Tag Archive | christmas

Merry Christmas!

What a year it’s been since last Christmas!

Don’t know about you but our Christmas last was a disastrous let down because we couldn’t see all our loved ones. But it really showed that Christmas is about loved ones most of all; all of the other trappings are secondary. It’s looking better this year. Fingers crossed! Hope it is for you too.

So here’s wishing you the Christmas you’ve been hoping for and special helpings of calm and contentment included.

Card by a textile artist friend and wreath by Charley!

And I especially wanted to thank all those who read my work and send me such supportive messages. Your contact and support has meant so much during this weird year! Thank you!

See you in the next….

Meanwhile have a happy holiday full of love and peace.

Christmas tales…

A little Christmassy extract from ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ – the heartfelt story of our family’s learning days at home, when the girls were roughly nine and twelve:

“…With it being our third year of kids at home full time around Christmas you’d think we’d have engineered a plan for secrets. We decided we’d try honesty and appeal to their mature natures now that they were eleven and eight.

“Your dad and I are just going upstairs for a while and it’s important you don’t disturb us. Have you got things to do?”

“What for?” There was a little twinkle in Chelsea’s eye as she asked which reminded me distinctly of mum.

“It’s a secret,” I said smiling.

“A Christmas secret?” asked Charley also grinning now and knowing exactly what we were up to.

“Maybe,” said their dad. He tried to be mysterious but the girls are too clever for him. “So you won’t disturb us, will you?”

“Maybe!” returned Chelsea copying him and Charley smirked.

We went upstairs and de-hid all their presents from our various drawers.

“Do you think they’ll disturb us?” said Charles, cutting paper on the slant and wrestling to find the end of the sticky tape.

“I don’t think so, but look, we’ll turn back the bedcovers then if they come up whilst we’re wrapping we’ll throw the duvet over everything.” You have to be inventive when you’re a Home Educator.

“Do you remember doing this when they were at school,” I said.

“Yea, life was easy then,” he said grinning and spitting sticky tape from between his teeth.

“What? You think tears and illness every day were easy?” We laughed. I wrapped. He stuck. If he was in charge of the wrapping all the presents would look like parcels of fish and chips.

“No, it was awful. I can’t believe we’ve done this as long as we have. It just seems so ordinary now. You should hear the others at work going on about homework and packed lunches and stuff. Not to mention Christmas concert practises. They’re complaining the kids aren’t getting on with their learning” He stuck my finger to the parcel.

I extricated it and reached for some ribbon.

“I can imagine. Do they say anything about ours then?”

“Only how they can see why we do it.” He put his massive thumb on the delicate bow I created, squishing it. I tied his thumb down.

“Not enough for them to have a go though!” I laughed. Then the stairs creaked. Charles leapt off the bed, smacked his head on the sloping ceiling but still managed to toss the duvet over the presents as I stuffed the paper under the bed. We sat there and listened. Sniggering was coming from the landing.

“Go away,” Charles called.

“We’re not coming in, we’re only going to our rooms.” The giggling got fainter. We exchanged looks. Charles sneaked a peek through a crack in the old planked door.

“What they doing?” I whispered.

“They’ve gone into their bedrooms but their doors are open.”

“Let’s carry on. I don’t think they’ll come in. They wouldn’t want to spoil their Christmas surprises. Besides, I think Chelsea’s becoming aware of other things that go on in bedrooms!”

Charles raised his eyebrows in glee. “In that case, perhaps we should make good use of it.”

“What? You think you could enjoy sex with giggling going on at the bedroom door and creaking floorboards?” We laughed like naughty kids but continued wrapping.

“What you laughing at?” came from right outside the door. We bundled the duvet back over everything once more.

“Never you mind. Go back downstairs,” I shouted. I crept over and peeped to see if there was any peeping coming from the other side the crack. None.

“Come on, let’s get it done before they come up again.” The rest were wrapped in haste and I fear my parcels looked like fish and chips too.

Charley looked shocked and uncomfortable. Her face was full of both thunder and distress and very red. Her eyes looked like they were going to fill up any minute. She turned her head away and would not look at Charles or me either.

Chelsea just folded her arms across her chest, adopted her most disdainful position and stated emphatically “If anyone asks; you are not my dad.”

