Thursday, March 29, 2007

An Up & Down Week

It's had its highs, but it's had rather a lot of lows too. I've been very upset/depressed about lots of things and have spent much of the week in tears, and managing to upset everyone else too. Oh well, even if I am a crappy mother and wife, at least I'm honest about it.

Grandad broke his glasses over the weekend, so I spent most of Monday and Tuesday on the phone about them, taking him into the town centre to get them fixed and then going back again to pick them up. Have also spent ages on the phone trying to rearrange his diabetic clinic appointment. He's been given another appointment for the first of May, although we only went last week. It's clearly a mix up, since he's meant to go every 6 months. But he's keen to go every six weeks. Figures. Emily's tap exam happens to be on the 1st May at 10 am, while his appointment is on the 1st May at 9.30 am. No prizes for guessing which is apparently supposed to take priority. Meanwhile, STILL no word on Emily's new glasses. They're now due next Tuesday, but it's been I think over a month since our appointment and this is now the fourth time we've been told they're due in only to find out they weren't. Starting to lose patience. It's a shame, after I was so impressed with the actual appointment.

Emily was very poorly yesterday and today. We've spent a while curled up on the sofa watching films, notably Snow White with Miranda Richardson and Jack & The Beanstalk: The Real Story, both of which came free with a paper last week, and both of which were really enjoyable (although 3 hours for J&B was pushing it a bit!). We also watched Haunted Mansion with Eddy Murphy which was entertaining too.

Hopefully, Emily will be better tomorrow. On Saturday she's got two rehearsals for her yoga show plus the show itself, so we could do with a big health improvement in the next 24 hours.

Let's see, what else have we been up to. Well, the release of the cover art for the Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows book caused a stir of excitement, and we've spent a long time discussing clues in the artwork and an even longer time reading newsgroups and stumbling over yet more fascinating theories.

Workwise: Emily's done more latin, which she's really loving. In geography, we've been looking at plate tectonics and the ancient pangea super continent. Emily spent a long time on this Mountain Maker, Earth Shaker simulation and got a good grip on that, making notes in her geog notebook as she went along. She also tried her hand at a pangea jigsaw puzzle.

In history, we studied ancient European megaliths, which was very interesting. Emily's dying to go to Stonehenge. Personally, I'm just dying to go anywhere south of Lincoln. Anyway, Emily made her own little stonehenge from a kit we had, so it now has pride of place on her altar under the Ostara tree. She also filled in more relevant dates on one of the History Odyssey timelines and wrote about the theories behind stonehenge.
Maths was lots more percentage work and Emily also created a lovely page in her notebook with some of the percentrage rules and information. She wrote letters to Kate and her Mum in Poland, which I guess counts as English. A bit. The cat grass Emily planted on Ostara has grown amazingly well, so we've given that to the cats now. Not that they're that fussed, mind. Think they might like it better if we put it outside. At the moment they're looking at it with "What do you think we are, nuts? Grass doesn't grow on the living room floor...." faces.

No science this week, although we have abandoned the Great Science Adventures book. Just too fiddly. By the time you've faffed about building the little books, there isn't much time left to actually DO anything. We're going to go with the Real Science 4 Kids curriculum instead. I love that it's split into chemistry, physics and biology and that it jumps straight in with all the correct terminology etc. Emily's been wanting to learn "real" chemistry for ages and jumped up and down with excitement when the poster of the periodic table arrived yesterday. Strange girl.

I get the distinct impression that we're breaking some unwritten rule of UK home education by actually wanting to follow a structured system. I hardly ever post on newsgroups, but from lurking on some of them you'd think anyone NOT trying really hard to be autonomous was guilty of some henious crime. Well, whatever. It suits us, and it's actually working really well so far, with what limited time we've been using it given the constant interruptions and distractions. I feel a whole lot better about our days education wise, and Emily seems to be enjoying it, so that's what counts.

So, having got the education side of things sorted, if I could only start feeling better about everything else, we'd have cracked it. Sigh. Tomorrow we're off out for the day in an attempt to improve everyone's mental (if not physical) wellbeing.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ebay Stalkers

Don't you just love them?

We're now being cyber-stalked by some illerate woman from ebay who claims not to have received the two CDs she was sent. You know when you get the feeling, right from the start of a transaction, that something's not right? This particular woman hassled me non stop before she even bought the CDs, wanting to know exactly how long it was going to take, whether we could send to a friend's house, yadda yadda. Not just simple questions, but dozens of questions, in dozens of emails, often repeated over and over again. In one afternoon alone I think we had fourteen from her. Against my better judgement, I let her buy the stuff, but I think I said to Jon even as I was packing it that it was bound to "go missing". Surprise, surprise, it did. So we get another flood of emails asking where it is, why haven't we sent it, when will we send it, why isn't it there, when will she get it. Reply politely, reminding her that it was sent to a "friend" at her request. Yes, she says (minus the spelling, puncutation and grammar and over the course of half a dozen more emails) but the friend hasn't received anything.

