Saturday, July 30, 2005

Swimming, reading and preparing for piggies


We started the day with some Hama beading – thanks to the prompt service from BeadMerrily. Can't manage photos tonight as too tired, but Leo did a square with colour blocks, and P worked on a circular pattern. More Fimo creations were made and baked too.

I had to work in the afternoon but Dani took the kids to the park (once it had decided not to rain for a while!) via the mobile library. The kids picked up cards for the Reading Voyage thing that is happening this summer. In the park P climbed the 10ft poles and hit a ball around with our 'boom bats'. These only cost a couple of quid from Woolies last year and we've had hours of play out of them. Leo practised hurling a foam ball up in the air. This is his favourite park activity of the moment – he likes to discuss the height each time.

Interestingly Leo uses feet and metres when talking about distance, and kilogrammes and stone when discussing weight. Looks like he's destined to be yet another British person who operates in a mixed up world somewhere between imperial and metric – a bit like his mums! I can never understand how, having been taught exclusively metric measures at school, I have never managed to relate to them properly. I like cms, but need to know distance in miles. I know I weigh a bit more than 50 kilos, but sponge cake recipes are forever in ounces in my head. Ho hum. I think it's another thing we can blame the Tories for as they abolished the metrication board back in the early 1980s and slowed up the process of transition for us all.


Today has been action packed and I'm shattered so this had better be brief. Dani was at work all day today. I got the kids up, breakfasted and dressed, and we were ready for cousins S, D and their mum when they arrived at 10am. We walked up the hill (10 mins) to our little local swimming pool, which was surprisingly quiet. We all had a really good swim. Pearl and her cousin S did lots of diving down to pick things up from the bottom of the pool. Little cousin D has had his confidence boosted by wearing goggles at all times – so he was able to really play and have fun. On a whim I asked Leo if he'd like to swim for a bit without his armbands (we never think of things like this with him – I think it's second-child syndrome!) and he was very enthusiastic. He swam four or five widths holding a traditional float, and seemed very confident, in spite of a few minor sinking episodes. I don't assume he will want to give up his armbands in one go but I think he feels good that he gave it a try today – and we'll play it by ear, as we did with P.

In the afternoon we met up with the same cousins again, to go down to the main library. We walked down and the kids had fun and got wet running too close to the Mazda fountain. When we got to the library, and the automatic doors failed to open, we remembered that it is shut on Friday afternoons. So, we jumped on a bus and went to our favourite branch library instead. Pearl got a fridge magnet and some stickers, for having filled in two books on her Reading Voyage card – both Tintin books, which she loves with a passion. Leo got nothing as he had only read one book -48 pages, and the first whole 'chapter book' he has read alone! I thought this was somewhat unfair really, and rather disheartening for him. But he is applying himself to finishing 'Sinclair Wonderbear' before next week! I must admit I rather dislike these incentive schemes, and feel that reading is its own reward - but if the kids want to do this thing then I guess they will.

When we finally got home I'd just sat down with a cup of tea when Tesco arrived early with our shopping. Sadly no-one at Tesco had noticed the strong smell of bleach coming from our shopping. A loose lid on a bleach bottle had resulted in a slimy bag full of bleach, and some leaking onto the surrounding bags too. I had to spend about an hour scrutinising all the food to make sure things weren't contaminated, and cleaning up the spilled stuff. Needless to say my cold tea ended up down the sink. Dani arrived home and saved the day with pizza and salad for everyone.

Dani and Leo played a quick round of a 'Walking with Dinosaurs' game we had borrowed from the library. Pearlie was too tired to be patient with the whole board game experience, so she watched a Tintin video flaked out on our bed.

Kids have been very tired this evening and were happy to veg with a re-run of Dr Who.

P and D did also do a bit of work on a book P is 'compiling' (scanning and re-arranging) from some library books. The topic is 'caring for a guinea pig' BECAUSE we are planning on getting a couple in the next few weeks! Leo has been asking for a pet for some time now and he and Pearl are very excited. The piggies will be house pigs because we have very confident urban foxes patrolling our garden day and night (wonderful!) and I have known rabbits and GPs just die of shock if they spy a big predator. We have a lot to get ready and I spent a hideous amount on GP related items tonight. We are hoping to get to the local RSPCA shelter this weekend to fill in forms and stuff, with a view to re-homing some guinea pigs they have. At the moment they have a pair of six month old females, and if things work out well they may end up being ours!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fimo arrived!

