Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Harold and the Purple Crayon

We have read Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson the last couple of days. It's a FIAR text but I have to say I'm not wildly impressed. Certainly not the best of the bunch. I think it may be more appropriate for younger children. Having said that it does seem to get the thumbs up from Hermione.

Yesterday we talked about modes of transport after reading it. Harold travels in a hot air balloon. We made a list of the modes of transport we could think of. This is what Hermione came up with - car, double decker bus, boat, speed boat, ship, train, bike, scooter, tycicle, van, lorry, digger, horse, cammel, racing car, motor bike, rocket, feet and horse and cart. Not bad.

We then went on to look at some pictures of various modes of transport such as submarines, tanks, rickshaws, and tandems.

Harold draws a moon and it features on almost every page. After reading the story today we loked at various moon phases and made a 'moon phase photo sequence'. I printed the images of the various phases from this webpage. I kept one whole and cut one up into the various phases. Hermione constructed her photo sequence from the cut outs.

The rest of the day was spent playing in the garden. The weather has been absolutley fabulous. We all spent most of the day outside apart from Nana who was beavering away inside trying to work out how to put her new spinning wheel together which arrived today.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Well, unfortunately we all followed in Miles footsteps and succumbed to the lurgy late last week. Sore throats, coughs and sneezes all round. We had planned on going to a workshop at The Centre for Life on Friday organised by another home educating family but unfortunately we had to stay home, confined to our own space and take life at a mellow pace.
Hermione has spent a lot of time swinging in her tree swing, strumming a badminton racket and singing Abba songs rather loudly. I sometimes wonder what the neighbours must think of my free range children. Thankfully I'm not too concerned with their thoughts.
We watched Eye Witness Natural Disasters DVD. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm forever fascinated by the forces of nature. Hermione was intrigued by the first half but then lost interest. That didn't surprise me really. I guess it was on the dry side for a six year old although some of the footage was fabulous.

Miles helped me to pick the last of the cauliflowers. What hadn't already been eaten was starting to look sad. It's now blanched and frozen. Our freezer is bulging.

We also picked a huge courgette which was more of marrow proportions. We made it into a Raw Courgetti Bolognaisse. Delicious.

We have had some beautiful clouds at sunset here this week. Truly amazing. Photographs (or mine at least) just don't do them justice.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

I'm going to make this brief as Miles is suffering from some sort of lurgy which has of one of many symptoms a strong desire to get up at 3.00am and watch TV, meaning therefore that I'm off soon to catch up on some sleep before tonight's shenanigans begin. Oh the joys of parenthood!

Hermione and Lily decided today they had had enough of the taekwando camp and Hermione had a little grumble about 'ruffians'. Having been and watched I understand where she's coming from with that comment although my main complaint was with the instructor not the other children. He used the word 'girl' as some sort of derogatory term over and over again - as in, 'come on, stop acting like a girl'. Very annoying and something I would have liked to have taken up with him had I not had to dash off to baby gym with Miles. Perhaps I should save the complaint as I have already had two with that particular leisure centre this week. One day earlier in the week we went along and work was being carried out in the corridors. The solvent smell was overpowering and both Hermione and myself had a headache almost instantly. After a short time I felt Miles was looking 'odd' and decided we needed to leave pronto and get him into the fresh air. We were a long way from reception so Nana took a 'sod it' attitude and went to open an emergency exit to let us out. It was locked. Tried another, also locked. Tried three, all locked. Calls to Fire Brigade and Health and Safety Executive in order I thought. Heard nothing more from Health and Safety Executive about the works being carried out with public present but the Fire Service did get back to me to say the doors were faulted and are now being fixed. Disgraceful.

Today's highlight for me has had to be my lunch, lovingly prepared by Soo from the things we are growing in our garden. The only thing not from the garden is the poppy seeds and an apple (ours aren't ripe yet). It was more like art than a meal but delicious all the same!

