Sunday, 30 September 2007

I want one!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

It's been a great day here today. Craig and I are celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary, friends came round for lunch and helped to transform our front garden on the Durham Exchange system and tonight Hermione read Miles his bedtime story (Chicken Licken) again. Life feels good!!!

Lots of ideas going on in my head now about possibly combining FIAR and Story of the World - as in doing one part of the week and one the other part of the week. Also thinking about trying to make time for more music and art too. I feel energised.

Oh bit of a chicken update too. The kind window cleaner called round yesterday to do the windows. Once again the subject got round to chickens and I told him how exasperated I have been about them jumping the fence to get into the veg patch. He offered to show me how to clip their flight feathers and assured me this would stop them doing it. Anyway, I was unable to catch them never mind clip them so he did it for me. Sadly not half an hour later they were all in the veg patch again *sigh*. Never mind. I'm not going to stress about that today.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Hermione is feeling much better today thankfully and helped gather some 'free' food from the garden.

A mouse or possibly a hen had already had a nibble at the huge courgette. We had to chop the end off before we stuffed and baked it.

Those tiny little red things are alpine strawberries. Delicious! You have to fight Miles off to get any of those.

We read the story of Peresphone and the Pomegranite Seeds today from Celebrating the Great Mother by Cait Johnson and Muara Shaw. We then chatted about how the seasons come about and to what extent we believe stories and legends.

This evening we finished the battered old copy of The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner which I picked up on Amazon Marketplace. She has enjoyed it and asked me to look for more. It makes a change from The Secret Seven and Famous Five.

Miles has busied himself with a floor size ludo and a tub of dried up play doh today.

Oh, how I love the smell of 'real' play doh. I generally make ours but we stumbled across a box which had been bought as a present the other day and I can't help but have a sniff whenever they have it out. I once had this conversation with another home edding family about the smell of play doh and and the lady assured me that in the States (she was American) that you can buy the essence to add to your own to make it smell the same. Not certain I would go to those lengths but it's odd to think there is an 'Eau de Play Doh' out there somewhere.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Woe is me

Oh, what a week this is turning out to be.

The carpets are being replaced for the third time in ten months. I find this very stressful each time it happens. Gripper rods, stanley knives and children just don't mix. I'm really hoping that it will be third time lucky. The workmen finished today after two days and so far they look good. I'm no perfectionist but the corrugated effect the other fitters managed to achieve on the stairs was just too much. They're looking good this time though.

Add to this that Hermione has an ear infection. Save for the usual run of the mill childhood illnesses (which I always welcome with open arms albeit they do tend to give me big bags under my eyes) she has never been ill. We went to the doctors today and she was shocked that we have made it this far without any drugs save for homeopathy and other 'potions'. Whilst I might be a big fan of alternative holistic health care I do accept that conventional medicine has it's place and we now have a bottle of alarmingly yellow antibiotics in the fridge. I hope they work quickly. Ear pain is just so unbearable and try as I might stories, ludo and even ginger biscuits just don't cut it at times.

On the plus side the postman managed to put a smile on my face today. He brought the six back issues I had ordered of The Mother Magazine. My subscription went awry in the move somehow and I need to catch up. Looking forward to curling up with them when I get a moment.

He also brought The Story of the World, Vol. 1 (Ancient Times) by Susan Wise Bauer and the accompanying activity book. We are going to carry on with FIAR for the time being I think and possibly make a start on this in the new year.

I have read quite lot about The Story of the World on home ed lists but have always doubted that it would be suitable for us. However, Hermione is still really keen on having 'lessons' (her words not mine), and she likes them to take the form of a read aloud followed by talking, looking at pictures, watching video clips and doing activities. I think The Story of the World will lend itself well to this. From a quick look at the activity book I am very impressed and am looking forward to building prehistoric shelters in the garden and reconstructing archaeological digs. People ask me if I get bored being a home educating parent. No way. I may be wrong but I doubt that I would fit into the school gate coffee morning circle. I'd much rather be digging in the garden with the kids!

