Saturday, July 30, 2005

Ups and Downs

... the downs being largely my fault as I've been inexplicably tearful and moody all day which, much to my eternal shame (but hey, never claimed to be perfect) usually reflects on the general mood of the household and how the day goes. Still. Glossing largely over that bit, what have we actually been up to in the good times?

Quite a bit, I guess. Emily spent a while this morning making more Tudor bitty dolls, and turning a box into a theatre for them. By the time she'd finished, she had quite a collection: Henry VIII, Wolsey, Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Elizabeth as a child, Elizabeth as Queen, a peasant, and Titania. It was fun making up plays for them even if the theatre was rather precariously perched at times!

After lunch we made some aged parchment by soaking ripped and ragged bits of paper in tea and then drying out in the oven. Perfect for quill and ink scrolls and ink drawings enhanced with glitter glue. The ink got everywhere, but Emily had fun writing letters to Henry and letters from Elizabeth demanding to know what Sir Walter (or was it Sir Francis?) had brought her back from his explorations. I blame that Blackadder episode where Queenie demands gifts. That's been a long-running and much loved scenario round here!

At various points during the day, Emily also enjoyed sticking up lots of her Tudor work and drawings on the wall above her bed, once the long lost blue tak had finally re-materialised into our dimension. It tickles her that me and Daddy can't reach the bit above her bed now (she has one of those midi sleeper beds)! She says she's very proud of her work, which was lovely to hear. Oh, and there was lots of playing in the garden, in the rain, and having water fights with Jon. They're watching a modernised version of Midsummer Night's Dream at the moment, having finished the BBC Romeo and Juliet one a couple of days ago.

Last night Emily unearthed from somewhere an old box of Xerox labels, and spent ages working out exactly where in Microsoft Word she had to put pictures to make stickers. Took lots of trial and error, but she stuck it out. This morning we talked about templates, and made one for the labels, and in her own words she now has a "passion for making stickers". She made a nice set of "crowns" ones before she went to bed.

We also spent some time using our Dazzle art software. I love that program! It came highly recommended, and I've been very impressed with it so far. By the way, for any interested parties, the single user price on the website shows as £79, but for home educators it's actually less than £50 or so (can't remember exactly, but it was under that). We did have the Art Attack software, but it drove us mad - couldn't figure out how to properly save stuff or anything, it was extremely unintuitive and frustrating.

Although aimed at primary age children, Dazzle uses the same principles and terminology (eg masks, layers and so on) as adult software, so when she's ready to move on to a "grown up" program it should be a doddle. Emily's already got a fabulous grasp of MS Word and Publisher, and Excel when she can be bothered (which isn't often, I guess spreadsheets are just not as much fun or as much use to a 6 year old, lol) but even I get confuzzled with Paintshop Pro, for instance, so we wanted something more child friendly as art and design software. One of the things we've been doing today is "tracing" famous Tudor portraits in Dazzle and then using the watercolour function to manually paint them as realistically as possible. Gives very impressive results! You can do mosaics and things too. Anything you want, really. No, I don't work for them!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Escape From the Tower!

That's the name of the board game we've spent all afternoon making. You can't really see from the picture, but Emily's drawn the Tower of London as the start and a crown to symbolise the finish, painted golden stepping stones and designed lots of Tudor themed 'event' cards to go with certain numbered stones. There's a plague village too, where you get trapped unless you can roll a six. The playing pieces are laminated portraits of Henry and his wives. We've had lots of plays so far and Emily's won all of them! She's playing against Daddy later on though, so we'll have to see if her winning streak continues!

This morning I was busy trying to get Actinic v7 to work (finally, it did, just as I was about to give up) and Jon was out taking Grandad on his weekly shopping trip, so Emily amused herself with lots and lots of drawing and jigsaws. To her delight another dressing up dress arrived from ebay, with lots of gold braid and what passes for a split gown effect at the front. Needless to say Mistress Boleyn been "in costume" ever since.

Still didn't get to do the quill and ink drawing, though, and I've forgotten several other things I had in mind too. We keep being overtaken by new ideas, lol. I'll have to write down all these possible activities I keep thinking of, so that when/if we get an "I'm bored" I can pull something out of the hat, as it were. Fortunately, that hardly ever seems to happen - quite the opposite, in fact, we don't seem to have enough time ever to do all the things we want to do!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Singing in the Rain

Well, dancing and boinging, anyway.

It's bucketed down for most of the day. Very nice. Had our breakfast out in the tent this morning, whilst reading more of Worst Jobs in History and indulging in some barefoot puddle paddling. Today's interesting weather has led to the discovery that said tent is not exactly as waterproof as it should be, though!

After more polly pocket mania this morning, it was back out in the rain for more boinging and soggy but fun play. Emily also played with her rainbow art set, and made six more petal people fairies. Must get some more wire. We've just finished watching Worst Jobs in History, which has sparked an interest in the Stuarts and the civil war, so I daresay we'll be following that up shortly (once I've frantically read something about it so I have the vaguest idea what I'm on about!!). At the moment, Emily's creating posters of her favourite portraits of Henry's wives and Elizabeth.