OK, says me, sensing trouble. Check with your sorting office. If it's not there, get back to me and I'll issue a refund. Anything for a quiet life. Next thing I know she's opened a paypal dispute claiming that we won't answer her emails and have refused to refund her money (how did we do that if we didn't answer any emails, I wonder?). She got her refund, which she would have had anyway - and then sends me a threatening email stating that she intends to ruin our business and that we haven't heard the last of her and that we've defrauded her (sorry? Who's defrauded who, exactly?) and that she's going to report us to the Sun (?????????). She's clearly unbalanced. Leaves us a ton of negative feedback to that effect. I report her threat to ebay, who, of course, have done nothing. Next thing I know she's opened a new user name and "bought" something from us, then immediately emailed pretending to be this other person saying that she's read our disgusting feedback and wants to cancel. Sigh. I think she's too, um, intellectually challenged even to realise that her illiteracy is so distinctive that it's perfectly obvious who she is. Report her to ebay for malicious bidding/buying. Next I know, she's gone to our normal online store (not ebay) and started emailing us from there using yet another email address.

Honestly. Someone needs a psychiatrist.

Still, you win some, you lose some. With the bank at least, we appear to be winning. They've refunded us £700 so far, which accounts for the charges they took in March alone. They've also admitted a catalogue of mistakes and errors verbally, although we're still waiting for it in writing. They'll be coughing up a lot more than that before we've finished with them.

After our Ostara celebrations on Wednesday, Emily and Jon went off to tai chi on Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon Emily did bits and bobs of literacy work mostly. On Friday we got stuck back into our new curriculum, starting with Latin. We're onto chapter 2 now and we're studying the nominative and accusative cases. Emily did the online vocab tests for chapter 1 - she got 10/10 Latin-English in 22 seconds and 10/10 English-Latin in 16 seconds, lol, so I think she's getting the hang of it ;-))

After Latin we started on a new maths textbook. Heartily sick of all the normal KS2 cartoony rubbish, we found this Maths: Basic Skills textbook which is written for adult numeracy courses. Finally! A maths textbook like the ones I remember, without gimmicky pictures and patronising sweeties and rabbits examples. This one is really good. As far as I can see it covers everything that's covered in the primary maths curriculum plus a bit more, with worked examples of everything and sensible, challenging questions to answer, no fill in the blanks. We jumped into the middle with a chapter on percentages, which we've never formally done before. Emily loved it (and this is maths we're talking about!) and within minutes was confidently working out things along the line of "For each of these hourly pay rates, calculate the new rate of pay following a 4% pay rise". Think that one's a winner.

In the afternoon we just about had time for some history, the second part of the first lesson in the History Odyssey course. Emily filled in a map with the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Fertile Crescent, and wrote summaries about irrigation and Goddess worship to go in the binder. We had to rush out to the tap lesson after that, but having got there Emily started feeling really sick and poorly, so we had to come home again. She's better now, though.

There was no tap lesson yesterday morning as their Saturday teacher is away for 3 weeks, so Jon and Emiy went off mooching around charity shops instead and came back with an enormous haul of goodies including a rather fun Harry Potter quidditch game they found for the princely sum of £1. Meanwhile, I took my Dad for a run in our car, hoping it would play up while we were out so he could hear it and investigate, but it failed to misbehave, darned thing. So we're none the wiser as to what's happening with it, but it keeps slipping out of gear and making weird noises.

This morning Emily went to her karate lesson and was one of only five children who turned up, lol - the rest presumably got caught out by the clocks moving forwards, as did George himself who arrived ten minutes late. Ater a quick lunch, she got dressed up in lots of black sparkly things with glitter in her hair and went off out again to her friend Rhiannon's birthday party back at the same hall karate was in. She was very excited about that, so hopefully she's had a great time - they're not due back for a while, so I'd better get on with some work!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Celebrating Ostara

I think technically the spring equinox was yesterday, but we couldn't celebrate yesterday so we've celebrated Ostara today instead.

We read a lot about the history and symbolism of Ostara traditions, read the myth of Persephone and the Underworld again, read about the forms the pagan Goddess and God take at this festival and read about how the Christian church hijacked Ostara and its symbols of eggs, rabbits etc to become Easter.

Emily had fun blowing six eggs and blow painting them with food colouring via a straw. They're now in her special bowl on the altar under the tree.
Then she decorated lots of polystyrene eggs to go on our seasonal tree, which we also decorated with peacock feathers to honour the birds that begin to return to our lives at this time of year.
Since Imbolc, we've had on the altar some twigs from various trees and bushes in the garden. They all sprouted buds and leaves and one of them had rooted in the water too. Today, in honour of the Goddess, we planted all of them, using rooting gel for the ones that hadn't yet rooted.
Finally, Emily made some really scrummy Springtime Strawberry Bread.

Yesterday I was out all day taking Grandad to two separate hospital appointments, so Emily got a day off and spent it playing and making more fashion designs.

