Thursday, June 30, 2005

Maybe this'll take away the whiff of those peasants....Emily making her pomander, which does indeed smell absolutely lovely. Posted by Hello

Unidentified Bug!

This evening, Jon and Emily found this little critter on our pea plants. It was more purple in colour than it looks in the photo; it had six distinct black legs and moved pretty fast, and there were several of them scattered around the plants. We can't identify it from any of our bug books - any bright ideas?

Spent a hectic morning tearing around from one place to another - nowhere all that exotic, but opticians (new glasses for Emily), library (where she scorned the library lady's offer of a French tape and told her she wanted to learn Arabic instead), doctors (again) and shops is about my limit for a day.

Another deadline has been unexpectedly dropped on us from a great height, so this afternoon it was busy, busy, busy. We had been supposed to be going swimming, but as is the way with this self-employed lark, social events have to be, um, "flexible", and that particular outing has flexied its way right into next week.

Not that Emily seemed to mind, as she seized on the chance to make a pomander, which she's been wanting to do for days. Got some more Shakespeare tapes from the library too, so she's as happy as Mistress Boleyn was in her post-nuptial, pre-Tower or London days. Apparently.

I'm sure lots of other noteworthy things happened today, but my mind's gone blank, so.... that's all folks!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Sea of Scrolls

Some (!) of the 50 odd scrolls Emily's written in the last couple of weeks since Tudor mania really took hold. There's all sorts here - love letters from Henry to Anne Boleyn, letters to the Pope, letters from the Pope, letters between wives, death warrants (nice), physician's cures for all kinds of stuff... you name it, it's been scrolled. And that's not counting the dozen or so more Egyptian ones I found lurking around. Come to think of it, this must be why I can never find any hair bands when I need one...

Not that much to report today, really. Jon and I have been very busy with work, and I've been very busy being prodded about and made to heavily bleed (too much information, I know) by the most incompetent doctor on the planet. Emily's busied herself creating a new Catz empire, and yes, you've guessed it, writing some more scrolls.

Another load of new books arrived from the wholesaler today, including the short books William Shakespeare one, Into the Unknown (story of explorers John & Sebastian Cabot) and Tudor Exploration - having access to all this stuff at wholesale prices is a bit of a mixed blessing, really. It certainly tempts us to spend waaaay more than we would otherwise, but at least when Emily has a fascination like this she avidly devours everything we offer her, so I guess it's value for money in that sense.

The "apology package" from Short Books turned up the other day - they sent us a pack of books by way of apology after I'd complained to the Times that they couldn't/wouldn't answer a simple question about their Great Young Historians Competition (which the Times is jointly running). I'm not normally a complainer, but that really annoyed me as Emily was so keen to enter it and I needed to know whether she was allowed to type her entry or whether it had to be hand-written. Anyway....unfortunately the books they sent us we mostly already had....but it was a nice gesture.

Must get back to doing Italian with Emily. We started off really well a couple of months ago, and I was very impressed with how quickly she picked it up, but the pack we were using was v.v.v.v.v.v. boring and I let it slide, thinking I'd soon be able to put together some more interesting activities....and then promptly forgot. She's been asking to get back to it, so I'll have to think of something quick! I'd love to get the Rosetta Stone software, but I'm not sure we can justify spending nearly £250 quid on it at this stage, lol. She also wants to learn other languages (I speak 6, 7 at a push) but I think we'll stick to one for the time being!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Exploring Explorers

Typing this in the beginning stages of what looks set to be a nice powerful thunderstorm. I love thunderstorms, always have done (so long as I'm nice and safe indoors, lol). I think it must be to do with the negative (or is positive??) ions flying about, it always energises me in much the same way as heavy rain does.

Emily whizzed through some very impressive maths today first thing. Plain old boring black and white with no jazzy pictures seems to have done the trick nicely! We also did lots of work on speech marks and thought of 30 different ways to say "said" which we've written down and will laminate. Think we'll create a vocabulary folder to put that kind of stuff in so she can refer to it when she writes her stories.

The Tudor urge is still going strong, so Emily enjoyed working her way through a reasoning exercise about Henry's wives - what problem he had at each stage, why he thought wife x would solve it, whether she did or not, what happened as a result, whether he made a good decision, how the consequences of that wife's reign led to the next and so on. She makes excellent, intuitively logical (if there is such a thing!) connections when she thinks about history. Of her own accord, she then launched into a long 'what if' scenario, discussing what might have happened if Prince Henry (born to Catherine of Aragon, only lived a couple of months) had survived, or what if Edward VI had lived longer and had children of his own, perhaps that would have meant that Mary I and Elizabeth I would never have come to power.... I was very impressed with her grasp of the "big picture" and how all these events were inter-related and inter-dependent.