Had a fun run around at Normanby Hall last night, as we had the place virtually to ourselves. Didn't find any large peacock feathers, and all the birds are now sporting very short tails, so the moult must have finished. Looks like we missed our window of opportunity there! Still, Emily did find lots of short fluffy iridescent peacock feathers, so she was a happy bunny. Last year we didn't get any of the posh colourful ones, but we did get lots of the big brown feathers, and Jon made proper quills out of them for her. We had planned to do some more quill and ink drawing today, but we ran out of time so we'll save that for tomorrow. Along with a million and one other things!

Jon's diabetic check up this morning went very well, as apparently they're impressed with his control. Looks like he won't need tablets after all, which is an Excellent Thing!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Boing, Boing, Boing!

It's been a very bouncy day, as Zebedee might say.

Well then, yesterday: Romy and Hazel came over to play. Jonathan put up a little tent in the garden (freebie from Viking Direct - one of their more useful ones, I have to say, as the proud owner now of SIX badminton sets...) which Emily loves to bits, and the girls spent a while playing in and around it and making playdoh food.

We also brought Emily's polly pocket collection up from the dining room where it's been for, oooh, ever and she's rediscovered the joys of playing with it. She spent all evening yesterday and all morning today on a very involved make believe scenario of some sort with it.

I managed a whole two hours in the garden this afternoon (I'm so NOT an outdoors person, especially in summer) and we had a loooonnnng play of horses (Emily's space hopper, hence the boing boing boing, went on for hours!) and Henry's Hunting Lodge (tent) with musical accompaniment from bells, castanets and other strange scrapy rattly instruments the names of which I totally forget (if indeed I ever knew). All very noisy and lots of fun, although I do wish it would rain properly so we can picnic in the tent and listen to the noise.

Emily and Jon have been doing a lot of swordfighting lately, inspired by the fight scenes in various Romeo & Juliets. Think we'll make enquiries to see if there are any fencing clubs around here. I loved fencing when I was younger (and slimmer!) and I think Emily would enjoy the elegance of it.

Jon's car passed its MOT today, which was rather a surprise. Business wise things are turning frantic again - how come there are never enough hours in the day?? Had v.v. bizarre conversation with very nice lady customer who informed us that she wanted to cancel her Paul McKenna order because she'd been told by his company that the CDs had been out of print for six months and were NOT being reprinted. At all. Ever. Which was rather odd as the whole lot was released in 2005 editions back in April, and boxloads of the newest of the newer new editions are on their way to us as we speak. Sigh. What a fiasco that particular reprint has turned out to be.

Must find time to bite the bullet and upgrade our Actinic Catalog software to the latest version soon. The CD's been sat on the desk for a week now, but upgrades have never yet gone smoothly so it's a case of getting in the right frame of mind to deal with the inevitable chaos, worry, lack of technical support and lost orders until it magically decides to behave itself. A frame of mind which, since the version we're currently on is having a long-term tantrum with customer order confirmation emails, we shall indeed have to get into. Poo.

Right. That's enough rambling. Off to Normanby Hall on a peacock feather hunt. Minus the spacehopper, if Emily can be persuaded to part with it.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Emily was poorly for much of yesterday, with very bad tummy ache and a high temperature. She did play in the garden for a bit, and started to make a family of Tudor paper dolls using those itty bitty sissix cut out thingies you can get from ebay. Her whole bed, mirror and chest of drawers are covered with itty bitty fairies and mermaids, but this is her first venture into historically correct costume! If anyone hasn't tried that as a craft thing, I'd highly reccommend it. Got the idea from Hazel who bought some sets in May for the guests at Romy's birthday party to use. Emily was hooked, so we bought lots of sets of bodies, wings, dresses etc and over the last couple of months she must have spent hours making them. Itty bitty fest over, she spent much of the rest of the day cuddled up on the settee watching Narnia and various Henry VIII related bits.

She's feeling much better today though - think her recovery was mightily speeded up by the arrival of a new dressing up "gown" from ebay, to share the workload with her blue and red one which is showing signs of some distress and will no doubt be calling in the unions if it doesn't get a day off soon. Emily has loads of dressing up stuff, but the only one (apart from this new one) which looked as it it had a Tudor type split gown was that poor red one!

Lots of maths this morning, and Emily started a scraperfoil cats thing. This afternoon we had a go at making some petal fairies with this kit. That was lots of fun, and definitely something she'll come back to again and again now she's got the hang of it. We sell a lot of the Petal Fairies thing - it's daft, really, we have so many lovely things in stock but we hardly ever get the time to try them out ourselves!!

Had a long chat with Emily yesterday about what she'd like to "learn" that isn't Tudor or Ancient Egypt related. Think I managed (just about) to disguise the fact that I think I'll be certifiably insane if we're still in Tudor mode come September. Predictably enough, she wants to do projects on Greeks, Romans and Vikings next. Although a surprise entry into the top 5 wishlist was trees, and an even more suprising entry was rainforests. Oh and I know she wants to learn more about birds - she's really enjoyed birdwatching from her window and I think she recognises more species than I do now, which is slightly worrying!

I've been reading about someone's problems with North Lincs LEA on one of the yahoo groups. I was rather surprised, actually, as we're North Lincs and after the initial flurry of officious letters in September/October last year they pretty much rolled over and played dead once we repeatedly refused a home visit, refused to show samples of Emily's work, and bored them with chapter and verse of the law - which they either didn't know (can LEAs really be that ignorant?) or were doing a fine job of pretending not to know. We haven't heard from them since, although I'll be interested to see, come September, whether they get in touch demanding an update or not.

