Wednesday, 25 April 2007

This 'n' that

It's been an itty bitty week so far. Lots going on but everything still feels like it is 'work in progress' - there's no sense of completion or achievement.

On Monday Hermione and I made the long round trip to the dentist. Thankfully Hermione's teeth were fine. I was reminded that I still have a filling to be repaired and was urged not to leave it another six months. I would like it done and sorted too but I'm very hesitant about having a mercury filling drilled out while I'm still breast feeding. By the time we got back half of the day was gone and Miles was clingy the remainder of the day as he hadn't really seen me all morning.

On Tuesday morning Craig and Hermione headed off for their day and overnight stay in York. They visited The Jorvick Centre and Dig . I think she had enjoyed both. Apparently there is a ride which goes around the Jorvick Centre and this had really appealed. She was also very exited about having found a tin in the Dig. These activities had taken up most of the day and had worn them out. Although Craig suggested going on an open top bus trip after dinner Hermione was keen to go back to the hotel and to bed!

Today they had visited York Castle Museum before heading back home.

More details and photographs of the trip to follow I think.

Here at home I have spent the week trying to remain calm and patient while the kitchen is being fitted and the garden is being turfed. Why when workmen can see that there are little people around do they still leave dangerous tools and screws lying all over the floor???? I also had our first ever visit from a Health Visitor since we moved here six months ago. When she arrived Miles was upstairs having a nap and there was absolute mayhem in the kitchen with drilling, sawing etc. Goodness knows what she really thought of it all but she said she was happy and that she wouldn't be back for almost a year and that would just be to do the government obesity checks, eh???

I'm slowly plodding through my 'to do' list for this week but progress is slow.

Not certain what we will manage to do tomorrow. I had hoped we could at least start the garden diaries but the place is still in absolute chaos with the workmen. May be a day for stories and schools TV.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Not too bad after all

Despite my moans I have had a lovely day to today. Lunch at a Chinese restaurant with friends and an afternoon playing, chatting and watching Hermione avoiding boisterous chickens :-)

I have also got round to putting the picture I painted of moonlight over Ulswater in a frame. Now I know that my paintings are nothing to get excited about but I'm really enjoying painting at the moment - something which I thought would never happen after all of the really negative comments from my secondary school arts teacher.

Smelly eggs etc....

Ok, things don't feel quite so grim today. I still do feel uptight about all that I said yesterday but were I to take a different path such as school I suspect I would be much more uptight about a lot more things. I think when all is not going swimmingly here I tend to feel it is all my personal fault - perhaps I should accept that there are bound to be issues which arise regardless of whether children are educated at home, school or where ever. There are bound to be worries and concerns, I think I just have to hang on in here. There has been so much going on in the last few months what with renovating the house, moving, Craig's op etc. I think things are just getting a bit on top of me...
So, on Friday we completed our study of Madeline.
We noted how Paris, like Durham, Newcastle and lots of other places is built around the river bank. We pondered why this may be and talked about how boats predate motor vehicles and consequently people developed towns close to rivers as they once were the main mode of transportation.

When Madeline was sick in hospital friends and family visited and took her presents. We thought about what we cold do to help someone who is sick and I wrote a list of the suggestions made - ring for a doctor, send flowers, hug them, give them sweets and look after their pets.

Quick dot to dot puzzle of the Arc de Triumph and then we designed our own French menus.

The last thing to do was to check the egg which we had placed in the vinegar solution a couple of days earlier. It absolutely stunk. The shell had become soft and almost rubber like in parts. I tried not to get too close. It was very smelly! I think both Lily and Hermione were surprised at what had happened in such a short space of time. Later that day Hermione asked if she could have a new toothbrush when we went to Tescos - perhaps the experiment has had the desired effect :-)

Yesterday Hermione and I had a look at the Usborne book about Vikings in preparation for her trip to the Jorvik Centre, we read a poem called Forgiven by A. A. Milne and she finished another Secret Seven book with Nana.

