Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stunning Seascape

Today was the second craft session at our community centre; painting. Wow. After two hours of solid concentration, Emily produced this beautiful acrylics on canvas seascape, "Sandy Sea", complete with sea spray, paddlers in the receding broken waves, reflections and a stormy sky:

Think Emily (and Nana, come to that!) definitely got the hang of it more than I did, lol. Our lovely artist/teacher was very, very impressed with Emily, as were the rest of the class. We learnt soooo much. It was pretty difficult, but I guess part of the secret is having the confidence to play with the painting, and to keep changing it until you like the overall effect. Fortunately, we also learnt a lot about how to cover up mistakes, lol. Loved it. I'm so pleased Jon and Emily have signed up for the proper art course with the same guy - I think they'll get so much out of it.

Back from the art class, Emily did lots of maths, and we also worked on verbs and ways to make your writing more interesting. Asked Emily for three alternative verbs to use in the sentence "He walked down the street." She gave me fifteen ;-) This evening she's been off to yoga again. I was slightly worried when I heard her teacher explaining that she was going to be testing the older girls, and that whilst they weren't being tested (and therefore for Emily all the time, since her tests aren't due yet) they would be left to their own devices to do something constructively yoga-related........not that long ago, that would have left Emily in tears if she was unsure what she was supposed to be doing. But nope, she mingled with the others, found out what she could do, played yoga games, practised poses and generally got on with it. Little star; she's growing up a lot, in many different ways.

Yesterday I was out all day with Grandad - doctors in the morning, hospital in the afternoon, so I hardly saw Emily, but she was busy on Cluefinders Year 4 which she loved, doing lots of arty crafty bits, and Jon also taught her (with remarkable success!) how to convert fractions to decimals, how to add fractions which don't have the same common denominator, and how to find equivalent fractions from a long list. Blimey! That's him delegated to do the maths teaching from now on!!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pausing For Breath

...between processing, picking and packing orders, meeting deadlines and trying to get everything else done. Work seems to have exploded this weekened yet again. Just as well, as we need to keep that cashflow buzzing. On the good news front, though, Jon had confirmation the other day that having done well over 100k worth of business with one of our wholesalers last year, we've moved up to a higher discount tier and won a retrospective rebate for 2005, so that'll certainly help :-))

Emily has been battling hard to stay sweet, loving and helpful in the face of a snarly, snappy Mummy (I **hate** Sundays, the workload just gets too much), bless her, and has largely managed it. Certainly better than I have, anyway. She spent the morning doing secret arts and crafts stuff, making me and Jon Valentines cards and an anniversary card and present for our forthcoming anniversary on the 6th. This afternoon she's done more yoga, gymnastics and tai chi and played lots of card games with Daddy. I don't know what on earth the game actually was, but the level of giggling was enough to wake the dead, so I can only assume that much fun was had ;-)

Forgot to mention that yesterday Emily "set free" one of the big helium snowflake balloons she had at her birthday party (still inflated nearly a month later, not bad!) - she wrote a lovely note to attach to it with our email address, asking whoever finds it to email us and let us know how far it went. It certainly shot up when she let go in the garden, and was last seen extremely high up disappearing into the blue-ness of the sky, heading towards Goole if my sense of direction isn't completely wrong. I don't suppose we'll ever hear back from anyone, but you never know...

Big news yesterday from ballet - they're doing another show! Yay! They're supposed to do one at the Plowright Theatre every two years in the autumn, but they couldn't get the theatre for Autumn 2006 so they've brought it forwards to June. Emily had only been going to ballet for a month or two when they did the last show in November 2004 and she was completely bowled over by the whole experience. Three nights performing to a packed theatre full of several hundred people; she can't wait to do it again. At the moment we only have the dates of the show (which is a much longer run this time round), we haven't been told what the theme is or anything, but it looks like we'll be running around like lunatics to extra ballet rehearsals as the ballet exams are due around that time too. Before the last show we seemed to be attending rehearsals every five minutes, and because Emily's group is now that bit older their parts are bigger, so given that plus the extra exam rehearsals which were already scheduled....should be interesting!

Right, well I'm off to force myself into a better mood and carry on with some work. At times like this I try to remember that we *wanted* to be self-employed, and that better this than trotting off to work every day for someone else.....hmmm, the pep talk doesn't always work though.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ballet Frenzy

Last night Emily and I went to see the Chisinau National Ballet perform Nutcracker in Grimsby. It's the first "real ballet" Emily's even seen, and she was spellbound throughout. It was a fantastic performance, we really enjoyed it. I've promised Emily we can go to see the next ballet that peforms nearby, but having checked it out this morning it appears that ballet is a bit thin on the ground "round these parts". Oh well. We may be back to York sooner than we expected to see this same company perform Swan Lake in early March, but other than that it could be a long wait.

Emily's spent all morning researching the Chisinau ballet and making posters from various nutcracker ballet images she's found on google. She's gone off to her ballet class now still talking nineteen to the dozen about it and itching to tell her teacher what she saw.

Yesterday we did lots more maths and then had a break for a lesson in Mouse Anatomy of all things, ably assisted by one of the kittens (still haven't discovered which) leaving a half eaten and decapitated mouse on the doorstep. Those of a squeamish disposition should look away now.....but since its innards were all neatly laid out in a little trail, we had a good old look and managed to identify most bits (we think).

Emily also soaked and planted the dried flower seed/stone her yoga teacher gave her, and excitedly examined the contents of the gemstone tumbler which has finally (hooray!!!) finished. She spent an hour happily choosing which finished stones she wanted for what, and used lots of jewellery findings (provided by Gramps, since the kit was woefully inadequate in that department) to make several rings, keyrings, and lots and lots of pendants. Here's a photo of some of the finished articles:

Meanwhile, whilst we were out being wowed by the ballet, Jon was having a technology frenzy. Yesterday he somehow managed to set up our new cordless mouse, cordless keyboard and extremely posh and verrrry large flat screen monitor, to replace the monitor that gave up the ghost earlier in the week. Considering setting up anything new in this house is a major operation as you have to clear desks/space first before you can even get to the old stuff, let alone replace it, that was pretty good going. Not content with that though, he also managed to clear off our entire floor to ceiling shelving unit, place and set up the new hifi system we got for Christmas, get it working, and replace everything on the unit. It had been sat in the box untouched since Christmas becuase the propsect of getting it out was just too daunting - but there, it's up now. Better go and make use of it then!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Busy Bees

Another busy day. Emily and Jon went off to their first tai chi class this morning and absolutely loved it. Emily was the only child there, so everyone made lots of fuss of her ;-) which she seemed to rather like....

