"Although I speak from my own experience, I feel that no one has the right to impose his or her beliefs on another person. I will not propose to you that my way is best. The decision is up to you. If you find some point which may be suitable for you, then you can carry out experiments for yourself. If you find that it is off no use, then you can discard it." Dalai Lama...

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Free choice....

People often say that if they gave their child free choice to watch TV when they wanted and play games on the computer as much as they wanted to that they would do nothing else.

Four years ago when Milly came out of school we had a subscrition for Education city. She used it sporadically but she would get very frustrated and stopped using it. After the year we decided not to renew.

A couple of weeks ago Education city came up in conversation and she said she would like a trial again.

We set it up yesterday and she and I spent a very enjoyable hour together as she went through some of the subjects. She remembered the ones she enjoyed and was quite surprised at how many of her *educated* guesses were correct :-) TV programmes, films, conversations and games we have played have informed her. On some of the science ones - about mixtures, solutions,  distillation etc - she patiently worked through, using all the information she has gathered from day to day activities, before making her guess with great acuracy.

After Al got home from work tonight they went off to Buttermere for a walk with Beauty and a swim in the lake for Milly :-)

We had a late tea and then Milly said she was going to lie down. I asked her if she would like me to read to her. We had a lovely half hour and a snuggle. When I finished reading we spooned for a while and chatted and then I asked her if she had been reading her new book I had downloaded onto her kindle. She said yes and then proceeded to read it to me. A very funny book . Lots of giggles at the pronunciation of some of the names :-)

She had arranged with Al that they would spend time on Ed city and went down to log on. They spent an hour on the PC and I sat on the sofa browsing on the laptop listening to them. She scored highly in quite a few of the subjects and enjoyed the time spent on it.

After 4 years away from anything resembling school work Milly held her own - at the year level she would be in at school - scoring 90% on one of the literacy options and 100% on a science (biology) option.

At nine we all sat down to watch Luther together on TV and as we got settled Milly said she would watch it then go on Ed city again before heading off to bed....

She is on Ed city now ( 20 to eleven ) working through punctuation. She has just scored 5 out of 5 - she has never had a lesson in punctuation - we have however talked a lot about it and it's use in writing.
Not sure yet if she will want to continue with a subscription, but we will enjoy the trial and then it will be her decision.

 Milly is not really a gamer but could - if she chose to - play as much as she wanted to.

She does however *love* film and TV. She has recently been re- watching all her Ghostwhisperer DVDs. Hours and hours worth of enjoyment for her.
 We continue to offer things up that we think she will enjoy doing - not done to intentionally take her away from the screen though. - she can choose *not* to do them. 

  She knows she can go back to her DVD or tape her programme and watch it later.
Given free choice she very, very, often chooses to do other things - whether we have suggested them or she comes up with the ideas.

She could be watching TV ( still learning in our book ) now but at the moment is happily spending her time learning - about DNA and genetics  - on an *educational * site instead.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Whirly, twirly, adrenaline rush!

Our annual trip to Ripon to stay in my Aunts house whilst they are away in sunny Malta.
The first morning dawned clear and dry ( forecast for the week was dreadful - rain, rain, and more rain ) so we decided to head to Lightwater Valley to feed Milly's love of whirling, twirling, and speeding machines :-) 

Leading the way - can't wait to get to the Ultimate...

The longest roller coaster in Europe ( was the longest in the world til 2001 ) and the ride lasts for about 7 mins...

On the way she decided to whet her appetite and get the adrenaline flowing ;-)

Dad along for the ride...

Yep, that did the trick...

  I joined the que with Milly and Alan.
 Milly knew I was not really keen and was going to do it for her. She laid her hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eye as she assured me I didn't have to do it and should only do it if I really wanted to - bless her!
 I decided not to do it and watched from a safe distance as the cars slowly climbed the first part of the track.

She came running out full of joy, only to run straight back in again for another go round!

More twirling - on a couple of water rides - with me. On a smaller roller coaster ( a couple of times ) - by herself.

Having walked the length of the park we decided to head back and eat.
After lunch we walked back to the Ultimate but a que had formed and Milly wasn't keen to wait. She was disappointed but decided to add a new thrill ride to her list and went on the Eagles claw with Al.  Amy had gone on it last time Alan had brought them both, but Milly had not wanted to go on at that time. She was terrified at first but as the ride ended she was hooked and went on many more times :-)
Alan managed another few times with her but as the afternoon wore on he became a little green around the gills and Milly was happy enough to go on rides by herself....

A good day out, and the weather held, couldn't ask for more really - although an adrenaline junky friend would be a good addition I think :-)  Gearing up for a trip to Blackpool with friends later in the year so that will be covered ;-))  Milly is talking of the Big one and other rides with great excitement!!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Milly spreading her love, in her own inimitable way!

Alan found a note on the island unit in the kitchen..

4 the next person to find it.
Love u xx

Next to the note was a biscuit with another little note 
 - eat me -
    was written on it....

Friday, 17 June 2011


A world away from here lies a place of stillness, a calm and wonderful island of peace.
Idyllic scenery and warm blue ocean, miles of sand and the heat of the sun on my face.
The image of loved ones, walking along the beach, hand in hand, no hurry, no time limitation, just walking and being. The sounds of the sea and the birds in the tree's. Laughter and squeals of pure, unadulterated joy.  A feeling of serenity like non I have ever known. Free. free to live, to love, to find joy in the simplest of pleasures. This place is my Utopia. I do not live in Utopia, but I visit it often in my mind and the feelings that are awakened in that brief visit come back with me and sustain me in the day to day....

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Little pockets of Millyness....

When I walk round the house I often see piles of things - things that have been used and left. Maybe they will be returned to and the pile may even be added to. Often I leave them for a while and then - when it appears they are done with with - I will move them on....

There are days when I am tired and at a low ebb that I can become annoyed about these little pockets of untidiness. One day when everywhere I walked there seemed to be another pile and I felt myself becoming stressed. I took a deep breath and looked at the pile. What I saw actually made me smile. My mind was filled to bursting with images of Milly and her pass-times  :-)

I coined a new phrase. When I find myself becoming annoyed with the untidiness,  I rephrase it to Millyness and the angst lifts and a smile -  usually :-))  - takes the place of a frown.

