Saturday, 29 September 2012

Wild Science for girls

Back in March we reviewed the Wild Science Rocketball kit, which we loved, and now we have been sent the Wild Science face mask kit to take a look at.

Just like the Rocketball kit the Face mask kits aim is to encourage children to have an interest in science by making the experiments fun and easy to understand.

The FaceMask kit is brilliant for tween girls who love to get creative and enjoy pampering, this kit contains everything you need in order to make several face masks, all the ingredients are the same as what top brands use and the instruction booklet gives you clear easy to follow instructions and incorporates some great advice about looking after your skin and why and how it changes.

The attitude in the booklet is great very upbeat and reinforces the fact that its not about being beautiful but more about learning and having fun. There is plenty of ingredients to mix up several face masks, also included in the kit is a workstation for storing all the ingredients, rubber gloves and even 'use by' labels for you to use to remind you when you made your face masks, perfume and colour dye to customise them too.

Chloe loved mixing up her own masks and applying them to me and her friends, and the perfume made them smell lovely and they really did work leaving your skin feeling soft and clean.

We have had this kit out several times and there is still some left for more clensing treaments, priced at £12.99 I think this is a really good value for money kit.

So if you are looking for a perfect gift for someone this Christmas then be sure to look at the Wild Science range, there are loads of kits to choose from so you're sure to find one to spark the imagination of your budding scientist! To see the fab range look at the Wild science website

Friday, 28 September 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

I have been abit slack with my blogging for a while, only really doing reviews and the much debated sponsored posts, and although there's all sort of things I want to blog about I just never really get them down, and I find myself sitting staring into the new post box blankly.

So to give me abit of a boost, I'm joining in the lovely Michelle, Mummy from the hearts, reasons to be cheerful linky, I often read through the posts and always mean to join in, so here I am joining in!

This week has been cold, rainy and hectic, there has been some personal family problems and it is all too easy to fall into a gloomy place, but you know there are lots of simply things to remember to keep us smiling so here we go.

1) I joined my eldest two at school for a dine with us meal on Wednesday, it was great to see them in the middle of the day and they were so pleased I'd come along, sitting eating with them at school chatting over the school table really made me smile!

2) My eldest came home with a respect award, for hard work in maths, always makes me so very happy to hear that he is doing his best at school, I know how much he struggles and I know his grades may not ever be top of the class but as long as his attitude and effort stay on par then I will always be extremely proud of him.

3) My youngest has been going to school with no fuss and coming home happy, he seems to have settled into year 1 well, a fairly big change from the easy going foundation stage and I'm proud of his ability to adapt to his new class.

4) The food shopping has been done for the week, there is food in the cupboards and I have a home made lasagna ready to be cooked for tea tonight!

What are your reasons to be cheerful? Why not pop over to Mummy from the hearts blog and see what has been making others smile!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cravendales EpicStraws!

We love milk in this house, we drink loads of it, the children ask for it rather than pop, so when we were emailed from Britmums asking if we would like to be sent some Epic Straws from Cravendale to have a look at we were all mega excited, after all there isn't a more fun way to drink than through a straw is there, and what is more fun than an EPIC straw?!

We were sent two packs to have a look at and asked to build our most epic straw with them!

The packs have several plastic pieces to help you build up a rather fun and funky straw, there are instructions included to help you design your straw, but you can of course use the pipe sections to make your own weird and wonderful creations.

We initially followed the instructions and built the straws, then we got creative and added the two packs together to make the biggest most epic straws of them all incorporating the odd building block for additional support!

With a check that all bits were air tight the children were thrilled that they could put their master piece into action watching as the milk flowed through the loops and up and down the pipes.

They have kept the children happily entertained on several rainy afternoons, each time they are pulled out the creations change. The straws come in a great handy pouch to aid with cleaning and storage too, so these really are just great fun!

