Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Remarkable Week

Jon is now back from the Magic of Mediumship course he attended in Scarborough last week. As life changing moments go, the week was pretty full of them. During the week he exhibited some really pretty extraordinary talents in mediumship, handing out information he couldn't possibly have known about people he'd never met before. The three course tutors were impressed and apparently spent quite a while discussing Jon and his growing abilities and his spiritual energy. During this week Jon has also become aware of people's auras and has returned home with a level of serenity I've never seen in him before :-)) The course ended with individual personal assessments, during which Jon was told in no uncertain terms that he needs to continue down this path.

So, that's pretty much where we're heading. I'm soooo pleased he went ahead with the course despite the spiteful put downs from certain people who are supposed to care about him. It's as if everything has a new and rather wonderful perspective now. We have on going business worries etc but they're starting to become pretty unimportant in the scheme of things. There's a huge amount of personal and spiritual growth going on and I think it's all rather amazing and fantastic :-)))

Emily and I have been "home alone" all week without Jon, missing him terribly but loving the phone calls. Emily has been an absolute star and more or less completely took over the business of pulling out orders to be packed. She was pulling out well over 50 items a day, faultlessly and tirelessly, which considering our stock is scattered pretty much throughout the house in fairly random order (!!) is quite some achievement for a littl'un. We didn't do any "work" this last week education wise, as I was so busy trying to keep up with the daily business running which Jon normally takes care of - but I reckon Emily learnt a lot about commerce, if nothing else! She was wonderful company and we did find time for lots and lots of pretends.

It's Emily's karate grading tomorrow - it was supposed to be last Sunday, but George put it off a week especially for Emily, bless him, as last Sunday we were up in Scarborough all day dropping Jon off. It's also Emily's tap exam next week. Things have rather come to a head with the dance lessons; I think I've mentioned before that she hasn't been happy there for quite a while now, but Friday and today were the last straw.

Yesterday my Mum and Dad took Emily to her lesson as I couldn't get there - Emily and all the other children who dared to make a mistake during the set dance were sent out into the waiting room for most of the lesson!! Is that what we're paying for?? This was after Emily had been belittled by the teacher and reduced to tears after being made to do the same move over and over again. The teacher is apparently too stupid to realise that with some (most?) children, forcing them to do something over and over again in an increasing state of nerves and tension, in front of everyone else, whilst alternately making sarcastic comments or yelling at them, is not likely to help them get it right. I know the kids have to be taught and they have to be shown how to get it right, but that woman's attitude is just going beyond. She has no clue how to handle children respectfully or kindly, especially the more sensitive ones. This morning, the other teacher announced in front of all the children and parents at the end of the lesson that Emily, her friend Kayleigh and one other child would have to stay behind at the end of the lesson because they just couldn't get a particular step right. This again after a whole lesson of being belittled and wound up. Emily didn't want to stay. Nor did Kayleigh. The four of us walked out.

Emily will do the exam (because she wants to, having worked so hard for it), and she'll return for the following two weekend lessons (only because we have arrangements in force for picking up/dropping off Kayleigh to play). Then that's it. We've had enough. I'm extremely sure we can find something to do on a Saturday morning that's actually *fun*. If we wanted our daughter bullied by teachers, made to feel two inches high and turned into a nervous wreck, we'd send her to school!

On a lighter note: my Dad found this great site: Archimedes Puzzle Lab. Really fun stuff there. It took me AGES to figure out how this trick is done, but I was quite pleased with myself when I got there in the end!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Marshmallow Molecules

I think we have finally found where we're at with home ed. Famous last words, I'm sure, but the new "curriculum" really seems to be suiting both Emily and me. We're getting so much more done, and Emily's enthusiastic and into it, so neither of us are bored or wondering what to do next. I'm a happy bunny with the way it's going and it's been several weeks now, which is the longest I've stayed a happy bunny about any style of home ed we've tried so far.

All good. I want to document that feeling so I can look back on it later if and when it all goes pear shaped yet again!

