Monday, January 25, 2010

Snow Leopards and the Moon

Our bacteria didn't grow. Zilch. Nothing at all. Wonder what we did wrong? We do have another sachet of agar left, so we'll have to have a think about doing it again and seeing if we can get something to grow this time.

Last week's "work"...let's see. Emily carried on with mountains-ish stuff for geography, watching the Mountains episode of David Attenborough's Planet Earth and then researching snow leopards. The Snow Leopard Trust had some interesting materials about snow leopard conservation and the challenges of protecting a predator in areas where people depend upon their livestock for a living.

Science was biology again, looking at what cancer is and how it develops. Lots of great stuff at The Centre of the Cell including a neat animation about how cancer occurs and a game based around developing cancer treatments.

In history last week, Emily continued with the modern theme, looking at the moon landings in more depth. We read from this lovely book by Stewart Ross which looks at moon mythology, science and history and watched some footage related to the moon landings. Emily also investigated some of the theories about the moon landings being a fake and told me all about the various photographic and film anomalies and their suggested explanations.

We didn't do much on Thursday, I don't think, as I had to take the car back to finally get its MOT finished, which took several journeys and most of the day on and off. On Friday, Jacki and her girls came to visit us - the girls made delicious chocolate chip cookies and together they all sewed plump little felt chicks. Over the weekend, Emily surprised us both with this fantastic cake - I love how she can now just waltz into the kitchen alone and produce - with or even without a recipe - such lovely bits and pieces :-))

Emily and I are both thrilled that Hazel has offered to teach Emily some GCSE-ish psychology with Romy once a week. In return, I'll do some history with Romy and Emily, which will probably be less thrilling...but I'll do my best. It will be good to get back to seeing Hazel and Romy's been far too long. Next week we're off ice skating together before our educational efforts begin, lol.

We seem to be doing quite well, education-wise, at the moment. I'm still fretting over Emily's free time, though. Because Jon and I have to work during the evenings, we don't get to spend enough family time together - bizarre, really, given that we're all at home all day long. It seems that working from home can sometimes be a recipe for less family time, not more :-(( I wish we were in a position, financially, to be able to draw a line at the end of the day and have free evenings, but we're constantly playing catch up with real life work so it's just not happening at the moment. Must work out a way to make this happen. Invent 48 hour days or something. There must be a way.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Internal Workings

Of a PC, mostly. This afternoon, Emily did some more computer science work with my Dad. They looked inside an old PC and discussed which bit did what and they also talked about their plans to build some logic circuits to operate traffic lights.

With my Dad, Emily also wrote a small basic program which lists every prime number :-))

Friday was spent visiting home ed friends (having cadged a lift from my Dad), where the girls practised finding surface areas and drawing, cutting out and making shapes from nets. At the weekend, Emily variously read, baked (yum!), Simpsons-ed, drew, karate-d and computered. On Saturday we braved letting Lucifer and Lilith out into the garden without their harnesses for the very first time but with supervision. They absolutely loved it, stayed out slightly longer with supervision on Sunday and then today were allowed out all day on their own, although we brought them in when it got dark. Beautiful little things, they're really loving their freedom and big brother Severus is an absolute angel playing with them in the garden. Big tabbies Romeo and Juliet have yet to notice that the babies are out, I think, as they spend most of the day asleep and only tend to go out in the dark until the summer comes.

This morning I took the car back to an 8am appointment to have its steering column sorted out, only to be told that they didn't have the parts and it couldn't be done until Thursday. I was deeply unimpressed, to put it mildly. No car this evening has meant Emily missing kick boxing too.

While Emily has been pondering the inner workings of a PC, I've been pondering the inner workings of our home ed style and in particular my own battles the autonomous approach. When she's not actually "doing something" with me or actively being with friends, Emily spends *a LOT* of time on her computer. Waayyy too much time, many would say. I find myself fretting over this and nagging her to get off the computer and go and do "something" else, but then I find myself nagging myself to stop nagging her. I daresay, had technology been at today's levels, I probably would have been the same at her age and so might her Dad have been. I think I'm possibly turning it into more of a problem than it should be....but then again, another part of me thinks we must be failing to provide anything else exciting to do.

