Thursday, 15 September 2011

Welcome to September

In my last blog post, I talked about how we stopped our academic lessons when our Whit Half Term started back in June. We also moved house and had a busy time when we moved into the new (to us) house.

We found that the previous occupants had been doing a lot of science experiments. There was bacon grease in the grill pan and not a trace of mould in it, and that sat for at least two months, so I guess mould doesn't grow in meat fat (being vegetarian I didn't know that). There was dog food in the same cupboard as rice (some people think that it's OK to have animal food in the same cupboard as human food, again, I shudder).

We had no choice, we had a battle on our hands, we fought what I dubbed 'The Bleach Krieg'. Krieg is the German word for war, and bleach is the English word for bleach. Our experiment was to see how much cleaning it took before the new place felt clean. In case you want to know, it took nearly 40 hours of cleaning. The previous occupants didn't even vacuum the place when they left! You know those places that you go into and you need a shower when you leave? That's what this place was like! It was filthy beyond description!

L still had home ed activities, such as her weekly drama group, monthly history, weekly piano lessons, monthly book group and all those things finished in July. She has also been going to Latin and Ballroom Dance lessons and is really enjoying herself. This coming Sunday, she has her first medal test, she is going for Bronze in both Latin and Ballroom.

M my little one who is now 5 years old, started to go to something that is similar to Brownies/scouts/cubs called Church Brigade that takes place at our church. The leader said she did really well, up until 10 minutes before the end, then she decided she was ready to go home. ('I want to go home now,' she said with a pout.) L goes there too so that's probably why she did well.

We started back up with our lessons the end of August beginning of September and I organised a 'Not Back to School' bowling session followed by a picnic in the park. According to the BBC there wasn't supposed to be any rain that afternoon, it said 'sunny intervals' and it showed clouds but no rain. We got dumped on but that didn't dampen our spirits. In fact, everyone laughed at me for believing the BBC ;)

We went to Warwick Castle in August and it was really fun but the one thing I really really wanted to see was a source of disappointment. Oh well, I guess you can't have everything. I was looking forward to seeing the knights joust. They made the jousting into a pantomime with cheering for the obvious good guys and booing the obvious bad guys, oh and don't forget the horrible music!

The Birds of Prey demonstration was excellent. The man was very knowledgeable and talked about where he took the birds he had to train them. He had a buzzard and three eagles. We were nearly hit by a low flying bird who didn't have the knack just yet, he was only two years old! He also told us that the birds don't actually like him. They only like the bag of food that he carries on his shoulder and that's why they keep coming back to him. So folks, a bird of prey is NOT a pet!

I do appreciate my friend taking me to Warwick castle even though I didn't properly thank her that day, I'll thank her here, Thanks A! Warwick Castle was a place I wanted to go to since L was 7 years old. I was not allowed to go on her school trip because school insurance doesn't cover women who are 'in the family way'! The next year her year group didn't go to the traditional Year 3 school trip which was a trip to London's Science Museum because her Year 3 teacher was also 'in the family way'. At least I had taken L myself, when I was 'in the family way' and after M was born so she didn't miss out at least :-) All her school mates did miss out that year though :-(

We started back to our lessons and we are having a difficult time getting back into the swing of things. Actually that should say 'I am having a difficult time getting back into the swing of things.'

I gave up my typing job back in June and then in August I was offered work through someone else. I took it and I have also made a contact for my own business that I am trying to start up. My website is nearly ready to go live (I hope).

So what have we done lesson-wise? We did a session or two on knights and castles to get M ready for Warwick Castle. M is reading various books to us and L and I have started reading books on King Arthur (Thomas Bulfinch and Tim White), and Ivanhoe. We have also started reading 'The Brendan Voyage' by Timothy Severin, which is a true story written by a man who recreated the vessel that St Brendan used to cross the north Atlantic from Ireland to America (a leather boat). Timothy did this with four other men. This is our Geography book. I do have to find the map of their voyage and print it off.

L has just taken off and done over 30 pages of Math in a book that I had for her. We are doing the experiment where you change the colour of a flower by adding food colouring to the water. So far the red food colouring seems to be winning and my yellow food colouring only changed one petal a little bit, the purple food colouring is a close second.

M knows her numbers and recognises them and can count to 100 but she's not interested in writing them or adding them up. Guess I have to use something that will catch her attention (candy). We are working on the fine motor skills, which will come with time.

I need to get going now and crack on with my day, so until next time, be good and if you can't be good, be careful.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Shameless Plug

I'm promoting my daughter's blog here:

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June is a Busy Month

This month, has been a bit of a break, but not really. This month, we are moving to another house. We are packing up our troubles in our old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. Sorry about that folks, I burst into song there. We have been working like busy beavers packing up our house and in two days we move (yikes!).

We finished up our academia before the Whitsun half term break, which in our town is for two weeks, and in others it's one week. It is nice that we are able to carry out our move without having problems with falling behind in our lessons.

M is reading words here there and everywhere, and has a story about an old woman who shares her name. It's a folk tale from Chile and she's enjoying that.

L has two books from her book group to read and she is an avid reader (I always find her with her nose stuck in a book, not that I'm complaining because reading opens up so many doors).

She had her radio show this month and we took our flat travellers to the radio station. This time I remembered to get pictures outside of the station but forgot to take pictures INSIDE the studio where they sit with their microphones etc. When I remembered, someone else was doing their live show (as opposed to pre-recorded).

My girls have been real troopers about this upcoming move and I have had some support from my friends. One friend has helped me immensely by collecting L to take her to her various activities which saves me from having dead time and that has been fabulous. I can pack rather than sit around waiting for an activity to be over to that I can rush home to pack.

