Creating meaningful birthday traditions for children


Last month we celebrated Ophelia’s fifth birthday. I am in no way used to her being 5 yet. She just yesterday started saying the “L” sound instead of replacing it with the “Y” sound. I’m going to miss all those “yions” and “yetters”, and I may not be able to quite cope with her being able to accurately pronounce all the names in our family. How have I noticed we have a theme of L’s in our names now that she can say them?

In the lead up to her birthday, I began making her birthday crown, sharing the progress in my stories on Instagram. It’s just a rectangle of felt folded in half, cut crown shaped on the outer edges, embroidered and sewn over a bit of elastic the size of her head. The elastic I upcycled from a pair of child’s leggings that were beyond repair. Previously, I appliqu├ęd the decorations rather than embroider.

Without meaning to, we’ve fallen into a pattern with these crowns. Birthday theme on one side, birthday flower on the other. So she chose unicorns and as the crocuses are always in bloom for her birthday, she’s claimed them as hers. We love that her birthday is another marker that the world is waking up again – Spring is on its way.

I was surprised and grateful that so many people responded so warmly to the birthday crown and it made me think that it could be worth sharing a few more of our traditions in case you were looking for some inspiration. Repeatedly weaving beautiful touches into special days like birthdays can help deepen our memories as families. I don’t think it particularly matters what those touches are as long as they are meaningful to you.

It’s also not necessary to start early or not at all. I’ve never got around to making a birthday crown for Talitha but she has cornered me for one this year and I am certainly going to make it as she’ll be eight and who knows if she’ll ever want another? Perhaps at nine she’ll decide she’s too old for a birthday crown.

A few more traditions we’ve accrued over the years:

Wrapping presents thoughtfully
We have a collection of play silks the kids have been given over the years and they are used for all sorts of imaginative play but the night before the birthday they become gift wraps. Scarfs can be used in lieu of play silks, picked up at a charity shop if you don’t already have any. They make fantastic play things in their own right between birthdays if you’re newly acquiring them.

We also have a fabric gift wrap that my mother-in-law made with cloth printed with Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile one year. It comes out for one of Ophelia’s presents every birthday and Christmas and she looks forward to seeing it. I will try to update this post with a picture of it as I’ve realised while writing that we forgot to photograph it on her birthday.

I was in a quandary about how to wrap the surfboard we bought her this year. In the end I wrapped it in some mermaid fabric from The Cornish Haberdashery. I will sew into something for the girls soon.

Laying the birthday table
After the kids go to sleep, we lay a table cloth or runner, get lots of candles out and generally make the table as fancy as possible. We’re limiting our use of balloons but blew up a single balloon a friend had given her, which made it quite a treat. That, too, waited on the table alongside all the gifts, ready for the morning.

In future, I’d love to also include a framed baby picture of the birthday child. Some people include a train of photos from every year of the child’s life, which I love the idea of but I know would be too intense for me, especially if a party is also involved. I printed a unicorn-themed “Happy Birthday” banner to stick up in the dining room last minute but I’d like to perhaps make some birthday bunting that we could reuse every birthday. We have red and gold bunting a friend made for our wedding that comes out every Christmas but Laurence, justifiably, balked at the idea of getting the decorations box down again so we could put it up. And actually, I think the kids would have argued that it’s not Christmas, had we managed it.

Something to plant
Without meaning to, we’ve fallen into a tradition of giving something to plant most birthdays, whether it’s a potted plant or a pack of seeds. I’d like to more intentionally make sure we do this every birthday because they get so much enjoyment from planting it the next day and then having something of their own to tend to and take note of in the garden afterwards (that sounded very Secret Garden!). This year I picked up a pink primrose for a pound in a farm shop.

Mindful presents
We make a point of ensuring that at least most of the presents we give are genuinely useful and we try to buy things second hand (like the surfboard) or from small, ethical companies. This year, Ophelia’s presents included an Opinel knife, a shovel and a knitting fork. Useful presents are gifts that keep giving as children have the satisfaction of accomplishing real tasks and contributing to family life in meaningful ways. The knife, in particular, was a much longed for request and Talitha got it for her in pink, her current favourite colour.

Funnily enough, after Ophelia’s birthday I won a copy of Whole Family Rhythms’ mini ebook Whole Family Birthdays in a giveaway Meagan ran on her Instagram. It’s great little read if you want some more inspiration after reading this post.

