Tuesday 28 July 2020

Things I've learned about the children over the last few months

I've seen a few blog posts with this theme so I thought I'd have a think about the things that I've learned over the last few months, particularly when it comes to the children.

Harry struggles with open-ended school tasks. We had a lot of upset if he had an open-ended task to work on, like designing a poster, or sharing his feelings towards a poem. He's much happier when he's given a sheet of maths questions to do that have a right or wrong answer.

Mia prefers creative tasks. She struggled with things that she didn't understand, and got cross when I tried to explain things to her. She loved a creative task, and always put her own individual take on it. 

Harry needs other people around him. I always thought that Harry was happy with his own company, but he was the most upset out of the two to be away from his class. The problem is that he doesn't have any particular friends that he could keep in touch with by text or video call, or meet up with once allowed. Instead he tends to remain on the outside of a group, observing others rather than taking an active role, which is difficult to replicate at home. I was really glad that he had the opportunity to be back in the classroom, if only for a few weeks, just to keep him going until September!

Mia needs time to herself. I thought that Mia always needed company, but she also needs to have time by herself. She spends a lot of time either on the swing or in her room jumping around, and I think that she's doing something which I recently found out is called maladaptive daydreaming. I was the same when I was younger. She's telling a story in her head, and it's easier for her if she's moving while she does it. We spent a few days with family last week and she became very distressed because she didn't have the space or opportunity to do it.

The children really need a routine. Things went way out of shape over the Easter holidays, especially with all the early shock and uncertainty. When term started back up the children needed to log in to their learning platform at 8.30am and it was really good to make sure that we were all up, breakfasted and dressed by then. Now that the summer holidays have started I'm more prepared and there is no screen time until everyone is ready for the day and the children have done ten minutes of times table practice. We also have exercise or outdoor time after lunch, they spend a bit of time in a learning app, and they expect to help me with a few tasks around the house. They also have reading time before bed and Harry has piano practice. 

The children need their screen time. We've never been particularly strict on screen time, but the amount that they use their iPads has gone through the roof. However pretty much all that they do is play Minecraft, which I like to think is a little bit educational. They play with friends, which keeps up their social interaction, and they work together on their builds. This can cause conflict so they need to learn to compromise. It also allows them to escape into their own worlds and use their imagination. When they are back at school properly their time will be limited, so I'm not too worried for the time being.

I need the children to have their screen time. I need time to myself. I need time to get on with housework, work of my own, and to give me some headspace and a break from being needed by everyone. Letting the children have their screen time gives me this (apart from when I'm called upon to deal with arguments and help them to come to an agreement about their Minecraft world!)

To share plans with the children in advance. If we are planning to go out for a walk or some other activity, the children need to have a heads up, and ideally a time set. So if I tell them that we are going to do something at a particular time they are much happier and more compliant.

This pandemic really has been a unique opportunity to spend time with the family and although it's been tough at times, looking back it has definitely helped me to understand the children a little better!

Children on a walk in the countryside

Saturday 25 July 2020

My next completed project - the Smash Book

Another month and another unfinished craft project completed - my Smash Book!

Actually this one isn't quite completed, as it's an ongoing project. Smash Books were very popular a few years ago and I'm not sure why they fell out of favour as I really like the concept. It's a sturdy, spiral bound journal with a vague theme. Along with it comes a combined pen and glue stick. The idea is that you grab bits of ephemera - ticket stubs, photos, magazine cuttings and so on - then glue them in and add some journalling with the pen. It's a fun way to quickly scrapbook things that have meaning to you or make you feel inspired.

Smash Book and ephemera papers

I started my Smash Book a few years ago - you can see some of my first Smash Book pages here. I mainly used it to display mementoes from our holidays. But alongside I was also collecting a huge folder of bits and pieces, some of them collected over years and years. The folder was full of things that I intended to put in the Smash Book but hadn't got around to, and it was getting fuller and fuller. So I wanted to sort it all out, have a bit of a declutter, and stick in everything that I had so far to make it easier to keep up with in the future.

Some of the pages are quite obvious in their theme and relate to a particular holiday or event.

Smash book pages with tickets and travel mementoes

Some of the pages are just random collections of pictures that I've found in various different places and stuck together in a way that appeals to me. 

Smash book pages with collage pictures

And other pages are a mixture of the two, with both pictures and mementoes.

