Author Archives: sapnaagarwal

Baltic Street Adventure Playground

This week we braved the weather and headed out to Dalmarnock to visit Baltic Street Adventure Playground.

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We had been wanting to go there as a group for some time but their opening hours during term time don’t suit us. We were delighted to be able to take advantage of their extended holiday hours and were determined not to be put off by rain, sleet or cold.

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The playground was designed by Assemble, an award winning art/design/architecture collective and was set up after the 2012 Commonwealth Games. The playground is a democratic space with a big emphasis on loose parts play, risk taking and equality.

Almost immediately, on arrival, a group of children started building a slide using the materials they had to hand.

The mud greatly aided them in creating a slippery surface slide down but also meant they had to think carefully about making steps or foot-holds to get themselves back up again

 

There was a tree house in one of the taller trees with fabulous bridges leading up to it

Underneath the treehouse were three crash mats. Alan, the site manager has been keen to get the mats out as soon as we arrived which puzzled us slightly.

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However, the children soon worked it out.

Almost all the children had a (or many) turns at throwing themselves out of the treehouse and onto the mats. It looked like great fun. Alan later told us that the children who live locally had made up the rule that there had to be three mats – two side-by-side and one on top of them, cover the join. Their reasoning was that when you jump onto two mats they come apart and your landing is not so soft. So the third mat on the join became mandatory as ordered by the children. We were told that most of the rules in the playground were put in place by children who use the space often, an idea that greatly resonated with us home educators.

The various, big rope swings were tested out and we found a smaller swing in one corner along with a small ‘cottage’ and a few other little dens.

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Meanwhile some of the parents were sheltering from the rain in a small, indoor base which houses toilets, a kitchen and a store room. We were offered cups of tea and were told about the food that would be served up. It came as a welcome surprise to be served hot food on such a cold day. Baltic St Adventure Playground are part of the Fair Share scheme, an initiative which aims to tackle both food poverty and food waste. We talked for some time to a kindly man called Alistair who manages and cooks all the food at the playground. He receives deliveries of food rejected by supermarkets because of, for example, upside-down barcodes, over-ordering, mis-labelling, and cooks this food up into tasty and nutritious meals. He never knows what his ingredients will be so has to be creative to pull together dishes to please the players. Everyone is invited to eat for free regardless of income or need. This nourishes the children and adults alike, galvanises a sense of community and, more often than not, provides food for families that might otherwise had not had any. Alistair told us of families that were spared the stigma that can come with a foodbank referral because they had had a decent meal at the playground most days.

The food we were given was lentil soup, vegetable casserole, cheese toasties, plums and fruity yoghurt. We were delighted with this and got stuck in straight away despite our muddiness.

Not long after, Alan started a fire to help us all get warm. Children occasionally stopped by the fire to warm their hands before running back to their endeavours and the adult conversation turned to inclusion, diversity, the history of adventure playgrounds and other such interesting topics.

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Nearby a group of adults and children with spades, shovels and pickaxes were digging the foundations for some new play structures that will be built over the next week or so.

After three hours of extremely wet and muddy play we started to make moves to leave. Alistair quickly pushed an Easter egg into the hands of each child, making their muddy faces light up with joyful astonishment. We squelched out of the gate with shouts of ‘thank you!’ and promised to go back again as soon as we could.

 

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Comrie Croft 2018

It’s just over a year since we last visited Comrie Croft as group. So much has changed since then, both for us as a group and at the place itself.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and, after getting settled into our rooms

and eating a big meal together, most of the children and a few intrepid adults went out to explore the woods in the dusk. It was a beautiful evening, the sky ablaze with colour and we were pleased to wake the next day to find the old adage to be true about ‘red skies at night bringing shepherds delight’. There were a few home ed families staying with us from outwith Glasgow – people we had never met before – but the children quickly tumbled in with existing gangs of friends and conversation between adults was friendly and easy. It was so nice to make new friends on holiday.