Monday, we started properly on our new curriculum. I abandoned the idea of having a day for science, a day for geography etc and decided it would be much better to have a little bit of everything, every day. So we started with maths, consolidating time telling again. Then Emily did the first half of the first lesson from History Odyssey, looking at the first nomads-turned-farmers in the Fertile Crescent. She wrote a summary in her history binder and filled in pertinent dates on the beautiful classical history timeline that came with it. While she was doing that, I read to her from Story of the World. After lunch, we continued with the Trail Guide to World Geography, this time doing a world mapping activity, with Emily having to identify and outline the seven continents on a world map, and add in the equator and the Arctic and Antarctic circle. We also studied map projections and Emily drew the world onto a blown up balloon before cutting the balloon and trying to turn it into a rectangular map, noting the distortions that occurred.

For science, we started on the Great Science Adventure space project book. It's quite fiddly, making little flap books for all sorts of things, but it was fun. Emily made a very posh looking vocabularly book where she wrote the definitions of astronomy and constellation, and she also made a question and answer book about why the constellations appear to rotate. Best of all, she got to play on my Dad's Sky Map astronomy software which he's kindly copied onto our laptop for us. She had an absolute ball with that, setting it to the correct date, time and place and finding her favourite constellations (on screen, not outside on this occasion as it was still light!) and stars. She got to grips with it very quickly and was soon setting it into time lapse mode to see everything rotating, and changing the place, dates and times to find some of the constellations not yet visible or not visible ever from here.

[added later - forgot!] We also started our Cambridge Latin course on Monday. Loved, loved, loved that. Emily picked it up really fast and I was hugely impressed with her ability to work words out. For instance, she worked out without even a second thought that the "scribit" in the sentence "Pater in tablino scribit" meant writing "because it's connected to words like scribe, scribble and script". We've got the DVD (ooops, sorry, "E Learning Resource" to give it its posh title) to go with the Cambridge course and that was excellent too. We'll be doing a bit of latin on every "normal" day, and I think we'll do rather well with that.

So, it's been a succesful few days for education, at least.

However, we've spent a lot of today in tears of anger and frustration thanks to the bank, yet again. This time, they decided to bounce two £200 cheques yesterday (and apply £70 charges, of course)....even though we were thousands of pounds in credit at the time. It's just beyond belief. Plus, on screen, our account balance says £x....but under available funds, where it has *always* until now said whatever our account balance is plus any available overdraft, now it says that "available" is less than £500, despite the "balance" being thousands. I have written and faxed with undisguised disgust, and I also telephoned. The woman on the phone adopted an "of course we're perfectly entitled to do this, you stupid customer, you just don't have a clue how the system works" attitude, which presumably will be their entire defence. The stress this is putting us all under is incredible. We're just waiting for them to get back to us in writing before we can take it any further, as the ombudsman can't intervene until we have their final position letter. Which, I'm certain, they are stringing out as long as possible.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Catnip & Banks

I think Royal Bank of Scotland could do with some catnip pillows. Perhaps then they'd all roll around, drooling, stretching and on such a high that they might treat their customers with some fairness and respect.

Got back from taking Emily to ballet yesterday to discover that despite my Mum and Dad breaking their necks rushing into their branch of Barclays on Friday and paying £20 for the privelege of this same day money transfer......and despite the money appearing in our account at 4pm on Friday, a full hour before close of business.......and despite that money putting us well and truly in credit.........RBS still chose to bounce every item due out of our account on Friday and apply yet another £140 in fees. What the...??? The money was THERE, on the screen, in the account, however you want to put it. It was THERE while the debit items were still listed as to be processed. How can they possibly justify this? It's insane.

Needless to say we saw red. I immediately sent yet another fax and letter (I'm keeping everything in writing, there's just no longer any point whatsoever in actually speaking to these people). We are now seeking compensation for damage to our business reputation and for emotional distress on top of every single penny of these ridiculous, excessive, extortionate, unreasonable and unlawful charges to be refunded. We are going to see this through to the bitter end, no matter how long it takes and whether or not it ends up in court if the Ombudsman can't help. I've never felt so angry about anything business related before.

Anyway. On a pleasanter note, Emily had a good time at ballet and tap. Since there are hardly any lessons for the next three weeks now, there are only a handful more before the exam on the 1st May. Kayleigh's Mum and I finally caught up with one another, having managed to just miss each other every lesson for the last few weeks. We had a good catch up chat while the two girls ran around giggling like the loons they are and critically examined the state of both of our cars, lol. It's amazing what you can find on back seats.

