So we are all Home Schoolers now!?!

Monday 22 March 2021

Like many parents as the news of this virus spread and the knowledge of what has happened across the globe it dawned on me that the schools would, indeed, close.  


History in the making.  


Children will learn, in the future, what drastic measures had to be taken and how surprised we all were to be so inconvenienced in 'this day and age' by illness.  People refused to stop getting their hair done, catching up with friends, working, socialising and just stay at home washing their hands.  


I'm not sure what the future now holds but I am sure that I have to be prepared in order to get through such a long time at home with zero respite and a little Miss Allissa who cherishes her school time and routine so much.  As with all challenges I face I chose to attack this one with all the positivity I can muster.  I allowed myself a day to dread, feel fearful and angry but once that day was passed action and preparation was my  chosen method to calm myself. 


I absolutely adore all the notes going around the internet explaining that this is a stressful and uncertain time, spend the time playing with and loving your child, make them feel safe and secure and just chill.  This is what I want to do with Freddie, however, that will be absolutely impossible with Allissa melting down 24/7 and the entire house will be in turmoil.  


SO, for us, Home School it is!  


Well for now anyway, if it doesn't work we will try something else but knowing my daughter and her desperate need for predictability I'm thinking this will make her feel safe and comfortable allowing the rest of us to stay sane and not beg to be infected with this horrific virus just to get a break from her intense behavior!


I'd like to make it extra clear - I don't believe this is the way everyone SHOULD be doing things, I don't even know if it will be worth my effort but it is the way I think might work for our family.  I really don't want anyone to read this and think, 'Shit, I just bought my kids some lego and a new x box game and left the to it'  or 'I just put them out in the garden' I am all for doing what ever the hell it takes to get through this shit.  All kids are different all parents are different and that's exactly how it should be.  So obviously we all need different things.  Duvet days, time outdoors, face times, Nintendo switch, ipad, a puppy, WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU IS GOOD!  Now is not the time to put pressure on yourself or your kids. 


What I did to prepare...

I spent the week before the schools closed preparing, information gathering, printing and laminating.  I was hardly out of my PJs because I knew I had a long slog ahead of me.  I ordered some stuff on amazon like paper, laminating pouches, paints, blue tack, couple of craft supplies and something that may seem OTT, A white board. 


Its just a small one and its not for anything I really thought I'd need, but more to make the kitchen (not yet decorated and much hated by me) look more familiar and like a class room.  


It worked a treat - as soon as the board was put up my daughter immediately beamed.  She relaxed and she didn't display any anxious behaviors that I'd usually expect during a time of change.  Her sleep went back to normal and we saw fewer tantrums.  She knew I promised her school at home and seeing the board made her believe me.  Totally worth the £16 on Amazon!

Besides making the kitchen look a bit like a class room what else did I do to prepare? 


Well, Allissa uses a Boardmaker symbol daily timetable to reduce her anxiety already and has done for the last 4 years.  So I thought I'd extend that to roughly cover our 'school day'. 


Structure is the key to keep Allissa calm, she doesn't like change or surprises or any deviation from whats expected.  So I had to come up with  a rough time table.


I sat down and thought about how our day is likely to look over the next few weeks and what was realistically achievable.  I won't really know this until we start but in my head I thought up the following.  


7am Wake up wash and dress - this is wishful thinking because Madam rises at least an hour before this on a good day but this is the time I tell her is morning, as in we can get out of bed at 7am.  In my house, pre 7am, Youtube is your parent.

I need to continue the routine of showering and dressing Allissa because if I don't she will refuse clothes and nappy changes all day.  We often have to fight at a weekend for her to get dressed so unless I want her heading off to school in PJs once this is over I need to keep her usual routine.  


8am - breakfast, teeth, medicine and glasses on.  


