they did spend a lot of time chatting, gaming, reading and writing, and playing imaginatively. They also spent one entire afternoon in a cupboard, which reminded me that whatever I might plan, they have their own ideas of what they want to do!
We have also had my little goddaughter and mindee return for her first 'in person' session this year, having spent the past three months meeting only outdoors. She'll be spending every Friday with us now, until the end of the academic year in July.
We had beautiful weather on the day that she came, so spent the majority of our time outdoors. In the photographs below you can see Bean showing her our tadpoles (she scooped some out of the pond for us to observe more closely) and the beginnings of an epic mud kitchen session. These days with my goddaughter are so precious, as she'll be off to school in September.
Our Courage Project is still ticking along nicely, with us finding opportunities to read from the books whenever we can. We've finished reading Break the Mould which we both really enjoyed. The last few chapters we read were about the steps we can take to come into our own power and change the world. I liked that the emphasis was very much on finding your people. The people who light you up and fight your corner. The people who give you the confidence to speak your truth.
We are still reading and enjoying Politics for Beginners. This book has really taken me by surprise, as it is a subject often perceived as boring and possibly too complex for children to understand. I don't remember learning anything about politics at school, and I think that's just unacceptable. It's no wonder our youth are so often disengaged with it. This book explains tricky concepts in a clear and accessible way. I like that it explains how corruption can lead to power, which I think is so important to understand. It's also refreshing to read about how institutions such as schools, the police and courts, can also be to blame for bad behaviour.
This Book is Anti-Racist, is also really excellent. It is recommended for ages 11+ and I think that is quite an accurate recommendation. Bean is fast approaching 10 and is just about coping with it, but I think she will get more out of it when we revisit it in the years to come. Each chapter centres around a specific theme (a lesson) with a reflection exercise at the end. The last three chapters have been about our personal and shared history of racism, and about how we have the power to change the history for future generations.
Here's a little peek inside each, so you can get a sense of the style and the content. You'll find more examples in the Courage Project story highlight on my Instagram grid.
The first, I nearly sent straight back, as the print quality is quite poor (it's printed by Amazon) and the illustrations are a bit flat too, but I thought I'd give it a try. The stories are actually quite good. Bean really likes them and after reading the first, she asked for more. The refugees and migrants book is one of a series by Michael Rosen, and I feel confident will be excellent, although we haven't started it yet.
I have also reserved Big Ideas For Young Thinkers from the library. This book has been on my wish list for some time, but it's a pricey one to buy, so I was delighted to discover that it's available at the library. I'll let you know what we think of it, but it looks great.
Creative Writing Project and Language Arts
We're still enjoying our Creative Writing project, although have slowed down with it a bit now that we've started our new Language Arts curriculum. We've worked our way through three of the projects in Show Me a Story (which I'm going to review on the blog next week, as it's excellent). We made story discs, which Bean has been using to tell oral stories that I have been typing up on her behalf. We have made a set of story cards, featuring characters, objects, settings, problems etc. which we are yet to try out. Bean also worked on the This is the Story of my Neighbourhood activity, which you can read more about in this post on my social media platforms.
Our new Language Arts curriculum is going well. I wrote another post on my social media platforms about our initial thoughts on it, which you can read here. I haven't quite figured out how to fit it all in to our weekly rhythm, but we're slowly working our way through, and I'm sure it'll all become clear. We're only two weeks in, so it's early days, but we're both enjoying it.
Over the Easter weekend I gave our house plants a bit of tender loving care. I hauled them all out into the garden, gave them a good water and left them for a bit in the sun.. Some had a hair cut, many were re-potted and all had some fresh compost. I love house plants, but am not always that great at taking care of them (I like them to tell me if they need watering) but this seems like just the right number of them for me, for now.
We've made a bit more progress in our garden this month too. We transplanted all of our strawberries out of the raspberry bed, and planted a cherry tree against our new fence. We also dug over one of our beds and planted carrots, broccoli and various salad leaves straight into the ground. We've got loads of seedlings coming under our outdoor covered area too. As soon as it warms up a bit more reliably, we'll begin to plant some of them out.
April has been a repeat of March it seems, with another trip to the park with friends and another trip to the beach. Apart from that, we have pretty much been at home. We're looking forward to day trips becoming a bit more of a feature over the summer months.
Easter fell just a week before travel restrictions were lifted, so we were not able to have family visit, or head off on a holiday. On Good Friday we had a lovely afternoon hunting for chocolate eggs in the beautiful communal grounds of a friend's house, where we shared a picnic lunch and chatted while the children roared around the gardens, burning off their chocolate.
Easter Sunday itself was quite quiet. I set up a hunt around the house and garden with written clues, then we spent the rest of the day relaxing, decorating Easter biscuits, eating and playing.
Gymnastics and Farm School Return
Bean has returned to her weekly gymnastics class where she was immediately awarded her Badge 2 for the British Gymnastics Proficiency Awards. She's also returned to her weekly farm school sessions, to coincide with the release of the farm birds who have been kept indoors for months quarantining from the avian flu. She's fallen in love with the quails and will not stop trying to persuade me to get her some!
Garden Shed Clear Out
I cleared out our garden shed, which was a bit impulsive but hugely satisfying. I wanted to make space to store all of our camping equipment in there, so I was pretty ruthless. I put all of the items destined for the charity shop or recycling centre on the wall outside the front of our house and every single thing was taken over the coming days by people walking by.
