The little one, Iolanthe (aka Boadica/Tarzan)

IMG_20180831_151419.jpgIolanthe is very different to me.  She has olive skin (at least half-half) so she doesn’t go brown quickly like Al and I do.  She has to be in the sun for ages before she colours at all. She also loves singing and dancing and does both of these quite spontaneously making up words and tunes as she goes.  She is much more extrovert than Al and I am, happily chatting to strangers.  In the camping shop, she actually went and hugged the shop assistant behind the till once much to her delight.

When we went climbing at Far Peaks, Northleach, she was the one who went straight to the top and got her certificate on the first visit while Al had been anxious and didn’t get to the top till the second visit.  She also climbs trees at bushcraft and recently got so far up one that I panicked and had to make her come down.

Both children love watching music videos on my computer – specially Irish dancing and Riverdance (having seen these live in Galway a couple of years ago) but Iolanthe in particular loves watching the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s Magic Flute with Diana Damrau.  I think she will be a real diva.  I anticipate dancing lessons soon then singing lessons when she is a bit older.

Despite all this she is quite a tomboy and happily plays with lego for ages or cars.  When she draws, she often designs cars (which she learned from Al) though she does do a great line in queens and princesses.  If she is unsettled, I ask her to design me a dress and she loves doing that but is lazy about colouring in – just uses a lead pencil.  Quite professional and not at all childish!

Iolanthe’s speech has been late coming and even now she says ‘fark’ instead of ‘fork’ and is not always entirely intelligible.  Her reading and writing is late too.  But I haven’t wanted to put any pressure on with regard to this having seen how successful Finnish children are despite only beginning academic learning at the age of seven.  Apparently playing is very important and it is not good to switch from playing to academic studies too early.  By the time these lucky Finnish children reach university age, they have overtaken other European children despite having had such a beautifully unhurried childhood.

Although the speech has been late coming, the intellect is clearly very developed.  I have never been able to get away with fobbing her off when she wants something – whatever excuses I try to make, she will come up with a solution that I can’t refute.  She also knows where everything in the house is and will happily get a stool from the sitting room, drag it into the kitchen and show me (if I pretend we don’t have biscuits, for example) and has recently taken to helping herself to things.  Al never did this and never noticed where anything was.  Could it be a girl thing, is she my understudy?  She certainly loves to clean (not that I do).


Al, the first-born.

IMG_8990.jpgAnd here is Alexander, my first-born.  Who had my entire attention until he was nearly four when his sister was born.  Co-sleeping, breast-fed until he was two and a half (at which point we needed to try to make the second child and since breast-feeding acts as a contraceptive, it had to stop! Lucky Iolanthe was breast-fed till she was three and a half in the absence of plans for future conceptions!).  Carried everywhere in a sling till he could walk. Pushchairs just never happened in our family (probably just as well given how rocky and mountainous it is in Palaichori!).

I had no idea how difficult having a second child would be. It broke my heart not to be able to give Al the attention he was used to.  He played up too – I couldn’t cope with him and a newborn all day and night by myself  (Stelly was at work most of the time) – I had to send him to school when he turned four when we were living in Cyprus and he has never forgiven me.  He was bullied at the Greek school in our village and hated it.

We moved him to a private school where they were taught in English and he was much happier there (and not bullied) but still it wasn’t quite right for him.  Despite being popular and getting along well with the other children, at playtime, all the boys just wanted to play football while Al used to look around for geckos, interesting twigs and stones etc.  He was always alone at playtime which saddened me.  And I didn’t want him to become like the other boys – I like him as a boy of nature, (bit like Gerry Durrell funnily enough!).

And he was desperately tired and grumpy on the way home yet I still had to feed him lunch and force him to do homework (homework!  Age 6!).  Far too many hours for a young child.  My whole relationship with him was spoiled by his going to school.  Poor Stelly had to drag him out of bed at the crack of dawn and force him into clothes and give him food in the car on the way to school then I’d have to collect him after far too many hours away from home and force him to eat something healthy for (very late!) lunch then force him to do homework and get his stuff out for the next day – it was very stressful for all of us.

