Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Preston Park and Museum

Yesterday we went to Preston Park and Museum with the Tees Valley Home Education Group. The weather was cold and wet so unfortunately we couldn't take advantage of the outdoor aspects which was a shame, but we had a good time all the same.

After having a bit of a melt down in reception Miles went to the car with Soo for a nap. It was good to have the opportunity to spend time with just Hermione - although I think she was much more keen to spend time with the other kids than me - which is fine of course.

We went to 'Period Street' where we saw a blacksmith at work. It wasn't long since we talked about how metals can change when heated so it was great to see this actually happening. We looked in some of the other shops including a toy maker where you could see into three rooms where rocking horses were in the different stages of production.

We moved on to an area where you could look into household rooms which were set out in period fashion. These really appealed to Hermione and I was very impressed with them too.

We must go back some time soon. I think it would be an excellent place for Hermione and Nana to spend time and have good chats about the olden days.
Miles tried his hand at some wattle and daub.
On the evening Craig and Hermione set off to Stanely for their first Woodcraft Folk meeting but couldn't find the actual venue and decided to head off to Borders instead. Craig is going to ring the local contact and get more precise directions for next week.
Painting a model cat photo holder which she received as a birthday present from friends.
Still agonising over curriculum's. To use one or not - that is the question. So many advantages but so many down falls too. Had a look at Five In a Row today. Still pondering.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Happy Birthday to Hermione...

Well, it's been one of those weeks. Battling the sicky bug, watching the rain, preparing for Hermione's birthday and party and generally been very busy doing nothing much.

On Thursday Craig took the morning off work and went swimming at Spennymoor Leisure Pool with Hermione. Apparently she over came her fear of the waves and was right in the thick of it. I'm really pleased about that. Her confidence in the water is growing all the time even though our swimming jaunts tend to be sporadic.

On Friday Hermione went to the shop on her own twice. The shop is two doors away and I watch her from the end of the drive. She finds it all extremely exciting and again it's another area in which her confidence is growing fast. In order to have a reason to go to the shop she set out on a mission to use as much sellotape as possible. She has been to the shop four times this week and each time for a roll of sellotape - odd. The lady in the shop had asked her what she was using all of the sellotape for and she explained - making bird houses of course!

With an abundance of bird houses she decided to put one out for the tooth fairy just in case she knew of any homeless birds. She made a note so we knew which one was for the fairy. Her writing is still quite large but really is improving.

Friday afternoon was the usual Modern Dance class at Ferryhill Station. Hermione really likes this one, much more so than Jazz I believe. It's very active - a bit like Fame the Musical I think.

Saturday was the big day. Hermione turned six! I can't believe how quickly the years are passing by. We bought her a Bratz sofa bed, a weekend case and a coat. My Mum bought her a duvet cover and Soo and Lily bought her a Girls Aloud cd as she had requested. There were other things too.

We had a really nice apple and cinnamon cake which I baked on Friday night and ate it whilst watching the JCB which had come to clear our back garden. We were all quite fascinated by the JCB. It's rare that you can get safely close up to one in operation but we had a ring side seat as it scraped away at the mounds of earth which has been dug out for the conservatory foundations. The garden is now relatively flat save for a huge mountain of soil and rubble at one end which is going to be removed this week.

We decided that instead of going out 'en masse' for her birthday meal it would be nice to go somewhere a little different just Hermione, Craig and myself. We went here . Hermione and I both had scampi and Craig chose a chicken dish. It was very nice.

Today was the day of the party. I have to say I was rather nervous about it. Miles has been demanding to say the least this week - partly due to not being well and partly due to being Miles. Thankfully it all went well in the end though.

The guests included Lily, Luke, Eleanor, Adam, Claire, Imogen, Ivan, Angelica, Cody, Joseph and Lionel. They played 'Bad Sweetie' which went down well when I finally remembered how to lay it, Pass the Pillow Case, Making Mummies and passed the orange from person to person under their chins. There was also a pinneata which I thought would never break but thankfully did in the end.

On a more 'formal' note we have had few phonics sessions over the past few days. The girls interest in phonics is growing as they learn more and slowly things begin to fit together. I have thought a lot of late about buying a curriculum. I have really mixed feelings as there is no way in which I want to become a slave to a curriculum - I would hate that - but at the same time I sometimes feel taken by surprise with the girls eagerness to learn and would always like to have a little something which is interesting, fun and exciting up my sleeve! The trouble is finding a pre packaged curriculum which is fun, educational, exciting and doesn't have strong religious or social messages which are at odds with my own. I know the ideal would be to have lots of stuff prepared in advance but I struggle with this at times. I just don't know were the time goes.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Chinese New Year

I decided that we would do something for Chinese new year this year. Not sure what but hoped to do something. Our efforts have been cut short by a sicky bug but here's what we did manage.

On Friday Hermione and I looked at this website which had a short video story about Chinese New Year. Amongst other things it talked about people visiting their friends and families at this time with gifts of 'red letters' containing 'lucky money' and oranges. Inspired by this Hermione decided to make some red envelopes with lucky money to take to Lynn's house on Monday.

We also marked China on our map of the world. I had never really noticed just how big it is in comparison to England. I'm learning so much through educating the children. Hermione didn't seem quite as surprised as I was and just commented that it is almost as big as Greenland, which I guess is right.

On Saturday morning Lily was also here. We chatted about China and I read an account of life in China written from the perspective of a western child. They were surprised to learn that in China every meal does not replicate our local cheap and cheerful Chinese buffet. The account talked about dried vegetables which start out not dissimilar to cabbages but once dried are black - both Lily and Hermione agreed that they would prefer it if this stayed off the menu at aforesaid cheap and cheerful buffet.

