Thursday, 29 November 2007

Ho ho ho

Another good reason to home educate - beat the rush at the grotto!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Mum behaving badly

A wave of apathy has washed over me this week. Well, not so much washed over me as washed me completely adrift. Try as I might I just don't seem to have been able to 'get it together' over the last couple of days.

Hermione specifically requested that we read a story about a river this week and learn about where rivers come from and where they go to. Should have been easy enough but it hasn't really happened. I feel bad about that as she rarely asks for us to do anything specific so when she does I generally try to respond quickly.

In my defence we have read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hidegarde H Swift and Lynd Ward a couple of times. It is a FIAR text which is loosely connected with a river. It's a wonderful story with delightful illustrations. Ordinarily we could have turned it into hours of discussions and activities but this week we have only managed to ascertain that rivers don't flow up hills and generally speaking always flow towards the sea.

With all my oooomph and enthusiasm on unauthorised leave I decided today that I didn't want to pick up any more felt tips with no lids on (they seem to breed around here), I didn't want to do 'lessons' and whats more I didn't even want to cook. I called a home ed friend and arranged to meet up for lunch.

We had a nice leisurely lunch (that is till Miles decided to be down to investigate the restaurant Christmas tree) and then headed on to buy some more crayons and coloured pencils. I accept I will still have to pick the crayons and pencils up but at least I won't spend so long trying to remove their marks from the white skirting boards and cream leather sofa *sigh*.

Back home Nana headed off to Rainbows with Hermione while I stayed true to my 'no cooking' vow and made a raw chocolate cake. It's one of my own concoctions and probably not to many people's taste but it's chocolate in a very nutritious form - which can't be bad. One big slice with a handful of berries is like a meal in itself!

I made it by blending 250 g of raw cacao nibs, 250 g of dried shredded coconut and almost 200 g of raw dehulled hemp seeds. I then mixed them together in a bowl adding a generous tablespoonful of mesquite meal, three tablespoons fulls of honey and two tablespoonfuls of rice syrup. Mixed thoroughly, pressed into a spring form cake tin and refrigerated for an hour.

So all in all I've had a 'day off' - or as close to one as ever happens. Some would no doubt say this is a downfall of home ed - there isn't the option of calling in a supply teacher/cook/dinner nanny/playground attendant. Personally I think it's been an interesting day. A change is as good as a rest and I certainly feel quite rested now sitting here with my chocolate cake to one side and glass of chardonnay to the other - the children are sleeping soundly, Craig is home and I am having a day 'off' after all!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Gift tags

Feeling exceptionally organised (for me) I thought we would make a start on making gift tags.

It's that time of year when the glitter just has to make a reappearance. Throw in plenty paint and a couple of potatoes and you just know you're in for a whole lot of mopping!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Unplugged Project - Thankful

This week we joined in The Weekly Unplugged Project organised by Mom Unplugged at Unplug Your Kids. The theme for the week was 'thankful'.

I asked Hermione what she would like to do for the project and she decided she would like to make a 'thankful mobile'. I was originally a little confused and apprehensive but it turned out really well and we both had a lot of fun making it.

We made four pyramid type shapes and stuck them together to make the basic shape. Hermione then thought of four main areas in her life for which she is thankful - family, food, home and moon.

She made a pop up label for each area and wrote lots of relevant words on small pieces of paper to stick in each section. She decorated each section with pictures we found in magazines. I don't think the pictures really represent her thoughts - it was more a case of what we could find - thinking in particular about pictures of after shave and wedding dresses here!

She cut out and decorated lots of butterfly shapes to string from the main mobile. A couple of the ones hanging from the family section had pictures of her and Miles on.

We had great fun making the mobile and Hermione is very proud of it.

During the course of doing the mobile we got round to talking about Thanksgiving. We found information on the Internet about it and read about the pilgrims, the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving celebrations. We did a Thanksgiving word search, looked at pictures of turkeys and located America on our world map.

Last night we had a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. We had never had pumpkin pie before and it was delicious - made by our friend Soo who joined us for dinner. With a little help Hermione explained to everyone about the first Thanksgiving and we all had a lovely evening.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The Wishing Bridge etc

This morning Hermione announced that she would like to visit a quarry to see what it looks like. I'm not certain what prompted this odd request but considering myself to be a 'facilitator' as opposed to an 'educator' I decided to brave the wind and rain and head out in search of a quarry which could be viewed. Thankfully it didn't take too long before we found ourselves here.