We have been very creative lately. Today was mostly taken up with making Fimo creations:
yes, this is a poo!

We also made this tortoise, as seen on the Big Bang on Discovery Kids this morning.

And Leo and I have been working on our hats – he's painted a blown egg and I papier mached an apple and a banana. Here's my scoubi hat, pre-fruit.

I turned my illusion knitting into a box to keep our remote controls in. You have to be at the right angle to see the dalek. All our names are round the sides.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Just a one liner

We have recently been discussing how we will approach the inevitable LEA contact later this year. Last year we had a home visit but D and I have been increasingly drawn to the idea of sending in a report instead - for lots of reasons. Leo doesn't seem that bothered what we do, but Pearl is strangely adamant that she wants a visit! She clinched the argument today with this superb non-sequitur:
" I like strange visitors, and anyway she looks like Sharon Osborne!"
So, there we are.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

End of term

Been a bit hopeless about keeping the blog up to date lately. Some highlights this week:

  • Various arts and crafts – Allie and the kids did painting on Wednesday, and I made myself a hat out of wire and scoubi strings, in preparation for our neighbourhood festival parade in a few weeks' time. I now need to make some papier mache fruit to put on it. Leo's planning a hat with eggs and P's going to have a herby one. I've also been doing more illusion knitting.
  • The last capoeira class before the summer break, which was really lovely. The group was small enough for Leo to feel comfortable, and he actually chatted with some of the other boys and joined in their game at the break. Both P. and L. played beautifully with the teacher at the end of the session.
  • P's last regular visit to her grandmothers' house before the summer. She came home with lavender to hang up to dry for a scented bag. Leo and I just hung about the house, which is what he likes best.
  • Lots of visits to the local park – just A. and the kids on Friday, with some local cousins on Saturday and with some grandparents today. It was lovely to see the grandparents (A's dad and his wife)
  • We made ice cream, which turned out to be too rich and egg custard-y for the kids, but we liked it ;-)
  • Quite a lot of bits and bobs in the house – colouring, Geomags, dot-to-dots, telling the time, computer games, reading books, a new Horrible Science magazine, lots of chatting…

We're all feeling a bit strange about the end of the school term. It has had a bigger impact on our lives than we were expecting – all our weekly routines are out the window. P. in particular is not good with changes of routine, and has been a bit short tempered.

I'm sure we'll get used to it soon, and it will be nice to be able to see our cousins during the week. To cheer ourselves up in the meantime, we've ordered some Fimo from these people.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Library, pool, party, parks and other fun


D went to work on Friday and L, P and I went off to the branch library we like. We had a great time, as usual. I have read somewhere that Roland Meighan advocates the turning over of all schools and associated resources to the public library service – to augment their wonderful work. I can understand his thinking – the public library has been an important part of the kids' lives from babyhood and they seem so happy there. I like it because it is public space where we all feel at home. The kids curl up and read on comfy chairs and I browse around – and then we borrow lots of stuff. This week Pearl borrowed a couple more Tintin books and Leo settled down with an adventure book about someone called Samantha Cardigan. L. has read 32 pages so far - entirely unaided. I'm not sure that he is managing every word but his enthusiasm is obviously carrying him through. We also borrowed two jigsaws and Junior Pictionary.

In the afternoon I took the kids down to the local park, which has a paddling pool. This park has been at the centre of some furore in recent weeks, after the attendants were threatened. The council withdrew the attendants and then, of course, people were worried about their children's safety. On Friday the attendants were back, along with notices stating that the police would be patrolling regularly with dogs! That was not great for us as it sent P into a panic, as she is very nervous of dogs at the moment. Needless to say we didn't see any police at all – so she needn't have worried. This park has always been a bit dodgy from time to time. We have been offered drugs there, witnessed horrible rows between drug users (with their toddlers in tow, rather sadly) and tried to explain to our kids the three drug users all piling in to the 20p loo together. We are lucky in that this is as close as we ever come to Brighton's drug problems - unless you count our two night-time burglaries, which were probably related. And it is a local park, with a pool and cafĂ© with friendly patrons, as well as good climbing stuff. I went there as a child, though my mum remembers being warned off it in the 1940s as it was frequented by 'razor gangs' – all very 'Brighton Rock' – so maybe nothing really changes.

