Wednesday, 7 December 2011

An odd day...

Actually, it was a nice day. Except for the weather, which was cold and wet and had rather too much hail and wind for my liking. Firstly, yesterday, 6th December, 2011, was my eldest daughter's 21st birthday. She is all grown up. And it is nice because it looks like she is enjoying her life.

And the Meister got to go to Bradford on a home ed trip to do textiles and dyeing. Cool. My idea of a perfect day. She hasn't been home yet, what with ZYP and sleepovers, but I will assume that she liked it a little, if not as much as I would have. :-)

And Al had the day off work. 

And Martine and Creature braved the weather and came to visit and drink tea.

The thing that made the day odd was that we were contacted twice the LA: once to tell us that a place has opened up at the local high school, and the Meister may be starting Monday, or she may be starting after Christmas: and the other contact  was a letter from the LA asking about our home ed provision. odd day, and I am not sure how I feel about it all.

Monday, 5 December 2011

College days are nearing...

And today we sent of The Boy's college application. He is hoping to do the Access to Music course at Trafford college's  Music Base in Manchester. The Changeling is still working on her UCAS stuff, but that will be another one done soon.

She still isn't speaking...

The Babe is 26 months old and still not speaking. Sometimes it is frustrating, and sometimes, when I remember what it was like with the other 4 when they were toddlers, I remember to be grateful for small blessings, and endeavour to enjoy the peace while it lasts. Not that there is really peace. She can still communicate all to well, "No!" having been mastered. And one doesn't need actual words to shout and express displeasure. And she still manages to tell me to shut up -  by putting her fingers to her lips most emphatically. Ah well.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Oh Dear

So I have been meaning to post about the home ed things we've been doing, but instead I get to say that the Meister  has asked to go to school. Actually, she asked a few months ago, and we have talked about it on and off. I had this idea that she would go in when she was 14 to save me the drama of trying to find places for her to do courses, exams or other interesting things. But she kept mentioning it, and I sort of concurred in a 'I'm not really paying attention' kind of way. She is really settled at the moment so it has rather come out of the blue that it seems to be happening. (Although it has happened once before.)

It wasn't until I was phoning the school that I was thinking of what alternatives I could offer her, more drama groups, and English IGCSE, whatever. But really she doesn't have the options that the older ones had. They had a national EO scene, and lots of train journeys to camps and gatherings and friends to visit. They had access to courses that are now closed off to the Meister for various reasons. And they had a mother who was not needed by a 2 year old all the time.

Anyway, we have made the application, and are waiting to hear when a place opens up, which we are told will be before the Xmas holidays.

I am also going to college open days with the Boy. (Although going to the Access to Music open day at Abraham Moss centre today turned out to be a bit of a waste of time and energy and money since the staff didn't turn up...that will be another post!) He may, or may not, go to college in September. Wouldn't it be weird if I were at home with just a 3 year old, and not officially home educating anybody. That would be the first time in 17 years.

What shall I do with myself? I am fantasising about getting a part time job. What do you bet that as soon as I do, the Meister will want to be home educated again?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Not getting started...

I am rather struggling getting going this September. In spite of  having home educated for the better part of 2 decades, I still have this idea that things 'get started' in September. Actually, it is only the kids' activities that get started. And most of the time they make their own way. The Meister, The Boy, and The Changeling all sort themselves out to a large extent, and I just hang around, keeping the Babe amused and being available, should I be needed.

But this September, I am lacking energy. I have lots of ideas, but they are all in hibernation, waiting for The Babe to grow up a bit. Until then, I will read We're going on a Bear Hunt, and Dear Zoo, and we will look for Wally, and go to the park, and watch Charlie and Lola DVDs. All of which is a bit boring. (I'd rather be crocheting!) And The Babe stops me from doing things with the older two who are still being home educated. We can't play games, or go on too many outings, because we have this toddler to deal with. Which is mostly fun, but also exhausting.

I want to start an English group, but I don't think I will be able to maintain the energy needed to get going. I want to do more cooking and budgeting with the Changeling who is hoping to go to University next year, but she is so busy, she is rarely available. We aren't doing our Krampf experiments. We aren't even watching films together much, and discussing the issues they raise. Actually, we are watching films, just not getting to talk about them, as I am off to bed as soon as possible!

At least The Meister and I are really enjoying our Thursdays, thanks to Martine babysitting for us. We are doing sewing, but our days are rarely the same. We have had productive days, where we make a cushion cover or a toile in one sitting. We have had days where we go out to buy supplies, and grab a drink in the cafe. Last Thursday was great too. We sat and worked on separate things - her trying embroidery with the machine, while I was pattern cutting.  But we were listing to the National Poetry day programs on Radio 4 Extra and it was brilliant. Also well timed, as the following day, we went to and 'interactive performance' with John Hegley. 'Twas very entertaining, and has given us some ideas to get on with, as soon as I find the energy to do so.

At least Book group has started up again, with which I am trying to be involved. Freak The Mighty by Rodman Philbrick is this month's read. I really like this book. It is not too difficult, yet doesn't pander to the youthful target audience. It is not overly sentimental, and it is not superficial. I highly recommend it. We will have to try some other books by him.  I have also sorted out a shelf with young adult fiction that we have in the house. My goal is to get Meister and Boy to choose from this shelf, and then for us to discuss the book. Unfortunately, they are already reading so much, that we haven't gotten anywhere with that. Warhorse, Ender's Game, and Neverwhere (Michael Morpurgo, Orson Scott Card and Neil Gaiman) are currently being read, so I am not going to complain. :-)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The evolution of Natural history

Ok. So I am trying to be clever, and really just talking about the changes being made the Natural History Museum in Manchester. A few weeks ago, I had one of those, " I need to get out of this house with this toddler!" moments, and we hopped on the bus and headed to the Manchester Museum.

I had spent so much time there when the older three kids were younger. We went about once a month for nearly 10 years. We were on first name terms with Karen, one of the stewards who worked there who was brilliant. We liked the old aquarium, the new vivarium, (although we miss the caimen) and of course, the dinosaurs. We looked in the zoetrope, lifted the info doors on the hippo (was it a hippo?) and genuinely loved the narwhol. We learned about even and odd toes ungulates and felt smugly clever. We measured our pulses and put together the organs in the man upstairs again and again. We watched the bees come and go, and looked at the stuffed birds and tried to figure out how many of the ducks and geese and other birds we have actually seen. We have done projects on Egyptians and Romans, and we have been affected by the images of those who died in Vesuvius. We took in bits of pottery and bones that we had found digging in the garden, so that somebody in the know could identify them for us.

I must admit that it has been a while since we have been regulars to the museum. But having another little one, I did rather expect that we would begin going again. Now, I am not so sure.

So this trip we had a few weeks ago...I grabbed the Babe, asked the Boy if he wanted to come with us, and the three of us were off. My expectation was to take the Babe to the Mammal gallery, and make lots of animal noises, let her run around in the big space, and look at some animals which she sees in books all the time. Well, first surprise, the Mammal gallery isn't there anymore. I was rather disappointed. It is now the Living Worlds gallery,  which is...I am not sure what it is.

When I asked one of the people who works there about it, he mentioned that a lot of the old specimens were a bit tatty...
ME "Makes sense."
HIM "We wanted to make it more visual."
ME "But you have made it less visual, because there are fewer things to look at."
HIM "It was a bit too scientific before."

At this point we just went upstairs and looked at the vivarium. Even that is less interesting . The axylotl are gone, the things you could stick your hands in to feel the temperature of a reptilian nest of eggs is gone, the interactive screen in gone. The snakes, lizards, toads, frogs, and geckos are all still there. Quite interesting, but let's face it, reptiles and amphibians don't do much. The vivarium is a great part of the museum, but as the only interesting thing, it doesn't have the pull that it might.

Anyway, I was rather disappointed with the whole trip, and we went home again, not really thinking much about it, other than thinking, "That's a shame."

