Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A child's eye view

Dd, shivering as she gets out of the bath: 'I'm like a statue standing on an earthquake,' she says.

And something to tickle all you who have children that don't fit 'the box':

Monday, 25 January 2010

Groovy Greeks and DIY

Well it's been a slow day here. Apart from a visit to the Ancient Greeks this morning (lapbooking the Mycenaeans to be precise), the day has just drifted. I was sceptical about the lapbook approach, thinking it all seemed rather contrived, but it is a good way of presenting information in small bite-sized chunks. Ds1 is more reluctant to participate, but it seems an effective - and painless - way of learning for ds2. (Dd was keen to do one on dogs, but her attention lapsed after colouring in the first picture lol. ). And I'm learning too: if we did anything on Greeks at school it must have completely bypassed me.

We have a box set of cheap DVDs on Ancient Greece and played the first one in the set last week. They're not the most exciting documentaries (I think we've been spoiled by some good BBC ones), but from the things that ds2 has been mentioning today he's taken on snippets of the information. We always find this with DVDs and tv documentaries, how much the kids take on and how much they remember. Far more than me most of the time! I confess that I bite my tongue when parents say that they don't let their kids watch dvds or access the computer. I know it's a personal preference, but if you have children who struggle to access information in books, or who learn in a very visual or auditory way then DVDs/tv documentaries/the web can be such a wonderful resource. It's a shame to dismiss them completely.

[Thinking of this, Ds1 answered a question on the programme 'Eggheads' a few days ago. It was about a particular dynasty. When he answered correctly I asked him how he knew. 'Oh don't you remember, we did all about that when we did China last year.' Erhum. Let's just say he has a better memory than me.]
Over the weekend we were busy doing some house things.
Dh trimmed a shelf we found in the garage and then translated a dog template that I'd made into a wooden bookend.

Here the kids are helping to put up the brackets.

And here's the MDF scottie dog after his second coat of paint.

And the finished result (the wire going underneath are dd's Christmas lights that stay up all year round):
In the meantime I was solving the dog overcrowding situation and making one of these:

Which allowed for some rehoming:

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Reasons to love home education, No.1:

"Can dogs control their tails? When they are happy can they decide not to wag their tails? Can they choose?"

Question posed by my dearest 6-year-old daughter yesterday .

Answers on a postcard to...

Friday, 22 January 2010

Business as usual

Ok. Big breath. Open for business as usual.
Today we went to The Roald Dahl Museum on a group trip that I organised. Yes, me, actually organising something that involves, well, organisation. Strange, very strange.

It's only the second time I've organised a Home ed group trip and anyone who knows me knows that organisation and responsibility are two words I avoid in my vocabulary. So it was an experience lol. But overall it went ok. And I've learnt a few things from the day which will help me with the other workshops I've organised for the next few months. [Yeah, I've been foolish enough to organise more. What am I thinking?! Eeek!]. Here are a few photos. I didn't take many pics as the workshop was rather - erhum structured - and I felt a bit self concious getting my camera out. Not that it usually bothers me, but it did today.

Yep that was it. 2 photos. Bit of a poor show for snap-happy me.

But I did get questioned about HE by the workshop leader (ex Headmistress). I answered the questions and - I think - gave her the answers she wanted without slagging off schools. Now I come to think about it, I was really very diplomatic and tactful and mature about it all lol. Must have been because I was wearing my 'grown up' cardigan (ds1 asked if I was going to work when he saw me wearing it). Yay! My 'Grown Up' disguise actually works!

On Wednesday we went to the sailing club. We haven't been for ages so it was good just to get a feel for it again, walk to the woods, let the kids explore.

Ds1 decided in his enthusiasm for survival skills to disguise his head as a large clump of moss.'s not working...I can still see you.

And dd was tussling with the dogs as usual. This is the child who when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, says 'A chihuaha'.

On Thursday we went skating with other home edders. There were loads of people there this week, choosing skating as an antidote to the cabin fever of a snowbound week I suppose.Thankfully the kids are all fairly independent on the ice so I don't have to go on with them any more. Which means I can sneak off and raid the chocolate machines instead ha ha!

And here are some photos of ds1's Ancient Greek creation:

Today I printed off heaps of stuff from the web on Ancient Greece and some stuff that hopefully will be useful for making lapbooks. Ds1 will be rolling his eyes at me next week {g}.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Going going gone...

One of my best friends is leaving tomorrow to go to live in Australia. It seems such a long way away and such a big goodbye.