Charles couldn’t help it. All the staff were told to dress up for the Christmas market for charity but the girls weren’t impressed. And Charley absolutely hated anyone dressed up in costume.  I got a bit of a shock myself seeing this large rotund red fellow with two cushions up his jacket and his face adorned with a mass of flowing white stuff. It’s very off-putting seeing someone who you are as familiar with as your own body parts taking on another persona. He was sweating so much the bits of his face you could see were authentically shining as Santa’s does in all the pictures. It did the trick. A good crowd had gathered at the store and money was being thrown continually in the charity bucket.

“God, I keep losing my trousers,” he said grabbing a handful of red bottom and hoisting it up. I couldn’t help laughing.

“I knew you’d laugh,” he said.

“Sorry, I’m not laughing at you, it’s just your trousers.” I tried to help. But grappling with Santa’s trousers seemed even funnier. Obviously everyone else thought so too as two more pounds went in the bucket. It’s not every day people see Santa being groped.

“Do you have to behave like that?” demanded Chelsea, standing holding Charley’s hand a little bit distant whilst we tried to control our hysteria. She still wouldn’t look at him.

“Have a sweetie,” said Charles holding out the bucket to her.

“No!”

“It’s only a bit of fun,” I said.

“You look stupid.”

I didn’t care, I was in the Christmas spirit. I had a quick snog with Santa and left him to his collecting.

“We’ll go look round the Christmas Market. See you later.”

“Okay. See you later girls.” They ignored him and pulled me away. But Chelsea called back over her shoulder.

“Save us some sweeties, dad.”

We bought a few Christmas presents and then had to get some new wellies for Chelsea. Charley just got the hand-me-downs but she was still at the stage where anything of Chelsea’s was revered. Wellies had taken on a new persona of their own in the shops. They were more pictorial than the efforts we see in the Tate Modern and a hell of a price. I refused to be ripped off, plus the fact we had tight budgets. But Chelsea ogled the bright ones wistfully.

“I’m sorry darling, these will have to do. The others are just too expensive,” I said picking up the plain green ones, the cheapest we could find. I felt a bit wretched about this. In order to Home Educate, time isn’t the only thing we sacrifice and all I ever seem to say is ‘we can’t afford it’. But she’s so intuitive she must have picked up on it.

“It doesn’t matter mum. I’ll paint my own with the paints we got from the recycling centre.”

I was so grateful for her magnitude I cuddled her up. “What a brilliant idea! And I bet they’ll be better than any in the shops.”

“Yea, and no one else will have any the same,” she said looking at a girl wearing some we’d just seen in Woolworths.

“Can I paint mine too?” asked Charley.

“Sure. We’ll have a wellie painting session. We could even paint your dad’s,” I said winking at them. They really liked that idea.

When we went back later Charles looked his normal self again. He opened his arms to Charley and she leapt into them with clear relief. Chelsea lobbed her arms round his waist.

“Is that better now?” he asked carrying Charley to the car. She inspected him slightly doubtfully. Chelsea smiled happily up at him holding the free hand.

“You did look daft, dad,” she giggled.

“Did you remember the sweets?” asked Charley.

He put her down and produced a packet from his pocket. Finally Charley grinned at him too. It was definitely better now.

“Mum! You can’t go out like that,” Chelsea said as I tied tinsel on my shoes ready for a Christmas party.

“Why not? It’s Christmas isn’t it.” I looked at her in feigned indignation. She’d got that suffering look on again.

“Doh! What do you look like?” She was getting to be a right Tweenager.

“I think you look nice,” said Charley clasping my leg in a cuddle from the carpet where she was building a structure with our logs.

“Well at least put some lipstick on,” said Chelsea still trying to make something out of me. She rummaged in a make up bag so extensive it would be the envy of Julian Clary. “How about this?” She produced something nearly black.

“Black?” I shrieked. “It’s Christmas, not Halloween.”

“It’s not black, it’s plum.”

“I’ll have some,” said Charley hopefully. She was ignored. I sneaked a look in the bag of sticky powdery tubs and jars and pencils. It staggered me how she loved it so, I wasn’t into it at all. But I humoured her and found a jar of lovely sparkly glittery gluey stuff with sequin stars in.

“Ooo, this is nice.” I opened the pot and smeared some across my chest. It made grubby stains as if I hadn’t washed for a week. “Oh!” I looked in the mirror, disappointed.

