Saturday, 19 December 2009
Sporadic blogging this week shows that often posting has been one of the things to take the hit. I have to be purposeful, zealous, ruthless even, if I want to let next week be the fun, peaceful, nurturing family time I so much want it to be. It will not happen by accident.
Towards that end, I will pause here, wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas, a Happy New Year, and hope that you come back to find me in January.
In the words a friend scribbled in her Christmas card to me just today: "Do nothing: You know it makes sense!"
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
On Sunday we held Carol Singing on our drive. With funding from the church we were able to provide bubbly and mince pies, with fruit juice for the little ones, and we put an invite through everyone's door. One of the prayer group is an excellent guitarist with a beautiful voice and her husband rigged her up with microphone and amplifier. The music sounded great and people could sing along, or not, and chat too. Halfway through, the rain began to fall, cold and heavy, and I despaired, imagining people would scatter back to the warmth of their homes, but instead umbrellas were fetched and the singing continued! Many stayed to chat at the end, with much reminiscing over Street Parties for the Queen's Silver Jubilee and the Royal Wedding, and requests for 'next year'!
One of my children asked me what it was for. I gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it was for relationship. We are all busy people, it takes a few seconds to walk from the door to the car, and few are the chances to chat with the people we live alongside. Hopefully Sunday's singing will have sown seeds for relationships to begin, to renew, to grow and to blossom and for neighbour to know neighbour, to care and love and help out. I hope we have done just a little thing towards building a community.
Monday, 14 December 2009
Friday, 11 December 2009
Being out all day means that there are none of those ten minutes spaces for a quick e-mail or phone call and it's easy to feel that nothing got done. But as I write that I am challenged on my idea of what 'something' getting done is. The heart of our Home Education and the heart of our family is spending time together, experiencing things together and having fun together. And spending the whole day together is, definitely, getting that done.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
If you, like me, need a bit of a giggle, take two-and-a-half minutes to watch this. It will brighten your day!
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
I find myself spending five minutes at a time, just watching their antics, counting them, scrutinising the tank for babies (is that a bit of floating algae or a new-born?) and it is my first concern when I come downstairs in the morning to count them. If you're stuck for a Christmas present for anyone at all, why not get them some Sea-Monkeys?
Monday, 7 December 2009
I left my mum's house and drove straight into hammering rain, with the windscreen wipers on full speed I still could not see where I was going. My friend and I decided that the race would, in all likelihood, be cancelled but had no contact number and her dad couldn't find anything on the web-site as she coached him remotely around it on her mobile. So we pressed on. We arrived in the wind-blasted town of Peacehaven on the South Coast (incidentally where I spent many hours mastering juctions as I learned to drive over twenty years ago) under dull but dry skies. We emerged from race headquarters a little while later to blue skies!
However, that did not affect the sheer quantity of water on the course: we were slowed to walking pace as we slithered in single-file past path-wide puddles, or tottered along slippery ridges between muddy ruts. The wind added to the excitement, gusting visciously just as footing was lost on the slippery surface meaning that staying upright became an achievement in itself. Up the Downs we climbed, before descending at a hurtling pace like so many overgrown children running full pelt down a hill. It was enough to make me laugh out-loud at the sheer madness of it all!
The hills and the miles continued and I was thrilled to see the end, although so much of my mental capacity had been engaged in avoiding a faceful of mud that I had not had the usual road race feeling of counting down the distance markers. I got a spot prize, too, for my stupendous sprint finish (or possibly at random!) and a free mince pie. And a reminder of why it is such fun to run!
Friday, 4 December 2009
Similarly, I carry around thoughts that, when I get all stirred up, cloud my vision and make a mess of things. A 'good' mother always cooks fresh, has a moment to listen and never tells her child that not liking the new margarine is 'just silly'. A 'good' friend is always available and always cares. A 'good' home educator makes learning fun and is always encouraging. A 'good' wife is always interested in her husband's day at work and never minds when he is a few minutes late home.