Yesterday we went swimming because I organise swimming sessions where people can just come and swim for fun and splash around in the pool. I don't do lessons though. It combines exercise and some social time for the kids. Yesterday they were playing ball games in the pool and chatting and just having an all round fun time. I always find after being in the water that I am more relaxed.

Last night L and I went to her little part time job (an hour a week) and I have to supervise her because of her age, actually, I help her. Last night it was actually creepy being there. It was only the two of us in the whole building last night, usually M comes along and we go during the day. Don't anyone tell L that I found it creepy, OK? Is that a deal? Or will you use that tidbit of information to blackmail me?

I suppose that is a bit rich, isn't it? Confessing in a public place that I found it creepy to be in an old Victorian building and having to convince my daughter that it was fine to be there. I'll have to hope she doesn't read this :p

She is learning responsibility from this job, and of course teamwork because I help her do the job. I am training her in it actually. She wants to buy herself an expensive electronic toy and so this opportunity came up. She will learn so much from having this experience. She will learn how to save money for what you want and that if you are able, it is better to work for your money. I know some people can't work and are dependent upon help from the government but that is not her situation at this time, she has no obstacles to working.

She has a few more things left to do this year, there is her monthly history group, which has two more sessions, the one that was supposed to be this week had to be moved due to circumstances beyond the leader's control. She also has one more session of book group and the person who runs the book group is my friend who has so kindly helped me by collecting L and taking her to her activities (she also has children who participate in the same activities so she was going anyway). Thank you so much and you know who you are!

She has her radio show each month and again that is such a fabulous experience because she is learning practical skills for real life which I think are transferable to all situations. Planning, teamwork, expressing yourself on a particular subject and of course going on the radio and having people tell you that they heard your show is confidence boosting.

She's been enjoying it a lot and I am proud of her for everything she's doing.

M is a little sweetheart and she comes out with the funniest things but of course I am not allowed to laugh at the funny things she says. She wasn't trying to be a comedienne, she makes an observation and it is the funniest thing but we are not allowed to laugh at what she's said. If you laugh, you are set straight immediately! "It's not funny! Don't laugh!" That of course makes me want to laugh even harder so I am biting my lip a lot these days.

She isn't in as many activities as her big sister but that is simply down to her age, she's still only four years old and do can't do a whole lot as some activities are for 8 and up.

She is going to try Latin and Ballroom dancing like her big sister does. The dance school runs a class for little people. I think they take them from three years old. So she will try that one, and they mix Latin and Ballroom dance with party games so that it keeps their attention. At the school they assured me that they don't put pressure on the child and will just let the child come into things when they are ready. The dance school owner told me that they will invite the child to participate for the dances, but if they don't want to, they don't egg them on because they know that will put them off wanting to dance. She said usually after about 3 or 4 weeks the children who prefer to watch at the side start participating.

I got to watch L's class last Saturday (I was playing hooky from packing) and thought, wow that looks like a lot of fun. They do have adult beginner classes. I may end up being known as 'Salsa Sue'. I'm not sure yet though. I have never taken dance lessons ever in my life. I'm actually quite *ahem* uncoordinated. I can walk into a door frame just passing through a door so I dread thinking of what could happen on a dance floor where you have to wear high heels (anything higher than flats is 'high heels' in my books). The other thing I don't do anymore is play soccer with children. I have also had the misfortune of injuring children I've played soccer with :-( poor little guy, he got the ball square in the face. I felt sick after that.

Back to M, she is going to try this dance class, she did try ballet and tap and modern but unless her big sister was helping out, she didn't want to go to the lessons.

She is getting used to being with other people for some structured activities and not having L or myself around and I am pleased with that. We go to our local church and they have Sunday club, she goes to that and is coming out of her shell there. Each week it is with different team which I think can be to her benefit. This summer she will be old enough to go to Holiday Club which is on for a week. L will probably help in her group and I will run the games for the whole operation. I used to do that in my younger years as a day camp leader. For two weeks at time, my partner in crime (colleague or co-worker type of partner in crime) and I ran holiday clubs in different areas of our county. We did sports and crafts with the children and I can't remember if we had them for the whole day or for half days. I think it was a full day. I did this before I went to university, so that was a while ago (I think it was the week before last).

I do like leading games and sports even though I am a big klutz. You know what they say, those who can do, those who can't teach. So I fall into the can't and teach category! I used to coach a soccer team and I can't play soccer very well at all but I coached a team of 4 year olds. At that stage of the game it's more about crowd control than it is about actual skills! My partner coach had the skills, I was just chasing the balls around or was it the 4 year olds?

I'll be busy over the next while, but will pop in to say a few words if possible we won't have regular internet connection so I don't think I will be able to do a whole lot on here.

So until next time, I bid you a fond farewell.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Goodness! It's Been a While!

We had Easter eggs and a Royal Wedding and oh it was fun! We had a wonderful day that day and the weather was glorious too, the perfect day for a wedding!

We have been doing our usual stuff, L went to History group, and she worked on a circle journal (hopefully two more swaps and we have hers back!). She finished reading Animal Farm by George Orwell and said she didn't understand how the pigs could talk to the humans and then why they started to walk on their hind legs. She also didn't like what happened when Napoleon took over because suddenly it wasn't fair!

She worked on her other History session that she went to in May. Piano lessons are of course regular (weekly) and she's been practising in between those, in fact she does better at practising than I do!

She has drama every week and her monthly radio show. She's done two episodes and the next one is on Monday (6th June). Getting ready for the radio show involves a lot of different skills, team work, research and then of course being on the radio show involves learning about how a radio station works.

