Summer writing challenge update

So, we’re a couple of weeks in to the summer holidays and 10 days of that were spent camping. We haven’t managed the writing challenge every day, but I think we’ve managed it about 2/3rds of the time (I’m not counting) which is pretty good going and they’re still interested in it (albeit a little too focused on “prizes” for my liking). I’m starting to learn what works best for us.  For instance, they both want lots of help/attention all the time and the slightest thing can distract them (which I knew in theory but not the full extent of, I cannot actually count on being able to do anything myself whilst they’re writing). Also, if I’m really specific it doesn’t help, e.g. if I ask  them to write at least 5 sentences, they write exactly 5 sentences and if I specify a subject for each sentence I get really stilted sentences.

I’m trying to train them that the space under the instructions they can use to make notes, so if they’re stuck I have a chat with them and then write down some phrases that came up in conversation there, and maybe draw a picture with them, so they have something to refer back to.

I keep reminding myself not to critique spelling, punctuation, grammar, ideas, the point is not what they write, but to write, and to learn to write more easily, to chip away at the idea that writing is always hard and boring. School spends quite enough time working on those skills, this is supposed to be different. So it amuses me that my daughter starts each challenge by writing her “WALT” (we are learning to), just like at school, e.g. “WALT write a packing list”, but I let her do it that way without comment as that’s what’s comfortable for her.  I guess ultimately I want them to loose the idea that there’s a “right” way to write (although school will tell them otherwise) as I think that idea, that there is a right way, sets them up to think they’re failing and gets them stuck.

The books are starting to fill up and I think it will be really good for them to look back on all they’ve achieved over the summer. We have shown things to interested adults to and they’re proud of things they’ve done. I was pleased that the free story that they wrote, whilst taking more time (two sittings each), was the best bit of writing (in my opinion anyway). It was nice that they could take time, and go back to it later, even though that wasn’t the plan (writing on a camp site with other kids around playing is hard!), without having to move on through the curriculum and get to the next piece of work. I’d like to do more of the free story stuff, so today I bought some story cubes to see how they help. I’m hoping to tread the fine line between the instructions being too specific (and stilted) and too free (so they don’t know where to start).  I’ve printed off a couple of challenges for tomorrow and Sunday (when we might be camping).

Today’s Challenge: Discover story cubes

Before you start:

  • Go out of the front door, run to one end of the street (top or bottom, you choose) and then walk back.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Leave a space for a title on the next page
  • Underneath the space draw three boxes in a line
  • Without looking, take a die from the story cube box, roll it and draw the picture in the first box.
  • Then take another cube without looking, roll it and draw the picture in the second box.
  • Finally, take another cube without looking, roll it and draw the picture in the last box.

Then write down a story, as long as you like (at least one sentence) that links your three images. Then write a title above.

When you’ve finished:

Today’s Challenge: Story cube characters

Before you start:

  • Crouch down as small as you can and start to hum quietly, gradually uncurl and stand up as tall as you go, making your humming go louder as you grow bigger, then slowly go back again with your humming getting quieter as you get smaller.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Draw three boxes on the next page as before.
  • Take three dice without looking and roll them, then draw the images in any order you want in your boxes.

Use the images to think of a character/person/heroine/villain and write down a description of them.

When you’ve finished:

I’ve no idea where the physical activity ideas came from, I’m just making them up as  I go along. I’m trying lots of different things so hopefully they can work out what works for them (and I can feed back to the teacher if we find a good tactic). I’ve already trained them to glue the instructions in, they don’t need telling that now.

So, so far, it’s a bit early to say, but I think it’s going well. Phew.

Summer Writing Challenge


Only 2 days of school left before the summer holidays and I’ve been doing more planning for the Summer Writing Challenge, to try and get both my kids to do a little writing everyday, structured in an ASC friendly way (with a little help from my I hate to write book), to hopefully help start to break down the blockage that my son seems to have between his brain and his hand.

