Friday, 27 June 2008

HESFES here we come!

Why do I do it? My son has just wandered in and asked when we're going to start packing. To be honest, my skin prickles with irritation when I hear the door-handle creak and I know a small person is about to walk in and want something. Sometimes it's just for a hug and yet I find myself wanting to scream, 'Don't disturb me, I'm busy!' But the truth is, I'm not that busy. I have been reading a few blogs, including 10 minute writer, which I came upon yesterday, and it's great stuff but I think that a top tip for me would be, 'stop reading this and write your own blog!' I guess it wouldn't matter if I didn't care if I posted today, but I do, I want to post every day because I like reading blogs with new stuff every day. I feel frustrated if I don't post, I feel deprived and then I feel sorry for myself and blame Home Ed/the children/life for the fact that I'm too busy. And I still procrastinate. I am finding myself worried that my punctuation isn't right. (What is the correct way to punctuate a thought, or a top tip, if it's not direct speech?) I could look it up in Nitty Gritty Grammar but it wouldn't get the post finished, or the car packed, or the children hugged!
When this is done, I am going to pack the car, feed the family and drive to HESFES. We have been looking forward to this since the last one in September. All I ask is that it doesn't blow a gale while I try to put up an 8-person tent! (Not that there are 8 of us, but I like the space.) My super-sociable middle son is looking forward to meeting up with the friends he made in September; my responsible eldest, to running errands to the camp shop and he is hoping there will be peg-doll making; my daughter, to swimming. Me? I'm looking forward to meeting up with my friends, being in a community of Home Edders where my educational choices are normal, and lots of coffee and cake from the cafe!

I'll be back next week!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

My Fruit Bowl

In my daily amble through my favourite blogs (getting a blog roll sorted is still on my 'To Do' list) I came across this post by Jen: Great advice for writers: never, ever hoard ideas, which led me to this blog, 10 Minute Writer. A few months ago I would not have called myself a writer but I am beginning to discover that it is something I like to do and something I am discovering that I can do, and here I am, in a blog, actually doing it! I frequently find that I have ideas for posts, or stories, and hoard them away for when I have time, time which never materialises. The Fruit Bowl idea is not mine but I liked it and it gave me a great title for a few random thoughts which I am not hoarding.

I have finished 'Difficult Conversations', one of the books I bought last week, and I have found it very thought provoking. I am almost hoping for some kind of situation to arise so I can try out these new skills! Having said that, I have already used this way of communicating with my children instead of the usual fish-wife approach and have been surprised by the increase in co-operation! The author writes of the need to communicate from a position of 'personal power', a place of self-esteem and congruence. She also writes much about our need of emotional awareness and honesty: 'Getting accustomed to your own emotional landscape - its irregularities, its sensitivities, the danger signs, your emotional needs and rhythms - can help towards long term emotional management. For now, though, it is enough to recognise your own emotional clues with curiosity and without censure.' All too frequently I will dismiss what I feel as 'silly'. I am going to try to develop a more curious and accepting attitude.

My eldest son has won a Special Prize for his re-telling of the story of Odysseus and the Cyclops in a Creative Writing competition! The judges' comments were detailed and encouraging; I was particularly pleased and proud to read they felt his writing had ' a strong sense of its own voice.' This idea of writer's voice is one that Julie at Bravewriter speaks of frequently and I found her Kidswrite Basic course earlier this year immensely helpful. Not only did it encourage and coach my son but I was also mentored in how to come alongside him in his writing and to be able to help him improve whilst preserving his ownership and that all important voice that is unique to him.

We watched '102 Dalmatians' yesterday, following on from the last two weeks of 'Media Studies'. I was pleasantly surprised because I had expected it to be dross as sequels so often are! We paused the DVD ooccasionally to discuss how the plot might work out and to look closely at how Cruella de Vil's return to her wicked ways was characterised by her smooth, coiffured hair springing out in wild abandon and her lipstick gradually changing colour. There was a lovely scene of Chloe and Kevin in a restaurant cutting back and forth with the meatball scene from 'Lady and the Tramp' and mirroring it beautifully. I am not sure that the Local Education Authority would approve of so much education by Disney but I know that I have begun to appreciate plot and characterisation better, largely through some of Julie's blog entries, and so I'm sure the children have too. I had to laugh aloud when the love interest appeared and my daughter's face lit up, 'I wonder how long until they get married?' - she is such a romantic!