L finished her German book (hooray) and is nearly finished her French book (hooray - it's due for September) and has two more monthly History sessions left (hooray). She has also been going to her weekly dance lessons and fortnightly swimming sessions (arranged by moi).

She also goes to a monthly book group and has read books for that. She read the sixth book of the Skulduggery Pleasant series and that was a whopper of a book!

M has been plugging away at learning to read and we are working through her McGuffey's Eclectic Primer which was written in the 1800's. She is doing really well with that book. She is also starting to sound out other words on other things like books or computer screens and flashcards. We are also reading The Bobbsey Twins, I managed to get 13 books by download for next to no money and I read those to her. She's been working through a Math workbook for children who are a year ahead of her in school and does very well with it. That's not due to me pushing her but down to her understanding Math concepts. The reader is available to read online here. We have the actual book though. In fact, I was so impressed with the book that I bought the whole set (there are 9 books Primer, Pictorial Primer, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and then an Eclectic Speller but that's not a reader). If it's good enough for the old fashioned schools, it's good enough for us!

We have finished our artist and composer studies and it feels good to see that through!

We went away for a few days to visit a friend who lives an hour away and that was great too. We have finished our own home lessons because I follow a 36 week curriculum year but we are still doing all of our other term time activities which will finish up in July. Then we ceremonially took down the timetable :-) She then saw that it really was finished.

A few days ago, we went to Ordsall Hall, and that was fabulous, it is a haunted Tudor mansion (funny thing though I saw WAY more than two doors). I will blog about that on my Flat Traveller blog though.

So, until next time.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Where has the time gone?

It has been about a month since I posted anything on here. That does not mean to say that we have not been doing anything, it just means that I've been too busy to post.

We took advantage of the fact that we are not tied to the term schedule and we went to Blackpool on a short mid-week holiday a few weeks back.

While there we went to Ripley's Believe it or Not and Sea Life and *that* was very educational. We learned a lot about sharks and the fish that are in the Irish Sea and the North Atlantic.

I got to see real seahorses and some of their closest living relatives. We learned how to tell a male shark from a female shark (likewise for the seahorses too), and saw clown fish and so much more. We also had a nice little manicure by some cleaner shrimp. You really have to block out the sensation in your hands because it is not for the ticklish!

We enjoyed our little week away and I want to go again but of course I will only go during term time because there are no crowds.

We have finished our geography book on David Livingstone's travels in Africa, and we are going to finish Animal Farm next. We did Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet this year and finished both of those plays.

We started a new Math programme which combines Science and Math, so right away I like that! We have finished studying Caravaggio's paintings and now we have moved onto Delacroix's paintings. We are finished with Vivaldi and now we are onto Chopin.

We have been enjoying gorgeous weather and we will start doing our lessons outside when the days are nice.

L had book group this month along with her monthly radio show and she loves it.

Now it's Easter weekend and it is absolutely glorious weather, it's actually t-shirt weather! It must be warm if I can go out in a t-shirt :-)

Have a Hoppy Easter and I hope the weather is nice where you are!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

What have we been up to?

It has been two weeks since my last post to this blog and we have been busy bunnies that to say the least.

This week after a long hiatus [October], our circle journal swaps started back up again, and L received two journals in the post. The swaps got out of sync and so she got two at a time.

We looked at the other people and one family got three at a the same time! Oh my! They don't take very long to complete when you get into it.

I think I heard someone say, "What is a circle journal?" A circle journal is a book that is done in a group.

You can have as many or as few participants in your group as you like. The way it works is that each person in the group starts a book, hereafter known as a circle journal, or CJ for short, they choose the theme and what the CJ is to be about. Each person does a two page entry in each CJ.

Once they complete their entry, they send it on to the next person in the group list and so on. In our particular group at large, the theme of everyone's journal was 'Nature' and then each participant chose their own theme within the theme at large. Last year when we started, we were studying Garden Flowers and Weeds and so that is what we did. We have learned about Wolves, horses, birds of prey, what an amazing photographer Q is and so on. Q takes photos and puts his own photos in everyone's journals. He is younger than L and his photos are absolutely gorgeous and I told him so once when I saw him. He might blush though reading it here :-)

M's circle completed in October but we didn't get her journal back until February. The reason it is called a circle journal is because it goes around the "circle" until it comes back to you and you get your original one back.

L is two journals away from getting hers back! We are looking forward to that, well, actually if the swaps had gone on in sync, we would be three swaps away, she has two more journals to work in.

This week L got a surprise in the mail. It was a letter from someone who wanted to be a pen pal with her! She was "chuffed" (very pleased) to say the least. She thought I knew who it was from and suspected me of total involvement. I must confess that I did sign up for a pen pal group and put our details on the group but I didn't co-ordinate anything more than that. This young lady took it upon herself to write to L.

I had bought some stationery because I am in a swapping group and I signed up for a stationery swap with another Mum in the group and so I bought two packs, thinking that L would want one (she usually likes what I buy for others) and then I gave her the second pack and again she sat down and wrote a letter to this young lady.

She has two more letters to write to two other girls and those ones I did arrange with their mothers, one in that group and another one from a Yahoo group I belong to. These groups are all for home educators or home schoolers.

This week is also a wrapping up week for two of our Flat Travellers and their blog is here if you are interested. There were some glitches with two of our travellers and so their families and I have made arrangements to keep them on for another month. One didn't arrive until last week and ours has still not arrived over there in Ohio. :-(

I emailed all the papers that I had sent with the Flat Traveller (Ginger) and then we made another one called Gingie and scanned her and sent her by email as well.

