Saturday, 31 March 2007

Trip to the bogs

This morning we painted the collection of toilet roll inner tubes we have been saving for ages. The idea is to make pen holders to keep the place a bit tidier. We didn't get round to making them up today as we were waiting for them to dry and moved on to other things. .... Hermione pastels and Lily watercolours.

We whizzed through all the sound board words with no trouble at all today, which was pleasing as I thought Hermione wasn't that keen yesterday.

After that we settled down to watch a series of six ten minutes programmes about a village in Bangladesh. I had taped the programmes from Schools TV. The first two had us all glued to the screen but by the time we were watching the third one I think we were all losing interest. They were a bit repetitive. We stopped at the end of the third one having enjoyed what we had seen but not particularly wanting to see more right then. May be another time. We chatted about the 'auto rickshaws.' I am going to find a range of rickshaw pictures on the net for the girls to see.

The weather was bright and nippy so we wrapped up warm and headed off to Cassop Bogs in search of frog spawn for our pond.

It is a beautiful spot and I'm looking forward to visiting frequently in summer. There were literally hundreds of frogs. They kept jumping out of the long grass as you walked along which Hermione and I found rather alarming.

With so many frogs we felt certain to find plenty frog spawn but we had no such look. On the way back to the car we saw quite a lot mating. Perhaps we are just too early. We will go back in a couple of weeks.

Craig came home from work early today to practice his saxophone and to show us his new acquisition - a keyboard! I do get sick of him dragging things in which he uses/plays for a few weeks and then never looks at again but I'm quite pleased about the keyboard. I have wanted to take up piano again for a few years but was unable to before because I could only practice at night and that would wake the children. The keyboard has the benefit of a volume switch so it could be perfect! I'm also pleased that it is another instrument in the house for the children to familiarise themselves with. If Hermione expresses interest in taking up playing an instrument seriously I think we have reached the age and stage now were I would be willing to invest in music lessons.

They have now headed off to bed ever so excited as they are going to see Bratz Passion for Fashion World Tour at Newcastle Arena tomorrow. We didn't tell them about it till today as we couldn't possibly have stood the hype for too long.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Maple syrup

Today we concluded our unit on Very Last First Time.

We looked at the symbolism of the maple leaf in Canada. We looked again at the Canadian flag and talked about how years ago there was even a maple leaf on their coins.

We went through the process of how maple syrup is made. I found a site on the Internet last night which had excellent photographs of each stage of tapping the tree. I had printed them off and we looked at each in detail and put them in sequence.

We painted maple leaves and made a maple collage with a tree design and the the photographs of maple syrup making.

We also introduced a 'sound board' today. Hermione was certainly not impressed. Will have to see how it goes.

I came across an interesting site about childhood development and art the other day Certainly worth a glance.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Very Last First Time

This week we started 'Very Last First Time' by Jan Andrews. It's a FIAR text.

However, before I start talking about our FIAR discoveries I want to show you the peg dolls Lily and Hermione made a couple of weeks ago as I think they are quite cool. We have moved on from peg dolls for the time being though. Lily has been crocheting a chain and Hermione has discovered a french knitting bobbin and is very enthusiastic.

Very Last First Time is about an Inuit girl who goes down an ice hole with her mother and walks on the bottom of the sea (while the tide is out of course) collecting mussels. It's set in Ungava Bay, North Canada. I have found it fascinating. I had never heard of the Inuits (in-you-its) nor had I heard of this practice of walking under the thick sea ice sheet in bay areas during low tides. Very interesting stuff!

On Monday we placed our story disc on Ungava Bay and also made a disk for the Atlantic Ocean. I have taken them off the map each night when they are in bed and they have taken turns putting them back on in the right places the next day. We already have a large world map on the wall but I think we need some thing bigger to accommodate all the discs. The map also needs to be robust for all the sticking and re sticking. Something to look out for!