As I said, I wish I could extract these lists, have a clear-sighted view of them, cross off what I don't think is true and generally give my tank a thorough clean.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
My youngest is just on the threshold of reading and she is very excited. She is also beginning to be frustrated that she cannot write enough words to write down her own stories and poems. So, I am actively working on her reading with her. It seems to me that she is a much more visual reader and sounding out words doesn't work so well, even when it is possible, so I bought some flashcards which she enjoys. We've gone back to some Ladybird phonics books and this morning I dug out a set of easy animal stories and offered her the goal of being able to read them by Christmas if she practices hard.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
We spent a few moments on the internet last night looking at a story of a boy chased by a deer which just wanted to lick him, reading how to make a deer-lick, finding out that animals need salt for bone, muscle and antler growth, looking at salt-licks to buy for wildlife or for 'small furries' and discovering the Norse legend of the divine cow Audhumla licking Odin's grandfather into being. Then we e-mailed our friend at Bushy Park to find out how the resident deer herds get their salt.
I am not sure, nor do I care, which part of the 'curriculum' this would fall into, nor could I ever have set this as a target or planned it. But I learned something new, in a context which means I am unlikely to forget it, and the children did too. That, I am sure, is what education is all about.
Friday, 27 November 2009
They spin around in their jam-jar sized tank appearing very worked up for such little creatures who can surely not have a care in the world! They are not affectionate, or even aware of my existence, and yet I feel very responsible for their survival and I must confess to really enjoying having them as pets.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
I have not really spent the last two days in a flat spin, running from one thing to another, tired after a busy weekend, telling my son that perhaps I should just stay up all night and then I might get everything on my 'to do' list done, worried that when I take on too much it is my children who suffer!
So, I'm admitting it,I'm coming clean, I'm really, really bad at time management. I consistently under-estimate how long things will take. I regularly fall into the trap of convincing myself I can squeeze a little bit more in. I often tell myself that "it'll only take a moment." Perhaps, if I am honest with myself, I will begin to learn to pace things better and have more peace.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Each constituency needs a coordinator to gather the various copies together and send to the MP and my area didn't have one. Despite trying to avoid it, I eventually decided to volunteer for the role so I set out yesterday to get a few signatures. The second person I asked refused point blank. She believes that Home Educated children should be registered and so supports the Bill. I was dumbfounded and extremely upset.
Of course I know in my head that every person has an absolute right to their opinions and that not every one will agree. In my gut I wanted to scream. Just because a piece of legislation has some parts that are ok, if there are other parts that are fundamentally wrong, it should not be allowed to go ahead. Registration will solve none of the problems: problems for which there is no evidence of existence. School children have to be registered because the parent has asked the state to take on the responsibility for their education and so the state needs to know who they've got. I haven't asked the state to do this for me, so they don't need to know where my children are.
If I do nothing and this Bill is passed by a government obsessed with controlling every aspect of our lives, I will regret not taking a stand. If I campaign, I am vulnerable to the fear, anger and dismay which this issue stirs up in me. I will get a few more signatures from people I know are sympathetic and I will leave it at that. I just hope it will be enough.
Monday, 23 November 2009
I am also shattered, having left home early both mornings and just been home in time to say goodnight to the children. Looking over what I have planned for the week, I seem to have realistic expectations and not too much scheduled. I just need to resist that voice that tells me I can probably squeeze a bit more in!
Friday, 20 November 2009
What it has highlighted, although I guess I knew this if I'd stopped to think, is that we are not doing anything that would be classed as Science. We have done in the past and we will do again, but this term, nothing. So I found a game on the Internet to do with classifying living things and my daughter played it while I helped the boys with their bookclub work earlier this week. Is that rounding her education nicely, or papering over an imaginary crack, motivated only by the desire to fill in an empty box?
Today I have scheduled some work on our Shakespeare project and a poetry tea, but we have a game of Monopoly (technically Los Angeles in a Box, but you know what I mean!) which we didn't finish yesterday. We were due to go to choir but it was cancelled so we had a spare afternoon. I offered Poetry Tea out with the world's most delicious Brownies and this was greeted with polite nods. I suggested we could bake our own and play our new game, the response to this was loud cheers. So, today, should I let my planner keep me on track: after all, I did designate Shakespeare a priority? Or do I embrace the freedom of Home Ed and play the game until we're done (ssh, don't tell the inspectors)?