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I have organised a trip for some of us home educators to go to an 'interactive performance' with John Hegley. It is supposed to be based on the wonderful new Living Worlds Gallery. "So," I thought to myself, "We shall go back specifically to see this gallery, to be better prepared for the event. I shall return with an open mind to see what the Living Worlds gallery has to offer when I am not expecting something else and reacting with my disappointment. Maybe it's just me being opinionated and judgemental and looking backward."

Very open minded of me, eh?

And still, I am incredibly disappointed. Even more so than before, because now I have actually tried to get something out of the experience, and there is very little to get. The Living Worlds gallery is little more than a pleasant room to walk through, however poorly lit it may be. It is abstract, with the lovely glass cases each filled with something that is supposed to be related to the trendy retrolighting sign above. PEACE, BODIES, DISASTERS, SYMBOLS, and some others that I can't really remember. Things are thrown together with no apparent cohesion, and many chances to make things actually interesting are missed. It is all rather odd.

It is pretty to look at, but a bit like you would look at some sort of conceptual art display, and then move on, wondering what to think, but with no desire to go back to explore. How else can you respond to a display case full of stuffed Dodos, toy teeth, plastic butterflies, a single  fossilised egg, a hammerhead shark's jaw and a tree ring? How else can you respond to a display case full of origami cranes? How are we supposed to respond to a bunch of quotes from university staff about how they have always been drawn to this, or been interested in that. Well, good for them, but we have learned NOTHING by visiting this gallery.

I have been laying awake since 4am, (sad I know) just getting more and more angry about what a missed opportunity this is.  On the second trip, I again asked a member of staff about the changes and the new gallery. She said they wanted to make it more interactive. So off we went looking to interact.

The Bodies display could be so cool! There are skeletons from several different animals, and a single sentence on the poorly placed information text saying that all animals with skeletons are related because they have a common ancestor. Where is the information about that? Where is the information about evolution or the common ancestor? Where is the opportunity to interact with anything that would reinforce this information? A table of skeletons to correctly identify? Puzzles to put together? A touch screen to play a film showing the gradual changes over millennia that lead to current species?

The Disasters display could have so much more impact. Where is the information to tell about the Vesuvius victims? Where is any reference to more recent volcanic disasters? Where is the comparison between manmade and natural disasters? Why not a touch screen with a changing display bringing up to date information about more recent disasters such at tsunami, floods, Haiti? Where is any sort of historic or geologic references to disasters and how they are predicted and/or recorded? Where is any info on how we react to these globally? Aid? International community? Famine? Erosion? Three mile island, Chernobyl and Fukoshima?   The point of the Living Worlds Gallery is that it is supposed to explore " the connections between all living things, including us, and shows how we can all shape the future by the choices we make."

Quite frankly, it doesn't do that. There is a cool skull of a horse, Old Billy, and a bit about his history and a reference to the fact that he was painted. But there is no copy of the painting. There is a story (the only story) in the poorly lit text accompanying the Peace display, about a young girl who survived Hiroshima, and her desire to spread a message of peace with origami cranes. There is no further info about Hiroshima, no photos of its victims, or any information on how many countries have similar weapons, or the long lasting damage that they caused. But there are pretty origami cranes to look at. There isn't even a table with paper and instructions for you to make your own crane.

There is a lion, an eagle, a snake, and other stuff in the Symbols display, but no bringing together of universal symbolism, or symbols from different cultures or how the same thing can represent different things in different cultures, or about how symbols are changing with increasing globalisation. Why not a mystery box here, where you could stick your hand in and guess what the symbol is, and what it means, and why it is so familiar? Why not a comparison to contemporary symbols, labels, designer culture, and the golden arches themselves?

And then having failed to interact, we again ask a member of staff, and are told that the reason the gallery is more interactive, because we can use our smartphones to get the apps to give us further information. But none in our group has a smartphone. So we are told that we can ask a staff member with a tablet about it. There is nowhere posted that you can ask for these tablets, I guess we got lucky that somebody decided to share that info with us, but we do indeed ask. Two young staffers, go to a locked cupboard as we wait, and bring out 3 tablet thingys, which none of us (4 adults, 12 kids) knows how to use. Even the kids find these boring, and after all asking if they can have a go, then don't all have a go, and disappear up to the vivarium, where they mention what I mentioned before, that the nest thing to stick your hand in is gone, the touch screen with info is gone, and the axylotl are gone. (Well, maybe the axylotl was me again.)

I suppose I could go on. But that is a bit boring, isn't it? The whole thing is a wasted opportunity. It is pretty as well as pretty insubstantial. And all I can do now is worry about what they are doing to the Egyptians and Archeology galleries. Apparently we can look forward to a new Ancient Worlds Gallery. I dread to think what will be the "imaginative grouping of artefacts" that is promised to us on the website. No doubt, I will once again put aside my disappointment, and return to the museum with an open mind, and hope to learn something. I don't know how, but we managed to have a trip to the museum where we didn't learn anything. I hope that doesn't happen again.

And then I begin to wonder why all of this is happening? And I think it is once again about the segregation of children from the adult world. Family friendly claims aside, the museum is not a place where children are welcome outside of the arranged activities where they have to come with parents.

We were told off for 'running' in the vivarium. I can't help but think that 'running' in this case was defined by the staff member as showing any signs of energy above that which was being shown by the gecko.

They were told off for hiding under a display case in the money gallery - because of the danger of electrical equipment there. Either he was really searching for a reason to complain or there are some serious health and safety concerns. (The former gets my vote. Although I should perhaps point out that they were playing Hide and Seek at this point.) Then there was the member of staff who actually told the children that under 16s are not permitted to wander about on their own, and they needed to go be with their parents or carers. We doesn't say that anywhere. We asked one of the two nice stewards who were minding some handling objects and helping one of the kids hide - there is no such rule. And if there was, then all I can say is, "Poop." I am afraid this word is becoming more common in my vocabulary as I am increasingly confronted with a society which is all about substance and not about content, and which really doesn't like people, especially young people. I don't want to live in a corporate world. Even one that HEARTS MANCHESTER.  

But it appears that if I or my children are to get anything out of the museum, it is only going to be from one of the many activities that are organised. We have to learn, once again, according to somebody else's agenda. I think the activities on offer are great, and I don't want to discourage those types of things being organised. But why, just because there are opportunities provided for families and children, does that mean that children have to be excluded from enjoying the museum in their own time and in their own way. I had thought that museums were great places for self directed learners of all ages.

But the new Living Worlds gallery is for people who want the Natural History Museum (it isn't even called that anymore) to be a pretty place to go for the day, before they meet for lunch in the nice cafe, and to which they never have to return. ("Oh, we've DONE the Manchester Museum!") It has been turned into a catwalk, but one we are stuck with for the next decade or two. And like catwalk fashion, it will quickly lose its appeal.

But then what?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I knew it would end like this...

But still I spent the obligatory 3 weeks in September trying to organise exams and/or courses for one of my home ed teens. They Boy wanted Maths and Physics. We are doing the Maths at home, and almost got him onto Physics GCSE at Trafford but for the funding question. Trafford don't have the money, Manchester are willing to get it, but only in the census for EHE kids for next year. Oh well. Aquinas can't take under 16s anymore, so no English either, and finances mean no IGCSE English with either Little Arthur or Catherine Mooney. Maybe next year. But having spoken to the Boy about all of this, he is ok with it. He is enjoying Maths, and is doing at least one extra music exam (Rockschool Grade 5 guitar as well as ABRSM Grade 5 piano) and maybe we will look at a Theory exam as well.

I am so tired anyway, I don't know how I would fit in anything else. They seem to be busy all the time. Always doing things. Always reading. Always rehearsing. So we are settling into the routine of a new 'school' year. The Meister has added Zion Young performers and junior Soul Choir to her other things, and the Boy is carrying on with many of his things. He has gone back to MMS guitar and is doing Orchestral percussion with the Manchester Wind Orchestra as well as Soul Choir, African drumming, and Soul Band.