So happy to be home educating the children now (that is illegal in Cyprus though many do it there, specially foreigners).   It just seems so right and once you take that leap of faith, it is quite amazing just how much they teach themselves.  I make Al do one page of maths (from a National Curriculum book) and occasionally a bit of creative writing.  That is about it. At first his spelling went downhill because I wasn’t doing spelling quizzes every week (as he’d been doing at school) but then it picked up and is now streets ahead of the average for his age – doubtless because he reads voraciously.  Fiction and non-fiction.  He knows a lot more about many things than I do.  When we were at the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford the other day, looking at the shrunken heads, he pointed to the only one with short grey hair and said it looked like Theresa May!

Painfully shy as I was at that age, and looking more like me than his dark-haired, olive skinned sister, I think Al is my understudy.  As I grew older, my shyness became more a dislike for crowds and loud noise and I realised I just had strong feelings about what I did and didn’t want to do.  He and I both share a very real hatred of loud noise.  I get a cortisol-stress reaction from loud noise which affects my brain very negatively.

Al was a much easier child than his sister (till she was born then the sibling rivalry and bickering began) – with hindsight, I wonder why anyone has a second child.  But nobody warns you in time.  It is such a nightmare coping with two.  I had no idea how lucky I’d been with Al till Iolanthe was born.  Though to be fair to her, she is relatively easy if it is just she and me, like when Stelios takes Al somewhere.  They are both quite pleasant and easy when you have just the one of them at a time!   And yet they’re very cute together in between the bickering…

Anyway, Al’s main interests in life are making paper planes, or planes from cocktail sticks and sellotape.  He’s generally very good at origami.  Designing cars on paper and generally mucking about.  He loves being outdoors still and climbing trees, whittling, lighting fires, kayaking, crayfishing.  But in terms of a career, I suspect engineering with a view to working in the design section of a racing car firm. There are many of those round here – 90% of the racing cars in the world are designed in the Oxfordshire-Warwickshire area where we live by happy coincidence.  So I am keeping him on course with his maths and will start chemistry and physics soon.  He’s actually a year or two ahead of school children with his maths.


Life is never the same once the small creatures push their way in…

IMG_20180831_151712.jpgWelcome to my blog.

So this is Al and Iolanthe.

Al turned nine on 14th September 2018 which is a couple of days ago at the time of writing.  Iolanthe was five on 29th May 2018.  I am writing this blog partly for them so that they can have a bit of entertainment when they are older looking back on it – but partly for myself.

Al didn’t fancy a party and didn’t really come up with any ideas of what to do for this particular birthday plus he had a cold so we didn’t do much.  To be honest, being home educated, his whole life is a bit of a birthday what with all the outdoor activities and sports, unstructured playtime, playdates and lunches out.

We are a year and a half along with our new life:  having moved back from Cyprus (where we lived for eight years) in March 2017, we are now living in Oxfordshire and home educating the children.

There was a tenant in my little cottage in Souldern when we first got back so we rented a lovely, large old house in Old Kidlington for the first four months while waiting for the tenancy to expire.  We were terribly lucky to come across friends of friends of my parents who let us rent their house on ‘mates’ rates’.   There was a bus stop just across the road so we often went into Oxford to visit the museums and do a spot of shopping not to mention lunch at the Turf Tavern a couple of times.  I vaguely remember a delightful breakfast in the rooftop restaurant of the Ashmolean Museum.

Towards the end of June 2018, we moved into my little cottage in Souldern which is where we are now (Sep).  It is tiny and has no garden (well, just a concrete patch where we store our logs and calor gas) so most unsuitable for a family of four but for the time being we are making do until we get our finances sorted out.  Our large house in Cyprus has a big mortgage and is not easy to let out or sell for various reasons!

The home education network in Oxfordshire is very large and friendly and we made plenty of new friends in no time.  In particular, we joined the group at Steeple Aston which meets fortnightly and has a lovely playground with places to picnic under the trees, zip wire, area for little ones, field and grassy football pitch to run about on, and lots of bespoke wooden playground equipment.  It is such a perfect place to meet up with friends who have small things.

I feel this is starting to sound like a Round Robin.  Much politer than my usual witterings. But I did just want to set the context.  I wish I’d kept some sort of a diary prior to now, for the children, but better late than never.  I specially want to remember how each of them were at various ages so my next postings will be pictures and a few details on each of them as they now stand.