PS: The cake looked a dream, tasted nice enough but was a really weird texture because I somehow managed to misread the ingredients and put like ten times the amount of almond milk required! Just, you know, keeping it real.


Jackson Reece compostable wet wipes and green skincare – review and giveaway


Jackson Reece have sent me products for the purpose of this review and are supplying prizes for this giveaway

Disposable wipes are realistically part of most parents’ lives. Even though I use cloth wipes, I still find it useful to have a packet of disposables with me when on the go. I only began to seriously wonder about them when talk of the government banning wet wipes to protect marine life hit the news last year and I reckon so many of us would welcome a valid alternative to wipes that don’t break down for hundreds of years, putting more microplastics in the ocean.

So I was intrigued, when Jackson Reece asked me to review their skin care products for kids, amongst which their completely biodegradable and compostable wet wipes headline. In fact their wipes are made of natural wood pulp, decomposing after just 12 weeks in landfill and breaking up in the sewage system, should they find themselves there.

Years ago, I was a bit aghast to discover that your standard wet wipe could clean away just about any mark from anywhere, which makes me dread to think what’s actually in them. I’m much reassured by the ingredients in Jackson Reece wipes: purified water, organic aloe vera, vegetable plant extract and preservatives and pH-balancer derived from sugar beet. Having used them for a few weeks now, I find them as effective as any other wipe. Delilah is out of nappies so admittedly I’ve not tested them on any poonamis but my kids have a habit of attracting enough mud and clay for us to give them a good run nonetheless.

I tried the Natural Baby gift box and which also included Jackson Reece’s shampoo, bodywash, moisturiser, nose nuzzle wipes and hand spray, all untested on animals and free of nasty chemicals, alcohol and parabens. I love that it’s all unscented as I and two of my kids react strongly to scented products. Artificial scents make me feel a bit sick since having kids, for some reason. I also have to be careful what products we use as eczema is an issue in this house. But we’ve found it all non-irritating and effective. The moisturiser is neither runny nor too thick – a big win here.

Within the gift box everything is recyclable (the wipes’ packaging can be recycled dependent on how your council processes plastic material) and all of the packaging is made in the UK.

While we are increasingly reducing our waste, we do currently use products like this and I know many of you do too, so I think it’s helpful to know that there are options for those looking for convenient alternatives to brands that show little regard for the environment.

I’m giving away one Jackson Reece Natural Baby gift box each to three readers. This giveaway will end on February 15th. UK entrants only. Just fill in the Rafflecopter widget below! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Home educated children are not missing education or invisible

Like so many home educators in England, I watched the much discussed episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, “Skipping School: Britain’s Invisible Kids” earlier this week. The episode itself I didn’t find compelling viewing – a bizarre soup of tenuously related issues thrown together, overwritten with repetitive commentary, meant both to get the audience worked up and force some meaning on this mess. However, I know that many watching the programme won’t see it this way.

The Children’s Commissioner’s report referenced in this documentary is part of a bigger conversation around home education that has become difficult, and even dangerous, for home educators like me to ignore. The rally cry for home educated children to submit to compulsory registration and monitoring may well carry.

And so, in an attempt to engage with this a little, I want to ask a few questions of Dispatches, which will likely form the basis of my feedback to Channel 4.

Was the brief to slap on the most incendiary title?

To be fair, they didn’t have to try. They used the title of the Children’s Commissioner’s publication. Did no one at any point stop to ask whether the phrase “Skipping School” was likely to paint the children it was discussing both inaccurately and in a dim light as truants?

And yes “Britain’s Invisible Kids” echoes the report’s “Invisible Children” but that they chose to adopt it without evidence that any of the children discussed (yes even in the desperately tragic case of Dylan Seabridge) were invisible to authorities smacks of propaganda.

If children are indeed getting lost in the cracks between services and professionals when processes to avoid this are already in place, how is a compulsory register and monitoring going to help?

Why are we even looking at home educators here?

Both the Children’s Commissioner’s report and the programme reflect the enormous failings on the part of schools, local authorities and the system at large. Yet the show unwaveringly focuses on home educators, insisting that we must get children back into schools.