In the afternoon I went into Durham and bought a couple of old framed pictures in charity shops so that we can use the frames to frame some of our art works. I also picked up some bits and pieces for St Georges Day, reduced in a card shop. I forgot to look for baskets.

I am going to try to get on top of things this week. Things to do -

  • Look for some stuff for Hermione to try basket weaving. Possibly an old basket from a charity shop which I could take a part and she could weave with wool?

  • Find my theatre vouchers and arrange for Hermione and I to go and see something together.

  • Finish printing and organising the garden diary sheets.

  • Sort out exactly what I plan to do about the moon lapbook

  • Help Hermione to send a thank you card to Marilyn

  • Get all of the Madeleine stuff organised into a folder

  • Have a look at the Five In a Row texts and start thinking about the week after next

  • Contact Trading Standards about the carpets again

  • Finish the passport applications

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Rock bottom???

I hope I've reached rock bottom as I don't particularly want to feel any more crap than I do right now. I've never seriously doubted my decision to home educate before but at the moment I just can't help but wonder if I'm doing the right thing.

I'm worried that because Miles is such a demanding little chap Hermione doesn't get enough attention. She still shows virtually no interest what so ever in reading and writing. I also feels that she would like to spend more time with other children than she does now.

I feel like I'm in a room full of doors which have all blown open. If I could close them and just open them one at a time it might be alright but at the moment I feel overwhelmed. I don't know where to start putting things right.

I hope I'm doing the right thing but right now I just feel that my best isn't good enough :-(

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Wine, olives and frogs legs...

After reading Madeline today we looked at pictures of vineyards and grapes growing. Conversation followed about making wine from grapes (nothing too technical - more on the level of green grapes make white wine and black grapes make red wine) and also how France is a large producer of wine. We also spoke briefly about olives which also can grow in France.

After this the girls wrote their own illustrated stories about what it wold be like to go to boarding school. Their writing is improving but I do seem to be having one of those weeks where I am really stressed and hung up about reading and writing. Perhaps it is just part and parcel of other stresses.

We looked at photographs of the Arc de Triumph and then spent a while trying to find it in Madeline. We couldn't because contrary to what I thought it isn't actually in. Ho hum!

For lunch we had amongst other things coq au vin, olives, sunblush tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and a tiny taste of both red and white wine. I had pondered whether or not I should allow the girls to try the wine in case they liked it and gulped up lots. My worries were unfounded as they both took the tiniest sip and pulled very odd faces. We also had two plates set out one with a picture of frogs legs and one with a picture of snails.

This afternoon my mum and Hermione have headed off to the library. I don't thank my mum enough for the reading and library stuff she does with Hermione - make mental note to self to do so.

Garden is still coming along nicely. We have run out of top soil today and in any event it looks like rain now. At least I won't have to water the seeds tonight!

Still spending time pondering record keeping. I just don't know how much detail I should record. It's all very tedious. I think I should aim to keep all written 'normals' - problem being that most 'normals' are not written - they are usually games and such likes. Also perhaps I should make up a written record of some unit studies as examples. I'm not recording them all in detail, that would take up way too much time. I'm going to hunt out our really huge art folder and start using it to keep the collages of work we make relating to most topics.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

On the up

I think it is fair to say I have found the past couple of days difficult. The enthusiasm (mine and the girls) just hasn't been there but I think we turned a corner today. Hopefully we are back on track now.

We started with a new word board. Hermione struggled a little and I had one of those, 'oh no, will my child ever learn to read' panics, but it passed by lunch time and I'm feeling a bit more confident in this respect again now. I have to say, literacy is my big home ed stress.

Madeline went down well today. It is odd how some books grab their attention first time of reading but interest wanes over the course of the week, whereas others, such as Madeline, seem to grow on them. Strange that, not figured out why yet.

We had a recap about symmetry. Hermione is still really taken with colouring symmetrical patterns on gridded paper - and drawing in the line of symmetry of course!