I explained what a bay is and we all drew pictures of a bay type coastline. We chatted about how the sea freezes on the surface but not underneath. I know I have found it quite challenging to get my head around this idea that there are places where the sea recedes leaving a sort of underground sand and ice cavern which you can drop down into till the tide turns. I suspect the concept was even more challenging for the girls and we spent half an hour or more talking about this.

We looked at the pictures in the book and noted that there are very few trees. I explained that the cold weather conditions do not lend themselves to lots of lush vegetation and this has the knock on effect for the people of the region - since they cannot grow a lot of their food they hunt it.

We looked at pictures of caribou here and talked about how the people eat their meat, use their skins and fur for clothing and insulating their homes and may even use their bones for making tools or other implements - not a lot of waste on a caribou seemingly!

The girls were clearly quite inspired by the story and decided to write their own story books. Hermione's was called 'The Hamster of Ungava Bay' and Lily's was called 'Ungava Bay.'

On Tuesday we acted out words from the story - dragging, shoveling, heaving, peering, fearfully peering, grinning, prying, scraping, scrambling, stumbling and groping. They enjoyed this.

This was the girls first time to walk under the sea alone. We talked about ordinal numbers. They were both familiar with first, second and third but beyond this became a bit hit and miss. Made a mental note to revisit this casually whenever the opportunity arises.

Hermione wondered what they would find if they dug a hole in the garden. I explained that within the realms of their abilities to dig they would continue to find just more soil and rocks, however there are places where there are underground tunnels, caves and caverns. Quick chat about how people go pot holing as a hobby.

Just to be certain the girls knew what mussels actually are (you can never be sure about these things) we had mussels for lunch. Well, I should say Lily and Hermione pushed a mussel around thier plate and Soo and I ate mussels.

On Wednesday Soo and Nana took the girls to Tees Valley Home Ed meeting while I took Miles to the cranial osteopath. We did 'normals' before they left but we didn't touch on FIAR. I don't think it is something which can be hurried. It is in my view all about 'purposive conversation' and it is difficult to adopt that approach of passing on information when you only have fifteen minutes or so. They had a good time at the meeting. They came back with painted hard boiled eggs, cress egg shells and egg fridge magnets. They also came back with the Ladybird abridged My Secret Garden (the one I have been looking for for a couple of weeks) from the freebie table!

Today I decided we would start the session a little differently. I think it's important to approach a story from as many angles as possible. I filled a large bowl with hot water and a lot of salt. I took it up to the bedroom and invited the girls to join me. We sat around the bowl which I stirred and we smelled the vapour coming off - it stank and made me feel quite queasy. I asked them if it reminded them of anything. Hermione wasn't certain if it smelt like Sprite or the Sea but she was certain it must be one or the other. Lily felt she couldn't possibly guess without tasting it but I decided against that as there was a lot of salt in there. I explained it was tap water with lots of salt in it to make it smell like the sea - because sea water is salty! Feeling full of sea air the girls the lay down comfortably on the bed and I read a passage which I had written the night before about going on a journey to the sea bed. I think I can best describe it as a 'guided meditation' and I think it worked out surprisingly well. I managed to include in the passage far more factual stuff than I think is in the book (stuff about tides, animals etc). After the meditation they both drew pictures of what they had seen during their journey. It was great to hear them chatting as they drew. Hermione talked of how the caribou fur on her coat tickled her face, the strings of mussels were so long they wouldn't all fit in her mussel pan and how she had to watch out for the tide as it comes in twice a day. Lily was also very vocal. I think they had both taken lots of information on board through this approach.

We coloured the Canadian flag and stuck it up beside the map. Hermione chose to also colour the Cuban flag and Lily did a Union Jack.

After this we came back to the subject of underground caves. Craig had printed off two large coloured pictures for me which I stuck on the playroom wall. One was of a big gaping hole in the ground leading down to an underground cave system and the other was some spectacular stalactites. We looked at them, chatted and went on a virtual tour of underground caves here

We then settled down to watch a programme on BBC2 Schools television about winter. It featured a hotel in Scandinavia which is made entirely of ice. It was amazing and fitted in quite nicely with what we had been doing. It melts and is later rebuilt every year but the season is becoming increasingly shorter with global warming.

