Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Migraine is a concept I am just beginning to grasp. My second-hand experience of migraine is of a debilitating "bad headache" leaving the normally unshakeable patient pasty-green, vomiting,  incapable of anything and even having to take the morning off work. I can remember nothing else that ever caused time off work.
Any headache that I might have paled into insignificance in comparision. But I can't deny that I get, very occasionally, really bad headaches. In the past I have avoided pain-killers, in the hope it would go away on its own. I  have ignored the headache, as best I can, but no-one else would be able to because I would be in an impossibly bad mood and unwilling, or even unable, to do much.
It has come as something of a revelation to me to have it pointed out that these are migraines. Perhaps the fact that I would prefer to be lying down in a dark and silent room sleeping should have suggested it to me!  Taking it seriously has helped: letting myself lie in the blissful dark; explaining to the children that, on a grand scale, I am fine but just now I have a very bad head and need some peace; cancelling my work so I could rest for a whole day, buying migraine specific pain-relief. I have spent two days in a bright, painful haze and woke this morning to find that I could think normally, interact with more than one person at a time, teach Physics and tolerate day-light comfortably.
All this has left me reflecting on taking my pain seriously: naming it for what it is and taking responsibility for looking after myself. I fear slipping into hypochondria, attention-seeking or plain sorry-for-myself-ness but I am learning that honesty about pain is important, and is the first step in healing.

Friday, 24 February 2012


A Day Out in London! It's a long time since we had one of those.
A London wide art installation.

Always a chance to be silly!

Meeting a Chelsea Pensioner.

Handling a musket - or was it a rifle? We all learned loads of history through a talk on the wars of the Nineteenth Century.

And more eggs!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

T-shirt Thursday

Two mornings in a row I have drunk my morning tea in the garden. Underneath the chill breeze is a warmth, a scent, a freshness and it feels as if spring might just be here. The morning DJ told me that it would be 16 degrees today and was T-shirt Thursday.
My two youngest started a Level 2 horse-riding course this morning, following last autumn's Level 1 and I was back in a place that I haven't been since early November; the first of last year's course was in September. And so, like finding forgotten train tickets in a coat long unworn, I found memories in the pockets of this morning: meeting up with the other mums and sharing something of my summer break-up; hearing that a process had been set in motion which would cause me personal pain; take up hours of my time and cause me and my children to question who we could trust; training for a half-marathon which would represent getting my life back on track after the upheaval of the previous months.
These times of re-visiting, when memories appear unbidden, allow me to reflect on the life-distance travelled in six months. New, softer and subtle emotions surface as more stormy ones blow themselves out. I find that we have passed through what felt overwhelming and survived. I find that, with the warmer air and the first daffodils, I am beginning to plan for a future on which I really believe I can stand.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


New sharpeners: sharp pencils, sharp colours.
Children's self-expression valued: what they draw matters, how they draw matters, having sharp pencils to draw with matters. They matter.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Little Tryfan

I was scared witless. I don't think I've ever been as totally terrified in my life. It's not me in the picture, but it could be.
This is Little Tryfan, my second ever attempt at out-door climbing. Last year I had a couple of days at Harrison's Rocks: simple, roped climbs, one pitch, belayed from below, just like the rock wall only outdoors, in the sunshine. This year I was on Little Tryfan, a fairly easy (Moderate, a climbing standard whose scale ends at Extreme 10) but multi-pitch climb in the pouring rain.
Multi-pitch sounds innocuous, but what it really means is that when you have conquered your fears, struggled up the greasy rock, balanced on your toes with a sprained ankle in great walking boots - but you are beginning to understand the difference between these and rock-boots - you have to stand, alone, holding the life of someone else on the end of a rope, fifteen metres high on a ledge on the rock face, freezing and wet, contemplating the fact that you are about to have to do it again. And again.
I cried and I cursed, I hyper-ventilated and I panicked. And I put one foot above the other and I climbed. It was scary. And I did it.
Sometimes there isn't much choice; the moment of choice has been and gone and it is just a case of keeping going. Every step is a question of trust and I have to trust my choice. I have to trust my ankle to hold my weight. I have to trust the instructor who tells me I can do it. I have to trust my friend who holds the rope. I have to trust myself and find that I do have the resources to continue on this climb.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Creating a path II