Monday, 23 July 2007

Last week Craig asked me if we would be having the summer holidays 'off'. He thought it would be a good idea as I'm trying so hard to get lots of rest at the moment in the hope of really shaking off the lethargy I still have from when I was unwell towards the end of last year. I could see the benefits, it would be nice to chill on an evening without having to think about what the girls will be doing the following day during our little circle time and sitting night on night with hours evaporating into the vacuum also known as Youtube and Wilkipedia. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I discovered these sites, but goodness, the amount of time which just seems to disappear trawling through them is quite mind boggling. Initially I balked at the idea. We do circle time because the girls enjoy it, they ask for it. It isn't something we 'have' to do or something we 'need' a break from. That makes it sound like 'work' as opposed to just part of life which incidentally they find enjoyable.

Hmmm, after another day of physically wobbly moments I decided that perhaps there was some merit in what he said though. I would love to be running on all cylinders again and I'm sure the children would benefit too. We had a chat about it and we have decided that we are going to carry on with our circle times over the next few weeks but we're going to do other things too - sometimes instead of circle time - for example this week the girls are spending four afternoons at a taekwando camp so the mornings will probably spent playing and messing rather than doing any set thing. We've also rejoined Amazon DVD rental service and have chosen a few dvd's out of their educational section. We're not turning away from semi structured stuff - we're just going to do it differently for a while so that the girls can take advantage of summer activities and I can chill and recuperate a little. I feel quite happy about this more laid back approach - I was very fond of the quote 'it's not education - it's just living' till Hermione asked for more structure.

So, what have we done the past few days? I've started buying books and squirrelling them away for Miles when he is a little older, books which I always wanted to read to Hermione when she was younger but never got round to finding them. Hermione noticed Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey and we read it together. It was so sweet. I was really impressed and look forward to sharing it with Miles too in time. We've read lots of other books too but this one really stood out.

Craig has spent a lot of time playing his sax and encouraging Hermione to do the same. She is very excited at being the owner of a lovely new, shiny, dinky saxophone but slightly less keen to get on down and play it. I think that will change once she has had more practice and feels more confident about playing it.

We've visited Tweddle Farm and tried unsuccessfully to spot their baby porcupine , visited a local beach which I could nominate for the dirtiest beach award (won't be going back there), went out for lunch at our local Chinese restaurant, pottered around the house, wondered at the rate our cauliflowers are growing and today we dug up our first row of potatoes. Life feels good!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Caught in the storm

This morning Nana, Hermione, Soo and Lily headed off to the Tees Valley Home Ed meeting. Miles and I went to soft play. Hermione was very lively when they came home having thoroughly enjoyed herself there as usual. I'm not sure what the organised activities were today, as I understand it she had been too busy running wild with the boys.

This afternoon we went to the Botanic Gardens. It started off well. We looked at the water features and some rather exotic plants.

We then headed down past the bamboo gardens towards the far out reaches of the garden. Suddenly, within the space of minutes the sky turned black and the heavens opened. We ran for cover in a shelter beside the bamboos. Thankfully I had a packet of oatcakes and a bottle of water in my bag which helped to keep the Hermione and Miles happy for a while. After ten minutes there was no sign of the rain letting up and Miles was desperate to be out so we made a run for it. It was absolutely torrential and the thunder was right overhead. By the time we reached the reception area we were all soaked to the skin. We had no coats as it had looked so bright only half an hour earlier. The drains were over flowing and the managers of the gardens were standing at the entrance watching the water rise and discussing sand bags. It really was freaky!

A very kind lady from reception came out and offered to dress the children in bin bags for our dash to the car. We accepted the bags although we were already drenched. Here we are, dripping.

All in all it was good fun although I won't be going there without the children's raincoats again.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Taekwondo, veggies and naff nursing

It's been a roller coaster day, highs, lows and lots in between.

