Sunday, 25 May 2008

Damp llamas, weird pigs, invisible guinea pigs and the Billy Goat Gruff family (not trip-trapping over the bridge)

I've been meaning to post for a while and even uploaded these photos several days ago, but somehow time seems to have flown past.

Well it's now Wednesday. Having spent Saturday night with a friend, taking along ds2 for a sleepover treat, we headed back home on the Sunday. Trying to make use of the gap between rain and - er - more rain we headed to a local garden centre/pick-your-own place that also offers a free 'farm park' and a reasonable playground. For once we actually remembered to bring a bag of carrots to feed the goats. The big greedy goat (think 'Big Billy Goat Gruff') got pretty much all the carrots and the little goats (think 'little billy goat gruff') hung back and didn't get much at all. No trip-trapping over a bridge though, it was just a case of sticking their necks through the fence and grabbing anything orange and crispy coming their way. Maybe I should suggest that they build a little bridge for them to trip-trap over - could be a good marketing ploy for the garden centre.

In one field there were a few llamas - actually I think they were alpacas, though I don't know what the difference is. Perhaps someone who reads this blog will be able to let me know? Anyway they were slightly soggy and sad looking animals that looked like they'd have much prefered to be anywhere other than a damp muddy English field.

The big guinea pig run - that's a big run, not a run for big guinea pigs - was empty as always, though there were bits of lettuce left out for them. I suppose the disadvantage of having a wonderful system of underground tunnels for the guinea pigs to run in is that they probably prefer to be underground running around than up on top being oggled by noisy kids. I'm sure it's been years since I've seen a guinea pig actually out and about in the run. Maybe there haven't actually been any guinea pigs in all that time and the owners leave lettuce out just to fool us passers by into thinking that we might possibly be lucky enough to spot one. There's something far more exciting about guinea pigs when they are evasive and you can't actually see them.

Then there were ducks and geese (I have a video of dd1 running around chasing some very angry looking geese which I'll try and upload). Anyone else with any sense at all would have been running in the opposite direction, but not my fearless daughter!

Er...are you sure that's a good idea?

And then there were the pigs. Weird looking pigs. I thought at first they looked weird because they were moulting, but then looking closer, I got the impression that this was what they always looked like. Sorry pigs, nothing personal, but you do look weird. Looks a bit like my tongue after drinking too much Stella (ok, perhaps that's too much information).

Weird pig

The farm park had had some work done on it since we had last been there. There had been a picnic area set up in a field and a woodland planted at the back. According to the notices this had been created in 2006. I guess on previous visits I must have got bored before getting to that field and dragged the kids back.

We took a stroll with the dog through the new woodland. It was basically a few trees planted in very straight rows which, in their current state looked nothing like a woodland. Perhaps in 20 years it might show some greater resemblance. Does woodland normally have straight rows of trees? I guess The New Forest does, but those are conifers, so they would look like they were planted in straight rows even if they weren't. Anyway, running through the woodland field was a stream with a lovely trip trappy bridge going over it (darn it, they should have parked the goats nearby, it would have been perfect!). My kids being my kids decided that it would be a good place to investigate and spent half an hour jumping over the water, exploring under the bridge (doing a spot of trip-trapping over it) and generally getting wet. Eventually the not-so-active-and-getting-increasingly-cold adults decided it was freezing and time to head to the playground and get some hot choc from the restaurant. I think the kids could have stayed paddling and poking for most of the day.

Pose nicely for the camera please

Ok, now you can fight over the stick again

'It's wet'
(er yeah, what did you expect?)

Do I look like a troll?
(more like a little gnome methinks)

And then started the great 'how can I get this as cheaply as possible' hunt. I must have been gone ages. Seeing the price of fruit juice (around £2.20 a glass) in the restaurant I bought a glass pint bottle of orange juice in their farm shop next door, plus some cakes from their bakery (55p each compared with £1.80 or more in the restaurant). Then I went back to the restaurant bought a coffee for dh and a hot choc for me, plus asked nicely for extra cups so that all the kids could share hot choc/orange juice.