My middle son is not such a natural writer, he does not have such a natural affinity for words, he does not particularly like to read and seldom spontaneously writes. It’s not that he is reluctant, but just that it isn’t something he feels passionate about.
He is a funny and happy child and likes to put humour into his writing; he tends to write as if he is chatting to a friend and tends to put in jokes and asides. He does not delve much into ideas or expand on his topic but his is quite happy to free-write for 10 minutes. He can write (or at least print) very neatly and is happy to do copy-writing, although he would always prefer a shorter passage and it takes him quite a time. His spelling in freewrites is very original but he can usually spot and even correct mistakes.
I would like him to write in joined-up writing and then to work on writing a bit quicker but still neatly. I would like to see his automatic spelling improve. I would like him to develop his ideas and write more about one topic or point. I would like to encourage him to write about factual things (his interest in cars or what he learned about in his history lesson or how to play his favourite computer game) in a more ordered and logical, “followable” way.
I think this last goal is a good one to focus on. I think that talking through the topic with him, encouraging his ideas to be more step-by-step and slowing down his free-writing would be the way forward. Perhaps I will start with post-it notes, and then alternate sentences, then move on to him writing three or four sentences before I interject, or me adding words to his sentences to encourage more idea development and I think lots of good conversation before-hand will be key as I try to understand what he wants to write so that my writing makes sense and encourages him.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Creating a Path I

Our four week course is drawing to a close and we have been encouraged to reflect on each of our child writers and to look into the future as to how we will continue to work with them. These are my thoughts today on my little girl:

My daughter is a natural story-teller. She talks and talks and talks. She loves to tell stories and she loves to listen to stories. She usually asks for CDs from the library to listen to and is usually very engaged in our chapter books. Her reading skills are not yet strong enough for her to be able to enjoy the kinds of stories in books that she likes to listen to. Her writing skills are increasing daily. She enjoys copywriting and is happy to edit her work.
I would like to support her in developing her concrete skills (spelling, handwriting, punctuation) so that she can comfortably write the stories in her head. Also, she needs to learn to type so that she can edit her work on the computer and publish it more easily. I would also like to help her begin to develop more complex or deeper ideas.
I loved doing both the alternate sentences and the dialogue with her. We both had fun and it felt very connecting. She commented on my spelling which showed me that she was reading what I was writing as well as listening to it, and noticing how I wrote. By being "in the middle of her writing" with her I can encourage her to develop her thoughts, I can draw out more of her ideas and gently challenge her.
I am committed to returning to copy-writing and will approach the editing of it more systematically, encouraging her to hunt out her own spelling mistakes and gradually to look for punctuation errors (5p a mistake found certainly increased motivation!). I will also gently and lightly edit her free-writes: a quick once over for tricky spellings and tidying up the punctuation.
I will move on to the idea of introducing words to her sentences, words such as “therefore” or “for example” or “but” to help her extend her ideas. I would like to move on to her writing three or four sentences and then me adding one to encourage more writing from her while keeping it focussed.

I am excited about next half-term's writing!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Thoughts. Feelings.

 Over dinner, thoughts and feelings:

I am going to ... because ...
"I am going grow up because of hormones from my pituatary gland."

I admire... because ...
"I admire one of my students because of all he has had to overcome."

When I ... I feel ...
"When I eat mustard I feel as if my nose is going to explode!"

One day I will ....To be sure, right now I am ...
"One day I will climb Everest. To be sure, right now I am going outside without my coat to get used to the cold."

I love ... because ...
"I love Coco because she is soft and cuddly and bouncy and cuddles me when I am sad."

Monday, 6 February 2012


My kids are amazing. Every mum says that, and I'm sure yours are too, but today I have really seen and felt and enjoyed that.We are continuing on our journey of Dynamic Revision and one suggestion for this week's assignment was to write an imaginary dialogue. My little girl chose the cat and the dog. She wrote from the dog's point of view and I from the cat's. It made us both think about writing in character, how would the cat reply to our dog? Not very nicely. It's not what I would say, but our grumpy feline wouldn't mince words! With my boys we chose people from the chapter book we have just finished and wrote "behind-the-scenes" dialogues, what might have been said but we, the readers, were not privy to. We extended our sense of audience by reading the conversations aloud to a lunch-time visitor. My children have been witty, careful and fun. Their spelling and punctuation wasn't too bad either! Much more that "good" pieces of work, these were fun times, a joint effort, a connection between mum and child. It is experiences like these that make me love home ed!

Friday, 3 February 2012


There are times when I worry about whether my children are learning anything. There are probably times like this most days. And yet they seem to know a fair amount and to surprise me with odd pieces of information or understanding, yet sometimes it seem that this has come about by accident. I am a Physics teacher by training and my eight-year-old daughter decided it was time that she learnt some Physics. She has been badgering me for a while and I had promised her some on Monday morning. I had given it no thought,perhaps hoping that she would forget, and it seemed easiest to start at the beginning of the GCSE course which I have been teaching two private students. Heat transfer. She has a good idea of what heat actually is - the small particles of which matter is made wobbling - and so we started from there and talked about how this wobbling would be passed along, one particle bumping in to the next and causing it to wobble too. We acted it out in the kitchen, she wrote a few sentences (hand-writing practice covered too!) and we filled a flask, a thermal mug and a coffee cup with water from the kettle. An hour later we came back to see if they were cool. Simple, quick, effective. So often I am anxious about all that I miss, but it is these grabbed moments that make up the patchwork fabric of their education.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012