I am just rambling as I have a few minutes to write. But I haven't really thought about what to write. So rambling it is, and a reassurance that things are happening. Museum tomorrow. And swimming. And Scouts.

But first, a good night's sleep. Let's hope.

Friday, 16 September 2011

And we're BACK!

So term has started. And it doesn't matter how long I have been home educating, September still represents some sort of start to things. Things get kick-started, activities get going again, and I am motivated, for however short a period of time.

Have once again spent hours on the phone and writing emails trying to sort out exams for The Boy (having done it for the older two girls) and getting nowhere. But I don't feel like dwelling on that. My mental health is too fragile to spend so much time worrying about the stupid world we live in. I'll just have to get on with things.

So it is Maths and probably English for The Boy. Physics and others will wait until next year when he will be 16 and can go to adult ed. He is also doing Piano grade 5 (ABRSM) and grade 5 guitar (Rockschool). The Meister is carrying on doing exactly as she pleases, and I have already threatened her with school this week - for complaining that I suggested she practise her handwriting. Oh well.

The two of them went off on the bus to their home ed drama group today, so that I could take the Babe to the story time at the library. That was sort of fun, but also a bit odd, as I have been twice, smiled and sung, and had absolutely nobody say anything to me. I wonder if I am that scary?

And the two of them have their mobile phones sorted out, which means that today at 13:03 I received a text from the Boy asking if he could go into town with a friend, and at 13:04 I received one from the Meister, complaining that The Boy and his friend wouldn't let her go into town with them. I am so glad that we all have the technology available so they can annoy me from a distance.

The best thing that we have arranged so far this term is sewing. Yes, the Meister and I are learning to sew together, as she hates taking instruction from me. So, we are learning something together. We have joined an online course on Martine looks after the Babe on a Thursday, and the Meister and I get out the sewing machine (which desperately needs a service) and the iron and all the paraphernalia, and we get on making things. So far, two cushion covers and denim skirt for a teddy. :-)
Very nice French seams.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The times they are a'changin'

The Boy is in Sweden, The Changeling is now 17 and working full time for the summer, The One who has flown the coop doesn't even come home for the holidays anymore (and who would when Glastonbury, Womad, Bestival and other fun things are waiting?) and The Meister is taking herself off on the bus daily to do exciting things dramatic and otherwise. I am left at home with The Babe, who is cute and lovely and adorable, but doesn't let me knit.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Taking a break from blogland.

Well, summer is here, I can tell because it has been raining for several days. :-) Drama and book group and history and lots of things are finishing for the summer, so I am going to have a break from it all. I am looking at getting work, getting the boy off to Sweden, getting new windows because the ones we got 8 years ago are already rotting. I used to write all the time, but now this blog has turned into one more thing that I don't do very well. So I am having a break and will worry about it at some point in the future.  Although I may still get around to posting photos on my knitting blog. Because I am still knitting. I do have my priorities in order. :-)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Roll on summer...

I say roll on summer because time of year is usually crazily busy with end of year or end of term things going on. I am usually ready for a break anyway, but here we are again. At least we had a bit of a break (see other blog)  Unfortuneately, it meant the Meister had to forego a few things. Book club,  history club, Zion Young Performers, 3 or 4 workshops in preparation for the Manchester Day Parade, and home ed drama, which her brother missed too, along with Scouts. But I do believe it was worth it.

Luckily, History club was rescheduled and we got to do the Roaring 20s. Very fun making a flapper type dress, and learning the Charleston, while reading about Britain's industrial decline, the General Strike of 1926 (once again topical) and the Stock Market Crash in the US in 1929. We were both sad to miss book club, since the book this month was My name is Mina by David Almond. Luckily, we know several people who have read it already so we still get to talk about it. And the Meister got a signed copy for taking part in a live interview with the author organized by the Zion Arts Centre. (As much as anything is organized there, as they are so disorganized!) The important thing for us, is that The Meister and her friend enjoyed themselves...just a shame there weren't any other kids there. :-(

Other big things...The Changeling has a job. She has finished her first year of her college course in Photography and is working for the summer for a photographer. She got 7 Distinctions and 2 Merits, which is pretty damn good. :-) And I think she is motivated to keep working hard. (Except for the hangover she has today) :-o

Also, the Boy has turned 15. For some reason, this seems a very big deal. He has so grown up in the past few months. He now spends all of his time with musical instruments, unless he is fitting in the occassional game of Magic or DnD, or helping me out, which he does a lot. :-) The big birthday present was a banjo, which he had asked for relentlessly for several weeks. Thanks to Hobgoblin, and with a contribution from Grandad, we managed to get a decent 2nd hand one. I am quite enjoying the sound of the banjo in the house, and hoping he doesn't forget to practise his piano!

The Babe has been seen in the company of smaller babes, and I now realize that she is a toddler. She is looking like a real person, and is very good at letting us all know what she wants or doesn't want, even without the aid of language. Still breast feeding, but not so much with the sleeping! Or so it seems. :-)

The Meister is getting all political, protesting the cuts in Chorlton, as well as getting all theatrical with the Manchester Day Parade. She and other home educators can be seen here!

Home educators growing the future! (That's what it says on her back.)

This is the Recyclops, who came to our rubbish ridden world, and started eating all the trash, and turning it into fertilizer and, in her pooh! She was lovely! Thanks to Emma and Sophie and their hard work. Apparently, they are up for it next year, which I really don't understand. :-o

Friday, 3 June 2011

Words, words, words...

I like words. This is something that I am hoping to pass on to my children. So I have been 'doing' some English with The Meister and The Boy. We started by looking at literary terms; to date we have covered imagery, metaphor, simile, symbolism, and personification. So we have been doing a lot of poetry, which is something they like playing around with anyway. I don't want to ruin poetry for them, by taking it apart, but we do little things, like looking at Robert Frost's Birches and picking out the metaphors and similes.

Whenever we look at poems though, we always go off on tangents. This is the thing that reassures me that I am not coercing them - that even though I am introducing a bit of structure into our weekly learning, they are still interested in it. The Meister and The Boy each have been looking at poems by different authors, comparing American and British poets, looking at 19th C and 20th C poetry, and really just gaining a familiarity with poets and their popular works. The Meister undertook to memorise The Road Not Taken (and we hear it whenever we are out walking and come to a fork in the road) and The Boy has undertaken to memorise all 18 stanzas of Poe's The Raven. He is up to 6 or  7 now. I am already impressed. I was supposed to do Edward Lear's The Jumblies, but I copped out with The Owl and The Pussycat, which The Babe really likes. :-)

Our main resource is Classic Poetry, a collection by Michael Rosen and various books I have around the house.  We see things we like, and I usually search the internet for related topics or poems or examples. We read to each other, and last time we talked about personification, we wrote some as well.

 The Boy and The Meister working (at the kitchen table!) writing their poems.

The Changeling, who decided what we were doing was interesting enough to join in. 

And The Babe, who wouldn't be left out, and had to have her own notebook and pen.

But I am not allowed to post their compositions on here. :-) So instead,  I will treat you to  A. A. Milne's Disobedience, which we have all memorised.


A A Milne

James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he;
"You must never go down
to the end of the town,
if you don't go down with me."

James James
Morrison's Mother
Put on a golden gown.
James James Morrison's Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James Morrison's Mother
Said to herself, said she:
"I can get right down
to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea."

King John
Put up a notice,
James James
Morrison Morrison
(Commonly known as Jim)
Told his
Other relations
Not to go blaming him.
James James
Said to his Mother,
"Mother," he said, said he:
"You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me."

James James
Morrison's mother
Hasn't been heard of since.
King John said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
King John
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?"

(Now then, very softly)
W.G.Du P.
Took great
C/0 his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J.J. said to his M*****
"M*****," he said, said he:

Monday, 23 May 2011

Fame has arrived!

The Boy has been rehearsing with his band a lot. They had their first gig this weekend at The Bicycle Village . They did their entire repertoire of 4 songs, and  were so good that they did two of them again.

