Yearly Wrap Up

This past year has been a year of trying out new things; attempting to be courageous in the face of timidity and juggling all the things life throws at me without dropping any balls.  It has been a year of God challenging me on topics I don’t wish to be challenged on; of asking me to do things I don’t think I have the strength to do and basically wanting me to be a person I am not sure I have the strength of character to be.  To be honest, this year has felt higgledypiggledy and disjointed.  I have felt unsettled, which is unusual for me.  I crave life to be constant and settled, but as my teens run towards adulthood it seems that change will be the only constant present over these years to come.At the beginning of the year I had five children, at its close I have three teens and two children.  That is a lot of change in one year.  I now have to learn to be a mother of teens (which in all honesty is proving to be fairly painless and much easier than I thought), as well as the mummy my two younger ones need me to be.  Life is so busy with evening activities happening every single day.  It is a balancing act and I feel unbalanced (and no children I do not mean mentally).  I enjoy calm and time alone; what I get is frenzy and company all day long.  And yet I know.  I know that this will only last for a season.  I know that it too will pass, and probably all too soon.  I know I must wring every inch of joy from these years, so that I don’t look back and regret.

Our little homeschool has been a bit hit and miss this year.  Or at least that is how it feels to me.  I am, once again, so grateful I keep a record of their work in the form of my blog.  I did a quick perusal of the year and found that we accomplished so much more than I remember.  For my own benefit I am doing a quick sum up of each month.

Academia in 2015

  • January

We tried out alternate weeks of unschool and school, which seemed to work during January.  We began Tudors and Stuarts in addition to learning about the explorers of the time.  The little ones began a study of the polar regions using Five in a Row as the core curriculum.

With Gary’s dad’s help we built a bedroom for the two little ones in our hallway, created a study for me out of the hall way which was left and I began my Season’s of Joy posts.


Granny and Grandad from Ireland came to visit:

The whole family at Wisley

T turned thirteen:

CSC_0433thomas black and white

And as always we spent heaps of time outside:

Ribbet collagepond

I began a study of Proverbs 31, using scrap booking to help us express all we had learnt:

Ribbet collagewog2

  • February

B learnt to wink:

Ribbet collagepm2

We began a hands on study of genetics:

Ribbet collagechromosome2

B turned four and we spent the day at the beach to celebrate:

Ribbet collagebday8

The older girls enjoyed a meal out with their Daddy for Valentine day:


whilst T helped me to host a Valentine Tea Party for the little ones:


School wise we continued with our studies into the Tudors and Stuarts.  We also set up an Antarctica Laboratory and did lots of experiments about snow (which we happened to have some of) for our study into the polar regions:

Ribbet collagelab3

  • March

In March we took a holiday to our home land Northern Ireland and enjoyed meeting up with family and friends:


and had all our hair cut off, which we have all regretted ever since:

Ribbet collagehaircuts

School-wise we continued our study into Mendelian genetics and illustrated what we had been learning by creating our very own family of applettes:


We also did a finger print lab, the younger ones finished their Polar regions unit study whilst the older ones did a study into a relative of ours, Shackleton and his adventures in the Antarctic.  In addition the older children thoroughly enjoyed learning about the explorers age with many hands on learning:

Ribbet collagexxx

The unschooling weeks are showing signs of not being quite as useful as we had first thought, and I ponder stopping them altogether.

  • April

The older ones finished their studies on the Antarctica.  They studied Michelangelo and his art in huge depth:


They also learnt about the social classes of the Tudor times:


Exploring the Tudor explorers became much more hands on and therefore fun when we made a chip log, and ship:


and a captain’s log book:


We also showed Meiosis and mitosis using play dough:


We did an egg hunt with Lorna’s family during Easter:

Ribbet collageww3

I began to post about my struggles with food and all I was learning from God’s word.

  • May

This month we continued our studies into the explorers age, focusing on navigation.  We made and used our own compass and quadrant:

Ribbet collagequadrant and explorers3

as well as conducted a blanket trade to demonstrate how the early travelers traded with countries who did not speak their language:

Ribbet collageblankettrade7

and plotted all the routes the explorers took on our huge home-made map of the world:


The older ones and I began our study into the Elizabethan times, making a costume:


and some marzipan fruits:


I continued to explore God’s word on food.

  • June

Most of June was spent learning about Queen Elizabeth I, her coronation:


masque balls:

Ribbet collageelizabethan3



Elizabethan spy craft:

Ribbet collagecipher and codes 3

as well as an in-depth study into the Spanish Armada defeat, using home-made maps and boats and acting it out:


I began to publish the little ones studies with Five in a Row:

stopby a wood2

Lorna’s youngest K joins us on a Friday and we begin by doing cereal labs:

incredible science 6

cup cake wars:


and a popcorn lab:


  • July

The older ones finish off their studies into the Tudor explorers by showing off the projects each has been working on.  L made a pirate memorabilia pack:

ribbet collagepirate9a

T made up a Mine Craft game all about pirates:

Ribbet collagepirate19

while C wrote a reader’s theater play about pirates, which we all acted out:

Reader's theatre 1

We also completed our Elizabethan unit study and spent time in the garden helping an overwhelmed Gary:

The girls tidying and weed killing

I posted a heap of Five in a Row posts and the Littles and I began our studies into South America by making a cookie map of the region:


  • August

We began a summer of Shakespeare


Lorna’s Family joined us as we spent weeks focusing on Romeo and Juliette and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Ribbet collage day three

I’m fairly certain none of us had laughed so much in all our lives!  The children completed a multimedia project, each taking on one act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and choosing a media to focus on.  They rewrote the acts according to the media chosen and performed it to an audience as a whole play.  The boys did a film of Act I:


Act II was reader’s theater with props, and audience participation:


Act III was done traditionally, using the original Shakespeare, by the seven children:


Act IV was done modern Glee style with a touch of musical theater:


Act V was done as a puppet show, with home-made puppets:


Finishing off the whole play and evening with the song ‘There Can Be Miracles..’ with everyone joining in:


I don’t think, school-wise, I have ever been so proud by what the children have achieved.  It was over and beyond fabulous!

  • September

We took most of September off to recover from the summer, although we managed to celebrate A’s seventh birthday in style with a flower fairies’ potion party:


Really nothing much else happened.  We did have to put our beloved cats down, which I am still struggling to come to terms with.  George had a nasty cancer and at 18 the vets did not want to operate:


  • October

Still sad from losing George and Luce, we spent hours outside in the fresh air:


enjoying each other immensely:


We began a one year study into the woodland surrounding us:


alongside using the Flower Fairies to help the younger ones notice more details in nature:

Ribbet collagefairy15

We continue to study IGCSE Biology, moving at a snail’s pace, but intending to speed it up a bit next year:

anatomy, physiology, bones 2

We learn about the seventeenth century from the people who lived then, using Samuel Pepys Biography (we are almost finished but this has required a lot of censuring to make it appropriate for my teens)

T began to learn the guitar:

Ribbet collagepm9

L became far more serious about her jewelry making:


I end the month with three teens and write a post pondering the benefits of having teens, because they really are not as bad as society makes out them to be!

  • November

And this is where I see a huge drop in our productivity.  I realise things aren’t going as well, but I am unable to put my finger on why.  The children and I spend time discussing what needs to change.  I ask for Gary and Granny’s input, just in case I am missing something which is staring me in the face.  At the same time we learn of the governments plans to take tax credits away from parents whose children are age four or above (this has now been scrapped) and I ask for help to monetise my blog.

  • December

I make the decision to push to finish some of the curricula we are using, so I can feel like we have achieved something.  We finish off a practice IGCSE English paper and I marvel at the improvement I am seeing in their writing when they are focused enough to do a good job.  The children and I make plans for next term and I buy resources.

I begin to guest post on another blog as well as making a bit of money from Amazon.  I realise just how much work is involved in monetising one’s blog and wonder whether I have the time to actually do it justice.  Gary and I brainstorm ideas for a schedule which will help me to become more productive.

My sleep, which has been good for over a year, becomes terrible again, with me struggling to get more than three hours a night.  My eating once again is out of control as I try to eat myself awake.  I do however finish the year weighing significantly less than I did this time last year although significantly more than I would have hoped for.

Life feels unbalanced, the results of which are clear – low productivity, sleeplessness, weight gain and a general feeling of not being in control.  Days merge into one another in a haze of exhaustion.  Cancer is on my mind as I approach my four-year anniversary of being cancer free.  My brain feels fuzzy and over-stimulated, with thoughts I do not wish to have and worries of death and dying which I can’t bear to contemplate.

God is, as He is so often, my refuge and my strength.  He calms me and helps me to see clearer.  He shows me small things I have let lapse in the past few months, like walking with Him each night.  He shows me that to have complete peace in my schedule I need to put Him and only Him first…and all other things will be added unto it.  He gives me hope, and a renewed determination to be master of my own life, rather than allowing the busyness of life to be my master.

I have two pieces of writing to complete next week, after which I shall enjoy a couple of weeks of relaxing, clearing my mind and focusing on the important and not just the urgent.

I hope you all have an incredible Christmas this year.  Thank you all for reading about my fumbles through life this year.  It has been a pleasure to get to know you all.  I hope you’ll join me for more fumbling next year.  I think it is going to be a good one.

Weekly Wrap-Up


  1. I hate that the year is ending in a fuzz, but it really does look like you guys have had a great year. I hope you get a little clarity and balance as you rest here at the end of December. . .And somehow, I missed the cookie map with the delicious looking chocolate mountains 😀 We love making cookie maps!!

    1. Thank you Ticia. And thank you for all your support this year. It has meant a lot.
      I hope you and your family have a lovely new year.

  2. I loved looking back at your year – wishing again that you all lived here in town, instead of a world away – wishing I could extend the peace of Christ around you like a shield, but knowing that is God’s work in you – hoping this time of rest finds you in Him and grants you strength and clarity not only to wring every bit of joy from the new year, but to instill it with every bit of joy granted to you, as well.