Of course, I could dress it up and call it 'Team Building', 'Personal and Social Education' or even 'Business Studies'. I could rub out what I have written (there's commitment - it only ever was pencilled in) and put "have fun", "be spontaneous" or "play games" in the appropriate box. Which are the true stars by which I am navigating and which are just lamps I have lit in the dark when it all feels a bit scary?
Thursday, 19 November 2009
The Alex Rider series was one I felt I should check out first, if only so I could discuss any tricky issues with him. I was completely gripped and we raced each other through the whole set.
His last trip to the library brought Twilight into our house. So far I have been left cold by the craze surrounding in these books, tagging them as dark young adult fiction for teenage girls. My son knew that I might not be happy and asked if it would be ok to read it. I said I would have a look first, there is much in both High School America and gothic horror that I feel 10 is too young for. I am won over, hook, line and sinker, and have found myself sitting down mid making the bed to sneak in a few extra pages. I have seldom read any book that has had such an effect, and I have fallen hopelessly in love with a fictional character, feeling weak at the knees and light in the stomach at his romantic and heroic exploits, his tortured passion and his super-human power. It's taken a while for my son to get a look in, and the book needs to be back at the library on Saturday, but he seems to be enjoying it so far. For totally different reasons, I'm sure.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
The other diversion we have returned with is Tantrix; at first appearance a very simple game of coloured tiles which soon becomes fiendishly complex. Simple enough for my six-year-old to grasp, the set consists of hexagonal tiles with coloured paths, either straight or sharply or gently curved. These can be put together to make long paths, the idea being to create closed loops. It can be a solitary puzzle or a shared, competitive game and twice already since we got home late yesterday afternoon, I have found myself on the floor with a child poring over the tiles.
I did have some 'proper' stuff planned today, but maybe I'll just put the kettle on, make us all a cup of tea, and settle down to play!
Friday, 13 November 2009
Last week, Kathy, at Restoration Place, posted about this 'family homeschool planner'. I was immediately won over, my credit card details winging their way over the Atlantic so that I too could own one and aspire to the kind of peace, organization and structure teasingly promised.
My copy has now arrived and I stayed up later than I intended last night filling things in and poring over the pages. Not everything is what I need (I am still wondering what kind of homeschool needs an attendance register? Surely, you'd just notice if one of your kids wasn't there?) but I love the space for weekly priorities, the clarity of layout helping me to see which areas I am covering well and which I am neglecting, the interesting articles and the planning pages for each month, with space to fill in 'Books to Enjoy' and 'Enrichment Activities'.
Tempted though I am to believe that this humble planner will transform my life, I know that it's not going to. However, I think it will help me to get a clearer overview of what we are doing and to be more intentional with my goals.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
I had noticed, with increasing frequency, visits from the ambulance crews but had no idea what might be wrong. Eventually it got to the point where I took my courage in both hands, crossed the road and rang the bell. I introduced myself and was invited in. We chatted and I learned that they were a German Jewish couple and had arrived in England, separately, just before World War 2. Her husband was elderly and now weak and frail with recurring health problems, hence the regular dashes to hospital.
I have dropped in a few more times since, just to say hello and to see if there is anything they need. I only met the gentleman once before this week and I met him again on Tuesday. He was bright and lively, bemoaning the waste of everybody's time that his frequent collapses were causing, he did not want to be such a burden. As I left, I wished him well. He smiled broadly, and clasped his hands to his heart. He thanked me for my good wishes and said that he would hold onto them.
This morning, their next-door-neighbour called to let me know that he died in the early hours. She, along with his wife, had helped him into the ambulance in the night and he had cracked a joke about having two ladies on his arms. He died peacefully, in clear mind and without prolonged suffering.
I know that his wife has friends there with her and I know that a Rabbi will be coming today. I have barely begun a relationship with them and yet it doesn't seem right to be normal this morning. Laughter or light-hearted blogging seems out of place. I am inexperienced in the ways of mourning, of what is appropriate and right at such a time. This is compounded by the fact that they were a devoutly Jewish couple and I am unsure as to what is culturally correct; I would like to take a cake but I'm not sure about Kosher regulations (although I guess the internet would be a good place to start).
