Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!
I hope you are all safe and well. This photograph pretty accurately sums up our month... dark, but with rays of light. Here in the UK we find ourselves yet again in a national lockdown *sigh*. This time around feels harder, with it being winter and having decided not to see our support bubble as the risk feels too great. Our days have been merging into one another, but with a certain shape to them. I feel forever grateful that we have everything we need, and a warm and safe home to call our own.
After Christmas, with no possibility of visiting friends or family, or indeed very much potential for going anywhere or doing anything, we decided to launch straight into our new projects. With the announcement of a new national lockdown here at the beginning of January I knew that I needed a plan to support us through it. A gentle rhythm to guide us through our days at home. This has been working very well for us the past month, with project work taking priority, but with some other ideas planned in to provide some shape to our week.
Science Project Highlights
Our science project has been such a welcome distraction this past month, keeping us busy and providing opportunity for a bit of excitement and fun. Five weeks in to the project and we are just beginning to near the end of a chemistry focus. This past week I have written a series of posts for my social media accounts, sharing some of our highlights and detailing some of the experiments we've tried. You can read about each highlight by clicking on the links below.
Earlier in the 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.
Alongside our science project we have been working on another project with a courage focus. My hope is that this project will support Bean in finding her authentic voice and, at the very least, build her self esteem. We're reading from the books, Break the Mould and The Power Book, which you can read a more detailed review of in this post on my social media accounts.
We started by reading the story Jubari Jumps, about how a little boy finds the courage to jump off the diving board. We discussed the occasions when we might need a bit of encouragement to be brave, and what might help. We each created our own playlist of songs that we can listen to (or sing in our heads) to help us feel more courageous.
We read the story Thunder Cake, about how a little girl is comforted through her fear of thunderstorms. This led on to a discussion about how the feeling of fear manifests in our bodies, and ultimately how courage or bravery feels too. We agreed that they feel quite similar!
We also learned about Guatamalan Worry Dolls and had a go at making our own.
This project is a work-in-progress, with only one session planned per week. I'll share some more highlights in next month's newsletter.
1000 Hours Outside
This January we decided to have a go at the 1000 Hours Outside. We've clocked up a measly 26 hours outside this month, but although this doesn't even equate to one hour per day, it's significantly more time than we'd ordinarily spend outdoors at this time of year. If, like us, you're struggling to get outdoors in the bleak British winter, my lovely community shared lots and lots of ideas on this post on my Facebook page.
With all this time spent at home and the doors opening for studio membership with Masterpiece Society, I figured that now was as good a time as any to give it a trial run. We made a start with a short course in Abstract Art and are both really enjoying it. I'm not sure that we'll keep our membership post-lockdown, but at the moment it's a lovely way to spend some relaxing time together. I need to find a bit of wall space to create a little gallery I think.
January Cleaning, Decluttering and Organising
My goal for January has been to get a grip on food waste, and despite the progress I have made towards meeting this goal, I still feel that I have a long way to go.
What I've managed this month:
* I emptied, cleaned, purged and organised our fridge. I found a lot of part-used, out-of-date jars of various things hiding at the back of my shelves, taking up precious space. I also found that I had a lot of leftovers in unmarked containers.
* I've written a basic menu plan - Monday pasta, Wednesday potato, Sunday roast etc - so that I'm not constantly having to write a plan from scratch. I've also scheduled in lots of 'leftover lunches' to encourage us to eat everything up.
* I ordered another pack of the smallest Lakeland Stack-a-Boxes. These are my tupperware of choice. I like them because they come in three sizes, but they all have matching lids, genius! This size is so handy for freezing in smaller portions, which will result in less food waste here.
* I'm shopping twice a week, which probably isn't the most sensible idea during the pandemic, but I'm finding that I'm much more able to manage buying what we need and therefore not stockpiling for the coming week. I've given up with my online delivery pass for the time being, as with a minimum spend I was always forced to buy more than we need.
What I still have to do:
* I need to empty, clean, declutter and organise our freezer. This is a slow work-in-progress as I'm trying to schedule in the eating of the contents so that it isn't wasted, but I think this is the step that will make the biggest difference to our food waste. It's currently so full that I can't store any leftovers.
* I need to go through our pantry, and relocate some of our dry food storage into a different part of our kitchen (where it is more accessible and easier to see).