I have told the kids a little about the challenge (it’s not my natural style to forewarn, but I’m getting used to not springing surprises on people) and after some rather fraught negotiations they now have a notebook each with their name on, waiting in a box with a couple of prizes that I put together (nothing like a bit of bribery to get people motivated). I don’t want to over organise things, as I need to be flexible and see what works and build upon that, after all, I thought that a written version of the word association game was the easiest thing possible and I was proved wrong. However, we are going away on the second day of the holidays, so I also want to be prepared, and with that in mind I have challenges for each day of the holidays (plus a few spare for when we get back). I thought I’d share them here, as if it helps one person with a similar problem, it’s worth it. (And I’ve already typed them up as I intend to print out two copies of each).

Day 1: First day of the holidays, when we’ll be spending a lot of time getting ready to go.

Today’s Challenge:     Write a packing list for our holiday.

Before you start:

  • Check your desk and chair are clear and free of distractions.
  • Glue this sheet onto the first left hand page in your book

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.


  • Write a list of the things that you need to take on holiday.
  • Don’t include family things like tents and cooking things.
  • Do group things together by theme, for example mum’s list might include (as she has family things are on her list)
    • Cooking things: 2 saucepans, chopping board, knife
    • Food: Breakfast cereal, 3 tins of baked beans, teabags, hot chocolate
  • If you realise later you’ve left something out, it’s ok to go back and squeeze it in, or  you might want to have a “things I nearly forgot” theme at the end

When you’ve finished:    We will go to the shop and buy and icecream to eat, before reading through the lists and starting packing.

Day 2: A travel day, we’ll be setting off in our van for the first destination.

Today’s Challenge:     Describe [our camper van] to someone who’s never seen her.

Before you start:

  • Check your writing space is ready
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Do 5 star jumps.

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.


  • Describe 5 things about [our camper van].
  • Write one or two sentences about each thing you choose.
  • Don’t forget to to start by saying what kind of thing [our camper van] is!

When you’ve finished:        You can watch an episode of Dangermouse on iplayer.

Day 3: We’ll be at a folk festival and see lots of performances, morris dancing, clog, rapper and who knows what else. This days challenge is inspired by a comment from a friend about trying immersive writing “in the field” as she reckoned it would stop him worrying about being perfect as he’d be too busy.

Today’s Challenge:     Take notes on performances

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Pack your book and something to write with into your bag

Then when we stop to watch some dancing:

  • Write notes about what you’re seeing
  • Describe the shapes, sounds, colours, movement, how it makes you feel
  • As you’re taking notes you don’t have to write sentences, you can just write a short phrase or even a couple of words for each thing
  • See if you can fill the right hand page

Later:        We will read our notes to each other and see how they compare.

Day 4: The second day at the festival.

Today’s Challenge:     Describe a folk festival to someone who’s never been to one

Before you start:

  • Find somewhere comfortable to write.
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Stretch your hands as far open as they’ll go then squeeze them shut 5 times.

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.


  • Describe 5 things about a folk festival.
  • Write one or two sentences about each thing you choose.

When you’ve finished:       [I’m leaving this blank to fill in nearer the time!]

Day 5: Travelling from the festival to our second destination, camping with friends.

Today’s Challenge:     Describe a mini beast

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Find a minibeast on the campsite and observe what it looks like, how it moves, what it’s doing, where it is

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.

Then write one or two sentences about each of the following things:

  • What mini beast you saw
  • Where you found it
  • What it looks like
  • What it was doing
  • How it moves

When you’ve finished:

Days 6-9 in a flexible order, one requires me to buy postcards first.

Today’s Challenge:  Write a journal (diary) entry about today

Before you start:

  • Find a good place to write
  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Take 5 deep slow breaths in and out

Firstly:        Write today’s date.

Then write at least 5 sentences about your day. Include

  • Where you went
  • Who you were with
  • What you did
  • Something you saw
  • How you felt

When you’ve finished:

Today’s Challenge:     Describe the picture on a postcard

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Choose a postcard
  • Do 5 hand stretch and squeezes followed by 5 deep breaths

Firstly:        Write a title on the right hand page and underline it.

Then describe the scene on the postcard. Start with saying where the picture is. Then write at least 4 sentances, each one should describe a different thing in the picture.