They came back aching and with lots of instruction sheets for practising the Shaolin Cosmos Chi Gung Patterns which, so I gather, are the warm ups before the main form. Emily was very impressed that she could really feel the tingling Chi as she was focusing and moving, and was bursting to tell me all about it when they got back. As well as introducing the first few steps they spent a lot of time talking about yin, yang, chi and the philosophies behind tai chi - Emily seems to have remembered and retained a massive amount of that information, so we may follow that up with a look at some Eastern type "stuff".....will have to have a think about that. Lovely instructor, teaches all kinds of martial arts and has studied and taught in the business in China too, so he seems to know what he's doing. Emily and Jon are both happily aiming for their first certificate now, so there's another new hobby to add to the list.

Meanwhile, Jon and Emily have also signed up for a ten week art course starting in February on Monday afternoons. It's run by the same artist who is taking the casual sessions at the community centre, so it should be great. It's for adults, but he was keen to have Emily along, so that's all good. It's £45 each but when you consider that's for ten two hour sessions in a very small group, it's pretty good value.

Jon's also signed up for a homeopathy course, so they're going to be very busy bees indeed!

Back at home Emily's done yet more yoga practice, lots of gymnastics, and some English work on making plurals from -y words (sorting out which ones just add s and which ones have to drop the y and add ies) and words ending in a hissing sound (eg witch) that you have to add -es to. She's finding that quite complicated actually, which is a bit surprising given her previous passion for spelling. Still, it's good for her to slow down a little sometimes. Think we'll make some posters with some of the spelling rules and maths strategies on. She's now busy playing on Cluefinders Year 3 Mystery of Mathra which she seems quite taken with. We're waiting for some free time to start playing Nancy Drew & The Curse of Blackmoor Manor - Emily's never tried a Nancy Drew thing before, but I've heard really good things about them, so hopefully she'll enjoy it when we eventually get round to it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fairies, Vikings and Vampires!

We've had a hugely enjoyable Tuesday and Wednesday; the week is shaping up to be really rather nice indeed.

Yesterday Kris and Myf came over to see us and we all attended a clay craft lesson at our newly refurbished village community centre. Took my Mum along too. The task was to make enchanted cottages/fairy houses/witch's towers or wherever your imagination took you, with guidance from the artist leading the group. The girls had a ball and did soooo well with it! This is Emily's fairy cottage complete with tiled spired roof, stairs, swimming pool, balcony, secret tunnel and tall flower to put an incense cone on:

We adults had fun too, it was definitely worth doing. Emily and Myf were the only children in the group but you couldn't have asked for a better advert for home educated children - the two of them sat busily getting on with it, absorbed in the task for two hours solid, aimiably sharing ideas and just being so grown up. One of the women in the group stopped me on the way out and was asking about home education in a very positive way, so I think the girls must have been good ambassadors!

After lunch Myf and Emily disappeared to play and we didn't see them again for ages - something very organised was going on with the polly pockets, that's for sure! If you're reading, Kris and Myf, it was lovely to see both of you, and Kris, Emily says you need to finish your tiled roof before the clay dries out, lol - that's been bothering her since you left!

Then it was off to yoga for Emily. Her teacher was very impressed with the amount of practice she's done, and someone came out of her lesson glowing all over with praise, bless her. Her lucky dip this week was a "relaxing stone" - actually it must be some kind of dried plant, you have to soak it overnight and then plant it and it blossoms into a purple flower. Apparently - we haven't had time to soak it yet. The teacher was telling me before the lesson that lots of the older girls are unlikely to actually pass their next level, so they and Emily will fairly soon "meet in the middle" as it were. I'm impressed that they're not just handing out the levels willy nilly. I think that will motivate Emily far more than if she just got the certificates by default. Seven upwards is plenty old enough to understand that you have to work at something.

By the time she got back from yoga Emily's temperature had shot up again; she wasn't really well enough to go, but was determined not to miss it, which must be a good sign. She went off early to bed in a bid to be feeling better for today.

In the event, she was indeed feeling quite a bit better this morning, so we finally made it to York - at long last! After the journey from hell, stuck behind every tractor, learner HGV and road digger in the whole of Yorkshire, it was certainly a relief to actually arrive. We headed straight for the Jorvik Viking Centre/. It was very good, although I have to say I'm pleased we didn't have to pay for it because the rates are pretty expensive for a visit that with the best will in the world lasted only an hour. I was a bit disappointed there wasn't more to it, but Emily loved it and we did get in free, so you can't argue with that! We did take lots of pictures of Emily dressed up in a Viking costume, but wouldn't you know it, they're all blurry. Here she is anyway printing her name in runic characters:
Then off the cafe for some lunch, and a wander down the York Shambles/ where we would have spent lots of souvenir money.....apart from the fact that all the gift shops were closed. Because of course, nobody ever goes anywhere outside weekends and school holidays, do they?

Not to be thwarted, we spent lots in Past Times and various other places too, especially since so many shops still had sales on! Then we ventured down to the York Dungeons. We'd been wondering whether it would be OK for Emily... and the warning signs outside didn't exactly ensure us that it would be, but we grown ups wanted to go, and we'd explained to Emily what it would be like and made sure she understood it was all pretend. When we got there, we checked again with her, and yes, she wanted to go in....despite the dire warnings from the young girl on the till, lol, so in we went.

It was fantastic! I really can't recommend it highly enough. And Emily hasn't stopped talking about it yet, she absolutely loved it. It was very, very well done and yes, pretty scary too. Very gory, very jumpy, excellent actors, a real experience. Mind you, I think Emily's heart was won with the very first section which was about the plague, because she knows a lot about plague treatments and wise women and things like that, so she was in her element when the "wise woman" was wandering round throwing leeches and blood letting, lol. The next section was about Vampires and again the character leading you through that was stunningly well acted. Lots of shocks in that one, with holy water suddenly being thrown over you and the like. Then it was into a medieval courtroom - the "judge" picked on Emily straight away, and she had to go up into the dock and stand accused of her crime (picking her nose and flicking the bogeys at the archbishop in the Minster, rofl!). She spoke up really loudly to the judge - even he commented that he usually couldn't hear what kids in the dock were saying - he was so impressed that she escaped punishment and instead of being hung was allowed to go free ;-))

Next it was into the torture chamber. Apart from the all the (very gruesome) waxworks and exhibits, this was part of a complicated scenario where the visitors had been caught up in the gunpowder plot and were supposed to be being tortured, but was actually being saved by the "torture master" who was, yet again, fabulously well acted. Cue lots of nervous laughter as we were shut in a pitch black room and warned to expect the worst, with things reaching out to you and weird noises, having to pretend to be tortured so the "police" wouldn't know you weren't being. Finally, it was out to watch Dick Turpin's execution - the perfect end to a brilliant attraction. Very educational too! I don't know what it's like when it's really busy, but you could tell today that the actors were tailoring it to be just right for Emily's comfort level - very scary and jumpy, yes, but they were very skilled in taking cues from her behaviour and toning it down imperceptibly or cranking it up appropriately.