 

Monday was mostly spent outdoors, making the most of the sunshine. We played circle games,

and busied ourselves with bushcraft and nature-themed activities.

Some children hired bikes to take on the mountain bike trails

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while others took part in a session of ‘Chaos Yoga’ – a game devised by one of the children in group and facilitated, brilliantly, by his mum –

and a whole fantasy world formed around a gazebo aka “The Cowboy Hut”

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Some adults went for a brisk walk up a nearby hill to the Devil’s Cauldron while others basked in the bright, spring sun watching a game of group volley ball.

In amongst all the organised activities, there was still plenty of time for free play and hanging about. The woodland rope swings were well used, many trips were made to the waterfall and woods and, of course, so much chatting and catching up

In preparing food for the evening on Monday, some of the smaller children were given the task of finding the biggest potatoes to bake. They emptied a 25kg sack of spuds onto the floor and worked collaboratively to hunt out the finest specimens. Numerous, brilliant games to get the remaining tatties back in the sack then ensued, involving rolling, throwing, carrying dustpans, spoons, tongs, you name it. The ingenuity and hilarity found with those potatoes was one of the highlights of the holiday for me.

 

The evening was largely spent around the fire, baking potatoes and dampers, toasting marshmallows and exchanging tales of fun and adventure. We befriended the family staying the in farmhouse on site so they, too, joined us round the fire, adding to the collection of marshmallows and stories.

 

The weather on Tuesday was a little wetter and greyer but most people still managed a jaunt outdoors. A craft table was set up in the kitchen for those that wanted to stay in

but many of the children spent a good chunk of the afternoon preparing for the Kids’ Kitchen event that was due to take place that evening.

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Each family had contributed some vegetables for the paella and fruit for the crumble so we split into small groups to get them all peeled, chopped and ready to cook.

Once the food was cooking, everyone busily set to making menus, table decorations and umbrellas for the mocktails.

By the time the food was ready, the ‘customers’ (all the adults and any children who hadn’t wanted to cook) had already started arriving so the pressure was on to get everyone seated, orders taken and food served. The pace and level of activity was so intense I wasn’t able to get any photos of the meal itself but the children working at the Kids’ Kitchen did an excellent job of facilitating for and feeding the whole group. They organised themselves so that those who could read and write took down the food and drink orders while the pre-literate took the food to the tables, ensuring everyone felt useful and appreciated. High praise came from the diners and Kids’ Kitchen crew congratulated themselves with a round of mocktails and much clinking of glasses. They were excused from doing dishes after all their hard work and went instead to watch a movie together while adults and children who hadn’t cooked cleared up.

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Wednesday was our final day so everyone felt it important to visit all our special and favourite places to say goodbye. There was an emotional farewell trip to see the Shetland ponies in the field behind the hostel as well as one last walk to the waterfall and one final turn on the rope-swing.

We were sad to leave and have our holiday end but so happy that we had had such a great time together.

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It was an exhausting but wonderful few days

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and I, for one, am already looking forward to our next trip away.

 

 

 

Dancing!

We have had the very great pleasure of doing a good bit of dancing as a group over the last few months. Our first dance party happened in early January in our fantastic, weekly, winter venue. The excitement was palpable in the time running up to it. We made our plans and dusted off our dancing shoes.

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One of the parents in the group has experience of community dance work so she led a high-energy warm-up to get people moving (please excuse the blurry photos!).

Another of the parents in the group is a professional wedding singer and so rigged up some spectacular lights, giving the hall a real disco feel.

Friends danced together, siblings swung each other round, parents danced with children and a fabulous time was had by all.

All manner of treats were held in the kitchen to fuel the dancing and the usual soft play equipment was put to good use too.

We all left feeling euphoric and keen to create another dancing opportunity for the group. Fast forward a couple of months and we were hosting a ceilidh. While the style of music and aesthetic was very different, it was just as much fun. We booked a hall in a city centre community centre and found a couple of excellent musicians to play at it. People arrived in dribs and drabs. Some played Duck, Duck, Goose while the band did their soundcheck

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and others set up a cake stall and a mocktails bar, sold to raise money for an upcoming youth hostel trip.

