Quick Easter/Spring Corner Bookmarks

We’re self isolating at the moment and also home educating all 3 school age children due to the schools closing down. I work in school and I’m now not rota’d in until June which gives me 12 weeks at home to stay away as far away from the rest of the world as I can.

We’re trying to keep it inexpensive, I’m fully aware that so many people are being completely financially destroyed by this virus and it’s made me appreciate even more what we have at the moment.

I like these bookmarks because they’re quick and easy, and hopefully will encourage the kids to read so they can use them.

Here’s how we made them!
Start with squares of paper – your main piece should be around 15cm squared!
Fold the first piece of paper in half bringing two corner points together.
Fold the top corner down to meet the bottom point.
Repeat with the other side.
Open the folds back out.
Fold the top piece of the bottom points up along the creases.
This is what you should have now.
Bring one of your sides back down and tuck inside the fold you just made.
Like this. I
Repeat with the other side. It should look like this.
This is the completed basic corner bookmark. Now you need to turn it into your chosen character, theme, etc.
This one is going to be a chick. We cut and rounded the edges.
Next we drew on the eyes and cut out the basic shapes to stick on to our chick.
Voila! Our finished chick!
A bit of a clearer picture since we made a yellow chick and have a yellow tablecloth 🤣

There are so many different things you could possibly make with yours. We spent about half an hour on this craft and made these.

Toby (4y) started out making a sunflower one. This turned into a monster sunflower. He is very proud and so am I! Of course some help/supervision is required for cutting out but he enjoyed letting his imagination run free.
Kaesey made an Easter bunny which was really simple..
And a spring flower. (Might be better on the other side but will still work this way too).

Are You Fire Ready?

19 years ago today I suffered one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve ever lived through. I woke up and found myself in the midst of a building fire. I was 19 and lived in a pub with my mum and 2 of my younger siblings (aged 6 and 4).

The morning of January 13th, 2001 my mum was sat in her office whilst my brother and sister played in another room, she had smelled burning and asked my 6 year old brother to pop upstairs to wake my boyfriend at the time (Mark) to ask him if he could see where the burning smell was coming from. Little did she know she was sending him to end up trapped with us as the fire spread rapidly up the first lot of stairs and engulfed the first floor, then quickly up the second set of stairs to my floor. I tried to get down but was beaten back by smoke. Mark then tried to get down and quickly realised we were now trapped and fighting for our lives.

I phoned 999 and the operator assured me help was already on its way, they’d had several phone calls already. As I hung up the phone and stood at the window there was a man who’d stopped his van and was also on his phone. I’ll never forget his face as he looked up and saw me stood at the window, he tried warning me the pub was on fire, i told him I already knew and that we couldn’t get out. There was a panicked look on his face as he told the person on the other end of the phone. I believe a 999 operater.

Around this time I heard sirens racing up the road behind the pub, the smoke had started entering my bedroom under the door, and from the blown out window underneath mine. We were being choked by thick black acrid smoke. I was screaming and trying to catch a breath of fresh air through the window but I couldn’t. I saw my mum being comforted by a lady from the local corner shop. She was visibly distraught but thankfully had got my 4 year old sister out. She thought she lost us that day.

The fire brigade quickly got a ladder and put it up to the window, unfortunately as I looked out desperate for help I saw they’d gone to the wrong window, they were at the window next door. I could hear the flames licking my door so there was no way we could get into that room. I made eye contact with a firefighter in BA who quickly got back down the ladder and it was quickly moved across to my window. By this point I’d accepted my fate. I accepted that that was how I was going to die. I sat down on the floor and an overwhelming sense of calm came over me. This was it. Then out of nowhere I got one last burst of energy to pull myself up to the window sill, and there was a masked face looking at me telling me to climb out quick. I have never moved as fast as I shot out that window 2 floors up (not bad for someone with a fear of heights), and he carried me down the ladder back into the fresh air. My brother had already been passed out to the second firefighter on the ladder. Mark was still inside shouting me, I shouted I was out and he climbed down above us in bare feet. As soon as my smoke filled lungs started to inhale fresh air again I started to go dizzy, I felt severely nauseous, at that moment I think my body had no idea what was going on. The firefighter ran to a waiting ambulance where I was treated for severe smoke inhalation symptoms. As I looked out the back of the open ambulance doors I watched a ball of fire fly out of one window and get sucked into my window where I’d stood just minutes earlier. I cried out. That would’ve killed me. The fire continued to burn as I was rushed on blue lights and sirens to the hospital.

