Lego Carrot Tree House

It's a new year and it feels like we are really finding our home ed feet. I know when we started this journey there were a few doubters, there probably still are. I however am no longer one of them. I don't care what anyone else thinks. Jenson thinks I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread and his is the only opinion that counts.

I love our days. Who knew when we woke up this morning that by this evening Jenson would have invented a carrot tree house and then eaten it for dinner! I used to wonder what the point of life was, but this is it.

I've come from a background where the reality is people die, and not just any people: Mums. So what is the point, really, if that's all that's going to happen to me? Although it's a hard one to get your head around and can make things feel pretty hopeless, my past is not going to become their future. Even before I started home schooling the children, I still felt life was pretty pointless at times. I worried about what the future might hold and that I might not be a part of theirs got all consuming. That worry can take over and become a weight upon your shoulders. It can spoil all the good things that are happening right in front of you right now, and that is the point of life: it's about the right now. I've really struggled with that concept over the years. Knowing the worst really can happen makes the phrase, 'Oh I'll be okay, it won't happen to me' quite redundant. The fact is it can happen and did happen and how you live your life with that knowledge is challenging. It might happen again. It might not. Who knows. One doesn't have that luxury of ignorance to fall back on.  I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve a bit but worrying helps no one. One can worry so much about what might happen that you loose touch with simply enjoying the moment. Today has been that moment. Home schooling is as much about me as it is them.

It started with another trip to the vets. Turns out I had my days wrong as they weren't expecting us until next Tuesday.  It did however set the cogs in motion for what was a truly brilliant day.  

From the vets at 9.30am we walked to the Bath Road with Jenson boldly shouting good morning to random strangers. A far cry from the timid lad of old. A quick stop at the chemist was followed by the post office which was followed by our usual charity shop forage. They turned up a couple of good finds but the best bit of our little outing by far was when we arrived at Roots and Fruits. 

I don't quite know what happened next. One minute Jenson was by my side helping me to choose apples with Wren and the next he had plucked out an apple for himself and declared rather loudly that it was his and he was going to get his own bag to put it in. With that he ran outside and returned clutching a bag that contained not only his apple but also a carrot, two sprouts and a piece of broccoli. When he came back in he added a small bunch of grapes and a few tomatoes. 

The whole thing was incredibly funny made even more hilarious by Wren who decided it would be a really good idea to wrap the dog lead around her legs. Before we headed home Jenson felt he needed to add a pudding to his bag of goodies. We popped into Cooks and grabbed a couple of mini chocolate ice creams before he scooted home with his bag of fruit and veg hanging off the handle bars!

As we walked home past Pip and Jim's Church, Remy decided to have a bit of a sniff with another dog. Conversation quickly flowed from none other than Jenson who was keen to learn how old the other dog was. He was only four and recently rescued from the Cheltenham Animal Shelter. What a lovely story for Jenson to hear about after his home ed helping day at the shelter last week.

We eventually got home and Jenson declared that he wanted to make a carrot tree house! It was a bolt from the blue for me but I went along with it, sceptical about how on earth it would work. I'll give him his due, the project was a triumph of skilful engineering!

First he laid all his vegetables out on a chopping board. Next he got his carrot and chopped the end off. He was a bit short on carrots but luckily we had reserves. We delved into my bag and chose a few specimen ones that would make the three walls of the house part of the tree.

Next we had to attach the lumps of vegetables together. This gave us food for thought, excuse the pun. Turns out you don't need an architect, (sorry Daddy) just a very clever Mummy! I suggested we use BBQ skewers. They worked well to fix the broccoli to the top of the carrot to form the bushy tree top but they were a little too big for the smaller carrots and split the first one we did. I thought on and we tried cocktail sticks instead, or pooh sticks as Jenson liked to call them. They worked much better but tended to break more easily than the heavy duty BBQ skewers. In the end we used a combination of both.

Once we had finished the tree house next came the problem of how to make the whole thing stand up. We have a fairly extensive craft cupboard these days and luckily I had some plasticine still lurking in the back that I had bought for a Christmas project that we never got round to doing. 

It more than did the job. In no time at all the main frame of the tree house was up and we were spearing broccoli florets into the plasticine to form the grass. 

It didn't take long before a small piece of Lego was introduced to the design which very quickly grew into a mini Lego City empire! Jenson added a bridge, windmill, pond and flowers. When all the finishing touches were done Jenson was keen to tell me how he was going to eat the whole thing for his dinner. I was yet to be convinced but I kept an open mind!


A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon was spent in the garden as we set to work finishing off the bird hide. I say we, Jenson had no interest whatsoever in helping. He was being a right devil; taking great pleasure in winding up both Wren and I, who were working hard on the bird hide whilst he was trying to set up booby traps around the garden! He eventually went quiet, which worried me. I looked over to find him grating pieces of polystyrene against a tree to make snow. This quickly turned into smashing up all the bits of left over polystyrene that were waiting to go to the tip. At first I was a little bit agitated by his lack of enthusiasm towards the bird hide and annoyed at the amount of mess he was making with the polystyrene. I did give myself a bit of a telling off though: if he can't do what the hell he likes in his own garden then where can he? So I let it go and simply enjoyed watching him. I did only give him one word of warning: that he had to tidy it all up when he had finished and to be fair to him he did. 

Wren bless her was committed to the cause and stuck at the bird hide with me until we had it finished. She then got inside the rabbit run and fed the bunnies from her hand, which she loved. 

Jenson eventually toned down his aggression, having got whatever it was out of his system, and asked if I could bring a blanket outside. He set to work on making a scroll from one of the broken pieces of polystyrene. None of us know what it says but none of us care. We love how intuitive it is and how he turned a piece of old rubbish into something really special.

While Jenson worked on that, Wren and I threaded up the home made bird feeders that she and Jenson had made last Thursday. Seeing Wren up a ladder quickly caught Jenson's attention but not in the way you would think. He jumped up and grabbed the bottom of the ladder to steady it for her, making sure it was secure and that she wasn't going to fall.

True to his word, that evening for his dinner he ate the whole thing. I've never seen anything quite like it! It's a bit of luck that he will only eat raw vegetables because he made light work of the bushy broccolli tree top.

A few minutes later and he had polished off the house part of the tree. All that remained was the carrot trunk and floret grass.

Much to my amusement he simply picked it all up and started to gnaw on it; a simple but extremely effective way of eating!

The remains.

I love writing this blog almost as much as the days themselves. I find it very therapeutic and a great way to reflect and think about what Jenson has learned or gained. Today has been particularly satisfying. I think it is so benificial for Jenson's growth and development that he is able to have an idea and is able to follow it through from start to finish, (or to whichever point he feels he wants to take it to) without interuption or constraint. Children are like creative pulses and certainly for Jenson at least, when he was at school, that pulse was a dying one. Any thread of creativity or train of thought he might have had was cut short as soon as it was time to move on to the next job/activity/lunch/lesson/break. That must feel free very frustrating.

Having experianced the home school life for just three months, by comparison, I can already see how very stagnated actual school life is and the school day even more so. There is absolutely no room whatsoever for creative freedom, and no, I don't believe the arty projects they do with the children in the afternoon counts either. Being told what to make and how long they have to do it in is limiting before they've even begun. How can you possibly satisfy 30 different children's needs?

So that is why today and indeed home schooling as a whole works so well. Jenson has all the freedom the world and I can give him. He's his own boss and why the heck not. Today he has built probably the UK's first ever carrot house, constructed from his own imagination and a few pooh sticks.

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.
— Winnie the Pooh