The day started with me feeling rather fragile. Miles challenges every belief I've ever had about children and parenting. I'm struggling. The issue which is currently at the fore is nursing. Nursing etiquette - or lack of it - to be precise! He bites, scratches, nips and picks at the breast the whole time he nurses. It's gone on a long while as I gritted my teeth and went with it as I thought he could be teething. It's now gone on for too long. He's not teething. I'm sore, pained and dreading big feeds. What's more whenever I tell him 'no' he either laughs or goes into complete furious hysterics and does it all the more. This is really affecting our nursing relationship and I feel desperately sad about it. Other than keep repeating 'no' I don't really know what to do. I really do hate the idea of boundaries, discipline and all that business with children. Hermione and I have done just fine without them. But Miles isn't Hermione. I don't know what to do here and I really am loosing sleep over this one - not just the current nursing issue but the general adversarial nature of my baby :-(

On a more positive note we have all spent lots of time in the garden in between showers today - and during showers too sometimes. At one point lightening was flashing close by but there was no rain so the fun went on! We've played volley ball, badminton and another bat and ball game with a sort of cupped style bat which will no doubt have a proper name.

I've booked places for Hermione and Lily on a Taekwondo Fun Week next week. They are going every day for two hours for an introduction to Taekwondo. They're both very enthusiastic and hopefully it will go well. Also booked places on a Big Art Sculpture Day later in August. I really dislike the school holidays in the sense that we avoid a lot of our usual haunts because they are busy but at the same time it's great to be able to take advantage of all of the activities laid on by the leisure services. This is or first big summer holiday here but certainly where we lived before the school holiday events were very poorly attended by the holidaying school children - we were often the only people there which was quite nice!

I took a breather from it all earlier this evening and popped out into the garden with the camera.
The onions are doing well..

..as are the tomatoes...


..alpine strawberries..

...and broad beans.

I love my garden. It's my therapy.

Monday, 16 July 2007

The wanderers return

Craig and Hermione are back from their trip to the Lake District. They went yesterday morning and came back late this afternoon having spent a night in a Travel Lodge on one of those bargain £15 room rates.
Yesterday they went to South Lakes Wild Animal Park. We have been here before. It compares very favourably in my mind with other zoos I have visited as the animal have large enclosures and they do a lot of conservation work.

Today they visited Beatrix Potter World. This had been the highlight of the trip for Hermione and seemingly the lowest point for Craig. Hermione thought it was 'beautiful' and has gushed about the characters since she came home. Craig on the other hand thought it was one of the most unappealing attractions he has ever visited. There's no accounting for taste!!

They had then travelled on to Rheged which hadn't quite lived up to their expectations. Craig was surprised to find that it was some sort of shopping complex. Hermione didn't fancy going into a cinema - which seems to be the main thing there. In the end they opted to paint a tiger figure, have lunch and head home.

Here at home we have been very busy too. It's been a lovely day for gardening. I've planted pak choi and spinach seeds. Sorted out my strawberry cuttings and thinned out the wall flowers I've grown from seed.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Tired and weary

I feel so tired and weary right now. I'm in desperate need of some ooomph. I just don't know what to do! I'm conscious of spreading myself very thinly and not doing anything particularly well. I need to sort myself out somehow.

Over the past few days we have read Martin Luther King by Verna Wilkins. We enjoyed it. It touched on Rosa Parks too.

Hermione took part in her first public dance performance at a local village hall. I felt quite nervous on her behalf before hand but thankfully all went well. She thoroughly enjoyed it but was absolutely worn out the next day.

We went strawberry picking again. Hermione was worn out from her late night the night before and lounged on the grass a lot whilst Miles reclined in the strawberry plants. They made a brief effort at the start but it has to be said that the credit goes to Nana for filling the baskets this week.

