Monday, January 29, 2007

Birds, baths and blogging

We woke up shamefully late on Sunday morning, to find the kids happily pottering about. I just had time for a bit of toast and an Archers update and then went off to work.

Dani and the kids went up to our local park and sat in the wildlife area for an hour to do the Big Garden Birdwatch, for the RSPB. They saw plenty of birds - mostly ones we see pretty much every day (seagulls, starlings, magpies, crows) but also a longtailed tit and some collared doves.

Later on they went swimming. Pearlie found it painful to go underwater because she’s got a cold, so that spoiled her fun a bit. But they had a bit of a swim and play.

Today we had our usual busy Monday morning. Pearlie did some puppet making at Kids’ Club – on their current theme of Vikings.
Leo and I went off to MMs, where it was a jolly session. There was bread and butter making (which was amazing - perfect butter!) and the kids did lots of painting too.
Pearlie went to the grandmothers’ house for the afternoon where she played cards and did French.
Leo and I went up to town after MMs, where Leo spent some saved up pocket money on an Ood action figure.

I was struck today by how it is often during bus rides that Leo makes observations about number – often involving the passage of time. Today he remarked (out of nowhere!) “you were fifteen in 1985, because you were born in 1970.”

On the way up to town we were accompanied on the bus by some of the other people from MMs. L and his friend A (six and seven years old respectively) had the following endearing conversation.
The boys board the bus, each holding a book. They find empty seats opposite each other and prepare to sit down.
A: “Now, you know not to disturb me, don’t you?”
L: “Yes, and you know not to disturb me, don’t you?”
A: “Yes.”
Both boys sit reading silently for the rest of the bus journey.

Ages ago we got hold of a free DVD of ‘The Secret Garden’, which turns out to be the 1970s BBC adaptation. Neither of the kids has been very keen to watch it before now but they are both really enjoying it now we’ve given it a try.

Both kids have been blogging. Leo has a new blog called Doctor Who Central and Pearlie is posting the occasional thing on Lime.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It’s one o’clock in the morning…

… so this will be a high speed catchup

Wednesday

There was snow on the cars outside. The kids made snowballs and smashed them on the ground. Later, Pearlie and I played chess while Leo had a good keyboard lesson and they both enjoyed capoeira.

Thursday

I dropped them both at various places – P. did sword skills and made puppets of Viking gods at Kids Club, L. played cards with grandmothers – then dashed home to put finishing touches to a local campaign news sheet. I picked Pearlie up and she helped me print the news sheets. Later she went to yoga, then to Woodcraft Folk, while Leo and I made risotto for tea.

Friday

Allie took the kids to home ed group, after a false start involving a heated dispute about Dr. Who Battles in Time cards (?!). I played chess with Leo when I got in from work, and we had chips for tea.

Saturday

We had an expedition to exotic Hove, where we bought delicacies at the farmers’ market and new trainers for Leo, then had a nice mooch around Hove Museum. Allie played Monopoly with Pearlie in the evening.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Busy, wet, busy, cold

Monday

Rather more manic than magical on Monday this week. I set off with both kids and large lump of air-drying clay on Monday morning. It was raining the kind of steady rain that gets you very thoroughly wet and, for some inexplicable reason, the bag was unusually heavy. After dropping P at Kid’s Club, Leo and I went to the bus stop to find the bus to MMs. We were early so skulked in the little branch library next door for ten minutes.

MMs was very sparsely attended – probably due to time of year colds and foul weather. We had the grand total of four adults, four children and a baby! But we did a bit of clay stuff. Our wonderful friend S had been up early roasting tomatoes so we could all make soup, so people went ahead and did that anyway. I took the opportunity of a quiet day to clear out the store cupboard – hoping to find a missing boot (don’t ask…) but only found two large bin bags of rubbish. We all shared the soup around the table – and chatted about HESFES. We are still HESFES virgins but have decided to go this year. The soup was incredibly good – and very welcome on such a grim day. Leo had really enjoyed helping with the making. He worked on the basil puree – which he decided was called a basil fawlty.

