Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Should go down in history...
...as the last time I ever put myself through anything like that.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Yesterday we spent a wonderful day with friends, walking by the canal. Ds1 went off fishing with one of their sons (well ds1 dangled the rod optimistically over the edge of the bridge into the water, which is closer to fishing than he usually gets). My friend and I wandered along the tow path with small people leaning precariously over the water, not-quite-so-small people waving swords and disappearing into woodland, and two dogs (one of whom needs some lessons in gender identification) doing what dogs do. We talked about living on a barge, chickens, knitting, jam, decluttering, life, the universe and everything important. It was one of those days.
I abandoned our very noisy cockeral in their garden (these are the people who have already adopted our secondhand rabbit) and dd chased their teeny puppy around the house like a demented terrier (her, not the dog). And then after prising ds2 off the life-support-machine (computer) i took them all home.
Tonight I am doing a performance with other writers in one of my writing groups. I'm not quite sure how I said yes, but obviously somewhere along this unrehearsed, slow-motion train crash that started way back in October I thought it would be a good idea to hop on. Are we doing it somewhere quiet and secret - no! We are doing it in a restaurant. A restaurant! Now whose big idea was that?! (not mine). And people - public, non-writing human beings - are actually coming and paying to see us do...er...not very much, very poorly. And if anyone mentions positive thinking to me I will smack them. Not even chocolate can fix this.
Saturday, 27 March 2010
I found this wool on my last wool-hunting expedition (the one that involved the unhygenic chip shop and a wind up toy rat). Only problem with this wool is that the repeat on the colour isn't very frequent, so I had to work really hard to get two socks that looked similar out of one ball of wool. They're very soft though. Shame I can't keep them - sent them to my mum as a belated Mother's Day present. Hopefully they'll fit. If not I'll have to do more knitting...
Well dd has been seen in public sporting a very lovely hat. She even had a photo taken of her like this by a local attraction for her annual pass. Oh yes...it's those home educating nutters. You should see what they make their children wear.
Dd's fascination for millipedes and centipedes and other pedes is taking over the house. New tubs with their littlepede houses appear daily. Often with their lids left off. I am extraordinarily tolerant of this sort of thing, having kept various creatures in old Ferrero Rochet tubs under my bed, as a child. However when a dehydrated and rather crunchy centipede stuck to my sock yesterday and I padded around the house it did cross my mind that perhaps this isn't how normal families function.
Monday, 22 March 2010
I've been reading a parenting book. Noooo not an ordinary parenting book. God knows after 3 kids what I don't know about parenting the 0-11s is probably small enough to scrawl on a postage stamp (you, know one of those sticky things you used to use for snail mail in a previous decade). In fat crayola red crayon.
No, it's a funny parenting book: the sort of book you buy for women when they are having their second child, so you can smugly go cackle in a corner at their foolishness at adding to the brood. Of course you wouldn't have dared buy it for them when they had their first child cos they were too busy reading the 'I can make your baby sleep all night by the age of 3 weeks' book and 'the book of how to be a sex kitten mummy even though your fanny has dropped to your ankles'. Anyway, I digress.
It's a book called 'Can I give them back now?' by -er let me check the cover - Joanna Simmons and Jay Curtis.
Why am I telling you this? Well the reason I got it out from the library is because I opened it and the page fell open at this and I thought Oh God, that is so me. In fact it is so me that I think my house must be bugged:
"The worst thing a kid can say is not 'you don't love me' but 'can you play with me?' ...
...Before you have children you think playing with them is what it's all about. Once you have them, you realise it is, in fact, a special brand of torture devised by young people to inflict upon adults. Well, they want to play such stupid stuff. I'm too old to go running up the corridor in search of baddies, OK? I'm thirty-seven, for crap's sake. I can't fly like Superman, even if I do make a cape out of a beach towel. And, oh Christ, do we have to take the register again, 'Teacher'? How many times already?
There is also the risk that you will be 'doing it wrong' which really flips your kid out, but it's hard to avoid since the rules are unclear/only exist in your child's head/are so bloody ridiculous you can't follow them. So the whole act of playing can descend into outraged and heated exchanges between you and your child, which is just a giant pain in the arse for both of you.
