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.

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