Well, I've not been a 10 Minute Writer today, but at least I've no mouldy fruit!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Trees, Sculpture and a Jay

The children and I visited Kew Gardens yesterday. We wanted to experience the new tree-top walkway. My middle son and I planned a route and he took charge of navigation. We saw a jay hopping about and got close enough to have really good look. We also found a shiny blue striped feather which we guessed must have come from a jay. We climbed over 100 stairs to walk in the tree tops. While we ate our picnic, we watched some artists finishing a sculpture (which I must confess I had assumed was a support structure for plants!) We fed the ducks and the children were delighted when some fish came to partake of the free meal and we even saw an eel - identified by the position of its 'flippers' and its incredible length. We had a look at another sculpture, this one carved into a fallen oak, enlightening us on the internal structure of the tree. We visited the new Sherwood Gallery and marvelled at the intricacy and beauty of the detailed botanical paintings. We came home tired and agreed we'd had a great day!

Writing this has given me new perspective on the amount of 'education' that took place in our walk. I can even categorise the experiences as subjects: Geography (map-reading), Natural History (birds, fish and eels), Biology (trees), Art (sculpture and painting), Physical Education(walking); there is always a gremlin within doing just that. (Conversely, it is often the one whispering, 'What are they learning here?') However, I think such categorisation belittles our experience, as if worth is dependent on fitting the classifcation of subject areas, as if the world and life itself could be divided up into 'educational' and, by extension, 'non-educational'.

John Stilgoe, in his book 'Outside Lies Magic' writes of his experience of teaching the art of exploration at Harvard University: 'Many students resist the lack of topic structure because they are the children of structured learning.' As I grow as a Home Educator, I want to resist that resistance and to trust that 'exploration happens best by accident, by letting way lead on to way' and to truly live this adventure with my children.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

School's out!

On Friday, the children and I are heading to HESFES. My middle son has been counting down the weeks since the last camp in September. As soon as we get back, my husband breaks up from school and we're off on holiday again, and then again (to see some puffins!) and then it will be August! So this feels like the last week of term.

People often ask me if I give the children school holidays. My friend Jean would reply that she tried but she just couldn't get her children to stop learning!

I have a secret urge to be an unschooler: 'radical unschooling' seems really cool to me, like being a rock-star or an alpine climber. I quite fancy the Charlotte Mason style: there are nice, safe 'rules' and yet it doesn't look like school. There is also part of me that revels in having a time-table. There is something about a pristine piece of paper with neat rows of planned activities and the freshness of untouched workbooks which promise order, sequential learning and targets achieved.

I am currently indulging in 'planning next term's curriculum.' Yes, I really am planning September! It is far enough away to feel unsullied by any kind of practical consideration. I can write lists of ideas, ponder which chapter books to choose, peruse websites of maths problems, science experiments and long-term projects, without actually having to do any of it. I am a bit of a magpie: collecting the shiny ideas I come across, storing them up in my Home Ed journal or the Bookmarks on Internet Explorer. I find it very hard to leave something alone, to say, 'That looks great, but we have enough at the moment'.

I am seeking a balance of 'curriculum' and 'unschooling' and I have a sneeking suspicion that it is not about making sure the children are learning but about managing my own anxieties as I turn my back on the SatNav of formal schooling and navigate by the stars.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to lots of cake at HESFES, ice-cream in Dorset and the perfect Home Ed plan in September!