Latin is going fabulously well; we're near the end of Stage 3 in the first book now and Emily's just soaking it up. She especially loves talking latin in the car on the way to somewhere, lol. She seems to have intuitively grasped the grammar so far too, although we've only covered nominative vs accusative case and first/second/third declensions.

On Tuesday morning Emily checked on and watered her tomato seeds, got to grips with long multiplication, did latin, spelling and made a sequinned headband with her sequin thingy. In the afternoon we looked at the second of the Chemistry lessons, which was all about molecules. Again, I learnt more there than I think I ever did in school. The practical task was great fun, and involved making molecules from marshmallows :-)))

Tuesday evening was yoga, with just four girls there for some reason so that was a very intensive lesson. Emily's flexibility is coming on in leaps and bounds just at the moment.

Yesterday there was more latin, more long multiplication and a stab at long division, history looking at the Hittites and the second section of biology, which was an extremely indepth look at the anatomy of cells, and the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and between animal and plant type cells. Lots of diagram labelling and enthusastic "can we find out what that bit's for?" stuff. We looked at cheek cells and onion cells under the microscope a few weeks ago, but I think I'll try and find some iodine/methylene blue to stain with and we'll do it again now we know what we're looking for.

Yesterday we also took Emily's new glasses back to Asda to ask about the seeing-rainbows-all-around-the-edges-of-her-vision-that-can't-be-right-surely thing. Apparently, this was happening because the top and bottom edges of the lenses had been buffed to a high polish for "cosmetic reasons", so of course any light entering there was being refracted (if that's the right term) hence rainbows. Well, um, OK. Yes, I guess that would do it. So - why were they polished then??? I've checked the numerous pairs of glasses in this household including all of Emily's old ones and none of them have had this polishing the edges malarky. It would, after all, appear to be sensible NOT to polish the edges. The glasses have now been returned and no doubt we'll have to wait another month before they come back in a useable, non rainbow state. And I was so impressed with Asda to begin with. Sigh.

Today Emily and Jon went out to tai chi whilst I struggled vainly in cyberspace trying to fix the fact that has vanished off the face of the earth. It's still gone. I have hopes of tracking it down at some point. We've abandoned OSCommerce and parted with the "designer" who was "helping" us with that; we're going back to good old actinic and a brand new domain name for the shop, which has yet to be uploaded and faffed about with. The main site, however, merely transferred hosting from the least-said-about-the-better designer to a household name company. This happened on Monday. The site was fine yesterday. Today, I have no clue what's happened to it and I can't re-upload it either. I'm so not the right person to be handling this technical stuff.

No "work" as such for Emily today, although she's been extremely busy working anyway, lol. She's been focusing on writing the yoga sequences she has to do for her next test - she's completed the ten pose one and the twenty, but she still has the thirty to do and the meditation to write as well. She's also written me a comprehensive walkthrough for one of the Harry Potter PC games that I got stuck on. It's 8 pages of closely written A4 so far, and counting. It looks every bit as good as any of the ones I could find online, so maybe we should publish it when she's finished!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tomatoes and Thrushes

Had an extremely busy weekend, as I had three article deadlines today, so I spent most of the time hunched over the desk. Jon took Emily to tap and to karate on Sunday - karate grading again week after next, that's come round very quickly.

This morning Emily and I set up our seed growing experiment from Tomatosphere so we now have a little forest of plastic cups, peat pellets and hopefully developing seeds. There are also some pumpkin, poppy and sunflower seeds waiting to germinate in the forest somewhere, and some rice and a few other things Emily wanted to try out.

While I was taking the above photo, I noticed a beautiful adult thrush, complete with meal, hopping around on the wall just outside the window. It seemed very agitated. Yesterday, Romeo had a baby thrush on the lawn, but Jon rescued it and it seemed unharmed, so he put it in the hedge at the bottom of the garden, hoping it would be OK. I was buy taking pictures of this adult thrush without realising....that there was a baby thrush nestled in the stonework lattice of the wall - that's what Mum must have been looking for! I took this first photo without even spotting the baby until afterwards.