Sigh! It's hard work this budgeting lark! Sometimes I long for the days when dh and I could go out for the day, buy lunch and drinks in a restaurant and not be worried about the cost (these were pre-kid days of course!).

DD1 feeding those hard sought-out bargain snacks to the sparrows.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A Home Educating Mum's Guide to a Quiet Mid-Life Crisis (wouldn't want to disturb anyone would we?)

Today Ds1 attended the first part of a First Aid course. As he frustratingly tells me, I gave him the choice as to whether to attend or not and when he said 'no' I said he had to go anyway. Well, he should consider himself lucky - at least I gave him the brief illusion of having a choice before I took it away from him. lol. Ah well...I figure my kids get lots of choice and freedoms, probably far more than many kids. Sometimes there are things that I think are important enough that I make the choice for them, and this was one of them.

Thankfully the car is still working after it's cam belt breakage and replacement. I did have my doubts last night when, on my way out to go to the home ed pub evening I found dh under the car tying the exhaust back on with wire. Oh joy. That's another thing that needs replacing (yet more money). So now the car sounds a bit like a tractor and everytime I put my foot hard on the accelerator it chucks out clouds of black smoke. I should be thankful for small mercies - at least it's not got bits dragging on the ground or anything too embarrassing.

Anyway, ds1 said the course was 'good', which is bloody marvellous compared to the response I was expecting, so we're off for part 2 tomorrow. This time we'll try and get there on time - a combination of poor organisational skills (me) and traffic (me again - I forgot about rush hour) led us to being late today. But, in true home ed style, there were people even later than us. It could have been worse.

Perhaps I should have just chilled out at that point, but we raced back home to drop dd1 off at preschool, spent an hour at the allotment (sowing carrots and planting out more sweetcorn) before racing back to pick up ds1 from the course at lunchtime. Then to the garage to get a quote for a new exhaust pipe.

I dread taking the car to the garage and as I pulled up there were 5 garage blokes barely out of their teens lurking outside the garage with nothing to do. When the garage bloke asked me 'what's the engine size?' I looked blank and shrugged 'haven't a clue'. I saw that look flick across his face, the 'oh god it's a woman driver' look. Oh joy. Thankfully he wandered off made a phone call and then returned to say that we wouldn't be able to get the exhaust pipe there. So back home we went before once more racing out to get dd1 from preschool and back home again in time for some friends to arrive. Then cooking a tea in a rush and me off to work, leaving the house a mess and nothing much achieved. I had planned to start thinking about what to do for ds2's birthday (only a week away), but like everything else lurking ominously on my whiteboard hanging by the door it just hasn't happened yet. Poor child, if I don't get something organised soon he's going to feel very neglected!


Most of the home educators I know are currently going through a bit of a confidence crisis and I suppose I'm not much different. The daily domestic plod, the overwhelmingly untidy and dirty house, the increasing list of 'to do's, the constant bickering of siblings and the lack of achieving any goals (particularly home educating ones) makes us all have moments when we suspect perhaps school could offer something more. At least school would offer free childcare and we're all in desperate need for that!

Among my circle of friends most of us are having - and have been having for several years - something resembling a mid-life crisis. It's come to that time when we've all decided not to have any more children and we've all started asking the question 'so what's next then? What's in it for us?' Of course it hits us home educating mums hardest because in the midst of domesticity and the responsibility of full time caring and education, there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel - well not for another 10 or more years (by then we'll probably all be caring for our parents!) Other friends whose youngest children have now gone to school have started on their plans - retraining, doing voluntary work, working, going to the gym, spending time focusing on their needs after years of childcare - and I can't help but be a little envious. Ok, ok, I'm a lot envious!

And it affects us mums more than dads. Sadly I'm coming to realise that partners and husbands don't really care, because for them it makes no difference if we were home educating or not - they have their jobs, their careers, their status, their respect, their peers, their money, their social contact - and when they come home each evening it would make little difference to them whether their children had been at school all day or at home. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect as long as the meal is on the table and the house doesn't look like a bomb's hit it [I fail on both of those] then they probably wouldn't notice either way.

