Monday, December 13, 2010


"You are not kind!"

Linnea said it to me, a few times, last week. She was absolutely right.

So I had a go at being kind. Friday was the first day, and it was hard; I just said "fuck it," (not out loud, I don't want to hear them swear just yet) a lot more than usual and gave up on trying to get them to do anything.

Saturday was easier because they were out. I tidied the whole front room properly, chose extra storage, and talked to them. I had tidied the whole room, and we would get them new storage, and get the Playmobil out of the attic (it was banished there over the summer because it was getting lost and maltreated, in part because they didn't want to store it in the only available space). In return, they would keep things tidy enough that I didn't gouge any more holes in my feet just walking around.

And if I step on something and hurt myself, I bin it. If I step on something and break it, I bin it. In return for this privilege, I remind them kindly when they have left stuff out in our limited floorspace.

Saturday evening, Sunday, and all day today went well in this regard. I'm pretty impressed. The hard and fast rule only applies to the one room I really, really tidied, but it will help me get the rest of the house under control if that one room is.

And they will have more fun playing with their stuff, and I will have more fun not losing my temper.

I've asked a few times, and I am, apparently, getting better at being kind.

I hope it gets easier with practice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Leap of Faith

Did it again. Stopped trying to make them do what I wanted them to do, just explained what had to happen so that they could do what THEY wanted to do, and left it more or less up to them.

It may not be wholly unconnected that the eldest child is writing a long, long story about a two-year-old who has to clean houses for a living. Nor that my food is still bleeding from an unfortunate plastic toy/cluttered rug incident 6 hours ago; every time I move the scab cracks.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Ticking over

We have had a much easier time of it lately. And pretty exciting, in our low-key way.

Linnea has flipped over into reading; she will openly read things, and pointing out her errors where I think it's useful is just extra information for her now, not criticism. She reads books to the other two very nicely, and also less nicely, if they don't want to be read to.

She also drew a very convincing map of Ireland but it's not mine so I don't have a copy; it was sent off in the post.

Both children find writing very hard work and tiring, so I'm not pushing that. Some writing happens anyway, for Christmas cards and gift labels and things, but not much.

Linnea and Emer have both been drawing about as much as usual, please send help before we drown in the stuff.

Astrid is learning to sit up and swears she can eat things, but as she's not quite 20 weeks old yet I'm reluctant to believe her.

The learning I'm pushing for at the moment is "if you get up in the morning and GET DRESSED we can do more interesting things than if you get up and immediately become inextricably absorbed in whatevertheheckitis," because even if they get enough exercise climbing the furniture and running up and down the house non-stop for 20 minutes at a time, I don't.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Make the goals match the reality

We've all been ill again, and it's cold out.

I think I need to stop missing organised events and feeling bad about it, and start deliberately skipping them. Anything that needs a packed lunch or a bus journey, I think, I will just not bother with, until things are better in general. We might go anyway sometimes, but we probably won't.

There's a lot to do at home. There's a budding interest in French, and lapbooks, and in sitting around in pyjamas cutting shapes freeform from scrap paper, and in being horribly sick - well, maybe not interest exactly, but it's happened.

I think I will base us at home, keep up with the seeing friends two or three times a week, maybe have more visiting-to-play things, but less group stuff.

At least for a while.

Friday, November 19, 2010

No Education Here

Just observing the flips from hyperfocus to pacing, doodling to reading. Hyperfocus is big this week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Skipped a day, skimmed a day

We didn't read the FIAR book on Tuesday. We overslept - I dreamed I had twins, and woke devastated that they were gone - it took me a while to remember that I didn't have any children between Emer and Astrid, let alone two - and then felt an urgent need to tidy their room, because I couldn't walk from the door to the wardrobe. Once I'd done that it was time for brunch and getting dressed and going out, really; I did some laundry and stuff, and then we went to the library for storytime. On the way home we bought a pumpkin and a truly astonishing amount of instafood - jars of cranberry and redcurrant sauce, powder mix for breadsauce, mix for bread stuffing, ready-rolled pastry. We popped in to see a friend (full disclosure: she phoned from my doorstep in the freezing fog while I was at the shop, because she was a little early and I was a little late, so she went home again) and invited them around for dinner.

So I made my first pumpkin pie the opposite of The American Way; I used real pumpkin for the filling, and packet pastry. My understanding is that people use canned pumpkin and save their effort for the pastry. It was good; I was going to use apples for pectin to make the pie gel, but a friend looked up an actual recipe (oh! what an idea!) and I used some eggs and oat-based cream-substitute instead. We also used agave syrup instead of muscovado sugar, because we had some.

And we had a three-course meal with neighbours, and very briefly discussed harvest, celebration, gratitude, and America. At least they can find it on a map now.

Today, we cleaned the house - it actually looks pretty good now - and read the book again. Then we made an airplane from boxes; it will never get off the ground, but they did study the various illustrations of Bleriot's machines before deciding they needed one which would hold TWO girls and have decorated wings, and aerodynamics came slightly into the discussion of wing-shapes (scallopped front edges wouldn't help, right?) and we had a heated discussion about propellers.

They really, really like the idea of an airplane which flaps its wings. Really, really, really.

Then we listened to a CD of children's classics my aunt saved for us from the RTE Guide. My favourite is Anderson's "The Typewriter," because it was so cool when they brought the typewriter onto the stage at the concert hall when we went on school trips when I was at primary school.

Oh, and Linnea read to me from a Monster And Frog book. She's very good but finds it very very tiring, though that might just be reading aloud; she can read much more privately. I think the stress of my knowing whether she gets it right or wrong is exhausting.

To top the day off, the four-year-old pinched the baby. But apart from that, today went well.

(We made chicken, potato and leek soup, to use up dinner leftovers; the children were not impressed. Pumpkin pie on the second day was still popular though).

Monday, November 15, 2010


It was just me and the children today, so without self-consciousness, I was able to speak French cheerfully and confidently. I remember far more than I thought. I wonder what my accent is like? It feels better when there's no-one listening critically to me.

We're reading about Bleriot, you see, and it's a very amusing book and just plain works far better read in English with all the surrounding stuff in French - I can't remember how to spell in French, though, so I can't write it out here. Bonjour, and Voici various things, and give me this and go here and que est-ce c'est (which I really, really am not sure of spelling) and the day of the week and a bit of Eurovision thrown in. I'm going to try to find a youtube video of La Plume de Ma Tante but I have no idea who sang the song I can almost but not quite remember.

I had a lot of fun, and the children appeared engaged and excited, especially by the man who made his own aeroplane and flew it from France to England in the time it takes to do one swimming lesson at the pool.

Then we went swimming.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Actual, Like, Home-Edding

We did a Five in a Row book this week, one we've done before, but better. We coloured flags and stuck them to the map - the American flag, and we're doing another American book this coming week, so we might actually draw flags this time, you never know - and we watched videos on YouTube and briefly went through the history of transport, from horsepower and wind to steam to petrol and electric, with particular reference to funny-looking cars. No-one asked who the first person to ride a horse was, but they probably will one day. We also talked about major and minor characters and had an indecisive conversation on whether a character who drives the plot significantly but is only mentioned once is major or minor.

It turns out that Linnea remembers what we did in the summer about using the sun to tell time, too, so that was nice.

And then on Thursday night I thought to look up the word "lapbook" which I have seen around the home ed blogosphere, and I was intrigued; it looks like a Tionscnamh (why do I remember calling them Tionscnamh when the Irish for "project" appears to be "tionscadal"? poor memory or something else?) we might have done at school, but more fun and with nicer paper. I suggested it to the children and Emer was quite interested and did a little one on Friday, and I've decided to cut out a lot of bits for her to use to make more on other topics later - she made a little book to show how a home-made electric digger dug a flowerbed (my written commentary is essential to understand this, but it's the thought that counts) and another to show that things other than steam shovels were steam-powered.

Linnea remarked, out of the blue, on Friday, that there aren't any black people in the book. Searching through the crowd scenes showed a few people who may have been black, but nothing definite enough for her to be sure. I'm pretty sure there's one black woman seen from the rear at one point, but that's about it.