Monday, 26 March 2007

My Secret Garden, marmoset babies and Lentil

What a week. Lily was struck down with a nasty sickness bug. My car is still of the road. Soo and Lily spent a few days down in Redcar. It could have easily turned into mayhem but actually it has been calm although much too busy to blog.

Hermione and I read 'Lentil' by Robert McCloskey. It is one of the FIAR texts. It prompted discussions about taste buds, musical notes, war and war memorials (we went down and checked out the one in the village) amongst other things.

We went to the farm and the marmosets had just had a baby. The baby was just two days old and still clinging to it's mother. It was fascinating.

On Saturday Hermione and Nana went to the theatre to see a musical production of My Secret Garden. With a little bit of help Hermione had followed the story well and really enjoyed it.

We read the Beatrix Potter book from the Famous People Famous Lives series. This inspired Hermione to also be an author and she has since produced a few small works of fiction :-) We have exhausted the local library of their stock of this series. We will have to see if central library has any more.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Happy Mother's Day to me...

If only!!!! The day got off to a horrible start today. Mile screamed incessantly for ages. Hermione had a big moody upon realising she wasn't going to have Daddy just to herself on 'Daddy Day' (Sunday) and what was worse I had bought tickets for an event at The Sage when she had other plans for them.

I thought the event sounded good - 'Kidsamonium is a magical musical event enabling 6 -14 year olds to experience the power and freedom of jazz. A crazy troupe of characters including the madcap 'Aviator' Billy Jenkins, the ‘Big Tuba Kid’ Oren Marshall, the mysterious trombone playing 'Chickens in the Sky', ‘Princess’ Laura Macdonald, Joost Buis and ‘Judge’ Claude Deppa, all led by Tom Bancroft ‘the King’, creates a series of hilarious performances and musical games. This was the sell-out hit of last year’s festival and the show has been moved to Hall Two to allow more people to see it and to enable all sorts of new theatrical possibilities! Adults also welcome!' Hermione was not convinced. To cut a long story short they went along. Hermione announced within minutes (some would say seconds) that it was way too loud and that she couldn't tolerate it. After a bit of a scene they left.

I was far from pleased. It would have been fine if she had given it a chance but she wouldn't and I think that had a lot to do with the day not being as she had hoped. Perhaps I should have given her advance warning of the day's activities? Perhaps it is my fault after all? Sod it, it's Mother's Day, for once I will say this was not my fault!

After the brief excursion to The Sage we headed into Durham and visited the Chinese Buffet. Craig was very unimpressed. He isn't wild about these 'canteen places' as he calls them. I've tried explaining to him that I also would prefer freshly cooked food as opposed to stuff that has been drooled and sneezed over dozens of times but then buffets are the most practical option with Miles at the moment. Hopefully he will have become a more patient and all round laid back dude come next Mothers Day.

Lunch went surprisingly well. There seemed to be extra tables squashed in for Mother's Day and Miles enjoyed being able to peer at other peoples plates. This kept him entertained for a much longer period than he will usually last in a high chair. After lunch we headed off to the Botanic Gardens. Unfortunately it was too cold to wander in a way we could enjoy so we just hung out in the glass houses for a short while, reading notices about the rain forests, then headed on off to Borders in Gateshead.

Now, I don't miss Gateshead but I do miss Borders. I think it's a great shop. Waterstones just doesn't compare. We hung out, had a drink upstairs in Starbucks, chose a couple of Secret Seven books plus some magnetic words and a cd for me before heading on home. Not a bad day by the end of it.

I've bitten the bullet and ordered Horizon maths from Sonlight. I can't believe how formal things are becoming around here. I'll continue to go with it though as long as it seems like the right thing to do. I'm quite enjoying it really.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Red Nose Day

The day started early today with Soo and the girls dressed and out by not long gone 7.00am. Pam from the shop told Soo that the girls could put some of their home baked red nosed fairy cakes on her counter to sell so they dashed off early so as not to miss the morning commuters :-) Craig also took some to work. By the end of the day they have raised £13.30. Not bad at all.

