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.