Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Dear Jonas - you're five!

Oh gorgeous Jonas!

Our sunshine boy - you are the best little friend to everybody... you are so easy-going and kind natured and fun to have around. You are sporty, and competitive, gentle and determined. Stubborn as anything, and super sociable! We love all of the different sides our of Jonas!

We love watching you interact with your sisters; you are very much accepted as one of the "big kids" now and they welcome you into all their games and latest interests. You are easygoing, imaginative and fun to have around, so make a pretty good play-fellow, and you won't be the bossy one. You'll happily appease and go with the flow, and won't put up too much of a fuss! They love the fact that you completely immerse yourself in whatever game they're playing.

With your brother, your relationship has honestly been so eye-opening for me. Boys. Honestly, its a whole new world for me... I liken them often to lion cubs that take great joy in physical play fighting, puppies that need a daily walk to burn off energy, and fun little whirlwinds of giggles. These two have SO much fun together, and I love their little friendship. They are simple and straightforward and high energy. Everything is full on, but its never complex. That may change with age, I guess, but I'm enjoying the exhaustion and simplicity of parenting a pair of brothers!

Despite the fact you are easy going - you are also incredibly determined. If you decide to do something, you'll do it. You decided early on in lockdown that you wanted to learn to ride your bike. No one was allowed to help you. I don't know how many times you fell off, cycling circles round our garden, brushed off your knees and got straight back on. This kid's got grit. And oh my goodness - the pride on your face when you finally got there! You love all sports, and are a team player. You're favourite thing is to kick a football around, or bounce your basketball, or whack a ball up the lawn with a golf club. As long as there's a ball involved, you're destined to love it!

One of the other sides of you we are loving at the moment is your creativity. You are actually insanely artistic and I'm loving watching this unfold... you are a perfectionist, which is proving interesting when your artistic attempts done quite match up with what's in your head, but it's all space for growth! You continue to wow us with your accuracy (I loved the little stick men runners in the picture below!)

It's not all sunshine and rainbows of course - you have an amazing ability to know exactly how to wind up your siblings, and take great delight in doing so! It's something we're working on!

This isn't exactly the 5th birthday we imagined for your Jonas... no party, no little friends around you, no big family celebration, but in classic Jonas style, you have taken it all in your stride and haven't let it bother you. I could learn a thing or two from you!

We are so grateful for our Jonas boy... for the gift that you are, and for the way that even in your little years, you are demonstrating so much strength of character... you have resilience and determination, but that is balanced with generosity and gentleness. I'm so excited to see the way the Lord grows you and uses you, and we pray on that in your young age you will learn to trust the Saviour that we owe everything to. We pray your childlike faith would put down deep routes, and grow strong and sturdy, resilient and determined just like you are, but with Christlike gentleness and generosity.

We love you Jonas and thank God so very much for you,

Happy 5th birthday sweet boy!

Mama and Papa xxx

Monday, 15 June 2020

Homeschool // A Journey in Self-Discovery!

I've been quiet on here recently, probably because like everyone else I've been simultaneously trying to keep my head above water in the busyness of daily life homeschooling four children, while attempting to process everything that has been going on on the world stage. This season has been unexpected, and while both exhausting and really, really hard at times, I am also eager to cling to the Lord's promise that he brings all things together for the good of those who love him. And in the midst of all of it, I have seen so many gifts of good... I really hope you have found some snippets of gold for yourself as well...

These are strange days, aren't they? And yet, three months in, I'm finding that lockdown life has become a safe space for us. It's certainly intense... its emotional... its incredibly hard at times, and I'm feeling large levels of struggle with the lack of personal space most days... but its also been littered with so many blessings that I wanted to record it. More for my own benefit than anyone else's, but somewhere along the way, this space has become my record keeper. I know we have had so many privileges in all this and they are not lost on me - the privilege of me working from home anyway in what I call the gaps and the naps, the privilege of a garden, the privilege of the children having each other, and the privilege of Dave being in a secure job that has needed to continue through all of this... I realise daily that our experience has been very different to many, and I truly don't take any of that for granted.

Most of all... I'm daily thankful for the privilege of hope, and the certain promise that my God holds all this craziness in his hands. He is working his purposes out, even if in the middle of the storm, we can't see them.

I have been so unbelievably thankful for the children's school... they have been absolutely incredible, both in providing helpful material, and supporting us as a family. I genuinely don't think I've ever appreciated their teachers more! We spent the first ten weeks of lockdown figuring out a rhythm with school. I attempted to be some kind of homeschool ninja and simultaneously juggle three curriculum with the work we were being sent, while also trying to amuse a preschooler. We managed by the skin of our teeth, and we had some fun along the way, but to be honest I just felt exhausted most of the time, and there were numerous pressure points throughout the day which were not great for family dynamics.