Monday, 23 June 2008


Yesterday, Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential run-off in Zimbabwe due to escalating violence. When I saw this report, I felt deeply sad, expressing my suprise, disappointment and shock aloud; I went to find my husband to tell him. I am not a political commentator and my knowledge of current affairs is largely based on the lunchtime news headlines and The News Quiz on Radio 4. I know little about the post-colonial history of Zimbabwe and I leave it up to foreign correspondents and professional analysts to offer insight and informed comment. Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who won the presidential vote in March has withdrawn because he felt that he could not ask people for their vote when that vote might cost them their lives. When I hear such stories, accounts of oppressive regimes, secret police, vicious dictators, I question my own integrity. What would I do? I would love to believe that I have the strength of character to be willing to stand up for what I hold to be true but, faced with threats, beatings, torture and death not only for myself but my family, I do not think I would. I can only salute, and mourn for, those who do, who are forced to give their health, freedom, family and lives for a liberty that I take for granted.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

We are family

My big brother and his family stayed with us this weekend, visiting from California where he is now settled. Last Sunday he took part in a Half Iron Man Triathlon - how cool is that?!
My brother left home to go to University when I was 16 and we have not lived together since. Like most siblings there was sometimes some friction in our relationship! We have not had much opportunity as we've both grown up to spend time together and develop a mature relationship.
On Friday night we went out for dinner, possibly the first time we've been on our own in 20 years! Yesterday, we all spent the day at the Natural History Museum in London. He has read my children stories, run round the block with them, swung them on his legs, carried them on his shoulders, looked at their drawings and listened to their jokes. Today we ran together and then, after Sunday Morning Brunch, they headed back to the airport and I shed a few tears.

Where will life take me from here?

Sitting down to blog this afternoon, a couple of stories caught my eye, one discussing universities. This posed the question: what is a university fundamentally about? The answer? 'It is a place of learning where students and teachers should be part of a learning community not just providers and customers.'

I am often asked how I teach the subjects I don't know anything about or how I will continue to teach post-16 qualifications. My answer is that I am seeking to raise confident learners who believe that, if there are skills and knowledge out there to be had, then they can learn them too. Although I finished full-time education a long time ago, I have not stopped learning. When I have needed to, I have sought out experts, paid for tuition, asked friends, tried things out, read books, taken courses and muddled my way through and my children are following me along this path. I aspire to create a Home Ed experience that is just such a place of learning where the children and I are part of a learning community together.

My imagination was tickled by the man selling his entire life. I wonder what someone would bid for my life? Suburban, stay-at-home mother, three children, husband with a secure job: would people be clamouring to bid or would it be seen as dull and lifeless? I have pondered this a little and I guess no bidder would be able to buy all that make my life valuable, special and colourful. The love in my life, the love of my children, my husband, my wider family, my friends, my church community would not be for sale. The curiousity, the seeking something different, the new experiences I look out for and the goals I set myself to reach, the inner me that animates my life, this also I couldn't sell.

But if I did, what would I do? This man intends to walk out of his front door with his wallet and passport and catch the first flight from the nearest airport to see where life takes him. What an adventure! I am envious. I do not envy the broken marriage or the rootlessness that enables him to do this but I am impressed at his appetite for life and I cannot deny the part of my soul that would love to do likewise. What roots me here is the love, relationships and community but I love the sense of seeing where life will take me. While there is no jumbo jet on the runway to change my life, I do have the choice to have adventure. In one way, this blog is an adventure, climbing Crib Gogh another and I have had many others and I hope to have many more, always asking, 'where will life take me from here?'

Friday, 20 June 2008


My middle son is a very enthusiastic boy. He gobbles up life (and fruit!), always wanting more. His fascinations have covered birds, the Titanic, maps in all forms and currently sports: cricket, football and badminton. No doubt tennis will join that list next week. He is one of life's optimists and his current ambition is to represent Great Britain at Badminton at the 2016 Olympics.