We were soooo proud of Emily. We'd gone in half thinking we'd have to come out again (especially after the warnings from the cashier) but nope, she understood perfectly well that it wasn't real, that it was meant to be scary but in a funny way, that the people in there were actors and that nothing bad could actually happen - she loved it so much she wanted to go straight back in again, lol. She has an excellent grasp on reality - and what's not reality. Very grown up. As she put it, "It was like taking part in a play! When can we go again?" It wasn't until later, reading the guide book, that we actually realised that two whole scenarios (one about Roman ghosts and the other about Viking battles) were closed for refurbishment - yet we had still felt that the £30 entrance charge was well worth it, so I guess that must say something!

And so home. There's lots more we wanted to see and do in York, but we just ran out of time. I'm sure we'll go back soon. And now we're all worn out, and trying to ignore the pile of orders and emails..........for now, at least!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Can Artists Be Engineers?

A burning question from a seven year old who now wants to be both. Well, plus a scientist and a ballerina in her spare time.

Spent today in Design & Technology mode, aka messing about with meccano and lego. Was a great success, Emily took to it a lot more than I thought she would (and a lot more than I did, lol). First of all, we built a wooden shadouf with some suitably shaped twigs, and discussed where the pivot point needed to be etc etc.

Then we moved onto some experiments with gears. We built a gear and pulley mock up thingamijig out of meccano, and Emily experimented with how many turns of the handle you needed to get the big pulley wheel to revolve once, and then we swapped the gears round and saw what a difference it made. Here's the engineer with her gears:

After that we experimented some more with a meccano crane type structure and pulleys of three different sizes to see which would wind a weight up fastest, and which with least effort.

Finally and most thrillingly (!) of all, Emily built a motorised buggy and had great fun running it about on the floor. I was really proud of her patience and persistence - meccano nuts and bolts and screws (old style, this stuff is about 30 years old at least!) are not exactly 7 year old finger friendly, but she mostly managed without assistance apart from me holding the odd bit together when it got really fiddly.

Emily was also quite thorough in problem solving - when she first put the buggy together, she didn't have the motor lined up with the pulley on the axle, so the elastic band kept twisting and slipping off. She fixed that, but then found that the thing was fixed too tightly too close to the body of the buggy and wasn't revolving freely, so she added a washer to space it out a bit. Finally, at the third attempt, hey presto! A working buggy! She was pleased as punch. Here's a pic of the end result:

All in all we must have spent about three hours straight off "playing" with the stuff. Big thanks to my Dad who not only reminded me they had all this meccano in the attic but also spent a long time helping me understand what I was doing over the weekend so I stood at least a vague chance of helping Emily. Am I the only person in the world who managed to get through a so-called decent education without EVER building a motorised buggy or doing any hands on stuff with pulleys, gears and the like??? Apparently so. The most I ever remember building with either lego or meccano was a house - no moving parts or technological knowledge required! Anyway, I didn't know where to start, so his help was much appreciated :-)

After a break for lunch, Emily wanted to do some more yoga practice, and gymnastics. She's really got the hang of focusing/staring at something intently to help her balance; I was very impressed. And of course, there were plenty of forward rolls, which she can do finishing on her feet. Sometimes.

By tea time, though, Emily had developed a sore throat and a temperature. Never ceases to amaze me how fast kids fall ill! One minute they're fine, the next they're not. She's gone off to bed early tonight; we've got friends coming over tomorrow so fingers crossed she'll be better!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

All the World's A Stage

And apparently Emily's quite keen to be it. The stage, that is. I'm still looking for a drama club/class round here, so far without success (well, I found one, but didn't think much of it). There's always stagecoach and the like, but they're on a Saturday, and Emily doesn't want to give up her existing ballet lessons on a Saturday. It's a poo being home educated but still having to fit in with the world at large when the world at large is still geared to school timetables.

Anyway. Yesterday Emily spent all day at a combination of ballet and a friend's house, and had an absolutely fantastic time. While she was out, Jon and I battled valiantly against the tide of an ever increasing workload. The tide won, naturally, and we seem to have ended the day with more work to do than when we started. How does that always happen? Went to pick Emily up at half six, just in time to see her, her friend K and all three of K's younger siblings about to put on a karaoke and dance show. Very good they were too ;)

Jon and Emily have gone out shopping this morning, whilst I attempt to meet yet more writing deadlines. Next week we've got something on every day except tomorrow, so there's extra work to be done this weekend as we won't have time later. Tomorrow we've set aside the day to "work" with the astonishing amount of lego, meccano and fisher price technical stuff found in the attic, left over from when my brother and I were kids. That should cover design and technology for the foreseeable future, lol, especially if my plans for making a shadouf, a winding well and a motorised well actually work. At some point next week we also *have* to squeeze in a visit to York and the Yorvik centre. Got free entry tickets via nectar points back in the autumn, but every time we planned to go something came up and stopped us. They expire at the end of January, so come the proverbial hell or high water, we're going next week. But don't quote me on that.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hugely Impressed

We've just returned from watching the Shakespeare 4 Kidz production of Romeo & Juliet in Grimsby. Wow! What a performance! Emily absolutely adored it and is still buzzing. She and Jon are busy watching one of the various adult versions we have on video (seem to have a house full of Shakespeare) and she's busy discussing with him which parts they modified and which they didn't.

It was pretty spellbinding, I have to say. I was far, far more impressed than I thought I was going to be. Naturally the venue was full of school parties, but I've never been to a performance which held kids' attention like this one. No messing about, no rowdiness, no kids kicking seats with boredom, just intense concentration. They must have been doing something right to have half the audience in tears during the final scenes, lol. Must admit I shed a tear or two. Emily didn't, but was mesmerised throughout. Talking to her about the imagery, the "meaning" and the mechanics of the play was like talking to a teenager; I can't believe how much of a handle she has on this stuff.

Have promised Emily that we can go to see more of their productions whenever they come anwhere within striking distance. Unfortunately, they performed Macbeth in Hull just a couple of days ago, grrrrr. Didn't know. Poooey. They're touring with both shows until the end of March, but although R&J is on at several venues we could get to, Macbeth isn't. Hmmmppph. Macbeth and Midsummer Night's Dream are both available from them on DVD, though, so we'll definitely be getting those.

We've already done a fair bit of work about Shakespeare's life (when we were doing our Tudor and Elizabethan project) and Emily's familiar with quite a few of the plays through books we've read and audio tapes, videos and DVDs - she now wants to do a proper Shakespeare project. Hmmmm, and I said we weren't going to do projects at the moment. Have ordered this book for the moment as it's one we haven't come across before - let's see where this re-awakened passion takes us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Glasses & Blobs

Poor Emily was up most of last night with some kind of mystery tummy ache which seemed really painful. She didn't really get properly to sleep until about 4am, after she'd been violently sick, bless her. No idea what caused that as she didn't seem to have a bug, as such, and is OK now. But very tired!

I did, however, manage to get us up in time to get to the opticians after all. Just. Emily's now the proud owner of a new pair of glasses. She loves them, but it's taking *me* a while to get used to them as they are quite different from the gold style she's had for the last twelve months. Here she is resplendent in purple frames:

We also went to the library on our way back to the car park, where Emily chose some books on mythology, yoga, saints (?), and dreams, with two Jeremy Strong audio books.