I feel very sad. I keep stopping by the window, staring at the house, wondering at the grief and shock on the inside.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Although the causes of such distorted relationships with food are many and far from easy to untangle, the article identified two in particular:
“The playground is an incredibly strong environment when it comes to forming
their views and opinions. It has become almost impossible for girls to extract
themselves from some negativity towards their bodies and food.”
“For a lot of the young people I treat, food also becomes an issue when Mum
isn’t sitting down to dinner with everyone else, or is off preparing a separate
meal — or eating nothing.”
I'm glad that I'm fortunate enough to be able to Home Educate my children. I'm glad that it is our home, our family and those with whom we chose to share our lives which will shape their views and opinions. I'm glad that all three of my children know how to bake muffins and, just yesterday, sat at the table with me, tucking into chocolate cake, reading poems with a friend and enjoying being together.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
and my husband took her to the park on Saturday. Off she went! No tears, no drama, ripe and ready to do it, it came easy. On Sunday we had a quick walk up to our local recreation ground for her to do a lap of honour, pedalling away, perfectly balanced, riding her bicycle! I forgot to take the camera though to capture her wide, proud smile.
I was reminded of her achievement, her grin and my pride in her this morning as I was praying. As I wobble along in my life, there are certain weaknesses I have that would cause me to crash every time. I have a real tendency to pride. I've just spent a week on retreat, an experience I loved, drawing me nearer to Jesus and also providing a much needed break in my busy schedule. But it doesn't take me long to start feeling that I must be very holy, better, in fact, than most folk, closer to God and that they would all have a lot to learn from me ... except humility of course! This is where I need my stabilisers. Why I'm not really ready yet to spiritually cycle unsupported, let alone go mountain biking. But my heavenly father is patient with me, he takes me out in the park often to practice, and one day I'll be ready. It's not that the potential to wobble and fall off will have gone, but that I will have learned to hold my balance and not to topple, or at least, not so often. And God will not be standing there with a scowl on his face saying, "About time too, what took you so long?" but with a huge grin of love and pride.
Monday, 9 November 2009
This morning I decided to tackle this. I have spent the last half-hour searching on blogger help, peering at indecipherable HTML code and importing code (from a site which told me that if I could read Chinese there would be additional detail to the instructions) in order to be able to reply directly. However, the promised link to click on has not appeared. I am left with the slightly uneasy feeling that I may have added something irrevocable to my template code which will gradually destroy my blog like some flesh-eating parasite, and still no way of replying directly!
So, I have replied to the comments by posting comments of my own, so scroll back and take a look. I have not cooked lunch, or started maths with the children. My planned tales of cycling and pet spiders will have to wait until later in the week!
Friday, 6 November 2009
The idea of 'paddling' and 'dam building' was included so I made sure we were armed with three complete sets of clothes, all wrapped around hot water bottles, as well as hot chocolate and snacks and, this morning, we set off into the wilds of Surrey.
We met up with a lovely group of mums (one of whom I did know from a few years back) and lively children of varying ages and we strolled into the woods. Sticks, water and leaves were in abundant supply, with plenty of opportunities for collecting, climbing, investigating, paddling, dipping and running. We found an old tram-swing bridge which one or two of the children balanced across. Of course, it was my children. (Sometimes it's easier not to watch!)A little later we came across a shallow-ish part of the stream. My middle son took to 'extreme paddling' and was soon waist deep in November cold water, after a quick duel.Eventually, wellingtons emptied (for the second time this week), we meandered along and my son was stoic in the face of potential hypothermia. We met the alpacas of Chilworth Manor, the daddy of whom, Odin, was just as curious about us as we were about him.
By this stage my two wettest children were ready for the car so we hurried back and soon they were wrapped up in warm clothes, picnic blankets and sipping hot chocolate - worth getting soaked for!
It was one of the best mornings I have spent in ages. I enjoyed the adult company and the chance to be in the fresh air and surrounded by nature. My children had a great time with the others and the chance to really play in nature in a way that can seem so elusive in suburban life.
Even the best plans don't always work, but this morning was the perfect example of preparation and spontaneity going hand in hand, and the serendipity of the simple.
