Tag Archive for Home Education

All about Fran

When MuddlePuddle and then PoP started, it was really mostly about Fran. She has always been the one to do things first and rightly or wrongly, I suppose I tended to focus on her. Things have gone on at her pace, often aimed for her interests and needs with everyone tagging along.

But all that is going to change. This is going to be one of the last times that I write publicly about her here, because as of October, she will cease to be home educated. When that happens, I may go back to occasional passworded posts about what she’s up to, but she’ll certainly fade out of the home ed element of the blog. She’s getting older anyway, it is no longer so easy to write about her here because, although it might not be obvious (!) I do respect her growing privacy.

It’s all happened so suddenly. She’s probably been the most fulfilled and happy and hard working at home ed that she’s ever been recently, but it’s true I’ve started to notice pieces of her needing more ‘being out and about’ stuff than I feel up to supplying these days. She’s always been one of the oldest in our home ed network, certainly locally, but that had altered slightly recently, with a couple of people of her age coming along. She’s a sociable girl, with a network of dancing and gym and old school friends that she chats to lots. She’s never complained about feeling isolated. When the opportunity happened to come along, one of her first responses was “but I’m happy being home educated.”

I do believe that opportunities come along for a reason. The letter offering a place came from the one senior school she liked the look of at Yr7 but she didn’t get a place because we live a long way from it. It’s an academy, one which runs very differently from most of the local senior schools. She and Max really liked what they saw of it two years ago and nothing else measured up. Only recently she’s been saying she didn’t see herself going to school now but a place, right at the beginning of their 3 year KS4/GCSE programme, just popped up and having all looked round again and spoken to the KS4 head, it just feels right.

She’s ready to stretch her wings. She’s read to test herself. Her abilities to write and use her brain and explore and contribute and try things out have just come along in leaps recently. She’s able, for the first time ever, to sit and concentrate, motivate herself over long periods of time, improve herself for her own ends and get on with things that are tough for her. I’ve been watching the changes with awe. Anything which worried me at Yr7 age, that her half formed home educated skills would be all out of step with school, no longer worries me at all.

She said yes while we were there; she didn’t want to consider it, it clearly felt like a challenge she wanted and she accepted the place on the spot. She can’t do History GCSE, because the option set is already full, so she’s building a set of options which will have some level of flexibility in them, some which build on current strengths and some which are more physical rather than academic – and the school will support her to do History with us and in study periods and allow her to take the exam there if she meets their expectations.

Thankfully, because I’ve been monitoring her maths and science abilities very closely recently, I’ve got a good idea of how able she is and comparing her to the schools levels, I can see she is going to be in the upper half of the ability range there. So hopefully she’ll find some things relatively easy and that will give her more time to concentrate on the things she’ll find harder which is going to be a language (French by the looks of things) and writing critically for things like English. It’s a toss up just now whether she can really join the French classes, it isn’t something we’ve focused on much. But a music GCSE and either a dance or drama certificate will hopefully allow her to put more time into those.

In terms of other things, it’s a place with masses of ‘enrichment’ activities. Almost everything she does is represented there; the drama and dance facilities are extra-ordinary, there is a busy performance schedule, loads of sport, things like Air Cadets which she wanted to try and trampoline and gymnastics. Given finances almost certainly means she’ll have to cut back, never mind time for homework, I think being able to access some of that there, in whatever form, will suit her well. She loves to be part of a community and she has a chance to get it there.

Of course, there are going to be downsides. My impression of the school is good, most of all I could hope for to be honest, but I suppose it only takes a few hideous kids or whatever for it to go wrong. I’m going to miss the flexibility, getting her there will be a pain and I will miss her at home, because as teens go, she’s so far been a joy to be around, but I can honestly say I think it will be great for her. She’s developing into a focused, motivated, determined and driven kid with a maturity to deal with difficulties and a mindset about relationships and difficulties that I’m in awe of.

I’m so proud of her. It’s the end of an era but it seems obvious now that this is what we were aiming for all along; a child who would become ready for this moment to come and grab it by the neck.

Pondering home educating nearly 10 years in.

