Thursday, March 27, 2008

Free Choice Fimo

Today started better, getting up at 9 instead of 10.30. We went out this afternoon to visit Romy, Tansy and Hazel, but this morning we started off with our Plan Z, which is my list of things to do from which Emily has a free choice. She chose Fimo models from the art and crafts section of the list. What - not maths? Well now, there's a surprise! Actually, we will be doing maths and spelling before the "free choice list" on "normal" days, but today wasn't a normal day since we only had half of it.


We did have a lot of fun making these fimo dragons. It wasn't as easy as it looked in the book (is it ever?) and it took us a whole two hours to get this far, but we were chuffed :-) Emily's is the blue, mine is the yellow.

I think I can see the free choice list thing working reasonably well. Fingers crossed. I'm not sure why I didn't think of this before. It's a list of half a dozen or more "things" per subject, but what she chooses and what order she chooses is up to Emily. I've made a resolution to not say "no" except in dire circumstances (athough I'm sure Grandad will provide plenty of those). It's as close as we're ever going to get to a timetable, but since there's nothing on the list (apart from maths, which isn't voluntary) that she doesn't like and want to do, it's not likely to cause too many issues.

On the way back from Romy's this afternoon, Emily and I went to pick up Grandad's prescription. Gave it to him back at home. Was met with - what, dear readers? A thank you? A grunt? No, a criticism. "I didn't want this until Monday." Honestly. I am now so resentful of this man's attitude that I could just vomit. He spent most of our Easter Sunday dinner expounding on how these bloody Africans just sit around waiting for our money and didn't they know they woudn't have famines if they didn't keep on having babies, they only keep on breeding because they want more handouts. Apparently. It sickens me. His daily belittlement of Jon continues unabated, meanwhile, including recently with much vitriol over who Jon chose to sell his car to. Which is Grandad's business because - ? He has a dig at Emily whenever he thinks he can get away with it, most recently laughing at her for not wanting to spend a night away from home. I do try so hard to "feel the love" and accept that blood, even by marriage, is thicker than water, blah blah blah. But there has to come a point where you draw the line. I've been on the verge of drawing it for years now. Yes, he has issues. At what point was that supposed to stop being his problem and become my problem and my husband's and daughter's problem?

Anyway. Again. Away from today's Mrs Angry rant, I have been reading a lot about Reiki and the principle of "Just for today, do not anger". I can see a huge amount of sense in that philosophy. Far too much of my day is always spent fearing what I have to do in the future or being angry/annoyed/aggrieved about what I have to do. All that anger/annoyance/grievance is bound up with what has happened in the past with any given particular person, this kind of event/experience, whatever. It's actually very empowering to be able to drop that, and to take each day as a fresh start. It's brilliant in theory. Now if only I can learn to put it into practice.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Snowy Easter

Woke up early (for us!) on Easter Sunday to the interesting sight of a fair bit of snow. Needless to say, someone was delighted :-)

We played out in the snow for a couple of hours before breakfast (!) and the little kibbies had their first ever experience of the cold white stuff. Bigger kit kats Romeo and Juliet were distinctly unimpressed, and veteran Cassie Cat was nowhere to be seen, but the babies loved the stuff! Here follows an absolute over abundance of photos - although it's not very easy photographing black cats against white snow. They came out mostly as fuzzy black blobs.

We did have a nice time out in the snow.....but I have to admit that I had a few pangs of upset because Emily had nobody (well, no other child) to play with in it. She's still adamant that she doesn't want a sibling (just as well) but it's a shame we don't have friends in the same street or something. Playing with me and Daddy or by herself is all very well and good most of the time, but when it comes to snow (or beaches, come to that), it's not the same and no amount of pretending can say that it is. Life's never simple, is it?

Anyway, back in from the snow, it was time for Easter Phase II, which was to make our Easter Cake - this year Emily and I made a scrummy White Chocolate Strawberry Dream Cake which was time consuming, but worth it. Once that was safely out of the oven and cooling, it was time for Easter Phase III - the treasure hunt. Emily usually gets a couple of presents at Easter - originally it was because with a birthday on the 2nd January, it's an awfully long time to wait from birthday until Christmas, but nowadays it's just a tradition we like following. I'd made 20 clue cards, each one of which had a little poem giving the clue to the next location.Emily happily ran about for half an hour or so following all the clues, including out in the snow in her little black party dress, lol, she must have been freezing!! Oh, and black lipstick. Of course. She eventually found her pressies on our bed and was a very happy Easter bunny indeed.

