Mother’s Day Cake

My wonderful daughter made this amazing cake for me for Mother’s day…


Isn’t she clever? πŸ˜„β€οΈ

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Meringue Snowmen!

Yesterday evening Maya and I made some, using two egg whites whisked until firm enough to tip the bowl over your head (where they won’t fall out!), and then whisking in 250g of white sugar, until firm peaks formed.

Then she used a tablespoon for a plop of ‘body’ meringue, and a teaspoon for the head – and decorative balls for eyes, nose and buttons.

   
 A long one and a half hours in the oven at 140 C , and then leaving them a couple of hours to cool, ensured crispy and delicious snowmen! πŸ˜Šβ›„οΈ

  

Christmas Presents

I havn’t really blogged much about the presents the children have made, but they have, as is usually the case, made some lovely presents. For their teachers they have drawn Christmas designs on cups, made bead plate Christmas trees, and homemade toffee sweets. And for their Swedish relative, with whom we spend the Christmas celebrations, they have been (again) designing cups, giving their homemade (at school) mustard in pots, sewing Christmas tree decorations, and designing motifs on candles.

And I just managed to snap a few pictures of the one Maya designed for her aunt….😊

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Advent Calendars In Our Home

Two days later and the stomach bug continues to take its toll. First Ted, then Maya, now Alfie. “Who’s next?” I hear you say….

Stuck at home, with the Christmas cards already written and sent, the house decorated but no tree yet here to complete the decorating. We can’t bake with this bug on the rampage, and we’ve seen enough Christmas films and read enough Christmas stories to keep us going for a while…..but there is one thing that give us a little positive burst each day….

….our advent calendars!

I have always tried hard to make the kids one personal advent calendar between them. We’ve had the big cardboard tree with a sweetie for every day (I WON’T be repeating this one!) ; we’ve had the one with the green handprints in the shape of a tree where you turn a hand to reveal a photo of a favourite friend or family member (wonderful!) ; we’ve had the big cardboard tree where you glue a shiny coloured star over each date as a countdown (simple!) ; we’ve had the socks with an activity a day (hard to keep up with!), and this year, we have the advent boxes – each with a small treat like a chocolate coin, Β or a small toy like a bouncy ball, or an activity, like containing a stamp each to send a card to a special friend.

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These advent calendars have always been recieved with such joy – even from our oldest, who is now 14, and one would think too old to enjoy such pleasures. Each day, a tiny spark of excitement is released from each and every child, as they ask “can I open the advent calendar?” 😊

But possibly the most fun, has been the children’s ability to repeat this joy for eachother. We have had copious years of the kids busy cutting windows, writing numbers and filling in pictures on their homemade calendars, mainly done for eachother, and sometimes done for me.

However, this year, we had something new. Advent boxes, made for eachother, obviously inspired by the boxes I made for them…….

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Alfie’s for Maya, being the top one (with the larger numbers that tend to fall off), and Maya’s for Alfie, (being the slightly more organised and neater version)!

And what do they put in them? Marbles, and rubbers, and small paper hearts with “I love you” written on them, and a small lego man or a coin. And everything just taken from bits and bobs in their own bedroom. And each and every ‘door’ recieves just as much excitement and joy, as any shop-bought calendar which might contain sweets, or chocolate, or a new toy. Now isn’t that just fabulous? πŸ˜€ And not a penny is spent!

Oh! And just for the record mum – Maya did manage to finish sewing her Advent Calendar kit you gave her last year! πŸ‘πŸ˜Š

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Maya’s String Vase

Back in rainy Sweden πŸ˜‰β˜”οΈ we’ve unpacked, said hello to our animals, and settled in. Each child has already met up with a friend, Richard is back at work, and I’ve had a (failed !) driving theory test and a scout meeting to attend. Yesterday we took the little ones to an indoor play place to get rid of all their energy on a terribly rainy summer day – in short, we’re back to normal again. 😜

However, it doesn’t take Maya long to get crafting….

Using a craft book as a guide, some homemade glue (flour and water), string, and an oddly shaped balloon, she made this…..

  
She blew up the balloon, set it in a glass (to keep it still), dipped the string in the glue mixture, and wound it around the balloon. Then she left it to dry.

We didn’t know what to expect with this oddly shaped balloon. As I predicted the string probably needed more glue, and the top piece broke off easily when dry.

But that didn’t stop Maya from using her imagination….

  
…she made it into a vase….

  
πŸ‘πŸ˜Šβ€οΈ

Learning Life Skills

A couple of posts back I wrote about ‘making time to teach’, in a country where home education is banned.
Despite having to send my kids to school, I am thankful that, in Sweden, so far, certain curriculum areas have not been cut. Physical education takes place at least once a week, if not twice, and outdoor playtime (recess) takes up a big chunk of the school day. Creative activities, such as art and sewing, knitting and woodwork, music and cooking are also taught.