Thanks for the photos, uploaded from the e-group.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
I wonder what our Local Education Authority, or the many skeptics who are so fond of questions about socialization and examinations, would make of her? Of course, this is pure fantasy, but I was still left with the feeling that her life and her education lacked very little. I pondered whether such a situation would be 'allowed' in real-life society and I am pretty sure that this is exactly the kind of thing Graham Badman and all who are uncomfortable with Home Ed would like to see eradicated. There were no safe-guards for this girl and, had her father been brutally abusing her then there would have been no-one to protect her but this was not the case. She had a loving and close relationship with her father and they each respected and adored the other. But would many consider such an upbringing to be so unconventional to also be prevented? Would some consider such isolation or such disorganised learning, (no goals or attainment targets, no progress reports or testing,) a failure to educate?
There are many aspects of other people's parenting that I am uncomfortable with. I have heard loving mothers say how much their child hates school day after day, and yet they continue to force attendance, heart-felt believing that it is the right, or only, thing to do. And there are the tennis or gymnastic or athletic stars-of-the future who practice for hours a day on top of their school work and feel that anything less than perfection is failure. Could this ever be seen as abusive behaviour on the part of the parent? I would not behave towards my children in these ways but I would not suggest that these parents should be registered, annually inspected and required by law to change their life-style if I didn't like what I saw.
I am reminded of Laura Dekker, the fourteen-year-old Dutch girl who has been banned from attempting to sail around the world. Now, I know nothing about sleep management or sailing and maybe the enterprise is folly, but the arguement that one reason she should not embark on her adventure is that she will miss out on schooling seems to me to be laughable. Surely any person capable of sailing single-handed across the North Sea has a very developed skill set. I cannot imagine that any person with the strength of mind to complete the challenges that she has and hopes to, would be dettered from learning anything she set her mind to or that she needed to. Really, what do the authorities think a school will provide that following her passion and experiencing life to its fullest will not?
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
and with wellies full of water.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
He lives in a small town about half-an-hour's drive away and I discovered him through my great-aunt, whom I also met for the first time this year, who has a keen interest in family history. I was treated to a 'proper tea' with sandwiches, scones and cake which made me feel very special and I enjoyed a pleasant hour looking at his old family photos and showing some that I have recently discovered. He grew up on the same village street as my father and attended the same secondary school and I have a couple of photos of them together, along with another brother, clearly much more interested in going off to play than in posing for the camera. What touched me deeply was how very similar these two men are, both in striking physical resemblance and also in mannerism and speech and it was as if I was with an alternative version of my father. I realise that I, too, am part of this family line, mixed up with another, and wonder what I have inherited, genetically and culturally. How deep our family ties go and how precious it is to know something of where we have come from.
Monday, 2 November 2009
I also find it very pleasant to be stepping back into routine again this morning, with a well-planned few weeks ahead. I have had to examine what our priorities are and have come up with these: making good progress with 'The Lord of the Rings' (so that we are not still reading it when the children start their first jobs!); practice for the Primary Maths Challenge which the boys will sit at the end of November; the boys' on-line book group which also has a 30th November dead-line; Choir rehearsals for the concert, also last weekend of November!; and our Shakespeare project which I would like to culminate in a visit to the Globe Theatre. Once all the November things are done I reckon we will be well into Christmas planning and preparation and maybe some card-making!
I find it very soothing to have such a sense of clarity and, even if we don't stick exactly to our plan, it is good to have a road map.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
The children also enjoyed swimming at our local pool and a slide show from Grandpa Brian, always a highlight of our trip, where we look at a selection of pictures going back to the 1970s when my brother, Rob and I were growing up. It is always interesting to see their reaction when they see old pictures and try to recognise who is who! My parents are visiting us again tomorrow, but this time they will be looking after the children as we go off on a two day break to a Bed and Breakfast at Denbies Vineyard, near Dorking in Surrey. What a treat!
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Monday, 26 October 2009
My poor garden has been sadly neglected while I was in Uganda, ill and then getting back on top of life, the day is set fair and I am hoping to re-plant a bed by dusk.