Not a lot more has been happening around here save for the fact that Nana has become the proud owner of a whole sheep's fleece. Soo visited a farm at the weekend and brought it home for her. She seems a little overwhelmed. I don't know if that is because she still hasn't even mastered the spinning wheel yet or if it's the thought of having to cut off the poo parts, check for tics and give the thing a damn good scrubbing - in her bath not mine I hasten to add!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Do you like my plant?

I called into the local agricultural college shop today to buy a house plant. I hoped for something slightly more exciting than a spider plant but didn't expect anything like this!

I think it's wonderful. The long bell shaped flowers are amazing.

What's more it only cost £3. Dread to think what I might have paid in a garden centre.

Friday, 21 September 2007

It's been an itty bitty week this week. I don't really feel like I've had a handle on life at all. The anticipation and excitement about Nana's return seems to have overtaken most things.

One of the highlights for me has to be our trip to Hardwick Country Park. It's beautiful now but I suspect it will be absolutely breath taking in a few more weeks when more of the leaves turn colour.

The old gate tower has been restored in recent years and looks every inch the romantic Rapunzel tower. You can't climb up it but you can go inside at the bottom.

The play area is basic with swings, slide, fireman's pole and a wooden train. Quaint and surrounded by trees.

We can cross the lake at the stepping stones at the moment as the water levels are low. Other times we have been the water has been lapping across and the stones have looked slippery.

Although I've been here a few times now there is still lots more to explore. We haven't started on the big lake or some of the other ruins and buildings yet. Hopefully soon.

Hermione has carried on with her usual activities. She's been to Badgers, Rainbows, dance class and music academy. All is going well although I think she's just luke warm with the music academy. She's at that difficult stage of learning to play an instrument when quite frankly it just sounds awful. She knows it will get better - she can remember when Craig couldn't even get a note out of his sax but can now play recognisable tunes. I hope she sticks with it and moves past this point. Faster growth of her front teeth would certainly help in this respect!

She's also been rattling through her Horizon Maths book this week. Her numeracy skills are coming on in leaps and bounds. She's going at her own pace and doing fine.

We have read Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha this week. It's a FIAR text which tells the tale of a young boy who helps out in his families seaside hot dog stand. He also finds a moonjelly which he returns to the sea.

We looked at various images of jelly fish - medusa, flower hat. I had never thought of them as being so beautiful. I guess a lot of this is to do with the fact that when we see them they are usually in shallow water or just beached on the sand. Images like this show them in their full splendour.

We placed our story disc on new England where the story is set and looked at some pictures of New England in a brochure Nana brought back from Canada.

We talked about how moonjellies are not the only creature which can glow. We talked about glow worms and looked at this site which has a lot of basic information and good images.

We talked about how it may feel to be a shop keeper and played shops with real money. Although Hermione's numeracy skills are developing well it all seemed to go a little haywire when we were talking money. She enjoyed our shopping game and I think I'll suggest it again soon.

There were lots of other things I had hoped to do this week - find some corn to make corn dollies, make elderberry cordial and sort out the Amazon dvd rental list for starters. I'm not confident that we'll get much done next week as the carpet fitters will be here two days re fitting all of the carpets. Oh the joys!

Monday, 17 September 2007

I read an article in Good Housekeeping today entitled 'Welcome to Childtopia'. It made me ponder. It's a couple of pages long but here's a couple of snippets,

'It's an organic, sunlit, child focused world of constant vigilance in which all children are treated as if they were fragile, precious jewels, liable to be despoiled at any moment.... Where is this taking children? Not to a good place. Where you see the results most clearly is in the audition heats for The X Factor. There, children who have been indulged and constantly praised come up against the likes of Simon Cowell, who finally said what their parents never have: A strangled cat sounds better than you.'

Now, this got me thinking about what for me can be one of the most unpleasant parts of home education - being the one to have to tell the children when they are wrong. There are times when there can only be one right answer ( 2 + 2 = 4) and then obviously when it's wrong, it's wrong. I hate to witness the disappointment and frustration when I break their bubble in that way. On the other hand though I'm glad it is me who does it - were it left to someone else how could I know that they would do it in a sensitive way?

But what of those times when there isn't a right or wrong answer? What about when we are looking at something which is subjective, like singing? Is it right to always praise your child blindly to the hilt? Personally I don't think so. Surely to go about trying to build confidence with no regard for realism can only end in disappointment.