When you’ve finished:
Today’s Challenge:     Write a short story

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Find a good place to write
  • Do 5 star jumps and 5 hand stretches

Firstly:        Leave a space for your title.

Then write a short paragraph (2 or 3 sentances is fine) with a story opening introducing the characters.

Then a second short paragraph introducing a problem.

Finally a short paragraph describing the resolution.

When the story is finished, then choose a title and write it in the space you’ve left.

When you’ve finished:

Today’s Challenge:     Write a silly song about camping

Before you start:

  • Glue this sheet onto the next free left hand page in your book
  • Find a good place to write
  • Do 5 star jumps and 5 deep slow breaths

Firstly:    Write your title on the right hand page and underline it.

Then write your song underneath. It needs to have a chorus (that gets repeated) and at least two verses, each having 4 lines.

When you’ve finished:

Day 10, another travel day. We’ll just have spent several days camping with other Quakers, so…

Today’s Challenge: Describe what happens in Meeting For Worship to someone who’s never been.

For each of these words, write a sentence about Meeting for Worship:

  • Where
  • Who
  • How
  • Why
  • What

When you’ve finished:

Day 11, travelling the rest of the way back home after our stopover.

Today’s Challenge: Write a 6 word story

A famous example is “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn”

When you’ve finished:


So, there we go, there’s my prep. Now it only remains to put it into action in a nice low key way that doesn’t cause tantrums.

Returning to Normality

We’ve all been away this week. It’s been great to spend time together as a family and I’ve been removed from my triggers and not been anxious.  Of course, the week has not been without it’s moments.  It started with a whole long tiring day travelling which took the kids a couple of days to recover from and had a noticable effect on their behavoir. Thankfully we planned things a bit better this time and it was no where near as bad as last time we made the trip (my overriding impression of that trip is lots of screaming). Staying in another house also has its compromises and it’s hard for the kids just to “be” without their toys around. Plus adapting to another families timescales is always tricky (I don’t think we left the house before 11 and everytime we went anywhere the first thing we had to do was have lunch). But there have been advantages too, lots of extra grown ups around for the kids and I have cooked exactly one meal and washed up just once all week.

However as our thoughts drift towards heading home I have been thinking of things I’d like to get done next week. And once I start thinking of things to get done I keep remembering more things, some of which have been on then to do list for a while. And then I get itchy in my brain, not anxious, more like an “uh oh, this route leads to anxiety triggers best stop now feeling”. Of course the danger is that I will start avoiding thinking about thing which is the start of making big anxiety inducing monsters lurking in the corner of my mind.

So, the challenge, as always, is to strike a balance. To find enough things to do to get me on a roll of doing stuff, but not so many that I hide in a corner. To prioritise some important enough things that are easy enough to acheive without trying to write out a list of everything I can think of that needs doing with the intention of putting them in priority order but instead actually paralysing myself into inaction and guilt.

And then there’s all the housework I want to get on top off alongside this yet without distracting me.

Oh and did I mention that I want to get back into regular exercise and make more of an effort to eat properly after a bit too much comfort eating of chocolate this winter instead of proper lunches.

And not too forget the pile of half finished sewing projects and the even bigger pile of sewing ideas in my head.

So, the challenge this week. Set appropriate goals. Challenging but achievable. In different areas. Flexible enough to cope with family life. And stick to them well enough to make some headway that I can build on next week. Fingers crossed eh?

100 day challenge

This past week I have been relearning (once again) just how overactive and warped my imagination can be. That the thing that I’m dreading, be it opening a letter, answering the phone, reading an email, sorting something out, is almost always a fraction as bad once I actually do it as I imagine it to be when I’m dreading it. And an evem smaller fraction of how I feel if I try and ignore it and it starts to grow out of all proportion (and maybe actually becomes a real problem).