Much playing followed, plus Easter Phase IV, otherwise known as decorating the cake, and then Easter Phase V, big family tea kindly cooked by Nana and Gramps, plus Easter Phase VI, family games evening, which was several hours of charades and "coffee pot", much enjoyed by all.

Easter Monday was an extremely later get-up, followed rapidly by me being stressed all day. We went out at half past three to Jacki and George's for tea, plus George did Reiki I initiations for me and for Emily, and then we stayed until gone 11 at the psychic circle, so that was a long day. Very lovely, but stressful for me since I was in a "don't want to see anybody" mood again. Sigh.

Today I've been in a rotten mood all day because I knew I was going to have to help in Emily's yoga lesson. Didn't get up until half past ten because I just couldn't face the day. Lost my temper at several points during the day and otherwise displayed crap mothering skills. We did attempt to get back to work this afternoon, but that, ahem, didn't go according to plan either. No doubt that was my fault, really, as I wasn't exactly in the frame of mind to make maths and spelling much fun for poor Emily.

It's horrible in my head. I know I'm being unfair on those around me, but I'm sooooo sick of having to do things I don't want to do, whether it's writing horoscopes, ferrying Grandad around in return for a mouthful of abuse, helping in a yoga lesson or going out to socialise when I really, really don't feel like it. I think it's probably because I'm such a meek and mild person in public that I find it really hard to say no or to stand up for my right to NOT feel like doing something. I often feel used and taken advantage of - whether I *am* being used or not is irrelevant, so long as it feels that way. Then I get angry with myself because I know it's my own fault for not saying no, which makes it even worse. I guess I'm being selfish, but there's something much worse going on than that. It's not only that I don't want to see people, I just find it so......nauseatingly difficult. I shall have to see what I can do to improve my state of mind before I successfully drag everyone else down with me. Basically, I've got to the point where I just wish the rest of the world would go away. I'd be more than happy if it was just me, Emily and Jon. It's presumably not normal to *constantly* feel that way to this extent, so.....hello abnormality!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Structured Home Education Yahoo Group/Forum/Blogring

*Squeals with delight*

I'm soooooo pleased to have stumbled across this earlier this evening (actually by following a link from Elle's comments box!)

Structured Home Education Yahoo Group
Structured Home Education Forum

Posting here since I'd managed to miss this group's birth, as I haven't been reading other blogs as much as I'd like to in case it helps anyone else who has been feeling in need of friendship and support from fellow structured or semi structured home educators :-)

Oh, and I'll eat my words from my post earlier this evening about our local weather bubble - it's snowing :-))


This year it's been a low key Ostara for various reasons, but we did get round to blowing and painting eggs, decorating polystyrene eggs for the festival tree, making hama bead eggs and chicks, felting beautiful little yellow chicks with real feathers. Voldemort took a fancy to some of the multi coloured fur we'd been "haircutting" to get the fibres for chick felting - he ran off with it into the garden and played with it for ages, bless him!
Feeling under pressure for "making Emily do too much", this week we tried a little experiment in doing things a different way. As in, Emily was left to her own devices and I was left to mine. Emily hadn't been very keen on the concept, pointing out before we even started that she rather likes the way we do things. But we did it anyway. We both hated it. Emily missed my interaction with her, I missed my interaction with her and Jon missed both of us being our normal selves.

Emily did do some interesting stuff - she made a chart about Victorian servants, did lots of colouring and scrapbooked a few pages of old photos, among lots of reading and playing and writing stories. All of which she could and would have done anyway, under our "old" system. She was just lonely doing it instead. I know there are plenty of people who successfully and happily "unschool" single children, but I've also discovered finally, for the umpteenth time, that it doesn't work for me or my daughter. Emily was less than impressed, as stated above. As for me, in theory, I had a whole week to get on with my own work and hobbies. Except that I didn't actually want to - I wanted to be involved with Emily. We home educate partly so that we don't miss our daughter growing up (among a trillion other reasons) - why on earth would I want to be off doing other stuff instead of being around her and sharing her love of learning and sense of fun? That's the problem, you see - that if I'm not actively engaged with Emily, I'm actively *not* engaged with Emily, because of our grown up work situation.