The position the baby was in was extremely vulnerable to the cats, and Ju Ju had already spotted it, so we felt we had to do something. Jon rigged up a hanging basket type arrangement and we were going to pop baby bird in that and hang it from the tree nearby, hoping that Mum would still be able to find it. However, the baby had other ideas. It was clearly on the verge of fledging and it hopped straight out of the basket and onto the ground again, fluttering and hopping away. It could fly, but only at grass level. Anyway, it hot footed it off across the garden and eventually into next door's garden. Well, we tried. Kept the cats shut in for an hour to give it a good chance of finding somewhere to hide. I daresay, since Mum found it the first time, she'll find it again, and it's on the verge of flight. Better off hidden next door than sat in the wall just waiting for a cat :-//

Meanwhile, on return from investigating where it was going, Jon found another baby thrush on the lawn, although this one was dead :-( Looks like the moggies found the nest and destroyed it. It's very sad, but that's the thing with cats, I guess. Although I must say that Romeo and Juliet are far more active hunters than any of the other cats I've owned. Merlin used to bring back baby rabbits, and both Merlin and Cassie-Cat hunted bats and the odd mouse when they were little, but with these two little ones it's almost constant. If it's not a mouse, it's a butterfly, if it's not a butterfly it's a bird. Sigh.

Today as well as lots of planting and attempted bird rescues, Emily's done lots of maths, continued her history study of Sargon & The Akkadians and has been busy examining the meanings behind various world flags. She's out at football training at Scunthorpe FC now; Jon will bring her back just in time to dash out again to his psychic meeting. He's going away on the course next Sunday for a week. Eeek! Emily and I have never been at home without him, and we're not looking forward to it :-(( Between Emily being about 6 months old up until she came out of school, I used to go away a couple of times a year on interpreting jobs for a week each, leaving Daddy and Emily at home, but this is the first time the situation's been reversed. It always amuses me when people say they don't know how Jon and I manage being together 24 hours a day working together from home. I don't know how couples who *aren't* together all the time manage! Emily and I are going to feel like we're missing a limb for a week :-/

Friday, April 13, 2007

Getting Crafty in the Park

We've had a fab day today - no Friday 13th bad luck here. Went to pick up Emily's friend Maisie this morning on the way to Normanby Hall. We had a picnic lunch, fed the (completely stuffed and definitely not hungry) ducks, then went for a huge woodland walk collecting nature bits along the way. Back to a tree stump (or worktop, lol) to dig out all the arty crafty stuff I'd taken along: wire, beads, coloured tape, wool etc. The girls had a ball making beaded wands and "painting" on pieces of bark using crushed up fallen flower petals. We also had a go at twig weaving in a huge Y-shaped branch, which turned out very nicely indeed.

Emily and Maisie also played on the climbing tree and fussed over the resident cats. The playgrounds were absolutely packed, despite the less than briliant weather, so we didn't stay long in those bits. Emily still hates crowded playgrounds, and even Maisie with her school experience wasn't that keen. Had a brief "oh dear, if Emily was at school she'd have learnt to push and shove her way in like all the other little darlings are doing", but that was swiftly followed by a "thank goodness she's not at school and thefore *hasn't* learnt to push and shove like that". After all, when exactly is she going to need that skill? When was the last time we as adults had to jostle like that, refuse to let others take turns, screech, shout and physically yank younger and smaller people out of the way? Seems to me that kids at school learn exactly the sort of "social skills" that they then pretty soon have to *un-learn* if they're going to behave like civilised adults.