And then we had lunch. :-)

Emily's been enjoying playing explorers for the last couple of days, so this afternoon she wanted to find out more concrete information about the various famous land discoveries and seafarers. We found out the dates and routes of Columbus, Magellan, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, John & Sebastian Cabot and someone else I can't remember (but I bet she can!), and she plotted their routes on a printed world map in different colours, and did a key for the map. Then we read a library book about life on board a Tudor ship, and she started labelling a ship diagram with where the different types of stores would go, where the captain's cabin was likely to be and so on. (Ha - making a vocabulary folder for Emily and I can't stop saying 'and so on'! Must make one for me too, or else just stop being such a lazy writer on this blog!).

Spent ages playing a fun pretend game where she was Elizabeth and I was various of the explorers, imagining what each would say to the other and how any rivalry might have played out. I gently pointed out at one stage that some of them were dead by the time Elizabeth came to the throne, and they wouldn't all have been alive at the same time to talk to one another anyway....which got me a rather pitiful look and a "I know that, Mummy, but it's more fun to imagine what they would have said to each other!"

Inbetween all the vaguely educational bits and bobs, Emily has rediscovered her love of Catz 5 - this was an absolute obsession for a month or two before Christmas, but she ended up adopting over 70 cats and got upset when they started running away, so hasn't touched it for months. I, um, "rehomed" all the existing ones so she could start afresh today, and she's back loving it again.

Meanwhile, she and Daddy have been watching the Emma Thompson/Kenneth Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing and Emily's lapping it up. She was so excited yesterday when Jon put it on for her - she came rushing upstairs to tell me "The words the actors are saying are really Shakespeare, so they're the words he wrote over 400 years ago!!!!"

She has such an infectious giggle, our daughter. Jon never fails to get her into fits of laughter - they have such a wonderfully playful relationship, and they very much share the same sense of humour. More gales of laughter this evening, almost to knicker-wetting point (Emily, not Jon!)

Thunder's kicking in now. And very, very, very blue lightning. Off to have some dinner then, now we've finally finished this evening's packing. I'm off for yet another smear test tomorrow - had to have a biopsy and laser cutterage treatment of precancerous cells 18 months ago (on our wedding anniversary, lol) and since then it seems I've been having smears every flippin' five minutes. Not that I'm ungrateful for the care, but well, is there a less dignified way to spend five minutes of your life (not counting birth!)???

Monday, June 27, 2005

Is That Blood or Strawberry Juice?

Yesterday's Tudor banquet was a lot of fun. Emily and I spent all afternoon making apple mousse, herb and nasturtium salad, cheese tart, sweet jellied milk cubes, and pea pottage. She worked really hard, there was a lot to do. She's become a very good pastry maker since being home educated! Apart from the cooking she'd also spent ages writing out a posh menu in gold pen, and writing place cards for various Tudor personalities. Got the recipes from a gorgeous little Tudor Cookery book. It was all pretty tasty too, although neither me nor Emily were impressed with the nasturtium flowers, and Jon couldn't be persuaded to try that bit!!

This morning a male goldfinch finally found his way to the niger seed, which prompted much excitement - we'd only seen females/youngsters before, so Emily rushed to fill in her birdwatching book.

Went off strawberry picking with Hazel and Romy this afternoon, and got two enormous basket fulls. Yummy. Then back to Romy's house for a play in the paddling pool and on the waterslide. It was all going swimmingly well until Emily cut her knee and went into major meltdown mode. Hysterics. I think it was made a bit worse by the fact that she was all wet so the blood was spreading, and so it looked a lot worse than it was. Poor Romy endured not one, not two, but three separate bouts of panicked, I'm-going-to-be-sick-and-I-can't-breathe near asthmatic sessions from Emily before we called it a day and went inside for a play instead.

Still, tears aside, we have a lovely afternoon. Emily wants to go back strawberry picking again tomorrow, although I think we have enough to be going on with...

Arrgh. Still can't work out this photo thing. It's starting to annoy me now!! All I want is pictures on the left and the choice of starting the text next to or under the pictures. How can that be so hard???

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Posterity Ponderings

For posterity purposes, Emily wanted me to take some photos of the wall display we've got up of some of her Ancient Egypt work, because we're about to take it down to make room for other stuff. So, here we go.