9am - animal care, I want Freddie to take on the responsibility of feeding our dogs in the morning and for us all to go out

and feed the chickens together then take the dogs for a walk. This is shit that needs to be done anyway and its good to get the kids out in the fresh air to start the day (we have waterproofs so weather doesn't matter)  Caring for our animals is also a life skill that's good for them to learn AND there is an animal care beavers badge that I'm sure Freddie would love to earn (thinking ahead!)


10am - Literacy This will be my planned time to do something from the Glow website for each of the children, I have noticed that nothing is up yet so it will be something from the other printed resources I was able to get from Twinkl.  My thinking behind this is everyone is calm, fed and ready to focus on a bit of work just to keep them on track. I doubt very much I'll be teaching them anything new but my hope is to occupy Allissa and keep Freddie's ability to read and write.  He loves reading so that's no issue but HATES writing so if I don't keep on top of that he would happily go the whole time having not written a word.


11am - Snack 


11.20 - Creative time, this will be painting, colouring, drawing, junk models, baking, lego, music bla bla bla what ever they are in the mood for.  


12.15 pm - Lunch followed by a story


Not sure weather to try numeracy next or some light activity.  Ill probably try both ways and see which is best.  Again it will be some glow stuff or Learning city, if not some work books or Money games like a shop or something.  Activity wise I'm thinking yoga inside if its not nice weather or a game in the garden with a ball, basket ball, time on the bikes or circuits maybe, we will see what works.  


3pm - Snack and SCREEN TIME  I know this plan will be intense and probably exhausting for me.  So I plan to have scheduled 'ME' time every day between 3pm and 4.30pm Freddie can either watch TV or play on his Ipad (we bought him a new one so Allissa could have his older Ipad mini) Allissa will be with my Dad and using her Ipad or maybe go for a drive in the car or out for a walk.  I don't really care what they do during that time so long as its not near me.


After that it will be dinner, Pjs and bed as usual.  


Now, I know this looks like quite a detailed schedule, the truth is I don't care if we don't manage to fit it all in.  If an activity is going well and everyone is happy Ill let them keep at it for as long as they like.  If something isn't going well I'm not going to force it, we will move on to something else. 


Until we try out some of these things I wont know how long they will take to set up and do together.  If Freddie really isn't in the mood to do school work I don't mind if he wants to play in the garden, face time a pal or play with his toys.  I only want to make sure I don't run out of things for Allissa to do as she needs to feel that purpose and constant stream of directed activity as anyone who has worked with her will testify to.    One thing is for sure I AM NOT playing 74 games of guess who or connect four in a row like we did over Christmas, for SIX MONTHS (possibly longer)! 


We are so lucky to live in the country, we have a big garden and lots of outdoor space, we have pets and are surrounded by nature.  Inspiration for creativity and learning is everywhere.  This morning a family of deer stopped in our front garden Boris and I took Freddie out in his Pjs and no shoes to watch them, I hope that's a memory he will keep. 


In my ideal scenario both of my children will enjoy the time they have at home and be able to forget about the worry of what's going on in the world.  They will remember the memories we make and forget why we are in this position.  I hope time away from school and their friends doesn't affect them too much and make them feel shy or scared when time comes to return but who knows what lies ahead.   All I can do is my very best to hold their world together and make them feel safe and happy and if I can do that surely I will manage to stay sane in the process?  


Speaking of feelings that's one thing I wanted to be sure to be aware of with both kids, we like to have frank discussions so I laminated a picture of each child and a set of board maker feelings.  Each day they can tell me how they feel and if that changes throughout the day they can change their emotion and talk about it.  

This worked beautifully on Friday both kids came home from school HIGHLY emotional.  Freddie was 'Sad' and Allissa was 'Angry' I spent some time with them and we spoke about my plan for their time away from school, we spoke about the virus and I gave them some space and the new i pads which they were both very excited about.  At bedtime Freddie walked into the kitchen and changed his symbol to 'calm' NO PROMPTING I SWEAR.  He said he didn't think Allissa was angry any more either so went to check and she asked him to change hers to 'Happy'.  