All over the house - on tables - drawings begun, maybe to be finished, maybe not. Top trumps and notebooks...

Piles of DVDs under and around the cabinet.

Videos get in on the act too.

More piles -  on the floor this time - more notebooks and sketches and a journal to wreck. This particular pile has been here for over a week. Each day as I tidy round in the living room I see eveidence it has been used or added to, so it has been left for a while. No problem just running the vacuum around it :-)
There used to be a couple of sparkly gems on the carpet - glittering pink. Tiny little sticky gems she had used to decorate her nails with and they had fallen off one by one - some in the living room and some in the kitchen. Most were easily vacuumed up but two or three were persitent and stuck to the carpet. One day as I bent to pick them up I stopped and decided to leave them. Each time I vacuumed and came to the sparkly pink gems I smiled. The image of her sparkly nails and how pleased and happy she had been with them sprang into my mind. I just noticed today that they had gone - it has been a while - weeks - those gems have been making me smile :-)

A plastic carrier with her most treasured Bratz, Monster high, Moxie girls in. Also a bag full to bursting with their attire.

Two DVDs homeless for the moment - a fun game to come -  find the case -  and maybe - if we are lucky it will be empty. More likely the game will be longer and will involve opening many cases til the correct films all find their home..

I don't believe there is ever a day when the stairs are clear. There is always something that is being played with or waiting to be deposited  in it's rightful place. Not too bad today, only two steps with things waiting to be moved.

A table holding games played with Dad and the obligatory sketch/ notebook.

Another notebook ready and waiting.

Milly loves to eat herbs, parsley, coriander, basil, mint, and we have pots which she munches on throughout the day. There is usually a trail  of withered leaves along the counter top and a generous sprinkling on the floor, as handfuls are pulled off and eaten.

Boxes used for play at the top of the stairs.

a collection of bits - an odd fingerless glove 2 party head dresses, material tied to the banister as part of a game. Generally known as non specific *stuff*.

Where once I would find toys, I now find a make up box on the bathroom floor

and items of jewelry dotted around.

Pockets of Millyness I find as I wander through the rooms each day.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Mindfulness ..

Over the last few days I have read quite a few articles or blog posts that mention mindfulness. I have been practicing meditation for many years and have no doubt in my mind - and in my experience - that it has an amazing healing benefit.
Despite this I often find myself doing other things, rather than taking the time to sit and go within.

One thing I have found easier to make time for is to practice truly *being* in the moment . Throughout the day I practice being fully present in a moment. You don't need to close you eyes - it could be washing up.
Actually observe all the sensations. The feel of the water and the items you are washing, the sights you see - the pattern on the plates ( I am collecting lovely patterned plates from charity shops ) are you at the window  - maybe you see birds, f lowers, rain. Notice the smell of the washing liquid  - you could have a scented candle or incense burning whilst you are doing it. The sounds that are happening around you - it might be the sounds of the household or it might be a soothing, calming Cd put on whilst you wash up.  Thoughts might come in - I don't try to push them away,  I simply acknowledge them and say to myself - I will think about it later and bring my mind gently back to the moment.
It doesn't need to be a long time,  I do it whenever I remember throughout the day in many different situations - I am doing it now :-)) Actually live in the moment,  instead of rushing through to get on with the next thing. The weird thing is - by taking the time to slow down - you actually find you have more time and mangage to fit in all the things you want to do!
 The more I do it,  the more I remember to do it .

The following is taken from this page.

7 Holistic Benefits of Mindfulness

"Miracle is not to walk on water. Miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindfulness is the gift of Buddha to the mankind 2500 years ago. Mindfulness is the English word trying to indicate the meaning of “Sati”, a word from the Pali language, spoken by the Buddha. Other words pointing to the sense of “Sati” are attention, awareness, conscious awareness, presence of mind, present centeredness, etc. However, the only way to comprehend the real meaning of mindfulness is to practice mindfulness meditation.
It is Sati or mindfulness that provided the foundation of the practice of Vipassana meditation that transformed an ordinary human, Price Siddharth Gautam, into a Buddha – an absolutely pure and enlightened being. So the practice of mindfulness has actively existed throughout the centuries among the true disciples of Budhha, although the West began taking interest in it only in recent decades after seeing its potential in psychotherapies.
Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When practiced in the form of Vipassana meditation it leads to development of insight – reason why Vipassana meditation is also called insight meditation. Here “insight” means experiential understanding of one’s own being.
The practice of mindfulness, say through Vipassana meditation, helps you develop the following seven basic mental qualities that provide foundation for insight.

1. Being Non Judgmental
Mindfulness involves becoming an impartial witness (an observer) of the ever-flowing stream of experience – inner as well as outer – and of the ways you habitually react to everything. You train not to get involved in what is going on. This mental attitude of a witness helps correct the usual, and almost automatic, habit of labeling every experience. If there is pleasant feeling associated with an experience it is labeled good and if unpleasant, bad. All this labeling comes from the past learning, memories and experiences. When you train not to label you automatically keep the influence of past away.

Mind has a tendency to lean towards learned habitual patterns – some of which may be counterproductive or limiting. The practice of mindfulness involves becoming aware of the process of experiencing as it is happening right now, and it is done from the attitude of non-judgmental exploration. Hence it is ideal for discovering conditioned patterns. This gives you freedom and space to adjust your conditioned behavior and attitudes. The practice of mindfulness is truly unique in helping you break bad habits.
Just think about it: You are not a judge appointed by some divine order, so why don’t you stop judging everybody – including yourself?

2. Acceptance
mindfulness, being an art of seeing things as they actually are, helps you accept yourself as you are – with all your shortcomings and vulnerabilities. When you deny or resist certain realities of your being you not only waste a lot of energy but you also create internal tension. Likewise when you try to distort certain realities just to make yourself look better you create illusions that only entangle your mind.