We talked about our Town Hall, where Rob and I were married seven years ago, and where Linnea used to go to art sessions in the basement; we decided that the basement counted as a cellar. I faintly hope to take them to the museum in the Town Hall this week but we've been unwell so I'm not sure how many of us are up for the walk. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dancing diggers

My usually supportive mother wanted to know what videos of ballet-dancing diggers had to do with real life. I pointed out that the diggers, the drivers, the dancing and the film crew were real.

I learned this week that Emer thinks that the American flag is all the wrong colours, and Linnea can identify on a fairly normal projection of the world map all of Greenland, New Zealand, Africa, Australia, Sweden, England, Great Britain, Ireland, The Bit Of Ireland That England Owns, and Japan, but isn't totally sure about America. The whole continent/country thing seems to be a sticking point, and she's confused by the size, or lack thereof.

Still, she colours a mean flag.

Emer's was more interesting, though. And I really, really want a 28-32cm globe, preferably the kind that talks when you poke a pointer at it.

Friday, November 05, 2010


My youngest child is eating this six-year-old snail.

My eldest is out. She didn't want to do homeschool today so she just coloured in a bunch of flags instead; Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the UK, and Sweden.

My middle child is asleep. or sleepwalking, and feverish.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


My eldest child voluntarily read aloud from a book which was not part of a formal reading scheme. I didn't witness this historic event but Rob swears she read a story to Astrid while he was doing bedtime.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Quick quick

So we did this Five in a Row book about a steam shovel and I made a pan of water rattle a plate, and later I found Emer with a bag of Geomag ballbearing molecules "warming them up" by giving them ever more space. She stopped just before "and takes up ALL the space it CAN" because no, but no.

Linnea bloody hates phonics and seems to have decided that the thing to do about this is larn 'em. As in, that'll larn 'em. I sometimes wish I were raising her in a language that used internally consistent spelling. She'd prefer it.

We went to Cork for a week, on the Swansea-Cork overnight ferry; the weather was awful on the trip out (we don't know how bad exactly, but worse than gale force 8, because that's what it was on the way home again) and I had to take Linnea for a walk around at 1am so that she could see that the ship was fine. We even asked the receptionist to tell us that the noises were normal. However, I learned that my children don't get seasick. They also don't get trainsick or airsick. Just cars and buses, then.

They met their seven cousins. Astrid is the tenth grandchild. Goodness me. It's a bit alarming.

They met their great-uncle and one of their great-aunts. I need something from which to construct a family tree for them; bits of photos stuck to a huge bit of paper might work but I'm not sure. Perhaps I need to create the kit and draw the tree while they're asleep, then let them put the people in the right places. They've met great-uncles and aunts on the other side too, and first cousins once removed and second cousins, so...

One thing about the Oxford Reading Scheme is that it makes it actively reassuring to hear, when I am locked in the bathroom up to my elbows in one child's nappies, another child crying loudly, from somewhere I can't see or get to because of the naked poo-covered baby, "OH NO!"

Very reassuring words, "Oh no," in certain contexts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Whoops, overdid it

I came to an exhausted halt yesterday after a trip to the library and the playground and a short visit with friends. I dunno, all I'd done was the laundry and meals and cleaning and tidying (Tuesday is our day for that) and fed the baby and got everyone dressed and out and...

Oh, right.

Anyway, we are also reading a book Linnea has been looking forwards to for ages and ages. Well, I say we are reading it. It's our Five in a Row book, and we read it on Monday, and again on Tuesday.

But we didn't read it today and we only read it once per day anyway.

Because this gloriously yellow an orange book with strong, bold illustrations and amazing use of colour is all about slavery, and specifically about - punchline! - a child born into slavery.

Hoo-rah. We've discussed slavery fairly often over the past few years anyway and it's not an appealing subject. It's a big hairy disappointment to find slavery in this beautiful book, like an enormous caterpillar in a salad. It's like the horrible ostracism in Camille and the Sunflowers where that weirdo Vincent is hounded out of town, in among all the glorious paintings and joyful flowers and zest for life.

If a kiddiewink book is going to depress me, could it please telegraph this ahead of time with drab, miserable colours, perhaps rainfall on the front cover and ominous clouds on the back? Not huge sunsplash and sunflower scatterings? I didn't warn Linnea until last week that her beloved Sun Book wouldn't be happy.

Oh well. The Oxford Reading Tree set may well be the best money I've ever spent on a book, in terms of hours-per-penny. Though the Peter And Jane stuff was really good last year when we were using it. Different times, different things.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Photo post

A lighthouse...

We invited people to lunch...

Our front hall has a giraffe and a flamingo in it, plus photos of the cousins...

And a train; engine and carriage:

We fully intend to look these little red mushrooms up in a book sometime soon:

Still can't read. Except can. Maybe.

I'm getting better at not being invested in her ability to read, I think. Today she read a level two book (with two words from me, both of which I heard her read earlier.) And she read I have no idea how many to "the twins," that is, the four-year-old and the baby, who lie on the floor Being Twins.

Also, she popped up and said "I'm Emer's age and half the same again, by the way," and popped down again. No idea why.

Thing is, the weather is glorious and today is not a good day for us to be locked into the house reading about these ridiculously named families.

(Mind you, I've been reading Diana Wynne Jones "Spellcoats," and that family is even MORE ridiculously named, so who am I to talk?)

Edited at 19:38: She just read a Level 3 book to me. I think we need more of these.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

No, can't read

So we got Oxford Reading Tree - Read at Home Collection in the post. Linnea can read the entire Level 1 set fluently, after a few minutes to look at them first. But she can't read any of Level 2, not even "the" or "an."

Hah. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Aiee, where did the time go?

Rob was away for almost two weeks. We did one Five in a Row book both weeks, or maybe for three weeks running, I'm really not sure now. It's "A Pair of Red Clogs" and it gave us a lovely excuse to watch Totoro again.

Turns out that although the children in Totoro wear shoes like the ones of the little girl's friend on the last page of the book, the father has clogs like the ones in the main part of the story. Yay for changing and developing cultures. It has led to some thinking about cultural influences and I anticipate some fascinating conversations when it percolates through. I was interested to learn that the children hadn't realised there was a link between Totoro and Clogs until they saw the father's clogs, and then they filled in all the gaps themselves. I think we need a better globe; they don't find the Van Der Grinten projection we have on the wall useful to internalise global locations, and our globe is tiny. I should start combing Ebay.

We also have a friend who had a book of Kanji and now the dining room wall is covered in them and Linnea keeps drawing first the character and then a picture to show what it means. Her favourites are Sun and Water. The Faber Castell brush pens we bought after trying them at a friend's are perfect for drawing them, too.

Because we read "Lentil" a while ago, we got some charcoal, and we used that the other day; most things went black and some things went grey, but that's what charcoal is for, so it was ok. I descaled the bathroom sink, too, because the charcoal dust clung to the limescale I hadn't noticed before; presumably this was easier than doing it after it was visible of its own accord, so that was nice.

We had friends over from Ireland for the first week of Rob's absence, and that was lovely. The children played together with very few all-out wars or inconsolable tantrums, and it was great to be able to talk to my adult friend in the peaceful interludes. That week we went to a birthday party and ERAPA too. The second week we stayed at home more, I think; the weather was a lot worse. It's all a bit vague.

Oh, but I have been putting all our MEP worksheets into ringbinders. It's interesting to see which worksheets they have repeated most often - found most interesting, I assume? - and the way they have both skipped all the most repetitive bits. I can also see when our old printer broke using only the MEP printouts to help, because we haven't printed anything beyond the first two sections of the first book. I hand-copied some stuff after that but mostly we didn't bother. We will now; Linnea in particular enjoys going over them, and trying a new one occasionally, and Emer likes to do little bits.

The anatomy/biology books are out again, muscles and nerve cells and cell walls and so on. I have a feeling Linnea is heading towards elements - she is digging down for the small stuff a lot lately.

And Astrid is just 10 weeks old. She has learned to bat things of her own accord, and seems to know that her hands are hers at least 75% of the time. It's hard to tell.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mustn't overdo it

I am so so tired.