I was taken to resus where I had blood tests and treatment for smoke inhalation. I was fortunate to be discharged later that day with a warning that I must return if I had any further symptoms. We later found out that thankfully our rescue dog, Lizzy, managed to escape the back door somehow. The back door was open which aided the spread of the fire but also helped our pet escape.

We had a brand new fire alarm system installed the week previous to our fire after ours started with a ‘fault’ which caused it to keep going off. We had the fire brigade out then to check for any hotspots in the walls etc but they found nothing. The same crew came to our actual fire which was later put down to an electrical fault.

It angers me that nowadays we still hear of people that do not have smoke alarms in their homes, especially when most, if not all, fire services will put them in higher risk homes free of charge, and if you don’t qualify for a freebie you can pick them up cheaply.

Don’t put your families lives at risk, have a smoke alarm at least on each floor, more if you can. Make a plan – I couldn’t believe the number of people I knew with children who had never discussed with their family what to do in the event of a fire. Tell your kids what to do, drill into them the escape route, and what to do it that’s blocked, teach them to stay low for cleaner air, tell them not to hide as my 4 year old sister did. You can find lots of fire plan tips on any fire service website – knowledge saves lives.

Be safe and I pray you never have to go through the trauma we did on January 13th, 2001.

Paper Plate Christmas Trees With Colour Changing Lights

It’s nearly Christmas (18 days), our favourite time of the year! We love getting crafty and messy. We’re in the middle of decorating the living room at the moment so the telly is off the wall, and everything is piled in the middle of the room meaning no Christmas movies together and no chilling on the sofa with a hot chocolate under a duvet.

Earlier this year we made some chameleons (I’ll do a post about those later) and I had the idea of using the same idea for a Christmas tree with colour changing lights.

I wanted to try it at the school I work in first but couldn’t get hold of paper plates believe it or not so we made them at home!

Here’s how we made them:

Draw a simple Christmas tree design

Poke holes in for lights

This can be done before or after colouring in your tree

Colour away

Colour the lights

We did lots of different colours all over a second paper plate. Toby’s colouring his is in every single colour we have. He also has a moustache and part glasses after the elves drew on him through the night!

Lots of bright colours!

Attach the lights to the back of the tree with a split pin

And spin!! Watch your Christmas tree lights change colour!

Toby was delighted with his tree 🥰

These took us around 20-30 minutes which was perfect for Toby, he’s 4 and hasn’t the greatest attention span so any longer and he’d have soon got bored. You could do much more intricate trees using the same idea which would take longer and be ideal for older kids.

We used double tipped pens – they’re brushes on one end and normal pen tips at the other. I use them for bullet journaling. Paint would probably be good, if not better, but we’re all out for the first time in years! Time to top up.

On that note I’m away shopping now, Merry Christmas 🎄

The Start Of A New Journey

We did it! We sent in the deregistration letter for our school refusing 12 year old this afternoon. After months/years of deliberations we’ve finally bitten the bullet and took him out of school.

Do I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders? No! Do I feel like I have definitely made the right choice? Yes and No! Are we going to give it a bloody good go? Yes!

School Refusal

As you may have read on my previous post we have gone through years of school refusal, it’s not just behavioural which is how I always imagined these children, he has Asperger’s syndrome and just isn’t coping with the school environment. Our hope is that in the future we can get him back to school to complete his education but for now we need to get him to a place where this is a possibility.

So Much To Consider

I currently have around a gazillion questions and thoughts floating around my head. Will the education authority agree to give us funding from his EHCP towards the costs of tutoring and materials? Will we even be able to get him to learn at home? What if it doesn’t work out and he has to return to school but has fallen behind? I’m reassured that these are normal feelings and that they’ll soon fade away. I hope so!

