Friday, September 30, 2005

Want To Be Well Again!

We all do! Much poorliness continues in this happy household, with Jon's and mine seemingly getting worse as we go on. Fortunately, Emily's is getting a bit better, she seems to have come off more lightly this time than us poor grown ups.

She's been a grown up little star all day long, I must say. Sat quietly doing some maths on the floor this morning, and when I fell asleep next to her she got up, went to fetch an unzipped sleeping bag, tucked me up under it, got in too, snuggled down and carried on with her maths. Little sweetheart.

This afternoon we went to soft play with Romy and Hazel; hopefully I didn't breathe too much lurgy over them, although they may well be cursing me by Monday! We also popped in to the garden centre next door hoping to have a look at their enormous Christmas grotto display, but it wasn't quite ready. Wandered round the rest of it instead mentally thinking "I want one of those" to just about everything and fending off similar thoughts from small people.

We're barely coping illness-wise this evening (hardly ever are both me and Jon bad a the same time) but bless her, Emily decided to help with the packing. She's been wanting to help for ages, and this evening she successfully and independently packaged up three sets of Jewel Fairies books with accompanying freebie bits, ready to go off to the US, and a big assortment of other ebay items too. Hmmmmm. I could get used to this. :-))

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Nine Worlds??? We Need a Map!

Didn't make it to York today. Emily was poorly in the night again, and we all woke up feeling awful. My throat and chest hurt, I keep being sick and I'm losing my voice, Jon's glands are swollen and Emily's snuffly and woozy. Yorvik will have to wait!

We did, however, get stuck into some work. This morning we did lots of times tables problems, and worked on using webs to organise information for writing. I love that Just Write book! This afternoon it was time for some Viking stuff. After a slow start last week, Emily's imagination was captured today by the norse myths. We read lots of the Orchard Book of Viking Stories, and needed lots of help from Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myths & Legends. My fantastic school education had totally failed to prepare me for the um, complexity of norse mythology. Half way through the first myth and Emily and I were rolling about on the floor giggling hysterically because we couldn't keep track of who was who or what was what. Nine worlds?? We struggle with one, sometimes! Think we need to do a big painting of the World Tree and its nine worlds and write or stick pictures in to mark who lives where and what happened where. It's very confusing at first glance, much more so than the Egyptian myths were.

Anyway. While I was reading to her, Emily was doing a big drawing of the runic alphabet (except of course that, much like we discovered with hieroglyphs, the actual rune symbols and the number of them seem to change according to which book you read or which website you're on, sigh). She worked out how to write her name in runes, and then I gave her a set of amethyst runes to work with. We had fun casting them and reading the future from them. Emily's prediction was that she was going to become skilled at something she felt unskilled in, but that she needed lots of patience and to work closely with her family to achieve her dreams. Mathematician, anyone? Mine was skilfully interpreted by Emily as meaning that the balance between Jon and I was being rocked by too much "stuff" that needed getting rid of. All our clutter, she reckoned that was. And that we too needed to be patient because it couldn't yet be cleared. And she interpreted Jon's casting to mean that he is setting himself unrealistic goals and being too hard on himself, and that he needs a break (yay, a holiday!) and to allow others to show him his strengths.

Here's Emily sorting her runes into letter order first, before we looked at the more symbolic meanings:

After "work" had ended for the day, Emily started writing messages in runes, and making up games to play with her being Freya and me being Odin. Daddy will no doubt get to be the mischevious god Loki. Since Freya's chariot is drawn by cats there's a starring role for Romeo and Juliet, too.......

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Good News for Juliet

Her heart murmur is much less pronounced than at our last vets visit three weeks ago. This means they reckon they'll be able to safely neuter her in a couple of months time; apparently they use a different type of anaesthetic with a fast induction and fast recovery on kittens with her type of condition, and they were very upbeat about minimal risk, etc. This is a huge relief to hear, as it was going to be highly impractical to keep Juliet housebound, and we were scared to death of having to face a traumatic choice between a high risk neutering or a miserable housebound kitten and constant stress about her escaping and becoming pregnant.

The vet. nurse managed to put the needle right through Juliet's scruff and out the other side, so I think most of her second FV vaccination went over my hand, but another piece of good news this morning was that Juliet's found her miaow. I can't remember if I'd said on here or not, but we thought she couldn't miaow - we'd never heard her do it, but had seen her lots of times trying to, but no sound coming out. Well, when the nurse had to seperate her from my arms to take her down to the vet (appts had been mixed up and I'd been booked in only with the nurse not the vet) she found her voice and started miaowing like mad. Aaaah. Meanwhile, Romeo started miaowing loudly too, and he didn't pause for breath through the whole ten minutes Juliet was gone. As soon as the vet brought her back in, he stopped. Bless. They've been snuggled up together ever since we got back.

Planned nature walk has been cancelled as Emily's cold has worsened again. We had planned a day out in York tomorrow, but whether that gets cancelled as well will depend on whether health is restored to reasonable levels or not!

Emily's taking it easy today and just playing. Late yesterday evening she wrote a double page of A4 literally in about five minutes flat - a very well thought out episode of five children and it, where the lamb is playing at being a train, and panther wishes he *was* a train so she wouldn't have to put up with him. The children then visit the psammead but he won't let them have another wish that day, so they visit the phoenix instead, who sends them off to the worst witch school, where they meet Mildred Hubble and she helps them work out the reversal spell to turn the lamb back to his normal self again. Phew! Apparently this was inspired as she was idly watching Thomas the Tank Engine on Noggin. Think that's English covered, then.