Perhaps it would work better if I didn't have a self-employed "job" to do at the same time. Since I do have a lot of work to do, though, I can't be "available and interested but not necessarily actively engaged" all day long, to facilitate unschooling, because when I have spare time I have to be doing something that brings money in. And that takes concentration, so once I've started doing that, I can't drop everything on the spur of the moment to go back to home educating Mum mode again for ten minutes, then back to work, and so on. I seem to be in a minority in not being able to make the unschooling model work, and I admire those who can and do make it work, but at least I know that we've tried it, on and off for several years least it doesn't any more leave me wondering whether I'm home educating the "wrong" way. I guess the more we experiment the more we come back to the fact that the way we do it now is the way that works for both Emily and we two parents.

All non home educators we meet seem to think that I must spend my days standing up lecturing Emily while she sits, meek and mild, and takes notes and puts her hand up and cries tears of boredom and frustration and asks please may she go to the toilet. I don't teach Emily anything, and I certainly don't lecture her. We work together. We find out about things together, we learn things together, we work on projects together; if she's doing some art, nine times out of ten I'll be doing something similar alongside her; if she's working on a map, I'll be sitting with her reading to her; if she's writing a summary of something, she'll be laughing and joking with me as I sit with her figuring out what we can tackle the following week. I like to be completely involved and she likes me to be completely involved. As a way of educating, I'm rather fond of it, but best of all, so is she :-))

Anyway, next week we're back to our "old" system with a slight twist. We've worked out a plan of half a dozen different things to "do" in each of history, geography, English, Latin, biology, art, craft and music; after we've done maths and spelling each morning, Emily will choose whatever takes her fancy from the list to do that day, in whatever order she likes. When that list is exhausted, we'll make a new one. I think that blends our need for structure with a need for freedom of choice and flexibility too, so I'm happy.

In other news this week, Jon had his endoscopy at the hospital on Monday; they took biopsy samples, so we'll have to wait and see. The doctor who performed it is considering Reiki training and apparently has taken meeting Jon and talking about it with him there as a sign that she should go ahead and get on with it, lol.

Yesterday Jacki and George came to visit us, ostensibly to pick up Jon's old car which we've sold to them; naturally they ended up staying several hours while Emily, Mei Lin and Jasmine did a fabulous fashion show with Emily's real and dressing up clothes.

I see that yesterday the BBC weather forecast for our nearest town was promising "heavy snow" on Easter Sunday. Today, it's promising "drizzle". Of course! We really do live in a weather bubble here. It's weird. Everywhere else in the country can be having snow storms, thunderstorms, torrential rain or gale force winds. Here, we have "a bit windy", "slightly chilly" and "overcast with drizzle". Not much chance of Emily's easter egg hunt taking place in the snow then. Grumble, grumble.

Must just add this picture of Emily wearing her best Severus "WHAT did you call me, Potter?" Snape attitude and expression during a pretend, lol :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Week Off

We've spent most of the week playing, tidying and thinking deeply about where my and Jon's "careers" are heading, where Emily's education is heading and where we as a family want to end up.

On Monday evening we all went to Jacki's for psychic circle as normal, where Emily and Jacki's kids spent most of the evening drawing. We grown ups did some meditations and some pendulum dowsing, which was fun.

On Wednesday afternoon Emily made some scrummy vegan fairy cakes (replace half the water with fruit juice) in honour of Romy, who we went to pick up that evening for a sleepover at our house, which seemed to go quite well. Lots of fimo-ing, paper doll-ing, makeovers and face paints and a midnight feast on the dot of midnight, which they enjoyed while playing our very old "Masterpieces" art game. I'd already planned to stay up all night working in any case, so I wasn't fussed that the girls were still up and playing at 2.45am; when I went to settle them down at that point they seemed sleepy and were lying in bed looking promisingly like going to sleep, then I didn't hear another peep out of them until 7am. However, all was not as it seemed, lol. Turns out they had actually stayed up **all night**, without a wink of sleep, playing word and story games, drawing and playing with dolls. Okkkayy. They were both still bright and breezy for breakfast, but lack of sleep started to set in after that, lol. Romy fell asleep on our settee for forty minutes or so, so it seemed like time to go home!

Emily still seemed wide awake for most of the rest of Thursday, although I slept on and off during the day. She finally conked out at about 4pm and slept for a few hours - waking up in an absolute panic because she thought it was Friday morning and that our friends were due to arrive any second and she was still too tired to play!

On Friday morning (fortunately after a full night's sleep for Emily, lol) Jacki, Mei Lin and Jasmine came round and stayed for a day of egg blowing and dyeing and polystyrene egg decorating. Oh, and trampolining. Which was quite something considering Emily hasn't been on the trampoline since approximately July last year, since it's covered in spiders.

