Friday, 28 October 2011

Let's get thematically seasonal. It's bloomin' cold 'ere.

Ok, well as the weather seems to be quickly heading towards south pole temperatures it seems only appropriate to tackle an icy theme.

I've already mentioned the free poster available from the OU here (while stocks last)
which accompanies the BBC series Frozen Planet currently available on bbc iplayer here (for the next few months.)

My fellow blogger and home educator at Just Life by the Sea also pointed out this antarctica game, which I'd forgotten about (thank you!). It's on one of my favourite websites for chemistry curricula. It had completely slipped my mind there were other freebie downloads available on the site. I recommend you check it out.

If anyone else has any other good resources they'd suggest for an icy-frozen-planet-arctic-themed project feel free to add them in the comments box below. We have a few books, ordered last time I attempted this theme. It didn't quite get off the ground last time...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Monday, 24 October 2011

Reading: The crapness of knowing 'the buck stops here'.

Ok, I need someone to tell me it is ok to have an 8 year old who can't read.

I am tired of people with children who taught themselves to read age 4 telling me that my child will get there in the end. Hey, oh parent of genius, what do YOU know?

I am tired of people who say 'Oh, I know how you feel. My daughter is only just reading too.' I look at their child who is a good two years younger than mine and think If you speak to me again I will impale your eyeballs on the ends of my fingernails.

I am also tired of the smug looks from home edders who structure their child's every moment and have rigorously taught (or perhaps forced?) their child to read every day since they were an infant and now have a gloating air every time their small child has their nose in the literary equivalent of war and peace. I so hope it costs you a fortune in therapy sessions years later when your child realises their life was ruined by a control freak.

I am tired of surprised looks from people when my daughter tells them she can't read. You don't believe her so you want to ask me as well? Or are you just hard of hearing? Perhaps you'd like me to shout it so EVERYONE can hear?

And I am really fed up with the way such people raise their eyebrows at me as if to say 'Really? Can't you EVEN teach your child to read?' If a monkey like you has managed to learn to speak then obviously I'm not hooked in to the right miracles.

And today I was tired of a small sprat of a boy who was laughing at my daughter when I was encouraging her to read a couple of words from a book in the library
'That is soooo easy!' I heard him snigger to his sister as they walked off.
Be thankful small evil one that I am self-controlled. Smacking a kid in the face may not be appropriate behaviour for an adult, but I am not known for my appropriate behaviour.

And I was cross with myself that his response then triggered me sit next to my 8 year old at home and make - yes make - her read a few words from a book that she simply wanted to enjoy listening to me read. Like this is going to help. Yeah. Go on mother, take a leaf out of the BAD book. You know you want to.

Ok. So most of the time I am alright about my daughter not being able to read and with my daughter not wanting to learn to read. And I'm even more alright about it if I'm careful about the company I keep (geniuses and prospective geniuses, hot-housing parents, and smug bastards, not invited to tea).

But today I am not ok with any of it and it makes me feel crap that it matters.

Yes, I can tell myself it is not unusual for home ed children to read at their own pace. I have heard many stories of home ed children not reading until they are 11 years old. But their child is not MY child and I am not that parent. Sure, dd can read a few words (at a push) when persuaded/bribed/skewered and roasted over a spit on a slow-turn. But that's not reading. At least not the sort of reading I want to encourage in my family. I don't want to be the sort of parent who makes their child read.

Yes, I can tell myself this is a momentary loss of HE confidence and that, as usual, it will pass.

Yes, I can tell myself she will get there in the end. But truth is, nobody knows whether any child will get there in the end. I have a 12-year-old who today was struggling to orientate himself around the automated library machine, because even after all my support over the years he still has problems processing text. A 12-yr-old who struggled to read out loud a short geography question today (and who because of the difficulty in processing what he was reading, hadn't got a clue what the question was, even after reading it three times).

