Monday, 29 October 2007

Bede's World

Hermione and Nana went to Bede's World today with a big group of other home edders.

The morning was spent having a guided tour of the Anglo Saxon farm and in the afternoon they did a scriptorium session using feather pens and ink. They enjoyed it a lot.

A wire art work representing the Right Venerable Bede

Replica farm buildings


Hermione's pen work

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Three Names

This week we have looked at Three Names, a FIAR text by Patricia MacLachlan. It was ok. Hermione liked it but I have to say I wasn't overly impressed. It tells the tale of children on the prairies and their one room school house. We talked about the prairies and looked at pictures of prairie landscapes on the Internet. We found North America and Canada on the map and placed our story disc there. We discussed the title before reading the book and considered how important a title is. We did some other bits and pieces too but I wasn't particularly inspired so we probably didn't go as far as we could have. One thing it did inspire me to do though was to order a copy of Little House on the Prairie from Amazon Marketplace. If Hermione likes it I may buy a series on DVD as I'm dismayed with some of the crap that is on childrens tv these days. I wandered in the living room the other day to hear a character in a childrens programme say 'arse'. It was on a cable channel probably aimed at the 8 -12 age range. I was shocked. The children hear enough 'earthy' language from me on occasions without it being on the tv!

We haven't done anything with the computer for a while so I decided to look up a few online games this week. We found a game which involved sorting odd and even numbers, one where the player must insert the correct mathematical sign to show greater or lesser and also quite a few phonics games. They went down a treat. I must confess to sometimes feeling like a lazy parent when we do quite a lot of computer stuff. I try not to but do feel I need to be actively doing everything.

We are still full of Halloween spirit. Hermione and Craig went to a Halloween event at Hardwick Country Park on Friday night. There were crafts, story tellers, a scary walk and other stuff. They had a good time. Tomorrow night is the Halloween bash at Badgers.

We have been to Whitworth Country Park twice this week. It is beautiful there. We took bread for the ducks one day and discovered that deer can swim - well we knew they could swim but hadn't actually seen it before. Poor things must have been really hungry.

The apples in the walled garden are past their best but the grapes are good. Miles couldn't resist but try them.

Hermione has spent quite a bit of time this week making a heart shaped felt handbag. It isn't finished yet but it's coming along nicely.

Miles had a 'first' this week. He stayed for song time at gym class. Usually at the first sign of people sitting in a circle he runs to get his shoes. I'm not sure what brought about the change but this week he wanted to stay and even joined in some of the actions. He is generally coming along great. He really is mischievous and has a great sense of humour. His speech is improving a lot too. For a long time his only words were mama, boob, bra and burp. Thankfully he's expanded his vocabulary and can say quite a few things now. Oddly he's stopped calling Craig dada and now calls him 'that mama', the emphasis being on 'that.' He makes me laugh.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Bats, paints, parties...

We have had quite a hectic couple of days. Social engagements truly are like buses. Never a steady stream, they always all come at once.

Yesterday morning we visited friends. The children were all happily engrossed in play which gave a couple of weary well deserving mothers time to chat and drink herbal tea. Our conversation somehow came round to the subject of bats and I voiced my concerns about the bats which live close to us and how they may be affected by the nearby residential development. I returned home fired up with lots of information and have since spoken to Durham Wildlife Conservation Society who say that a bat survey should be carried out and have given me the number of the County Council Ecologist. He hasn't been in the office the past two days but will be tomorrow. Here's hoping he takes the matter seriously. After all bats are a protected species.

Yesterday afternoon we visited Chester Park where we met with a couple of other home edding families. The weather was bright but nippy. The company was great. Despite the hoards of school children on half term break we had a wonderful time.

This morning Hermione and Nana headed off to the Tees Valley Home Educators Halloween Party, complete with raven girl costume and spider cake. They had a good time. There had been games, crafts and a shared lunch. I'm not sure that it was part of any organised craft but Nana made three bats for me to hang up in readiness for the County Ecologist coming. Ha ha.

Later we made some finger paints following a recipe I found on a Montessori website. I hate the thought of the kids sitting messing with their hands in loads of toxic crap. This was a much better idea. Really easy to make and cheap too. Take one cup of wheat flour, half a cup of water, a tablespoon of liquid soap or body lotion and some food colouring. Worked fine.