We met at the Health Centre, introduced by one of the health visitors because our sons were born on the same day and we lived in the same street. It was 8 years ago. Most days we would walk with prams (and me with toddler too) to and from shops, just for something to do, someone to chat to. We would have girlie nights in, share some wine (sometimes too much) and talk about stuff, just stuff. Her kids went on to school. Mine didn't. But we kept up. Sometimes having to skirt around the 'education' conversations to maintain our friendship. We still had enough in common. And then, over a year ago, she announced that they were emigrating. So our girlie nights were full of talk of visas and money and house selling. It was painful for me to see her excitement at leaving.

Where I live is such a transient place. People come. People go. Sometimes they stay long enough to make an impression. But very few people stay for long. When you get to my age you don't make friends that easily. Well not those sorts of friends.

Of course we'll keep in touch, a bit. Facebook is handy and I've downloaded skype. But it isn't the same. No doubt she'll post photos of her new house, the beautiful beach, swimming pools, barbecues at Christmas, and I'll be envious of the adventure compared with my very very dull life. But we wont see each other again. There wont be any point telling her that I'm decorating the conservatory, or clearing out the shed, or that ds2 has done this or that, or that I've slipped on my promise not to eat chocolate. Because she wont be there to see it or share it with me, and besides nothing much here changes anyway.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Ever wondered how a six-year-old's brain works?

20th January, 8pm:

dd (6yrs old): "Is that air-drying clay?"
Me: "Yes"
dd: "So if you put it in a place with no air would it still dry?"
Me: "Er...dunno."

1 minute later...

dd: "Why is it that when you're in a ball you go forwards, but when you're on top of a ball you go backwards. You have to run forwards to go backwards, but then you need to look over your shoulder to see. Daddy did tell me the answer, but it confused me."

3 seconds later...

Dd: "Do you know my favouritist word? BANANA COOKIES!You can say it loud or quiet, but I say it loud. But when I'm in bed I can't shout, I just whisper for some reason. I don't mind if I get things inside out [as she realises she's put her pj top on inside out]."

1 minute later...

dd: "So can I get another pickled onion?"
me: "Er, yeah go on then."

Returning from kitchen (with pickled onion in mouth)...

dd: "Mummy if I get this [toy fishing rod] touching that [can on table], will I be able to try a little bit?"
Me: "What my lager? Uh..I'm not sure about that."
dd: "It smells good, but my head thinks I don't like it cos it might be bitter like wine, but I might like it, but it might not be good for me because I'm a child."

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Trojan Horse method of home educating

They are digging up the High Street again.

'They' are little men in fluorescent yellow jackets and bright orange diggers with trigger-happy traffic lights and a power-hungry need to control the main entrance into the City. If ds1 was 4years old he would be wetting himself with the excitement of it all (and I would be standing there impatiently trying to persuade him to come home). Instead it just made me late for work...on my first evening back this term.

[We once had an appalling video 'Diggers and Dumpers', set to really dreadful music. It lasted about 30 minutes. But it was played at least 4 times a day. I think it may have contributed to my maternal mental state and my dislike of diggers.]

Today I stapled the kids to the table and we did some work. Actually, no, only kidding. What I did was very gently guide them towards some maths books (ignoring the groans) and then I fed them cake and then read some stuff about Ancient Greece while they coloured in pictures of Ancient Greek things and then I encouraged them to make a Greecian pot out of clay(only ds1 took up my offer). So, as you can see, I am only very gently imposing my will upon my offspring. And the cake does soften the whole process, a bit like a Trojan horse being let in through the walls of Troy.

But I am still very pro autonomous learning. I am a big fan. But we- I - swing from totally autonomous, to semi-autonomous (never as far as totally coerced/imposed) and back again. I think, perhaps, there is a place for all systems in moderation, though deep down I would love to relax long enough to go totally with the flow. And to be fair, it's only when 'the flow' is 8 hours playing in the Wii that I feel some gentle guidance coming on. I do tell my kids, most days, that they are very very lucky compared with the kids at school. Secretly I'm hoping that one day they'll show me a sign of gratitude (fat chance!).

The introduction of more guided activities has come about because I've realised that ds2 is wanting something a bit more than to be left to his own devices all day. Of course 'child left to own devices' isn't actually what autonomous education is about, but it's a very easy trap to slip into, especially when mother is in the mood to lock herself in the bathroom and eat a family-sized bar of Dairy Milk while growling like a rotweiler at small child who has suddenly decided they need a wee 'No you can't come in! Go pee in the garden! I AM BUSY!'

