Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The stupidness of chickens who doe-cee-doe with dogs and don't know when to get their heads out of the way of large garden forks

Today the kids and dh went to our local science centre. I can't say much about it, seeing as I wasn't there and I'm not telepathic and the kids weren't that forthcoming about what they'd been up to, but here's a photo. Apparently they were making a Knex fairground thing with a motor. Poor children, they look resigned to having their photo taken. With all this blogging you'd think they'd get used to it.


So what else has been going on? Well ds2 was sticking foam letters on the bathroom wall the other day and spelled out the cryptic clue 'Im hot I boil water'. He was most miffed when we read it (rather tricky not to as some of us old folk have to go to the loo at least once a day and I'm far too old to use the hedge in the front garden), but I love the way his brain works.

Apart from that? Well my shoulders are aching and my knees hurt from playing on Wii tennis and Wii dance mat respectively. And ds1 nearly trashed the lounge while playing against me (ok, overexaggeration, but quite a few Christmas cards flew across the lounge as he lunged for the ball). I actually worked up quite a sweat on the Wii dance mat (probably more info that you wanted), so maybe this will help with my new year's keep fit resolution. I have the same fitness resolution every year, but of course...

****THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT****

or maybe a bit different

or maybe just a teensy weensy bit different.

(Though it may all fail dismally if I break a leg flaying around the lounge with a controller and a nunchuck while trying to do funky moves)


Talking about the 7th Wonder of the Chickenshed Household, I wonder how many brainstorming sessions they had to have at Nintendo to come up with the name 'Wii'...or nunchuck.

I mean, do you call those names? [speaking from my grumpy old woman persona]

I, personally, would have suggested 'white addictive thing with very expensive extras that you feel the need to buy even if you don't want to' and 'zappy thing that doesn't do what you want it to, but at least you can blame it when you're rubbish at whatever game you are playing'.

But no doubt they get paid an awful lot more than me, so I'm hardly in a position to be critical.

Anything else going on? Well, I've also been poking the raised beds in the garden with a fork, which was tricky today as the ground was rather frozen. I kind of churned up the soil a bit, made a feeble attempt to take some weeds out and then decided it was far too cold to be doing anything like weeding. Then I emptied the contents of the compost bins on the raised beds and covered them up as best I could with cardboard. Recently I've been letting the chickens out to rummage the garden and their idea of rummaging is more like rampaging - scraping out the contents of my raised beds:( : hence the need to cover them

One of the chickens was so enthusiastic about the contents of the compost bin that it nearly ended up with a large fork in it's head. No I'm not deliberately cruel to chickens, but they can be exceedingly stupid animals when it comes to avoiding garden implements. Though, to be fair, this one was distracted by the big fat juicy compost bin worms and wasn't taking much notice of the huge silver prongs heading its way and about to propel it into chicken heaven.

[Amazing observation: I've discovered that chickens don't respond much to being shouted at. 'Get your head out of the way, I'm trying to stick a fork in the compost heap!' got absolutely no response. I wonder why?]

I'm thinking of writing a book ' How to train a chicken'. Should be a bestseller.

Ok...scrap that idea. I just put 'chicken' and 'train' into Amazon's search engine (you can tell I have nothing better to do) and came up with this book : '100 Ways for a Chicken to train it's owner' by Diane Parker.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ways-Chicken-Train-Human/dp/0340910208/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1230668289&sr=8-5

That sounds like a much better idea. So there's no need for me to go to the trouble to find an agent then.

I'm quite tempted to buy a copy...

Anyway, back to stuff. Jack has been pleasantly surprised to find the chickens loose in the garden these past few days and gave them a quick lesson in how to avoid the stupid furry barking thing. Stupid animal chasing even more stupid animals? Well that's my week's viewing sorted.

Jack almost gave up when faced with one chicken who was obviously too stupid to run and had decided to face him square on. They did a kind of doe cee doe (er don't know how it's written, but it's one of those country dancing* sorts of things that we used to do at school when I was 6 and I always got it wrong and got told off): Jack would move forwards and jump back just in time to avoid the beak attack; then the chicken would move forwards and then back as Jack would bark at it.

Thinking about it, I should have quickly got my camera out and filmed it. I could have sent it in and got loadsa money off 'You've been Framed'.

Oh yes, trust me, I would stoop that low. I have no shame*. If people want to watch trash them I'm perfectly happy to provide them with some material (for a fee of course).

[*'Shame', along with 'guilt' and 'embarrassment' are such 'thirties' things. Now I'm nearly 40 I'm sure I can come up with some better replacements...like intolerance...pig headedness...and downright middleaged grumpiness...]

Hmm...I've suddenly realised that I have no idea when term starts and so have no idea when the kids start back at music lessons. Or, probably more importantly, when I go back to work. This could either mean I'm so chilled that it doesn't matter, or that I'm in denial. [The Jury is out at the moment, but I think it's probably 20:80 chilled:denial]

Anyway, got to go. I have a just-bathed dog trying to sit on my lap. Yuk.

[*I think they call these things Ceileihs or something like that (you can see I can't spell it) except that it's pronounced Kayleigh, a bit like that song that was in the charts for ages by that balding guy who fronts a heavy rock band who's name I can't remember, but it was a ballad, so not really a rock song at all and it got a bit tedious cos it was always on the radio and if you're not as old as me you probably wouldn't have heard of it anyway, but it was one of those songs that would probably have been played at lots of 6th form Christmas discos and all the cool girls would smoochy dance with the cool boys and the rest of us would slunk away looking as if we didn't care cos we had better things to think about like scented erasers and scratch and sniff pencils and stuff like that... [big breath] Anyway, I think Ceileighghgheighs (or Kayleighs) are the trendy version of that skipping around stuff we used to do at school to the BBC radio's school country dancing programmes. And yes, I was rubbish at it, always going the wrong way, or not skipping the right direction, or just not paying any attention whatsoever, and it's probably scared me for life. Or did I mean scarred? Well, one or the other, or maybe both. ]

Lordy, tell that girl to stay off the sherry...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Wii Wii Wii all the way home...

So..er...that was Christmas then.

Spent alot of time playing on the Wii with the kids and, not surprisingly, discovered that the 'shoot-em-up' games are not good for sibling relations or my stress levels(!).