Last Friday the girls and I took our Flat Travelling companions to the Hat Museum in town and had a blast! We had a tea party with Alice and the Mad Hatter. The Museum had even set up little 'bunny bags' which are activity bags around the displays for children. There was a bunny bag at Alice's table and you guessed it, it was a tea set :-) We all had a tea party with Alice (which was our whole reason for going to the museum) and the Flat Travellers did too.

I won't print the photos off because my printer takes ages to print but I will email all the photos to the families and that way they can have digital copies to do with them what they like.

I've become Facebook friends with the Moms and so I may just upload the photos to an album for them there or use My Photo which is also a great way to send photos to people.

We have also been taking advantage this week of the gorgeous weather and of course this week was swimming and M did me proud yesterday....she swam the entire length of the pool all by herself. Two weeks ago, which is the last time we went swimming, she wouldn't let go of me because it was too overwhelming. Yesterday she swam full lengths of the pool with her water wings on. I am so pleased that she enjoyed herself swimming and so proud of this moment that she learned she could do something independently. Some children respond well to being shoved into the water and then just start swimming but M doesn't. If I had just shoved her into the pool I would have succeeded only in making her afraid of the water and that would have ruined all swimming fun for her.

This is another confirmation to me that teaching her at home is best for her because I can adapt myself to her needs rather than expecting her to adapt to the group at large. She would not thrive in that sort of environment. When it comes to reading and Math she is doing things that children older than her in school are doing and then other things she is doing what is considered the norm for her age bracket. I tailor things to both girls' abilities. I challenge them where they can be challenged and if they need something a bit lighter in the challenge department, I do that for them as well.

We do love to learn together because I am getting my second and third education with my girls. I am learning how little people actually learn because when L was five she was going to school so I missed out on this because she didn't want to do stuff at home when she was younger and with M she is the opposite and loves doing 'lessons'.

I'm also doing things with L that are so different that I also am getting an education right alongside her. We are reading Shakespeare, Orwell, Kipling and other authors together that I didn't read. I studied French literature so I didn't do a lot of English literature so now I'm reading in my first language :-)

Today is another day of a different type and we are busy busy busy today. The Vicar is coming over today for a chat and lunch and then we have been invited to go and visit someone oh and I have work to fit in too.

I do like the fact that I can fit my work in around my children, rather than fitting my children in around my work.

Have a wonderful day everybody!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Best Laid Plans Become Activism

I had wonderful plans for today but the weather didn't cooperate too much with me, so instead we stayed inside.

This week, a political issue has been weighing on my mind and this issue is also an educational issue.

Yesterday I bit the bullet and contacted my Local Education Authority (now called Local Authority and UK equivalent of the School Board).

Today they contacted me in response to my email and then I decided I didn't have time for email chat or 'chailing' so I picked up the telephone and spoke to the man I deal with for home education.

The issue is the lack of access to exam centres for home educators in the town. Every year, parents must make the same rounds of telephone calls, and that ends up being duplicate, triplicate efforts or more to find a centre that will accept their children as external candidates.

Schools and colleges are the most likely choices but the problem is a reluctance on their part to do so. They have obstacles to allowing this to happen, and now I think I want to meet with them to find out what these obstacles are and how they can be removed from the path.

Why the dickens am I doing this when my children won't be at this stage for a few years? I want this sorted for everyone, not just my own children.

I can't sit back and listen to everyone scrambling to find a centre, this needs to be tackled.

The way I explained this to Mr LA Officer is that the parents are like telemarketers contacting the same schools over and over and the schools are probably getting annoyed with having the same queries.

The solution is of course to get someone to communicate to these schools that they can indeed have our children write their exams and that their exam results will not be a reflection on the school. That is another problem, League Tables which are a ranking system and all the schools go on them with the amount of people who got their 5 A* to C GCSEs.

Another thing that needs to be communicated to the schools is that this is a bit of a business opportunity for them. They may think that we are expecting them to provide this service free of charge and so again there will be reluctance.

What we need is a place or places around the town where our children can go, where the location is publicised on school websites and on the LA's website too. We need to have dates and deadlines and fee information at our disposal so that we can make informed decisions about which syllabus to follow and when the exam dates are. At this point nobody can make a choice for syllabus because people are unable to find a centre who will take external candidates.

I spent a lot of my time trying to make contact with people who are in a position to allow us this access and have essentially come up empty. Tomorrow is another day so the best laid plans really do become activism, which means that tomorrow I will be probably doing something else on this note.

Wow! Another Week Just Flew Past!

This week has been incredibly busy in our circles. Monday L had her radio show with two others ( T and R) and then R came here after the show. We had to pick M up from my friend M who was kind enough to have her there while the radio show was on and had coffee and a chat with her. M has two boys and her two boys are 13 months younger than my two and are exactly the same age difference to my two. This is for very different reasons but as I have said the end result is the same. We have 7.5 year age gaps between our children.

When we were on our way to dropping M of at M's place, another friend of mine who has 2 little ones texted me to invite us around for coffee and so I collected M from M's and then went on to visit S, F and G. G is simply gorgeous, he's five months old and always full of smiles for me :-)

F is the same age as M and her room is M's version of heaven, a doll house, princess costumes and more. So I didn't see M hardly at all when we were there and I had a hard time getting her to leave so I could go and pick up DH also known as The Big Guy. She also didn't want to leave M's place because she had fun playing with J, M's three year old son. She has changed so much from the child who would want to go home five minutes after we arrived somewhere.

So I was late picking The Big Guy up from work and he must have been watching out for me because I wasn't even finished parking and he was coming out the door.