“Oh, mum, not like that.” Chelsea took over and I had the sense our mother and daughter roles were reversing. She wiped it about and the smudges disappeared leaving a myriad of glistening sparkles. Then she added the sequins.

“Can I have some?” asked Charley again, thinking her sister had softened her attitude.

“No!” was the emphatic retort.

“Can I have some then?” asked Charles.

“NO!” they both shrieked together. And give us their parents-are-prats look.

We finished getting ready.

“So do we look alright now?” I asked.

“Yes.” They smile united. But I couldn’t help a last word.

“You know it’s not how you look, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

“Yes, we know!”

They know too much, my kids.

Christmas continued sparkly all the way through.

The best thing about it was the painted wellies. They were works of art fit for exhibiting in The Tate themselves, with swirls and colours and rainbows. If I’d bought the coloured ones we never would have had such creativity. Being on a tight budget certainly makes you think creatively so maybe I shouldn’t worry after all. Charley painted gold stars on hers. But she painted straight over the mud so the stars had a brown tinge.

Charles and I used the ‘holiday’ from education to ignore the children and just live life. But it didn’t work. We didn’t want it to really. We were a family, we were a team. Life and education were as indistinguishable from one another as our family and love. I suspected it always would be.”

A reassuring gift for home schoolers

December has crept in and I guess I’m going to have to face up to it; Christmas is coming!

It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just with pandemic restrictions we haven’t dared look forward or hope that our loved ones will get home to spend it with us. And that for me is what is so special about the season. It’s a season of love and togetherness, but the coronavirus could restrict that this year.

I also like giving gifts. I don’t enter into the manic and obscene crap buying and bin-bound accessories for Christmas that companies tell us we must have or we won’t do Christmas proper! I hate all that and cringe for the burden the earth has to bear for our indulgences. But I do like to give a meaningful present that someone wants, needs, or can enjoy, as a token of our loving and appreciation, two purposes of the festivities that can easily become obliterated by consumerism, throwaway tat and the misguided belief that more stuff is better.

It isn’t. Love and appreciation are the priorities, surely.

Anyway, if you do want to give a meaningful gift to a fellow parent, especially one who is dissatisfied with schooling, how about a story of a family doing it differently.

A Funny Kind of Education’ is a warm, funny, family story, with Christmasses and summers and all sorts of adventures in between. It’s easy to read, yet with plenty of thought provoking ideas about learning. A great fireside read – actually where some of it was written! And a good insight into a real home educating life. Do let me know if you read and enjoyed it!

And for those already home educating you could give them a bit of reassurance. That’s what readers tell me they get from my book ‘A Home Education Notebook’. On days when they’re having a massive wobble, they can pick it up and feel calmed.

There are some super reviews on Amazon for both, where you can buy them. If you want more of a ‘How To…’ which answers all the common questions about home educating choose ‘Learning Without School’. You’ll find more details on the My Books page on this site, including two books for those home educated littlies who like to read about someone like them who doesn’t go to school.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your Christmas preparations, despite the obvious restrictions, keeping in mind the needs of the earth as well as your own, and let’s keep our fingers crossed for being together.

Driving Home for Christmas

I’ve got Chris Reas’s ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ blaring out, creating a bit of atmosphere whilst I try and wrap pressies. I say try, because it’s a case of smoothing out all the old paper I’m reusing and jiggling the salvaged bits together round the parcels. It’ll be either brown paper or newspaper next! Magazines can be quite colourful. Fabric also works.

I know I’m good at wrapping parcels because my cookery teacher told me back in the day when I was self-consciously sixteen and painfully at school.

“You’re making sausage rolls not wrapping parcels” she admonished snootily and very loudly – to degrade me in front of my mates. My face flamed. Now there’s a lesson in how not to teach for you! I still don’t know how to make sausage rolls – never do – don’t care much. But being canny with pressies – now that’s an art!

Moving on; I used to have this tune playing in my car when I was doing just that; driving home for Christmas. Now it’s my girls who are doing the ‘driving home’; yep driving, in their own vehicle. Who’d have thought it? Bet you never think that far ahead!

During those home educating days it was tricky at Christmas. You don’t have those hours when the kids are out of the house at school, like other parents do, to keep the Christmas secrets. We became quite resourceful and I described many of the funnier moments in my joyful memoir; ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ along with one season when I had to grapple Santa’s trousers…but I’ll leave you to read the book to find out why! Happy Home ed times which have made our memories!