Yesterday afternoon Emily settled down to some more sewing, with some lovely squared cat fabric from ebay and half a ton of lavendar and catnip. She made two lovely lavendar scented little bags for Nana for Mother's Day, along with the purple clay pot she made earlier in the week.
She also made two little catnip pillows for the kit bits (can't interest Cassie Cat in catnip at all). She's going to make lots more for the shelter cats too. Just 'cos it cheers me up, here are some pics of the kit bits going all soppy with their little pillows!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Daddy's Week Part Two

Emily and Daddy have had a fab week. I think they've both thoroughly enjoyed it being a break from the normal routine. Together they've painted their flower pots, done loads more English work, studied the tarot again, made a crystal radio with a science museum kit (except they couldn't get it to work....typical with these flippin' kit things!) and done tons more maths and maths notebooking, with Emily getting to grips with some pretty complicated calculations. She did end up in tears over maths one morning though. Glad it's not only me that happens with! She soon calmed down and whizzed through it well after that.

Had to laugh at one point when she came upstairs to tell me maths had been really hard. I was making all the right noises when she added that she had tummy ache. Now, I've heard this a million times, 999,999 of them connected with maths harder than one plus one. I suggested that it wasn't a great idea to try that one on again. Little minx actually giggled and said "No, I really have got tummy ache now. I'm not pretending. I do that with you but I wouldn't do it to Daddy!" Well, it's good to know where I stand in the scheme of things!

So it's been a good week. I've "kinda" got to grips with the writing for money malarky and know where I'm headed with that now, so it's been good for me too.

Today none of us got very much done, though, as it was dominated by The Bank. Frankly, it's been a bit of a day from hell. I mentioned that I wrote a long letter of complaint to Royal Bank of Scotland a fortnight ago. This week we had a holding letter back, making polite noises about investigating it and that it was a complicated matter but that we could expect to hear from them again in x amount of time. In the meantime, however, our beloved bank managed to artificially engineer a situation whereby they've taken £560 in fees from us in just THREE DAYS, and that's just unpaid item fees, it doesn't yet include excess overdraft fees and interest. Very, very long story. All this in just three days, because one item that actually for once *should* have been bounced (and for which were were fully prepared with a contingency plan from an alternative account) was allowed through, purely so that they could shove us into a massive overdraft and then refuse to pay any of the other numerous smaller items which we were confidently expecting to clear and which were too far into the system to stop. The inconsistency with which they are allowing items through or not allowing them through, with no apparent rhyme nor reason, has been a major factor in our cashflow problems and a major part of my detailed, itemised complaint. We can categorically prove that decisions they claim were policy one day didn't follow what happened another day, and there is a very clear, demonstrable pattern to show that their decisions have been based purely on maximising their own fees.

Oh yeah, and to top that a final demand arrived from a supplier. Fortunately, we were able to talk them round away from taking legal action against us, but ironically we did have the money due in next week to pay them - except that most of it will now be paying the bloody bank instead.

In the end we were left with no option but to take my Mum and Dad up on an extremely kind offer to lend us some money to cover this huge overdraft so that the account would start functioning again. The bank refused to consider an emergency overdraft extension, failed to return calls, failed to offer any kind of customer service whatsoever. My parents were able to do something (is it an expedited bank transfer?) that got the money from their account to ours same day (today). Had they not, the bank would have been quite deleriously happy to continue charging us well over £100 a day indefinitely. Money due into the account next week would have just been swallowed up by the fees in a vicious circle. I know we have financial difficulties (although in our opinion, our problems began with a major mistake by this bank which they admitted WAS a mistake) but we don't deserve to be treated like this. Banks are supposed to "help".

Anyway, suffice it to say that the emotional stress this latest incident has caused has been enormous. As far as we're concerned, and as Jon by phone and I in writing have made very clear, we believe they are acting not only unethically but also now illegally. Our complaints with this bank stretch back nine months and cover all kinds of crap behaviour and extorionate fees but this last three days they have incensed me so much that I am absolutely determined to wring from them a full apology and every single penny back. Of course they're not going to offer that, but we will go from them to the Banking Ombudsman via a solicitor and the small claims court if necessary. They are doing their very best to put this small family business OUT of business and it's a very long time since I've been so FURIOUS.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Emily's Emotions Poem

It wouldn't let me add this to the post below, for some reason, so here it is in its own post instead!

Love is flirting with Happiness,
Fear is hiding under the bed,
Enjoyment is dancing to loud music,
While Sadness is crying in a corner.
Hate is kicking everything he can reach,
Embarassment hides with Fear,
Surprise jumps every time something moves,
Jealousy is sulking.
Pain lies on the bed yelping,
Anger is stomping around,
Melancholy sits with Sadness,
Greed is trying to find the sweets.
Paranoid hides with Embarassment,
Broken-Heartedness mournfully watches Love,
While Boredom just lies on the floor.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Daddy's Week, Part One

Jon's in charge of Emily's education all this week and to my dismay it appears to be going rather well ;-))

Yesterday morning they did lots of maths, half an hour in Emily's Just Write book and Emily also produced a beautiful entirely self-directed piece of poetry called "Emotions":

Before lunch, they also squeezed in making pottery vases, which are now waiting to be painted.

After lunch they spent a long time looking at the Stone Age and Emily discovered the games on the BBC History website and had to be physically removed from the site at about 7pm.

