Top of the World

In previous years as the school holidays ended I’ve had a horrible empty feeling as I prepared the boys for going back to school.  I always grudged giving up so much time with my sons, especially when deep down I thought I could be doing more for them.  This year has been the polar opposite!  I was really excited about starting Home Education once more.  There was no school uniform shopping and, even better, NO SCHOOL SHOE SHOPPING!  Instead Mr GG and I were preparing workbooks and sorting out work areas for the boys.  Our return to HE was delayed by a week due to a very inconvenient bug deciding to knock my family down one by one but we’ve all rallied and work successfully began on Monday.

There aren’t really words for how proud I am of these three boys.  They’ve taken to the new curriculum so well.  They’re enjoying getting out for a mid-morning walk to stretch our legs and get some fresh air before getting stuck back into the rest of the day’s work. 

We’ve still several wee kinks to iron out.  Last year we tended to keep Fridays free for trips and things.  This year I’d love to do the same but, for the first few weeks at least, I’m planning that we work a bit more until we all (including me) get used to the new set up.   

 IMG_2110As a mum of three I find it hard sometimes to get one to one time with the boys.  Yes, I spend time with them at home but there’s always noise and interruptions … time alone, time to chat, time to laugh and just spend time together … that can be hard.  So, I’ve decided to take advantage of the days Mr GG works from home and take the opportunity to go out with one of the boys a week.  This week it was Son No3 … we went to a local garden centre (he wants a Venus Flytrap) and had snack there.  It was a real treat … for me at least!

 The latest Tinker Crate arrived a couple of weeks ago … it’s so hard not to push my way in and take over, they look so much fun.  This one was a glowing pendulum … so clever!  Son No3 really enjoyed building it and was fascinated with how it worked.  Great box!  We’ve still got a mechanical bird to build but when we started it the blueprint was missing … a wee email to the company got that sorted quickly enough but we’ve just not had the opportunity to build it yet.  I wonder what will be next!

 

 

Not content with allowing us a week to focus on HE, there’s been drama in the chicken coop … Minnie the Minx has gone broody.  She’s, mostly, a happy broody chook but she growls if Ivy or Beryl go near here when she’s sitting on the eggs she’s gathered.  I have to admit, though, it gives me the fear when she stares at me as move her to get the eggs from under her … fortunately Mr GG is usually here to do it for me!  I’m really hoping the broodiness doesn’t last too long … but maybe if she or one of the others is Attachment-1broody next year I’ll be able to persuade Mr GG to let us get some fertilised eggs for her to sit on.  To be fair, she’s not too bad … once we turf her out of the nesting box and gather the eggs we close the coop to stop the temptation for her to go back in and carry on nesting (on nothing) … she’s quite happy to potter about as usual during the day and when the coop is opened again late afternoon/early evening she doesn’t rush straight back in. 

 So, the first week of our first full academic year is over.  We’ve all survived.  We’re all smiling.  We’re all happy with how the week has gone.  We’re all VERY glad it’s the weekend!  For now though, I’m sitting back with a chocolate chip cookie and a cuppa, enjoying listening to the (generally) happy chatter as the boys play and discuss some new game that Son No1 has just bought. 

Until next week folks …

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Breathe

Apologies for the lack of a post last week … life in GGHQ took a wee unexpected turn and writing ended up taking a back seat. 

We’ve been up to our usual high jinks over the past weeks never fear.  Mr GG took a week off work and we had lots of adventures planned.  However, our week didn’t turn out as planned and, instead, Mr GG spent the week visiting his doctor’s surgery as they tried to come to grips with why he’s been progressively more ill over recent weeks.

It turns out Mr GG has diabetes. 

It’s been a shock.  We’re generally a healthy family and things like this don’t happen to us!  However, it has.  And now we have to get our heads around how this affects us as a family as well as supporting Mr GG who can, thankfully, now begin the journey towards feeling well again.   Once again I’m thankful that Mr GG and I always approach things as a team … it’s important to us to work this way and it’s how we’ve got through so many different things.

 In the midst of the appointments and blood tests (he has to check his blood six times a day at the moment) we’ve managed to enjoy time with my cousin and her lovely family … Son No3 particularly enjoyed having cousins to play with and had a blast zorbing on water with them.

