Category Archives: family

Home is where the slugs are.

P1120046Ah it’s good to be home, even though I could happily live on Iona and spend an inordinate amount of time in Edinburgh.

I loved the clean salt air on Iona and convinced myself that I was breathing much better (my dear daughter, named for said island, thinks otherwise, but an ol’cripple can have her dreams).

I learned that the school there had 15 pupils which sounds lovely, and for all those out there who think the “S” word for home education I have to say there are 22 children in our home ed group at the moment.

Iona has some wonderful photos which you can peruse HERE

Home to sunshine – which is good because the washing pile is HUMUNGOUS! All hands on deck for unpacking, sorting, cleaning and washing. We arrived home to be met by Alex and Anna as Anna had cooked a massive veg soup and made a cake. Marvellous! Alex has chosen a very good wife if you ask me.

We were also met with a…work of art…all over the front room carpet as the slugs had taken our absence as an open house invitation. Bloomin’ slugs, “don’t even know what the point of them even is…”

Off to the hospital this afternoon to see the Cardiologist – only to find there’d been a last minute cancellation of the clinic. Hope the Prof is ok.  Have new appt for Sept.

Next week have lung tests and week after have Rheumi appointment to discuss Lupus.

Been told it could be a long wait to see the voice/throat specialist.  Have no voice again at the moment. I get the feeling dh doesn’t mind the wait or my voicelessness…umm…

Plans for the near future:

Spend scary amounts of money of curriculum for Sept onwards. I think I just have to grin and bear it over the import duties on educational materials. I’m a bit cross at this silly Govt we have though.

I am hoping to begin selling some of my self made lessons over the year. This will mean having the time and brain function to do it, so we’ll see how it works out. I have not had much to offer Kalei recently for her website (Please go and have a look at the updates there and get signed up) because my fogginess has been pretty severe, but just recently I feel a clearing of the little grey cells; enough to write something hopefully.

I don’t know how this will go but I thought it was worth a try. I’ll update you on it as I progress. Say a prayer.

So I’ll be back to blogging on all things home ed, chronic illness and faith and anything else that comes into my foggy little mind.

End of term. Little garden party for the children.

Iona and her friends organised a garden party at her friend’s house. They have one every Summer and then a dinner party here in the Winter for Christmas and the Christmas tide birthdays.

Well, little Miss Heleyna was somewhat put out that these events went on and she was not invited to them. “Aha!” she cried, “When I’m a grown up girl I will have a garden party and not invite you!”

TRADITIONAL-SCHOOL-MILK-BOTTLE-CRATE-MILKSHAKE_1Feeling a touch chagrined on behalf of her youngest sister, and being in possession of some very neat mini milk bottles and some left over paper straws Iona decided that an end of term garden party for the children was in order.

So today the washing line was hung with bunting and the garden table loaded with finger sandwiches, crisps, homemade sausage rolls and many other goodies. There was pink milk and chocolate milk with proper paper straws.

All followed up with ice cream.

A lovely day.

I’ve looked at the photos but I wont upload them as I haven’t talked to the other mums about permission. Must do that.

Ronan cooks his first meal.

Ronan wants to be a baker. He can already bake some pretty good cakes and I have to confess his gluten free productions are better than mine ever were. He is definitely the lead gluten free chef in our house. He has been asking for a while to be allowed a night when he cooks.

P1020718Iona is the cook now. I can’t stand up long enough, or remain safe, to cook a meal any longer. Ronan has asked for Wednesdays to be his night. He cooked his first full meal for five. He made sausages, potatoes and beans. I didn’t help at all. I only went in to the kitchen now and then and made suggestions. He did all the work.

This was more impromptu than planned, but I think we could do some menu planning and he can have a go, choosing his own recipes. His knife control is pretty good – needs some work – but good enough.

He can learn menu planning, budgeting and nutrition  as we go along.

This is a very important skill. It’s one Iona has learned as she went along and one that stands Alex and Anna (his wife) in good stead now that they are making a home for themselves.

It’s sadly rare these days that youngsters can cook, and shamefully more studies are showing that children don’t even know what basic foodstuff is. Learning about food and cooking has to be one of the most important life skills we can offer our children.  They love it.

