Saturday, April 29, 2006

Alone in a Crowded Room

I saw a look on Emily's face this morning that I haven't seen for nearly two years. Last time I saw it, she was cowering in a school classroom. When she left school, I hoped and trusted that we'd never see that face again, but it's back. Her hunted wild animal look. Her frozen in panic look. Her red cheeked, misty eyed, desperate, trying so hard not to cry, someone please comfort me look.

I sat in the ballet waiting room, watching Emily's face. I could see her for virtually the whole two hours as the door was left open today. I sat there and cried when I was alone, and battled to hold back the tears as other parents arrived. I sat there and blamed myself. I blamed the school (but surely, two years down the line, it's time to stop blaming them). I blamed myself again, and Jon for good measure too. I blamed the ballet teacher. I blamed every child, parent or relative Emily knows or ever has known. I blamed everyone and everything in the world, except for Emily herself. She can't help the way she is - all I wanted to do was to rush in there, scoop her up, take her away, take her back home and never let her leave our sides again. I didn't, of course, because that's not the way we grown ups do things. We're supposed to be strong, and we're supposed to know better.

And what had caused our daughter to be so fearful and upset? Simply that she didn't have a close friend in the ballet class. She knows them all, of course. She's been with them for nearly two years now. But those she knew best and counted as "friends" have been seperated from her and put into the other group. She's starting from scratch again now. And she's finding it very hard to cope. Now, I thought we had made progress with Emily's confidence and shyness. In fact, I'm sure we had. Recently, however, several of her friendships have ended in unfortunate circumstances, which has knocked her confidence right back to square one again.

So, there was my seven and half year old, looking every inch the frightened five year old back in school again. Panic everytime the teacher issued an instruction. Mustn't get it wrong, mustn't be shown up, mustn't be noticed, not even for the right reasons. Never move first. Never do something nobody else is doing, even if you know you've got the moves right and they haven't. Fear when you have to find a partner. After all, who would want to be with you? Sit quietly during break time. Concentrate on your drink. Look busy, to hide the fact that you have nobody to sit with and nobody to talk to. Don't look anyone in the eyes, because you'll only see dislike and distaste in their eyes if you do look. Never start a conversation - what have you got to say that anyone would want to hear? And if they talk to you, just answer them as quickly and quietly as you can; get it over with so they can move onto the person they really want to talk to. You're not best friends with every child in this room, so obviously you're worthless.

You see, I know exactly what Emily was doing. And I know exacty how she felt. I know, becuase it's how I felt myself throughout my school and childhood years. When I'm uncomfortable in a group, I still have it down to a fine art, the pretending to be busy, pretending to be happy, answering brightly and nodding wisely when someone talks to me, whilst secretly hoping they'll go away so I don't have to think of something else to say. But you see, as an adult, I'm happy. My shyness doesn't bother me anymore, because I have everything in the world I need to be happy - my husband and my daughter. I know how to cope with the social events I dread, and I'm not remotely concerned by not being at the centre of a large, adoring crowd of friends. That's simply not my style. A long time ago, when my life was still ahead of me though, of course it bothered me. Immensely. So I over-compensated for it. I forced myself to be someone I wasn't when I left school, and I whizzed through relationships, often illicit ones, at an absolute rate of knots. Friendships too. I got on with pretending to be whatever society thought I should be. It wasn't until I met Jon that I was ever able to go back to being just me, and be happy.

But it bothers Emily - she still believes that she needs to be "popular". She thinks there's something wrong with her because she doesn't have dozens of friends....because after all, everyone else has, and it's that lack of self-esteem that prevents her from making dozens of friends. Vicious circle. I know she has a long and painful road to travel and my heart bleeds for her. I read around the blog ring, marvelling at all of you with your happy children with endless friends and hectic social lives. Sometimes I wonder if you realise how fortunate you are not to have to worry about "the socialisation thing". I wasn't going to make this post. After all, it's a sign of utter failure, isn't it, to have to admit that your child is unhappy about something or not handling something well. We home educators are supposed to be shiny, happy beacons of all that's perfect with the world. What rubbish parents Jon and I must be. But I don't believe in painting false pictures and glossing over the bits that hurt, so I'm posting what I feel.

To those of you reading who disagreed with our decision to home educate in the first place: I guess you think now is a good time to laugh in our face and spout the "I told you so's", huh? After all, Emily needs to be around other children, lots of other children, for as many hours as possible every day, right? She needs to have this shyness knocked out of her, doesn't she? She needs to stop being the beautiful, sensitive, thoughtful child she is, to stop showing her emotions, and to start subduing her feelings so she can "fit in", yes? Well, before you spout off, just remember this. I went to school. Every last miserable day of it. And it "helped" me not one jot. If anything, it made me worse. I do know what I'm talking about here.

We were getting there. Emily was starting to reach out to other children, starting to hold her head up high, starting to understand that she had just as much to offer as they did, and that she could be sure that they wanted to get to know her just as much as she wanted to get to know them. She made many acquaintances and a couple of good friends, and she was happy. It's been a difficult few weeks, and we've been pushed back several steps. But you know what? We'll get there again. And again. And again. And again. I was eighteen before I finally thought I had a solution. My (wrong) answer was to transform myself into what I was "supposed" to be, which made me deeply unhappy. It was another seven years after that before I was finally able to be myself. If I can do one worthwhile thing for Emily as her mother, it will be to make sure she doesn't have to wait that long to understand that both your real beauty and true happiness is measured by what you hold in your heart, not by how many friends you can name.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mandala Mania & More Warrior Cats

Emily's enjoyed making lots of mandalas today. Very therapeutic, I made some too. Here's the one she's chosen to take to yoga on Tuesday. It's not a very good picture, though - the real thing is much more colourful and represents the four seasons.
Found this cute online mandala maker too, although that's really more of a kaleidoscope type thing.

Apart from mandala art, this morning Emily breezed through lots of maths: more of the saving money type calculations and lots of stuff on data handling, graphs and fractions. Later on, she worked on some handwriting exercises and lots of spelling of un-, dis-, re- and pre- words.

This afternoon, we carried on with the human body project, finishing up the work Emily had been doing on the skeleton and bones, and making a start on the lungs and respiratory system. Got lots of experiments in mind for that one. Plus lots of Harry Potter reading, Harry Potter pretending, Harry Potter writing, Harry Potter drawing, Harry Potter games, Harry Potter Food (??), Harry Potter get the idea!

At the moment, she and Jon are just about to finish Forest of Secrets, the third book in the fabulous (did I ever mention that?) Warrior Cats series by Erin Hunter. With impeccable timing, I've just finished #2, Fire and Ice, so I'm ready to grab #3 as soon they're done. Finished Fire and Ice yesterday while Emily was at drama - it had me in tears at several points again. [Edit: Emily's just come out with tears in her eyes to tell me how that one ended, bless her. She can't wait for the next one - fortunately, we've got it in stock!] Very emotional, dark in places, often violent too, but then nature is.