R stayed over and then we had two visitors on Tuesday and they spent the afternoon with us and it was fun.

Wednesday we went swimming because I organise a home educator/home schooler swimming session at a local pool and there were 8 of us there that day. After swimming everyone came back to my place and I fed them all lunch!

Yesterday L worked on her history project or should I say presentation? Yes, L worked on her presentation and finished it. Her group was working on the Stuarts and her topic was Movers and Shakers and Caffeine. So she wrote a sketch with some famous historical characters having a meeting in a coffee house (that's the caffeine bit).

She was confused as to how to do her project, so with minimal input from me (that's always best) she got on with it. Then I looked it over before I sent it to the others because they need to have their parts for the sketch so that they are familiar with it before the day. I ended up having to put a bit more input into it than I originally wanted to and I don't like doing that but I felt that there were just a couple of more things that she needed to add to it and so she did and then we sent it to her group members.

Today is Thursday. I'm tired from the socialising that we did this week but next week is already fully booked. She has book group, history group, if we can make it Adventure Playground, then two visitors on Thursday for the whole day and then Friday is Drama. I'm tired just thinking about all of that.

Last night I caught some television. I started flicking through the channels and stumbled upon the religious section of channels. I saw 700 club. I haven't seen 700 Club in YEARS! So I started to watch and wow has Pat ever aged! Then I thought about it and realised it's been nearly 20 years since I last saw it. 700 Club is a news programme and then Pat talks about how what is doing on in the world was prophesied and is a sign of the Second Coming.

Then I got curious and started looking at the other channels in that section, I saw Benny Hinn and Peter Popoff and then I saw another show called Jewish Voices (I fully expected something completely different to what it actually was). The thing that struck me was that they were all like those infomercials or shopping channel programmes. They were selling religion and miracles. In the case of Jewish Voices, they were asking for donations to help the Jews in Ethiopia and then were doing like PBS does in its membership drives, they were giving you a gift if you sent a certain amount of money.

Obviously I didn't last very long watching those shows, I couldn't stand it. I mean I don't need to buy something in order for a miracle to happen in my life. I don't need a gift to donate to a worthy cause and I can't stand the mentality of those shows. Yes I understand that Benny Hinn and Peter Popoff are empires and they have to fund their businesses, but the way they go about it is too over the top for me and it always was, even when I lived on the same side of the ocean as them!

I expect I should explain what I thought Jewish Voices was, I thought it was going to be something a bit more instructional perhaps. But then I remembered that the Jewish people are not supposed to prosthelytize which means that they aren't supposed to be actively recruiting people or converting the masses. In fact, I have heard that if someone wants to convert to Judaism, the Rabbi is supposed to turn him or her away three times. If the person comes back a fourth time, then the Rabbi sees that they genuinely want to convert and then will help them. It is a lengthy process to convert to Judaism and I know someone who went through it. Some Rabbis will do the turning away and others don't anymore.

I've spent a lot of time studying religion and really find it interesting. I used to practise the Jewish Sabbath rituals at home (special meal, blessings, candles, wine - well I used grape juice but...), despite the fact that I'm not Jewish. It really was a nice way to start and end the week. I did mine on Saturday to Sunday rather than from Friday to Saturday. I even had the challah bread that I would take each week. Now the only thing I do observe is Hanukkah because that is the easiest for me to fit in. Years ago L and I painted a menorah and that is what we use each year.

Well I must dash because George is calling me, well, his book is, you might know it, it's called Animal Farm. That's right, George Orwell is calling me.

I think a Math book and a French book are also calling me I promise I'm not really hearing voices from the books, I mean after all, books don't really talk, do they?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Books, books and more books

This week I received my eagerly awaited James Herriot's Treasury for Children. It is a collection of animal stories written by the well known vet and illustrated by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett.

I have to say that the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and so much more life like than other books I have seen. I read some of his books when I was a child and now I get to share some of his stories with my own children.

I received another book last week called Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling and again it is a beautiful book. it is the story of a canoe that has been carved by an 'Indian' boy (I guess to be PC I should say "First Nations") and this canoe makes a journey from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean.

I am really looking forward to using that as a 'Geography' book with M.

L would like it too but it's a bit young for her, I suppose I could just have her read the stories to her sister and then she would get some enjoyment out of it too.

H C Holling also wrote Seabird and Minn of the Mississippi. I think I will have to get those books for us too as the Paddle-to-the-Sea looks like a really good read.

M is doing some reading from McGuffey's Primer Reader and L is reading anything and everything in sight.

Yesterday was drama and then ballet and today was tap and modern and then Latin and ballroom.

Tomorrow is possibly another busy day so I will have to wait and see what tomorrow brings but for now, this week was a good week and we achieved a lot.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Trials and Tribulation of Bilingualism or is it Multilingualism?

This week has just flown by and things are starting to change in my life, for which I am truly thankful. There are big changes that will be taking place but I'm not sure when but it will have an impact on all areas of my life when they do take place.

Today we met a new family to the home education community, her son was in school for 19 days and she took him out. He and L got on like a house of fire and M was fine with him too.

Tonight I was treated to an Indian meal by my friend. She and her daughters and my daughters and I went to a really nice restaurant. The men who work there were so funny with the children.

C, my friend's daughter, asked the man if the little forks and knives were for the starters and the big knives and forks were for the main course. Without skipping a beat he replied, 'No, the little ones are for you and the big ones are for me.' I was in stitches.

Today L and I tried speaking French to each other, it was strange because at one time in her life I only ever spoke French to her and she used to speak it quite well. She's lost that but hopefully will get it back. I think I'm just going to do it and speak French all the time at home when DH isn't around.