Acceptance in true honesty is the first step towards change – it is also an integral part of healing. When there is healing there is change – for the better.

Just think about it: Why can’t you accept yourself as you are – what is the problem?

3. Compassion
Mindfulness invites you to embrace all your experience unfolding in the present moment, regardless of whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. Although challenging, it also relieves you from all that habitual analyzing and resolving as well as rationalizing and manipulating. Being in intimate contact with experience (as opposed to thinking about experience) by actually feeling the sensations as they manifest within the body, you develop a sense of gentle compassion and a willingness to forebear all your internal distress, fear and anguishes.

Since you begin to accept yourself with all your shortcomings, you also become more accepting and tolerant towards others. Now you are more compassionate and less critical towards everyone.

Just think about it: Only a strong mind can be compassionate to its own vulnerabilities.

4. Letting go
An essential element of the practice of mindfulness is non-attachment – you merely watch your thoughts, feelings and situations. You try not to connect to them whether through liking or through disliking. Normally you try to hold on to certain pleasant feelings and want to get rid of those that are unpleasant. But when you train mindfully to stay detached, you let every perception – thoughts, feelings or emotions – pass. So the art of letting go is built into the practice of mindfulness – you don’t have to make any extra effort to let go of things that you always wanted to but could not. Mindfulness does it all almost effortlessly.

Training in mindfulness makes the meaning of “letting go” very explicit – the only thing you actually want to “let go” is your conditioned tendency to hold on to the pleasant and avoid the unpleasant. With further practice you also begin to see how this tendency perpetuates your difficulties.

Just think about it: A weak mind wants to cling to everything – either through attachment or through aversion.

5. Patience
Patience is a form of wisdom to realize that things take their own time to unfold. Becoming impatient does not move things faster – only you become miserable and make yourself irritable to others. Mindfulness trains you to acknowledge and stay with the tendency of impatience. It helps to calm the agitated mind when you know that you can’t rush. If you have done everything you could do then why impatience – result is bound to come.

“O time! Thou must untangle this, not I; It is too hard a knot for me to untie!” – Twelfth Night

Just think about it: The world does not revolve around your wishes. So why not do your best and let the fruits come when the time is ripe?

6. Non Striving
Mindfulness encourages you to be who you are – it focuses on “being” rather than “doing”. In normal living you think that you have to react to everything in order to achieve something, which in not necessarily true. Now you focus on the process of observing reality as it is unfolding every moment as opposed to looking for some progress or result. The very act of searching for progress implies dissatisfaction with the current situation.

The apparently simple act of “being”, rather than struggling against the reality, provides a peaceful way of living that allows new possibilities to emerge. It also creates an increasing sense of ease with the way things are.

Just think about it: Can you really be someone other than who you actually are?

7. Mental Clarity
Practice of mindfulness trains you to stay with a sense of exploration as if you are seeing everything for the first time. You stay alert with the attitude “Let me see what come up next”. You view every thought or feeling with a sense of exploration and discovery without being biased by the past experiences, preconceptions or cluttered thinking.
It allows you to see issues, events and problems in new ways and as a result, many things get resolved on their own as you withdraw your emotional involvement.

Just think about it: How often have you wished to have a clear mind so that you could concentrate and do things reflecting your full abilities?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Today had the potential to be a really rubbish day!
It was rainy and cold . I had spent yesterday in bed with - yet another - Migraine. I woke feeling less than enthusiastic about getting up ;-) I stopped the negativity in it's tracks and focused and things I am thankful for and then with small steps - both literal and metaphorical - started my day.

A very good friend was due to come and have lunch and  I had a mountain of books to move off the dining room table - I know she would not have minded where we ate but it needed doing - we have been decorating and this is the last push to get back to normal - so I set too.

the table didn't actually get cleared in the end because most of the books had been stacked in the other bookcases that were next to the table and I needed to move those first...

Just realised it looks as though we have very few book in the bookcase - the angle of the photo doesn't show the books at the back of each section :-)

I woke Milly at 11 - she was looking forward to seeing Rezwana. She had sat on her swing last night and the wooded seat was wet - she fell off and the swing whacked her in the back of the head! Ouchie... She felt a little tender this morning .... She ate breakfast and watched TV whilst I carried on.
After a while I had most of them sorted and was going to start on lunch when Rezwana called. She had a very sore throat and was happy to come but didn't want to pass anything on :-( Knowing I was not in tip top health and that we are due to go on holiday on Monday we discussed it and decided it would be best to get together when we got back from hols.

We decided to watch a love film that had been hanging around and needed to be watched and sent back. A cartoon Camelot tale. Not a good film - watched 15 mins and then decided to change and watch a DVD we had got from Wordwsworth house ( to help with the fundraising for the garden renovation ) about the Floods - two years ago - in Cockermouth. Saw some faces we knew and saw images of the devastation the raging waters caused.

Then Milly, who doesn't like baking - it's just not her thing you know, as she has always told me :-) - wanted to bake. This is the second time in a couple of days she has asked to bake. She enlisted Alan's help on Saturday to make some chocolate chip muffins for me to have when I got back in from shopping. They turned out a rather strange looking muffin and quite flat! Our scales are quite confusing and they had indeed got very confused and weighed the dry ingredients out wrongly but the wet ingredients were measured out correctly in a jug hence the very heavy and flat muffins. A positive to this experience was that she handled it with humour and was not put off trying again - in fact she was keen to give then a go again that night. The only reason we didn't is she got talking to El and we forgot!

It may not have been *her thing* but right now she is *loving it* - her words :-) - she say she loves the end product and enjoys making things for people :-) Any way today she measured and mixed with confidence and these are the results. Nice surprise for Al...

With chocolate orange butter icing. Mmmmmm.

I had started to put some of Milly's drawings on the wall as I put the dining room back together.