On Friday night D and I went out to a dance night, which is aimed at mums, so it runs early. This was somewhat strange – it was not unlike being at a school disco. But the dj did play our request 'Love Shack' by the B52s, so that was good. I suffered for the next two days with painful knees and hips, which made me feel ancient.


I went to work and D took the kids to the birthday party of one of our HE group friends. This was a fairly mammoth, though actually quite straightforward, journey to their lovely house out in the country. They had a wonderful time – ate loads of popcorn, homemade biccies and other yummy stuff – and enjoyed seeing their friends. It is amusing though that, when D was describing the beautiful house and surroundings, both kids declared,
"Yes, but I wouldn't want to live there."
They are real townies at heart – just like their mums!


Sunday we all went to the open day at the allotments where my mum and partner have a plot. This beautiful place is threatened with destruction, as the council want to tarmac it (and consign six houses to the same fate) to build a carpark for a park and ride scheme! Keep finding myself humming that Joni Mitchell song, 'Big Yellow Taxi', and I MUST remember to write a letter to the council. The allotments were positively glowing in the summer sun and we bought plants and lunch.

In the afternoon we went to 'Madagascar'. This was very thin on plot but had some good gags and the kids enjoyed it. Within ten mins of leaving the cinema Leo was declaring his need for toys and sticker books of the film – so no doubt the makers would be happy.

In the evening we all played Junior Pictionary. This was good fun, though D and I had to draw slowly and hold fire with guesses from time to time! Both L and P drew some really good pictures and L managed nearly all the reading involved.


On Monday our HE group was meeting in a park across town. Our numbers were few but the kids had a good time with the friends that were there and on the play equipment. It has a very mild flying fox thing, which P swung around on. There were also two kinds of seesaw, which led Leo into a lot of weight and balance related activities when the kids got home.

I had to rush off to work in the middle of the meet, once D arrived. On the way to work I met a friend who was a volunteer at the local breastfeeding group at the same time as me, and she has just decided to HE her little boy too. Great!

I brought home a maths books from work that was written in the 1980s for pupils following a mode 3 CSE course – i.e. those people deemed to be very weak academically. It was interesting, as it was put together with lots of 'real world' examples of how to use maths – like catalogue shopping, and using timetables, as well as some simple arithmetic. P and I did some of the fractions exercises while she was having a bath.


D went to work all day today. P and I took L to the grandmothers' house for his weekly visit and went to try to hire a bike in the park. Unfortunately the bike hire shop was shut, so we ate our sandwiches and went to town instead. P decided to blow her savings (and get a £1 advance on her pocket money) to buy a dalek key ring that she has had her eye on. It was a ridiculous price – but she is very pleased. Then we popped in to a second-hand bookshop and bought a few things: a horrible history that P has had from the library but wanted to own, an Olga DaPolga for P. and a little Dick King Smith book for L., about a baby elephant with hayfever. It seemed to be the very thing we needed at the moment!

When we got home, P amused herself with a Tintin video and then she browsed around the Wrigley's website. Chewing gum is a recent discovery for P and she is pretty obsessed at the moment! She read out interesting facts to me, about the launch dates of different chewing gum products, while I attempted to sort through the massive pile of clean and un-ironed clothes. I decided almost everything didn't need to be ironed and shoved it all away in drawers – sorted!
When L came home we went to the up-the-hill park to play with all the Brighton cousins, who had just come out of school for the day. This was a lovely end to the day - three mums, one grandmother, and five kids all enjoying tea, coffee and ice lollies. The kids played their O.U.E. game together for a while too. This is a secret explorer organisation, to which they all belong. P was inspired to write a secret coded letter to her cousin S (age 7) this evening – and she and D have just been out to deliver it. A gang of five cousins all within two minutes walk is really a blessing.