Emily was rather ecstatic with the way the day went and told me in no uncertain terms how much she loved Daddy's style of teaching. Presumably they haven't covered tact yet!

Yesterday evening while Jon was out at psychic circle, Emily and I watched the final of Project Catwalk. Wayne was my favourite throughout so I'm chuffed he won. Emily wanted Luke to win but settled grudgingly for Wayne in the end. She's been designing like mad all week on and off in preparation for the final, lol. She particularly liked these designs, and so did we :-)

This morning Jon and Emily did lots more maths and Emily wrote a long interview style story called The Potions Class. Then they started learning Tarot together, rofl. Emily was drawn to the the Tower card in particular and they spent ages discussing the history of tarot and the symbolism of that particular card. Not sure what the LEA would make of that, but since Emily told me chapter and verse about it all this evening she obviously thoroughly enjoyed it! This afternoon, after a brief interlude for Emily to try on her lovely new sparkly leotard and tights for her tap exam, they got back to business doing lots of yoga practice (Jon too!) and with Emily teaching Daddy her tap routines.

This evening I took Emily to yoga where there was much frenzied play practising going on. Emily's going to do a reading at the end of the play of her yoga haiku poems too :-)) She also came out of the lesson rather chuffed to have received a party invitation for her friend Rhiannon's 8th birthday. Since there are apparently going to be 45 kids there and since she won't know a single one of them apart from the birthday girl, I was highly surprised that she's really keen to go, so going she is. Blimey, I certainly wouldn't have wanted to go at her age. We must be doing something right, confidence wise then. I don't even want to go now as an adult, lol, but fortunately Jon's volunteered to take her. Mind you, you have to bear in mind that this is coming from a Mum who was so painfully socially anxious that I never once even met Emily's playgroup teachers or attended her playgroup - Jon did all that on his own, I think everyone thought he was a single Dad :-/ I didn't pluck up the courage to leave the flippin house until she started school, so I am getting ever so slightly better these days. It's a relief to know that my "wouldn't go to that if you paid me" attitude isn't rubbing off on Emily then!

While Jon and Emily have been having fun downstairs, I spent yesterday listing some of our books on ebay here and here (business or personal account depending whether they were bought via the business or not) and I spent today attempting to get my act together with this "hey, we can make a living writing!" malarky. Hmmmphh. It's one thing to say that, it's quite another to put the wheels in motion and needless to say I didn't get very far. It's awfully lonely up here when hubby and daughter are downstairs. Now I know how Jon feels most days!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mixed Bag of Doings

Oh, look, there went another week! It would be nice if the cosmic clock slowed down once in a while, I'm losing track here.

Emily has been very busy this week cleaning, sorting and rearranging all of her ornament shelves (again!). In her spare time this week she's also made a dancewear catalogue and written fourteen entries in a diary she's invented, writing as Severus Snape the Teenager. It's very well written; she's got an alarmingly good take on being a disaffected teenager!!

Friday was our arts and crafts day; Emily wanted to make some toys for the cats so we raided our material box and made mice stuffed with valerian, chamomile and hops (didn't have any catnip but Emily had tested the herbs on the kit bits and knew which ones they liked). Here's Emily's exceedingly cute and well done mouse, being enjoyed by JuJu - Romeo liked it too but I didn't get any pictures of him. Cassie Cat didn't play with it but then she doesn't really "do" toys. And none of the cats liked my mouse!:

Having enjoyed doing that so much, Emily decided to make loads of cat toys to take to our local cat shelters and rescue places. She spent all day yesterday on it and she's doing some more today when she gets back from karate. So far she has five mice, a heart and a ball. When we've got a box full, we'll find out who would like them and take them along :-)

Work-wise, we've been looking at just about everything under a microscope - Emily's favourite was her cheek cells. We've done tons of English work, maths every day, more citizenship and Emily has started on the daily geography practice from the Trail Guide to World Geography which is going to be our geography "curriculum" for a while. Horribly US centric, natch, but that's easy enough to work around. At least it's secular. We've also started doing a "Question a Day" thingy to get brains working first thing in the morning. Basically, I just write random questions on index cards, Emily picks one without looking and scoots off to the laptop to research the answer for 10 minutes or so and makes a brief note of it. This week she did "Who was St David and when/what is St David's Day?", "What is a hypercaust?" and "When and what was D-Day?". She rather likes doing that and I guess it's good practice for IT based research skills.

