Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Sunday, 28 December 2008
Our car's sudden death on Friday meant that I thought our trip up to the Midlands to visit my in-laws, and then on to Yorkshire for a quiet week of rest and fun in the countryside, was scuppered. Via a circuitous route asking the grandparents to make the trip to us, borrowing a car, insuring the car and asking the advice of my car salesman neighbour on whether it was worth repairing our car (it isn't), it occurred to me at 8:30 pm last night that we could still do exactly what we had originally planned. This means that we are leaving in a couple of hours for a week's holiday - Hooray!
I hope to have internet access and to keep in touch, but if not I will be back in the New Year.
Saturday, 27 December 2008
The pre-Christmas advertising slogan for John Lewis this season.
I gave my eldest son "The Aspiring Author's Journal", which he is very excited about starting on 1st January. Apparently it's the best present of the year.My middle son received Star Wars Lego, which kept him happily busy. (There's also his new book of survival tips next to him - you never know when you might need it!)And my little girl got a Barbie! On Christmas Eve, a dear friend gave me a gift. "It's just for you," he told me, "We saw it and thought - yes, it's just right!" I was intrigued and it was the first present I opened on Christmas morning. It was a Cath Kidston floral bag - just lovely: so me, so useful and so pretty. And it warmed my heart to feel so known, and loved!
Friday, 26 December 2008
I did indulge in a fair amount of berating the Almighty for letting our car die but I gradually began to look at it a different way. If the car had to break down, for it to happen on a day when I had nothing else to do and nowhere to be at any particular time; for me to be on my own and not to need to entertain bored children and be able to listen to Desert Island Discs; for me to have remembered to take my mobile and to have topped up the 'emergency' supplies in the car so I had juice and shortbread; to have friends who are willing to lend us their car to travel up to the Midlands and then on to Yorkshire next week - I am blessed indeed.
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
A few days ago, a friend whom I have not seen in a long while dropped by with presents for the children. As we chatted over a cup of tea we smiled over how lovely it is to put up the Christmas tree - carols playing, Champagne in hand, excited children. I agreed. We looked at each other and she admitted that it hadn't been like that at all, that she had taken refuge in the kitchen to avoid the stress and her husband had been cross with her for missing the children's faces. I admitted that last year our tree decoration had resulted in me shouting about all the mess and how I didn't want a tree in my house at all. Although I would love my children to recount in years to come the special family time of putting up the tree together, I know that the reality would be them remembering the arguments so I just kept out of the way this year.
I realise that I want my family life to look like a story book - I would like the children to be as obedient as Laura in the Little House Books, I would like to be as calm and unruffled as the Mother in The Railway Children (who never cried in front of the children), I would like to coax my garden into beautiful life like Mary, Dickon and Colin in The Secret Garden and I would like my children to have adventures like The Famous Five and to have Christmases worthy of poetry. By the end of yesterday I was crying with frustration and exhaustion.
In the midst of this, I have been pondering the expectations placed on the Christ Child. While many, even at his birth, recognised him as the long-awaited Messiah, I wonder if he lived up to their hopes. His victory on the cross was not the victory over Rome the oppressed people were longing for. I wonder if the shepherds, as old men, heard of his crucifixion and connected the victim with the babe in the manger; and whether they understood that what was perfect in God's eyes, was not the story book picture they had, perhaps, imagined.
Monday, 22 December 2008
In October, he announced that he was knitting a scarf as a Christmas gift for a three-year old friend of ours,and then proceeded to knit four more, in carefully chosen colours, for other friends of various ages - 7, 21, 27 and 60. It was a great insight into who is special to my son.Yesterday, we wrapped them to give at church so that the recipients would have them to open on Christmas morning. Labels were painstakingly written in green glitter pen, all signed 'with lots of love', even remembering to thank the friend who had taken him bowling a few months back. All of this was his idea, from the generosity and thoughtfulness of his heart and I was deeply touched. What more could you want for Christmas?
Saturday, 20 December 2008
I have no idea what will come up for me. In the past I have trained as a gym instructor, completed a triathlon, taken courses in story-telling and bread-making and, while all were a lot of fun, none have made any major impact on my life. In February, I am starting a Creative Writing course and I am currently enjoying playing around with some writing ideas, but whether this will bear any fruit, or whether I will enjoy it for a while and then put it down again, remains to be seen.