If you want to get your hands on some Epic Straws then look out for the Cravendale packs available now until December 16th, with the special codes on, then head on over to to find out how to claim your own!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sponsored Video : Clean like a Mother

This post is sponsored by method.

Parenting and cleaning come hand in hand don't they? Because lets face it children attract dirt, they can be sat in a perfectly clean room and still given half an hour can magically make a mess.

So as a mum finding cleaning products which are powerful, yet safe is a must, and all purpose cleaners are the most used in our house, but myself and my eldest suffer from eczema and so many cleaning products irate this.

Most cleaners are full of chemicals, but there is a new cleaner which is non toxic and environmental friendly safe for almost all surfaces made with no hazardous ingredients,and comes in some lovely colourful squirt bottles! What is this great product? method.

method are aiming to put the hurt on the dirt, instead of on the planet, and aim to reduce the carbon footprint of their company and products, none of which have been tested on animals.

The Multisurface cleaner is made up of powergreen technology, which is soft on your skin, and the environment but tough on grease and grim! With a selection of fragrances to choose from including clementine, cucumber and fresh lavender this looks a lovely range.

Also from method is gel hand wash, laundry detergent, and fabric softeners too. All are eco friendly and so powerful that you only need a little squirt!

But on top of the great products they also have some pretty cool music videos too like this one:

Why not take a look at the Website and join them on facebook or twitter joining the people against dirty!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Encouraging Reluctant readers

I have mentioned several times about my childrens unlove for books and the difficulty my eldest has in learning to read and it is very rare to find any of them picking up a book for pleasure. When reading is a chore, it really is a bore and non of them have that passion for a good book.

I never push the issue because I know how much Jake struggles, I try hard to just leave things be, and as a result they all reach for the TV remote rather than the books, they ask if there is a film of the stories their friends talk about, and I sigh to myself wondering if they will ever find the love of a good book.

So when Anne contacted me a few months ago about partaking in a scheme she wanted to trial, to get reluctant readers reading, it sounded perfect!

Anne runs Hummingbird Books, which is a great website dedicated to childrens books, but unlike other book stores Hummingbird books only stock books which have been recommended by children, the good books, and along side selling books Anne has created a unique scheme to get reluctant readers reading.

The scheme involves phone sessions between Anne and a parent, carer or teacher, where Anne can share her knowledge and help find a way to inspire childrens love of books, Anne then helps you to access books through your local library, or find them to purchase should you require.

Whilst it is obvious Anne is very passionate about books and getting children to read, she is also very practical in her approach, as a parent and a primary school teacher herself, she has plenty of experience in what children like to read and the different difficulty levels of the popular children books.

Like me she feels that simply forcing a child to read is never going to get the right result, if you want a child to enjoy reading, well they have to genuinely enjoy it don't they? and they simply will not enjoy it if the books you give them are either too hard for them, or not interesting enough or both of them things, unfortunately it is the latter style books that my children seem to have come across the most, and I am sure this is where their dislike for a good book stems from.

I am an avid reader, and always have been, I can't actually remember learning to read, I could read before I started primary school, I never really read school books to my parents, yet I loved books, I would pick up books and read whatever I could get my hands on and loose myself in a good book time after time, and I do wish my children had that pleasure too, but when faced with a catalogue of books or when I step into a book store I just don't know which books to choose.

And this is where this reading scheme is invaluable! After our initial phone consultation, Anne had several suggestions to try, going back to easier books, stepping back a level and finding that spark of interest being her main aim instead of worrying about which reading level, or what stage the child is at. A really refreshing way to look at reading and a very encouraging one that matches my thoughts.

Anne suggested the Puddle Lane series of books for Chloe, a simple series of books, aimed at beginner readers, Chloe can read, but doesn't choose to for pleasure, stepping back to easier books such as the Puddle Lane series really helped, the beautifully illustrated books which were easy to read really encouraged Chloe and gave her confidence, stepping down to easier books was not a backwards step, it was a huge help, reading these books was fun... there was a glimmer of light, continuing with Annes encouragement over the following weeks, we have since found new books which Chloe has simply loved and the spark is growing every day.