Thinking perhaps I would like to dig some Alfie Kohn and similar stuff out of the boxes which a year on are still waiting to be unpacked and revisit them.

We had a wonderful day yesterday. On the morning Hermione picked flowers and we made an ice flower bowl. I recall making one of these with my mum as a child and the memory has never faded. I thought it was so beautiful and magical. We placed a small bowl inside of a large bowl and filled the gap between with water. We used sellotape to secure the small bowl and stop it from just bobbing up to the top. We then wedged flowers down the sides and placed it in the freezer for a few hours. We took it out on the evening and had a beautiful bowl to fill with ice cream, fruit and chocolate.

We went out for lunch and it was quite a relaxed and leisurely affair. Miles is becoming much more patient and much happier to try new foods and people watch. I no longer feel that I have to shovel food as fast as I can with one hand whilst waving a toy, holding his cup or doing half hearted song actions with the other. Still a long way to go before we will be venturing out for three courses at crisp white table linen restaurants, but we are certainly making progress on the enjoyment stakes.

After lunch we headed off to Whitworth Country Park. When we got there we found there was a Red Cross event on. It was a pleasant surprise the only problem being that the deer which are usually there had been moved. Miles loves the deer so Craig and Miles set off to look for them while Hermione and myself browsed through the stalls. Here they are, father and son in the wild

They found the deer eventually.

After that we listened to the brass band and had a quick chat with the firemen who were there. Craig, Miles and Hermione all got into the engine. I wasn't invited. Probably because I looked incapable of climbing in myself and much too heavy to be lifted in without them getting some of their special equipment out.

Following this we went into the walled garden which is full of fruit trees. The Red Cross were asking for £1 per bucket which you could then take and fill with as much fruit as you wanted. Sadly everything apart from the apples had gone but we had great fun filling our bucket all the same. Took Craig a while to get into the spirit of it but after witnessing a couple of blokes older than his father actually in the trees it wasn't long till he was up there too.

We topped the day off with a lovely log fire. It's the first fire we have had since the start of the year. There's something so special about warming your toes at a real fire.

Today it was all hands to the deck as we washed, peeled, chopped and stewed. The freezer is now full of spiced apple for pies and crumbles over the winter.

The weather really is changing now. I doubt there will be any flashbacks to summer now. I guess that's it for this year. Hermione thinks we are in for a summery winter since we have had a wintery summer - kind of makes sense but I doubt it will happen. I'm feeling very introspective right now and I'm sure that is connected to the changing seasons. I'm feeling quite creative too, just figuring out what direction that might take.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Lessons from geese

I was really fascinated when I stopped by Shell's Holistic Raw blog last night and read her post about synergy and the lessons we can learn from geese in their formation flights. I've pondered it a lot today and agree, one plus one can equal more than two.

I decided to check out Youtube for videos of geese in flight and came across this cool clip about the lessons we can learn from them.

As home educators we are a minority group and can certainly benefit from synergy.

A few more things which have happened this week -

Fanjio laid her first egg.

We read The Dancing Bear by Michael Morpugo. A rather sad tale of how a mountain girl left her beloved bear to go to the city and be a pop star. The bear died not long after she left. I don't think Hermione really' got it'. She felt sad that the bear had died but exclaimed that, 'we all get old and die some day!' Hmmm, can't argue with that one.

Hermione was presented with her Entertainment Badge at Badgers this week. She has been going for months now and still no first aid, but never mind she enjoys it.

Rainbows started back after the summer break. Hermione had mixed feelings about going back and I'm not really sure why. I'm concerned there may be something I'm not aware of here. Nothing major I'm sure, but I'll be keeping my eyes and ears wide open.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

I've really enjoyed the last few days, spending lots of time outdoors, thinking and reflecting.

Sensing that summer is almost certainly coming to an end I suddenly felt quite panicked that I hadn't visited my favourite beach with the children this summer. Bags were packed hurriedly and off we went to what we call the 'Cat and Dog Steps.'

I love that place. My Nana used to take me almost every day of the school holidays as a child. We went come rain or shine. Many a day we sat in a tent building sandcastles, the only people on the beach, the hire man pacing about wishing we would pack up so he could go too. She would tell me about how the beaches were closed during the war and when they reopened everyone flocked to them. I have lots of wonderful memories of my Nana but our beach days are certainly some of my happiest.

