Category Archives: Seasonal stuff

Walking in a winter wonderland

Christmas has come early for the children here: it’s been snowing! Such fun and excitement – it’s wonderful, which is kind of what this post is about.

I’ve been studying a bit of NVC with some friends, and the chapter we’re working on this week is all about “how to request things to make life more wonderful for us”, though I found that this phrase irritated me so much I couldn’t get past it, and had to keep putting the book down.

So I started thinking about the word “wonderful”. Full of wonder.

wonder v. 3 tr. desire or be curious to know

It has other meanings of course, such as: surprise mingled with admiration and curiosity; a strange or remarkable thing; having marvellous or amazing properties; a miracle.

In general, it’s a word that means good things, isn’t it? Wonderful! Great! Terrific.

But it also means ‘curiosity’, and that made me wonder whether these dual meanings are accidental, and to decide that they’re probably not.

When I’m at my best, I’m full of curiosity: wondering about the world, how things work, why things are and so on ad infinitum. When I’m a bit ill or down, my curiosity leaves me and my life, like my head, is really not full of wonder.

When I’m being kept to task on something against my wishes, there is no vestige of curiosity, or any other kind of wonder, left in my being. Just something approaching misery or resentful tolerance, or numbness and a feeling of being switched-off. A non-feeling, more precisely, that might well be stifled anger. As I’ve got older, I’ve learned that that’s a toxic state of mind for a person to be in: one of the many arguments in favour of autonomy – it’s good for your health!

Recent wonderings expressed around here have been about space, the relative size and structure of planets and stars, languages and politics (as ever) and a bit of physics too. The baby has started on Letterland already (though it only seems like too minutes since we were doing that with Lyddie!) But we’ve got these flashcards now, which have ordinary words on one side and Letterland-illustrated words on the other, so Lyddie reads the words while the baby names the characters.

I never, in a million years, imagined I’d use flashcards. Even less, that a child of mine would ever want to. But they do.

One question I’ve started asking is: “Have you got any questions about that?” and amazingly, lots of questions come by way of reply! I never realised to what extent people of all ages internalise their wonderings, perhaps not quite realising they’re there until they’re specifically asked about.

I feel better about the NVC thing now, anyway.

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Filed under Curiosity - a delicate flower, Reading, Seasonal stuff

Bedtime reading and the history of inventions

The baby and I are currently having sections of this book read to us by Lyddie every evening:

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It’s not something we could plan for, as Mr Badman seems to think we should be able to.

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If I tried to insist that she did such a thing, Lyddie would be sure to resist. She’d close the book and we’d never hear any more of it.

But I currently don’t have to insist, so she’s reading – struggling with some words, but making definite progress every evening. She’s even talking about writing out some of the stories because she wants to improve her handwriting skill.

How could I have written this into a plan three, or six, or twelve months ago?

Ditto, her recent obsession with the solar system, or again with the months of the year and the seasons, which led to my scrawling of this chart as I supplied the required lengthy explanation and answered her questions:

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In school – or Mr Badman’s vision of home education hell, [opens pdf] she’d have probably been made to sit and colour it in, or learn it by rote to be ready to churn it back out at the next inspection, to order. As it was, she was free to look at it, ask a few questions, understand and move onto the next thing.

She’s been re-watching the Narnia films as well, and the beginning of the first one made her wonder about World War II again, about which she’s been interested for a long time. What were Anderson shelters? How did they work? What happened to them at the end of the war? And we got onto talking about evacuations as well.

We might make it to Eden Camp this year, in support of this recurring interest of hers, although we’ve also recently got into looking at castle times, thanks mostly to this book:


(which allows for endless peering at the tiny people, each doing something interesting in every different room) so a visit to here is still very much on the cards.

The juxtaposition of those two time periods in Lyddie’s mind at the same time gave rise to some extra questions, like:

“How long ago did they build the castles/ have WWII?”

(Explaining the concept of ‘hundreds of years ago’ to a six year-old isn’t easy, is it?)


“Why didn’t they have guns and bombs in castle times? Why did it take them so long to invent such things?”

So we got out another book:


– which opens out like this:

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– the relevant parts, I suppose, being this:

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and this:

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At least it gave some perspective, and context. Lyddie poured over it for hours and then her brothers joined in and kept pointing out various aspects of it to her.

A massive amount of learning took place in that one relatively short session with the timeline, but I could never have planned for it beforehand in a million years. Lyddie’s older sister, for example, wasn’t interested in such things at all and hardly ever looked at those kinds of books.

How are we supposed to know in advance where our children’s curiosity will lead them?


Filed under History, Planning - or not, Reading, Seasonal stuff

Scales, pictures, strawberries and hedgehogs

We’ve had this old set of weighing scales for about 20 years now: they’ve taught all of the children about weight:


And about working together to find things out:


Even setting things in size and weight order:


It’s not something they have access to all the time: the scales live on quite a high windowsill in the kitchen, and only come out to play when someone thinks of them. I think they’re more appreciated for that, and used at just the right time, in just the right way.

We’ve been painting as well, as usual:


And eating strawberries:


And playing in the sand:


Tesco’s play sand is the best, we’ve found. It’s the only sort you can actually build castles with.

And we saw this little hedgehog:


– which inspired us to go home and find out more about them.

We’ve done lots of other things besides that, of course, though I didn’t always have the camera so handy at the time.

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Filed under Co-operating, Equipment, Innate, Seasonal stuff, Wildlife