So if you have a reluctant reader, and you are not sure what to try, then I would definitely give Annes scheme a go! Phone sessions are charged at £15 for a 30 minute consultation, Anne recommends between 3 and 6 to get the best results. For this week only if you pop over to you will find a half price offer for this reading scheme for the next week only (until 26th September 2012) And if your child already has a love for books then be sure to check out the great selection of books available on

We were offered to trial this scheme for free and thoroughly enjoyed the phone calls and advise received, we were not given any other  reward for writing this post and do think Annes advice and knowledge will be of use to other reluctant readers.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Packed Lunch or School Dinners?

Sunday Afternoon, the children are happily entertaining themselves, I have spent a lazy day snooping around the Internet and enjoying doing nothing very much, but the hours are ticking past and I really need to start thinking about what to make for tea, and then onto making sure everything is ready for school tomorrow.

Up until the start of the new school year I always sent mine for school dinners, nice and easy,needed little forward planning and they didn't complain about them, however costing £1.90 a day each , when you have 3 children it is not cheap.

So when Chloes best friend told her she would be having pack lunches this year Chloe decided she wanted them too, and what one does the other have to follow, so this year they have all opted for packed lunches, and for the past 2 weeks I have been making up sandwiches and trying to find extras to add into their lunch bag.

The general thought amongst parents is that sending a pack up is cheaper than a school dinner, but I am not so sure, so I thought I would price things up and see which comes out more affordable.

So a school Lunch costs on average £1.90 a day or £9.50 a week per child, multiple that by three and I was handing over £28.50 each week for school dinners.

So how much have I spent on Pack up? Has it been a money saving venture? Well I'm not so sure.

This week along with our food shop I brought extra pack up supplies, I think I am pretty frugal and went bargain hunting, returning home with several loafs of bread 60p each so £2.40 for 4 loafs, tins of tuna for the fillings £4. 3 tins of sweetcorn £1,  Mayonnaise £1.39, mini Cheddar snack packs £1.89 for 15, Chocolate swiss rolls £1.60p for 24 mini rolls, cucumber 80p,  carrots £1, apples £1 grapes and strawberries £3, and 2 x cereal bars packs £2 for 12

Giving me enough food for 3 pack ups consisting of Tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches, (for 3 days and the other 2 days will have whatever filling I can find - jam, the night befores chicken left over, cheese etc) pack of mini Cheddars, cereal bar or mini chocolate roll and some fruit, carrot or cucumber each day.

giving me a total of just over £20

pack lunch idea

Great so that's a saving of nearly £10

But the problem here is that all this snack food which is sat in the cupboards is already getting picked at, the fruit is not likely to last until the end of the week, and the mini Cheddars are dwindling quicker than I can keep track as for the chocolate swiss rolls, well they will be lucky if they last till Monday! The unfortunate problem is that the local shops do not have the same products for the bargains I found in the bigger stores, and had I of shopped locally and brought the same things I could easily of doubled my spend with a loaf of bread locally costing £1.35 and Tuna is nearly double too, so come Thursday morning and the supplies are limited I am most likely going to have to make a mad dash to grab some extra pack up supplies and will easily spend the £10 I had saved to see us through the week.

Am I doing something wrong? What do you do for pack up lunches? is there some way to send a sandwich box which is cheap but filling? Am I simply sending too much? (Even tho everything gets ate and they still come home hungry!)

How can I stop the goodies being ate between making the lunches, normally I simply don't buy the easy to grab snacks so they are not their to be ate,but when there in the house everyone wants them!

Should  I try to convince them to go back to school dinners? If you are spending the same on pack up then maybe having a cooked meal which is more varied is better?