Smash book pages with tickets and pictures

There are still plenty of empty pages and so I'll still be adding to it over the years until there is no room left, but it's completely manageable now and I'm really enjoying flipping through it and seeing all my memories.

And now I'm actually getting to the end of my list of unfinished projects! I'm honestly not sure what to work on next. I'd like to find something small that I can finish quickly, as I'm using my extra crafting time to work on a very long term project, my cross stitch map. It would be amazing if I could find the time to make that December's unfinished project, and complete it before the end of the year!

Thursday 23 July 2020

Things I've done recently that I've never done before

The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of things in a very short period of time, and life has changed in ways that we couldn't have imagined.

For example, here are some things that I've recently done for the first time:

Seen my parents and not given them a hug (well until our most recent visit that is!).

Worn a face mask. Not very often admittedly because I don't go out very much, but I'm expecting to wear one much more often in the future.

Had friends over to visit in the garden and not invited them into the house. It feels so rude!

Watched genuinely good quality and educational entertainment on YouTube. I've especially loved some of the National Theatre at home productions.

Taken part in a live streamed exercise class (albeit it only once, Joe Wicks was too much for us!)

Signed off an e-mail to my child's teacher with my first name and a kiss. I feel that I have had such a different relationship with the teachers this term!

Met up with friends and family and consciously stood or sat away from them.

Children on the beach 2m apart and pointing

Taken part in a video call with more than one other person.

Made and sent homemade birthday cards.

Bought enough food at a time to last us all over a week. I was so used to doing quick top up shops.

Queued up outside a shop, and then followed a complicated one way system once inside. I'm terrible at finding things. I end up just wandering around, following the arrows and picking things up as I pass them.

Had a video consultation with a doctor. For a child not me, nothing serious, and much easier and quicker to sort out!

Crossed the street or walked far out into the road to avoid someone coming the other way.

Asked my child whether they wanted to go to school the next day or not, and accepted their decision either way.

Taken anti-bacterial wipes to the supermarket to wipe down the trolley.

Stuffed back the cakes and biscuits without worrying about needing to slim down for an upcoming holiday.

Me wearing a homemade face mask

What have you been doing differently over the last few months?

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Free Kangaroo Crossing cross stitch design and pattern

Today I have another cross stitch design to share! I'm busy working away on my travel themed cross stitch map, and as I go along I'm coming up with different cross stitch images to represent some of the things that I've seen and done on my travels. Australia is one of my favourite places in the world, and so I decided to come up with a way to represent the iconic kangaroo crossing road sign in cross stitch.

Free Kangaroo Crossing cross stitch design

The kangaroo crossing road sign design is really simple. The only colours that you need are a bright blue for the background (to represent the lovely sunny and clear sky!), yellow and black for the sign and a tiny amount of grey for the signpost. Both the outline of the sign and the kangaroo use two strands of black thread for backstitch.

Kangaroo Crossing road sign cross stitch pattern

Here is the finished design stitched and ready on my sampler. I added a small border as I will have lots of different images that I want to separate from each other. This design would also be great on a greetings card for an Australian loving friend or as part of a larger Australian themed cross stitch design.

Kangaroo Crossing Australian roadsign in cross stitch

If you liked this travel themed cross stitch design then you might also like these ones:

Thursday 16 July 2020

The completion of my 100 day project

I had been meaning to start a 100 day project for a little while now. In fact it was one of my Ten Things to do in 2020.  The reason that it has taken me this long is because we always seem to have a holiday booked within a period of 100 days and I didn't want that to be a distraction. At the beginning of April, with one big holiday cancelled and the prospect of having a lot of time to spend at home, it seemed like the obvious time to give it a go. 

I've always wanted to improve my drawing and painting. I had a set of good quality watercolour paints left over from my A-Level Art days, but I never really learned to use them and I hadn't touched them since. I treated myself to a new sketchbook for my birthday last year, and I have plenty of drawing pencils and brushes. So I decided that each day I would draw and/or paint a page in my sketchbook.

It took me a little while to get going as I flitted around with different things. I tried sketching the children but I wasn't happy with the result. With the beautiful weather over Easter I turned to the garden, painting the leaves and flowers and moving on to both realistic and more stylised flowers. I also found a few tutorials that helped me to use the watercolours in different ways.