Leo has got into the habit of wanting to go down to the on-site charity shop every week. He chose a charming little ornament (winsome puppy!) and I then spotted the bus roaring up to the stop a few minutes early. We ran for it and just got it – very lucky as I depend on it to get to work on time.

I deposited Leo with Dani at a bus stop and told her to put him in a clean shirt before Woodcraft folk. Clay and tomato soup take a shirt beyond dirty! I then got soaked getting to work as I had stupidly left my waterproof trousers in the bag I handed over to Dani. Worked until 8pm.

When I got home, Leo was in the same shirt with a whole new layer of gunk on it. Apparently they’d made pizzas at Woodies so it really wasn’t worth sacrificing a clean shirt! I got to eat the last slice of Leo’s pizza – cheese, tomato and courgette. Pearlie was bouncing about very enthusiastically and talking about Greek. She has a streaming cold, though. I somehow failed to get much info on her day.

Tuesday

Today has been cold! Dani went off to work this morning. She left me a rough sketch of a newssheet she’s thinking of producing for the local home ed community, giving details of the work we and others have been doing with the local authority. It will also be an opportunity to keep people thinking about the forthcoming consultation. When Dani has some campaigning on the go she has a special bounce – takes me back to our youth!

We had Leo’s friend J round to play. He seems to know a lot of Js, but I know who I mean! The boys did some stuff up in Leo’s room for quite a while. I know they had the Geomags out and Pearlie came to report to me that they’d put a big pile of stuff outside her bedroom door. But I’m avoiding going up to investigate… They also played on the computer for quite a while and I had to intervene when they got round to googling ‘poo’. I have no objection to tasteless games but was not keen on them stumbling across worse things than that… I have a strong objection to any kind of filtering software but we’ve gone for the ‘computer in public space’ option of keeping an eye on what’s on screen. All three kids are so confident and competent with the whole business of computers and internet. J (7) asked Leo if he could log in under his name:
“Don’t worry; I won’t alter any of your settings…”

We had lunch and then walked Pearlie down to her Squeezebox session. She and her band mate (M) had a good session. Pearlie informed me that they started working on ‘Candy Lion’ – a song she’d heard on the radio. I knew nothing of this at all. Somehow P is suddenly much more grown up and independent in everything. Perhaps it is the approach of double figures.

Leo and I dropped his friend J home – a bus journey through the centre of town, where they are doing major road works that will last nine months! At the bus stop I saw a woman I used to know (and rather admire – ahem!) vaguely on the scene about fifteen years ago. I was there with two over-excited little boys shouting about the finer points of ‘club penguin’, dressed in a grungy old anorak, carrying a battered rucksack with a pink and blue ‘power puff’ girls water bottle sticking out the side pocket. We exchanged smiles of recognition as I hunted for a not too well used tissue for Leo… Nothing like motherhood for stripping you of any vestige of sophistication!

After dropping J we picked up Pearlie again and are now all snuggled in for a quiet evening. Dani has just gone the extra mile (literally) for our son, to get him an issue of Doctor Who Adventures that had gone missing in the post. Now I’ve got to get off this computer as family members are starting to queue…

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fantasy education system

When I’m feeling threatened I have a habit of dreaming a better reality. Just now I’m feeling very anxious about what drawing pins the govt may be preparing to strew in our happy home ed path. So here’s what my fantasy state would provide in the way of an education system. As the current education system is actually also a system of mass childcare you’d need to sort that out too. I have my own ideas about how that could be sorted but I want to stick with the ‘education’ side of things.