Craig has bought Hermione a soprano saxophone. He has been learning to play the alto sax since the start of the year and Hermione is very keen to play too. She doesn't know he has bought one yet as it's not expected to arrive till next week. Should be a nice surprise for her. There is a Saturday music school not too far away from here which apparently does reasonably priced lessons and offers children the opportunity to play together. It's finished now for the summer break but it's certainly something we will look into come September.

We have made beads from air drying clay and will paint them when they have dried completely. We've also made masks.

Our broccoli plants were starting to look weary so we have picked, blanched and frozen what was left - which was quite a lot. It feels so good to be filling the freezer with home grown organic veg. We are going to dig over and feed the patch they have come out of and try growing some spinach and pak choi.

I am reading Hold On To Your Kids - Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate at the minute. It's certainly making me think, particularly about how my attachment relationship with Hermione changed when Miles came along. It makes some very interesting points about how the strength of attachment children have with their parents affects the relationships they have with their peers and visa versa. I'm no longer the parenting book junkie I once was but I'm pleased I decided to check this one out. So far it's making sense.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

What a wonderful couple of days we have had!

Yesterday was our first needlecraft gathering here at home. I was a little worried before hand - I suspect it's only natural that when people are coming to your home you want them to feel relaxed and have a good time. Thankfully it went really well. Everyone seemed to have a good time. There were eight children in all and they all got along wonderfully, playing, chatting and doing their needlecraft. We enjoyed a shared lunch and lots of conversation. A couple of the children asked as they were leaving when the next one would be. I'm delighted that they enjoyed themselves and would like to do it again. Hopefully we will meet up again in four weeks time.

This morning we read Racism - What's That Got To Do With Me? by Antony Lishak. I liked the book. It presented lots of short scenarios such as one school child not being invited to a birthday party because of the colour of her skin, a footballer feeling uneasy on the pitch because of 'monkey' taunts and one man saying that he doesn't consider himself racist but does believe that all people should live together with people of the same coloured skin. We discussed each scenario and I think both Lily and Hermione were genuinely concerned, particularly so when the story involved children.

We looked at this photograph of a divided beach and wondered how we would feel if we went to the coast with some of our friends but were unable to all play together.

This afternoon we went to Whitworth Hall Country Park. I love it there and as I only just came across the place last autumn I feel as if I am still discovering it each time I visit, having not yet seen it in all seasons.

First we looked at the deer. It' s quite a large wild herd. There were a number of babies there today which were incredibly cute but we didn't go too close to them.

When I finally managed to get Miles away from the deers we went to the walled garden. This is my favourite part of the park. It is full of fantastic plants and fruit trees. We saw a whole array of fruits growing - apples, pears, cherries, strawberries, greengages, plums, red currants, white currants, grapes (both in the glasshouse and outside), loganberries, figs (in the glasshouse) and peaches (in the glasshouse). As well as flowers the borders are full of fragrant herbs.

We looked at the grapes in the glasshouse....

...then on to the rows of outdoor vines....

...where the grapes were only just beginning to form...

Having not seen loganberries since I was a child in my Nana's garden I succumbed and tried one, sadly it didn't live up to my memories but was quite tasty all the same.

Just time to smell a few more big old fashioned roses before heading round to the play area and then on to home.

On the way home I had one of my best yet home ed moments. The conversation went like this -

Lily - why can't babies talk?

Soo - they must learn to, just like you and Hermione are learning to read

Hermione - I'm not learning to read

Soo - well what were you doing with mummy this morning?

Hermione - reading books, we read them for fun not for learning

That just topped off for me what has been a wonderful couple of days.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Main news of the day is that we have had no rain! This is the first dry day we have had in weeks so needless to say most of it was spent in the garden.

We did come in for a short while this morning, just long enough to read Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One by Kate Duke. It is a story about telling a story. It talks about having a good title, setting the scene (when and where the story is set), introducing characters, heroes and heroines, villains and happy endings. The story in itself wasn't brilliant, far from it to be frank, but it did set us thinking about the best 'ingredients' for a good story.

