Large Family Tapestries

Following the visit a couple of weeks ago, to the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, we decided to make our own embroideries in the style of the Overlord Embroidery (appliqué).

Unfortunately the boys enthusiasm for the project lasted as long as we were in the fabric shop.  The fact that we have a finished result is down to sheer bloody-mindedness on my part with liberal doses of bribery, corruption and threats.  But everyone is happy with the end results 🙂

Having bought the fabric we started of with simple sketches of what they wanted.

Sam's sketch
Jack's sketch


We then simplified these down into simpler shapes and cut out the fabric.

Sam's design

Jack's design


Then of course we had to sew them together.  In general we stuck to simple running/back stitch

The Overlord Embroidery tells a story so here are our finished works with the stories to go with them.


the   first     blue   nose  friends

tatty  teddy  fond  a  bode   he   hud   a   giglig   sord  the   end

(Tatty Teddy found a body, he heard a giggling sound)



George  the 4th

George the 4th was about to eat a pie. When he ate the pie he fell over dead. So George went to the underworld. He went into heaven and saw a room full of pies. Then he saw a room full of gorgeous girls. Then he went into a room labelled hell. He looked through the door and saw is wife with a axe. He ran through another door and saw his father. He ran back through the door labelled hell and kept running until he reached a room filled with sweets, icecream and cakes. He was in heaven.

We’re still here

Think I’ve got sinusitus – eyeballs and head hurt! Anyway I’ve been avoiding the computer as the pain is worse when I’m on it.  Boys are also coughing, sneezing and generally unwell so productivity has been low.  But here is a bit of a fill in the gaps while I wait for the boys to finish their maths and english.  Rest of today’s work is going to be done from the comfort of my bed (reading) or under the duvet on the settee (documentaries).

There have been planes

Paper ones at Cubs and Airfix ones at home.

And maps

Using the globe to locate members of the axis and the allies during WW2.

Jack has been learning about Map symbols.

 Jack has laces on his tapshoes for Gang Show so has been practising tying laces.

They had a cd-rom of French games that ties into the course they are following so they have played on that.

And chess.

Jack made a marble cake and has been practising the magic tricks he had for Christmas.

We also had a very nice morning at Portsmouth Dockyard with Claire and Oscar.

A bit rushed there but Lemsip and bed are calling.

B***** Men are like B***** Buses

In the words of Wendy Cope.

Actually I have nothing against men, in general they seem less complicated and therefore easier company than women.  Buses on the other hand…

Here goes the rant!

Friday didn’t start well.  I wanted to go and get my passport form checked at the post office before we met friends in Portsmouth. No, we are not going anywhere but you try opening a bank account, even one for a community group, without a passport or driving license – whole other rant there!  First I couldn’t find the photos I’d had taken and had to turn the house upside down and leave it in a mess as I’d have missed the bus if I’d have stayed to tidy up.  Then they were not good enough (you are not supposed to wear glasses apparently) so I had to get another set done and now have to get them resigned! Not difficult but annoying.

But it was on the way home that the day really deteriorated!  As we got to the ferry it started hailing.  The boys hate hail! Read tears! And it was only at that point that I discovered the hood was missing from Sam’s coat (helpfully at home on the hall floor).  Jack was adamant that walking along the high street to the supermarket so I could pick up the bits for Rainbows next week wasn’t going to happen so we went for the bus, despite it being the ‘school’ bus which runs through the local secondary school and is horrendous!

But while we were waiting another bus pulled in.  Clearly said Lee on Solent 87A on the front – shall we get that I said? “Longer journey but without the hoards of rowdy teenagers”. Jack jumps on.  I give ticket to bus driver and he checks it and lets us on.  All well until we get to Rowner (north Gosport – dump!) and he decides to tell us that he doesn’t in fact go to Lee and we’d have to get off.

Not a huge problem I think we’re less than 10 mins from home, we’ll get a taxi (the last bus to Lee was an hour earlier at 2.15pm!).  However owing to the pouring rain and frequent hail storms there is not a taxi to be had in all of Gosport for at least 40 mins.  Bearing in mind we are in the middle of a scummy housing estate, with the only shelter being a Tesco Metro which if I’d have tried to spend 40 mins in would have resulted in me being arrested for shoplifting – which on consideration might have got me home quicker. Having established that Pete was still at work (having gone by bus) and therefore no help, I thought we’d walk as it is only a couple of miles and not an unreasonable distance as we walk a lot.  This was not received well on account of fear of the hail – cue sobbing from Jack.