Heleyna hernia horse and cub camp

P1020713Iona, Ronan and Avila went off to Cub Camp on Friday and got back yesterday and Heleyna had her hernia op at the Children’s yesterday. So her dad did a Father’s Day special, staying with her all day. She came home a bit groggy but the scar is neat and her stitches should dissolve in a few days. We’re leapfrogging calpol-paracetamol with neurofen for pain. You can give both 4 hourly so by alternating you can give pain meds 2 hourly. A good reason not to by those combined children’s meds.

As Miss Avila got a little cuddly rabbit when she had her biopsy some years ago Biopsy Bunny; Heleyna asked for a horse to name Hernia Horse. He arrived just in time for her hospital date. She is very pleased with him.

Avila, who is reading Florence Nightingale’s Nuns at the moment has become a little Flossy herself.


Skin to skin and co-sleeping. My own story of keeping my daughter alive.

Taken just days before another hospt admission where things were really rough.

Taken just days before another hospt admission where things were really rough.

The “science” on sudden infant death has changed rapidly over the twenty-four years since I’ve been a mother. When my oldest was born I co-slept against midwife advice. By the time my now six year old was born the advice had gone from “no” through “yes” through “maybe” back to “no” to “definitely do it”. We are now back to “no” according to reports I’ve seen via the MSM. I don’t know what the latest study is based on and what variables were taken into consideration, but I do always remember the comment from one researcher some years ago who said, “Where there are no cots, there are no cot deaths.”

A recent story (and there’s been a few like this over the years) tells of a mother who held her still born baby skin to skin and the baby lived.

In light of this, and against the present advice, I thought I would tell you my story. I co-slept with all six of the children; some for longer than others. I did put the older three in a moses basket next to the bed fairly early on, but didn’t do that with the younger three. One morning I woke when Iona was only a few months old to find her lying in the basket, not breathing. I’m afraid I forgot I was a nurse and panicked. I confess, I slapped her and she started breathing, and crying poor kid. My GP was unconcerned and said this sort of thing happens occasionally. Really? Thankfully with Iona it never happened again.

With Avila, it was a different story. My, now 8 year old, daughter didn’t breathe through the night on a regular basis until she was just over 2 years old. I co-slept with her. There’s something in the wiring of a mother breastfeeding her baby that means we are very attuned to our baby. Every time Avila stopped breathing I woke up. There was a kind of silence that woke me and there she was limp and breathless. I would massage her and sit her up and lie her down, moving her around and offering milk until she took a breath. Some nights I would have to get her breathing again two or even three times. One truly awful night I was woken by her “silence” something like seven times.  Despite how sick she was and how much time we spent in the Children’s Hospt. I was never offered one of those “alarm” things. They don’t work with co-sleeping anyway so, in hindsight, I am glad.

One day I met a midwife who had worked in Russia during the depths of Communism when the health service was at an all time low. She told me that what I had done with Avila was something that in Russia they called Kangaroo care. They didn’t have NICU facilities, and babies kept dying. I don’t know whose idea it was, but as an extension of skin to skin, the Russian midwives encourages mothers to hold their sick babies close at all times; c0-sleeping. She told me this saved countless little lives.

I am convinced co-sleeping kept Avila alive and the fact that I breastfed her for so long also helped.  The time when she was tube fed and nothing was working, it was when I expressed and they gave her my milk, that at last, she started to show signs of making it.

I would do it again.

(In that photo she is just past her first birthday. We did a Christmas play with the HE group and then just after Christmas she was admitted, again, to hospital where we saw in the New Year. It was the most difficult admission she’d had. Tube and drip and being mostly unconscious or barely rousable. Nothing was working and I begged for a breast pump. Once I’d expressed the nurse came to see how a bolus feed would go. For the first time in a week a feed went down the tube and stayed there. A few days later she was awake and a few days after that, well enough to go home. There were numerous admissions after that – but none quite that scary).

The hedgehog came in from the cold.

P1020644On Sunday Alex and Anna walked home from Mass and found a hedgehog lying in the driveway looking a little worse for wear. As they were off at an unearthly hour the following morning for their Honeymoon they couldn’t take care of him. The RSPCA were not available so they brought him to us.

To be honest, he seemed fine when he arrived. He mooched around the rabbit hutch happily and tucked into some cat food, licking his lips and polishing his nose enthusiastically. We gave him some tepid water as the Hedgehog Rescue info said not to give cold water. He enjoyed his drink and went to bed.