This evening Hermione went to Badgers. She really enjoyed it as usual. The theme was masks and disguises today. She came home painted like a panda. I have to say that I wonder where the first aid actually comes into it all but I'm not going to get hung up on that, she enjoys it and that's the main thing.

Other than that not a lot has happened round here in the last day or so. Craig and Hermione went ten pin blowing yesterday. Nana and Hermione started the long awaited Knifty Knitting yesterday too.

Tomorrow is our first needlecraft gathering here. I hope it goes well. Off to sort out a few odds and ends in readiness.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

This morning Hermione and Nana headed off to the Village Summer Fete and bought a wide array of Summer Fete nick nack type things - more stuff to be dusted and tidied!

This afternoon we went fruit picking. This was Miles first time fruit picking and he loved it! He ate almost all of what he picked *blush* and I did feel rather embarrassed as we passed through the check out area with one toddler with red stained face and red t shirt. Just as well we actually bought lots too.

I later made a raw chocolate berry cake. The base layer is made from hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and raisins. Then there is a layer of banana mashed with raw cacao powder followed by a mountain of strawberries and raspberries.

I placed a 'wanted' post on Freecycle last week for some needlecraft items as I'm hoping to organise a little gathering here at my home for local heme ed children to get together and do some crafty bits and bobs. I had a reply and Craig went to collect this evening. I'm astounded by all the wool, patterns and threads the lady has given us. There is one big black bin bag full plus a large carrier bag and a box. Hopefully this will give the children lots of scope to do different things as there's wool of so many colours and textures.

Here are the random remembrances of the past few days.

We read The Tale of Peter Rabbit again and also listened to The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and The Tale of Tom Kitten. We went on to look at pictures of rabbits and hares . We compared the two and learned that one big difference is that rabbits are born without fur. We checked out a clip of new born rabbits on Youtube. They look like little pigs.

We looked at lots of animals and decided whether when living in the wild they generally made their home under ground or not.

Hermione and Nana went to a workshop called Shipshape for Flapjack at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. They really enjoyed it. They considered whether various things would sink or float and the group was then split into teams to make a boat with a pack which was provided. Nana and Hermione's team won!

The girls went dancing two nights this week instead of their usual one. It was an extra rehearsal in readiness for the show they are putting on next week.

Life feels quite hectic right now although I guess that is all about to change with the arrival of the school summer holidays. Rainbows, Badgers and possibly dancing will end next week. I'm hoping that there will be some good activities on at the local libraries and museums over the holidays.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Well, where do I begin tonight? The children have done lots over the past couple of days - and I know this essentially a 'home ed' blog - but tonight I'm going to blog about a lesson I learned to day - a lesson I learned the hard way.

When I was at university I had a very special friend. I can't possibly imagine my university days without him. Once we were working we stayed in touch and visited each other regularly although our career paths saw us in different parts of the country. Some how, I'm not sure exactly how, we drifted. We lost contact. I married and had children. He later married also.

I've thought about him often and always told myself I would track him down one day and see how he was. I kept putting off though - waiting till I had lost the post pregnancy flab, waiting till the children were sleeping through the night so I was more human less zombie, waiting till all my hair that fell out grew back...and so it went.

Today I decided I couldn't put off any longer. The children were out at a workshop. I tracked down his employer through his professional regulatory body. I took a deep breath and dialed the number. I asked the receptionist if he still worked at those chambers and if I could speak to him. There was silence. 'I don't know how best to say this' she said, 'he's dead, he died of a brain tumour.' He was thirty eight. He died the day I gave birth to Miles. Why did I wait?

I know I always laughed at your taste in music Rob, but this ones for you xxx

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Poppy fields..

Soo, Nana, Hermione and Lily headed off to TV Home Ed meeting this morning. Hermione and Lily really enjoyed the session. They seem to have spent most of the time playing volley ball and were in really good spirits when they bounded back through the door.