This morning we watched a video clip showing orphans in Africa. One toddler couldn't walk because his toes had been chewed by rats. Hermione and I both cried.
We moved on to yet more bingo and word searches (definitely the thing of the moment). We also played a game which I had made last night where the aim is to match a picture card with a sound card.
After normals I suggested we make a picture of a make believe land to stick our story discs on from stories of fictional places. This idea went down like a lead balloon. We ended up making some peg dolls and reading 'Little Soul and the Earth: I'm Somebody!' by Neale Donald Walsch which arrived today from Amazon. I'm not sure about this book. I'm not as happy with it as I was with the first one in the series. I think I'll put it away for a couple of years until I can explain it in a way which I am happy with. Hopefully a couple of years will see their understanding skills and my ability to explain abstract concepts improve.
Lily went off to play and Hermione decided to settle down with Nana to make a start on reading The Secret Garden. After reading two chapters neither looked particularly happy. Nana felt it was rather 'heavy'. I wish we had time to get an abridged version from Amazon but there won't be time before the production. Nana has volunteered to read it and remind herself of the full story and then explain it in brief to the girls.
This afternoon Hermione went to dancing and I went to the library to return the George Stephenson book and to take out three more in the series - Florence Nightingale (again), Anne Frank and Beatrix Potter. The Anne Frank story may fit in with one of the themes of the Lentil book which we are going to explore next week.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Rainbows, Science and Dog Dirt

The last few days have whirled past in a flurry of activity. Here is the quick low down.

On Wednesday morning Hermione and Lily went to the Tees Valley Home Educators meeting at Natures World. There had been over thirty children there again with lots of organised activities. As it is National Science Week this week there had been a number of experiments. Apparently the chocolate egg tasting one (designed to help us discover things about our senses) had gone down a treat with Hermione and Lily. The meetings have been so successful that from now on they are to be fortnightly as opposed to monthly - excellent news.

When the girls returned they chilled for a while and then we did some 'normals' followed by a story. Well, I say story but actually it was a poem.

I liked the poem and the illustrations in the book are beautiful but I think the way it is set out caused it to loose something. Turning the pages each time between the lines of the poem, pausing to look at the illustrations, resulted in it having no 'flow'. The girls listened to it once but we not wildly enamoured by it. I won't get it out again for a while. It is one of the FIAR texts. It is suggested as one to use for a short or review week. It lasted fifteen minutes here.

Not content with the excitement of 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' we picked up our clipboards and headed on off up The Avenue to carry out a survey into the incidence of dog dirt, litter and broken glass. Sadly we didn't have to go far to find lots. Lily in particular was very enthusiastic about this. We returned to the kitchen table with the data and drew a simple bar graph. I had drawn the basic outline and the girls counted their tally marks and coloured the appropriate number of squares.

Later in the afternoon they headed off to Rainbows for their first time. They made a bunch of flowers from crepe paper, played games and sang songs. They appeared to really enjoy it and were enthusiastic about going back. There had only been about a dozen girls and five leaders which is excellent.
Later Hermione and Nana finished the first in the Secret Seven series. Hermione is really into the story and has been writing 'SS' on bits of paper all over.

On Thursday a braille alphabet card arrived from the RNIB. I did call the libraries but they don't keep braille books as standard and apparently would have to order them in at great cost. The lady at the RNIB was very helpful when I explained why I wanted some and has sent some bits and pieces. I am going to locate the blue tac within the next few days and stick the alphabet card on the playroom wall so they can have a feel whenever they like.

This morning we messed about and did more 'normals.' Normals consisted of lots of bingo today - word and number bingo. They also both tried word searches for the first time and they were a big hit, particularly with Hermione.

We then made scrap books with card and ribbon. Hermione decided to reproduce a story from a comic in hers and Lily made up recipes.