I came across some words this morning which gave clarity how I'm feeling:
The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into
ambiguity, not into some pre-determined, clearly delineated future. The next
step discloses itself only out of discernment of God acting in ... the
Brennan Manning, quoted in God On Mute
by Pete Greig
This gives a context for my unwillingness to plan my future, and an aim, a goal of sorts, to pay attention to where God is acting now and to let Him lead me into the future, whatever that's going to be.
Friday, 19 December 2008
Today is officially (and as I'm the only official here I can say that with confidence) the End Of Term.
I have Maltesers,
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Three years ago, I woke on Christmas morning, my then two-and-a-half year old girl snuggled in bed with me, and I noticed an angry red spot on her neck. Drowsily I thought it must be a bite, not really thinking about the likelihood of that in December. Then I lifted up her pyjama top to find her covered in chicken pox! Immediately I thought back to the afternoon before, the children's Nativity at Church, and how she had been running around with the other children, playing tag and then kissing them goodbye as we left! Oh dear, a walking germ factory, she would have infected most of the non-immune children!
Currently the norovirus is prowling the UK and doctor's advice is to stay off work for 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. I wonder how many people heed this. It must be hard to justify taking time off sick when you aren't sick any more and you know how hard pressed everyone is at the moment with so many people ill with colds.
Wouldn't it be great if we had some kind of indicator of how germy we are?
Monday, 15 December 2008
Saturday, 13 December 2008
I am very particular about which mug or cup I like. I have a huge mug which I use first thing in the morning as I settle down on the sofa to pray. It is plenty large enough to wrap both hands around and hug. It is also large enough to have to count as two when I tot up the day's tea comsumption.
On our mug tree there hang my stripy mug, my husband's mug, a Denby Imperial Blue Craftsmans mug which I use for guests, and my three other mugs.The heart one was a Valentine present and the pink one which says 'Mum' a Mother's Day present. I did tell my husband that I liked a mug I had seen and if he wanted to buy me a gift it was in Ruby's in Hampton. I bought one for my mother and my little girl commented that it was just like the one daddy had bought for me - so it wasn't a great surprise! It's quite fine china so it's a good one for the herbal tea too. The one with a gold pattern is, strictly speaking, for coffee. It just suits coffee better.
Friday, 12 December 2008
'One Hundred and One Favourite Poems' is another one I like. In this, it is poets who've done the choosing and each have chosen one of their favourites from their own writing, again each with a comment on their choice. This book has introduced me to some new modern poets. We also like 'The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry' which we bought because we borrowed a friend's and tore it! It is filled with colourful pictures which helps with the poem choosing for those of us not reading yet.
I like 'The Nations Favourite Poems' and we are working through these one at a time as I think it's good to be introducing some more 'grown-up' poetry! Although I did skip over the five pages of 'The Lady of Shallot' and Stevie Smith's 'Not Waving but Drowning'.
I did used to try and read mostly 'proper' poems, believing in the need to 'educate' my children in great literature. I have now, finally figured out that, at their tender age, enjoyment of poetry is the point and loving poetry will naturally lead us, as they mature, into deeper waters. So my real tops a the moment are 'Now We Are Six' and 'When We Were Very Young' (both still bearing my childish scrawled name on the first page) although I'm sorry to say the my middle son is now getting bored of my rendition of 'The King's Breakfast', complete with silly voices for all the characters, especially the cow! Oh please, just one more time!
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
In one of our recent sessions of 'Table Learning' (recently re-named from 'Table Work') the book which my daughter is using had a page on this topic. There were sets of three pictures and she had to write next to them which order they would come in. For example, there was a bean, a seedling and a large plant.
One set showed some children's building blocks scattered on the floor, a half-finished construction and a completed tower. When I came to see how she was doing she had labelled it thus:
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Saturday, 6 December 2008
However, I have been reminded of the value of Narration, a Charlotte Mason idea. My friend was telling me how last week my middle son explained the plot of one of the Star Wars films off and on over a 2 hour period with interjections from my little girl. It struck me that this is narration in practice. On occasions I have made a point of sitting down with my children after an episode of 'Blue Peter' and asking them all about it. If I haven't seen the programme, we have to work together as I ask questions and try to grasp their explanations and they struggle to find the best way to let me know. Of course, if I have seen it, the exercise becomes forced, dry and 'teachery'. While it takes commitment on my part to find time with them after they have watched, I can see many benefits of this: helping them remember and think through what they have seen and heard, as well as the language skills needed to explain something clearly and the team skills to share out who tells what.
I can also see this skill having its uses in sorting out sibling disputes ...