So what to do about it? I'm yet to work it out. All I know is us home educating mums who have spent years meeting the needs of everyone else, are fast becoming so worn out, emotionally and physically knackered, that we're at risk of not being fit and healthy enough to meet their own needs and do all the things we'd love to even if we did have the time and money! That is even if we could actually remember what our needs are (most days I can't even remember what day it is lol) .What a sad state to be in!

Money is certainly an issue that crops up among home educators. How to make more, how to make the little we have go further, how to not mind when we're surrounded by people who can afford all those extras (tutors, music classes, resources, nice holidays, cleaners, childcare) that make home educating life that little bit easier. Ok, so perhaps 'surrounded' is a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. Some days you just don't want to be in the company of someone who can provide their kids with all the things you know you can't. Why is it that the people who say 'Money isn't everything' are usually the people who have lots of it! Money may certainly not be EVERYTHING, but there are times when it certainly makes life that little bit more comfortable {g}. Still if chiropracters cost only pennies to go to and we had a car that wasn't slowly falling apart, then finances might be slightly more secure lol.

Please please don't let the washing machine break down. Anything else, just not the washing machine.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Cakes, the entrepreneur and the cam wheel

Today dd1 and ds2 finally got to make cakes. They've been nagging me for weeks to make cakes. I'm not much of a keen cook anyway, but for me cooking and kids just doesn't work especially 3 boisterous kids in a tiny kitchen! The people who say that cooking with kids is fun, obviously don't have kids - or have the patience of a saint and cleaners to clean up the mess afterwards! Anyway I confess that it wasn't me who finally conceded to their demands - it was their aunt who volunteered for cake-making duties (don't suppose she'll be doing that again in a hurry!). I took the cowardly approach, went and 'hid' in the garden, planting some beans and trying to get my wonky old bunch of bean poles to make some kind of a line.

Pussy cat cakes!

Some of the cake mix got into the oven,

but there seemed to be alot on the table and around faces!

Ds1 did some shopping today as he's starting up his tuck shop again. I'm sure all the other home ed parents will be cursing us as he turns up at the activities with his stash of chocolate bars, crisps, lollies and sweets to sell to their kids. However, despite my misgivings about feeding the home ed community's kids with junk food, it does have a lot of educational value. For ds1 this means maths, English, business skills, all rolled into something he actually gets a buzz out of doing.

There he was, going round Tescos, reading labels, adding up what was in the trolley, working out what products were cheapest, what would sell best, how much profit he could make. I leant him the money for his stock today, but he's going to pay me back from his 'business' account next week.

When we got home he was keen to get everything out and we went through the receipt with a calculator while he did division to work out how much each individual item would cost. [All those times I've tried to explain division to him with no success and there he was understanding it perfectly - there's alot to be said for learning with a purpose, in context, when it's relevant and appropriate to your needs!] He then decided how much to charge for each item, boxed them all up, wrote price labels for the boxes and stored them in the cool box. Then next he'll probably need to write out a price list to display for his customers. Perhaps we should have used this for his Blue Peter badge instead (though I'm sure Blue Peter are far too politically correct to encourage children to sell junk food to other children!)

Opening up the packages

Writing price stickers

In the meantime, ds2 was doing technical drawings today. I'm not entirely sure whether they are inventions or drawings of our car (one of them had a 'Cam wheel' labelled), but I can't help but be impressed by his enthusiasm. A little help with the boys' handwriting and spelling wouldn't go amiss perhaps (!) - I'm yet to find out how this can be achieved through autonomous education - but at least they have a passion to learn, design, invent and create.

(For some reason I can't get these photo to display the right way around)

Saturday, 17 May 2008

boys, boys, boys (and weapons...)

Some mornings just don't go to plan.

Yesterday, I overslept, woke up at 8.55am realising that I was meant to be helping out at dd1's preschool at 9.15am! I hadn't bought any snacks for the break time (parent helper responsibility) so needed to get to Tescos on route, and the kids were just sat downstairs in their pjs watching tv! So at 9.10am I was chopping up carrots into fingers and trying to work out whether the humous was past it's best (it was). So, after rushing around like mad things, we stopped off at Tescos to stock up on humous, breadsticks etc, and finally arrived about 9.45am.