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Our latest ‘self sufficiency’ challenge was making butter which was a fun experiment for us all to take part in.  OK, so we don’t have a cow or goat to get milk from and had to buy cream to start off with but the butter tasted amazing!

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Last time I wrote, the chickens were on lock down for medication.  That’s over now but, feeling a bit sorry for them afterwards, I gave them the bucket of kale that was growing beautifully … it doesn’t look so healthy anymore!

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All our workbooks arrived last week in preparation for starting back to home ed soon … our plan is to start back on 13th August and take an early half term for our family holiday.  The boys are all quietly looking forward to getting back into a routine although more loudly protesting that they’d rather stay on holiday!

 Lastly, just before I leave you all in peace for a few more days … we have finally bought a polytunnel for our garden.  I love it!  I planted lettuce in it two days ago and wee shoots are already peeping through!  I particularly love that we’ve got a polytunnel as it sounds way more smallholdingy than a greenhouse does haha.  See you all next week … when normal service may just be resumed!

 

Simple Life

There is peace in GGHQ as I start writing today (oops, that was Saturday and now it’s Monday!).  Mr GG is outside mucking out the chickens, Son No1 is chatting online to one of his local friends, Son No3 is playing a game and Son No2 is watching television. 

We’ve had a fun week, quietly busy but also relaxing at times too.  The weather has been brilliant still although there were one or two wee much-needed rain showers.  Most of the GG family don’t like the heat too much and Son No3 has been overhead grumbling that he can’t wait until winter!

IMG_1889Mr GG & I have been looking at a curriculum we would like to use next term.  Unfortunately, and much to the dismay of the Junior GGs, this involves diagnostic testing to determine the level of work that will be appropriate for them.  The tests (four in all) have nearly been completed with just one left to do … it’s probably fair to say that they’ve not been completed with happy, contented hearts!

 The Juniors had a fun day at the beach with Grandma GG during the week and managed, between them, to bring most of the beach home with them … always, I believe, a sign of a successful day. 

 IMG_1894We had a visitor one day too which was fun … it’s been a long time since I’ve had a really little person to look after and this wee lad could not have been a more perfect houseguest.  He smiled and gurgled and waved and was fascinated with the chickens.  Son No3 was a fantastic helper and spent the whole time making sure our guest was OK.  It was so lovely to watch him … he’s desperate for a younger sibling (never going to happen!) so I think that was what encouraged him.

What else did we do?  Oh yes, we had a couple of days spent in and around the house as well as a lovely walk one day which involved lots of rolling down hills … I didn’t partake this time having learned my lesson from a previous time that didn’t end quite so well!

Mr GG and I are enjoying our ‘simple living’ challenge.  We’re getting used to thinking twice about things and, you know what?  At the end of the week we’ve done all we wanted to do, we’ve not always gone for the ‘time-saving’ options and we’ve not missed out on anything.  The challenge has really made us think about how often we would try to save time and end up more frazzled than ever.  

 So, when we made frog in the bog for tea (toad in the hole to those not in know) we didn’t opt for our usual choice of bought Yorkshire puddings but decided to make these bad boys!  Instead of keeping a jar of ready sliced lemons in the fridge, we sliced and froze them ourselves.

We even opted for the simple option when it came to cutting the grass this week.

 We’ve had a couple more harvests during the week … our raspberry plants have yielded this wee crop.  Not enough for jam but we’re planning to add to it and make jam anyway.  Also, I was ridiculously excited that the first pea was ready for picking … it made its way into the kitchen purely for the photo before being eaten … delicious!  Small beginnings but a step in the right direction.

The simple life is becoming more and more appealing (although maybe you should ask me again in winter!) and we’re enjoying making the best use of everything we have although, I do think Mr GG was taking things a wee bit too far when he tried to make himself sunglasses out of a plastic bottle … the only way to keep it on was to hold the sides which left him looking slightly reminiscent of Kevin from Home Alone!

