Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Golf and the world of home education

I think the world would be a better place if everyone played golf like this. Those tedious golf championships on tv would take a fraction of the time and we could have some good ole sleepy Sunday films on instead.

[By the way, in the world of Home Education this is not called 'cheating'. No, it is called 'using your initiative', or 'thinking outside of the box'...or 'doing it quick so you can get to the ice cream van'. ]

I've been thinking recently about the concepts people have of home education. So many seem to think that home education equates with 'school at home'. Of course there are a number of home edders who do home educate like this, particularly in the US where it seems there are two sorts of home edders: the structured home schoolers, and the autonomous unschoolers.

But in the UK there are many, if not more so, of home edders who do not do 'school at home'. And there are many who have a sort of eclectic mix of home education methods, constantly in flux, somewhere between 'school at home' and a totally child-led education.

For the record, we do not do school at home. We tried. We failed. We didn't conquer. (We chose another path).

But, what you might ask, do we do?

Well, there are days when I do not know what we do.
There are weeks when all I remember is the mounds of washing in and out and in and out, and the muddy footprints, piles of sand and dog hair down my hallway. There are weeks when I can't see beyond the boot rack and I despair over flat fruit cake and cry over lumpy mash.

There are weeks when my children whizz through the kitchen on a mission to something or somewhere, grabbing food on the hoof, hardly stopping for breath (and certainly not to grunt anything as civilised as 'hi') before they disappear off to something 'important'.

There are weeks when learning just happens, in its own wonky unpredictable way, without me teaching, interferring, guiding, enthusing or doing any of those things that are supposedly 'essential' for children's education:

And there are weeks when I am needed, on hand, that very minute, every minute of the day. 'Now Mummy!' they yell alternately from the bottom of our twenty million metre long garden and the highest point of our roof

'Come here!'

'Watch me!'

' Help me with this!'

' Look at this!'

and I'm pulled back and forth like a tired overstretched bit of knicker elastic.

And there are weeks when we play around with experiments from and make sparks out of plain old aluminium foil:

And there are weeks when we go pond dipping

(It was this big, honest)

(no it wasn't, he's a liar)

(who cares, I have a great hat)
And there are weeks when we have fun at museums:

or listen to stories, or play with friends

There are days (not often weeks) when we (I) get the maths books out, encourage the kids to copy out poems to improve their handwriting, use 'Sequential spelling' in some desperate attempt to instil some sort of spelling sense into them.

What will happen to you little children if you can't spell? I wail.

How will you survive in the world without knowing your nine times tables? I wail.

We'll use spellchecker and a calculator, they wail in return.

And I say, fair point, and decide we should instead go out and do important things.

Like flying kites:

and playing golf (our own way):

and seeing the world with fresh eyes:

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

WVW part 2

Well White Van Woman spent half an hour driving the truck round the football stadium carpark on Sunday afternoon, trying to avoid the huge Pakistani wagon parked on my route (you know, the sort, look like giant campervans dressed up with ten tons of harrods Christmas decorations - except that Christmas decorations would be totally inappropriate for a muslim van, but you know what I mean).

What I mean is something like this, but with more tinsel:

(which looks remarkably like the one that nearly run us off the Karakorum Highway into a million foot deep ravine...but that's a whole other story)

So I went round and round and round the carpark. I found first gear. Found second gear. Managed to start. Managed to stop. Took almost a minute to find reverse until we realised you had to push the gear stick down to get it to move into R. So I reversed into a space. In an empty carpark. Well empty except some other poor mug who was learning to drive: 'If you think that's difficult,luv, you should try learning to drive in this lorry' (see, I'm even starting to get the lingo for being a genuine WVW). 'Shall we go on the road now?' Says dh, 'Absolutely not' says I.

(I think it could do with some tinsel, don't you?)

Well eventually I did venture out into the real tarmac, lurched my way round a few roundabouts going 'Arrrgghhh! Gotta change gear gotta change gear! Er where's the clutch? What gear am I in? Ooh that doesn't sound good.' but at least I didn't stall the van.

No I saved the stalling for today. My first day driving the van on my own. Ok, let's start at the beginning of today. I woke up feeling like ***** having spent all Sunday night chucking up (have I finally got the HESFES bug or did I just eat dodgy pizza?) and all Monday sprawled in bed like a dead haddock.

I was supposed to drive the van this morning (kids have workshops, I needed to pick up other kids, playdates etc). Got in, couldn't reach the pedals. Well I could reach the pedals but only if my knees were on top of the dashboard. Gave up. Dh drove.

Did the playdate/workshop run, did tescos, found out how to lower the seat so that I could finally reach the clutch (kinda handy) and then dropped dh off at work. Lurched my way back towards home. Didn't get above 3rd gear. Didn't make it much about 20 mph (sorry all you cars that were trailing behind me). Didn't dare overtake the millions of cyclists that come to this fair city to risk their life on two wheels (with big bertha I was having enough difficulty missing the curb, let alone death-wish cyclists).

