Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blog Moving :)

This blog is moving to a new, shiny, happy place, with a new title: Home Ed Grows Up

With a big change in our home education structure and Emily's huge leaps in maturity, it was time for a new home, with much more home education blogging and much less moaning :)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Stressful June: Moving On

June seems to have passed us by in a whirl of stress, between hectic work issues for me and Jon and friendship troubles for Emily.

Sadly, we've had to draw a line under our friendship with one family. Two sisters had spent months being mean, nasty and spiteful to Emily, sometimes in person and frequently online. We had enough and I attempted to intervene directly with the girls, which made things worse. Finally had *more* than enough and attempted to involve the mother. Her response, predictably, was an aggressive refusal to admit they'd done anything wrong and a ridiculous attempt to paint her (much older) daughters as the victims and my (painfully shy) daughter as the aggressor, despite month's worth of written evidence and adult witnesses at this end and not one shred of evidence to support her claims. To cut a long and sorry story short, we had to cut all ties with the family - a great shame as we had genuinely believed they were good friends for a number of years, but we were not prepared to tolerate that kind of nonsense. I wouldn't allow another adult to treat me that way so I don't see why we would allow other children (and adults) to treat Emily that way. There comes a point where "friendships" of that nature are just not worth bothering to save.

Much as it would be (very!) therapeutic to go into further details and talk about people behind their backs in the way I know for sure they will talk about us, I'll leave it there. It was very, very upsetting, extremely stressful for us and for Emily, but it's over now and we're moving on. Regrettably, it does leave Jon without a regular psychic circle to attend as the family concerned ran the one he was going to, but we're looking around for other options for him to continue with his mediumship development.

On a positive front, Emily has just started weekly horse-riding lessons and is absolutely smitten by it so far :-)) She has had to give up two weekly sporting activities for reasons given above, but something positive has come out of it as we can now afford the riding, lol!

Home ed is continuing apace, with lots of politics, economics and history being studied. Emily's doing well with the (free! yay!) MEP maths curriculum and is working her way through year 7 stuff there, so just a little bit ahead of where she "should" be. I'm still a little bit stuck on science; not quite sure what we're doing to do there. Still thinking about it. We gave up on the literature study as such because I just couldn't bear to hear moans and groans about reading a book....but Emily's back to reading voraciously with books of her choice.

With the hot weather recently there's been a *huge* amount of pool time :-)) and during June we've also celebrated Jon's birthday and Grandad's birthday and Emily's had a ball out with Jon at various car boots, markets and charity shops. We had an extremely expensive shopping trip into Lincoln at the beginning of June where we bought an outfit for me to wear to a friend's wedding as well as the most beautiful hat for Emily's wedding outfit. We also went to Hall Park Farm with Hazel, Romy and Tansy and have enjoyed our regular Wednesday afternoon psychology-library sessions with them too. Jon has been to the gym every week day for the last five weeks (!!!) and is leaving me well and truly behind in our fitness efforts!

This morning we went to the weekly home ed group meeting in Grimsby for the first time and met some lovely new people. Emily wasn't very relaxed and didn't fancy joining in the group activity, but we'll persevere with it for a while as there were some great adults and children there and I'm sure when she relaxes she'll enjoy it a little more.

I'm sure lots more went on since my last post, but it all got a bit lost among the negativity and the stress. I'm certainly not sad to have waved goodbye to June but I think we're breathing easier now and looking ahead to the rest of the year with something bordering on optimism :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Politics Rules

Ooops, there went the rest of March. And April. And most of May. But look! It's not June yet, and here I am.

Shortly after my last post, the General Election date was announced...and from nowhere, Emily became absolutely fascinated, and I do mean fascinated, by politics. She's learnt (and mostly taught herself) more about politics in the last two months than I learnt in a lifetime. She thoroughly researched all of the main parties and their policies, sat glued through the TV debates, read every newspaper she could find, followed the online news, joined facebook groups, debated and discovered, learnt to recognise all the key figures and their history and sat up with me until 4am on election night, having accompanied me to vote.

