Saturday, 27 February 2010

Very quick catch up...more later

Ok, very very quick catch up. I started this post several days ago (hence the date - today is 1st March, not 27 Feb). Weather is gorgioso today so should really be outside, not hovering on internet. Here are some recent photos...

ds1 visited huge warhammer games workshop place...

ds1 helped make flags then tried out some semaphore at the sailing club. It's harder than you think!

Ds1 tried out the crayfish trap that he bought himself. We left it over night but no success. I think it's probably still a bit cold for them to be active.

The kids tidied up their den, repairing some of the holes and adding an extension (plus a whole load more moss)

Our first visit to the allotment since, well, too long. I tidied up the compost bins and laid down some weed suppressant to try and deter those spring weeds from beating me into submission. Still loads more to do, but at least at the moment it doesn't look so bad.

We joined up with friends to make ice cream Ancient Greek boats (and then ate them!):

Dd making a dalmation picture:

The Knex workshop I (yes I) organised! A real success. Perhaps more about this another time...

And the ongoing saga with the cardboard construction of a telescope...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

I have found my vocation

Recently I paid off a £30 - well closer to £40 fine - for overdue books at the library. I can't afford a £40 fine. It is absolutely and definitely not in my budget. The library has introduced a policy that if you are more than £10 owing on any one library card then you cant take any more books out. So there you have it. I had to pay up.

I'm not sure quite how it happened. Well actually it might have had something to do with 70 books and 3 DVDs and 2 audiobooks being at least a week overdue. And the fact that every time I go into the library I have this mistaken illusion that if I get books out I will actually have the time to read them (or that if I get lovely educational books out for the kids that they wont just use them for ramps for lego racers).

I'm usually very disciplined at keeping track of these things. But deadlines seem to be slipping lately. And I've developed a resistance to listening to that niggle in the back of my head, you know the one that say 'er actually you need to deal with this - now.' So I only have myself to blame. And the library. Because I don't think they should charge hopelessly disorganised home educating mothers. It should be against the law.

When I told a friend about the fine she chuckled and said 'that's why I love you.' So perhaps my purpose in life is to reasure others that they are slightly less crap at housekeeping and financial management than I am. I may, at last, have found my vocation.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The things we want to know...

dd wants to know...'What happens if you do something illegal and the Police don't see?'

I want to know:

a) how my 6-year-old knows the word 'illegal'!
b) whether she is asking this from a whats-the-sound-of-one-hand-clapping philosophical aspect or if she plans on having a career as a criminal!

From tomorrow I am going to go back to ordinary blogging. My head hurts.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The questions continue...

dd: who was the first person who died? Oh, of course we don't know that because we weren't there. And if we'd been there and been the first person who died then we wouldn't know because we'd have died. We'd be dead.

me: Well unless you were dying slowly and knew you were dying and knew noone else had died before you.

dd: Hmmm. It's confusing to me - like standing in an upside down house and thinking you're the right way up.

dd also wanted to know what the largest number was. Dh gave her some explanation about googles etc., but she didn't seem entirely satisfied. Then I realised that she'd been playing with the calculator and actually wanted to know what the biggest number on the calculator was. As she added away, I tried to explain why the numbers stopped getting bigger and now had a 10 at the end (to the power of 10). She gave me that cutting, patronising look that only girls seem to be able to give.

So, conclusions from all this(apart from A level maths being a pointless addition to my academic pile of paper)? I'm wondering if she is undergoing some huge growth spurt or developmental leap. Her conversations and questions continue. At the same time she's been very weepy recently, unsure of herself, clingy. It's almost as if she's suddenly discovered that the solid ground (belief system?) that she was standing is actually rather shaky. And the questions are perhaps to reassure her, get a fix on where she is, what the world is about. Well I don't know any other way to explain it.

With the boys there was a definite transition between those exhausting years of aggression and destruction and hyperactivity between age 2-6 (think large clumsy labradors), and the sudden ability to sit down and concentrate at 7+ (think slightly bouncy terrier). Perhaps this is the girl equivalent? Either way, it's probably good she's home educated. Otherwise she'd be driving some poor teacher demented right now!