Update thanks to Midlife SingleMum reminding me in the comments: Please note the daily allowances for Tuna due to Mercury is advised no more than 4 medium cans per person per week, I mix up one can tuna and 1 small can of sweetcorn with mayonnaise then spread between three sandwiches and split between three children, 3 times a week because it is my daughters favourite filling. See the Food Standards Agency for more information about safe levels of tuna. Fish is a great protein source but as with everything, variety and moderation is always the key.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Secondary School Applications

The summer holidays are well and truly over, the book bags are once again cluttering up the hall each afternoon when my three arrive home from school each filled with its own selection of homework books, newsletters and consents forms all needing attention.

 Amongst the ordinary consent letters there was one which I pulled out of my eldest bag which is a stark reminder of how quickly time goes.

My eldest is 10, just started into his final year of primary school, this week he came home with a school transfer pack, detailing how we go about applying for his secondary school place.

This time next year he will be starting out on a new journey, a new part of his life, one of the most important, and the one that will shape his future the most.

But right now I have  a little over 6 weeks to fill in this application form, along with all other mothers of children born between 1st September 2001 and the 31st August 2002

Places to secondary schools are not automatically given, parents have to apply to the schools local authority for a place, you get to state three preferred schools, but you are not guaranteed a place at any of them even if you are in their catchment, local authorities use a set of admission criteria in order to allocate places. If you miss the deadline to submit your application you will not be allocated a place until everyone who met the deadline has been dealt with, which could mean you missing out on your preferred school.

The deadlines for my sons admissions is 31st October, between now and then  there are several open evenings and lots of prospectus' to look through and then it will be in the hands of the council, and a matter of sitting and waiting to hear if we got the place in the chosen secondary school, whilst wondering how the years have gone so fast!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Popular Puzzles for Children

Jigsaw Puzzles are great quick fix boredom busters, and will 9 times out of 10 engage my three as soon as you bring out the box, however having a really eye catching design that appeals makes it even more exciting, and that's why I love the Ravensburger Puzzles.
We were sent a Disney Brave puzzle and a Club Penguin puzzle to give our verdicts on as part of the Ravensburger Puzzle club.

Both puzzles have an age rating of 6 years or above, and are 100 piece puzzles with a completed size of 49cm x 36cm with great quality strong pieces, which are perfect child sized and bright designs these are great puzzles for children who already have grasped the basic process of jigsaw building and want something which is challenging but not too difficult that it is off putting.

The familiar designs of these character puzzles really got the children interested, the Disney Brave features Merida taking the centre stage with her bow and arrow surrounded by a host of her fellow characters which all have the quirky Disney appeal.

Children who have seen the film will love the puzzle, but even children who haven't seen the film (as mine haven't) will still find it an interesting and appealing design capturing their fantasy imagination perfectly.

I have mentioned previously in other Ravensburger reviews that I like the age rating and find them to be just about spot on, however the Brave Puzzle is one of the  harder designs in the 6+ range, mainly because it is overall quite a dark puzzle and there are lots of pieces which look similar, but the outside edge with the purple banding made it easy to build the frame. However  my 5 year old son who can complete the other puzzles aged 6 and above needed more help to complete this one, but my daughter and her friend (aged 9) happily completed it themselves keeping them entertained for longer.

The 2nd puzzle I'm reviewing today is the Club Penguin Puzzle,in contrast to the brave puzzle this one has a busy design full of the familiar Club Penguin characters from the well known online computer game and is full of bright colours. All my children are familiar with Club Penguin so this instantly appealed to them, they loved putting this puzzle together picking out the funny characters as they built up the puzzle.

With so many brightly coloured penguins upto all sorts of mischief it is a great talking point, or eye spy feature once you have completed this puzzle it really is a fun jigsaw for the whole family

Both Puzzles are priced around £8 and would make excellent presents this Christmas. If you want to see some other great jigsaws and want to find out what other people think of them, then be sure to pop over to the Ravensburger Puzzle Club blog for loads more reviews!

