Sunday, 26 December 2010

ok, that was it... stop, Easter.

I'm taking bets on how long til Cadbury cream eggs get in Tescos.

A week, perhaps? That should be long enough to clear the Christmas stock in the sales and get a shelf free.

The cynicism of the middle aged.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Pre-Christmas preparations

The past week (snow, snow and more snow)

Making Christmas crackers:

Melting and then re-freezing:

dd1's birthday:

And then we all got ill and went to bed!
(Gradually recovering and getting ready for the big day tomorrow)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Not reading? Don't Panic!

Was sent the link to this blog entry on the Tiny Grass blog; a post from earlier this year on child-led reading.

As a parent of a 7-yr-old non-reader (or rather, a not-yet-showing-any-inclination-to-read 7 yr old) I am always reassured to hear other parents' encouraging words on the subject.

I consider myself privaleged in the world of home education for I have had personal proof that reading really can happen without intervention. I've had the benefit of seeing my middle child teach himself to read when he was 6 years old (though 'teach' is a very misplaced word in that sentence, it was far more an osmotic process, a neglect of intervention).

This helps me keep the faith; enables me to thicken my skin against the parents who insist on giving me a check-list of their child's literary achievements every time I see them. I don't care if little Jonny was reading age 4 and at age 7 was happily digesting Harry Potter at a rate of one novel a day.

Er...actually that's a lie. I do care, but only enough to want to smack the other person. 'Home Ed Hag Hits Pushy Parent with Tescos-own White Loaf' - not a good headline, so I must resist.

So, this article, helps. Just a little.

"Basic Formula for Parents:

Stay out of child’s way +
Don’t try to be a teacher +
Don’t hijack your child’s learning +
Wait….wait…wait (and be patient) +
Don’t stress (talk to other unschoolers when you worry!) +
Read lots of books out loud when your child wants to +
Have lots of interesting books available +
Be ready as a resource when you child asks for it

= A child that reads. Eventually. On his own timetable."


P.S. If you do nothing else today,
Do do do vote for Grit's Day in The Brilliance in Blogging shortlist here (it's under the 'make a difference' category).
I've even found large text and coloured font to highlight this...that shows how important it is - vote NOW!!!
Get home ed noticed (and, besides, it's a fab blog).

Thursday, 16 December 2010

That love:hate thing

So how do you feel about Christmas?

I confess I have a passion for twinkly lights, tinsel, sparkles, warm fires, comfort food, overindulgence, and an obscene blow-out after a year of frugality.

Yet at the same time I feel a sense of unease, a hint of guilt.

I love the idea of an old-fashioned, home-made, it's-all-in-the-thought, Christmas. You know the thing, everyone gathered round the tree sharing a home-made mince pie and one handmade present each.

But at the same time I desperately want to break free from a year spent being resourceful and thoughtful and restrained. I watch tv. I have friends who buy their kids laptops and ipods. And even though I know it's really not in the spirit of an ethical Christmas I want to buy buy buy! I want to spoil the kids! I want them to have a huge pile of presents to get excited over. I want to give them everything they've ever wanted (and more)! And actually I wouldn't mind a few decent gifts myself.

I don't want to budget or home-bake, I don't want to buy secondhand and secondbest. I don't want to make-do, because I do it all year round and I am heartily sick of it.

So all my nice homely good intentions go out the window, and in comes commercial obscenity, frantic purchasing, and an icky feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I wonder, is there a middle ground?

Do you spend Christmas as you spent Christmas as a child?
I assume that the seeds of 'how Christmas should be' are planted in our childhood, mine certainly were.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The perils and pitfalls of a home educator (no it's not always fluffy as butterscotch Angel Delight, sometimes it's decidedly like burnt rock cakes)

You know when you feel like you should be blogging and somehow life, lethargy or that sore patch on your nose where it's been on the grindstone for several weeks and you've forgotten to take a step back, gets in the way..? Hmm.

Winter has arrived. It's cold. I mean more than a slightly temperate English dreary cold, a Father Ted fecking fffffrrreeeezing cold.