Yesterday we watched "The Phantom Menace" and I have to say that I enjoyed it a lot more than the first three (or the last three, depending on how you view them. We opted for production order, rather than chronological order. The purist in me prefered this, and it puts off the decision about "Revenge of the Sith" which is a 12 certificate.) The more I learn about the Star Wars films, the more complex I discover they are, (although I'm sure countless other places you could read up on this.) Anakin was conceived by Virgin Birth - remind you of anyone? However, Anakin turns well and truly bad, (I'll say no more just in case there is anyone reading this who doesn't already know) and I found an added sadness to the film about this adorable boy with such strength of character, knowing as I do the destruction he will eventually wreak.
I have had some interesting pre-film debate with my middle son as to what the Phantom Menace itself is. Perhaps the boy Anakin? The double-crossing senator? Or the fear in Anakin's heart which will eventually open him up to the Dark Side?
Fear causes anger, anger causes hate, and hate causes suffering.
This struck me as a profound truth. I know that much of the time, when things are not going well, as they haven't this week, I notice that a lot of my reactions are caused by fear. What if the children don't learn maths, manners, anything? From this, I find my temper is easily lost and I certainly act in a hateful way. While I don't like the idea that I cause my children suffering, I have certain caused tears this week.
Which is why spending Friday afternoon with then, a good film and a bowl of popcorn was such a good thing to do!
Friday, 5 December 2008
However, I was then keen to get him to let go of the need for coins, to do it all on paper and we hit problems again. It is only in reflecting on this experience that I can see that he himself will naturally drop using the coins when they don't help any more. In other words, when he is so sure in himself of what to do, when he owns the knowledge, counting out the coins will become something he sees as a waste of time. He will find it quicker to write it down.
Why is it that, as 'teacher', I feel a need to push the children faster than they are ready to go (my daughter's reading is another example) instead of letting them learn and grow at the pace that is right for them? I think it is a natural instinct to want to challenge ourselves (think of all those multi-level computer games) and that we are the best judge of when we are ready to progress to the next level of difficulty. So, while my son has been learning about subtraction, I have been learning about letting him pace himself!
Thursday, 4 December 2008
"Give me my advent calendar, " she murmured.
"What do you want it for?"
" I want to open it in bed" she replied.
Puzzled for a moment, I realised that she thought it was morning! And her advent calendar is her first waking thought!
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Last Thursday I was feeling pretty spent and so I cut down to the absolute bare minimum what I thought I had to do. Friday wasn't much better so I applied the same philosphy and looked forward to a new week. However, yesterday, I felt even lower and when the library web-site reduced me to a sobbing wreck I decided to batten down the hatches and only do the essentials, again. However, my doubt-defences were seriously compromised and I felt like a big fat failure of a Home Schooler. But, I got the children out of the house and to the library, and we delivered some church Christmas fliers on the way. This proved a surprising hit with the children and, as it was sunny and this seemed a good thing, we did some more after lunch. We met a neighbour with whose daughter does Rainbows with mine so I was able to offer a lift on Saturday and we met her very excitable dog to the delight of my children. I needed comfort food, so I made cookies with my little girl and then insisted on some "Tablework" (complete with"if you were at school you'd do this all day everyday, you have no idea how lucky you are" lecture). In half-an-hour or so each of my children had done something towards the goals I optimistically set at the end of our recent BraveWriter workshop.
So, if I were to be clocking up educational experiences and temporarily abandoning my belief in autonomous learning, by my reckoning we covered Numeracy, Literacy, Physical Education, Social Skills, Home Economics and Information Communication Technology.
It does make me feel better to put it like that!
Monday, 1 December 2008
I am so fed up this morning. A combination of hard week, an overbusy weekend, lack of sunlight and impending Chrismas has coincided to make today something I just don't want to do. I have been at the computer a while now, I have fiddled around reading blogs and checking things that don't need checking. I told the children I'd be with them at 9:45, which is now, and still I am struggling to motivate myself. Frequently, at this time of day, one or other of the children will appear, the squeaky door-handle alerting my nerves to their entrance, and I will bite back the urge to tell them to go away and leave me alone, (usually!) My little girl just came in. I continued to type for a few moments, hoping she'd get the hint, but already contending with the guilt of knowing that, if she did, she'd feel totally rejected and that would be all my fault. So I turned and asked her what she wanted. She put a card in my hand:
Dear Mother and Father,
I hope you have a nice Chrismas.
I love you both very much.
I love you so much. Happy Christmas.