Meanwhile, with my business head back on, it looks like we're finally about to get new stock of the reprinted Paul McKenna CDs, after weeks of being out of stock while Mr McKenna faffed about with changing the artwork on them before he'd authorise the reprint. About flippin' time too. We've got backorders and impatient customers coming out of our ears. Looks like there'll be a fair bit of packing to do tonight then!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Oh, and Nana found this very cute black ladybird...never seen one like this before! Posted by Picasa

More Story Writing....and a French Hood!

Had a surprise for Emily this morning, and she was thrilled to bits with it. Over the last couple of days, Gramps and Nana have been secretly making an authentic looking French Hood headdress for our little Mistress Boleyn. It was finished last night, so she got it this morning, and was over the moon. Here she is modelling it:

Needless to say it's been worn for virtually the whole day so far, and she's even made a special stand to keep it on!

More concentrated story writing this morning. This afternoon we've started watching the version of Henry VII and his six wives which has Charlotte Rampling as Anne Boleyn and Jane Asher as Jane Seymour. Someone was thrilled to see that her new hood was so similar to the ones the actresses were wearing!

To complete the look we needed (well, apart from the darn gown we can't find anywhere!) a pomander on a girdle round her wait, so Emily set about making a beaded chain on which to hang a round ball of cloves wrapped in voile.

It's late afternoon now and I've still got deadlines looming. Jon's reading to Emily from the Worst Jobs in History book by Tony Robinson and I think they're going to be playing in the garden after that. We took lots of photos yesterday; here's one of Emily playing Titania in a ballet dress we'd completely forgotten about (and which, unfortunately, is now rather too tight):

...and here's an informal one Jon took when he found the black and white function (which we didn't even know existed) on the camera - I love this one :)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy

We have deadlines coming out of our ears, orders piled up all over the floor and desks, and at last count 12 boxes of stock to unpack. It's a little hectic here, to say the least.

Emily has been an absolute star today. Right from the moment she got up she launched into writing a Tudor story, called "When Anne Boleyn Met Shakespeare - A Tale of Two Hearts". She spent most of the morning perched up on her bed tickling Merlin with one hand and writing with the other. She's up to about page 5 now, and wants to illustrate it all when she's finished. Haven't seen it yet, but apparently it's about a secret passion!

She's also spent hours in the garden with Jon, watching the birds, playing endless games and evidently looking like a large purple flower to the butterfly which landed on her head and spent several minutes there!

That's about all for now; looking forward to Monday when deadlines have passed and we can get some normality back.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Quick Update...

Went to Scunthorpe museum yesterday morning to their Medieval Machines exhibition. It looked really good, with lots to do, but unfortunately it was full of very badly behaved school kids who were about to be filmed by the BBC. The very offcious teacher insisted to me that Emily had to "join in" with the schoolchildren (what, run around like mad shouting and screaming?) if she wanted to be filmed, or that if we didn't want to be filmed we should leave. Stayed put, much to her disgust, and told her that we did not wish to be filmed in any way. She made a fuss that she'd have to get the cameraman to make special arrangements not to film us. Tough. They then proceeded to stand over us every time we went to strange coincidence whatever we were doing was what she wanted her kids filmed doing. A very irritating, rude and highly unprofessional woman - did wonders for my image of teachers in general, I must say.

Anyway. Must return to the museum another day to get proper enjoyment from what did seem to be an excellent exhibition.

Today we've done some more mental maths, lots of reading, and some Tudor quizzes, then this afternoon Emily and I spent a long time in the garden drawing flowers, holly leaevs and other bits and pieces. Very creditable job she made of it too.

Jon found out yesterday that the teacher who made Emily's reception year at school such a nightmare has been moved within the school. Starting September, she'll be taking the Yr2 class - yep, exactly the class that Emily would be going into in September, had she stayed put in school. So we would have had to face another year of her. Boy am I glad we got out when we did. The annual teacher lottery is not something I think I'd enjoy staking our daughter's wellbeing on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Midsummer Night's Crowning Glory

Forgot to blog yesterday. It was a bit of a blur, come to think of it. We were very busy with work in the morning, then in the afternoon we went to Romy's to play in her paddling pool, which Emily loved because it was full of ball pool balls floating on the top. Unfortunately, it wouldn't stop raining, and Romy was quite poorly, so we left a bit early, but still had fun. Hopefully Romy's feeling better by now.

Today started off with more mental maths, and then Emily read this Usborne version of A Midsummer Night's Dream to me. She decided she wanted to act out part of it, but before we could do that, we had to make a crown for the fairy Queen Titania - after getting covered with gold spray paint and learning to loathe unco-operative crepe paper, Emily produced this lovely end result:

Lunchtime followed, and straight after lunch I normally catch up with a bit of work for half an hour or so while Emily plays and Jon goes to the post office (again). She was awfully quiet, so I wondered what she was up to, and discovered her in her bedroom happily designing scenery for the play! She got all her paints out and did a lovely woodland scene which we taped up under her bed as the backdrop. We re-read the Usborne book and dipped into a couple of other versions of the play to work out what we were doing, then Emily changed into a fairy queen costume and I found something to use as a Donkey's head....yep, guess who got to play Bottom. Well, to be fair, I was playing Oberon too, but I think I excelled at Bottom!