I had put them on coloured backing card. When she came in and saw them she exclaimed "ohhh I have a wall ! " :-))

She ran upstairs, shouting back that she had a fabulous drawing that would be perfect for the wall.
She had done it in bed last night - she came back, tore it from her sketch pad, cut it out and finished colouring it in - whilst talking to El on the phone :-)

I have a way to go in the dining room and have another wall to fill with posters as well as putting all the books and games etc back into the other two bookcases. Will look good when it's finished though - I am liking the pinkness :-)

The wreck this journal I had ordered came today. Milly was very excited and got started on it... 

This morning it took me some time to get going and it didn't turn out as planned but what a fab day it has been non the less :-))

Friday, 10 June 2011

How to be a good unschooler .

How to Be a Good Unschooler

Foreword by Sandra Dodd: Pam Sorooshian has written something perfectly stunning, and stunningly perfect. She didn't send a title for it. I've called it "How to be a good unschooler," but it could be "How to be a good parent," or "How to be a good person." It's a summary of some of the best unschooling knowledge of the past dozen and more years. It will help improve families' lives for years to come.
This was something I posted on the HSC list in response to a discussion stemming from a question about how to motivate a child to do schoolwork:
1. Give your love generously and criticism sparingly. Be your children's partner. Support them and respect them. Never belittle them or their interests, no matter how superficial, unimportant, or even misguided their interests may seem to you. Be a guide, not a dictator. Shine a light ahead for them, and lend them a hand, but don't drag or push them. You WILL sometimes despair when your vision of what your child ought to be bangs up against the reality that they are their own person. But that same reality can also give you great joy if you learn not to cling to your own preconceived notions and expectations.

2. Homeschooled children who grow up in a stimulating and enriched environment surrounded by family and friends who are generally interested and interesting, will learn all kinds of things and repeatedly surprise you with what they know. If they are supported in following their own passions, they will build strengths upon strengths and excel in their own ways whether that is academic, artistic, athletic, interpersonal, or whichever direction that particular child develops. One thing leads to another. A passion for playing in the dirt at six can become a passion for protecting the natural environment at 16 and a career as a forest ranger as an adult. You just never ever know where those childhood interests will eventually lead. Be careful not to squash them; instead, nurture them.

3. Bring the world to your children and your children to the world. Revel in what brings you together as a family. Watch tv and movies and listen to music and the radio. Laugh together, cry together, be shocked together. Analyze and critique and think together about what you experience. Notice what your child loves and offer more of it, not less. What IS it about particular shows that engage your child—build on that. Don't operate out of fear. Think for yourself and about your own real child. Don't be swayed by pseudostudies done on school children.

4. Surround your child with text of all kinds and he/she will learn to read. Read to them, read in front of them, help them, don't push them. Children allowed to learn on their own timetable do learn to read at widely divergent times—there is NO right time for all children. Some learn to read at three years old and others at 12 or even older. It doesn't matter. Children who are not yet reading are STILL learning—support their learning in their own way. Pushing children to try to learn to read before they are developmentally ready is probably a major cause of long-term antipathy toward reading, at best, and reading disabilities, at worst.

5. It doesn't matter when something is learned. It is perfectly all right for a person to learn all about dinosaurs when they are 40 years old, they don't have to learn it when they are nine. It is perfectly all right to learn to do long division at 16 years old, they do not have to learn that at nine, either. It does not get more difficult to learn most things later; it gets easier.

6. Don't worry about how fast or slow they are learning. Don't test them to see if they are "up to speed." If you nurture them in a supportive environment, your children will grow and learn at their own speed, and you can trust in that process. They are like seeds planted in good earth, watered and fertilized. You don't keep digging up the seeds to see if the roots are growing—that disrupts the natural growing process. Trust your children in the same way you trust seeds to sprout and seedlings to develop into strong and healthy plants.

7. Think about what is REALLY important and keep that always in the forefront of your interactions with your children. What values do you hope to pass on to them? You can't "pass on" something you don't exemplify yourself. Treat them the way you want them to treat others. Do you want respect? Be respectful. Do you want responsibility from them? Be responsible. Think of how you look to them, from their perspective. Do you order them around? Is that respectful? Do you say, "I'll be just a minute" and then take 20 more minutes talking to a friend while the children wait? Is that responsible? Focus more on your own behavior than on theirs. It'll pay off bigger.

8. Let kids learn. Don't protect them or control them so much that they don't get needed experience. But, don't use the excuse of "natural consequences" to teach them a lesson. Instead, exemplify kindness and consideration. If you see a toy left lying in the driveway, don't leave it there to be run over, pick it up and set it aside because that is the kind and considerate thing to do and because kindness and consideration are values you want to pass on to your kids. Natural consequences will happen, they are inevitable. But it isn't "natural" anymore if you could have prevented it, but chose not to do so.

9. We can't always fix everything for our kids or save them from every hurt. It can be a delicate balancing act—when should we intervene, when should we stay out of the way? Empathy goes a long long way and may often be all your child needs or wants. Be available to offer more, but let your child be your guide. Maybe your child wants guidance, ideas, support, or intervention. Maybe not. Sometimes the best thing you can offer is distraction.

10. Be sensitive to your child's interest level. Don't push activities that your child isn't interested in pursuing. Don't let YOUR interests dictate your child's opportunities. If your child wants a pet, be realistic and don't demand promises that the child will take sole care for it. Plan to care for it yourself when the interest wanes. Do it cheerfully. Model the joy of caring for animals. Model kindness and helpfulness. Help a child by organizing their toys so they are easy to care for. Plan to care for them yourself much of the time, but invite your child's help in ways that are appealing. If YOU act like you hate organizing and cleaning, why would your child want to do it? Always openly enjoy the results of caring for your possessions—take note of the extra space to play in, the ease of finding things you want, how nice it is to reach into a cupboard and find clean dishes. Enjoy housework together and don't make it a battle.

11. Don't pass on your own fears and hates about learning anything. If you hate or fear math, keep it to yourself. Act like it is the most fun thing in the world. Cuddle up and do math in the same way you cuddle up and read together. Play games, make it fun. If you can't keep your own negativity at bay, at least try to do no harm by staying out of it.
12. Don't try to "make kids think." They WILL think, you don't have to make them. Don't use every opportunity to force them to learn something. They WILL learn something at every opportunity, you don't have to force it. Don't answer a question by telling them to "look it up" or by asking them another question. If you know the answer, give it. If you don't, then HELP them find it. Speculating about an answer often leads to a good conversation. If your child stops seeing you as helpful when they have questions, they'll stop coming to you with their questions. Is that what you really want?