Preschool was chaotic - lots of small boys with heaps of noisy testosterone, far too many adults around, but none of them seeming to be in charge, and my 3 causing even more chaos. And one child was apparently very allergic to humous (typical!) I ended up talking to another parent and giving a very poor case for home ed (my brain wasn't really in gear), who then told me she was a GP and was looking at me as if she was about to report me to the local authority and have me sectioned {g}. At that point I went and hid in the preschool kitchen for the rest of the morning doing the washing up! I suppose it's just as well we don't have to do the school run every day, there would be this sad, motley, disorganised bunch arriving late every day!

Anyway, by the afternoon we were all worn out. dd1 had a friend back for lunch and play and I disappeared while they were quiet to do some web surfing. I found some interesting projects on the website - ds2 was looking over my shoulder and once I printed a few things out he disappeared upstairs and started making knex crossbows. We found several on the website, some were quite complicated, some had unintelligible instructions, but after we'd sorted through them we found some that looked 'do-able'. The basic mini crossbow was quick to make, didn't take many pieces and worked quite well, firing an arrow down the hall fairly speedy. The new improved crossbow took a lot longer and quite a few pieces to make. It seemed unecessarily complicated to make, but was stronger and when it worked it was certainly effective, making a hole in a paper target that we blue-tacked to the front door. Anyway, it was fun and for the first time I got to make something out of knex that actually worked - lego is more my 'thing', never did get the hang of knex. Ds1 had a go at designing his own version today, quite a simple design but it worked.

The Basic Mini Crossbow design made from the webpage:

Testing the mini-bow

There were loads of other ideas for projects on the website, just putting 'airplane' in the search box led to pages and pages of ideas. I like the idea of trying to 'make an ipod speaker out of a hallmark card'. Unfortunately they've had to remove the pattern for knitting a tardis due to complaints from the BBC on copyright issues. Shame, cos I fancied having a bash at that...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

A day of doing very little...

Today has been a day of doing very little it seems.

I had grand plans to make it to our local regular home ed group, but the car was still at the garage being fixed (broken cam belt) and we were waiting to find out just how serious the problem was. Apparently broken cam belts often 'write off' a car engine and the thought of having to spend £1000+ on fixing the car - or having to buy another one - has been at the back of our minds for the past week since the darn thing packed up. Fortunately it seems as if the car has escaped further damage, and although we're wary that there might be some other problems with the car I drove it to work tonight after the garage put a new cam belt in it. Actually I don't know anything about cars or how they work, and don't really have any inclination to learn. I figure I have enough jobs around the house and if I start learning about the car it will then become my job as well. Nah! Sometimes there are advantages to staying ignorant about these things. I just know that it's a bummer when my back AND the car break down at the same time and that I'm relieved when one - or preferably both - are fixed!

Go-karting down the driveway

So no home ed group today. Ds1 was prompted by me to spend some time this morning writing out his application for a Blue Peter badge. It was a long slow laborious task. First we discussed what he would like to/ought to write. Then, consulting with him, I wrote a couple of paragraphs on a scrap of paper. All he had to do then was type up the sentences in a word document. Boy, it took ages! I think it must have taken over an hour and he typed up about 6 or 7 sentences! I sure hope these Blue Peter guys appreciate the effort (child's and parent's!) that has gone into this application. Still, if he gets a badge and I can get him into Legoland for free then I guess it'll be worth it. Just have to come up with an idea for ds2 then, so they can both get in free.

The rest of the day the kids mostly just mooched around. Dd1 spent some time drawing pictures of her brothers and the dog, which are really rather cute - big smiley lopsided people and animals! At the moment I'm keeping them all pegged up from a string that hangs across one of the walls in our lounge, but if she gets too prolific I might have to thin them out a bit. She's only started drawing things over the past fortnight, before then we just had a few scribbles and the occasional amoebic blob with eyes. The progress is quite spectacular. Still, it's often the way with most of the things the kids learn. If I keep well out of the way they seem to suddenly make great leaps in their knowledge or ability. If I try to teach or interfere, then all is lost!