With me and Jon both up to our necks in trying to earn money every spare minute of the evening and weekends apart from when I'm consciously doing things with Emily during the day - and no siblings - it's not as if Emily can run off and play "with someone". She probably likes the company when she's on the computer too, because it's in the same room as ours while we're working. She does a lot of different things on there - sometimes just playing Sims or some other game, but often finding out about things which interest her and she does a lot of creating art work and videos to put on You Tube too. It is true that her IT skills are phenomenal and her artistic skills are soaring ahead too, both of which are due to lengthy computer time. So that's all good. But surely...? Shouldn't she be reading, or playing a game on her own, or playing in the garden, or, or, or, or....?

I guess I struggle with concepts autonomous educators might take for granted sometimes. It's a combination of worrying about Emily being an only child, worrying that we have to work all the time, worrying that she might be lonely, worrying that she might be bored, worrying that she doesn't have this marvellous, all-consuming away-from-the-PC hobby that so many home educated kids do seem to have. Worrying that she's only on the PC because she can't think what else to do. In truth, Emily does do plenty of reading, garden playing, cooking and all the rest of it. We have equipment, craft stuff, books and all manner of other paraphenalia coming out of our ears, should she want to use it, which she sometimes does. And, allowing for normal preteen moods and a slight lack of social confidence, she does seem happy enough, most of the time. But - arggh! I wish I could stop fretting!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Slime and Bacteria

Lots of hands-on chemistry and biology today. Emily received a glow in the dark slime kit for Christmas and she worked her way through that with great hilarity. The glow in the dark one really does glow in the dark and makes delightful fart noises when squished as an added bonus ;-)

She also made a less firm, sloppier clear slime to which she added drops of food colouring; they spread through it to make a really pretty stained glass effect.

The explanation in the kit about polymers was woefully inadequate, however, so we spent some time this morning looking up a decent explanation. Later this afternoon, Emily worked on this polymers basics internet scavenger hunt thingy (pdf file).

In biology, we mixed up some agar and Emily thought of four places to take swabs from, to see if the bacteria will grow. She chose a tongue (mine, not hers, because she didn't like the thought of scraping hers, lol), raw meat, some mould growing near the side door (it's that kind of house...sigh) and the toilet bowl. Nice. We'll have to keep checking on the petri dish to see what's happening.

Meanwhile, Emily has also been working hard on some IT research today. She's blinding me with science about tracing IP addresses and programming pop up boxes. Eeep. It all sounds very impressive but I'm a bit lost!

Took the car in for its MOT first thing yesterday morning. It failed, of course. Something to do with the steering column being loose - it's a Rover and the garage couldn't get hold of the part needed so sent me back home to try to find it from a scrapyard. Jon found and bought it online and it arrived today. The part wasn't expensive, but it's going to cost over a hundred to have it fitted since it's apparently a long job and involves resetting the tracking too (or somesuch) and they can't do it until Monday anyway. Bit stranded until then, since the MOT is way overdue and I'm nervous of driving the car illegally, especially since it apparently invalidates the insurance if you're driving without a valid MOT. Dratted car.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monday & Tuesday

Inventive Blog Post Titles R Us.

Emily and Jon went to the library bus yesterday morning, but came back unimpressed. They'll have to go later this week on the one and only day the village library proper is open. Emily now has a long list of book she wants to borrow (or reserve, more likely, since it's only a small library). I'm hoping that this year she will read a wider range of fiction. She loves the Jacqueline Wilson-esque angst and issues books but there's a whole world beyond that. More time in the day for reading would help too.