It annoys me that I’m not doing a good old inspiring home ed blog any more. I do try but more and more the girls just get on and do stuff, not very visual or exciting stuff, not stuff that warrants dramatic blog posts. more and more, this blog has become about me, or just about any old family life. I’m toying with separating stuff off that *I* like to do, though I suspect I’ll regret that long term because I miss my niche as a home educating blog, but I know also that much of where we are now comes from what we’ve lived. Perhaps we are into that phase where this becomes a “well it seemed to all gradually come together for them” type of blog, rather than a “Oh, I must try THAT!” type of blog.

I don’t regret the former exactly, but I miss the latter a bit. These last few years have not been kind in the “have energy to do the show right here and MAKE. A. PROJECT.” kind of way. I feel like Josie misses out a bit, perhaps that Amelie did too – and that thought is enough to be getting my brain churning a bit.

Don’t misunderstand me; it makes me proud to know we are well on the way to becoming the type of family people look at and say “well, they were home educated from the start and seem to be doing okay” and the recent foray back into focused maths has been a huge boost in my sense of that being so. We’ve been carrying on with that and it is a massive encouragement to me – and to them – to see it coming together with so little effort. They’ve learned some exam tricks quickly, learned from errors and are already performing at a standard that would certainly not disgrace them at all in school. Over the last couple of months, inspired by a couple of penpals who write with pens and send things with stamps :shock: , Fran has suddenly developed a desire to improve her very scruffy and under-practised handwriting. Within no time at all, she has a neat, if still printed, style and is so proud of herself.

It feels like all those home ed clich???s, the promised epiphanies,? are really coming home. It certainly makes it easier on the day I fret and worry to now have some firm success and confidence under our belts.

While we’ve been frantically trying to hold it all together over the last few years, I’ve been very ashamed of how mundane our home ed has become. My aspirations have altered too; once I wanted it to be Montessori and Charlotte Mason and literature based, fabulous linked up projects with themed days out and children who crafted like Anne of Green Gables mixed with a Chalet girl. And then after a while all I really wanted was for them to be at least as able as I was when I left school, to at least not have been hindered by being home educated. That might seem very negative; the positive of that is that one thing I really wanted for my children was a childhood and time to play. It was very important to me that they didn’t get turned off knowledge and learning, that they learned the skills of playing and learned the skills of learning. I’ve never worried about information, but I do think skills matter. So if it has all become a bit text book, that suits my girls fairly well – and it does leave masses of time for reading and playing and being yourself without worrying that not enough boxes are getting ticked, should we ever revert to a horrible badman, Ball and Brown scenario again.

All of that said, it surprised me greatly today to hear Fran talking to one of her cleft team about the education she is getting. She was articulate and clear and concise and very positive about what she learns and how. They’d spent a private hour together and I came in on the end. The lady in question appeared reasonably impressed by her anyway, she certainly wasn’t giving off negative home ed vibes, but hearing Fran talk about what she reads, why she likes the history course she does, what she likes about her various other subjects and how it is good to learn the way she does, genuinely surprised me.

It occurred to me in one of those “DUH” moments after that, that there is nothing to stop us going back to a bit of the Monte/Charlotte Mason stuff. The big girls almost always listen to the little girl stuff, the littles tend to join in with big girl things – why have I stopped educating that way because I thought the moment has passed? Josie still deserves that type of start on her educational journey; perhaps what I need to remember is that we could all go back there and get joy and learning from it. it might make the blog a bit more interesting too.

Bury St Edmunds Abbey Day Out

This is the very best sort of home ed day. Sun, ruined abbeys and questions, so, so, SO many questions! The best thing about going to historical places is that I can normally answer those too :) This day out at Bury Gardens, which holds the ruins of the abbey, was just amazing. We grabbed the opportunity of a day out together, because Max had won 35 years worth of bound Motorsport magazines on eBay (yes… really :roll: ) and needed to collect them. So off we went, as they say

This particular spot was the ruins of Cair Paravel while we had lunch.


Will you look at the grass. It looks like we’re on Safari, not in the South East of England.


The abbey is quite fantastically ruined, more so than lots, with the cobbled innards of what was once walls all laid bare because the local people were expressly given permission to use it as a quarry for building materials.