Back at home we've had a fairly full day. Emily asked to do some more poetry writing, so we had another look in the poetry book I mentioned the other day and she chose an asignment to write a poem entitled "I wish I could capture..". She did really well, very thoughtful choice of words. Think she's getting to like poetry :-) On the subject of poems, Jon reminded me of a song yesterday which touches a nerve regarding some of our reasons for home educating. It's Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin. Reminds me, somewhat bitterly, of the time at school Emily was drawing and colouring a beautiful rainbow style multi-coloured unicorn picture for me and Jon. Her pathetic excuse for a teacher told her off for using unrealistic colours (what, exactly, *are* realistic colours for a mythical beast???), and even told her that Mummy and Daddy would be cross with her if she showed it to us. I still seethe at the memory.

Anyway, I digress. After writing her poem Emily did some mental arithmetic and lesson 2 of the Music Express thing. The music task was all about animals in music; there was a piece called Seagull and one called Jellyfish, and she had to think about how the music expressed those particular animals. Then there were some excerpts from Carnival of Animals (which she's never heard but I know we have somewhere, must dig it out) and Emily had to guess which animal each piece of music represented.

After lunch we did some gymnastics and yoga practice, then spent some time looking through the Usborne Children's Book of Art. Emily's imagination was captured by Kadinsky's Improvisation No 26: Rowing so we talked a lot about that particular style of art. We also had a go at "blob painting" ourselves.

We each painted four watercolour splodges/shapes/blobs and gave them to the other one, who had to decide what they could see in each painting and give it a title. Just for good measure we then turned them all upside down and gave them new titles. Was fun. I'd really recommend that book. Even if you don't have it, you can still access the online ideas here - just type in even page numbers starting with 4.

Does anyone know of a really good site, for kids, about British folklore? I haven't really been able to find what I'm looking for on that front. Among the book delivery yesterday was Whispers in the Wood by Mark Bartholomew. It's based on the folklore of the Greeen Children of Woolpit and sounds fascinating. It's next on the list for Jon to read to Emily at bedtime, but I wanted to find a really good, child friendly (as in not overly complicated) site about this kind of thing. No luck so far.

Had a flyer through the door this afternoon from the newly refurbished community centre in the village. They're doing (among lots of other things) a tai chi class on Thursdays during the day, and art classes are "coming soon". Hmm. Sounds interesting. Must find out whether they'll accept - horror! - a child at tai chi (shouldn't she be in school???) and whether the art classes are for children or adults.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Yoga Babe

Emily went to her first yoga class today, and she absolutely loved it. She was supposed to be in the 4-7 class, but they've put her in the 8-12 years class which will be fantastic for her as it will really stretch her abilities. She's by far the youngest there, the others are all in year 6 or in senior school, but her teacher said she did really, really well so she's very chuffed! Straight in at the deep end with lots of sanskrit names to learn and meditations to get used to as well as the poses. Emily will be working towards level one for the next ten weeks, but it's excellent that she's in the higher level class as she has to join in with what they're doing (even though she doesn't have to memorise it all) so she'll already have had lots of practice in the more advanced work by the time she gets there.

She's come home bouncing, with a list of the poses she has to learn and detailed instructions for practice. At the end of each lesson they have a lucky dip bag where they get things like incense cones, wooden fragrancers or candles to help with the meditation, so she's going to decorate up a pretty box to keep her bits and bobs in. The studio is absolutely gorgeous! It's an alternative treatment centre as well as a studio and the waiting/reception area is beautiful with subdued lighting, incense and lots of yoga and zen books to read. It looks (like most of the rest of Gainsborough, lol) like a dump from the outside, so I was even more impressed when we got in there.

Earlier on today Emily and Jon went for a ramble in the woods near the church - they were gone for ages, and found lots of interesting "stuff" to collect. Sadly, they did also see (and get very close to, they'd almost stumbled onto it since the poor thing was blinded with swollen eyes) a rabbit with the late stages of myxomatosis, which was upsetting.

Education wise today we spent a long time looking at our local ordnance survey map, spotting symbols, finding familiar places, our house and friends' homes, measuring the distances between points and searching on the map for evidence of historical settlements (found quite a lot of those). Emily took to the map work with great enthusiasm and was rather cross when time ran out, so I daresay we'll look into that in greater detail soon. At this rate, if she's that keen, I may yet feel inspired to do something about local history and local geography after all. The Ordnance Survey/ education section seems to have a lot of ideas, must investigate further.

Off the opticians, library and swimming tomorrow. Assuming I can remember to get us up in time to pick up Emily's glasses - memory like a seive at the moment. Jon's reminded me three times at least today, and I'd still forgotten about it until he mentioned it again a minute ago!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Getting More Physically Confident

Yep, we're definitely making progress! This morning we took Emily's scooter and bike to a playground that has a cycle track and we were there for two hours having fun and getting plenty of exercise. We took the stabilisers off her bike a while ago but it's only in the last week or so that she's seriously been trying to ride it without. She's not *quite* there yet, but definitely getting there. The last time we went to this particular playground was with Romy and Hazel in the summer, and Emily spent most of her time in tears as she said all the equipment was much too hard for her (it's a newly built one with loads of nice stuff). Today, armed with my new attitude of not taking no for an answer and her new attitude of promising not to say it's too hard, we had a ball. She's now perfectly adept at all the equipment she can physically reach and was climbing, swinging, balancing and jumping off things with gusto.

We had one set of tears, when I asked her to have a go at the sky-ride thing (is that what they're called? Those things where you sit on a small cirle at the bottom of a pole, which then launches itself across a long wire and back up again). She's never, ever agreed to even try one those, even with me holding her. After some discussion she tentatively gave it a go, and now bingo, she loves it and went on it dozens of times with no help at all. :-))

All pretty trivial stuff for your average seven year old, you might think, but trust me, for this seven year old it's amazing progress. We're soooooo pleased for her and you can just see her confidence and self-esteem growing.

Got back home around one-ish just in time to avoid a cloudburst, and after a short play we got back to some work. Lots of maths, mainly telling the time and partitioning numbers into hundreds, tens and units to make mental arithmetic easier. A spelling test (she keeps asking to do those, honestly, it's not me forcing her to, lol) and then some letter writing in reply to various fictitious prompt letters.

Tomorrow Emily starts her new yoga class, which should be interesting. It's certificated so apparently she'll be working straight away towards level one with a certificate day/ceremony due in 10 weeks. The lady running it sounds lovely, so I hope she'll enjoy that. The same place also runs a modern dance class and a youth movement class on Weds and Thurs respectively, so we're having a think about that too.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Lesson in Perseverance

Had a bit of a breakthrough today. Emily's not the most physically confident of children, bless her heart, and she doesn't take naturally to most sporty things. One of our resolutions this year was to include lots, lots more "PE" type things in our daily routine, so (among other things) we've been doing lots of gymnastic-y things with our new gym mats. When she was about 3, Emily was doing forward rolls, backward rolls and very good attempts at handstands without even thinking about it, but the humiliation she enjoyed during school PE lessons soon knocked that out of her, leaving her with a "can't do it" attitude to most physical things.