And that, of course, was when the real fun began. In the days following the election, Emily was glued to the live news for hours at a time, cried at Gordon Brown's resignation speech and his following speech at Labour HQ, scorned all of the potential Labour leadership candidates, and spent numerous hours in humorous dialogue with one or other of us, much of it managing to incorporate various renditions of "I agree with Nick." She has professed herself to be vehemently anti Tory but pro LibDem and hasn't missed a move in the unfolding coalition's early days and weeks. She talks about and discusses the problems of marrying up Tory policy and LibDem policy and can tell you at great length the whys, hows and wherefores of her views on the deficit and their strategies for reducing it. A second hand book on the workings of parliament, a present from Nana and Gramps, has been devoured and she now knows more about the ins and outs of how it all works than I do. Numerous times I've started to explain something to her only to find her explaining it to me. The depth of her knowledge, from nowhere, is quite astonishing. We have a new career ambition to add to the list of course - politician (well, PM, actually, but even Emily acknowledges that she has to start somewhere, rofl!)

We're especially pleased that Emily's emerging political views are most definitely not just parroted version of our own. Jon was a political activist in his student days and has a wealth of knowledge he shares with Emily, but where as he is staunchly Labour she's much more of a Liberal at heart. She's looking into the Youth Parliament as something she might like to get involved in. We shall see.

Along with the politics, economics goes hand in hand. Really need to find some good, friendly stuff about money markets and the financial industry. I did A level economics and much of it is still a mystery to me.... lol... shows how much attention I was paying at school. I have this book but to be honest, it's not very inspiring.

OK, what else, apart from the politics? Computer programming continues with Gramps - the last major project they did was to code, in Ruby, something which controlled an external set of pedestrian traffic lights, complete with flashing to tell the pedestrians to get a move on. Here she is with the traffic lights set up, including the pedestrian crossing button :-)
We flirted with some English literature, not entirely successfully; Emily's been reading a lot herself, including the entire Noughts and Crosses trilogy (actually, there are four of them now) with its theme of racial superiority ....but she doesn't enjoy having to analyse a text. The prologue of Canterbury Tales was studied, but without enthusiasm. She had a go at a literature study of Skellig, but abandoned it as she hated the book (I liked it though). We're now working on Wind Singer by William Nicholson, based vaguely on this (PDF) Scheme of Work, but again Emily's not really enjoying it. I'm beginning to think that studying literature is one of the quickest ways to kill of a love of good books :-/ Don't know that we'll continue down that vein very long... I'd rather she just read voraciously without having to do "work" on the darn things.

There's been quite a bit of history. We finished a study of the English Civil War in our weekly library sessions with Romy, where Hazel is still doing psychology with the girls too. At home, Emily's been keen on 20th century history and has made timelines of major events in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, now on our wall. Today she started on an essay tracing the changes in technology over the last fifty years, so we'll see how she gets on with that. Once that's done, we plan to start on this Dying for the Vote book, tracing the history of chartism and the suffragettes. There are other books in that series too, including the Cromwell one (which we've done) and one on King John and on the British Empire. They're quite engaging and there are free downloadable teacher's notes/sheets etc available for them all here.

We've stalled a bit in science. We're watching the Chemistry: A Volatile History series; we're also doing odds and ends of various science bits and pieces, but I'm struggling to find science stuff now that my cynical daughter doesn't consider silly AND which is doable in the home. I suspect we'll end up heading more towards a kind of environmental science angle... possibly something like this course from Planet Earth. Have now finally decided against GCSEs. We've opted out of the system this far, for this long, for such very excellent reasons....we're not going to opt back in now. Having discovered that many (most) universities accept OU courses instead of A levels, at the rate of 30 points per A level, we won't be doing A levels either. No need or point. Hurrah!

Amid all the education, Emily did of course find time to spend a whole four days in her pool during the hot weather last week :-))

I was amazed today to find that someone I went to school with in Berkshire somehow ended up teaching in North Lincs at our village school and left at about the same time we moved up here 12 years ago. She knew and had worked with Emily's "teacher". Bless her, she offered her own opinions on the disgraceful way they treated children there and sent a lovely note to Emily saying how sorry she was that Emily had come into contact with the evil Mrs S. A very strange coincidence in our small world!