Sunday, 30 November 2008
I have always liked Rothko's work, although I discovered yesterday it is only realy a small part of his work I like: the big, red and marroon stuff. There were some half-black, half-white ones that did nothing for me but the huge floating frames react with my brain and produce a wonderful sense of space and peace. I can vividly remember seeing them 'live' for the first time when I was in my teens, having only seen postcards or posters before, and feeling quite spaced out by their size and floating presence.
It was timed entry and we awere a little early to we took afew minutes to wander round the surrealist gallery first. I don't get it, and I hate to say that because it sounds so ignorant and philistine; but I cannot understand how the process works. I cannot imagine how an artist conceives such an idea in their head and then reproduces it on a canvas. As I look at some of these pictures I find myself wondering what it's about, what it's for and what it's trying to say. Very few move me in any way and many of those that touch me I find quite repellent. And yet when I overheard two women admiring a portrait, commenting how much better it was than the "rubbish" in the other gallery, I didn't agree at all. In not understanding, I feel that the lack is mine and that there is more here to appreciate, to grasp and to wrestle with. While modern art itself is not all that important, this has caused me to reflect on how easy it is to disregard that which I do not understand, or does not appeal to me, whether political, religious, personal or artistic.
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Our church are now planning another Ugandan visit in August 2009. Knowing that there would be another trip, I had thought all along that I would go, and I immediately paid my deposit cheque. But I am still undecided. If I am honest with myself, it would be a huge relief not to go. The trip will be just over a fortnight and, while my husband is very willing to let me go, I feel that it is a long time to be away from the family. It is also very expensive, and a lot of the family's money to spend on just me. However, I was convinced it was what God wanted for me and I would love to be involved in the team and the work they will be doing. I'm stuck. Is it fear that makes me feel uneasy about going: do I just need to step out in faith? Or is it a different kind of fear propelling me to go: fear of feeling left out, fear of missing out; am I still listening to a message from God which is past its sell-by date?
Friday, 28 November 2008
Barney - this is not the point!!
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
However, today the children are all still in bed and I have started playing already, although I am still in my PJs (which are brand new, red and white check and I am rather enjoying wearing them!) I know that it will all end in shouting, as we all feel lesuirely and relaxed until around 9:45am and I realise that not everything has been done and if we don't get a move on and clean our teeth, wash up, and tidy our rooms the world will end.
My heart is filled with the dilemma of letting them sleep if they are tired: after all, they don't have to get up for school; and sticking to a structure which I know works for all of us and gets everything done in a calm and orderly fashion.
However, it is still all quiet, so I'll drop in on a couple more blogs before I get them up!
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
A tough way to feel.
I called my daughter back and she hunted for it, but it was lost. However, she did discover a Lego mini figure she had previously abducted. "Sometimes," she told me, sadly, "I just want what the boys have got."
A tough way to feel.
They are such little people and yet have such big emotions. The most apparently trivial of sibling fights are often an outworking of underlying passions. It is hard for me to hear of their jealousy, dislike and irritation. I imagine that in years to come they might say the others got more than they did, were listened to more, understood more, even loved more and I am anxious about whether I manage it the best way, whether I get it right. I hope that by listening to, acknowledging and encouraging awareness of these emotional storms, I am encouraging my children to navigate them more successfully. But I'm never sure.
A tough way to feel.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Last night, I committed myself to one more thing this week, something I really beilve needs to be done; at first it sounded small but will actually will involve my children spending most of the afternoon with a kind friend.
I am teaching an antenatal class one evening and, because I am busy in the late afternoon, I will have to spend some of my early afternoon preparing and so my children will not get the benefits of my full attention.
I have a personal appointment another afternoon, so they will spend some more time with a different friend although I am intending on taking natural history DVD for them to watch so it will be "educational" and not too much trouble for my friend.
I have planned to take them swimming and shoe shopping. My eldest has two deadlines this week, one for a competition and one for an e-mail book club he belongs to, and a maths test. My little girl is taking part in a CBeebies Christmas Special and needs taking to the studio and collecting.
As I try to work out how I'm going to fit all this in, along with keeping the house clean, the children dressed in clean clothes and the family fed, I start knocking things off the list of what we're going to do. So, I don't have to go swimming, they don't need shoes this week; I don't need to have a quiet evening to knit the four hats I've promised for the church fair in less than two weeks.
With the aid of a couple of kids' DVDs I could free up some time to get everything done, but what about the children? What do they actually need? I'm trying to be imaginative and creative about the time I am with them. I've just got some audio books on CD so I can make the car journeys more profitable, I can read chapter books at bedtime instead of the day, we can combine shoe shopping with a poetry tea in a cafe.