They performed Green Day, Boulevard of Broken Dreams; Oasis, Wonderwall; The Kink, The Village green preservation Society; The Clash, London's Calling. So an interesting selection. Someday, no doubt, people will be covering them.

The Feckless (AKA the ones in the hats)

And yes it was raining. And yes there were lots of mothers, sisters, friends and onlookers dancing in rain. :-)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A little too much freedon...

I find the older kids are organising themselves a lot of the time. I am being left on my own with the Babe, which I have to get used to. I forget that toddlers need entertaining, and that I cannot expect to get anything done. I am really pleased that the older kids are doing so much, but then we don't get anything done at home. Maybe that is one reason I am doing the 'lessons' a little bit more. It actually gives us a structure and and leads us on to talk about other things. And it is stuff I like to do, and want to share.

So I have a little too much freedom from the older ones; no running them around in a car we don't have (we did used to have some great conversations in the car) and not so much time together, as they are heading to their activities themselves. I am pleased that they are growing up. :-)  It would mean lots of knitting time, or time for a job, if I weren't busy watching the adorable Babe grow up now.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Just an idea...

I have this idea, that since I am only officially home educating two kids at the moment, that we might try to do some structured work. I don't mean following a curriculum kind of work, although we may be doing that since The Boy has decided he wants to do Maths and Physics GCSEs next year.  But I want to share a lot about English and History and Geography that I enjoy. I think that not having the car means that I am just focusing on doing things at home more. Also, if the Boy is to have fewer Music lessons, we will have to fill in that time with something. :-)  I have a little general plan (It's good to have plans, as my friend Jill says, knowing that things never go according to them) that includes, English and Maths and what would be called Social Studies in America.

The English is really more of book club with The Meister - we are really enjoying reading The Nation by Terry Pratchett at the moment, and some things like poetry and stories. She is memorizing a couple of poems, so am I for that matter, and I think the Boy will as well. He already has Jabberwocky down, and Disobedience is usually recited pretty accurately.  :-) The Meister has chosen something by Robert Frost and another by Edna St Vincent Millay. We are also looking at some others with a view to discussing things like imagery, metaphor and simile, which she seems to already know. I just want her to have the literary vocabulary. She is already saying that she wants to do separate Language and Literature GCSEs. I think she is going to be an expensive one.

I guess the Maths will be pretty straightforward, although I plan to have lots of puzzles and logic in there as well. :-) Tarquin publications are good for some of that. And of course, we will continue with History Club. We did a good bit on Britain's loss of America last time. But with me being American, it was more from the point of view of John Adams, than of George III. :-)  And I have bought the John Adams DVD and will be coercing her into watching it. I told it would be like West Wing, but a couple of hundred years earlier. :-)

And we are reinstating Science Wednesdays, except it will probably be Science Thursdays, since that is the only evening that they don't  go out to other activities. 

Of course, in order to get them to do any of this, they have to stop having such active social lives. These poor isolated home educated kids...How will they make any friends?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Poop. It is the nicest thing I can think of to say.

Overtime payments gone.
Child tax credits gone.
Money going.
Kids pocket money gone.

Guitar lessons gone.
Drum lessons gone for the time being.
Piano lessons reduced to once a fortnight.
And now the car is gone.

I keep telling myself that we won't really miss the car, and actually, I home educated the eldest 3 for 10 years without one. We went everywhere. But we didn't have holidays, and we won't be going to any camps this year, which is sad. I can do book club, and history club, and playground socials, and drama, all on the bus. No biggy. But no camping is going to be sad. Poop.

Can I blame the Tories? The thing that really pisses me off, is we are just in the 40% tax bracket. So apparently, we are affluent. We are so affluent, that soon we will lose another £200 a month in child benefit. Maybe the NHS will buy my spare kidney.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Carers and Tots

So I took the Babe to a playgroup for the first time this past Tuesday. It isn't called a Parent and toddler group, probably because they are trying to be all PC about it, but really, it is just because most of the people there are child minders. The Babe enjoyed it well enough, I got some knitting done, and a couple of the women there chatted to me and were nice enough. We will probably go back at some point.

But it did get me thinking, as most things do. It was all so normal, and it so reminded me of when my older two girls were toddlers, and yet it was all so alien. It really struck me as something that is wrong with our society, they way we raise our children, this segregation from the world at large, and particularly from anything 'adult'. I use the term 'adult' simply to mean anything grown-up, or sophisticated, or thoughtful, or worthy.

It is because our society values only certain things, which all lead to something called 'status.' In order to have status, or be considered worthy of note, one has to be grown-up, but not too old, have or earn plenty of money, and generally subscribe to the dominant culture. To be fair, the dominant culture where I live is rather trendy lefty, lots of Guardian readers and (expensive) sensible shoes, but still middle class and very  British.

Children are not a part of this equation at all, which seems odd, considering they are often used to contribute to one's status. Generally, children are meant to succeed at school, so that the parents can talk about their successes at dinner parties and with work colleagues. The better a child performs, the better a parent can feel about what a great parent they are.

It is all so wrong.

Children are segregated from anything meaningful from very young ages. Once they learn to walk and talk, their accomplishments are not noteworthy, unless they  fit in with surpassing academic standards, or attainments in other structured arena, such as music or sport. There is a whole economy around children; child-friendly, child-centred activities, fashion, family activities; but these are not part of the dominant culture. They are separate. They are not the norm. They are 'in addition to' REAL LIFE.

I am finding that having a child later in life, having already raised a few, is giving me a more concrete perspective. My ideas about parenting have become more liberal as I have aged, (although my tolerance unfortunately is waning) which is saying something as I started out fairly deep in left field. But it comes down to some rather simple basics.

1) Kids are kids.

As obvious as this sounds, the British (and the Americans) do have a habit of forgetting what it was like to be a child, unless it is in a nostalgic independent film. A toddler who bites is not a future serial killer, a child who is in nappies until they are 5 is not necessarily an oddity, and children who wait until they are 4 to speak do not necessarily need speech therapy. Late readers are still eventually readers, and when we are all 30 years old, it doesn't really matter when we were weaned. The only thing that really matters, is that we felt loved as children, and were allowed to grow at our own pace.

2) Parents should stop being embarrassed by their children's behaviour.

We all have funny anecdotes, about kids pointing out that Mummy's pooh smells, that the man at the bus stop is really fat, and that boobies are wobbly. These are all innocent, (and true) observations of the world. But they make adults really uncomfortable. How will you ever be able to talk to your teens about sex (the messiest thing of all on so many levels) if you can't talk to your toddler about pooh?

Your child is the important thing, not what the stranger at the supermarket thinks of you. After all, which one of these people are you going home with?

3) Raising kids takes time.

I am not certain about lots of cultures, but I do think the British and Americans have got a few things backwards. We expect kids to be emotionally mature when they are way too young, and yet we want them to stay as children in the physical world.

We keep young people young, by catering to 'adolescence' in a commercial way, instead of a developmental way. We expect very young children to not cry, to deal with being left at nursery, or with a parent who is in a bad mood, or with irrational fears (which always come from rational fears) while not letting them grow up physically. They are supposed to be grown up at big school, but are not allowed to climb a tree, or cook their own food, or do anything that looks challenging, because they might get hurt.

My experience is that kids want to do grown up things, they want to cook, do the washing, etc., long before they are actually good at it, and so we stop them from doing it, until they no longer want to. In order to be 'grown up,' they then have to turn to delinquent behaviour. Helping our kids grow up, means helping them figure out THEIR boundaries and talents. It doesn't mean keeping them to a National Curriculum of what kids should do when.  They should take their time maturing, and we should let them.

That is all I have time for at the moment, and it has taken me about 2 weeks to get that written, as I am too busy actually doing things with my family. The sun has been shining a lot lately, so we have been in the garden, or they have been riding bikes, and I have been watching them and thinking. Going to the playgroup just got me looking at how much outside the box we appear to live. It is all so normal to me, to have a baby in bed with us, to breastfeed for years, to not send my kids to school, to enjoy their company (most of the time!) and to not care about what others think.