Country Kids - Crusing the canals

When we first started talking about getting a little crusier and taking to the canals as a family, there was a mixed reaction, and a fair bit of negitivity about mixing children with canals, won't they be bored? Won't they be a handful? They are bound to fall in!

The canals are blissfully peaceful sections of countryside, but they are full of live and are infact a great place for children.

Obviously water can be dangerous but with common sence crusing the canals with children can be a wonderful experience.

We spent 4 weeks aboard our little Norman 20 motorboat, we met plenty of fellow canal dwellers, some who lived aboard, some who just took to the boats on the weekend and some who were just enjoying a holiday aboard a rental narrowboat.

Many of the liveaboard people we met were older, in their retirement years, but several had fond memories of their younger days aboard a small crusier with their young families. Each with so many stories to tell of how they had fantastic adventures many many years ago, following a simular path to what we were now on in the 21st century, yet there were very few other young families enjoying the canals along with us and even less small cruiser boats, which is a real shame.

In this busy digital world there is something important about taking time out to witness nature and the simple pleasures you can find.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Guy Fox Fantastic Childrens Map Jigsaw

We love jigsaw Puzzles and have been really lucky to be part of the Ravensburger Puzzle club this year, it has given us even more reason to spend evenings doing abit of puzzle making.

Ravensburger puzzles really are great quality, and the age ratings they give the puzzles are just about spot on, the puzzles aimed at children aged 6 and above have been around 49cmx 36cm in size with 100 pieces, each piece around 4cm in length a perfect size for children and my 5 year old has managed to comple them with just a little input. The jigsaws aimed at older children 8 and above have 200 pieces of a smaller size with more detailed designs engaging older children with more of a challenge.

The quality of the pieces in all the puzzles we have received is second to none with thick pieces that are made on recycled card with a special grained paper finish to prevent glare they are enjoyable to complete and great to admire once finished.

But the best thing about the puzzles is the picture designs!

There is such a wonderful selection of puzzles to choose from and something to suit everyone, the designs are colourful and eye catching and even the puzzles aimed at 6 year olds have appealed to my eldest two (aged 9 and  10)

I have already reviewed the Loopy Laboratory,  Rabbits parade, Disney cars, I heart London and even a 3D lighthouse puzzle which can be seen here : Puzzle Club Reviews and over the past few months we have been enjoying even more puzzles.

One which was of particular interest to my youngest was the Guy Fox London Children's Street map, this is a fantastic jigsaw and he happily sits and completes it himself  (he is 5 years old) we have all been very interested in all things to do with London, what with the Olympics and before that the Queens Jubilee it has been abit of a talking point and everyone has been eager to learn more about the capital city.

The Guy Fox children's map design is brilliant! Its simplicity yet beautifully detailed illustrations make it really appealing, coupled with the fantastic quality of Ravensburger puzzles it is a must have.

The grid references along the edges introduce map reading and also make it easy to complete the outline, and with the familiar landmarks all located on this fun puzzle it has been a huge hit with everyone

The jigsaw even comes complete with a fact sheet  pointing out a few sights to find so it is a great boredom buster there are so many ways to make this much more than just a jigsaw, it has inspired us to draw our own maps, we've use it as a 'eye spy' board and has encouraged endless conversation!

The London Children's map retails around £7.99 (currently available on for £6.39) or you can find out more about the jigsaw and other great Ravensburger Puzzles Here or take a look at more Guy Fox products Here

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Little Designers with Asda

Whilst we were away this summer, the days were whizzing past ticking down the time until schools re opened, we returned with just a few days to spare, and three children to kit out with new uniform!

So with a bit of a mad dash we rushed to the one place I knew would have what I needed at a price that wouldn't leave me bankrupt - Asda George school uniform range.