The beach has a full tidal range so it's always quite clean. There are toilets near by and a great little cafe hut serving the customary chips plus tea and coffee in real mugs which you are trusted to return. There is also an old guy there who has baked himself on that prom for well over thirty years that I know of. He is old, wrinkled and a sort of tarnished mahogany colour. If someone had told me as a child that he would still be there when I took my children over thirty years on I would not have believed them. But he's still there. Some things never seem to change.

We went again yesterday and I'm hoping we will go back again soon.

Back at home we are watching the leaves turn colour and start to drop. I've given up collecting the small ash branches - they are dropping by the dozen. The silver birch is looking quite sparse now too. We have collected and looked at seed pods from the garden.

Hermione would like to make a leaf mobile but we haven't gotten round to it yet.

The changing season and revisiting an old haunt after quite a few months seem to have had a really sobering effect upon me. I've been reflecting upon life and our life as a home edding family quite a lot. I realise that I feel quite isolated these days. I know a lot of that is to do with Miles being a home bird and the time it is taking me to convalesce from having glandular fever. I hope things will change. Life is fine and we are all plodding along nicely as things are. I just feel it would be nice to be able to reach out to other like minded folk a bit more often.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Storm in the Night

It's been a peaceful and rather pleasant week this week. Hermione hurt her neck clambering around in the garden and that caused a bit of upset for a day or two. She hates to be out of action. Other than that all has been well.

Hermione and Craig have had their first session at a local music academy. It's a 'not for profit organisation' which offers low cost tuition and the use of instruments (although many people, like Craig and Hermione, take their own). The tuition is in small groups rather than one to one. I was concerned about this as Hermione is at a very basic level - struggling to get a sound at all as the absence of her front teeth is making it tricky - but it had been fine. There are also music theory session and the chance to play in an ensemble each week.

Yesterday afternoon Hermione and myself went on a river cruise on the Wear, complete with a picnic. It was overcast but still very pleasant. The commentary was excellent. I learned lots.

Durham Cathedral took forty years to build.

The master keys for Durham Prison were once 'misplaced' resulting in all prison locks having to be renewed at a cost to the taxpayer of over one million pounds.

Fifteen years ago the council paid an artist for a large stone 'love making seat' which is now situated on the banks of the Wear, just a stones throw from the city centre. It's smooth on one side (the side you 'utilise') and has the faces of gargoyles carved into the other to frighten folks away (presumably while you are doing 'the do' on the other side). The guy doing the commentary went on to say that despite the council's best efforts to provide for the inhabitants of Durham, he can confirm from many night cruise spottings, that most folks still prefer the grass and bushes.

It's always good to hear what happens to public monies don't you think?

We looked at Storm in the Night by Mary Stolz this week. It's a FIAR text. It tells the tale of a young boy and his grandfather , waiting in the darkness for a storm to pass, the electricity having gone off.

We thought of sources of light - electricity, torches, flash lights, candles, stars, the moon, the sun and fire.

We looked at this picture and compared the position and movement of our eyes to that of a birds.

We trawled the Internet and found some great pictures of lightening. As you would expect there were lots more shots of fork lightening than sheet, but we still managed to find a selection of both.

We discussed how lightening is a form of electricity and carried out a static electricity experiment of our own. First we made spiral snakes cut out of tissue paper. We then rubbed a plastic ruler against a piece of nylon and 'lifted' the snakes off the table.

Finally we talked about our five senses. We made some cards together representing the five senses and played a game where we took turns to remove one of the cards and the other person then had to work out which one was missing.

Miles is settling to sleep quite well on an evening at the moment which is freeing up more time for me to read aloud to Hermione, something which we both love. We devoured The Iron Man by Ted Hughes in two sittings. It was excellent. I can't believe I hadn't read this book before. We read The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog by Jeremy Strong which was alright, but in my view doesn't deserve the hype it has had in some reviews. We have read a few stories from Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson. A little obscure in places but they do lend themselves well to read alounds. Finally we have also been dipping into the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Hermione really likes these but I find them a bit 'wordy' for reading aloud at the end of the day when I'm bleary eyed and easily tongue tied.

