Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A New Olympic Sport (1) : finding a pot noodle in Waitrose


I get up early, do my physio exercises (in a half-hearted-lets-skip-this-one way), sort out ds1's drink, snacks, waterproofs and bag for his archaeology dig.

I print off a map of the town centre, draw directions on it, find a plastic slippy-in thingy for it, and explain to him how I am going to pick him up in the van at noon, take him home for a bath, and then put him on a bus at 1pm to go to his OTHER archaeology thing this afternoon.

I get the younger ones to pack some 'entertainment' and we all get in the van.

I drop ds1 at the archaeology dig, then drive further round the ring road, find a (free) parking space, spend half an hour in the hairdressers having a haircut while the younger ones entertain themselves. Meanwhile ds1 texts to say that the afternoon archaeology thingy has been cancelled. And could I bring him some lunch, preferably a pot noodle.

I can't face going back home only to go out again, so I go into Waitrose, the nearest supermarket. I hunt the shelves for pot noodles.

They have speciality bread.

And speciality jam.

And speciality ketchup.

And every s***ing-peciality-thing you could ever imagine.

But no pot noodles. I'm too ashamed to ask a shop assistant in case they use tasers on people who eat junk food.

I give up, buy scones (that's pronounced scohhhhnes in Waitrose, you know) and some speciality things in a packet (I'm not fooled. To us ordinary folk they are called pancakes)

And then...

DUN DUN DAAAAAAA

The kids spot THE LAST PUMPKIN IN WAITROSE.

They look at me forlornly.  

Can we?
Please?

It is sat there, all lonesome, in the pumpkin basket all on its own.

Being the tight frugal sort, I had planned to use one of the teensy, manky-looking squash I managed to grow in the garden, as a substitute for a pumpkin this year. But it has started to rain. I would have to go pick the pathetic-looking thing from a wet and muddy garden. More importantly this would mean doing the garden-path-slalom to avoid treading in the semi-dissolved-in-rain dog poo that I've been meaning to clear up since last Tuesday (which is the last time that my slalom-that-took-a-wrong-turn reminded me in a very physical way that I needed to clear up the dog poo).

Besides, if it's anything like the last squash I tried to make into a pumpkin face, it'll be rock-hard through-and-through and will take all day to carve. I don't have all day.

We buy THE LAST PUMPKIN IN WAITROSE.

And this is when the revelation happens. I discover that people who work at tills actually speak without scowling. They even put things in bags for you without playing that will-it-bounce-off-the-end-or-not? roulette game. Obviously, I have been shopping in Tescos for too long.

I drive back to the archaeology dig, give a hungry teen his supplies. Then follow him back to look at what he's been doing. With great pride he shows me bits of jaw he's dug up. Are they human, I ask?

We drive home. I put washing away. I lurk at the washing basket and ponder the wisdom of putting another twenty pairs of odd socks and toxic pants through the wash. It is still raining. I put the lid back on.

I hassle the kids to do their 'folders'. Sit with dd while she does hers.

The kids start decorating the front of the house with bits of my knitting wool and lumps of cotton wool. I wonder what is wrong with the halloween decorations I bought them. I mean, at least they are waterproof and wont be a choking hazard for small elves who might come calling on Halloween.

The dog has been eating a plastic wine bottle cork. I note that it looks remarkably like a half-chewed quorn sausage. The children agree. We study it for a while, reassembling the pieces on the lounge table.I remember that I still haven't cleared the garden path.

I remind the kids that they ought to be doing something with THE LAST PUMPKIN IN WAITROSE.

It takes us close to 15 minutes to make a square foot of space on the table in order to perform the pumpkin operation.

The children start stabbing.

I phone a friend. We compare notes on our day so far.
You - YOU - went to Waitrose????!!! Five minutes of chortling and guffawing later...
It seems I have a reputation to keep.