If anyone's interested, all six of the books in the original series, plus the three new books in the New Prophecy series, are reviewed here - look at the bottom of the page, under Erin Hunter for all nine review links (they're not in the right order, though, so do check the numbers of the books, 1-6 and then New Prophecy 1-3). Don't look here if you're currently reading the series, though, as there are plot spoilers.....almost wish I hadn't looked now, will have to keep that link away from Jon and Emily!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Flyby Thursday

There's another one gone. Day, that is. It's nearly the weekend, but the last weekend was only five minutes ago. Either I've strayed into some strange time-space black hole (or the Tardis) or we need to find less to fill our days. At this rate I'll be drawing my pension by Christmas.

This morning began with Jon and Emily rushing off to tai chi, which they came back from absolutely worn out. Quick bite of lunch, then just about time for a couple of games of mastermind before getting ready to go back out to drama. Today they were given details of the play they're performing at the end of July: The Chicken-Hearted Fox (?) with Emily apparently being said Chicken-Hearted Fox.

Back home for tea; it's now nearly 6.30 and we've got about another half an hour of free time left before it's time to start on the mountain of order packing that awaits to the right of me. Which means I ought be doing something more constructive than writing this, but what the heck.

Emily's got a lot of "homework" at the moment, lol. She has both songs and choreography to learn for the ballet show (hence why we've been singing Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside rather a lot today....); scripts to learn for drama; new tai chi movements to perfect and accupressure points to learn; yoga journal to keep up to date; new yoga poses to master for her next test in a few week's time and now they also have to design a mandala each week for yoga too. It's a good job she's not actually at school or we'd have no time left to fit anything else in!

In other news, Jon's been called back to the doctor's next week for further investigation of his abnormal white blood cell count, so that's got us all rather worried. We'll know more on Tuesday. He does feel really awful, though :-(

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chamber of Secrets, Here We Come!

Fanfare, please: Emily finished reading Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone today. She went out to Lincoln and Brigg with my parents today (ostensibly to a framing shop so she could choose more framing materials for Gramps to frame her art with, but I reckon it was a sneaky way of getting half an hour of trampolining and a scrummy cafe lunch in.....) and took the book with her - she just finished it as the car pulled up.

Yay!!! We're really proud of her for sticking with it - it's a long and difficult book for a seven year old (although a mere fraction of the size of the later ones, gulp) and she's perservered right the way through. When she was ill with bronchitis half way through and didn't read any of it for about ten days, we thought she'd give up, but no, she got right back into it.

This evening she's curled up with Chamber of Secrets and is already onto Chapter 4, lol. At the moment she's got five books on the go - that one, Unicorn Wishes (which she's a bit bored with, I think - bit too "fluffy"), a book about Princess Elizabeth (I not II), Nanny McPhee and the first Warrior Cats one she's re-reading. Tried pointing out she'd finish them all a lot quicker if she read them one at a time, but I suspect that's not the way she's made!

Apart from having her nose in a book and going out adventuring with my parents, this morning Emily did a fanastic job of tidying her bedroom and also dreamt up a very intruiging plot line involving Snape, our Hero Harry and a warrior cat (don't ask!). When she got back this afternoon, she created some lovely Harry Potter patterns in Dazzle.

We had a lovely email this morning from the author of the Whispers in the Wood book (green children) I wrote about earlier in the year. He's doing some stuff at the Lincoln Book Festival on the 14th May (for his slot, see about half way down that page, Mark Bartholomew). We'd have loved to go, but we'll still be away on that date. If anyone's local and free, I'd highly recommend it. Brilliant book. He has a second, Chaos in the Cathedral out later this year, which features Lincoln Cathedral. Looking forward to that.

Meanwhile, whilst Emily's been busy, Jon and I have been working our socks off. Sales are through the roof at the moment and the new shop is STILL not properly populated - there just aren't enough hours in the day. We've had some really nice new releases in recently, so I want to promote those in the new store. Kylie the Carnival Fairy (groan) also came into stock today - we sold out of the Pet Fairies in record time, so hopefully this new stock won't hang around too long either. Think we might give that series a miss from now on, though. There's only so long conscience can stand selling what is basically the same flippin book over and over again! There are so many fantastic children's books around which don't get a look in, yet formulaic fluffy stuff consistently tops the best-sellers. Still, that's marketing for you. As my father would say, in slightly more colourful terms!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

So, That Was Tuesday

Don't ask me where the day went. It was Monday last time I looked. Must be to do with getting up late, that always throws me.

Well now, let's think: Emily did lots of work on her Harry Potter project including half a ton of reading comprehension work from HP & Stone and drawing up Harry's first year lessons timetable from clues provided in the book. She also did some maths work - with rather less gusto - which was multiplication and division thinly disguised as something vaguely more interesting: saving money. If you save 40p a week how long before you can afford that particular Harry Potter item priced at a bargain £487.99p - that kind of thing. Plus loads of crafts and more in her yoga journal. Possibly not the more spleniferously exciting day we've ever had......then again, we haven't done normal for such a while that it was a refreshing change.

This evening we went off to yoga where Emily was very chuffed to be given the work she needs to learn for her level 2 certificate, which she'll be tested on in five week's time. She also got a lovely yoga'd up t-shirt and was delighted that they've started partner work now too, which prompted much hilarity - from the level of giggling wafting out into the waiting room you wouldn't have thought they were in there concentrating on a spiritual practice!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Spring Sunshine & Autumn Trees

This evening was the last of the ten week art course (for now; see later). Emily and Jon went off hand in hand armed with giant canvases, and came back with these beautiful impressionist autumn trees :-)) Emily's is first, then Jon's:
I love the shadows on the trunks, the vibrancy and the colours. It's been a fabulous ten weeks, and I'm very, very proud of both of their efforts :-))

Proud Daddy was told tonight that they'd never seen a child of Emily's age paint the way she can. Don't know how true that is or isn't, but it was a lovely thing to say and certainly helped boost Emily's confidence. She's so hard on herself sometimes. Gets it from her Daddy who is equally hard on himself all the time. Gary hopes to run another course in the summer to follow on from this one, and he's also setting up a highly structured GCSE standard art course for children age 9-13 (Emily's 7, but what's two years between friends, lol) which will aim to teach them "real art, not what they teach in schools" - seems that more and more people are waking up to the fact that schools aren't the be all and and end all of education. But that's another story: back to this evening - one of the ladies had made cake so they all had a good chinwag and scrummy cake eating session to finish off with (and Emily asked if she could bring one home for me, bless her).