Certainly, many of the parents interviewed say that they’re not home educating by choice and one child makes a list of what her ideal school would look like since she wants to go to school.

So surely Dispatches should take a look at what the government needs to do to properly support schools? But it doesn’t really. A quick look at an inclusive school struggling under the strain of decreased budget and unrealistic standards acts as a set up for another fraught look at the menacing alternative: education outside of school.

If schools are “off rolling” children at GCSE level, pressuring parents into deregistering so their children aren’t formally excluded, shouldn’t we discuss how this unethical practice is dealt with? When children are deregistered from schools, school are legally bound to inform the local authority so wouldn’t questions around the circumstances at least identify where it’s happening? And apart from preventing schools from absconding their own responsibilities to students and supporting schools so it doesn’t come to this, why not look at providing more alternatives to GCSEs for students for whom they’re not a fit?

And seriously, why are you even including an OFSTED inspection of an illegal school here?

By the way, WHERE are all the long term home educators?

All the families we meet in this episode are in their first weeks and months of home education. We meet two families just four weeks after deregistration – that’s not a long time to settle into things, work out what’s out there, find who’s around or discover how your child learns. I realise a month sounds like a long time if school is what you’re used to but the move to home education is a lifestyle shift.

I’d have loved to meet families whose children were grown or who had at least home educated for a few years, perhaps even from the start. How different the picture could have been. And I imagine it would not have fit the show’s overarching message.

Why is education continuously conflated with safeguarding?

We’re constantly told that home visits and monitoring should be allowed. But why? When children are under the age of four we don’t invite supervision and inspection of our own homes. What happens at school age that suddenly puts a child at higher risk of abuse or neglect?

Councils may well feel that they don’t have the powers to ensure safety but safeguarding is not a home education issue. If a suspicion is raised then Social Services have the authority to investigate the home life of any child, regardless of where they are educated or how old they are.

The argument goes that the visibility of children in school allows vulnerable children to be identified. Yet schools too often miss children at risk. There have been some devastating cases of child mistreatment where children were not in school. However, these children were known to professionals.

Compulsory registration seems unlikely to prevent these cases where existing procedures did not. The call for it may even distract from finding effective solutions.

Meanwhile, insisting that home educators should all accept home visits recommends an invasion of privacy that the average person would find violating. Yet we’re meant to welcome inspection if we have “nothing to hide”?

Why assume that schools are better at educating children?
I felt for mother Sam when she struggled to pronounce the word “cataclysmic” and admits that she didn’t feel confident in her ability to home educate. Honestly, I regularly Google the pronunciations of words and I have a Masters degree in English Literature. If school is the option families feel happier with, they absolutely should have access to settings that meet the needs of their children.

Yet the underpinning assumption in this segment is that if you have gaps in your own education or are neurodivergent, you’re not fit to educate your own child, even if you want to.

This simply isn’t so. For a start, you probably went to school. So, if you feel unable to help your child gather the tools and develop the curiosity to do the things you want and need to do then school may not have been the most effective teacher.

Parents who want help should have the option of support. Making contact with a local authority rep with a holistic understanding of home education and a wealth of information could be an incentive of voluntary registration. Sadly, this often isn’t the scenario parents are met with.

Beyond that, there are so many online resources, many of them free, and Facebook makes it easy to find real, live home educators in your area with whom you can discuss your options or discover what workshops and activities are available locally.

And children do find what they need with parents who are engaged, even if it takes a while. In fact, despite her concerns about being able to educate her son, Sam helps him learn to tell the time, which he’d never managed in all his years at school.

Is academic achievement the most important thing and is home education incapable of achieving it?

I felt the segment with Sam was positive overall but Anne Longfield keeps us on message, asking whether he’ll achieve GCSEs. Why is the focus on GCSEs at this point, when he’s just learning to tell the time?

And why isn’t his happiness deemed an important part of his future? Throughout the programme, school is presented as the norm that home educators are potentially robbing their children of and yet school is not a happy place for so many children. Repeatedly, the parents interviewed tell the camera that their children are more confident and happier since leaving school. This is never commented on.

Why assume that qualifications are necessary to achieve employment? What kind of last-century thinking are we reverting to here in a world that is rapidly changing? A survey of unschoolers in America showed that many respondents were self-employed and considered themselves polymaths.