Piccie of the kit-bits in their now favourite sleeping place, up on Emily's bed with heads hanging through the slats!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sniffle, Sniffle, Cough

Jon's cold got better.....mine and Emily's got worse. Actually, I don't think his did get any better at all; he just soldiers on regardless, bless. I can't remember the last time he had a "day off" or even just a lie in due to illness. Married to the indestructable man, I am, lol.

Anyway, yesterday dawned with both me and Emily suffering raging sore throats, shivers and aches. Emily wanted to play with her Barbie bits all morning, and I dragged myself as far as the chair to do some more ebay listings. In the afternoon we had a go at this shaving cream marbling malarky. Results were, um, less than impressive. Basically it just didn't work at all well - although we were prepared for that as at least half the comments on related links were from frustrated teachers complaining it didn't work, lol. The proper oil paint on water marbling we did last year worked brilliantly, but this just didn't cut it. Still, it did make a *massive* mess, which counts as instant success in Emily's book, so.....

Today we two invalids felt slightly more human, so we got back to work with lots of multiplication and division, more work on friction and the start of the Just Write 1 book. I think Emily's going to enjoy that. Her first exercise today was to brainstorm ideas to write about (like she's ever short of those) - her only complaint was that she ran out of space on the page. We're really proud of how much she enjoys writing. That certainly wasn't the case during her school reception year, so it must be something we've successfully fostered here at home during this last year. I think it really off took after Christmas when she started her Ancient Egypt project and suddenly discovered that it was fun to write scrolls and written "props" for pretend games. These days she's writes lots, every day, whether it's something "formal" like a Just Write exercise, or simply lists, stories, notes, whatever she decides to write herself. She wrote Tudor newspaper headlines the other day, off her own bat, just for fun. This has to be A Good Thing (and makes up for maths sometimes being such a battle of wits, lol).

This afternoon we went off swimming, and Emily did wonderfully well. She's getting more and more confident every time we go. She mastered ducking right under the water today, which should help conquer her fears. At one point I think we were the only two people there, being watched over by seven lifeguards, lol.

Tomorrow the kittens are off to the vets for their final innoculations, then we're going to Normanby to make a "journey stick" - basically a nature walk, but we'll tie whatever we find to a big stick to tell the story of the journey. Well, that's the theory. As ever, I supsect it's simpler on paper than in practice....

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Near Miss with the Aloe Vera

OK, so yesterday Juliet discovered how to climb up onto Emily's bed. They hadn't been able to manage it before as the three steps are a vertical ladder and they couldn't get from one to the next without falling off. Clever kitty worked out to jump to the first, then get off it onto the top of a toy box behind it, turn round, jump from *there* to the second step, turn round precariously, dig claws manically into mattress and heave self up. So far, so good. To get down, she jumps onto the windowsill, and then down from there (windowsill is too high for her to jump UP to). Only...on the windowsill are two aloe vera plants. Or I should say, *were* two aloe vera plants. Until this morning when we found her happily eating one of them. A bell in the back of my mind went off and I rushed to find this list of plants which are poisonous to cats. Yep. Aloe vera is apparently one of them.

Sigh. Removed kitten from plant at lightning speed. Removed plants from windowsill. Have had kitten under strict observation all day, but apart from tearing around even more madly as if she's on some class A substance or other, she seems fine. Flippin' kittens. If they're not chewing your stock they're doing forward rolls down the stairs. If they're not demanding your dinner they're hiding until you go into 'oh hell the kitten's got out' mode and then sauntering up as if to ask what all the fuss is about. If they're not trampling over your keyboard they're eating poisonous house plants. God knows what the neighbourhood cats are going to make of these two bundles of trouble.

Anyway. Kitten traumas apart, it's been a busy weekend. Emily's been drawing and laminating cut out dolls and then designing costumes for them. We have a new graphics tablet, so she's spent hours on Dazzle using that. Jon's been very busy with orders, and has a yukky cold and high temperature. And I've been frantically listing stuff on ebay, lots of pagan jewellery and greetings cards, spell kits etc, and some of Emily's old bits and bobs on our personal account. Only thing is, I could do nothing but list on ebay for the next six months (bye bye education) and we still wouldn't be able to move without treading on something!!!

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Tidy Fairy

Yes, indeed, the tidy fairy has visited our home, and for once it wasn't me or Jon in disguise. Emily woke up this morning and announced that she wanted to tidy up. And so she did. She spent all morning tidying her bedroom beautifully, including clearing the top of her chest of drawers which had been several inches deep in "stuff", and even finding sensible homes for all said stuff. Not content with that she then set about clearing a rack of stacking baskets in the corridoor outside her room - something that's been on my to-do list for, oooh, since they were put there - and again found sensible homes for everything. Then she cleared her computer desk, again inches deep in homeless items. All the while happily chunnering away, except for the odd, highly indignant "What on EARTH is THIS doing here?" Bless.

I did wonder what an LEA bod would make of finding Emily knee deep in dust, polish and piles of stuff instead of "being educated", but decided we could always mark it down as citizenship and/or Home Economics (do they still do that??) ROFL!

This afternoon we've been out to a soft play area with Romy and Hazel; judging by the colour of the girls' faces after over 2 hours of non stop rampaging, I guess we can also tick PE. The pub we were in already had it's Christmas stuff up, for heaven's sake!