Spent much of the day today trying to browse the internet for dh's birthday present. I'm always lousy at getting him something decent for his birthday because for whatever reason, May is either very busy, or in some way a complete washout due to illness, pregnancy or other reasons. This time I've ordered something off the internet (I'm running out of time and energy and health to go shopping in town) and spent far more money than I was intending. Oh sod it. Sometimes when you're skint, being even more skint doesn't seem like a big deal does it? {g} Ah well, so much for all my frugleness of the past few weeks! Anyway, I sold the travelcot to a guy today for 20 quid, so that's a little bit to go in the pot (yeah the bottomless pot, that's the one!)

Have managed over the past few days to put a few bean poles in the garden where dh has dug and also planted some quite large tomato plants, but haven't got much further with the garden. Moved some of the rampant jerusalem artichokes to a more useful place, but there are still loads of stray plants that have taken over one of my raised beds. Even total neglect doesn't seem to kill them off! Looking on the bright side, at least they are pretty, even if they are in the wrong place. And all these plants came from just from a few uneaten organic veg-box tubers that I threw into the compost bin. Boy, they are survivors!

Despite trying to downsize a bit this year, I have lots to be planted at the allotment - greens, tomato plants, runner beans, french marigold plants, leeks, onions, seed potatoes (found another 2 bags of them in the shed - arrgghh!), and well, lots of other things. Have also been trying to pot up my pepper/chilli pepper plants into their permanent pots in the greenhouse, but I'm finding it all difficult work with my back still not too good. Sciatica came back with a vengence this afternoon (probably because I'd been sat in one position too long in front of the computer) and the terror of yet another fortnight in agony on the sofa is ever present. I need to phone the doctor to go back and see him to 'review options' (as he put it), but am putting it off. He's a bit of a tosser, totally unsympathetic and he's managed to drive me to despair on several occasions ( I'm not sure that patients sobbing on the way home from the doctor is one of the NHS targets!). I have a new surname for him, but don't think it's appropriate to post on a blog! So, will try and summon up some courage tomorrow to make an appointment and then if I get no luck I'll try another doctor. Someone human perhaps...{g}

As for the 'flight' project that we started a while back, well, it's been making slow progress. I really need to focus and get the kids doing something more structured as we seem to be drifting from day to day. They are still learning things, but with the back and car 'situation' we've got out of our routines recently and it's been hard for us all to be so housebound. Ranted big time at the kids yesterday. Apologised afterwards, but I think at least some of it was warranted. The kids really need to start pulling their weight around the house, helping me out and cooperating, or the situation is just going to become impossible. Even the threat of school didn't seem to have much of an effect. Darn! Must have used that one a bit too much!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A QI school

The following was forwarded to me and seemed relevant to home education. I'm an avid fan of QI and I suspect I've probably learnt and retained more general knowledge - albeit on bizarre subjects - through QI than I probably ever learnt in 16 years of formal education. Which is quite sad really. All those years sat at a desk staring out the window while trying desperately to stay awake were mostly a waste of time.

Ask a kid what he wants to learn, and he’s unlikely to say: “a broad-based curriculum that offers the core skills”. Real learning is obsessive. It happens through watching, listening and practising something that really interests you. "From The Sunday Times May 11, 2008

The QI equation for an enriched IQ. The quirky methods behind TV’s QI quiz show could lead to a revolution in how we learn, says Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson. Could an educational revolution come about as the result of a television quiz show? Unlikely, perhaps – but underneath the amiable silliness ofBBC2’s QI lurks a radical remit. And in the week after Chris Parry, the new head of the Independent Schools Council, made an outspoken attack on the state school system, it is surely worth looking at an unorthodox new approach to learning. QI – which stands for Quite Interesting and is also IQ backwards – was created about five years ago by John Lloyd, who had enjoyed great success asproducer of Spitting Image, Not the Nine O’Clock News and Blackadder. on etymology andzoology and history proves Lloyd’s other thesis: that human beings are naturally curious.Indeed, in the world of QI, boredom does not exist....