Monday, March 08, 2010

My Goth Girlie

Looking scarily considerably older than eleven in some of these. *Wail*

Time is slipping by so fast this year. This evening, for the first time, it was still light when I "put Lulu to bed" at 6.15 (that's when she goes back into her cage for the night and settles down to sleep for 12 hours or so). The crocuses are out and the daffodils are nearly out. In a few week's time a quarter of 2010 will be gone!

Education - yes, well, I'm *still* wrangling with how much structure Emily does or doesn't need in her home education adventure. Just when I think I've cracked it, we get a not-so-great day that causes me to rethink it all again.

Since my last post, Emily's made a start on sewing her halter neck top. She worked on civil war history (reluctantly) and done psychology homework for Hazel (much more enthusiastically). She has breezed through the first chapter of a chemistry textbook and read various library books. We've been ice skating with Romy, to our regular library slot with Romy, Hazel and Tansy and been to friends and had friends over. She has cooked, drawn, photographed and faffed endlessly with hair, makeup and clothes. Later this week we're going to Woodside Falconry centre and we're also going to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D.

Mainly, though, Emily has continued with her IT and programming obsession. She's been working with some DOS batch programming links like this, this and this given to her by our friend Sean, who said lots of lovely, encouraging things to her about her work and her growing confidence. She's also excited by these detailed, free tutorials in Visual Basic, C# and PHP and has started to work her way through them, party on her own and partly with Gramps, who seems to be enjoying himself nearly as much as she is! It's all way over my head, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to start learning so that I can keep her company and *attempt* to be of some help occasionally. With this being such an all-consuming passion of Emily's just now, I'm keen to let her have as much time for it as possible.

Time, mind, is something we're a little bit short of. Emily does like interaction and doesn't like being left to her own devices all day, every day. She spends Monday afternoons with Gramps, then Weds afternoons we're out and all day Fridays we're either out at friends or have friends over here. That really only leaves us with Tuesdays and Wednesday/Thursday mornings (Monday mornings just don't seem to happen!) but given how late someone gets to bed and therefore how late someone also gets up in the mornings....basically that leaves me with Tuesday. Factor in the regular Grandad doctor/hospital appointments, occasional illness and the occasional desire to leave the house and see the world and you can see why we have a problem fitting formal education in. Organisation is the key. The missing key, that is. As ever.

Meanwhile, with all the BBC cuts being announced - one of the things going is their teen website...and our largest contract along with it. That's over half of our income for the chop. Sigh. At least they've given us a long notice period, but replacing that contract with something else is going to be very, very tough. Panic? Me? As if.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All the World's a Bookshelf

We made this beaded spiders this morning; Emily's is the blue one to match her blue room, mine is red. We have this Beaded Critters book and also Lovable Beaded Creatures, with the latter being much harder than the former! Going to try to get into these properly over the next few weeks with all the beads Emily had for her birthday.

Emily's fascination with computer viruses continues apace -- she's been finding out all she can and wants to order The Giant Black Book of Computer Viruses from the library... it's very expensive!! With Gramps on Monday afternoons she's been working away too - one week they looked in depth at logic gates; with Gramps' help Emily's also written two programs in Just Basic... one is a random number game where the user has to guess a number between two parameters while being given "too high" or "too low" clues. The other one allows the user to input a list of (for example) animals and it will then sort them into alphabetical order :-)) They also started to look at assembly language but have dropped that for the time being; it was extremely difficult, I gather.

For one reason or another we haven't done that much formal work during this last fortnight, but among what we have done has been a fair bit of introductory Shakespeare work adapted from the Shocking Shakespeare unit I mentioned in the last post. We looked at elements of comedy and tragedy, working out why Bottom is funny and why Juliet is tragic, using quotations from particular scenes to back up Emily's ideas. We also looked indepth at the "All the world's a stage" speech from As You Like It and Emily wrote a piece inspired by it, tracing the ages of man from baby to school child to lover to ambitious hero to successful midddle age to early old age to eventual decline. I think it's superb :-))

All the World's a Bookshelf

All the world's a bookshelf
People are mere books
All have twists and turns
Everyone in their plots

First on the left, the picture book
A few pages in the chapter
Rapturous delight in bright colours

And then the tattered workbook
Ticks, crosses, doodles, misspellings
Reluctantly scribbled in tiredness

Next comes the lovingly thumbed romance novel
Seeking Cupid through rose scented paper
Heart adorned cover beckoning love

Then, the action thriller
Ticking bombs and super villains
Characters leaping out of battle ridden pages

Next to the right, the proud autobiography
Tales of rich and poor and ups and downs
Pages crisp and new - money well spent?