Monday, 22 October 2007

Art attack

What started as a painting...

..soon became a sculpture.

Hermione joined in on the arty theme but didn't muster quite the same enthusiasm as Miles.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Happy Apple Day!

Today is National Apple Day. After a tip off from a friend who works in the library we headed into town to join in some National Apple Day activities. Town was busy. I was glad to escape into the tranquility of the library.

We looked at lots of apples and tasted a few. There were some really bizarre looking varieties such as Ladies Fingers and Cat's Head, both of which looked as their names suggest.

Hermione and myself joined in the longest peel competition and would have won hands down were it not that the staff noticed the three sellotape joins. Better luck next time.

Miles coloured lots of pictures of apples....

...some with a little help from his Daddy...

...while Hermione made a rather snazzy albeit fiddly magic picture type thingy.

Back at home the sax duo were on form. Hermione was playing a piece called 'Cappuccino' which I think is a title made up by the thoughtful teachers at music academy for the sound made by a fire engine. Craig was playing the Pink Panther music.

Quite a pleasant day really. Happy children now sleeping peacefully. Walls beautifully adorned. Call me sad but I think I'll be marking this one on the calender for next year too.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

First frost

Today was our first frost. It wasn't particularly thick but it was there for certain. When we were driving to visit a friend at about 9.00am it was still very evident on the grass. I love to see the changing seasons. In a life full of chaos and uncertainty some things never change, they just keep coming on round. I don't know what effect the sudden drop on temperature will have on our vegetables and the hens. We'll just have to wait and see.

Hama beads have made a big reappearance around here the last couple of days. Neither Hermione nor Miles have showed any interest in actually making hama designs on the board but Miles has delighted in spreading them all over the kitchen and dining room floor.

They have been swept, spread, swept and spread time and time over. Hermione has made necklaces and lain down and made the hama equivalent of snow angels. Miles has used them as earth in his diggers. Rainbow sprinkled floors and much fun had by all!

We have looked at A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert this week. It is a FIAR text and it tells the story of a mother and daughter who barter their belongings to get the daughter a new coat. It is set in the aftermath of world war two. It illustrates the process of shearing the wool from the sheep, spinning, dying, weaving and tailoring. It's also quite a good spring board to chat in general about war and it's ramifications - lack of money and poor availability of things such as clothes and food even for those who do have money.

We finished Horizon Maths Book 1 yesterday and stared Book 2 today. Hermione is still happily plodding along with it. She enjoys it and appears to have a natural flair for maths. It's colourful and progresses gradually with regular revision of things covered earlier. The only downside I feel is the currency aspect. It's American and therefore the currency sections are American. I'm going to adapt this book and see how things go as we get towards the end of it. It may be that I need to try to sort out an English equivalent.

I have made the decision that this year I will not send Christmas cards. Instead I am going to make a donation to chairty or possibly buy something through Oxfam (Hermione is very excited at the prospect of buying a goat for a third world family). Instead of a card in the post friends and family will get a Christmas newsletter via email. At some point between now and mid December I will have to sit down and figure out what to write without sounding too cheesy.

Sunday, 14 October 2007


Craig and Hermione went geocaching with friends for the first time today. I've not spoken to the other family who went along yet but the whole experience certainly got the thumbs up from Hermione. Craig who was very sceptical about it seemed to have had a good time too. This is the cache they found.

Hermione chose to take a small plastic whistle and they left a £1. They will be better prepared next time, possibly take a book or something to leave. They just hadn't known what to expect this time.

If they do decide to do it again I think I will mention it on the local home ed lists in case anyone would like to join them.

We also found time today to finish reading about the nomads in SOTW. We heard about how many stopped wandering in search of food and started farming and building settlements. All in all I'm very pleased with how our first week of SOTW has gone. Having said that I know from reading ahead that there will be parts that Hermione would find frightening so I suspect we will continue in our own fashion, dipping in and out as suits us.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Will I ever get to bed tonight?

I remember the days when Saturday nights were about wine bars and nightclubs. Feels like another life time now. Here I am waiting for the chutney to finish cooking so that I can get to bed. It is supposed to take two hours but has been cooking for much longer than that and still doesn't look 'done'.