13. When you offer a child choices, be sure they are real choices. Offer them choices as often as you can. Try to limit the "have to's" as much as you can. Frequently ask yourself, "Is this really a "have to" situation or can we find some choices here?"

Pam Sorooshian

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Binaural beats....

A very good friend told me about these many years ago and I found infomation on them but at that time I couldn't afford to buy .

A freind on facebook posted this link today. I have tried a couple this morning and have to say my mood and energy level has improved - bearing in mind that both were at zero this morning ;-)

If you give it a go I would love to hear how it affects you.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Alice's Bucket list...

A blog by a 15 year old girl with terminal cancer :-(

Inspirational and so moving.You will need tissues.

I have just been reading the comments and am in floods of tears....

Wall art...

It crossed my mind recently that Milly hadn't been drawing for some time. She likes to draw girls and she designs their outfits and they have streaks in their hair. Over the years I have realised that these breaks are quite normal for her and she often starts drawing - her *ladies* as we call them :-) - again and somehow without any practice the precision, detail and style, has moved on.

Some time ago - 3 years ago now - we painted a part of the wall in the dining room white so that Milly - and friends - could use it to draw on...

Initially it wasn't used much at all. Now however we have some beautiful images drawn by Millie (friend) and Alex - most wonderful nephew :-) Amy also left her mark:-)) Milly drew a series of  her ladies.
Then after a few months the piano had to be placed in front of it.
We got it free from a friend as Milly had shown some interest in a Piano at my Sisters house, she had really enjoyed plonking around on it :-) - however she didn't use the piano at all and we eventually decided that it could be given away to someone who would get some use from it. Since then Amy and Emily have done self portraits and messages have been left and song lyrics have been written on the wall.

When we decided to paint the dining room we had discussed whether the wall should be painted over. Milly and Amy were very keen it should stay. We decided to extend the area and obviously the clean white paint was just calling out for some art....

First one is hard to see as it is a pencil outline apart from her very red lips and fingerless glove. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them..

 Second *lady*.
Intricate detail and a whole personality....
It is lovely to see these against her much earlier attempts on the wall and see the growth in her style. Milly likes to work through things in her own way and doesn't like to use how to draw books. I think it is paying off in her individual style and the character she gives each *lady* ....

The wall....
Al did an excellent job getting a straight line between the new pink colour and the white :-)

I have earmarked a wall in hallway as another possible space for some wall art. It will need some prep first though as the paper is textured - not the best surface for Milly's intricate detailed *lady's* .

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Update on reading, writing and spelling....

I have been wanting to write an update for ages. When I looked back to the last update I was shocked to find it was way back in 2009!!
Milly is now 12.

How time flies when you are having fun ;-))
This is a loooong post - some I have copied from the last update ( saved me having to type it out again ). If you have already read it, or just want to cut to how things are now, scroll down to the picture and read on from there. Or - grab a cuppa and read on ;-))

A little bit of history for anyone reading that is unfamiliar with our story.
Milly came out of school in year 3 when she was 8, after 4 years in the system. On the last parents evening we went to, the teacher informed us she had a reading age of 7 but had a spelling age of zero.They knew Emily had dyspraxia and yet it appeared to count for nothing.She said that even though she was given fewer words than the other pupils to learn she felt she was malingering and should try harder.I wish I could remember her words correctly but she said something about Emily using a charming smile when she got things wrong and that she wouldn't get away using it forever!!I nearly cried when she mentioned that smile because I knew that was what Emily did when she was embarrassed and didn't know how else to deal with a situation.

Here we were with a little girl who was sinking in the system and yet more pressure was being put on her than she could cope with.It seemed obvious to me that she had shut down and no amount of persuasion and spelling tests were going to improve her spelling.

Enough was enough and we took her out of school. For many months Emily would not pick up a pen.I know that had she stayed in school or had we continued the school at home route she would have learned to loathe books and writing.I look back and thank god that I had done so much research prior to her coming out of school and had found autonomous Ed/unschooling,or I might have been tempted to encourage her, because it was a very scary thing to let go completely and trust.I had many wobbles along the way but never once let her know how I was feeling.

Over the months we read to her constantly with no expectation for her to read at all.We spelled words for her if she asked.We enjoyed many great stories and played and visited and crafted and baked.Eventually she began to write again . Initially it caused great frustration leading to meltdowns and self criticism.
Here are a few excerpts from previous posts....

Milly has been seeing the shape of letters everywhere.

Now she has known her letters for many years ,having learnt them at school but over the last few weeks she has been seeing letter shapes in all sorts of places, the way a particular item is set out or a piece of string left on the table etc. Yesterday we were sitting in the living room discussing what to do with the day ( Emily had not gone to gymnastics and it is most likely she will not go back I realised after yet another morning where she didn't want to go that I had to allow her the choice and she was so happy, I feel I had pushed to encourage her when I should of let go a lot sooner,another lesson learnt.) and as we were talking she said "that's a w " and showed us the shape her legs had made so this led on to all of us making the alphabet together, what fun rolling about on the floor making the shapes. I am not sure what is going on for her but it seems she is making links in her own way and a clearer understanding of the shapes seems to be unfolding.

Alongside this she has been reading more by herself. She had stashed a load of her favourite books between her mattress and our bed and put the torch there and has been reading after I have left her as she informed me the other day!! ( Edited to add .... She only read a few pages at a time never a whole book.)  She has also said she will read for ten mins to Al each night so she chose to look through a lovely book by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels called The wonderful world book, it has lots of pop ups and facts and then Al started reading Phillip Pullman The Northern Lights, We generally have a book that Milly and I read and her and Al have one they read together.