Errrrmmm, who allowed the 23 month old to take charge of the hose pipe? Oh yes, it was me, the ever trusting one who thought he would water the veg as he suggested. Good job it was the end of the day as we were all soaked in the time it took someone to dash in and switch it off at the tap.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Garden round up

I feel like I am working quite hard in the garden at the moment but it is still a mess! There is a lot going on there, what with work on the new patio and deck area, plus lots of ongoing maintenance.

Our big rain saving tanks have arrived. They are going to be installed hopefully later this week or next week. All of the rain from the house roof will be collected and stored there for use on the garden. I'm so pleased about that as I feel uneasy about using the hose pipe on the garden. It just doesn't feel like the best possible use of clean treated water in my view, although I know at times there doesn't seem to be many other options.

The shed and deck area still need staining. The front trimming still needs to go on the decking too. I had hoped to store tools and corn in there but today it was hard to get in for children! Here it is so far.

Sitting on the seat up there you can see lots of elderberries and hawthorn berries. Miles has taken to climbing on the seat and picking himself a few elderberries. They are still really bitter but he is enjoying them. Craig despairs at his foraging children. I think he feels having an iceberg lettuce and a few tomatoes in the salad drawer is being sufficiently * close to nature*.

Pringles, the newest addition to the garden is settling in just nicely. He's quite tame and as yet hasn't moved quickly - hence he's been out and about on the deck.

The courgettes are still going strong - although the one you see here is now in a pan of soup!

The spinach is not so happy. I'm not sure what has gone wrong. I thought it would grow into a reasonable sized plant and didn't rush to pick any, sadly it seems to have gone to seed.

You can see some of the pak choi next to the spinach. It's been nibbled by something but it's otherwise doing well.

The hens have behaved disgracefully. Henrietta by far the worst having even made it so far as onto Soo's sofa. Nana and anyone who knows Soo well will understand what a heinous crime that is! We are all getting into the habit of closing the patio doors behind us but Miles tripped over Hermione's foot this afternoon and bashed his head. In the fuss and fumblings for arnica which followed the door was forgotten and in they came.

As well as their persistence in trying to get into the house the hens have also provoked what some would think of as rather distasteful conversations.

Hermione - Daddy, the window cleaner came today. He was really nice and told Mummy she can have his cock whenever she likes.

Craig - (Looking rather shocked and a little flushed) Did he now? I'll have to speak to Mummy about that.

Hermione - Please Daddy, please can she have his cock, it would be great to get more hens in the eggs!

Craig - Ahhh. No.

The new planter was looking good. I bought some plants and even bulbs but unfortunately Miles seems to think it is some new sort of sandpit and the hens are quite keen on it too. Now he has been banished from the veg patch I think he has claimed this as his creative space *sigh*

I think some of the sweetcorn is ripe and I suspect we will try some within the next day or two.

So much to do, so little time. I'm forever promising myself half an hour sitting down out there on an evening with a glass of wine but it never seems to happen - by the time I've scrubbed the mud off the kids and got them to bed I'm worn out!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Hermione's special meal

What a lovely day we have had today - made all the better because for reasons too complex to blog I really hadn't expected it to be a good one.

After a morning of pottering in the garden we headed into town for lunch. Lunch went well and the weather was fine so we went on to the Botanic Gardens. On the way we saw a grey squirrel crossing at the zebra crossing in the middle of town! The gardens were beautiful as always. Craig hadn't been before but I think he was impressed. There are tropical butterflies in the glass house now too.

This evening Hermione cooked her special meal with help. She set the table herself and even made place cards which she surrounded with blackberries and nasturtiums.

We had potato wedges with salsa and mango chutney (Hermione's choice) followed by salmon with a pesto crunchy topping and a chocolate refrigerator cake which she garnished with a very generous sprig of parsley (I had suggested she pop out and pick a couple of mint leaves but never mind).

Towards the end of the meal Fanjio started pecking on the patio door. She just wouldn't stop and even started jumping up. I couldn't understand it. Eventually I realised that the Eglu run door had blown closed and they were asking to go to bed. When I went out they all dashed in. Ahhh, bless them, I'm really warming to these hens even if the novelty of picking up hen plop all day is starting to wear off.