Family & Friends

I’m lucky that all our family and friends have been supportive of our decision so far. It would’ve been so much harder without their approval, which seems ridiculous as I’m a grown woman with 4 children, but I think everyone wants others to get it! And they just do.

What Next

I’ve yet to hear from school regarding our decision, I was a little sneaky in that I sent the de-registration in at the end of the day, the last day of this half term. I doubt I’ll hear anything now until they return. This suits me nicely as I’m not ready for the conversation with them just yet. I don’t know how we’ll begin our journey but for sure we’ll find our feet and I intend to make this a journey to remember.

It may end up not working out and I am okay with that, but it may be the answer to our prayers too, and we would never know till we try!

I have everything crossed now for our future and I will be sharing our journey on my blog!

Our Story Of School Refusal

If you’d asked me ten years ago about my opinions on school-refusal I’d have been quite frank and said it was something done by feral kids as a result of poor parenting. Nowadays however I find myself in this very position, I am the parent of a school refuser. I’m not the sort of parent I pictured 10 years ago, I gave up work to stay home and raise my children, we were fortunate enough to be able to give them what they needed and wanted, they had holidays and technology but most importantly they had my time.  School refusal wouldn’t have happened to parents like us in my mind 10 years ago. I guess I was narrow-minded, I had no experience of raising children who were old enough to really refuse school, I thought of school refusal as a bad homes issue. It isn’t, not by any means, and I’ve seen lots of parents in a similar position who are blamed and persecuted for their kids not being okay at school.

Looking back our son never loved school. We would often drag him in upset and leave him crying because we’re almost conditioned to believe that school is the only way for kids to succeed in life so we push them to go, and for most kids they do love it, and that’s great.   Once at school it’s the teacher’s job to keep them there and try settle them down for a day of learning and socialising. They don’t do this out of malice, but I do believe it sets in motion a chain of negative experiences – upset, feeling out of control and restraint for example that eventually causes the child to become disengaged from the education system.

Our son was diagnosed with Aspergers in school, it was clear from nursery that he was very different from his peers, choosing to sit with his back to people than join in, watching the class circles from the other side of the classroom, and generally having a really hard time. I knew nothing at all about the Autism spectrum when it was first suggested to us by his school, we were already struggling to cope with the problems he had at home and every healthcare professional he saw must have been able to see he was Autistic but chose to do nothing about it, it really was scarily obvious when I look back. School we felt was our respite from him. It gave us 6 hours to recharge our batteries and be able to leave the house without constant meltdowns. We could go shopping and not have to leave because the sight of the stores toilet doors caused him to lose the plot completely.

He would come home every day and his emotions would be everywhere, he would stim, he would play with water and flood our house, he would be angry and he didn’t sleep. I guess looking back they were all warning signs that he wasn’t coping with the demands of school life. We needed the break whilst he was at school though to help deal with the emotions when he got back. It was a vicious cycle and at that point home-education was most definitely not an option for us.

We got a lot of support from primary, by year 2 they had applied for a statement of special educational needs. He was granted 30.75 hours just in time for him going into year 3 and from then until the end of his time there he had 1:1 all day every day with the same person. They put in place social skills groups, friendship groups and other interventions to help him succeed. He was always encouraged to try things outside his comfort zone such as swimming lessons and even a 2 night school trip. He really blossomed and had many friends, but he still hated going to school. His refusal looked behavioural, he would kick, punch and bite as I tried to drag him up the drive, it got worse with the arrival of his baby brother in 2015.  

The time came for him to go to high school. This was a very difficult time for us as we weren’t convinced this was the right school for him, but we live on the coast and there isn’t another high school for 11 miles. He wanted to go with his friends and we felt he deserved to give it a try. We tried to iron out any issues before he started, make sure everything would be perfect and in place by the time he started. They were aware of his refusal issues with school but we were reassured that  they understood and could help. Quickly he began to refuse, he missed his second week completely and he was put on a reduced time-table. This was great and only meant to be supportive, but he takes things very literally, so when school said “Monday you only need to come in and do the one lesson, more if you want” in his head that meant “Monday do one lesson then leave”. That was fine and we worked with it and soon got him back to going, now and again. They put things in place so if he felt he couldn’t be in class he could go elsewhere. I felt positive that they really wanted to help.