After a quick practice, we were ready for our appreciative audience of Daddy videoing the performance. We didn't have enough people to do more than the Titania/Oberon/Bottom/Puck parts, but I think it had a certain charm, lol. It was really lovely to see Emily totally driving something herself, from start to finish, as the whole thing had been her idea and mostly organised on her own. A couple of pictures of Titania awakening on her bed of flowers:

and posing in front of her scenery:

This Shakespeare interest looks set to run and run, and we've now got plans to do the same thing for several other plays - make a few props, paint some scenery and act out a short bit. Emily's such a perfectionist, though, bless her. In part of the Usborne book it said something like "Titania awoke with a start. 'Was that an angel waking me?' she asked." Our little Shakespeare fan piped up with "It's not supposed to say that! She's supposed to say 'What angel has awakened me from my flowery bed?'". So there!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ollie the Octopus

...Ollie was the hit of the day, in fact, quite possibly, the hit of the summer. This large green inflatable sun lounger was brought back by Jon when he went out shopping this morning, and Emily's been in seventh heaven ever since. Here are some pics: as you can see, Ollie's perfect for reading the latest Simpsons magazine, sunbathing on your back......

or chatting on your front.....

After a very soggy afternon, there was another surprise in store; Emily and I were playing cards in her bedroom unaware that Jon was preparing a lovely barbecue outside. Given the amount of orders piling up on our sitting room floor, this somewhat reckless behaviour was an absolute tonic - for once we had a ball eating out in the garden, and I was even treated to barbecued asparagus and scrummy red wine. We sat and chatted and chilled and left the orders to pile up. Bliss. And unheard of for a Sunday evening, which is usually panic stations as we try to get everything packed in time for Monday's post.

Emily had a great tea time barbecue, which was swiftly followed by another session in the pool. She was fully dressed by then, but as all small children know, what difference do clothes make? If you've got to paddle, you've got to paddle.... dressed or not....

We've finally made it back in now, and the packing pile is indeed looking rather ominous, but we've had a fabulous afternoon and what could be more important than that?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Archaeology, Scones & Splashes

It was National Archaeology Day today, so we trotted off to Scunthorpe Museum this morning, and had a fab time looking at some artefacts (Emily was particularly impressed by the Tudor shoe buckle), doing brass rubbings of various Tudor-ly attired ladies and using sticky bits of paper to fill in an enormous copy of a locallly found mosaic. We had hoped to bump into Romy and Colin there, but we missed them - saw their car in the car park as we were leaving, but couldn't see them in the musuem.

There was hardly anyone there - as usual; hope they had a few more interested faces after we left or that mosaic copy was going to look pretty unloved and sorry for itself by the end of the day! A chat with the finds officer has inspired us to get back to digging in the garden....last autumn especially, Emily found loads of bits of clay pipes and pottery - we had assumed it was all fairly modern stuff, but it was identical to some of the bits and pieces they were displaying as medieval, so.... watch out Time Team Tone, here we come!

Back at home Emily followed a recipe for cherry and raisin scones all by herself, and they're certainly scrummy. With it being another scorchingly hot day, it's then been paddling pool, paddling pool and more paddling pool for the rest of the afternoon.

A post on one of the newsgroups this morning led me to the rather happy discovery that the Shakespeare 4 Kids/ company is doing a tour of Romeo & Juliet over the next 6 months, and they'll be at the Grimsby Auditorium at the end of January - will definitely book tickets for that.

So: Emily and Jon are still out in the garden, and I'm in my normal weekend plodding away at the keyboard "do I really have to do this???" mode working on a particular set of weekly deadlines. I'm heartily fed up with it, if truth be told, but it's an awful lot of money to turn your back on, so....plod, plod, plod it is!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friendship Day

It was a year ago today that we first met Hazel, Colin and Romy, and Romy long ago had the brilliant idea of naming today Friendship Day. And so it was. We had a lovely play in Romy's garden this afternoon, and the girls exchanged cards and pressies. Romy gave Emily a lovely hand made Elephant card and a gorgeous gemstone Friendship Star, and Emily gave Romy a fairy card and this cushion thingy she'd made (with a bit of help from me when the chainstitch got too much!). RE is for the initials Romy and Emily:

Yesterday was a bit of a blur; I think we did some maths and some sewing in the morning, and then I took Grandad to the eye clinic at the hospital, which, given the lack of car parking facilities, was a bit of a palava. Emily did enjoy watching another episode of Worst Jobs in History last night, though, and spent lots of time drawing a French Hood shop. She loves those (headdress of the type worn by Anne Boleyn in particular). I wish we could get a decent Tudor dressing up outfit for her. I've been trying to find one ever since the Tudor passion took hold, but I don't want to pay more than about £25 max, and the only one I've seen on ebay was about £35 plus not particularly historically accurate (and trust me, that matters). If I was more "crafty" I'm sure we should be able to make one. But I'm not, lol, so we won't!!

This morning we did some more maths from the mental maths book, which Emily's doing really well with. Takes a bit of persuading to start it at times, but she does whizz through it once she's got going, and I've definitely seen an improvement in the speed and accuracy of her answers. We don't insist on anything else, but I do try to encourage her into some maths and some English most days. I'm sure some would heartily disapprove of that, but well, it works for us.