As for me, well I had to get up early each morning to get a chance to play on my Christmas present - the wii game, Endless Ocean. In Endless Ocean the idea is that you park your boat in this ocean place and go diving, collecting all sorts of fish and - er - other stuff.Then you go back to the boat, check your email, talk to the irritating woman on deck and look at the list of fish that you've collected. Occasionally you take other visitors for dives, train your dolphin, take photos of strange fish and pop to the aquarium where you can put the best specimens and swim around with them. Ok, so that doesn't sound very exciting, but it's a kind of 'chilling out' game and, well, I like it.

Apart from that we ate a lot of chocolate and crisps and missed most of the tv programmes that I'd circled in the Radio Times because we were too ingrossed playing on the Wii.

Today we hit the Sales, briefly. Lots of tat and to be honest nothing we really needed anyway. No surprise there then...

And right now we are watching the DVD 'Swallows and Amazons' which I bought for ds1 for his birthday. I kept meaning to read the book to the children, but have been putting it off for ages and so it seemed easier to get the DVD. I read some of the series as a child, but it's so long ago I can't remember any of it. I do remember that parts of it were full of sailing references and could be very dry and hard going. Watching this reminds me that I should take the kids camping more often (when the weather gets warmer). If my kids have plans to be running around islands with nothing more than a kettle, a blanket and a pair of shorts, then I'd better get practicing some minimalist packing.

Did I tell you that we went to a talk by Ray Mears a few weeks ago? Apparently he camped out on his own from the age of 8;he didn't own a tent till he was 16! Must have been a fairly hardy chap even back then...

Well, will write more soon. Instead of blogging I ought to be doing the homework for my writing course: I still haven't completed the short story I was supposed to write last term, ho, hum. I've obviously been away from the schooling system too long now as I just can't seem to get the hang of deadlines...{g}

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Worshipping at the Temple of Tesco...

Ok, so I was a brave soul and visited the Temple of Tesco this morning to do our Christmas food shopping. There were loads and loads and loads of cars streaming from the car park, which looked full, and I nearly turned back. It was scary! But once I was in the shop I realised that I'd come at the perfect time. Most of the customers had done what I planned to do (i.e. go early in the morning) and were leaving by the time I finally got my head together and psyched myself up to go do the thing.

I was a bit concerned as I got to the checkout and looked at the trolley. There just didn't eem to be enough stuff in the trolley...had I forgotten something really important? And then I remembered - oh yes! I'm only shopping for 2 days.

2 days!!!

£80 later and laden with mostly wine, nuts, crisps, and chocolate (I'm sure there was something else there too, but I can't think what), I think I'm now ready for Christmas to arrive. Hurry up Christmas (before I eat all the crisps, the kids eat all the chocolate and dh eats all the nuts!).

The kids have been getting fractious (all part of that pre-Christmas frenzy), so I dragged them out to the park this afternoon. While we were there ds2 bonded with another little boy who just happens to live very close to us. I must have had my brain in gear for once because I was proactive enough to get his mum's address and phone number. Perhaps ds2 will soon have a new friend soon? Funnily enough, when I said that I home educated the kids she didn't bat an eyelid. Don't tell me Home Education is getting 'common' now? - lol!

All the home ed lists are full of Education Otherwise 'troubles' at the moment. I've tried to follow it, but I can't say I really understand much of what it is about, and have kinda switched off a bit over the past week (it's been going on a long time).

I do wish that some of the lists would return to their more friendly status and that there was an environment in which people felt more able to post questions and ideas about things that aren't just political. It doesn't take long for continuously heavy themes to scare away new home edders and become tiresome for some of the older ones too lol. It's a fast way for a email lists to wither and die. I know it's all important stuff, at least I think it probably is and if I understood all the toing and froing I might know a bit better....but I hope all this online bickering doesn't put off people who are investigating home ed or who have just started out. This is the time when a person is most doubtful about their ability to home ed and is grasping around for confirmation that they are doing the right thing. It's a fragile stage to be in!

Well, wishing everyone out there a Merry Christmas. I may post over the festive season...or I may not. Hoping some of you have read and enjoyed my posts over the year and that my blog may have reassured some people that you don't have to be an Earth Mother or a Domestic Godess to home educate (trust me, I don't qualify for either positions and never will).

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Plastic ducks, real reindeer and other pre-Christmas oddities

Well we seem to have had a manic few weeks! Somehow we got caught up in that end of term/pre-Christmas frenzy (how did that happen?) and it's been busy pretty much every day.


Any spare moments have been filled with exciting activities like wrapping up the hundreds of small donated items for dd1's preschool Christmas lucky dip. Being someone who quite likes wrapping up presents I thought this wouldn't be too much of a chore, but let me tell you, the novelty does wear off after a while...

The kids had volunteered to run several stalls at dd1's Preschool Christmas 'thing'. I'm not sure what to call it because it's a sort of nativity 'thing', crossed with end of term party, crossed with some fundraising activities and er anything else that happens. The nativity is always nicely chaotic and there is no attempt from staff to make it anything other than that (having been to some fairly regimented performances at other places, it's rather refreshing). Kids wander on and off, occasionally remembering what they are meant to do, and then they sing one or two songs , and then we all rush to the table to get party food.


Once when ds2 was in the preschool Christmas play, they put on 'The Gruffalo'. The role of Gruffalo was so popular that they ended up with about 5 Gruffalos. Unflustered, the staff and children ploughed through this unique adaptation of the book, with random animals appearing and an awful lot of Gruffalos traipsing their warty noses across the 'stage'. Yeah, we loved it!


Anyway, this year ds1 was put in charge of the 'hook a duck' stall and we made the - perhaps questionable - decision that you can't really have a 'hook a duck' in a pool without water. So, poor kid was left to supervise small toddlers intent on drowning themselves in the 2 inches of water we put in it. I suppose I believe those warnings that a toddler can drown in 2 inches of water, but would it have made a difference if we'd only put just a little bit less than 2 inches of water in it instead? This is why I never get anything done, because I am constantly puzzling over inane things like this.