Now they’ve moved on, I have the opportunity every day to wrap pressies, secrete surprises, and easily keep Christmas secrets, no trouble. And they’re the ones driving home for Christmas this year.

As no doubt yours will be when this wonderful home edventure is done and they’re all grown up. Unimaginable I know, but happens to us all.

Like we did you’ll currently be busy making your own wonderful memories, filled with love, that will keep the adult kids forever driving home (Train or bus does just as well :))

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

I get fed up of looking at words so occasionally I do a bit of artwork especially at Christmas when I get the urge to make a few cards.

And I’m posting a card for you, dear readers, because Christmas seems like the perfect time to say thank you.

Thank you to you all. To all who’ve been with me through my books, to all who’ve shown such warm support for my work over the past year – for many years some of you. Your little messages here, on Facebook and other platforms, your reviews and your kind remarks have kept me going.

It’s been heartwarming. Thank you.

May your Christmas be heartwarming too and full of love and may that continue throughout the coming year.

Have a happy one!

You can tell who’s been talking…

Babies must wonder what all this Christmas palaver is about. They stare at all the going’s on in amazement, too young to understand what we’re up to, however much we talk to them. Our behaviour and our hype must seem bizarre,even if entertaining. But I’m sure they absorb the excitement if not the explanations.

Babies – their wonderful world on BBC2

And we should be explaining – well – talking to them, however young and however they look back at us in bewilderment. For talking with them is essential for their development whatever age they are and whatever we’re chatting about.

There have been some great programmes on the BBC recently about babies’ development which I’ve been absorbed in. It talks about how the interactions babies have impacts on their development later on. And engaging through talk and attention was one part of their growth which was discussed; how those babies and toddlers who’ve been talked to, and with, have a greater vocabulary and dexterity with language at a later date. Even more importantly; they are the ones who achieve better educationally. So even if you think your baby isn’t responding you need to keep chatting away to them about what you’re doing and the things you see as you take them out and about.

I cringe when I see babies – any kids actually – being ignored as if they were an uncommunicative blob, or being pushed along in their pushchairs, backs to their parent, whilst said parent is engaged with their mobile. I know there’s a case for this on occasion – maybe. But I suspect it happens too often. It may be a boring talking to a baby, but it is a responsibility that comes with the parent package.

In fact it’s just as important to talk with any toddler – any youngster – and that parents continue to do so. To explain, answer questions, observe, whatever, for it all impacts on the development of their brain.

I have heard that some teachers are dealing with children starting school who are so unused to being talked to, and to whom the concept of conversation is so alien, they hardly talk at all. Their spoken vocabulary is so inhibited that staff have to spend the first part of the term focussing on that, let alone anything else like reading and writing. A shocking sign of someone neglecting their parental duty to engage with their kids. Teachers can always tell which kids have been talked to!

What some parents perhaps don’t realise is that talking to the little ones whatever age they are doesn’t just impact at the time, but equally importantly affects their development later in life too. The fact that they need talking to carries on throughout their childhood. And it’s not only important for language development or academic achievement. Conversing also creates the foundations of relationships and social skills essential for our health and happiness.

So whatever is going on in your house this Christmas, make sure you chat about it with the littlies. Of course if you’re home educating you get to chat to them all the time – no wonder homeschooled kids turn out to be so well developed! And if you’ve got a baby in the mix make sure you include them in it too. You are contributing to their education even at that early age.

Cringing for Christmas

Nature’s decorations!

Why do I cringe at Christmas?

Is it the expense? No – although it is a consideration.

Is it because I have to find pressies for relatives I hardly know. Not really – I like choosing and giving gifts.

Is it the thought of the potential for overeating a mass of stuff that’s totally unhealthy but that I enjoy so much? Partly – but I get over it!

Is it because I am a Humbug?

No. It’s none of those things. The real reason I cringe at Christmas is because of the burden the earth has to bear.

So this is a plea that your family – you and the children – consider ways to make your Christmas less of a burden for the earth.

Part of their education is about the planet. To understand it better. To build knowledge of its species. To appreciate how they are part of it and how to relate to it in sustainable ways. We cannot abandon our responsibility to that just because it’s Christmas.