I spent last half-term re-acting to events and running to stay still after the shaky and swine flu infected beginning so I will also be putting some time aside this week to get an overview of what the coming seven weeks hold and making some space to prepare, practically, mentally and spiritually for Christmas. Julie's post on Finding a Rhythm has provided some inspiration.
My husband and I have booked two nights in a local Bed and Breakfast to enjoy some time alone in each other's company, something we have not made time for in the last couple of years.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
I will be back next Saturday and posting again later that week.
Friday, 16 October 2009
So, this suggestion has not been supported by the Government of the Opposition. Is there another agenda here? Perhaps an economic one: the earlier children are in school, the sooner their parents are back into full-time work or the cheaper the child-care for those who already are? While I am sure that these financial pressures are very real for many families, it does not seem a good argument for early full-time education. It would be good to look at our schooling paradigms with fresh eyes and to see the needs of the children, their social, emotional and educational needs, put first. The rest, surely, should be worked around that?
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
She was delighted with the aquisition and we immediately began to play with her "Purrfect Pal" kitten. It was hungry and meowed piteously (and, after a very short while, irritatingly.) Speed-reading the instructions I figured out how to feed it, but we had no food and no money to buy food. Nowhere in the instructions could I find any information on how to obtain cash. The cat continued to cry and occasionally lie down and I began to worry that it was collapsing with hunger and would, before too long, die of starvation.
Fortunately at this point the game switched off as it was out of power and we called a halt while we re-charged, not just the console but our own emotional tanks. Once energy was restored, my middle-son had a play and discovered the games. Having a quick try of one he was awarded $0.00 but realised immediately and triumphantly that, had he played better, he might have earned some hard cash. With adult help, enough money for the cat food was won and the cat was fed. Oh, the relief! By this stage he was pining for grooming, play and affection. We also discovered that his litter tray had 73 'kitten-clumps' in it, which took some time to clear up.
After the children were in bed I decided I would play a few games to stock up the cupboard with food and fill up the piggy bank. If she saves enough, she can choose a new kitten and I wanted her to be able to design her own pet when she gets up this morning. An hour later I was still sitting there, tapping out electronic tunes (do it correctly enough and the prize is a wopping $3:00, nearly a box of cat-food!), periodically pausing to groom, play with or pet the cat. It's a pretty demanding beast.
Each of its four basic needs are charted with 'thermometers' and I finally felt able to turn in when all of them were registering green and low. I had met the needs of my electronic cat and I could go to bed satisfied with a job well done. Although I know they will rise again, at least I can easily check on what is required and take appropriate action. If only my children were so easy!
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Picture the scene yesterday. She is sitting on the table, giggling that this is easy. We have added ten to twenty, thirty, forty and so on. We have graduated to adding ten to twenty-one, thirty-two. Now we are making numbers with pencils for 'lots of ten' and pennies. I'm trying to give her nine, but I can't because I only have a pencil, worth ten, and I can't break it up, what can I do? She takes the pencil and hands me a penny. Then we figure out what she's got left, now she's added nine by adding ten and taking away one. It's such a fun game that she's asking for more and begging her brother to come and see. I am hamming it up, crying that I can't give her nine, only ten, and I don't want to give her ten, I only want to give her nine. 'Trust me,' she says, taking my pencil and handing me a penny. It's so good, we have to show daddy when he gets in from work.
It's amazing what backing off, unlocking horns and trying a new approach can do. It's amazing how good it is for the soul to giggle with your daughter. It's amazing there's always a second chance.
Monday, 12 October 2009
"We're going the long-cut, because we are better!"
Now, that's my kind of reasoning!
Friday, 9 October 2009
Of course his mother did not know that her son would turn out to invent the radio, to be prolifically decorated or ascribed by the British Postmaster General as being the saviour of the survivors of the Titanic; it must have been scary at times when her son did not follow any kind of conventional educational route, to the point of failing his exams. And of course, not all children will grow up to make world-changing inventions. But I was inspired by this story to wonder what would happen if more children were allowed to discover and then follow their passion, indulge themselves more in the things that fill them with joy and interest, were less constrained by a National Curriculum of a little of everything and less bound by a traditional school-exam-university path. How might our world be changed and who else might be saved?