Good news though - we have exchanged our table like this (which we bought off Ebay ages ago) for a table like this, which has drawers and is a better shape for our purposes. I'm very pleased.

This week has been hectic. Monday was, um, something, and then swimming. Tuesday was vaccinations and shoe-shopping. Wednesday we stayed at home. Thursday was ice-skating and the library. And on Friday we had visitors in the morning and ERAPA in the afternoon and Girls' Brigade in the evening.

So today I was too tired to go to my meeting for the True Food Co-Op. Instead, they are going to do a supermarket-style delivery for me, but without the charge. I love them.

But that all meant I was here at home when our friend who didn't want drawers but did want chairs arrived to swap his butterfly table for ours. Now we can put stuff in the drawers, like the mini globe and the huge sellotape dispenser and a cup of pens and stuff. I'm sure which stuff should go there will gradually become clear.

And next week we're a bit busy again. Oh well. Perhaps busy is the way I secretly like it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Busy again

We spent yesterday at home doing nothing, so of course we did square numbers (Linnea made a book called SQUARE with square numbers on every page, because I found some graph paper) and were highly amused by the notion of square roots. Also, Linnea got up first and did some worksheets I'd left out for her, and she proved and demonstrated that she could read a fair chunk of the instructions. And while I was in bed feeding the baby, she brought the middle girl breakfast in bed - toast and a drink - because it was vaccination day on Tuesday and the victim was still somewhat sorry for herself (justifiably, I feel).

Today I saw Linnea doing some more multiplication and division and she wrote all the numbers I saw backwards, just as she has been doing with letters. I have no idea why. Apparently it's a fairly common phase, and I was still able to read them, so it shouldn't be a real problem. I've shown her how to draw a bed to sort b from d.

We have hardly been doing the curriculum stuff from Five in a Row at all, but we are reading the book. We're a bit nonlinear about the whole thing.

Today we also went ice-skating, and Linnea had a 15-minute lesson. There isn't really a substitute for time on the ice, so we'll be going again, and I expect they'll both get their balance relatively soon. I must be careful not to overdo it with my hips, though since skating requires at least reasonable posture if I don't want to fall over completely it should be relatively ok, I think. Emer wore teeny weeny skates and did very little even standing on the ice, let alone skating, but she had a good time. Next time, I hope to bring a better picnic, as this sort of thing is much better if one isn't hungry or thirsty.

On the trains out and home she started making a book about a UfO, with illustrations.

And in the end we went to the library, where I learned that my baby is growing 75g/day on average and Linnea has to have her book physically removed from her grasp while walking home because she tries to read and walk at the same time. She can read the basics in a QPootle5 book, it seems.

Words like QPootle5, and bladder-monster.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pictures - or possibly evidence

This is a shopping list. It represents Linnea's transition from not reading or writing in public at all to just doing it. I was too busy to write the things I was remembering and I asked her to do it and she did. I can't remember exactly when it was but I think it was August.

Mainly in mirror-writing of a sort, but there you go. Rob was able to read it and buy things and cross them off. (There's a bit I wrote too, when I had a hand free, but I'm sure you can tell which bit that is).

These two are the Storm in the Night oil paintings. We did the exercise pretty much as the curriculum book said to, which we tend not to do. Linnea enjoyed making little rain comets and in particular found it interesting that to make the rain go down she had to make the brushstrokes go up.

I'm not really sure what Emer was doing but she enjoyed exploring the texture, and working with only two colours.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Did we manage it?

Well, no.

On Monday we went to town and got passport photos, a new library card, and the children's feet measured - we have to buy them new shoes but non-urgently, so it can wait until nearer the end of the month. We ate lunch out. In the afternoon I brought everyone to the swimming pool and there were swimming lessons; Emer refused to get in due to some objection to the teacher, but wasn't at all distressed, just cross. This week she has a new swimsuit (apparently 4-year-old girls have to wear swimsuits which cover their nipples; I might argue this another time, but since Emer finds the idea comical rather than annoying it's not a big deal right now on the very personal, apolitical level) and permission to use a swimming noodle, so you never know what might happen. Then we met our visitor and all went home and ate. The visitor read Lentil and we sang the song out of it, and talked about shortcuts a little.

On Tuesday we went to the park for a picnic with friends, recycled the glass, then on to a café, then to the library, where I had the baby weighed and we got a lot of books out. In the afternoon we had friends over to play, but they were so tired from the first day back at school that they watched Kiki's Delivery Service instead. Emer and Rob went to the True Food Co-op in the evening and everyone was somewhat cross that Rob was going away.

On Wednesday we had a visitor; we ate French toast with chocolate spread for lunch, and the visitor read Lentil and we made charcoal from matchsticks and drew with it, and also found a working electric keyboard and picked out the tune of Twinkle Twinkle and Linnea got the beginnings of a grasp of how written music works.

On Thursday we went to a new home ed meetup, using the postcode and Google maps. We walked twice as far as necessary on the way there, but did find a lot of acorns, one of which later transpired (after being given to friend Buttercup) to house a genuine tame maggot. Also, I proved that Emer can walk a mile and a half in the sun in an hour, but doesn't want to. She's four, just barely, so.

When we got home we had icecreams and baths and tidied the garden; it was a lovely lovely afternoon and I was glad to be alive in it, especially during and after my bath with the baby. It turns out I can even wash my hair while in the bath with the baby, so that's a skill I didn't know I had.

On Friday we went to ERAPA, with banana sandwiches and bara brith for our lunch. The children did some clay modelling; Linnea made a lovely thumbpot and Emer made a digging snail. They are drying out in the kitchen now until I can make time to contact and ask for use of a kiln.

Also, Rob came home and we all ate together, and then Linnea and Emer went to Girls' Brigade. I'm kind of surprised Emer is old enough for GB but apparently if one is old enough for school - which she allegedly is - one is old enough for GB. And she did enjoy it. We have to try to get uniforms though, and second-hand uniforms seem tricky to come by; there isn't a system for the organisation to arrange the sale as there was in my secondary school. I shall have to use Ebay and get to know people. Or lobby to have ethically sourced uniforms, of course. They purport to be a Christian organisation, after all...

We didn't do much with Saturday and Sunday because Rob brought a sore throat home from Portugal with him and shared it with me. I have stayed in bed and fed the baby a monstrous amount and he has been cooking meals for the freezer.

So we were busy, this week. Educationally, the most exciting things for me are that Emer started Girls' Brigade and Linnea has been both writing and asking me for spellings of things. She is fairly keen on the idea of illustrating stories and dictating the text to me when she gets tired of writing it herself. I think she's about to crack reading and writing; she has much more confidence now and will admit to having gained information by reading it rather than "I just KNEW."

Monday, September 06, 2010

The first full week in September

We're hoping to do something like this (Lentil is the book for the week, and I never thought I'd be glad to have a harmonica but I see it being used a lot, as the thunder-maker was for Storm in the Night):

Monday: Read Lentil. Go to town, get Astrid's passport photo, renew Linnea's library card, have lunch, take children to swimming lessons, come home, eat, collapse.
Tuesday: Read Lentil. Go to park, recycle glass, have picnic, play. Go to library, take out books. Come home, have friends over to play. My children then have Final Evening with Daddy including trip to the True Food Market.
Wednesday: Wave tearful goodbyes etc. Read Lentil. No other plans, phew.
Thursday: Go to breastfeeding drop-in at library, return books.
Friday: Welcome home and possibly also grandparent visit. First ERAPA of the season, I think. Also R's birthday. First Girls' Brigade of the season too.
Saturday: Community Garden working party in the morning. TFC meeting in the afternoon? Might be next week, must check.
Sunday: Meeting. Nothing else planned.

I hope I have enough coffee.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Not Back To School

This coming week is when most of the children we know are going back to school. We're not, obviously. We are going to a Not Back To School Picnic, on Tuesday morning, in the playground and recreation ground opposite one of the local schools -- not because it's opposite the school, mind you, just because it's local and has parking and is easy to get to on public transport and isn't too far for me to walk (I'm still not very good at walking).