I must apologise to any sensitive viewers for the rather icky shade of green wall. It was lime green when we first did it - honest - and we felt lime green and orange were suitably invigorating colours for our office/study. But that was about six years and much sunshine ago; it's now a very fetching pucey yellowy mess. Must redecorate. Everywhere. Sometime. Soon.

Hmmm. Can't work out how to get the text NOT to start all squashed up at the side of the photos. Sigh.

Anyway; yesterday. Emily and Jon went off to ballet, where Emily was singled out for praise by her teacher, which she was mightily thrilled about. Come September she'll move up to the exam class, which will probably be a bit of a relief. The class at the moment is mainly full of much younger children who, with the best will in the world, don't really want to be there and aren't interested, hence the chaos that passes for a weekly lesson.

Emily spent much of the rest of yesterday doing more Tudor costume design and pottering about happily.

So far today, she's spent all morning researching and writing a Tudor banquet menu. Entirely her own wish. Tried to get her interested in playing Catz or neopets on the spare PC so I could keep her company (or is it the other way round?) whilst I'm working, but no, she finds the whole Tudor thing so much fun, can't keep her away from it. Jonathan's out shopping looking for some pretty obscure ingredients for a Tudor cooking session (although we may give the roast peacock a miss..). I've been working away on deadlines for the BBC, an English magazine (who managed to give me a whole one day's notice of the deadline) and a US magazine. We really need to buck up our income over the next few months, so it's all hands on deck. Better get on with some work, then, instead of writing this!!

Friday, June 24, 2005

What's Your Style, Baby?

Have been pondering Emily's learning style today. Not that I can quite figure it out!

My musings were prompted by a bit of a meltdown this morning when I suggested she do some pages in a maths workbook. Now, a few months ago Emily was actively asking to do more maths, and it was her first choice for any kind of sit down activity (apart from history!). She was doing really, really well, and was covering stuff aimed at Yr 3 children with ease, well ahead of the Yr 1 level she's "supposed" to be. Yet this morning she apparently "couldn't do" very basic KS1 stuff from this workbook. Now, bearing in mind her previous enthusiasm, I was a bit worried as to what was going on there.

After much probing, it turns out she's distracted by all the cartoons and stuff in the workbook, and thinks it looks far too babyish and off-putting. Lightbulb moment - the stuff she couldn't get enough of a few months ago was printed off the internet and was plain black/white no nonsense sheets, or stuff we handwrote ourselves. Spookily this seems to echo a discussion had a couple of days ago by someone on the MP yahoo group, whose son was also being distracted by the cartoony stuff.

OK, so we'll go back to the non-distracting stuff and ditch the cutesey cutesey colourful workbooks. Fair enough.

I also started wondering about her absolute fascination/obsession with learning through pretend. We spend hours role playing this, that and t'other, and she gets quite upset if circumstances mean she can't - but she learns so much through it, she just totally absorbs the information. OK, that would seem to fit with a Kinesthetic learning style....but then the love of workbook type things and her enjoyment of sitting for hours reading non fiction books - well, that doesn't fit with Kinesthetic well at all, unless I've misunderstood the whole learning style thingy (quite possible!).

Oh the joys of having a child who won't fit into the nice neat boxes she's supposed to fit into ;-)

A lovely Tudor paper dolls book arrived this morning, obtained from Sarah and apparently produced by a home ed teenager. Mightily impressed. Many hours today have been spent intricately colouring Tudor costumes, as well as drawing an A3 size Tudor lady and labelling her various layers of clothing - the first "task" Emily chose from the role play thing I made yesterday was to advise Queen Liz on what to wear at her posh explorer's banquet.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

To Be, Or Not To Be

"That's a very famous line from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Mummy. Can we go and see it?"

Not sure she's quite ready for an audience with the RSC, but Emily's taken to Shakespeare with a passion. She's spent a solid two and a half hours this afternoon listening to a Stories from Shakespeare double tape set, only surfacing once in a while to relay important details of various plots. She's also been devouring various books we have which are children's retellings of some of the plays, and reading a book about Mr Shakespeare's life. Wish someone near here was performing a kiddy friendly version of something, but as far as I can tell, they're certainly not. Not unless you're a school, anyway. We do have dozens of Shakespeare videos (which I swear one day Jon and I may actually find time to watch!) but I'd prefer her to start with something slightly less, um, "wordy", I suppose. I wouldn't want to quash the enthusiasm by baffling her with a full on adult version - with the best will in the world, I think six is a little young for that!