Everything new I wanted for our "curriculum" is now in place; this means I have about 50 books we're not using any more to list on ebay, lol, so that's my job for next week. I'm using the term "curriculum" as such becuase it's not set in stone and we're not going to follow it rigidly, but we all feel the need for a lot more structure so that's what we've now got. As well as the geography one mentioned above, we will also be using the Cambridge Latin course, Classical History Odyssey and the Great Science Adventures books, starting with the space one. We'll do maths, English, Question of the Day, quick geography exercise (literally five minutes, those are) and latin each Mon-Thurs morning, with the rest of each Mon - Thurs day being devoted to one of geography, science, history and "other stuff". Fridays are reserved for arts and crafts. Obviously we can be flexible and when necessary abandon the schedule in order to follow hugely interesting interests, go out for the day or generally have a break, but at least this way when we're having a "normal" day we all know and like what we're doing. This plan won't fully kick into action until the week after next since next week Jon and Emily will be doing all kinds of stuff together whilst I concentrate on business work :-))

Speaking of business work, we wrote a four page itemised complaint to Royal Bank of Scotland on Monday, regarding the catalogue of errors, bad service, extortionate fees and illogical decisions they've made on our account in the last six months. I daresay nothing will come of it, but it made us feel an awful lot better to itemise in writing, transaction by transaction, things we feel have been unfairly handled by them and have contributed to our current business woes.

Wednesday last week we had a bit of a do about maths, Emily and I did. Sigh. Again. Having spent hours on Tuesday making beautiful telling the time notebook pages, by Wednesday morning she was back to not telling the time again, which pushed all the wrong buttons in my head and led to a not very pretty argument :-( We abandoned the day and went off to Normanby Hall instead, where we had a fab time playing death eaters in the forbidden forest :-)) and eating a rather scrummy lunch. At one point during the death eater malarky, though, Emily and I lost one another in the woods. We'd gone in completely opposite directions, thinking we were following one another. By the time we'd realised we weren't, we were out of shouting distance. Eeeep. I knew Emily would be perfectly safe, but I knew she'd be worried and scared too. Cue fifteen minutes of me running about like mad screeching for her, retracing my steps and asking people if they'd seen her. Quite sensibly, Emily had in fact made her way out of the woods and to a part where there are lots of trees and benches, and sat down to wait for me.....for quite some time, since I hadn't dared leave the woods thinking she was still in there. Eventually she made her way back close enough to the woods to hear me yelling and we found each other. She was a bit upset, but she'd done the right thing so I was pleased about that. Second time in a week that she'd ended up without me, lol, given that plus the episode from ballet last Saturday.

Other doings this week have included long phone conversations between Emily and Kate in Poland, LOTS of tap practice, ballet, yoga, tai chi, encaustic wax art sessions and Emily planting a new flowering cherry tree next to Merlin's grave. She wanted to plant there so the blossom would fall on his grave because when he was alive he would have liked to chase it. Bite back tears. Have been thinking and dreaming a lot about Merlin recently. Oooh, yes, and at Jon's psychic circle last Monday he picked up on a drunken Irishman (!!!) and was able to describe his appearance, mannerisms, way of speaking etc apparently down to a tee - one of the guests felt it was her ex husband's father.

I've been fretting about Emily's social life again (so what's new?). I was worried that she doesn't see very much of most of her friends with them being at school all the time. One day I was feeling sad and she asked me what was wrong so I told her that I was worried she felt lonely a lot of the time. She was most indignant and told me in no uncertain terms that she certainly was not lonely and that she's perfectly happy with her social life thank you very much. Well, that's me told! It's odd really - when I was Emily's age I had far fewer friends than she has but I was perfectly happy with my own company, just as she is. Yet although I felt that was perfectly OK for me, for some reason I felt it wasn't OK for Emily and that she must be "missing out". It's strange how parental perceptions of what we want for our children so often don't match up to what our children actually want and feel.

There was some good news on the social front, though. One of Emily's best friends at playgroup was a little girl called Rosie. Rosie got left behind at playgroup when Emily started school and although Emily "looked after" Rosie when she came to visit the school on an induction day, by the time Rosie actually started school Emily had stopped going, so they haven't really seen each other since they were little. Rosie's Mum is now going to tai chi on Thursdays though, so she and Jon and Emily had a long talk. It transpires that Rosie's going to start at karate with Emily next Sunday and is very excited about that, so hopefully we can get the two of them back in regular contact, which will be lovely.

And speaking of school, I had an interesting conversation with a mum at ballet on Friday night. Her daughter used to go the school in the next village down from us, but she started at Emily's former school in our village in September - and apparently has been bullied relentlessly, to the extent that they're considering pulling her out of school, not to home educate unfortunately, but to put her back into the one in the next village. They've been in to see the head numerous times and X,Y,Z has been promised but not done. The class teacher is "not interested", in the other Mum's words. I know it's shallow and probably a rather cruel thing to feel, but to be honest it always makes me feel better when someone has unpleasant things to report about "that school" :-//

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Eclipse Watching & "The Dark Arts"

Well, OK, that should be psychic arts, probably, but couldn't resist the Harry Potter-ish title!