Certainly, we can’t know what careers our children will want to pursue later on but there are other ways of achieving qualifications if they need them or even accessing higher education without following the standard pathway. People who have learned how to learn and have not lost their love for learning may well find creative ways to get to where they need to go.

Did they intend to make all home educators appear isolated?

Obviously, there would have been issues around filming home educated children in group settings with other children but could they not have included quotes about what they get up to with others or what’s available in their area?

Again, if they’d interviewed long term home educators it would have inevitably come up somewhere. But who knows if it would have been included as it didn’t fit the programme’s agenda? Is that really cynical of me to wonder?

The one almost entirely positive depiction a home educating family – whom Anne Longfield admits is delivering home education well – includes a line from the child saying that he misses not seeing his friends every day at school.

Fair enough, that’s how he feels but to choose not to follow that up with a look at how he socialises or indeed how any of the children in the programme mix with others seems a deliberate choice.

Perhaps if we knew too much about who they see and where they go outside the home, we’d know that they aren’t, in fact, “invisible”.


OrganiCup – a menstrual cup review and giveaway


OrganiCup sent me a menstrual cup for the purposes of an honest review. They’re also supplying one as a giveaway prize for my followers. International entries welcome.

I’ve been using a menstrual cup for twelve years. Posters on the inside of toilet stall doors on my university campus first introduced me to the idea and I was game, mainly because it meant saving money in the long run. I also didn’t like the idea of putting bleached products that essentially dried up my insides into my vagina.

There was a bit of a learning curve, granted, but once I’d got the hang, I was in love. Dealing with my period was genuinely more comfortable than when I used disposable pads and tampons. I felt cleaner and fresher.

It’s somehow easier for me to think about menstruation in positive terms with the visual of my blood collected in a cup. I can literally see it as something of value and can appreciate that my body and mind need to rest because something big is happening.

That’s why I’ve pictured the OrganiCup in this post alongside a book of poetry and some brownies I made – using a cup is another way I honour my menstruating body. Actually, I misplaced my cup some months ago for one period and I must have bored Laurence complaining and complaining about how strange it felt menstruating without it.

Soon after I finished Instagramming my menstrual cycle back in October, OrganiCup got in touch and asked if I’d like to try one of their cups. I admit I didn’t think it would be much different from the one I was using. I hadn’t felt the need to shop around as I felt it was working well enough but out of curiosity, I thought I’d give it a go and give you the opportunity to win one too (details at the bottom of this post).

I’ve used it for a few periods now and am happy to have switched. From the start I found it much softer, which not only makes inserting and removing it easier and more comfortable but I think it makes it easier to remove it too. It’s also a slightly longer cup, shaped for better suction in my opinion, which works well for me because I prefer to cut the stem off my menstrual cups which can sometimes make removing them a bit annoying if they migrate upward. So with this cup I don’t have to hunt around.

Because it stays a bit lower, I don’t have to think as much about getting the suction right, which means I don’t have to rely on a backup cloth menstrual pad on heaviest days, though I do sometimes still do that if I know it’s going to be tricky to get to a loo and I always do overnight the first two or three nights as I often bleed a lot. It’s generally fine without a change but anyone with a heavy flow knows it’s better to have the peace of mind. OrganiCup claims to offer 12-hour protection when the cup is placed correctly, which is probably accurate for me though I prefer to empty my cup more frequently than that.

They’re a Danish brand that focuses on sustainability. The cup is 100% FDA approved medical grade silicone and is vegan, cruelty-free and hypoallergenic, and they focus on creating products and packaging that are as environmentally friendly as possible (my OrganiCup arrived in a cream cloth drawstring bag inside a simple brown cardboard box).

They also focus on removing the taboo around menstruation work with NGOs like The Cup Foundation, WoMena and WiseEconomy to provide girls living in poverty with menstrual cups along with any necessary training and education. In this country they’re tackling period poverty with UK charities No More Taboo and Freedom4Girls which teach girls and women in need about periods, puberty and empowerment. Pretty radical, much needed work.

I’ve also got to say, their website offers lots of great info on how to use the Organicup but also gets all into periods and the menstrual cycle (follicular, ovulation and luteal phases, and menopause are all there), accessible for younger readers but useful for anyone.