I called The Gala Theatre and booked tickets for them to go and see My Secret Garden next week. I called around the libraries to see if there was an abridged version we could borrow as I think it would be nice for them to be familiar with the story before going to see the production. They didn't have an abridged one and all the full copies were out on loan. I ended up going to Waterstones in Durham and buying a copy. I only hope they get through it before next Saturday. I also bought some wooden pegs to make peg dollies to re enact the 'Lentil' story when we start it next week and some felt for making dolls. Lynn has posted more patterns which look really cool. The girls might like to give doll making another try.

While I was out Nana read them a book about the life and achievements of George Stephenson. Hermione is enjoying this series about famous lives. She has had Florence Nightingale, Louie Braille and now George Stephenson within the last week.

The catalogue arrived from Sonlight yesterday. I think I will look into Horizon Maths. I like the sound of it. We also got information through from CBeebies Spring Watch and the Fair trade Indian tea Party Fundraiser Pack. Not sure where we are going with this one yet and would like to get Red Nose Day out of the way first. On that note I think I will go to bed and psyche myself up for our cake selling efforts tomorrow.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Another one of those days...

Miles is unwell, again. He was extremely clingy and had a temperature this morning so our planned excursion to the High Street complete with clipboard to conduct a litter and dog dirt survey had to be shelved. You may think that I was secretly pleased about this but you would be wrong - I was actually quite looking forward to it. The girls were very excited at the prospect of a 'field trip' and I had told them that we may report our findings to the local community newspaper - they appear to be very interested in incidences of dog fouling and litter round here - which is good. I applaud the strong community spirit of so many folks here. It's a real refreshing change from where we lived before. So, the dog dirt and litter patrol has been postponed.

Hermione and my mum read a book about the life and achievements of Louie Braille. I am going to ring the library tomorrow and see if they have any books in braille and find out if Hermione could go in and look at them. She has heard about it now but I think she needs to actually see it really.

After that it was a spot of gardening.

If we win the lottery this week (unlikely as I never do it) we will hire a landscaper. In the meantime I can dream....

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Taking the rough with the smooth

The last couple of days have been far from the glory of mid week. There has certainly been a fair amount of rough with the smooth and I'm feeling worn out and fragile.

The 'rough' has included a car crash in which none of us were hurt but it looks like my car will be written off (it's still in a ditch at the moment awaiting recovery), a £38 fine on children's books at Durham Library and Blackie the guinea pig was found stiff in her hutch this morning. I could go on but I won't.

On the brighter side we completed our study of Ping today. We have only done four days which some may say is 'wrong' considering the programme is called 'Five In a Row' but I just feel that we have really enjoyed it, learned lots but it was starting to loose it's sparkle. I don't want to sicken them so we're quitting while we are ahead. I think it is important to use these curriculum's rather than them using you.

Over the last couple of days we have covered

  • Buoyancy - chatted about the boat boy and carried out a buoyancy experiment looking at how a bottle floated when it was full of water and how it floated when it was full of air.
  • Water safety - went over the 999 drill, talked about lifeguards and flags at the beach. Drew pictures of a rough sea, lifeguard and red flag flying.
  • Pandas - native of China - and also incredibly cute. We watched a really cool video link called Tai Shan's first year (highlights) here
  • Drew pictures of pandas using charcoal - a very messy business.
  • Yangtze alligators - we checked out this site
  • We used green lentils to count out how many various family members Ping has

  • We placed the Ping story disc on China

All in all I am really impressed with how our first book study with FIAR has gone. I never imagined we could have covered so much stuff from one simple book. I think they have enjoyed the four days and learned quite a lot. I would hate to fall into that trap of placing 'tick boxes' at the top of my priorities without having regard as to whether the children had actually learned anything. I don't want to go through the motions of studies just so I can feel I have done something but the children have got nothing out of it. I don't think that has happened here. To the contrary I think they have gained lots. Just voicing my worried and concerns about this sort of approach.

I am not certain what will unfold for next week. I may have a look and choose a short story from FIAR as we are going to have transport issues plus it's Tees Valley Meeting, the first trip to Rainbows and I had hoped to do something on a Red Nose Day theme one day. I sense it may be a week to take things easy.