We had a great time last night watching the lunar eclipse. Completely clear skies, it was lovely. Emily got her telescope and binoculars out and whilst the moon was "doing its thing" we also used some star charts to constellation spot, making out the plough, the pole star, Cassiopeia, Orion and his belt, Sirius, Gemini and part of Taurus. We did take lots of photos, but none of them came out particularly well - have yet to learn the art of photography in the dark!I promise those really are two pics of the moon, not just random blobs from paintshop pro!! And here's stargazer in chief:
Earlier yesterday evening, Jon did a fun psychic test for me and Emily. At least, it started out as a bit of fun, but Emily's results would certainly have delighted Professor Trelawney (mine, on the other hand, were rubbish!). For the test, Jon drew us each a set of five identical sybmols/pictures placed in envelopes, and as we held the envelopes we independently tried to sense what they were. I should add that no, you couldn't see through the envelopes (I tried!) and anyway, Emily was sitting on the floor in front of me as she worked and wasn't cheating in any way (the very suggestion! She'd be very offended I've written that!). Jon deliberately stayed out of the room while we were doing it so there was no chance of his facial expressions giving something away or anything like that, and had told us nothing except that each envelope held a shape, symbol or picture. Emily and I also didn't discuss it or show one another what we'd drawn.

Emily's first two were partial matches: for the broomstick, she got two parallel lines and for the star she got a dotted triangle (well, star's made of triangles...). Emily's guess on the left, Jon's pic on the right:
Where it started to get decidedly interesting was the last three envelopes. For the witches hat, Emily got a triangle; for the four ringed spiral, Emily got a, um, four ringed spiral and for the crown she got an almost idential shape even complete with dots. She thought it was a flower, but the shape was spot on!
I'm not a statistician and have no idea of the odds of getting these results by chance alone, but let me put it this way - Jon and I were pretty impressed. I'm not sure what the LEA would make of it though ;-))

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Well, At Least It Counted As Exercise

Traumatic experience this morning.

Took Emily to ballet. Left her there and went to Asda carpark, five minutes away in the car, not to shop but just to read in peace in the car. I had to pick Emily up at 1.15. At 1pm I started the car, or at least attempted to. Nothing. Lots of warning lights, zilch effort from the engine, loud beeping noise. Turn key back off and try again. Repeat a few times. Look at clock. Realise that yet again, as is my wont, I've left home with no cash on me and no mobile phone. I never carry my wallet unless I think I'm going to spend something and I never, repeat never, carry a mobile phone unless we're away on holiday. That may well change from now on!!!

Eeek. In my, um, less than fit condition I know it's going to take me an awful lot longer than the remaining 12 minutes or so to walk to Emily's ballet place. Begin to panic. Rush into Asda and explain the situation to a kind lady there. She lets me use the phone to call home. No answer from our number. Speak loudly on answerphone hoping Jon's around somewhere and will hear. Nothing. Call my Mum and Dad's number. Nothing. I don't know by heart the number of anyone else who could help. I don't even know Jon's Dad's number, even though he lives in the same house as us (with separate phone). Frantically search in the kindly provided phone book to find the number for the Figure Factory where Emily is to tell them I'm going to be very late. Can't find it. They can't get directory enquiries from their phone. Rising panic. Now only have about 8 minutes to get there.

OK, nothing for it, have to leave and walk FAST. It's a hell of a lot further than it looks in the car and the last half a mile or so is up an *extremely* steep hill. Walk as fast as I can, head down, red faced, out of breath and in tears. Arrive VERY late (I think it was 20 minutes late in fact but since I didn't even have a watch on, who knows??) to find Emily deeply distressed, sobbing and being comforted by her teacher and a kind Mum who'd stayed behind with her. Very, very grateful to them. However, that still leaves us stranded there, a long way away from the car, with no money, no phone and since I'd left the car in such a panic, not even a coat for Emily who was shivering in her ballet leotard. The woman behind the bar is usually a total and absolute dragon, but there, you shouldn't judge people. She very kindly lent me her mobile to call home again. This time, Jon answered. Fifteen minutes later, Jon and my Dad arrive to pick us up. Back to Asda, find car. My Dad gets in car. Car starts immediately and looks very pleased with itself. I feel like dissolving into tears.

Spooky things. Jon was at at home all the time, but didn't hear our phone ring the first time because somehow it had been turned right down. My parents were at home all the time too, sat eating their lunch at the table with the phone on it. We can't explain why they didn't hear it. We don't know what was wrong with the car; best guess is that it was a hiccup in the immobiliser (which I didn't even know we had, so therefore didn't imagine that could be it and wouldn't have known how to disable it anyway even if I had known). Lots of horrible coincidences leading to all that trauma. Before we left home this morning, Emily came rushing out of the loo and said she'd had what she calls a vision. What she means by that is a voice in her head announcing something. She said it was "Do not abandon your normal pattern". At the time, we shrugged and thought nothing of it. Spooky thing number 304, however, was that I don't normally go to Asda. I normally just sit in the ballet car park and read and was going to do that today too until I decided otherwise on the spur of the moment. Had I stayed in the car park at ballet, it would of course have avoided most, if not all of the trauma.

Oh well. Jon and I are both following resolutions to use the exercise bike for at least 20 minutes a day, but I think my panicked trek all the way to ballet and up *that* hill must surely earn me some extra brownie points!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New Approach to Home Ed/Specsavers Rant!

