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February Newsletter: The One With Our Valentine's Day Celebrations

Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!

I hope you are all safe and well. February has been a really difficult month for us, for various reasons. We have well and truly hit the proverbial lockdown wall. Despite being the shortest month of the year, it has felt so loooong. In fact, we're not even through with it yet, are we?!

We started off the new year feeling positive and productive, despite our lockdown news. But then the Beast from the East arrived, rendering us quite literally house bound, and I definitely felt my mental health begin to waver. We also had some heart breaking news in our family, so I spent the best part of a week feeling on the edge of tears. Bean has been struggling too, with a mouth full of wobbly teeth. It's definitely been a case of survival parenting here this month.

Valentine's Day Celebrations

One of our highlights this month has been our Valentine's Day celebrations. In all honesty, it wasn't that different to any other lockdown day, but with a few little treats spread through the day, it did feel a bit celebratory. We started with exchanging cards and gifts, and made our breakfast pancakes extra special with heart shaped strawberries. Even our guinea pigs got a special Valentine forage mix!

For lunch I ordered us a take away afternoon tea box, with sandwiches, scones, cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries. It was a nice break for me from making endless uninspiring lunches! Sundays are generally our day of rest, where I take any pressure off myself to do much but a bit of housework or gardening, so it was the perfect lazy day.

Science Project Highlights

Our science project pretty much grounded to a halt at the beginning of February. Despite browsing through our books and planning one last round of chemistry experiments, we some how didn't manage to get to them. We had one lovely afternoon session where we investigated all the chemistry experiments that we had 'in progress' (sugar crystals growing, ice in the freezer, an egg soaking in vinegar etc) and then we packed all of our chemistry books and materials away.

Later in the week, while Bean was at her Daddy's, I gathered together all of the books and materials for the next part of our project... a biology focus. We're now halfway through reading our 100 Things to Know About the Human Body book, which, like the others in this series, is excellent.

We've made a start on the Body Lab biology kit Bean received as a gift at Christmas. We were disappointed to discover that half the contents of the box were missing, but having ordered it way back in October, there wasn't much to be done about that. The materials included are quite basic (zip lock bags, a drinking straw, petri dishes etc.) but with the addition of a decent, functioning stethoscope, some stickers, posters and the activity manual.

Bean has enjoyed the activities included. They're quite simple, but well presented, with a good explanation of the science involved. The plastic gloves in the photograph below are filled with flour. One has lollipop sticks to represent the bones, so quite fun for comparison. In the zip lock bag below, she's making stomach contents with banana and white vinegar. You'll be glad I didn't share the finished product as it was revolting!

Most of the activities suggested in the manual require very little materials (some don't require any), and demonstrate bodily functions in a way that young children can visualise and understand. It's worked out well for us in this season of life, where I don't have the energy or motivation to plan much.

Last month I wrote a blog post entitled 20 Science Books to Inspire and Educate, where I shared many of the books and learning materials we have been using for our science project. You'll also find them linked in my Bookshop here.

Our loose plan is to continue with this project, eventually moving on to a Physics focus, until we have exhausted it. However, with lockdown restrictions easing over the coming weeks and months, and our world opening up a bit, I have no way of knowing how it will pan out.

Courage Project

Similarly, we've made very little progress with our courage project, aside from reading. We finished reading The Power Book, which you can read a more detailed review of in this post on my social media accounts. It's a brilliant book, which inspired many rich and interesting discussions.

Just this week we've made a start on two new books for our project, Politics for Beginners and This Book is Anti-Racist. I wasn't sure if we'd read both at the same time, or just the one for now, but first impressions of both are good. I read Bean the blurb and first chapters from each, and she was keen to read more, but we haven't read enough of either for me to confidently review them yet. I'll share more in my March newsletter.

At bedtime we've been reading Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage, which is a lovely collection of slightly longer and less well know fairy tales with a kindness and courage theme. We're also still really enjoying and working our way through Break the Mould. The last chapter we read was about how the author, Sinead Burke, prepared for her TED talk, Why Design Should Include Everyone, which was incredibly inspiring. The TED talk is worth a watch too, as are the others she recommended in this chapter.

1000 Hours Outside

At the beginning of January we started logging our hours spent outdoors for the 1000 Hours Outside initiative. This too has pretty much ground to a halt. It's not so much that we're struggling to get outdoors (although we have been a bit this month). It's that, in general, tracking progress is not something that motivates or inspires Bean.

In retrospect, it may have been a better idea for us to start with a 50 or 100 hour tracker, where the visual progress is clearer. It also would have been a better idea for us to track our hours outdoors as a family, instead of having individual trackers. We decided on individual trackers as we thought Bean would still be attending Farm School once a week where she spends the whole day outdoors.

Our outdoor time this month has mainly consisted of trudging around the city streets, sometimes with an incentive such as a quick trip to the corner shop for sweets. It's been hard to motivate either of us outdoors when it's cold and we can't meet friends. Perhaps we'll pick it up again now that the weather is warming up.

Here is Bean litter picking on one of our recent walks.

Masterpiece Society

Our studio membership for Masterpiece Society renewed mid month when I was too distracted to consider whether we still really want it. It is a big financial commitment for us. I think I'd probably consider it good value for money if we used it a lot (3+ times a week) or if we had a bigger family with more family members accessing it. We've had a go at just four classes in the past month, which we have both really enjoyed, but despite being in lockdown we haven't seemed to manage to fit any more in.