It was originally built using stone from Barnack, local to us, which Hannah happened to tel me about the other week as a good local walk.


Best place to keep a bunch of abbots ;)

The crypt, which housed many famous people, not least St Edmund himself once upon a time, is still pretty spooky.

The girls love ruins and played and read the info plaques for ages before flumping.


You can say what you like about Henry VIII and his monastery dissolving, but there are some well appointed bijou properties on the market thanks to him ;)

I must read up more on the new cathedral. There are foundation stones with 1964 on it and if that’s when it was built, thank goodness they kept whoever designed the Coventry monstrosity well away :lol:

The guide book was useful.
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Up to a point ;)

But it was this which enthralled me the most. I do so love Elizabeth Chadwick for opening this part of history up to me.
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Couldn’t resist reading the poem out.

Argh – I forgot to add – I got home to an email from a blog reader, Veronica, who had spotted us out on our day and recognised us. Thank you very much V for making me feel like a celeb for probably my only time ever!!!!

Highlight of the day for Max?
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To the Lady Volunteer in the Thrift Shop

Today my friend and I, and our 6 home educated children, were chatting to one of your co-workers in The Thrift Shop. He was telling us about the riding for the disabled programme, showing us pictures and explaining what goes on in the programme. The children, who had just spent a happy 45 minutes visiting the animals and purchasing dog treats in the pet food shop while walking a dog re-homed from your centre, had been nosing about your shop, which they regularly purchase from and support, and looking at what was for sale and finding out about some of the things in there.

Your colleague had asked why they girls were not in school and we had replied, politely as we always do, that they were home educated and when he asked what we were doing today, we said we had come out for a breath of fresh air, that all the children were animal mad and it was a good opportunity for some exercise, some social time and some fun. He didn’t seem to find that difficult to accept and indeed I think he said there was plenty to learn at a place like XXXXX.

Just as we were about to leave, you felt the need to butt in and very aggressively and officiously asked us what the children were learning at this moment. You followed this up by saying “Those children should be at home learning. I used to be a school secretary and I know” and shuffling your sheaf of papers in an outraged fashion.

Z, who less impatient that I am, repeated that there is plenty to learn at the centre but also that we were just getting out for a while. I was far more irritated by your uncalled for and inappropriate intervention in our day and I believe I said something along the lines of it being none of your business to comment on our private life and I certainly wasn’t going to explain myself to someone working in a shop. It is one thing to take an interest in a home educating family, plenty of people do. It is quite another to do it aggressively and in an accusatory fashion.

For the record, firstly, on the day the school system produces perfectly educated and able children, I shall worry about whether my children are engaged in meaningful activity every second of the day.

For a second, there is no requirement in law at all for home educators to keep school hours or school terms and not even the police are allowed to continue questioning a child once they have stated they are home educated.

For a third, if being at XXXXX cannot be considered an educational experience, why exactly did it recently charge us a reasonable amount per head to go on an educational tour of the facility? Do school trips never come and see you? And if so, do they never spend their pocket money in the shop?

Fourthly, I am my children’s parent, not you. You are no more entitled to make value judgements on us than you are on any other family. You are certainly not entitled to criticise my parenting or educational choices in front of them and you should be ashamed of yourself. I can’t imagine that would have been considered professional in the school you worked in to openly question and criticise parents.

Fifthly, if we have to put it into very basic terms, it was 12pm. Even in schools, children are permitted a lunch break.

Lastly, I won’t presume to make assumptions about you. Perhaps you spent your life as a school secretary because you gave your time passionately to bringing up your children and didn’t want a career. It may be you put a career on hold to care for a disabled child or work injured husband. It may be you believed utterly in the school system and wanted to better it.

Or it may be that a pass-remarkable state education left you fit for nothing but a jumped up admin job and the power went to your head a bit. Either way, let me assure you, being being a school secretary in no way fits you to make judgements about home education any more than being a home educator makes me fitted for typing, answering the phone all day and keeping the first aid cupboard up to date.

Now please – go boil your head. You lost XXXXX some loyal visitors and customers today.