I rolled back at the lights. Twice. Stupid thing was, having seen me roll back once, the car behind me pulled in even closer to my boot. 'Er mate, you don't wanna be doing that, haven't you seen how far this can go backwards without me being in reverse?'

Lurched forwards (not wanting to roll back I had a good old rev on)managed to get through the lights, took the corner in 1st, or possibly 3rd gear, I'm not sure I can tell the difference and then raced on home, only to stall as I pulled across in front of my house. Twice. I was just thankful that the next door neighbour who was getting into the car right in front of me happens to be blind (she was a passenger, not driving, you understand, but there is only so much neighbourly humiliation one new driver can tolerate in a day). Eventually on the third attempt I found a gear that would let me get as far as my hedge and I stopped.

Now all we have to do is work out how to lock and unlock the doors/boot. It's like 2 clicks for this, one key turn and a click for that, unclick for something else. Oh sod it. Everyone climb over the front seat into the back.

I want my automatic smoke-powered hippo back.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

WVW (White Van Woman)

Tomorrow we go to pick up this:

It is fair to say that this is the most I have ever spent on Ebay. I mean scary money. Money that when it was counted out at the bank I thought...hmm...that's the most money I have ever seen in my life...I'm sure I could buy nicer things with that money than a car...Why don't I just do a runner now? And then dh very sensibly put it in an envelope and hid it out of my view.

But, we need something for our month's trip round Scotland and car+trailer just wasn't going to do it. Have you tried packing a small trailer with camping gear and belongings for 5 people who think minimalist is leaving the kitchen sink at home, but taking the bath instead? Trust me, it don't fit.

So all is fine and dandy. We have a van. It has 6 seats. 6 nice big comfortable seats (that's 5 for us and one for the spaniel that thinks it's one of us).

Only one problem. It's a manual. I haven't driven a geared car since I passed my driving test 6 years ago. And I passed my test after only 26 or so lessons. So that's 26 x 2 hours. Which, for the mathematical among you is 52 hours in a geared car. So we're not talking experienced here. I've had more hot dinners than that.

Dh and well meaning friends have been telling 'oh you'll be fine' and 'it'll come back to you'. But I'm not so sure. I am a person who learns to the test. I can pass pretty much ANY exam (including a driving test) and then promptly forget everything I learned. It is nature's way of getting me through life without cluttering up my brain with useless information.

And let's be honest, all information is useless until you need it. Keeping information in your head is a bit like keeping all the loo roll inners for a lifetime on the offchance that you'll one day be required to create a 'sculpture of how many loo rolls a family uses in a life time' for the Tate Modern. I mean, unless you're Tracy Emin then what's the point? Seeing as the council doesn't call round once a fortnight to collect and recycle your unwanted information (unlike loo roll inners), it is best disposed of. Quickly. And if you need it again, surely you can use Google. Except I'm not sure if that works for driving a car.

So, having driven what can only be described as a hippo-shaped-smoke-propelled-people-carrying-go-kart for the past 6 years I don't remember anything about gear changes. Or using the clutch. Or hill starts. Or starting. (and I forgot about parallel parking about week 2 after my test). I know what brakes are for and I can (or can on my current car) open the bonnet and go 'tut tut' (though I can never get the stick thing to stick up long enough to hold the bonnet up so I have to stand there holding it with my hand). I can use the squirty thingy for the windscreen and the flippy flappy things that move the water around. This is the extent of my car knowledge.

But I do remember that I was very good at accidently doing block gear changes from 1st to 5th and back again. My driving instructor thought it was rather novel. Sometimes he turned quite white and went very quiet.

And I do remember the nightmare of hurtling down the slip road onto the ring road (when I say 'hurtle' I mean anything over 20mph - whoah! I can't go any faster or I'll have to change gear!) saying over and over 'please don't let there be a car...please don't let there be a car...please don't let there be a car...oh christ! There's a car!' and then screeching to a halt at the end of the slip road while the other car hurtled (i.e. proper hurtled) past. Those weekly driving lessons were almost enough for me to become religious. But no. I turned to drink instead (not while driving of course) to ease the fear of the road.

And then I passed. Because I can pass exams. It's what I do best. Don't let anyone tell you that exams indicate evidence of knowledge in any form. Having 5 A levels, 9 o levels, an honours degree and a driving licence, I am living proof that exams are a complete pile of pants. I am able to drive a geared car in the same way as I am able to make use of differential equations or recite the facts about the storming of the Bastille (whatever that was)from my learned years at school.

Anyway, problem number two with this van. It has no rear windscreen, only solid doors.
Which is kinda quirky because it means that

a) you can't see what you're about to hit when reversing
b) you can't even see what you just hit when you reversed into it and

c) because of b there's a very strong chance that you'll run over whatever unfortunate item you hit because you'll need to turn the van around to look at what you just hit.

