Sponsored Video: Choosing For the Future.

Our home ed journey, which stopped abruptly a year or so ago, is about to restart. After all the girls deciding that an exodus to school was in order, they have become increasingly dissatisfied with the breadth of opportunity available to them there. While it suits the older ones well enough and we now have an A Level student, a GCSE student and a gifted all round academic with a knack for languages that I couldn’t easily achieve accommodating at home, there is no doubt that junior school has fallen well short of what our youngest thought it might. In fairness, she was always dubious but thought it was better than being home with me and a baby and while her school is in fact lovely, her headmaster very flexible and her teacher little short of perfect, school is not meeting her needs. And so, in a little while, possibly not before the beginning of senior school looms, she will return to home ed – and her littlest brother will no doubt follow in the family footsteps as well. And that means a whole new journey will open up for us again.

However, our big girls stepped from home ed to school with barely a flutter and even if they are critical thinkers enough to see the limitations and restrictions it places on them, they are all also kids who make the best of a circumstance – and now, their circumstance is school, conventional education and the exam system. They are also children who access  significant amounts of extra curricula activities – dance, gym, music, drama, rugby and more – and so the worlds that are opening up at their feet are significant and varied. And to my surprise, despite a home educating life that was very story and humanity heavy, with plenty of craft and play thrown in, my eldest two in particular have become science-y and my 3rd a budding linguist. What they plan to do with them though, is widely varied. My eldest knows that running science A Levels alongside her gym and performance work will allow her a career beyond the immediate West End dreams she has that will place her in her comfort zones – working in sport and dance, alongside kids who want to learn or need help to achieve. My second has 50% of her brain set on acting and directing and 50% set on following her granny into research. (I’d say another 50% is set on being an engineer and another 50% on art, but that would call my maths skill into question).

What their early life has taught them and what school has managed to support, is their understanding that you can’t know what you want to be or where you want to end up at 15. There are a million universes that might unfold at your feet. This video aims to support young people as they make their choices and shape their futures – it is all about keeping options open as much as narrowing them down to goals. It’s about accepting the challenge of continuing with sciences, specifically maths and physics, and exploring the wealth of career opportunities they can bring. It’s upbeat and positive and different and, I think, inspiring.

Post sponsored by Your Life. Find out more about this 3 year project on their website.

Sponsored Video: Real Mums, Snuffly Noses.

After a good few years of having bigger children (the original home educated children of this site are now 16 and 14 would you believe!) I’m back to life with a toddler again. Life with a little boy in the house has brought back much joy to a household determined to enjoy every last moment of him. But some days are harder than others, as they always are when you have a baby or toddler; it is easy to feel overwhelmed when they are full of cold and haven’t slept for nights on end and patience can be a hard thing to find when you can barely keep your own eyes open.

Cussons wanted to lend a voice to the reality of parenting; the sick, the sleepiness, the relentless servicing of small people for little tangible reward and, of course, the drag of guiding an entire household through the onslaught of colds and coughs that start as soon as the older ones go back to school and the germs start coming home. Last year I counted 3 snot free weeks from September to March; given our little chap has asthma and a chest that falls apart at the drop of a hat, I spent an awful lot of time steaming him in shower rooms and baths, trying to give a cross, tired boy some relief and hoping for some sleep and respite from worry.

Finding a way to count your achievements in parenting can be worth it sometimes. Some days my checklist runs like this:-

Everyone is fed.
Nobody hates me.
Everyone is in bed.

Other days are about Pinterest crafts, huge achievements at school (yes, they go to school now) and nailing a music exam, a gym competition or a dancing show. But those aren’t my achievements, even if I have helped them get to that point of success. My successes are noticing that someone is down in the dumps, that an activity isn’t suiting them any more or even that they are soldiering on when what they really need is a day tucked up in bed to get over being poorly.

