Loving the library (and Hama Beads)

I’ve been frequenting the library with Sophia since she was barely able to gum on a board book; I have so many fond memories of reading from my childhood and although I don’t get as much time to read for myself as I’d like these days I’m still a bookworm for life. Therefore, it’s not really surprising that passing on my love of reading to my children is incredibly important to me. I don’t mind if they want to be musicians, play football or create artistic masterpieces but I would really really love it if they loved books as much as I do.

Unfortunately, living on board means our space for books is limited and although every nook and cranny appears to be filled with books, it never seems enough! So we merrily trot to the library every fortnight to take out a dozen books that we read over and over until we’re all bored of them and ready for the next lot.

I just had to make a brief detour from my post to say that we’ve had 2 of my new favourite books out recently, ‘Bear Snores On’ by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman and ‘The Tiny Seed’ by Eric Carle. Both lovely gentle books in their own way with lovely illustrations. Sophia has been returning to them again and again. Just wanted to share!

Our local library has a section for toys which is a wonderful resource but unfortunately we never seem to have much luck with our finds from that department! I often let Sophia choose a toy from there to bring back, usually something that is too big to be on the boat permanently but that I can cope with for a fortnight. A few times I have picked something that she’s been rattling on about, thinking of her happiness upon getting home and seeing what I’ve picked. However, with only one exception (a very cute little dolls house), the toys always get played with just once or twice and then sit in their plastic bags in the cockpit, getting tripped over until I finally get fed up and return them! It’s a mystery to me why this is seeing as we have picked things that she has requested or even played with somewhere else but c’est la vie! Luckily, this week we discovered the abundance of board games they stock so I hope we’ll have more success with them…

However, this week we also discovered their rail of ‘story bags’. I don’t know how many other library’s have these but they are brilliant! We picked one about games. It had a Charlie and Lola book (a success already, Charlie and Lola rank up with Katie Morag and Alfie and Annie Rose as Sophia’s favourite book characters), a factual book about games from around the world, a pack of alphabet snap cards, a yo yo, a sheet full of poems and an egg and spoon game.

A fun morning was had whilst Isaac slept; reading the books, playing the game (she then moved onto her favourite alphabet puzzle), trying to master the yo-yo (unsuccessfully thus far!) and then attempting to do an egg and spoon race before her little brother woke up and decided to try and join in.

I’m concentrating!

Later while I made lunch she retired to her favourite activity of late, using stencil sheets. We go to a home education group on a Monday that has a box of different stencils and a friend lent us an alphabet one while I look for some more because she really really enjoys them. So if anyone knows of a good place online to get some please let me know!

Although she is only young, I am loving the interest she is taking in letters, writing and reading. I feel really privileged to be able to be at home with her, encouraging her, watching her learn and most importantly, seeing how much pleasure she takes in it!

Finally, as I realise this post is long and picture heavy, I just wanted to briefly mention her growing interest in Hama Beads. I loved Hama Beads as a child so when the lovely Merry from Patch of Puddles (and her lovely businesses BeadMerrily and PlayMerrily) did a giveaway for a Hama Maxi Bead set I eagerly entered and was delighted when I won.

Although Sophia isn’t the recommended 4 years yet, with supervision, she loves ‘doing beads’. Left alone she keeps knocking the board and sending beads flying but as an activity with us she really enjoys the process. The top elephant was made with her Dad today whilst I was having a rest (thought I was getting the lurgy I’ve managed to avoid while they were all struck down with it, turns out I was just tired) and is their freestyle version. The bottom (although a bit battered from play and missing part of it’s tail and trunk) was made with my help – I was always a sucker for sticking to the pattern and making things neat, organised and symmetrical.

I’m interested to see which style she favours as she grows older and starts using the beads entirely by herself – will she be creative and daring enough to make her own designs or will she faithfully stick to the ones in the book and/or download suggested patterns from the internet? There are merits in both approaches and I foresee Hama Beads being a favourite activity so I guess we’ll watch this space and find out!

Finished it Friday

Ever since I saw it on Soulemama I’ve wanted to knit a pebble, or to be more accurate ‘Henry’s Manly Cobblestone-Inspired Baby Vest’. (The pattern can be found on ravelry here). I actually finished it last weekend but wanted to show it off as it is such a cute knit!

I bought some Wool of the Andes Worsted Weight in Pumpkin from Great British Yarns and found some very cute little light green animal farm buttons on ebay. It was a quick, easy and fun knit but I was dismayed when I had finished and it looked far too tiny for my hulk of a little man! However, after some fairly vigorous blocking it now is of a suitable size for him (although I don’t know how long for!)

Anyway, on to the pictures!