Off now to try to muster the energy to bake a beetroot and chocolate cake from a new recipe in Country Kitchen Magazine. I really can't be bothered but have promised Hermione....

Thursday, 8 March 2007

A glorious day

What a wonderful day I have had today. It has been wonderful even though Miles had the longest and most furious tantrum yet because I refused to spread anything further on his bread (by this time he had margarine, coconut oil, jam and chocolate spread on).

The weather has been bright and fresh. The girls enjoyed the structured time we spent together looking at Ping and doing our 'normals'. We have spent most of the day busy outside and now the children are all asleep or on their way to sleep with a contented rosy glow. Today has confirmed why I chose to home educate. The children have had the time and space to do lots of things, learn, grow, play, exercise, breathe fresh air....ooooh I could go on but I won't. It's been a very good day.

Once again the story of Ping went down a treat.

Following the story we talked about factual and fictitious stories. We played a little game where we each took turn to say something and then we said whether it was fact or fiction. They enjoyed that.

We looked at the illustrations in the book and considered what materials the artist had used. He had used coloured pencils on most pages. We drew and coloured our own pictures and tried to imitate the effect he had used on many pages to create a multicoloured sky. We also talked about authors and illustrators and how generally they are not one and the same.

Certain word and phrases are repeated throughout the book. I suggested we write our own story using a repetitive phrase. This didn't quite go to plan and turned into a session where the girls told me a short story (a couple of sentences), I wrote it down and then cut up the words on separate pieces of paper and then they put it back together again in the correct order. I was very impressed. I'm amazed these days at the extent of their sight words. They are growing in confidence in this respect all of the time.

Once we had finished we went out into the front garden and I carried on picking stones from the lawn area and the girls rode round and round on their bikes for an hour or so.

After lunch we headed back to Tweddle Farm. We have bought a family annual pass. We were the only visitors there. t was great to be able to wader around and look at the animals without having to wait for other people to move on. The children could play on whatever they wanted in the play area. Oh, the joys of home ed.

As we headed home we passed the Nature Reserve again. If the weather stays nice over the next few days I'd like to go and check it out. Also, on the journey back Soo mentioned that she would like to keep bees. I think it is something we should find out about, see how practical that would be. Could be good. We also need to sort out a composting bin.

A letter arrived today to say that there is a place for Hermione at Rainbows. Unfortunately it clashes with Jazz dancing. I think we will give Rainbows a try and see which she prefers.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Snowdrops, crochet and a duck called Ping

Over the past couple of days Hermione has spent quite a lot of time with Nana perfecting the art of crocheting a chain. Her chain is now over six feet long. It's quite slack in places as she has a rather unique technique but it is ok. Now she has mastered the chain my mum is going to start introducing her to a basic stitch.

The weather has been bright and spring like the past couple of days and we have spent a fair bit of time replanting all the snowdrop bulbs which we dug out to save them from a run in with the JCB when it came to do a spot of landscaping last week.

My mum now has wellies and a rake and decided today to make a real start on the area which is to be lawn. After a couple of hours work it was hard to see much difference and she was worn out. She thinks perhaps we need to hire a rotivator. I don't know what we need, I just know we can't afford to spend much right now. An action man is what we need.

Last night Hermione went to Woodcraft Folk for the first time. I was really looking forward to it and very optimistic. The website makes it sound good but sadly it was nothing like the website. It turned out to be a hall full of boys running riot, on the rampage, playing at pushing each over and generally hurting each other. Hermione had attempted to join in but was quickly overwhelmed by the situation and became tearful. I am really disappointed. I really didn't imagine it to be like that.