Here’s the first bit of insane dreaming… For this system to work children would have to have their wishes respected. What I mean is that children would take part in this system on their own terms – no compulsion, just opportunity. And perhaps even more bizarrely, adults of all ages would be involved too. This would, of course, entail a massive change in our world. But this is my dream so it can happen…

All the school/college buildings and resources would become part of a new set up of education centres. These centres would have fantastically well-equipped libraries, with computers with reliable high speed internet access. They would be open 24 hours. There would be lab facilities, drama studios, music studios, art studios, kilns, tv studios – all kinds of great kit. At these centres people would offer courses, anything from a couple of hours to five years, sharing what they know and love. Or people would form groups to learn co-operatively. People offering to teach/share their knowledge would be as clear about the style of teaching and learning involved as the content of the course. People forming groups to learn (whether with a teacher/instructor/leader or not) would agree together the level of commitment required to be part of the group.

The groups forming and re-forming in these centres could be totally mixed age – cooking for all ages, or an introduction to knitting. They could be quite broad – sharing favourite novels. Or they could be very narrow in focus – Doctor Who between 1976 and 1977! They could be indoors, or out. They could be open ended and exploratory, or they could be project based – like building a tree house.

These centres would also be open and friendly to people who just don’t want to learn in a group at all. The libraries would be a haven for people who need some peace, some time, some space. (Because this is my fantasy the libraries would not, repeat NOT, include jolly music and singing groups for toddlers!) There would be total acceptance of people’s differing needs and all adjustments necessary would be made to enable people to participate in any activity they chose.

I don’t dream these education centres as totally ‘free space’ as I have been involved in too many groups of one kind or another to think that would work! They would have a full admin and maintenance staff as well as librarians, an IT team, cleaners, catering staff, and so on. What I’m not sure about is the ‘teaching staff’ side of things. I really do value the skills and expertise of others who have taught me various things over the years. I don’t have a problem with people making a living teaching (good job really, or I wouldn’t have eaten as a child!), and yet… I suspect that as long as we do have such a career, people will find themselves enmeshed in all the power structures of teacher/pupil. Hmmm, have to think that one through more.

Children would be involved in these centres as much, or as little, as they chose. They could sign up for groups and courses every day if they wanted. They could turn up for the first time at the age of ten. Or they could come and go over the years, picking and choosing different courses or groups. They would be expected to be able to make a commitment (appropriate to their age and level of understanding) if they got involved in group activities. Adults would value and support them and help them work out the challenges of doing so. If children wanted to take a lead in teaching or sharing their knowledge with a group this would be totally unremarkable. Being a child wouldn’t mean being cast forever in the role of person who knows nothing and so must wait to be taught…

One of the constants in these centres would be the provision of basic teaching/skill sharing in literacy and numeracy for anyone of any age. I suspect that this would be far less necessary than it is today if society were not attempting to get all five year olds to read, write and do sums. But it would be there, no pressure, no judgement.

If people were at a point in their life where they were looking for a job, they could produce a portfolio, using the resources available at the education centres. These would be used in place of qualifications. They might take any number of different forms, a blog, a website, a magazine, a book, a film, a recording of some sort – whatever worked best for that person. The aim of the portfolio would be to distil, as much as possible, the skills, achievements, passions, experiences, and so on of an individual. This would be a far better way of working out if someone was suited to a job, than exam passes.( Of course there is more scope for employers to exercise prejudice but this is a much more evolved world so people won’t need to be hanging on to fearful things like racism or religious prejudice.)

Not too sure where the universities fit in – maybe as specialist learning centres for people wanting to do research in a particular field? Some of the traditions of academia could survive here – like peer-reviewed research. But there wouldn’t be any need for people to go to university just for the sake of a bit of paper after some years of writing essays.

Of course, it couldn’t happen. The whole thing is one mega-silly fantasy. You couldn’t do half these things without such a major re-structure of society that the economy would crumble and then there’d be a military coup, and then.... But anyway, it is my dream education system. I’d love to hear what other people dream!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Autodidakt and αυτοδίδακτος

Thursday 18th January

I stepped in on the rota at Kids Club because someone was ill, so Leo and I had an unexpected morning joining in with a busy session of marbling, wood whittling, a joint painting/collage of mythical Viking tree Yggdrasil, a discussion to provide feedback on their recent sport workshop, and other things I didn’t take note of. Despite the lack of outdoor play (too rainy) everyone was impressively good tempered and productive.