Thinking about it, if this had been a preschool attached to a school we'd probably have had to do a risk assessment on the 'hook-a-duck' (those hooks on the ends of the sticks - the danger! Shock horror!) Even the lucky dip items (ds2 was in charge of this stall) would have had to have been certified choke-free and nut-free and toxin-free. Maybe I wouldn't have had to wrap them though...sellotape would no doubt be considered to be a choking hazard.

Anyway...ds1 did a grand job.
'Don't move - or they'll all drown!' I bellowed at frequent intervals across the craft stall from the adult lucky dip where I was posted. Hmm...well...they already know we're a bit nutty. 'Home Education? You must be mad!'

Ah and we also made the mistake of buying those blow-out party squeaky things as consolation prizes for the hook-a-duck stall. Ho hum, that went down well during the nativity [squeak!!!] and I'm sure lots of parents [squeak!] were loving me as they drove their kids back home [squeak!]. Actually if I'm honest, I have to confess that the inconvenience of the noise did cross my mind when I was buying the things. And then I promptly thought about something else. Perhaps I'm just naturally evil ha ha ha.

So I think we can conclude that it's just as well dd1 has left preschool. It's ok everyone, you can send your children to that preschool now!(the mad family has left). I'm sure we will have left a lasting impression...


Dd1 in party mood [squeak!]


So, what else have we been up to? Well we went to some Christmas festivities as you can see below. Fake snow, Father Christmas, and other festive things.


A Winter Wonderland!

Ok, guys, just humour your mother and stand still while I take a photo...

What do you mean you're shivering??!




dh tells santa what he'd really like for Christmas...

(don't think I have enough wrapping paper for that one...)

Dd1 is always ready to pose



Oh, and here she is again! (Yes that's a real reindeer).


And the kids got to practice their circus skills...



video




video

We also visited relatives for a weekend to drop off presents...



Has anyone seen dd1?


I forgot, also, to mention that the boys did their yearly Capoeira Batizado and got their belts back in Novemeber. The Batizado is when the students of Capeoira play against a master (some from Brazil/South Africa) to earn their belt. Ds2 got his first belt and ds1 his 4th. Doing that sort of thing in front of an audience..well all I can say is that the kids are much braver than me. I did try to load up videos of the day, but couldn't get them to load up. Maybe they were too long? Anyway have uploaded another video instead. This is what the kids are aiming for {g}.Think they'd better get practicing!

video

Friday, 5 December 2008

Tassles are a girl's best friend....(especially if they are pink)

Ok, I conceded about the pink tassley things on dd1's bike...and the doll's seat on the back. Went out to the bike shop today to get a pink basket for the bike and some stabilizers and came back with pink tassley things to poke into the handlebars AND a pink(ish) doll's seat for the back of her bike AND a pink basket with dreadful kittens on the front. Oh, and I didn't get the stabilizers cos I thought they were far too expensive at £11.99 for the pair. I have a horrible feeling we gave away our other pair of stabilizers with a bike that we freecycled months ago. If I'd known they were that expensive I'd have held onto them. So dd1 will now have a tassley girly bike that I'm too embarrassed to take her out on and that she can't ride cos it doesn't have stabilizers. It must be that time of year.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Tis the season to be jolly....

Seeing as it's been ages since I posted, the assumption might be that we've been really busy and I've got loads to write about. Hmm...let me think about that...

Well there was the paper making session...

At one point it looked like the result of our dog encountering a cardboard loo roll (i.e. a sort of brown messy pulp). However, surprisingly the sheets did look good when we finished. Why have I never tried paper making with the kids before? Probably because it seemed like a pointless activity: you tear up paper into small pieces and squish them to make a sheet of paper smaller than the one you started with. Now where's the logic in that?
Of course there is a bit more activity in between, like the pulped up loo roll tube bit and the sieving and squashing bit, but I couldn't quite bring myself to start something that seemed so - well - un-life-enhancing. Am I converted? Well the results were good (if a bit inflexible once they'd dried on my radiators at home), and if I had a lot of time on my hands it would certainly help to fill it, but I have to confess that it still seems like a lot of effort for a sheet of paper.
The pulpy paper bit (with some berries and leaves thrown in). The colour came from blue and yellow envelopes that were also torn up and thrown in.

The sieving squishing bit
The finished pieces of paper left to dry out

And then there was the Christmas wreath making session today. Actually it was mostly me who made the wreaths (ds2 did make one), but I like them. It's handy having access to willow. I'm trying to find 101 uses for willow (there's alot at the sailing club). So far in our home education adventure it's been wigwams, mini-canoes, lanterns and wreaths. Was thinking today though that I could use them to support polythene cloches in the garden and on the allotment. Then I stopped thinking because it reminded me that I haven't been to the allotment for around a month and I'm feeling guilty. Not that anything much will be growing at this time of year, just that it's niggling at the back of my mind that I'm neglecting it and that come next Spring it will all be madness again and the weed police will be patrolling...

Christmas wreaths made from twisted willow. For some reason the photo has pasted itself the wrong way around (?)

The music session seems to be going ok at the local montessori school. If I ask ds1 what they do in their session he says something uninspiring like 'we make noise', to which I usually reply something threatening like 'you'd better be making more than noise for the amount of money it's costing me to send you there'. Non-coercive parenting...nice idea, haven't quite got the knack yet.

I went to an NLP workshop a few weekends ago. It was an introduction to NLP - if you want to know what NLP is then it's probably best to google it cos I'm not sure I know either! It was quite interesting as we focused on communication and how to create rapport with someone even if you didn't agree with what they were saying. We also tackled something that seemed like 'reframing' unpleasant events (well that's how me and my peers would refer to it as) so that you don't keep replaying them over and over again.

I don't think I'm quite NLP calibre yet. Personally I quite like a good argument (I'm too old and intolerant to want to strike up rapport with someone I didn't like) and as for reframing events...don't think I'm quite there yet. The woman running the course would have made a good subject for people watching, but I found her quite scary. Not in the conventional 'scary', but just because NLP can be used as a good tool for manipulating people it made me wonder how much she was manipulating all us poor workshop attendees. If she was striking up rapport with me then it obviously went straight over my head, cos she gave me the creeps...