The mother of a boy who was in Emily's class at school was in the library (which adjoins the art room) and came out to have a look at what Emily was doing (I'm glad to say she was suitably impressed!) and to have a chat to Jon, which was interesting. Apparently "Emily's class" (as I still can't help thinking of it) now has to have a teacher share system. Can't see that massively improving on the efficiency levels or pastoral care continuity, somehow. Still, it's always good to bump into people we knew from school - and a pleasure to let them see Emily being living proof that there is life outside the school institution!

First thing this morning, Emily and I were off out into the spring sunshine on her skates (well, just her on the skates, although Jon and I are both tempted to get some). Emily spent a couple of hours skating in a nearby park (including skateboard ramps, lol) so I took some fab video of how well she's doing. She had a good play on the rest of the equipment too, although she was a bit disappointed to see they'd removed the sky-rider thing. Pooeey - that was going to be good for a quidditch game! She did manage to bemuse a small boy who was the only other occupant of the park by casting Wingardium Leviosa spells at him though ;-) so at least Mr Potter did get a look in.

Came back home for lunch and then settled into some serious yoga practice, and Emily wrote three pages in her yoga journal covering the work she's been doing since last lesson. Yoga and drama lessons start up again tomorrow and Thursday - doesn't feel like we've had a two week break, can't believe how the time is flying by!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Welcome to Hogwarts!

Yes, a warm welcome indeed - provided you're no more than 2 inches high and you have pertinently placed holes on the soles of your shoes, lol. Drumroll, please: the lego castle is finally complete! And as you can see, someone's thrilled to bits:

Course, all the action is round the back, with moving staircases, trapdoors, revolving cupboards and all that malarky:

Emily's now keen to start on the Chamber of Secrets set. Oh, right. Should be a doddle at "only" 650 pieces compared to the 900+ of the castle, lol.

Yesterday morning it was back to ballet for Emily, for once at a decent early-ish time rather than sat bang in the middle of the day. They're well into the choreography for his hula dance thing now, so it's been hip swivels galore since she got home. Must get tickets - apparently they're going really fast.

Emily spent Saturday afternoon, planning out a Harry Potter Project (it had to come...) and designing several Winx Club posters in between bouncing around with a seemingly endless supply of energy.

This morning, she discovered this and spent ages doing all the quizzes on it. I was particularly impressed with her over the Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them Quiz - she didn't have a copy of that book (well, she does now, lol - advantages of being a book retailer; there aren't many popular books we don't "just happen to have" lying around!) so didn't know any of the answers, but once Daddy had performed his magic and a copy arrived on her desk within minutes, she got stuck in and spent an hour carefully looking everything up. Ha! Reading comprehension masquerading as blissful enjoyment - love it.

This afternoon, apart from finishing off Hogwarts, Emily and Jon have been playing treasure hunts in the garden in the nice, soft, shiny and CLEAN sand Grandad kindly got for her sandpit.....the other stuff was years old and well, when you have four cats, you don't like to enquire too closely as to what's actually hidden in it.

Jon has been aiming for the world sleep depravation endurance record, hitting bed at around 1 am and being up at 5am for umpteen mornings on the trot; that'd be why business is booming! I've been busy with the usual deadlines and also worked most of yesterday on the new shop, which is looking a lot fuller ready for its imminent launch. Also wrote a rush job for the BBC teens section about how horoscopes are calculated; they wanted it in answer to some email queries they'd had but they liked it so much they're going to publish it properly :-) I know you're supposed to slave for hours or even days writing an article, but honestly with me the rush jobs always end up being the ones I'm most proud of. I suppose I just work better when under pressure!

Meanwhile, we're all massively looking forward to going off to the caravan in St Bees in a couple of week's time. When we went for our maiden visit back in November it was of course very dark, very windy and very wet - right up my street, but it'll be lovely to be able to enjoy the rather fantastic beach with a bit more daylight and less howling wind! Love that beach. It has rocks, caves, shingle, sand, a freshwater stream, bridges, pools; it's like all your perfect beaches rolled into one. Booked our travelodge stay at (oh, how exotic!) Scotch Corner as an approximate half way point - we'll leave straight after Emily's yoga class, I think and get half way before stopping. We *were* going to then visit The Forbidden Corner the next morning before travelling on, but it turns out not to be open until noon, which is no good to us. Not on the way there, anyway. You have to book tickets for a specific timeslot, apparently. Might do it on the way back. Has anyone reading this been there?

Anyway, that's enough day dreaming about a rare break. Back to work!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Still Pottering

As in Harry, that is. There seems to be no end to Emily's fascination with this subject! She and Jonathan watched Goblet of Fire last night, which was a huge hit. Today Emily's designed an advert for a Harry Potter computer game using word art and graphics and some very persuasive text. She's also done lots and lots of maths Harry Potter style and has begged to get started on some fun HP literature study units we found on the web. Which we haven't done yet, because I've lost the link. Somehow, I think I'm going to have to find it pretty quick!

This morning we also played more of the Mystery at Hogwarts board game and pranced about doing lots of HP inspired exercises. Oh, and lots more lego - castle is nearly finished now. Must say it's been a very absorbing (if lengthy!) exercise. We've followed the instructions mostly but along the way Emily's concocted several beautiful buildings of her own and some very imaginative scenarios to go with them. I do like lego. Sorry elderfairy and fellow lego haters! I love the way you can be sitting with your child manipulating bits of it, chatting away about something else entirely, and before you know it they've created something really rather spectacular. Very therapeutic (but don't shoot me for saying so!)

This afternoon Emily very successfully skated her way around the block, quickly overcoming her initial nervousness of skating next to the road. It was pouring with rain again at the time, which nicely cleaned up her skates from yesterday's mud fest, lol.

Work-wise Jon's been rushed off his feet since 6am this morning, with no sign of a let up yet. I haven't exactly achieved much in that department but then that's because a) I've been having too much of a ball with Emily and b) I keep feeling alternately very queasy and very sleepy. Jon went for his white blood cell test yesterday so we're anxiously awaiting the results of that. Both kittens have been throwing up all over the place too with some mystery tummy bug, so at the moment Emily and the two big cats are the healthiest of the lot - which makes a change! We decided ages ago that this post-Easter week would be a "week off" for Emily, as it were, but next week we should be back to "education proper". In theory!

Our week away is getting closer, and not before time. Really, really looking forward to that, I think we could all do with a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery. Speaking of which, have been house-hunting too in spare moments today. Well, whatever the web equivalent is of window shopping, anyway. More in hope and longing than any real expectation of being able to move any time soon, but there are some fantastic places on Skye and in the wilds of Scotland. One day!

Magic in the Park

I came down on Wednesday evening with something horrible.....some yukky, virusy, ucky thing. Consequently, all I inteded to do yesterday was to slink into bed and stay there.

As it turned out, however, it rained :-)) Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the rain. Emily does too. So when she wanted to go out and play in it, it didn't seem like such a bad idea after all. Crawled to the car and somehow made it as far as Normanby Hall without throwing up. Just.