It doesn’t mean a kill-joy Christmas. It just means finding a better balance to what you do. And asking a few questions:

  • How can we moderate the waste we make?
  • How can we give without the earth bearing the brunt of it?
  • What can we reuse, recycle, make, rather than buy? (Wrapping paper as well as presents perhaps)
  • What throw- away articles can we do without? (Wipes, serviettes, paper tableware, for example)
  • How can you make a Christmas that doesn’t cost the earth? Make more of it instead of buying it!
  • Ask before you buy: do I really need this?
  • And consider how much more stuff the kids really need? Love isn’t bought or given through presents.

Giles Brandreth has a lovely idea that he expressed in the media recently. He’s going to tell his grandchildren that he doesn’t want any more stuff. What he’d like from them instead is for them to learn a poem off by heart for Christmas.

Learning poetry has a beneficial effect on the brain, helping with language development and flexible thinking – so he’s perhaps giving them a gift in releasing the kids from present buying whilst boosting their development at the same time!

But whatever you do for Christmas, creating or learning poetry or whatever, please do it with consideration of the earth.

A present for a home school family

I hate to mention Christmas but it is getting that time of year and if you need a gift for a home educating parent one of my books might be an idea.

Home educating is an inspiring and uplifting choice of lifestyle and learning. But not without its challenges especially if you’re doing it longer term. ‘A Home Education Notebook to encourage and inspire‘ is to support parents through the wobbles that all families face at times, with tips on how to manage them. A book that has driven even those who never write reviews to do so on Amazon – I’m most grateful for the wonderful words there. There’s many a homeschool family would appreciate having one by their side. See the My Books page for a fuller description.

And for those who are curious about the homeschool life or who just want a warm funny family read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is the one.

One reviewer describes it as “…a home education reassuring hug”. It’s easy to read and full of ideas about learning and new ways of seeing it, told in humorous ways. It may even change your mind about education for ever! Again, there’s more on the My Books page.

And if you’ve read one and enjoyed it do leave me a comment here, or review. Always so warmly appreciated. 🙂

Merry Christmas

The winter solstice.

It’s almost as important to me as Christmas. For when I get here I know that many of the dark days are done and yet we’ve still got the joy of Christmas to come.

Two celebrations! Three, counting New Year.

Then, after the Christmas and New Year sparkle are fading in memory (even if not in waistline), we will be able to look forward to a gentle increase in the light hours, even if only infinitesimal at first, stirring hope anew as the year begins.

But that’s then, this is now.

And what I wanted to do in this moment was to wish you happiness for Christmas and the coming year. And to thank you warmly and deeply for all the support you’ve shown for my work throughout the year. For the encouragement, the lovely messages, the compliments and the comments. I so appreciate all my readers and the time you take to message me. Thank you!

It has meant so much.

Merry Christmas!

Don’t Bah Humbug me!

 I may switch to making instead of blogging so much – just for Christmas!

I don’t need the excuse of little people in the house to get the glitter glue and art materials out! It’s something that I do for myself anyway. Practical, creative pursuits are my antidote to screen tired eyes and the medium of words!

I don’t know how ecologically sound it is still to be sending christmas cards. But I like making them so much and try to reuse materials already to hand or saved for the purpose, so they have a second life. I also use what nature provides and inspires. I picked and pressed some ivy leaves earlier in the year, from the mass that’s overtaken the barn roof. I felt sure it wouldn’t miss a few.

The cards that come into the house will also be reused. The ones I kept from last year make good tags. The backs used for scrap card and scribbled notes. The wrapping paper is always carefully untaped and used again. Some pieces last several Christmases and a friend and I have a decorated paper carrier we pass between us – it’s become a bit of a funny tradition!

Some people would think this is miserly. I look upon it as respect for what the planet provides.

And as well as benefiting a purse already stretched at christmas, a third advantage is that it gives your brain a good exercising inventing ways in which you can use what’s around, creating ways to reuse what comes to you, and making things. Creating is as good a mental exercise as doing maths.

And it’s enormously valuable for the kids to see you do this, to see you creating christmas as much as buying it. For inventive, creative, conservational, budgeting, and problem solving skills are the best gifts to be passing onto your children and down the generations. Along with respect for the earth and remembrance of its natural place in the season. These skills are gifts that set them up for real living as much as academic ones!

So to anyone who says this is miserly, I would say Bah humbug!