Admittedly some of the problems with playing are our own. We feel self-conscious and silly. We're not used to acting and big gestures and we never have the stamina or enthusiasm to play for as long as they want. Early-years experts say that half an hour of immersing yourself in your child' s game, doing absolutely whatever they want, is more valuable than hours of saying 'that's nice, dear' while you try to sort out the laundry. But half an hour! You ARE joking. Five minutes feels like an eternity. You want thirty? It's just so so so boring. I don't mind a jigsaw puzzle and I can just about manage some throw and catch, but anything else makes me feel so fidgety and oppressed that I want to scream or cry or both.
Basically kids need to play with each other, not us. When are they going to realise?"
So what do you dread your children saying? What's the worst thing about being a parent? Go on, you know you want to get it off your two-peas-rattling-around- in-two-34A sacks-because-you-breastfed-a-mini-Dyson chest.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
I currently have 8 children in the house. Hence the reason why I'm up here, hiding with my laptop - sorry I mean supervising from a position of height.
Two children are digging a very large hole in the garden (possibly burying the dog).
Two are floating dried runner beans in jar lids in the pond.
One is waving a huge pair of tree loppers above his head.
Another is playing with the petrol strimmer (er, I wonder if he should be doing that).
And any that are left (I've lost count) are plugged into some sort of technology (Wii or computer most likely).
You know it's days like this that I want to invite around all those people who say 'what about socialisation?'. Cos these home educated children of mine are obviously so deprived.
So what have my sproglets been up to recently (apart from trying to maim each other with the strimmer).
Well there have been very educational activities going on, like, er information technology studies:
and more IT studies...
Some cross-curricular art and IT studies...
Some business studies combined with Design and Technology...
Scientific experimentation combined with IT (testing the hypothesis: can one use a keyboard at the same time one has a box on ones head)...
P.R training - ie how to deal with fame and publicity ('No comment')...
Design and technology and history (honest - it's Archimedes's Screw for the ignorant among you)...
Some archaelogy, though officially they're not suppose to study that until at least secondary age...
Home Economics (er, actually it's candle wax, but same principal - cook really hard until pan is ruined)...
Foundation stage education (taking turns at teddy bears' picnic)
Interpersonal relationships :
'Mummy, why are you taking a photo of a dead mouse?'
'Because I thought it could go on the blog.'
And something totally non-educational. Well we like to chill out and relax with those workbooks sometimes. A child's got to have SOME downtime, you know...
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
At first the diet goes well, a little weight is shifted, success seems on the horizon, you're feeling right chuffed with yourself.
And then the diet gets a bit boring and repetitive. A life of salad is dull. Perhaps you haven't lost quite as much weight as you'd like, progress is slow, friends stop telling you how wonderfully well you are doing and get fed up with you mentioning food all the time. They try and tempt you with takeaways and trifle.
And then, one day, you snap. You have the sudden urge to treat yourself, to reward yourself, to completely and totally pig out!
Well that's exactly what happens with frugality. And today we pigged out. Once in a while I just take the kids out, we have lunch out, we spend money we haven't really got (or that should be earmarked for something else) and then we go home, feeling like the kid who stole the chocolate cake at diet camp.
Money was burning a hole in the children's money boxes. Dd has been asking every day for around a week if she could spend some of her money. I don't think it's the money that interests her, just the process of going into a shop with her own money and buying something. She was getting desperate (and annoying).
So why not help her spend her pennies. And the boys were keen to break open the piggy banks too. So where could we go. Well how about that place with a toy shop and - er - the (shhh) wool shop.. [You didn't think the trip would be entirely altruistic do you?]