A Monarchs of England Card Game arrived this morning, which looks like a lot of fun, so I daresay we'll be doing that later this evening. At the moment, Emily and Jon are building a hovercraft to go in her paddling pool. Hard to believe that a year ago she was still at school....the year's gone so fast!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Attack of the Tooth Fairy....

Well, not yet. But Emily does have a wobbly tooth, and given the panic that induces round these parts you'd think it was an imminent Attack of the Tooth Fairy as opposed to a relatively painless way of obtaining some cash under the pillow. Bless her, she's quite squeamish, and although the first two teeth to come out about 18 months ago were handled very calmly the last one (must be about 9 months ago) was a bit of a bloodbath and caused major hysterics....we shall look forward to this one with bated breath, although the small person has announced that she won't be eating anything else EVER in case it makes it wobblier. Should make meals a breeze, then.

Went into Scunthorpe this morning to collect Emily's new glasses, and had a fairly bizarre conversation with the lady in the opticians. She asked Emily "shouldn't you be at school today?" in what I must say was a very confrontational tone of voice. Emily was a bit taken aback (more at the tone than the question) but did manage to answer "No." "No??!" the woman repeated, looking at me accusingly. "No," I said. "Emily's home educated." After picking herself up off the floor and re-arranging her features into an even more disapproving look, she got her act together with "How many other children do you have, then?" "Er, none, just Emily." If she'd gone any paler I would have had to seriously consider calling an ambulance, I think. "Oh," says she. "Oh. Is that allowed then? I mean, the authorities don't like children to be isolated." Pardon??? She's far from isolated says me, slightly taken aback by this approach. "Are you sure it's legal?" she says. "I would have thought it wasn't allowed if there's just the one child."

Okaaaay. Excuse us while we go forth and procreate.

We did go to the 20/21 Visual Arts Centre, with the intention of showing Daddy what it's like, as he's never been there. Unfortunately, we picked a pooey day to go, as there was zilch happening - they were changing over exhibitions and everything was empty and blocked off. Pity, as there's usually lots of activities for children to do. Last time we went with Romy and Hazel they had a big tub of saris and other Indian and Pakistani clothing and headdresses with a mirror - they had a ball with that! Shame there was nothing there today.

Back at home, Jon and Emily played in the garden all afternoon, while I got on with some work. And Emily rediscovered her interest in neopets and bought a Christmas paint brush for her Aisha.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Summer Splashes

Wow, what a scorcher! When I got up this morning it was drizzling, overcast and approx 15 degrees.......which although "interesting" as weather goes didn't delight me because we'd planned today for Hazel and Romy to come over for a paddling pool play. However, the weather decided to behave itself just in the nick of time, and by lunchtime it had turned into a cloudless blue sky and a temperature of over 25 in the shade. So, paddling pool it was! Emily and Romy had fun doing some hand and foot painting too - the resulting rainbow coloured lawn is certainly pretty, but I don't think the birds quite know what to make of it!

Emily made us laugh this evening - in an issue of DK Find Out Magazine there was a 'guess who this famous person is' type thing, and the famous person was Elizabeth I. Emily had been reading it, and came marching up to us most indigant to point out that they'd made an "enormous mistake" - they'd listed as one of the clues the fact that "this person had a famous half-sister too, who was Mary Queen of Scots". Oooops. No, she didn't. She had a famous half-sister who was Mary I of England...... it tickled us that Emily'd been so fast to spot that, and so 'how could they possibly get that wrong????' about it!

On a slightly more alarming note: a miscellaneous cartoon came on the TV later on, while Emily was in her bedroom. In the cartoon, someone was singing one of those 'na na na-na-nah' type playground songs...which immediately prompted Emily to rush out of her bedroom distressed - for some reason, she'd heard the noise, hadn't realised it was from the TV....and had automatically assumed that there were some kids standing outside on the pavement singing it about her :-(((((( Which probably means that she must have had that kind of thing sung at her at least once while she was in that marvellous social haven called school; why else would she jump to such a sad conclusion? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Still. We had a lovely afternoon, and the days of running the school gauntlet are receding ever further away into the past. Our little one's happy now, and she's gonna stay that way!!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Bleary Eyed Monday

Feeling terribly tired today. Didn't get much sleep last night, although it never ceases to amaze me how my beloved husband manages to function on around 4-5 hours a night. I normally get around 7 hours and it's still not enough!!! Consequently, I fell asleep this morning while Emily was reading me a story about a fairground ghost, lol - not sure she was very impressed by my attention span! Nearly fell asleep half an hour ago sat on the floor packing parcels.... daresay I won't be surprised if we get irate phone calls in a day or two from people who've been sent the wrong things!

Apart from reading this morning, we had another bash at the problems in this mental maths book; it's quite good for this but-it's-summer-and-I-don't-feel-like-doing-any-work kind of stage, I think. We can do a double page spread in about 15 minutes, so it doesn't take too long and I can then mentally tick maths for the day if nothing else. Emily could probably do the Book 2 stuff, but we're sticking within our comfort zone for the moment.

Artistic skills were put to good use with lots of drawing practice from some of the "Draw 50..." series that we've had on the shelf for ages and never really looked at. I must admit to having groaned inwardly when Emily said she wanted me to have a go with her....but I must also admit that it was actually quite relaxing. Probably should do more of it.