Monday, 22 February 2010

More thoughts from the mind of a six-year-old...

dd: Mummy, how was the first person born?
Me: Er...well...
dd: Because to be born there would to have been another person. And to make that person there would have had to be another person. And to make that person there would have had to have been another person.
Me: Er...well..
dd: So where did the first person come from?
Me: Um...

I so remember having this 'chicken and egg' discussion with ds1 at a similar age. And I don't think I came up with a better answer then either. lol.

There are times when being a Creationist would make home educating easier. Or maybe not...perhaps the conversation then would go something like this:

Me (as a creationist): er, God made the first person.
dd: So, let me get this right, God made the first person?
Me: yeah
dd: Ok, then who made God?'
Me: Er...well
dd: And whoever made god would have to have been made by someone, who must have been made by someone, who was also made by someone. So who made that someone?
Me: Er...go ask your dad.

[I've just realised that this is the first post where I've put the labels god and religion in the little box below. I wonder what that says about my blogging...or me]

Sunday, 21 February 2010

I don't like to be smug but...

...'Schools are churning out the unemployable'

according to The Sunday Times, February 21, 2010
[Apologies to all those who send their children to school, but I AM going to have a smug Home Educator moment. I deserve it. I earned it. Just bear with me while I make rude signs to Mr Badman et al. and his cronies while quoting from the article...]

"...Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive of Tesco, put it bluntly. Too many children have been leaving school after 11 or 13 years of compulsory education “without the basic skills to get on in life and hold down a job”. He said 5m adults were functionally illiterate and 17m could not add up properly. “On-the-job training” cannot act as a “bandage or sticking plaster” for “the failure of our education system”.

A CBI survey revealed that literacy and numeracy were not the only problems.
More than 50% of employers complained that young people were inarticulate, unable to communicate concisely, interpret written instructions or perform simple mental calculations...

...The DWP has made it clear: work is where the inflated claims for our state education finally hit the buffers. At every stage we have a system in which the expediency of politicians and the ideology of the educational establishment take precedence over the interests of pupils.

We have children who can barely read and write scoring high marks in their Sats because it makes the school, and therefore politicians, look good. We have exam boards competing to offer the lowest pass mark because it allows heads to fulfil their GCSE targets. We have pupils pushed into easy subjects at A-level — which excludes them from applying to a top university — because it benefits the school. And we have universities that offer a 2:1 degree, as the IT company director put it, to “anyone who bothers to sit down and take the exam”. "

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Thursday, 18 February 2010

We haven't gone unnoticed...

From Lord Norton on the 'Lords of the Blogs' webpage here

"I recently tabled a question to find out how many pageviews the House of Lords website gets each month...The figures reveal that the number of pageviews is fairly modest – over 30,000 in a good month and less than 10,000 in a quiet month. Lords of the Blog does not attract that level of pageviews, but nonethless relative to the Lords website we are attracting a good audience. Since we started just under two years ago, we have achieved nearly 300,000 pageviews, with the daily figure going up in recent months. In recent weeks, the daily readership has sometimes been into four-figures. Mind you, that has been assisted considerably by the comments of Baroness Deech and Lord Soley on home education.

In terms of the comments made, we clearly attract contributions from a number of regulars as well as from a range of readers with views on individual issues. There is usually a link between the number of pageviews and comments made: the higher the readership of a particular post, the greater the number of comments. Among the issues that have attracted the most interest have been those of prostitution, the drug problem, the Digital Economy Bill, and the role of the Lords. Oh yes, and home education, which is now the most commented upon subject. Home education and the Digital Economy Bill seem to attract not only a great many comments but also the lengthiest...."

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Long Winter

It's that time of year when everyone is feeling tired and longing for signs of spring.

For a brief while it was beautifully sunny today, and equally freezing cold. Then the rain came and we rushed out to see if there was a rainbow (there wasn't). The rain went and came again, then hail, then more rain, and then just the cold greyness, traditional of our British winters. I felt guilty for not dragging the kids and the dog out for a walk, but the thought of trying to anticipate the next half-hour's weather and dress everyone accordingly was just more effort than I could summon up.