All in all, I’m pretty impressed and if you’re looking to try a menstrual cup for the first time or make a swap, I think they’re worth a look in.

To win an OrganiCup, head over to my Instagram post and follow the instructions there. International entries welcome. Instagram is in no way affiliated with this giveaway.


Our homeschooling week

I’m toying with the idea of doing a weekly update on what we’re getting up to, partly to remind myself that we’re doing more than I think on days when I feel unsure about everything. Realistically, though, it’s impossible to record everything because home education encompasses all of living.

I’ve also omitted some stuff because this post would get insanely long if I included everything. If you have questions about anything we use or do, please drop me a comment and I’ll get into it in another post soon.

Learning happens as much through conversations and unstructured play as through anything any of us are reading.

In true January style, the kids wrote thank you cards this week. Even two year old Delilah had a go at writing her name, which meant adding a few dots. We may have got an insight into why she doesn’t tend to make marks or scribble often as we found out on Monday that she needs glasses. The eye test at the hospital and glasses fitting at the high street optometrists were definitely educational experiences – for all of us.

Writing isn’t something that comes up as a subject here. Talitha taught herself to write in cursive when she was six (she’s seven now) by asking me to write all the letters in a book that she then referred to and I give suggestions if I notice that something is a little hard to read as I know that matters to her.

Ophelia (almost five) has started asking me to write sentences so she can copy them but I allow her to be as avant garde as she likes about how the letters go unless she asks for help. She tires easily so after writing one of her thank you cards, we agreed that she’d dictate the others to me and sign her name. She doesn’t read yet so I imagine it’s exhausting from that perspective too.

Writing with a purpose, whether it’s a letter to a friend, an invitation to a pretend tea party is enough here. Writing also comes up in other things we do like history or science so practising it separately would feel like overkill.

I’m not really working on anything with Ophelia other than to go through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons which I’d abandoned last term but she pulled out again and asked to keep going.

It’s a simple, fairly enjoyable book to follow but as it went with Talitha, every now and then there’s a leap in her ability to bring things together, whether that’s recognising a letter or blending sounds and I’m not convinced that the lessons are contributing as much to her learning to read as her natural development and exposure to lots of books are. Yet she wants me to practise reading with her so we’re doing it at her pace, following her interest.

We finished Story of the World Book One last term so we’re reviewing ancient world history by putting together a timeline. The activity book that accompanied the last book contained review cards so we’re reading those and looking at an encyclopaedia to work out what are the most significant things to remember.

It’s been an opportunity for us to chat about other things one of us has learned about those events since through books, games or things we’ve watched. She’s been linking things she’s writing down with history workshops she did at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro last year, telling me more about what went on in those sessions than she did at the time.

We’ve just finished our read aloud, The Horse and His Boy, having put it down over Christmas and I had a few suggestions for what’s next but she’s asked for more Narnia. I was surprised because I thought she’d prefer to read them herself but then, I have fond memories of my mother reading them to us so I do get it.

Ophelia isn’t finding it that thrilling though so we started Pippi Longstocking as a separate read aloud for her (Talitha’s read it herself a few times) and she’s enjoying that a lot more, complete with images by Charlie and Lola illustrator Lauren Child.

For science we’ve been on separate tracks with Ophelia working through last month’s OKIDO magazine on homes and habitats, mostly doodling away at things like filling a tent or drawing the inside of a house but also finding out about what animals live in deserts, jungles and so on.

Talitha and I have been making time to read Whizz Pop Bang because she wants to keep the subscription but finds it more interesting to go through it together. She’s been thrilled that so much of it links with things she’s seen or heard elsewhere, from websites to other magazines to her Beavers meetings.

They’ve both been doing Mystery Science, catching up on all the short Mystery Doug episodes and working on a lesson on clouds. We were aiming it middle of the road in terms of age but we tried a lesson that fell in Talitha’s age group and Ophelia still enjoyed it, though only Talitha did the extension activities.

They’ve also worked together on a couple of experiments about colour mixing from a Horrible Science kit their uncle gave Ophelia for Christmas, sharing the super fun goggles and Talitha reading the instructions.

They’re also having a lot of fun with Artventure. I toyed with the idea of it for ages then bought a subscription just before Christmas because I realised that in terms of art instruction, it just wasn’t going to happen unless we had a resource to follow that didn’t involve me and we can’t afford art lessons right now. They’ve watched other art videos in the past and I find it interesting seeing them incorporate ideas into other drawings or gaining perspective from the exercises.