I used the pages with the illustrations of the twelve girls sitting in lines to revise ordinal numbers. Last time we looked at these I thought they were weak but all seemed in order today. Coincidentally we later went on (which I am still trying for free having had my ten day free trial extended) and played a maths game about ordinal numbers. I'm not wildly impressed with Education City. I have tried two different levels now and I feel that the jump between one level and the next is too great. We fall between levels and very little seems suited to the stage we are at right now. I will bookmark the site and check it out again further down the line but I doubt we would use it much right now so won't be joining.

Madeline has appendix troubles. We talked about our bodies and did a few activities.

We played a memory game with five laminated cards I had made which each showed things which we need for good health (sleep, good food, fresh air, exercise and water). We placed them all on the table and they took turns taking one away and working out which was missing.

We read a passage about sleep from The Human Body by Kingfisher which talked about the need for sleep, rest repair, growth, sleepwalking etc.

On to food - we need a certain balance of food for good health. Soo had previously stuck a blank pyramid on the playroom wall and printed off photographs of lots of different foods. We talked about the pyramid and then added all the photographs to our blank one on the wall. Both Lily and Hermione grasped the concept quickly.

Quick chat about the need to maintain a certain level of hygiene in order to keep our bodies healthy. Decided to focus in on teeth as I think brushing is often neglected. We decided to do an 'eggsperiment' to try to prove a point. We have placed a hard boiled egg (representing a tooth) in a glass of vinegar (representing food and drink) and if my information is correct within a couple of days the egg shell will have gone all awful, soft and partially dissolved. I hope it does work and I hope it works quickly as it stinks. I'd like to get rid of it as soon as possible.

For lunch we had sandwiches in pain rustique (the Co-op's best). The girls were impressed. We also had crudites which I think they found slightly less impressive but ate all the same. I like it when we manage to adapt our lunches to fit in in some way with our story of the week - even if it is as simple as buying different bread. I think the girls really like it too.

Rainbows started again this afternoon after the Easter break. Hermione seemed to have enjoyed it and reported back that they had played games, heard a story and dug holes in the church yard for rabbits to live in...mmmm????

Decided to chase Badgers up. I have emailed twice for the information and not received it so finally hunted out the telephone number. There is a group close to us with places and both Lily and Hermione start this coming Monday. Let's hope it goes down as well as Rainbows does.

Now thinking we will only get to spend one day on the Vikings before Hermione heads off to the Jorvik Centre. Not sure how best to do this. I read a couple of books on the Vikings in bed last night. Not particularly pleasant bed time reading. She is quite a delicate and easily scared child. Must tread carefully with this one or we may find that she won't go to the Jorvick Centre after all.

Our onions have shoots on. Just remembered I have forgotten to water the beans and squash seeds and now it is dark. The joys of gardening!

Tuesday, 17 April 2007


Yesterday we began our study of Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. The story went down ok but I don't think it had them totally enthralled like Ping and Very Last First Time.

We placed our story disc on France and talked about how the story is based in Paris which is the capital city of France. Hermione knew that the capital city of England is London which was an encouraging start. We didn't go into lots of detail save to say that governments, royal families and big businesses are often (but not always) based in the capital city.

We went on to look at the Eiffel Tower. There is a picture of it on the front of the book and a picture of it inside. I found a good picture of it on the Internet and blew it up and printed it off for the wall. It was built by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel to celebrate the end of the French Revolution. It is over 115 years old (was built even before my grandparents were born). It is made of steel and took 300 men two years to build. It is 300m high - more than 30 houses standing one on top of the other. It's the most visited monument in the world.

We went on to look at the English Channel on the map. I explained that lots of people have tried to swim it and many have been successful - not all though as it is a long way, the water is very cold and the tides and currents can be strong. The quickest person to swim it took about seven hours. An escort boat usually sails alongside in case someone has to be rescued.

We also played word and number bingo - a gentle reintroduction to 'work' after the holidays.