Only option was to wait 15 mins for the bus back to Gosport and then catch one home from there.

Only the bus was 20 minutes late and then proceeded to get stuck down a side street for 15 mins. Where the driver had to get out of the bus and knock on doors to find people to move cars blocking the way.

On the plus side we changed buses at the end of town and I managed to nip in and get the bits I needed for Rainbows after all.

Maybe I should bite the bullet and learn to drive.  But I just have this fear of killing someone when I sneeze.


Sam can read!

I had in my mind in September that I hoped he would be reading by the end of the ‘academic year’.  But he has far exceeded my expectations.  In September he was just beginning to sound out 3 letter phonetic words, the books (even the chapter ones) he received for Christmas he could read himself.

He’s not perfect of course!  Last night he asked Pete what a whore was? Luckily Pete had the presence of mind to ask the see the word before trying to explain – turned out to be ‘hour’!  But he can pick up a book and read enough to follow the story.

I even found him curled up with my Kindle ‘reading’ a book about life in the ambulance service.  Whether he was reading it I can’t actually be sure, but the evidence (bizarre questions) suggests he probably was, at the very least he could make sense of some of it.

To be honest I have no real idea how either of my children really learned to read.  I’d love to say I had this unique, incredibly clever, foolproof and fail-safe way to teach kids to read, but I don’t.

I never followed any reading scheme with them.  We have some easy reading books of course, Oxford Reading Tree Read at Home, Usborne Phonics and First Readers, not to mention oh so many Dr Seuss.  But we have treated them as storybooks  and read them on demand like any other, when we have asked the kids to read words from them it has been simply because I (and I suspect Pete’s motives are very much the same but probably more intense) find them incredibly dull and repetitive and we just wanted to break the monotony.

I bought the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading to work through with Sam.  The intention actually was to try and encourage him to slow down and sound out individual sounds better when he’s talking as he is not always very clear (another post there one day). And honestly some of the motivation was just to have something practical to do with him to keep him fairly quiet when Jack is working (can’t read stories too distracting).  We certainly haven’t followed it religiously – to give you an idea we started in Sept 2010 and we’re up to lesson 82, so definitely not daily practice 🙂  I never did any formal reading practice/lessons with Jack at all.

So if that’s what we didn’t do, what did we do?  Well, I suppose we made it easy for them to learn.

We read a lot, to them and to ourselves.  We are an anti-social family and we all read around the dining table.  For several years we chose not to have a TV as Pete and I don’t really watch it, we are readers by choice.  We go everywhere by public transport and read as we go.  Entire family days out are planned as visits to libraries/bookshops (we like our second hand/cheap bookshops and will travel a fair way to visit our favourites). In other words they’ve inherited the love of and/or been reared in a household that prizes reading above almost everything else.

We’ve played word type games but never as part of a ‘work’ agenda.  Some of the things we’ve enjoyed:-

    • When Jack was little he had a crocodile with pockets in for fabric letters.  Jack would say the name of a letter and throw it in the air.  If he was right the croc would jump up and catch it with much comedy munching (Pete was far better at this than me).  Those toys always strike me as rather pointless but in this way ours was great fun.
    • Flashcards – they both have had spells of enjoying testing themselves on easy reading flashcards.  We’ve always used them under the boys direction.
    • Top trumps – both loved these from an early age (we do a lot of long train rides!) so had to learn to read the categories.
    • Treasure Hunts – we would drag out the having of a bag of sweets into a quarter of an hour activity.  They progressed from pictures, through pics and word, to word and on the rare occasion we do it now (Christmas eve!) the clues are riddles.
    • Stories written for them. When Jack was about 4, Pete would often write little stories just for him featuring characters from his favourite books/tv programmes.
    • On walks stop and read roadsigns.