That will get the language back up again, I also need to get the German up too but alas it is a complicated language. M completely understands everything you say to her in German but answers in English.

DH didn't want me to speak to her in French because he wanted her to learn German but she doesn't speak any German so there goes that.

We know a couple who did the OPOL rule, that means one parent one language. So the child or children speak to the mother in her language and the father in his, but in our household that doesn't work because they both speak to him in English and he answers L in English and M in German.

Then I wanted the ml at home and ML out rule, that means minority language at home and the Majority Language out so living in an English speaking country, we would speak German at home and English among friends. That didn't work because my German is just not there and so DH would get fed up and speak to me in English because I don't understand his dialect. See the problem is that I speak and understand Hoch Deutsch which is the German equivalent of 'Oxford English' he speaks some dialect that I just don't understand. It took me two or more years of being with him before I could remotely understand half of what he said but yet all his Northern German friends I could understand without any problem.

He refuses to speak to me in 'Hoch Deutsch' and so that means I will never fully understand him. He told me that I speak a variation of German that was common around the war.

Yet another example in my life of being dissuaded from trying to speak a language. At one point in my life I had a complex about speaking French to men and if I knew that someone spoke English, I refused to speak to them in French and it seems I have this same complex in German too.

The biggest problem that I have these days in German is that I speak it well enough to get myself into trouble. That means that I speak it better than I understand it and it poses problems for me, everyone thinks I understand them and actually I caught about 25% of what they said.

I just need to listen to it more then I would understand it but since we will never live there, what's the point? At least when I was learning French I had real motivation, I lived in French Canada for a while and in the south of France.

I've only spent a few weeks in Germany and Austria and think I'd love to live there but he doesn't want to so there goes that idea. In Germany we wouldn't be able to home educate and in Austria we could.

This post seems to have gone in a completely different direction than it started in, in fact, I even had to change the title.

Tomorrow is drama and we're making headway through Animal Farm, it's a very interesting read. Since my train of thought got completely derailed, I think it's est that I go to bed, before something else happens.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

1st Day of March

I can't believe that we are coming to the end of the first quarter of 2011 soon. Spring is going to be upon us and already I see lovely signs of it and hear the birds singing beautifully when I go outside.

Yesterday we made our Flat Travellers and today I sent them to their host families. The host family will take our travellers out and about and take pictures of their adventures and then at the end of the two weeks, send them back to us with some goodies.

We will have their traveller as well and we will do likewise.

We made four to send out to four different families. M made Toto (the dog from The Wizard of Oz), a pink rabbit (she named her Rebecca Rabbit after the character in Peppa Pig) and then L made a TARDIS (Doctor Who) and 'Ginger' a gingerbread girl.

I sent them off today and three of our four travellers will go to the state of Ohio and the fourth one to the state of Michigan.

This is going to be so fun I'm looking forward to when we receive theirs and we can take them around.

We will take them with us to our usual outings and we will take them to some local places of interest such as the Science Museum and of course our Hat Museum.

I have to think of other places we can take them too. We then will take photographs of their Flat Traveller in our area and then send that along with some treats back to them.

This could be a great way to start some pen pal relationships and of course it is a great tool for geography because we will look on the map at where our travellers have been once we get them back. Then we will send them off to new families in April.

Today we did some regular work and we went swimming with some other home educators at a local pool. I am very relaxed now and feel very tired. I do love taking L and M swimming and it is especially nice for L when there are other friends there because I have to attend to M in the pool as she can't swim yet but one day she will. I have to remember to pack her water wings and that will give her some confidence.

Today the weather was gorgeous and it was nice to walk to the pool together and of course the library and post office.

Tomorrow we will be going to the Adventure Playground that meets fortnightly and I have decided to set up swimming on the alternate weeks so that there is another outing if people would like. Swimming with others kills two birds with one stone, it's exercise and it's social time for both children and parents.

I hope that tomorrow the weather is just as gorgeous as today. It was nice and mild. I do remember when in Canada the weather hit 0 degrees I'd suddenly find it hot out because it was up to 0 rather than being at minus 20!

I hope that the Flat Travellers arrive soon so that we can take them out and about with us. We will have four to keep track of but it will be fun and if it is too much then we will reduce it for April to one or two.

Obviously I won't take them in the pool but it would make for interesting conversation.

Until next time take care of yourself and be good to each other.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Fun Outing

Yesterday the three of us went on a fun outing. Yes it was 'educational' but I didn't push any of that, we just went and had fun at our local Science Museum. There were all sorts of explanations up about things but we just played with everything.

I find it very difficult to strike a balance between showing the girls something educational and mythering them all the time with educational questions or facts so I said nothing about the science behind things and we just admired the 'cool' activities that were there.

They played games on touchscreens and lots of other things. There were even iPads there too that we could play on and lots of interactive fun along with hands on things.

M really liked the airplanes and that was her favourite thing that she saw yesterday. She did all sorts of hands on stuff but I didn't explain anything to her because frankly that is just too much.

L really likes going there too and I think we will make a trip back there when school is back in. It was too crazy with all the children there who were off for their school break. I had to remind the girls that we can go back at a time that the other children are in school so we should let them have turns.

I think next week we'll do a surprise trip in :-)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Today we....

did some reading and walked to the library in the fresh air. It was certainly an adventure doing that.

My recovery from that gastrointestinal upset from Tuesday night has moved a bit south and well, let's just say I feel like I have either been training too hard at the gym (ab exercises) or like I got into a boxing match and my core took a real beating.

It hurts to laugh, cough and walk.

At least my head doesn't hurt today, I wonder what will hurt tomorrow.