And then after May half term I just decided I would do homeschool as I would really do homeschool. Those of you who know me well, know that I have long toyed with the idea of pulling my kids out of school. The idea of being able to teach them together, having quality time with them, giving them more rounded opportunities and investing in a more creative curriculum than the National Curriculum currently allows for (our teachers do a wonderful job of keeping it as creative as they can) has long been an idea that has simmered in my mind.

I don't know what it was about May half term, but after discussing with Dave, we decided I would stop trying to cover three curriculum daily, and pull the kids together into one big project. We would learn together.

I can't tell you how much life its breathed into our homeschool experience.

Our days now have fallen into a steady rhythm... we begin the day in the Bible, and then memorization. We have been learning a verse a week to song, and I've been amazed how putting the verses to a simple tune has enabled even our youngest to memorize decent chunks of Scripture. I'm hoping that memorising truth in a time of uncertainty will help give them the building blocks for firm foundations through the storms of life. For the verses, I have the wonderful Jodi Mockabee to thank. We invested in her Africa curriculum (which is AMAZING value for money for 5 weeks worth of learning) and got the verses to song to go with it. For £15, it was money well spent!

After memory work, the children all separate off for maths and SPAG (spelling and grammar!) We are continuing to use the school-provided work for this. They are all at different levels and stages and the provision has been excellent. The girls are pretty capable of just getting on with their work, and this gives me some time to do some focussed work with Jonas (which Elias usually joins in with) - phonics is not comfortable territory for me and it has been a steep learning curve. But the three of us are learning together... though Elias doesn't know a single letter of the alphabet, he now recognises "oy" and when he sees it he chants "OY! A toy to enjoy!" which usually tickles Jonas and I! I love all the learning by osmosis that our littlest is doing.

Once maths and grammar are done, we begin our Africa project... we are looking at one country every day with a fairly broad stroke, but I have genuinely learnt so  much already! The tactile and creative approach to learning has been so good for all of us... and the quality of work has gone up a hundred fold. There is something about presenting your work in an artistic way that just breathes life into it. We've been using the Charlotte Mason method of Notebooking, and it has been SO much fun, and the children have been so eager to show Dave all the things they've done.

This week alone we watercoloured to our heart's content, made "Pap" (a traditional meal in many African countries), learnt about the Great Rift Valley and interviewed my cousin who is living in Cameroon. I'm truly thankful for all the fabulous resources from Jodi Mockabee and the ever wonderful Twinkl!

For me, its been a steep learning curve in accepting the freedom to do things a bit differently. I like to do things by the book. I have watched first hand how much work the teacher's are putting in to this (I'm married to one!) and I will admit to having a certain amount of guilt for moving away from what they are preparing.

But honestly? It's made for a much happier family life, a much calmer rhythm to our days and the children's teachers have been super-wonderful and supportive...

I think in the end, what I've discovered is that I am easily learning as much as the children, if not more. Not only on a curriculum level (I am loving studying a continent I've never looked at in great detail before, and a study which I hope will create a helpful backdrop for some work over the summer in response to the recently highlighted racism that I think its important to proactively respond to) but also on a personal level. This whole experience has been deeply impactful in terms of personal growth... in terms of understanding my children's individual needs and what makes them tick... in terms of understanding what I need to stay sane... in terms of what kind of learning works for us as a family, and what doesn't...

I'm hopeful that as we come out of this (oh how I long for the day to be able to hug my friends and family again!) we will look back on this time as precious... as an opportunity to slow down and stop in the midst of a hectic lifestyle and just be together. And learn. And grow.

That this won't be the "generation of lost learners" as one newspaper put it, but rather, a generation of children who learnt more than just academics...

I'd love to hear your experiences of homeschooling! Have the hard days outweighed the good days, or vice versa? What has worked for you? What have you learnt? I'm more convinced than ever that community is helpful for growing in this! Please do share your ideas and any helpful resources in the comments!

Claire x 

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Dear Elias - you're three!

I'm writing this tonight, after spending the day celebrating your third birthday, in complete denial! How on earth is my baby boy three already?! It really isn't possible! These three years have literally zoomed past, and yet at the same time, memories of your rather dramatic arrival in the world, those early days of me tearily trying to keep you awake for just one feed, and holding that teeny-tiny body feel light years away.