Jon has his endoscopy at the hospital tomorrow, so that's not exactly something to look forward to. Meanwhile, we're waiting to hear back from the press agency about a potentially huge (for us, anyway - thousands per month) new contract that one of my existing clients has asked me to do. It would make a massive difference to us financially, although it is something I don't really want to do......but then again, for that money, I'm quite capable of gritting my teeth and bearing it. The quote I gave was possibly on the high side, so we may not get the job, but it was the minimum I'm prepared to do the work for, so we shall see. Whether or not we do get the go ahead for that contract, our financial pressures are set to ease off in April, so hopefully this will be the last month in which even finding cash for a loaf of bread from the village shop has been a struggle!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Derren Brown & Yet Another Crisis of Confidence (Mine, Not His....)

So. Went to see Derren Brown with Jon at Grimsby on Thursday night. It was a very polished and impressive performance. Funny, too. I did find it rather unnecessarily spiteful, for want of a better word, towards spiritualism, though. I can understand, from a purely logical point of view, why DB considers all mediums to be frauds, since he can clearly achieve much the same effect using trickery/cold reading/whatever. OK, fair enough. That's his opinion and he's entitled to it. However, I know that my husband, for instance, is not a fraud. Nor has he spent a lifetime perfecting some weird psychological technique, nor is he paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for being a clever if arrogant showman. Alas. I don't believe any of the other mediums we personally know are frauds, either. Sure, some are. There are rotten apples in every pot. However, DB's logic simply doesn't stand up. Because it is possible to do something using one particular method does not mean a) that everyone who does it must be using that method or b) that no other methods are possible.

Besides, with a bit of thinking, plus the help of some internet research, it's relatively straightforward to see how most of the effects in DB's show are achieved. It's certainly extraordinarily skilled, but it's explainable, as of course he freely admits. Found a site on which people from around the country have posted reports from having seen this show and pooled ideas as to what happened exactly the same on each night and how it might have been done. Spoils the magic a little, but fascinating none the less. On the other hand, I can find no explanation other than a spiritual one for what my husband and various like minded friends are increasingly performing.

So - it was a great show and I'm really pleased we went. I just thought the level of vitriol was rather unnecessary, unpleasant and added nothing to the entertainment. After all, spiritualism is a recognised religion. Neither Mr Brown nor anyone else would get away with building a stage routine around ridiculing Islam or Hinduism, or calling for its practitioners to be jailed. Rolls eyes.

On Friday we went to see Jackie, George and their girls for the day. In the hurry to leave (got up late) I managed to leave behind all the work I'd prepared for the children to do. Jackie had lost hers too, so not much education went on there! The girls did all make bread together, though, and had a fabulous play as normal.

Yesterday was horrid; all sorts of yukky stuff that whirls around in my head kicked in to bring me yet another crisis of confidence, so I spent much of the day in tears, to the alarm of my wondeful hubby and daughter. Feeling slightly better today after much love from my loved ones and an email pep talk from a friend. Really trying hard to get to the point where I can reliably believe that other people's opinions of me, my parenting style, my educational choices, us, our lives, our work, our financial situation.....because oh boy, some people have an opinion on everything that they simply have to share.....where nobody else's opinion, beyond our little trio, matters. I'm there, mostly. An awful lot better than I was 18 months or 2 years ago, where I could spend weeks at a time in distress over a random, throw away comment - but I still wobble. And I don't want to.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Project (Barbie) Catwalk!

Hmmm - things education wise are going pretty swimmingly at the moment. I'm sure something or someone will turn up to bite us on the bum soon, but for now...

Had another good day today. Emily hand blended her first two perfumes this morning, named them and designed bottles for them (alas on paper only, not having access to a glass blowing works). She's really loving that, and is keeping detailed formula notes too. She also whizzed through spelling and maths with ease.

This afternoon we've spent a happy few hours designing and stitching dolls' outfits, using the huge box of material scraps and trimmings that Emily had for her birthday, plus a load of her old dressing up clothes which she's sacrificing so we can use the net and lovely shiny stuff..... you can see how much she loves the fashion designing if she's giving up old dressing up clothes to do it....these are the same clothes that have prompted tears in the past just at the thought of putting them in the attic, let alone cutting them up!