My top tips for looking after a toddler and a snuffly nose have been honed pretty finely over the years but by no one has tested them so hard as our youngest. I’ve really learned to value steam this last couple of years and a last minute bath (perhaps with the new Bath to Comfort Snuffles liquid) or sitting in the ensuite with the lights off, the door shut and the shower running has worked wonders for him.. Sometimes we let the steam drift into our room and keep him with us, propped up on an allergen free pillow, to make the effect last as long as possible. Real tissues are also a must as noses get too sore too quickly with loo paper and some lip balm smeared around the outside edge of nostrils can sooth them too.

Those times are parenting successes and when you really make a difference; they might not be glamorous, but making it to morning is a job well done.

Find out more about the campaign at the Cussons Facebook page or via their Twitter feed. There is also a Voice of Mums website.

Disclosure: this post is in association with Cussons.

Craft Editorial: Christmas decorations, adding the personal touch

It may seem as though summer has only just finished, but the festive season already looms large on the horizon and if you want to make the most of the celebrations, it’s helpful to start your preparations sooner rather than later.

For example, why not use some of the spare time you have with your children in the run-up to 25th December to create some homemade Christmas decorations? OK, so it’s easy to stock up on festive items in the shops, but your own versions will have that all-important personal touch. Also, getting stuck into craft sessions with your kids could save you cash!

Paper chains

Inexpensive yet impressive, paper chains have long been a festive favourite. You can use these decorations to add colour and cheer to Christmas trees, mantelpieces, doorways and more. The best thing; they’re simple to make. All you need are some scissors, paper and either glue or staples.

To make these chains, measure and cut strips of paper so that they are even in shape and size. The dimensions you choose will depend on the look you’re going for, but as a rough guide you can aim for pieces that are one inch wide and eight inches long. To create the chains, glue or staple the ends of the first strip of paper together to form a loop. Next, feed a second strip through the loop and join the ends. Continue this process until you have reached the desired length for your chain.



Christmas Bells

Tree decorations in the style of Christmas bells can also look fabulous and all you need to create these items are paper cups, ribbons, pipe cleaners, string, silver or gold paint and glitter. Firstly, paint your cups, adding some glitter for extra sparkle. Next, poke a hole in each base and feed through a length of pipe cleaner with a small loop at the bottom. Simply fix the bell to the loop using a small piece of string.

So that the items hang from your tree, create a large loop at the other end of the length of pipe cleaner that meets just above the cup. Meanwhile, to complete the objects, tie a neat bow around the pipe cleaner at the base of this loop.

Of course, these are just two ideas for decorations. There are plenty more for you and your kids to try out.

Sources: http://www.parents.com/holiday/christmas/crafts/adorable-chime-ornament/

http://www.parents.com/holiday/christmas/crafts/handmade-gifts/

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Paper-Chain

http://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/Music/Paper_Cup_Bell/Paper_Cup_Bell.html

Promoted Post: Squeaky Wheels Get Oiled – How To Help Your Kids Deal With Bullies

Whether it’s unkind words or something much more aggressive, the fact is that children can be cruel. Bullying can leave deep emotional scars, effect self-esteem and confidence into adulthood and make your child absolutely miserable in the meantime. It is important for both you and your child to identify bullying and then break the cycle of behaviour.

Talk about it
Children often believe that saying nothing and dealing with a bully is better than talking about it and coping with the fall out. The truth is that coping with bullying is so much worse for your child than anything that comes with dealing with the problem directly at school. You can help your children to deal with bullying by encouraging them to talk openly, reassure them that you aren’t angry or disappointed if they are reluctant to talk and most importantly by emphasizing that it is not their fault.
Finding ways to get your child to open up about their issues can be as simple as discussing something similar on the TV. Using this as a discussion starter may give your insight into what is really going on. You may wish to share personal or family experiences, to show your children that bullying is not uncommon and that it is OK to talk about it openly. Perhaps ask an older sibling or cousin to gently speak to them in case they are nervous about discussing the bullying with an adult. An open and warm approach to discussing the problem is best with children of any age.
It’s not your child’s fault
Children often believe they are to blame and that they are being bullied because they don’t fit in or are different to everyone else in some way. Explain to your child that sometimes other children bully because they are insecure or frustrated, and that most of the time the bully’s unkind behaviour has nothing to do with them at all. Praise your child and reassure them that it is the bully who is behaving badly – not them, will help them see that they are not at fault. The next step is to contact the school, be it the principal, school nurse or a teacher. Alerting someone at school who can monitor the behaviour or have a chat with the child in question means your child will feel more self-assured and comfortable in school.