Anyway; after several hours at Normanby we headed back to ours, where the girls played in the garden, neopet-ed and played with Emily's Harry Potter figures. At one point Emily got a bee stuck in her hair (????) which was quite traumatic, but other than that I think they had a great time. When we dropped Maisie back home a little while ago her Mum, who has yet to get used to the resourcefulness of home educators ;-) was astonished to be greeted with beaded wands. I'll settle for Maisie telling me I'm apparently a "really fun Mum" which I thought was sweet. Mind you, she also told me I was completely crazy. Probably a compliment. I think.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rhinestones 'n' Stuff

We had a lovely Easter weekend. Emily went out to karate first thing on Easter Sunday, and was one of only three children there, so that was a very individual lesson! When she got back we had an Easter treasure hunt - we don't really do much chocolate wise, but Emily normally gets some little Easter presents to make up for it being such a long time from a 2nd Jan birthday all the way to the following Christmas. This year she had some Harry Potter bits and bobs and various pagan-y items for her altar, which she loved. Nana and Gramps made us all a big Easter dinner, which was much enjoyed too.

Emily's Easter present from my Mum and Dad was a Gem Magic stud setting gadget, which was a huge hit. Lucky girl! She's spent hours this week decorating a t-shirt, shorts and a pair of shoes with it so far, with plans to do lots more shortly.

Yesterday we went to Asda opticians to (finally) collect Emily's new glasses, but alas it seems my confidence in them was totally misplaced. We were asked to take a seat and wait by one woman - about 25 minutes later, with still nobody attending to us despite there being nobody else in the shop, another woman came and asked if we were waiting for something, at which point the woman who'd taken our name said she hadn't seen us before and that we shouldn't just have sat down without telling someone we were there. Sigh. Emily's glasses finally materialised.....and next week, we'll have to take them back, as there's clearly something not right with them. Emily's seeing rainbows all around the edges of her vision and at tai chi this morning the effect was so bad it made her feel sick. She's wearing her "old" glasses again now, until we can get back to Asda. I'm not best pleased with the whole episode.

Yesterday lunchtime Hazel, Romy and new baby Tansy popped in for a quick hello, which was lovely. Needless to say, Tansy is absolutely gorgeous :-)) It's such a long time since Emily was a baby, you forget how tiny newborns are.

Also yesterday (and today, as well), Emily's been out at garden centres with my Mum and Dad, looking for pampas grass, with which, for some reason, she's developed a fascination. They found some in the end.

The rest of the week we've been playing a lot, along side bits and pieces of work. Lots more latin. We also did the first biology and the first physics lessons from the Real Science 4 Kids curriculum, and Emily loved both of those. Biology was learning about taxonomy and classifications, with a fun activity where Emily had to work out how to classify twenty household objects. Physics was learning about the scientific method and "discovering" Newton's First Law of Motion via lots of ball throwing, ball throwing with string attached to it, and marble rolling. We also had lots of fun playing with my Dad's Ancient Brunsviga Mechanical Adding Machine - that was extremely educational in terms of place value and understanding long division!!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Poor Cassie-Cat

Poor old Cassandra is missing Merlin a lot these days. She keeps systematically sniffing around rooms, as if she's trying to pick up his scent. I don't know how long a cat's scent will stay around once the cat is no longer there, but maybe Merlin's scent was around until recently but is now wearing off. It's two months since Merlin died now :-(

To add to Cassie-Cat's woes, she seems to have a problem with one of her eyes. Emily took this picture of her yesterday which shows it quite clearly:It's the brown spots on the iris of her right eye. She's had them for a long time - bad owners that we are, we assumed it was just an old cat thing - age spots, if you like. However, I've just been researching it having seen how noticeable it is on the photo, and it looks like it could be iris melanoma which sounds pretty drastic and is basically a tumour or tumours on the iris, which can spread throughout the body. Having said that, Cassie generally seems in very good health. She doesn't seem to have any problems with her vision at all, she spots movement of toys etc immediately and is generally very purry and affectionate. I guess we ought to take her to the vets and hear what they have to say about it, but since all of the treatment options (if it is that) are extremely invasive....I don't know. I'm loathe to put Cassie-cat through the kind of stressful treatment that Merlin went through :-(( We shall have to see.

