Thursday, 31 March 2011
It is hard to talk about home ed without religion cropping up at some stage, In America much of the home ed community are inspired to teach their children at home for religious reasons and so that mould is applied to secular home educators as well.
Our children are out of the school system for reasons probably at the opposite end of the spectrum, to allow them to make free choices about their own belief systems.
As a child in a Church of England school the Christian religion was a source of huge confusion to me and I can remember endlessly pestering the teachers with questions. "How was the earth made in 7 days?" "How did a virgin have a baby?" Hymns like "All Things Bright and Beautiful "and "Morning has Broken" really held back my scientific mind as for years I was unable to reconcile the two approaches. Until one day someone explained that you can believe in evolution or creationism and suddenly it all fell into place. Light shone.
Multiculturalism was taught in a very tokenistic way during my time in the 1980s the overwhelming sentiment that sticks in my memory is the line that "We are all Christians and that is the right way but there are these other people who believe other things like: Buddishm and Judasim and Muslims but that's enough about them now back to the Ark." which is a strange memory because RE was on the curriculum for at least 10 of my school years and it seems a little surprising that is all I can recall from several hundred hours of lessons.
At some stage I decided that there was no hole in my life which needed filling by religion and if I was to believe in anything then I would believe in myself. By the time I arrived at Sixth Form college I was very open to read about Weber and the 'Protestant Ethic' and how Marx had described religion as the 'Opium of the People.'
With our own children we have taken the view not to influence them but to allow them ,in later life, the freedom to decide for themselves. Questions which are not satisfactorily answered lead to more questions. "Where is heaven?" "What is the weather like there?" "How many people live there?"
They expect proof, the kind of proof they have in all other areas and unable to show them that any one way is the right way, I focus instead on helping them grow and develop their own judgment skills. How about you? How does belief and faith fit into your home educating life?
There is a scene near the beginning of the film of Mary Poppins where the children are presented to their father upon his return home from work:
"It's 6:03 and the heirs to my dominion are scrubbed and tubbed, and adequately fed. And so I'll pat them on the head, and send them off to bed" and the Daddy one dances around his London home and launches into song about his glorious life.
Life in our home educating family couldn't be further from this Edwardian ideal as we are together almost 24/7 both awake and asleep but I do hold a dream that one day I will wake earlier than my children and be one step ahead of the game for the whole day rather than constantly chasing my tail. With 5am a not unusual wake up time for some of the smalls suffice to say this remains a dream.
This morning though I made it into the kitchen a little ahead of everyone else and started to bring together some ideas for strewing.
Google body browser and Baby Smalls enjoyment of pointing to and naming body parts, including his "leave alone" has seen us talking about bodies again plus our London day has thrown up questions about the size of London so I gathered together a few resources. I knew the smalls were a little tired after two busy days out and I like to have some distractions on hand where possible.
The map of London wrapping paper was only £2 from the Transport Museum. A similar sheet graced the wall of my first London flat nearly twenty years ago now. I bought it to wrap a gift and when I spread it our out on the floor I saw instantly that it could solve the problem I always had with journeys crossing the page of the A-Z so I stuck it on the wall and there is stayed for about 5 years and was always a popular talking point. When I saw it on sale again before Christmas I snapped up a roll. The wooden city in a bag is from Muji and, in addition to London, we also have Paris & New York! S really enjoyed the interactive table at the Museum of London so here is our own low tech wood and paper version. She enjoyed working out where to put the structures especially the Gherkin which she rather likes as it is the same age as her.She has also had fun playing the 3D jigsaw body today and the fraction cubes! Baby Small has been in on the act too with his own pile of books selected on the sofa. He loves lift the flap books and Maisy.
This was all before 10am I should add when luckily a friend arrived for a playdate. There is nothing like having a friend over to smooth out sibling rivalry. I had explained to middle small ,at great length, that it was possible the girls would want to play Barbies and that he might be excluded and that I had plans for he and I to do cooking together but once again I was proved wrong when our visitor turned out to be just as interested in playmobil knights. So, Since then I have made pizza dough and lemon cakes on my own!Middle small had other plans for Big Ben and has relocated the Royal Albert Hall.
S has been fashion designing this afternoon and E has done some lego cutting and sticking. Baby Small pulled the heads off all the pansies in the garden and, just as we were about to serve supper, E knocked a glass standard lamp which hit the floor and smashed and I, well I didn't shout or yell or say much at all really.
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
I was up early this morning for a 7am ocado delivery that contained no broken eggs. A true miracle! Well, that is not counting when I woke up at 2am realising I hadn't performed tooth fairy duties. S swallowed her first lost tooth and does actually know that there is no such thing as the tooth fairy but seems keen to play along. Infact **Warning this review contains spoilers**
She also knows that it is "Up to you to look at the facts and decide whether you want to believe in Santa or any of the gods" as she told our local LEA inspector one day. Before adding "I like the Greek Gods." The Daddy one and I decided very early on in our parenting career that we were not comfortable with lying and most questions on the subject are responded to with a "Well, how do you think ..?" type reply. It is tricky to unschool and carry on such mythical traditions as they go against the grain of being open and trusting. I had to put the spoiler line in though as I landed myself in trouble before Christmas on facebook when answering a friend's question about Santa.
