Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yay - Education!

We're finally back into a stable (ish) routine of home ed and so far it's going really well, with Emily keen and enthusiastic and me feeling like we're getting somewhere.

The sleepover Emily had the other week went very well, although neither Emily nor Mei Lin slept for a single minute, apparently, lol. Jasmine did rather better, so how she slept through the chaos the other two were creating is beyond me. Here's the three girls about to have their midnight feast in the new sofa bed :-)

We then had several days of chaos while Jon and I struggled against deadlines and I tried to get some home education in order, getting a vague plan for where we're heading. Mind you, Emily was busy occupying herself throughout that time. One morning she photographed various Barbies in her room and then came and spent a couple of hours on the PC - she created, entirely without assistance, a fabulous powerpoint slide show, complete with captions, sound and special effects, telling an X-Files story she had made up, for which the dolls had posed various scenes. We were extremely impressed :-)

Education aside, Emily has also been having fun recently playing out in the garden in the dark, especially balancing on her beam and trampoline - the fact that the garden is *covered* in huge spider webs doesn't seem to bother her at all. I was heartily told off the other night for insisting on fetching Jon to deal with a spider on the bedroom wall. An exasperated Emily thought I should just leave it be. My child has clearly been kidnapped and replaced with some alien life form.

Over the last week or so we've been gradually decorating our festival tree; we didn't have time to celebrate Mabon as such, but we're doing an Autumn theme for the tree in any case, to cover both Mabon and Samhain. We've embroidered leaves and mushrooms and this morning we spent an enjoyable hour or two decorating the god and goddess figures for the altar and making some of these pentagrams from twigs. All good stuff. We're going away to St Bees again on the 5th October for ten days or a fortnight, but we'll be back in time for Halloween, when we're planning a big family dinner with the dining room all decorated and an evening of spooky games by candlelight. Emily's pumpkins in the vegetable patch are *massive* already!

Now then, since this is supposed to be a home education blog, let me record for posterity what I've finally decided we'll use as our core texts for the next year or so. I'm putting this here in case anyone finds the recommendations useful; I should point out, yadda yadda, that in amongst this lot Emily still has time to do plenty of art, tons of crafts and a whole raft load of self-directed and inspired projects, activities and all round child stuff. When we let her out of the broom cupboard we keep her locked in.

Galore Park So You Really Want To Learn Science Book 2

Kingfisher Science Encyclopaedia

Lots of experiments: rather than the little "done in five minutes" type experiments you get so many of, we're going for something a little bit more indepth now. The "science fair" projects they have in Janice Van Cleave's books are quite good, I think - a little bit of a step up from where we were, and they're extended projects that take quite a while to complete. We have the physics, chemistry and biology ones of those, and I also found this fantabulous website: Science Buddies, which details over 700 extended science project ideas across all the branches of science you can think of. Certainly didn't have when I was at school. Anyway, I'm very pleased to have "discovered" these resources.
At the moment in science, we're looking at space. Of course, because it ties in with the X-Files obsession, lol.


Letts KS3 Geography Classbook - I like this one. It has double page spreads which are just enough to get the key points across and which you can then use for further investigation/experiments/whatever. This mostly covers physical geography.

Trail Guide to World Geography - this one's very US centric, obviously, but it does give a good overview of world geography and I like the activity ideas, such as making a dictionary of geography definitions as you go along etc. Lots of mapping too.


Well, I've got to admit, I'm still all over the place on history. We're fine for now, working on the Middle Ages, but we're using books from all over the show and I'd really like to find a decent spine we can stick with, but none have quite worked - although lots have "nearly" worked. At the moment, we're using:

Medieval Minds - which is cute, but a bit simplistic even though it's meant for KS3

Medieval Realms for Common Entrance and KS3 - which has the opposite problem; it's *very* thorough and rigorous, but a bit too much so.

Plus of course lots of reading books, King Arthur, Robin Hood, castle books, fun bits and bobs and all that malarkey.


I think Emily's way ahead of where she "should" be in most spheres of English, but she asked to do some structured English work, so I looked for "a book". We found one, the title of which escapes me, but it's "OK" so far, I suppose. It's the best of a bunch and boy, have I seen a bunch of English teaching books this last couple of years. I still think we'll end up doing without any kind of textbook in the long run for English. It's not as if we're short of ideas for ways to do all the various different kinds of writing one is supposed to learn how to do. The other day the book asked for a paragraph of writing about what makes a good book. Emily looked at it, and me, blankly. She knows what makes a good book, she's read a ton of them, and she knows what makes a howler, but the way the question was phrased was enough to kill all inspiration stone dead.