It is a nice place to be in, after practising on the older kids.

If only we could all learn these things as we grow up, not being segregated from each other at different developmental phases, and not having to practise on our offspring. They deserve more in life than to be our learning curve. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

So Why is Chaos relaxing?

Just in case anybody is wondering about the title of this blog, I will attempt to wax philosophical while in my dressing gown.  It has to do with all of the restrictions and limits that we put on ourselves in this crazy modern world. I try not to be controlled by them, to remember what is important, and to relax along the way in the chaos that is having a family.

Our house is always messy. I must admit that it does get to me. Living with so much stuff. I can spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, tidying, and then walk into the  living room to find that the kids have been just as busy as me. K'nex everywhere, guitars everywhere, socks everywhere, books all over the floor, as well as shoes. What is it about socks, though? There are always socks in every room - and not just baby socks. People seem to take off their socks willy nilly!?

Of course, there are usually knitting bags and my ongoing projects and patterns and things adding to the mess. I am not a naturally tidy person. Al is. I am sure it is worse for him because my threshold for mess is much higher than his. But then again, I have realized that I am happier with it that way. It has  been a conscious effort to concentrate on doing things with the kids, playing games, reading, listening to music, or making music, rather than complain about the mess. I hope that my memories of being a parent are going to be spending time with them, rather than complaining about them. And I hope that their memories of me as a parent are about the fun things we did, or the conversations we had, rather than me being in a bad mood all the time.

Not going to school takes a lot of stress out of our lives. We don't have to live our lives to somebody else's time table. We don't have to worry about being late for school, or traffic, or lost gym kits, or getting homework done, and we don't have to worry about what the other kids, mums, teachers will think of us. That does change as the kids get older, and they choose to take part in activities to which they have to commit, but for the most part, our lives are fairly relaxed.

I am the one who has been stressed the most I think, because as they have grown up, and have not been quite ready to take care of themselves or organize themselves, I have had to do it. And it was hard for quite a few years when I was the only one able to get them places, and I was out every day doing home ed things, and out every night doing other other taxi services. Thank goodness I didn't have to worry about getting up for school as do so many parents do that?! They can't be enjoying life.

But Chaos is good. It means we are pretty adaptable. It means we are resourceful. It means we are not under the thumb of an arbitrary scheduler.  It means that we have spent years lying in bed, reading books, cuddling, playing word games, or getting up to cook pancakes for breakfast, while there is a steady stream of crying kids and grumpy, harassed parents strolling past our house. Sometimes I feel smug. Most of the time I just feel lucky to appreciate chaos for what it is. Having the time to smile. :-)

An Amusing related by The Meister

So the Meister had a sleepover last week, with one her luvvies, and had a rather fun time. One of the things she did was to attend a youth group meeting that this particular Luvvie goes to.  I think it may have been the Boys and Girls Brigade. Anyway, at some point in the course of the evening, the leader asked the group, "Who here watches The News?" According to the Meister, everybody put their hand up, except for her and Luvvie.

"Hmmmm, not a good advert for home education," I thought at this point in the story.

Next question. "Who has heard about what is happening in Libya?" This time, the Meister and Luvvie were the ONLY ones to put their hands up.

So everybody else watches the news, but nobody knows about the news. Interesting. So the Meister and I talked about this for a while. (She insists that she does NOT listen to the news. We don't have a telly, but Radio 4 is on pretty much constantly in the house, so it must seep in via osmosis.)

And of course, the conclusions we came to have to do with general differences between home ed kids, and school kids. Why did all the other kids, who all go to school, raise their hands when asked a pejorative question? Because the whole school culture is based on answering such questions with the 'right' answer. Every answer that is given in school is judged. I don't dispute that it is like that in a lot of families as well, but not so much within our circle of friends, so I will continue with the generalisations and stereotypes.

It is herd mentality, it is peer pressure, it is performing to expectations, and it is damaging.

Those kids that felt it necessary to say that they did something which they could not actually back up did so because they felt there was a 'right' answer, a 'right' way to behave; that watching the news was something they 'should' be doing. The sad thought that accompanies that assumption is that they all feel that they are somehow lacking. If one feels the need to lie about one's likes and dislikes, and one's choices, then that is because one does not feel confident to be oneself. And that is sad.

Or the other possibility is that these kids did a current affairs unit in Year 5 and so think they are informed about the world they live in.

Give me kids like the The Meister and Luvvie any day of the week over sheep. They are loud and annoying, and question me and other adults. They say, "You what? Hang on a minute. No way!" And when I am tired and fed up, I remember that they are really just practising on me, and will go out and annoy the world when they grow up. The world can only benefit.

Friday, 18 March 2011

A poem

My daily poem from the Writer's Almanac

Prayer for Our Daughters
by Mark Jarman

May they never be lonely at parties
Or wait for mail from people they haven't written
Or still in middle age ask God for favors
Or forbid their children things they were never forbidden.

May hatred be like a habit they never developed
And can't see the point of, like gambling or heavy drinking.
If they forget themselves, may it be in music
Or the kind of prayer that makes a garden of thinking.

May they enter the coming century
Like swans under a bridge into enchantment
And take with them enough of this century
To assure their grandchildren it really happened.

May they find a place to love, without nostalgia
For some place else that they can never go back to.
And may they find themselves, as we have found them,
Complete at each stage of their lives, each part they add to.

May they be themselves, long after we've stopped watching.
May they return from every kind of suffering
(Except the last, which doesn't bear repeating)
And be themselves again, both blessed and blessing.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Good Ole Connexions

So Connexions is supposed to be the Careers Guidance for teenagers. Well, a guidance system that monitors your education, health, relationships, sexual activity, parent's drug use, etc., etc., etc., and all sorts of other things that they really don't have the training to deal with, nor the resources to do anything about.

My involvement with Connexions so far has been having my eldest's info passed on from the college in spite of explicitly saying no. Then, after she went to uni, getting a questionnaire asking what she is doing - except the options were 1) in training 2) at college 3) employed 4) unemployed. So there was no option of university. The letter threatened that they would come to our house should we not respond. We didn't respond, and they haven't come. Because, as I mentioned before, they don't have the resources to be of any use anyway.

Next came a knock at the door. I answered my door to a man asking about my son. Naturally, I went into protective mother mode and asked him what the hell he wanted with my son. He was from Connexions, and it is their policy to get in touch with all year 7s and since the Boy isn't in school, he popped around to the house.  Actually, in the end, we had a nice conversation. He was just doing what he was told, and hadn't really thought about how knocking on somebody's door could be interpreted.  He went away knowing a lot more about home education, and nothing more about my son. The sad thing to me was that he said he had never been challenged before. People just go along with all of this stuff!

Now, I have another 16 year old daughter in college. The other day, she got something in the post. Unfortunately for her, I handed her her post when she and her boyfriend were having tea. It was from Connexions. The good ole "careers service" had sent her a leaflet on contraception, and a couple of leaflets about Chlamydia. Now, I know it is important to educate people about these things. There are some really stupid people out there. But this doesn't sit well with me. They are not just providing info, they are making assumptions. As the Changeling herself said to me, "Why is it whenever these people talk to teenagers, it's always about sex?" 

One of my problem with Connexions is the assumptions they make. Firstly, that parents don't communicate with their kids. That kids will only be able to get appropriate info from state sponsored institutions. Secondly, their standards are much lower than mine. I expect more from my kids, and they just lower the bar. Thirdly, they offer nothing of use to home educators anyway. What do some of us want? Access to educational opportunities, which Connexions cannot provide, because they don't control the funding. Fourthly, they assume that everybody wants their 'help' went it is really just their job to collect personal information for the state. They seem genuinely surprised when we say, "No thanks, we've got it covered." 