(As a thank you to the two directors and managers who made such considerable effort to put this right today, I have removed identifying tags and names of the animal shelter.)

A Typical Home Ed Day in Photos – request for carnival submissions

A long time ago, when blogging was just a bright young thing, some people from the Early Years Home Ed group started a tradition of blogging a ‘typical home ed day in photos’ every year in May. The idea was slightly a joke, as not many home ed families have a ‘typical’ day :) but it took off and has been a lovely thing to read and look at over the years. The Early Years Blogring, that yellow box on the right, is a testament to the numbers of people who connect and share ideas and support through blogging their home educating life.

I confess that I haven’t taken part for a couple of years. My most read one is here, although I have done others since, and there is always a lovely one at the Beans and I’m hoping some other people will find me links to previous ones of theirs too so I can add them.(Please!)

Home Ed is much (MUCH!) more mainstream than it was when we started, but I still think it is lovely to get a snapshot of the myriad of ways and days and styles and sheer diversity in how we choose to educate our children.

So I invite you to capture a day, for posterity, in photos on your blog of a day, any day, and how it happened. Sort of like the census but also very much not ;)

A Home Ed Day in Photos

There is a badge if you’d like to use it (I might change it, so use the code to pull it from here so it doesn’t matter if I do; this was one I had to hand!) and I’d like it very much if you would pop your links into the comments and I’ll add them to the body of a post that I do on Wednesday 18th May. It would be lovely if you let other home educators you know of about the carnival and lovely if you would link back here and to a few of your favourites in your own post.

I’ve lost touch with my home ed roots a bit over this last year and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to read some home ed blogs again and meet some new people.

I hope you’ll join me :)

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<strong>Here is the badge code:-</strong>
<p style=”text-align: center;”><a href=”http://www.patchofpuddles.co.uk/archives/5320/a-home-education-day-in-photos”><img title=”homeedday” src=”http://www.patchofpuddles.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/homeedday.jpg” alt=”A Home Ed Day in Photos” width=”128″ height=”130″ /></a></p>

French/Science/Latin/Poetry/English Day

We might need to come up with a catchier title for this. This is now a very long time ago in my head, so I’ll keep it properly brief. We reformed for an ad hoc day of trying out some new things and a different way of getting the kids together to enjoy some education and company.

First up (mainly as I was late :blush: ) was science from HH which was chromatography. The first version, from the book, didn’t work too well, so my late book signers got to do the working version from HH’s head :D Michelle had worksheet word puzzles and spelling tests, which rather amazingly, they all liked :lol: Chloe was persuaded to run a shop in French and everyone had to take turns in buying things from them. I think a bit of Skoldo got done too. HH did Latin Secundus with them; I’ve not really heard much of the Latin up to now, so was really impressed by how much had evidently been learned at Latinetc. I love the idea that they all think of Latin as something to be yelled out and laughed about, in a very living way, not tests and translations and exams. But then, I really don’t care much about those things or value them, so I like to see them living the moment and dipping into so many other things.

I did the poetry; with the younger ones (and French R) I did The Owl and the Pussy Cat. We read it a few times, hunted for nonsense, talked about the rhythm and the type of poem and I got them to describe what they would draw if they had to. R did particularly well… although she did them point out a drawing of it on the front cover ;) :lol: With the older ones we did The Road Less Travelled and they has some brilliant thoughts about it. I got them to listen twice, trying to imagine the physical side of the poem first and then listen again to decipher what the poet was saying. We discussed the language, the mood of the poem and the impression it left, the beat and the use of language. We talked about the difference in what was being said and what was meant.

I asked each of the children to come up with, if they could, a time when they made a choice or had an experience which would permanently change them; they are a diverse bunch, with 6 month exchanges, joining and leaving school, going on holidays alone, losing brothers, leaving important groups and talk about why the change altered them in a way that meant even when the moment reverted to the original status quo, they could never be the same. I was really impressed by how eloquently they spoke, the depth of understanding they had of the poem and their interest levels. It’s a poem often used to describe HE and we discussed why that was a bit.