I picked up a pair of shoes each priced £8 polo shirts 2 packs for £2.50 Sweatshirts and Trousers all under £5 each, along with shorts and T.shirts for PE  kitting out all three for a perfectly reasonable price and from previous years I know the clothes wash well and are great quality, the trousers have adjustable waist straps which is always a must, and Dupont Teflon fabric protection which makes them repel spills and stains, where the designs are sensible yet fashionable the shoes hard wearing and comfortable.

I was pretty impressed being able to find everything I needed with no difficulties in my local store, finding the correct sizes in stock even with just a couple of days before the new term started and returned home thankful that the children would have something to wear on the first day of the new term.

But then for an added bonus today I picked up a parcel which had been sat waiting for me in the local delivery office and inside was my Little Designer Pack from George at Asda.

Before we went away I was contacted by Asda asking if we'd like to be included in this fab blogger challenge and I jumped at the chance,  but also said I may not be around to receive the pack if it hadn't arrived before we left. I waiting in the weeks before we left hoping the postman brought the pack but it didn't arrive, and as I set off I had resigned myself to not being able to join in this time assuming by the time we returned the parcel would have been returned to sender.

So I was thrilled to find it still waiting to be picked up in the delivery office today. Inside the pack was a Red Gingham dress (£4) for Chloe, (ideal seems as the weather has decided to shower us with sunshine at the moment and I had chosen out trousers for her on my mad dash) Trousers (£3), polo shirts (£2.50) and a Red jumper (£2)  for the boys and a backpack to decorate with the fabric paint and crayons.

The idea of the challenge is to let the kids get creative and design their own backpack to complement the great school uniform from the George at Asda range.

Chloe was thrilled and instantly claimed the backpack as her own, covering it in stars and heart designs and making it a perfectly funky accessory fit for the most fashion conscious tween.

I think she did a great job, and she looks lovely in the Gingham dress, and she can't wait to return to school tomorrow to show off her bag!

So if like me you left everything to the last minute and you are still looking for a few extra bits of uniform, maybe you are in need of some summery bits, and you want affordable items which are chosen by mums, tested by kids guaranteed by George- yes thats right all clothing come with a 100 day satisfaction guarentee so you can buy with confidence,  take a look at this great quality affordable range!

Although I was asked to join in with the little designer challenge and sent a selection of uniform and the bag in order to participate, I personally choose to do the rest of my uniform shopping at Asda spending my own money as I genuinely do think these clothes are great!

Mum, can cows swim?

As I was looking back through the many hundreds of photographs I took this past month whilst away from the Internet and spending time cruising the canals, I laughed to myself remembering the day mid way in to our trip cruising up the Llangollen stretch of the Shropshire Union canal, past beautiful countryside, farms and idyllic gardens beautifully present right on the edge of the canal.

 We were moored up waiting to go through a lock, I'd jumped out the boat to man the lock when suddenly there was a almighty splash, I looked back quickly doing a head count...1,2, not the children...Dogs inside what on earth was that?

Then my youngest jumped up pointing behind  'Mummmm... can cows swim?'

I followed his finger and saw a cow swimming up the canal under the bridge, as I grabbed my camera there was a second splash and another cow had followed down the slippery embankment and into the canal.

The first cow by this time had made its way under the bridge and up onto the bank on the other side, straight into the beautifully kept gardens we had just passed!

We ran over and saw the second cow trying to get out onto the tow path side under the bridge,but the bank was too step so instead she turned and joined her friend in the garden amongst the ornamental flowers and trees!

Both cows seemed completely unfazed by their swim now munching on the plants they had found and trampling the lawn whilst the home owners could only stand back and watch!

They stood their mouths open watching the garden become a snack bar to two huge animals, the lady called across to us that never in all the years of living there had a cow invaded her garden!

Thankfully both cows were unhurt and seemed completely unfazed by their ordeal, the farmer was called to help them back into their field and we moved on through the lock on our way.