A conversation with Romy in the car on the way home prompted Emily to go off and write a Christmas/Birthday wish list when she got home (her 7th birthday is a week after Christmas). Child after our own hearts - top of her list was "interesting non fiction books". Well, OK, top of her list really would be the assorted Barbie & Magic of Pegasus junk, but having explained that we are NOT getting them this year, she didn't bother writing that on her list, and the rest of the list was refreshingly and entirely free of other assorted plastic one minute wonders, too. An Elizabethan dress features highly, as does a journal, more jigsaws, artists pastels, real "grown up" paints, craft stuff, a sewing machine, a curtain on a rail to go under her bed, and more artist software, among other grown up, wholesome things. Aaah - our little one's growing up. Mind you, this mature and interesting wish list may yet change once she's been subjected to a whole three months of the adverts on the kids channels......

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Vikings R Us

So. It has begun.

Started our Viking project this afternoon, by spending time with Emily working out what "we" already know about the Vikings (as ever, in true home educated child style, I discovered that Emily already knows a lot more than I thought she did...) and what "we" want to find out. Naturally, given Emily's previous fascination with Egyptian hieroglyphs, she was thrilled to discover the runic alphabet. She'll be even more thrilled tomorrow when I give her a set of gemstone runestones (we sell 'em) to work with ;-)

We had a good look around the BBC Schools Viking section, as that seemed as good a place as any for a general introduction to the subject. Emily didn't know the answer to one of the quiz questions (what type of king was Knut...wise and Christian or psycho barbarian?... perhaps it wasn't phrased quite like that) but she leapt up to go and get her Tony Robinson Kings and Queens book to research the answer. She's getting soooo good at knowing where to find information, and she's definitely no longer thrown by not knowing an answer (she used to be, at school). She's also very keen to find out more about Viking legends, so I think I'll be reading plenty of The Orchard Book of Viking Stories over the next week or so. I love that series; they're so well written and interesting. Emily's very into mythology at the moment. Must investigate that further at some point, maybe looking at creation stories across civilisations or something.

It's been a good day for Education with a capital E all round, really. This morning we started off well with more practice on change from a pound, and we spent ages playing a dragon/princess times table game we got from ebay ages's homemade, with a big laminated sheet and little cut out laminated questions - sort of thing you could easily make yourself if you had the time. Emily's doing very well with her times tables recently. She has the 10x off pat, and also both the 2x and 5x up to 12 and 25 respectively, and she can work out the rest by counting on in twos or fives from then on. I'm pleased with that considering we don't do (and I never intend to do) times tables 'drills' of any kind. She's figured all that out herself through problem solving and games.

After maths we did some more in the Write About Me book from the Just Write series; today it was a piece about where she would go if she had magic shoes. Just about finished that book now, so we're ready to move onto the Just Write 1. Then followed science, finding out about friction. Emily got really into an experiment in rolling objects and measuring how far they'd gone, and whether they would go further on different surfaces, and why. Recorded all that in a chart. Followed by a mad dash around the house rubbing things to see if she could feel much friction heat.

In snatched minutes, I've been reading "Those Unschooled Minds: Home Educated Children Grow Up" by Julie Webb. Very inspirational. Heartily recommended to anyone who hasn't read it - very reassuring that the people interviewed are now all happy, well adjusted adults with a wide variety of interesting careers!

Meanwhile, Romeo has turned into the andrex puppy and refuses to relinquish possession of a very chewed and scratched roll of loo paper.....

...and Juliet has finally worked out how to climb up the bookcase in our hall and therefore over the barrier stopping her from getting to the front door. Oh yes, and *this* is why packing the orders each night is taking longer than ever....

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Drunken Kitten & Doggy Paddle

Went swimming this afternoon with Romy and Hazel, and was pleased to see that despite not having been throughout the summer (crowded pools and me don't mix) Emily was very quick to get her confidence back. Today she at one point managed about 5 or 6 unaided doggy paddles towards me, and was consistently doing one or two at the end of her long glides towards me. We'll get there. :-) Despite our having got there for 2, it turned out the pool opening times had changed, and it wasn't open until 3. So we wandered over to the 20/21 Visual Arts Centre for a look around. Liked their outdoor twelve witches sculptures....was less fond of the digital art Communion exhibition, which may well have had something interesting to say for itself, but some background information/clues about what was going on would have helped. There's usually lots for the kids to do but today there were just handbag shapes to colour in. Not quite up to their usual standards, although a helpful guide more or less insisted the girls had a go. At least he didn't ask why they weren't in school....

Back at home, Emily decided to go and do some face painting, and came back half an hour later with a rather impressive tabby face painted on herself. Better than I could have done.

This morning we tried the kittens' harnesses on them; wanted to get them used to wearing them for when we can finally take them out in the garden. If we lived somewhere different we might not bother with the harnesses/leads, but as it is we live right on the road only about six doors down from a major A road junction...and they're still very, very tiny....and they're both a few cat biscuits short of a full packet and seem to think the giant four wheeled mice they can see from the upstairs windows look fun to play with.... so harnesses and half hour trips out it will be for the time being, before we finally pluck up courage to let them loose, probably not until after they've been neutered. And gained a few brain cells.

Anyway. Juliet didn't seem to mind hers at all. Romeo, on the other hand, did. His party trick of the day, whilst wearing harness, was to tuck his tail between his legs and waddle, bottom rubbing, across the kitchen floor for a few steps, before collapsing on his side. Repeatedly. Whilst looking reproachful. Thought we'd accidentally trodden on him and broken his tail or something, before we figured out it was his way of saying he didn't like the harness. As soon as it was removed, he was happy as larry. Tough. It's harness or inside, matey boy.