When S woke a little later than me she was thrilled with her tooth fairy bounty. This was because at 2am without contact lenses all I could find was a £5 note. This is not good, 3 children with roughly 20 teeth each mean I could have set an expensive precedent.
We went to Horsham on train today, with Grandma's help to navigate the stairs with the pushchair, it was achievable. The walk to the station is a walk the smalls enjoy as we often see the rabbits and horses in the field. We were going to drive but I thought it might be more relaxed to have the option of making a day of our outing and it is hard to park in Horsham, with a large vehicle, for more than 5 hours.We did some more wild reading on the journey. S taught E how to read "Priority Seat."
First stop we met all of my co-leaders from our local La Leche League groups to discuss our LLL leaders Spring Workshop that is coming up on May 7th. S was thrilled as there were lots of Barbie toys and a kitten. The smalls lasted about an hour and a half before I could sense they were getting restless so we headed into town.
Our original plan had been a Marks and Spencer picnic in the park but the rain sent us into Pizza Express. It is incredibly rare for us to have such a treat. In common with many home educating families living on one wage makes treats like eating out a real luxury but I did have a voucher in my bag and it turned out to be good value. Not so for the rest of the restaurant I feel. It was packed with mothers and babies! As an economist I am always looking at the world through indicator googles. Yesterday in London I was struck by the volume of construction traffic, the so called crane index, and yes much of it is associated with the new crossrail link but you can see why the policy makers have a tough job working out what is going on!
S's tooth fairy money was burning a hole as they say so after lunch we headed to the Toy shop where she chose an ice-skater outfit for Barbie. E had some money too and he spent ages agonising over a really tough 4 way choice from the selection of Playmobil Knights. I am so pleased he had the benefit of lunch inside him because without it I think it could have proved too much. He doesn't run on empty and is not one to play fuel light bingo with. There were two big reductions. One of a boxed set which was half price and another on the set which had been in the window which was not in a box but was £10 instead of £30. In the end he went for set 4147 which was selling at its regular price and he is really pleased with it. Last time we visited this toy shop he has opened the packaging as we were leaving and lost two of the swords before we arrived home. Today the box remained unopened until we were inside our front door. Life learning.After this we popped to the Library as we had some DVDs to return and the two big smalls and I looked at a few books and tried and failed to get the computer working before walking back to the station. On the train home Barbie who is 20cmish or so high married the new playmobil man, who was still inside the box, and is about 7.5cm tall "I know you can't really hear me and I know you are shorter than me but it will be okay." she said to him reassuringly. and with that he was welcomed into the toy gang.
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
It has been a Mummy daughter day for me today with my little gem ;-). Big small and I have been on the train to London whilst middle and baby smalls have had a Grandma day at Fishers Farm. Not ideal timing since I was out all day Sunday and up for several hour last night but with many private schools breaking up later this week and the lateness of Easter and Royal Wedding combining to extend the holiday to near a month it seemed a good choice of day for a relatively quiet visit to the capital for a few weeks to come. Plus S was burning to return to the Museum of London after our visit was cut short last week.
On the upward train journey we did some more of "The Usborne Kings and Queens Sticker Book" regular readers will know we are very big consumers of the Usborne sticker dolly dressing and historic sticker books. Today S chose the Tudors, Victorians and Stuarts sections. The man opposite us on the train was very interested and he and S were talking about the portrait of Lady Jane Grey sticker for a while. I adore our time on the train together and although it many ways it might be easier to drive it is a great opportunity to just chat and relax without domestic distractions. Whilst we were on the train I noticed a tweet from Usborne which said they have developed the sticker dolly dressing series into an ipad app. Only moments before I had been thinking to myself, If there is one area technology is going to struggle to replicate it must be stickers! What do I know? So, just as the wonderful sonos has tided our home of CD cases for ever and Windows Media Centre has removed the carpeting of DVD boxes from the floor along comes another technology solution with tiding potential. The minimalist palace might be closer than I think. We did have some old fashioned fun on the train as well. S beat me at hangman with the well chosen word "Pipes" and a few games of noughts and crosses too. S is into finding her way round the capital at the moment and was keen to travel on the tube from London Bridge to Barbican. We had to go to Barbican although Moorgate was easier because we had Barbie with us and "Barbie must go to Barbican!" We saw all the bits at the Museum we had missed before including the gold coach and the amazing touch screen tables which are similar to the music table at Intech. S was captured by the light up gherkin as she read it had been built in the year of her birth (2004). Double-decker buses are the flavour at the moment so S worked out which one we needed to take us to the Natural History Museum. It took us three changes (and about an hour) to get to Oxford Circus at which point S said "I think we should just get a taxi" I did a silent cheer as I am not good on urban public transport. Too many years of being driven to or driving to work in the city I fear plus the bubble taxi culture! From the top of the bus going through Holborn we saw a pub called Princess Louise. S, who is very keen on royal history, did not know Princess Louise so we looked her up on wikipedia on my phone and found out she was one of Victoria and Albert's 9 children and that she lived to be 91 . We finally, at the third attempt, made it to the Cora Sun Drop yellow diamond which S had seen over a month ago now on the Musuem's facebook feed. Our first visit was postponed due to the car crash, last week middle small was just too tired to walk another step and we had to come home early, but this week, third time lucky, we reached the vault. After seeing the giant gem S wanted to head to the Science Museum - She is so familiar with the museums now that just popping into to see a new display or exhibit is perfectly satisfying and we no longer have to tour the whole building everytime. We had some chips in the cafe and then headed to the basement for S's best, the water play. Experience has taught us that mid afternoon is a fab time for a visit as the school trips, of which there were many everywhere we went today, have departed and the area can be pretty peaceful. S could have stayed much longer and Barbie was enjoying her rides down the chute too but my feet were aching and I was keen to miss rush hour so for the first time in the day I took the initiative. Several friends have been asking me where they should take their children during the Easter holidays and my answer is always the same. What are your children interested in? The majority of the museums and galleries are on facebook and twitter now so it is simple to keep up with the latest events and very satisfying too. Thanks Grandma x In other news S's 2nd wobbly tooth fell out not long after we returned home.