Anyway. In happier news, Emily's been busy doing lots and lots and lots and lots of Easter crafts, most of which are secret surprises for me and Daddy tomorrow, bless her. Today she made this scrummy looking almond, marzipan and chocolate cake ready for our Easter family meal tomorrow.
Emily has also been busy practising tap. She had a tough time at the tap lesson on Thursday and seemed to spend a lot of time being made to do things on her own at the front of the class while the teacher shook her head a lot. Charming. I really dislike that woman. Emily says she's nervous about the tap in the lessons, and that's why she makes the mistakes - there's probably something in that, since she does the routines fine at home. Doesn't say much for the teacher's people skills, I have to say. Emily is finding it hard, though, and it's knocking her confidence. Not long now until the exam on the 1st May. I wish she'd decided not to do it, but she used to like tap so she wanted to enter for it. I say used to, since I'm not at all sure that it's very much fun any more :-(( What is is about teachers that destroys the enjoyment of things??

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Trip to the Ballet

Tuesday was another good work day for Emily. She whizzed through maths, English and Latin and we spent the afternoon looking at Mesopotamia and the Sumerian civilisation in history, finding out about cuneiforms and ziggurats, with lots of pictures being drawn too. Got back upstairs late afternoon to hear Hazel's Extremely Exciting News :-)) so that was lovely.

Yesterday, Emily went with my Mum and Dad to see the Swan Lake ballet in Grimsby, which enthralled her, so she couldn't stop dancing when she got home, lol. I had been due to take Emily, but what with one thing and another it just wasn't possible, so we're pleased that Nana and Gramps were able to step into the breach.

Emily and Daddy have gone off to tai chi this morning as normal and we're off to an extra tap lesson this afternoon. Emily's cold has developed into a cough, which is always a bad sign, but hopefully she'll shake it off in time to enjoy her Easter.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Stone Age Art & A Pink Volcano

Emily and Daddy came back from the car boot sale yesterday absolutely laden down with goodies - among which a certain Harry Potter featured heavily, lol. They got some really nice stuff; they'd like to go more often, but with karate normally on a Sunday, it's not often possible.

Today we had a bit of a drama at lunchtime - a water pipe under the sink in the kitchen burst and flooded the kitchen floor to paddle-able level :-// Had my Mum not happened to be in the kitchen at the time it happened, who knows how much damage would have been inflicted. Emily naturally thought it was exciting - who needs paddling pools? I love that magic of childhood, when a kid can look at a crisis as purely an object of fun and fascination, free from any worry about it at all!! Fortunately, the old Vax water hoover thingy was still in the shed, so it only took about half an hour to mop and suction it all up, although it took my Dad the rest of the day to replace the pipe with the whole sink unit having to come away from the wall.

Aside from the flood, we had a good home ed day today. Emily did brilliantly with her latin this morning, ably translating four paragraphs full of nominative/accusative bits and bobs and lots of words she'd not met before but mostly figured out without help. She then worked on some literacy exercises connected to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Our history curriculum starts with the Fertile Crescent so it misses out the "stone age", so we're doing bits and bobs about that separately but alongside. Today Emily made a "rock" and tried out cave art on it, painting an animal and hunter on one side and experimenting with hand prints on the other. That turned out rather nicely.

We also had lots of fun with a plaster of paris volcano. For some reason, the dye provided only produced pink lava instead of a nice bright red, but hey, it was still as messy as hell and a big hit.
We like this volcano kit a lot; it comes with earthquake stuff too and various models to make, so we've lots left to do with that.

While we were busy getting suitably messy, Jon managed to install our new fax machine - it's been waiting for over a week now, since the old one gave up the ghost, but he hasn't had two minutes to breathe until now. He also hot foooted it out to the football club to sign Emily up for the next set of lessons after Easter. Got back to find that Grandad expected him to mow the lawn. Apparently it simply had to be done today. Fortunately common sense prevailed. The lawn did not get mowed. Frankly, as priorities go, it doesn't even make the list.