Buddying up
Teach them to avoid or ignore the bully by buddying up with a friend. Encourage them to express their frustration in a productive manner in order to avoid angry outbursts and further confusion. Emphasize to your child that you are there to listen to them no matter how big or small the problem may be. Most importantly emphasize that there is no shame in talking about bullying and that sometimes they may have to be brave and walk away. Restore their confidence by encouraging time spent with friends, taking part in group activities or sports or just by listening. There is no one-size-fits all approach on how to handle bullies or bullying, but taking it seriously is key to putting a stop to it. Working with the school and listening to your child’s needs will help get them back on track in school and happier in the home. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Family support is vital to ensure your child’s confidence grows and that they learn how to deal with difficult people for the future.

Disclosure: This post has be written for MuddlePuddle and we have received compensation for publishing.

Olympic Craft Ideas

The girls and I are starting on a month long educational Olympic experience. First up, of course, will be Hama Beads, our default for any crafty extravaganza… but here are some other sites to get you going while we start working on learning and doing and being sporty from the dining table!

There are so many opportunities for crafting and learning; countries, flags, different sports, Ancient Greece, modern world v old world, the rings and what they mean, the history of the olympics, the meaning of the torch and endless ways to explore all of them.

Here are some craft sites:-

Activity Village.

Thinly Spread.

Red Ted Art.

Making Friends.

Information on the Olympics:-

Flags of countries competing.

Sports at the Olympics.

The Ancient Greeks and the Olympics.

The modern Olympics.

About the Olympics.

Project Britain Facts.

Activity Sites:-

Enchanted Learning.

Toilet Roll Craft from Red Ted Art

Relaunching MuddlePuddle is always a challenge. There is so much on it and so much to do to make it nice and suitable for the internet as it is now. These days there are such a lot of crafty resource blogs and I want to be showcasing the best of them again. What better way to do it than invite some guest posters?

Without further ado, let me introduce Maggy from Red Ted Art who has put together a round up of a fabulous toilet roll castle they did. I really recommend her blog – it’s everything I intended MuddlePuddle to be (and will be, it will!)

Spring Crafting with Children

If ever there was a good time to try and breathe life back into MuddlePuddle again, it’s the birth of a new baby, something which means we have (we hope) 8 more years of early years crafty, home educating fun to enjoy.

If you’ve been a long time user of the sadly neglected MuddlePuddle, you will know that we lost our baby son Freddie in 2010 when he was 11 days old. We’ll never forget him or stop missing him, but we are thrilled to have Baby Benedict in the house who arrived in January 2012. This year I’m really looking forward to enjoying Spring again and watching a little life grow up.

To celebrate I’m putting together a collection of Spring crafting ideas from our own home and the archives of our family blog, using craft kits from our businesses and collecting together ideas from round the web. Since MuddlePuddle was first created, more than 10 years ago, a huge number of craft bloggers have sprung up and the internet is an absolute wealth of ideas.

We’ve been making Mother’s Day cards using Fimo and scrapbooking embellishments; I love Fimo, it’s my favourite crafting clay and it is ideal for making card toppers. These days kids are so savvy they can probably order personalised cards online by themselves but there is nothing quite like a bit of sticking and pasting to add a bit of love to proceedings.

Spring is probably one of the best times for crafty topics to explore with young children. Valentines Day is great, a perfect opportunity for Hama Beads and giving well meant presents to all and sundry.

We’ve already had fun this year with St Patrick’s Day (new baby brain meant I got a bit confused about dates!) and made Fimo fridge magnets and a very cool hat. I think I need to work harder on educating Amelie, our 9 year old though, who said “What’s that story about St Patrick and the Leprechauns again?” :lol:

This year I’m hoping we’ll get our crafting beyond Fimo and Hama beads and explore Easter crafts, St George’s Day and some plant and outdoor themes in more detail. New baby will, of course, dictate how much I actually manage to be inventive about it all. However, if all else fails and my ability to send gifts and pretties out to send seasons greetings fails entirely, I know I can always fall back on Hallmark Greetings Cards instead. (Just don’t tell the children or they’ve never stick and paste for me again!)