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
I believe the questioner usually means, "What will you do when they don't want to learn what you want them to?" While I am uncomfortably aware that this flies in the face of conventional schooling, I increasingly feel that if they don't want to learn something then that is because it is the wrong thing or the wrong time. While I do my best to provide educational experiences which I think they will enjoy, benefit from and be developed by, I accept my limitations that I can never see into their minds to know what they are ripe to receive. If something is absorbing them they I assume that is the right thing for them at the right time. Anything thing else feels like seed on the rocky ground.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
"If you’ve got tears, you’re done. There’s nothing more to discuss or do that day. It’s gone too far."
Last week I reviewed what I was doing and split up the 'table-work' so that yesterday morning all we attempted was handwriting. My middle son wrote three sentences. My little girl, seven words. Having written their very best, they were tired, the pencil-work was getting sloppy and and I was beginning to find fault. I told them to stop. They looked at me with uncertain faces: was I about to shout? No, I simply said that that was enough for today (as I slipped away the lines from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' that I had optimistically printed off for them to copy-write!) We retired to the sofa and began "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" and the epic "The Lord of the Rings". I felt close to the children, relaxed, and read for far longer than I normally do.
In the back of my mind I could imagine a school-teacher or an inspector criticising how much, or rather, how little we had done. I could hear the voice saying "They've got to learn to push through," or "How will they ever learn anything if that's all they do?" It was scary. I knew I could have made them write more and probably done some maths too, but I know that it would have been poor-quality, miserable work. I also know that my relationship with them would have been frayed a little. And, while we would have had more to show the fictitious inspector, I do not believe that they would have learned any more, except, perhaps, that appearances count for more that reality. So, while there were few words on the page, I believe that their handwriting improved a little from careful practice and they learned that quality matters, their feelings are heard and that we don't always have to fight!
Monday, 5 October 2009
Saturday, 3 October 2009
Friday, 2 October 2009
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Monday morning sees our biggest hit of what would look to an outsider like ‘school work’. All three children have maths workbooks and do some writing practice and the boys do some work on their book-reading project. It isn’t working very well: it is too much in one go and has driven my middle son to tears nearly every week this term. I am finally wise enough to encourage him to stop, to have a break, to have a snack and to come back to it, but he is adamant that he wants to finish, to get it done. Often this means that he makes rushed or angry mistakes, slowing the whole process down, leading to more tears.
Yesterday it was me in a sobbing heap. I had the washing to put away, the house to vacuum, a blind to fix, my blog to write, all before quarter-to-ten because I wanted to take the children swimming early so that we would be home in time to read two chapters of our chapter book which we won’t have finished in September unless we get a move on. It all just felt too much and I was yelling at the children for not getting on with their chores and so taking up my time by making me nag them. I am not sure where I feel all this pressure from but I know that it has a bad effect on us all.
I have declared today a day off. The children have been released from their chores, including getting dressed and brushing their hair (we’re not going out so I don’t have to worry what the neighbours will think.) I’m hoping to get the paints out later and I’m going to bake some gingerbread so we can have a poetry tea. They have just been in to find out if I really mean it: I do. But we have agreed that they probably still need to brush their teeth!
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Monday, 28 September 2009
I was left wondering what the next generation might find surprising about me when I am older. Writing a blog? Writing novels? Running half-marathons? Taking an alternative to mainstream education and home schooling? Mountain climbing? Really? Her? (Not all of these examples are really me, not yet anyway.) I would like to think that what is important to me now always will be and that, in later life, I would in some small way be an inspiration, an old lady who wears purple. But I would also like to think that I am happy not to be defined by what I do, that I am willing to let things go when they no longer fit my life, that I can enjoy what I enjoy and treasure happy memories.
Saturday, 26 September 2009
I wish I had a little more child-like joy, a little more silliness, a bit more kid in me. I would like to take myself a little less seriously and laugh a lot more. As I pass another sign-post on my way to maturity, I hope I am a little less grown-up this year!