Truth is, I know school would not have solved the problem. I know school most likely would have made the problem worse, or caused other problems. But being a home educator, sadly THE BUCK STOPS HERE.

And it aint pleasant.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Free Drum Lessons online

For the drummer in all of us...

Even the big one's who never get a look-in on their kids' drum kits.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Open University Frozen Planet (free poster)

Frozen Planet ' a 7-part BBC One series exploring the scenery and wildlife of the Arctic and Antarctic.'

Looks like it might be a good series. Order a free Frozen Planet poster here

I've been thinking of doing something polar-themed with the kids for a while. We started a while back, but didn't really get into the swing of things. I suspect, the reason was my over-keen approach (!)

Experience has told me that we need the softly softly approach in this house not the Oh-God-Mum's-found-a-new-project-and-has-bought-the-entire-stock-of-Amazon-books-on-the-subject approach.

There is a downside to parental enthusiasm.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Character building

My kids have never had to put up with testing.

They have never had to be judged by some external person who has an abitrary set of rules to apply to them.

They have never had to suffer the humiliation of school team sports (paritcularly being picked last for the team).

They have never had to pretend that coming last was a valid reason for someone else to treat you badly.

Of course there are some who think that this is what school is all about.

'It's character building', they say. 'Competition is important, it makes you who you are.'

Yes, testing and grading and competition make you who you are. i.e. they either tell you you are a failure (according to someone else's judgement) or tell you that you are a currently a winner (and must therefore never fail or else).

But does my kids' lack of experience of competition and testing and grading leave them floundering when faced with a competitive environment?

Well, after today I would say a resounding NO.

Today my two boys attended their first fencing competition. They have been fencing barely a year and are being taught by two amazing young men, themselves home educated. Today my boys faced opponents that they have never seen before, in an environment that they were totally unfamiliar with (the sports hall of a grammar school). They fought children, who in some cases had been doing fencing a lot longer than they had, or were a head taller or 18 months older than them.

They held their nerve in the face of some pretty sloppy and occasionally silly fencing behaviour, kept calm, refused to be intimidated, remembered what they were supposed to do, kept on fighting back and didn't give up even when their opponent was close to winning. They didn't sulk, or make a fuss, or blame anyone for their mistakes.

They didn't win medals. We didn't even stop to find out where they were placed, because it really wasn't that important. But they learnt new fencing moves and even more importantly they learnt a little more about respecting themselves and others.

Home education has given them a strong inner core. My kids know that they have many and varied skills, not all of which will be recognised or valued by others, and they know that this is ok, because it is ok to be themselves. They know that they have lots of friends, and will be loved, respected and supported whatever they do. They know that they are more than simply the outcome of a competition.

I'm proud of them. For all the right reasons.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Telling it as it is

Nothing like a child to tell it as it is.

7yr old dd coming back from the corner shop: 'I think there's a little birdie in the road. Oh no it isn't. It's roadkill.'

12-yr-old ds1 putting hole-punched circles of paper on his tongue, apparently eating them. 'I'm testing a HYPOTHESIS,' he says, and then with a disparaging look at my obvious ignorance: 'We learn BIG words at our Geography group.'

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

For Home Educators who worry they can't do as well as schools

If you have any doubts that you can't do as well as schools. If you worry you might be failing your child. Then read this on the TES forum boards:

One example: "Talking about Ofsted - I've worked in schools where appalling behaved children who were supposed to be excluded were allowed to remain in school for a few days longer.....and then conveniently 'excluded' for those days Ofsted was in, lol. And other pupils were rounded up the day before Ofsted, pounced upon for teeny, weeny offenses and immediately excluded because SMT feared they would 'let the school down'. Hysterical. Do they think the Inspectors believed that all our classes only had about 14 kids in them?"

Tales of teachers being asked to lie to OFSTED inspectors....relief teachers brought in during inspections to substitute for the weaker teachers...troublesome students being bused out on trips during OFSTED inspections...students even being bribed to be absent during inspections! It all goes to show that even in the high-achieving schools - particularly in the high-achieving schools - all is not what it seems. Lies, deceit, backhanders, bullying. And that's just the staff. All to make a school look good and pass inspections.