But if you ever find yourself confronted by an inquisitive child asking if Cows can swim, you can say well yes actually it seems they can!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Heartache of the Classroom

Last night I hurried about, desperately trying to find all the book bags homework logs and water bottles, setting out three newly brought sets of clothes and shoes and setting my alarm clock for an early rise like many other mothers up and down the country.

But unlike some I don't look forward to returning the children to school, I don't breath a sigh of relief when I hand them over to their teachers, returning home to a house to myself, in fact I would almost say I hate it.

Not only do I miss the hustle and bustle of having to work round constant shouts of 'Mummmmm'and requests for food and entertainment, but I guess I have never really been one to embrace the school life culture, I don't really know if my three learn more in the classroom or at home, and I am not really sure as a parent how I should be working along side teachers who I don't know, don't know the children all that well and have completely different methods and attitudes towards learning than me.

When school starts it seems so does extra heartache, extra worry.

I look at my eldest whos just started into year 6, his last year at Primary school and remember the day he started infants, I remember that proud feeling as I watched him take up his seat in a strange room for the first time and I thought I had done a great job teaching him his numbers and to write his name, recognise alot of letters in the alphabet and shapes he saw around him, I didn't really know any other 4 year olds or have any other experience of children and schools and it was a shock to me when a few months later at the parents evening there seemed to be a huge list of things he didn't know, I set about taking up the evenings when he returned home frantically trying to teach him the key words, he initially joined in with gusto, pleased to have his homework but then as the months went on and things got harder, he wasn't learning to read quickly, he struggled to remember the keywords writing was obviously difficult and he seemed to be unable to grasp even easy concepts of the English language, and I continued to badger him into 'doing better'. School nights were horrible, upset and frustrations, books became a hatred object and bedtimes stories no longer a pleasure.

Years passed and I realised it wasn't working, the school were sure Jake was dyslexic but as he was making progress he wasn't considered 'bad enough' for any extra help.  But I knew the only reason for his progress all be it slow was due to his determination to try, but all the input all the tension and upset was having a serious knock on effect to his self esteem, he saw his younger sister start school and learn to read with ease and be able to sit for hours writing stories,  saw his classmates handwriting begin to neaten up whilst his still scribbled along the page.

Back at home books got left untouched and pens were never asked for,  demands and evenings filled with tension were the only time that 'learning' took place. I didn't know what to do, so decided to do what I thought was best... nothing.

I decided to stop the reading of the books forced into his book bag, stop the repetitive barking out spellings, it wasn't working anyway his spelling results were always very low the books he struggled through just meant another book appeared in its place, yet simple key words still seemingly impossible for him to depict. Whats the point in being seen to be on a certain reading level when in reality you have merly struggled through the books and certainly don't fluently or easily read them, and when something is such a chore it is never going to be enjoyable is it?

I no longer wanted his life to be filled with a sense of 'I'm not good enough' I wanted him to have some time to forget, to play to have fun to be happy.

And with that we no longer looked in book bags, we ran home from school (or biked) and threw off the uniform to rush outside to climb a tree.

I don't know if that's right, I don't force the issue to 'do better' but I constantly wonder if I should be.

We moved schools and the new school have been very supportive offering lots of extra help for Jakes Dyslexia - although still no formal diagnosis his teacher told me he is the most obviously Dyslexic child hes ever seen, Jakes happier and is making slow progress with reading and writing his school report was full of praise stating ''To try hard when your doing well is one thing,but to try as hard as Jake has when the subject is so difficult for you is a real tribute to Jakes tenacity and determination.'' and ''he is a likable, well mannered and polite boy who is an absolute credit to his family. Well done Jake - you can hold your head high and be proud of your efforts this year.''
Yet even still I question if I am helping him enough, if sitting him down each night for half an hour extra work would make even greater progress? should I be putting in more effort to helping him grasp the concepts he struggles with, or is doing nothing really the best thing to do?

Now I have my youngest starting Year 1 should I do it differently this time? so far I have been as slack with regards to his formal learning as I am with Jakes, not wishing for the same dent in self confidence to occur. Yet the same questions and feeling that I should be doing more are still there.