Thursday, 24 September 2009
The cookies were chocolate chip cookies which has added to my Fair Trade angst which leads me to my Baby Steps. Baby Step Number One is going to be making sure that all the things that we sometimes buy Fair Trade, we always buy Fair Trade: that is coffee, tea, sugar, bananas and orange juice. Yes, these are more expensive but they are easily available in my local supermarket so I cannot fall back on the excuse of it being hard work.
Baby Step Number Two is to start using Fair Trade chocolate chips. I cook with quite a lot of chocolate chips and I have found that Doves Farm produce a Fair Trade version and that a local health food shop is a supplier. (Does anyone in the UK have any other suggestions?) They are not cheap, especially if I do end up ordering them on-line, and I guess that is where principles can bite. But I know the truth is, if this is a fair and right price to pay, then I have to ask myself what paying less is.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Yesterday we received an exciting package all the way from the States and he had been thoughtful enough to send the children bottles, pink, green and blue, and to include one each for myself and my husband. Not just water bottles, but carabiners too to hang them off our back-packs:
It was a warm day so we grabbed the inspiration and headed out.
We parked by a pub and, in the beer garden, met Duchess, a grey parrot. Apparently she can sing all of 'Half-a-pound of tuppeny rice' but she was quiet today, too scared of her new toy! We did get a 'hell0', a couple of 'yeahs' and a wolf-whistle though. Fin the park, fallen trees need climbing, and investigating for homes for the 'little people'.
We found a bright blue jay's feather, collected sticks, ate our supplies, lay in the sun, and not a rattle-snake in sight!
Monday, 21 September 2009
In Uganda I saw lives, villages, a city, a nation, being transformed. Not from the outside, not from some big NGO or some innovative government scheme, but by the church. The needs are much more obvious: the ravages of war and AIDS, orphans, child soldiers. It's clear. Not so clear is what can be done or how, but God has given his people vision and resourced them and now they are getting on with it.
The challenge for me on returning has been that I don't know the needs of my community, I have no idea of the hurts, the problems, the issues confronting the people I live alongside. Tonight, for the second time, I will be meeting with a handful of other people who live in my road. We have committed ourselves to asking God to show us the needs and to open up for us opportunities to be his church and to do his work here in this place. In the last week I have made a point of smiling at my neighbours and of stopping to talk and I have learned of the possibility of a community garden. I don't know where this will lead, but I am sure that with God in charge it will be exciting and I have faith enough to say that I will keep you posted!
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Our first glimpse of the falls was on our River Safari, when we approached them from below. Spectacular in the distance, they were silent: we could see the huge waves smashing into the rocks but could hear nothing.
The next day, after a gruelling two hour trek along unmade, dirt roads, we were able to walk to the top and to see their full majesty and appreciate the thunder of the roaring water as it crashed through the gorge.
And I am reminded now that, no matter how my day-to-day is feeling, whether I am battered on the rocks, becalmed and unmotivated or rejoicing in life, the water of the Nile is still thundering over the edge, the waterfall is still roaring and there is a place of praise and peace.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Perhaps it is the change of seasons and the approach of winter; perhaps it is the return of my husband and many of my friends to their proper jobs after the summer, leaving me home alone; perhaps it is the last few swine flu viruses flowing in my bloodstream, but today feels like that. It's hard to believe that I'm getting it right, that my chidlren really will grow up literate and numerate and will fit into society, that I'm not wasting my own education, that it really is worth living on one salary to do this.
Yesterday the sun was shining. One child and then another went to scoot on the drive. Requests to cycle in the road were turned down on safety grounds. When the third child asked if he could go out on his scooter or his bike, I threw my carefully planned afternoon out, grabbed the keys and we headed for the local park. Lots of energy was expended and fresh air breathed, I got to read a magazine article and we all got some sun on our faces. And I remember that this, among many other reasons, is why I continue to Home Educate my children.
Monday, 14 September 2009
Suddenly I am aware of the brevity of life as my grandparents' generation reach their tenth decade and their memories of their grandparents, parents and siblings slip closer to being lost. While I develop these precious relationships I am trying to gently ask questions and to learn more of the personalities of the people gone before. I regret the relationships I have missed, my grandparent's siblings I could have known better and I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know the remainder of my Great Aunts and Uncles.