At some point in the morning Leo got whisked off to the grandmothers’ house, and Pearlie and I went home together for a snuggly afternoon watching Poirot on the telly. Her Woodcraft session was cancelled, which was just as well because she is a bit under the weather with a cold.

Friday 19th January

P. continued with her project of learning Greek, and Leo decided to teach himself German. They both borrowed appropriate resources from the library.

Allie worked hard to tidy up Leo’s room in the afternoon, and they all three played a board game together. Probably some Zoombinis and Paddington/Scooby Doo computer game playing happened too.

When I got in from work we did some planning of birthday celebrations and holidays.

Saturday 20th January
Allie went to work and the rest of us pottered about for most of the day. I helped P. tidy her room, and the kids searched fruitlessly for a particular book in Leo’s room and all round the house. At about 3 o’clock we went to the park but it was very cold. Leo did find 20p in a parking meter, though, so that made the trip worthwhile!

The missing book was finally found – it was Working with Dragons (a course in Dragonology) and P. is now studying dragons with Leo as her mentor. In the evening, we all watched an episode of Coast from my Christmas DVD box set.

Sunday 21st January

It was get in free day at the Royal Pavilion today. The kids took notebooks down and recorded all the different types of dragons they saw as we went round. Afterwards we popped up to Argos to replace P’s recently broken lamp and CD player and get some headphones for Leo so he can play computer games or practice keyboard while other people are watching TV. Everyone is very pleased with these purchases, and they are happily enjoying them in their rooms as I type.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A few bits and bobs from the last week

We went to the big home ed drop-in last Friday. Pearlie whizzed about on her Heelys and Leo pottered and played.

The kids were taken to the pantomime on Saturday by the grandmothers. They really enjoyed it and Dani and I went and had cream tea together at the fabulous Mock Turtle. We used to go almost every week before we had kids.

The kids had a nice time in the park on Sunday with some local cousins.

On Monday we went to MMs, where people enjoyed making membership cards.

Leo’s Woodcraft group did a trip to the climbing wall at a local leisure centre on Monday evening. There was a spare place so Pearlie went along too.

Yesterday Dani and I went to a meeting with the head of EOTAS at the council, with some other home edders. It was a really productive meeting where the EOTAS head agreed that the current policy needs binning.

Both the kids have been practising music stuff enthusiastically. Pearlie is learning a drum part for ‘Don’t Get me Wrong’ by the Pretenders – very lively! Leo has been practising how to play a C major scale with the right fingers - and learning a new song.

Pearlie has been using the computer a lot recently, for various things. She’s enjoying her old ‘Become a World Explorer’ game, Zoombinis and a word games cd with hangman, anagrams etc. This afternoon she found out how to get greek letters out of the keyboard and then went on to find some free software that gives a bit of greek vocabulary. She wants to get a ‘teach yourself Greek’ book from the library now.

Leo has been buying books with some saved pocket money. Yesterday he bought some Robin Hood books (adapted from the tv script - erk!) and he’s gobbling those up. Today he bought a boxed set of Eragon and Eldest, which he is planning to read soon.

Dani has just finished reading ‘City of the Beasts’ by Isabel Allende, to Pearlie. I am currently enjoying reading ‘Island of the Aunts’ by Eva Ibbotson, to Leo.

Leo wrote a play yesterday, which he performed using cuddly creatures, and whatever else came to hand. The play was action packed, with real snapping branches, elephants on wire and Hulk! This was a money raising exercise as we were all charged 5p to watch the performance. He can spell so many words these days and is popping in full-stops sometimes too. He has agreed to my sharing this on the blog. You'll just have to imagine the action - here goes...