So yes school is back, the house is quiet and I may actually get on top of the work I have to do, but I know that with the return of schools there is extra heartache and worry and if I could spend the days wistfully uncaring about school stats and scores and education then I think I would.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Adventure over - for now.

The nights are drawing in, the Summer is over, School holidays finished and normality is returning to families everywhere and I'm feeling it more than most this year as the past 6 weeks we have been on a mammoth adventure, packing a bag full of clothes and only a few essentials, taking the dog and three children and leaving behind all home comforts, electrical gadgets and throwing caution to the wind and piling our family into a 20ft cruiser on the canals, which became our home for the summer. With only a small budget not big enough to stretch to world wide travel, but a gusto to explore and see new things we were ready to experience something new, already familiar with making the most out of the ordinary we were convinced we would have a great time, despite the small size and limited appliances.

Total madness some might say, how on earth will you all manage? what will you do when it rains? can you cook decent food in there? what about  toilets and showers?
But these things didn't worry us and to be honest we decided to not plan a great deal, not spend too long worrying about the what ifs and where abouts and just give it a go, if we were all ready to kill each other after a couple of days then we would return home,  with the thought that the great outdoors will be entertainment enough, and longing for some quality 'away from it all' time together everything else seemed not to matter.

With no set plan or time scale, we initially intended to get through a week, packing the cupboards with as much as we could fit  as our budget would not stretch to pub meals, a 2 ringed gas cooker with a grill was our kitchen, but from previous camping holidays we were attuned to making gormet meals with minimal facilities.

As the days passed we all fell into the swing of living on board, the space was not an issue, there was room inside the cabin for the boys to spread out their box of Lego and create amazing adventures of their own, whilst Chloe could sit outside happily doodling the sights we saw. Sleeping was cosy but not too much of a squeeze and it was really refreshing for computers to be a background thought as the childrens imagination came alive as they played under bridges and splashed in streams marvelling at the insects and creatures they saw.

The weather was a real mixed bag as we travelled, we had the storms and days where we didn't venture out of the boat at all and the scorching hot heat on others, neither caused too much of an issue, the Wind and rain meaning we couldn't move far but pens and paper entertained us all drawing comics and making puzzles for each other passed the rainy hours.

Then when the sun shined we worked locks and went through tunnels.

Saw wildlife and animals and chatted to hundreds of friendly people, other boaters with stories to tell or passes by on the tow path all intrigued by our journey and ability to be managing without all the creature comforts everyone is so used to.

The days passed into weeks and we continued to enjoy our trip, using the British waterways facilities shower blocks and toilet disposal at regular set out locations along the canal made the journey comfy.
Stopping off to visit local towns to catch up with the real world in library's using the Internet access to keep on top of things, sampling the local farm shop products set out at locks and relishing the freedom away from computer screens and television.

We travelled all the way along the Staffs and Worcester Canal and then up the Shropshire Union turning off onto the Llangollen branch into Wales ,managing to find petrol stations close enough to refill without too much trouble.

The views are indescribable along the canal, natural beauty and it was a brilliant way to unwind from the everyday worries  finishing each day watching the sunset before snuggling down worn out from the days activities.

We continued cruising along and reached the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct a breathtaking stream in the sky, the mammoth structure carries the Llangollen canal over the River Dee a huge 38 meters in height and over 1000ft long it is the tallest and longest Aqueduct in Britain and is worthy of its World Heritage site status, we moored in the Basin for a couple of nights so we could take in the sights around the beautiful area.

I could of happily stayed cruising the countryside for longer but reality calls, so we are home our adventure over, but our thirst for living with nature on your doorstep, learning the lessons only life can teach and seeing sights worthy of dreams is ever present, I have so many photos to look through and memories I want to record but for now it's back to the reality of school uniform shopping and answering emails which were left to one side and dreaming of the next break away.

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