...Lloyd and Mitchinson [his writing partner] believe that there is a thirst for knowledge among allage groups that is ill served by school – which tends to turn people away from learning. Even the best schools can take a fascinating subject – such as electricity or William Blake or classical civilisation – and make it boring by turning it into facts that have to be regurgitated for exams. QI’s popularity also proves that learning takes place most effectively when it is done voluntarily. The same teenagers who will zoom happily through a QI book will sit at the back of geography class and do their utmost to resist being taught.

It was with all that in mind that I approached Lloyd and Mitchinson and asked whether they would like to expand on the ideas behind QI in a special issue of The Idler. What, I asked them, would a QI school be like?“There would be no work, for a start,” said Lloyd. “It would all be play. Plato said that education should be a form of amusement. That way you will be much better able to discover the child’s natural bent.”This approach is in direct contrast, of course, to the largely Gradgrindian approach common to most schools. As Mitchinson points out, it is actually a method of containment: “There’s that great line: you’re taught for the first five years of your life how to walk and talk; and for the next 10, you’re told to shut up and sit down.”

For Mitchinson, schools have turned into wage-slave production farms rather than places of learning. “What do you remember from school,” he asks. “Most of us would probably recall one or two good teachers, some successes and many humiliations, the ebb and flow of friendships, the torture of exams.“But what about the actual lessons? Try it: sit down and make a list of the first 10 things that loom out of the murk. Then examine the list and see whether it passes muster as either useful or interesting. Unless you are gifted with a photographic memory, you’ll be staring at a rag-bag of half-grasped theories, fragments of other people’s books and a soupy residue of ‘facts’ – many of them not even true.”Then think about that list of great men who barely went to school: Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, William Cobbett, John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell. Our most independent thinkers were more or less self-educated. You will also find that the best schools – for example, Eton and Westminster –have the shortest terms and do the least teaching, a paradox that would suggest we need less formal education all round. In the QI edition of The Idler, Lloyd and Mitchinson present a five-point manifesto for educational reform.

One: play not work.
Schools should be resource centres, not prisons. Teachers should be returned to their original roles as facilitators, not bureaucrats or drillmasters.The more “work” resembles play – telling stories, making things – the more interested kids will become.

Two: follow the chain of curiosity.
Ask a kid what he wants to learn, and he’s unlikely to say: “a broad-basedcurriculum that offers the core skills”. Real learning is obsessive. It happens through watching, listening and practising something that really interests you. Encourage children to follow their own curiosity right to the end of the chain, and they will acquire the skills they need to get there.

Three: you decide.
The QI School isn’t compulsory and there are no exams: only projects or goals you set yourself with the teacher acting as a mentor. This could be making a film or building a chair. From age seven onwards, our core subjects might be: philosophy, storytelling, music, technology, nature and games.

Four: no theory without practice.
If you’re lost in wonder looking at, say, a lettuce, you will want to have ago at growing it, too.
Five: you never leave.

There is no reason why school has to stop dead at 17 or 18. The QI schoolwould be the ultimate “lifelong learning” venue – a mini-university where skills and knowledge would be pooled and young and old could indulge their curiosity.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

The Giant Overexhuberant Flying Sausage

We've managed to start our project on 'flight' this week with a look at the history of hot air balloons and I was hoping to continue today. However, after finishing their morning 'chores' the kids got involved in their own 'thing' and - seeing some creativity and learning happening all on its own - it felt best not to interfere.

Ds2 decided he was going to teach dd1 (age 4) how to write her name. He wrote her name - phonically correct, but otherwise wrong - on a piece of paper and then proceded to draw some letters with dots that she was to join up for him. Being the independent type (alas, seems to run in the family) dd1 had other ideas, but managed to join a few dots before drawing her own capital 'A' . Talk about well chuffed! Ds2 however was none pleased at this rebellion in the classroom and they soon parted company with him going off into another room to follow his own creativity and her left to draw smiley caterpillars on the remaining piece of paper.