Forest school resumed this week for Talitha and we managed a couple of beach and woodland outings too – beautiful outdoor spaces ever a bonus of home educating in Cornwall.

We’ve taken up Spanish again at the children’s request but I’m finding it difficult to do it with any consistency. Talitha likes Mango Languages but it’s too much for Ophelia. Both seem to learn better when I talk to them reviving the little A-level Spanish I remember. We’ve also been deciphering lyrics of the Coco soundtrack, which has been fun.

We’re trying to get back into a pattern of baking so I helped the younger two make chocolate cupcakes and Talitha made her own bread dough. I’m keen to encouraging her to continue to take on tasks in the kitchen independently.

Too often I feel like it’s easier if I just get on with whatever needs to get done but all three children love doing things that are genuinely useful and it’s not something I want to dampen by being too impatient or busy. That goes for just about everything they’re learning, really.


Duvets to freshen up your bedroom’s look

This post is sponsored by Yorkshire Linen

I think this may be the first year I’ve noticed that the pull I feel to reorder our home is shared by just about everybody else. We probably all have Marie Kondo to thank for that. That said, I only made it to episode three before I found it all a bit much for me. I think she comes across as so understanding and kind but I’d find her approach of doing everything at once overwhelming.

Instead, little steps work for me so I’m really enjoying listening to A Slob Comes Clean podcast whose book home educating parent and podcaster Katie recommended on Instagram recently.

In the vein of making little changes, I’m tackling our bedrooms bit by bit, conscious that we’re getting ready to do a big swap around. We’ll go into the room that’s been functioning as a guest room, the kids will all take ours and their current room will become a study/guest room. It’s probably the way we should have done it to begin with but their room has been fine for two kids thus far. We’re just aware that it’ll be too crowded once a third joins them.

As I mentally start swapping things around and considering what each room is going to look like, I’m putting together ideas for painting and potentially putting in new curtains or swapping duvets. Duvet covers are a really easy way of changing a room’s look or pulling a look together without spending too much, especially as in kids’ rooms with multiple beds. I’ve been looking through duvet covers at discount prices from Yorkshire linen, and there are a few that could really make a bedroom’s look.

The Origin Indigo set pictured above has an earthy look which makes me think of the seaside so a natural choice for our cottage here in Cornwall but could also be a great way of bringing the coast to you if you don’t live near the sea.

For a radically different look, this Catherine Lansfield Tropical Leaf set makes me smile and reminds me of summer holidays spent in Tobago when I lived in Trinidad growing up.

I have to admit I’m always drawn to the simplicity of a plain white duvet set like this Ashlea White set. It’s a way of making an instantly relaxing space.

As for kids options, both of my older two would be all over this Catherine Lansfield Folk Unicorn set.

And one of them, who lives, breathes and sleeps dancing would be made up with this Sabrina Ballerina duvet cover.

Anyone else feeling the pull to shift stuff around in their home?


Resetting my homeschooling intentions

The last couple of years, I’ve had to make the decision not to make New Year’s Resolutions. I can see how for some people the process of taking stock and putting together a “new year, new you” kind of plan is inspiring, hopeful, exciting even. I’ve felt that too when crossing into January. I have all the ideas and I want to put them into action now. Often, though, resolutions point out to me all the things I’m not.

“Read more books” reminds me that I don’t read enough and is too big and vague an idea for me to get a handle on. I find it easier to make small changes to my routine, like downloading a book to the Kindle app on my phone and reminding myself whenever I’m putting Delilah to bed to read instead of scroll Facebook.

Any resolution bigger than that (one that hit my inbox this week was “resolve to regulate your own emotions” and that was one of five in a single email) just isn’t something I can respond to without some measure of self defeat. As useful as I know it is to reflect and make some choices, I know how careful I need to be not to self sabotage unless I’m firmly in a glass-half-full place.

That said, I do want to reset my homeschooling intentions at the start of this new term. We don’t need to follow the terms but activities and groups stop in the holidays and we tend to take that time to see friends and family who we can’t see during the term. So it’s a natural time for me to think about what I want to take into our next season.