Monday, 28 March 2011
Another great sunshine song today. More than 20 years old!
We have had a homeish day today. I was out for most of the day yesterday at a meeting, and the Daddy one was in charge. I am on the Board of Directors for La Leche League shop. We spent much of the meeting talking about business technology interesting given my blog post of Saturday. Baby small had me pinned to the sofa for much of the morning. At one point he said "You're hot and tasty Mum." He is clearly working on his social skills already.
We had an early playdate and chat with some local friends who came over around 8am, almost a breakfast playdate, and then headed up the hill for some fresh air and a French stick. This is a good opportunity for what I call "wild reading" with middle small where we look at signs and posters and spot words and letters we know. Bumped into our 80 year old neighbour who was mowing her grass and she asked the smalls if they were on a break from lessons! S mentioned the Alice in Wonderland bit with the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle when we were walking home, you know the one "That's the reason they're called lessons, because they lessen from day to day."
Before this the postman arrived with some new T-shirts. Middle small especially is in need of up to date summer clothes as last years models won't even go over his head. Here he is trying a new one on. They are from Frugi which used to be called cut for cloth. Baby small was wearing some of their clothes today which were his sisters and so are on the third child with no sign of giving up yet. I only ordered them on line a couple of days ago. Amazing. Here is my 4 year old in an age 7-8 number. Perfect fit. He has been wearing since even though it still has the tag on.
Big small has been very productive today, She has created a fashion show line up with some glitter touches using the paper portrait style because "They are portraits aren't they?" I am really impressed with the accuracy of the gluing and the glittering. There was a long standing joke about me being allergic to glitter but I was okay today! She has also played with the weighing bears and, after her baby brother scattered them all over the kitchen, put the times tables magnets back in order. She definitely has Barb's bullshit detector installed "If you had dropped them Mum I would have known it was a trick to get me to do more timestables work" she said.Had a funny chat with middle small today "What's your favourite number?" I said trying to take his mind off a hurt leg after a fall in the garden "68,000" he answered (he is 4) "What's your favourite letter?" "E" he answered "But I like small e more than big E." "What is your best colour?" "Red, Orange & Yellow." but "Red" best "What's your best toy?" "Playmobil." What is your best food? "Your home made pizza Mum"
I watched a TED talk today about this ex hedge fund analyst who has made maths videos for children to watch at home and then the children do their home work at school where the teacher is there to help. He started out uploading the videos on youtube for his cousins and the whole thing just snowballed from there. I love the ted talks - this one reminded me that the ways I was taught things were far from the only ways and in the future there are things we can not yet conceive of. I hope I am enabling my smalls to be ready for them.In other news I retrieved the skipping rope today and managed about 5 minutes worth. Back to Life for me too!