Just a quickie

You may have noticed (or you soon will if this is coming up in your Facebook feed) that I’ve changed the name and address of the blog.

Don’t worry (as if you were!); it’s the same premise, same ramblings, same blog…it’s just that the old name was driving me mad! For one thing it didn’t even make any sense. I’d set it up late at night and thought ‘floating to learn’ had a nice ring to it but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it didn’t actually mean anything!

So I thought rather than let it bug me for the duration of the blog (which will hopefully be a while) I’d get in and change it now while it was still a fairly new venture.

So ‘the starlings gather here’; a bit artsy but I like it. A reference to the birds that flock to the marina to fly in incredible formations, perch on masts and spars and choose to roost under the local pub which is suspended on stilts over the water. The kids are like starlings in a way; insanely noisy, so so messy but amazing to watch as they soar from one activity to another and take such amazing joy just from the business of living.

Too busy to stop?

This is my poor little girl asleep in the bike trailer (which I was using as a double pushchair) yesterday, wet from where it was leaking, cold and very very tired.  When we got to the marina I peeked in and she was sitting upright, head slumped down on her neck looking incredibly miserable.

It was at this point that I realised that maybe we had done too much this week. The funny thing was that I had been congratulating myself on the monday for planning a week that was evenly balanced with home time and activities. But somewhere along the way I had made more plans, tried to squeeze in one more errand and the result? Two tired and miserable children and one very cranky Mama!

More than anything else, this post is a reminder to myself to try and not fit in so much! We only have 3 planned things every week (excluding weekends which are a whole ‘nother ball game as Dan is around); Magical Mondays (a home ed group), Sophia’s dancing lesson and a trip to the allotment. However, I also help run Brighton Sling Babies (we meet once or twice a month) and volunteer as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter at a drop in group every fortnight. Add to this playdates at the park and seeing friends and I think we’re doing too much. Trouble is, I’m not sure what’s got to go! I do have a tendency to over commit and I hate the idea of me or the kids missing out on exciting opportunities and events but I think my current position or just trying to cram it all in isn’t working!

Sophia’s behaviour at the beginning of the week was fine, we had a lovely few days; but as the week went on she became more irritable, shouty and generally….tired! I feel like an idiot for not correlating our busy week with the decline in her usually sunny disposition! This seems to happen too regularly so have concluded that we need to slow down.  I’ve yet to decide exactly how to implement this and make changes but for the time being I think more home days are in order and I need to be more aware of when little people are getting tired. Whilst pregnant with Isaac my Ma commented that she spent a lot more time at home when she had her second child and impetuous know-it-all that I am, I didn’t take it on board…turns out that of course, she was right! (Sorry Mum!)

Always looking on the bright side though, at least I don’t need to worry about the old ‘but how will they socialise?’ concern! It looks like our problem will be making sure we don’t socialise too much!!

Whilst writing this Ecclesiastes 3 sprung to mind; I’m interpreting very loosely but there is indeed a time for everything and right now, I think I need to remember that there is a time to rest.

At the Allotment

On Wednesday we went to our plot at the allotment…we share a fairly large plot with 3 other families on top of the hill in Brighton, it’s got amazing views but as a result is also fairly exposed to the elements. So when we went up this week for the first time in a fortnight due to a spate of heavy rain (I do admit, I am a bit of a fair weather gardener!) I was fairly apprehensive, expecting to find a forest of weeds having sprung up in my absence but was pleasantly surprised to find this instead.

Our plot in all it’s glory!

Although a bit weedy, I was mostly drawn to how bare it looked. Having harvested all our potatoes, most of our onions and losing our salad bed (we all neglected it and it flowered and became a little beautiful patch of 5ft plants swaying gently in the breeze…pretty but definitely no longer edible) there is an awful lot of space with nothing in it. We’ve had a pretty decent crop from our courgettes and broccoli plants and a couple of red cabbages but really our harvest is over and we now need to decide how best to fill the space over the winter.
We’ve planted some garlic and although I did cheat and plant supermarket bought Spanish cloves which was a bit risky in our climate, we found three little shoots resolutely poking through the soil this week. I was probably far too excited by this and even took a shot to document the progress (am very aware you can barely see the shoot for weeds but it’s there, I promise!!)

We’ve had advice to plant broad beans, peas and winter red onions so that is planned but it won’t take up all the space so if there are any experienced gardeners reading this please do give us ideas for other things that we could plant!! Back in sunny September I optimistically helped the girls plant some sunflower seeds to border the ‘kids area’ and they have sprouted and are growing well but have been informed that they won’t survive the winter. I read a forecast for icy temperatures and lots of snow this winter so I suspect that will indeed be the case but watch this space!