She was very pleased and marvelled at the machinery, mountains of sandstone (I think it was sandstone) and the gaping big chasm in the landscape.

We stopped for a spot of lunch and then on to the theatre to see a production called The Wishing Bridge written by Guy Hutchins.

On our way to the theatre we stumbled across an art gallery and decide to look in. I'm certainly no art buff but quite enjoy a browse around these places all the same. It was all looking a bit samey when suddenly I spotted a large original oil on canvas by Jurgen Gorg almost identical to this one. I was absolutely mesmerised by it and decided to enquire about the price - thinking it would be way out of my price bracket, probably a few hundred pounds. Well, it wasn't a few hundred pounds. It was £6,000 all but coppers. Don't you just hate it when that happens? I can't get the picture out of my mind though and have spent most of the evening Googling for a limited edition print of it - to no avail. Something else to assign to the *when I win the lottery* list.

Finally arrived at the theatre, a very small and intimate venue. It felt like we were actually on the stage. The mixture of story telling, mime, dance and live musical accompaniments were excellent. The story was a little complex and I'm not certain Hermione followed it all but she still enjoyed it. She talked about it as we drove home and her interpretation of the story didn't quite fall in with what I thought, but then I guess that's just how it is when it comes to theatre, particularly sort of abstract performance such as this.

Back home we admired the full moon and Hermione got out her watercolours and sat and painted, telling Nana more than once about the price of paintings in the gallery. She certainly spotted an opportunity there!

Friday, 23 November 2007

First snow

Today we had our first flurry of snow. It was quite heavy and blustery while it lasted but that wasn't for long - in the time it took Hermione to run downstairs, put on her coat and shoes it had stopped.

Today we dug up the cuneiform and hieroglyphics which we buried a couple of weeks ago. It didn't go quite as planned. I had hoped and assumed that the hieroglyphics written in ink on paper would have become soggy and illegible while the cuneiform on clay would still be clear. Well, that was not the case.

Our experiment had not taken into account waterproofing agents which must be added to some inks these days, or the fact that air drying clay would absorb moisture from the soil and turn mushy. The hieroglyphics were still quite clear while the clay cuneiform was falling apart.

We chatted about the ink and what had happened to the clay. Hopefully all was not lost, Hermione was briefly interested in how that clay had become soggy again. I allowed myself a brief *oh why do I bother?* moment before getting on with the rest of the day.

In all honesty I don't think wild men on horses would have interested Hermione for long today. She has spent a lot of time quite transfixed with her sewing. Quite a sedate pursuit for her, considering she is still usually to be found swinging from trees singing Abba and Beach Boys hits at the top of her voice.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Mostly Miles

Time to catch up on what Miles is doing these days.

He still likes listening to stories and his favourite books right now are The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, The Very Lazy Ladybird by Isobel Finn and We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury.

Lots of drawing and painting.

Lots of matching activities, squishy foam jigsaws and sorting games.

He plays with Hermione much more now. By and large they seem to enjoy each others company.

We go to a toddler gym/play session twice a week at a local gym academy. Miles loves it. I quite like it. It's not like lots of toddler groups. The toys are spotlessly clean and there is no coffee and biscuit culture which I'm pleased about. Miles runs around playing and I run around after him, looking increasingly dishevelled (if that's possible), wondering how all of the yummy mummys there manage to look like they have just stepped out of a salon. How do they do it? I feel I'm doing well if my hairs been brushed that day, both sides of my nursing bra are fastened (have been known to go to these places looking somewhat asymmetrical) and there are no gungy bits on me from the rice cracker that Miles ate in the car on the way there. It does make me think.

Health Visitor phoned last week to say she intended to call round that morning. Cheek of the woman - I think that was almost tantamount to being doorstepped! I trotted out my usual 'don't call me, I'll call you if I need you' speech but then I hesitated and thought about Miles's speech. I decided to have her round after all. What a mistake. She hummed and hahed, said she thought he was bright as a button and that I would just have to *make* him talk. I asked her how exactly I was to do that and she said that I shouldn't give him anything unless he speaks and asks for it. Hmmm, she obviously hasn't read any of the many studies carried out into attempting to force children's development. If there's one thing worse than having a nanny state which insists on dispensing advice it's having a nanny state which insists on dispensing bad advice!

I'm going to stop worrying about his speech. I'm sure it will happen in time. It's improving all the time. I'm certainly not going to force the issue. What a ridiculous thought.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Christmas cake continued..