An example from a little while ago (but unfortuantely not that long ago) – I finally opened some letters and found out that we were about to be switched over to a key meter for our gas and electric due to non payment of bills. Now, to my shame (and quite possibly the entirely justified annoyance of someone actually struggling to make ends meet) this has nothing to do with not being able to afford the bills (for which I’m greatful for our luck) and nothing to do with not wanting to pay them. It’s all to do with me not getting around to sorting a direct debit out after moving house and then not opening the bills because I was feeling all anxious about post. When I finally did open them, my anxiety/avoidance/lack of organisation/I’m not sure what – had actually created a real huge problem – with the potential for a big impact, the inconvenience, the extra cost, the social embarassment of having to explain to family and friends why we were now on a key meter. This was a big enough shock to make me do something there and then rather than shove it onto a to do pile. And actually, paying off the bill over the phone with my card involved no interaction with another human and therefore no stress. And once I was on a roll, even phoning back to talk to a real human and set up a direct debit was not a problem because they don’t actually care – the person you speak to isn’t judging you, they are just doing their job in a call centre, quite probably at minimum wage, and as long as you aren’t rude to them they don’t care that you have only just paid your bill extremely late, they’re just concentrating on entering your direct debit details quickly and counting down the minutes until their next break.

Actually that example was possibly made a little easier coming as it did about a month after a last minute intervention to stop the water company taking us to court for non payment of bills – similarly due to incompetence/anxiety rather than penury.

Anyway, this week has been thankfully less dramatic, but I have been constantly rediscovering that things aren’t as bad as I imagined once I actually bite the bullet and do them (or even read the letter/email and find out what it is that I need to do).

This is something that the logical part of my brain understands. Unfortunately the logical part of my brain is not always allowed to drive.

Yesterday I was footling about on the internet, as you do, waiting for something to become available on i player, and I ran out of things to occupy my brain with and actually started going through my burgeoning inbox. And it felt good. And I did it some more. And I made a mental note to do more of this Sorting Out A Before Crisis Hits stuff. Which is something I resolve to do often, but this time I was doing it from a good place, rather than a post paralysis got myself into a funk and nearly had a disaster place.

Then today I read this piece about what you can achieve in one hundred days. The writer hopes to hone her writing skills in her last 100 days of her contract, before setting off on her boat with her family. Her goal is to improve her long term chances of making enough money from writing, so that they can spend more time on the boat and less time having to join us landlubbers for months on end in order to work at a proper job for a bit to save up for their next stint at sea.

Now I have no plans on upping sticks. But how different would my life be if I spent the next 100 days doing 15 minutes of email clearing or filing (there are piles of paperwork lurking all around the house, plus the box of stuff we moved with, this could keep me going for a while I promise), or even 15 minutes of each. Even if I only managed this 5 days a week. And while I’m at it what if I made an effort to eat breakfast and also a proper lunch when the kids were at school and did more exercise. After all I read recently about the importance that nutrition, sleep, exercise and caffeine intake have in tackling mental health issues.

The link between every day behavoir and mental health is complex. I don’t want to fall into the trap of giving myself a narrative of my anxiety being down to me “Not getting a grip and trying hard enough” – that internal voice that Fi at Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers calls bitchface. Because I think there’s more to it than that. But at the same time I need to start taking some personal responsibility – to manage my life in a way that reduces my chances of getting anxious. I guess a bit like a diabetic who is careful with their diet. The diabeties is an illness, not their fault, but they’re taking responsibility in managing their lifestyle to reduce it’s impact.

So, I’m hereby publicly* declaring that for the next 100 days I will try and do at least 15 minutes of sorting 5 times a week. It may seem small, but I know my tendancy to snowball a good idea and add more and more on until I’ve come up with something impossible to acheive and then I fall short and feel bad for failing. Any extra sorting out, good diet, exercise is allowed and commendable but I’m not committing to that. And then I’ll see where I’ve got to by 31st May.

If anyone wants to join me with their own version of the 100 day challenge you’re more than welcome. (This is the kind of thing you see on sewing blogs where they might have a 100 day stashbusting challenge where you only sew from fabric you’ve already bought and hoarded, with people joining in and posting comments, and congratulating each other on successess and confessing their setbacks. There’s usually a button invovled that you can put on your blog but I’ve no idea how to make one and I’m not sure anyone would be interested).

So excuse me know, I’m off to sort out a section of my filing cabinet before I go to bed.


*ok, so as public announcements go, this annonymous blog that I don’t tell anyone about is not very public, but it’s the thought that counts alright?