Three and a half hours later, Emily and I were soaked, dripping, filthy and covered in mud.........and extremely happy, lol. We had the place to ourselves and it was utterly magical. Emily skated like a pro, collected things for potions, completed magical challenges, climbed trees (so did I! rofl) and laughed constantly. Needless to say we had plenty of chance for a good bit of Harry Potter pretend too.

Had the sun shone, I'm pretty certain I'd have skulked around at home feeling at death's door. It's truly magical what the laughter of a child and the restorative properties of nature can do for you.

Yesterday we also got to the bottom of some of the issues surrounding family and friends that have been bothering Emily recently. She takes my breath away with her levels of insight at times. There are an awful lot of negative, insincere, energy-draining people around us and Emily doesn't inhabit a la-la-la happy-ever-after world; she's well aware of the situations. Which, in my not-so-humble opinion, is a very healthy thing. So we had lots of discussions about loyalty, sincerity, duty, growing up, growing apart, tact, why people sometimes hurt other people's feelings, insecurities, everyone being different, whether or not you still have to do things when they're no longer fun, responsibilities, giving people the benefit of the doubt and much else besides. She has a teenage head on those shoulders, that one.

In other news, Emily's also spent hours devouring a fantastic little DK "Building a Website" book we got from Jules the other day (thank you!) and is champing at the bit to get started. She's now the proud owner of - not that there's anything there, but hey, watch this space! Emily's also getting very excited about the possibility of riding lessons coming up, although she does understand that it probably wouldn't be until September, or not even until next year. A friend of ours who uses the village riding school has had some thought-provoking information for us, so, we shall see.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Skating Star

Emily tried her new inline skates today. Well, tried as in skipped lunch, stayed out in the pouring rain and had to eventually be prised out of them on the promise of doing it again tomorrow. She got the hang of it straight away, we were very impressed! After a bit of practice on the carpet and on the grass, she was away on the concrete in no time at all and can't wait to skate to the corner shop and the cycle track soon. She was very good at correcting her own balance, she only fell over a handful of times in a couple of hours skating. She's keen to learn to go backwards too, so that'll be fun! She and Jon have been watching Ice Princess on DVD - Emily's very keen to go ice skating but for the moment I think the inline skates are coming a close second.
The rest of the day has been spent pottering with Potter, as it were. More lego - let me see, now, Emily and either Jon or I have been at it solid for at least four hours now spread over yesterday and today and we've much was it again?....oh yes, two of the towers on this flippin' castle. Two. Coun't em. There are five altogether. Plus extra bits which aren't towers. The instruction book is the size of a medium novel for heaven's sake!!

Emily's also been playing the HP & Stone PC game which, despite the rather dire review, she does seem rather taken with. She's also got even closer to finishing the HP & Stone book and played endless games of HP Uno and HP top trumps. Let's just say the household is in a Harry Potter mood, lol. Even the skating ended up as a TriWizard tournament or whatever it is in the Goblet of Fire book. She keeps coming out with stuff that I have no clue about whatsoever....I think I really will have to read the books or at least listen to the audio books. Goblet of Fire is currently on loan from Scotter library - I think it was 27 CDs (!!!!!!!!! or somesuch ridiculous number) and Emily's up to about number 20. Now that's what I call dedication.

Meanwhile, aside from such fun and frivolity, Jon and I have taken the plunge and set a go live date for the new shop (despite it being still only about 1/5th populated, sigh) and Jon has been wearing himself out with an exhausting round of work - don't these people realise Easter was a holiday? Apparently it was National Book Ordering Weekend, or so you'd think from the volume of our sales. Yes, that is A Good Thing. Really.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I've Lost Track!

I didn't realise it was a week since I'd updated this. We've done lots of bits and bobs, but my memory has gone blank, so I'll settle for the edited highlights of the week!

Emily worked on finishing off the Easter presents she was making, including the bunny fridge chalkboard, peg bag (much hilarity (not) with the sewing machine that has a mind of its own) and basket for the tie dyed eggs. In the evening, my Mum and Dad got back from the caravan (for Easter) so we spent a while chatting and looking at photos. They brought a beautiful ornamental willow tree back for Emily, so she was exceedingly chuffed.

Emily and Jon went off to tai chi in the morning; I took Grandad to the nurse. She told him the same thing the doctor told him last time, but he likes her better, so that was OK. She also told him to make another appointment to see the doctor again (which is probably why he likes her so much, come to think of it).

Thursday afternoon Emily and I went to Normanby Hall for a play with Romy and Hazel. We had a nice little walk in the woods (although I soon regretted mentioning how much the trees swaying in the very strong wind!) and I was a very willing guinea pig for Hazel to try out the Indian head massage she's been learning. Liked that :-)

Emily spent all day on crafty things; she made some tissue paper flowers for Romy and then made three beautiful Easter cards for Nana, Gramps and Grandad - one was a butterfly montage, one was a tissue paper stained glass effect egg and one was lots of Easter eggs in gold frames.

Just for a change ;-) Emily spent all day doing crafty things. She took various crafty crates downstairs and pottered away in the dining room literally *all day* listening to her Harry Potter CDs. Jon and I were banned from the room as she was making Easter surprises. Took a little Easter pressie to Romy, and Romy and Hazel popped by in the evening with a pressie for Emily.

Easter Sunday
Had a fab Easter. Emily had a treasure hunt in the morning to find some pressies. She normally gets one present instead of an egg, but this year since she's been so poorly recently, and since we sold quite a few of her Christmas presents that turned out to be not suitable, she had quite a few bits and bobs. Then she made an absolutely gorgeous Raspberry and Lemon Easter cake, recipe from one of the supermarket magazines - the cream filling made with mascarpone and lemon curd...mmmmmmmmm.
Emily gave everyone their home made pressies, and me and Jon got to see the secret bits and bobs she'd spent all day Saturday concocting! We had a big family lunch, followed by another treasure hunt organised by Nana who'd bought Emily lots of little garden ornaments from Cumbria. After that we all watched Nanny McPhee together, second time for me and Emily, first time for everyone else.

Bank Holiday Monday
Ah yes, that's today, I think - I'm losing track of time a bit here! Today Emily's played all day. The Harry Potter lego was a huge hit (and huge is the opportune word in the case of the flippin castle set - it's gonna take weeks to build that!!!!) and has been played with non stop. We've also played Mystery at Hogwards (second hand from ebay, big hit) and subbuteo, and Emily's tried valiantly to get to grips with Lego Creator Harry Potter on the PC - also second hand from ebay, not such a great buy - is there a more frustrating game in existence?