Well, almost thirty six hours since I started the cake is now out of the oven. It looks OK. Certainly looking much better than last years cremated offering. Here's hoping it tastes better too.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Christmas Cake....

.. a work in process.

I decided this morning that it was time to make the Christmas Cake. It was one of those things which for some unknown reason suddenly became urgent.

Unfortunately lots of hands didn't make light work. To the contrary it became quite stressful. Only got so far as chopping all the fruit and putting it in to soak. Hopefully will get so far as the cooking stage tomorrow.

Miles has done more works of art. Faces with eyes and noses. Some also had mouths and hair but they are buried somewhere under a mound of paper on the kitchen floor.

Discussed the more deep and meaningful aspects of the season with Nana today and have decided that we will have both a christian nativity scene and a pagan/nature oriented yule scene on the sideboard this year. Currently we don't actually have either and I'm hoping Hermione will join in making both with a little help.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


Inspired by a blog I stumbled across the other day we went for a nature walk this week and looked out for anything which was red.

This got me thinking about the colour red. It's association with strength and passion, 'red blooded' people', 'red letter' days and scarlet women of the night. Strange the significances we can attach to something like a colour.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

The Spider Weaver, Northern Children's Book Festival etc

Round up of the past few days.


Nana and Hermione visited the Laing Art Gallery to view an Exhibition by Romuald Hazoumé. The theme of the exhibition was slavery. There was a workshop which they joined in and made their own personal representation of slavery.


We finished looking at The Spider Weaver by Margaret Musgrove. It isn't a FIAR text, it's just something that appealed in the local library. It is the story of two weavers who observe a spider spinning it's web and as a result go on to weave in a different and more elaborate way.

The story is set in Ghana. We located Ghana on our map and placed a story disc on it.

We watched a clip showing drumming in Ghana

We talked about the uniqueness of a spider's web and reflected on things which are unique and others which are common. We concluded that many natural things are unique and many man made things are common - bit of a generalisation there I know.

Cacao is one of the main exports of Ghana. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to discuss and eat chocolate I thought we would explore this avenue. We looked at this picture of a whole pod, this picture of a split pod and this picture of the beans. Way hey, chocolate does grow on trees!

We looked at different kinds of chocolate - squares of chocolate, nibs, cacao butter and drinking chocolate.

Hermione isn't keen on chocolate. She prefers carob and wondered if it also grows on trees. Yes it does. We looked at pictures of carob pods. I think we should revisit carob some time and look at where it grows, what the tree looks like, how it is processed etc.


Today we went to The Northern Children's Book Festival. We had tickets for a Jan Fearnley workshop which Hermione really enjoyed. She has been a Jan Fearnley fan for a long while now and was really pleased to meet her in person, hear her read some of her books and talk about how she imagines the characters in her book to be really like.

Miles drew a cow. He told me it's a cow. I'm very impressed. Look closely and you can see it has a head, body and legs. Ah, my mini Picasso.

Children in Need newsflash

Hermione's dance school have raised over £1,000 so far - and the total is still rising!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Rice Experiment

Inspired by pictures I have seen of water crystals taken from different places I decided we would give this experiment a try.

I encouraged everyone in the house to partake but I think there was only Hermione and myself who conversed with the rice. Nana certainly didn't and thinks I am now officially crackers!

Here are our results. The 'good' rice looked as it did when we put it in the jar and although it smelled a biy musty it didn't smell particularly bad. The 'bad' rice in comparison had green mould on it and absolutely stunk.

Nana feels the whole thing was not scientific as the jars and amounts of rice varied slightly. I agree it wasn't scientific in the true sense but that's not to say it isn't interesting.

Hermione and I talked about it in the context of how we talk to other people (as well as things like rice) and I hope this has helped her to see how damaging or nurturing our words can be.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Alphabet weaving etc

Winter has arrived I'm sure. Yesterday morning it was 2 degrees when we set off for the local play park. The ice didn't budge from the bottom of the slide all day. Today has been a little warmer but I did spot a gritter lorry this afternoon. Time to stoke the fire, wear furry boots and eat satsumas.

We did a bit of alphabet weaving.

Decided to photograph two of Hermione's recent ceramic creations while they are still intact. Another recent creation is now chipped and I'm sad to say I could be responsible.

The rabbit makes me think of chocolate - the Lindt Bunnies you see around Easter time.

Monday, 12 November 2007


Today we wrote a message in hieroglyphics. We used paper as the ancient Egyptians may have done - ours being an A4 ruler pad in comparison to natural reed paper though.

I know they don't look at all impressive but it was difficult. I tried myself and found it very hard.