Watercolour flower experiments

I carried on painting my flowers, and discovered that my favourite colour was definitely blue. I also started trying a few paintings of scenery, like this beach scene.

Simple watercolour beach scene

After the halfway point I revisited my attempts at drawing and painting the children. I started working on an artist's journal about the pandemic, and illustrated it with some pictures of the children doing various things. They aren't great but I was quite pleased with them, I like to think that they capture a moment! I'm not very good with faces so I tend to draw the children from behind or at an angle!

Watercolour painting of a child on a swing

For the final quarter of the challenge I repeated some of my favourite subjects, especially the stylised flowers and a few more pictures of the children. I also worked hard on my artist's journal which helped me to practice watercolour washes in different colours. 

Watercolour child from behind in meadow

I really liked the image of Mia from behind that I used above, and I repeated it with a few different backgrounds. I also returned to painting flowers from the garden as they started to bloom. Here are my marigolds, used to make a pattern that looks like fancy wallpaper.

Watercolour marigold pattern

And the first sweet peas in a champagne glass, trying to capture all the different colours. 

Watercolour sweet peas in a champagne glass

The 100 day project has been a great focus during lockdown and will be a big part of my memories of this period. I've really enjoyed trying something new, and I like to think that my skills have improved. I've definitely increased my confidence - I'm no longer too intimidated to sit down in front of an empty sketchbook or a blank page.

I'm hoping to develop my skills further, perhaps by finding some YouTube drawing tutorial videos to follow. I especially want to be more confident with sketching the children. I'm not sure that I'll be drawing every day, but I'm definitely going to continue, and also perhaps work on some longer paintings that will take several days. 

There's also my illustrated journal to complete, I'll share some of the pages when it's finished!

I'd definitely recommend giving a 100 day project a go, it's a great way to challenge yourself and begin to learn a new skill.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

A list of things I make lists of

Activities to keep children from being bored
Long term projects to work toward.

Topics I want to write about
Daily tasks to be carried out.

Places that I want to go
Items to knit, crochet or sew.

Books I one day want to read
All the things the children need.

Craft projects I would like to try
Craft supplies that I want to buy.

Posts to write for my blog.
An unfinished craft project log.

Recipes I want to make
With dinners to cook and cakes to bake.

Treats I'd like to receive as a gift
Things to do if I need a mood lift.

Writing a good list is always a hit
But ticking things off is always the best bit!

This post inspired by learning about list poems with Mia while home schooling!

Person writing a list in a notebook
Photo credit Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash

Thursday 9 July 2020

The start of the summer holidays

The end of term felt like a bit of anti-climax this year. Normally I'm desperate for the holidays to start, but although Harry was at school part-time for the last few weeks of term it still felt like a bit of a novelty with a traffic-free school run, no uniform to wash and no extra homework.

I do feel for Harry, he has missed out on a huge number of Year 6 milestones - among other things his first residential, a day trip to the Isle of Wight, a talent show and leavers disco. But at least he was able to catch up with friends for a few weeks, poor Mia had a one hour transition session with her class last week but apart from that she has hardly seen anyone else since March.

We were very lucky with the remote learning provision from the school, and the children definitely benefited from the routine that gave us. They were up and dressed by 8.30am each day to respond to a morning message, and then had regular morning Teams calls with their classes. I'm very keen to keep a little bit of that routine going over the summer.

I'm intending to get them to spend a few minutes each day using the Times Tables Rockstars app. I also discovered the Quizlet app while doing their French remote learning and it's brilliant. I'm getting them to spend some time daily going through some of the vocab that they were introduced to this term. The other thing I'm keen on is reading, but luckily I don't need to force them to do that!

I'm also trying for some daily exercise, even if it's just a scoot around the block, and some form of shared creative time. This week it's been all about the play dough! I nearly decluttered it all a few months back thinking that they were too old for it, but it has kept them (and me!) happily occupied for ages, and I'm even wondering if I need to buy some more!

Older children playing with play dough

We are still trying to stay at home as much as possible, and there are many weeks stretching ahead of us without the usual places to visit or playdates with friends. Luckily we've managed to book a week away -  even if we can't get out and about on holiday as much as normal at least we'll have a change of scenery. And we will have a few meet ups with friends and family in gardens and down the beach. 

Fingers crossed we will be back to some sort of normality with back to school in September, I think that we will all be ready for it!