Can you do better? Hell yes!

If this is education in our country, you sure-as-hell can't do any worse.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Put up or shut up.

This is a phrase a friend of mine used regularly in my presence. Often it was in reference to other people, but occasionally it was directed at me. Its approximate translation (at least within our friendship circle) was: 'It's ok to moan for a bit, but there comes a time when you either need to SHUT UP wingeing and DO something about whatever's bugging you OR just PUT UP with it'.

I'm quite fond of moaning. Perhaps it's a British thing (I am most definitely a through-and-through Brit). But I suspect it's also a bit of the drama queen (or king) in each of us that likes to think if we complain/grumble/winge about something, then someone might - at least temporarily - put us as centre of their attention and listen. We will have centre stage, spotlights, and an attentive audience.

Some friends (usually the less experienced ones) will do their utmost to 'fix' your problem. And to every solution the persistent moaner will come up with some reason why it wont work: 'Yes I know I could do that, but it would mean that x, y and z would happen' or 'well I tried that about 6 years ago and it didn't work then, so there's no point trying now.' Because deep down persistent moaners don't want solutions, they just want their spot in the limelight and someone to go 'poor you'. It's a human thing. It can become a dangerously compulsive habit. And if you've never done it then you are either at one with the world/fairies, or half-android.

What has this got to do with Home Education? Truth is, I'm not sure, but it does. I suppose it has a lot to do with parenting and parenting is inextricably intertwined with home education. And I've been thinking about it quite a bit recently.

So, how often do we complain about our lot? Money? Kids? Housework? Truth is, most of the things that bug us we could choose to change, or change our attitude to. So, for example, the kids wont keep their room clean and it is driving you demented. You nag. You cajole. You bribe. Eventually you darn well do it yourself while spitting bile at them and listing all the other misdemeanors they have ever committed since birth in a voice loud enough to curse them into the carpet (but not so loud as to alarm the neighbours to the insane family living next door to them). And then, for weeks afterwards you find every opportunity to moan about it. Other people join in: 'Oh I so know what you mean.' and 'My kids are just like that'. And it becomes a moaning club. Then, after a while, your companions tire of the moaning (stuck record), and move on, perhaps to find less grumpy company. And you're still somehow stuck in that rut of a peed off mood.

So, what's the alternative? Well if the state of their room bothers you, perhaps it's worth asking yourself why it bothers you. Is it because you're embarrassed when people visit? Is it because you were made to keep your room clean when you were a child and damn well don't see why your kids shouldn't do it as well? Is it because you have issues over hygeine - are they reasonable, or excessive? Is children obeying your wish for a clean bedroom evidence that you have some control over your kids and therefore reassuring that you are a good parent? If you're really honest with yourself, the reason might actually surprise you.

What next? Well its the PUT UP OR SHUT UP thing, isn't it. You have choices. You can either decide to do something about it: e.g. hire a cleaner, clean it for them (and choose not to be resentful about it), or do a Super Nanny and start a whole starchart-time-out-naughty-step routine (probably a bit late if your kid is 15). OR you can let them stew in their own pit of body odour and underbed fluff while using the time you would have been moaning to ensure your own space is clean and wonderful and restful and lego-brick-free.

I wonder if, perhaps, we just don't like the easy solutions. If you're overweight and unhappy the last thing you want to hear is 'Move more, eat less'. If you're worrying about money the last thing you want to hear is 'get a part-time job' or 'stop paying out for those ballet lessons for your pigeon-toed daughter who has no sense of rhythm'. Because our moaning and martydom serves a purpose to each individual moaner. That purpose will be different for each person, but I'd bet a dollar (if I had one) that every time we moan we are getting something out of that moaning. Take a look. An honest look. And if you don't like what you see, then you know what to do.