What is happening with the weather? It's only December! We don't get our usual freeze til Easter after 3 months of complaining about the mild miserable British global-warming winter. Did someone up there hear me when I said I was economising? When I said I was going to set the heating to be off all day and only come on at 7pm, because I'm broke. Oi! You up there! Are you intending on thinning out the population by tipping all us low-light sufferers into a perpetual cycle of self-harming gloom?

Back to home education. Or not. This week it is fair to say that I have thrown in the towel. My ambitiously-manufactured project on Polar Explorers (yes, highly appropriate for our minus temperatures) has gone mammaries up. It's a common outcome of good educational intentions.

'Let's do lap books' I say. 'I'll print off stuff, all you guys have to do is put a title and add some pritt stick'.

Who would suppose that two pairs of scissors between 3 children would be enough to start World War 3 in a suburban semi. Fifteen minutes of felt-tip pen missiles, sellotape tear gas, and a farting cloud the size of a nuclear mushroom later I return. The lounge resembles a pillow fight with a paper shredder in ToysRus.
'Have you finished then?' I ask.
'Finished what?' They say. 'What was it we were supposed to do?'

And so I rant at great length about how long the hours would be at school. What time they would have to get up. How little play time they would get. How many maths workbooks they would be forced to fill in. Yes. I'm on a roll now....How easy it would be for me to get on the phone and call a school now. (It's been a while since I've threatened school, but some days...)

There's no stopping me...How I have put time and effort into finding something vaguely interesting for them to do and how they can't even be arsed to fake some effort. How even though I am so very proud of the many things they do, I'm embarrassed to tell people - ordinary people - how we spend our days, and when people come, I hide evidence of the children's writing, because I'm tired of defending their apparent lack of progress in what others think is important.

Nope, there's still more....'When relatives visit they might want to know what you've been doing.' I say 'And what will you tell them? Eh? What have we been doing?'

It takes some thought...'Well we went to Scotland.' One brave soul attempts a guess.

'3 months ago! 3 beeping months ago! Anything else? You know, has anyone noticed anything we've been doing?'

No. They can't think of anything...ANYTHING we have done in the past 3 months. The fencing and martial arts...Scouts...Museum visits...Workshops... Animation rides...poetry...firelighting in the woods...Perhaps they think it is a trick question. Perhaps their only hope is to stay silent, so I'll slunk off and leave them to their exclusive children-only war.

I try a new tack. 'What is it you want to do, if you don't want to do this? Well???? And don't say you don't know!'

Ds2 says 'Go on the computer.' He sees my eyebrow hackles and knows it was the wrong thing to say.

Silent teary faces sniff. I slam the door, fall over the dog, growl at it, storm upstairs, feel guilty, sit in contemplation of my guilt for half an hour, drink half a litre of coke and raid the baking cupboard for chocolate and then, shamefaced, I return.

I am about to apologise. But then I am greeted by tumbling children hitting each other with cushions, drinks cups flying off the table, home-baked cookie crumbs dispersed along the length of the sofa, books, papers, wii-game cases littering the floor, the tv on full blast; three children, pulling hair and twisting limbs, blissfully unaware of the ton of parental guilt, resentment and weariness I am shouldering.

On Saturday I attend a HE adult discussion group. We contemplate autonomous education and other HE dilemmas over cheesy doritos and tea.

When we think about 'auto' are we refering to the child, or to us? is one question posed.

I think some more on this. It is particularly poignant to think about it while I'm spending my precious study time - the time I need to make this course worthwhile - picking up the pieces of my lounge and worrying how I'm going to make a low-budget dinner in time before I go out to work. I listen to the kids now arguing over the computer. One wails. Tearful recriminations follow. I am mum again. Which means no writing today.

Truth is, even if the aim is for all of us to be autonomous, even if that were humanly possible, history tells me that it wouldn't work. There will always be someone - most likely a woman -who through guilt, loyalty, love, or buck-stopping-here responsibility, has to sacrifice their autonomy in order to clear up the massive pile of crap that all those happily-autonomous beings leave behind them.