So after wandering round charity shops, chip shop, weird plastic and assorted junk shop, toy shop, pet food shop, and WOOL SHOP we came home with:
2 soft toy beanie dogs
1 hard plastic, extortionately-expensive dog
1 wind up furry mouse (possibly a rat?) that makes the dog bark
2 bags of sour Haribo sweets
1 pack of Pokemon cards
4 full bellies from greasy chips from very unhygenic chip shop (remind me not to go upstairs to the toilets in restaurants until AFTER I've eaten the meal - it's best not to know what you might be eating or where they chop the chips)
2 balls of black double knitting wool (for ds1's balaclava)
1 ball of furry skinny wool (for socks?)
1 sack of chicken mash
1 sack of chicken corn
and 1 of these:
Oops...how did that get there?!
Ok, so I forgot to mention the bike shop that was next to the pet shop. Saw the above item outside the shop and fell in bicycle love. Well as much as a committed non-cyclist can be attracted to something that you have to put energy into to get to move.
Ok, so it's a bit battered. But it fits in the car. And will probably fit even better once I've worked out how to fold it (erhum). Bet the guy in the shop enjoyed watching me as I tried to squeeze a fold-up bicycle in its non-folded-up state into the back of a people carrier on top of two sacks of chicken food, one large bag of just-bought tat and three small children. That should keep him going in laughs for a few weeks at the pub.
What is most amazing is that the bike fits me. I mean I can actually sit on it and reach the floor with my feet (Unlike my huge great hulking lump of iron on wheels that is currently residing in the garage - yeah one of those 1940s things that you expect to see a huge breadbasket on the front). And the wheels of this bike don't go round with almighty clunks and shudders that throw you off course(unlike my huge great hulking lump of iron on wheels...etc etc) and this bike is kinda cute (unlike my huge behind when I'm riding it...).
Anyway, I don't know why I'm here justifying my decision to break from the dieting regime. So, I confess, today I AM the kid that stole the chocolate cake at diet camp. But, life is just too short to not impulse-buy strange bicycles outside pet shops.
Monday, 15 March 2010
I'm writing a magazine article for the UK home education group, thenuk (magazine is scheduled to restart in September) and I need your help. [yeah, I'm a lazy cow, you didn't think I was actually going to write it all by myself did you?]
Anyway the article is going to be on 'blogging', specifically home educating people and their blogs. Why they blog, how they blog blah di blah blah, you get the gist.
I would like to know your views about blogging, particularly home ed blogging, BUT other comments welcome too.
So, feel free to comment on some or all of the below, in no particular order. Give me some nice juicy stuff to quote (yeah!). If I mention names, it'll only be usernames (e.g. Big Mamma Frog), but if you wish to be totally anon please say so and I'll give you a pseudonym. And if you don't mind having your blog address emblazoned across the article in full flashing lights as a demonstration of a masterpiece, then let me know. Send a cheque to... (ha ha!)
So here goes...some thoughts please on:
Why do you keep a blog? Why not a diary or other method? What do you use your blog for?
How long have you been keeping a blog?
Who contributes to your blog - do your children post entries too?
Do you find it easy to keep? How regularly do you post? What time of day do you generally post?
Do you belong to any blog circles? If so, which ones would you recommend.
What advice would you give to a beginner blogger? Which blog provider would you suggest and why?
Do you include photos and videos on your blog. Do you take these specifically for your blog?
What features do you think are essential on a home ed blog? E.g. list of other blogs, links to relevant sites, search facility,etc etc.
Do you think that blogging has been a positive experience? Why?
What about privacy and privacy settings - do you reveal your location and children’s names etc? Is your blog open to the public? Do your relatives have access to the blog - why?
Do you allow/welcome comments on your site?
What improvements would you like to make to your site?
Do you read other people’s home education blogs? Which ones would you recommend and why?
Do you have contact with the LA, would you let them see your blog? Do you use Information from your blog to help e.g. write a report to your LA?
What's the best thing about blogging?
Please write comments below. Or if you feel an essay coming on, let me know and I can give you my email address.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
' History programmes on television are filling in the gaps in children's knowledge of the subject, says veteran BBC presenter David Dimbleby.
In an interview in the Radio Times he said the treatment of history in the curriculum had been "less impressive". Dimbleby said the popularity of TV history documentaries showed people had a genuine interest in the cultural heritage of the country.