Our time at the allotment has been filled with ups and downs; all four of the Mama’s involved have either had a new baby this year or are pregnant and the weather has been fairly adverse this summer…the two combined has led to us receiving two weed notices. Thankfully though, we’ve pulled together and come through the other side with lots more wisdom for next year on what works and doesn’t and what it takes to maintain the plot. Despite the challenges of gardening with a non walking baby strapped to you (small man does not like pushchairs), I’m really enjoying working up there. Over the year Sophia has progressed from just playing with mud (which is obviously great in itself) to actually wanting to help me sow, hoe, rake, harvest and water. I love her enthusiasm and it’s great to be able to talk to her about growing our own vegetables and how certain plants are ready at different times of year (contrary to what you see in the supermarket). There is also a certain satisfaction in bringing home onions, potatoes, broccoli and courgette to use in our meals and our bank balance agrees (every little helps!)

Stopping for lunch

I foresee this winter being a challenge but I think we are passionate enough about it to keep it going and hopefully Isaac will be toddling about in no time so I can bend properly without his cries of protest!

Happy as long as I stay upright!

And slightly off topic but because I can’t resist a cute picture of the kids, on the way home I took them to a park that we have walked past many a time but never had the time to stop and go in. Sophia’s joy at finally going there was contagious and a good time was had by all of us even though the heaven’s opened on us (again) on the way home because of the play stop!

Eager to read and write…or the first test of Mum’s resolve

This last week I have been consumed by the issue of learning to read/write…it started innocently enough, Sophia has been really interested in learning letters for the last month or so and we had a few activity books where you can trace the letter then have a go yourself so she was just merrily doing that when the urge took her. Then a friend posted a code for a month’s free Reading Eggs so I thought I’d give it a go and oh my, does she love it! For the past week she’s spent 1-2 hours each morning clicking away to howls of protest when I suggest actually (shock horror) going out!

I started a thread on a Christian home education Facebook page and unintentionally opened myself to a phonics vs. ‘whole word’ medley of confusion. I started doing some research which hindered rather than helped. There was talk of flash cards, whether it’s damaging to start phonics first, whether reading can be learnt entirely one way or another and at what age it should be attempted. I won’t spew out what I’ve read as I’m sure many places will do it much more succinctly than I could. But I’ve concluded that:

a) She is not even 3 yet. There is no rush. My gut instinct was to be child led and not push things, I didn’t even consider that I’d be thinking about reading at this age so I’m annoyed at myself for letting my head get the better of me and start doubting what I already really knew. We will continue doing things at her pace and remain largely unstructured through these early years – learning through play and life (as we know it).

b) She (like me) has a tendency to panic if you put her on the spot. Letters and numbers that she merrily recites on her own time seem to drop out of her head the moment you ask her to identify one. I don’t think that flash cards or any attempt at structure/teaching would help her at this point in time. Which really just solidifiies point a) but I liked having 3 points.

and finally

c) I suspect that neither approach is the be all and end all. Every child being different and all surely means that one approach will work for one, another for another and a mixture of both for yet another. And increasingly I am reading of families where a child simply picked up a book and worked it out for themselves. The emphasis seems to be on the child wanting to learn.

But mainly, this has been a a test for me in trusting my instincts and not panicking. Having taken responsibility for their education I need to remain calm, make the best decisions I can and accept that sometimes I will make mistakes. I also need to remember to let God guide me, that he has plans for us and will look out for us!

‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’

Jeremiah 29 : 11


This is attempt number 2 at writing and maintaining a blog but this time I feel inspired to commit.

I want a tangible record of our life and our home educating journey and although this is ‘virtual’ rather than real hold-it-in-your-hands matter I think it’s the better option….apart from anything else, paper goes mouldy in a matter of hours (it seems!) on the boat and I’m running out of space as it is (currently brainstorming the best way to keep/contain/display Sophia’s work…no closer to an answer but that’s another post).

Sorry, an introduction is probably a good way to start. I’m Hannah, Mama to Sophia (almost 3) and Isaac (9 months) and wife to Dan. We live on a 31ft catamaran called Pinaforein Brighton, UK. Dan is the Lead Transfusion Scientist at a local hospital and I am at home with the kids. I’d say we’ve always known we were going to home ed the kids and although I’ve been reading reading reading about it since Sophia arrived I feel that in the last few weeks I’ve found my stride, my confidence. I feel that WE CAN DO THIS. And I’m excited!

I’m slightly intimidated by entering the heady world of blogging; the categories, tagging, links, stats, the mystery that is twitter…. It’s enough to make a girl turn tail and run back to her knitting but no, I shall start as I mean to go on (probably with far too many exclamation marks, excessively long sentences and poor grammar!) so hello, read on if you like, I’ll try not to be too boring!

My 3 fellow boat dwellers