Just enough time for lunch and play in the garden before Rainbows. It's been a busy day.

Soo tipped me off about a poppy field which she had spotted on her way back from the mornings meeting. I headed off there this evening to see it for myself. A sea of poppies at sunset. Breathtaking.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

I felt inspired today to get my bellymask out of the cupboard. Well it's a bit of a heavily pregnant torso mask as opposed to just belly. I remember the fun Craig and I had making it that night. Trying to stand still on a plastic sheet, covered in plaster and vaseline for a long while. Still makes me smile. I can certainly recommend it to anyone contemplating it. I know I had the kit a long while and almost left it too late. I'm glad now that I didn't.

We started the day with The Tale of Peter Rabbit. After that we had a look at this write up about Herman possibly the biggest bunny. We got our bathroom scales out and made up his weight so that we could feel just how huge this big bunny is.

We chatted about different kinds of rabbits. How there are various breeds. We talked in particular about angora rabbits.

We talked some more about the story and how the man in the story would have to organise his vegetable garden so as not to have too much or too little of each thing he planned on growing. We got some fruit and veg out of our kitchen and made a graph of what we had.

The girls asked if they could get out the watercolours. I didn't feel up for the mess that would inevitable follow so suggested they try using my watercolour pencils. They hadn't used them before and really enjoyed them. Hermione used them like an ordinary pencil much of the time but I guess that's fine.

A friend called unexpectedly around lunch time to see if she could call over this afternoon with her children to play. It was a lovely afternoon and made all the better that it was last minute and therefore I hadn't had time to stress about tidying up before hand! A lovely impromptu gathering!

Monday, 2 July 2007

It has been a lovely day today, even if only because the rain let up long enough for us to spend an hour in the garden this afternoon. The sun was really bright and it was lovely and warm. The garden is flourishing. The hydrangeas and marigolds are beginning to bloom. Lots of buds on the sweetpeas too.

This morning Hermione and Craig headed off to Richmond Castle to meet up with a group of other home edding families for a guided tour. They were shown around the Castle, heard stores and tried on costumes. They thoroughly enjoyed it.

I made more raw fudge for Miles while they were out. I used pumpkin seeds and dates today. It worked out just the same. He really enjoyed it again.

This afternoon the girls watched Miss Potter. They enjoyed it although Hermione was starting to get a bit restless towards the end. She takes after me in that respect. I have difficulties sitting still for long periods too.

Our Knifty Knitters arrived today. They look cool. I can't wait to get started. If I start now I may have made a hat come winter time. I also ordered the ideas booklet and have to say I am a bit disappointed with that. I think we have come up with some better ideas between us. I particularly like Nana's idea of matching snood and boob tube set!!!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

This morning we read the Beatrix Potter title from the Real People Real Lives series. We had read it once before but Hermione was really keen to hear it again.

By mid morning the skies were looking slightly brighter so Hermione and Craig headed off to a small green type festival a few miles away. They joined in a Junk Beat Workshop and made a rather interesting instrument from an old soup carton and some sticks! There had been lots of other craft stalls, people on stilts and such likes. Unfortunately they hadn't been there long when it started to rain again. This didn't deter Hermione but Craig seemed to have lost enthusiasm at that point.

In the meantime I stayed home with Miles. I was quite industrious during his nap time today. I made Raw Raisin Fudge. It was really easy to make. I just stuck a cup of raisins, a cup of sunflower seeds, some cinnamon and a dollop of honey into the blender. Whizzed it up then put it in the freezer for an hour or so. It was delicious even if I do so myself. Miles ate most of it but Hermione refused to even try it!

Having made the fudge I decided that my NVC training programme had stood on the shelf untouched for long enough. I listened to the first of nine cd's and found it really interesting. It sounds so easy but in practice is so hard. Trying to move beyond the way I have always been conditioned to think and act - moving away from punishment, reward, criticism and blame. I'm looking forward to the rest of the course.