Her use of language has continued to improve and I love it when she tries out a new word and a couple of days a go she went into the kitchen and on seeing two boiled eggs I had left on a plate set on top of a mixing bowl to cool called back "those eggs are a bit precarious" and proceeded to move them to a safer position. And yesterday she sat watching TV whilst she had her sausage sarni for breakfast and afterwards brought her plate through and said "that was a delightful breakfast"

Milly has continued to concentrate on her spelling and is using the keyboard more rather than asking me to do it for her.She is also going on education city and choosing the spelling options to do.I have been asked to spell words a lot but she has also been challenging herself and I can hear her sounding the words out to herself, she is using spellcheck on the PC when it is available on what she is doing.

It has taken a long time for this to happen, we have resisted the temptation to engage her in any form of writing she didn't want to do and I have always written for her or typed for her and have done so willingly.Gradually her confidence has grown and I believe we are seeing the process we would have seen had she been home educated from the start.

We had a bit of a melt down last night.Over the last few weeks Milly has been writing in a journal she has started and is choosing to write short amounts more and more and I had thought she was quite content to go along slowly.However, we watched Miss Potter last night and afterwards she was keen to get out a sketch pad and paints and set about drawing Beauty and to write a story about her, within minutes she was tearing up the paper and stabbing the pencil in the table and was really angry which then turned to tears and wails of why can't I write, I'll never be able to write.It was hard to watch and I don't think I handled things as well as I could of,I was tired and got angry when she started stabbing the pen down and regretted it immediately as it stopped the behaviour but also stopped her getting it out,I should of just done what we have done on other occasions and punched some cushions and had a good scream which helps her to get back on an even keel.We went to bed together and she seemed much better this morning.We talked about it and I said I felt I hadn't handled her anger very well and that it was OK to be angry but there were better ways to deal with it than damaging the table and she accepted that but suggested that next time instead of raising my voice I should just stay calm and encourage her to calm down and we could punch some cushions!!!
The first thing Emily wanted to do this morning was to write a story about the Bratz pixies,she asked me to write her words which I did and although it is not ideal for her she likes to see her story written out.When she writes herself she reduces the words she uses because it takes so long for her to write but when I write it she narrates beautiful intricate stories.We have talked about the possibility of recording the stories on a tape and then Alan or I typing them out and she did mention that again so I will look into it and see if it would be a viable option.I have also thought about the voice recognition software you can get for PCs but need to find out more about them.
When she was at school she was frustrated because she had no options and had to write whatever was set in the lesson and she felt so out of her depth and unsupported.I think she has become frustrated now because she is really wanting to record her thoughts and ideas and she sees her friends writing effortlessly in their journals and her limitations have been highlighted. It is a really positive thing that she is wanting to record things and we just need to ease the process so she doesn't get disheartened,she is such a perfectionist and is so hard on herself.She doesn't want to practice writing or spellings and I don't think for one moment that is the right way to go,she needs to go at her own pace but it is hard for her to believe that she will get there,she doesn't see the improvement in her writing and spelling since leaving school she just knows she has difficulty and that it makes her unhappy and hurts her hands:-(

It has been quite some time since the last excerpt but we have continued in exactly the same way.She once dictated an 18 page story, straight off, as I was typing, the whole thing just flowed out.It lost it's way a little but that is not the point,it was all about her confidence, not so much about the content or grammar.My mum bought her a voice dictator and if she wants, I will type things out for her.

We had a conversation in the early days, about whether writing neatly was important,she thought it was very important and I think she was shocked when I said I thought it was not so important.I explained that it was much more about her enjoyment of doing it,if she wanted to do it at all, freeing her self up from having to be perfect.I explained that she would get by in life with the writing she could do. I said that if it was easier for her, typing it out was a definite option.She didn't rush right in and start learning to type(nor did I say it with that expectation) but what she did do was to continue story telling without the feeling that it had to be written down or that it had to be a complete tale.Milly is a story teller, her head is full to bursting at times with tales to be told.Why should she stop,why do they have to be written down unless she wants to,would that mean she wasn't a storyteller just because they weren't written down?

I never correct her spelling, unless she asks me to.People think that if you don't tell them they will never know,I know by watching her on the computer when she is writing her stories how she looks at a word and knows it isn't right and will change it around till it looks tight to her and often it is then actually spelt right.Milly writes when she wants, what she wants, for how long she wants.She has about 100(OK slight exaggeration!)notebooks scattered around the house and drools in the stationary aisles in shops.She adores books and we are surrounded by them.She chooses bundles of second hand ones from the charity shop. She gets great pleasure from searching through them and buying them,far more than we could ever read to her.I don't dissuade her,it would be easy to think it was a waste of money because she may never read them herself,to my mind it is fostering a love of books that could last a lifetime,and when/if the time comes that she starts to read more herself, we will have a very good stock for her to go at:-)

She says she wants to be a writer when she grows up and her head is so full of stories.Not all the stories are finished in fact 99.9% are begun and discarded, whether that is on paper, in her head, told to us,or dictated on the machine.

I don't worry that she won't be able to put a story together if that is what she wants to do in the future. I see all this as practise and importantly practise in the way that works best for Emily,I have no clue how all this will fit together for her in the future.She is fine tuning her story telling and her writing is improving all the time.In fact there is little to choose between her writing and her schooled friend.

I have been through the school system,my handwriting isn't bad but it is not brilliant,I choose to type rather than write anything if at all possible.

I don't know all the intricacies of grammar and punctuation,if I really wanted to I would find out,just as Emily will if and when that need arises.I don't let it stop me rambling  writing on here,throwing in a comma where I think it looks right:-)

A few months ago we had arranged a visit with an educational psychologist. We had a few questions we felt needed answered but were not too keen to go down the diagnosis route(we didn't see the need now she was not in school)so the paediatrician organised the visit. Emily was used to seeing the paediatrician because she had been seeing her since birth(two months prem),and had had other tests done at the hospital to determine the level of her difficulty's(so the school would accept it and not have us down as being over anxious parents).