While I'm waiting I thought I would blog about the huge egg Henrietta laid yesterday. It was bigger than my palm. Here it is alongside Fanjio's average size egg.

While on our travels today we stumbled across a small cafe where you can paint plaster cast models to be collected a few days later having then been glazed and fired. Hermione painted a koala lilac. Although I don't drink coffee I love the smell of the 'real' stuff. I inhaled the aromas while Hermione painted. The menu looked basic but appealing. I think we will be going back there soon, fully prepared with empty stomachs and ideas for painting.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Great Fire of Newcastle etc...

We've had a great time today - exhausting but good fun.

First stop was at a big soft play venue in Washington. We used to go there all the time before we moved but hadn't been for over a year before today. Since we were heading up that way anyway for an afternoon workshop I thought we might as well make a day of it. Miles had a great time. He was really confident and wanted to go off and do his own thing a lot of the time which wasn't too alarming as it was very quiet.

Hermione found someone to play with who looked about her own age. I always wonder when we see older children out during term time if they are also home educated. I often think about approaching the parent but haven't in case they don't home educate and I cause embarrassment. A few weeks ago we were out and Hermione started playing in a soft play place with a girl her own age. After a while I heard Hermione ask, 'are you home educated?' The little girl said, 'no, are you in the circus?' It's probably one of those situations where you had to be there but it was very funny at the time.

After soft play we headed to the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. Miles fell asleep in the car so when we arrived Nana headed on in with Hermione for the start of the workshop which was about the Great Fire of Newcastle.

When Miles woke we went in and played in the Play Tyne area which is a wet activity area modelled on the River Tyne. There are replica bridges and lots of things with moving parts. It wasn't long before Hermione and Nana joined us and we played a while longer. They had thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. It sounded very informative but lighthearted with a puppet show. There had been a handling collection to look at too including an ink well, whip and top, carpet beater and writing slate amongst other things.

There was a short time left for a quick waltz round the hands on Science Maze before dashing back for Hermione's dance class.

Since having postnatal depression I haven't been very far at all. Today has done wonders for my confidence though and I hope to get out and about a lot more often now.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Archaeological dig

We read about nomads from Story of the World today.

Afterwards we did a mock archaelogical dig in the garden. Hermione really enjoyed this and recorded the grid points of where she found each item I had buried.

Apparently the Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on the Breast Cancer tab at the top and then click on 'donating a mammogram for
free' (pink window in the middle). This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Tree and the Pool

Funny old day today. It would have been my Dad's birthday were he alive. A time to allow myself to spend some time in the past - while trying to remember that time waits for no one. I guess it was quite apt that Hermione asked me to read this poem to her twice today. My kids teach me so much.

The Tree and the Pool

'I don't want my leaves to drop,' said the tree,
'I don't want to freeze,' said the pool.
'I don't want to smile,' said the sombre man,
'Or ever to cry,' said the Fool.

'I don't want to open,' said the bud,
'I don't want to end,' said the night.
'I don't want to rise,' said the neap tide,
'Or ever to fall,' said the kite.

They wished and they murmured and whispered,
They said that to change was a crime,
Then a voice from no where answered.
'You must do what I say,' said Time.

Brian Patten

The sun has been shining this afternoon. We're not exactly experiencing the Indian summer I heard rumoured in the press but I'm certainly not complaining.

Pringles the rabbit has been free range in the garden for a few weeks now. I feared he may burrow to make an escape or worse still be attacked by a fox but so far he is doing fine. He's doing more than fine actually - he's positively thriving. Nana thinks he has doubled in size and I agree he has certainly grown. Perhaps it is all the layers pellets he is eating. He's forever in the chicken's grub box. Even when the chickens flap their wings at him and peck him he just carries right on. The guinea pig is much happier now too. Had Pringles stayed in the hutch and run I'm sure he would have succeeded in killing the guinea pig by now.

The chickens are also thriving. We are still getting three fresh eggs every day. Since they started laying they have all laid daily which I'm surprised at although I suspect that will change as winter sets in. They are so cheap to keep too. When we bought them during the first week in August we spent £10 on organic corn and pellets. They haven't eaten anywhere near half yet. I suspect it's because they free range all day and eat all our vegetable scraps. I can't help but smile each time I take them out the left over veg - it's my favourite form of recycling right now - pop in the veg scraps and get out an egg!