And the imposition of some sort of structured activity has also come about because of ds1. There is a rising panic in me that realises he is now almost of Secondary School age. Why that should make any difference I don't know, but it does. To me Secondary School Children are big scary children who can write essays and spell and do complicated maths and actually know their times tables (though I do wonder if that myth I have in my head is actually true). When you have a child who still writes many of his letters and numbers back to front and puts capitals in the middle of words because he can't remember how the lowercase letter goes...well, I just have to chew that panic 20 times, swill it around and do my best to swallow it, with a large gulp of hope.

But if ds1 hadn't been home educated...oh I dread to think how school would have been for him. Knowing someone who is currently going through the SEN route for her 8yr old who can't read (and therefore can't access ANYTHING in the school system), I suspect we may have been in a similar position had we 'done school'. So I am thankful for my decision. I need to tell myself that I have a wonderful,confident, happy, knowledgeable and articulate 11 year old, who just needs to work a bit on his spelling {g}.

Monday, 18 January 2010

January Catch Up

I've been so focused on the snow that I haven't really posted about anything else for several weeks. So this is a bit of a catch-up of non-snow-related activities.

Ds2 has been working on three cub badges: 'Home Help', 'Martial Arts' and 'Scientist'. For part of his Scientist badge we made a magnet out of a cork and a magnetised needle. I think the cork was rather large, but it still worked. We tried another with a smaller slice of cork too. Both pointed the same direction as a compass, so methinks that was a success.

Next we have a telescope to make. Watch this space.

The 'Home Help' badge has been rather a shock to ds2. Making his own bed and keeping his room tidy for A WHOLE WEEK! Just clearing his room (which he shares with ds1) was a whole morning's work! Washing up, emptying the dishwasher and sewing on a badge, all rather a challenge. Hopefully the effect will last longer than a week.

Ds2 has also been working on a film presentation about Capoeira for his Martial Arts badge. I'll try and post it up here if I can. I introduced ds2 to the programme 'Windows Movie Maker' and he hasn't looked back. Ds1 has also started using it, putting together some of his photos to music.

I gave ds1 and ds2 building sets for Christmas. Here is ds2 working on his:

It's a good test of his temperament when parts of the building fall apart :)

At the weekend we did the 'tourist' thing with my sister and visited the museums in town. Ds1 didn't want to come with us, but dd and ds2 were willing enough. Here is dd doing a museum 'trail', filling in numbers on her sheet. oooh my 6 year old doing writing! (One has to grasp on to these moments).

And here is ds2 playing with the hands-on technology in the newly revamped museum:

The museum is so much more child-friendly since it's renovations. I've already checked out the family-friendly workshops and I think we will be visiting more frequently. The Ancient Greece gallery might be handy as we are doing some work on Ancient Greece at the moment.

(Don't look now but there's a naked man behind you! )

We visited the SteamPunk Exhibition again, in another museum:

And made the most of the sunshine:

Today we visited friends and explored the woods. A few bumps and scrapes and some tired children at the end of the day, but it was wonderful to get out in the fresh air with some good company. I feel like we've been shut away since before Christmas and I'd forgotten how good it is to get together with others and get muddy!

On the way to the woods we saw a buzzard, cooly perched on a fence post. I think it's the closest I've ever seen one. It confirmed that the large bird we saw a few weeks ago was also a buzzard; it's a similar size to a Red Kite, but without the forked tail. Whoo, I almost sound like I know what I'm talking about.

Dd's moth 'pet':

She has a thing about pets at the moment. We have a pet lemon in the bathroom (yes, a real lemon) and a pet coconut in the fridge and for a while we had a pet snowball called 'puppy' in the garden. We do still have some pet icicles and pet snowballs in the freezer.

Dd on the rope swing ("If I was a bat sat on here then I'd be the wrong way up")

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Mr Kenwood will make a chef of me yet!

[Good blog post here on the latest ongoing Government vs Home educators battle. Should I call it a battle? Well it's certainly felt like it over the past year. Anyway, if you thought Ed Balls was a plonker (I'd like to say something worse, but I'd better not) before then the post will probably just reinforce your already-low opinion.]

Anyway...moving swiftly onwards.

My Kenwood Chef was finally delivered today. Hooray! I ordered it just after Christmas, but the snow delayed delivery, and all that time we were snowbound at home and I could have been baking, my mixer was lurking in some warehouse somewhere. But it's here now. All new and shiny, with shiny attachment thingies.