Afterwards we buried the clay tablet with a cuneiform message which we made a while ago, together with today's hieroglyphics. We will dig them up in a week or so and hopefully by that time the hieroglyphics on paper will be illegible - illustrating the point that when the Egyptians mastered the art of making paper from reeds and moved away from carving messages in stone, it became harder for historians to subsequently see what happened then.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Sunday lunch - an outdated tradition?

Sunday is the only day Craig has off work. It is our 'family' day and whenever possible we try to make the most of it, dashing here and there, activities, lunch and basically trying to fit in as much as possible.

Last week we stayed home all morning, ate lunch at home and then visited our local playground for a couple of hours in the afternoon. It felt quite relaxed in comparison to how the day can sometimes unfold.

This lead on to a discussion about Sunday lunch, as in the 'traditional' Sunday lunch. Memories of Sunday lunch in childhood flooded back - overcooked veg, chewy meat, wallpaper paste gravy. Having said all that I still loved the whole notion of it. We decided that we would sometimes have a traditional Sunday lunch at home, starting this week.

Not sure how, but I forgot that we were planning on starting a new family tradition this week and didn't shop for it. By the time Craig reminded me at 11.45am it was too late to shop but we stayed home anyway and I cooked what we had in the fridge. It was good and I will be better prepared next time. There will still be times when we eat out on a Sunday but perhaps not every week now. Thinking about the quality of food in most child friendly restaurants I feel pleased that we have decided to make this change.

I was still thinking about our decision to make our Sundays more relaxed and home based when flicking through a book by Max Gerson this evening. He set me thinking even more about the way we live and how I feed my family.

'I believe that it is essential that people unite, in the old conservative manner, for the humanitarian purpose of producing nutrition for their families and future generations as natural and unrefined as possible.....We will need again real housewives, not eager to save kitchen time, but home makers who will devote their lives to the benefit of all, especially the task of developing and maintaining a healthy family.'

All sounds great in theory but then of course there are all the other issues such as balancing time spent *looking after* family with time spent actually *with* family for a start. Then there's the question of cost and so on.

In summer time we ate lots of food from the garden. That's stopped now though. We've a few cabbages, chard and leeks but that's it. Racking my brains about how to inject more affordable organic veg into our diet I have decided to start growing sunflower greens indoors. I have a huge bag of sunflower seeds from my last wholefood order. Off to the shed tomorrow to find a seed tray that will fit nicely on the windowsill. A small step I know, but a step all the same.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Show Time

Today was Hermione's dance show for Children in Need. It's been hectic what with a long dress rehearsal yesterday and rehearsals starting at 2.00pm today ready for the 6.00pm start of the show. I've just tucked her up into bed, exhausted.

The dance school she goes to is great. There is no pressure to take exams or dance the *right* way. The emphasis is on having fun. I hate all this high pressure stuff you hear of, kids being pushed by parents to dance every night even when they don't want to.

Everyone had put a huge amount of effort into the show. I don't know yet how much was raised but I hope it will be lots.

My only little grumble with the dance shows (and it is a minor grumble) is that I always send her along fresh faced and radiant, yet they always manage to turn her into someone I scarcely recognise. She has so much hairspray on that her head feels like a helmet and as for the blue eye shadow, well, I say no more......

She isn't alone in the helmet hair do and scary blue eye shadow. They all have it. Strange transformations take place back stage. Bizarre isn't it?

Anyway, much fun was had by all and lots of money raised for a good cause. A win win situation!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Autumn finery and stuff

Still enjoying autumn in it's finest here. I love the clear blue blustery days, kicking the piles of fallen leaves which accumulate by the road side and admiring the trees and bushes bejewelled with berries. Of course the flip side is finding dog sh*t in the pile of leaves you have just kicked and constantly watching wee folks to make sure they don't eat berries best reserved for birds. Thankfully we have had no dog sh*t or poisonous berry episode incidents as yet this year - and hopefully won't.

Hermione tried her hand at silk painting for the first time this week. Here is her finished creation, a silk rainbow.

This lead on to a discussion about silk and how it is made. We looked at some sites on the Internet and found out about the silk worm and how it spins a cocoon which is used to make silk. There were some really good pictures of the cocoons and I thought I had saved the links but appear to have misplaced them.

We have also been working our way through the RaW Family Storytelling pack. A home educating friend gave this to us last week. Hermione isn't generally very enthusiastic about workbook type formats but she is enjoying this one. Nana is enjoying it too. They have been doing it together, a few pages a day.