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Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer …

The sun is shining, washing is drying on the whirligig, the chooks are scratching about contentedly, the boys are playing quietly (always a worry!), Mr GG is sitting on the swing seat relaxing/sleeping … and somewhere along the way I’ve obviously blinked and missed the week!  Our first week of summer holiday is over already but it still feels like last weekend.

There has always been a period of adjustment when it comes to holidays.  My routine loving boys often struggle getting used to a new routine although the first week of the summer holidays has generally been kept empty … a chance for the boys to relax, catch up on sleep and recover from the stresses of the academic year.

This year has been no different …

… oh …

… no …

… wait …

… erm …

… that’s not right …

… this year has been completely different.

This year it has been me that has struggled with the change in routine.  The Junior GGs have all been relaxed and drifted into holiday mode with no issues.  I, on the other hand, have been completely out of sorts, grumpy, stressy, tired and struggling to get used to being on holiday from home ed!  What’s that all about?

It struck me that the past six months have been completely full-on … I’ve been either been actively involved in home ed or I’ve been thinking about it.  It’s been my life absolutely.  I don’t regret it, not one wee bit, but suddenly not having to think about it has been a bit of a shock!  For the past years I’ve counted down to the summer holidays growing more and more excited about having six or seven uninterrupted weeks with my boys.  The night before the last day of term was always more exciting than Christmas … I often couldn’t sleep.  This year has been different … I’ve looked forward to not having work to prepare or mark or plan but … it was different … and it felt odd!

Work isn’t completely finished quite yet.  Son No1 and I have been working on a Chicken Welfare & Behaviour course with Edinburgh University.  It’s pretty much finished, just a few bits of work to be done and we’re through … it’s been ever so interesting and we’ve both learned lots about our own chooks as we’ve learned.

This past week I’ve also managed to complete a course in reflexology.  I’ve no intention of inflicting my grumpy crabbiness on the general public but I’ve often wondered if reflexology would help my anxiety-ridden Son No2 so I thought I’d try it out and see … so far I’ve not managed to get him to sit still long enough for me to even touch his feet, far less try out any reflexology but there’s still hope!  If there is anything at all that I can do to help him deal with this world that is so alien to him then I’m all for it.

Son No3 has enjoyed the holidays so far.  He’s made the most of the sunny weather to play outside with his friends (rain never stops us anyway) and has built lots of interesting Lego creations.  Lego has got to be one of the best toys ever … only limited by our own imaginations.

And there it is … week one of our holidays is finished, completed, gone … the grumpiness is gone (for now!) and I have much to be thankful for … no matter how much of a rush he is in, Son No1 will not ever go out without coming to give me a hug and tell me he loves me … how blessed I am!

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Week two is looming (well, it’s Monday now so it’s kinda loomed already) … we’ve planned a bit more structure for this week but I’m not telling you yet!

 

 

Nothing’s gonna stop us now …

Hooray! Happy day! We have made it to the end of term … all still standing and smiling!

It’s been a week of preparation, work has been steadily reducing and lots of planning for holidays and free days going on.

Traditionally, in the distant past when the boys were in school we would make a list of things to do in the holidays … colour-coded according to whether they could be done at home or away and whether free or not … maybe I’m a wee bit of a control freak after all haha!

So, our list has been updated, new activities added and some discarded with claims that the boys are now too old for them. We’ve easily got 70 different activities and I’ve tried hard to make as many free as I possibly can.

IMG_1661On one of our many walks this week Son No 3 found his first painted rocks … such excitement. The rocks have been rehidden ready for someone else to find … I wonder how far they will travel?  We are planning to paint some rocks of our own and hide them around the parks and woodlands in our local area.  I’m quite artistically inept but hopefully Mr GG will join in!

The latest Tinker Crate arrived a few days ago so it found itself included on the plan for this week … and what fun!  Son No3 did really well following the instructions to build an arcade catapult and has spent lots of time playing with it, even inviting his friends in to give it a go.  There’s something satisfying about building something yourself and he was, quite rightly, proud of his efforts.

This week has also seen Son No 1 update his hair colour … the blue is gone and replaced with red. He was a bit reluctant to let anyone see the work in progress!  I was a bit nervous about how the red would look but I think he’s looking great 🙂


IMG_1653Our three chooks are continuing to supply us with eggs and there was much excitement when Beryl the Peril laid our first double yolker … clever girl.