Have decided to try an entirely new approach to our home ed, in conjunction with the notebooking I posted about earlier. More about that in a mo.

Emily's had a good week so far with lots of tap practice (exam looming again) and a hilarity filled Tuesday evening practising for the play they're doing at yoga. Today we went to the opticians at Asda where a lovely guy gave Emily probably the most thorough eye examination she's ever had and was generally excellent with her. She chose some new very glam purple frames, and has now come off six monthly recalls and only needs to go back once a year. And not one person asked her "shouldn't you be in school today?"

Emily did have an appointment at Specsavers for a little while ago, but I finally gave up in disgust with them, and we didn't keep the appointment. I'll be writing to them to complain about their behaviour re home ed. Every single time I've made an appointment with them over the years, they've insisted on trying to make it for "after school", despite having known all this time that Emily's home educated. This latest phone call absolutely infuriated me - the woman I spoke to treated me like some kind of ASBO holding parent because I'd dared to say I wanted a morning appointment and that school hours weren't relevant to us due to home ed. She repeatedly told me it was their policy to only see children after 4pm so as not to interfere with their education (rofl). I told her that it's in Emily's records that she doesn't attend school, and besides which every other appointment we've had has always been in the morning. She stuck to her guns. Eventually, she told me she'd have to ring me back after speaking to someone to see if I was allowed to bring Emily in the morning!!! "Allowed"??????? What the hell? So it's up to Specsavers to deem when I'm "allowed" to take my daughter to a medical appointment?? Even if she were in school, it's still none of their damn business if I had chosen to choose to take her during school hours. Sheesh.

Plus we've always met with hostility there whenever someone (and there was always one) asked her the shouldn't-you-be-in-school thing - I think I posted here once about how one woman there even told me she didn't think home education should be legal if the child was an only child.

Anyway, I digress with that little rant. Specsavers have had it. Asda's opticians were brilliant, I was very impressed. And when I phoned to make the appointment, the lady on the phone just asked me what sort of time I'd like to come, and didn't make any comment or quibble whatsoever at my request for a morning. There is hope.

Despite our obviously irresponsible parenting (rolls eyes) Emily's had a good week education-wise too. She's started a maths notebook with a times table square on the first page, all beautifully decorated and illustrated with crafty bits. The author of this book kindly sent me some complimentary copies, so we may have a go at that soon (although I'm starting to think that with times tables it'd be easier just to get Emily to look it up on her chart each time she needs it....I'm sure it will eventually sink in, as these things do seem to do given time).

Emily's also discovered a love of Microsoft Powerpoint this week and has spent hours making pretty slideshows about cats and werewolves (don't ask) complete with sounds, video and all sorts of special effects. We've also spent quite a lot of time studying citizenship, Harry Potter style :-)) This was prompted by my stumbling upon this rather nice set of citizenship lesson plans from CBBC Newsround, each based on a news story. Among them is one debating the pros and cons of the hype surrounding Harry Potter books and films, which was interesting, if a bit contrived.

From there, 'twas but a short leap of google search to find this fab (if you're Emily's Mum) Teaching Citizenship via Harry Potter site. Emily and I discussed racism in HP (pure bloods vs muggle borns, treatment of house elves and werewolves etc) and drew paralells with Nazism. Emiy also designed a very effective poster for a Werewolf Protection Society, complete with some attention grabbing points, a logo and a heartfelt plea for action :-) That was with ideas from the diversity section; we'll definitely come back and look at the other sections; that was a lot of fun.

Now then, this new approach to home ed. Have decided we're going to try and combine the notebooking thing, which is working well, with a classical home ed style, using Story of the World and History Odyssey among other things, along the Well Trained Mind style. This is completely new for us and may well not suit us, but at the moment it sounds as though it will, and I've always been wanting more structure than we have. I've also got a few new things for geography and science coming. Will sell off most of the stuff we currently have, I think. And we're going to stick to a one day a week per subject timetable, with half an hour each of maths and English each day, plus one of history, geography, science and art, plus the other day to cover a rotating selection of things like citizenship, RE and so on. This must be about the dozenth time I've posted about a new start/new style in the last two and a half years, but we're really excited about this one, so you never know, this could be The One that finally works for us. We shall see!

In more personal news, I won a new commission from a very glossy, upmarket magazine on Tuesday evening. It's a one off piece at the moment, but the editor seems to like me (ha - only 'cos he's never met me in real life) so it may well lead to more. Jon had his first go at platform mediumship at psychic circle on Monday and was apparently very impressive :-)) Oh, and joy of joys, our online banking screen today reports that they've bounced the VAT cheque. Despite it only being £37 over the overdraft limit, and despite there necessarily being a hell of a lot more than £37 due in within the next 24 hours and despite their absolutely, definitely, certainly *being fully aware* of that. Bas**rds. We await with interest what HM Customs and Excise are going to make of what they will now, presumably, count as a late payment. Sigh.

And this has been an awfully long post with no pictures to break it up a bit! *Must use camera more often.*