Another thing he has discovered recently is Hangman on the internet and I do like to sit next to him and play too. Earlier this week we were playing 'Ancient Inventions' words and it gave me some insight into the process of reading. My son guesses at letters with little idea of what word might be created (this of course is how to start hangman and he has taken my advice to start with vowels) and he just keeps on guessing. Because I have a lot of years experience of forming words, I am mentally testing out different letter combinations: an I O _ leads me to suggest an N; faced with _ U_IA_ I guess at 'SUNDIAL'. I know what combinations are likely and which are not. Of course, my newly reading son has much less experience to draw on. When this penny dropped I was even more amazed at his enthusiasm. I guess it would be similar if I were to play hangman in Lithuanian, or perhaps more like French, a language I know a little. I would quickly give up, frustrated and embarrassed. Not so my son; happy to be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb he will play on and is no doubt learning a whole bunch about word formation at the same time. Not to mention the fact that eyeliner was invented long before the abacus!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

101 Dalmatians

Home Ed for us involves a lot of Media Studies. Media Studies involves a comfy sofa and eating a lot of popcorn!
I used to see flopping on the sofa with the children watching a film as cheating, a lazy way to spend the afternoon, not at all 'Educational'. It was a slightly slovenly habit which I kept very quiet about. Then I came across Brave Writer and found not only permission, but positive encouragement to indulge in movie watching.
So most weeks we watch a film. Last week it was the 1961 version of 101 Dalmatians which we thoroughly enjoyed: a bit of a classic but I couldn't help thinking it showed its age. This week, we watched the 1996 version which I loved. I must confess, I was expecting to be disappointed, to find that a lovely, old-fashioned favourite had been up-dated and ruined. But it was brilliant: faithful, even respectful, to the original with a generous sprinkling of references to its predecessor (some snatches of dialogue being identical). The slapstick was hilarious, which made my three laugh out loud and there were some witty jokes too. (My favourite: Cruella: What kind of sycophant are you? Minion: What kind of sycophant would you like me to be?) I explained to the children a little about the famous actors in the film, we discussed the early clues to how the plot might end, we wondered if dalmatians really are born white, we chatted about how the live-action was made to have a cartoon feel and commented on the computer graphics and the stunts. After the film, a dog book was pulled of the shelf and we discovered that dalmatians can have liver coloured spots too. An old dalmatian toy was dug out and off they went to play dogs. This morning in the library my middle son found the book, very keen we bring it home as a 'chapter book' (although it will have to wait 'til September now). In fact, lots was talked about, lots was learned, and the popcorn tasted great too!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Billy McBone

The children asked me for a Poetry Tea Time this morning. We have often had this as a regular and treasured time of the week, but I've recently let it slip so I jumped at the chance. I didn't have time to bake fresh but Mr Kipling and Cadbury supplied! I came across Billy McBone by Allan Ahlberg and I wanted to share it, especially with any other Home Edders out there! Do follow the link and you can here the poet himself reading!


I have a deeply held conviction that I suspect is not true. I hold the belief that somewhere, out there, is a book that will change my life This book will hold the answer to all my dilemmas and will show me how to live. In pursuit of this quest, I love to browse amazon. I would actually choose this rather than a leisurely wander round a bookshop. I know it's a clever marketing technique but I love the bit where they show me other interesting books like the one I'm already looking at or tell me what other customers who bought my book also bought - maybe they will lead me to The One.
I have a wish list which means that every time I stumble across a book I like the sound of I can pop it on the wish list and never forget it! When I have some spare cash, I head for my wish list and order something. I also relish the challenge of trying to get my order over, but as close to as possible, to £15 so I get free 'supersaver' delivery and still don't spend too much! (That's another marketing technique that gets me every time - spend this much and get free postage and package!)
Yesterday, three books arrived. I love the look of new books, the insight promised, the new world view just waiting to be had. I love putting my little name stickers inside my pristine books and claiming them as mine, all mine! There is, however, a risk involved in ordering three at the same time, especially when I am already half-way through a novel and a Home Ed book. Books are like biscuits. Left untouched, unopened, they keep a while. But once I've opened the packet they go stale, they lose their freshness and their appeal. Books are like fruit. What once held plump and succulent promise now looks a little wrinkled and I have to force myself to take a bite. I have a few such books on my shelves. Bought in enthusiasm, dipped into, the packaging opened, a nibble taken, but then never finished. Now they sit and look sadly, accusingly, at me and I doubt I will ever read them. But how can I cast out a book I bought but never read?