Dimbleby is currently presenting the Seven Ages of Britain on BBC One.
In a question and answer interview in the Radio Times, the broadcaster said: "The success of Seven Ages and and other programmes - by Andrew Marr, Simon Schama and David Starkey - suggests to me that there is a great and perhaps growing interest in our history.
"Maybe we are filling in the gaps left by the less impressive treatment of history in the school curriculum."
Dimbleby also defended the presentation of history programming by non-academics.
"There is a place for the specialist, of course, but there is a place too for the broadcaster with a general layman's curiosity and interest," he said.
"Neither should exclude the other."... '
I don't know what history is taught in schools these days, but what I've seen of the accompanying key stage resources it seems to be pretty limited. We record masses of tv documentaries, primarily - but not exculsively - historical ones. And for the most part they are informative and interesting. Not all are enjoyed by the kids, but the ones that they do enjoy really give them a taste for all things historical.
Documentaries we've been watching recently :
'Seven Ages of Britain' (BBC)
'Industrial Revelations' (Quest),
oh and I've just recorded the start of the new space documentary series: 'Wonders of the solar system' which also looks fab.
And we are revisiting the series 'The 1900s House' and 'The 1940s House', thanks to the loan of DVDs from a friend (thank you !).
Monday, 8 March 2010
This morning I encouraged (forcefully) them to do a page or two of maths and to continue with our project on Ancient Greece. It's not asking alot. Especially when 'doing' ancient greece this morning comprised me reading a couple of paragraphs about Troy and Homer and then them assembling (or not) cardboard model of Trojan Horse. See - how hard can that be? Apparently the words blood and stone come into it. Or blood and cardboard.
Well we got as far as sticking together the background - the Troy bit. And I was feeling so generous I didn't even make them cut any of it out. Last night, well into adult time, I sat watching CSI cutting out the various items required and labelling each with the order of assembly. I actually cut out 12 - or was it 16? - tiny wheels each with little tiny cog-like flaps on the outside. I am such a martyr to home education. Needless to say they didn't appreciate it. And neither did I when my late night slaving away at Troy was rewarded by a cockeral waking me up at 5.45am and some grumpy children thinking they were so hard done by because they had to stick together some cardboard. 'It would be very easy for me to phone up the local school,' I threaten with a malicious grin.
You see, this is why autonomous education works for us. And enforced 'let's be educational' stuff doesn't. There were the kids, happily engrosed in dismantling something on the conservatory table (I think it was the old video player that they'd been using for catapult target practice). Ds1 was painting parts silver to stick inside a large cardboard box which he explained (in technical terms) was going to be a spaceship simulator (you what?). Then I went up to them and said that they had to come and do something educational. Now what's that all about?
Then I fed them lunch. It has to be healthy lunch, which is difficult. Well it doesn't have to be healthy, it's just that ds2 is doing a food diary for his fitness challenge at cubs and I don't want everyone to know that I feed my children crap. Even if I do (sometimes). The thing is, even ds2 is getting the hang of this 'let's pretend we eat healthy' lark. This morning he asked for All Bran (rather than chocolate spread sandwiches which is his staple diet). And then I gave him orange juice which I always mean to but usually never buy. And for lunch he had carrot sticks with his healthy meal. And I am writing HOME MADE next to everything on the diary. Because it is and because even if it is rubbish food at least it's HOME MADE rubbish and not PROCESSED rubbish. Well except for the chocolate spread.
The exercise diary is proving more difficult. I've realised that ds2 is probably the only one of us that does very little - except under duress - exercise (unless you count moving the computer mouse or running around hitting his brother). When I looked at the diary and couldn't think of any exercise he'd done for 3 days I decided we needed to do something. I mean, we're home educators. Not only are we meant to be nice to each other (for the record, I'm an intolerant vicious old crow), but we're also meant to be happy outdoorsy people whose children run through the hills on a daily basis singing the sound of music, while reciting their Latin homework and doing energetic back flips.