Why is it that state institutions think parents are such idiots. My teenagers don't even think that!

How can we be so busy, and yet accomplish so little?

Book club was yesterday, and history club today, and we haven't really prepared for either. The Meister managed to nearly finish the book, but we couldn't read together as we haven't had the time. I am wracking my brain, trying to remember what it is that we have been doing, but very little comes to mind.

There have been a couple of sleepovers, some DandD, a piano exam, and regular weekly events. There has also been a lot of cooking, baking, and making of redcurrant jelly. Ok, so the cake recipe was a learning experince, since some of the ingredients were doubled, and other weren't, and the redcurant jelly, from currants that have been in the freezer since last summer, turned out to be some very nice redcurrant cordial. :-)

I also had a nice day with the Changeling, which involved buying yarn, going into town, her taking me to a great vintage shop, and then doing a supermarket shop. It was the being together bit which was really nice.

Have to get to History now. Charles I, and the run up to civil war, and very little homework actually done.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

More Music

I was very happy last week to finally make it to one of the RNCM's free music concerts on Thursday. I had been meaning to go to take The Boy for several months, ever since I found out about them. Of course, all the kids are welcome to go, but I thought he would probably get the most out of it.

Circumstances conspired in my favour last week, and it finally happened. The Changeling was home to babysit since it was the half term holidays for her. The Meister had plans, The Boy was planning to go into town anyway,  friends phoned up to actually remind me that it was on, and one of the peices was of a composer that I really quite like, Steve Reich.

So off we went in the car, and I couldn't find a place to park! Dropped The Boy off at the door, so he could meet up with friends, and then went and parked about 3/4 of a mile away, and walked back. I missed the first piece that was being performed, but made it for the rest of the performance, and got to hear the Steve Reich, which was lovely. It was 8 Lines which you really should go and listen to. Free music in Manchester is wonderful!

Then The Boy went off to play instruments at Hobgoblin and Johnny Roadhouse. I hope I remember to go another time as well.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Worthy stuff!

This week we had Book club as well as History club. They are each organised by lovely home ed mums who remind me of me 15 years ago. There was a time when I had more energy and lots of motivation and everything was new and exciting and we were learning loads of stuff together. But it does seem as though the more kids I have had, the less energy and motivation I have had, and I have done lots of things several times already, so I don't think to do them again.

On the one hand, it means that the Meister has had lots more freedom than her two eldest sisters, and on the other hand, she has had less attention from me. But being around these new friends with younger kids, as well as having good mummy hormones from having the Babe, is re-energizing me and making me want to do things again.

The good thing about both Book club and History club is that they are each once a month. So we have a goal that is achievable, and still lots of time to do all of the other stuff that we do. We read, play music, watch films, play games, go places, visit friends, bake and cook and eat, and do all of the regular weekly activities, and then do the worthy Book Club and History Club.

This month, The Meister was doing Henry VIII and his 6 wives. Of course, she chose this because it is interesting to her, and we have done some reading and stuff about them before. But I thought it was a bit boring. She planned to do it all on her own, and still was planning that, until 10pm the night before they were meeting. :-) Of course.

Her plan, which was sorted out with the group leader, was to be the head of Katherine Parr (5th wife) and to tell the story of the other wives. She had done loads of research, and had started to write it in first person, but it was a bit too much for her. Actually, she would have done it, had I encouraged her more, rather than just saying, "Go do your History." However, she isn't quite able to pick out the most relevant information. She wants it all to be in there! Being concise is something that we may need to work on. :-)

So I was up until midnight finishing it off for her. (I got to work as soon as we finished our family Valentine's day Trivial Pursuit game!) And then the next morning realized we had no props. We had all the props that other people were borrowing, but hadn't done any for her. So after some last minute (again) stitching and stapling and cutting, we had a lovely authentic (sic) piece of regal headwear.

It's amazing what you can whip up with an elastic head band, the cardboard lid of a Thorton's chocolate box, and the cut off leg of an old pair of velvet trousers, and a stapler. :-) (and a wall hanging that matches)

She gave hear speech, with lots of face paint on to make her look like she was adequately dead, while she was kneeling and somebody else held her head in the crook of their arm, like Katherine Parr was holding her own head. :-)

Katherine Parr Speaks....

Hello, I'm Katherine Howard – or at least, I was, before my head was separated from my body by my dear husband King Henry VIII. I shall tell you all about that man and his wives, for wives they all were, no matter what Henry's church says.

Henry was only young when he married Catherine of Aragon. I think that he did love her really, although he didn't tell me much about her. You see, she had married his brother, Arthur, in 1501. They were really only married for political reasons because Henry and Arthur's father, Henry VII, wanted to make an alliance with Spain, and that was where Catherine was from. But after the marriage, Arthur died. They were only married for 6 months, and according to Catherine, the marriage was never consummated. (That means she says they never had sex.) That was how she was able to say they were never really married, and how she ended up marrying Henry. Actually, they didn't get married for a few more years as Henry was so much younger than Arthur. But in 1509, they did get married, and all seemed settled for quite awhile. It would be a couple of decades before all the brouhaha erupted.

When it did erupt, it never really ended. You see, Catherine had lots of babies and miscarriages, but she didn't give birth to a male heir for Henry. In 1511, she had a baby called Henry, who only lived 52 days. And in 1516, she had Mary, who was queen for a while much later, but other than that, it was all quite sad.

Henry did have mistresses, and they did have children, but he needed a legitimate male heir, and I think as he got older, that became much more important to him. It wasn't until 1532, after Henry and Catherine had been married for 23 years, that Henry started trying to have his marriage annulled.

You see, he had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, and in 1532, she finally gave in to his advances, and she ended up pregnant. All Henry wanted was a son, poor man. So he married Anne in secret in January of 1533. He had finally given up on getting the Pope to say that his marriage to Catherine was never real. She didn't think that, the Pope didn't think that, nobody thought that. But he wanted to have a legitimate male heir to be king after him, so he ignored them all.

He got the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, to break with Rome, that means breaking with the Catholic Church, and to proclaim that Henry's marriage to Catherine was invalid. It was as if they had never really been married. So now he was free to be married to Anne Boleyn. Boy, she didn't know what she was letting herself in for, poor woman.

The baby she was pregnant with when they got married was expected to be a boy. But it wasn't. It was a girl, who they called Elizabeth, and turned out to be a pretty good queen, but Henry didn't think much of women ruling. He only wanted a son. And then Anne had a couple more miscarriages. Poor woman. After they had been married for only 3 years, Henry had her arrested. She was accused of adultery, incest and planning to murder the king. There were quite a few other men arrested at the same time. It was as if Henry used this as an excuse to get rid of a few enemies, or he just didn't care, as long as he ended up with what he wanted.

And what he wanted this time, was to be married to Jane Seymour. Poor Anne was beheaded on May 19th, 1536, in spite of the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared that this marriage was invalid as well.

A few days later, on May 30th, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour. Their son, Prince Edward was born in October of the next year. But his birth had been too much for Jane, and she died a couple of weeks later. Who knows? Maybe she was lucky. Maybe, had she lived, she would have been beheaded, like Anne and myself? Henry was quite sad when she died, though. He thought of her as his 'true' wife. But he didn't know how things would end up, and that his daughters would prove more important in history than the son he wanted so so badly.

I suppose Henry grieved for Jane. He didn't think about getting married again for a couple of years. And then he hadn't fallen in love with anyone. But his advisor, Thomas Cromwell, who had supported him in getting rid of Anne Boleyn, now helped to arrange another marriage. This was another marriage for reasons of political alliance, and the poor bride was Anne of Cleves. But Henry had to form alliances. After all, you can't break with Rome and expect all to be well. So this marriage was to help England, but it didn't in the end. It didn't really help anybody. Henry was unhappy because he didn't like Anne of Cleves. He called her the 'Flanders Mare.' Thomas Cromwell ended up accused of treason and executed. Anne didn't really know what was going on, but her marriage was never consummated. I guess she was lucky in that their marriage was dissolved, after she testified that it had never been consummated. She didn't do too badly though. She was given land, and was treated like the king's sister.