Maternity clothing – and how to save money on it

Our ideas for keeping costs down as you dress for expecting a baby

Having a child is estimated to cost UK parents on average £10,000 a year. And that’s not really even taking into account what support and items mum might need along the way.

Preparing for a baby involves more than planning, baby-proofing the hard surfaces and corners, and trying to get your head around mealtimes, lack of sleep and ever-changing nappies.

There’s also the issue of invisible costs such as maternity clothing, which very often adds up if we’re not careful. There are several cheaper options on the high street available from places such as New Look and other high street stores.

Shopping at such places will allow you to stock up on a decent amount of looser trousers and tops that will see you through your pregnancy and be comfortable to wear in the months afterwards.

Prioritise hoodies, elasticated waistbands and stretch jeans. Maternity wear has become a bigger demand on high street shops in the last decade, so luckily most places have really put time and effort into designing attractive clothes that feel comfortable and make you feel good.

Another fantastic option – which is just not publicized enough – is to go for the ‘androgynous’ look. Or rather, save money on buying large trousers and borrow your dad/brother/husband/boyfriend/friend’s joggers, jumpers and t shirts for the days when you need something comfortable and flexible.

After all, whilst we all might want to look like Beyonce mere weeks after having a baby, the truth is that finding a personal trainer and a spare few thousand pounds to buy Alice Temperley dresses just isn’t going to happen.

That said, she looks fantastic so let it be an inspiration to other expecting mothers out there. Enough with the negative energy and nightmarish visions of being covered in vomit everyday for the next two years.

Sure, having a baby is tough, it costs money, and above all else it requires all your energy, love and commitment, but what you’ll get from it is something invaluable.

Patch of Puddles Blog nominated for MAD Award

Alongside this website, we’ve kept a family blog for the last 9 years, detailing the ups and downs of our life as a home educating, small business owning family. Our family has grown from 5 people, to 7 people and back to 6 people on that blog as it chronicled not only the pregnancies and births of Amelie, Josie and Freddie, but also Freddie’s short life and death at 11 days old.

The blog is filled with our educational exploits, crafting ideas, the different ways we’ve home educated and lived life and all of that alongside building and running our online business, trying out school, coming back home, moving house more times than is reasonable and finally becoming not a work at home mother family, but a family which relies entirely on the income the business brings in.

This year we’ve been nominated for two MAD Blog Award categories, the Best Family Life Blog and Most Inspiring Blog Award. All of us are thrilled and for me, it is something good to have come out of a truly terrible year; to win one of these awards in Freddie’s memory would mean the world to me.

MAD Blog Awards 2011

You can find out more about us on our blog, Patch of Puddles and if you’d be kind enough to take a moment to click through and vote for us, I’d be incredible grateful.

Books, Gardens & more on PoP

We’ve had a very interesting couple of weeks on Patch of Puddles with masses of interaction from readers giving us ideas on many topics.

We’ve been discussing Books for Kids with masses of ideas for children aged 9-14 to read. This was a follow up to a post from several years ago on Classic Books for Children to Read and it was great to see how much really great material has been written in the time between the two posts.

We’ve been grateful to our reader for ideas on how to shop locally and more thoughtfully, something which our children have developed quite an enthusiasm for over the last couple of years.

Fran, the Pud of this site originally, is now almost 13; still home educated, she is stretching her wings in a big way. This week we’ve been helping her explore the world of business with a small foray into the world of bracelet making.
Bracelet Mosaic 1

Finally, I’m putting together a round up page on MuddlePuddle of our art days; we’ve been doing a focused approach to art skills and history with another family for around 9 months now and they’ve been fantastically successful. We’ve used very simple ideas, a few books and ideas from the internet and had an absolute ball. You can see our most recent day, on using perspective in drawing, over at our blog.
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