Education, ah yes. There's been some of that, in between today's outing and yesterday's massive retail therapy session (had to buy Emily lots of winter/autumn clothes as she's managed to well and truly grow out of most of last year's, so it seems). Yesterday Emily enjoyed "bathroom door maths", which is when we blue tak a load of number cards to the door and she has to race to get the right answer to random sums I call out, or she has to race to get one of her choice and bring it back to me and tell me a sum that goes with it. More handwriting practice, more spelling, some work about the skeleton (which I thought would be quite challenging for her, but she raced through it giving expanded answers.... gawd knows where she learns this stuff...).

This morning we practised some editing - Emily went through the cat-first-time-in-garden story she wrote the other day and added more description and details, then went through it again checking spelling and punctuation. She seemed to quite enjoy that, so we might make a regular pattern or write rough draft one day and then edit it another. Also some work on teeth (she now has three top ones wobbly all in a row, although two have been wobbly for *months*) and some measuring with ruler type stuff. Fun fun fun.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Invasion of the Giant Kitties

No, not the title of an old, corny horror movie, but it was rather comical this morning when Emily wanted to play with her barbie house only to find some giant kitties in residence instead, rofl!
Move over barbie, you have been evicted!

Meanwhile, I have finally finished one set of deadlines this weekend, and am getting nowhere with the other set....Jon is knackered after only a few hours sleep and feeling poorly to boot....and Emily has negotiated terms with the giant kitties and she's playing in her room with them - she gets to play with the barbie house provided, so it seems, that they get to approve the furniture layout.

We're all quite excited at the moment as my Mum and Dad have returned from holiday with the news that they've bought a caravan on a lovely site on the beach at St Bee's in Cumbria, which we're free to use at any time. Now all we need to do is carve out a gap in our increasingly hectic work schedule so we can visit it before the end of the season in mid November.

Now, stop faffing about on the blog and get some work done, woman!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Whole Three Inches Overnight??

So there we are, winging our way out, late, to ballet, when I suddenly notice that Emily's trousers are approx 3 inches too short. I swear on all sorts of worthy things that when she last wore them about a day and half ago, they were fine :-/ Apparently, the small person is growing rapidly. Or I somehow shrunk them. Take your pick of the most likely explanation. The good thing is that these trousers had to be shortened back in May, so I only have to let them down again.

Ballet was a bit of a pain today. Far from the 12 kids and civilised, grown up stuff they had last week, this week there were over 30 children and it was absolute chaos. The teacher couldn't control them at all, half of them didn't really want to be there and just messed around, and you couldn't hear yourself think. Considering every time they changed exercise she had to spend ten minutes getting them into lines and organised and standing still and listening, I'm not convinced that this lesson is money well spent. Hrrrrrmmmph. It's so annoying. Why oh why do parents take kids to "lessons" that the kids clearly aren't interested in??? It's not fair on the kids who don't want to be there, and it's certainly not fair on the kids who DO want to be there. I can't stand this mindset that kids have to be ferried about to umpteen clubs/activities/groups just so the parents can go on about how much stuff their (exhausted, bored and stressed out) little one is doing. It's one thing if the child loves it, but quite plainly many of them don't.

Anyway. Rant aside, we had a good day yesterday. Emily wrote a story about a kitten's first time out in the garden, and I was very pleased with the interesting vocabulary and lively sentence structure she used. In the afternoon, she tried making a mosaic from scratch - she used an empty strawberry carton, drew round it, worked out a design (cat, obviously) to go in it, rolled out some air drying clay, painted portions of it in her chosen colours, cut it all up into interesting random mosaic tiles, filled the carton with plaster of paris and set her tiles into it. The end result is pretty impressive, so that's probably something we'll do more of as and when the mood strikes.

The rest of the day was spent fussing over kittens and manically tidying up; Emily was incredibly helpful with changing beds, sorting washing, tidying, cleaning and all that malarky. So - we'll tick citizenship for that one, then.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Must Just Add These Two Piccies

Just as I was typing the last post, the two kittens were fighting on the desk at the far end of the room, among the stock and paperwork. Here they are mid fight, awake:

...and here they are literally two minutes later, having fallen asleep in exactly the same position, lol. Bless 'em.

Painting Like A Wild Animal

Or, at least, in the "fauve" style, which means wild animals in French. Using unnatural colours in natural portraits to express meaning. Apparently. Good excuse for a real colour fest in other words. And a prelude to the abstract art movement, so it says here. Something Matisse dabbled in, which is why we were dabbling in it today. "When I put a green, it is not grass. When I put a blue, it is not the sky." - Matisse.

This afternoon, Emily continued working on her artists project, writing some interesting facts about Matisse and creating a fauve style cat painting:

inspired particularly by Matisse's "Woman With A Hat" seen here for the benefit of those who haven't a clue what I'm on about (because I didn't have before about a week ago, so I'm guessing I might just not be the only one!)

All good stuff. She put a great deal of thought into this one, and spent ages on it. Again, I'm enthused by how much Emily seems to be enjoying this famous artist malarky. She's already making intelligent comments about styles and similarities when we look through various art books. I guess it combines her love of history with her love of arty things - what more could a girl want? Picasso's next on the list.

This morning Emily did more handwriting practice, wrote a piece about "a favourite memory" (the day we went to fetch the kittens, so not too taxing on the long term memory banks, lol), did two pages of quite complicated maths (without a fuss!) and a couple of pages in a science workbook. This latter was asking her to name the seven processes that show something is alive. Umm. She thought of five - that it moves, reproduces, reacts to stimulus, grows and "eats". Considering I couldn't off hand think of the other two either (although I guess one might have to do with processing oxygen) there was much puzzlement over that, lol.