Anyway, this is Wikipedia's definition of Rapport:

Rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of unconscious human interaction. It is commonality of perspective, being in "sync", being on the same "wavelength" as the person with whom you are talking.
There are a number of techniques that are supposed to be beneficial in building rapport such as: matching your body language (ie, posture, gesture, and so forth); maintaining eye contact; and matching breathing rhythm. Some of these techniques are explored in neuro-linguistic programming.
A classic if unusual example of rapport can be found in the book Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley (ISBN 0-393-31031-0), about the psychotherapeutic intervention techniques of Milton Erickson. Erickson developed the ability to enter the world view of his patients and, from that vantage point (having established rapport), he was able to make extremely effective interventions (to help his patients overcome life problems).
Informally, rapport can also refer to a feeling of harmonious connection between people or groups of people.


I think I'm peaking a little too early for Christmas yet again. Did I do this last year? Perhaps I should check my blog. So we've put the Christmas tree up already. In fact it went up on the 1st December: I suppose I could say it was the kids who couldn't wait any longer, but actually it was me. I've done most of my Christmas shopping and most of the wrapping too (apart from the few items I'm still waiting for to arrive). I'm really getting the hang of this internet shopping lark. And did I tell you that I've bought a Wii? Can't play with it much yet as it's meant to be for Christmas (shhh don't tell the kids, they don't know!).

Bought a bike for dd1 off Ebay last week. It's purple. Ok so she wanted a pink one (with tassles and a doll seat on the back for her soft toy dogs), but I couldn't stomach going out with a fluorescent sickly pink tassly thing with Barbie printed all over it. Hopefully she'll like this one. Tough if she doesn't. I just have to buy a pink basket for it (she wants the one in the bike shop with kittens on the front) and hopefully it'll make her happy on Christmas day.

It's definitely winter! This is a sheet of ice!

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Tardis Car

We spent the morning outdoors with other home ed friends (one of whom is majorly pregnant, so I had visions of us acting as midwives down in the woods!). The kids came back filthy, which I like to think is a sign of having had a good time. However, it did make me look at the state of our car when we got home and realise that it really does need a clear out and a clean (inside).

Once the boys had been ferried off to their music session at a local Montessori school and dd1 was happily occupied with a friend upstairs I set about taking some of the clutter out of the car.



Hmmm....It's not good. In fact it's so bad, I have to list the items in order to shame myself that the car wont get this bad again. This is a list of the initial bag of items I have exumated from the car (there is more to come). I'm just wondering how all this fitted into the car (plus 5 people and a dog). Perhaps we've acquired a people-carrier version of the tardis?:



2 chip wrappers (and some left over chips - from today)

A bottle of ketchup (almost finished)

A bottle of brown sauce (very sticky)

two bottles of tap water

a pack of chewing gum

a pair of gardening gloves

two branches (no, not twigs or sticks - huge branches that were jammed across the front passenger seat)

Lots of tissues

A cardboard cloud that belongs to a pop-up Kipper book.

Two packs of sparklers (these are at least 2 years old, though they haven't been on the dashboard qute that long)

A toy car

An empty cassette case of 'driving music'

A slice of cork with a cup hook screwed into it

Two empty coke cups

A child's umbrella

A pair of muddy wellies

Two coats, a mac, a small vest, some pants and a bag of assorted spare clothes, mostly muddy.

An empty box for slides (we don't do slide photography anymore)

A car aerial (not from our car)

A book of local places to go

A spiral-bound road map, torn and muddy

A cassette of 'The Waterboys'

A bus ticket

Empty coke can

A white plastic strip for covering wiring

A tin of sweets (those expensive ones that they sell in motorway service stations)

Three felt-tip pens (mostly with lids missing) and 3 pencils

A dalek-shaped cookie cutter

A ticket to an ice disco (dated 12 December 2007) that we've never been to

A shop display leaflet that dd1 took off one of the display bikes in Halfords

Two black straws

Some unchewed lumps of chewing gum

A Charlie and Lola colouring pack

Two hankies (filthy)

A cassette of 'The Clash'

A felt-tip pen lid

A tescos receipt for Pringles and diesel

3 green shiny foil bottle tops

A box of nappy sacks

A parking ticket from October (stuck to the dashboard)

A discount voucher for ready brek (we don't eat it)

Two empty smartie tubes

A Micromeg purified water cartridge (huge and empty - came from the scrapstore)

A white pump thing with an arrow and 'flow' written on it (plus some weird tubes coming out of it)

A large scratch card (not the winning one obviously otherwise I would have paid for someone else to be clearing the car out)

A crayfish claw

An empty pack that once contained glowsticks

A rubber dart from a toy gun

A cardboard tube from the centre of a cone of machine wool

A birthday candle

A business card for dh

A tesco carrier

A pair of old glasses that are no longer worn

A pair of yellow sunglasses
A plastic boy on a plastic skateboard

A business card from a restaurant I've never heard of

A piece of card from a cigarette pack (we don't smoke)

A price tag from a batman toy (not ours)

A padlock that we don't have a key for

Another cork

A red plastic ball

Lego (assorted items including the head and arms from a Lego skeleton)

A clothes peg

A parking ticket for November

A piece of netting attached to 'missiles'

Some red straw-like things attached to attaching things

A plastic coin

3 pennies and a 20p piece

A small blob of bluetack

3 hazelnuts picked up from the pavement

A piece of flint

A long purple strap, used sometimes as a dog lead

An envelope for collecting pumpkin seeds



If this is representative of my life (or the state of my brain) I think I should be worried!
I sometimes wonder what my car would look like if I didn't have kids, or if I didn't home educate...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Vampires, silly nails and umbrellas on fire...

On Friday the kids spent most of the time at Sailing club making decorations for the party on the following evening. We hung lots of black paper bats in the windows and used 'sticky pad' stampers (created from scrap from our local scrapstore) to print halloween designs on banners. The children also helped make ghost meringues.