This afternoon I took Grandad out to the doctors while Emily made more "props" for her Remus Lupin pretends and tried to get the better of her out-of-control cassette collection. We're, um, not the tidiest household at the best of times, but Emily's audio cassettes and CDs are threatening to take over the house. It's not helped by the fact that she has all but the first of the Harry Potters on tape rather than CD (can't afford the CD versions, lol) but they come in such inadequate little cardboard boxes. It's murder to get the tapes in and out virtually every day (yes, she does listen to them in her every waking moment......obsessed? My child? How dare you??) so they end up just scattered about loose. So that's 64 HP tapes rattling around, plus dozens and dozens of other tapes and CDs - we need a storage solution.

Have just bought 50 blank cassette cases to tame the worst of the HP ones, and bid on a 72 tape storage unit on ebay, so that might help with those. What to do about the rest I just don't know. No matter what, they always seem to end up in the wrong cases, half missing, or with cases broken or lost. Since my beloved daughter seems to take after her father in her ability to do twelve different things at once of which only one is listening to a tape/CD, I guess she's usually too preoccupied to marshall them into order every day.

We could do with a house elf.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Want To Be A Chemist

Well, not me, but Emily does, apparently. We'll add it to the list, which currently comprises (in varying order of importance): artist, author, poet, fashion designer, safari park ranger, teacher (?????), hairdresser, make up artist, archaeologist, historian, ballerina.

We didn't go out for the day on Friday in the end - couldn't bear the prospect when it came down to it, as where we were going was guaranteed to be full of school kids on their "Easter treat" school trips just before they break up.

We did, however, manage a rather nice day. Emily was feeling a lot better with just a stuffed up nose left from her cold, so we got back to some work. Lots more Latin - can't believe how well she's doing with that. More percentages in maths, and a bit more about Stonehenge in history. After lunch, we started the Chemistry section of Real Science 4 Kids. Wow! I'm so impressed with that! We read the first chapter of Emily's textbook which was all about matter, atoms and the periodic table. Think I learnt more on Friday afternoon about all of that than I ever learnt at secondary school - and Emily soaked it all up enthusiastically. Within minutes she was jumping up and down from the table to the poster on the wall, working out the number of neutrons in various elements by subtracting the atomic number from the atomic mass, recognising element names she's already familiar with (calcium, etc), debating the nature of the groupings and so on.

We gathered a load of items for use in the first "experiment", which was basically driving home the concept that everything on earth is fundamentally made up of these elements. Emily looked at ingredients lists on food and made the connections between the periodic table and things like sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride; she looked at lots of cleaning items and beauty products and made connections concerning things like magnesium sulphate, hydrogen peroxide and so on. Emily also looked at some less obvious items like wood and steel, using the internet to look up what they're actually made of, e.g. wood is made up of cellulose, but what is cellulose actually made of? She really enjoyed that.

Emily also wrote down a list of no less than 14 questions she wants to find out about, based on that first lesson alone - things like "how do they KNOW they've discovered ALL of the elements?", "how do they KNOW that the number of protons is the same as the number of electrons?" etc. I haven't a clue as to the first question; I know the second question will be covered at least partially when we move onto ions and Emily discovers that protons and electrons are not always equal; as to the rest, I'm just delighted that it has sparked such an interest. Oddly enough, this level of interest was always conspicuous by its absence from the standard British KS2 national curriculum "fill in the blanks" science work we've done. I'm beginning to question the sanity of anyone who really believes that UK schools are truly providing a decent education.

Yesterday was dominated by yoga, with two rehearsals and Emily's yoga show in the afternoon. She did so well, we were really proud :-)) She couldn't stop smiling all the way through the show, delivered her lines in the play with perfect comic timing, and was introduced by her teacher to read the yoga poetry she'd written herself. Oh yeah, and all the kids were given an early Easter Egg as a pressie for doing so well, lol, which seemed to go down rather well.

This morning we all got up at the unearthly hour of 6.30 so Jon and Emiy could go out to a huge car boot sale near here. Well, unearthly for me and Emily - Jon's normally up by 6 anyway, so technically he had a lie in! No karate today as the teacher's away, so they've gone off bargain hunting instead :-))