Later in the day we went to the garden centre and chose lots of plants for the garden. There was no way we could get them all into the car, they are going to be delivered on Wednesday. Later in the day 20 tonnes of top soil arrived. It looks like a small mound in the corner. I'm worried that it will be no where near enough.

Today we used the sound matching cards and additions cards before starting on Madeline. Hermione announced that they were both easy and in fairness she did whizz through them with no problems. Time to prepare more 'normals' materials I think. I had hoped that the Horizon Maths would have arrived by now but I received an email from Sonlight yesterday to say they will be with me within three to six months!! I can't believe it and now regret placing my order. I'm sure someone said you can get them in this country now. I really should have investigated that option.

I detected slightly more interest in the story today. Once again not exactly enthralled but I think the illustrations at least attracted more attention than yesterday.

We started off by wondering whether or not the story is fact or fiction. I was surprised by the answer. Hermione explained to me that it has been on television and when it was on television it was in black and white not colour and therefore must be a true story. I think I managed to dismiss this strange theory of reality and we concluded it was most likely fiction.

Next we did a dot to dot of the Eiffel Tower. Although it was one I had prepared myself and was not detailed in any sense of the word Hermione recognised it as the Eiffel Tower so thankfully she was listening yesterday after all :-)

At one point in the story the girls 'tiptoe solemnly.' I wasn't sure if she would know what 'solemnly' means so we acted out a solemn tiptoe and chatted about what solemn means - serious, without joking, thoughtfully....

Then on to symmetry. Many of the illustrations in the book are almost symmetrical. We looked at them and talked about symmetry. We drew the other half of shapes to make them symmetrical. We coloured symmetrical patterns on grids and drew in the line of symmetry. Hermione was really keen. I had to print off more blank grids.

Later in the day we went to Hardwick Country Park. We saw moorhen chicks and climbed the hill to the Gothic Gate Tower which is fairly impressive. Must take my camera along some time.

Lots of activities prepared for tomorrow. It is strange this text in so far as I am not particularly impressed with the story but it does throw up lots of avenues for discussion and investigation - which has to be a good thing.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

New experiences

Quick blog today to report on couple of new experiences for Hermine.

This afternoon Craig and I headed into Durham with the children to buy them new shoes. The shop was busy and Miles was being his usual self - all over the place. Suddenly realised I had laid my handbag down and it was no longer there, gone, stolen. Thankfully I had left my purse at home as Craig had taken his wallet (not in the bag) so they only got away with nappies, wipes, a cup of juice and some suncream I had just bought. Still damn annoying though! Hermione was really distressed by it. This is her most direct experience of crime and it has shattered that, 'it would never happen to us' illusion I think. She cried in the shop and most of the way home. She was really taken aback.

This evening we had a barbeque. Hermione hadn't been to a BBQ before as I'm a bit uptight about children and BBQ's from a safety point of view. It went quite well although there wasn't a lot to cook as we were supposed to food shop after shoe shopping and then it just didn't really happen. Never mind. There will be a next time.

I'm almost all prepared to start Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans tomorrow. It's a FIAR text. I'm looking forward to getting fully back into the swing of things.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The holiday is over....

After much humming and ha hing as to whether or not to have an Easter break it appears to have just happened somehow.

The children have played with a school friend a lot, we have lunched out lots, went to the TVHE group yesterday, tried mighty hard to transform our back garden and have generally enjoyed the glorious weather we have been having.

I think the highlights of the last week are the trip to see Elmer The Elephant by Blunderbus Theatre Company, a chocolate egg hunt in the back garden last Sunday morning (Craig struggled to hide ninety nine mini eggs in a garden which resembles a dust bowl right now but he managed in the end) and today's trip to the Durham Botanic Gardens. The spring flowers were absolutely amazing and the sun was blazing down. When we came to leave (sooner than we would have liked because we had forgotten Miles's sun hat) the temperature gauge in the car read 22 degrees. It was a scorcher!