Ds2 decided on a sort of vampire theme. This was probably prompted by the sale of halloween items in Tescos - they only had capes, hats and teeth left - which made the choice fairly easy!
I spent about an hour on the Friday afternoon helping dd1 make a 'wolf' mask with cardboard and brown felt. Of course, she then decided she didn't want to be a wolf. In fact she didn't want to dress up at all!
Still despite this hiccup, we turned up at the Halloween party having made a little bit of effort. The cheap face paints from Tescos were handy for drawing spider webs on faces and other creepy things and the black nail polish was - er - interesting. I'd forgotten all about it until I got to work yesterday evening and saw that my fingernails were still black! One of the girls at work had dyed her hair red and I asked her whether she had done it for halloween. 'Er no' she said,'I just fancied a change'. Oops. Sometimes it's better if I keep my mouth shut.
Then I lashed myself into the traditional frenzy of pumpkin carving. There are some fantastic patterns you can download off the internet - last year we managed a fantastic scooby doo design - but this year I stuck to something fairly simple. I think the spider is still very effective, don't you?
The bonfire was initially a bit of a wash-out as we'd had heavy rain all afternoon and evening. Eventually it took light and as you can see, it managed quite a blaze.
Nice flames.
Dd1's umbrella isn't really on fire...honest











And then today at Sailing Club we lit the last remnants of the unburnt wood. Here's ds2 cooking - sorry - burning marshmallows with a very long stick (the fire was scorching!). We had to tie Jack up as he's not always the brightest hound when it comes to warm things. Having seen him stick his head in the oven on more than one occasion to get nearer the
warmth, I didn't trust him near a bonfire!
The rest of the day was taken up with book making. I have a fantastic book with lots of ideas for different sorts of books to make (origami ones, ones in the shape of a house etc). I'm not sure the kids were that enthusiastic as all my bunch were tired from too many late nights and early mornings, but hopefully it will trigger some thoughts and they might come back to it again.
As for home ed in general, we haven't really settled down into any more structure, apart from our weekly trips to the sailing club. We have started on 'The Story of The World' again and have picked up where we left off with 'Vikings'. I've promised the kids we will soon move on to Samurai and Knights. And yesterday we finally posted the letter that ds1 has written to his Australian penpal. I think we started it in September! These things take time...
And away from our little lives, in the news today: the USA now has a black president.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

False Leg Found Under Alton Towers Roller Coaster


Some things are just too strange not to acknowledge...




False leg found underneath ride

"The owner of a prosthetic leg found beneath an Alton Towers rollercoaster is being sought by the amusement park. The leg was just one of many bizarre items found near The Corkscrew, which is to be dismantled after carrying 43.5 million people since it opened in 1980. "

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Fungi, the short life of wellies and dancing in slippers

Well it looks like autumn has finally arrived. Not only have we have we had frosts and - urrghh - soggy snow, but a trip to our local woodland gave us the full Autumn experience...




I'd like to impress you by telling you that I could identify all of these fungi, but actually I can't. A few years ago we went on a guided 'Fungal Forage' and even the guy who was suppposedly the expert couldn't identify many of the things we found. So, I don't feel so bad about my ignorance.



Here's some of the bracket fungus we found on the - presumably dead - tree branches. There seemed to be loads of dead wood lying around and I was tempted to gather a huge bundle and take it home for a bonfire. Not practical of course : the children (well some) had already complained about having to walk so far to get to the woods (I've now resolved to take the car less and make them walk more) and I didn't think any of them would be chuffed to have to carry home bundles of wet branches and logs. Besides, damp wood never made a great bonfire.


And here's a puffball-type fungi. As you can see it was well camouflaged against the leaf litter. I discovered it when it 'puffed' out spores as my foot brushed against it. Couldn't get it to do it again (I guess it had run out of 'puff'), otherwise it might have been great to video it.



Ok, who am I trying to kid: it would have made a pretty boring video...but it would have been nice to try.


And here are some 'pink' fungi. I suppose with the distinctive colour I should be able to identify what they are, but I can't find our fungi book anywhere. I'm not even sure if we have a fungi book, but dh was looking for it the other day, so perhaps we're both imagining things.

I was planning to do some spore prints with the few fungi that we picked, but I have a suspicion that they'll probably sit, sweating, in their carrier bag until I realise what 'that bad smell in the house' is.




Remembering all those home ed things I'd planned to do if we ever took a walk in the woods (but usually never got around to) I encouraged dd1 to do some 'leaf things'. So we did leaf rubbings, leaf paint prints and sandwiched some leaves through the laminator too. The laminator did make a bit of a crunching noise as some of the thicker ones went through, but it seems to have survived the process. Is it just me who puts fat things through the laminator?
Now, feeling like we've ticked something off my mental list of 'things we ought to do', I can allow myself a brief, smug, home-educating mother moment.
[*******SMUG HOME EDUCATING MOMENT*****]
Ok, it's over now.
Obviously the brief smug mother moment went to my head because I then felt I could take on the world. Well, not exactly take on the world, but take all 3 of my kids shoe shopping. At half term!!! Bad idea.
But, on the plus side, I'm so glad we don't have to actually buy proper shoes; you know, proper black boring school shoes. Certainly one of the benefits of not having kids in school. The funny thing is, for the first few years of home educating I still bought my kids boring black school-type shoes every autumn. Why? Must be years of subtle subconscious programming; I was driven by the same urge that takes over every September and makes me go out and buy new stationery and pencil cases and other rubbish that I don't need. And the daft thing was, my kids wouldn't even wear the shoes. Instead they lived in wellies and trainers.
So, shopping for wellies and trainers it was. Oh, and slippers. Personally can't see the point of slippers - wear another pair of socks if your feet are cold, or comfy shoes, but dh has a thing about the kids wearing slippers. Maybe I should let him take the kids shoe shopping next time.
Talking of wellies -well actually I was talking about slippers, but anyway- I was just wondering how ds1 manages to wear his wellies out so quickly. He gets through 2 or 3 pairs a year! Surely that's not normal? With this last pair, both of them have split down the back. Other pairs have worn holes in the bottom. I'm starting to think he must be sleep walking in the darn things.
Back to shoe shopping. Well, it wasn't too horrendous an experience, though the boredom quickly took over when ds1 refused to have any of the slippers or wellies on offer. Can't blame him really; he's nearly 10 and doesn't really want 'pirate' wellies or 'spiderman' on his slippers.
My bribery ploy (shopping survival strategy) was to promise them a look round Gamestation at some point. This kinda backfired as it reminded ds2 that his elder brother has a ds lite and he only has a gameboy advance. As if my technohead child needs reminding!. So we had sulky, grumpy, and occasionally violent outbursts for the remainder of the shopping experience, pacified only by a look at the mountain bikes in Halfords. Sibling rivalry. Got a lot to answer for.
[Hmm..hope ds2 isn't expecting a mountain bike for Christmas.]
Anyway, at least one child was happy with their purchase. Here's dd1 dancing in her fluffy pussycat lighting up slippers. At what point in my parenting life did I give up on the 'just buy them plain non-commercial shoes'?
I wonder if they do them in my size.




video

Ok, better finish this now. The dog, who was sitting on my lap and was performing the role of hot water bottle, has now moved and I'm getting cold. Also dd1 has just come in to tell me she's been downstairs for ages and I still haven't got her breakfast. There goes that smug mother moment....