That's when I thought this whole thing might just turn out alright!

 Allissa is so happy and excited.  Freddie has some concerns but seems calm now.  He wanted to remind me that he will have work from school and he doesn't want me to teach him my own things he wants to do what comes from his teacher, so I explained that is exactly my plan and if he runs out of work he can chose fun stuff to do like on line museum/zoo tours or go outside in the garden with Granda or do some sewing with Grandma or what ever he wants.  I explained the schedule is more for Allissa to keep her calm so we can all feel relaxed.  He suggested maybe he would like to help teach Allissa because 'You can learn a lot from teaching' What a perfect idea!


His other main concerns were that I would forget about weekends and the school holidays.

I showed him our 'Holiday' symbol and 'No School' symbol which we will put on on the board when its not a school day.   Those days will be Computer, lego, Ipad, Quad and fun days.  

He is definitely not keen on me teaching him, but I have reassured him that its not really teaching its just practicing together and I'll help him if he needs me to - he seems happy enough with that.  


Allissa has no concerns, she is thrilled, hopefully that will continue and I wont be a huge let down!  



I do also have a few 'back up' ideas.  If its a crap day and things aren't working it will be out in the car for a car picnic, or everyone gets split up and gets to you tube for half an hour (with an Alarm set), I have 'challenge cards' with short fun activities to try or Ill get a game or some lego/duplo out. 


I also bought each of the children a toy I knew they would LOVE from our local toy shop.  They are hidden away and ready to be pulled out if we are in dire straights.  Freddie gets a pokemon belt thing with balls that you throw and creatures come out or evolve I don't know these are all words he uses when he speaks insistently about  pokemon, Allissa gets a large chunky 30 piece orchard toys puzzle that she hasn't done before.


Ive split the resources I have gathered into activities for Freddie, Allissa and ones I think they can do together.

I'll be sharing the positives and negatives over the following weeks while I work out what works for us and what doesn't.   


I have a new facebook group called 'Madhouse laughing to stay sane'  everyone is welcome and its great for gathering ideas for activities.   Posts are tagged by topics so you can search for 'funny' when you need a laugh, 'home school ideas', 'resources' or 'online entertainment'  not just my ideas, a collection of anything and everything seen advertised on the internet!  If you join us feel free to post your ideas and we can all help each other!  


We need each other more than ever right now even though we cant physically be together!

The highs and lows of lock down aboard the good ship Archibald...

Sunday 7 June 2020



It is true that we are all enduring the same storm right now, however, I agree with those who say we are NOT all in the same boat.



I feel like this is a reality for ASN parents at all times but even more so now during the current crisis. 



I’m not sure what kind of boat we are in, but I can tell you that my boat changes day to day, sometimes minute to minute!  It can be a wee tug boat chugging along getting the job done slowly but surely.  Other times it’s an out-of-control speed boat, the steering and breaks have both gone and I’m clinging on for dear life.  The next minute we are in a burst dingy and I am simultaneously scooping water out of it, plugging an air leak with my elbow, and frantically paddling to shore using just my big toe.    



Pre lockdown we had pretty much gotten to a place in life where we had enough crew to get us through our usual storms.  School, home carers, and we even almost had some respite arranged!  Then came the storm of storms.  Strategies of routine and certainty went out the window/porthole and we are right back to survival mode with zero crew or back-ups. 


As with many ASN families, our highs and lows hinge on our disabled child. If she is good, we are good.  Sometimes this means we have to play 184 games of Uno in a row but if it stops the screaming its usually worth the sacrifice. 



I have experienced many highs and lows on this ‘ronacoaster’.  


My daughter rediscovering her bike and seeing the joy on her face and she freely cycled around the garden at speed, followed by the low of her tipping it over and making a neighbor cry because she was so upset for her.  A day spent in the sunshine setting up our tent. Cooking on a fire we built in the garden and playing games as the sun went down with a gin in hand.  Swiftly followed by the low of my 6-year-old son dropping his white hot chocolate (he hates regular chocolate and this was made from the last sachet) right next to the campfire before he even took a sip.  The dog licking it up burning her nose in the process and my husband shouting at my son after sprinting to us because his hot chocolate-related screams of despair were like those of a boy who fell into the fire.