Ironic really, that this fascination has started now. I seriously considered booking a short break in Stratford with theatre tickets included for Jon's 40th birthday at the beginning of June. It would have mirrored the first trip away we ever had when we met. I didn't in the end because I thought Emily wouldn't cope with the play, and there's no way we were going without her. Looks like I may have underestimated her!

This morning we tackled some tricky mental maths stuff, and some work on plurals. I took advantage of Emily's being totally absorbed in her tapes this afternoon, and planned out some stuff for the next few days. I've set up a role play learning type thingy for her, with some scrolls telling her who she is (chief lady in waiting to Liz I) and that the Queen wants to hold a banquet in honour of her returning explorers, and she's left Emily in charge of all the details. There are 13 tasks to be done, ranging from researching food for the banquet and designing a menu to finding out about life on ship so that Queenie can chat intelligently to her fearless heroes over the food. She can pick what order she does them in - I'm hoping she'll go for this, as it combines her love of pretend with lots and lots of arty/crafty/internet research/drawing/making up type stuff. It will cover an awful lot of ground relatively easily. It'll also bring some structure to this project - not that she needs it, but I do!! If she doesn't go for it, well, fair enough, we'll just potter along until I have another, different, bright idea - or she does.

Blackadder videos are going down well here too at the moment. Not necessarily historically accurate (cough) but then again spotting the inaccuracies is very educational, should an LEA person happen to ask. Well, nah, actually they're just really funny, and Emily loves them!

Lest anyone think we're not "doing" science in the middle of all this history malarky - as I type, Emily and Jon are chucking parachutes out of her bedroom window and figuring out which works best and why. There you go. The fact that she's being Princess Elizabeth experimenting with her chief advisor is neither here nor there....

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Picnic of Giggles Posted by Hello

Let's Go Fly A Kite

The three of us have had great fun in Normanby Hall today. Although we're all at home, it's not that often that work committments allow us the luxury of a family trip out all together, so today's picnic/kite flying frenzy was an absolute pleasure.

Normanby was absolutely crawling with school trips, but fortunately we found somewhere shady for our picnice before the riot began. We've come to have a pretty low opinion of most school outings, and they usually back up our preconceived notions pretty nicely, sad to say.

We were treated to an amazing flying display by both swallows and house martins, several of each constantly doing acrobatic swirls inches from the ground, right next to us.

After our lunch we went off to visit the lake - we didn't even know this bit existed until we went pond dipping with Hazel and Romy a few weeks ago, and Jon had never seen it, so of course he had to be shown. There were still a few tadpoles in the water, but nothing like when we went before - the water was absolutely black with them then. Lots of stunning dragonflies today, but no sign of the frogs. Yet another school party then arrived to do pond dipping - it was amusing listening in, I must say. They spent far longer being lectured than they did "doing" anything.

We bought Emily a new kite from ebay the other day, mainly because we can't find either of the ones we did have. It was due for its maiden flight today, and after a few false starts Emily was flying it like a pro, much to the jealousy of the school party, so it seems. We'd taken our wildflower guide with us, so she also had fun finding and identifying all kinds of plants, and reading out which ones could have been used in which kind of herbal cure.

All that just left time for a quick trip round the farm museum before home. It's been absolutely scorching all day - fortunately I'd remembered to put sun cream on Emily before we left, but forgotten it for me and Jon, so there's some sore skin round here this evening!

Seeing all the school parties today reminded me - it's just about a year ago that we first found out about home education. I'd started helping in Emily's reception class with swimming lessons once a week - it was what I saw there that was the catalyst for "all this" that we're doing now. We knew things weren't rosy at the school, but it wasn't until I saw at first hand the disgraceful behaviour of the staff that it really dawned on us that we had to do *something*. I'll never forget watching in a mixture of shock, horror and anguish the way things went in that classroom. The quieter, shy or distressed children were at best ignored, if not humiliated - there was zero attempt to support, soothe or encourage, and anyone upset was belittled and further demeaned - yes, even in front of parents. The less popular children like our daughter were left in virtual panic mode during the ritual "find a partner" rubbish, and passed over *every single time* when it came to putting hands up to answer a question, or being chosen for this or chosen for that.