These are the books which arrived yesterday:

Outside Lies Magic This one I chose because of Melissa Wiley's posts about it and I read a few pages last night. While not writing about Home Ed, much he said resonated with what I believe: 'I wonder if more students would do better in elementary and high school if teachers taught more about individual exploration of subjects and less about sliding smoothly along observational ruts.' I am really looking forward to learning to explore and to leading my children on such adventures!

Difficult Conversations This was recommended by my dear friend Gina. I want to learn to take responsibility for what I say, to deal with the stuff that bothers me and instead of fuming inwardly and then exploding: 'We avoid asking up front for what we want ... we ruminate privately or publicly wishing we could say or do something. ... At some point our tolerance breaks down and it is then we resort to aggression in one of its many forms.' I am hoping to learn skills to be different!

Writing with Power I came across this in Julie Bogart's writing. Julie has provided inspiration, encouragement, ideas and practical help in my Home Ed journey and I cannot recommend her blog, web-site, The Writer's Jungle or her on-line classes enough. She has spoken directly and indirectly into my life on a number of occasions. Since reading The Artist's Way, I have been shyly intrigued by the idea of writing and this blog is one step towards introducing some creative writing into my life. Buying this book is another step.

So, having torn off the packaging and taken a nibble, the challenge is to munch them up before they go stale!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


A few weeks ago the children and I went on a guided bird walk. I was awe-inspired by the knowledgeable gentlemen who guided us who were able to hear a tiny snatch of bird song and identify the bird - a Blackcap, a Whitethroat, a Wren, a Stonechat. It is one of those skills I would love to have. I can identify a few birds by their song but not many so my interest was caught by the story yesterday that baby birds too have to be taught their native songs. I have also read that blackbirds increase their repertoire as they grow older and that chaffinches show regional accents! The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have a great resource where you can hear each bird's call.

The baby Blackbird in our garden seems to have disappeared. Over the weekend the parents continued to be agitated and protective but no longer. Although it's a relief that the ear-splitting chink-chinking has stopped, I feel sad that the fledglings have not survived. The RSPB web-site tells me that, at best, only 30-40% of nests produce fledged young. Perhaps the older blackbirds' songs are not just only more complex, but also more melancholy - wiser and sadder.

Monday, 16 June 2008

It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time

This is Crib Gogh, and the great people I climbed it with. It was possibly one of the most frightening things I've ever done! What you can't see in the photo are the tears on my face: tears of terror and relief that the worst was over. While I am unlikely to plunge to my death in most of the situations I find myself in, I can often detect echoes of the same feelings in the little challenges of life. Take blogging for example.
There are so many whizzy things I'd like to be able to do with my blog. At least, they seem whizzy to a technophobe like me! By whizzy, I think what I mean is "looks good, seems a great idea but I'm scared of trying." One thing I like in reading other blogs is the coloured words that open another web-page as if by magic and I want to be able to do this. I have accessed the help pages and I think I've got it sorted, so I thought I'd try linking to some colouring pages that the children enjoy. (I hope it works!)

Also on my 'to figure out' list are getting the photos to appear where I want them and creating a list of other blogs I read.

I do have a tendency to make a mountain out of a molehill. Put another way, I set the bar way too high. With the photos I've turned this into the task of figuring out flickr, sorting and filing all my photos, working out how to use my camera properly after at least 3 years of ownership and getting some photo software to make my pictures look better. The task has become so monumental that I don't know where to begin.
And of course, if I mess up, it's here on my blog for anyone to see. The Artist's Way reminds me that "Mistakes are necessary! Stumbles are normal. These are baby steps. Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves."

As a Home Ed mum, I believe it's really important that I should keep learning new stuff. The process of learning is sometimes hard and painful and that is easy to forget. Two years ago I had some swimming technique lessons. I learned a lot about learning: I found that I could listen to instructions, understand them perfectly and be completely incapable of making my arms do what I had been told; I discovered that I could get the hang of one action and then it would go totally out of the window when I tried to add correct breathing; I would completely forget to concentrate and find myself half-way up the pool wondering what I was supposed to be practising; I felt really mad with my teacher when he asked, "What was that?" and felt brim-full of pride when he said, "Well done."
When I find myself telling my children that they are not trying, when I am frustrated at them for not doing what I've so clearly explained, when they get something muddled and confused, I try to remember all this. And I try to keep learning new stuff so I don't forget! So, it's back to those help pages for the next thing on the list!