I make a vegetable chilli for the weekend, shove it in the slow cooker and wonder whether to set it at the impossibly-slow-you-don't-actually-want-to-eat-this-meal-this-week-do-you  setting. After much deliberation I opt for the burn-and-learn setting instead.

A friend phones. She tells me that her son has agreed with my son about what my son is buying her son for his birthday. They are getting it tomorrow. Uh huh. This present involves a trip to Games Workshop with another child (who is contributing to the purchase). Apparently it has all been sorted, and didn't I know about it?

I chew on this latest news.

The first puzzling thing is exactly how long my son has been working in a job well-paid enough to splurge on Warhammer.[What? You were expecting me to pay for it? Ah...]

The second puzzling thing is, when did children start ganging up and holding other people's parents to ransom over birthday presents?

The third puzzling thing is why - seeing as we are budgeting so hard I haven't had a haircut since January and it shows - other people, including my son, think we actually have money. I mean, if I had money do you really think I would dress like this..? (No. Don't answer that.)

The kids, meanwhile, continue attacking the pumpkin.

I call another friend (all the while I am clearing and cleaning, albeit very ineffectively) to find out
a) if she can pick my kids up for an activity on Friday
b) can she have dd for a sleepover on Saturday because other friend needs to pick her up for a fencing competition on Sunday and the time-space continuum thingy is not working in my favour this weekend and
c) to confirm what the geography homework was because ds1 has already spent 7 hours working on question 1 and the thought of doing question 2 as well is pushing us both over the edge.

Friend invites dd over to play. Now.


I pack dd in the car, leaving ds2 still carving a pumpkin. "Don't cut yourself or do anything that's going to make me look like a bad parent..." I sing as I go out the door.

I deposit dd at playdate.

I return home, stuff something frozen in the oven and try to remember how to set the oven timer to come on automatically. I pray to the oven god of frozen convenience foods.

I get back in the van, go to pick ds1 up from his archaeology dig. Swinging back around the ring road (now getting jammed with heavy traffic), I go to pick dd up from her playdate. We get home. I put the immersion on and direct ds1 to the bath.

The frozen things are cooking. I shove random vegetables into saucepans and half boil them to death, while nagging children and scraping something, possibly a new life form, off the kitchen surface

I check in on the pumpkin appendectomy. The conservatory table resembles a slaughter house, but the pumpkin looks the business.

We put the pumpkin on the front step and discover there is a reason why it was THE LAST PUMPKIN IN WAITROSE..

It is not a pumpkin. It is an anti-Weeble.

For love, nor money, or even the enthusiastic glare of an 11-year-old, it wont stand upright.

We prop it up with a brick. Perfect.

I yell at the kids, stir gravy, mash potato, put up with ds1's comments about not liking margarine, try to check my emails on my phone while dishing up food and shoving it on the table and doing some more yelling.

Dh arrives home from work. I shove food down my gullet. I shove the plate in the kitchen. I shove myself out the door, late for work, leaving children in the full frenzy of greeting trick-or-treaters with the big box of sweets that, yes, I was actually organised enough to buy.

I sit down at work.

And rest.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Harmony Fine Arts Course

 We've got back to doing the Harmony Fine Arts course over half term, as our regular commitments aren't on and we have a little more time at home.

Of course we don't actually stick to the instructions, but it gives the children something to start them off and then they pretty much do what they like.

Today's inspiration was to paint an autumn picture.

Instead dd decided to do leaf rubbings with leaves from the garden and oil pastels.







Ds2 seems less impressed with the course.

'Impressed' is perhaps the wrong word. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that he finds it harder to get inspiration from the ideas, and tends to give up quite early on with each 'exercise'. It might be because he's doing it with his sister and when she 'flies' with an idea he feels 'stuck' by comparison. She seems on the surface less inhibited, less of a perfectionist. Quite likely this is an age thing. It may also be a personality thing. Different children have different approaches.

Maybe it's simply that he likes to do a particular sort of art (Manga) and will repeat one figure over and over again, and isn't much interested in any other sort of art. He often works at one figure on-and-off for weeks, with not much (in quantity) to show for the hours he puts in.