I am hoping to find some other more suitable organisations. Although she goes to dancing classes I would like her to go somewhere on a weekly basis which does not just involve listening to the instructor - somewhere where she can get to know other children and build relationships. I feel that the local home ed scene isn't meeting her social needs at all. A friend recently explained that one of the main reasons why she left this area was because the social interactions and opportunities for home ed children in the area are not 'positive' and 'nourishing'. I agree. I would like Hermione's social life to be regular, consistent, predictable and also managed in the sense that there are set rules that the children of the organisation must stick to and those rules are upheld. I don't want Hermione's social life to be affected by what may be going on in the adult home ed community. I don't feel that is acceptable and I've made a decision to try my best to integrate more into the local community. To this end I have made further calls about Rainbows (although don't hold your breath because I have been barking up this tree since last December), I've emailed a friend about Beavers and I have contacted Badgers (junior section of the St John's Ambulance) and they are going to send out a pack of information. In the meantime we will hopefully continue to see our good friends as often as we can.

Today we made a start on Five In a Row. We are starting with The Story About Ping.

I am amazed at how many issues you can bring out of such a short and on face value simple story. I read the story and it went down well - the first thing Hermione said when I finished was, 'I'm having that one again at bedtime'. We then discussed discernment, how all is not always as it seems. There was talk of why we shouldn't jump into a river even if it looks inviting, shouldn't step on frozen ponds, shouldn't smoke, take gifts from strangers and so on. We also talked about taking responsibility for what we do and the consequences of our actions.

We then went on to talk about the Yangtze River upon which the story is based. We talked about where it is, how it is over 4,000 miles long, how in places you cannot see the other side it is so wide and how it flows past all kinds of things on it's way out to the East China Sea. We talked about the problems that exist with flooding along the banks of the Yangtze, how the people of China built dams to try to stop flooding and considered how it may feel to live there.

After chatting we looked at some pictures of the Yangtze at different stages and stuck them up on a large sheet of paper which I had stuck up in the playroom earlier. This is to be the gallery for our works on Ping. We looked at locks lifting boats and dams.

I had traced a map last night showing China, the Yangtze and the East China Sea. Both Lily and Hermione were keen to make one of there own so they did.

After this they painted a huge picture of the river and we looked on the Internet and printed off pictures of Chinese boats and buildings to stick on it.

All in all I am really pleased with how today went. The downside, if I can call it that, is that it does require a lot of preparation. One of the main reason I was drawn to some sort of curriculum is because I was struggling to sort everything out the night before. I don't know that this curriculum is going to help me in this respect but I am very impressed so far. It may just be that I have to get quicker at preparing :-) I am at least aiming to prepare the 'normals' a week in advance and just once a week in future. That should help.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Busy day

We had arranged to meet Suzanne, Owain and Adam for breakfast at the Bishops Mill this morning but sadly Suzanne had to cancel as she was unwell. We went along anyway as we were all psyched up for breakfast out by that time. It was nice. I had a veggie sausage sandwich. The children all had pancakes. All in all the food was good and the prices were very reasonable but I do think that Miles fares best with buffets. He isn't into waiting (even if the wait is short) and the variety of food he can have at a buffet often keeps him occupied longer - or at least till I have finished my meal.

After breakfast we had a wander round Durham and bought some wellies for my Mum. She wants wellies and a rake so that she can make a start preparing the top of the garden to sew the grass seed. We need to get this done soon or there will be no grassed area for play this summer.

On the way home Miles fell asleep. I took advantage of this time to do some education planning. I have prepared almost two weeks of 'normals' and have jotted down some ideas for other areas. This all feels very strange as it is at odds with what has always been my ethos of education but Lily and Hermione seem to be thriving on a bit of structure right now so we will go with it till that changes. In many respects it is quite rewarding to see on paper what they do (or do not) know, although obviously this approach does have it's limitations.

This afternoon Craig took Hermine and Lily to Eleanor's birthday party. They had a great time. Soo and I went to B&Q with Miles. We bought a rake and some plants for my study. When we got home I tried on my Mums wellies and discovered they are bog on me - which means they will be huge on her - looks like it will be me doing the gardening after all!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

A trip to Blackhall

The day started on an arty note today. I have been feeling quite creative this week too. Must be something in the spring air. We had a change from pastels today and got out the watercolours, which I must admit are my favourite.

A colour wash by Hermione

Lily's watercolours

We followed with the 'normals' (games/activities incorporating basic English and maths). Today we divided paper pizzas into different fractions and played with an egg box which we had turned into a letter sounds game - you say the sound your coin lands on after shaking the box.