Sports Day

These are my fantastic children. This post is about them. I wanted to put the picture at the end, but I can't see how to do it. It must be possible: it'll go on my list of 'things to work out how to do'!
A few weeks ago, my middle son told me that he wanted to go to school. This has been an occasional comment in our house over the years and there is always a reason. Once, it was because the teacher would play with him! This time it was because schools had a Sports Day. "We can have a Sports Day," said I, "Why don't you start planning it!" I left the three of them with a sheet of paper scribbling down everyone they'd invite and all the races they wanted to run. I felt rather intimidated by what I'd taken on, but my dear friend Kate begged for the opportunity to be in charge of it (truly, she did!) and with a sigh of relief I handed over the con.
Saturday came around bright and sunny, ( all part of Kate's meticulous planning). She had everything sorted: equipment from the local primary school, certificates for every place in every race and a minute by minute timetable. Altogether fifteen children took part, including my three, another Home Ed friend, families from church and some neighbours. The children had a great time and it was a joy to see their grins, their determination, their cheering and their teamwork.
The adults had a great time, supporting, chatting, chilling in the sunshine and being obstacles in the obstacle race!
I took my camera but completely forgot to take any pictures - Duh!! But I have two images in my mind's eye: my little girl came a spectacular last in the bean bag on the head race but walked the whole way like the Queen on a red carpet, her head held high with the bean bag carefully poised and a shy smile of achievment on her face that she hadn't dropped it.
In the relay race it just so happened that all of my three children were doing a leg at the same time, all three running towards me at the same moment, bright in the sunshine, smiles wide with delight and I thought, "Those are my children, people I brought into the world !" and I was proud and pleased to be their Mum!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Splashing About

For a while now I have by the side of the blog pool. I have enjoyed watching the confident swimmers, showing off all their tricks and recently I have begun to envy them. I have dipped in an occasional toe by posting a comment or two and I have begun to really want to dive in myself. Fear, of it being too complicated, of having nothing to say, of starting and giving up, of being too busy, has held me back. But this week, something shifted, and all of a sudden, without too much thought, I jumped right in! And here I am, splashing about!

However, the fears and doubts are clamouring for attention. What about a blog list? Photos? Links? What am I allowed to link to, what's the etiquette, what's legal? Should I name my children, or give them blog names to protect their identities?

I have managed to add a photo, but it was a painful experience!! Emboldened by successfully adding one, I tried a second, but it did not appear in the post where I wanted it and the layout looked all wrong. I couldn't figure out how to delete it, then I lost this screen and could only get to my post in Html. This was late on Friday and I was tired and far too proud to publish a post that looked stupid. So I resorted to cutting and pasting the text, deleting the whole post and starting again, without the picture!

I am remembering the challenge that propelled me from the safety and frustration of the edge to the fun and fear of swimming: "If I didn't have to do it perfectly, what would I try?" Can I let my blog be less than perfect? And if I can manage that, can I extend it to the rest of my life? Now, that would be an achievement worth posting about!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

This is the little chap...

... however, I am not optimistic about his survival last night. We can find no trace of him and, although we've seen his parents around, they are unbothered by our approach: we are not worth chinking at. I'd like to think that's because they've reaslised that we're friends, but I fear it's because there is nothing for us to threaten!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Is there any hope?