We've been using the Five in a Row curriculum (in our own pick'n'mix way) for two or three weeks now - we interrupted to go to the Discworld Convention, so one book was split over two weeks. Today I mentioned to Linnea that I needed to see what the next book was and what we might do with it, and she was ecstatic. We fished the book out of the pack and she started looking at it, picking out words and examining the pictures. It so happens that it's Lentil, and we have a harmonica, so we shall see what happens there. We might use the electric keyboard to have a look at reading music. And I foresee a lot of making charcoal going on.

Or we might not bother and spend the time riding bikes back and forth outside the house instead. Or make pizza.

The curriculum was bought for Emer, who is a naturally adult-pleasing child, and (as predicted) Linnea is interested because it's optional. If I'd bought it for Linnea she'd have resisted it strenuously, because being required to perform gives her the highest possible grade of heebies and also jeebies, and she is inclined to destroy things rather than admit that she tried to do them well, just in case they're not perfect.

It's one of the reasons I think school might not be the most nurturing or educational environment for her.

Then there's the ravenous appetite for social interaction and the deep deep need for absolute solitude. 6 hours a day in a large group situation would leave her very little energy for her friends, let alone her family.

Emer is school age now - she's four years and two weeks, so if we wanted her to have her year of Reception, the more casual play-based year of school, this is it. But she's not into spending huge amounts of time away from her family, especially her new baby sister, so we're not. ("Not into" in this context means "gets seriously upset by, and takes weeks to recover, and absolutely does not gradually get used to it.") Linnea has been fine with sleepovers with friends and so on since she was 3 years old; Emer is not the same in the slightest.

So we're going to a picnic, with the birthday-present bubble wands and the glass recycling because the bottle bank is in the same park, and then we'll probably go to the library.

"The best thing about home school is you can do it whenever you like and you don't have to have holidays," says Linnea. "And the teacher is your parents so you can tell them what you want to learn."

Friday, September 03, 2010


What Emer drew while I talked about rivers:

What Linnea drew (Linnea is 6, p. 1):

The yellow is the mud which makes the Yangtze River yellow. Apparently the spring is underneath a swamp of it. (And can you guess what the triangles on the left are? they're beaks, because it's a bird's-eye view, and the bird can see its own beak).

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Donwanna, so let's not

They don't want to do The Story About Ping for Homeschool, apparently. They don't mind doing the exercises but don't want to read it again; they've read it a lot because we've had it since before they were born.

So today we talked about how rivers are made, and Linnea drew three birds'-eye views of the process. If I can find the camera I'll post the pictures up. She took great pleasure in writing her name and the page number on each sheet.

Emer drew something too, but she wasn't clear on what it was; they were both drawing while I talked, but that doesn't mean the two were related in any way.

Today we also collaboratively read All in one piece, a Large Family book we've had from the library often and bought from the charity shop recently.

We didn't visit anyone or have visitors; when we went to the library there were several children and adults my children know there, but that was it for social contact. They seemed almost grateful for the quiet day.

And Astrid is learning to suck her hands with ever-increasing effectiveness.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Travel costs

I keep thinking train-travel is more expensive than it is. I looked a few trips up today and I can take the kids to Oxford for £6.40, to London for £12.75, to Bournemouth for £25 or less, to St Austell for £60... I must plan some trips. Actually, Linnea really, really wants to go to Scotland. Edinburgh would be just over £100...

Well, Oxford is on the list for ice-skating anyway, and London because we have to see the big museums and meet various people, and Bournemouth because it seems to be the simplest way to get to the seaside and there's the aquarium - Linnea wants to see an aquarium - and St Austell because it's easy to get to, mainly. Though I wish the Eden Project had a handy campsite. Perhaps it does; I should look. If we go there I think I'd want to go every day for three days, or something, though.

Planning. All these things - holiday stuff - are about to get cheaper, at least for weekdays.

Friday, August 20, 2010

FIAR: Ending the first week

Well, that was interesting. Initially neither child wanted to hear the same story again, so we did more art - this time with Fancy Markers Just Like A's Family Have - and then, for some reason, they used the abacus and counted. When counting, not reciting numbers, it turns out that Linnea gets confused over the change from recognisable to slightly altered at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and again twenty, thirty, forty, fifty. She did that thing John Holt writes about, of looking at the adult to get the right answer. It worked, too.

I spent a little of the baby-nap time this morning rearranging the kitchen, and so this afternoon Linnea made me a few cups of tea and she also made us all toast, with spread. She's really very proud of her tea-making skills. We have a flask with a pump, so she can just put the mug under the spout, push the top, and almost-but-not-quite boiling water is released. I consider it safe enough for her and so does she, so that's a win all round. I am pleased with the wooden tongs for getting toast out, too. I suspect they'll really come into their own for bagels.

Then we watched the video of someone else reading Storm in the Night again, and after dinner they watched the Magic School Bus episode about a thunderstorm.

They are looking forward to a new book next week. But I very much doubt I'll write about it daily; I'd bore myself silly. I found it an interesting exercise for this week, though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

FIAR, second-last day of first week

I had only the vaguest of plans today, but we had fun.

We read the story first, then finished the oil paintings from yesterday, which was nice. We looked at all the high-contrast bits in the book (that took a while) and the children had the opportunity to consider how yesterday's crayons, the oil paint over two days, and today's regular poster paints were all different to use and gave different effects.

A lot of the bathroom ended up blue.

Also, we listened to the story being read in a genuine American-South accent (not to be confused with South American; I'm really not sure what the best way to describe it is from outside America; within north America I think people just say Southern), and read a bit about the south of the USA and the slightly further north bit where the reader was actually sitting at the time of recording.

This led, again, to explaining slavery to Linnea; it first arose because I was in the kitchen, bending down to take things out of the dishwasher, then standing up and turning around to put them away, then bending down again quickly. Naturally, I sang "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton," and equally naturally Linnea asked for more information about the song, and of course I never know when to stop so she got a potted history of colonisation and slavery.

"People owned people? Like parents own children?"

That was kind of disturbing. We got it sorted out though.

Today's explanation of what "slavery" is almost made her cry. It made Emer go away pointedly and do something else. Then they both came back to look at the photos in the book of black Americans holding protest signs during Civil Rights Movement protests. I didn't explain segregation in any detail. White people didn't want black people to be allowed to do the things white people could.


That's a tough one. I'm not sure how I handled it.

From yesterday's DW/LJ entry, too:

[Wednesday], at lunchtime, between mouthfuls of sardines and sweetcorn in tomato sauce (don't ask me, I just work here), my fresh-faced and innocent (more or less) six-year-old gazed idly around the room and her eye was caught by a map on the wall, drawn by a friend of ours.

She said, "Hey Mum, why is a bit of Ireland part of England?"

I opened and closed my mouth a few times. Then I stalled - "Do you mean why is part of Ireland part of the United Kingdom?" - and finally I (stammering) said "Well, for a long time, the government of England was in charge of ALL of Ireland, but the Irish people didn't like that much. So before your Nana was born, when my Nana was a little girl, the Irish government and the English government agreed that Irish people would be in charge of most of Ireland, and the English government would be in charge of just that little bit."

Then I thought about the Omagh bombing, which I think about every year now, because it was exactly eight years before Emer's birth day. I got to choose Emer's birth date, as some of you may know, because that's the nature of a scheduled caesarian section. I decided, when choosing it, that there were no benign dates...

But still, sometimes I wish there were.

So I guess we've covered Politics, Geography, Art, Relationships, touched on a bit of World History, Science-and-nature-Weather (I knew the clouds poster we got in a stack of old Guardian pullouts would be useful one day), and Music. Oh, and Music crossed with Science because we had a long talk about why the thunder-maker made different sounds when you held it differently, and introduced the concept of sound-waves, though I'm not convinced they believed in them.

It feels kind of strange to work out what subjects these things cover. We usually just do interesting-to-us stuff and have interesting-to-us conversations. This more structured approach, even though I'm being very loose or possibly even slack with the structure, may well be changing how I think about it.