Meanwhile, Jon and I have attempted to get on with some work over the last few days, with varying degrees of success. I've sold my four large myth and magic Hobbit pieces on ebay for a good sum.....but now I have to worry about packing and sending them, which isn't going to be all that straightforward. Jon is still very poorly, and has *still* not got his voice fully back, is being sick, woozy and generally semi comatose, but doesn't have time to go to the doctors.....Deadlines, business bills and customer emails have failed to stop for an Easter break, which I feel is rather I guess from tomorrow we'd better get back to work!
Emily's having a ball in the garden every day at the moment, though. Autumn and winter are my favourite times of the year by far, but I must confess I've missed seeing her in the garden and hearing the giggles floating in from outside. So it's official. Spring is kinda nice. :-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Playing with Plays

This morning before breakfast I found Emily curled up on the settee, frantically writing away. She carried on for about another half an hour and then told me she'd been writing a script. And what a script! It was absolutely brilliant! She'd written a complex five page playscript with a storyline involving the warrior cats; six characters, both funny and sad, and with lots and lots of emotion in it. I loved the way she'd obviously thought hard about how it would appear when acted rather than just writing it in a story style. For instance at one point she had this:

TIGERCLAW (hissing loudly): I did NOT kill Redtail.
(miaow quietly, not looking Bluestar in the eyes): I may have scratched him, though.

She had characters interrupting one another, and when the main character had to say something awkward that he'd been avoiding saying she had added the instruction for him to speak "all in a rush."

I was very impressed! We acted it out a few times each taking different parts, and she couldn't wait to write another one - so she did. And this was before "work" had officially begun.

Eventually, sat down "properly" at the table - darn those home educated kids doing educational things before breakfast just for the fun of it - we carried on with our English work looking at settings. Emily chose one of the picture books she had when she was younger and we discussed the differences between books for young children which don't describe a setting but leave the pictures to do so, versus books for older children or adults which are either without illustrations or with just a few black and white sketches. Emily then chose a scene from the book and re-wrote that page for an older audience, adding in lots of scene setting and descriptive details.

Spelling was next. Think we're going to have to get a little more structured with spelling. Emily loves "English" - whether it's something she's doing off her own bat or "proper" work - but her spellings skills, even though very good, can't now keep up with the imaginative, really great stuff she wants to write. This morning, for instance, she was, not surprisingly for a seven year old, struggling with words like abandoned and adventurous. I think we'll start making a note of spelling rules as we come across them and start looking at more complicated groups of words and patterns rather than being quite random about it, which I suppose we have been so far.

The morning was interrupted by an Anglia Water van going past at high speed blaring something out of its loudspeakers. Couldn't tell what, but that question was answered minutes later when we discovered we had no water. Poooeey. It finally came back on about half past two by which time me and Jon were desperate for a cup of something!

After lunch Emily did some maths puzzles, rather reluctantly it has to be said, but she did them. Then we had fun for a couple of hours trying out some new cheapy keep fit equipment - a gym ball and a blow up wedge thingy. Prompted much hysterics from both of us! I couldn't believe how hard some of the exercises were, actually. All that rolling about on a ball looks pretty effortless but it certainly wasn't!
There has been lots more neopetting going on too, especially since Emily has now decided she *HAS* to get the secret lab map. For which she'll need approx 450k points. Okkkaay.
Yesterday evening Jon and Emily went off to their art class and came back with these beautiful daffodils. Emily's first is in traditional still life style, Jon's is a much looser impressionist style which Gary (teacher) very much liked:
Gary kindly brought Emily a fabulous book to borrow last night. It's called the Art Pack and it's an interactive guide to art history and theory with lots of pull out tools, colour wheels, perspective grids and so on. Very nice!

Well, back to work for me. Jon and I are still feeling rotten - he's lost his voice completely which has made for a quiet if rather lonely day for me and Emily!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Meet Merlin The Pillow....apparently, he doesn't mind! Posted by Picasa

Easter Crafts Galore

Sunday passed in a bit of blur as I was stuck to the PC all day. Emily and Jon had fun playing lots and lots of top trumps, Treason in the Tower and various other board games, and Emily neopet-ed. A lot.

This morning she and Jon hot footed it downstairs bright and early for a mammoth craft session. They been blowing eggs and tie dyeing them - you can't really see from the picture, but they came out beautifully!
They've also been busy cutting out a pattern and starting to sew a peg bag as an Easter present for Nana (ssshhh!) which seems to be going rather well - although I was called downstairs at one point to fix the sewing machine. Ha! Those two years of torture aka needlework O level finally came in handy after all these years!
They're also half way through making boy and girl bunnies from clothes pegs and a big felt bunny too. And if that wasn't enough arty crafty stuff for the day, my hubby and daughter are now out at their art class.

I meanwhile, have spent the whole day attached to the PC, again, still resolutely trying to get our stock listed in the new online store. Blimey it's slow progress, that one. Hadn't banked on it being *this* time consuming. I did get a break to do some yoga with Emily, though. She's getting very impressive at that, and mastered rocking in bow pose today. Speaking of exercise, I've finally made it back onto the exercise bike for the last four days, doing roughly 8 miles a day. I've been playing with our blood pressure monitor too, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite my weight and extremely high salt intake, my blood pressure is still below average, coming in at around 105/70 or thereabouts, four days running. I do have a craving for salt, though. I add salt to virtually everything savoury I eat, even crisps or a hunk of cheese or bread and butter. Have done for as long as I can remember. I'm sure it may well be doing me harm in ways other than blood pressure, but perhaps I'm short of some mineral in my blood - don't know. Shall have to investigate.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Doesn't She Know It's The Weekend?

Bless her. Emily's soooo keen on this human body project that first thing this morning she wanted to get on and do more of it.'s Saturday, I pointed out. We don't have to do work today. (Well, *we* do, as in me and Jon, which is why I wasn't swinging from the chandeliers with joy at the thought of more body project). Cue disappointed little face. "I know," she perks up brightly, "I could look through your plans and work out what to do next, and you can stay up here and do your own work!" Cue massive guilt complex. Cue Mummy pasting on smile and banishing thoughts of getting ahead on our own work. Cue more body project.

Downstairs we went. I drew round a very wriggly and giggly Emily on the back of a roll of old wallpaper and Emily spent a happy hour painting in the skeleton, referring to umpteen books in the process.
The finished result is now hanging up on one of the bookcases:
The idea is that as we finish studying each major organ or body system, Emily will draw or paint a lifesize one to stick onto the skeleton in the appropriate place. We were going to add the major muscles too, but I can see that getting too confusing; might make a seperate one for muscles. We shall see!

Once that was done, Emily carried on with her work on bones, researching what bones are made of and what jobs they do. She drew a lovely cutaway diagram of a bone and labelled it:
and wrote a piece about bone marrow, what happens to bones as they get old and the importance of calcium in the diet.

Emily wants to get hold of a bone to saw in half and look at under the magnifying glass and microscope; needs to be quite big, though. The book I was reading suggests the leg bone of a cow, but I don't think that'll be that easy to just pop out and get! Still, may have to make do with buying a leg of lamb in next week's shopping. Good excuse for a nice roast, after all!