We obviously haven't been anywhere this month and I can only begin to dream about including day trips in future newsletters. I did manage a long walk with a dear friend to celebrate her birthday, a short walk with my brother and nephew, and a couple of hours in the woods with my sweet little mindee. Other than that, every trip outside our front door has been exactly that, an urban walk from our front door.
Prior to lockdown, we spent New Year's Eve with our lovely support bubble. This was the first year that I have allowed Bean to stay up until midnight to see the New Year in, and she was so, so excited. We watched the televised fireworks in London on the BBC, which I found quite emotional to be honest. On new year's day we kicked off our 1000 Hours Outside with a lovely 2 hour walk, despite having had virtually no sleep.
We've had lots and lots of play with our new Connetix tiles. We ordered the 2 piece base plate pack, which are two, large, 4x4 tiles, that provide the perfect base for building. You can read all about how they have inspired play in this post on my social media accounts.
We had snow! This is a very, very rare treat here in Bristol, and we got straight out in it. Last time we had snow, Bean was really unwell with a fever, so we were so happy to have a chance to play in it this time around.
Another new addition to our provision here has been a set of Sumblox. These were bought at great discount from Yes Bebe, with the primary intention of using them with my little mindee who has a strong interest in number and math. We've had a go at the first few lessons, which Bean has really enjoyed. I'll try to do a full review of these on the blog soon.
Bean and I have also been really, really enjoying Junior Bake Off and The Great Pottery Throwdown, both on Channel 4 and, after Bean's bedtime, I've been bingeing on Bridgerton and now The Durrells on Netflix, which have both offered just the type of gentle escapism I need right now. I'm not usually one to bother with television, but needs must.
31 Days of Morning Play Invitations
My most recent digital play offering, which launched this January, 31 Days of Morning Play Invitations, is now available for instant download. 31 PDF guides for invitations to play, explore and create, that you can set up quite quickly and easily before you go to bed at night, using materials that you will likely already have in your home. I've had really positive feedback for this collection. If you're looking for activity ideas for your little ones, this may be just the thing!
The coupon code for my 40 Days of Lockdown Inspiration collection is also still valid. Type in 'stayathome' at checkout for a 50% discount. This code will be valid until we come out of our national lockdown here in the UK.
We have had a few new additions to our morning basket this month. For our Science Project we have been reading and enjoying, 100 Things to Know About Science and Women in Science. The 100 Things to Know About... series are just so, so brilliant. We'll be moving on to 100 Things to Know About the Human Body next.
For our Courage Project we have been reading The Power Book and Break the Mould, both of which are excellent and come highly recommended. You can read a more detailed review of these books in this post on my social media accounts.
I've read two actual books this month! One of the perks of spending so much time at home. The first, Where the Crawdad's Sing, was simply wonderful and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Beautiful descriptions of the marshes of North Carolina, alongside a gripping love story and murder mystery. I literally read this one in a few days and love, love, loved it!
The second, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is almost impossible to review without giving away a spoiler! It may not be the best choice if, like me, you are sensitive to any form of animal cruelty, but I found the theme running through the story quite thought provoking. We've come such a long way in our treatment of animals, but still have a long way to go.
Audio Books This month Bean has listened to another Jacqueline Wilson's story, Hetty Feather, which we both really enjoyed. This book is the first of a series, set in Victorian Britain, and tells the story of young foundling Hetty Feather, on her journey to find her mother. This story has inspired so much imaginative play. We're eagerly awaiting the sequel, Sapphire Battersea, which doesn't arrive in our Borrowbox until mid-February. In the meantime, we're going to be watching the BBC dramatisation of Hetty Feather.
Bean has also just finished listening to The Skylarks War, which I can't review for you as I didn't really tune in. Bean enjoyed it though.
I've not managed to listen to an audiobook myself this month. I have a couple waiting in my Borrowbox, but I simply haven't had the capacity to concentrate on them when I've tried. Instead, when I'm cooking and cleaning, I've been listening to my own uplifting playlists on Spotify, because I need to sing and dance to music I love right now.
Here are the blog posts I've written this month, just in case you might have missed them.
You may also enjoy reading the interviews for series three of Advocates for Play. It's so interesting to read different play perspectives and approaches to home education. Series four will be coming in April.
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Next month, I'll be sharing an update on our science project (moving on to Biology next), our Valentine celebrations and the usual book reviews and recommendations.
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.