Our fruit and vegetable patches are continuing to grow and, I think, everything we planted has sprouted. Storm Hector battered the garden but, thankfully, everything survived  including the chidkens and Son No2’s precious guinea pig, Pringle (although she looked a wee bit shell-shocked afterwards).

We celebrated the end of our academic year with a trip to Auchingarrich Animal Park. Mr GG took the day off work so we were able to have a lovely family day together. The weather forecast was dire but Team GG don’t let something like rain put us off and I’m so glad … torrential rain most of the journey there and torrential rain most of the journey home but in between was lovely!


We saw all sorts of animals but, for me, the highlight was seeing the wildcat with her kittens … so beautiful! It’s hard to imagine that they’re so different from our own Princess Leia.

For many years there has been a tartan sheep at Auchingarrich and we’ve loved looking at her. Today she looked old and tired but had two lambs with her. Seeing her wandering along with the lambs and quite obviously getting impatient with them at times reminded me of my role as a mum. I get impatient with the boys, I’ve so much to learn as a mum but I’ve held on to this verse, especially in the years when the boys were so much younger and my job was much more ‘hands on’.
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And there we are … we’ve reached the end of our first academic (half) year. We’ve made mistakes, we’ve had successes but I can honestly say I don’t regret our decision to start home education for a minute. It’s not always been easy and we’ve had times when school has been missed but I could not be more proud of how well my lovely boys have coped and adapted to such a massive change.

I’ve a few plans for the blog over the holidays … but I’m giving away no secrets so you’ll have to wait and see! For now, though, I’m off to sit back and relax and enjoy the holiday (at home) feeling!

The Long & Winding Road

I’m a bit late with the blog this week … it’s been one of those weekends!

We’re really starting to look ahead to the summer holidays now and we’re all looking forward to them.  The boys are looking forward to some time without academic work to do and I’m looking forward to some time when I’m not constantly preparing lessons and thinking of what to do next.  Mr GG and I are planning to spend some time looking ahead to when we start back but there won’t be that same pressure which, I must admit, will be lovely!

The work that has been done in the garden is beginning to pay off and several wee shoots can be seen poking through the ground.  It’s amazing how one wee shoot will appear and then a couple of hours later there are loads, as if one seed breaks free and the others are encouraged to follow along.

All three chooks are growing and developing their wee personalities.  They are a huge hit with all the family and all three boys love spending time outside talking to them.  They’re not shy around us at all now and as soon as anyone is outside they’re squawking about at our toes (and pecking them) looking for treats.  Beryl the Peril is still our sole egg layer but she’s been consistently laying an egg each day.  I’ve been using an old eyeliner to write the date on the eggs, I know some folks use sharpies but I’m a wee bit hesitant about using something like that.  I was going to say I was hesitant about using something I wouldn’t eat but there again, who eats eyeliner …

The patience we need when waiting for plants to grow or the chickens to start laying eggs has made me think about our approach to home education.  We don’t just plant a seed and immediately have veg to eat.  An egg doesn’t hatch and immediately turn into a laying chicken.  Similarly, here at GGHQ, we haven’t just left school and turned into the perfect HE family straightaway (whatever that is anyway!). 

These past months have been fun, but they have been hard work.  The Junior GGs have had to get used to being out of school, to learning in a different environment and in a different way.  Mr GG and I have had to get used to a completely different homelife and to learn, through trial and error, what works for the individuals in our wee family and what absolutely doesn’t! 

Lots of work has been going on behind the scenes, lots of research, reading, soul searching, praying, even tears now and again.   

I know I’m repeating myself but I’m proud of how all five of us have adapted to the changes that we’ve faced.  It’s not always been straightforward and there have been hiccups but as we enter our sixth month of HE I think relationships are stronger, the atmosphere in our home is, mostly, calmer and we’re all benefiting from spending more time outside.  Change is not always easy for people on the autistic spectrum but my boys amaze me time and time again how well they cope with whatever life throws at them.  They’re awesome lads and I’m proud to be their mum.