Yesterday afternoon we raced through some maths, converting scales to real distances and vice versa. One of the things that happened during my blog absence was that we decided to hold off on formal maths for a while. Although she's perfectly capable, Emily has a bit of a mental block about maths and tends to panic over it. She's at the same kind of level as a schooled child her age would be, but unless she's going to take a maths GCSE, which seems unlikely, we're debating the need to venture into maths beyond the level that most of us use on a daily basis. Fractions, percentages, ratios, decimals, all the primary level stuff, sure. Calculus, advanced algebra, trig and the like? Not unless it becomes clear later that she's going to need some kind of maths qualification in order to get where she's going.

We also steamed through some English word roots work; we're working our way through English From the Roots Up - in typing this I've just found some online flashcards and matching games to go with the book. Would really like to get back to learning Latin at some point, but we struggle with consistently doing any one thing which is a bit of a problem when it comes to language learning. We'll see.

Then we moved onto history. At the moment, Emily's studying modern history as in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Yesterday afternoon she created timelines for the major world events of the 50s and 60s - 50s being a recap because we did all that before Christmas. For each decade, she's doing the timeline, studying one event in depth (for the 50s she chose the Coronation, for the 60s it's going to be the moon landing) and researching the music, fashion and cultural trends of the decade. In theory. In practice, it's been going on for ever! Some useful websites for this were Connected Earth which has a fab downloadable cheat document for hassled parents ;-) and Topic Box which has lots of useful links. I've just spotted that Connected Earth also has a History of the Internet unit which might be right up Emily's street.

This morning I felt poorly, so Emily amused herself while I amused a parrot; this afternoon she had a session with my Dad using small basic to do some programming and turtle graphics. My Dad has been providing lots of physics education for Emily over the last few months - he normally has the pleasure of her company each Monday afternoon, but he was poorly this week too so it was moved to today. They've done all sorts of complicated stuff with amazing equipment - very impressive! Just before Christmas he taught Emily a load of card tricks using various mathematical principles and she performed them for us on Boxing Day night, very memorably :-))

Tomorrow's education will consist of car mechanics.....well, I'm taking Emily with me to get the car MOT done and they have a viewing bay - does that count?

The problem I'm facing at the moment, home ed wise, is being spoilt for choice. I keep coming across so many fabulous internet sites but I usually don't remember to use them, can't find them again or get bogged down in a topic that we really should have moved on from (or from which we should have moved on, with my grammar hat on). I wish I could be better organised and plan ahead more, but with so much else to do we're (as usual) flying by the seat of our collective, shiny pants.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Fresh Start for 2010

Five months since my last post and less than twenty posts all last year -- this year, I'm going to get back up to speed with this blog.

I can't begin to cover what's gone on in the last five months, so we'll just draw a line under that and start again. We all plodded along happily enough and we have two new additions to the family, brother and sister kittens Lucifer and Lilith, now five months old and about to start adventuring in the garden once this dratted snow has finally gone.

We celebrated Emily's 11th birthday on the 2nd January and she enjoyed a birthday sleepover party the following day. She then promptly fell poorly for a couple of days, so we didn't get back to work last week with the exception of Friday when we did finally get something done.

Emily's future ambitions are now heading away from vet and towards feline behaviourist or (human) psychologist. She continues to grow up rapidly, with an impressively expanding range of both talents and preteen mood swings. I continue to go through the occasional panic about whether or not we can provide a good enough education to allow her to fulfil her ambitions....but then if I didn't sometimes feel that I'd be unwisely arrogant, I think. It's good to be kept on your toes by these doubts sometimes. Motivation is an issue at the moment when it comes to home education "work" and has been for the last six months or so....where once Emily was full of beans and keen to get on with whatever we were doing, it frequently becomes a battle nowadays as she'd rather read, sleep (!) or play on her computer. All productive enough in its own way, sure, but we don't work function well in that completely unstructured environment for long.

Meanwhile, Jon's mediumship is going from strength to strength and he's working out what his future plans are in that arena. I'm working on a non fiction book proposal and making a real effort to kick start my writing in other directions too. I have a feeling that 2010 should be a good year for us, if we can all pull our socks up and get on with it.

It'll all work out :-) We just need to get back into a proper routine....although if I were paid for each time I'd said that on this blog over the last five years, I'd be a rich woman :-)