I might work out what we cover with a regular family mealtime one day, rather than with a pre-planned curriculum-extract. Just to compare. I have an idea they'll be pretty similar.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FIAR, sorta

I was very slightly better prepared today, in that I'd dug out my oil paints last night. So this morning we started with looking at the pictures of night and darkness and rain in the book, and then they got their crayons and drew some dark, rainy things on medium-dark blue paper, while I hung laundry (the laundry situation is somewhat desperate due to having a 3.5-week-old in the house, which is one reason I hoped to postpone starting this until after we come back from our holiday). I dropped in a few times and showed them different effects with different, er, crayon-strokes, for want of a better word, and how to make the impression of "dark" come out of the contrast of different shades surrounded by light. I've just remembered that the gibbous moon I painted on the wall over their heads was a good example; I might point it out tomorrow (the photo shows it without its current very dark blue surrounding circle). Then we looked again and they painted with different shades of blue to make a dark background. Tomorrow we'll paint over the top to do rain and lightning.

What we didn't do today was to read all the words, because they weren't desperate to hear them, and it was somewhat frantic.

And now I'm going to look up tomorrow's ideas, and next week's book so I can make a list of things to hunt up in the library. I feel sooooo behindhand and rushed, but we're having fun, so that's what counts, I think!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

FIAR again, eventually

This morning was dedicated to tidying and laundry, and just when I was kind of thinking of planning lunch and the afternoon, Rob called to say that he was coming home and, since my plans were incompatible with having Daddy at home all afternoon, I cancelled them.

Turned out he needed to be at home and be able to WORK from home. Ah, then. That's a bit different. So he came home and we all had lunch, and then the three children and I went out. First we dropped some books off at the charity shop, and I had a look for any books they might have about North America or African Americans or anyone black in America but the stuff involving or about black people was all about immigrants to the UK as far as I could see. Which is also interesting, but not totally topical. I got some books about the Large family anyway, and a Michael Moore for myself.

Then we went to the library, and they had very very little too - a book on slavery which is probably more than either of my two girls can handle, and some Brer Rabbit stories, but I'm pretty sure Brer Rabbit isn't - oh, language is funny, I was about to say isn't kosher, but I mean isn't authentic - so I shall have to look that up. However, since I was specifically looking for books with black people on the cover, I found a bunch of lovely ones which we'll read anyway. My friend L was there and she did something for Black History Month a while ago about the slave trade, and had 11-year-olds role-playing and stuff, but she figured it might just plain be too much to tackle for my children.

Then we went to the True Food market, and re-met what was a very important part of our community until I stopped being able to go. It was wonderful. We might seriously cut down on supermarkets if we can keep this up.

And then we came home and while Rob heated up the lasagne I read Storm in the Night again and afterwards we three talked briefly about people who love other people, and why, and how they show it. Of course, during the reading we talked about all sorts of other things, including clock chimes (I must find out why clocks chime the hour with that semi-standard little tune; I'm sure Wikipedia can tell me) and what a powercut is.

It's interesting to me how they are responding to not-really-child-led-learning. Obviously it's still consensual but it's externally driven. I think it's gentle enough that both of them will like it; there's a lot of scope for them to choose what they want to do. And the idea of reading the book and then doing something about it isn't all new.

I might see if any of the "Negro spiritual" songs I know are not fake. I bet a lot of the popular ones are really dubiously sourced.

Heh. I might have to explain about the Bible if we do Joshua and the battle of Jericho.

Monday, August 16, 2010

That'll Larn 'Em

Today we started Five in a Row.

You see, there was a birthday at the weekend, and one of the gifts was a Thunder Maker and the first book was called Storm in the Night and the day before the birthday party we had had a thunderstorm which the children were actually OUT in...

And then when they woke up today we were all in the garden and Linnea said "Can we have homeschool in the garden?" and I said "Of course," and she said "The best thing about HOME school is that you can tell the teacher what you want to learn, I think." Then she skipped off and did whatever it was she wanted to do. I wasn't called upon to be a teacher at all.

I did really really want to get laundry done, though, and then we had lunch, and then we popped off with a family of friends to the community gardens again, and then we came home, and I read the book while feeding the baby, and the children opened our new delivery of extremely fancy marker pens, and so we decided to do some of the Art exercises, and actually did one of them - facial expressions. They mainly enjoyed using the Thunder Maker every time thunder rolled in the book, and working out where to hold the Thunder Maker to make the thunder louder or quieter (the further from the spring you hold it, the louder the noise gets, because your fingers don't stop it so soon).

I think as the week wears on we will get more out of the book, not least because a fair bit of the very American language had to be translated, but that too will get easier - they have as yet been exposed to very little in the way of "faucet" for tap and so on. It's nice to be reading extremely British stuff like Joan Aiken (we've started reading one about Arabel's Raven alongside very American-flavoured ones. I must have a look to see what else I have; I know that when I was little I had a mix of Irish, British and Canadian or American stories, so they must be knocking around somewhere. We also had translations of various Astrid Lindgrens, but those are ubiquitous, I think.

The main difficulty will be keeping the elder girl in check to give the younger one a chance to join in fully. But we'll figure something diplomatic out, I think.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's like Christmas!

Parcels started arriving today.

We have a new art book which I read a recommendation for somewhere in the home ed blogosphere, and a new atlas because Linnea really wanted an atlas and my old school one is out of date and the huge Times one isn't a handy paperback, and I've just remembered that the other day we got a solar system poster, and today we got a wooden toast tongs so that the children can make their own toast, and also the Five In A Row storybook-based curriculum pack arrived, with a squillion lovely books which I wanted ANYWAY and a book to help guide me through what to do with them. I fully expect Emer to enter into the project with enthusiasm and Linnea to partake as long as I don't either ask her to or forbid her to. Also, I think I will enjoy it.

(And I got an invoice from for something I paid for in full on 1st July, so I've sent them an email. Hmph.)

And this evening Emer topped and tailed the celery and chopped it into bits, and Linnea topped and tailed the carrots and then I chopped them up while she wrote the shopping list for Rob - I started remembering things for her to write down while I was chopping, so I just asked her to write it, and she did.

I found it an interesting exercise, and the writing was clear enough for Rob to bring the list and use it, without transcribing first. This is not always true of his own handwriting.

I may get around to scanning and uploading it, in fact. I found it ve-ry in-ter-est-ing. Given the usual reluctance to share her abilities, and all.

Anyway, we had a nice time looking at the different kinds of maps in the new atlas and ended up talking about population distributions and energy sources. Which naturally enough reminded me of Twitter's mentions of this Daily Mail map (WARNING: links to the actual Daily Mail website, so they get advertising revenue when you click on it; I believe there's a website to avoid this somewhere but can never remember where) which made me want to go and watch this Dan and Dan video again.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Gender theory

The Health Visitor came today, to check Astrid's hearing. Linnea and Emer told her how old they are, of course, and so she said "Oh so you're in school!" to Linnea. "No," said Linnea, unhelpfully.

"Of course you're not in school NOW," said the Health Visitor, "you're on holidays!"

"No," said Linnea, unhelpfully, and a little crossly.

"We're GIRLS," said Emer. She's working on a theory that boys have to go to school, because most of the boys we see most often do, but girls don't. It's a good theory, and very logical, but her premises are flawed.

I decided to rescue the poor HV. "They're home ed," I said, "and Emer has been thinking a lot about gender."

"Yes," said Emer. "I hab a bulba."

"A?" said the Health Visitor.

"A BULBA," Emer said. Well, shouted. Clearly and distinctly. "Astrid hab a bulba TOO."

I translated; "A vulva."

"And THAT's why we're GIRLS," said Emer, triumphantly.

She started listing everyone who has a bulba. Emer, Linnea, Astrid.

The Health Visitor recovered from the shock and joined in, somewhere between willingly and desperately. "And Mummy!" she said. "Mummy has one too and she's a girl!"