So, we've had to go right back to basics, and re-learn how to do things like forward rolls. For the last week or so, every attempt at showing her/helping her learn what to do has ended with Emily in tears and the familiar "can't do it/too hard" routine. Dug my heels in today and *made* her keep going, despite the tears. And what do you know? She now does brilliant forward rolls. :-))) She was jumping with joy! Because she gives up so easily with this physical stuff, she doesn't often get to experience the pleasure of proving to herself that she CAN do something after all, so this was a moment to savour. And, hopefully, if we can keep the momentum going, the seeds of a new attitude?

Still on a PE (ish) theme, Emily and I took her scooter to Normanby Hall on Friday and she had a fantastic time. We took a picnic too. It was freezing cold, mind, but since we were about the only people in the place there was nobody to question our sanity as we sat huddled up munching and giggling. We had lots of indepth discussions on Friday too about it being Friday the 13th, and why some people believe that to be unlucky. She seems very interested in superstitions of all kinds and their origins. Mental note to follow that up in some way.

Yesterday was ballet again - they did a kite dance (whatever that is!!) and loads and loads of tap. Emily was due to spend the rest of the day at her friend K's house, but K was poorly (hope she's better now Trish!) so we had to call that off until next week instead.

The rest of the weekend has been spent pottering and playing (Emily) and working hard to deadlines (us). Emily's gemstones have nearly finished their tumbling process, so today she rinsed them all out and put in the final polishing powder. One more week and then they'll be ready to set into the jewellery fixings - she's really excited about that! She wanted Jon and I to each pick out a particular stone we want set into a necklace (Jon) and ring (me), and I think she's planning on choosing some for friends and other family too. Oh well, that's enough rambling. Back to work. Must stop leaving the BBC and Press Association work until the last minute every week, it's wrecking Sundays. Ho hum.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pies and a Poem

Things are still rolling along suspiciously well in this household. I'm waiting for fate to bite me on the bum when I least expect it, but for the moment, life is good.

Yesterday was another busy day for Emily. She did lots (and lots) of maths in the morning, and enjoyed an English task where she had to write a recipe for a birthday cake. We also read a lot of poems from this Fairy Poems book - very funny and well written. Emily especially liked one about the old fairy godmother whose magic is a bit tired now, peeping in through windows at the children being enchanted by silver boxes which teach them how to frown, and how much this "new magic" troubles her. There's also a More Fairy Poems book we have, and I think there are Mermaid Poems and Princess Poems in the same series.

In the afternoon we spent an hour doing gymnastics and dance on the new gym mats, with much hilarity, and then moved on to an afternoon of science experiments. We made our own green fizzy potion for Daddy to drink :-)) and sealed up a satsuma in an airtight box with bicard and vinegar - apparently the trapped carbon dioxide will permeate into the fruit, so when you eat it it tastes fizzy. Don't know if that worked, as we forgot to get it out today, lol. Will have to find out tomorrow. We also made some crystals, or at least attempted to - we must have done that experiment at least a dozen times in the last twelve months and it's only worked once!

This morning Emily couldn't wait to get started on some work, so I guess we must be doing something right. I'm really thrilled to bits with how enthusiastic she is at the moment. Her whole attitude has changed, quite dramatically. The last few months of 2005 left a lot to be desired, for us adults at least, and various incidents left a really nasty taste. Some of that must have rubbed off on Emily, but 2006 seems to have been so far (fingers crossed) a new start. We're making a positive effort to spend less time and emotional energy on negative things and people, and she has a real spring in her step as a result.

We did lots of work on telling the time this morning, and looked at this great Poetry Writing Book too. Inspired by the first task in there, Emily went off to write a counting poem, and this is what she came up with:

"One wicked white witch wraps warts round wriggly worms;
Two terrible toads tickle twenty tiny tabbies;
Three thick thimbles threading through thorny thistles;
Four fluttery fairies fixing fire flies;
Five fine flowers fly from France;
Six slippery snowflakes settle on soft snow;
Seven silly statues sit silently on stone;
Eight enormous elephants ignoring eighty earthquakes;
Nine neat nectarines nestling near knives;
Ten tall toadstools taking time to talk."

We were v. pleased with that and so was she, more to the point. :-)

This afternoon I've been trying to take advantage of ebay's 5p listing day to get some more stock listed, although I haven't got very far. Jon and Emily have been baking with a vengeance and have made donuts galore and a rather scrummy blueberry and apple pie.

Tomorrow we're off to Normanby Hall for more scootering and bike riding, then Saturday Emily's got a full day of ballet/playing at a friend's house. Busy week next week - somehow we need to fit in a doctor's appointment, a trip to York, two lots of friends to see, pick up Emily's glasses, swimming, various deadlines and lots more bike riding. Daresay there'll be some education in there somewhere, I'm just not yet sure where!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dotty Old Professor and Wise Woman Heaven

Resolution of getting up earlier went completely out of the window this morning, so we managed to drag ourselves up only just about in time to make it to Emily's opticians appointment. We seem to have found Professor Kirk from the Lion, Witch & Wardrobe - alive and well and working in Specsavers!!

Never seen him there before, it's always been one of a very nondescript bunch that has done Emily's eye test, but today he took her under his wing, waved her straight in and generally was extremely.....odd...but very nice with it. Complete with pale checked suit, bow tie, white frizzy hair and glasses. Mind you, the fact that he nodded sagely and immediately said "Very wise decision" when I said that Emily was home educated - that may have gone some way towards my forming a favourable impression of him, lol. Don't think Emily's ever giggled so much in the company of a stranger! Turns out that her prescription is fine, and that with her glasses she has 20/20 vision. He sent us off in the company of a very surly assistant to choose new frames. Said surly assistant promptly left in a huff when Emily took too long to choose - mainly because she (Emily) didn't like any of the age 5-11 frames they had.

Not to worry, because Dotty Professor came to our rescue by leading Emily off to the teenage section and discussing with her which frames from there she could choose and which weren't suitable due to optical length (or something). She chose a very snazzy purple pair, which he went into potty old raptures about. Bless. Hope we get him next time.

Got some gymn mats from Tesco while we were out, which should help - every time Emily tries gymnastics inside on the floor she gets bruised and bumped and it hurts her head and neck because our floors are so hard. There's the garden of course, but as she says, "It's years until summer."

Picked up half the dispensary from the doctor's for Jon, and came home to find Jon and Grandad much relieved having finally found Romeo who - yep - had gone missing again and hadn't been seen since about 8am when I let him out. Despite the pouring rain this morning, when he finally came in he was bone dry and warm, with just a few splashes on his coat where he'd run across the garden. He's obviously found a nice hidey hole. He's gonna be trouble, that cat.

