Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!
Ah, June, one of my favourite months of the year. It's been an eventful month, with a birthday, a short holiday, a heat wave, a bereavement and funeral, alongside all the usual social, educational and work commitments. As expected, our various projects have taken a back seat as we spend more time outdoors and gradually slip into a summer of unschooling.
How does that look for us in practice? We school all year around. This means that we have more flexibility to ebb and flow with the seasons, and also with our own energy/inspiration levels. Generally, over the school summer holidays, my childminding work picks up. This makes it more difficult for me to focus solely on my daughters interests, and also makes it harder for her to focus on our project work. We tend to try to wrap projects up by the end of the 'school' year, then resume or start new ones in the autumn.
Over the summer we spend more time seeing friends (especially those who attend school), taking day trips, even heading off on holidays ourselves. In between, we continue to read, cook and bake, work on arts and crafts or whatever else takes our fancy. I value this time to observe my daughter and thus plan for her interests for the next academic year. She is always learning. For some seasons of our home educating journey we unschool, and this path suits us both well. In September, we are often both itching for new projects, so easing back into a project-based approach is something that has worked well for us for the autumn/winter season, although obviously is always up for review.
Bean's 10th Birthday Celebrations
I love planning for Bean's birthdays. Last year was a huge challenge as we were in the middle of our first lockdown here in the UK. You can read about our lockdown birthday celebration here. This year, I was unsure what the situation would be in terms of rules etc. so felt reluctant to plan anything too ambitious. We're still generally choosing to avoid indoor places, so that ruled out a lot of options, and I didn't feel like hosting, partly because I'm out of practice, but also because we were heading off on holiday the next day.
So, Bean's birthday was quite low key this year. We started the day with just the two of us, opening presents and sharing a special breakfast together (she requested a breakfast buffet). We then walked to Krispy Kreme to buy a box of donuts (in lieu of a birthday cake - she doesn't like cake), then she headed off to her Daddy's for lunch. In the afternoon we called for three of her best friends and walked to the park for a play. I took our Stomp Rocket, as well as some skipping ropes, our dancing ribbon and a few other outdoor play resources. The children made their own fun for a few hours, enjoying the wide, open space and being together. We finished our day with a pizza and nutella calzone from our favourite local restaurant.
Our Holiday to Bluestone
Pre-pandemic we would take one or two trips to Bluestone around November and/or February time (out of season). It's a really affordable holiday for us, especially if we take another parent and child along for the ride. A four night, mid week break costs around £200. This is the first time that we have been during peak season, and as well as being double the price, it was too busy for my liking, especially with all the social distancing measures still in place. We had to queue each day to get in the pool and the indoor play dome was packed. The staff were exceptionally helpful, friendly and accommodating, but we'll stick to out of season visits in the future.
We didn't have great weather. The second half of the week was cool and drizzly, with thick fog. Of course, we made the best of it, and the change of scene and break from our everyday routine was appreciated and much enjoyed. We had a lovely walk from Wiseman's Bridge to Saundersfoot, on the only warm and sunny evening of our holiday. I regretted not bringing our swimming things, as I think we'd have probably got in the sea otherwise. We also had a fun day out at Folly Farm, although it was quite surreal after receiving the heart breaking news of the death of a beloved family friend that very morning. Bean absolutely loves it there though, and that was a good distraction. We also really, really enjoyed exploring the beautiful grounds of the Bluestone park, even in the rain.
Creative Writing Project and Language Arts
Our creative writing project seems to have drawn to a natural close. I haven't yet put away all of our resources, but will do so now I think, ready to be pulled out again at a later date. Meanwhile, we are still slowly working our way through our Language Arts curriculum. Despite an uncertain start, we are now enjoying The Phantom Tollbooth. We've abandoned the copywork and dictation elements, as Bean found them a bit dull. She does, however, love the word play prompts. Each week, a few interesting words are presented, and she is invited to write something with one or more of them. This is a song she wrote recently, inspired by the word crimson.
Our garden is positively blooming. Everything is so green! We're picking kilos and kilos of raspberries, but we haven't had success with much else. Our potatoes are coming along nicely, and we hope to have a punnet or two of blueberries and hopefully some tomatoes. We have spinach ready to pick, but our courgettes have been slugged and our peas are pitiful. My prime vegetable bed has been taken over by self seeded nasturtiums, and I've got to the point now where I have accepted that our garden is what it is for this season, and I'll try again next year.
Aside from our holiday and a handful of play dates and trips to the park, our only major outing this month has been to the Funderworld fairground. This is a travelling fairground, so if you're interested it might be worth checking if it comes to your area. A child's ticket is just £12.99 and that includes unlimited rides. The fairground was quiet when we visited, which meant that the children just went around and around on some rides.
A Simple Cleaning Plan
June has been a busy month for us, for one reason or another, but I have finally come up with a simple cleaning plan that works for us. I've been following this plan for the past month and it feels manageable and has helped to reduce my feelings of overwhelm. Each day has a bare minimum focus. Obviously, I still need to wash dishes, wipe counters, fold laundry and generally tidy up after myself, but I've found that having a focus for each day has helped. Sometimes, I'll deep clean. Other days, I'll work on one area. Either way, I know that the focus area will come around again in a week, and somehow that seems to be working for reducing overwhelm and keeping on top of things.