We looked at this link which gives a great panoramic view of the Wall of China

On Saturday afternoon we went to . It was a nice surprise. In all honesty I expected it to be very stuffy and not at all child friendly. I was wrong. The staff were very welcoming and despite the museum being really quiet I didn't feel at all stressed by the children talking at 'child volume' as opposed to 'museum volume'. We did look at quite a few things but the favourites were most definitely the dressing up box full of oriental clothing, the life size camel modelling a rather ornate poncho and the Chinese instruments which were being played by a group of musicians. The visit came to an end when Miles decided he would like a turn of an instrument and could no longer be distracted by the camel or anything else.

The instruments were fabulous. I have not seen anything like them before. I've googled on the web to try to find out what they are called but cannot find anything. We took the camera to the museum but were unable to use it unless we bought a photography permit for £2. I decided not to bother but may do next time even if only to photograph the instruments and load them up here.

Over the course of the weekend the weather was really bright and mild so we also went to Coxhoe play area and Chester Park. Miles wanted to be doing things, no longer happy to just be carried around. My baby is definitely growing up.

On Monday we went to Lynn's house to join about a dozen other home educating families for Chinese music, crafts and food. A great time was had by all. We discovered that Miles loves dragon fruit and Hermione overcame her fear of the dragon parades when she joined in one using an authentic dragon head and costume which Lynn had imported.

Sadly by the time we came to drive home from Lynn's I was feeling rather queasy, not helped by Miles having a bit of a meltdown in the car. By mid evening it became apparent I had some sort of sicky bug and that was me wiped out till this morning pretty much. Miles was also sick once last night and has been rather sleepy today but otherwise is ok.

As Miles and I recovered from our lurgy today Hermione spent almost all of the day in the Nannexe. They played monopoly (apparently she is really quite competent now at operating the bank), snakes and ladders and connect four. My mum also tried to show her how to crochet and she seemed to enjoy making the chain but it didn't progress much further than that. She made herself a thin head band which she wore for the rest of the day and a woolen collar for WooWoo.

Hermione also wrote a story with my mum's help. The trouble was that she was unfamiliar with many of the words she used, my Mum helped her to spell them and consequently she found it really difficult to read when she came to read it back to herself. I hope this won't put her off.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Trip to Tees Valley and breakfast with Freddy Fish

On the 14th February we went to the first Tees Valley Home Ed meeting at Natures World .

Miles spent most of the time asleep in the car while Hermione and Lily took full advantage of everything on offer. They had a great time with some Teifoc Bricks which are mini construction bricks with 'real' cement. Hermione made peppermint creams which I couldn't possibly allow her to eat as by the end I think she had added at least one third of a bottle of food colouring and possibly even more lemon flavourings to her mixture. We agreed that they could be for Daddy as he certainly needs his energy boosting. They both made hats with their names on and paper flowers.

Following the meeting we were allowed into the grounds of Natures World free of charge. It was covered by what we had paid at the meeting (£1.50 per child). I was suitably impressed by the place. There is a miniature (stream sized) River Tees complete with land features, bridges etc. plus lots of different kinds of gardens, play areas, a duck pond and so on. We ran out of time as I had to get back to see a man about our new kitchen. All in all a great day. We will definitely go back.

Activities started early round here today. By 8.30am Miles was sound asleep having been up since 5.40am so I decided to see if the girls were interested in the story of Freddy the Fish which I discovered on a website which in can no longer find. I filled a vase full of fresh water and added two fishes cut out of a raw carrot, Freddy and Freda. Freddy and Freda lived in a river in a protected wilderness area. The water was nice and clean and they were happy and healthy.

One day they went on a journey. They swam down stream past a farm where rain had eroded soil into the river - at which point we added soil to the vase and stirred it up. Fred nears a housing development. Fertilisers from the pastures had washed into the river - add brown sugar and stir. Fred swims by a large car park. Oil had washed into the river - add honey and stir. During a recent cold spell ice formed on a bridge. The gritter lorry drove by and salts washed into the river - add salt and stir. Fred swims past the park. Picnickers had thrown their litter on the ground - add shreds of paper and stir. Several factories downstream will not dispose of their waste appropriately - add warm soapy water and stir. As Fred past the waste water treatment plant part of the plant was broken and chemicals were leaking into the river - add red food colouring and stir. Finally Fred swam past a waste dump located next to the river bank- add green food colouring and stir.

How are Fred and Freda now?

Well, during the course of the story the carrot had started to float to the top. The girls concluded the fish had died as a result of all of the pollution. They knew they were carrots not dead fish really but they were convincingly concerned for the welfare of the carrots, oooops I mean fish!

Discussions followed about how we can help to keep our rivers clean and what may happen if we don't. We talked about what would happen to animals who rely upon fish as a food source and what in turn would happen to animals who fed on those animals and so forth. Concern was expressed that fish and chip shops would be no more. If we don't keep the rivers clean Lily feared that we may just end up with chip and chip shops.

We carried on a water theme with looking on a very basic level at the water cycle. We finally cracked it with a little dance in the kitchen - transforming ourselves from rain drops to meandering rivers, from meandering rivers to choppy sea, from choppy sea to evaporating water and then to a cloud. Learning through movement seems to be the way to go round here at the moment. I don't mind but do feel most comfortable being a raindrop or meandering river with the curtains closed.

We then coloured some pictures of the water cycle before heading off to Durham for the Farmers Market.

When we came back my Mum and Hermione watched a 'Share the World' video which we received free of charge as part of an educational pack from these people . Hermione complained that it wasn't very 'cool' but sat totally mesmorised throughout. My Mum thought it was brilliant!