We explained that this visit was in connection with those visits and when he came(he visited us at home) she happily set about the tests he wanted her to do.Then Alan took her to play whilst I chatted with him about our concerns,which were much more to do with emotional/social issues.I did get the answers I needed from him, the point here though is that in his assessment he gave her a reading age of 10 (her age now) and a spelling age slightly below that.(We knew that both had improved and under normal circumstances would not have tested her)

So with us reading the books she chose for as long as she wanted us to,no lessons,no spelling tests,no constant repetition,no corrections other than the ones she asked for,read what she wanted, when she wanted,the ability to work in her way at her pace, she has managed to do what years in school had failed to do.
Emily does not care that she makes mistakes,sometimes she corrects them, sometimes she doesn't,sometimes she asks how to spell a word,sometimes she can spell a word one day and have forgotten it the next.She may never be a great speller, luckily there is always spellcheck;-) She may well continue to be a great storyteller though.Time will tell whether that than becomes something she can earn a living from,who knows,that time is years away and in that time her interests will change,no point in predicting what she will do.
All I know is she is spelling well enough for anyone to understand her work,it is improving and much more importantly, although she knows her spelling is not always the best (by her own admission,not something that we have said) she enjoys writing and has the confidence to go ahead anyway and not let it get in the way of a good story.

Not sure I can fill in nearly two years!
We continued in the same way, if anything changed it was our confidence in the process. The FEAR that she would never learn eased and we trusted she would find her level and if and when she needed more she would ask and we would help in any way we could.
Milly still wanted us to read books to her - and we did - lots and lots of books, we also bought story cd's and downloaded from Audible onto her Mp3, we borrowed story tapes and playaways from the library. She spent many hours listening to them. As with everything this went in phases and there were weeks/months where she didn't listen to tapes or want us to read to her. We kept offering and kept buying/borrowing books we thought she might enjoy.
 She was a competent reader - reading fluently any website she was using - she would pick up and read leaflets when we were out and about and she would read a few pages of a book. She said it hurt her eyes . We discussed it and decided to get them tested and she wore glasses for a short time, but that didn't increase the amount of reading she could do. We then tried the overlay sheets for her - again - no difference. Milly would have like to read but she wasn't upset about not being able to - nor did she see it as a problem.
 My thought was that she found the amount of written word in a book daunting and that she just wasn't ready yet.
 Before Xmas we had some cash ( saved in a Terramundi jar and exceeding the amount we thought was in there! ) and I thought it would be worth trying out a kindle. I had researched it and you can change the font size and I knew it would read aloud. We listened to a youtube clip and it sounded ok and she was quite excited - Milly does love her gadgets :-) I believed that having only one page at a time in a font that she chose would help enormously.
 It came and we downloaded a couple of books by an Author she loved - from memory I think it was Cathy Cassidy . The voice on the Kindle had no expression and was a definite no go for Milly. Quite disappointed that wasn't an option for her but she went to bed with it and she read nine chapters late into that first night. She was very excited and pleased - if somewhat tired :-) - with herself the next day. I thought we had cracked it and found the *key* for her.
She then read a few more chapters and it got left in her room and not touched again for months! I tried not to make a big thing about it, but casually mentioned it on occasion to see if she wanted a new book downloaded. I have to be honest here and admit that I became anxious she would *never* read again! After a few months I suggested that I would be able to use the Kindle if she didn't want it. I wish I hadn't said it - I didn't want to coerce her and it felt like a threat. Luckily she didn't see it that way and said she would get round to finishing the book. It took quite a few more months before that actually happened. She had been talking with Amy about how much they loved Cathy Cassidy and before I knew it she had finished the book. She lay in bed and over two days read the whole book staying awake til the early hours. Then she read the next book in a day sitting up til 4 in the morning reading it!She then read two actual paperback books and at least 3 more on her Kindle.
Over the last few months she has not read or listened to story tapes. Music has been her thing - her ipod has stories on, if and when she would like to listen to them and her Kindle has a range of books on for her to dip into, we also have many, many books for her to choose from. Am I pleased she has read a book - yes I am - because she has enjoyed it and has gained confidence in her own ability.
 My Nephew suggested a series of books she would like and lent her one and she asked me to read it to her. I didn't make a big deal of it - I accepted that at this time she wanted me to read - I am enjoying the times we snuggle whilst I read to her.

Over the years Milly has followed a very similar pattern in her writing and spelling - we have no input apart from spelling a word if she asks - this is happening less and less. She writes when she wants and does so with confidence - there is non of the shame or embarrassment she used to feel about how her writing looks. She has on occasion attempted cursive - she tends to type more than write by hand. She has hundreds of stories - at various stages of completion - on her laptop. She just started a new one today, but that is the first I have seen her doing for many months - she often has her laptop upstairs and I imagine she has written some but not mentioned them to us.

 Milly came out of school being able to *read* according to the school. The forced learning and coercive methods used  had got her to a place - where according to the critera they used - she passed the *test* of being a reader. She couldn't spell and writing caused her physical pain . The *reader* that left school really didn't want to read and more importantly wasn't ready to read!
What have I learnt from this process she has gone through since leaving school?
I have learnt that natural learning does happen :-) It has reinforced the belief ( gained from reading many, many books, websites and other peoples stories online ) I had in the beginning that if a child is happy and relaxed and is read to, is surrounded by the written word and has the opportunity to listen to stories on CD or other media ( if they choose to ) - if they are supported ( all children are different and your child's path may be different to Milly's. I believe we are there to facilitate and help to find a way that works for them,  not to impose our ideas of how it could be done ) and allowed the freedom to go at their own pace - they *will* read when they are ready. They may not become bookworms but they will read what they need/want to read.
I also learnt that it is unlikely be to our timescale ;-)

Nothing out of the ordinary....

I woke feeling tired and wanting to curl back up and snoozle...

I was hosting the mediation group here so thought I had better make a move ;-)
Sometimes my friend brings her two boys over, Milly asked me to wake her at nine to ensure she was awake and dressed for them arriving. She was sound asleep and didn't want to get up. I noticed a pile of books on the floor beside her bed - I didn't mention them to Milly but I didn't think they had been there the day before . I sat with her for a while and then went to make her breakfast and vacuum and do a quick tidy round.