"Once at the heart of the jungel a tree frog was poised ready to leap on to a spider when a ladybird landed on top of it and the branch the tree frog was standing on broke in two and the tree frog landed on top of a filing cabinet. There was a book named The Dragons Eye siting underneath the bowl the spider was siting on and the tree frog pulled it out. Then Hulk landed on his head and did a fart. It seemed that hulk owned it so the tree frog bounded away to a plastic bag and went in it. Then a elaphant on a wire fell on the ‘Dragon’s Eye’ and did a poop. Then the spider landed on the green guy (hulk) and ate him. A crocodile was brandishing a gem when a human steped from the shadows and took the gem and said in cacley laughter: at last the jungel is mine ha ha haah! To be continued!!!"

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back to life, back to reality...

January 1st to January 10th 2007

Well, that’s a bad start to the year – just been way too busy to blog. We have been really busy with doing stuff for groups, writing our annual report for the local authority, and preparing for another meeting with someone from the LA to discuss their (lack of) policy on contact with home educators. Reading the hundreds of emails a day on the lists is rather eating up our evenings too. The kids have been using the computer a lot recently too, so much so that we’ve even talked about getting a second one.

Our somewhat punishing schedule of commitments now looks like this - A and B weeks alternate. (This is more for our records than anyone else’s interest!)

Week A

Monday
D to work – morning
P to Kid’s Club
A and L to MMs group
P to grandmothers’ – afternoon
L to Woodcraft – evening
Tuesday
D to work all day
P to Squeezebox – afternoon
Wednesday
D to work – morning
A to work – afternoon and evening
L to squeezebox – afternoon
L and P to capoeira – afternoon
Thursday
A cleaning job – morning
P to Kids’ Club – morning
L to grandmothers – morning and afternoon
A to work – afternoon and evening
P to yoga – afternoon
P to woodcraft – evening
Friday
D to work all day
A, L and P to home ed group twice a month
Saturday
A to work - afternoon
Sunday
A to work - afternoon

Week B

Monday

D to work – morning
P to Kid’s Club
A and L to MMs group
P to grandmothers’ – afternoon
A to work - afternoon and evening
L to Woodcraft – evening
Tuesday
D to work all day
P to Squeezebox – afternoon
Wednesday
D to work – morning
A to work – afternoon and evening
L to squeezebox – afternoon
L and P to capoeira – afternoon
Thursday
A cleaning job – morning
P to Kids’ Club – morning
L to grandmothers – morning and afternoon
A to work – afternoon and evening
P to yoga – afternoon
P to woodcraft – evening
Friday
D to work all day
A, L and P to home ed group twice a month
Saturday
A miracle – a family day off
Sunday
A to work - afternoon

This schedule has built up over time and it is perfectly possible, as long as we don’t over commit ourselves in terms of work, either for the groups we belong to, or with other stuff. I am feeling the pinch when it comes to arranging play dates for the kids and fitting in semi regular stuff like swimming and library. I get tired a lot because when I work afternoon and evenings I don’t finish until 8pm but I still try to fit in a full evening’s computer time – so that’s just my fault!

So, apart from the re-starting of our schedule, what have we been up to? We all went swimming together last Friday evening to a lovely, quiet family session. We had the pool to ourselves for about fifteen minutes, with two life guards for the four of us!

Pearlie has gobbled up the first in the Elizabethan ‘Lady Grace’ mysteries by Patricia Finney, and passed it on to Leo, who seems to be enjoying it too. I brought home a video from work tonight about Tudor life that looks quite good.

Leo has also read the first of the ‘Muddle earth’ books, and we’ve been enjoying some more ‘Free Lance’ stories as well. They are a bit sexist and unnecessarily gory, but they are quite good to read aloud.

Leo and Dani launched a very successful rocket in the back garden – using bicarb and vinegar, an old water bottle, a cork, string, tissue paper, cling film and a flower pot!

Pearlie has been enjoying ‘The Map Detectives – Urban Mystery’, which was one of her Christmas presents from us. I haven’t had a chance to look at it in detail but from what I have seen it looks very impressive. Pearlie likes it that she gets to ‘go to’ places in London that she knows well, like Kew Gardens.

The eagle-eyed may have spotted that Leo has now started going to Squeezebox again. He is having some one to one lessons in keyboard, so get his skills and confidence a bit better established before he tries another band. I’m really impressed that he’s giving it another go.