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Two theme parks in one week!

Ok, so I'm going to do a ratings score: here goes (scored out of 10)...
(I haven't added up the totals, so if you're feeling bored you can do that for me)

Gullivers Land (Milton Keynes)

Queues: 9.5 - barely any queueing, either to go in or to go on any rides.
Variety: 9 - Lots to do, different rides and shows.
Age range suitability: 8- This place is suitable for toddlers to 10years, so great for my kids, but perhaps not for older ones.
Wow factor: 5 - Nothing that made me go wow, but still enjoyable.
Cleanliness: 9
Friendliness: 9
Parking: 9 Easy parking, no long walk to front entrance. Car park was a bit boggy in places.
Cost:7 - We had vouchers that got us in for £5 per person. Otherwise it's about £10 per person, which seems alot if you have a family of 5 to pay for!
Commercialism: 8 - not too commercial. Once in, all the rides and activities were free.

Overall a very pleasant experience. Gentle for the little ones and no ghastly queues!

Legoland (Windsor)

Queues: 4- As always it was busy. Always queues for pretty much everything, which can get a bit tiresome after a while.
Variety: 9 - Loads to do for all ages. Even better in summer when families can make use of the outdoor facilities more!
Age range suitability: 9 - great for all my kids. There are fewer things for toddlers to do, but they get in free anyway, so perhaps that compensates!
wow factor: 10 - Well they had their fireworks event on, so I have to give it a high score for wow factor! The place is so huge though, it can't help but be impressive.
Cleanliness: 7 - overall quite clean, but with the sheer numbers of people the toilets can struggle!
Friendliness: 9 - despite the rain the staff did their best to be cheerful. Maybe that's all part of their training, but still, it makes a difference.
Parking: 6 - we were lucky this time to get a space fairly near the entrance, but it's not always like that. The car park is so huge that if you can't remember where you parked you might have to wait for everyone to go home before you can see your car!
Cost: 5 - extortionate if you pay full prices (does anyone actually pay full price?). We do the usual Tesco Clubcard vouchers, but there's no way we'd set foot in the place at the normal price.
Commercialism: 5 - Very commercial, lots of places and things to make you part with your money, which makes me a grumpy mummy. But...I guess that's what most theme parks are like.

Overall: If we didn't have Tesco Clubcard Vouchers we wouldn't visit. Yes, it wins on 'Wow factor', but at a price. Personally I find the commercialism and the queues irritating. But the fireworks are absolutely FANTASTIC and the kids love it!




One of the strange devices available for children to ride and experiment with at Gullivers Land. On this one you have to wind the wheels with handles. On another type of machine you wiggle the handles to propel yourself. I had a go on one contraption and I have to admit it was rather fun...(but I did have a sore bum afterwards).



We got bored in the queues at Legoland, so ended up taking some very strange photos of each other to entertain ourselves...I'll post some more when I get a chance. This is dd1 in her new mac that she got for her birthday. She had a perfectly good functional mac, but, alas, it was navy blue. Just NOT girlie enough! This one, however, is perfectly girlie (even for dd1) and it gets her approval. Some people are just plain fussy...



Ds2 in 'Miniland'. For some reason the kids love this bit of Legoland. Lots and lots of miniature versions of landmarks around the world with moving parts (all made of lego of course). Must be a 'child' thing, cause I can't see the attraction personally. I just get the urge to step over the railings and start dismantling all that lego. Very tempting.



Riding in the 'balloons' at Legoland. One of the few rides that usually doesn't have huge queues. Of course the kids had a fight about who was going to pull on the rope to make the balloon go up and down.
As it had been raining all day anyway and we were dressed for the weather with our macs and waterproof leggings we figured we might as well make use of all the 'wet' rides. We had our 2nd ride on the Viking thing (we tried it last year) and were very thankful for our waterproofs as everything got drenched! For the first time ever we also went on the log flume ( ds1 and dd1 and me). We were all fine until the bit when we realised that our little vehicle was about to drop off a precipice into the water channel below. As we got off the ride we had a look at the photos that are taken automatically and the one of us showed me with my head stuck down into the bottom of the 'log'! The kids were sat up straight, but I was being a complete woos. However, in my defence, I was at the front and could see where we were going, so it was much much much scarier...

video

Star Wars fireworks at Legoland


Have just had to edit this because I forgot to mention something. A work colleague arrived at work tonight a little late and gave me the news that it was snowing outside! (In case you wondered why I hadn't noticed this myself it's because I don't sit near a window, and besides, it all looks black out there at 7.30pm). So, it's snowed. That's the wet, sleety sort of snow (probably the stuff that the rail companies hate), not that nice crisp 'Christmas card' sort of snow.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Word confusion

Conversation between dd1 and ds2:

ds2: that's not fair
dd1: why?
ds2: if you say you wont do something unless I do something then that's whitenail.
dd1: eh?
ds2: whitenail! Don't you know anything?!
dd1:what's whitenail?
ds2: you know! Whitenail

and so on...



I was confused too. It took me about 10 minutes before I realised what he meant was 'blackmail'!

And on the subject of child conversations, the kids and I were talking about all sorts of stuff on the way to my osteopath appointment. Ds2 said in a loud voice 'Ooo that's the Private Shop, I know what's in there' and then leant over to continue the conversation in a whisper with ds1. He saw that I was eavesdropping and buttoned up. When I questioned him he just grinned and wouldn't tell me anything. I'm interested to discover what he thinks is in the shop. If he actually does know what's inside that shop then I want to know HOW he found out!! There are some things that 7 year old boys really shouldn't know!