He'll be starting a few art sessions at the centre we go to and I wonder how he's going to take to being given 'art instruction' and a limited time in which to work. It will be interesting to see whether he enjoys it, and what, if anything, he produces during the sessions.



Bowling, moon rock and the astronomer's despair.


Being the frugal sort, we like to make the most of cheap deals at the local bowling alley. There aren't many pluses to half term, but early-morning cheap bowling is one of them.


Plus, of course, biscuits are an essential ingredient of any trip out.


(do you like our 'ghostly visitor' on the left of that photo?)

Later, we head to a local museum, for a question-and-answer session with an astronomer, taking a couple of other children with us. There's no space to sit with the children, so I sit apart and a little behind them.

It is just as well. At approximately 3 minute intervals dd declares in a loud-enough-for-everyone-to-hear voice that she's 'finding this a bit boring, and can we go now?' I hiss 'No'. And gesture for her to stay seated. Suddenly it seems she is unable to understand my usual disapproving-mother sign language. 'What?!' she says.

Can I go now?


Moon and Mars rock






In between the questions about the composition of Mars, our youngest companion child puts up his hand and asks earnestly whether there are magnetic teapots in space.

The woman is flummoxed. 'No I don't think so dear. No that isn't right.'

His sister tries to explain where he has obtained this information, and how, actually he *is* right.

The woman lowers her voice to a whisper and does that patronising nodding thing that adults who aren't used to children do when faced with a child's unusual question. I look straight ahead.

'I'm bored, can we go now?' A small, familiar voice pipes up from across the room.

I smile and, for a moment, pretend that I have no children.

Despair at encountering home educated children

Sunday, 28 October 2012

When is outspokenness, rudeness?

Following a forum discussion about politeness and children being submissive to adults, I've been pondering the issue.

Should children be submissive to adults?

Do we stop them from speaking up, simply because we are embarrassed by their outspokenness?

I'm the first to confess I was pretty harsh on number one child. I had high expectations of behaviour, which he rapidly, and healthily sabotaged...

Child no. 2 and 3, by comparison, could have got away with murder these past few years.

Perhaps expectations of behaviour are lower the more knackered you are.

Or perhaps you (I) become more realistic about the priorities of life the longer we parent.

Perhaps we become more confident and chilled in our parenting the longer we do it, and therefore feel less obliged to 'fit' in with others' critical expectations, lowering our own at the same time.

Or perhaps years of being embarrassed by our children increases our public tolerance of their minor misdemeanors.

But back to the question...

Should children be submissive to adults?

I used to think parenting was all about control.About being in control. About controlling your child.
Years of experience and mistakes have shown me that parenting is far more about respect. By that I mean a parent's respect for the child, as well as a child's respect for the parent.


I do think children should be treated as equals to adults, wherever and whenever possible.

I think outspokenness by children should be celebrated for the honesty that it so often is (much as it can be socially embarrassing for us parents). Social niceties often cause us adults to lie to each other. In our modern times it makes a refreshing change to encounter people who 'tell it as it is'. We don't, after all, live and work in Victorian parlours.

I think, not being submissive, not doing what you are told just because an adult tells you to, are
good protective factors against bullying and abuse.

Unthinking, unquestioning obedience isn't all it's cracked up to be :)

What do others think?

Do you cringe when your child speaks out?

Or do you silently congratulate them for saying what, deep down, you are also thinking?

When does honesty and outspokenness become rudeness?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The various stages of panic when a home educated child becomes of 'secondary age'.

I think most of those who home educate can visualise themselves just about chugging along through the primary age. After all, anyone can do primary... [maths, english, science etc]. But I'm yet to meet a home educator who hasn't felt a teeny bit daunted when it comes to home educating a child of secondary age. 

