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.