It may have been holiday time but the cogs have still been turning. I need to chase up Sonlight as the Horizon Maths stuff still hasn't arrived. I've downloaded a project pack about the moon from the Hands of a Child website. It looks as though it is aimed at older children but I'm sure I can adapt parts. I also found some great garden diary entry sheets which we are going to put together and use to chart the progress of our garden. Craig and Hermione are off to York for a couple of days later in the month to visit the Jorvick Centre so I really must start on the Viking studies - it's all go go go!!! As well as the cogs turning, fingers have also been typing - making a start on putting education records in order should we need them - let's just say I have a feeling in my bones about this :-)

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Easter break???

What do you do at Easter and Christmas time when you home educate your children? This has never been an issue for us before as learning was 'just living' but now that we do do some sort of structured work, well, what happens at these times?

Well, the plan was to lay off the 'normals' for this week and instead tell the story of The Crucifixion and Demeter and Persephone (very nice account of which can be found in Circle Round - Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk Baker and Hill). Neither of these things have happened as yet. Hermione is what you could possibly call a bit, 'up in the air' about spirituality right now. I think on reflection the best thing to do is leave well alone and keep answering her questions as they come. The plan was also to do Easter crafts but this hasn't happened yet either. I thought it might be nice to colour some eggs made of card, laminate them and hang them in the trees in the garden. Hopefully we will get round to this.

So, that was what we haven't done, what have we done?

On Monday Chelsea came to play. She is a friend who goes to school. The girls both welcomed having someone different around for a few hours. Hopefully we will see her a few more times during the Easter holidays.

The harmonicas which Craig bought from a music company in America arrived. I'm impressed. It's really sturdy and makes a pleasant sound - nothing like what I had when I was a child. Hermione also seems to be impressed. I reminded her of the story of Lentil and how much practice it takes.

On Tuesday Soo and Nana took the girls to an art workshop at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art . The workshop was supposed to be for age 5 - 8 but the girls were the oldest there by a long shot. All in all it wasn't very suitable - aimed more at toddlers than children of their age despite what it was advertised to be. Parking had been atrocious. All in all a big disappointment.

Today Hermione and I joined Education City for a free ten day trial. I thought it might be her thing but she lost interest relatively quickly. We will stick with it for a few days and I'll see how it goes but based on today's level of interest I doubt we will join for the year. Instead we read the Martin Luther King story out of the Famous People Famous Lives series. Hermione was clearly moved and outraged to think that people could treat people so differently because of the colour of their skin. She said that when she grows up she would like to 'change the world' but right now she's going to start by putting up posters. She made a poster which read ' White people must not tease black people' and we stuck it up in the front garden. I'm please she is beginning to develop a social conscious - she is now very aware of issues surrounding disabilities, racism and litter. I'm proud :-)

Once we were finished we headed out into the garden. We planted broad bean and butternut squash seeds. Nana did a row of potatoes and three rows of onion sets in the vegetable patch. The weather was fantastic. The plum, apple, pear and cherry trees all have buds on :-) I'm so excited about the garden coming together. It's a hard slog right now but hopefully it will come together within the next three months.

This afternoon we headed off to Blackhall Rocks. We thought this was a beach that you can get down onto. If it is we couldn't find the way down. Hermione was disappointed as this was the first beach trip of the year and I think she had visions of making sandcastles. After a long hike along the cliff top we gave in and headed for Tweddle Farm. It was much busier than usual but still not too bad. Hermione made a friend and played happily in the play area while Miles munched his way through a portion of chips.

Another video arrived from Amazon dvd rental today, 'Flushed Away.' I'm not impressed with this service and although Hermione is really excited when the post arrives and there is something in there which she perceives to be for her, the reality is she rarely watches them, preferring to run around pulling up weeds and making bridges in the garden. I am going to unsubscribe - at least for the summer - given the opportunity I'd much prefer her to be out in the fresh air making her own entertainment.

Off to see Elmer the Elephant tomorrow. Will report back.