A busy, productive day. Oh yes, and for the last hour and a half, Emily's been humming away to herself in her bedroom making a "feely sunset" picture for the benefit of anyone who can't see very well, entirely of her own suggestion. Ticks design and technology. Again.

And the big cats are tolerating the kitty bits slightly better too. A Good Thing. Although that may have to do with the fact that it's been raining all day and neither of them are fans of wet paws. Hmmm, imagine the dilemma they must have faced....stay out here in the rain or go IN THERE where the small fluffy things are.....

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Designing, Making & Visitors from Canada

Better blog what's been happening these last couple of days, while I've got the chance. Emily's gone "design and technology" mad - she's always loved doing any kind of crafts, but she spent all day Sunday working very hard on making lots of bits and pieces, completely independently (we were in here, busy trying to catch up on deadlines and packing). She made a fan with straws and material, stitched a felt loveheart with sequins on it and beads for M & D (Mum and Dad, bless), and made a fantastic tabby cat mask, and various other bits and bobs too. Oh yes, and she practised her cross stitch, got the hang of threading a needle by herself and clearly put a lot of thought into what she was doing and how she could achieve the effect she wanted with it all.

On Monday morning she helped me make lasagne and berry baskets for Uncle David and Aunty Barbara, who came to visit from Canada to pick up Grandad and take him back over there for a few month's holiday. We don't get to see them very often, so Emily was thrilled to show off all her project work and introduce them to Romeo and Juliet. They brought Emily a gorgeous book on Tudor Dolls Houses, so when my Dad gets back from holiday he may find himself being pestered....

This morning Emily typed a Tudor story in Word - a whole page of it, and finished it off nicely with some clip art she'd found, and some fancy fonts. Romy and Hazel popped for a few minutes this afternoon so we got to meet their very cute new piggie Willow. When David, Barbara and Grandad got back from their trip to the antiques centre, Emily helped them repack their cases to include their newly acquired spoils, and then just had time to write a letter to Aunty Barbara's niece Elise, telling her about Romeo and Juliet, and including a photo for her. We waved them off - house seems awfully quiet now, lol - and Emily went back to yet more design-and-make with some of the crafty bits D&B had brought for her.

Kittens are *frantic* to get out and explore the big wide world, lol. Juliet has taken to standing up on her hind legs to look out of the big cats' cat flap. She looks like a meerkat, rofl! It's a good job the flap's lockable! She also likes sitting on our windowsill in the upstairs sitting room watching the traffic go by. Rather alarmingly, both kittens seem to be regarding the cars as giant mice. Gulp.

Oh yes. And Jon has just discovered several marijuana plants growing wild underneath one of the bird feeders, among a forest of other seedlings which have self planted there. Okkaaayyy. I can quite picture the scene. "Here, Mr LEA Officer, Emily has been doing some lovely leaf rubbings and has cultivated these cuttings in the greenhouse too."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Back To Ballet

Emily's ballet lessons started up again today - albeit at a very inconvenient time, namely 12:45 to 2:15 which, being neither morning nor afternoon does tend to bodge up the day in terms of getting much else done!

Still, it's the exam class now, and it's a vast improvement on the screamy, noisy, overcrowded chaos that last year's class was. There's only about 12 children in the class now, and they all behaved very grown up and set about learning some "proper" ballet positions and movements, much to Emily's satisfaction :-))

Back at home it's a mad scramble to get "things" done. The list of "things" requiring doing seems to just get longer and longer, no matter how many "things" we manage to cross off it. Hrrrmph. It's BBC deadline day; we have masses of new stock to get listed both in the shop and/or on ebay; we have masses of junk to get rid of (sorry, that should read "lots of lovely, as new items to offer for absolute bargain prices on ebay"). Not much of any of which is actually happening. Jon is working wonders with sales of our second hand books on ebay, though, which as been on his to-do list for a very, very long time, but is now proving well worth the effort. :-)

Couple of piccies, firstly of The Ballerina herself, enjoying a cuddle with Big Cat Merlin and taking her nose out of her book just long enough to have her picture taken.....

And of the two fluffballs, whose manic behaviour continues unabated. They both went missing about an hour ago. Found them playing on the front stairs just next to the front door. How they managed to get there, through the Fort Knox precautions we have taken, remains a mystery....

Friday, September 09, 2005

Much Better

Started bright and early with some of the M-word. Yes, it was maths time again. Emily was perfectly happy about it this time round, and spent ages working with our loose change and conquering the art of giving change from a pound. We did this months and months ago, and I thought she had it down pat, but then a few weeks ago she claimed not to know where to start. Today, we started with simple amounts like round tens until she was eventually confident with random amounts like 37p and 62p. Not a problem in the slightest.

I think part of the problem with maths though is that Emily often can't see that it's relevant to her at the moment. Yes, yes, I know, we all use maths of some sort every day, so they say, but, well, a six year old doesn't. Not really. Not the adding up, subtracting, times tables bit. Sure she measures ingredients...but weighing and measuring have never been a problem. She has a use for telling the time, and again she's pretty good at that. But she doesn't really have a practical, real world use for the arithmetic side of things, unless we're going out somewhere and she can pay for something. So I need to find ways of making maths have a point. Not a pretend 'let's play shops' point, but a real point. Hmmm.