And then the photograph album
Memories trapped in a single frame
Wisdom embellishes the yellowing photos

Finally, the last book on the shelf, another picture book
Dignity lost in a second childhood
Helpless, frail and tired
Tired from a journey from page to page
This is the end


We've continued meeting up with Hazel, Romy and Tansy once a week for me to teach some history to the girls and for Hazel to do psychology with them. History-wise, we're still ploughing through Cromwell and the civil war. Jon has started to do some GCSE level law with Emily too, which she's enjoying. He was going to take her to visit the magistrate's court, but apparently they won't allow anyone under the age of 14 into the gallery. Sigh, moan, grouch. Wasn't very pleased about that. Jon has decided to apply to become a magistrate in any case, as our nearest town currently has four vacancies. He's been along to observe the court twice, as required by the application form, so now we've just got to send that off and see what happens.

Finally, we've bought a pattern for Emily to make herself a halter neck top; we're off to buy the material tomorrow before taking Romy ice skating :-))

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Psychology, Ecology, Sewing and Shakespeare

Started our weekly "study sessions" with Hazel and Romy this week in the library. Hazel did some psychology with Emily and Romy while I read library books to the adorable Tansy, then I took over and did some history with the big girls. Emily really enjoyed the psychology and learnt about conditional and unconditional stimulus and response. I think my history efforts were a little less fascinating, mind. We're going to work on Cromwell and the civil war, loosely based on a King Cromwell book I found in the This is History series, which has associated teaching resources from Hodder Education. Over the course of several weeks, the book leads up to kids writing a mini biography of Cromwell, an approach which I fancied us having a go at. I'm sure it will get better once we get into the meat of it. Actually, the page above has helpful teaching stuff for a number of the This is History books, including King John, Empire stuff and one called "Dying for the Vote".

At home, we started a sort of introduction to Shakespeare. I like some of the ideas in this "Shocking Shakespeare" scheme of work, so we'll have a go at some of those. That site does have a fair bit of good stuff for literacy; we adapted their Spooks & Spirits unit at the end of last year and turned it into a gothic literature-ish study and added bits about Edgar Allen Poe etc. I've only just realised the site is specific to Hertfordshire schools.....well, we're nowhere near Hertfordshire, but who cares?

In science (mainly just biology atm) we've also started a new topic, looking at ecosystems, food webs and adaptations. Emily created and sorted some food webs and investigated the desert ecosystem, finding out what the challenges of living there are and how camels and catci have adaptations to help. The plan is to do the same for the other major world ecosystems...investigate the habitat and then look in more detail at how two different animals or plants have adapted to it.

Found this BBC Learning Clips site which I hadn't realised existed; hundreds of useful video clips on there for all sorts of things. Emily watched a couple about cacti and desert adaptations there.

Emily has done more computer programming-y work with Gramps in her regular Monday afternoon sessions. Last week they had fun with an old Apple emulation thing and carried on their work with Just Basic. Emily's very taken with the idea of using one of Gramps' old, unused computers as a "sacrificial computer" for which she can try to create blue screens of death and other such evil nasties!

Meanwhile a pattern arrived for a halter neck top which Emily wants to sew. We'll go and choose some material for it next week and get started on that. I haven't sewn an item of clothing since needlework O level many years ago, lol, and Emily's never done a full size garment before, so that should be interesting! Next week we're also going to investigate Chinese New Year...we have our seasonal tree to decorate in that theme and we're also going to a Chinese New Year party next weekend, so that should be fun.

Ha - now this blog post has just turned into a long list of "we're doing this and we're doing that". Will have to take more photos to upload and find something more interesting to say!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Ice Princess & Academic Dithering

Ice skating has dominated the week. Went with Hazel and Romy to begin with, and after an initial problem with too-small skates, Emily spent a happy hour clinging to the rail at the side and slowly going round the rink. Emily and I went back for a second time later in the week - the rink was full of big teens going very, very, very fast and hanging around in groups at the edge chatting, bless 'em, but Emily gathered up her guts and spent another hour and a half pottering around, gradually getting more and more confident. She's now able to do a little bit without holding on, albeit still within hand distance of the rail. Lessons are very expensive, but I'm wondering whether we can stretch to just a couple, enough to get her really moving and away from the edge. She doesn't want lessons - Emily says she'd rather figure it out herself. She did that with swimming too - took a very long time, but she did eventually teach herself to swim well :-)) We shall see.