Swimming this afternoon with Romy and Hazel, probably for the last time until after the school holidays. Call me a wimp, but I really don't fancy a crowded pool full of boisterous kids. Just not my thing. The girls seemed to have fun this afternoon with a long, involved play of something or other, whilst their two Mums kept a beady eye on them....and half froze to death. Swimming pools are all very well if you can actually swim in them; not such a ball when having to stay upright and watch little ones!

Back home, Emily was thrilled to find Jon had bought her a tape with Tony Robinson reading some Jackanory stories on it. I'm not sure she realises they're nothing to do with history...but then again Old Tone can't put a foot wrong round these parts, so....

On a more sombre note, Jon had a nasty shock this morning when, returning home from the post office, he found a dead black cat in the road right outside our house, and it was the spitting image of Cassie. :-(((((( It was a heart-stopping five minutes that we all thought it WAS Cassie, until we found her on a chair indoors. We stood looking at her, until she woke up and looked at us, looking at her, as if to say "What am I supposed to have done now???" Anyway, we took the cat off the road and into our place, but we haven't been able to establish who the poor thing belongs to, despite knocking on all the doors we can think of, asking in the post office etc. If nobody's claimed him or her by tomorrow, I guess we'll bury it in our garden, we can't just leave it out, obviously. :-((((

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Stone grinding herbs, rose petals, seeds and just about anything else for a potion. Cap is meant to be a servant's mop cab, btw, not a fashion statement! Posted by Picasa

Swarming Ants...Nice

Our garden is absolutely covered in clouds of swarming, flying ants this afternoon - as spookily predicted by Jon as soon as he got up this morning. Not a pretty sight, frankly, although the swallows and swifts are having a field day.

Not all that much to report, education wise. Emily's last ballet lesson until September was yesterday; since then she's played loads, drawn masses of portraits, watched Midsummer Night's Dream (and impressed us mightily with her grasp of what was going on), learnt how to do chain stitch, spent hours in the garden, watched Narnia for the umpteenth time and generally lazed about doing what 6 year olds do, and using the lid of her sandpit as a paddling pool since us meanie grownups wouldn't put the big one up until tomorrow.

As for us, we've been battling against weekend deadlines as usual, and I've spent rather more of my time than I should have done posting in this thread. At least one lady was honest enough to admit that her hostility towards home education was largely because she knew it would be best for her own children but couldn't quite get herself together to do it. And please, could somebody tell me why we should lose sleep over the fact that our daughter may miss out on a - gasp - music GCSE? Wish I could have missed out on my needlework O level, that's for sure. *Shakes head and gives up on the discussion*.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Lakeside Laughter

Or should that be soggy screaming?

Went to Twigmoor Woods with Hazel, Romy and their dog Tilly this afternoon. Last time we went, both girls got exceptionally soggy in the lake, and despite both Mums deciding it wasn't going to happen again this happened again this time. Amid a cacophony of squeals, screams and giggles, two girls and a dog had a whale of a time. Must brush up on their knowledge of anatomy though, I think, since instructions to 'not go any deeper than your knees' somehow resulted in wet bums and soggy sleeves....

On the way out of the woods, we found a tiny, teeny froglet, not much bigger than my thumbnail, which both girls were able to hold and coo at before we put it back safely in the undergrowth. Then we went off to the nearby windmill to buy some scrummy biscuits and flapjack bars.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, it seems that getting soaked at the lake wasn't quite enough water for Emily after all....since after tea....well....Emily + Daddy + hosepipe = more soggy shrieks of delight.

This morning before going out we had a vague stab at doing something educational, trying some of the problems in a mental maths book and practising 2, 5 and 10 times tables. The book had some of those write-numbers-1-to-5-in-this-triangle-so-all-sides-add-up-to-9 type puzzles in it. Not especially difficult, but Emily really switches off with stuff like that. She can do it if pushed, but she just doesn't see the point. Think she's definitely going to be more of a language arts/humanities person than a maths one.

Oh yes, just remembered, last night we saw Worst Jobs in History on Discovery...had never heard of it before, must have missed it when it was on channel 4. Emily absolutely loved it, and can't wait until next Thursday for the next one. Tony Robinson seems to be this girl's second best hero (after Daddy, naturally). She's known him from Time Team for ages, but when she first saw him as Baldrick in Blackadder she was soooo thrilled!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Surreal Day

Well, what can I say? One minute this morning we were looking at newspaper photos of where the new Olympic stadiums will be built (right where Jon used to live, in fact you could see his old flat in the photos) and chatting about our soon-to-be visit to London. Next minute we were stood watching the news in mounting horror and disbelief. Not much one can say, really is there? Horrific.

The rest of the day has passed in a kind of surreal haze. I've had this extremely tight deadline to meet (and haven't finished the work yet!) so I've been pounding away at the keyboard all day, on and off listening to the news, Jon has been entertaining Emily; we've also been playing banquets behind a golden curtain we've set up under her bed...Tudor people eating neopets food (cut out and stuck on from here a few months ago during the neopets fanatic stage) from plates covered in names of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses (thus designed during our Egyptian stage, for a previous Egyptian banquet). Fairly bizarre, but it seemed to go down well. The bewilderment on a child's face when you try to explain what went on can you explain it to a little one? We'll just cuddle up even closer.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Getting Soggy Again

It's still raining. This is A Good Thing. At least, it's good for me because it energizes me. It's good for Emily because it's fun. Less good for poor Jon who has to tramp up and down to the post office three or four times a day with bag loads of packages....he has the drowned rat look off pat now.