Anyway, maths passed pretty well considering, so we moved onto English. Emily impressed me with her spelling again - you see, she can see the point of spelling. She likes to write, and she writes a lot each day of her own accord, and she understands that if the words are spelt correctly, it's easier for her audience to understand. And she has experience of the frustration caused by not being able to read her own mis-spellings, which was a big prompt too, I think. Then Emily asked to go back to looking at the handwriting books we had when we first started HE. We dug them out, and she chose to spend quite a while revising and practising the various letter joins. Ha - she can see the point of neat, fluid writing too. I'm sensing a pattern here.

This afternoon we got back to our art project, and read about Matisse. Emily spent ages designing and working on a picture using cut outs, as Matisse did in later life when he was too ill to paint. Her resulting "Six Dolphins in the Waves" is quite striking :-) Tomorrow, whilst I'm catching up on deadlines, she and Jon are going to carry on with Matisse and Emily's going to choose a subject to paint in the "fauve" style, with weird colour choices. I think she's really getting something out of this, and it's interesting and enjoyable for us too, which is a plus.

Forgot to blog this about the kittens - on Wednesday morning, both Emily and I independently noticed that their baby blue eyes have gone! Our kitty binks now both have golden eyes. Our babies are growing up already :-)) In a break for retail therapy yesterday, we went to petsathome and bought an enormous crinkly tunnel for them with hanging toys in it and cut away holes. Cost £20 but it IS huge and they DO love it; it's now Juliet's preferred sleeping place. Romeo, meanwhile, has taken to sleeping in the box of printer paper behind the desk. As you do.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Desperately Bleak Day

One of the worst I can remember in this last year. And we'd started this "term" so well, too. I was going to blog a sanitised, prettified, keeping up appearances version, but then I figured that it helps me to read other blogs sometimes when people have had a bad day - to realise that we're not alone in it not always being tiptoeing through the daisies and lots of jolly fun. So in case anyone else out there has had a pig of a day - so have we.

Major meltdown over maths, again, with Emily claiming that she couldn't do stuff she'd been doing without thinking a few months ago, refusing to try and generally throwing a wobbly about maths being too boring, too hard, too easy or a combination of all the above. Feel like I've totally failed in that department - all the progress I thought we'd made this last year seems to have gone down the drain. Incredibly depressing. I don't care how good or not she is or ever will be at maths, but I do care that she tries - and when she doesn't, she and I fight. Majorly.

School has been mentioned, and even seriously considered. I can totally see the point of being semi-autonomous in "interest" subjects like art, history, animals, whatever, but I don't do autonomous when it comes to core skills. I may be totally failing to grasp how autonomous education works, but I don't understand how a child becomes competent in maths without learning the basics, and without practice. So the option of "not doing maths" doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned. So we have to find a way. Today we've failed to find a way that hasn't ended in tantrums and tears all round.

I used to believe that even a bad day home educating was better than a bad day at school. Today, I think I've realised that's not true. After a bad day at school, at least it feels as if you and your child are on the same side, and you can feel righteous anger at "them" for getting things wrong. After a bad day at home, there's nobody to take the blame for things going wrong except the home educating parents. I'm the one that's been shouting all day. I'm the one that has battled with an oppositional child all day. I'm the one that has had all the wrong buttons pushed and failed to come up with a strategy for averting that. I'm the one that has (must have, somehow) handled everything all wrong. There's no passing the buck here. And that really hurts.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Work, Work, Busy, Busy, Work, Work, Bang, Bang

Can't remember where that saying comes from. Think it has something to do with a penguin biscuit advert from when Emily was a baby, but anyway, it sums us up!

Up extraordinarily early to get to vets. Was on schedule until Emily decided at the last minute to come too and had to scramble to get ready. Kittens charmed everyone in vets waiting room. Discovered, downhearted, that Juliet's heart murmur is definitely still present. Cheered up slightly since this vet was more upbeat about it than the previous one we saw. Got back, dealt with lots and lots of post and emails. Rescued Juliet from a fight on the stairs. Cheered up even more upon discovering that Jon had cleared the playroom (of stock) while we were out, so we could start work without further delay.

Emily spelt (or is that spelled? lol) lots and lots of words entirely correctly. Nearly finished My Spelling Workbook B now, which is the 6-7 year one, so that's not bad. Emily doesn't bother with the exercises in them, we just use them for word lists of approximately what she should now be able to spell. Rescued Romeo from a close encounter with the loo. Listened to an animated explanation of how come she can spell this stuff when asked to, but doesn't bother spelling it right when she's writing something of her own. Apparently she's in too much of a hurry to get her thoughts down to bother with the spelling. Fair enough. Sure as hell not going to start correcting her spelling in everything she writes or she'll lose the enthusiasm she currently has for composing her own stuff. Time for that (much) later if it's still necessary by then.

Lots of maths, mostly adding and subtracting in tens from a given number. Tried to coax Juliet out of a post-vaccination sulk and into a purr. Failed. Giggled as Emily corrected a KS1 science workbook which was talking about the senses in terms of "feeling" and "seeing". Nope, that should be touch and sight, thank you very much! Fiddled about on computer as Emily had lunch up here with Jon, watching schools TV. Despaired at how rude some customers can be. Despaired at how daft some customers can be. Reminded self that most are lovely and after all have impeccable taste if they're ordering from us. Rescued Romeo from a close encounter with the swivel chair.