So instead, she pretended to be a publisher and wrote me a long letter about the book I had submitted, pointing out all of its faults and offering some extremely well crafted humorous advice. What goes on in the English curriculum they have in schools these days? Why is it all so....alternately ridiculously simple or mind-bogglingly boring? Not all home ed children love to write as much as Emily does - it's her "thing" - but in my experience most home ed children love to write when they can see a point to it and find fun and enjoyment in their writing. I can't help but think that none of the English textbooks I've seen do anything other than kill that natural enthusiasm. Guys, you're supposed to be teaching children to **love** using their native language. If they look at you blankly, you've failed so drastically that I can barely find the words for it. Sigh.


Emily has apparently discovered a love of algebra and has genuinely *begged* for a maths book entirely on algebra, for Christmas??????? See previous remarks about my child having been kidnapped.

We're working through Galore Park So You Really Want To Learn Maths Book 1, which contained an introduction to algebra, among many other things. It's a good text book; I do like this one and we will definitely be sticking with it through books 2 and 3, which apparently will take us up to the end of Year 8 maths; Emily would be in Year 5 at the moment, so we have that about right then.

One thing I *have* discovered is that when I buy book 2, I'll be buying the answer book to go with it. I'm not "bad" at maths - I got a B at O level (my lowest grade) and would have had an A, no doubt, if I could have been bothered - but I was struggling with some of the final algebra questions, especially the ones where the problem is given in words and you have to figure out what the algebraic expression is before you can solve it. (Jon was excellent at these, lol, so it must just be me!)

I know some people who would throw their hands up in horror at that admission, and point out that this is exactly why parents should not be "allowed" to home educate their children. I happen to disagree. I actually, genuinely, believe it's very healthy for a child to realise that grown ups do NOT always (or even ever) have all the answers and that grown ups CAN find it interesting and fun to have to work things out, even when it's tough. I think it points out to children that while all of us shine somewhere, nobody shines everywhere; also that all of can improve at something if we try hard enough. I'll take that as a role model for my child, any day, over the "how dare you question me?" attitude of most teachers I ever met.

Which brings us back to the point of education. It's about learning to learn and learning to love to learn. It's not about proving who's smartest and it most definitely is not about domination and "I'm right, so shut up and listen to me". If that's what we wanted, we'd send her to school......

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Thanks for the kind comments on Emily's new room. She's been using it for just over a week now and it's - gasp - still tidy (almost)! However, within two days of being in there, Emily came down with a horrible bug which has plagued her, and us, ever since and won't seem to shift. We've been coughing, spluttering and retching with the best of them.

Which means that the planned return to education for this last week hasn't happened; not in any formal sense, anyway. We've watched lots of TV, including numerous X-files episodes, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a good cry over E.T., played board games in The Blue Room, and Emily has done lots of fashion designing and X-files episode writing. She also designed a range of X-files merchandise, including an alarm clock which plays the theme tune and has the words "I want to wake up" on it as a parody of the I want to believe tagline, lol. So I suppose her brain hasn't completely turned to mush after all, although mine somewhat feels as though it has.

Tomorrow Jacki is bringing Mei Lin and Jasmine over to us for the normal Friday routine, but the girls are staying for an extended sleepover too, which is causing much excitement. Emily's still struggling valiantly against her persistent cold and has found it difficult to sleep with coughing recently, but hell, high water and highly infectious diseases are insufficient to prevent The Sleepover from taking place, apparently. Kids.

We'll be off back to St Bees at the beginning of October (assuming any of us have stopped feeling like poo by then), which gives us a couple of weeks to get back to "normal" routines......just long enough to get into said routine and then have to get out of it again. Sigh. We're so disorganised. Not that the lack of formal schooling seems to be doing Madam any harm whatsoever, mind you - but I'd really like some routine for me!

And even though everyone must be heartily sick of photos of this room by now, here are a couple more of the completed Blue Room showing off Emily's silver curtains, beauty counter, painted ornament shelves and desk etc. We were going to paint all the wooden stuff that's still unpainted......but I lost the will to live somewhere along the line after the umpteenth day of painting things, so the other cupboards will be done gradually. Oh, and Romeo - who's bagged the corner sofabed as his own new bed. Ignore the patchiness of the walls - it really doesn't look like that in real life, there's something weird going on with the flash photography! And a random fashion thingy Emily drew the other afternoon while I was on the phone - gotta love the "normal sized woman" in the middle, rofl!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Starry, Starry Night Part II

We're very happy :-))

Today was spent finishing painting all the bookcases, desk etc for Emily's new room, while Gramps did all the electrics and laid the new carpet. So, at about 8pm, we were able to bring up the sofa bed and coffee table, with everything else going to move in tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll put up the curtains, install the beauty counter, bring up the desk, fix the mirror on the wall and hang the door. Well, we = Gramps :-))

So here she is, the proud owner of a new room that we will have to stop calling The Dollshouse Room! The colour scheme fits together beautifully - Emily had far better vision than we did.