Saturday, 26 March 2011
Ooooh Jose Feliciano this is a song of the most perfect kind yes I know it is a cover version but I am certain Mr Morrison would approve. This song so overwhelms me that I find it hard to do anything else whilst listening to it, it feels almost disrespectful to do so. We have all been on the computers today from the amazing new Google Body explorer to the Usborne quick-links in E's "The Usborne Book of Castles." The Usborne quicklinks wouldn't work at first because they needed shockwave but the Daddy one says no one uses shockwave anymore, the Body Labs, by contrast, needed the latest browser Google chrome to work properly. They are not daft those Google guys! Blink and you are behind the curve. Even after I had fixed it all though the once start of the art quick -inks are looking very dated next to Google Body Labs. The smalls are sad there is no male on the body labs, they wanted to play spot the difference. Philosophically too there is a difference. The quick-links seem to come from an age when parents felt they had to be "in charge" of internet use and "teach" their children how to use the computer. I certainly don't subscribe to this view: concerns about internet predators are just another diverting tactic from the real kind of car based traffic that statistics show kill too many children on the roads every year. Watching my one year old choose which Maisy clip to play on youtube on my android phone confirms everything I read about young children and intuition in the arena of technology. It is not just my anecdotes increasing volumes of academic research are supporting the idea that self teaching is the best way to learn about technology. This Ted clip is very good. We have also been on the fantastic playmobil site and the Barbie sites plus printing off more mazes from the krazydad site, even tackling the challenging ones today. Fast access to the web has of course transformed home education in numerous ways. We are often checking things on wikipedia that, in my youth, would have required a drive to the local library and of course our answers are up to the minute. Social networking means the "socialisation" concerns of a life out of school have turned into the opposite problem of finding time to stay home. Following all of our best museums and galleries on facebook and twitter is a mixed blessing as everyday updates show there is some gallivanting we could do. I am a little envious of the opportunities this opens for my smalls but isn't that a little how parenting should be? Baby Small has been playing with the brio wooden train track this afternoon. This is a toy which combines tradition and modern very well. The assembly of a new track is half the challenge of course but the battery and electric train add a whole new dimension of play value to the set up. They are not the most robust though, we have worn out at least 6 now. The latest rechargable model we have seems pretty durable and even though we are on our third remote control train it is still a great product and all have covered many kilometres before wearing out. The best of hi and low tech toy combined in my opinion. We have seen some great technology this week. At the Museum of London they have giant touch screens of the kind I can't wait to have on the front of a kitchen cupboard for recipes and automatic restocking. It has not all been hitech today. Middle small has been learning to ride a two wheeler at the park with the Daddy one and, as you can see from the photos, we have been painting and cutting and sticking, albeit we did print the dragons out from the playmobil site. Baby small has been sniffing the magnolia blooms in the garden, there's an old fashioned pleasure technology has yet to replicate. Or has it? I must google scratch and sniff screens and see. Smell is the closest link sense to memory and our main ambition with outside the box life for the children is happy memories. It is the journey and not the destination. In other news: You might wonder how we have done so much today, thanks to it being the first day of the new Grand Prix season we have all been up since 5am for qualifying in Australia. Big Small, age 6, was looking at the new letterbox brochure which arrived today and she said "It says in here that Hannah the horse doll is a star buy, Do you think that means they have too much stock?" Perhaps I am still more of an economist than I think I am!
Friday, 25 March 2011
Today didn't start fantastically but improved considerably as the hours past and ended up just right. We have had some lovely home ed friends over for the day today and have been to the local park and the library. Big smalls had ordered in books and DVDs (Lego Clutch Powers and Barbie the Island Princess) which were ready to collect. The Mummy one in our visiting family was one of my first La Leche League friends, it is wonderful to have a friend that you don't need to explain things too, they just are on your wavelength. On the way to the park middle small fell over crossing the road and grazed his knee. It has been warm again today and the first day of wearing shorts meant that, rather than ruining another pair of trousers, his skin took the strain. He also ran off at the park but my super friend pushed baby small on the swing whilst I chatted to him and when I failed she seemed to talk him round and he was very happy to hold her hand. Mostly today the smalls seem to have been eating and relaxing with some car washing, barbie games, dressing-up, duplo and sand pit action thrown in. A much needed home day after a busy week out and about; I have been fully occupied in my role as short order cook. We often have days like this where there is no obvious point where one meals ends and other begins, reminds me of when they were newborns, and we could snuggle in on the sofa for some serious cluster breastfeeds ahead of a growth spurt, Things are little changed now. Clothes from last summer no longer fit over heads, it is spring and everywhere there is growing go on! Only sadly this type of meal preparation requires less sitting down than breastfeeding allows. We have some cool books from the library. Some more Orchard Shakespeares, How to Train Your Dragon and a few new ones on Dinosaurs which I am looking forward to enjoying with the smalls later. Has been a challenging day for E again in many ways. Hurt knee, running off, feeling left out of the game of Barbies but Friday is Kai day so some one to one playing football at the park with his favourite teenager is always good. He also had some post, two items from lego, the new spring 2011 catolouge and a new ball to replace the lost one in his duplo castle caterpault. Thank-You lego customer services department, you are fab. We have had home made brownies today, made with milk chocolate as we knew our visitors like them that way, red pepper and chorizo soup, broccoli and Stilton "flan," boiled eggs, melon, jacket potatoes, ham sandwiches, plates of broccoli and right now they are tucking into fresh hot pop corn. I scratch my head and wonder how they would cope with the lunch time limits placed upon them in a school setting especially as food, or more often lack of, is the second major trigger after sleep for poor behaviour.Am off to research sand options now. The smalls adore the giant sandpits at Fishers Farm and Horsham Park and I am wondering how much it would cost to have one of our own.
Thursday, 24 March 2011
Whilst the biggest smalls were at gymnastics today baby small and I took a walk into town for some french stick and on the hunt for some gems to decorate E's sword. We found some gems in an amazing treasure trove of a store. 10 assorted triangles, crescent moons and squares for the princely sum of 80p. Art, Craft and Fabric is full of the things to tackle the kind of craft projects I think the smalls would enjoy. Sadly the economics of knitting and sewing are not so as they were when I was young and it many cases now it is cheaper to buy things than make your own. S&E had a great gym class, probably because it was the end of the term today, they always seem to find their groove just as term comes to an end. Lucky they are not in timetabled lessons. Some friends had invited us to go to Bignor Roman Villa today and S was keen to do the guided walk at the RSPB again which is held every Thursday morning but then she remembered she had seen a poster for Tatty Teddy day at Fishers Farm Park so we headed over there. It has been really hot again today, 17 o C maybe.