We got some books from the library, L got out her new favourite which is in the Skulduggery Pleasant series and M got out two books one called Tasty Poems and one called Witches.

We are supposed to be going to a museum for a short stint of the day tomorrow, but we'll see if that is possible. Walking to the library was a killer! Oh well, I have to get out some how.

We are also going to participate in a Flat Traveller activity. This means we will make our traveller, send them to someone, and they will take our traveller around their area on a tour, take photos of our Traveller out and about in their area and send us a good package.

We will do the same for theirs. So Tuesday is the day we need to get ready to send them off :-)

I guess I have some work to do over the weekend.

Keep smiling :-)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Today was one of those days

Today I spent the day recovering from a bad case of something gastrointestinal but I had to press on. Today was a day where I was thankful for not having to do the school run, or a commute to work. My children still got their education taken care of, and I was able to work.

Today L helped M with her honey bee lapbook. She just did a maze, and some colouring sheets. L also did her own education work which was workbook based.

After I took a break, I also worked with M on her honey bee lapbook. Tomorrow all we have to do is look up a few terms and facts for it and she's finished it.

Tomorrow will be yet another busy day as I have some backlog work to catch up on and then on Friday we are off on a social and educational trip.

Today's entry is very short because my energy levels are down and I still have a mountain of work to plough through that is due first thing tomorrow morning.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring so adios amigos!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A typical day, or is it?

Yesterday I printed of some pages on honey bees because M and I are doing the letter B' this week. What better way to hear the 'B' sound than bees? So M started on her lapbook today on that and will more than likely finish it by Thursday.

L did some workbook pages and read a chapter of our Geography story, The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding, which can be found here online:

This week is half-term break in many places in the UK, but in our household we are not observing it because we are going to be operating on a schedule similar to the Canadian school schedule, which means we will finish in June. We will have a week long break in March though instead (which is what the Canadians do). L chose this because last June we found it difficult to motivate ourselves to get up and study. I gave her the choice of either following the terms as they do here, or a slightly adapted Canadian schedule, she of course chose the slightly adapted Canadian schedule.

We are not taking Easter Holidays or any other school breaks, but then we will finish by the end of May. The curriculum that I follow has three terms and each term consists of 12 weeks. We will finish our 36 weeks of academia when it is the Whitsun Half Term here (Pentecost). The other activities that the girls do such as drama, dance lessons, piano lessons etc will will continue on until the end of July.

Those are of course important aspects of the girls' education, learning how to build friendships, work as part of a team and the discipline of working independently (piano or instrument practice for instance).

L will still be able to see her school friends because her lessons are always finished early in the morning, when most of her friends are just getting out of their beds during this half term week. L is very self-disciplined and gets up and does her work and then gets to enjoy the rest of the day doing other things. Sometimes I surprise them and take them swimming when they aren't expecting it.

I need to have lessons done early in the day because I work from home providing administrative support to clients. I also am trying to find the time to set up my therapies practice. I need to know that the lessons are done early in the day, so that I can still connect with my clients during regular working hours. They know that I am not available up until a certain point of the day, and they respect that.

I sometimes must work late into the night, and then get up early in the morning and work some more when the need arises so that I can ensure that the time set aside for lessons is adhered to. This might make me sound like a Drill Sargent Major but I promise you I'm not! I am firm and flexible at the same time. In other words, my children can negotiate with me and make bargains on their work schedule but they know that there are expectations and that we have to learn to work toward the expectations as goals.

I have to be fairly regimented because of my work schedule and this means that we split a lot of chores up. Some people might think that I am being cruel to the girls expecting them to tidy up after themselves and put their belongings away but I think I'm being reasonable and realistic. If we don't learn to put our things away, the house falls into a state of chaos and I can't have that with my work schedule and everything else.

It is a division of labour split as evenly as possible. I tend to take more of the cleaning workload on simply because I'm faster but L is a willing helper and she understands the importance of learning these skills. When M is older, she will take on some chores as well. I think having a four year old clean the toilet is unreasonable, but she does like to 'help' with sweeping the floor and cooking/baking. She makes a mean chocolate cake!

What is a typical day? The short answer is there is no 'typical' day but the most common day is doing our education work from 8 am until 11 am and that includes the life skills work such as learning to cook and clean and meal plan. No, I am not raising my girls to be 'housewife' material, if I had boys, they'd be getting exactly the same life skills because everyone needs to know how to look after themselves.

But wait! Kids are in school for six hours a day, surely three hours of education is not enough! Yes, actually three hours of education per day is plenty because in school they aren't actually doing academics for the entire six hours they are in the building.

They have one hour off for lunch, 20 minutes off for 'register', let's take off 45 minutes for daily assemblies (including time to get to and from and back to classes again), so I have just knocked off two hours and five minutes from the school time table. There is a morning break and in some cases an afternoon break so that is 10-15 minutes long but in actuality allowing time for getting ready to go out and then back in again to their classes afterwards you need to add on an extra 5 minutes, so again an extra 40 minutes gone! So now we are at 6 hours less 2 hours and 45 minutes which leaves us with 3 hours and 15 minutes.

I think that my three hours of one to one time or two to one time is worth at least double the time that they have in school so in actuality, my children are getting two days worth of education at home. I usually divide this down even further; typically a child in school gets about seven minutes of one to one attention/help from their teacher or teaching assistant. If you look at that, that means that a child in school gets 35 minutes a week of one to one time with their teacher or teaching assistant. Mine have more than that in a day of lessons with me.