The squashes are beginning to form. I just hope they survive the slugs and chickens.

We have had to make adjustments to our water tanks. Collecting rain from the whole of our roof filled one tank (1,000 litres) in less than a week. We are now just collecting from part of the roof. We are all really surprised at how quickly the tank filled.

This week we have started looking at Story of the World. My original reservations about the prominence of biblical history in it still remain. I am not a Christian although the children do hear about Christianity as we are a multi faith family. So far Hermione is enjoying the book and activities so we will stick with it and I will present the biblical aspects as 'one of many views.' Who said home educators can't offer diversity?

We have learned about the different methods of 'doing' history such as reading old documents, digging up old things and interviewing people.

Hermione interviewed Nana about her history.

She made a time line with pictures representing her life history.

Also been busy this week with a home ed meeting at Natures World, Badgers and Rainbows.

Monday, 8 October 2007


The boughs of our apple tree are groaning right now. Here is one of two buckets of windfalls which we collected just today.....

I've not made chutney before but think I may do very soon - the freezer is already full of stewed apple with raisins and cinnamon!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Papa Piccolo

This week we read Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley. It's a FIAR text which tells the moving story of a Venetian tomcat who adopts two stray kittens.

We hadn't discussed Venice before and this story was a great way to introduce it. The story and the illustrations centre around the canals and water transport. The Grand Canal, annual Regatta and Rialto Bridge feature in the illustrations and there is talk of many forms of water transport - laundry barges, garbage barges, police motor boats, gondolas and water taxis.

We talked about how we may feel living in a place like Venice. Hermione thought it would be a good thing that there would be less cars but a bad thing that you can't just walk out wherever you feel. She said she wouldn't like to live in a house where the water came right to the front of the house - she would miss having a garden.

Piccolo doubted whether he could look after kittens because he wasn't a 'mama cat'. We talked about gender differences in parenting. Hermione felt it was fine for a male cat or person to be a single parent although she did go on to say that Dads are best for going on roller coasters. I can live with that.

We looked at more pictures of canals, The Bridge of Sighs and gondolas. We placed our story disc on the map.

The kittens were initially without a home. We talked about people with no homes and wondered why this should be and how it can happen. Decided not to wade in too deep here but we did agree that poverty was probably one of the main factors and that this could come about through lots of reasons - not being able to find a job, not being able to get the right sort of help when needed, having certain illness and having been born into poverty and homelessness.

Hermione painted a picture of Papa Piccolo.

Hermione really enjoyed this book and so did I. It reminded me of my own trip to Venice and I'm afraid to say I probably did drone on about that quite a bit. I really hope it is a place we will visit as a family one day.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

My photography really doesn't do it justice but here is Hermione's glass creation which she made last week. I'm impressed.

We made elderberry cordial today. Having raided the elderberry bushes we washed them, placed them in a big pan with just enough water to cover them and stewed them for ten minutes.

We then strained off the liquid and added 1 lb sugar and ten cloves to each pint. I can't believe how much sugar we used! We didn't even have enough in the house. Craig had to make a quick dash to the Co-op.

We then stirred and boiled for a further ten minutes before decanting it into sterilised bottles.

Hmm, I guess that's it for that wooden spoon....

Well, the recipe I followed is reported to keep winter coughs and sneezes at bay. Let's hope it does.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Birthday Boy

I think Miles has really enjoyed his birthday. I wasn't sure that he would understand that it was a special day relating only to him, but he appeared to. He even patted his chest when they sang the birthday song on children's tv.

It didn't take him long to get to grips with the wrapping paper.

He got a lights and sounds digger and tractor, some first stage mechano, toy animals, a book, clothes, jigsaw, a velcro pizza and a really basic remote controlled car. Hermione has spent almost all day playing with the mechano and Miles has busied himself with the jigsaw and the pizza which can be sliced up then put back together again.

The clothes were from my sister and brother in law in Canada. A really gorgeous Whinnie the Pooh outfit which he insisted on wearing today although we weren't going anywhere in particular.

Needless to say we all ate cake - a rather pathetic effort which I iced very late last night rather bleary eyed.

In many ways he seems so grown up now, choosing his own clothes, asking to go to particular places, laughing and playing with Hermione. On the other hand he's still my carried, co-sleeping, breastfeeding baby.