I am reading 'James and the Giant Peach' to Leo at bedtimes at the moment, and it is a real pleasure. He is hanging on every word and I am loving the story all over again. Dani is reading Michael Morpurgo's 'Twist of Gold' to P., which they report is excellent. We left them both reading other things to themselves tonight, but I hope they remember to go to sleep. P assured me that she was reading at 5am recently - I can only hope that she mis-read the clock!

Friday, July 15, 2005

“How’s the home schooling going?”

I spent the day at home with Leo yesterday, and I was struck by how natural, flowing and easy his learning is, and how completely unlike school our day to day life is. It’s something that’s very hard to get across to people when they make a polite or casual enquiry, clearly imagining late night hours planning lessons or mornings standing over children while they complete workbooks.

Yesterday, I had no plan (I had planned to go to the beach, but we had to wait in for the gas man instead). I made very few suggestions. Every now and then I wondered if I ‘should’ be ‘doing something educational’, but then decided to let him get on with the variety of educational things he was already doing for himself. These included:

  • Looking at magnets – he was playing with a magnetic darts game we got with a magazine last week. I got some more magnets out and he discovered that these were stronger than the magnets in the darts because they could maintain their attraction through two of his fingers, rather than the one the darts could manage. I also found a bag of pennies and twopences and we discovered that some were attracted to the magnets and some were not (those made before about 1991).
  • Counting in twos – he decided to gather up all the 2p pieces and hide them somewhere. He wanted to keep them until he was grown up, and then he could fascinate his friends by showing them what coins were like when he was a boy. He put them in a bag and spent quite a while thinking about how best to protect them from theft. As an aside, he counted the amount of money – 2, 4, 6, 8… up to about 38.
  • Thinking about density – he put some of his 2ps in a glass of water, then added washing up liquid to see if they would float. Over lunch, he asked if tiny people would float in his drink, and we talked about how it was the stuff things were made of that determined whether they would float, not the size of the things.
  • More experiments – he left the coins in the soapy water for a while to see if it would make them shiny. When it didn’t, I suggested we try vinegar. This did make some difference. We were also inspired by The Big Bang on Discovery Kids to make a swirling ‘tornado in a jar’ – this didn’t work very well, but he was pleased with it anyway.
  • Talking about Fibonacci numbers – I measured an egg to see if it’s length and width were in the golden ratio (they weren’t), and in trying to explain what this was, I talked to him about Fibonacci numbers. He seemed to absolutely understand this, and went and found a pine cone in his room, which we looked at to see an example of how the numbers occur in nature.
  • Making a rocket – he finally decided to distract any would be thief by launching a rocket near the hiding place of his money. The rocket was made of a cardboard tube and some string, and was launched by pulling the string up quickly from above the launch site.
  • Making posters – he forgot that the rocket launch was an anti theft measure, and decided to launch the rocket at a time when everyone would be in. We talked about this, and he made a poster announcing the launch and then photocopied it several times, explaining to me that this was much easier than drawing the same picture over and over again.
  • Thinking about animals – we watched the Croc Files on Discovery Kids, which was looking at large snakes like pythons. While they were explaining how the snake swallowed large animals like goats, Leo asked “How does the snake digest the teeth of the animal?”. Later on, he went and fetched his box of plastic animals and arranged all the ones with babies in a row. He is very interested in baby animals at the moment, as an extension from his interest in eggs.
  • Digging up and replanting bulbs – first of all this was another exercise in gathering eggs – he dug loads of little bulbs out of an old planter in the garden and washed them in a dish of water. Later, after an inspired suggestion from his grandmother, he replanted them all in the shape of the letters of his name.
  • Learning about telling the time - I am sure that he is learning how to tell the time, by asking the time and comparing the answer with what he can see on the clock. He is very interested in the number 60, and often asks what is half of 60 or two sets of 60. I have tried to teach him to tell the time and it was hopeless, but I expect he will just suddenly be able to do it in a few weeks or months.

I think there was more, but I’ve run out of time to write this now. I am astonished at how much education can happen in a day of really doing nothing much, and overwhelmingly relieved that he is not having to spend these precious, important days in a classroom.