I also had a deep clean and declutter of our dresser, with the intention of creating more space to display Bean's 3D art and craft creations.
We had the most wonderful treat day yesterday, starting with hair cuts, and then a wander around the shops in the city centre. We finished with a trip to the library, and then home with a takeaway lunch. A perfect day.
Spring Play and Learning Guide
Did you know that I have a play and learning guide especially for Spring?! It's been designed with the 3-7 age bracket in mind, but may be adapted to suit younger and older siblings. My Spring Play and Learning Guide is just £10 and includes a recommended reading list and more than 20 Spring themed activity suggestions. You can use the code springfun for 25% off at checkout, valid until 31/5/21.
I also have a BRAND NEW section in my online shop for FREE digital materials. There are only a couple of things in there at the moment, but they include a few pages from the Spring Play and Learning Guide mentioned above, so you can try before you buy. Do check back regularly, as I'll be adding sample pages from all my digital guides, online courses and random extras, over the coming months. You find the relevant page here.
Last, but not least, I have a handful of Spring Play Dough Collections ready to ship. I'm beginning to gradually move away from offering physical products in my shop, so will not be restocking once they have sold out. Grab them while you can!
At long last, Bristol libraries are reopening! Whoop whoop! We're not yet able to access our local branch, but I ordered a small stack to collect from the city centre library, where we were also invited in to browse! We could not have been more excited when we visited yesterday. It's been over a year since we set foot in a library. Here's the stack we brought home...
In addition to the two books I bought for our courage project, listed above, I've bought this sweet collection for Bean's upcoming 10th birthday.
Paint Lab for Kids - this is one that I saw recommended on @sara_happinessishere Instagram stories and I know that Bean will love it. It's a book of process art painting tutorials.
Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul - I loved the Chicken Soup for the Soul series when I was a teenager and young adult. While researching books for our courage project, I wondered if they had a collection for children, which indeed they do (as well as a whole host of other special collections). I opted for the preteen collection, which features stories specifically for the 9-12 age bracket.
The Girl of Ink and Stars - I stumbled upon this one by chance, while browsing books for our courage project. This one has excellent reviews and looks exciting. I'll let you know what we think of it.
Plus, I picked up a couple of Lulu Mayo books, because Bean is a big fan. A Million Sloths is a colouring book, the perfect choice for my sloth-obsessed girl, and How to Draw a Unicorn is a book of simple drawing tutorials. We had a Christmas version of these tutorial books and it has been very popular.
As well as reading Alice in Wonderland for our Language Arts curriculum, we're reading the sequel to Sapphire Battersea, Emerald Star, which follows Hetty Feather's journey to find her father. This series is so, so good. A great choice for reading aloud as I'm finding them so enjoyable too.
I'm half way through reading Lunar Living, which I'm finding completely fascinating. I love the idea of our energy building as the moon waxes. This being the best time to get stuff done. Then after the full moon, our energy wanes, and this is a good time for reflection and rest. I think, going forward, I'd like to try to plan my working life around this a bit more. It's not always easy with fast paced modern living, a schedule etc. but I'm going to give it a try.
I've also breezed my way through Tap to Tidy, which is a very light and easy read. Not especially useful or inspiring, but I definitely picked up a few tips. I'm looking forward to reading Between and dipping into Untangled too, over the coming weeks, both on loan from the library. Between is a parenting guide for supporting children from 8-13 years, whereas Untangled is specifically for teenage girls. Both look excellent and have good reviews. I'm going to try to read the relevant chapter in Ten Things Girls Need Most too, as Bean enters the tween phase.
Audio Books Bean hasn't had an audio book on the go this month, but I've been listening to First, We Make the Beast Beautiful on Borrowbox. If you suffer with anxiety, this book offers such a refreshing perspective. Over the years, I've come to see anxiety as a useful tool, as debilitating and frustrating as it can be at times. It helps me to tune into myself and understand that there must be something off kilter. Something that needs to be adjusted. Discovering what the problem is can be the most challenging part. I find that I can only read or listen to books about anxiety when I am in a good, stable place, as it can be a trigger otherwise. I recommend this book, but if you feel the same way, bookmark it for a good phase.
Here are the blog posts I've shared this month, just in case you might have missed them. They all centre around decluttering and setting up toy rotation. I hope to have the self-directed version of my online course, The Simple Art of Toy Rotation, updated and relisted in the coming weeks.
If you have enjoyed reading this monthly newsletter, and don't want to miss another one, perhaps you might like to subscribe? I can promise not to flood your inbox with spam (but I can't promise that I'll remember to send newsletter reminders either!) Scroll down to the bottom to subscribe. Also, if you have a specific request for the blog, please drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next month, I'll be sharing highlights of our first little holiday of 2021! We're heading to Wales for a mini break over the May bank holiday weekend, staying with Bean's Granny. We'll be having friends join us, staying in the self-contained cabin in the garden, which will be so special. There will also be the usual project updates, book recommendations, childminding highlights and garden progress. I hope to be able to share a little about our impending building project too, once I've met with the architect. Exciting times!
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you do click through, Bean and I will receive a small amount of commission which will contribute to new books and resources for her home education. You can, however, find all of these resources elsewhere, including other online retailers, second hand selling pages and your local library.