After all that hard work it was time for lunch. Emily and Jon have been doing jigsaws and playing all afternoon, while I had a fit of enthusiasm and listed some of our personal items on ebay, including my two biggest myth and magic Hobbit pieces (Smaug the Dragon and Wrath of Beorn; still have Escape from the Wargs and Finding the Precious to list, along with 40 odd smaller ones). Within minutes of listing those I had an email asking me if I'd accept rather a lot of money as a buy it now for both of them (no) and within an hour they'd both amassed loads of watchers, so that's looking hopeful.

Carried on listing stock on ebay after that; STILL haven't had time to do any more to the new elysianshop store. Sigh. And I haven't started on this weekend's deadlines yet. Emily's still very snuffly and full of cough. She and Jon were supposed to be going on a dusk/bat walk at Normanby Hall this evening, but she doesn't feel like it - can't say I blame her! Jon's blood readings are alarmingly erratic at the moment - 18.9 earlier this afternoon after he'd eaten virtually nothing all day :-(( He feels really ill. I think there may be a trip back to the docs in order sooner than the 2 weeks for a white blood cell test and 6 weeks for the diabetic blood test. Something's definitely not right >:-((

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dem Bones

OK, so it's deja vu with Emily's cold - we've progressed from snuffles and sniffles to a cough that's keeping her awake and making her sick. Sigh. Bronchitis mark 2, anyone?

Despite being clearly rather poorly, Emily's been remarkably cheerful all day, bless her. Emily and Jon spent the morning cooking and between them concocted a garlic and herb load, a cranberry and beer loaf, cherry rock cakes and Simpsons donuts. Yummmmm! Emily and I then went out (bad, bad, bad parent) to the doctors to collect presciptions for Grandad and Jon, and on to get cat litter and some more cat toys.

This afternoon Emily was desperate to start on her human body project, despite being poorly, so we gave it a go, with much success. The skeleton seemed a reasonable place to start, so we did. Emily used various books to research the right labels to go on a detailed skeleton printout, then we spent a long time talking about the different types of joints and she sketched them, coloured them and wrote about each type of joint and the kind of movment it allowed. She then had fun examining her own joints and trying to work out which was which type.

We moved on to looking at cubits (distance from elbow to fingertips), fathoms (outstretched arms), spans (of hand) and paces as units of measurement, measured each other's and had a whale of a time estimating various distances using those and then measuring them. Doesn't sound very much written down like that, but it filled two hours solid and we've only just started. Still to come in the next skeleton session we're going to:

Draw round Emily and paint a lifesize skeleton on the cutout
Examine a bone split in half lengthways with the magnifying glass
Draw a diagram of the inside parts of a bone
Assemble a cut out paper skull
Measure Emily's bones as accurately as we can
Make an x-ray collage
Do an experiment with the eternally useful home-edders bit of kit - loo roll tubes, lol - to show what makes bones so strong but comparatively lightweight
Research lots of randomly interesting facts about bones/skeleton (well, we did that today, really, but Emily's going to write the answers rather than just discuss them)

Phew, that should do the trick. Then we've got detailed plans for looking at muscles, skin and hair, blood/circulatory system/heart, respiratory system/lungs, teeth and digestive system, urinary and reproductive systems, all five senses, the brain and various other bits and bobs I've forgotten. We've got enough planned for at least two sessions on each of those, so that should keep us going for a while and nicely tick the science box for the time being at least!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

End of Term Report ;-))

Today was "Parents Day" at the drama class, so we parents were treated to a full display of what goes on in the class. Was impressed with Emily. As well as taking part in all the rest of the bits and pieces as they showed us warm ups and the mad scientist scenario, Emily had to do a short mini script with her partner. They'd been given the script to learn a fortnight ago, but they had to make up their own ending to it, which we hadn't heard before. Emily spoke up really loudly, and her tone of voice, body language and gestures were spot on for the mood she had to get across.

The teacher confirmed today that Emily will be in the 7 and under group when they go back after Easter. In two minds about that - it will be a smaller group, I think just five children, so she'll get lots of attention, but the very small ones just mess around (understandably I guess, I think they're too young for it, personally) so I'm not sure how much it will stretch her or how long her patience will last. She doesn't relate all that well to littlies; gets on much better with older children. I'd still rather she was in the older age group, but we'll see how it goes. It's only for two terms, anyway, since once she turns 8 in Jan next year she'll automatically move up the next group.

The rest of today has been a day off, education-wise. Emily didn't go to tai chi this morning as she was still quite poorly when she woke up. She's spent most of the day doing arts and crafts whilst listening to HP & The Goblet of Fire on CD. Oh, well, there you go - that counts as crafts, literacy and listening skills then, Mr LEA Bod. The schools have broken up for Easter here, and boy can't you tell, with bored looking teenagers on every corner in the village :-( Prompted by this end of term mentality, I had a look back to my post on the 5th January when I outlined what we wanted to achieve, education wise, this "term". I said:

English: Concentrate on poetry - tick. We've done a lot of poetry work since January and it seems to be something Emily's really enjoying. She likes coming back to it time and time again.

Maths: Revise time and firm up money knowledge - semi tick. We're not getting very far with time beyond o clock and half past, but then again we haven't really pushed it either. Money knowledge is excellent now. I said we'd also try some more interesting stuff like area calculations - yep, and that worked well, together with the work on angles Emily did yesterday.

Art: Carry on with famous artists project and do pratical work with all the proper art materials Emily had for Christmas - tick, tick and more tick. Well, the practical work, that is - Emily's been attending the art class, has produced some fabulous pieces of work and loves spending time with Jon sketching or painting. We haven't gone back to the famous artists project - yet - but that's been purely a matter of time.

Science: More meaningful, practical experiments - um, no ticks here BUT we are poised to make a start on the human body project which is going to be jam packed full of exciting and stimulating experiments (says she confidently).

Geography: Focus on the local area and the UK - tick. We've done a fair bit in our local area project.

History: Didn't specify any particular ideas as we'd done so much history last year - as expected, we haven't really had a history focus so far this year, although Emily has learnt quite a lot about local history and historical research.

Music: Start on the Music Express course and look into a Famous Composers project - tick to the music express course which we've been doing regularly. Haven't even attempted the composers project; we've just had too much on, but will definitely hold onto the idea for future reference.

Crafts: Get sewing machine up and running - tick, and its being used regularly if not frequently.

IT: Start on a DTP or photo manipulation software - we haven't done either of those, but we are getting to grips with powerpoint and Emily's further extended her internet research skills.

D&T: Didn't actually include this in my list of plans but - tick, tick, tick, we've done a lot of practical technology work with lego and meccano etc.