Pearlie Heelys around with glee! Dani has just (at 10pm!) got the kids home from a big tenth birthday party for a home ed friend, where P was enjoying the chance to Heely in a big hall.

Pearl recently sent an email to the Environmental health and licensing bit of the council to ask if Leo should have a licence to sell his ‘corner chronicles’ on the doorstep! They replied that they were ‘unable to help due to his age’. That wasn’t much of answer but it was nice of them to reply.

Pearl is also very pleased with the subscription to Aquila that she got from some grandparents at Christmas. She’s been emailing the magazine with questions about their website and ideas for content. She sent off a letter to a potential pen pal, the contents of which were entirely confidential and this nosey mum can’t help wondering what she put!

Leo is working on a Word document that is a report on books he has read and written. It is very enthusiastic and lovely. When he has it finished I will ask him if I can share it here on the blog.

Anyway, Dani is itching to get on the computer to share a letter we got from Lord Adonis with the lists, so I’d better go.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

6 weird things meme

Got tagged by Peri

Six weird things about me:THE RULES:Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

1. I can quote little snippets of Victoria Wood scripts from the mid 1980s.

2. I was once a member of the 'Tilling Society'. Weirdest thing was that I was sixteen at the time.

3. I am to be found using a cassette walkman on the bus that runs to the university. 'Like, what's that weird thing with the brown string in?'

4. I am the person that chooses rum and raisin ice cream over all the groovy modern flavours. They have it in the freezer just for me!

5. I wish I'd splashed out on a subscription to 'The Poirot Collection' last year.

6. I regularly read magazines that include the following pictures: radical south american presidents, close-ups of vegan dinners, semi-naked men with well-oiled torsos, Billie Piper looking gorgeous, pictures of youth hostels in the middle of nowhere (to which I'm being invited for a meeting with people I don't know.) That last one sounds like I'm some kind of low budget secret agent but if you get EO newsletters you'll know where I'm coming from.

Tagging

Nic
Ali
Deb
Dawn
Lou
Haricots

Monday, January 01, 2007

Christmas meme thingy

Got tagged by Nic and am avoiding the annual report we write for the LEA, so here goes...

Name three things...

That you had hanging on your tree

1. Stained glass window biscuits
2. Chocolate tree decorations
3. Masses of tinsel - tree was virtually buried by enthusiastic children. One day we shall return to tastefully draped tree but for now I like the way it speaks of our lives.

That you've eaten/drunk lots of

1. Trifle - I made two big trifles and pigged out
2. Sweets - somehow we ended up with three different boxes on the go...
3. Roast potatoes - Pearlie thinks these can only be eaten on special occasions so it will be a while until we get them again...

That you didn't do this year but hope to do next year

1. Spend more time outdoors during the festive season - but that depends on weather...
2. Keep a present for the kids to open on twelfth night - we always plan to do that and then forget to
3. Eat more mince pies

Favourite presents

1. Half a bicycle that Dani gave to someone in Uganda for me - I gave them the other half on her behalf. This was done by a charity called ADD that we support with a pretty pathetic monthly donation, so it felt good to be able to do something a bit more substantial. Other than that we gave each other nothing - which felt really good at this time of over consumption.
2. A brilliant book called 'Reading Lolita in Tehran', which I read in two days. This was especially enjoyable as my mum got it for 90p in a charity shop.
3. Pyjamas from my mum so I can now find some every night - luxury.

That you're glad you didn't get for Christmas

1. More ill! I had a horrible cold/throaty thing in the week before and it cleared up quite well over Christmas
2. Lots of presents. I both love Christmas (as a break from our tiring work routine and a chance to snuggle up and spend family time together) and hate it (as a massive dose of over consumption in a society where we have so much already). This year I got a small selection of thoughtful gifts from my loved ones - perfect.
3. Rows! I can't imagine the stress of family rows at Christmas and I know lots of people have that to deal with.

People to tag

Oh, yeeks! I just can't ever do this bit - sorry!