Thanks for this one Merry!

You are a Pomegranate...unconventional, unique, and
just a little bit know how to make a
lasting impression and often do so with your
zest for life...

What Kind of Fruit Are You?

I won't share my IQ but I'm happy to tell anyone that I'm a pomegranate.

A week of gas men and other excitement

A busy week, so here's a quick round-up


We both had a day's annual leave so we all went to our HE group meet together. This was a nice, low key meet up in a local park and the kids had a good time playing with friends. Unfortunately the high pollen count took its toll on Leo and me – we were very snuffly and sore.
In the evening Pearl did some dancing (largely consisting of cartwheels and arab springs) at the 'end of year' show of her Woodcraft group. This was a very relaxed event in the nearest park. Leo and I didn't get to see it, as we were hiding from the pollen at home – but Dani said she had a good time.


Dani was at work all day and Pearl and I took Leo over to the grandmothers' house for his weekly visit. He was joined by his cousin B this week – and they had a great time pond dipping together.

One nice moment to blog happened just as we left L. He suddenly announced to everyone,
"Do you want to know a fact about balloons? Well, if you blow up a balloon and put a tube in the neck then the air coming out will make no sound. I read that in 'How you body works' last night in bed."

I think this is the first time L has chosen to share some information he has read alone – though he and P often share information they have acquired by watching the Discovery Kids channel.

Pearl and I went home via the supermarket, as we had to buy drinks and food for the visit of D's knitting group on Tuesday evening. When we got home we made sweets (uncooked fondants) from this book. They came out very well but cleaning up all the icing sugar was a challenge. Somehow I seemed to just spread a sticky layer ever further around the kitchen.

While I was trying to clean up P went off to the computer. I helped her find a copy of the 'Quangle Wangle's hat' on the internet and she used Word to change its appearance – changing fonts, sizes, colours and using the Wordart thingy. She did this wonderfully – nice little touches like making the words 'bumble bee' appear in alternate brown and gold letters. She decided it would be nice if we wrote out the final two verses by hand – I did one and she did the other. P really enjoyed putting it all up on our notice board – adding little arrows to guide the reader between verses. Here is our finished hat and the poem - we're pleased with it.

In the evening the knitting group came and P hung around for a bit, showing the adults her knitted creations. After a while P, L and I watched UKTV history and the kids enjoyed a programme all about how the ancient Chinese made wonderful bridges, and traded silk. The kids amazed me with their casual remarks about how Marco Polo travelled the silk road. I know nothing of Marco Polo!


The kids and I had to wait in for the gas engineer to come and do the annual check on our boiler. This was pretty irritating actually as, though I told him there was a leak somewhere, he declared there was nothing wrong and was gone within ten minutes. But Pearl, Leo and I had a lovely morning. I fetched lots of construction toys – geomag, octons, lego and a set of some ancient german construction toy we got in a charity shop – from their bedrooms, and we all built things. We watched alternate Paddington and Trumpton episodes on the video while we played – and we all made things we liked. Leo suddenly seems much more dextrous and made a lovely hexagon with our geomag panels set. P built loads of things, including a very solid little house out of lego.

In the afternoon I had to work but D took them both to capoeira, where they enjoyed themselves and both played in the roda at the end. P has decided to do her regular capoeira sessions next year but then stay on for the older kids' group as well. This is a great solution for Leo, who will be pleased not to lose her company, and for Dani, who can keep them both happy!


Dani and Leo stayed in again to wait for another gas engineer, who actually fixed the leak. I took P over to the grandmothers' house and then went on to work. P seems to have had a great time, playing outside, bone hunting.

Leo had the kind of day he loves, where he can just potter from one thing to the next. When I got home tonight the kids were playing very happily together, and the house was covered with posters that Leo had drawn and photocopied, advertising a rocket launch which is going to happen on Friday.

Dani tried out a new knitting idea called 'illusion knitting' and produced a lovely little knitted panel with a hidden dalek on it.

So, that's enough I think. Must try to blog more often.