The boys didn't come but Milly put the kettle on and we all had a cuppa and a chat before she went off to phone El and swing and chat outside.

We then chatted and chatted some more - it has been ages since we all managed to get together so lots to talk about. We didn't meditate in the end but I do feel refreshed. It is always good to have really positive, lovely people around you - tis good for the soul :-)

Milly came back in and joined us - she says she loves to chat :-) She asked if anybody minded her going on her laptop as she wanted to write her story...During conversation it transpired that she had gone to bed around 12am and had got to sleep but had woken at 2am with a story in her head. She came downstairs to gather all her books on Egyptian gods and goddess's - hence the pile of books on her floor -and once she had done a little research she had managed to get back to sleep about 3am.
That process couldn't wait - for her it was important to get the info and to flesh out the plot there and then. How lucky we are she has the freedom to do that.

When everybody had gone, we snuggled in her bed and I read to her  - it is a book my most wonderful Nephew - the best Nephew in the world -  suggested she might like, by Robert Muchamore. She then said she wanted to nap and to call her in half an hour. Just been up to wake her and she was listening to music - couldn't sleep - now she is outside again.

A walk on the beach was considered - but a quiet afternoon at home is happening instead.
Al will be home soon and then they will probably walk Beauty whilst I make the tea. Nothing exciting planned for the evening - just spending time together. Nothing out of the ordinary - but oh so enjoyable :-)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Sleepover synopsis...

Not much sleep - although more than has happened at past sleepovers :-)

Giggles, laughter, giddiness, tree climbing, trampolining, hosepipe sprinkling, screaming, migraine = grumpiness ( me, not them ) sweets, more sweets, ice pops, ice cream, family guy, new Glee notebook and stickers = late night art :-) Visit Milly's fave play park with Alan, swimming pool with waves and a giant slide, Bratz, moxie girl play, tickle fights, talking - none stop.

Travel to meet El's Mum and sister at the halfway handover point - forget trainers - remember 15 min's into the journey - back home to get them :-) On to the park - water feature ensures 3 soaked children - dry off - climbing and swinging - decide to go in the water again - dry off again:-) Tea and chat for us Mum's. Climbing and swinging before having to say goodbye.
Til the next time :-) 

Friday, 3 June 2011

A moment to breathe....

The two have become three. Amy has come to play :-)

Lots of laughter - she has a wonderfully silly sense of humour  - lots of noise - lots of coming and going! Now they have gone - to the park this time- with a stool !
 Tree climbing on the agenda. Milly has taken my phone just in case I am required for rescue duty - there was a point yesterday when the two smaller members of the group were stuck up the tree! They rang to let me know their predicament, but by the time I was able to leave they had rescued themselves :-)

After a late night - then waking up at 7.30!!! and not being able to get back to sleep ( I stayed in bed til 9 and the girls woke about 10 ) I am taking the time on my own to catch up on here and have a peppermint tea. I was going to take the laptop into the garden to savour some of the lovely sunshine but took the easier option ( low on battery and couldn't be faffed taking the lead out and then going out with the laptop and coming back in for my tea etc etc etc ... ) I decided to sit at the dining table with the patio doors open.

Inhale.... exhale......

Thursday, 2 June 2011


The long awaited two night sleepover is here !!

In preperation I had a very, very chilled day yesterday :-)
Apart from a quick whiz round with the vacum and getting meals for us, I managed to have a long bath and read my book and potter on the puter - there was an amazing amount of very interesting links and inspirational writing out there.
 We had to go out when Al got home. Both animals had an appointment at the vets - they needed the annual innoculations  - and I had a Dr's app. Animals got jabbed and I have an xray booked to check for arthiritis in my hip :-(

After tea Milly and El were chatting on the phone and Al was watching TV so I decided to change the template on my blog - I have been unhappy with the look for a while but couldn't find what I was looking for. I spent HOURS on it. The preview window on the template designer wasn't showing the changes so I had to do a bit and then apply it and check the blog out. So time consuming!!! I am pleased with the result though :-)

Visitors arrived for lunch and the afternoon flew by with girls in and out and roundabout :-) Lot's of chat and Pizza for tea and then goodbye to El's Mum and sister and on with the sleepover.

El lives a couple of hours drive away and we try to get together at least once a month and the girls talk A LOT on the phone each day - thank goodness we have free anytime calls :-)  Plans for tomorrow include going for a swim and baking a cake ( I have a few bits and peices I have put together for them if they flag or run out of ideas ) and other than that we will just go with the flow :-)

Daily Angel card inspiration...

" The burden of carting your past around has made you weary, Dear one. It's time to set this burden down.Keep only the lessons and the love,and leave everything else behind. You don't want it or need it, and it's now gone."

You received this card because your thoughts and feelings about the past are holding you back. You're repeating a pattern because of unfinished emotions from your past.This card is a sign to forgive and move on, to stop painful patterns. It doesn't mean that you need to be with the person you've  forgiven. It simply means that you've let toxic feelings  go in exchange for peace.

Love and blessings xx

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

I learn.....

Gill posted a link on facebook.
From a very interesting  post I entered the world of linkdom and found another post

These words struck a chord and describe Milly's day's perfectly - especially the daydreaming ;-)

The world doesn't divide neatly into different subjects, and you can’t tell right from the outset what a seemingly unimportant question, interest, or TV show obsession will lead to.I learn from: wandering, wondering, listening, reading, watching, discussing, running, writing, daydreaming, searching, researching, meditating, hibernating, playing, creating, growing, doing, helping, and everything else that comprises the day to day happenings of my life.

Unschooling, at its heart, is nothing more complicated or simple than the realization that life and learning are not two separate things. And when you realize that living and learning are inseparable, it all starts to truly make sense.

 We cannot know the inner workings of someone else's mind, we look at them *playing * and we cannot see the connections being made and know where they will take someone.
I don't intend to put roadblocks in Milly's path of learning by interfering, thinking I know what is best for her....
Edited to add.. I posted before I added...
However I will point out interesting detours and she may or may not choose to go down to check it out...