As well as advertising the event in the home ed community, we extended the invitation to our non-home ed friends. It was lovely and quite empowering to host an event for the wider community as a group. I only discovered afterwards that it had been their first ceilidh for a few of the families there.

We managed many dances

but the most popular by far was the Orcadian Strip The Willow.

We ended with Auld Lang Syne and a determination to find another time to dance together soon.

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Third Time (Very) Lucky

The wintery weather is here now so, for the last few weeks, we’ve been intending to meet indoors. However, something keeps coming up. The first week we tried there was some miscommunication between us and the people who hire out the venue. But the rain stayed away so we just set up all our indoor activities outdoors.

There was Lego and magnets to play with, knitting and catching up to be done and even a birthday celebrated with plenty of cake.

Some children attempted a cooperative challenge while others simply ran around to keep warm.

‘Next week’, we said, ‘we shall meet indoors”. But it wasn’t to be. The following week we found out that the BBC needed to finish off some filming in the space so we couldn’t use it. Undeterred by the last minute change of plan, we visited one of our favourite places, The Children’s Wood, to plant some trees they had been gifted by The National Trust. The children planted four rowan trees and three cherries trees before the urge to play overtook them and they disappeared into the tree house, mud kitchen and beyond.

By the third week, many of us were half expecting to be locked out of the hall again but this time we did get in and it was really worth the wait. Our winter hang out for this year has a big kitchen where we can cook together,

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soft play equipment that, the little ones in particular, enjoyed tumbling over

a stage that we are hoping to use for performance and dance activities

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and plenty of space to run around. The usual boxes of tricks came out to entertain – craft, Lego, stories,

but we also made time to work together to draw up a group agreement about how we want to behave towards each other

and how we want to use the venue. We came to a happy agreement about how best to use the pool table and computers in the space so that we could prioritise enjoying each other’s company and many interesting and exciting ideas were floated for future activities.

There was also more knitting and chatting and a general feeling of thankfulness at having found such a welcoming and versatile space to spend the next few months.

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Wee Row Hostel

Earlier this week we went to stay at the youth hostel in New Lanark. There were around 45 of us and we had free run of the whole hostel. We enjoyed cooking and eating together, sharing dorms and many fun activities.

On our first night there was a light show at the New Lanark Mill. Huge photographs of the mill and its workers were projected on the side of the mill, some with an accompanying soundtrack telling of how life was when the mill was a working factory. The lights were very atmospheric and it was exciting to run around in the dark with such a large group of friends.

The next day we ventured out to explore. The younger children made good use of the fantastic play park on site while some of the older children played cooperative games and followed the river in search of the Falls of Clyde.

As we rounded a corner we were hit by a sonic blast from the waterfall. It grew more and more impressive as trekked higher and higher up the hill, singing silly songs and making up stories as we walked. The gorgeous, autumnal hues and gentle sunlight gave the whole journey a dreamlike quality.

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Later on we had a relaxing afternoon indoors complete with craft,

a movement workshop and an ingenious game devised by one of families in the group called Chaos Yoga which involved some yoga asana, improvised music, team challenges and more.

Our meal that evening came courtesy of ‘The Kids’ Kitchen’, a pop-up restaurant thought up and staffed by the children of the group. They worked together to prepare a delicious three course meal. We had ‘LemonTom coconut’ soup to start, stir fry with rice for the main course and a choice of peach, berry or apple crumble for dessert. A true feast!

The children drew up menus, waited on the tables

and then cleared everything away afterwards. There was some live music to accompany the meal and, afterwards, much deserved drinks of ‘elderapple posh juice’. It was a joy to see all ages working together with such competence and kindness. The food was excellent too.