Emily and I both designed and made two outfits, and then we filmed each other's dolls doing a catwalk show with a hilarious commentary; we also had fun being the Project Catwalk judges - although we both have a soft spot for the lovely Tim Gunn, the designers' mentor on the US Project Runway version of the show, so there were lots of American accents and lots of "make it work!"

These are Emily's two outfits: Purple Dream and Magnificent Mermaid, followed by my two, Orange Outrage and Funeral Fiesta (!):

Busy day tomorrow; I have an extra commission from the Press Agency to write in the morning while Jon and Emily are out at tai chi, then Jon and I are off to see Derren Brown in Grimsby - really looking forward to that!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sweet Scent of a Happy Only Child

Emily and I have been having fun yesterday and today with this fantastic Perfume Science Kit which she had for her birthday. She had a little one of these a couple of years ago from the Wild Science series, but this one has real oils in it and comes with a wonderfully inspiring book about blending the scents, plus lots of fabby smell experiments. We've been trying to "learn" the 8 scents the kit comes with, as a first step towards Emily blending her own scents - as the instruction book says, it's a little like a composer needing to "know" individual notes before being able to compose a beautiful piece. We're struggling to memorise the difference between "woody" and "musky" but I think we've got the others down to a fine art now :-)) Lots of fun creating scent strips, writing notes on what images the different oils conjure up for us and testing one another on telling them apart.

Emily's now considering a career as a perfumier, lol - and yes, google, I DO mean "perfumier" not (ugh) "perfumer". Why on earth does American English have to mangle such elegant words?? She's been reading about the training required and how new scents are created and finding it fascinating.

Yesterday was a busy work day all round - I had extra deadlines to finish, Jon was working hard enough for a dozen people, as usual, and Emily was busy with maths, English, drawing a family tree of the Greek gods, spelling and deciding with me which things to cover in our biology studies; plus the perfume kit of course, and lots more yoga. No psychic circle last night as Jacki and George were still recovering from their party!

This morning we didn't wake up until 10am (!!!!) so it was a somewhat slow start; Emily carried on making some lovely cards of Greek Gods before doing more from the perfume kit. We've just got back from the yoga class and she's watching Helen of Troy with Daddy at the moment. We've been enjoying watching (or in Emily's case re-watching) the Children of the Stones kids series from the 70's - very atmospheric!

Meanwhile, I've been reading Parenting an Only Child - all I can say is that I wish I'd read this book years and years ago! Been there, done that with the ridiculous "guilt" thing over choosing to have only one child, and am hugely fed up with people assuming that Emily must be sad, lonely, spoilt and otherwise set up for a hideous life merely because we've chosen not to have brothers or sisters for her. Also hugely fed up with the way it's automatically assumed so often, if you only have one child, that you must desperately want another one but be unable to have another. Er - no. After wavering for the last year or so, I think we've settled now that we won't be having any more children, at least not until Emily's considerably older. Perhaps we'll adopt in the future - who knows? But for now, we're happy, and reading this book has finally made me shrug off the niggling feeling of "but shouldn't we....?" - and that's what is has been, a feeling that we *ought* to have another child, rather than we *want* to. And that's hardly a positive reason to bring a new life into the world.

Plus....most importantly... *Emily's* happy as an only child. She's never expressed a wish for a sibling and in fact has often vehemently expressed a wish *not* to have a sibling. Having more than one child is obviously fantastic for most families and entirely a personal choice - it's not the way we want to go though. Being able to say that, finally, without feeling guilty or stressed about it, is a breath of fresh air :-))

Sunday, March 02, 2008

(Proud) Mother's Day

My amazing little girl made me cry this morning with the effort she'd gone to in making me Mothers Day cards and little pressies. Top of the list was a beautiful "Black Magic" magazine that she'd designed, written and printed herself, to go with the mini box of Black Magic choccies she and Daddy bought for me. The magazine featured our three black cats (Romeo and JuJu to follow in a future issue, lol) and another feature about magical colours.

Emily also made me two beautiful cards plus a certificate of love :-)) She's such an enchanting daughter; we're so lucky and so very proud of her :-))

Last night we went to some friends' Ruby Wedding Anniversary Party; I was very proud of Emily there, too. There were 70 odd guests, of whom we only knew perhaps half a dozen, but Emily had a ball, talking confidently, playing happily with her friends, dancing, answering the door to guests and even ordering her own drinks at the bar! Quite something, given how quiet and sometimes unconfident she can be. She's come a long way. In fact, she did better than me!