Friday, 20 March 2009


Three-and-a-bit weeks in to Lent, I have decided to fast. I am still taking part in Tearfund's Carbon Fast but, as usually happens to me in Lent, I have reached a point where I don't feel that I'm really noticing it.
Yesterday I was feeling pressured by the amount I had to do before the day proper began and I needed to post, but I had nothing to write about. My son, as he so often does, came into the room where I work, just for a cuddle. He turned around a ndwalked away when he saw the look on my face.
I have a quote, printed out and laminated, on top of my computer screen, and I'm afraid I can't remember whose blog it is from. (If you recognise it, please let me know so I can give credit where it's due.) It reads:

Less is better. Little things done daily are better than grand plans. Give your children lots of tiny moments. When they approach the computer turn your chair around and look them in the eye and if you find more in their eyes than on the screen, get up and take them on a nature walk or read a book to them. Pandemonium will still be there when you get back.

I am going to fast from my blog for the rest of Lent. This fills me with both fear and excitement. What if I lose my few regular readers? How will family keep up to date with what we're up to? What might God do with the time I am releasing? How might this impact my relationship with my children as they see they are more important that the glowing screen?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Reasons I Home Educate - No 5

It was warm(ish) and sunny yesterday afternoon. I had 'educational' activities planned, but instead ....

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


I am sitting here listening to a ticking chicken! Just a couple of months ago I treated myself to a frivolous and unnecessary but smile-inducing kitchen timer and, while it is useless for intervals of just a couple of minutes when the cake is almost, but not quite cooked and you don't want to pop it back in the oven and forget all about it, it is great to carry round the house and time my chores. It is an idea I've got from Kathy over at 10 Minute Writer, to do things in 10 minute time intervals. To sit with the persistent noise, reminding me to get a move on , helps me to push through those little jobs which don't always motivate me, things like cleaning the bathroom, writing a cheque and, yes, sometimes, writing my blog. All too often I sit here, wondering what to write, discarding topics as too boring or too whiny and these precious beginning of the day moments swirl down the plug-hole. My faithful chicken, while raising my heartbeat and blood pressure, reminds me just to get on, get it done, sew the patch, file the bill, scrub the floor and then, relax, satisfied that I did what I had to do and then had some time to play!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Beside the seaside

My legs ache, my irritation levels are sky-high and my shoulders (which is unexpected) are very stiff. Oh yes, I ran a half-marathon yesterday! 13.1 hilly miles in the south coast town of Hastings in a respectable time of 1 hour 56 minutes.
It's all in the expectations. This time is way off my personal best, but comfortably under 2 hours. I made a decision a month or so ago that I wasn't in a place where I could put running top of my agenda, train at a high mileage and put in some killer speed sessions. It's not the hours in my trainers that is the cost, but the days of recovery and tiredness that come with getting fitter. So, without a tough goal to achieve, I enjoyed the run, accepted that this was as fast as I could go, and had a great time; the weather could not have been more beautiful; there were professional pacers and I could just keep the 9-minute-miling guy in my sights on the relentless hill from two-and-a-half to five miles, dragging me up; the congregations of the churches we passed on route were cheering us along and one even had their worship band out, lifting my head and my spirits and I was positively enjoying myself by the time I reached final three mile stretch along the sea-front. It was just a shame I didn't have time to stop for an ice-cream!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Are we learning now?

I am frequently asked if I keep school hours, or even school terms, with my children. My husband is a school teacher so his time off naturally makes a difference to our day-to-day pattern, but the hours of 'education' at home is entirely down to me. I remember, as a newly Home Edding Mum, worrying that my eldest was not doing anything educational while I changed the baby's nappy! Now, I know better. And not just know, but feel, understand, fully comprehend, better. Moments arise at the oddest of times, moments of connection or intellectual availability. In contrast, trying to force a hungry, or tired, or frustrated child to learn something is like trying to stuff a floppy balloon through a key-hole.
And so, yesterday bed-time, when I heard my 8 year-old explaining food chains to his 5 year-old sister, I went to join in. We found her National Geographic Animal fact cards and set about linking them. We had to be a little creative with the bugs, after all a shiny greeen leaf beetle isn't, strictly speaking, an ant, but I think they got the point.