I’m sure there are other games we played but can’t think now.  You may also notice I talk about doing things with Jack.  Reason is simply Sam wasn’t so interested until recently.  Jack being only child for a time was very high intensity and wanted us to play with him all of the time.  Obviously we spent a lot of time playing games entirely of his choice but sometimes we would do something we preferred, Pete especially, and perhaps Jack knew we’d be more likely to play the ‘crocodile game’ than another ‘being game’ (which involved in you saying exactly what he told you, any slight variation/creativity was very frowned upon).  Sam played with Jack or bounced happily around on his own and has seldom wanted/needed us to play with him.

We have also always found the time, no matter what we’re doing to answer the question ‘what does that say?’  Both of mine reached a stage, a kind of epiphany moment you might say, when that was the most common sentence that came out of their mouths (might be exaggerating there, probably never passed ‘can I have?).  For Jack this was around his 4th birthday, for Sam around his 6th.  And for both this was marked the time the began reading independently.

So my conclusion (from observing others as well as my own), I believe that most children (of course I know some children have issues such as dyslexia which change things and I’m not an expert at all) reach a moment where they are self-motivated enough and their brain can process the concepts easily so that if they have been provided with the right building blocks, everything will just fall into place.  For some children the building blocks may be recognising sight words, others basic phonics, others such as mine simply a love of books and 100’s at their disposal.

Each child will learn a different way so just go with what suits, some will thrive on a reading scheme others will prefer another or none at all.  My best advice is to trust your child to demonstrate when they are ready to learn.  All I have read on the matter says that many children do not reach this stage until age 8 or later, I am sure that this requires a great test of nerves from the parents in our society with its focus on early literacy.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t push or try to ‘teach’ the kids to read until 8 unless they demonstrated they were ready.  I can’t tell you how glad I am that that resolve was not tested though.  Cuddling down of an evening, fire on and everyone reading to themselves is wonderful 🙂

Interesting further reading 

One-to-one makes all the difference when teaching children to read

No-one strategy is best for teaching reading 

Living Alphabet (Waldorf)

UK children start school too young 

Cambridge review – value of individualised approach

A Wrinkle in Time

A wrinkle in time was written by Madeleine L’engle. It’s about this girl called Meg who has a brother called Charles Wallace and twin brothers. She lives with her mother because her father work for the government and his letters stopped coming. She and Charles and their friend Calvin meet three women called Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which who take them to save their father when they have saved him they have to save Charles Wallace and then they go home and live happily ever afteI really liked this book when I got into it. It was a bit slow starting but before I knew it I had finished the book. I would of put a sad face here but I can’t work out how too.

A wrinkle in time is very good in some places, a bit boring in others and in yet other bits is revoltingly soppy bleeeeeuuuuuuccccchhhhhh. I would definitely reccomend this if you are a girl or boy who likes soppy stuff.

It is mostly set in space but of course it isn’t as good as star wars. Try getting off your computer and sitting down and watching star wars 3 revenge of the sith. You could also watch doctor who series 6 episode 1 the impossible astronaut.

Of course you could read a wrinkle in time I’m not stopping you at all but why not watch star wars instead. or doctor who.

The Wooden Bowl

I don’t normally forward on chain emails.  But having worked in nursing homes and spent a lot of time in cottage hospital wards when my mum was ill I’ve seen the way some families and carers unfortunately treat the elderly and I found this one quite moving.  Still can’t bring myself to pass on a chain email though so instead of forwarding on the email I’ll post it here for all, feel free to copy it and pass it on.

The Wooden Bowl


I guarantee you will remember the tale of the Wooden Bowl tomorrow, a week
from now, a month from now, a year from now. 
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. 
The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing
sight made eating difficult.. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor.
When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. 
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. 
‘We must do something about father,’ said the son. 
‘I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. 
There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. 
Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he
dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence. 
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. 
He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’ Just as sweetly, the boy responded, 
‘Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. ‘
The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks.. Though no word was spoken, both knew
what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. 
For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, 
neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk
spilled, or the tablecloth soiled. 
On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things: 
a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’
I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. 
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back sometimes.
I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.
I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. 
I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.
People love that human touch — holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. 
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
I’ve learned that you should pass this on to everyone you care about. I just did!
I am not going to be the one who lets it die. I found it believable —
This is to all of you who mean
something to me,
I pray for your happiness.
This is the Candle Of Love, Hope & Friendship


This candle was lit on the
15th of September, 1998
Someone who loves you has helped
it alive by sending it to you.