After that Zoe got them doing some sewing and I brought out the Fimo bit box and they crafted, played and bounced. I have no photos of the day at all, so will leave you with the dragons made after the previous week!

History Day – the Greeks

I am so far behind on educational record keeping it isn’t true. I’ve got at least several nice days to write up, so you’ll just have to take it as read that in between times, they’ve also been doing ordinary stuff, Mathletics etc etc. Music lessons have happened, trampolining been done, ballet exams got through, (Ams got 83, Commended, for her Freestyle Solo Award), gardening has occurred, pets been loved, crafts been crafted, and a fair multitude of books been read.

And then as well, we’ve had some lovely days. Such as our HistoryEtc Greeks day. Annoyingly, no one else has fully blogged it yet, so I can’t link and run – I’m going to have to do it properly

I really like the format of these days; each of us brings something and this week, for a bit of fun, they all got dressed up in things something like these but I’m sure HH said something different. Either way, my lot wafted around in not very geometrically or historically correct versions, but no doubt what they’ll actually remember is the Greeks wore simple clothing, often bright, that was rectangles pinned together at the top and belted. Which is fine. Either that or “mummy, you know the Greeks who wore old smelly parachutes with fimo badges on them….” will haunt me for years to come!

HH had prepared these wonderful plaster plaques

which Fran decided was her best artwork ever and 3 of mine did them.

There were word searches and so on to do and then the colouring in of various Greeks and Gods from the ever amazing Activity Village. These were then turned into Pediments a la Zoe (temple tops for the uninitiated) and I’m annoyed because I forgot to use my Qi info that Greeks didn’t have arches!
Greek Pediment
Yes that really is the state of my carpet. If I was any sort of Mummy Blogger, I’d have wangled a sponsored laminate floor by now!!!

Jax showed off her costume making skills with the Greek peg dolls, although I did also see her wafting about in Tudor costume at one point :lol:

Michelle did paper plate Greek Comedy and Tragedy Masks and Katy did Greek Shields, also on paper plates. (I reckon I could do Hama Bead versions of those :lol: )

HH also did Spanakopita with them all (respect :) )

My contribution was a free session of Fimo play based on the 12 Labours of Hercules. They didn’t need too much help and with a bit of prodding (and a late entry from me and Michelle!) we managed to get all the 12 done :)

There were also snacks of Greek Almond Shortbread Cookies – as a by product of this we discovered Amelie is no longer allergic to almonds! – olives, pita, houmous and figs.

It was a fab day. Thanks all.

Learning Through Play – any other way?

Play seems to mean a multitude of different things. It means something a child does that keeps them out of their parents hair, something children do together, sometimes it means a game inside, or a game outside; to me, as a child, playing usually meant being alone, deeply engrossed in a game from my imagination that had no room for anyone else to be involved at all. I disappeared into worlds in those days, playing alone but entirely happily, for hours and days at a time. My stock of props was a small cardboard box filled with drawing pins, paper clips, plasticine, coins, a few chess sets and assorted other oddments that could be anything I wanted them to be.

I built worlds out of nothing. In my childhood, I had very few collections of branded toys; I liked My Little Pony, I loved Lego, I played with Strawberry Shortcake. Mostly though, I played with bits of nothing. Endlessly.

So what about learning? I’m a home educator and I also sell toys for a living. I’m a person who believes completely in the innate ability of children to explore things that interest them and find out what they need through a personal and driven desire to understand the world around them and I believe children will do that without reward from an outside force, if they are allowed to develop a belief that understanding is a reward in itself. I believe, really, in using the world to learn and play, though I do of course believe in toys too!

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When I had children I was initially startled to discover that not all of them were going to be like me; Fran really could not play in that way, she needed to be entertained; she made mess, not games. Maddy on the other hand would find two things of a similar style or colour and then play a game with them, but always the same game. She would mimic a scene from the film A Bug’s Life with whatever came to hand. It was Amelie who taught them to play, bringing her natural talent for leadership and inventive imaginative play to the forefront of their free time and suddenly the world of “things” became real to the other two, who had previously played beautifully together in make believe worlds but always as actors, never with toys. Finally Josie appeared and there in front of me unfolded the child I had been. Josie plays exactly as I did as a child.