My observations so far suggest there are several stages in the fear and realisation of having a child who is becoming of 'secondary age':

  1. Your child reaches 11. A mildly-unsettling feeling begins to bubble. Your children's friends and peers are starting secondary school. They are getting homework that requires more than writing three sentences about what their pet dog did at the weekend. They are becoming children who study.
  2. You shake off these initial niggles. You convince yourself that your child is a young 11. You tell yourself that the first year in secondary is when teachers try to find out what stage everyone is and get them to the same level. You've got another few years yet.
  3. Your child reaches age 12 and grown-up panic sets in. 12 is far enough into double figures to feel real. You suspect that in school they would be doing proper work. You imagine rows of children competently writing essays. At this point you acknowledge that your cheery and confident child loves playing with lego, but can barely put a coherent sentence on paper.
  4. Your child reaches age 12.5. Panic reaches maximum. You seek out reassurance. In times of a confidence crisis you can always rely on your home ed friends. They will, as always, tell you you are being silly. They will say that a child-led, happy, outdoorsy, hands-on education is the best thing in the whole wide world. They will reassure you that you are doing a great job.
  5. You phone your HE friends. You text them. You drop by their house. They aren't responding. THEY AREN'T THERE. It dawns on you that their children have been missing from the usual 'run around the woods beating each other with a stick and yelling like a banshee' home ed activities. You phone again. But they are always out, or, if you manage to catch them at home, they are just about to go out.
  6. You make further enquiries and find out that, secretly (although everyone else with a 12.5 yr old, except you, knows the secret), their child has joined numerous groups you've never been informed about and is doing IGCSE intellectualism on a Monday, IGCSE super-brain on a Wednesday and some sort of further maths-with-chess-genius on a Friday. Further digging reveals that in between getting their grade 8 for an instrument you didn't even know they played they've signed up for another 3 correspondence courses in subjects that the parent swore their child never studied. 
  7. You cry.
  8. You join the HE exams yahoo list and scare the pants off yourself.
  9. You print out entire syllabuses of exams you can't even understand the title of and pore over them into the early hours wondering how to access the mysterious language they are so obviously written in.
  10. You feed the syllabus sheets back through the printer to print out (on the reverse side) details of local colleges and their entry requirements.
  11. You convince yourself that your child is sociable enough to get a job in McDonalds if worse comes to worse.
  12. You imagine it will.
  13. You eat chocolate, drink wine, insist on your child doing the workbook that has been sat on the shelf for the past 4 years. You swear to yourself you'll lose 20lbs and become teetotal, if only your child doesn't blame you for messing up their life.  
  14. You blame your emotional rollercoaster on hormones. You eat more chocolate.
  15. You start to get over yourself.
  16. You gradually get your head together.
  17. You find that the HE exams list starts to make some sense. In fact, you can almost face reading it every week. (You wouldn't actually dare post on it, and, whenever anyone on the list mentions that their genius child got A*s after only 6 weeks of study, you feel a strong urge to punch someone). But it is progress.
  18. You get yourself connected with the people who are organised enough to be doing exam-type stuff. (Preferably someone with a super-human level of energy and the skin of a rhino. There are some in every county.)
  19. You notice that your (now) 13 year old has matured. He may grunt, have B.O.,  and frequently makes innappropriate comments that only he thinks are funny. But he can actually hold a pen without groaning and sliding under the table. 
  20. You start feeling guilty about not contacting your old friends who have slightly younger children.
  21. You start dodging the resentful looks of those with 11-12 yr olds who thought you were an autonomous home educator and who now feel totally betrayed.  You never get to pick up their calls, because you are always out.

IGCSE Geography revision, the Chicken Shed way

When you have children who are used to learning in a hands-on way, you have to be a little inventive when it comes to exam revision...



Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thursday 10.30am

Have dropped ds1 off at an archaeological dig for his second day of scrabbling in the mud for treasure

Ds2 and dd are playing number bond dominoes.


I'm playing with new phone...





Sunday, 7 October 2012

moving into the modern world...

sending this from my new phone
still cant actually phone anyone from it...(!!)

...but
loving instagram.