As you may be able to tell, I've never owned a mixer before. I'm expecting it to cure all my cooking ills, which is a tall demand. But I believe in the wonders of technology. It WILL make a cook out of me! Shame it wont clean the kitchen first.

We had more snow today. Had to take the kids to the pantomine (they had free tickets) and pick up another family en route. Super skiddy road. Took us an hour and a half for a 20 minute journey. At one point I was doing nothing and the car was sliding sideways, which was entertaining :) Well it was a quick cure for overcoming my fear of driving in the snow.

The snow started to melt later, then more snow came. I wonder how long this is going to go on? Our regular Thursday home ed meetup tomorrow is cancelled and I've organised a group outing for a week or so away, which I'm having to pay for up front. Big money. Enough to buy another Kenwood Chef. I know the snow is lovely, but I could really do with a thaw in a few days.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Not just a walk in the snow

A walk in the snow. And look what we find:

Well we can't just leave it there, can we?

Dog nearly becomes part of giant snowball:

Snowball looks bigger...where's the dog? Anyone hear any barking from inside?

Synchronised snow angel display team shock dog walker:

Dog rescued from inside snowball models the latest fashion: snow 'bling'

Child decides this is all too boring and wants to eat soup instead:

Shopper frozen in January sales queue melts away:

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The story so far

First came this:

And some of this:

Followed by a bit of this:

And this: (very pretty):

And then we got this:

Which meant lots of this:

A bit of this: (self-made snowball on Jack's collar after running down the garden)

Some chilly this: (chickens refusing to come out):

And plenty of this:

And some foolish this:

And recently some fantastic this:

And this: (largest icicle measured 68cm/27" approx)

And now I really need to go do some of this:

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A less timid life

Risk taking. It's a funny thing that.

You know the saying 'don't play with fire'? Well, I confess that I've let my children play with fire since they were old enough to poke a stick into a bonfire. [note: at the age at which they were capable of doing it, not the age at which some parents might think they should be allowed to do it. ]. I think, for the most part, they have a good knowledge and a healthy respect for fire. They know how it behaves and can respond appropriately. They can use it, and they can play with it. And if they are foolish with it...well, let's just say it's a learning curve. But in a risk-averse society I suspect their fire-related activities would arouse disapproval and horror from many other parents.

[Note, no fingers were singed in the making of this video, though I do think we should cut ds2's hair in preparation for the next time. And yes, there will be a next time :) ]

And as my children travel on their educational learning curve I'm reminded of Gever Tulley and his video on 'Five dangerous things you should let your children do'. Sometimes you find a person in this crazy crazy world who actually talks sense.

As someone who was brought up to 'be careful' all the time, and who has spent their life avoiding risks, if there is anything I would wish for my children it would be to have a less timid life.

Monday, 4 January 2010

So very tired of it all

I have to confess that I have let my eye wander from the ball. I have slipped, missed..or just deliberately wandered away from the problem facing home educators in England and gone and hidden under the duvet instead. It is, after all, winter. Not just winter, but just after Christmas. And we have been fighting this Badman/Government attack on home educators for - oh - such a very long time. I forget how long now. But it seems to have overshadowed our whole year. And I feel, sadly, that it will overshadow - in one way or another - 2010 too.

So, because I feel I am out of the loop, and relatively uninformed, I am grateful for those who keep us updated on the current situation, like here:

I give a snippet:

"The Children Schools and Families Bill had its first reading on November 19, less than six weeks after the [Badman] consultation closed. It is virtually inconceivable that the DCSF could have read and analyzed these thousands of responses in such a short time period, much less have actually taken the respondants’ views into consideration. The proposed legislation makes it clear, in fact, that the government did not consider the views of home educating families at all.

To summarize these changes very briefly, if the bill were to pass as proposed parents would no longer have the power to decide how their children will be educated. If they wish to educate their children at home, they will need permission from the state. Local authorities will be able to deny this permission on virtually any grounds they choose, and if permission is once denied, then it may be denied for all time. No second chance, no appeal.

Registration will not be compulsory, but parents who do not register their children (that is, request permission from the local authorities) run the risk of having their children automatically ordered to attend school.

Worst of all, if the family complies with these demands, they will still be forced to allow local authorities to inspect their homes and interrogate children as young as five years old for up to four hours at a time with no parent or trusted adult present. Parents who object to this or who refuse to allow their children to be questioned alone by local authorities education officers know that the local authorities can use their refusal as grounds to order the children to attend school."

I know I should be following all of this and be proactively doing - well - something. But I am so very tired of it all. The duvet is calling me.