"No!" said Emer. "Mummy's a WOMAN."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Teachable child

My eldest child dislikes being taught things. That's ok; I try not to do Teaching Her Things. Sometimes I can offer to Show Her Things, and sometimes that's too close to Teaching. She does a pretty good job of teaching herself, mainly, and I can get by with occasionally demanding that she demonstrate something to me so that I can stay reasonably secure in our decision to accommodate her need to learn things in her own way, at this incredibly early stage of her development (she's just barely six and a quarter years old).

But my youngest middle child (eek!) quite likes being taught, though, and then demonstrating things, and getting praise or confirmation of her correctness or something.

I was really really struck by this the other day. My middle child, who is almost four, had a few bits of Lego and my top fave bit of Lego kit, the taker-aparterer. But one 8x2 standard-height brick had an 8x2 flat bit on top of it, and she couldn't separate them. She asked me to help, and I did. Then came the bit that struck me.

I said, "Here you go - shall I show you what I did?"

And she said (this was the first part I noticed), "Yeah."

And I said, "Look - you were pulling them apart the long way, and the top one bent in the middle but didn't come away. I put this thing on the other side, and pulled them apart the short way."

And she said "Ohh! I see!"

It was really quite something, at least for me.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Another beginning

There seem to be a lot of beginnings in this whole parenting business. The most obvious one is that we have a new baby - Astrid was born at home last Friday morning, so is one week old today.

Before we had her, though, we had a summertime, which I have conveniently summarised in photographic form. I was confined to the house for 6 weeks of prodromal labour, after having been confined to the house by SPD, but we had a good time anyway.

Picture plate We played with our food...

Bookshelves ... and climbed high things...

Where the peas aren't ... and ate all the peas BEFORE we photographed them (I think there were about 6 pods) ...

Orange flowers ... and photographed the flowers before spacehoppering on them...

Children's websites - anything phonics ... and some of us got a little obsessive about websites with phonics stuff on them...

... and we did cycling and swordfighting...

... and got bigger and bigger ...

Linnea and Emer ... and played some more.

Another new beginning, of course, is that now that I am freshly active and back to my able-bodied status, we can go back to the usual round of things we like to do - library trips, museum visits, maybe art galleries, possibly slightly further afield also - and of course the local home ed groups, if we can manage those, too.

And I've decided, after thinking about things for a bit, that I'm going to get a curriculum for my four-year-old. She is not the same as the six-year-old at all, and where externally imposed guidance grinds one child to a halt, it seems to give the other one a bit of zing and bounce.

I've decided on Five In A Row for a number of reasons. It was easy to get hold of, the books are lovely even if we abandon the curriculum itself untasted, and it seems like it will be easy to sell on if it doesn't suit us. Also, I've been following the adventures of the Tinderbox family and it seems like I would enjoy teaching from the FIAR curriculum, which you must admit is an important factor if I'm not to bore the child to tearful rebellion or, worse, apathy.

There are a number of other things I'd like to get regularly involved in. Both children are signed up for swimming lessons again, this time on the same day which should help Emer a good deal. There's a regular ice-skating group in Oxford, which we could probably get to every other week if not every week. There's the usual Friday at ERAPA thing, which I would like to get to more often than we have managed it for the past two years (I can't believe I've started going just over four years ago, that seems ludicrous). And of course Rob is now working right next to the museums in London and day-trips there are more appealing than ever.

I'm a little leery of taking on too much at once, but it's nice to feel so enthusiastic. Though it could be just newborn hormones.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Early Reading

I always assumed my children would be early readers. I was an early reader. I have a house full of books. Until we had children, all we did in our leisure time was read, really (now we don't have the same kind of leisure time).

And so when I had a child who was clearly bright but not obviously an early reader, I got very confused. She reached three without obviously reading and I was slightly worried. She reached four, and I was distinctly disconcerted. She reached five and I spent a lot f time persuading myself that it was ok if she wasn't an early reader.

Now she's six, and still not obviously a reader.

I'm not totally comfortable with it, and I don't pretend I am. I know that for at least three years she has been learning to read, in various ways - there were early word-recognitions and mispronunciations which she couldn't have arrived at any other way. A friend overheard her reading a book to herself. She read large parts of a book aloud to another friend. She knew things she couldn't have learned without reading.

And from time to time it has been obvious that she's working on word-recognition (see-and-say, whatever you call it) and at other times that she's trying to figure out phonics.

She really really liked the Peter And Jane learning to read books, as far as we can tell precisely because the stories are not the point, practicing is the point. She doesn't like practicing her reading on decent stories. She hasn't read me a Peter and Jane book for ages, though, and has been playing phonics games on the computer (instead?) and keeping very private about the whole affair.

She has asked me to find her illustrated Learning To Write books where she can fill in the words of a pre-written and ready-illustrated story, like the Peter and Jane ones but more interesting.

I remind myself that although I was reading adult novels starting about 4 months older than she is now, my own mother taught herself to read aged seven, while ill in bed looking at a packet of ASPRO on the mantelpiece.

I find it pretty confusing, nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's been a long few weeks

I've been having prodromal labour for five weeks now so things here at home are all a bit... strange. But we've had a few nice incidents. Linnea drew a picture of what she imagines might happen if I had the baby in the waterbirth pool we have in the front room (leaving no room for anything else at all) and the midwife was so struck by it she seized it to send to a midwifery magazine.

Linnea's first term of swimming lessons since the ones that stopped her swimming is almost over. She started lessons shortly after turning 3, because she could swim, but at that age they are sorted by age, not ability, so she rapidly lost interest and with it skill, and we left it for a couple of years. But now she's in with the five- and six-year-olds and has done a term of Level One, so can move up to Level Two in September. Apparently she's very good and the rest of the class were called upon to observe her backstroke the other day.

Emer will start in Level One in September and we shall see how that goes. She claims to be looking forward to it.

Linnea wants more Learning To Write books, like the Peter and Jane ones but with better stories - she likes the size and the illustrations but not, unsurprisingly, the plots. She still likes those minimal plots for Learning To Read though. Meanwhile she's working through her workbooks, allowing herself to do one thing from each page on each day, apparently.

Emer and Linnea have both been doing a ton of phonics and maths games on their laptop.

And we've been growing things, except when we've been killing them by accidentally or purposely bashing them to the ground with footballs or whatever.

Oh - the other thing we did lately was haul out my loom and have a bit of a go on that. It's interesting to see how it works but neither of them has anything they hugely want to create with it yet.

And we bought a pocket microscope which is incredibly useful.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reading: The Rules

Daddy is required to read bedtime stories.

Mum is not allowed to read stories, but is allowed to make them up (as long as she gets it right) because getting stories out of books when you COULD get them out of your HEAD is cheating. This is probably karmic revenge for my own childhood.

No-one is allowed to notice that quite a lot of the time someone is reading her OWN stories to HERSELF unless she's reading books from the These Are For Learning To Read And It's OK To Get It Wrong category, and then only sometimes.

Writing is completely impossible except when it's easy.

If any of the rules are broken, the entire alphabet can be forgotten overnight. Don't push your luck, parents.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bits of this, bits of that

Lately we have been talking in varying levels of detail about human reproduction, evolution (I am looking for a really good illustrated tree-type diagram but haven't found what I want online yet), physical development from blastocyst to elderly dead person (the page in the Busy Bodies book about tampons has confused matters somewhat), ice crystals, salt crystals, snowflakes, the scale of the universe, geodomes AGAIN, what qualifies as an invention and what the first one was, where Nepal is and what it's like, the distribution of wealth and why I can't personally fix that fact that it's so unfair, and why you shouldn't bury all the smallest, most difficult and expensive to find or replace, Playmobil toys in 30kg of sand in the sandpit.

Oh, and the structure of the planet.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back to bed

I am so glad that Linnea was at home today and could go back to bed. She woke early, because of the daylight or a toilet trip or something, and was as cheerful and charming as a rabid weasel with toothache until I sent her to bed about noon. She was asleep in minutes and I'm quite certain she will be in better humour and more able to tackle her swimming lesson when she wakes up.