I hear myself too often tell the children that I'm in a rush, or that I have so much to do. I have sent the children away more than once even while writing this. I'm not sure what yet, but something this week is going to have to give!
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Here is the wheelbarrow and sack of garden waste waiting to go to the tip after a session in the garden yesterday.My lovely husband has made breakfast, and lunch, and is now doing the washing up! My children and a friend are playing in the lounge.And the cat is still waiting for me to sort out the weather!
Saturday, 22 November 2008
They need to be able to read and write.
They need to be numerate enough to handle shopping, saving, rents and mortgages, figure out if something is a good deal, that kind of every day, useful stuff.
They need to believe in their own ability to learn anything else they need to know.
My sons, especially my middle one, are madly into "Star Wars" at the moment, and we are working our way through the entire saga, in order of production. I must confess to not being very interested in sci-fi, but I need to have some understanding of the plot in order to be able to converse with my children at the moment. My little boy has happily written a number of freewrites on Star Wars and yesterday we pieced them together and polished it up. He checked spellings of names and I showed him how to indent a paragraph. While the subject matter would not be viewed as conventionally educational, the end result was a fine piece of written English, a quick lesson in presentation and a happy, engaged and proud child with something to read out to daddy over our evening meal.
Friday, 21 November 2008
I did my first Christmas shopping this week, thanks to my parents-in-law who had the children for the afternoon. I was a Woman on a Mission. I went with a list of six things, knowing that any more would overwhelm me. From leaving the car to the last ker-ching of the till, I was done in 50 minutes! No dithering, no pondering: I was a present-seeking missile. This compares well with my normal rabbit-in-the-headlights shopping persona!
We are enjoying "Little House on the Prairie" as our current chapter book, and last night Mr Edwards met Santa Claus and brought Laura and Mary's gifts home from Independence.
"They had never even thought of such a thing as having a penny.Think of
having a whole penny for your very own.Think of having a cup and a cake and a
stick of candy and a penny.
There never had been such a Christmas."
I do not think that my children would be overawed by four such small gifts, and I know that I would not. And yet, part of me longs for a Christmas of such joyful simplicity and of such gratitude, for, in Laura's words,
"They were too happy to speak."
Thursday, 20 November 2008
William I had sent a second set of Investigators to the village of Mortlake as he suspected the information given previously was not entirely honest.The villagers of Putney, the Canons of St Paul's and some tradesmen from London had also been called to give testimony. Before the arrival of William's men, all Norman Barons, the Reeve, the man in charge of the taxes on the manor under scrutiny, instructed us all in what we had to say. (Prior to the workshop, they had each been given a little bit of information to learn.):
The Mortlake villagers were indeed concealing information from commissioners by a variety of mean, including hiding a herd of pigs in the neighbouring manor!
The chief examiner was a terrifying figure, intimidating the villagers by speaking first in Latin and then in French before agreeing to use the "uncouth Anglo-Saxon" language. He missed no opportunity to insult the locals, claiming that, when we chose the village idiot, we must have been "spoiled for choice."
The whole event was excellent, although my little girl was so frightened by the Commissioner that she was in tears at the prospect of having to speak to him! (She didn't have to and I spoke her lines!) My eldest was apoplectic with rage at being so insulted and didn't trust himself to speak either, (so I did his part too!) It was a highly emotional experience and I think, as a result, the Domesday Book and the circumstances surrounding its origin will never be dull history for us, but something we have experienced, felt and understood.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
I think they must be beautiful paintings and I would love to see them (and I am kicking myself for not realising that, in fact, “Diana and Acteon” has been in London since 22 October and I could have seen it, twice. It leaves on Thursday.)
One of my favourite paintings in the Gallery is “Bacchus and Ariadne". I first really noticed it on a Home Ed visit with a guide and we were introduced the Greek Myth depicted. The colours are breath-taking and there is so much to see, so much detail in the background characters as they make their drunken procession led, by a cheetah-drawn carriage and the love-struck Bacchus literally falls in love.
Another Titian in the gallery is “The Death of Actaeon". This one is the partner, the prequel, to the one the Gallery is trying to save. I always smile when I see it as I remember my middle son patiently copying it once, capturing every detail.
“Diana and Actaeon” looks fabulous and I really hope that is stays on public display.
Initially I was quite shocked by the price of the paintings, £50 million seems beyond my wildest dreams, and a vast sum of money to pay for a picture, however pretty. On the other hand, it is a tiny fraction of the Health Service budget and, with a British population of 60.9 million, it works out at about 80p per person. So, I have just £5 donated on-line.
Enough for my family, and a little extra for good measure.