Today, we have learned a lot about blackbirds. We have a blackbird nest in a leylandii hedge bordering our garden. A few weeks ago we watched Mrs Blackbird fly back and forth with beakfulls of dry grass. Then it all went quiet for a bit, apart from the occasional appearance of Mrs Blackbird at the bird table. Last week, both proud parents were busy finding worms and flying into the hedge, with them hanging streamer like from their beaks. I calculated that they were due to fledge this weekend, any day now. Yesterday, the neighbour had workmen in to trim the leylandii and I duely warned them to take care of the nest. The adults were jumpy and noisy yesterday evening, but I figured if they were still protective, there was something still there to protect and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Imagine my horror today to be alerted by the frantic "chink, chink, chink" of the distressed parents and the sight of a black cat, under the nest site, pawing at and unidentified object! I chased the cat away and peered squeamishly from a distance at a bedraggled heap of feathers which I took to be a dead chick. Vociferously blaming the tree pruners for exposing the nest to danger, I retreated indoors, uncertain whether to show the children as a nature lesson, or keep them indoors for the afternoon (until dear husband returned to remove the corpse) to save them from upset.

However, I had a look on the RSPB website and found a page on abandoned blackbird chicks. Apparently this behaviour is normal! The chicks leave the nest, creeping and fluttering, before they can fly and will even leave early if they are disturbed as a 'anti-predatory adaption'! I do not see how a helpless, flightless chick, sitting on my lawn is in any way better protected than in its nest. It can take a week to learn to fly.

It's still there, and the parents are very busy checking up on it, bringing it titbits and chink, chink, chinking at any threat. I really can't see it lasting the night with neigbourhood cats and foxes on the prowl: my eldest wants to stay up all night with a flashlight to guard it.

I, too, have an irrational urge to protect it. While I am telling the children that this is "nature's way" and that only 30-40% of broods successfully produce adults, I want to offer it worms and provide it with a place safe from predators. I have considered building it a shelter but I wouldn't know where to begin designing something that the parents could access but the local carnivores could not. So it will have to take its chances and, even if it dies its life will not have been in vain, because today, we have learned a lot about blackbirds.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


I have house guests arriving today. Currently the house is in complete disarray. I am persuading myself that I can't really do anything until the bed linen has finished the washing cycle and that time planning the rest of the morning is time well spent; but I am recognising that pattern of mine, of which I am newly conscious, of leaving it all to a crisis point to generate the necessary energy to do it. Also, and I think this is a 24-carat reason, I have to post in my new blog. After all, I only started it yesterday and I want to start out as I mean to go on!

My children have got out at least 100 soft toys and playmobile characters to perform the wedding of my middle son's favourite stuffed rabbit, Rosie, to my eldest's Blue Teddy (he was never one for fanciful names!) Watching, somewhat impatiently, thinking of the mess that needed tidying up, I noticed the voices in my head having a heated arguement. The negative, doubting voices wondering what other children of this age would think, the ones with Playstation and Wii. Surely playing weddings with soft toys with your little sister is not cool: are they socially disadvantaged? On the other hand, says my radical unschooler voice, look at the imagination, the social imitation, the language, the inclusion. And then, and this is something I'm just beginning to learn, there was another voice saying, "Just watch, don't comment, don't judge, don't use this to justify or doubt your choice of Home Ed, just watch." And so I did. And actually, two soft toys getting married isn't too interesting, but at least it was quiet in my head!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Jump right in

Ive been considering a writing a blog for while now: somewhere to write, somewhere to create, somewhere to share my reflections on my life. I've been so encouraged, so inspired by blogs I've read and I've thought, "I could do that," but it's quickly replaced by "I'd like to do that but ..." and out come all the doubts. So I'm jumping right in, inspired by the idea "If I didn't have to do it perfectly, I would try ..." (not mine, but Julia Cameron's in The Artist's Way) so here I am, trying blogging.

Today we saw some greenfinches in the garden. I have heard greenfinches often, and chaffinches and goldfinches, but they never seem to come to our feeder. Illogically, I feel rejected! So I was pleased to see one scoffing his breakfast this morning, and another loitering close by, and a third came to join them. We watched a while, and laughed (quietly) as each time they took a seed, the husk was delicately spat out. As soon as they had gone my son ran out to collect the discarded husks. I am amazed that a bird can be so dexterous with its beak. And so we had a little pile of emptied husks which had, just a few minutes earlier, been inside the mouth of a greenfinch. It felt like real contact with nature, a precious moment amidst the morning chores!