Talked more about Van Gogh. Looked at a gallery of his most famous works. Emily created a word doc showing the ones she liked best. Added that to the rapidly growing wall display. Left her to write out four interesting facts about Van Gogh from her book. Was later amused to discover her choice of wording. Pointed out subtly that "completely loopy" was not a very polite term to use when writing about one of the world's most gifted artists. Even if he did chop off a bit of his ear. And then shoot himself. Made mental note to revise "senstive handling of those suffering from depression" in Emily's life skills department. Tried again to coax Juliet out of her sulk. Failed. Gathered together our large collection of Roman resources to see what was what for imminent use. Emily informed me that she already knows a lot about Romans (this is true) and that she therefore wants to work on Vikings instead. Pinned smile on face. Wished she's said that a week or two ago before Roman resources were quite so extensive. Put away extensive Roman resources. Gathered very unextensive Viking resources. Indulged in retail therapy and ordered some Viking stuff from one of our book wholesalers. Patted self on back for being very restrained and only ordering a few items from series we've had and enjoyed before with Egypt and Tudors.

Helped Emily mix paints in shades of red and pink to paint her Van Gogh inspired version of the sunflowers. Except we don't have any sunflowers left, so it turned out to be "Rose, Fuschias and Begonia in a Vase" instead. Very creditable attempt. Added that and the fact sheet to the wall display. Persuaded Romeo not to eat the wallpaper. Loaded Sim Park for Emily and sat with her while she played it. Not impressed. Tried again to coax Juliet out of sulk. Finally succeeded in getting a purr with the help of some milk drop treats. Tried to persuade Romeo that my fingers were not food. Tried to persuade big cat Merlin not to growl at the kittens. Failed. Tried to persuade big cat Merlin to stay in the room longer than a minute with the kittens. Failed. Searched for big cat Cassie. Failed. Rescued Romeo from grandad's room at - gasp - the wrong side of the barrier that stops them getting to the front door. Had a rethink on ways to stop kittens getting to front door. Failed to come up with anything.

Still worrying about that one hours later. Cheered up slightly on doing a home cholesterol test and discovering that mine's only 4.4, not the life threatening level I had happily imagined it to be. Jon needs to test his later, although since they automatically threw medication at him for cholesterol when he was diagnosed with diabetes, it had better be reasonable. Now ready for a decent meal and a glass of wine.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

So, A New "Term" Begins

It was a bit of a funny feeling this morning, knowing we've now officially been home educating for exactly a year. It was an even funnier one - in a not nice way - to realise that if we weren't, we'd be dropping our little one off this morning into the clutches of the very same teacher who wreaked so much emotional havoc in her life during reception year, since she is now "teaching" (if that word can actually be used in her case) Yr 2. I watched some kids walking to school this morning, and breathed a sigh of relief that Emily wasn't one of them.

We got off to a good start today. We did some spelling first thing, and Emily wrote a piece about her favourite season. We did some basic maths too, and looked through a KS1 science workbook. Lunch out in the garden (how did it turn from such a murky, damp morning into such a hot, blazing afternoon?) and then back in for some art. Emily chose Van Gogh as the artist she wanted to look at. We read Sunflowers and Swirly Stars and talked a bit about his life and his style of painting. Then the fun bit - Emily mixed some flour in with paint and worked on her version of Starry Night.

She really seemed to enjoy that. Must get some proper oil paints. Later on she experimented with creating the same thick, swirly, brush stroke effect in her Dazzle art software too. Tomorrow we'll paint some flowers in Van Gogh style, and Emily's going to make a fact card about him - she was particularly fascinated to discover that despite his paintings now selling for millions of pounds, he only ever sold one painting during his entire life and had to struggle to pay for his food let alone painting supplies. And he only painted for 10 years before he shot himself. I didn't know that. I'm learning too!

We have the Matisse and Picasso books from that Smart About the Arts series, so I daresay they'll be next on the list to look at. Meanwhile, I finally managed to get Emily's Ancient Egypt project into a proper folder, and sorted out the various Tudor bits and bobs into a pile ready to do likewise. An achievement indeed, since I've been meaning to do the Egyptian one since March!!!

We're now letting the kittens go up and down our back stairs - hadn't done until now as they didn't seem very stable and the stairs are very steep. Romeo rewarded our trust in him by promptly falling 3/4 way down and hanging off the third step from the bottom by one claw. Hmmm. So that's why we've kept the stair gate on all this time! They've also been allowed into Emily's playroom/workroom/our stockroom bit. Hadn't done that until now a) because really it's big cat territory and b) because the front stairs lead off it, which leads right down to the front door, which is constantly in use with all our deliveries. So we had to block the top of the stairs off. Much time was spent rescuing the kittens from the results of their inventive "how do we get round this barrier" ideas..... They're off to the vets tomorrow for the first of their two innoculations, as they're now 9 weeks old. So, another three weeks before they "could" go out (although I'm not at all sure we'll be letting them that soon). And when they do, we'll enjoy a whole new set of worries!

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Tudor Visit & Autumn Plans!

Spent a quiet weekend this time - Emily's had a stinking cold for most of it. She spent lots of time on Saturday making a large hama bead fairy and snuggling up with the kittens, whilst on Sunday the paddling pool came out yet again so she and Daddy spent hours out in the garden reading, drawing and generally getting wet. Not even sniffles, sneezes and a high temperature can keep Emily away from a pool, lol.