Not bad, I'm pleased to see we've achieved most of what we set out to do. Having a vague plan has helped keep us focused so I'll have to give some thought to what we want to achieve between now and the summer.

I'm looking forward to two weeks without going out to drama, yoga or ballet. Tai chi and the art class are still running, but the others are on Easter break. About time! Having somewhere to go nearly every day isn't really my idea of bliss, unsociable being that I am, so it'll be good to have a short space of time when I don't have to watch the clock and think "oh bother, we haven't got time to start xyz now". It's about two years ago now that we first started to realise home education was an option; it was after Easter in 2004 when I started "helping" in Emily's school that we realised just how bad the situation there was. Feels funny to think we're nearly two years down the line now. It sure hasn't been a walk in the park and there have definitely been moments, too many to count, when we've questioned our own sanity in doing this.....but you know what? When it comes down to it, I wouldn't change a thing - and I'd do it again in a heartbeat :-))

A Cold? Surely Not!

Emily woke up this morning absolutely FULL of cold. Poor love has barely been finally free of the bronchitis for five flippin minutes. This one's more of a sniffly, sneezy head cold but it's still pretty rotten.

Anyway; yesterday Emily found out that she'd passed her yoga test, so she was mightily pleased about that. Her teacher spent a long time talking to me before the lesson and was saying that Emily's really lovely (her words), extremely polite and grown up, very attentive and really into what she's doing. Apparently, together with another girl of 11 who also takes it very seriously, Emily is her star pupil :-)) Proud parent moment :-))

Emily and Daddy came back from the hairdressers yesterday afternoon minus 6 inches of hair and plus some scrummy gadgets. Emily's hair looks gorgeous now. She had it washed, cut, straightened, moussed, blow dried, the works apparently. It's about 2" below her shoulders now, which is a big change from half way down her back, but it really suits her. While they were out, they spotted a juicer on offer in Lloyds Pharmacy, and a heart rate monitor too, as well as a blow up gym slope Emily's been wanting. Love it when they go shopping, they always come back with much more interesting stuff than when I go!

We spent the rest of the afternoon before yoga playing with the new toys. Juicer is a big hit, we've made all kinds of combinations with it, really delicious.

This morning, despite being very sniffly, Emily did some excellent maths. Decided it was time to investigate angles, as she's always being told in tai chi, yoga and art things like "turn 180 degrees" or "have your paint brush at a 45 degree angle". So we dug out Emily's protactor and away she went. She grasped measuring angles incredibly quickly and did three whole sheets of angles on a straight line up to 180 degrees without a single mistake. There was also a compass in her maths set so she had a play with that and we talked about diamters of circles and how to measure them, and how to measure the radius on a ruler before drawing with the compass to give a circle of a certain diameter.

After maths, Emily did some beautiful encuastic wax art, following some new ideas from a book she and Jon found in the local library.

After lunch, we worked on some simple design and technology stuff - using nets on paper to make 3D containers, to begin with, and then we moved onto looking at how materials can be strengthened by folding and by adding depth. Emily investigated this by making some paper beams to span across a gap between two chairs. She folded various shapes of beam including corrugated, rolled up etc and tested them with weights to see which worked best.

That's about it for the day, I think, home ed wise. There was a lot of playing too at various points. Jon and I pondered a lot on how to cope with a work load that seems to increase every single day without fail, expecially since neither of us are feeling very well at the moment. My back's playing up again, and Jon's so tired he's almost asleep on his feet. We were supposed to be having an early night tonight, and indeed did go to bed early.....but as I write this, at 00:50, the two kit-kats are going absolutely beserk up here. If we close the bedroom door, they scratch the hell out of it (so loudly you think they're yanking their claws out) and if we keep it open they're bouncing all over the bed hissing and spitting at each other. Don't think they used up quite enough energy in the garden today. Hey ho. Well, since I'm up I guess I may as well do some work!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pastels & Pyramids

It's been a productive day and a half. On Monday, Jon went for a chat with the doctor following his recent blood test. They had noticed a very low white blood cell count, which is apparently the result of an unidentified (as yet) virus - this is actually good news, as it helps to explain why he's been feeling so tired and pooey recently, and also why his blood sugar levels have been unusually high. He has to go back for another blood test in two weeks to see if it's resolved itself; if it hasn't, they'll do further tests to find out what's going on. Meanwhile, his Metformin dose has been upped temporarily to balance his blood sugar whilst the virus works itself out.

While he was out, Emily and I cracked on with some work. First of all we did some literacy work, looking at examples of two "settings" passages, one from the Mousehole Cat and one from something or other I can't recall the name of by Dick King Smith. Emily answered questions about the way each passage described the settings, and searched for similes and metaphors. She then looked through the first Warrior Cats book (did I mention how much we love those? Audience, have you read them yet? If not, why not?) finding real examples of similes and metaphors in the settings in the book.

Next we moved onto maths. Despite having a horror of being timed at anything, Emily bizarrely decided to try some of the time tests in the back of a KS1 book. Expecting the worst, I dug out the stopwatch and agreed. ROFL. She must have done half a dozen of the little tests, each expected to take something-in-minutes according to the space where you had to write how many minutes it took. All of them took her under one minute, with her record being 18 seconds!!!! They're only simple little ten question arithmetic sums test, but since technically she wouldn't yet be at the end of KS1 until July, I think that's pretty good going! So that now just leaves me wondering why, when I don't have a stopwatch out, a page of maths takes anything up to a flippin' hour depending on her mood. Hmmmm. Food for thought.

After lunch we started on our Human Body project, with a big chat about growing up and periods. Given that this is a little girl who has hysterics about a tooth falling out, you can probably imagine that the idea of periods didn't exactly go down a bundle to begin with. However, after LOTS of reassurance and hugs and reading and talking, I think we've now passed that hurdle, and she wants to do some diagrams and things to go in her project. Seven is a hell of a lot younger than I was when when this subject was broached but it fitted well with what we're going to be doing regarding the body and with puberty seemingly striking ever earlier, well, we felt it was a good time.

Next Emily did some yoga and we discussed the loads and loads of things we want to do in this body project; I think it's going to be a biggie.

Then it was time to go off to art class. Emily and Jon chose to do pastels this week, having a rest from acrylics, and came back with absolutely stunning scenes of pyramids at sunset. I LOVE these! Jon's is first, followed by Emily's:

Oh, and here's Emily's monet-esque harbour from last week:

This morning Emily put the finishing touches to her pyramid picture, and then did some more work on chakras. She discovered that the throat chakra can affect confidence in speaking up and approaching people, and that if it's not balanced it can lead to shyness and reluctance to be heard. She felt that hers needed some work, then, and discovered a yoga breath called Humming Bee Breath which apparently helps, so she practised that and then wrote all about it in her yoga journal.