As a parent and a toy seller it really bothers me that we have fallen into the limiting trap of assigning specific learning values to toys. I loath seeing “Meets Key Stage 2 Objectives” printed on to a game. I can’t help feeling that children deserve time to play in a real sense, instead of being endlessly pushed through hoops. The learning that comes from play is vital, but it should be incidental to the sheer joy of living that moment of childhood.

By the time most of the “play based learning objectives” started to hit nursery school environments, it was Amelie who was going and I was able to snort derisively at the person who called me in to say that Amelie was still in a circular play schema after 2 months and therefore needed x corrective play procedure to move her on. I just wanted her to be doing painting where someone else cleared up the mess. I didn’t care if she was was painting circles. I didn’t really care if she was going round in circles!

I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on both learning and playing now. My definition of learning is not squirrelling way facts or learning to work through maths problems. My definition of learning is acquiring skills and a knowledge base of concepts that fits you for life, of developing passions and ideas and learning to learn. I encourage my children to examine and explore and consider and dissect and it seems to me those skills will fit them for anything. More often than not, the things the children happen to learn about, from volcanoes to healthy lunches, are a by product of skill acquisition, discovering how to find information, how to plan a project, how to present findings, how to work as a group and manage a situation.

When I look at all the things I consider to be the vital to the development of my children as they grow into adults, I realise and observe that they get just as much from playing as they do from any contrived learning experience. My children have very little concept of what is ‘work’ and what is ‘play’ and I try not to value one above the other in any great sense.

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Their recent foray into Lego took almost 6 solid weeks of the year. They built, they researched old and new Lego on the internet, they planned buildings and developed scenarios, they negotiated piece sharing and they developed building skills. From simple squares came complex floor plans and pulley systems, from arguments over how a game altered came enhanced social skills and thoughtful team work. I had almost no input (aside from adding more Lego!) and yet the learning that went on during that time was enormous. It would have been a travesty to interrupt it and sit them in front of a workbook.

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Today they’ve been colouring; to the unsympathetic eye this might not seem terribly educational or meaningful. You might not even think it was play unless you knew that they’d narrated a long and complicated story as they sat together, inventing a world in which they were all slaves being forced to colour against their will, adapting around each others ideas as they went. It might not seem meaningful unless you knew this was something Fran loves to do because she can do it well and it fills her with pride to finish something beautiful and know that effort brings reward. For Maddy is is an opportunity to do something stress free because it has boundaries and rules, for Amelie it is an exercise in patience and for Josie it is a great leveller, because she can be as good as her sisters. There is pen control and thinking and talking about the themes of the pictures, there are numbers on the pens for Josie to recognise and levels of difficulty and dexterity to negotiate.

They’ve learned and they’ve played today, though they probably don’t think they’ve done either. They think they’ve lived. And that, after all is what life is often about – playing and learning.

Written for the Tots100 March blog hop on Learning through Play.

Can home ed kids have a sickie? (Lego is better!)

And the fabulous (depending on your point of view!) answer is… no, not really. See, another plus point to home education-  you can work even when you are sick… no reason to miss school days, ever. We even learn on holiday, we even do projects on holiday… we… we… we… yes, they read in the car. And like days out. And can curl up on the sofa under a blanket and do 4 maths games, read their book, learn about magnetism, do their handicrafts and work on CDT even with a cough and a cold and without getting out of pyjamas.

That’s life, I guess.

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On the days when the troops are looking like this by 11am and the sound of coughing, spluttering and hacking is deafening, it is not too bad to be a family who can hunker down. Max has mostly stayed home and worked too – no real reason although I think we’re both still a little nervy about sick kids and having all 4 girls with temps and chesty coughs and the like hasn’t been very nice.

The normal every day stuff has gone on much as normal really, albeit at a slower pace and without masses of enthusiasm. But they don’t mind occupying themselves with the average in the mornings and doing music and so on. Yesterday the little two were really fit for not much more than films and haven’t been a great deal better today; Amelie has done crochet and Josie has been looking at Mick Inkpen books but at various times people pootled downstairs and made these.