When we arrived at Fishers Farm S&E tackled the treasure trail that has been laid out for the day. They adore treasure trails. The park opens at 10am and by 10:22am they had finished it!! The task involved writing the answers on the sheet and S completed her writing all by herself. After this they discovered that the new yellow inflatables on the toboggan run had vanished so they tackled a nearby staff member who explained they were too dangerous. "But that's why we like them." they said!
After meeting Tatty Teddy all 3 smalls were so happy in the giant sand pit that I decided to sit in the sun and to clear out all the random pieces of paper and rubbish from the bottom of my bag. Sometimes the glamour is too much to bear! S said that she was too old for Tatty Teddy but wouldn't tell anyone that it was just a man in a suit! We listened to the Tatty Teddy story time in the theatre which was really beautiful. Obviously a marketing gimmick of course but the stage props were gorgeous and the story teller really talented. We love stories in our family and it was a pleasure to see it done so well. If ever I complained about having clingy toddlers first time round and I am experiencing pay back now, I don't recall complaining but ... perhaps it is third child territory. Baby small is off, turn your back for a second and he is gone. Whilst the other children were happy to cuddle the giant teddy O had headed off behind the scenes to see where he had come from! After an outdoor picnic lunch followed by ice cream we mooched around a bit more before heading home S asked about our plans for tomorrow and then she said "Why is tomorrow always so exciting?" How fantastic is that. It has been great to have the bus back. I did feel a little apprehensive getting back behind the wheel especially as when I reconnected the memory stick into the radio the music carried on from where it had been at the moment of impact which was little surreal. E was keen to adorn his sword with the new gems when we arrived home but search as I might they are nowhere to be found. I have a nasty feeling they may have fallen victim to the great bag clear out, I shall have to return, this time with the full compliment of smalls, I fear it might cost me more than 80p!
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Never it let it go
Found this link whilst looking at yesterday's song and it has been bumping around in my brain a bit today. Not a good start to the morning, well the breakfast part was okay, but when it came time to go out to meet some friends at the park I remembered I hadn't been in the hire car since the weekend so it was still in 7 seats no boot mode. Try as I might I couldn't flatten out the two back seats to reclaim the boot so after much huffing, puffing, swearing and head scratching Mum suggested that I take the buggy instead of the pushchair which was not a major drama except if the smallest small wants to walk I can't push the double buggy one handed so it meant I couldn't go into town as well as the park. The hire car is so badly designed. I can't abide bad design, it is one of my major frustrations. How much harder can it be to do it right?
I was feeling pretty cross already then middle small starting freaking out that he had lost one of the swords for his knights (about 4-5cms long) and he absolutely had to have it to take it with him. The hotness of the house caused by a combination of warm spring sunshine and me not yet having adjusted the heating settings for the new season plus the fact I dislike returning to the house when some children are in the car as I don't feel they are particularly safe got me all very agitated and shouty. I hate shouty Mummy, oh how I wish she would leave me in peace.
Later on when we were all finally squeezed in the car and heading out I apologised to Et ,who had felt the full force of my crossness, and he replied: "It's okay Mum, my brain doesn't work properly when I am angry either." and then he squeezed my hand. I could have cried. We met up with about 10 home ed friends at the park today, glorious sunshine but again a girl boy ratio that was causing difficulties for our fun loving mischief maker. Luckily some more male humans arrived and peace reigned, with the help of some Bob the Builder construction toys, in the sandpit. Sadly one of our little friends took a nasty tumble whilst climbing over the fence in the dragon maze today. Hope he is soon better.
This afternoon we had to stay in and wait for our now repaired car to be delivered back and the hire car to be collected. Sadly you can't hear the doorbell in our back garden so we had to stay mostly in the house. Et wanted help to make a sword and shield of his design and appointed me as his squire. I am sure many 4 year old boys were photographed with a home made shield today - perhaps they made it as part of a school project on knights, maybe they wanted to make it, maybe they didn't, maybe they are home educated and their parent suggested it as a craft idea but what I really love about where I am now with the smalls is that it is all their ideas. I am merely on hand to provide double sided sellotape and reach high things. The drive, inspiration and motivation is theirs and, as a result, life is more harmonious for it. I feel sure that two weeks ago if I had announced we would be studying the middle ages, been to the library for a stack of books and pre-booked all of the trips we have done the results would have been very different! Following the children's lead with a little bit of parent direction seems to be the formula for us. Not so long ago I might have complained to my husband that there was little appetite for the task I had spent ages setting up or that we hadn't covered a particular area for a while but everyday my faith in their ability to learn what they need and want to know increases.
S was pretty tired after the London day and running around in the park all morning with her friends so she requested to watch Pocahontas one and Pocahontas two whilst eating carrots on the sofa. After it had finished she asked if the marriage was to John Rolfe or John Smith so we looked up on Wikipedia and she spent nearly an hour reading around the subject and forming her own opinions on the myth and the truth. This is not the first time a Disney film has opened up a new line of investigation. She also finished off the remaining sticker dolly dressing book and has been asking lots of questions about Tibet.