The weather was really bright and mild so we decided to head on out for some fresh air. When we moved to Coxhoe I feared that we would be isolated and that there would be nothing for the children to do. I had visions of us still visiting all the places we used to - just travelling twice as far to do so. Thankfully though as time goes by we are finding our feet and finding that there are more attractions and facilities in this area than we had thought - they just aren't so well publicised and take a bit of scouting out.

Today we headed down to Blackhall to visit Tweddle Animal Farm. I certainly didn't expect to encounter a camel at Blackhall but I did :-) There was a wide selection of animal including African pygmy hedgehogs, monkeys, llamas, apaches and of course all the usual farmyard friends.
We also saw a capybara. We hadn't encountered a capybara before. It is the worlds largest rodent at approximately two feet tall and four feet long. Apparently there were prehistoric capybaras which were eight times that size! They are semi-aquatic and there feet are partially webbed. Native of woodland wetlands in southern Central America and northern regions of South America.

In addition to the animal there was also a good adventure playground and a cafe is to open within the next few weeks. Currently instead of a cafe there is a chip van serving odds and ends which you can then eat in a very old and decrepit German train carriage. I thin the girls may be disappointed when the cafe opens as they really seemed to like the train carriage. The farm is half a mile from the sea and the air was certainly fresh! Just what we need! The family season ticket looked very good value and the staff said that we could even offset what we paid today if we want to go back and upgrade to a season ticket. I suspect we may do this and make it a regular haunt. I'm really pleased to find out that we are closer to a farm and the coast than we were in Gateshead - and here I was thinking we would be in the middle of nowhere.

We didn't venture down to the coast today but I would like to some time soon. That part of the Durham Coast is said to be an area of outstanding natural beauty. I believe part of it is looked after by the National Trust. Apparently there is a park at Crimdon and a Nature Reserve at Wingate too which are both on the 'to do' list for the near future.

Late afternoon I headed into Durham to buy some charcoals for Lily and Hermione. I would like them to try as many different artistic mediums as possible. I think I will check out a couple of websites first though for techniques on using charcoal as I suspect it is easy to end up with just a messy black splodge which wouldn't exactly boost their confidence. I think we need some tips!

Friday, 2 March 2007

What a blogger of a day..

Here I am again - for the third time in one day!

We had another blogworthy moment earlier today when Hermione presented me with the picture below.

I asked what it was and she explained that they are conjoined twins! A couple of weeks ago she saw a picture of conjoined twins on the front of one of my women's magazines. We chatted about them and looked at some information on the Internet. I wasn't certain to what extent she had absorbed what we read but here we are a couple of weeks on with pictures and explanations about conjoined twins! Who needs a classroom when you have 'Closer' magazine lying round on your kitchen bench?

Yesterday I decided to take the plunge and order FIAR Volume 1. It should be with me tomorrow or Monday. I'm hoping it will meet my expectations and I'm really quite excited about having something on hand and ready for whenever the need arises. The main FIAR site states that it is an 'enhancement' to a full curriculum for 6 - 8 year olds. That is fine by me. I don't want everything set out in stone. I just want a helping hand whilst I still tailor the bulk to their individual specific needs. A few months ago I would never have dreamed I would be doing this, buying curriculums and having semi formal sessions now and then, but I guess that is the nature of committing to a child lead programme of education - it may lead you to a place you hadn't expected to visit.

..more arty offerings...

More pictures by Hermione done with soft artists pastels

Our arty offerings

Hermione decided this morning to try out the soft artists pastels she received last Christmas. Lily found some artists pencils. They have both beavered away busily, including dictating titles and commentaries to accompany their pictures :-) I thought they may like the idea of their works being on the world wide web - they were very excited at the prospect when I mentioned it so here they are -

I'm having trouble now uploading the images. Blogger keeps coming up with an error message. So, that is 'City of Wonders' by Hermione, other works of art to follow later when I can figure out the techie problems.