Witnessing that kind of stuff, on top of what we already knew about the school, and on top of Emily constantly coming home upset, bruised from yet another "accident", bored stiff and matter of factly explaining that her teacher didn't like her and had made that quite plain.....not to mention incidents like when Emily (who has asthma) was left with vomit all over her clothes one whole afternoon after an asthma attack and nobody even TOLD us, the only way we found out was seeing the state of her when she was shouted at for not making it to a toilet in time to be sick....well, I'll stop now, because it still makes me so angry. At least partly, I'm angry with us, full of guilt and sadness, because looking back we tolerated far too much and should have removed her sooner. But we didn't know about HE, you see. Like so many parents, we were in the dark.

But here we are, a year down the line - and we, especially Emily, are flying. :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I'll just have a peep at this bird table while nobody's looking... Posted by Hello

Mmmm. Worth the effort, I think... Posted by Hello

Emily cuddling The Culprit Posted by Hello

Birthday Meows

Grandad's birthday today. Emily had great fun making (and eating!) a fruit flan, and made a lovely fold out heart birthday card. Jon cooked us all a big family birthday tea, and we sat around opening pressies (well, Grandad did, ably assisted by Emily), scoffing lovely food and devouring several very nice bottles of wine.

Orders have gone absolutely potty this afternoon - why is it that everyone orders more when we're not there to deal with it???

After birthday tea we adjourned to the garden, to be entertained by, well, a cat. Merlin decided to investigate the bird table, to much hilarity (didn't hear many birds laughing, though).

We've been really worried about Cassie's weight recently. She's very, very overweight for a cat, and she's started limping now. Doesn't seem to be in any pain, but clearly she's finding her weight hard to manage. I really don't understand how she's got so portly - both cats are fed exactly the same, and if anything she seems to eat even less than Merlin, who's pretty skinny. Still, this morning she seemed to have perked up, and brought us not one but two presents. Must have known it was Grandad's birthday. A dead and really rather gory mouse just inside the back door was swiftly followed by a very much alive one, which promptly ran under a computer desk and looked set to set up home there for ever more. Eventually (after nearly an hour of trying) persuaded it out into an empty cereal box, so it was duly rescued and rehomed in the garden away from prying feline noses.

Cassie looked duly disgusted when she was allowed back in and found her treasured possession had legged it. Never mind, perhaps it will encourage her into more exercise. I can stomach any amount of live and dead rodents if she actually starts getting fitter.

So, happy 76th Grandad....hope you liked the mice!!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Swimming - Getting There!

Spent a lovely afternoon at the swimming pool with Romy and Hazel today. Aside from being mightily impressed with Romy's excellent swimming, I was really pleased with Emily too. She was swimming quite fast with the noodle-thingies, practicing glides (I'll swear there was at least one with a real swim stroke in it) and panicking much less than she would normally have done when she accidentally fell of a giant float and went under. We're definitely making progress, slowly but surely. We'll get there.

Emily spent most of the morning making herself a word list from various Tudor books so she can carry on her passion for writing letters and scrolls in character without having to keep asking for spellings. Not that we ever mind or comment when things are spelt wrong, but she's a little perfectionist.

Off to work out how to make a fruit flan now. It's Grandad's birthday tomorrow, and we don't normally make him a cake since his diabetes is quite erratic; with a fruity thing we can kid ourselves it's slight healthier!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Poolside Theatre!

Another scorching day.

Emily's spent virtually the whole day in the pool again - no surprises there then! She spent hours this afternoon playing Shakespeare.... she made up a play, and then pretended to be Anne Boleyn secretly acting in it (come on grown ups, surely you remember that only men were allowed to act in those days??). Jonathan alternated between playing an unsuspecting Henry VIII, playing Shakespeare, or playing the general heckling rabble in the audience, whilst Emily played all the rest of the parts and "directed" as only she can. Fantastic stuff, couldn't have wished for a nicer afternoon.

She did manage to get bird poo in her hair, but well, these are the hazards one faces when performing open air theatre....

Utterly entranced by the person our daughter is, and the person she's becoming :-)

Any spare moment not in the pool has been filled with doing Tudor shrinkles, which Emily's coloured astoundingly well, of her own accord seeking out reference books and portraits to get the colours just right. She's also been practicing swimming a lot in the pool with two of those noodle things - it's just about deep enough for her to actually float and swim without her tummy on the ground, much to her delight. Off to the swimming pool tomorrow afternoon to capitalise on this progress, quick!