Ds2's project for the day (totally spontaneous and uninitiated by me) appeared to be sticking a plastic 1/2 litre fizzy drinks bottle and a clear plastic tube together and then making a hole in the side. Originally it was to be some kind of breathing apparatus, until ds1 pointed out the failings in breathing back in the air you have just exhaled.

'You'll die!' he exclaimed dramatically.

Sensing an 'educational moment' [fanfare of trumpets] I explained about breathing in oxygen and how exhaled breath contains water vapour (hence the steaming up sides of the bottle) and carbon dioxide, which wasn't, generally, the best thing to be breathing back in again. He spent the next few minutes faking dizziness from inhaling too much carbon dioxide, which everyone ignored. Adjusting his ambitions for his new invention he decided to reassign it to being a super large drinking bottle. I didn't like to point out the one failing in this revised plan - it wasn't watertight!

Ds1 in the meantime had disappeared off to 'make some things on the conservatory table'. He has learnt - sadly from experience - to ask permission to do this. I suppose this is a result of me ranting at him like some demented mother just as I'm dishing up the dinner when I have found the entire table covered in the contents of our scrap boxes and art cupboard. Fortunately this doesn't seem to have had a serious long lasting effect on his creativity. Today his creativity was directed towards making a Darth Vader ('well something similar but not the same') outfit - i.e. a mask and body armour - from items out of our 'scrap' box*.

[*note for those who don't have such a thing, the scrap box is full of all those things that normal people throw away and that I probably should if I had any intentions on keeping a 'tidy house'. And no, I have no idea what a 'tidy house' is or where it is kept, but would be interested to find out...]

What I hadn't realised at the time was that he had already created drawings of his 'design' in the hours between breakfast and then - i.e. when he should have been doing his chores- and that he was working from the designs, now laid on the conservatory table. I was really quite impressed with this planning and foresight (not one of my strong points) and started doing that home ed mother thing, emphasising to him about how lucky he was to be home educated and how creative and wonderful he was etc etc...Eventually he managed to wriggle free from my motherly grasp and continued to work on his creation with only mild bemusement at my sudden outburst of adoration.

The Darth Vader - 'well something similar but not the same' - face mask was made from a black plastic food tray with slits cut into it. He asked me if we had any elastic [big sigh] - It's pretty typical of our household that somewhere in the house we have a huge carrier bag full of lengths of elastic, but I'm darned if I can find it ANYWHERE! No doubt it's in the same place that all ds2's socks have gone. After an unsuccessful search I helped ds1 cross the road to go to the corner shop to buy some elastic to fasten it around his head. Which reminds me, he's still got my change - no wonder I don't have any money in my purse.

For the chest armour he used the black cardboard from a disposable bbq that we'd burnt veggy sausages on the previous day. The writing ' disposable bbq' was still emblazoned across his chest. Perhaps that's intergalactic code for 'bad guy', who knows...

In the meantime I'd been looking at some videos on the internet about hot air balloon making and found an interesting one on making a solar powered balloon using black bin liners See for instructions].

So, minutes after showing it to the kids, I was back at the corner shop - the eighth wonder of the world - buying cheap black binliners.

We used 4 bin bags and cut the ends off to make tubes which we then stuck together with sellotape. Sealing one end and filling with air before sealing the other end, we basically ended up with a huge black sausage. We then experimented with it on the pavement outside our house

Don't worry folks it's not a UFO, it's just that nutty home ed family again.

Thankfully we were cautious enough to attach some kite string to one end as it was quite a windy day and it would have ended up either in the road or tangled in the telephone wires if we hadn't. It took a few attempts at getting air into it before there seemed to be a result of sorts. Then as the air inside heated it did seem to rise up, well a bit. I'm not sure how much of the success was due to design or just the fact that it was a bit windy where we were standing - pretty much any plastic bag would have been flying in that wind - but it was fun. Eventually we tied it to a drainpipe in our shared driveway where it flapped around for the rest of the day.