Emer, meanwhile, is buzzing around the house tidying up, painting, making phonecalls, doing laundry, and other important life-enhancing things.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This and that

From Twitter: A: "Here, I found some sums that might interest you." L: "Yay, thanks!" *turns printout over, draws diagram of digestive system on the back*

In brighter news, we have a wireless printer which works sometimes. Sadly, because of childproofing the wireless router, it's stored on top of a wardrobe and I almost came a cropper trying to reboot it today, so we shall have to figure something else out soon. I love being able to print things out whenever I want, though, so I am determined to get it sorted.

And we recently got a copy of The Cat in Numberland and both children enjoyed it so much, as a bedtime story, that as soon as it was finished they asked for it again, immediately. I haven't been privileged to partake of most of the readings, because bedtime is a Daddy thing, but I heard three chapters at various times and they seemed excellent to me. Emer is "just" following the story and Linnea is delighted with More Stuff About Infinity (and also, incidentally, spent three days unable to count past ten, for her own reasons).

We absolutely have to get Linnea to the Science Museum as soon as I can handle a trip of that magnitude. I should look up whether one can borrow a wheelchair while there, actually, as one can at Kew.

She got a copy of Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger and won't let us read it aloud to her yet. She is "looking at the pictures, leave me alone" by herself, first.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Gender conformity

My eldest is all about the pink at the moment... and wants her hair buzzed off with the clippers. The only downside is that some people will think she's a boy sometimes, which makes her blink back tears. She is going away to think about it.

She considered wearing dresses all the time, but decided she would get cold and sometimes not be able to climb things, which wouldn't work for her. And of course if she waits until puberty, her new body shape will probably mean no-one thinks she's a boy even if her hair is shorter than mine.

Meanwhile, she might settle for a very very short bob, much shorter than she has now.

I'm not totally clear on why it's so important to her, but I do remember my little sister having a gorgeous feminine pixie cut (because her face was so finely structured that my mother couldn't resist the aesthetic appeal of it), and lots of people thought she was a boy and it upset her hugely. I never had short hair until after my second baby was born, so I can't really compare my own experiences, but I don't think I'd have minded being mistaken for a boy so much.

It's her head, and her gender-identity, so I'm staying as far out of it as I can; she wants two things which she isn't sure she can have at once, and will have to decide.

Being six may not be as easy as she'd hoped.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Accepting the concept of Death

We have had a very educational few days - terraforming, biodomes, space travel, rockets, fuels, gravity, spacesuits, diving suits, desert plants, evolution, infinity, the lot.

Because my eldest child, who is almost six, has fully and completely grasped the implications of DEATH. It is unacceptable to her, and she insists that humanity figure out a way to solve the problem - and she has also latched on to the problem of a population without death, which can easily be solved with interplanetary colonisation, you see.

But under all the talk of space, which we are partially doing because we as adults find it easier to cope with than addressing her actual fears, because we are cowards, there is the basic horror of death.

And I don't know what to tell her. Because she knows what death is, and doesn't accept it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why home educate?

For some reason, I never published this when I wrote it in September. Wonder why not?

Short answers: I think it's a good idea. I think it's the best thing for my children. It's interesting. Everyone seems to like it. I don't think school (the only realistic alternative) would be good for my children right now.

Longer answers: When I was six I spent a lot of time very confused and unhappy about the fact that school kept us all in same-age groups, more or less, doing much the same things at very similar levels, in large groups, with almost no unsupervised or unstructured time. Also, I was bored silly. I asked my mother for an explanation and she wasn't able to give one which was acceptable to me, though eventually she agreed that once school was over I was unlikely to find myself in such a situation again, because offices, laboratories, factories,and most other workplaces are pretty mixed both in age and in activity, so I just had to get through school. Things were easier after that.

I spent some time in a school with mixed-age classrooms, a one- or two-teacher school, and that was less alienating and made it much easier to learn things, but still not quite right. The large large groups thing was probably part of it.

When I was about eight I met a home-educated child who had her very own donkey to ride around on. Her name was, I think, Sophia, and she was American, or her mother was, and we played a lot together for a while. She taught me to scramble eggs and make chamomile tea from fresh flowers, and had her very own donkey. Which was hers. So jealous.

I don't think I thought much about home education after that for a few years, but my mother periodically mentioned Máire Mullarney approvingly and assured me that school was not the pinnacle and highlight of my life and that if I waited it out things woudl get better, which they did, which was a relief.

Then later on I was planning babies and buying a house with my partner, and we were pleased to find an area with LOTS of schools to choose from.

But gradually, as I thought of it more and more, and the first baby was actually born, I liked the idea (of automatically sending them to school and hoping to continually firefight problems as they arose, through joining groups and committees and talking to teachers and principals and changing schools as necessary) less and less. I found various people living in my computer and read a lot. And decided that since what we were doing right now seemed to work, I'd change my default - instead of the default option being to change everything, from who we socialised with to what time we got up in the morning to what we did all day, the default is now to keep calm and carry on as normal, with the option of doing something else if that seems like a better idea at any point.

Linnea does best in a totally unstructured, unpressured environment where she can do things at exactly her own pace as and when she pleases - or a totally new environment with totally new adults. At least, she has until now, but she's only just five and a half, so things will change, I'm sure. Emer is a bit easier to handle, because she can take suggestion and instruction even from adults she actually knows. And she doesn't mind being praised half as much.

I like being able to accommodate their ever-changing physical needs. Children need more sleep, or less sleep, or more rest, or more running around, in hugely varying amounts from day to day, depending on the weather or what they're learning or whatever. I like not having to get anyone out into the rain in the dark to walk to school in the middle of winter. I like their ability to just do things, without any adults interfering or knowing what they're doing, and suddenly they appear with Something Finished, sometimes even with evidence, happy with what they've achieved.

I like that their friends are aged 1 year to 8 years old, if you don't count their grown-up friends. I like it when they teach grown-ups things.

It's hard to know what they like or dislike because they are young enough that their personal basis for comparison is meaninglessly small. But they are happy.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I never thought I'd manage to grow anything at all; all my pre-child attempts ended in brown, crispy failure with moldy compost at the base. But so far we're doing quite well:

These are the tomatoes we planted a while ago; they are growing all the time! We had a go at separating one pot into three little pots, which might have worked better without the children's help, but what's the point of that? You can also see the edge of the shop-bought chives and my basil, which seems to be growing from seed just like the seed-packet said it would.

This is the avocado we started from seed last year sometime. We thought it had died, over the winter, but moved it from the dark kitchen windowsill to the front room where everything else is, and it's putting forth new growth just as though it didn't intend to crumble. The hardest part is not overwatering it, now, I think.

And these are outside - they are probably the radishes Linnea planted, but I don't know for sure, because I've never grown radishes that I can remember.

I'm pretty sure these are hyacinths. We didn't plant them, but they have obligingly come up anyway, and make us believe it might be Spring. Maybe.

And I will never get the hang of Blogger's image stuff, but I will also never get the motivation to figure out a useful alternative. I kind of miss having our own server and writing my own blogging software. But we don't have that kind of free time any more...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

OK, I listened to the radio this morning, I couldn't help it.

Tip for Graham Badman: Basic sums:

Of the entire UK population, 0.2% of children are known to Social Services.

Within that entire UK population, there are all the Elective Home Educating families, of whom 50% are known to the authorities as Elective Home Educating Families and 50% are not known.

Of the 50% of EHE children who are known to the authorities, 0.4% are known to Social Services.

Of the 50% of EHE children who are NOT known to the authorities, none are known to Social Services (because any who ARE known to Social Services are automatically added to the list of children known to the authorities, ie the first group of 50%).

Therefore, of the entire population of EHE children, 0.2% are known to Social Services, just like everyone else.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Making Art

Linnea wanted a photo taken of this. It is apparently Jay from the Green Balloon Club, with spiky hair and glasses. I hope the poor lad never finds out.
This is Linnea's pre-dinner artwork; tortilla with cucumber rain, sweetcorn sunshine, ginormous butterfly and a sailing boat.
And this is a house with enclosed garden, made with the new Geomag stuff, including an aerial so that the house can connect to the wireless internet.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Today started with the usual post-weekend clearout. The housework took about three hours, all told. Then the children did some painting and I had some tea. And then we did some sums, and started listening to Peter and the Wolf until it got too scary, and now they're dancing to various classical CDs, apparently doing "ballet."