    1. Thank you Leah. I had tears in my eyes reading this. Thank you for your thoughtful words. They meant a lot. I hope you have a wonderful 2016!

  3. You’re amazing, Claire! Your family is amazing! I have learned much from you, and continue to. You put into words so well what a lot of us mamas go through. Looks to me like you’ve had an amazing year, and yes, so good to document it and be able to look back on. I hope you have a peaceful, rest-filled Christmas season, trusting, waiting, and feeling renewed. Hugs from Canada!

    1. Thank you so much Barbara. I know your daughter is awaiting an email from my daughter. I will make sure that happens over the weekend. I’m sorry it has taken so long. We have not had the computer on too much over the holidays.
      I hope you all have a fabulous 2016 xx

  4. I am completely amazed at what you and your children have accomplished during this past year. Way to go, homeschool mom! After reading your yearly wrap-up, my observations – as a complete outsider from across the pond – is that you need to take more breaks throughout the year! I lost both of my parents this past summer, two months apart, and it has been rough for me the rest of this year. I have come to realize that God doesn’t expect me to do it all, especially during times of stress. Even though my four older children are done with homeschool, I still have my two littlest ones at home, and of course I want to pour myself into them and keep “the plan” going. However, I am trying to make myself take short breaks, even just a day or two, to get caught up on home things, and ………. to just take a break. Blessings to you and your family! Have a very blessed Christmas, and the best to all of you in 2016!

    Anne in Arizona, USA

    1. Thank you for your heart felt message and I am so sorry to hear about your parents. What a difficult time for you all. I will definitely be taking more breaks this year. You are so right, we really can’t do it all.
      I hope the year ahead hold healing for your losses and many magical times. Take care x

  5. What an exciting and busy year you’ve had!
    I hope you’re able to have a peaceful time now, as the year winds to a close. Perhaps a time to rest on your laurels and enjoy all that you’ve acheived will help clear some of the ‘fuzziness’.
    It’s lovely how involved your older children are with helping the younger ones. What a loving family you have.

  6. Dearest Claire, what an amazing year you have had. You all have accomplished so much, no wonder you are a little frazzled. It was a joy looking back over all the photos. I still love the one with Gary and the girls on Valentine’s Day and the other where B is learning to wink. I hope a lovely rest over this Christmas holiday will get your body back to normal. Just keep trusting Him and He will meet your every need.
    Merry Christmas, my friend. Enjoy your holiday with your precious family. Hugs and hugs sent to you from me.:)

    1. Thank you Donna. I am fully resting and raring to go in 2016!! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I pray for an incredible new year ahead of you. Hugs back, lovely friend!

    1. I was so much more tired than I realised. But I’m rested and back to normal now. I’m looking forward to 2016. I hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas and that you all have a very blessed 2016.

  7. Oh my goodness, I was utterly exhausted just reading the highlights of all you have accomplished this year. I am sorry you are feeling unsettled and hope that you get to relax and enjoy the holidays. Thank you for sharing your homeschool and family adventures. I love stopping by to see what y’all are up to. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a settled New Year.

  8. Claire, I can’t believe you needed ANYTHING to convince you you’ve had a productive year, or that you EVER feel unproductive. You should come and hang out in our house for a week! 😀 But, seriously, I know the feeling comes from inside, so I do understand. I hope you end your year with peace of mind.

    Thank you for so generously sharing your highs and challenges with us here, it’s been such a pleasure to share your journey over the last year once again. I hope you manage to have a rest this month and that you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

    1. I was so tired when I wrote this 🙁 Never again though. Next year will be different (do I maybe say that every year?)
      Love your new blog – I’m your newest follower!

  9. I will be praying for you to find balance with your writing. I love to write, but I just haven’t had the time to do it this fall. Which is sad, but other things floated up in priorities. Claire, you have had an amazing year! Seriously, I know how easy it is to beat yourself up over the missed weight loss goals, trust me! But this year you have made progress and you know what to do this coming year. I will also pray for your heart! Losing fur babies, meeting deadlines, and looking a major cancer-free anniversary in the face are none of them small potatoes. God is with you, holding you close to Him. Continue to draw on His strength and be led by His spirit. God Bless you as you head into a new year!

    1. Thank you for your kind words Kay. I have really enjoyed getting to know you a bit better this last year or so.
      I hope you have a wonderful year ahead of you!

  10. What a wonderful year you’ve all had (and how did I miss that post with the edible South America?!) Congratulations on 4 years cancer free – here’s to many more!

    It looks to me like your year has been full of love and joy and accomplishments both educational and spiritual. I think you should end 2015 feeling very good about it all! Well done, Claire and family.

    1. Thanks Erin. It was a good year, I was just very tired when I wrote this post 🙂
      I hope you and your family have a fabulous year ahead of you!

  11. What a full year you had and such ingenious projects and ideas. I can’t believe all of this was from only 2015! I’ll be praying for your peace and a wonderful Christmas & new year for your entire family.

    1. Thank you, Kris. I was super, super tired when I wrote that post! And thank you for all your help and support this year. I feel very blessed to know you 🙂

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