And on a completely different subject, this is an interesting article I saw posted on a home ed email group. It's by Steve Biddulph. If you don't know who he is then just google it and you should find plenty of references!

http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/a-childcare-lesson-from-canada/2008/01/18/1200620205875.html

Thursday, 16 October 2008

On Sunday the weather was fine so around lunchtime we headed off to a local garden centre where there is a playground and animals to look at. As usual we took a bag of carrots for the goats. Here's a photo of ds2 looking cool...


and dd1 with her favourite toy dog. We keep losing the darned thing and I'm started to get quite paranoid about taking it anywhere. Most of the following photos are taken by ds1 on his camera.





And a not very flattering photo of me and jack. I knew there was a good reason why I'm usually the person behind the camera, not the subject! I'm not quite sure what Jack is doing, but I'm obviously trying to stop him.


Mmm...here's a llama (or is it an alpaca?) with a very nice hairdo. Must have gone to the same hairdresser as my boys (yes, the memory is still raw).

This week at the sailing club we were making lanterns for the forthcoming bonfire night party. This is the grand version (made by a friend, not me). It has a willow frame covered with tissue paper (coated with diluted pva glue) and a candle suspended by wire in the middle. I was a bit concerned that the tissue paper might catch light, but apparently it doesn't (ok, I'm still a bit paranoid about it). It wasn't dark enough to show the full effect, but I think with a bit of refinement it will look fantastic.

I've got plans to try one at home using chicken wire. I thought we could mold it into a shape (leaving a hole to place a night light in a jar inside) and then do the whole tissue-paper-with-pva-glue thing.

Here are some of the other lanterns we made. The 'punching holes in a tin can' ones were pretty tricky to make, partly because they rolled around so much and also because they tended to flatten out when hit with a hammer and nail. The solution, we found, was to fill them with sand from the sandpit and sit them in a pile of sand to stop them rolling. I marvelled at my ingenuity but then I was given an even better tip of filling them with water and freezing them overnight - apparently this works a treat. It was still difficult for the kids to manage, so most of them opted to make lanterns by decorating glass jars.
And no, I don't know why dd1 has blue stickers on her nose...

The painted glass jars...(still a bit sticky!)


We had a little birthday party at the sailing club for dd1 who will be 5 tomorrow. Even the bigguns were keen to join in pass the parcel! I managed to impress myself by actually making the birthday cake: it wasn't burnt and it even rose (a bit). I had a bit of an icing failure though; the icing was meant to be stiff enough to stand in peaks, but instead it sort of slopped and ran down the sides into a puddle. Still, by the time dd1 had covered it with artificial additive-laden, sugar-overdose sprinkles, then it didn't seem to matter. As I had loads of icing left I even slapped it on the home-made chocolate cookies. Remind me not to do that again...

The kids have been doing some science with dh at his work, while I go to my weekly writing class. Last week they took a CD player apart. Thankfully most of the bits stayed at his work (we already have too many boxes of bits of dismantled machinery).

This week they had a magnetic device thingy that made objects 'float'. Can't remember the name of it, but judging by the whiteboard on the wall dh had been trying to explain exactly how it worked. I'll be asking questions later children...

Anyway, here's a video of it working:

video

We haven't been doing our regular http://www.kramf.com/ experiments, so I need to get back in to the habit. I think it's also time to pick up on some history, maybe a museum visit, or perhaps going back to covering some of 'The Story of the World' book. We seem to have busy days just doing 'stuff' and sometimes it's hard to fit in anything more formal. Once dd1's birthday is sorted we'll have a chance to settle down to other things.

I had the 'usual questions' today at my writing class when a few people found out that I was home educating. I'm always happy to answer the questions because I know they were exactly the sort of questions I used to ask years ago. However, it's always quite difficult to explain to parents who are in 'the system' and who still have very 'schooled' brains without sounding defensive. I don't mean that in a derogatory way because having spent years in the school system most home edders I've known needed to deschool and rethink the whole concept of education, even more than their children. I know that when I first started out the idea of autonomous education - children learning without teaching! Shock horror! - would have just been too much for my brain to even contemplate. Now it seems so obvious, so self-evident, that I wonder how I couldn't see it earlier! I have a completely different mindset now. And if my kids blame me when they're older (as most kids blame their parents) I'll just say it was all the fault of that John Holt bloke.

To finish off the posting I thought I'd pop in a photo of dd1 enjoying her latest 'thing', colouring in. It's a fascinating time for me because neither of the boys showed any interest in any of the colouring books we had. In fact we got given so many I just got rid of all of them because it didn't seem worth taking up space. Now I've got to go out and buy some more. She draws lots too. Mostly dogs and hearts (with the boys it was always castles, knights and machinery). I did wonder if there is anything I could have done to lessen the gender difference and then I gave up thinking about it 'cause my brain ached.



Oh, and as a p.s. Ds1 seems to be doing fine on his ds lite. I'm not quite ready to ration it yet as I figure the novelty will wear off in a few weeks and he'll get into a more civilised routine of using the ****** thing. It seems that he got a good deal though. The deal included the ds lite and one game up to the value of £29.99. Gamestation have a general policy that if you don't like a game you can return it within 10 days. Ds1 returned the game the day after we bought the package (it wasn't quite what he expected) and they then said under their returns policy that he could choose any games (plural) up to £29.99. Because they had a sale on he got 2 games that he wanted and was also given a £5 credit voucher for the remaining money!

Monday, 13 October 2008

OMG The haircut! And our house has been invaded (by a ds lite)

The kids haven't had a haircut in about two years and although I've hacked at it at regular intervals there is only so much my novice attempts can do. So today I decided that enough was enough and incorporated a bike ride with a trip to our local cheapy hairdressers that I've never tried before. 'Support local business' I thought, in my generous state of mind. Besides, the kids will only want a trim and if the haircuts are good then I'll book myself in for another day.

Arrgghh!!!

Bad idea. Now I know why I normally procrastinate about these sorts of things.

ds1's hair is always a mess. Probably even more of a mess when I cut it, but my haircuts are free and relatively painless. However, today, once ds1 had his hair cut (he was the first in the hot seat) I started having doubts whether this bloke with the scissors was really a genuine hairdresser. I mean, I could have stuck a bowl on his head, cut round it with a pair of blunt scissors, and the end result would have been similar. It was lopsided, sticky out (ok I blame genetics for that) and, well, rubbish.