My ultimate low point so far (there is every possibility that I will have topped it by the time this goes to print) was around week 3 of a mammoth tantrum my daughter had. To clarify, although she screamed a lot, she didn’t scream for the full 3 weeks but rather was constantly on edge, and by the time we reached week 8 of lockdown we were thoroughly being put through our paces.  After hours spent listening to wailing, I was taking an hour to myself upstairs while my husband cooked tea.  Emotionally she had been like a whirlwind the whole day, we were all just DONE and begging for bedtime.  Listening to things escalate downstairs I realized my ‘me time’ wasn’t an option anymore.  It had been a poor choice to attempt to cover the grey hairs that had been bugging me.  I rinsed as much dye out as I could in 20 seconds under a cold shower, threw a towel on my head, and bombed downstairs.  I lifted her 36kg body as it flailed around and silently put her in her wheelchair and rolled her into the car. 


Off we drove to nowhere with her still screaming, covered in snot, and snarling at me for reasons even she didn’t know.  I drove and dripped until I found a layby.  I parked, took a deep breath and got into the boot to comfort her.  (Don’t worry, it’s a wheelchair accessible vehicle.  I didn’t throw her in the boot like a kidnapper!)  She calmed a little for moments then went back to rage, biting my exposed shoulder and chewing my cheek as I stroked her hair, cried with her and sang as loudly as I could manage. 


When the sobs were soft enough I spoke about how I wished I could help her feel better and that I could see how angry she was because sometimes it helps when I acknowledge her feelings even if I can’t make them go away.  We both cried more and said, ‘I love you’.  As time passed she started to kiss me gently between sobs and we laughed when she got bogies on my face.  She was still crying but it felt less about anger and more about release so we drove on.  I was also in the way of a tractor, being driven by a farmer who clearly, by the look on his face, had never seen a half dressed woman in the boot of her car singing with a towel on her head before.  We headed home and her sobs slowly turned into stories.  By the time we arrived the cloud had lifted.  We ate and bed time was blissful. 



Luckily for me, I recover fairly quickly from these traumatic events and I have rose tinted memories. 



When this is all over, I know I’ll forget or laugh about the hardships we faced.  What I will remember will be the months we got to spend together with my husband who has worked away 6 days out of 7 since before the children were born.  We have really enjoyed a mid-life retirement period full of evenings together, cooking, laughing, being silly and remembering why we love each other so much.  Despite the fact that I ‘breathe too loud’ and he lacks the ability to move a cup once empty. 



I will remember relishing in the permission to STOP.


     STOP the many hospital appointments,

     STOP the activities,

     STOP the lists of things needed for school,

     STOP work, stop the coffee catch ups,

     STOP overloading myself with tasks and jobs because I can physically        fit them in my diary. 

     STOP school meetings and volunteering, stop feeling guilty about not           spending enough time at the gym or with friends or feeling guilty about         spending too much time doing  these things. 

     STOP the rush that is our lives.



The permission to STOP, breathe and just be at home connecting with our families while we loved  them through that scary time back in 2020. 




Petit Fernand (again!)

Monday 26 August 2019

Back to school time again and that means new stuff.  

New stuff means name labels - unless you are happy to throw money away and buy more new stuff because even though your little darling cried and whined in the shop because they NEEDED a very specific water bottle in a certain colour with a straw and a button to press to make it open as if by magic (making it 3 times the price), you better believe they still won’t be able to pick out that very special magical and necessary bottle in a line up when stood next to all the other special and magical water bottles in a class room. As for finding their school jumper in amongst the 30 other jumpers of the same size and colour after gym – forget it.   