I really feel like I need to reset my intentions because last term was hard. I think it was a combination of the family’s needs changing and me taking on more paid work. Delilah turned two in the summer and I’m finding she needs so much interaction, attention and occupation.

She really isn’t happy with us doing something that doesn’t actively involve her, like reading chapter books or building things. I am generally finding things challenging with her and I need to keep reminding myself that she’s finding the situation challenging too. Nap time has offered a time out but she doesn’t need a nap anymore!

We muddle through with play dough and taking things outdoors, alternating activities and being flexible about when things happen but it’s hard. Often things the older two want to do don’t get done and I wind up feeling like everything is out of balance. With Ophelia’s needs also changing and with her wanting to do things that require more one-to-one focused attention, I have never felt the needs of three (four, including me) so acutely.

And then with also trying to work more, which needs to happen, the house has got messier, I’ve had less sleep and have relied on screens more to give me space when feeling frazzled. I’ve felt more overwhelmed by day to day tasks like having to pack lunch and get out the door and try to get to things on time. I’ve responded by making my to do lists more and more unrealistic, leaving me with a perpetual feeling of underachievement. These are all things I have always struggled with anyway but last term I felt like I was constantly being launched into a ball pit with too many other people in it.

So, having had the breather of Christmas (ie other adults around and not as much to do, having opted out of most of the Christmas fuss), I am setting five, hopefully simple, intentions. Or resetting, as I’ve been here before. I realise that these aren’t necessarily homeschooling specific but I’m thinking about it through the lens of my context. Perhaps some of you find these useful to consider too, whether or not you home educate.

1. Say “no” more
One of the reasons last term was hard was that I overscheduled. I said yes to too many home education opportunities and committed to too many things. We had weeks where we were out of the house every day, which doesn’t give any of us down time or time to do the things we need to do at home.

We were tired, spent too much money and I had the stress of constantly having to pack our bags and plan ahead. It also meant struggling to fit in seeing people outside of set activities, which isn’t ideal as group settings bring their own stress. So I’m realising I need to be firmer with myself about not making too many plans and ring fencing our time at home.

2. Ask for help
I want to keep talking to the kids about what’s going on in our home and how they can help. Sometimes Talitha makes our packed lunch or Ophelia empties the dishwasher and I’m amazed at how much those small tasks help. I want to talk about how we can simplify what we all own so we don’t struggle to put things away.

And I’m willing to accept now that Laurence and I both chose homeschooling as a lifestyle and that my freelance work is a part of that so why not allow him to help me work out whether my timeframes on tasks are realistic and to suggest apps or systems which might help me to organise.

3. Stop looking around
I need to be careful about researching new programmes or books or resources or whatever. We have plenty stuff to play with. If a need for something new genuinely arises we can review but I find that when I’m stressed I can wind up wasting hours looking around for more interesting “things” to offer my kids when actually they’re perfectly happy with what we have and what we do. And that in turn can stress me out more.

4. Recognise what we’ve achieved
I fell out of the habit of recording everything we were doing, whether by taking photographs or jotting them down. It meant that at the end of the week, I looked back and the days looked shapeless. I couldn’t at all remember what had happened.

And so much happens without any initiation on my part. I used to write down their questions, our conversations, what I noticed them making, reading, playing. I’ve bought a notebook specifically for writing down what I notice in our days.

5. Accept my limitations and press into my strengths
My limitations mean that sometimes some things won’t get done. Getting to that workshop on time might mean that we’ve left the house a bomb site and there isn’t anything planned for supper. Finishing that writing project might mean that I don’t have much energy for a while.

I’m trying to stop holding so much in my head by writing anything I need to remember down, somewhere where I’m unlikely to lose it (already managed to lose the list of who we need to send Christmas thank you cards, mind). And I’m trying to get into a habit of putting reminders on my phone when I tell someone I’ll get back to them about something.

I realise I need to counter the constant stream of negative self talk I bombard myself with. I’m not good at everything but I’m also pretty brilliant at some things. That means that the way I home educate my kids will look different to the way someone else does it. That’s OK. That’s fine, actually, because my kids also aren’t theirs.

There is no perfection or even standard we’re all meant to be living up to. Perhaps the biggest part of this for me, is reflecting on a resolution antidote: reminding myself of all the things I already am.