Maybe that all went well for her because Henry was falling in love with me. It was 1540, Henry was 49 years old, I was 19, and he was besotted with me. I was quite lovely when I was alive, and Henry gave me lots of lovley presents.

But I guess I didn't know about everything that was going on. There were a lot of people trying to get power. And all I was interested in was love. You see, I had been engaged to Francis Dereham before I met Henry. And then I met gorgeous Thomas Culpeper. What did anybody expect? I mean, I know Henry was king and was very powerful, and he had been quite something when he was younger, but now he was older, and he had that smelly infected leg, and I was young and naïve, and I liked Thomas. Henry gave me lots of gifts. He called me his 'rose without a thorn' and the 'very jewel of womanhood'. I did like him, but, well...

Thomas Cranmer got involved again. The Archbishop of Canterbury went to the king, and told him about me and Thomas Culpeper, and poor Francis Dereham, who had expected to marry me. Francis and I had been officially engaged, and since that was never officially changed, it meant my marriage to Henry supposedly wasn't valid.

Henry and I had only been married just over a year and I was in prison, and Francis was hung, drawn and quartered. Thomas was beheaded, which wasn't as bad, but both of their heads were stuck on spears on London Bridge. They stayed there for years.

And then I was executed too. February 13th, 1542, and off came my head. I can't remember if it hurt very much, but it wasn't very nice.

And then I had to watch as Henry got married for a 6th time. I was a bit surprised when he married Katherine Parr. I mean, he had been so obsessed with getting a male heir, and he goes and marries a woman who has been married twice before, and has never been pregnant. Maybe he wasn't worried because he already had Prince Edward growing up.

And he did like Katherine. Parr that is. She was witty and vivacious and even though she was in her 30's, she was still 20 years younger than the king. I wonder if he ever knew that she wanted to marry Thomas Seymour. Thomas was Jane's brother. You remember Jane? Henry's third wife?

But in July 1543, Henry VIII and Katherine Parr were married. Although the king liked her, there were many who did not, and there was a plot against her. She was rather too taken with Henry's reformed church I think. In 1546, she was nearly arrested for heresy, but because the arrest warrant was found after it had been dropped, either by accident or on purpose, Katherine was aware of what was about to happen, and she managed to placate Henry. She wasn't arrested. And she was able to remain his wife, and a good stepmother to his three children until Henry died a few months later, in January 1547.

I think Katherine wanted to be a part of the new King Edward's rule. He was only 9 years old, and needed older helpers. But she wasn't allowed to be involved. Instead, she finally married Thomas Seymour, whom she had loved before Henry, and she finally got pregnant. Unfortunately, she died just after giving birth to her baby daughter. She only outlived Henry by about 20 months.

It wasn't really easy on any of us being married to Henry. Some lived longer than others, but there was always a price to pay. And it is rather bemusing to think that even though he was married 6 times, and had several mistresses, he only had two official wives, Jane Seymour, who died while they were married, and Katherine Parr, who outlived him. All the other marriages were declared invalid. But 'Henry the Eighth and his Six wives' makes history sound a lot more interesting than 'Henry the Eighth and his two wives.' Plus there were his daughters Mary and Elizabeth to account for. They each became Queen.

But that is another story...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The importance of playing games...

One of my New Year's Resolutions this year was to start hosting Games evenings, in which we invite a few friends around, (very few as we have a smallish house) and eat and game and laugh together. The reasons for this desire of mine are many.

Firstly, we need to have fun. We don't go out much with the Babe still being so young, and with not having much money, but we still want to enjoy ourselves. Also, we are reconnecting with some home ed friends who have older kids and the Changeling doesn't get to see them now that she is at college. So this is a nice family thing that we can do, and can help her keep in touch a bit. Plus, as I said, it is fun.

But what I had forgotten was how we used to use games all of the time as a teaching tool. Our home ed life has been full of games! And the thing that reminded me was playing cards with a friend whose family doesn't play cards. It got me thinking about all of the benefits of playing cards and games. I seem to remember reading an article about how card games were good for developing mathematical thinking. I am not sure if I really believed it, but it seemed a good reason to keep up with the family tradition of playing cards together. Now that the kids are older, and we have met a few people who don't play cards, I think I begin to believe the argument after all.

It is really just a case of what you are used to - I am not saying that if you don't play games, you are a bad person - I am just noticing the benefits of things. I suppose it is a bit like playing Brain Training games, your mind just gets used to doing certain things. Plus there is a whole vocabulary associated with card playing - run, set, consecutive, suits - and things like pattern recognition and developing strategies based on probabilities. It does actually help with logic and problem solving.

What I had forgotten was how we used to play games all the time to learn things. We played I SPY, to pass the time on long bus journeys or car journeys, and to remember to be observant about the world around us. I remember one game that lasted about 40 miles as none of us could figure out what 'P' we could always see - pylon! And the memories of The Boy first learning his alphabet - "I spy something beginning with..." It didn't matter what letter he said, the answer was always Airplane! We would guess a few things beginning with whatever letter he actually said, in the hope that he would recognize the sounds eventually, but then we would guess "Airplane!" Yay!

And there was the ever popular Animal Guessing Game. 20 questions without the first question of "Animal, Vegetable or Mineral." We used this game to introduce vocabulary relating to geography, habitat, and scientific classification. "Is it a mammal, amphibian, etc?" "Does it live in trees, water etc.?"  "Is it native to South America?" As well as passing the time while travelling, it was a good way to learn things, but we forgot about that since we were having fun, and spending time together.

We play a lot of word games, going through the alphabet and doing list games, making things up, doing logic puzzles, guessing countries and cities and capitals, etc.  And we have been reminded of this, since we have sort of gotten out of the habit, by a book that The One got me for Christmas. She is away at university now, but she obviously remembered all of the fun we had playing games, because she got me Parlour Games for Modern Families   and we are having fun doing quite a few of them. I must admit that we don't do many of the movement ones, since we don't have much room, but maybe we will when the weather gets nicer. But the word games are great, and the dice games pretty good too, especially Farkle - if only for the name. :-)

I suppose some people just enjoy that kind of thing - and we do. :-) A couple of comments have been made about how our games guests need to get their brains in gear to come to our games night, but really, I know a lot of people who play much harder games than us! We are wannabes on the clever game circuit! I guess it is because we are enjoying ourselves too much.

I can't imagine not playing games, although there are plenty of specific things that I have no interest in. I am happy to play Magic, but not Pokemon. I am happy to play Munchkin, but not Dungeons and Dragons. I am happy to play lots of traditional card games, but I do get sick of playing Spit - mainly because it is too fast for my old brain - and I never win. The kids are too good - which I suppose was the point of all of this game playing in the first place. They have great brains. :-)

The view from my chair...

I have this chair in my living room, which I got from the Red Cross Charity shop and it is my breastfeeding chair because the sofa is so old and baggy that it hurts my back to just sit in it. So I sit in the chair in the window, and yesterdy I was trying very hard not to look out as the council screws up our road, tarmacs everything, and takes our paving stones to make other streets in the city look nice. :-(

But here we had lots of music. The Boy's musical talent is infecting us all. We bought a ukulele at the weekend, and he is already pretty good on it. We have been playing Gay Pirates, and here is the Babe learning her drum bits, with a little help from Creature. :-) That is Creature's mum, my best friend Martine, sitting on the piano bench, finishing off a little dress she has knitted for the Babe.

Not a good photo, as she was dancing and moving, and wouldn't stand still - so not a good model at all. But a cute dress. :-)

We are doing a lot of music. Of course, The Boy does a lot anyway. Drums, Piano, African Ensemble, Congos, Piano, and I think we can add ukulele to that. He is also saving up for a quatro - which he has picked out at Hobgoblin Music. I have been playing a bit of guitar as well, trying to keep up with him a bit. I haven't played for a couple of years because my skin was quite bad, and the skin on my fingers kept splitting. But I have suitable sore fingers now, and I hope to have callouses again soon. Then I can accompany The Boy, or play a few tunes at the next camp we go on.

