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May Newsletter: The One With All the Bluebells

Updated: Jul 10

Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!

So, we've gone from the coldest April on record, to the wettest May, but what a turnaround at the end! Here's hoping that June continues to be warm. It's been a bit of a struggle to get this newsletter written this month, as I haven't been all that well, but I'm coming out the other side and have been tapping away at it for the past few days. It's still May though right?! Just.

Wales Mini break

The month of May started off with a bang for us, with a mini break to Wales. I grew up in Carmarthenshire, not far from the market town of Llandeilo. My Mum still lives at my childhood home, and pre-pandemic we would try to get home to visit every 4-6 weeks. We've missed our regular dose of tranquil, countryside living this past year.

We're very fortunate in that my Mum has a completely self-contained cabin at the bottom of her garden, so for the May Bank Holiday weekend we were able to have some friends join us. It was so lovely to have a change of scene, and having visited with these friends many times over the years, our children are now so independent playing in the garden that it feels like a proper break.

We mostly stayed at home, but these photographs were taken on our walk to Dinefwr Park and Castle, which is beautiful year round, but especially during the bluebell season. You can visit the castle and woodland without National Trust membership by walking from the town centre via Llandyfeisant Church.

Childminding Highlights

We've had three lovely sessions with my sweet little mindee, who has been back to join us weekly in person. For her first session in May we were also joined by one of her big sisters, which was a real highlight for Bean especially. These photographs are of our morning invitation to play with Grapat loose parts. I love open ended toys such as these as they are appealing for all ages. It's lovely to see how they are used differently by a 4 year old and 9 year old.

After lunch the children helped me to move our new guinea pig enclosure into its final position, and to set up the inside for their first short taster session on the grass. Our guinea pigs live indoors, so we're having to introduce them very gradually to their outdoor run. Everybody got to have a cuddle.

The following week we headed out on a day trip to meet friends at Bowood Woodland Gardens in Wiltshire. This place is such a special seasonal treat. It's only open mid-April to mid-June, to coincide with the flowering season, and the grounds boast a spectacular show of rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and bluebells. We took a picnic lunch, but nothing else by way of entertainment. The children spent hours exploring the grounds, gathering fallen petals and nature finds, climbing trees and adventuring about.

Then this last Friday we had a quiet, gentle day at home as I'm still recovering from illness. Here the girls are enjoying a process art invitation with oil pastels and watercolour paints. I love how unique and wonderful children's art work can be when presented with simple, quality art materials. These children had access to the exact same materials, but their outcomes are so different.

I've been working hard over the past few weeks on curating a comprehensive digital guide to open ended art materials, which I hope to release this June. The guide will form part of The Fundamentals of Play program, but I'm planning to release this one as a stand alone guide.

After lunch we had a building session with the Connetix tiles, followed by a few hours of water play in the garden. It was such a beautiful, calm and productive afternoon of play that I got so distracted clearing out our toy shed in the glorious sunshine that I nearly forgot to take the little one home!

Courage Project

We don't have much to report with our Courage Project. We're still reading our stack of books whenever we get the opportunity. Who are Refugees and Migrants? is proving to be an excellent read, prompting lots of discussion, whereas our first impression of Big Ideas For Young Thinkers (which we have on loan from the library) is

Creative Writing Project and Language Arts

This month Bean has been working on a Story Map for our Creative Writing Project (one of the prompts from the book Show Me a Story, which you can read a review of here). It's a work in progress, as she's been adding to it over three or four sessions, and it isn't yet finished. During our first session she came up with a list of all the features she wanted to include, so each time we sit down to work on it, I remind her of her list. While she works on her map, she narrates and I write down everything she is telling me. A complex world is evolving.

Our new Language Arts curriculum has stalled this past week due to my illness. The break has given us a chance to reflect on what is working for us, and more importantly what is not. Bean enjoys the word play element, but not so much the copywork, dictation or narration. We also agreed that Alice in Wonderland was not really gripping enough, so we decided to skip on to the next book, The Phantom Tollbooth. It's been a useful reminder that we don't have to 'push on through' projects that we are not enjoying.

Gardening Project

May has been so wet that it's been a challenge to work in our garden, and what with illness and other distractions, it hasn't been very near the top of our priority list. All of the little seedlings that had come through in our main bed (carrots, broccoli and various salad leaves) got munched up by slugs and snails. The bed has now been completely taken over by self seeded nasturtiums (why don't the slugs and snails eat them?!) which I've been gradually trying to relocate.

One dry afternoon I managed to get our second planter built and into position. I ordered the wrong size aggregate which made it more difficult to get it level, and I didn't order nearly enough top soil to fill it, so I've emptied our second compost bin into the bottom of it (it's not quite as composted as the first) and will top it up with some ready made compost. Just today I have started planting some of our seedlings out into it.

Things that are going well:

Our patio potatoes look great. I just chucked in a few sprouting Maris Piper potatoes from the supermarket, so I've no idea if they'll actually produce a good crop, but they look healthy and promising. It'll be a good experiment. Also, our flowering weigela is absolutely magnificent at this time of year. It has survived our brutal ivy and fence work this time last year which I feared would finish it off.

We've also got lots of exciting action going on in our pond, with lots and lots of busy, fat tadpoles, the occasional froglet and great big frog. Yesterday we counted three frogs in there. It's amazing what the tiniest little pond in an urban garden can accomodate.

Day Trips

We've had two lovely day trips this past month. The first to Bowood Woodland Gardens as mentioned above. This is really worth a visit if you're local and can squeeze one in within the next couple of weeks. It'd make a lovely half term day trip.

And the second to Chew Valley Animal Park to celebrate my brother's 40th birthday. We didn't have great weather, but managed a happy hour in the sunshine before our picnic lunch and the imminent rain. We always have such a great time whenever we visit this place. It's a beautiful location, with views over the rolling hills of the Chew Valley. You can buy animal feed to hand feed the sheep, goats and chickens. It's definitely a warm, dry weather trip though, as it is entirely outdoors with nowhere to shelter from the wind and rain.

Other Highlights

The Green Parent Magazine