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(And when they choose to do a geography puzzle when they have free time … well, that makes me feel we’re doing something right!)

 

I’m so excited …

… and I just can’t hide it

In the past six months two of my long held dreams have come true.  How great is that!

The first dream was beginning our home education journey back in January … and I’ll talk more about that in a wee minute or two.  The second dream, oh, I can’t believe it’s finally happening is this:

Mr GG has been working for the past wee while on building a fabulous chicken run … it was his birthday present to me and now, today, our birthday presents from my parents have arrived and are scratching around inside it.  Already, within a couple of hours their personalities are shining through and we’ve had many laughs at their antics already. 

IMG_1413Beryl the Peril is the noisy one so far – apparently she lays pinky/brown eggs.  She’s, naturally, a bit wary of us but has beautiful feathers and fluffs herself up now and again, I think, to make us think she’s scary!  She can’t bear anyone to do something without her so if Minnie the Minx flies up to the roof of the chicken coop, she’s right there too

IMG_1442Ivy the Terrible is in the inquisitive one and has explored all around the run – she lays brown eggs.  So far, Ivy is the only one who has allowed me to touch her … so currently she’s my favourite!  She seems to be quite placid and likes to sit and watch what’s going on around her.   She also seems to have cottoned on to the idea that she goes into the coop at night … she takes herself off into the coop and then pops her head out as if to hurry us along!

 IMG_1416Minnie the Minx lays cream eggs but, sadly, not Cadburys – Minnie is the most timid so far and spent most of the afternoon hiding under the coop when any of us ventured into the run.   Minnie & Beryl seem to be teaming up and tootling about together.  It’ll all be fun and games trying to catch those two to put in the coop tonight … hoping Mr GG will be here to help!

I love that, as a home educating family, everything we do can be made into a learning opportunity.  Our new chickens are providing endless sources of learning, right from before they even arrived today.  Our youngest GG helped his Dad with building the run … he’s a practical lad, has lots of imagination and regularly comes up with ‘inventions’ of his own.  Son No1 is doing a course with a local university on chicken welfare and behaviour (I think I’ve told you that before … blame old age … my sons do!).

One of the things that I’ve found hardest about our journey into home education (HE) is holidays!  Now, anyone that knows me knows that when the Junior GGs were in school I was continually counting down to the next holiday … and why not … my boys are fantastic company, they keep me amused and, well, we enjoy learning things and getting out together.  Family time is special … not necessarily calm or harmonic but definitely special.

However, any mother (or probably parent … but I can’t talk for dads) knows that no matter what you do someone has an opinion … and if you don’t fit into one of societies perceived ‘norms’ then often folks feel obliged to offer their thoughts.  Our journey into HE has been littered with masses of advice … some of the advice from those who already HE has been invaluable whereas some, from those who’ve no experience of HE has been, well, not very helpful.  Yes, I do know how old my sons are (child birth is not an experience to quickly forget!), I do know that how important education is (precisely why we’ve removed them from school!) and no, my sons are not going to suffer socially from being out of the school setting.  That’s just for all the doubters out there, haha!

Anyway, I’ve digressed into a moan … I was talking about our problem with holidays.  We have a decision to make … do we follow the school timetable and stick to holidays when schools have holidays or do we take holidays at the times that suit us?  Guess what we’re thinking of?  Yep, we’re going to do our own thing.  At present, we’re working along the guidelines that if the boys get all their targets met in a week then Friday is a free day for us to chill, or go our somewhere, or just enjoy doing whatever we fancy.  We will have holidays planned but if we can see that the boys are tiring or losing motivation we can take an additional holiday.  Love it!  After all, most days the boys are like this:

But we know it’s time to take a day out when they are so tired they start looking like this:

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In every way the flexibility of HE is wonderful!  If a day is sunny in the morning we can take advantage of that and turn our day upsidedown … after all, sunny days can be few and far between so why not take advantage of them when they arise!  Work can always be done later in the day … we have no school hours … if we want to work in the evenings then, that’s what we’ll do.  Good times!

Can you tell I’m happy with my dreams coming true?  I’m thinking maybe a smallholding is next … I’d love some sheep and maybe even a pig … shh don’t tell Mr GG ….