Don’t let The Candle of Love, Hope and Friendship die





To blow my own trumpet a bit.  I’m really pleased with the way this theme has come out.  We loved doing the crafts.

Activity Village Panda theme


D-Day Museum

Misplaced my camera over the weekend so a bit slow.

On Friday we met up with some friends from the local home ed group for a visit to the D-Day museum in Southsea.

Boys and I were early (surprise surprise) so had a walk along the promenade first.  Past the Victory anchor and stopped for a look at the war memorials,

At the museum we watched a short film and then toured the museum.   Not sure how much the boys took in.  All their best home ed friends were there, most they haven’t seen for at least a month, so they were rather excitable.  And we mums hadn’t seen each other for a while and were too busy gossiping to really keep them on focus.

Anyway I think they all enjoyed it (despite Jack’s expression!).  Oscar obviously did – seems rather manically happy!

Model planes.  I predict an Airfix resurgence here.  Then we looked at the Overlord embroidery for a while.  I tool this before I noticed the signs telling me not to.

Then there was time for a run around outside.

Before meeting up with some of the other families for lunch and a potter around the shops.

Preparation is key!

Not been a great week, not a bad one at all but not one I look back on and think ‘yes, got this sorted’.

Weekend was difficult, again nothing particularly bad about it.  Kids just pressed the wrong buttons a bit, I was just tired I expect (although Pete agreed).  Also I was in a lazy mood and didn’t go through and check that I had everything for the boys work this week or get much housework done.  I shot myself in the foot there because my mood is often related to how clean and tidy the house is (nags at the back of my mind and makes me feel guilty and cross if it’s a mess).  So wasn’t feeling refreshed on Monday.

We had difficulty staying focused, I got distracted by (my) work – I usually try and do an hour before we sit down in the morning but had a big job I wanted to tick off, they were distracted by Lego (now Jack has finally finished building his Christmas presents) and we were slow to start in the mornings, which immediately put us out.  Elderly neighbour wasn’t well and although I obviously don’t begrudge it at all we found ourselves running errands I hadn’t expected.

Didn’t have a map we needed so postponed Geography as I thought it was worth buying a local Ordinance Survey map, hadn’t printed Sam’s English so we were working from workbooks, I’d ordered a Chemistry set for Jack so we could do some experiments but of course it didn’t have all the things we needed in there…

So lesson learned. Goal for next week is to have everything ready on Sunday night!  And do the ironing and hoovering at the weekend!!!

This is some of what we did.

Made lots of dragons.  Can’t be bothered putting up all the photos but they are here with instructions.

And lots of pandas.  This is Jack’s gorgeous bag.  They will be up on Activity Village soon.

Looking at blood flow by holding a hand in the air for 2 mins and then comparing the colour with the other (should be white – drains of blood).

And showed how a heart valve only allows the blood to flow one way.

Learning about the origins of place names and finding examples.

Swimming.  Condensation, sorry, as soon as I wiped the lens it steamed back up – hydrotherapy pool and gets rather warm.  Difficult to see but Sam has one of these and they are brilliant.

Jack made a cake on his own (I was banned from kitchen).  Wasn’t an overwhelming success but was edible and I love that he will try.

And I proved I’m worth the money I’m paid by not only making, but eating (can’t stand waste), green eggs and ham.

And yes it wasn’t nice!

Apart from that the boys have been working their way through the ‘Walking with Monsters/Beasts/Dinosaurs’ dvds again.  They were so scratched Santa put new ones in Sam’s stocking having been a bit over watched.



Jack’s poem about the fall of Rome

More than a little Eliot and Shelley in there I think 🙂

The Roman remains

The Roman empire gone now

and all the times before

are gone now, gone now in the air

the marvellous monuments

the nasty emperors gone too

Caligula the crazy one

Commodus the pretend gladiator

Nero who killed his mother

they all disappeared in the blink of an eye

the remains standing there empty

In Rome two vast and trunkless legs of stone

stand in the city

near them on the paving slabs a shattered visage lies

survive yet stamped on those lifeless things

the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed

and on the pedestal these words appear

“My name is Pompey, general of generals, look upon my works ye mighty and despair”

the lone and level shops stretch far away