Thursday, 12 March 2009


My mind is full of the shootings in the German town of Winnenden yesterday. There is something so shocking, so horrible and so incompreshensible about a young man, barely more than a boy, violently taking so many lives, including his own. However, I cannot help but feel that there is something dangerous in the word 'incomprehensible', in repeating that there was no motive for this attack, that Tim Kretschmer was 'unremarkable' and 'normal'. Surely we cannot believe that such an act of hate and violence can spring up randomly in any human? I am not an expert on mental illness, perhaps it is possible to suddenly and inexplicitly become deranged, but I doubt that this is true. Gavin de Becker, in 'The Gift of Fear', an informative, well-written and engaging look at violence in the US, writes passionately about Pre-Incident Indicators and how often these are ignored, turned away from and then, when the predicatable violence occurs, those who should and could have known better express surprise and incomprehension, 'What could we have done?' they ask.
It is too hard to imagine the grief of those families who began their days as normal yesterday and had their lives blown apart. My thoughts also creep over towards the parents of this young man: the father who owned the guns, the mother who bore this little baby boy.
In both 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' and 'Nineteen Minutes' the role of the mother is examined in two very different high-school shootings: the psychopathic killer and the unheard victim of bullying, and both seem to me to show that along the path that these young men took, there were intersections, forks, points at which something could have been done.
If we believe it to be incomprehensible, then there is nothing that can be done. In labelling the perpetrator 'evil' and beyond imagination, we separate ourselves from the need to face responsibility. I think this is very different to blame. If we cannot understand why it happened, how can it be prevented? If we painfully examine what led to this act, we can learn and change, but in doing so, we have to accept that something could have been done differently.
As mother, I look at my own children and whisper the question, 'Is it possible here, in my home?' To accept the motiveless shooting is to accept that, like a bolt of lightning, this is something that could one day, without warning, destroy my family. To believe that something, many things, went wrong, even if done with hearts of love or paradigms of good discipline, is to desire and strive to find a way to protect and nurture my own children and my own community.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Spring is Sprung!

Kew Gardens's Carpet of Crocuses

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Do you know anyone who eats rats whole?

On Sunday night, I got an e-mail from my friend Kathy at Restoration Place. (Kathy, I would reply, but it's now sitting in a mysterious black box between my old and sad PC and the shiny new superspeed one and I will have to wait for my husband to retrieve it!)
Kathy complimented my cat Barney on his general gorgeousness and how he has grown since I first posted about him. He looks, she commented, like a good mouser. Oh no, I smiled to myself, not Barney. Gorgeous? Definitely. Fluffy? Beyond a doubt. But not the brightest cookie. I didn't reckon his chances of catching a mouse.
However, it turns out that Barney also read the e-mail (I can think of no other explanation) because first thing yesterday he appeared at the cat-flap with a large, furry, comprensively dead mouse in his mouth. I responded rapidly by locking the flap and shouting at him until he took his offering elsewhere. He dropped it just outside the living room window, in full view. In one of those crazy, grab every opportunity, home education moments, it seemed like a good idea to point the dead mouse out to my children, who were duly fascinated.
Returning to the window later on, I was peturbed to see that the mouse, the dead mouse, had gone. A large stick was lying near its not-so-final resting place. My children's shoes were in a heap by the back door. Apparently a dead mouse is one of the most interesting things in the world and they had only picked it up with sticks and not touched it, only its tail. It hadn't gone, either, it was on the outside window sill. Indeed it was. I expressed my unhappiness with having a corpse at such close quarters and my hygiene concerns over their playing with the mouse. Indignantly my daughter, who clearly thought I was over-reacting, informed me that mice are not that bad and that some people swallow rats whole. I refuted this but she was adamant: her brother had told her. On further questioning, I discovered that these rat-eaters were in fact sailors on Ferdinand Magellan's first crossing of the Pacific Ocean, who had been at sea for three months and were also cooking and eating their boots! (Although why they cooked the boots and not the rats is a thought that has only just occured to me.)
I was impressed at that evidence of good connections made, and, after all, isn't that what education is all about? I was also very glad when my husband came home and removed the mouse to the end of the garden!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Put Out To Grass