And so to work this afternoon, which after some English and maths has consisted of science in the form of this Perfume Laboratory Kit which has been a great hit. Emily dressed in her wise woman costume and spent a happy ages making mint, jasmine and mint/rose perfume. The kit included ideas for how to use it with petals, herbs and other stuff you've gathered yourself, so naturally our little wise woman is in seventh heaven. Tomorrow she wants to make orange perfume. Should be interesting.

Found a lot of nice experiments on this Science Spells site, which seems to appeal to Emily's frequent wise woman/witch mode. Some nice carbon dioxide experiments on the BBC Food Lab site too.

Emily's computer kept switching itself off yesterday (right in the middle, for instance, of the one single game of Pharaoh I got to start while Jon was doing bedtime reading. Pout.) which was cause for alarm. Turns out the fan's broken and it was overheating. Have ordered a new fan from Maplins which I'm ***hoping*** will be here tomorrow. Poor Emily's lost without the flippin thing. I know having a computer literate child is a v.v.v. good thing.....but when yours dissolves into tears when you break the news that her PC is unavailable for a day or two....you start to wonder whether there's too much of a good thing!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ssssh! Scientist at work! Posted by Picasa

Isn't It Lovely When It Works?

We've had one of those "Oh, so *that's* why we're home educating!" days. One of the good ones to look back on during the not infrequent moments when you seriously consider ringing the school.

Up bright and early, so the playroom/stock room was cleared of its boxes and ready for me and Emily to sit down together by 9 am. Which in itself is a bit of a minor miracle. First up was maths. Emily completed a YR 2 mock SATS test with absolutely no fuss, and got all but one question spot on. The one she got wrong was a telling the time one, so that confirmed our need to revise that. I was pleasantly surprised at how well she did, so I think we're safe to move on to some KS2 type maths stuff imminently.

Next we did some English, and Emily's task for this morning was to write a mini-story. She had to pick a fairy tale and write it in exactly 50 words, no more, no less. This came from a KS2 English book, but it was pretty tough. Emily chose Sleeping Beauty and I went off to make a cup of tea. By the time I came back she'd written a side of A4 and was still going, bless her. Really nicely written too, but I think the point of the exercise had somewhat bypassed her! I didn't have the heart to ask her to cut her written version down to 50 words, so instead she dictated a shorter version to me, with much discussion over what words and phrases were absolutely necessary, and which were not. In the end, the dictated version got to 60 words, and Emily then took it and ruthlessly pared it down to the required 50. A very good effort, I thought. I'm keen on this as a skill - probably I suppose because I have to write to strict word counts all the time and I wouldn't be able to do so without having an eye for either padding or cutting as required.

Meanwhile, Juliet caught her very first mouse! She left it outside the door (unbeknown to us) and came upstairs for purrs and nuzzles, very pleased with herself. When Jon came back from the post office and opened the back door, she ran to it, picked it up, trotted in with it, proud as punch, and started "playing" with it. We were somewhat torn between "awwwwww!" and "euuurrggggh"! Grandad was swiftly called upon to take the poor little deceased creature away. Still, if you have cats, you have to be prepared to deal with their habits. They're only doing as nature intended, after all.

Back upstairs it was time for a break, which Emily spent playing on Pharaoh, which she had for her birthday and ***loves*** (as do I, not that I get a look in).

After a break, she did some more English work, this time on word ending and vowel combinations. We then tried the first lesson from the Year 3 Music Express set. There was a song about a tortoise compared to other animals, and we had to discuss how the music expressed the tortoise's characteristics, as well as clapping the rhythm and other assorted bits and bobs.

And then we had lunch :-))

More Pharaoh playing, then we settled down to some art. Emily tried out the new posh watercolour tubes Nana and Gramps gave her. On rectangles of watercolour paper, she experimented with making washes, and with dry on dry painting, and wet on dry too, and we talked about how to store the brushes properly (as opposed to whacking them carelessly back in a drawer like we normally do...).

After art, it was time for science, and Emily had a ball mixing citric acid, bicarbonate of soda, starch, vanilla and food colouring to make some bath bombs. Have a picture of the scientist in full flow on the bathroom floor, but blogger doesn't seem to want to let me upload it, so I'll put it in a separate post after this one. We also did an experiment with putting the bicarb and acid inside a balloon and placing a pipette full of water in too, sealing the balloon and then squeezing the pipette so the stuff fizzes and inflates the balloon. All good.

Hmmm. Doesn't sound like that much now I've typed it, but we've done a lot today and it's all been a joy. Going to work really hard to make every day like this. I think half the secret was that I was properly prepared and knew exactly what we were going to do, rather than scratching around looking for resources and thinking up ideas on the spot.

Tomorrow morning we're off the opticians for Emily, the library, in search of a gymnastics mat and to the doctors, so it's a "morning off". Just had a lovely phone chat with the Mum of one of Emily's ballet friends, who has invited her round to play and tea later this week, which she's really looking forward to. The car's been at the garage all day being serviced and having its MOT, so that's another chore to cross of the list.

Yep, things are definitely looking up. :-)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

So, That's "Art" Sorted

The only question at the moment is whether there will be any time left for any other "subject" by the time we have, at Emily's request, done all of these, all of the lessons here and worked our way step by step through every unit in the Curriculum Bank KS2 Art book.

After and during which we will apparently be working our way through the design and technology projects here and here.

Now, I know I wanted a change from history, history, history, but we seem to be heading for a new subject obssession here! Hmmm. I wonder whether I can dress it up to call it "block teaching"?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

It Had To Happen

So, Romeo went missing. The astute among you may have noticed my use of the past tense there, which implies that he's missing no longer. Indeed.

He was, however, most definitely missing. For many very long hours. We searched everywhere in the house. We searched everywhere in the garden. We banged his food bowl far too much and too loudly for civilised suburbia. We called, coaxed, cajoled and shouted his name and all combinations of his various nicknames. We searched the roads for corpses (or at least, we grown ups did - we left Emily out of that bit...). We walked around the various shortcuts from here to a housing estate looking for him. We got the neighbours to look in their garages and sheds. We asked Juliet where he was, constantly. We watched the darkening sky with increasing anxiety and speculated about how he'd keep warm outside over night, whether he could find his way home in the dark, whether he'd climbed a tree and couldn't get down, whether he was on someone's roof, and whether his quick release collar would really work if he'd got himself caught on something. We racked our brains to remember if there had been any vans or trucks around he could have gone in. We got neck ache from looking up in the trees. We comforted Emily and prepared for a horrible evening and night of waiting.

After which Romeo strolled in from the direction of the hall with a chirpy miaow and sat down for a wash.

Bloody cats. He hadn't been outside as he was warm and dry. He was very hungry - hadn't eaten since breakfast time - but then why, for the sake of all that's feline, didn't he surface when treat packets, biscuits and bowls were being rattled not to mention when his name was being yelled with increasing levels of panic and desperation????? And where the hell was he, as we'd looked *everywhere*???

Bloody cats.