So we took the dog to the library, the very long way round. No back flips, just alot of dog poo to avoid through the park. As usual I had very nearly overdue books to return (what again??!!). And the dog barked and barked and barked really loudly outside the library while the adults inside ho hummed in that irritated ho humming way that not very polite adults do. I know because I do it sometimes (except mine is more of a ho huff followed by an irritated sighing noise). And once more I spoke to the librarian about getting a special card for home edders so we can have extended loans, because when you've got 80 books overdue for a week you need to remortgage your house to pay off the fine. And she said 'did you know you can renew them at home on the computer.' And I said.'Yes.' In my nicest politest tolerant voice.
So we're back now from the library. En route Ds1 collected a new supply of red elastic bands that the postman always drops, plus an empty Bob the Builder plastic tub for doing bicarb rockets, plus other assorted crap that will be swilling around my washing machine in the near future when I forget to empty his pockets. And now the kids are all watching Stormbreaker DVD from the library because none of them wanted to take a book out (probably cos I've ranted to them so much about the huge fine that I had to pay last time).
And I can't find the second packet of chocolate chips in the baking cupboard. Perhaps I have already eaten them? This is most distressing.
I am going to go and shout at the cockeral.
Sunday, 7 March 2010
Small child finds jelly bean on floor of theatre. Museum assistants date it to sometime in the 3rd century judging by the amount of archaic fluff attached to it:
And here endeth the news.
Friday, 5 March 2010
I've snipped a few of the more interesting excerpts...
Michael Crawshaw (written notes he gave out summarising what he said)
"1. It is claimed that a Home educated child is twice as likely to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan. This is based on a finding among surveyed LAs that of 11,700 Home Educated children registered with them, 51 were the subject of a CPP. This ratio of 0.44% compares to a national figure of 0.26%. It was Graham Stuart who pointed out that the 51 CPP figure needs to be divided by the total Home Educated population in the sample and not just those that are registered. This is because when an unregistered child becomes the subject of a CPP then the LA will automatically register the child as Home Educated. So the unregistered population has been cleansed of CPPs. The rate of CPP in EHE is probably lower than the national average.
2. NEETs- There is no basis for the assertion that Home Educated children are four times as likely to be NEET. The 74 surveyed LAs found that 270 out of 1220 EHE children who had turned 16 in the autumn were NEET. That is a ratio of 22% and compares to 5.2% nationally. But the figure of 270 for Home Education NEETS is totally unreliable. At least 50 out of the 270 are guesses by Local Authorities because they don’t have the data. Then there is the distortion of ‘off-rolling’ where persistent non-attendees are deregistered from school and misclassified as home educated. Some of 270 will be GRT young people who do not have conventional employment profiles. They are recorded as NEET although they may be earning a living in their traditional ways. EHE children who remain home educated after 16 (doing A levels, still taking GCSEs over a second year or retaking GCSEs) are automatically misclassified by LAs as NEET.
3. It has been falsely claimed that 20% of EHE children are receiving an unsuitable education. The Badman survey of LAs actually found that just 1.9% of EHE children were receiving an education that was judged to be unsuitable (we could even question this judgement) with another 3.4% categorised as not full time (which guidelines on EHE actually accommodate). Why do the DCSF claim a figure of 20%? They’ve added the 3.4% to the 1.9% to get 5.3%. Then included a further 15% of EHE children where no assessment has been made. You can’t put a number on something you haven’t measured. The 20% figure is indefensible."
"I don't like Government. I didn't like school much. Local Authorities are not happy. They have a brief they can't cope with. They think Home Education is a risk. Some of them don't know the law. We have an astonishingly engaged group of people. You guys have been transformed. You have a choice. Don't say 'Thank God it's all over' If you beleive in this, prepare and work the ground. Someone will come back for you at some point. We need a settlement that all Governments should live with and all LAs can live with."
"Someone will come back for you at some point." Oh yes. Sadly true.
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky'
"Are you a teacher..? What about socialisation..? Don't they drive you crazy..? I think you're very brave...I couldn't do it."
Just watch me while I turn the Smug-ometer up to 11.