Saturday, 22 July 2017

Reality Check

I often get a chance to blog when I have had a really good day or want to record something I want to remember. (Although I have done my share of post natal moaning posts as well.) But often life is boring and full of just getting shit done.
This week has been one of those weeks. It is the week that sees the 34th anniversary of my dad's death. It is the first week of the summer holidays and the wee one has a sore throat and has been coughing all through the night - which means not much sleep for any of us. We have been trying to buy a car, mostly because my mobility is becoming worse and I want to do things with the wee one. But of course I feel guilty for expanding my carbon footprint.
I am worried about my mother who is very far away in another country and suffering from dementia and loneliness.  I am worried about the children I have with mental health issues. There are teen ager issues doing my head in. And I am stressed about money. Especially with the new bill of a car. And then there is the fact that the car I want is still in Scotland and I am hoping it will come soon because we are going camping on Wednesday. It is cutting it a bit fine.
This is what real life is like. I am still content and well most of the time. But hey, nothing is perfect. Here is a photo of me in my dressing gown hanging up the washing. Taken by the wee one. It's all educational.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The World we live in and a Review

So the world appears to have gone to shit since last I posted. Donald Trump has been sworn in as President of the United States. The Tories are still in power with the help of the DUP. Manchester has become one of the cities to experience a crazy person's home made deadly bomb. The news is full of terrorists and refugees and war.

How do I raise a child in all of this? How do I respond when she asks, "Is there going to be a bomb at our house?" Or when she keeps asking me why the train and tram stations keep making announcements about being alert for suspicious behaviour or packages?

I don't have the answers to these questions. But I think we just have to keep talking.

Yesterday on the tram we heard the announcements about reporting suspicious packages about 15 times. She kept saying, "Not again. Why do they keep saying the same thing?"  And what I want to do is reassure her. Not by saying that everything will be ok, because I cannot promise that, and things are not ok for a lot of people, but by pointing out all the good in the world in which we live. The good far outweighs the scary for a lot of us lucky people and we should try to hold on to that.

Yesterday we did that by talking about all the things we usually see at the tram station. Busy people, kids, people with pull along cases, kids trying to get on without tickets, but not people acting suspiciously. :)

Another thing that I haven't been talking about with her, is the refugee crisis. It isn't in the news as much but it is still a crisis. And we had a chance to exlpore a lot of the issues about it when we went to see The Welcoming Party last night.

The Welcoming Party is part of the Manchester International Festival and Z arts (where I work) is one of the producers. I am part of the Front of House team and not part of the creative team so I really had no idea what to expect when we went to see it last night.

Oh. My. God.

It is such a good production. It is beautiful and powerful. I held back tears a couple of times. And there was one point where the little one was upset and needed to be carried for a bit. It is recommended for ages 8 + and she is just shy of  being 8. But that is the point. It is upsetting because the audience is experiencing a little bit of what asylum seekers experience. It is not 'entertaining' but it is fantastic and well worth seeing. I wish everybody could see it!

It has opened up a lot of discussion with the little one about what people go through. A discussion I have been struggling with as a parent. How do I talk about this while protecting my own mental health and helping her empathise and not make her feel like the world is ending?! I see us going back to it again and again over the next few weeks as we talk about current issues.

It is promenade theatre. Up stairs and down stairs.(There are lifts.) Around different parts of different rooms. The story telling is fantastic if sad. There are puppets that bring memories to life and are just wonderful. There is beauty in the dancing and the music and the singing. And parts of it are with me today as I write this.

I don't really do reviews. I am too afraid of spoilers. But this. Just go experience it. But go prepared. It isn't easy. Just worth it.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Taking an Interest

So this was going to be all about how excited I was to find some of the old episodes of Look and Read on Youtube.  In the 80's and 90's the BBC had excellent television programming for schools. These days, audio visual resources are all about using the internet and interactive whiteboards and a lot of things which in my opinion keep the brain too active to actually soak up much actual information. I watched a lot of these wonderful programs with my older kids throughout the 90's and into the noughties and I really miss them.

Words and Pictures
The Experimentor
Look and Read
Magic Grandad
Stop Look Listen

Channel 4 had some good ones as well, Rat-a-tat-tat  and Book Box come to mind.

There were so many I can't remember them all. But it is fun to go all nostalgic on this site!

And it is really exciting to watch them again on Youtube. I introduced the Little Miss to Look and Read yesterday - Spywatch to be exact - and she is impressed. We have already watched all 10 episodes.