I did a post last year here on some awesome labels that Petit Fernand sent me, basically saying all good stuff.  So when I was offered a new pack of school labels for each of the children this year I was more than chuffed. 


See the pack I was gifted here.  The labels are beautiful with lots of different colours, fonts and pictures to choose from.  I was able to get some rainbows for Allissa which is her favourite with lots of different purpley backgrounds and text.  Freddie has changed his obsession from dogs - straightforward, to seal pups - random!  Would you bloody believe that I was able to select a seal design for him, like I said, an amazing array of options! 


As before they arrived within a week and came with some cool extra stickers.  I love the wee booklet they come in which keeps them neat and together all year. 

I labelled everything before the kids broke up for school - everything I had that is.  Then I forgot about the whole school thing while I made my way through the summer holidays.  


Skip forward to mid August and the realisation that Freddie still needed a couple of things before going back, his bag was stolen during the holidays so water bottle and jacket had to be replaced and relabelled.  I forgot this until the morning when I was getting everyone ready.  THANK GOODNESS for Petit Fernand!  I grabbed my trusty booklet flipped through to the appropriate label type and just stuck them on.  No mess no stress and no fuss.  Jacket labelled, bottle labelled gym kit (indoor and out) done and oh I better do those new school shoes that cost more than any pair I have bought myself in the past 10 years! 

So its clear to see that I am still in love with these labels, they are a wee bit expensive at £30 for the pack but I think its worth it and I also believe you could get 2 years out of a full booklet.  We still have some left from last year.  The labels are suitable for lunchboxes, bags, shoes and all the clothing/equipment required for the school year.  


Its not only me who loves them, the kids are so happy with them, Allissa loves to see her things al labelled with a rainbow and although she can recognise her own name now, the picture helps her know what belongs to her and Freddie is so proud of his seal pup labels too.  They look great and I can confirm because this is the 2nd year we have used them that they LAST.  All of the items that are being reused since last year are still labelled and wash after wash for a whole year they all remained firmly in place.  

To have a look through the designs and to place an order follow the link


Even if you don't fancy their labels their website is worth a look as they have loads of fun kids activities and printables there

To the boy who made kindness cool...

Friday 5 July 2019

The decision to send our disabled daughter to a main stream school was not taken lightly.  We discussed the pros and cons of options for a long time before finally taking the plunge and sending her to mainstream school.  We hoped that the social side of school would enrich her life and encourage her development.  We were terrified she would feel different but more than that we were terrified she would at some point be picked on or experience bullying.

She made friendships quickly, I'm not one for gender stereotypes but I have always found that girls seem to have more time for Allissa.  Like this little lady who has been close pals with Allissa since nursery school!

The boys who have known her since nursery always include her and will chat and say hi but the girls were the ones who would seem to form real friendships with her.   We have only ever experienced positive attitude from the children in her school towards her but I still always felt wary, protective and worried especially thinking about the older kids. 

One day when Allissa was in primary 3, I was getting her out of the car after her riding lesson.  There was a couple of older boys casually leaning against the bike racks and watching me closely.  I felt them watching me, I looked at them and in my head I prepared what I would say if any sniggers were heard or rude remarks made.  I was ready.  However I was not ready for what actually happened.  


The boys waited until I had Allissa out of the car, I headed up toward school, 'Are you Allissa's mum?' one of them said.  I replied with a simple, 'yes' I really was quite short with them because I was waiting to see what they were about.  'Where has she been?' they were so confident and mature I was really taken a back.  'RDA, I said, its horse riding' their faces dropped, 'WOW, she can do that?' they seemed genuinely interested, I felt slightly more comfortable, 'yes, she has ridden since she was 4 years old, she is really good, she has a person walking next to her to make sure she is safe and someone leads the pony but she does the steering herself'  They asked some more questions and l think I showed them some photos on my phone, eventually I asked, 'how do you know Allissa?'  the boy who I now know as Daniel told me that he looked out for her in school and the playground and helped her a bit.  I said thanks, made sure I got their names and took Allissa back into school, Daniel offered to do it but I said I had to hand her over to a teacher. 