Instead I badgered the kids into doing some maths. Yeah yeah I know. I never claimed to be consistently and entirely autonomous.

So ds1 did some stuff on fractions and decimals in his CGP book. It was ok cos we had the accompanying book that explained at least most of what it was all about.

I always struggled with decimals and fractions. Never really understood it. Not sure I do now. And I passed A level maths. Right now, I think an understanding of fractions and decimals would be far more helpful than all that work I did on differential equations (no, don't ask me, I've never used them since). Education is a strange thing, isn't it? Why is it that in school you're made to learn all the unuseful stuff, but never the stuff that you need or want to know?

So today, eventually defeated by the weather and the maths, I started assembling a large flat-packed cupboard unit. We were given two units by friends at the weekend, Ikea storage units, that they no longer needed and had disassembled. No instructions. I thought about leaving it till the weekend, then thought again. I managed most of one unit by trial and error, but found the drawers perplexing. I left dh battling with the problem tonight as I went to work, reassured that it wasn't just me being incapable, the drawers really were tricky.

Today seems such a contrast to yesterday. Today slow, grey, long, and yesterday bright and busy with a packed house and lots of wonderful company. I forget how lovely it is to have a family over, to have adult conversation while the kids play. So often when you home educate it seems that your children have plenty of playmates but there is little adult company to while away the time. Of course I understand that it's a relief to be able to do child-swaps, to get a little bit of time to yourself, but on days when I herd in another 3 child visitors and wave the parent off, it feels as if I am nothing more than an unpaid creche supervisor :)

So thank you, my visiting family yesterday (you know who you are!). You brought the house alive and reminded me that this is what my house is meant for. I plan to do it again. Soon.

And ds1 says a big 'thank you' for the sling shot :)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The perils of buying cardboard model-making sets.

You'd think I'd have learnt from the James Watt Steam Engine that took us weeks to make, and the numerous cardboard model-making sets still unused on the bookcase. And the Trojan Horse model that I ordered from Amazon and immediately regretted. But no. I went and bought a telescope-making kit. It was cheap. In fact I thought it might have been mispriced.

Then I realised, as ds2 progressed, that the part labels were written in German. And that at least one of them was incorrectly labelled. We haven't got any further, but it's possible that more is mis-labelled.

So by the time we've interpreted what it is we're meant to do (each little stage requires gluing and drying before progressing to the next stage) it could be a couple of months before we are viewing the stars through our cardboard telescope.
And then we have a Trojan Horse to make. Sometime this year.
Still, we are plodding along at Ancient Greece. Not on Ancient Greece. Not in or with Ancient Greece. But at Ancient Greece. That proactive word 'at'.
I'm trying to make it as interesting and painless for the kids as possible. Ds1 and ds2 are making lapbooks/folders. We are covering small topics. Small painless topics. So far: Athens; The Parthenon; Sparta; City States/Government; Food; homes. For each we make a little booklet to stick into the folder, sometimes photocopying pictures, sometimes printing out words, sometimes doing a bit of colouring. So very painless. Theoretically.
Next I think it'll be Greek Gods (we've been listening to the first of two CDs of Greek myths) and perhaps something about architecture and writing.
Below you can see the kids importing clip art into the wordprocessing package (some of which they'd downloaded from the internet). I gave them the task of getting pictures of a list of foods that the ancient Greeks would have eaten.

And now to the very different subject. The subject of socks.
I've been very naughty and visited a wool shop. Frugal went out the window. In came greed. Not only did I buy self-patterning camouflage 4ply sock wool to make ds1 some socks, but I also bought a pattern and some cheap wool for chunky socks. Here's the first one finished, modelled on ds1's foot (he's been wearing it all afternoon). :

They dont look quite as wholesome and natural as the wool that was used in the pattern, but that wool was expensive and rather too girly (pinks and pastels) for the boys. This is courtelle yarn, which is basically a nice chunky and soft acrylic. It's really easy and quick to knit with, though it does have a mean habit of splitting into its individual strands if you're not careful.
I was a bit worried it might have really lumpy seams as it's knitted on 2 needles (makes it even quicker!) with the seam sewn up afterwards. However ds1 hasn't complained so far.
I don't know what they'd be like inside shoes, but they make great slipper socks (if a bit slippy).
Maybe I'll be able to use up some of the other chunky-thickness wools in the loft now I've got the hang of it.