Oh, and they ate a lot of chives, because the pot is on the table they use for sums and things.

The trouble is, I've forgotten what else they've done. Some CBeebies website stuff. Some drawing and colouring. Paint-mixing. Tidying up and bedmaking. Making stuff from cardboard boxes.

Is there a way to remember everything they do in a day? Assuming I have a way of figuring out WHAT they are doing? Fairly often at least one of them is doing something I don't know about.

Though sometimes I find out later, I suppose. With squidge.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Reading progress

Linnea read something today she found so funny she couldn't stop laughing. Peter and Jane again; "Here you are, Jane. This is some water for you."

It really needs an illustration to give the full effect. For the first time, Peter and Jane show some normal human traits. Yay.

(Halfway through book 2a, which we have read one word at a time previously, but apparently not read for content).

Emer is starting to think about learning to read and write. She asks me to spell things and tries to write them down, but needs some reminders of some of the letters. I need to find the camera and its cable so I can photograph the post-it note on which she wrote my name today (so that I can have a tick-chart; unlike Linnea, Emer ADORES tick charts and wants one for every event in her life. This is going to make my life so much easier; hurrah for bribery and the reward system!).

They need to get over their love of anatomy, though, because they're frightening other children by forcibly showing them books with lots of diagrams of internal organs and skellingtons and the nervous system and so on. Uhoh.

And Emer is a little confused about the unborn baby's relationship with food. It prevents me from eating as much as I used to at a sitting, so perhaps the baby is feeding me through the special tube in its bellybutton? I assume she will eventually accept that this is not actually true, but I couldn't persuade her today.

Friday, March 05, 2010

But what about me?!

My children simply love being at home. They are often too busy to go out. In fact, their social lives are pretty lively - they seem to see different groups of children three or four times a week - so I can kind of see their point.

But actually, I'd rather go out a bit more than we do, for my own amusement. If only they enjoyed being DRESSED a bit more. At the moment they can stymie me by just stripping off and refusing to get dressed again; in summer I could walk out the front door anyway, but in this weather it's not really plausible!

Roll on Spring.

(The tomato sprouts are up to an INCH high now, I'm shocked. The children are kind of pleased their plants are higher than my plants. But they don't want to put shoes on and check outside to see how the radishes are doing).

And I'm also thrilled that Emer has decided she wants to learn to read. I have no idea whether she IS learning to read, or just to recite, but she's enjoying whatever it is she's doing, and I doubt it's harming her. It's very cute and a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Green fingers, black fingernails

My basil, growing from seed. I never had potplants growing up - we didn't live in that kind of household - and my record with them since has been fairly uniformly poor. I once got a spiderplant as a gift and forgot about it; weeks later I found it still sitting in its plastic carrier bag stuffed under a bookcase, making little spiderplant babies. I potted it up and it promptly keeled over and died. Then we moved to a house with a garden and I accidentally eradicated the mint. I kept the strawberries going a bit longer - I like strawberries - but they're pretty much gone now too.

So this year we bought some seeds at 3 packs for a £1. I got Basil, Emer got Tomato, and Linnea got Radish. The day I remembered where the plant pots and compost were, we had lost the pack of radish seeds, so they both planted tomatoes. The larger pot is Linnea's because Emer really liked the little pot. This is how sprouted they were nine days after planting, that is, yesterday.
And this is Emer's pot, which was somewhat stirred during the planting phase, which may or may not have an effect. Same day, though.
My basil ten whole days after planting. I'm pretty excited - it didn't die in the night!
Emer's tomato is about 3mm longer than it was yesterday but still very difficult to get a photo of. There might be another seed thinking about growing, too.
And Linnea's tomatoes are curling up in little sprouts very nicely! Emer was delighted by the little springs and wanted to touch them...
So I warned her to be gentle, and she touched one sprout in each pot very carefully. In this you can also see the pot of supermarket basil I have failed to kill over more than two months, and the little aloe vera we were given on Friday at ERAPA and have still not slaughtered. Part of this involves banning the children from watering anything unsupervised ever, but I can live with that.
I do really think that living with potplants and deliberately growing things hugely enriches people's lives, but I don't know how well I'm going to do at it. I don't enjoy the gardening parts at all, just the living with growing things parts - I'd be almost as happy (though less smug) if someone else had kept my basil alive all this time, for example.

We shall see. The children do seem to enjoy the dirt and sowing parts.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Clutter, chaos, binning and binding

We have been trying, for, um, easily eight years, to declutter our small, overcrowded house. We're having a measure of success, too. But I think I accidentally got rid of our ringbinder mountain and possibly also the plastic pockets lake, and now I want them so that I can file the kids' work away in case I'm ever called on to have some.

This is relevant today because they both drew lovely diagrams on a little human figure outline I got ages ago when one of them wanted to draw clothing. Emer did a mouth, a line to show where food goes, a tummy, and a HUGE STRIPE to indicate ENORMOUS RAPID GROWTH, which is what happens when you eat food, you see. Possibly this is only cute if you are her mother, I dunno. Linnea did nose, and lungs. Not sure why. Anyway, there's those, and the amazing map Linnea did a while ago as part of her passport, and also some completed maths worksheets (though Linnea has also recently taken to doing them in her exercise book (I always want to say copybook) and also she ticks the answers off herself, no longer needing me to do that bit). So there's a little stack of Demonstrable Learning Stuff type stuff and if I don't put it somewhere I'll lose it.

Perhaps I should go into the attic and dig around up there, see what I find.

Also, the crank-operated pencil sharpener works brilliantly as far as the children are concerned, and if we could only stop smashing the sellotape dispenser that would too. It's really, really heavy, but the axle is prone to breaking. Oh - and hole punches are addictive. I had forgotten that, but of course I remember now... Not as addictive as the feeling of cutting one's own hair with nailscissors, though, as far as I recall. The scissors are still mainly out of unsupervised reach.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sex Education (Because it's quite separate)

First, I'm not even THINKING about how they worked out that the Khyra case says something - anything - about home ed, rather than about the failure of social services to continue to monitor and protect known at-risk children. But I'm not surprised; I read the Badman review, after all, and it was very difficult to read through the disconnected illogic of it all, even if I had been able to assume that the research referred to existed or was accurately represented.

What I am thinking of is the way sexual and reproductive education is separated out from the rest of health and anatomy education, which I think is a Bad Idea(tm). A while ago my children specifically wanted to find out more about Where Babies Come From, so I had a look - we already had Grey's Anatomy and some written specifically for very young children, but that wasn't what they had in mind. So I looked in all the local shops and failed miserably. I also failed at the library. I found lots of books about the body but they all just glossed over the whole Dirty In Yer Pants Bit.

In the end, a friend sent us a copy of a text used in Irish primary schools, funded not by the Irish education system but by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency; in general, school texts aren't state-funded in that system anyway. The PDF is here. We really likde it - the drawings were clear, the text was unambiguous and not in the least coy, it was very matter of fact and normal.

Then recently they wanted some books about the body in general. Those were easier to find, and I asked for recommendations, and bought two Usborne books in the end - See Inside Your Body and First Encyclopaedia of the Human Body. The first book is aimed at younger children and has no reference to reproduction at all. The second book shows the female internal reproductive organs and a really nice ultrasound of a uterus with a fetus in it. Neither book has even a hint of a smidge of a genital - you know, the bit children can actually see on their own bodies and wonder which bits are what about.

My own children went through phases - we have diagrams of eyeballs on the wall by the stairs, had huge drawings of poo and teeth with wiggly tubes between them, etc. All that is normal. But it's still unusual (not, I would say, abnormal!) that they spend twenty minutes or more contemplating the diagram of their genitals in the Busy Bodies book and some visitors are embarrassed to read it to them when asked -- for the elderly embarrassed I've started asking the children not to ask them.

I can't help wondering what damage it does as a whole society, this othering of a huge part of our bodies and our lives. Though perhaps something's working, since the UK's teenage pregnancy rate is apparently down almost 4%.

Popular Posts