Not even 6 months in we were informed that the ‘Parent Support Advisor’ in school had took it upon herself to refer us to the educational welfare department. Now I could understand if I wasn’t in school every week trying to find a solution, if I wasn’t dragging him in only for them to mark him as not there because none of us could get him to go past the reception area. The woman had never so much as spoken to us. We were now on the path for prosecution if things didn’t improve. I honestly felt betrayed. We sat in numerous meetings with overpaid EWO’s (Education Welfare Officers) who were being paid a decent amount of money to sit and tell us what we already knew. Their favourite phrase was “you could be prosecuted”. As if their constant reminder was somehow going to be the answer to our years of problems. We listened to them quoting false laws to us, telling us how we should punish our sons refusal by giving him nothing until he decided school was for him (we tried, it doesn’t work). They admitted there was nothing they could offer to help, but yet we were expected to be “working with them” to resolve his attendance issues. I can see why some parents struggle with their own mental health issues when forced into a corner like this. Some parents have to leave their jobs over it. I work in school myself (his old primary) and the fear of prosecution weighed heavily on me. I know only too well how capable he is and I want only the best for him. Unfortunately as of now, part way through year 8, his attendance is currently sat at 67%. I’m waiting for the inevitable letter reminding us of our responsibilities as his parents and demanding we go and explain ourselves at more pointless meetings. I am looking into the chances of having EOTAS named on his EHC Plan rather than his current school because it just isn’t working, but realistically we’re going to end up de-registering and taking responsibility for educating him ourselves, I just know it. I actually like the idea of home-educating him, but I don’t want to feel pushed into it.

I am thankful we have an education system, free to all, and I have one child who has gone all the way through, one in her first year of high school and one in reception year. Its become clear though that it is not the right system for everyone. This high school just cannot meet our needs for our son, but the only alternative is special school which he is not severe enough to go to. There are no options for children in the middle.  The system needs reworking to become a fairer system for all, we need schools for everyone because mainstream simply does not suit every child. We’re lucky to be in a position to provide him with education at home, not everybody forced to take the same route is as lucky as us. It would not be the easy option for us to take, but I honestly don’t know where else we can go.

Life on the coast wasn’t what it was supposed to be.

It’s always been my dream to live by the sea – the sounds of the crashing waves, the amazing views, days on the beach – you name it I wanted it. We lived on the outskirts of Leeds with our 3 children, we were happy, fairly settled, we weren’t rich by any means but we were doing okay. We’d had our 2nd and 3rd children in quick succession – 14 months between them, and I had decided to quit my job to give them all my attention and raise them myself. I loved it. We had talked often about moving away but it always seemed unachievable, how does a family up sticks and move just like that? There’d be jobs to sort, houses to find and our belongings to move. 

Then in 2010 the opportunity arose. We were given notice on the house we rented (a long story which I may or may not write about in future), and we decided if we were ever going to do it, that was the time. We searched and searched the East Yorkshire coast for houses to rent, we narrowed down the list and eventually found the perfect home. We applied for it there and then and had the keys around a month later. My partner spent 4 days a week in Leeds until he was able to find himself a job nearby. It was almost perfect. We were a short walk from the beach. A short drive from my grandparents. It was everything we thought we wanted, but it was also very lonely. Adults have their friendship groups already, they don’t tend to seek out new friends. Our 3 year old was also going through a horrendous time. He hated everyone, everything, every sound. It was actually pretty awful for all of us and none of us had any idea why. It made for a very low dark time, especially for me, I was the one stuck at home with them constantly as I couldn’t take him anywhere on my own. In a strange turn of events he soon started the local school nursery who were quick to question whether he was Autistic or not. It turned out he was and as soon as we realised this was likely what was causing all the issues we were living, it was like a ray of light shone back into our life, I had answers and reasons and I could help him. Soon I started to get a little bit of myself back and live the life I wanted when we moved there. I haven’t looked back since .