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

There's something about children and mud, isn't there? Every childhood should be jam packed full of the stuff. Emily certainly started her 2006 quota in style yesterday - she spent a fabulous afternoon at Normanby Hall with Nana, Gramps and her new scooter. She came back worn out and happy and, well, brown. As did the scooter.

Meanwhile I finally managed to get over a hundred pictures sorted out, rotated and filed in their proper homes on the PC, having dumped them in our photo holding folder at various stages recently. Found some that had been languishing there a while of the kittens in September - they were soooo tiny compared to now!

Also gathered together the resources I want to use starting from Monday, and realised that we have far too many/much of everything except the one thing I particularly wanted. Put an order in with the wholesalers, so that's one resolution up the spout. Oh well. I don't like clothes shopping or any kind of "girly" shopping at all, so I think I'm allowed to compensate for my lack of expenditure in that department by indulging in some home ed retail therapy on a regular basis instead!

Yesterday we got up at the grand old hour of 6.45 am (yes, apparently such a time does exist). Why? Well, umm - to watch The Winx Club on Nick Toons. Okkkaaay. Emily has a couple of the dolls but we've never actually seen the show before. She got the DVD for Christmas, which was a US region one, but since we have a multi region DVD player we assumed it would work. Wrong. Apparently the telly needs something or other which ours doesn't have. So, 6.45 am it was. Have to say, mind, that I did quite enjoy it, and Emily loved it. The DVD is being released in March over here, so I guess we'll be getting it (if only to preserve my beauty sleep!).

So, Winx Club fever is now in full blown operation, and Emily spent the early hours of yesterday morning making a lovely Winx Club poster. This and her current obsession with Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (both film versions, the book and everything else she can devour from the net) seems to have knocked fairies, Barbies and even unicorns well and truly off their perch as "favourite thing". Coupled with her announcement the other day that she no longer likes pink and her favourite colour is now black....seven seems an awfully long way away from the little girl we once had, lol.

May need to re-think our do-more-poetry objective. I read Emily a poem about a duck in Sainsburys yesterday. I thought it was quite funny. She looked at me blankly and said "I don't understand". Which *I* didn't understand. Having checked that she understood all the vocabulary, I asked her what, exactly, she didn't understand. "Any of it. I don't understand the point of it." Oh. Right. Establishing which poems have a suitable "point" and are therefore worthy of her attention could prove interesting to say the least.

Speaking of poems, here's something that has been driving me potty. For my O level English, the poems we studied were war poems by Charles Causley (which I loved) and old church poems (or somesuch) by Ted Hughes, which I loathed. There was one poem by Causley in particular which I was really drawn to, and now I can't find it anywhere. It was about (or at least partly about) rememberance at the centoaph, and contained lines about a young widow wearing her grief in a locket around her neck for ever, not just for that one day. Does anyone know?

And one other thing - does anyone know how I can change the photo that appears at the top right of the blog, the one of Emily in her red/blue dress? I obviously managed to put it there in the first place, but can't remember how, and although I can see where in the template code that photo is, changing it to the URL of a new photo seems to have no effect at all :-(

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Freedom! And "Curriculum" Plans

Well, we've been and gone and done it now. The kittens have their freedom. Well, mostly.

Their collars arrived in yesterday's post, so we put them on and - with some anxiety - opened the cat flap. Out they went, closely followed by me and Emily. And they loved it! Within minutes Romeo was up tightrope walking on the fence, and he'd climbed a tree, and Juliet was up on the bird table and eating a piece of mouldy bread that had fallen off it onto the grass.

After about half an hour we brought them back in again, but they so clearly wanted to go out that this morning we relented and just let them go. They spent about three hours solid out in the garden this morning. I'm pleased to say that as far as I know, neither of them actually left the garden (although of course they will at some point....they're working up to it). They were exceptionally cute, and Juliet especially kept coming in every twenty minutes or so, coming upstairs to where we were, miaowing and nuzzling and then going straight back out again. "Hey everyone, look what a big girl I am, I'm out on my own!" They've spent the entire afternoon flaked out fast asleep after all that exercise. We're not letting them out in the dark for quite some time yet, so the cat flap is now firmly shut again and they'll have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Here they are looking cute in their posh collars:

Meanwhile, yesterday we finally took down the Christmas decorations, and attempted to find homes for all Emily's Christmas and Birthday presents. Well, actually that involved moving them from piles on the bedroom floor to piles on top of a cupboard in our playroom/stockroom bit - but it looks superfically tidier, which helps.

Emily's really enjoying the book she and Jon are reading at bedtime at the moment: Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce, which was inspired by the war-time hiding of works of art and other masterpieces in this slate quarry in Wales. It tells the story of a London flood which once again causes the national treasures to be hidden in mine, and how each piece of art changes someone's life. Very good.

This morning we spent ages playing a Charlie and the Chocolate factory pretend, after Emily made herself a posh cloak and would have made a top hat if we'd had time. She loves that film! I haven't seen it yet, but she and Jon enjoyed the DVD. Mind you, Jon reckons that Johnny Depp based his Willy Wonka character on Michael Jackson with pretty sinister overtones, lol. First Keith Richards in Pirates of the Caribbean, then Michael Jackson - what next?

We've been to visit Romy and Hazel this afternoon, and played with Romy's lovely new castle set. Tomorrow Emily's off out for the day with Nana and Gramps, then it's back to ballet on Saturday and back to "work" in a big way on Monday.

I've looked through the national curriculum Schemes of Work for years 2 and 3 again, and must confess to being totally uninspired by any of them. So I guess we'll be doing our own thing again. The project based approach worked for us for a while....but I don't think it worked recently, or will work again in the immediate future. Since starting home ed in September 04, we've done four really (and I mean really) indepth projects: we "did" Oceans between September 04 and Christmas 04, then we "did" Cats in January and February 05, followed by Egyptians in February to April 05 and Tudors from about May-August 05. Our attempts to do a Viking project in the Autumn last year totally flopped though, probably through lack of real interest/inspiration on both my and Emily's parts. There are plenty of things she's interested in and wants to learn about, but I'd rather do a little bit of all sorts for a while, rather than repeat such extensive focus. We kind of drifted a little during the Autumn, which was probably good for all of us at the time (especially since I'm absolutely convinced that we did far more work in the eight months to August than school children did in the whole year anyway), but now it's time to get back stuck in.

Here's what I'm thinking at the moment, to cover us between now and Easter:
Art - Carry on with our work on famous artists. That worked well in the Autumn, and Emily enjoyed learning about the lives of Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso, and produced some good art to go with it. We also need to do some real art techniques work with the lovely easel and watercolours/oils she was given for Christmas.

English - Poetry, both the appreciation of and the writing of. More grammar work. Keep up to speed on spelling and fiction writing, although I think we're a bit ahead of ourselves there.

Maths - Revise telling the time. Firm up money knowledge. Take a venture into some of the Yr 3 stuff like area calculations. Keep on keeping on with the 2, 5 and 10 times tables.