For a long while now, my PC has been the source of no small irritation. Like a recalcitrant toddler, it will occasionally sit down by the side of the road and refuse to move, even going so far sometimes as just to close down the internet because it is feeling overworked. It is extremely slow and I have taken to running the internet on our lap-top while I am doing the monthly budget because, with Microsoft Money running, it really can't handle anything else! So many minutes are wasted as I wait for it to load up so I can blog, only to try to sign in and find that it hasn't installed something essential and I have to restart. It's difficult time to use for anything else as it comes in such small doses, but they add up to a very frustrating experience!
We have been considering buying a new computer since November but haven't put aside the time to research a good model. On Saturday, after one infuriating encounter too many, I shouted and yelled until my husband agreed to go to PC World and purchase a new computer immediately. It is now sitting just next to me, waiting to be set up so, hopefully, tomorrow I will be bloggging at the speed of light!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Mission Accomplished

I love it when it all comes together. On our trip to the museum, we saw the replica Lunar Lander and the Apollo 10 Command Module.I remembered an Audio CD with the story of the Space Race which we listened to in the car on the way to the station, and we made it to the "Rockets Show" (Newton's Laws with exploding hydrogen)!

Days like this are Home Ed at its best!

Friday, 6 March 2009

In the Shadow of the Moon

We have a bit of a space theme going on at the moment. Last week we had "In the Shadow of the Moon" out on DVD. It took two sittings to watch it all but renewed interest was shown in all things Apollo.Yesterday I dug out all our books with astronauts in and we spent the afternoon watching, again, "Apollo 13" (and it made me cry, again,)
And today we are off to the Science Museum to see the real command module from Apollo 10 and a mock up lunar lander. I have "Space Stories that Really Happened" to read on the train and Christmas book vouchers to spend in the book shop. I am looking forward to today!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Playing the game

Our house has been resounding to shouts of "Buy a baby!", "Get that baby working!" and "Get that sick one to hospital!" My middle son has discovered Microlife, an internet computer game from the BBC and it has become a spectator sport. It really is an excellent game. Through nine levels he has learned to train Micromax to become Defenders to defeat the evil Catchers intent of stealing the infants and sending them to work in the jewel mines of this forbidding planet; he has learned to spot the sick ones and get them to appropriate medical care; he has learned to save his money and use it when necessary to buy more babies or Defenders and he has learned to dodge sudden lava flows. In the last level, all his skills are brought together to help the babies build a spaceship and escape this crazy environment for ever!
I often feel like a sick Micromax and would love to be picked up and put somewhere safe and nurturing until I feel strong and can re-emerge with a contented "Aaaah". Sometimes I feel under attack and I need to keep my defences strong and vigilant. Like the babies, I find it hard to settle to purposeful work when I feel threatened. I am learning, gradually and gently, the imperative need to take care of myself, to have some down-time. Perhaps a quick game of Microlife...?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Friendship Bracelets

I was visiting my mum over the weekend and she gave me a whole box of embroidery thread for the children! The picture doesn't really do it justice, but it is a riot of colour.
So we dug out a book on how to make friendship bracelets which my eldest had bought in a charity shop months ago.
And we had some fun,
and were very pleased with the results.

Monday, 2 March 2009


I have great friend, Jean, who lives and Home Educates in Houston. For a while she lived here in the UK and I was blessed to spend time with her and her wonderful children. I miss her encouragement, wisdom and gentle, child-centered perspective. One motto, which she taught me, is frequently whispered in my mind when I have locked horns with one of my children:
Honour who they are.

Recently we were exhanging e-mails and what she said to me encouraged and uplifted me. I want to share it with any other Home Educating mums out there who sometimes wonder: am I achieving anything?

I have a friend who’s 12 yo son is giving her problems with surrepticiously
acquiring inappropriate video games and just spends way too much time
video gaming in general. The mother is asking friends for advice and I
can’t help but feel that the time and energy you are investing now is
inoculating you against that sort of problem in years to come. You are
investing in great personal and positive relationships with your children,
exposing them to all the interesting things life has to offer, and allowing them
to develop rich imaginations and passions that will fill them for life and leave
less room for empty pastimes. It may not always feel like it, but
take it from someone who is beginning to see my children’s peer group and the
potential problems that are out there: you are already avoiding future problems
by just doing what you do every day.

Thanks, Jean, I needed to hear that!