Work-wise at home, we did some more biology, finishing up the end of our work on cells, cancer, cell division etc. More computer programming with my Dad, which is going down very well indeed. Emily presented him with a long list of what she wants to learn, computer-wise, over the next few months (!):

• I want to learn how viruses spread and how they work.
• I want to learn to create applications that work inside a webpage.
• I want to learn how to fix windows when it *Dies*
• I want to learn how to make actual software- things like maybe a file converter, a video player, anything. And make it look professional as well.
• I want to make some kind of an anti virus program. (Loads of people have done it. Why not me?)
• I want to learn about how the system registry works.
• I want to learn how to edit programs (exe files ) (if that’s possible)
• I want to learn html.
• I want to learn more about what you can do in cmd.
• I want to learn more about how windows itself works.
• I want to make a program run every time the computer starts. ( I know its to do with system registry…)
• I want to learn what a computer is like without windows… MWAHAHAHA
• I want to learn what all the F buttons do (F1, F2, F3 ect)
• I want to learn about how worms work.
• I want to learn about rootkits
• I want to cram as many programming languages into my head as possible!!!!

OK....well, that will keep both of them out of mischief for a while!

At one point during the week, I was preparing some work on glaciers for Emily to do, following on with our mountain theme in geography - and then I hit another doubting session. She's not really interested in glaciers. She knows what they are. However, according to "those who decide what our children should learn" she ought to be able to label diagrams of a glacier and know the terminology associated with it. Great, if she were interested. She's not. So, why? I failed to find on the net or invent a way to make it fascinating for her. In the end, we didn't do it. And that set me thinking again about what she "should" be learning, why, how, when and what the point of most of it is. I learnt all about glaciers at school. Other than a general knowledge of what one is, I didn't retain any of that information and have never since needed it. Because geography wasn't "my thing" and so far, it doesn't appear to be Emily's thing either. But then again, she is interested in environmental science. So who knows? And does any of it really matter, aged 11?

And then that set me thinking again about the whole exam issue and whether or not it's important for Emily to do bloody GCSEs. Half of me thinks they're all pretty pointless. The other half of me thinks that, since Emily's not the most confident child in the world, being able to tick a few boxes might be worth it to save her the future stress of having to jump through different hoops to get onto the course of her choice, or having to "perform" in an interview with the odds stacked against her. But then again, another half of me (I'm good at maths) thinks that the Open University courses etc might well serve the same purpose but at less expense and less hassle. Yet another half of my schizophrenic home education personality thinks that it would be good for Emily to knuckle down (in due course) to serious study and examination in subjects which do delight her such as psychology, biology and law. And another half nags at me, pointing out that possibly having (say) three GCSEs, none of them in maths, is worse than not having any at all. If you're going to have them, hadn't you better have forty seven all at A****** grade? Otherwise people will pay more attention to the ones you *haven't* got or the ones where you only got a B or a C. Won't they?


For now, we've decided not to decide, again. Emily's only 11....but then again, I don't want to be faced with her doing loads of exams crammed into only a couple of years - don't think we could afford it and I don't think we could handle the organisational stress either. So if she were going to do any, I'd rather she staggered them over quite a few years, which doesn't really leave all that much time to make those kinds of decisions.

So, I'm sticking my head in the sand again. We're going to carry on doing the subjects Emily enjoys, probably scale down the efforts with the subjects she doesn't enjoy and....wait and see. My heart says a huge NO! to any kind of school related hoop jumping. My head says that's fine for a confident child who can blag their way onto any course or into any job they please by sheer force of personality...but possibly cruel or irresponsible for a child whose confidence level varies so greatly. We've opted out of the system thus far. Why on earth would we want to opt back into it for GCSEs or A levels? Conversely - why would we want to put unnecessary obstacles into Emily's path? Sand. Meet head.