As I left the car park I felt tears rolling down my cheeks, what a well spoken well mannered kid and to be so interested in Allissa I was amazed.  My heart was so full of emotion.  Then my head took over, what if he was not who he presented himself to be, what if he was actually not kind, what if he was laughing at me and my daughter?   Ach maybe he had a disabled family member there must be a reason for him being so interested.  I couldn't work out if this boy truly was who he seemed to be or if I was being duped by a very clever little monster.  


I spoke about my dilemma to a couple of friends some agreed with my heart and some agreed with my head, I asked around, who was this kid?  One person in particular reassured me completely, she had seen him interact with Allissa in school and in the playground and had only good things to say.


Over time and after further encounters I have become completely mortified that I ever doubted Daniel.  Allissa's face lights up when she sees him and despite the fact that he is a sporty 12 year old with awesome hair he never refuses her demands for a cuddle and the guy doesn't even flinch when she slaps a wet kiss on his cheek!  That in itself makes him a hero in my eyes.

Over the past two years I have watched Daniel, he is quiet but always polite, always interested and always engages with Allissa.  It doesn't matter if he is surrounded by friends, in school, at the park or on his bike in the village he always makes time for her.  Its not just Allissa though, he makes time for many other kids who face additional challenges and I notice that he and his friends are also always lovely to the little ones too, they always speak to Freddie and high fives are flying all over the place.  He thinks about them, he worries about them and he helps as much as he can.  I have often said to Daniel that I am grateful Allissa has a friend like him at school, he doesn't seem to relish praise he rather shrugs it off with a shy smile like its no big deal.  

Daniel, I want you to know that it is a big deal, its a huge deal.  You put my fears of how children saw and treated Allissa to rest, you showed me that I didn't need to be protective over her all the time because other people also care about her enough to protect her too.  You also were brave enough to quietly make kindness cool at your new school!  That's an amazing achievement.  Allissa has many friends who chat to her and take an interest in her and I believe part of that is down to you!  


Here is a picture of Daniel's twin brother Liam and Keigan who are also part of Allissa's morning welcome committee at school! 



You once mentioned to me that you want to help disabled people when you are older as a job.  I don't know what career path you will take but what I do know is that no matter what job you end up doing your kindness will make you go far. 

You will make a difference in the world because of who you are not what you do, whether you are a sports coach, a taxi driver, a Doctor, a teacher, a social worker, a physio therapist or a hairdresser you will make a difference in peoples lives because you are kind, you are caring and you have empathy.  People matter to you,  you see past disability and that's not something everyone can do. 


I know you are sad to leave primary school and go up to the Academy but you are destined for great things, Allissa will follow you up in a couple of years and I wont be half as worried about her knowing you are there still making kindness cool.  Mature and responsible beyond your years please remember to put yourself first sometimes, enjoy your time at the Academy.


Thank you so much for being you, I don't think you quite understand how awesome you are. My hope for you is that you always know your worth and don't ever change.  I am so glad your path crossed with Allissa's.


Summery Pasta

Tuesday 18 June 2019

This is one of our favourite summer dishes, for lunch or for dinner - you can add chicken or garlic bread, its just a lovely light summery tasty meal.  


Its super simple and ready in well under 15 minutes.  

What you need...









salt and pepper


Toast the pine nuts a little and set aside.


Boil some broccoli in salted water - cut small for 3 minutes, remove then cook the pasta in the same water.  Put your broccoli ion a bowl with a handful of frozen peas. 


While all that's going; warm 2 table spoons of oil and 2 of butter in a pan with minced garlic and lemon zest.  Take off the heat and add salt and pepper along with the juice of a lemon. 


Mix everything together in the bowl and grate parmesan over the top (cheddar would do if you are stuck) 


Seriously - just make it its so delicious!


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