...that reminds me, I must go and bring
it indoors now. Our next door neighbour is registered blind and she might find it a little disturbing when she encounters a giant overexhuberant flying sausage in her driveway!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Helicopters, paper aeroplanes and the bowen technique

Well today the children made helicopters and paper aeroplanes at a group that they go to. When I say helicopters, I guess you could say these are more like paper equivalents of the sycamore seeds that you see falling in the autumn. They are incredibly easy to make - just requiring paper and a paperclip and scissors and surprisingly effective (unlike my usual attempts at making paper aeroplanes and kites!).

The kids didn't take part in many of the other activities (ds1 was persuaded to attend a session on Japanese art, though I didn't see if he produced anything) and as expected spent most of the time running around in the field with some new-found friends.

And today I had, what is hopefully my last (for a while) chiropracter session. This time she used the Bowen technique which I have never heard of before to help some of the more muscular aspects of my back pain. The Bowen technique is described as follows (see )

"The Bowen Technique is a remedial therapy that is applied by the therapist applying gentle pressure to soft tissue with fingers and thumbs. There is no deep tissue work or high velocity thrust movements as in chiropractic and there is no massaging of areas, so therefore no friction.
As a therapy it is incredibly gentle, both on the client and also, importantly, on the therapist. Another advantage to Bowen is that there are no contra indications and it can be used even in acute situations, where other forms of therapy might be avoided. In fact, as far as Bowen is concerned, the more acute the better. The tiniest of babies through to the frailest of adults can be treated and as the work can be performed through light clothing, it is ideal for these two particular groups of client....

...How Does It Work?
There are something like 600,000 signals that travel from the brain into the body every second and these in turn come back to the brain with information which is then interpreted and sent back out. Whenever we feel, hear, see or even think something, the brain brings in past experience in order to categorise the sensation and create an appropriate response.
In the case of the Bowen move, the brain is unable to do this instantly and needs more information to form a response. As it is, just when the brain is asking for more info, the therapist has left the room, and therefore the brain has to send specific signals to the area in order to gauge response. If the client is lying down, the immediate response is nearly always rapid and deep relaxation. The client will also often report that they feel a tingling sensation or warmth in the area just worked. "It felt like your hands were still on me," is a common comment. This demonstrates that because the move is out of the ordinary, the brain is looking for information about what happened.
One of the more difficult elements to come to terms with is how little is done during a session. In addition, the client may well walk out of the treatment room having felt little or no improvement over and above a sense of relaxation. However the reactions to Bowen can often belie its soft and gentle appearance. Stiffness, soreness, headache and feeling like "I've been run over by a bus!" are common. All excellent signs, they demonstrate that the brain has started the process of repair.
This process when started is generally rapid and it is not uncommon for even longstanding pain to be reduced or resolved in two or three treatments. Most sports- or work-related problems will be dealt with also within the two or three treatments, making Bowen not only effective, but cost effective for the client as well.
Although muscular skeletal problems such as frozen shoulder, back and neck pain account for the majority of presentations for Bowen, there is a lot of work that is effective with more organic problems. Although it's important to point out again that we don't treat specific problems, Bowen has been widely used with asthma, migraines, irritable bowel, infertility and reproductive problems. Even hayfever, the blight of so many summers, is affected excellently with Bowen.
There are no such things in this life as guarantees and this can be said of Bowen as well. The beauty of it is that it is simply offered to the body. If the body accepts it then it can and will start the process of repair. If it doesn't accept it then no harm is done."

Well I certainly felt the warmth and tingling described in the above snip. There was also a weird feeling on my face as if I was about to grow a bristly beard after the Bowen 'moves' around my neck area! I also noticed as I reversed out of the parking space on the way home from the session that I could turn my head round to a point where I don't remember being able to turn it before! I'm not sure whether it will have done any good, but I'll see how I feel tomorrow. Hopefully I wont feel as if I've been run over by a bus tomorrow (already felt like that on and off for the past month), but if it can ease the residual pain then it will have been worth it.