Long gone is that tiny, frail little fighter, and in his place a cheeky charmer of a boy who loves people, being constantly entertained and story after story after story...!

You were genuinely thrilled with your presents this morning. Buzz Lightyear, a couple of Potato Heads (anyone guess the favourite film??) and a mole... that one is an in-joke, but you were thrilled to finally have your own "real" mole... and your siblings were delighted to have you tell your hourly "mole" story with an actual mole to hand. (Anyone who knows our Elias... ask him about his mole and he'll doubtless tell you the whole story!)

We had a quiet day... not dissimilar to any other rolling day of lockdown... one day looks very similar to the next, but we had a fun morning eating waffles and playing in the sunshine, and then went for a walk after your nap. You delighted yourself with the opportunity to be out in the great outdoors again (a lap around our local park) and grabbed sticks, flowers and leaves as we went, chatting away! You have coped so well with this whole situation, thriving on the constant companionship of your siblings, most of all your "best friend" big brother, and telling everyone who walks past our window "I can't come to your house, cos some people have got Cona Viyus". We all chuckle under our breath and you beam and wave and carry on being jolly.

This evening, around a tea of classy fish fingers, chips and peas (your choice!), and a last minute whipped up Paw Patrol birthday cake, we all sat down and shared the things we love about our Elias. You sat on my lap, lapping up the praise, beaming at your siblings and taking it all in. We love your storytelling, your singing, your little chattery voice and the ray of sunshine that you are. You're everybody's friend, and everyone's favourite book buddy... and you're a little joker too. You know exactly how to make us laugh, and we love you for it.

And then we spent time praying for you... thanking God for the gift that you are, and for the richness you bring to our family... for his protection of you when you entered the world, and the way he has cared for you since. And we prayed on, that you would grow spiritually healthy and strong, just as that tiny little premie body has grown physically big and strong. It was precious time together at the end of a lovely day!

Wir haben Dich so lieb unser Li-Li!

Mama und Papa xx und "die Kinder"
(Elias has recently started referring to his siblings as "the children"... usually in the context of "Mama, the children won't let me play with them!")

Friday, 27 March 2020

Wisdom from a Two Year Old // Where to Find Peace in the Chaos

I braved our local Sainsbury's on Wednesday for the first time since we'd come out of isolation... it was strange to see the reality that others had been talking about for a week. Empty shelves, shoppers dancing around each other, trying to maintain 2 metres distance, any cough from anywhere in the shop drawing suspicious looks, and an eerie quiet. No one stopping to chat. Everyone just trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.

It felt so sad. And wrong. And broken. What is this world we find ourselves in? This new normal that would have been utterly inconceivable when the midnight clock welcomed in the year 2020? Was that really only a few weeks ago?

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Dear Heidi - You're Seven!


Dear Schnucki,

Seven years old... its beyond belief! I remember so clearly the moment they shouted "its a girl!" and being so thrilled for us, for Ava, for you! Two little girls who were going to be the best of friends... and I'm so genuinely thankful that that is the daily reality for you two at the moment. You have your moments of bickering, of winding each other up... but you absolutely love each other to bits too and are the very best of friends, living your lives in the imaginative world of "fairlyland", obsessed with all things Narnia and Harry Potter, and still sharing a bed every night. I love your bond, and I hope it always stays that way!

For your birthday, yesterday, Ava had the idea that we should throw a little surprise party... so after you got home from church group, unbeknownst to you, your grandparents, "best grown up friend" (RJ!!) and bestie and her family were hiding out in the back room... your face when you walked through that door was so precious, all your nearest and dearest wanting to wish our Heidi-girl a very special 7th birthday. We knew you'd love the surprise!

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Just Pause // A Word for the Year...

As the children get older, I feel like life speeds up. I know when the girls were small, before the days of school runs and extra curricular activities, I used to feel like life was busy... now I look back on those days with a (probably slightly rose-tinted) sense of longing... my boys toddler years feel like they were lived in fast forward mode in comparison with the girls, and whereas it was much simpler to shut down shop in "the old days" of preschool, I feel much more pulled in multiple directions these days.

Friday, 27 December 2019

A Merry Little Christmas!

It's been a busy, but a merry, little Christmas... and though its been marked by a constant flow of people, somehow it has felt like a break as well, The usual routines are gone... there are later mornings (sort of... our boys are early risers... so by later mornings I mean we aren't rushing out of the house at half-past-eight!), slower starts, less "must-do's" and somehow I always find this time of year good for the soul. On so many levels...