So I digressed again, sorry about that. Typically our days go 8-11 with education, then after that, they are free to do what they want either reading, computer work or watching a film. If there are afternoon things on, we try and go to those, such as a monthly book group, L goes to a monthly history group and has to do work in between sessions and then we have monthly swim sessions.

L is also involved in a radio show, which again I think is wonderful. Once a month, she and two other home educated people go to a local radio station and have either a 30 minute segment or a 60 minute segment.

That is a wonderful opportunity for her I think!

Sorry I seem to keep avoiding this 'typical' theme. I guess really and truly there is no 'typical' day for us we have some general patterns, but by and large no two days are really ever completely alike.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Home Education FAQs

Many people ask me what I do with my girls at home all day. There really is no simple answer, so I guess that means I have to, as usual, give the long drawn out version.

We start each day with academic lessons, and L has a longer 'school day' or lesson time than M does simply because she's much older (nearly eight years older) and is at a different point.

How did we get started in the field of home education?

Back in November of 2009 I became very disgusted digruntled disillusioned with the current school system.

Home education or home schooling is something that I had thought long and hard about ever since L was a baby, and it took me nearly 11 years to get around to officially doing it.

I felt that the way the schools teach things was not adequate, it might help a child pass exams but surely there is more to getting an education than passing exams, isn't there?

I also saw some gaps in the teaching, which also meant gaps in learning, so I decided to take her out of school for what was going to be six months and in order to get her up to a higher standard for secondary school.

After one term at home, she decided that she preferred home schooling, or home education and so we continued and gave up her place at the secondary school.

My Local Authority put M in a school that was a 15 minute drive away from my home, which I thought was ridiculous when there are five schools within walking distance of my home. I decided not to bother putting her in school either, and that ended up being a good practical decision because it would have meant too much driving, as we were down to one car due to car troubles. (Drive M to school, DH to work, back home again, then collect M from school, then back home again, then collect DH from work, no thanks!)

So there you are, in March 2010, I declined two places at two schools for my children, and that meant I took on the full responsibility of their education and did not delegate it to someone else.

So what do we do all day? As I said, we have our lessons first thing in the morning, and quite often have completed our lessons before my DH goes to work. M does her lessons slightly later in the day because she gets up slightly later in the day.

My afternoons are spent working (sometimes) and the girls pretty much do their own thing, whether that is reading, watching a film or computer work. Sometimes we go to home educator gatherings and socialise (yes gasp, shock, horror! We socialise!!!)

Each girl gets one on one time with me which I think is invaluable, there is no waiting for help on a problem that they are stuck on, and some things are covered together, such as art study, composer study, folk song study etc. Those are topics that we can cover together.

What do you use? Do you have to use a set curriculum? Does the Government give you any money? Do they tell you what to do?

The Government has no say in the education that I provide to my children, and in fact they do not provide any financial support either. Currently as the law in the England stands, I do not have to teach any set curriculum, follow a time table, observe school term dates/timetables and I don't have to use the National Curriculum.

Well, I don't but at the same time, I do feel the need to, even though it's not a legal requirement. How so? Isn't that a contradiction of terms? It is and it isn't. At the moment in England, there are two categories of home schoolers or home educators, the 'knowns' and the 'unknowns'.

The knowns are people like myself who have taken their children out of school, and the school told the Local Authority about us, or they voluntarily declared themselves as home educators to the Local Authority. Of course the other ways that people become known are through GPs, A&E incidents, nosey concerned neighbours and so on.

The unknowns are people who are not on the Local Authority's system/books/database for whatever reason. That could be because their child/children have never been to school, they moved from one town to another and didn't declare themselves (currently there is no legal requirement to inform the Local Authority that you are home educating).

Why do I feel the need to follow the National Curriculum if there is no requirement to do so? Simply because the National Curriculum is a set of subjects with learning outcomes or targets. I am a busy person because not only do I teach my children, I work from home and am trying to start a business. I don't have time to fight with the Local Authority over suitability of education. Yes, I agree that may seem like a cop out.

I can hear the 'unknowns' right now screaming at me 'But you are making it difficult for us! You do this and then the Local Authority expect us to do it too!' I may be happy to send a report, but I am NOT happy to have a home visit! Other people are happy to have a home visit and give the Local Authority absolutely nothing! I do this because it gives me peace of mind.

So what do I do all day? Enjoy the fact that my girls and I can do things together, we set our own hours and 'terms' and holidays, and best of all, the quality of the education that they are receiving is second to none.

What about the social? My standard answer that stops everyone from asking quesstions is: I can teach my children to burp, fart, spit and swear just as well as anyone else, if not better! The next sound I hear is their jaw hitting the floor. I do love shock value, I must confess. Seriously though, socially my children have clubs/programmes/lessons that they do where they are 'with children their own age' (for the record I have never been in that situation again - I am usually the youngest person at anything I go to, well, now that I'm getting older, I'm one of the youngest but there is never anyone my age.)

What's your style then? That's the name of this blog so what is your style?

My style is Charlotte Mason with strong Steiner overtones and a bit eclectic because I use other resources that are not necessarily Steiner or CM.

Do my children like the education they are getting? Yes. L tells me she doesn't want to change anything. She also says that she does more in the comparatively short time (compared to a school day) at home than she did in the school day. M is keen to do 'lessons' or 'preschool' at home and then next September she'll do 'big school' at home like her sister does.

We are all different and we all have different views. There are as many ways to home educate as there are families who home educate.

Am I wrong for doing things the way I do? Some might think so, and that's fine, I'm not interested in a competition or a debate.

Am I right for doing things the way that I do? In my opinion I am and in the opinions of my children I am doing things the right way for them, and we are the ones who must live with the consequences of our choices and actions.