My 6 year old said to my 4 year old yesterday "Of course we don't have to learn about stuff we are not interested in. Why would anyone do that?" Used to dance to this tune It's a London thing back in the days before marriage and children. Have been to London today with the two biggest smalls whilst superstar Grandma had a day with her youngest grandchild. Almost every friend in our local home ed group has asked me at some time or another why I take my children to London so often and, even more often, "Isn't it really hard and expensive?" My answer is always that the more you do it the easier and cheaper it gets and that is as true for us as it is for you! Have an idea of where you want to go but be ready to be flexible if things change. I also feel strongly that, for my children, the process is just as valuable as the destination. Today our mission was the Museum of London with a few other ideas along the way. I try to allow for as much freedom as possible but research the route possibilities so it is not too tiring for little legs. Think of the classic swan analogy, gliding across the surface, whilst traveling very fast underneath the water! It is so about more than just the destination: negotiating travel options and interacting with other people are all really important learning experiences in my opinion. We saw a man with a robotic leg on the train today. With typical lack of inhibition Et was chatting to him about disney cars cars and dinoco sponsorship as we were waiting for the toilet. Et's conversation opener was "The man on how to train your dragon film could have a leg like yours." I have not seen the film so I froze momentarily with a fire breathing mental picture in my head then the chap said. "So many children have told me that I had to watch the film to find out." Looks like I need to watch it too! I always plan for the train. An hour is too long to sit still with "nothing" to day so on the train today it was the classic Usborne sticker books. We had dinosaurs and sticker dolly dressing around the world, they are perfect for journeys and we get to do them totally uninterrupted by domestic life which is fantastic. Of course we could take the car to London but learning about train travel is a really useful life skill I think. The Medieval theme is still very popular in our family at the moment and a little light on line research revealed the Museum of London as a good source of artifacts and exhibits. We changed trains at East Croydon onto the City Thameslink which bought us into London at just about the right spot. The Museum of London is really fantastic inside and is designed as a route through history. Starting with life in London in around 1000BC and moving up to the present day on a single routed walk way. It is probably what many people think the British Museum will be like before they have been but of course it is not. As biggest small said when she was three "Why is it called the British Museum when there is nothing British here?" As regular museum goers we found today that the museum has one outstanding feature. Lockers! They are £1 and similar to the kind you used to find in swimming pools. Perfect cloakroom solution. At the Natural History Museum it has, in the past, cost us around £5 to check in all of our bags and coats. The visit got off to a great start as we were very impressed with the locker system. I know you are thinking what is she going on about lockers for but I have found having my hands free, not having to worry about your things and not being too hot in a museum makes a huge difference to the overall experience for us. Take care of the little things and the big things look after themselves. We headed through Roman London to the display of knights where a really knowledgeable and friendly explainer in a dashing pink shirt was waiting with a chain mail helmet for us to try. After this Et had had enough. He said it was too dark. It is dark, designed to protect the exhibits, and he was keen to leave. He was also a little scared of the exhibit of the black death. S is desperate to go back and was a little annoyed that we had to leave. She has , of course, totally erased or forgotten how many places we had to leave in a hurry when she was four. I was thinking I should have been more specific, I did say "We are going to the Museum of London to see the medieval knight exhibits" and I did not say"and then we will have a little mooch around afterwards!" So we headed out into the glorious spring sunshine and hopped on a double decker bus to Hamleys, the giant toy shop on Regent Street, where the staff were welcoming customers outside on the street by blowing bubbles. Et was keen to look at the playmobil knights and S at the Barbies. Knights and strategic battles have really captured Ets imagination and, lacking the correct toys, he has been remarkably innovative in finding replacements around the house so we had agreed, in advance, that he could choose two more knights for his growing collection. S went for a pack of Barbie shoes and a Barbie dress. We came out of Hamleys and headed over the road to the Ferrari shop where there was a F1 car on display. After the trip to Mercedes Benz world at the weekend and with the start of the new Grand Prix season this weekend Ets interest has been fired up again. Then we hopped on another bus to Queensway and the fabulous Princess Diana memorial play ground with its pirate ship. From the bus we saw the beautiful glass jelly babies which was fab as they are off in April and of course the old classic sculptures which the smalls really adore. After the park S was keen to see the yellow diamond at the Natural History Museum and do some water play at the Science Museum which she is technically too old for but still enjoys. Et was too tired though and started to drag his feet so we decided to head back. We caught another bus to Victoria, completing our journey of East to West, just the street sculpture and the people watching is enough stimulation in my opinion, I am not surprised he was tired without the hour or so climbing the rigging in the park. Today was the first time I manged to take almost all of our food (minus the ice creams & coffee) so it is not as expensive as it could be. In fact most of our favorite places are free. The Science Museum, The Museum of Childhood, The British Museum, Tate Modern, The Natural History Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Diana Memorial Playground and now The Museum of London are all places we have really enjoyed in the last six months and all are free. When we arrived back Grandma and Orin were waiting for us at the train station. A great day out.