The Changeling has been playing the piano a bit as well. She doesn't really do the learning music bit, but she learns songs, and can play they pretty well. And The Meister wants to learn the violin. I  am not convinced this is going to be a long term thing for her, but The Boy has a violin he doesn't use, so she can have a go with that. And who knows, as she and another home ed friend have apparently been offered free singing lessons.

They go to a young performers group, and a couple of weeks ago,  a new accompanist joined the group, and asked if the two of them had singing lessons. Of course, they haven't but the thing that marks them out as different is their confidence. They are home educated, and when they sing, they sing. They don't mumble or pretend to sing, or worry about what all the other kids are doing, or worry about getting it wrong or being laughed at. They just do it. :-) I am proud of them both, but also sad that the normal world makes so many kids afraid to be themselves.

Off to practice my guitar chords...

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Musings on a rainy Saturday morning...

The boy is off to York for the weekend. He is going with his Scout Jamboree Unit. He has a few camps and training days coming up, but we still have £1000 to fundraise. I am slightly disappointed with the fundraising support we are (not) getting. I thought there were going to be more county level things to take part in, but alas, the 4 Scouts in our district seem to be left to their own devices. All of which means I am more actively involved than I want to be.

Don't get me wrong - I am really excited about this opportunity that the Boy has to go to the Jamboree. But I am doing enough what with home education, and toddler watch, and just trying to get through each day. He has done a lot himself, but not using his own initiative, and it can be just as exhausting being the one to do all the reminding and worrying- which means I am doing some organising as well.  But we are half way there money wise - just need to sort out passport and EHIC as well. :-)

Other than that (worry), we have the Meister's friend coming to visit this weekend, and her mum, so I can play, too. :-) Socially, we have been very busy this week, but not so much on the getting things done. We have hardly had any time to read, or play games, or even talk much.

But I did have a nice time on Monday, going shopping with the Changeling. She is 16, and wondering who the hell she is going to be, and we don't spend much social time together. Even though it was only shopping, and it was at the Trafford Centre (crosses self, spits, turns around three times) and we had the Babe with us, it was nice. I find it a little bit sad, that since she started college in September, she seems to hardly see her home ed friends. They were her best friends for years, and it seems a bit as if they have all gone on to other things, and don't really think about each othe that much. It could just be time constraints, but it still seems sad to me. She does have a few new friends at college, but they all seem to be either angry or apathetic, and she is trying to be those things too, when to my mind, she doesn't really have reason to be. But since I am her mother, I would say that wouldn't I?

Anyway, the kids are all so different. Home education has been great in that it has allowed them all to be who they want to be slightly more than if they had been institutionalised. But I still think that they can feel pressure to be 'good' or 'clever' or 'insert trendy lefty characteristic here' even though I do try to not exert pressure, I probably do. I have certain expectations - that they be true to themselves, that they not be rude or impolite to others, that they not be lazy, that they leave me alone once in a while. :-) I mean, that they become independent. :-)

And there are societal pressures. There are sibling relationships. And because the eldest has gone to university, they others may think they are expected to as well. I think that by the time they are 15 - 17 they are really ready to get away from each other. Which is fine, but because we are a family that spends so much time together, maybe they don't think it is fine. I think the Changeling still wants to be part of all we do, and yet wants her own life as well, and just gets angry at us for carrying on without her. But since I am the mother of teenagers, I am no doubt wrong.

Back to the easy bits of home education. I am thinking of starting up an English group for a very small group of the Boy, the Meister and a couple of their friends. It would consist of word games, grammar lessons, reading and discussion of books, writing (both critical and creative) and would be as weekly as we could manage. I like doing this kind of thing, but I just have to be sure I have the energy, and there are enough kids with the interest. :-) I think many families already have too many committments.

I do find myself getting slightly more stuctured, (very, very, slightly) but I think that has something to do with the changing family dynamics, as it isn't anything to do with shifts in ideas about the necessity of the learner having the freedom to choose what to learn.  And no doubt, most families would see our once a month, or once a week activities as having little resemblance to their daily or weekly programmes of learning. We still seem to be doing what suits us, it is just that what suits us is changing. I have been home educating for so long now, that I don't spend much time thinking about it, or talking about it, or challenging myself on its apects. Having the Babe is getting me to do that again, which is useful.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

A trip to the Art Gallery

It seems sad, but I have really gotten out of the habit of going to art galleries and museums. We used to go constantly, so maybe I just had seen them enough. But since we have made the Babe's first visit to Manchester City Art Gallery, I think we will have to keep it up.

We went mainly to see the Rafael Lozano-Hemmer exhibit Recorders, which was brill! Thanks to Martine for telling me about it, since I wouldn't even have known about it, in spite of the fact that the Meister had already been to see it with friends! Which was a good thing, because she couldn't come with us.

We had lots of fun even though I was rather freaked out by the fact that it was based on our surveillance society. I didn't want to have my photo taken, or my fingerprint, but I wanted to take part.

Here are lots of photos of us enjoying ourselves, taken on my little mobile phone camera, so sorry for the not too great quality.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

What I have learned this week.

I have learned that we are all very happy when we have ice cream for pudding, that the Babe does get food into her as well as everywhere else when she feeds herself, and that when Emma says, "It's a lovely day, let's go for a walk," I should be slightly wary. :-)

It has been a productive week, with reading, knitting, cooking, baking, drama groups, music groups, Scouts, Guides, shopping, entertaining, all getting done. But the most amazing thing is that I have started blogging again. :-)

I have been meaning to start having games nights, or family nights for quite some time. And it seems that the New Year is the impetus I need to actually do some things. So we invited a few people around last Saturday, ate curry, played games, drank wine, and planned to do it again sometime. There were a few boys who stayed at the kitchen table playing Munchkin, cards and whatever, while the teens mostly hung out in the study, but they did eventually come in to the living room to play word games and things with the adults.

My new favourite game is Telegrams, which came from the Parlour Games book that S got me for Christmas. There is a word chosen for the group, and everbody in the group has too write a telegram  whose words begin with the lettrs of that word. Some rather amusing telegrams are written. It must have been a good night, because at least one child said, "Can we do this every week?" I was thinking once a month.

We also have done the opticians this week, which was an educational visit. We learned that we could put the baby in the umbrella stand, and she would enjoy it.

Yesterday at drama Emma convinced me that we should go for a walk. Which was a good idea, because I have been to Pilates three times this week, and need to keep my joints working, in order that they keep working. :-) So off we went, with three kids, one dog, and a babe in a backpack. You will see neither the Meister, nor the dog in any photo, as we didn't see much of them on this walk.

It started off nice. Although I didn't read the map properly, and was not quite prepared for the 412 steps we would need to climb up and down on the way there and back again. That's 824 steps. Emma's knee and my hip only just survived, but at a rather slower pace than the kids, which necessitated some panic on behalf of the other walkers, when the sun had set, and most of us were back at the car, and we still could not find the Meister or the dog. All was well in the end, as Emma found them at the same time I went off to get the wardens. There was a beautiful sunset, and the late return meant Coop pizzas and chocolate cake for tea, so quite a few people were happy. And we were back in time for Guides, so no need for worry really. :-) 

Here are some photos of the baby feeding herself, since she won't let anybody else feed her anymore. Which means I spend a lot of time cleaning the table, the floor, the high chair, and the Babe herself. :-) But I have also been changing some interesting nappies, so I know there must be quite a bit of food getting into her.

I have also learned this week, that I need to start packing food for the Babe to munch while the Meister and the Boy are at home ed drama. She spent 2 hours on Friday morning scrounging food from everybody. Fig rolls, crisps, Hula Hoops, cucumber, and whatever else she could lay her hands on got eaten. I shall endeavour to be better prepared. Again.