Today we had a fun visit to Gainsborough Old Hall. Emily's been there lots of times, but today we were booked in for an educational visit like they do for schools. We had a guide dressed in costume who told us lots of very interesting bits and pieces, but best of all as far as Emily was concerned was the chance to dress up and take part in a pretend banquet. She was Queen Catherine Howard (who apparently visited the Hall, with Henry) so got to sit next to Henry at the table. Here she is in costume with Romy, and with King Henry:

The schools here "go back" tomorrow, and we're intending to get back to some more formal work tomorrow too. Having had a much closer look at the national curriculum Schemes of Work site for Yr 2, some of it looks a lot more interesting than I'd thought, actually. So, we're going to cherry pick the most interesting units/ideas/projects/whatever and give those a go. For instance, the Art and Design one about nature sculptures, and the Design and Technology one about Joseph's Coat of Many Colours - although I daresay we'll find it much more fun to make it a history themed coat, or perhaps an autumn fairy cloak or somesuch. When I first glanced at the "coat" one I thought it sounded wayyy too complicated (6 year olds designing and making from scratch a full sized fitting and properly measured coat?) but on closer inspection the expectations are somewhat more, um, age appropriate, so I think we'll be able to manage that, and it does sound like Emily's kind of thing. Yes, some of the ideas aren't bad at all. As home educators, we're in the luxurious position of being able to pick and choose what we do, and although some of the NC seems entirely pointless I must admit I do quite like some of what I've read this last weekend. So. We'll give it a go, personalised to our own levels of tolerance and interest, of course!

We also spent some time at the weekend thinking about goals for Emily between now and Christmas. I like to have something to aim for - mainly because I'm not a huge fan of "aimless", I suppose. We need to firm up the basic maths, for instance. Emily has moments when she seems way ahead of her age...but then other moments when she struggles, so I think getting that on a firmer footing and not trying to run before we can walk would be a consructive thing to do. And more practice on things like telling the time, both digital and analogue. Get the 2, 5 and 10 times tables off pat. More practice with money. In English, we're going to subtly work on Emily's handwriting - she writes beautifully, but sometimes she does like to make her writing too swirly and complicated, which can make it hard to read. And definitely some more poetry work, and we'll continue with spelling.

We're planning to do some work on famous artists - just looking at simple biographies of some, and then trying to paint/draw in their style, both freehand and on the PC. Science is tricky - most of the science type work for this age group in school is mind-bogglingly obvious stuff like plants needing water and light in order to grow. Um, I think we have that covered. Emily completed the bronze badge from the BA First Investigators Programme some time ago; we could work for the silver, I suppose, but tbh it's not that interesting for her. We mights just do our own thing with lots of experiments as and when the interest strikes. History - well, where do I start? Anything historical will go down a storm, but I think we've narrowed the options down to Romans next!

Which leaves Geography. Well, like science, most of the KS1 type work seems very simple. Again, we'll probably make that up as we go along.

Now, I'll look back at this come Christmas and realise we've gone down a completely different route altogether, lol!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Fun In A Field!

Well, the fieldwalking seems to have been an enormous success! Emily loved it, and was bubbling over with things to tell me. Evidently they found flints, medieval pottery, musket balls and all kinds of things. She can't wait to go again. Daddy quite enjoyed himself too, so I gather :-)

Later on yesterday evening, Emily set up a museum using lots of her ornaments and fossils and bits and pieces. She had them all arranged on cushions of rolled up loo paper and in display boxes, and had written little labels to go with each one. She'd even organised it into themes. There was a lovely workshop on at the museum over the summer where a small group of children worked with one of the museum curators to create an actual display - but it was for age 9+ only, apparently. She would have loved that. Their young archaeology club is also for that age group only. Seems a bit unfair, really. Oh well.

Here are a couple of pictures that Colin took of Emily and Romy doing their bit for local archaeological knowledge :-)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Kitten Bathing & Storm Struck Barbecue

I seem to have lost the art of regular blog updates!

Let me see now. Notable events this week. Well, we gave the kittens a bath on Tuesday, which was an experience. I don't think we'll be making a regular thing of it, but they were a bit smelly, bless 'em. Don't think they've quite mastered the art of washing properly yet! So, we got some special kitten shampoo and gave it a go. Juliet just looked at us reproachfully as she stood in the sink. Those eyes! As for Romeo, well, I still bear the scratch marks all over my shoulders and neck. He's earned himself the affection nickname of vampire bat, just because that's how he sounds when he miaows. Which is often. But as he hissed, spat and clawed his way up my arm out of the water, he was more like something from a Stephen King film! Anyway. After their bathing experience, we towelled them dry and left them in the sunshine in Emily's room looking like two poor little orphan kitties after a rainstorm. Within about ten minutes they were back to being bundles of fluff, though, and appeared none the worse for the ordeal.

Yesterday Emily had a ball out in her paddling pool. She was out in the garden for about six hours non stop, playing all kinds of pretend in the water, playing with her polly pockets on the grass, devouring the trial issue of that new Roald Dahl magazine and generally having fun being Emily. We had planned a big barbecue for Jon worked hard getting everything cooked and ready....and no sooner had we sat down outside than it started tipping with rain! Still. Never ones to be put off by a bit of the wet stuff, we just moved the parasol over the table and carried on regardless. Fortunately, the thunder and lightning didn't arrive until much later in the evening.

Today, Emily and Jon have gone on a fieldwalking expedition arranged by the local museum. Colin and Romy have gone too. They've been out all day (got up at 6 this morning trying to find wellies and make packed lunches, lol) so I've been getting on with filling in our tax returns (fun, fun, mind boggling fun), installing the new printed (yay, this time it works!) and catching up on plenty of work. They're due back shortly, so I can't wait to hear all about it!

Juliet hitches a ride on Emily's shoulder....

.....but even that's too exhausting for sleepy Romeo!