Two other snippets of L's developing mathematical understanding to record:
When reading 'The mousehole cat' with Leo he heard the phrase 'half a hundred'. He said the following:
"What is there that, when you have two sets of it, it equals a hundred?"
I liked this as, though he didn't know the answer, he clearly understands exactly what half means in numerical terms.
Leo dropped in to conversation that five more than ten was fifteen. I asked him how he knew this, and he explained that if you started with ten then you could count on five more and you would be at fifteen.

One other quick thing to mention, re. P's recent reading:
P really enjoyed 'Midnight' by Jacqueline Wilson, which had two teenaged characters and has themes around family, friendship and belonging. This is something of a departure from her usual tastes, though she is very eclectic as a reader.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Frogs, moths, ducklings, and a flying fox

Just back from a very pleasant weekend at my parents' house.


I was at work all day, and Allie and the kids spent the day packing and doing more work on the Quangle Wangle's hat. We met up at the station and had a very smooth journey there.

P. and L. were enthralled by my parents' new(ish) pond in the garden, which is full of frogs and newts. They spent a lot of time on Friday evening and throughout the weekend dipping for baby newts and waiting for bigger ones and frogs to make an appearance.


After the obligatory visit to the park across the road and the local sweet shop, we had lunch and visited an adventure playground and nearby woods.

P. went on a very fast flying fox, and had to hang on for dear life when it hit the end of its run. She redesigned it in her head, inventing a cable that got gradually thicker and so slowed down the thing towards the end.

Leo enjoyed it on his own terms.

We had a very long game of Monopoly in the afternoon, eventually won (as usual) by Allie.

In the evening, my father announced that he had learned it was National Moth Day and Night, and perhaps we should try to catch some moths. He produced a very impressive moth trap that they happen to have in their house (this is not as surprising as it might be – their house is full of stuff like that), and we set it up in the garden.


We opened the moth trap and looked at the roughly 80 moths we had caught. Some were very pretty. Now that I look at the website, I find we didn't keep detailed enough records to send our results in, but it was very interesting, nevertheless.

It was a beautiful day, so we threw some food in a bag and went across town to a lovely park, where there is a paddling pool, a miniature train, a river and a canal. On the way, we saw some tiny ducklings and a heron in the town centre pond.

The park was very lovely, there were loads of butterflies, trees, another heron, some fantastic damselflies.

We walked along the river at the end and my mum treated us to a taxi ride home, as the kids were pretty whacked after a day in the sun.

Our train home turned out not to exist, so we had to go through London. Both kids were a bit worried about this, after Thursday, but it was fine.

It was lovely to see my parents, and they even lent us their microscope, which I'm sure will be very useful.

I've finished a waistcoat for P. made of knitted Penrose tiles. It's a bit of a strange garment, but I'm quite pleased with it as a first attempt at the tiles. Bought some very soft wool the other day to make something similar for Leo.

Friday, July 08, 2005

London bombs – and a day as an evacuee

It's (once again) too late at night to do a proper catching up blog, but we have been very busy lately so I thought I'd put some highlights up:

P. went to a great 'Evacuees Day' at Michelham Priory today, organised by a local home educator. She was dressed in appropriate clothes, with a cardboard box for her gas mask, a label with her name and address, and her paper-wrapped lunch carried in a pillowcase. We couldn't go with her today, and it felt strangely poignant as we sent her off with her grandmothers this morning, looking like a real wartime child.

Later on, of course, we were reminded of the blitz in a much more shocking way.

She came home having seen and handled some wartime artefacts, done maths with old money, made biscuit dough, written a postcard with a dipping pen, and had a PT lesson on the grass. She (and her grandmothers) enjoyed the day very much.

Allie and the kids have been working on a joint project about the Quangle Wangle's Hat this week. They divided up the list of creatures that live on the hat and each made several pictures, which they then arranged on a big hat, decorated with ribbons and buttons. Leo and I bought some more decorations today – bells, buttons and lace – and P. made a very tiny Quangle Wangle Quee this evening. They plan to write and type out the poem tomorrow, and add the finishing touches to the hat.

P. has created a spreadsheet which she is using to log the number of sweets of each colour in each packet she eats. Over time, we should be able to work out averages, make charts, etc.