More maths followed (more timed tests - should have discovered those ages ago!) and then some more English work on settings. That left just enough time to unpack the Tescos delivery and have lunch; Emily has now gone out with Jon to have her hair cut, and by the time she gets back it'll be time to get ready to go out to yoga and get her test results!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Life's Little Quirks

Was greatly cheered - not - to discover this morning that our tiny little 2 bedroom flat in Bracknell has just been sold for over 100k more than we sold it for 7 years ago. It's now so expensive that we couldn't afford to ever move back into it. Not that we'd want to now, size-wise, but you know what I mean :-(( Was further cheered to discover that the four bed detached house I lived in in Wokingham from age 5-18 ish has also recently been sold for nearly double what my parents sold it for when they moved up here seven years ago. It's now "worth" more than the six bed house with much larger garden that we currently live in. Okkkaaay. Isn't it funny how life turns out? If we'd stayed put in Bracknell, well, I can just imagine what we could do with an extra 100k in our pockets if we sold the flat now. But of course, we wouldn't have had Emily - quite possibly wouldn't have had any children since even with the price it was then we needed both of us out full time to cover the mortgage and I wouldn't have wanted to have a child and then have to rely in full time daycare.

I know you can't always look backwards and wonder "what if"....and I know life now has more benefits and positives than our life then did, in terms of working for ourselves and *of course* our beautiful daughter....but given our current pretty dire financial situation it does make you stop and think. It's a sad fact that we'll never be able to afford to move back to where both of us grew up and where we'd still love to be if we hadn't made the decisions we made.

Well, I don't think I've explained that very well, but it's made me feel kinda funny all day.

Have acheived the bare minimum of work today - the BBC deadline has been met but that's about all. Emily and Jon spent the morning painting - Emily finished her harbour picture and they both started painting a scene from the Warriors books. That went a bit pear shaped, as Emily got upset when she couldn't make hers turn out just so. They're going to give acrylics a rest for a while, I think, and have a go with pastels instead for the next few sessions. So, this afternoon they hot footed it out to the garden centre/art store to buy some more pastels and bits and bobs. I stayed here, feigned an attempt at working, and brooded.

When they got back, Emily and I made some scrummy chewy coconut cookies with a fresh coconut that needed using up. Have now eaten altogether too many of those so I have tummy ache. And I'm still brooding. Life, eh?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Absorbed in Books

There's something very magical about watching your child loving a book. For the last few days, Emily's hardly had her nose out of one. She's an excellent reader but for a long, long time, she was only really interested in reading non-fiction. She loved having fiction read to her, but never seemed to find the time to read it herself. Not any more! I think we have Mr Potter and friends to thank for properly awakening her interest in reading fiction.

Emily's now 3/4 of the way through the first Harry Potter book, having stuck at it resolutely. With her having spent much of the last three weeks very ill (and therefore not reading it) we thought she'd drop it but nope, now she's better she's picked it back up again with gusto. The other week she read the two new Magic Pony Carousel books from cover to cover, then yesterday the newly released Princess Mirror-Belle & The Flying Horse arrived (third and latest in the Mirror-Belle series by Julia Donaldson) - Emily started reading it on the way to Romy's house yesterday and has now finished it.

In this morning's wholesale delivery was Unicorn Wishes - Emily got back from ballet at 2.45; it's now 16.30 and she has spent the whole time curled up in a chair in the sunshine, totally absorbed in that one too. :-))In Monday's delivery we'll be taking stock of 14 sets of the Pet Keeper Fairies, latest in the interminable Rainbow Magic/Daisy Meadows malarky. I guess she could move onto those next, but as she's yet to touch her set of the jewel fairies, I'm guessing she's not that fussed. We made a rule in this house about those last time - if she wants to read them she can read them herself, as Jon point blank refuses to read the rainbow magic stuff to her - he suffered the originals, the weather fairies and the party fairies, but enough was enough - how many times can you write the same story anyway, for heaven's sake???

Apart from reading, what has Emily been up to? Well, Thursday morning she and Jon went off to tai chi. Their tai chi teacher has now taken his two daughters out of school to home educate them :-))) The eldest girl came with him to tai chi, so she and Emily were partners during the partner exercises. Hopefully that might be a new friendship in the making. On Thursday afternoon Emily had her drama class. Apparently next week the class will be perfoming some mini sketches for us parents to watch. Unfortunately, after Easter the class will be split in two, with Emily having been allocated to the 7 and under group. That would be OK, except she'll be by far the oldest in the group with lots of preschool kids. Hmmmm. She seems to do a lot better (and be a lot happier) when she's with older children rather than younger, like at yoga, for example. It's a shame she hasn't been bumped up into the 8+ class. We shall have to see how that one goes, as I can foresee Emily losing both interest and patience, potentially.

On Friday morning we worked on some maths, mainly fractions. Emily had to work out things like 3/10 of 70, 2/3 of 36 and and 4/5 of 25. The way it was explained in the book was incredibly long-winded and complicated so we abandoned that explanation and tried it in a far more common sense way. She soon got the hang of it and did about 20 of those without problems. And - drumroll - she says she liked doing those and can she do some more!!

Friday afternoon we went over to see Hazel and Romy for a play. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and I think the girls thought summer had arrived already - they spent most of the time out in the garden and came back in eventually looking like they'd had mud-baths....

This morning we went off to ballet; the teacher wasn't there (again) so the two assistants toook the class. Still no word on when these exams are, or indeed whether she's decided to cancel them since all they seem to be doing now is show rehearsals (and the show's not until the end of June, for flip's sake!!! - reminds me of the way schools seem to spend from October onwards doing nothing but rehearsing for Christmas plays....). I'm getting mightily fed up with the set up there. We seem to be paying for an absent teacher; there's no communication at all to the parents; many of the children in Emily's class, including Emily, are already a year too old for the exam they may be doing and should be doing the next level up; it's months since they did any tap or modern; plus this whole thing about asking which group Emily wanted to be in and then totally ignoring that is still rankling with me, blah blah blah. Told Emily that so long as she's happy she can keep going for the time being, but that if she gets fed up with it after Easter she doesn't have to go any more and that we'll investigate one of the other ballet schools in the area instead. May well do that over the summer holidays, to start somewhere new in September, even if Emily decides she wants to stay put for this coming term.

Going back to books - during her ballet lesson, I finished the first Warriors into the Wild book. It actually made me cry at one point (good job I was the only parent in the waiting room!) when a old cat from a rival clan, who thunderclan's leader had taken pity on, defended thunderclan's kittens against warriors from her own ex-tribe during a raid.... only to then be accused of killing the medicine cat, betraying the clan and kidnapping some was so movingly written. I've got to read the next one, Fire and Ice now. Jon and Emily are onto #3 - there are six in the first series and four in the second, New Prophecy series. Really can't recommend those books highly enough. Once again, in case anyone missed it: Warriors: Into the Wild is the first book in the first six book series, and the Warriors website is here. Go and read them!