We'll probably go off to Burghley House next week if we can fit it in - it's about the only place within remote distance of here that seems to have any flippin' Tudor heritage. Apologies to anyone who loves this part of the world.....but, well, it's at times like this that I really, really, really miss living in Berkshire. Didn't think much of it during the first 20 odd years of my life, but its appeal to anyone with children is pretty obvious. There we would have been within half an hour of Windsor Castle, an hour from Hampton Court, half an hour on the Waterloo line to central London...easy day out distance from the stately homes of Gloucestershire, easy reach of Longleat, Stonehenge, zoos, safari parks, caves, not that far down the M4 from South Wales....I could go on. Maybe I just don't know the hidden secrets of Lincolnshire, but I really struggle with finding interesting days out!

(can we have the rain back now, please?)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sunny Saturday

It's been hot, hot, hot....albeit a bit overcast at times, but the breeze has felt totally tropical! Kept our promise from yesterday, and by the time Emily got back from her ballet class at lunchtime, the pool was up and filled.

Needless to say, that's where she's been all afternoon. Judging from the shrieks of laughter which have been floating up to my window, a good time has certainly been had. She and Jon have been pretending Tudor-y, swimming-y, wet things all afternoon.

Whilst all that was going on, I've managed to list a fair few more things on Ebay, updated our main site listings and even fixed the problem with our main domain. Haven't yet started on my BBC deadlines, but well, can't do everything!

Had a very interesting sex education discussion with Emily at bed time last night. Trouble with this Tudor stuff is that it's all a bit racy, frankly!! For a six year old, anyway. Jon's been reading her Anne Boleyn and Me and last night's session had maids gossiping about the lack of blood on the sheets when Henry first slept with Anne. Ahem. Plus all the David Starkey DVDs refer to consummation of marriage, discussion of whether so and so was a "true maid" or not, blah blah blah. So someone's curiosity finally got the better of her - think we've covered all the gory bits now, lol. Much wrinkled noses and "really?????", "eeuugggh" type comments, bless.

Oooh, yes, and a Tudor Shrinkles kit arrived in the post. Emily's been wanting one of those for ages, and I couldn't find it anywhere. Eventually got one, much to her delight. :)

Paddling Pool Babe Posted by Hello

Friday, June 17, 2005

Too Hot & Sticky!! Grumble, Grumble...

It's been really humid today. Well, by my standards. Bah. I really dislike summer. I'm not an outdoors person at the best of times, and I loathe being sticky and sweaty. Give me a nice interesting autumnal day with wind and rain any day, or a crisp winter's morning. Sunshine can get so...well, samey - after a while. Still, since it's only mid June I suppose I'd better get used to it for the next few months. Emily and Jon both love the summer, so I guess 2 out 3's not bad. For me, though - roll on autumn. (Can you tell I'm not one for lounging on beaches and jetting off to "sunnier climes"????)

Anyway, my daily moan over, on to more interesting stuff. We had a maths morning this morning, going back over some of the basics, and reading another few chapters of the latest Tudor Tales book. Our fridge chose the hottest day of the year so far to break down. Oh joy, another unanticipated expense. Mind you, I remember it being in the kitchen of my childhood home when I was about 8, so I guess it's had a good life.

Emily and I went off to the Kirton Lindsey to visit the garden centre in the vain hope that inspiration might strike for Grandad's forthcoming birthday (it didn't) or Father's Day (nope, no luck there either). We did get another bird feeder and some more bird grub, though. Back home our little artist settled into a very, very detailed picture on a piece of scroll paper - it's Queen Elizabeth I on her throne, presiding over rows of fairies and fairy cats (dontcha just love the blend of reality and fantasy there!). She adores drawing "people" (loosely defined to include fairies, mermaids, cats in dresses..) and every single one always has to be different. Took her ages to do this one, whilst she happily listened along to a Greek Myths CD.

We also sent off a postcard to the US family that chose us in a home educators postcard exchange. We're now eagerly waiting to receive one from a family in Alaska - much more my type of weather! Jon found some lovely postcards in the post office of the village's Norman church, so we've sent one of those.

Have promised we'll get the paddling pool out tomorrow after ballet, as we're apparently set for high temperatures tomorrow. Emily being somewhat more enthusiastic on that score than I am!

Queen Elizabeth I on throne, presiding over assorted fairies, ballerinas and fairy cats, all different! Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hmmm. Not One Of Our Better Days...

Seems there are good days and bad days to this home education lark. Guess which type we've had?