Monday, 21 March 2011
Monday morning, beautiful spring sunshine streaming through the windows. Some home ed friends invited us to go to the Weald and Downland Museum today which would have tied in well with the medieval theme that is popular with the smalls at the moment but, as it is the first morning we have been the four of us at home in a long while, we decided to stay in. The Barbie DVDs are due back to the library and so there is a keenness to watch them one more time plus we have Sunday leftovers for lunch and I couldn't think of an easy way to turn them into a picnic! The Museum doesn't open til 10:30am so it would have been a short visit, we will earmark it for another day.
After the first ever sleepover on Wednesday night Big Small went to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre with Grandma to see Alice in the Mill Studio on Thursday then and stayed for a two night sleepover there. The smalls love the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre as they were selected to go up on stage at the pantomime just before Christmas. We also saw the paternal grandparents this weekend where we played shops and velcro tennis, plus we attended a beautiful sparkly 7th birthday party with our sleepover pals and had a visit to Mercedes Benz world to see the exploded formula one car exhibition we had read about.
I had a bit of a wobble in the shower this morning about how long it has been since we have done any formal structured work at home but, when I emerged from the bathroom, Big small, age 6, had completed a pile of Krazy Dad mazes and was sitting on her bed reading Shakespeare's Tempest, Middle small, age 4, had set up a medieval castle knights battle and logged himself onto the playmobil website to have a look at the online game on there and baby small was totally engrossed watching Tractor Ted help feed the animals in winter.
Just to say we love Krazy Dad mazes. Apparently mazes are great for spatial awareness and pencil control but no one seems much fussed by that- they just enjoy the challenge of finding the escape route. We have printed out several cartridges worth of mazes over the past two years but these we have found to be the best and they have solutions too. We have a great week planned again this week. Just the right amount of play dates , days out and social time and the weather forecast is fab and we might even get our car back. Woo Hoo!
Friday, 18 March 2011
I read this retweet today from gapingvoid "My advice: if you want a high-traffic blog, write about stuff that doesn't matter." It really made me smile.
It reminded me that the other week I posted a comment on an interesting article on the website of a guy my husband used to go to school with, so I started wondering if anyone had responded to it but I couldn't remember if I posted it on my android phone or the media centre pc or the upstairs mother~ship pc so, I thought I would just google my name and see if I could find it that way. One advantage of having an unusual name. Given that it has been 7 years since I had a "real" job I was surprised to find all of these links to articles I had written or was quoted in. Here, here, here, here, here, here and here. I did find my comment too and it had a response as well!
Since starting my blog a month ago, when I knew very little about the subject, I have discovered that: car enthusiasts, cake makers, gardeners, pagans and parents are all very busy blogging and it is very popular. There is a conference coming up soon called cybermummy just for mothers who blog. It is probably one of the reasons why people don't buy magazines so much these days. This is all started me to thinking what I could do with my blog. Should I put some adverts on it? What would they be adverts for? There are many many products and services that I should not like to be associated with. I also feel very unsure about the ethics of writing about other people. The feedback that has come my way has been so positive, a few of the places I have written about have contacted me to say that people visiting have mentioned reading about them on my page.
Much of my idle clicking around the subject lead me to many of the more mainstream parenting sites and their top blog lists where, it seems, everyone is looking for a cure for nits. Endless typing around the subject of how to get rid of nits and still be on the sofa in time for Eastenders with a glass of Chardonnay seems to be the pre-occupation of parents with school age children.
My children have never had nits. I assume this is because they don't go to school but I guess home education is too outside the box as a solution for those comparing the advantages and disadvantages of nit combs, nuclear strength chemical shampoo and tea tree oil. Funny thing is when you talk to home educating families nits often comes up as a great advantage of life outside the institution of school.
So, even when you have an answer, it turns out that is not really what people are looking for. Posts moaning about nits are popular but does that mean a total solution doesn't really matter to most people?
Runaway is by NyYorican Soul and is a quality track. It is also the focus of my current parenting challenge.
This morning, for the about the fifth time in 3 weeks, middle small ran away. When I say ran
away, I don't mean hopped on a train to London with his red spotty handkerchief tied to a pole, he is only 4, but he went further away than unusual , outside a gate, with a determinism and a sprint in his step.
The first time this happened, at the park with Daddy, it was the result of a build up of frustration that exploded as he ran away. My strategy had been to allow some more freedom, less hand holding for example, when we are out, more walks in "safe" places where it is okay to run on ahead and once he did get lost. I had thought this might have scared him a little but no, early this week in our village, he ran away from my Mum and today, at the park, he ran away from me. Today I didn't run after him. I had my toddler in the swing and didn't want to leave him. Plus, don't think I could catch him and the excitement of "the chase" I think would make it even more likely that he would put himself in danger.
Eventually I talked him round, I really think a career in hostage negotiation could be for me if I wasn't too old, and we talked about the dangers of running off. About traffic, cars, road safety, I did mention strangers too but I have to say that from my perspective all the statistical evidence points to cars as a bigger danger.
Perhaps the need to explore further is challenged by where we live. As the baby moves from its mothers lap to crawl on the floor and toddle round the house the next logical steps are somewhat tricky in our home being as it is sandwiched between a busy main A road, an access road and a railway line.