On our second morning at the hostel we took part in an all singing, all dancing scavenger hunt created by another of the families in the group. We broke into three, mixed age teams and each followed our own trail around the whole of the New Lanark World Heritage Site. The trails took in the  New Lanark Mill visitors’ centre, replicas of a mill worker’s cottage from 1820 and 1930, the Fall of Clyde visitors’ centre, a waterwheel and the on-site hotel which was once part of the mill. It was such an interesting and memorable way to engage with all the information there. We also had to complete a number of challenges along the way involving the apple tree in Robert Owen’s garden, bouncing balloons, plastic frogs pinging onto ‘lily pads’ and a game of Shut The Box presented to us on a throne in a willow palace.

Afterwards we wandered back to the hostel for a well-earned rest. The children took this as an opportunity to watch a bit of telly while the adults drank many cups of tea and chatted, with tiny ones crawling around under our feet and being passed from lap to lap. Some enjoyed a few stories

and decorated fairy cakes. Food was plentiful on the trip and enjoyed often.

We all recharged our batteries in preparation for the afternoon’s adventure – a two hour walk down the river, away from the waterfall and towards the little, old market town of Lanark. Once again, the journey was peppered with games, stories and silly songs. When little feet got tired they were given piggy-backs by older friends. We were all exhausted by the time we got back to the hostel and grateful for a hearty meal. The evening slipped away with games and chatting and soon all the children were asleep. Adults had sole occupancy of the kitchen and spent a good few hours getting to know each other that bit better, putting the world to rights and sharing even more food, drinks and laughs. All too soon the morning rolled around and it was time to clean the hostel and go home. A frantic couple of hours of bag packing, bed stripping and floor sweeping passed quickly till we said goodbye. Before we parted we took time to share our favourite moments of the trip with each other – brilliant activities, deepening of friendships, getting to know new people or seeing old friends in new ways, sharing familial tasks such as cooking and cleaning and the beautiful surroundings were all discussed with fondness. A wonderful few days with a wonderful bunch of people.

 

Clay, Comics and Catching Up

This week’s meet was a laid-back affair. The summer jaunts of all our various families have now come to an end so there was much catching up to do. Adults chatted animatedly while children busied themselves with creative endeavours. A tub full of clay became many little creatures

some of which then went on to star in puppet shows while others hid themselves on trees.

Another bunch of children sat around a table and discussed a new comic, helped each other develop their drawing styles and were later joined by a couple of toddlers who were keen to mimic their older companions. img_9202.jpg

Such pleasant hours whisked by too quickly and we were sad to say goodbye when it was time to leave.

Apples and Brambles

Over the last couple of weeks we have visited Rouken Glen Park and Linn Park, both of which are beautiful parks on the Southside of Glasgow with great scope for adventure and creative play.

Although the meets were quite different – at one we were a large group comprising of half and half new faces and regulars and at the other we were an intimate gathering of old friends – there were a number of elements the two days had in common.

The weather has become distinctly autumnal of late but the sky keeps hinting at the possibility of an Indian summer yet. Both meets have seen us enjoying picnics, celebrating a birthday, chalking with new friends in bright sunshine

only to have the sky erupt suddenly leaving us to face heavy downpours in short sleeves, scurrying to find jackets and umbrellas. One time we even felt hailstones!

Undeterred by angry outbursts from the clouds we have sheltered under trees to build dens, climb high and leap over homemade pony jumps.

Aquatic birds have featured heavily in our musings too.

We watched adolescent cygnets trying to take flight, almost running on the surface of the water and enjoyed seeing how moorhens fed their young.

We cheered on a triplet of ducks swimming against the flow of the river. Their challenging journey brought to mind our own home ed journeys in how hard it can be at times to go against the flow yet how rewarding for all when you persevere.

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Autumnal abundance gifted us with apples at one park and brambles at the next.

My family have opted to make crumbles though I’m sure some will make it to the status of jam. Conkers, beech nuts and other seasonal treasures now adorn our home. It’s a favourite time of year.

 

If you home educate in the Glasgow area, or are thinking about it, and would like to join us in our adventuring please get in touch. You can contact us through the blog or via email. My email address is sapnaagarwal@hotmail.co.uk