Leo's egg fixation continues, and he is happiest when making nests while absorbing information from Discovery Kids.

Leo and I had a bizarre experience today, when we were shopping. He was tired and grumpy about having to visit more than one shop to get the food we needed, and had sat down on the pavement, refusing to carry on walking. I knelt down beside him to talk to him and work out what to do, and we stayed there for some time, talking and cuddling, working our way to a solution.

First we were asked if we were OK by a passing policeman – fair enough, that's what policemen are supposed to do, I guess. But then, a woman walking past stopped and declared that if I didn't stop whatever I was doing to "that child" and allow him to stand up, she would call the police! I was shocked, and explained that he didn't want to stand up, that he was my son, and we were just talking. She muttered something about it not seeming right, "stroking him" like that in the street, and went away.

I assume she thought I was a man – I had my hair cut very short this morning, and she would have been unable to see my face when I was bent down talking to Leo. But that's almost more depressing, in a way – the idea that a man showing affection to a child in public is somehow distasteful and not to be allowed is very sad. The shopping street where we were is frequently the site of mothers (and fathers) dragging their screaming children along the street and dishing out slaps – nobody bats an eyelid.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Autonomous bike riding

We've had a busy weekend here. Yesterday I had to work but Dani and the kids went, with some local cousins, to a small Make Poverty History demo in town. I think the original plan was for a circle around the Royal Pavilion but the turn-out was not really up to that. It seemed to have been publicised solely by email in the preceding couple of days, so that was hardly a surprise. It made the local news anyway – so P was pleased. Leo was rather grudging about his participation as he really wanted to get home and watch his new Dr Who DVD, which he'd bought with left over holiday money!

Today we made a fairly brief visit to our local gay families group – which is flourishing at the moment with ever more babies and toddlers appearing. After that we went to Preston Park for the rest of the day, and had a wonderful afternoon.

In Preston Park there is a small bike hire place – it also offers lessons and sells bikes. Now, there is a bit of a tale to tell re. Pearl and bike riding! We, rather stupidly with hindsight, bought her a bike with stabilisers when she was three. I think she suffered from being first born there as we were probably pushing her on. She never really liked it and soon after acquired a micro scooter – which she rode like a demon – and never touched the bike again. This summer, for the first time, P declared she'd like to learn to ride a bike. As we passed the bike hire place we decided to splurge on an hour hire.

P just got on – at the top of a gentle grassy incline – and rode away!

There goes our girl!

Off into the distance

I think P just recognised that she was ready to ride a bike and the whole thing was so painless. It is just like the way she learned to swim – when she was ready she just did it. She didn't want any instruction really – in fact she kept telling us to back away today as we were too close and making her nervous. It was all going very well until a man, running backwards to catch a Frisbee, fell on top of her! Good job she is so bendy – no harm was done.

Leo begged for 'something', though we know from bitter experience that Leo really doesn't get the whole pedalling, steering thing. We got him a groovy go-cart and when he realised he couldn't ride it, he had great fun pushing it round in circles for an hour!

Pushing his go-cart around

He's a mean shot with a frisbee - caught it today!

Quick update on the writing wobble. It now appears to be over. I bought P a cheap cartridge pen on Friday, and she has been doing little bits of handwriting with it – without us mentioning it. She seems much happier and I think her confidence is sky high today after bike riding.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Oops – forgot to start blogging again

Now I’ve got a whole week to try and remember. Oh well, here’s the highlights:

  • We all went to a capoiera roda on the beach on Saturday evening. P. decided not to play - I think she felt a bit rusty after the holiday and exposed with so many adults there. It was great fun to watch, though, and a good chance for Allie to see some capoeira.
  • Leo and I made a bird’s nest on Saturday, following a suggestion in his Wild Times magazine from the RSPB, which was waiting for him when we got home. We gathered twigs and leaves from a nearby patch of grass, and lined it with cotton wool and fabric scraps. He put in an egg he bought at St Michael’s Mount and I added a nice stone egg from a mini-collection I started many years ago.
  • Leo is very interested in eggs and nests at the moment. He spent some of his leftover holiday money on a set of hatching baby reptiles from the Early Learning Centre, and is constantly putting groups of small things into bowls and boxes and declaring them to be nests of eggs (often dalek eggs).
  • Still on the egg theme, both kids and I decorated some blown eggs on Wednesday and Thursday. P. painted hers beautifully with hedgehogs and a starry sky. Leo covered his in papier mache and then painted this green when it was dry. I papier mached mine too, but with different colours of tissue paper.
  • Most of our HE group have been off camping together this week, but we met up with the only other non-camping family that was around, and had a nice time flying kites and throwing frisbees at Stanmer Park on Monday.
  • We went to our local park twice as well, with cousins. This was nice on Sunday, but a bit fraught on Tuesday, with various people finding themselves too tired/hungry to cope with the somewhat frantic atmosphere of the park after school on a sunny day.
  • P. went to Woodcraft Folk on Monday for a lovely, quiet session, mostly in the garden of the community centre.
  • Pearl and Allie went swimming on Tuesday – they were in the water over an hour, P. did lots of diving to the bottom and they had a good game of sharks. When they got home they looked at the chart of kings and queens, and had a good conversation about that.
  • P. and L. both played in the roda at the end of the capoeira class on Wednesday. Leo struggles a bit with the ‘find a partner’ bit in the group, as he is not well practised in that from school. He tends to just run around while everyone else sorts themselves out with partners, then get upset when there’s no-one left to partner him, or worse, he gets paired up with someone he doesn’t want to be with. I’m sure he’ll figure it out in the end.
  • Yesterday and today are both Beatrice’s birthday (Beatrice is Pearl’s beloved bunny - all P’s creatures have two birthdays, apparently). P. had wrapped a box of things before we went on holiday, and presented it to her yesterday. She also turned her knitting into a toy snake for Beatrice, by adding felt eyes, tongue and tail, and wrapped this up to be today’s present.
  • P. made cheesy scones with marigold petals in at the grandmothers’ house on Thursday, and she and Allie had a quick French lesson there. Meanwhile, Leo and I had an educational trip to the supermarket. (I’m sure it was educational – he seemed to enjoy it, anyway).
  • P. has been reading more about the Second World War – we found the My Story book (can’t remember the title) in a bookshop in St. Ives, and finished it this week. Then she reread Doodlebug Alley, which she loves. She’s going on an Evacuees Day at Michelham Priory next week.
  • We had to buy ourselves a Monopoly set, having discovered it in the Isles of Scilly, and we’ve had a couple of games this week. Every time we play, Leo is quicker at adding numbers on the dice, counting out money, reading chance and community chest cards, and so on. Though it can be a bit too long sometimes, both of them are able to concentrate and follow what’s happening right to the end of the game.
  • Leo is delighted to have Discovery Kids back, and they are both pleased to see Power Rangers Generations being shown on Jetix.

Allie and P. had quite a difficult conversation on Wednesday about writing, when it was clear that there was something troubling P. about it. While Leo was gleefully filling in boxes on an Enchanted Learning printout about holidays, P. seemed stressed and deflated by it. Turns out, she is feeling that she had lost her confidence with writing – the words seem to come out wrong when she tries to do it, and she gets frustrated and cross.

We have not been making many suggestions, or wanting to push her to do written work, and we were openly quite scornful about the endless handwriting practice they made her do at school, but we think we may have left her feeling a bit abandoned with the problem of how to get her ideas onto paper easily when she wants to. She’s used to being able to do things very well when she chooses to do them, and I think she’s thrown by finding this more difficult than she used to.

We’re also not sure about how best to help her to make the transition from being at school, where they tell you how to fill your every minute, to autonomously choosing your own activities. It’s a skill in itself, deciding what to do and when to do it, and as we made her go to nursery school at three and a half, then school for three years, it’s not something she’s been developing naturally up to now. So while we thought she was choosing not to do written down stuff, she was actually feeling like she couldn’t do it, but wasn’t able to tell us that or ask for help.

Allie and Pearl decided to work together on practising their handwriting, and we’re hoping this will get her back into the habit of it, so that writing is less of a problem for her. She seems happier since they talked, so I hope that’s a good sign. God, this is complicated sometimes.