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I think it is fair to say there is some influence of recent art days there :lol:

As if to prove a point, Fran got out some pens…
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And I think the resulting final effort says masses for how hard she has worked at ArtEtc recently.

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This picture is our seed haul from our recent blog fairy visit.
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You could still go and leave a comment for them and let them know what kind of gift would put a smile on your face :)

Total Lego Mania hits The Puddle

Our very first brush with Lego occurred when Fran was a baby; the Primo Lego (now i think an ex-Lego range) made its way into the house and stayed a while, largely ignored except to be scattered everywhere, by my “I-don’t-play-I-make-mess” first daughter. I think it was me that developed the obsession and I vividly (blush) remember shrieking when single block disappeared. Yes, in those days I had time to know exactly how many blocks of Lego we had :roll: In fact, I have an exact recollection of leaving our first house in a temper on the day we moved out, because we never did find the ladybird cylinder block. Thank god I had more children and got over myself, is all I can say.

Then we got Duplo, after a Speech Therapy session where Fran completely bought into the house set they had and Maddy uttered her first words about the cute modular house, naturally in front of the Speech Therapist I had been expressing concerns to. (No wonder people thought I was mad to be worried about her!) I bought the house, like the malleable young mum I was who thought she would find the perfect toy – and they hardly ever looked at it. It currently lives with my god daughter :)

Real Lego, the sort I had, has been around the house over the years and we’ve had various goes at it. it never quite seemed to grab them though. I don’t know why; I’ve heard you are either a PlayMobil household or a Lego one – we seemed to be PlayMobil. Perhaps Max and I wanted the to ‘play properly’ with it, or it went away again too quickly, leaving not enough time to really work at playing with it.

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Then Father Christmas brought some beautiful sets this year, notably the Bakery and Toy Shop and we had a lovely time constructing it together. As a random aside, I got the rest out from the garage, put it down to one side and left it to see what would happen.

Well.

Max and I have been genuinely stunned by how it has taken hold of the younger three. From Boxing Day onwards, we have hardly see them at all at any time they’ve been free to play.

They started off with simple floor plan like houses.
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and that moved on quite quickly to more complicated things from their own heads.
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This was Josie’s – she actually designed it using their design program and then built it. Once she started, she realised her design was quite small and modified it, learning to do the roof along the way.

Maddy designed a ferris wheel
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and then a garage with a lifting back door.
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and a staff room.
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Josie used her Xmas money to buy a and did most of it herself. She’s had 2 or 3 of their tiny £8 ish kits and mostly been able to make them without help.

I treated Amelie to the Log Cabin
and she adores it. It stretched her but she loved making it and really came on as she did.

Fran spent Xmas money on Apple Tree House

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The most amazing thing has been the huge imaginative game that the younger three have constructed. They have literally played for a month and as they’ve gone along, their inventions and buildings have got more complicated. Maddy builds working models, Josie builds farms and schools and home and masses of intricate pieces. Maddy likes, already, to build things in Lego to show us what she means and they should be as exact as possible. Josie has learned to adapt and substitute even though she isn’t keen on it and there has been so much discussion and collaboration. Amelie leads and manipulates the games and likes to build things that change the game, cars and disaster and places to go. She and Josie get Maddy to help but they have lots of ideas; it has been interesting seeing them work as a group and play to their strengths. Fran likes to build but she has outgrown the playing.

They are still novices, learning about it. We’ve started to print off some of the educational model plans and have a go at those while Peeron has a huge back catalogue of instructions to try.

I think the younger three have possibly just had the happiest month of their life. They’ve learned loads, they’ve not needed us and we’ve been watching in awe. I can see the effect of the skills they have learned (most noticeably in them calmly erecting a flat pack today) and I love the joy it has given them. Right now, I’d happily provide enough floor space and Lego for it to last all year. I’m not sure quite what did it; maybe it was that we were happy to be part of it but didn’t interfere; maybe that they knew we ‘approved’ and felt comfortable playing ceaselessly and maybe becasue they had a room to themselves and we didn’t make them tidy up.

Or perhaps it is just because Lego is brilliant.