Science - We need to be more practical with more experiments. Need to find meaningful science as opposed to the fairly brain dead "which one of these is living?" type stuff that seems to be in most KS1 books. We have a nice weather experiments set, so I think we'll start on that.

Geography - Think we'll focus on the UK for the moment. Maybe take a look at the different landscapes in the country or look at the national park areas. I suppose we ought to do something about "your local area" although quite frankly that's totally uninspiring especially if you don't happen to like where you live!

History - Umm. Well, we've pretty much overdosed on history this last year, so we may take a bit of a break there. Quite fancy looking at very early people/stone age times, but we'll have to see. Again, history of "your local area" is nagging away at my guilty conscience as being something I ought to work up some enthusiasm for, but I'm struggling. If we lived in Bracknell still I'd be all for it....but there you go.

Music - Well, Emily had a keyboard for Christmas so I guess we'd better use the flippin' thing! She still wants to carry on with the recorder, and I have a copy of Music Express for Year 3 that I suppose we ought to look at. Might also do an ongoing Famous Composers thing similar to our Famous Artists work.

Crafts - Blimey, where to start. We need to do some proper stuff with Emily's new sewing machine. She really enjoyed doing a nature sculpture back in the Autumn, so some more modelling might be in order, maybe with scrap metal (??) or something. Also, we have a battery operated potters wheel that needs using. In fact, we have a whole house full of craft stuff crying out to be used if only we had the time and the forethought to get it organised!

IT - Emily's confident on Word and the Internet now, so maybe we'll move onto a DTP package, or a photo editing one.

I'm really surprised (in ever such a good way) that the LEA haven't been in touch. After that initial flurry of high handed letters back in September 04, and my responses sending them an ed phil and telling them that they were acting beyond the law by harrassing us and should bugger off and mind their own business......zilch. Oh well, long may that continue!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


The long awaited day finally arrived - Emily was 7 years old yesterday :-))

I think (I hope!) she had an absolute ball. We started the day off with a big bunch of helium balloons tied to her bed for when she woke up. Normally she opens her birthday presents up here in the sitting room on birthday morning, but since we'd spent all New Year's Day decorating the downstairs dining room into a Snow Princess' Grotto, we'd laid out her presents down there for her - she'd been banned from the room whilst it was being decorated, so it was a huge surprise for her.

We had white sheeting on the carpet at the top half of the room, and we'd completely lined the wall/bookcases with white sheeting too, with gold and silver snowflakes spray painted on, and there were lots and lots of balloons in silver, white, ice blue and lilac and masses of ceiling decorations and stick on snowflakes everywhere, and little icicle fairy lights and hanging glass icicles. Took a hell of a long time to do, but to see Emily's face yesterday morning made every minute worthwhile!

Here she is early in the morning with a pile of presents, looking rather overwhelmed, lol:

She was thrilled to bits with her birthday presents, which included a scooter (which best friend Romy also had for Christmas, so hopefully they can have great fun playing together on those!) and a sewing machine as well as some Winx Club items and other bits and bobs. Emily spent the rest of the morning playing with new stuff, while Jon and I ran about like extremely mad mad things. The last minute rush was NOT helped by the fact that I rather stupidly overdid it with the wine on New Year's Eve and spent all New Year's Day feeling very sick and sleepy.....birthday planning with a hangover is not to be recommended!!

Finished decorating Emily's birthday cake with about an hour to spare - here's a pic. The icing wasn't yellow, it was creamy white. Flippin' camera. Heart shaped chocolate marbled cake with creamy white icing, white chocolate snowflakes round the edges, lilac icing snowflakes and white stars, to match the colour scheme. It was rather scrummy, surprised myself with that one:

The theme for this party was that the grumpy old snow queen had decided to keep winter all for herself; it was the job of the Snow Princess (Emily) and her snowflake fairies (guests) to change her mind, prove how much everyone loves the beauty of winter, and bring winter back to the world. Wanted to make it a kind of magical adventure, so we planned nine tasks they had to complete to develop the story. Wrote lots of "letters from the snow queen" on rolled up snowflake paper to look like scrolls tied with silver ribbon and hid them around the room - the girls had to find the write scroll with each set of instructions on it, and then find what they needed to do the task, then do it. All the things they needed for the various games and crafts were wrapped in silver foil packages and hidden too, so there was a fair bit of preparation required!

Romy and Hazel came over early in the afternoon so the girls could play and Hazel could give us a hand with getting food ready etc. Emily was over the moon with the lovely presents Romy gave her, including quite possibly the world's biggest birthday card, complete with lots of little envelopes on the inside cover each housing a really thoughtful and touching little pressie - a CD with all the existing photos of Romy and Emily together, handdrawn little fairies, rosebuds and all sorts of lovely bits. Absolutely gorgeous!
Here's Snow Princess Emily and Chief Snowflake Fairy Romy just before the party began:

Then before we knew it, it was party time! Altogether, we played musical snowflake clusters, made snowflake photo frames, played a snowflake race, pass the snowball, made beaded snowflake hanging decorations, stick the snowflake on the winter picture, snowstorm statues, made winter charm bracelets/necklaces, and went on a magical gemstone hunt. Inside a cracker we put little silver bags each containing one of six types of gemstone with a symbol on it. Each girl then had to go and hunt for the remaining five so each ended up with a complete set of six different gems plus a scroll showing the gemstone names and meanings. The hunt took place in the sitting room, to give us a chance to set up birthday tea.

We had birthday tea by candelight with an ice lantern Emily made and lots of little candles around the room. After that, the Snow Queen's last letter told the girls that she was delighted they'd proved her wrong and changed her mind, and that if they all danced under the pinata, it could snow....and so it did, as we'd filled it with fake snow and confetti bursters instead of sweeties. (And boy did it take some clearing up last night....) Note Emily in the foreground of this picture putting even more snow in her hair....everyone had a great snowfight with it before going home!

Have some great photos of the party but it's just occurred to me that I didn't ask permission from guests' parents to post them. Posting the above as it seems pretty harmless but **of course** if anyone objects please just tell me and I'll delete it straight away. Won't post any others until I have permission from those concerned.

After the party, Emily had yet more pressies to open from grandparents, all of which were lovely, lovely, lovely. Finished the day with a nice bath using her new floating bath lights, which really did quite a magical effect - just as well, as a bath was definitely needed to get the last of the snow out of Emily's hair!

It dawned on us with some considerable sadness in the run up to Christmas and as we were planning the party that this could be the last year that Emily was really entranced with the magic of Christmas, in the way only young children are, and perhaps the last year too that she would really want a magical/fairytale kind of party. I hope not, but from now on it might be just a trip to the cinema or somesuch. She's growing up so fast. Of course that's wonderful in one way - but where has our little girl gone? Oh well, at least it helped to reinforce our determination to really enjoy Emily being seven....before we know it, it will have passed forever. Going to pull all the stops out to make her year of being seven absolutely as magical as possible :-))