Hermione has been to Rainbows and the home ed meeting at Natures World. Badgers wasn't on this week as the helpers were required to be on duty for fire work burns. Sad but how it is I guess.

We also met up with a group of home edding families at a local soft play centre. It was great to see people. I think the adults and children both had a good time. My only grumble was about how loud the music was. It took me back to the days when I regularly frequented nightclubs - the only differences being that it was the middle of the day, I was sober and surrounded by children. Is it really necessary to have dance hits blasting out at high volume in a soft play establishment. I don't know, perhaps I'm just getting old huh?

We made it to Saltwell Park for the first time in about a year today. We played in the leaves,

paused for thought at the water garden,

fed the ducks,

examined the hedges,

climbed trees,

watched the doves, rabbits, guinea pigs and peacocks.

Busy couple of days ahead. Hermione is performing in a dance show at the weekend to help raise money for Children In Need. The dress rehearsal is tomorrow. Busy, busy, busy.

Sunday, 4 November 2007


Why do some children go out of their way to try to hurt others? I'm not going to upset myself by dissecting the whole episode again, suffice to say we went to the park today and I saw two children, probably about 9 or 10, try to hurt lots of children. When they tried to push Hermione off the top of a tall climbing frame I went over and asked them not to do that. They refused. Well, I was astounded at the way they spoke to me. Hermione started to cry. Not because she was physically hurt as I got there in time to physically help her to safety. She was crying because she had never heard anyone speak to me like that. I asked them to show me their parents as I wanted to speak to them. They refused but I later saw them leaving with two women.

What makes children behave this way? I don't buy into this 'children will be children' stuff. To my mind that devalues children - it's like saying they are intrinsically violent and spiteful which I'm sure they are not. Something is going wrong somewhere.

I decided to destress this evening by doing a bit of silk painting. Like many things I enjoy the process much more than the results. I'm not good at it but it does give me pleasure. I made this picture with half an apple rather than a brush.

We had a quiet bonfire celebration at home this evening. We made a small fire in the veg garden and Craig let off noise free fireworks which Miles enjoyed from inside. Afterwards we all dined on veggie hot dogs in buns and baked potatoes.

I forgot to mention that last week Hermione received a letter from the Local Authority advising her that she had won a special prize for her entry in the Longest Apple Peel Contest at the Library (yes, the one which I blogged about which was sellotaped in three places). The prize is a compost bin. She's delighted. I'm a little confused. The prize was advertised as a blender and we were very upfront about the sellotape - we even handed the peel in for inspection and measurement. I can only think this prize was for ingenuity. Anyway, she is absolutely made up about it and looking forward to it being delivered.

Oh no..

..I've been bitten by the rice bug too. Too many ways to while away time on the PC these days.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Where has the week gone to?

Time is galloping on by. I think this post will have to be just a 'highs' and 'lows' of the week.

Lots of 'highs' I'm pleased to say.

Nana bought Hermione a sparkly cowboy hat for £1 and both Hermione and Miles have spent hours playing with it all week. Miles in particular is very into dressing up at the moment. Even at the end of the day it's difficult to separate him from his hat, hand bag and Hermione's crocs.

Nana and Hermione went to a workshop at the Centre For Life earlier in the week. They also had a session in the planetarium there. Hermione had enjoyed it although not as much as some of the other workshops she has attended there. If I remember rightly her exact words were, 'Yeah it was really great Mum' but you know, outer space and stuff just ain't my thing'. I'm pleased she was able to enjoy and still see benefit in going along to hear about something which 'ain't her thing'. Also really pleased she felt able to say how she felt about it knowing that she wouldn't be placed under any pressure. Oh, the benefits of home education!

We haven't had the time for much 'formal' stuff this week. The weather has been wonderful for the time of year so we have spent more time in the garden and at local parks. We did however dip into Story of The World and tried our hand at writing cuneiform on a clay tablet. The plan is to try our hand at some hieroglyphics on a handmade scroll next week.

The 'lows' included breaking down at Chester Park earlier in the week. I had to call Craig at work to come and rescue us and it transpired that there was so much junk under the front passenger seat that a battery clip had somehow come undone *blush*. Also, this evening we went to a local firework display and bonfire. Both Miles and Hermione loved the huge fire but were both terrified of the fireworks, Miles particularly so. He was almost hysterical as I cuddled him and dashed towards the car. I gave him some aconite for shock when we got back home, bless him.

That's it for now. It's been a fleeting visit.