I was going to post a picture or Emily smiling soggily from her swings, but for some reason the picture uploader thing is blanking out on me half way through. It did that yesterday too. Is it just me?

Anyway. Emily took it upon herself to investigate Kings and Queens this morning, and was busy drawing portraits and writing lists of them (??) for hours. This afternoon we've watched lots and lots of extremly wet birds, played some card games and tried a Su Doku puzzle from a kids Su Doku magazine Hazel showed me. Wasn't entirely a success, that bit. She did get the hang of it, with prompting, but wasn't keen to do more than one, shall we say. Pity, 'cos I'm sure it's very good brain exercise.

Other than that (and more "who cares if it's raining" garden play) she's been pottering about being very busy....I'm just not entirely sure at what.

Work is frantic at the moment - we're trying very hard to get extra business in, and it seems to be working. Not only on the retail side, either. Had a surprise one-off commission from the press agency today, wanting some astrology copy (by Friday!!!!!! talk about short notice) for a mystery non-UK magazine client. The one-off's paying quite well, and apparently if we impress there's a very good chance they'll make it a regular thing, so..... excuse me while I get back to work!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Rain, Glorious Rain

It's bucketed down for most of today, much to my delight. Now this is more my kind of weather!

Emily "doodled" this portrait of Henry VIII at bedtime last night whilst Jon was reading to her. We were very impressed!

We finished reading the last of the Terry Deary Tudor Tales books this morning. Emily found Sir Thomas Wyatt's poem about Anne Boleyn, Ye Old Mule, which she thought was hilarious - it's inspired much fun today, that one. She's copied it out onto a scroll and pretended to be Henry giving it to me (Anne), then we also spent some time thinking up other insulting poems about Henry's various wives...interesting, if not exactly politically correct!

We've sort of brought the "formal" bit of the Tudor project to a close now. We'll still be playing lots of Tudor stuff, and Emily can carry on drawing, colouring, "scrolling" and reading about Tudors to her heart's content, but I don't think we'll do any further "work" (for which read "writen stuff to show for all that learning") for the time being. We don't have as much "stuff" to show for this one as we had for the Egyptian project, but that's fine by us, since it was entirely Emily's choice to produce so much Egyptian written work in the first place. Looking back over the last couple of weeks, she's learnt an amazing amount, regardless of whether much of it has been written down or not! At the beginning we were obviously in a Manuel-esque "I know nothing" position. Now she knows Henry's family tree back to front and inside out, understands the reasons behind his marriages and the consequences of them, knows and understands why he broke with Rome and formed the Church of England, grasps the consequences of that very well indeed, knows about the reformation, Tudor exploration, Mary Queen of Scots, Tudor food, dress, entertainment, education, medicine, housing, the different lifestyles of the rich and poor, and has an exceptional feel for what these people were like, what made them tick, and their place in the grander scheme of British (and world) history, as well as having developed a real interest in Shakespeare. Not bad, I reckon.

A look at the Tower of London's website this morning prompted a fascination with the Crown Jewels, so Emily then spent ages googling for images of different crowns, and collating them all together in an MS Word collage... as well as finding a series of collectable miniature crowns she's got her eye on, and succesfully and independently searching ebay to see if she could find them cheaper (no luck, but full marks for trying!).

This afternoon, with no sign of the rain abating, we went for a wander at Normanby Hall. Apart from a soggy school trip, we had the place to ourselves, so we had a good long ramble, spent ages in the Walled Garden with the resident cat Albert and played Tower of London in the adventure's amazing what a good torture machine the roundabout makes!! Back home, as if she wasn't soggy enough, Emily and Jon spent ages playing outside in what was, by then, pretty heavy rain. I'm always glad to see she's not bothered by the school-type "wet play" stuck indoors days here!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Yay! We Have a Swimmer!

Well, very, very, nearly almost.

Went swimming this afternoon with Romy and Hazel, and Emily was confident enough to try a few strokes without any aids! She did lots and lots of gliding and wasn't bothered about her face getting wet and yes, there were at least a few occasions in there where some real swimming happened. She did amazingly well, we're very proud of how much confidence she's gained over relatively few sessions - think we've only been maybe 5 times in total this year. We're really getting somewhere!

As for "educational" things...well, we sat down to do an English comprehension exercise this morning...and then I found myself looking at Emily, and she was looking at me, and it was obvious we were both thinking the same thing: what on earth was the point? She could read the text, she understood the text, there wasn't really an awful lot to be gained by making her write down the answers. So that was promptly abandoned, and we spent a nice morning instead doing some more of her tapestry and playing lots of games of cards, mostly Fish - in character, of course, with Emily being Anne Boleyn and me being Henry losing his rag because she kept winning. By the time she had been duly carted off to the Tower, it was time to get ready to go out.