I’m thankful that my children have been able to let off steam in a forest environment ; have outdoor woodwork lessons ; that my oldest son has made a shelf, and my daughter is busy knitting a hat (having just completed sewing a felt egg warmer), that my son has been on several ski-ing trips, and that my daughter has had the chance to sing solo in a musical about ‘children’s rights’.

However, no-one can pretend that this time in school doing these subjects is an adequate time to learn them – or to reach the potential that that child may have. My daughter panics if she is unwell on a friday because that means she’ll get behind on her hat she is knitting ; my son has been marked down in subjects such as sport because “he doesn’t take enough part in discussions” (!), and at the same time has been made to feel he is a (in his words) “bad” pianist because he didn’t want to play a complicated piece in front of the class despite having played piano for four years (he simply doesn’t enjoy performing in front of his peers) ; my youngest son finds his physical education lesson stressful because they have to rush down the road to get the bus on time with the whole class ; all three of my children have not reached the true potential for their english writing due to it being a second language in Sweden – and therefore they all need to ‘sit patiently and twiddle their thumbs’ (so to speak) ; all three of my children felt they knew the basics already for the first few years having learnt them at home, but still had to do them again in school (what else could they have learnt in these first three years had they been home educated?!!), etc, etc. The list goes on.

The teachers have (mostly) all been wonderful, and some schools are better than others in some subjects, and helping children to reach their potential – but in my view, school often, without of course meaning to, ‘holds them back’. 😐

Which brings me to teaching at home again. It’s not only the academics that need boosting at times, but without doubt, the ‘life skills’ too.

My daughter Maya (11) can whip up a cake, a batch of biscuits, pancakes or some fried eggy bread easily. No doubt she could make you a main course too! πŸ‘πŸ˜‰ The boys have been less interested, but even Alfie could make a batch of biscuits from scratch if you asked him, and put the temperature on the oven for him.

From an early age we try to cook with our kids – pancakes, scrambled egg, bread, pasta salads, biscuits and cakes, to name a few. And every week I try to make sure that each child cooks something, or takes part in helping to prepare dinner.

We have a selection of good children’s cookery books, and I usually suggest they choose something to make from them. Recently Leon chose to make chocolate & cream cheese brownies…

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Alfie and I made chocolate chunk cookies together….

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…and Ted helped me to make beltane oatcakes….

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But it’s not just life skills such as cooking that we try to teach the children, but also life skills such as gardening.

Every child of ours, from a very young age, has had the opportunity to plant seeds and watch them grow – sunflowers, cress, tomatoes, etc. They have all experimented, failed and succeeded, in growing various vegetables and fruits. We have encouraged them to have their own vegetable patches, to weed and to rake leaves when needed, and have even taught our oldest to mow the lawn.

And now Maya and Leon have gone one step further. Maya has designed her own wildlife pond and garden area (it’s in the beginning stages..)…

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(Yes, the water looks a little ‘dirty’ – there was a suggestion to lay a little sand in the bottom – I guess it’s still settling?) πŸ˜‰
Leon has also made his little garden area – what I term a ‘mathematical garden’…

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Also at the beginning stages – he wants to let the grass “grow wild” in the growing box, and is intending to grow plants next to them.

It will be interesting to see how these gardens progress…

So. Life skills. I just must try to encourage more chores around the house….😜😝😳

‘Fabulous Robots’ : English Club

‘Fabots’ is a word short for ‘fabulous robots’, made up by my oldest son and his friend. It was their wish, therefore, to be able to make ‘fabots’ in english club…
“What do we need?” I asked. Some cylindrical pieces of wood about 5cm in width, small nails, big nails and maybe some wood glue, came the reply – and then I got a little detailed plan…..

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…and so, last week, we started to make ‘fabots’. πŸ˜‰

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…with a fabulous outcome….

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The kids then told me, while I scribed, the characters of their ‘fabots’, and the jobs the ‘fabots’ were employed to do…

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The kids decided they wanted to make their own board games for these ‘fabots’, so this week we continued with that.
There was an incredible amount of discussion involved – entirely in english – pretty fantastic considering they barely spoke less than a year ago. And using words such as ‘strategies’ and ‘combat’ too!

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Eventually the boys started on their game board…

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…though the girls seem to be right on track with theirs….

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Oh! And my Leon added a few more ‘fabots’ to the equation….😊

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To be continued next week! Great stuff guys! πŸ˜†

THE Harry Potter Party!

Maya has long been a devoted fan of the ‘Harry Potter’ books and films, and for several weeks now, she and her friend Elin, have been planning a ‘Harry Potter’ party!

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Translation : ‘ You are warmly welcomed to a magical sleepover at Hogwart’s school of witchcraft and wizardry!’