Then it was ds2.' s turn. Thinking that he'd probably just want a trim, surely the hairdresser couldn't do too much wrong. 'Can I have it cut short?' he says, turning to the madman with the scissors. OMG! Off went the long blond beautiful tresses with a snipping and hacking of obviously very blunt scissors. No clipping up bits of hair with hair grips, or layering, just a straight round job just below the ears. Argghh! I nearly cried! I managed to swallow my tears long enough to ask if the guy could layer it just a bit 'so it lies better'. He did, in a fashion. Pretty similar to something I've done. No, actually, it was worse than what I've done with my 5 quid superdrug hair scissors. 'Lovely' I said to ds2, whose bottom lip was starting to look as if it might be trembling even more than mine.

Well by the time dd1 sat on the seat I was too stunned to say anything. Thankfully he just gave her a trim. Not too much trauma there, but certainly not worth 8 quid.

So now I know why I hate going to the hairdressers and why I often leave it months, or years, before we trust another one. Why do I do it?! Around here it costs - gulp - £40+ for a woman's haircut, a semi-decent one. Or for £18 I could have a rubbish one. Kids' cuts are anything from £8-12 for a basic job in a blue-rinse salon or a barber's scalping, probably around £20+ for something half decent (I've never paid that much yet, so my kids have never had a very good haircut). So the choice is be really skint, suffer a lousy haircut, or do it yourself. I think I'll train as a hairdresser. Get a book out the library and start doing some DIY. Surely I can't do any worse than the guy today?

BEFORE...AND AFTER




BEFORE...AND (sob) AFTER ( and yes, it really is as lopsided as the photo shows)




So...am now going to go and have a meltdown somewhere, probably aided by a large glass of wine.

But, on a brighter note (I think), ds1 finally parted with his hard-earned cash and bought a Nintendo ds lite today. He was well-chuffed and slightly smug as poor ds2 hasn't saved up enough yet to get one too.

So there I am in Gamestation, emptying ds1's giant Winnie-the-Pooh money box onto the counter and holding up a queue of around 7 people while the shop assistant and I count up all the ten pence pieces and coppers to get to £109.99. The things us parents do for our kids, eh? That's why I keep this blog. One day, when he's bringing his laundry home for the 10th week running, I'll remind him of all those sacrifices I had to make when he was younger.

Am I pleased to have one of these ds lites in the house? Well, the jury is out on that one. Having visited people's houses where their kids are glued to the things, I have mixed feelings. Will keep you posted.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

wow! How many weeks has it been since I blogged? Seems like ages. Well, here's a brief overview of what we've been up to...

Ds2 has been busy making working models. The one below is from the book, 'How Things Work: Cars, bikes, Trains and other Land Machines', by Ian Graham. We had to make it up a bit as we went along, but it kinda worked.


video


Continuing the theme of model making, here is a video of a 'wind generator' we made from a kit during a short break at Pontins.

video

We'd visited an Eon information centre in Great Yarmouth and had a long chat with the guys inside. They had some kits and information so we came back to our chalet with lots to do!

One of the staff was an ex-teacher, so our conversation about home education was interesting. He was very 'old school' so the conversation revolved around how dreadful school is now and how much better it was in the 'good old days'. I was surprised to find out that he had taught a class of 40+ students with no problems at all; large class size seems to be one of the frequent excuses for poor academic results nowadays, so I wonder how valid it is. At least the conversation wasn't confrontational, though when he started testing ds1 on percentages I figured it was time to change the subject!

And model-making of a different sort...

video
Also at Pontins, ds2 had a go at climbing. He's been climbing quite often at a local climbing wall, but has never climbed using a harness before. Dh had a go too. It's a long way up!

We all had a go at crazy golf. I have a limited concentration span for this sort of thing, and dd1 was quite 'flexible' about the rules (lol) so it was all a bit random!

video

And yes, it was my ankles that she managed to hit with the ball!
So what else have we been doing?
Well the music lessons have been continuing at a local Montessori school. I'm not sure how much the kids get from it: ds2 seems more enthusiasitc that ds1, but we'll see. Having cut out pretty much all the regular group activities, this is something I want to continue, at least for this term.
We've been spending a fair amount of time down at the sailing club, doing various activities and also some conservation/clearance work, spotting wildlife etc.


Above you can see ds2 lopping some bushes at the sailing club. Below is a willow kayak that I made using a scaled-down version of the willow kayak on http://www.instructables.com/ (http://www.instructables.com/id/Four-Hour-Kayak!/ )

I used a black binliner instead of tarpaulin.

video

We have ambitions (or perhaps they are just my ambitions) to make a larger version, or even a full-sized coracle using a framework of willow. There's plenty of willow to cut at the sailing club grounds. The children did some willow weaving and made some bows and arrows. I have plans to cut willow poles for my allotment beans for next year, though I'll be careful to let the poles dry out over winter before using them just in case they start growing.

And we've been continuing our indoor activities too...


Making a bird beak from paper

Next we plan to make some lanterns for bonfire night.

As for more fomal activities, well we're not quite in 'winter mode' yet. However, I have been encouraging the children to practice their handwriting a little and it looks like ds1 may have finally written a letter back to his penfriend in Australia. Writing just one or two sentences a day, it takes a while, lol! With this autumnal weather I have to resist the urge to start getting workbooks off the shelves as I know it will only send us all into a foul and stressful mood. There's something about the start of the new school year that is internally programmed into me ; I want to rush out, buy up loads of textbooks and stationery and start playing 'teacher'. Hopefully the feeling will pass! I have to keep reassuring myself that all the things I'm doing with the children are educational and that they are learning. Lots.

p.s. we're still waiting for the big fat brown chrysallis to hatch out into a moth (remember, the neighbour arrived at our door with a big caterpillar for us). It's been chrysallized for a month or so now; maybe it'll hatch out in Spring? It's sat on some compost in a fish tank on the windowsill in our lounge, right by the tv. I wonder if this is something that normal families do. I've been home educating so long now I think I've lots all perspective of what normal families do, lol!