As the following day was a Bank Holiday we continued to care for him and although he occasionally closed one eye and dropped his head to one side, he didn’t seem that sick. He squeaked in his sleep, but we didn’t know if that was normal.

So on Tues we were to phone the Rescue Centre hoping they’d check him out and if all was well, we could release him back near where Alex and Anna live.

I’d lost my voice again and Iona was out so we waited for her to get back.P1020658 Montague, as Anna had named him, had slept all day and not eaten the night before. He was restless, getting up and then falling asleep again, but hedgehogs are nocturnal so we weren’t too fussed. As it was raining and he had come out of his bedroom to sleep I kept going out to check him,

Iona came home and said she would take him to the vet up the road. But when we went to check him again, poor Monti had died.

It may have been a virus. It was sad and Avila cried a lot, poor kid, but we gave him a warm bed, good food and a safe place for his last couple of days, rather than him dying at the side of the road.

So Montague, R.I.P.

Home Education: Wonder and beauty before taxonomy and dissection

“if you go back to Greek, there is a word that does not exist in the English language, the word kalon, which means both “good” and “beautiful” at the same time, and it’s specified by another word, kaiagathon, or k’agathon, which is a contraction of to kalon kai to agathon, “the good and the beautiful”. Great marriage.” Peter Kreeft

P1020526The children love to go to the park or walk in the woods and one their favourite activities (especially for Heleyna) is to “look for nature” wherever they go. I want them to have a sense of wonder when they look at nature and to see it as beautiful and amazing. So far I think they do. I am not big on poetry and romance (in the old sense, well, and the new) but I do like the philosophical view of beauty as necessary for us to grow.

Charlotte Mason was very keen that children keep a nature journal in which they drew and stuck pressed flowers and such like. In this way they learn to see both the beauty and the “science” of nature. Part of this was based in her respect for the personhood of the child.

It’s the same with music and art. I think it’s very important that the children learn to listen to beautiful music and see lovely art works before I start explaining the methods involved. In learning to draw or play music it should be on a foundation of having had time to simply listen and look.

If the ancient philosophers are right and beauty is not so much in the eye of the beholder, but something inherent in itself, I want the children to have the time to see and hear and be, long enough to appreciate it. I think in giving them time to be with something beautiful they can acquire an appreciation of it, and can learn about it, taking it apart, later, if necessary, later. I think it’s a bit like the way a child learns language through first acquiring it in his relationship with those around him, especially his mother. A child can acquire a love of beauty through a relationship with a natural environment. Isn’t there some research out there about depression being linked to lack of greenery in housing estates?

With the Montessori approach to nature there’s a more scientific bent, which is good, but I want the children to appreciate creation as a whole, as well.

This is something that’s been floating about in what’s left of my foggy brain for some time. It began with an online conversation I saw between a home ed mother and a primary school teacher. She spoke of taking her children out to the woodlands and countryside so they could be outside and enjoy the place. She talked of stone walls and lichen and mosses. It all sounded lovely.

The teacher took exception to this. He said he took his group of children out and  by the time they trooped back to school they had identified and marked off various forms of lichen. I assume he armed them with worksheets, for this.

Perhaps he didn’t mean to come across the way he did, but I remember thinking how cold and meaningless his “lesson” seemed compared to hers. It also made me wonder (again) about the impact of closing children up inside institutional buildings with little exposure to the outside world. And then only exposing them in very restricted adult controlled ways.

One major advantage that home ed has over most other forms is time. We can take a summer day and let the children be out and about in it, without any time constraints  There are plenty of cold wet days to do workbook work; and the bright days are not so frequent we should squander them. Anyway, as a good science teacher should know, kids need sunlight to process vitamin D.

I can’t help thinking that many of the great Victorian and Edwardian naturalists that opened so much new scientific discovery to us, would never have been as observant or as in love with their subject of study had they only ever been exposed to the outside world in small time segments with a worksheet on a clipboard.

I think Charlotte Mason had it right. Children need time to be with nature before they need to analyse it. There is enjoyment and interest in learning the names of different mosses and lichens, but if a child is made to spend too much time peering at a stone in a wall and then writing on a worksheet, they are not getting the bigger picture they would have if they had time to stand and stare.