Now I need to knit the second sock before he wears this one out.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Frugal vs healthy...the battle goes on.

Some days I really hate food, which is rather unfortunate. I was speaking to a friend recently about how much the thought of food - the planning, buying, preparing and clearing up, as well as the ethical issues and guilt surrounding it - occupies so much of our waking hours.

I've been trying to have a frugal period. At the same time I've also started thinking about producing healthier food for the family. You would think that the two were agreeable. Unfortunately, despite the myth that it is cheaper to live on wholesome home cooking, there is no getting away from the evidence that faces me on food shopping trips; i.e. that it costs more to eat healthily than it does to eat processed and packaged food.

There are of course exceptions, but processed food - especially the supermarket value ranges - are cheaper than what it would cost me to buy the ingredients and make my own. It is of course in the interests of manufacturers and supermarkets to keep it this way. And it's not just about comparing the exact ingredients used in recipes vs the finished processed product, but also the expense of ingredients that never get used, or are mostly wasted. I've lost count of the number of aubergines destined to be ratatouille or mediterranean tart that have decomposed from the inside out on the top shelf of my fridge. And that jar of tahini, used once to make humous and now sat in my fridge (for about 2 or 3 years I think!). The cucumber fated to sludge instead of tzatziki (because the yoghurt went off before I got around to it).

Menu planning helps of course. But if like today I was looking for fresh coriander and fresh mint to make some lovely thing in a recipe book, then so much of it is wasted (unless of course I can think of a whole load of other recipes to use the same ingredients, but these will then require further ingredients that I will have to buy).


While I'm on the subject I am keen to learn how to make bread that does not have a crust the thickness and hardness of the earth's mantle. I have tried different recipes, different methods, different oven temperatures and cooking periods. Once again today I have produced two loaves with dark brown rock hard criusts and overly-soft inners. If I am to ever progress to the role of Earth Mother I really must get this bread sorted.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Knit knit knitting along...

I feel like I should be posting up lots of pictures like usual, but to be honest we haven't done much that requires journalistic comment.

Ancient Greece is still ticking along. The kids have been listening to a CD on Ancient Greek stories - a sort of whistle-stop tour of the Greek Gods and how mean and vile they were. Those ancient Greeks were a bloodthirsty bunch weren't they? I mean Gods eating their own children, just to prevent some prophecy coming true..?! I might try that on my bunch next time they complain about having to write a sentence.!

Yesterday we had a home ed knitty day. A CHILD-FREE knitty day, for parents ONLY. A knitty day out in the country in a wonderful -if chilly - little building on an organic smallholding (I think that would be the right word?) of one of the home educating families.

I'm progressing on one of my many unfinished craft projects (currently a cotton blanket, about 7 squares in and a long long way to go). I still have 1 1/2 fingerless gloves to be completed, a tank top for me (well 1 1/2 tank top), the weird body of a crocheted loopy dog, a finished tank top which doesn't really fit and I don't know what to do with it, and some unidentified Tamagotchi (er no, Amigurumi or whatever) pink body parts (I think they may have been intended to be an easter rabbit - last Easter).

And I've just sent for some sock wool off Ebay for ds1, who has finally agreed that I can knit him something. It's a slightly horrible self-striping combination of browns and creams, but it's the one he chose and who am I to argue with a 11-yr-old? He wants socks. I wonder if a visit to a certain home -ed family may have swung his decision? He did want a camouflage-patterned complete balaclava (with just small eye and mouth holes), so I'm quite relieved that he's decided on socks instead. I just need to remember how to knit socks...