We rented out the scout cottage in the forest for one night, and decorated it accordingly…

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…with the house flags (also the house colours of paper chains and balloons in each corner), black cats (Professor McGonagall welcoming the students)…

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…and dementors guarding the ‘castle’….

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…and not to forget ‘moaning Myrtle’ in the toilets….

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We dressed up accordingly. Maya and Elin as Ravenclaw prefects (that was their preference), Elin’s mum as Professor Snape, and myself as Professor McGonagall….

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The evening started with a welcoming drink of ‘butter-beer’….

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..a recipe Maya found on the internet…

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…followed by the sorting of the students into the houses….

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…with the help of the sorting hat (sewn by Maya)….

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Maya and Elin had organised it so that each time a student had their name called out, and sat on the stool having the sorting hat placed on his/her head by Professor McGonagall (myself), inside the hat was a walkie talkie which Elin’s mum (who was hidden) had the other walkie talkie, and replied as to which ‘house’ the student would be in. Brilliant!
After which they were given a wand each, and their badge (see above).

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The evening continued with the ‘potions’ class – the mixing of their own fizzy drinks, and adding of different fruits – of which unfortunately I have no photos. 🍹
It was then time for the game of Quidditch, which Maya and Elin organised very well, hanging up hoops on rope opposite each other in the yard, explaining the rules, and getting each ‘house’ to play against one another until the final winner….

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This was much enjoyed, and the kids were exhausted afterwards! πŸ˜…
It was then time for the Hogwarts feast…

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Gryffindor and Hufflepuff at one table….

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…Slytherin and Ravenclaw at the other….

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..with time for the sorting hat cake…

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It was then time for the game of ‘Dementors and Patronus’ which was a much enjoyed game found in ‘The Harry Potter Party Book’..

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The kids played this game, and some others, for a good hour, organised by Maya and Elin, totally unaided by us grownups. Fantastic!
And then time for grilling marshmallows over the fire….

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Maya and Elin had then organised another game, which involved finding the right key to Hagrid’s cottage – lots of ‘keys’ (made from paper), hanging from the roof of the front porch…

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..before finding the correct key (the real one).
I’m not sure how this game worked and didn’t see it, as I was inside hanging up the (homemade) ‘Golden Snitch’ pinata….

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…which of course came next…

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…after which, the kids shared out the sweets beautifully (and then time for present opening)..

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The evening ended with getting in to their pyjamas and sleeping bags and the watching of a film – naturally, Harry Potter! πŸ˜ƒ
And the verdict? “The best party we’ve ever been to!” πŸ‘πŸ˜†πŸ‘‹πŸ»

A Valentines Week

It’s been a week of Valentines here, starting with the making and decorating of heart shape cookies in English Club….

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…with the change of the sensory tray to a Valentines theme…

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..with various books. This one, a very basic one for Ted, explaining what Valentines day is…

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..this wonderful story, also for Ted, about a baby who is just loved SO much. Alfie loved this when he was smaller, especially when the baby’s cousin loved him so much he wanted to fight him! πŸ˜‰ It seemed Ted shared this love of the book, and asked me to read it many times! Excellent!

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This one, for Alfie’s age and older, a humorous story about the facts of love. What is love? How does it feel? Who can love? What can you love? Is love a good or a bad feeling? Brilliant! And yes, there is an english translation!

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Finally, this book, for Alfie’s age and older. A factual book explaining about the organ ‘the heart’ and how it works. This was detailed, but simple, and a very good first human biology book.

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Then, of course, we painted hearts…

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…and decorated them…

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We played ‘keep the balloon off the ground’ with our lovely heart shaped balloons…

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…and had a simple Valentine themed math ‘centre’…

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I thought I had bought small decorative hearts (I found these in a garden shop), but it turned out they were made of chocolate – and it didn’t take Alfie long to find out! So now we just have the paper hearts left!
Finally, we had a Valentines waffle breakfast..

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…and our lovely Maya, arranged the traditional family Valentines dinner, all by herself….

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…burgers in heart shapes, pink pasta, red ‘love’ sauce, cherry tomatoes, and red peppers in heart shapes…

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…lets just see those heart shaped peppers again..

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What a wonderful surprise!
We hope you had a happy Valentines too! ❀️

‘Griffindor Common Room’ from Gingerbread!

We had some gingerbread dough which needed to be used up. Maya really wanted to make ‘Hogwarts’ but we knew there wasn’t enough dough, so she settled for ‘Griffindor Common Room’!
First drawing a simple design…

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..measuring, cutting, baking, cooking the sugar, and piecing it together…

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…and thus it was finished! Four walls, a long table, four chairs and a fireplace (with wood)…

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…and I secretly added characters to make her smile.. πŸ˜‰

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A fabulous maths lesson to boot! πŸ˜†