I can't think what in particular sparked anything off, but sometimes the pressures of us trying to run the business vs. the pressures of us educating and entertaining our little one......well, sometimes things clash in somewhat spectacular style. Today was one of those. One of those days where we've felt that we're not giving 100% either to the business or to Emily, and what use is 50% to anyone?? I must admit I tend to get terribly upset at times like that; not having enough time for Emily makes us feel that we're letting her down....but then again it's only the ongoing success of the business which allows us to be in the priveleged position of having her at home....if the business slips even just a little one or both of us will have to go out to work, which will be letting Emily down in a different, probably even worse way. I get tied up in knots, and I know Jon does too, although I'm the one that tends to show it more.

So, parts of the day have been a teeny bit fraught, with tears and tantrums...not necessarily from Emily, either :-( Still, the worst bits usually blow over within half an hour or so, and she's happy as larry now, so it can't be all bad.

On a more positive note, what have we actually done today? Well, the long-awaited goldfinches have finally arrived at the niger seed feeder, and we spent ages watching an adult starling feeding two perfectly-capable-but-lazy youngsters who were sat on the wall right outside Emily's window. Emily's been writing scrolls all afternoon detailing the rules of Henry VIII's court, inspired by some real evidence we found on the net. Some of the one's she made up are really funny, she's got a very dry sense of humour!

Emily's joined up hand writing is amazing us now. When we first started home edding back last summer joined up writing was one of the (many) things I was worried about. After all, it's **essential** to a rounded life, or so the schools would have you believe. We had workbooks, we practised, she hated it, it became a chore, we had dropped it by late September. Suddenly, since April or so when she started writing scrolls in her Egyptian project, she's just launched into joined up writing, all of her own accord. It may not be textbook-perfect-style, but it's very legible and it has a style quite of her own, which is really nice to see. She's also writing really quite fast and fluently. Which just goes to show what we always hear about home education, but which is sometimes hard to trust when you're just starting out: when they're ready to do something, they will. When they can see a point and a reason to do something, they will. When they *want* to do something, they will. It works!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's Amazing What Getting Up Early Can Do....

Up really early this morning as Jon had to get the post office for 8 before taking Grandad to the dentist. The morning's usual faffing about was therefore over and done with much, much sooner than usual, so we got lots done today.

Emily read the first two chapters of The Actor, The Rebel & The Wrinkled Queen to me, which prompted much discussion about the role of women in those days. We tried a page of maths about giving change from a pound. I'm sure she was happy with doing that a month or two ago, but we got in a bit of a pickle with it this morning, so we raided the piggy banks for some real money, which made it much easier, and obviously much more fun. This was swiftly followed by some work on verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Normally by this point it's well and truly lunch time, but because we started so early today Emily decided she wanted to do a fairy castle collage, which she (and we) were really pleased with.

The plan of doing a bit of maths and English in the morning and project work in the afternoon is working quite nicely again now we've got back into a bit of a rhythm with it, so this afternoon it was back to Tudor land. We read You Wouldn't Want To Be Ill in Tudor Times with much hilarity, and looked on the net for information about herbal cures. Emily then worked really hard on being a village wise woman, producing a scroll with her made up cure for the plague on it, whilst animatedly wrestling with the dilemma of the day: if she presented the cure to King Henry and he wasn't cured, it would be off with her head (assuming he lived long enough to give the order). But if he was cured, would he think she was a witch and order her execution anyway? Eventually she came up with a solution....and added a bit to the bottom of the scroll making him sign to promise not to have her executed. Now why didn't any of his wives think of that? Doh!

Having finally established that witches weren't always old hags with crooked noses and green scaly skin, that most of them were innocent 'wise women' and that paganism and witchcraft are still alive and well today, Emily's showing a real interest in herbalism, spell work and so on. As well as looking at the history of the witchhunts, we might later in the year investigate paganism as a separate project I think. Maybe we can also arrange to be looking at our tarot cards, drawing up an astrology chart and mixing some herbs when an LEA bod happens to drop by, lol.

Meanwhile, Jon had found a CD of medieval music which sparked Emily's interest, so then it was off to the net again to look for more. We found a page of midi files to listen to, but sadly couldn't find any video clips featuring Tudor dance.

Finally read some of our library books about Henry and Elizabeth I. I was just reading a short introductory bit about the Armada when Emily interrupted me to say "I know - that's when she made her famous speech, the one that goes 'I may have the body of a week and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and an English King at that!'" We haven't "done" anything about the Armada yet, but she'd remembered that word for word from talking to Jonathan about one of the David Starkey DVDs she's been watching. It never fails to astonish me what an appetite she's got for knowledge when something really captures her interest. I can just imagine her disgust if she were at school being forced to cover things like ancient Egypt and the Tudors in half hour bites to someone else's schedule.