But the reason I have titled this post 'Taking an Interest' has to do with what we have been doing since watching the thrilling final. We have been Looking and Reading. :-) Of course. There are all sorts of little hints and games that they introduce to those watching, and she has just eaten in all up. Which means I have as well.

On the bus today on the way to climbing class, she was reading every single word she could see and we were looking for words within words. The thing about taking as interest is that if I enjoy doing something with her, then she usually enjoys it too.
King is in the No Smoking sign.
Top in the word Stopping.
Emerge in the Emergency Exit sign. ( I was really impressed with that one.)
And Standing is the winner with 8 words! So far. :-)

But it has reminded me (and thank goodness because we are in the post Christmas Rut) that the children has almost always joined in things that we were doing. If I sat down to do anything, they would take an interest and want to joing in. So if I was doing calligraphy, they would come to take part. And that would be them practising handwriting and spelling. If I was doing a crossword or any of the amazing puzzles from the Krazydad website, they would want to do their own. So it is handy that I enjoy riddles and puzzles and word games and conundrums and guessing games and that sort of thing.

The things that I am interested in, they were curious about. They things that they are interested in, I am curious about.


Not Dan and Phil.

Not My Little Pony.

But from the point of view of an educator, I do think it is important the learners see that I value what it is I am teaching. Why would a kid want to do pointless tasks just because I say that someday the info they are being compelled to regurgitate may come in handy. Nope, words are important. To me. They are fun too. So are games. So I take an interest. And play games.

And I cannot wait for the next Look and Read!

Friday, 11 November 2016

How to teach Maths

So I have this idea that I'd like to get some storage furniture for the wee one's bedroom in an attempt to get all the crap off the floor. In spite of already having raised 4 children, I am optimistic. But I also thought I would turn it into a learning opportunity. I got out the tape measure and upstairs we went. We discussed width, depth, and height; we looked at IKEA online; we discussed needs and space and decided on some units.

Her decision was to buy everything pink-regardless of practicality or size or price. After an hour I got us out of the house before tieing her up with the metal tape measure. So we went to a friend's house and had a nice time - fitting in educational conversations about the transfer of heat by radiation, conduction or convection, and some discussion of the long A sound, rhyming words and homophones, and some 20 questions and the Yes/No game. That was just on the bus.

Arriving home at tea time, she once again picked up the tape measure and started measuring EVERYTHING in the house. And that is how I know my butt measures 54. Metric, not Imperial.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ninja style Home ed

Well, the wee one is dive kicking the sofa and making numchucks out of toilet roles. She is balancing and practising her horse stance and press ups. I could call this Physical Education. Or maybe because she is concurrently watching a video on Shaolin Monks, I could call it Religious Education. In reality, I am calling it, "I hope she goes to bed soon."

Sunday, 9 October 2016


We are doing all the puzzles

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The feminist slant...

The irony of claiming to be a feminist while having been a long term housewife and mother does not escape me. It all comes down to choice. Women should lead the lives they choose.

But there is also the raising of daughters to think about and the example I set. What is it that I want to show my children?  I hope that I have shown them a woman who is fallible but keeps trying, who sometimes looses it, because I don't want to be perfect and have them have unrealistic expectations for themselves. :-) 

One thing that strikes me is showing my daughters a woman who can do stuff. A lot of women, particularly middle class ones, talk a lot about how GIRLS CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT TO DO but then pay a man to change a washer, change a tyre, fix the car, paint the ceiling.  

Girls should also be able to do all those things they may not want to do, but have to do anyway. 

When we had a car, I checked the oil, and put air in the tyres, and got the petrol, and in fact did all the driving because my husband doesn't drive. I have built shelves, painted rooms, drilled holes, and have tried to do jobs around the house with the specific intent that my daughters would see me do those things, and not assume that men do them. And that is not easy when you live with a man who is constantly doing stuff. So Fathers, maybe back off once in a while. It is nice to love your kids and want to do things for them, but let them see a woman do some of it. That would be a nice gift for them as well. 

And Mothers, it is not enough to talk to daughters about equality. We have to live it for them. Set the example. Girls and boys should see women doing the work that needs to be done, like taking out the bins, just like they should see men doing the other work that needs to be done, like changing the nappies. 

I was thinking of this as the Babe helped me to strip, sand and paint the gate posts last week. So here it is. Home education as feminist theory and manual labour.