There was a flurry of excitement yesterday when we were reading the webpage for Scunthorpe museum - apparently next July they're having a lot of Egyptian artefacts (including mummies) on loan from the British Museum. Well, guess who can't wait? She's already been counting the months to the Tutankhamun exhibition in the Millennium Dome which is happening sometime in 2007..... We'll definitely be taking a short break to visit that. Trouble is, given our business deadlines, we can only really go away for approx 4 days at a time. In May, we went on our first holiday since our honeymoon (8 years ago) and Emily's first ever, and that was only for four days too. There are sooooooo many places we want to take her to in London and the surrounding area.....ahhhh, fond memories, I'm a southern girl at heart I'm afraid....don't know how we'll ever fit it all in!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

All's Quiet

It's been a peaceful Sunday. Emily spent the morning doing more Tudor costume colouring/designing, whilst listening to some Shakespeare tapes from the library. This afternoon she spent ages birdwatching in the garden with Jon, and then started a tapestry whilst I read Time Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasure to her. Or at least tried to....must admit I found it very boring, and it's hard to make a book interesting to listen to when your own mind is wandering.... perhaps it's just becuase we didn't read the first in the Time Travelling Cat series, so we don't really have a clue what they're on about. She and Daddy are now watching the Cate Blanchett/Kathy Burke version of Elizabeth on video, having "temporarily" given up on A Man For All Seasons!

Jon got some super-cheap white t-shirts from Tesco this morning, so we're looking up vegetable dyes with a view to hopefully tie-dying (or is it tye-dying?) next week. I've got a long list of other crafty type activities in mind; think we might make this an arts/crafts summer if and when we can get anything that's not Tudor related to appeal!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Friday/Saturday Catchup

Time's been a somewhat precious commodity around here this last two days, but I'm grabbing ten minutes in between orders to do this.

Let's see. Friday. Emily wrote more scrolls and played on Catz. We also made some vegan jam buns in honour of Romy and Hazel, who came round to play all afternoon, which seemed to be fun. Emily and Jon started watching A Man For All Seasons, and Emily was entranced by the Time Team episode about Richmond Palace, which we managed to catch the tail end of. We've got the Time Team DVD which she did watch all the way through, but that was before Tudor Fascination struck; probably should dig it out again for a re-run.

Saturday - off to ballet in the morning. Emily's friend Maisie isn't going any more, and she was a little bit sad about that, but I was really pleased to see her making an effort to strike up a conversation with some of the other girls. When I left, she was sat in a circle comparing injuries (!) with two others. She's been going to that class for nearly a year now, and we still only know the names of about two other children there! I think Emily's social experiences at school (yeah, that thing that's school's supposed to be so important for ) are still affecting her nearly a year down the line - but we're getting there.

The thing is, thanks to what went on in that disgraceful institution, Emily learnt to be incredibly distrustful of both other children and other adults. That kind of thing doesn't disappear over night. The only good friend she did have at school very soon moved out of the area, leaving Emily lonely and quite isolated in the dreaded playground scenario. She tried to join in with the other children, but was usually bossed about to such an extent that she never had any say in what she was playing. When she reported to us that she was sick to death of being made to be (for instance) the dog again, when playing families, we suggested that she politely but firmly say it was her turn to be the Princess (or whatever). She tried, she was shouted down. So we suggested that in that case she politely but firmly state that she didn't want to play that game, and that she should suggest a different one.

She tried. That afternoon we were met with tears at the gate, again. She had tried. At which point the other little darlings had rushed to a dinner lady to complain that Emily "wouldn't play with us". The dinner lady had taken one look at our crying, downtrodden, shy and vulnerable child.....and laid into her for "not playing nicely". She was instructed to rejoin the group - and play nicely at being the dog. So - her faltering attempt at assertiveness had backfired, and the adult supposedly in charge had deliberately humiliated her. The adorable little bullies? All apples of their parents' (and teachers') eyes, I'm sure....and no doubt now exerting their particular form of twisted "friendship" over a different quiet child. I'm sorry if I sound bitter - but that would be because I am. Kids will be kids.....but we're taught that they need to go to school in order to learn to socialise. Is this the kind of "socialisation" they had in mind? Is this what adults in a "caring and supportive environment" do to a distressed child? How come our daughter started school full of enthusiasm and excitement....and left it a year later a shell of the person she was? And this school, I might add, has a glowing reputation. People move into this village specifically so they can send their kids there. Ye Gods.

I could (and probably will at various points, lol) bore for England with anecdotes of how marvellous (not) an experience that reception year was, and what damage we believe it did to Emily, but for the moment I'll stop before it upsets me again. Problem is, the more we remember and analyse what actually happened there, the worse and the more guilty we feel about it having gone on for so long. :-( There are days when I wish I had the guts to stand at the school entrance with a huge placard saying "Are your kids being damaged by this "excellent" school and its policies? It doesn't have to be that way - come and talk to me about home education". Ha. As if. On a more positive note, we're fairly certain that Emily's love of pretend is actually very therapeutic for her - these days she gets to be in control of all the role-playing.

Well, anyway, I digress - the point I was making was that re-building Emily's social confidence is a slow process. She's blossomed in one to one relationships with Romy and Maisie, but she's still very much intimidated in groups. Her making the first move in a conversation may seem trivial, but believe me, it's a big step. :-)

From ballet, we went to pick up Romy and Hazel for a trip to Scunthorpe museum, which had a mosaic making activity on as part of Children's Art Day. There was hardly anyone else there, and the girls had a lovely time making mosaic plant pots and wandering around the museum.

Back at home we've been watching bits of Live 8 inbetween working and playing. There's lots of laughter coming from the garden at the mo, so I daresay Emily and Daddy are up to something....