Fairy Castle Collage Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Blood, Grass Stains & Bird Poo

Always the signs of a nice afternoon out. Those were the souvenirs, as the girls put it, of our visit to Normanby Hall with Emily's best friend Romy and her Mum, Hazel. The grass stains shared equally by both, the blood being from Emily's grazed ankle and the bird poo having mysteriously appeared on Romy's trousers. A thoroughly nice time was had, and the peacocks were in fine fettle, displaying regally for a totally unimpressed peahen.

Started this morning with a foul headache, mainly thanks to Merlin waking us up at an ungodly hour. I don't do mornings. We're normally very late to bed anyway, us grown ups, since we don't start the packing until after Emily's asleep at around 10pm, and most nights we have on average 70+ books, packs, CDs etc to send out. We don't get to eat our main meal until gone midnight, and then Jon usually stays up until past 4 in the morning finishing off work. So mornings are not a popular time in this household. Except with Emily. And the cats.

Somehow in the morning haze something productive did happen. Emily printed off her letter to Tutankhamun for the Great Young Historians Competition, and decorated the borders of it, whilst listening to her Egyptian myths CD. For a moment, I thought we'd gone back to the blissful days of an ancient Egypt obsession - at least I knew a bit about that time period so was able to cope with Emily's beloved 'you be.....and I'll be....' pretend sessions much better than now we're pretending Tudors all the time. My Tudor knowledge is fuzzy, to say the least. Getting better, though. But anyway, no, we hadn't experienced a time slip. We were still in Tudor mode because apparently Emily was "being Elizabeth I learning about Tutankhamun". In her best dressing up dress, naturellment.

There was some art work going on too, with Emily doing some very intricate gel pen drawings of various fairies and beasties. Must work out how to get pictures up...there's got to be an easier way than the faffing about I had to do to get yesterday's up.

Anyway, she and Daddy are now out in the garden on a bird hunt, so I'd better go and tend to the ebay sales whilst I've got a chance.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Emily (in costume, of course) sorting out the pictures for her book. Posted by Hello

Another Self Sufficient Day: Am I Redundant??

Emily's got this Tudor bug bad. By 8.30 this morning she was on the internet tracking down more portraits, and happily informed us that she was doing a book of them. And indeed she is - my only input into which so far has been helping her cover the scrapbook in wrapping paper, and occasionally writing down the odd spelling for her. As I type, she's busily creating a page each for Henry VIII, his wives and his children with their portraits, dates and facts about them.

Stooopidly, I tried sticking to the "plan" I had for today, which was some work on Tudor homes. Bad idea. When will I learn to go with the flow? Eventually I gave in gracefully, and Emily went back to her own plans in a suitably dignified manner!

We did some pages in the Letts English workbook this morning, and some maths word problems, and Emily read the last two chapters in The Maid, The Witch and The Cruel Queen to me. Love those Terry Deary fiction books. We read the four Egyptian Tales ones during the Egyptian project, and the four Tudor ones are fitting in nicely now.

Meanwhile, there's been some avid bird watching going on too. The birds have finally found our sooooper-doooper posh bird feeding station, and despite Merlin being camped out there nearly all day with his napkin round his neck, licking his whiskers, they seem well aware that he's rather dopey as cats go and have been largely ignoring him. Today we've seen coal tits, blue tits, greenfinches, dunnocks, wood pigeons, a chaffinch, blue tits, great tits, blackbirds and of course the starlings. And not one has ended up as a cat's suppper. Yet.

Ha! A Blog at Last!

Well, we've joined the ranks of the technologically informed, and so here's the blog. All we need now is something to put in it.

Emily's been extremely self sufficient today, we've hardly seen her! I finished off work for my BBC deadlines, while Jon did the weekly shop....and our little urchin spent the whole time in her bedroom, listening to tapes and doing incredibly detailed portraits of Elizabeth I and Henry VIII. Having spent months absorbing everything she could find about ancient Egypt, her new passion, as of the last couple of weeks, is the Tudors and boy is she keen!

She asked me where she could find Tudor portraits online, so I suggested she look for the National Portrait Gallery website, which she found all by herself, and then searched for and printed off a set of portraits she could use for inspiration. Really proud of her internet skills :)

Oh, must just say, the thing that sparked her interest in Tudors was Jon reading her Who Was Anne Boleyn? published by Short Books. Great series of books, highly recommended.