In La Leche League we say that breastfeeding problems have breastfeeding solutions and I feel the same way about attachment parenting too. I am sure many people would suggest: playschool, pre-school or proper school as a way to make my little son "behave properly" but we have found that de-attachment parenting solutions don't work in our attachment parenting family. I was looking around on the web for ideas, even when you don't find a solution there is great comfort to be gained from knowing you are not alone. This one sounds more like dog training but this one is pretty good. There are some ideas on here I might try. I like the continuum concept based answers and "How bizarre that a child should run away from their mother. Why might they be doing that?" gives an insight to the problem that the first link totally ignores.
I know Middle Small is still consumed by jealously of Baby Small but so far I have been unable to find a cure for this. The strange irony at the heart of it all is that the more challenging his behaviour becomes the less people, adults and children, want to be around him which is what he most craves. Company. We had another huge chat about this whilst playing knights this afternoon and I explained that next weeks planned trip to London will have to be on hold until I can trust him again and that running away in a big city could have very different consequences. We had good moment of connection and then, a few seconds later, he attempted to trip up baby small. I intervened. He was furious and so back to square one we are again.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Of all the days Tuesdays are a favourite day because we have Grandma here for the day and a sleep-over and suddenly so much more becomes achievable, even so we still managed a few seconds of madness today, those I wrote about in one of my first blog posts, that somehow cloud the whole day.
We have been for hair cuts today. All five of us were booked in but only four were up for it. E has been gearing himself up for this for some days now and measured, with a ruler, the 10cms that he wanted trimmed from his long blond locks.
Chloe, our lovely hairdresser, needed cms converted back into old money before she could get busy with the scissors. E was perplexed at this as he knows that young people use cms, metres and kilograms whilst older people tend to use inchs, miles and pounds and Chloe is very young! In a way this reflects so much of what home education is about. Despite 10 or more years of schooling based on a metric system many many people use imperial standards in their every days lives. If they were schooled prior to the 1970s it is unlikely they learned this at school but they have absorbed the knowledge from the world around them just as the smalls do with their life learning.
S had fun in the hairdressers matching up her hair colour to the romantically named ones on the chart plus when we arrived home she played on the hairdresser game on the Barbie website for ages. A future career to rival vet perhaps? Baby small didn't want his hair trimmed today so we'll be back.
Anyhow, I digress, Et's hair has been trimmed but he is still uncertain about it. He loves his long blond hair and, despite many of the older men and Dads he knows having long hair, he is really fed up with being mistaken for a girl. These feelings have rather overwhelmed him today, a bad hair day perhaps? and once again, as the frustration became too much too bear, he ran off at the side of a busy main road. Once again this lasted less than a minute I am certain but enough to terrify everyone around him.
The range of options for dealing with these situations have been contemplated endlessly by me. At one extreme of the spectrum there is the yelling, screaming. smacking and hitting scenario which has shown time and time again that punishing a small for loosing control by then loosing control yourself doesn't really progress the situation and leaves a nasty legacy. The other option, right at the opposite end of the spectrum, is the do nothing approach, where we just carry on as if nothing has happened. Whilst I guess this may be possible with a singleton it doesn't work in a large family where your siblings are already reading you the riot act. I have been reading this great blog by a Dad that has given me lots of new ideas. I try not to criticize the whole person as I know how damaging that can be but it sure is hard.
So we talked about the danger of roads, the risks of running off, what we need to do when our feelings overwhelm us and so on. The little things are the triggers, Hunger and tiredness again played a part today as did needing a wee.
This afternoon we headed out for shoes. Middle small has expanded from a 29 to a 31 in a matter of days and so new footwear was required. I did consider the mixed signals given by a shopping trip following the episode of the morning but, short of going barefoot for a few days, I couldn't come up with another strategy.
Our favoured shoe shop in Centipede near Bognor as it is so easy to park and there are toys in the garden but sadly today they were unable to help us out. Et wondered why there were so many black shoes in the shop so we talked about uniform. Lack of school uniform is a fantastic advantage to being out of school. It is fabulous to watch the smalls developing their own sense of what suits them and dressing appropriately for the season not having to raise their hand to ask if they can remove their blazer. When a fabulous friend of mine decided, at the eleventh hour, that her daughter would not start school the following week she returned the black/brown school shoes and swapped them for some gold ones. Fantastic. Life should be sparkly! I am of course, having spent a decade in uniform myself, well versed in the arguments for school uniform and am so fortunate not to have to be involved in any of them.
There were no shoes in Ets size in Centipede which made him so angry so, after a jump on the trampoline, we left and headed in to Chichester. We had left Grandma at home with baby and big small so it seemed a good opportunity. E located some dark blue geoxs straight away and asked for them in a "Size 31 please," not bad for 4 I think, he also told the assistant how his last pair of geoxs came from Italy where they are from. On the drive home he fell asleep. I love being outside the regular rhythm, popping into town mid afternoon was a joy and delight. The carp ark was clear and the shop empty. There really are so many advantages to home education outside of the obvious. When we arrived home the library had called to say Barbie's Mermaid Tale had arrived so Grandma and S headed off there. Things are so much easier when you have another big person around. With a middle sleeper we have been unable to go otherwise. Mermaid Tale has some dance rountines at the end and so, we are working through those before bed.