Sunday is bedrooms and water house plants.
This month we have been back in Camerton for a one off, in person, cookery class with the lovely Sara @live_learn_cook. It was lovely to be back, but we'll be even happier when we can all cook around the table together, instead of in socially distanced family bubbles. We made a summer salad, some cheese pasties and a delicious summer berry cake. Sara is hoping to resume in person sessions this September. Do send her a message if you might like to join. They're excellent value for money, and such a lovely way to make new friends while learning an important life skill.
Our Building Plans
I don't have a lot to report here, which is surprising because it's still been taking up a huge amount of my headspace. In short, I've spent much of the month dithering between a flat or pitched roof for our extension, and whether or not to include a downstairs toilet (and if so, where to put it). I've visited two of my neighbours who have had similar extensions, to try to help me make my decision. It's been a useful process and I now have the right plans in place to proceed with the build.
Meanwhile, I've met with our builder who doesn't think he can start the build until early 2022. So, I'm continuing to chip away at clearing out the spaces, and thinking a lot about how I may like things to be laid out once the build is complete, as this will inform where we put radiators, light switches, plug sockets etc. I'm also awaiting a building quote, which may scupper the entire plan.
Lots and Lots of Wonderful Play
As is the priority here, the rhythm of our days and weeks still allow plenty of time for child led, uninterrupted, glorious play. We had a lovely heat wave at the beginning of the month, so spent many hours playing in our pool. We've had various sensory play invitations on the go, including playing with soap flakes and water beads, as well as making a fresh batch of fizzy potion powder. There's been lots and lots of building play, with Lego and with Bean's new PlusPlus, which she got for her birthday, as well as lots of small world and imaginary play too.
The Fundamentals of Play: Art Materials
Did you know that I have released the first guide in my brand new, self directed course, The Fundamentals of Play? This course is a work in progress, but it will eventually be a collection of 24 guides, split into four units of study (Play Matters, Independence, Play Materials and Play Areas). This first guide on Art Materials has been compiled with love, and shares all my knowledge and experience of supporting children with good quality, open ended art materials. I'll be working on the Loose Parts and Outdoor Play guides next, so keep an eye out for those coming soon.
You can download a few taster pages from this guide for FREE here.
I haven't bought a single book this month as I've been having a 'no spend' June, but we've made up for it with a lovely library stack. This is what we've been reading...
20 Games to Create with Scratch - I'm not sure where this new interest came from, but it was fleeting. Bean spotted the book and desperately wanted to try it out. We ended up downloading the Scratch Junior app which she played around with one afternoon, but then lost interest.
Coding in Scratch for Beginners - This was my choice really, as I felt well out of my depth with supporting Bean with Scratch. I'm kind of relieved that I was let off the hook there.
The Element in the Room - Bean's interest in chemistry is still strong. We'll be dipping in and out of this one at morning time. I like that it covers how the elements are used/found in the home.
Dr Xargle's Book of Earth Hounds and Dr Xargle's Book of Earth Mobiles - We discovered the Dr Xargle series while reading the books in Pie Corbett's Reading Spine for Year 2. They're somewhat dated now but Bean finds them hilarious.
Fantastic People Who Dared to Fail - We've been reading about all sorts of inspiring people as part of our current Courage Project, but so many of the stories we've been reading have been about people's successes. This book covers famous people who succeeded after failure.
Really, Really Big Questions - This is one of a series, and having picked up the version on Faith in TKMaxx last month, it caught my eye. Lots of interesting topics covered through questions such as 'Is it ok to eat animals? Do fairies exist? Why are we here?'. A great conversation starter.
A Maths Journey Through the Human Body - Embarrassingly, I realised when we got home that we have this book in our home library. We still haven't read it, but it looks interesting. I think it is one of a series.
Art Workshop for Children - We've had this book out on loan a number of times. It is one of my favourites for process art invitations. Highly recommended.
Cardboard Creations in the Home - I wish I'd known about this book when Bean was a little younger. It includes detailed instructions on how to make all sorts of large role play resources out of cardboard (a market stand, a tool kit, a washing machine, a doll highchair etc.)
Quick Crafts - I saw this book pop up for sale in an Instagram post recently and was intrigued. My first impression was that it was really not my style of crafts, as I tend to favour things that are useful as well as beautiful, but on closer inspection, I think there are lots of lovely ideas in there and we'll be trying some of them out for sure.
How to Make Polymer Clay Beads - This was one that I chose for inspiration and we have since had a lovely session making beads following the instructions in this book. We're both looking forward to exploring it more.
Here are the blog posts I've shared this month, just in case you might have missed them.
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Next month, I'll be sharing highlights of our TWO short holidays to Wales (yes, we're going twice this coming month!) I'll definitely have some childminding highlights for you too. My little mindee wasn't able to attend at all this June, due to holidays and isolating family members, but she'll be having just four more sessions with us before the end of term. There'll be the usual project updates and book recommendations too.
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.