I'd say that's a hit-hit situation. It's safe to say that I don't plan to do any reversing. At all. Ever.

So, all you sympathetic readers, please spare a thought for me tomorrow. There I'll be bunny-hopping and crunching my way down our road, letting the whole world know that White Van Woman has arrived.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

We are back...

What the Home Educators Summer Festival (HESFES) means to us...

Practising circus skills:

Developing stunt skills (strapped with bungee cords to a water carrier!):

Creating marvellous things out of balsa wood:

Secret rendevous in children's tents:

Sharing campfires every night:

Making and listening to music:

Sweatshirts nearly as loud as the music:

Watching movies at the Groovie Movie tent:

Dusting off those big hats and old (2005) HESFES t-shirts:

Making hula hoops:

Remembering old skills:

Making new friends:

And joining up with old ones:

Searching for the Home Education crock of gold at the end of that rainbow that appears every year (and trying to forget about the stomach bugs, scary toilets, home-made arrows shot in eyes, children's minor punch ups, the tears, tantrums and nits):

Staying up way past bedtime:
And finally...
recovering from a busy week:

Friday, 9 July 2010

Uh oh! Packing crisis!

Ok, it appears that packing has reached crisis point (see here for earlier explanatory post):

It's time to laugh at the 'set out everything you want to take and halve it' advice and instead jettison 3 children and 1 spaniel and all their belongings onto the front lawn.

There, that's much better:

It's amazing how spacious those people carriers are, isn't it.

Oh, and while I have your attention, do take a look at my smug mother moment here. (Just in case you missed it).

I'm packing with PMT....

Remember those wonderful days before children. When camping involved one rucksack, a teeny camping stove, a two-person dome tent and enough money to keep you supplied in beer for the week?


It's fair to say those days....

are long gone...

With my belongings now usurped by towels (for 5), wet wipes, dog brush, soft toys, sun hats, 3 sets of wellies, and all the very particular dietary requirements of 3 faddy eaters, there is only room for my knitting. Ah well...I'll either spend the week naked or I'll just have to get knitting.
And with PMT in full rage stage the packing process can only get more interesting...
[p.s. see yesterday's post for smug mother moment...wouldn't want you to miss out]

Thursday, 8 July 2010

I'm twisting your arm

Sorry, but it's like the end of year school performance. I'm going to make you sit through other kids' performances. And it'll seem like forever (even though it's only a few minutes). And you're not going to even get to see your own kids tearjerker moment. Tough. I waited all year for this. And someday I might even buy the poor kid a drum kit.

Friday, 2 July 2010

A post a day...

Well, pretty much every day this week. This must mean either I'm using the pc as a displacement activity or that I've completely switched off to the whole domesticity thing. Or both. Yesterday I found myself checking emails and facebook and my blog every 5 minutes, just in case someone somewhere had tried to communicate with me. If my social life wasn't so dire I would suggest that I need to get out more. The freezer aisle of Tescos doesn't count.

Well seeing as I'm here, I'd better post about something. I have two photos to share. As you can see, we've found out what those leggy cases were dangling from the reeds in our pond. This creature still had his/her's attached when the children caught it:

So, not a damselfly, but a big greeny dragonfly. It's looking a bit soggy cos today, for the first time in a while, it is raining. Proper daytime summer showery rain. All warm and smelling of damp leaves and pollen. (Aaaattiiishhhhoooo!).
The kids woke up with mosquito bites this morning. A sure sign that summer has definitely arrived.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

And I name this day and all who sail in her...

I was woken this morning to the padding of paws on bedroom floor. A spaniel head slobbered over the side of the bed and then the creature jumped up and made himself comfortable on the pillow next to me. It's bad enough being woken and crawled upon by kids, but when a drooling, smelly hound decides that your bed is his, that's called taking the p.

So after my rude awaking, I mooched around irritably and then took the kids ice skating, a regular home ed event that we haven't been to for ages. It felt like a constructive thing to on a day when I had a feeling nothing much was going to happen. Ds1 didn't want to skate and instead he sculked around, trying to glean as much incriminating evidence from the adult conversations I was participating in. It seems to be getting a habit.

The rest of the day was unconstructive. I put washing in...and left it in the machine. I started doing the washing up...and then left it all in the sink. I started googling and ebaying for a vehicle to take on tour with us when we go away at the end of summer...but couldn't find what I wanted at a price I wanted to pay. I thought about sorting out some camping stuff for an overnight stay tomorrow...and didn't. Eventually I flung some books into a bag and managed to get them to the charity shop (with minutes to spare before they closed). I thought about cooking tea, then gave up thinking and sent dh out to get chips.

Some days are like this. I'm not sure what they mean. Do they mean I'm lazy? Do days like this mean I need a break, a change of scenery? I dunno.

Anyway, I've decided I'm going to give this day of the week a new name. It will become Non-day. The day when nothing happens, even if it should.