Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Today was horrible and miserable and we did nothing we planned. I cried my eyes out in Hyde Park. But. They gathered magnolia petals and watched mandarin ducks, great crested grebes, coots, moorhens, and (mating) squirrels. One squirrel fell out of the tree, even.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


They enjoyed filling it in, and both put their religion as Girls' Brigade, which is a new one on me. Astrid's address a year ago was listed as INSIDE PERSON 1 and I felt a pang for the babies who don't appear at all.

We had an interesting discussion on why you need to know who is in a place and what they do, and I suppressed various rants.

The other things we did today were... they went to see Little Red Robin Hood and we planted various things, watered things in pots, and moved stuff around for best sunshine.

They're writing books and creating forms for us to fill in for the Emerland and Linnealand censuses.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Time like now when I'm alone
I think of passing time
The everlasting afternoon
From when I was a child

The endless summers drifting past
The days rolled out like dough
The time to play and sleep and be
That every child should know

And time like now when I'm alone
I look back through our day
And I can see that sometimes we
Can use our time that way

This morning there was building
And tickling on the floor
And opening the parcels
The post brought to the door

This morning there was dancing
And someone sang a song
And breakfast and a comic book
And hanging laundry wrong

This morning there was washing clothes
And washing dishes clean
And making messes, wearing dresses
Drawings of in-between

This morning there was sunshine
And wiggling toes in grass
This morning reached this afternoon
And took sun-hours to pass.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Suddenly wondering

Do other people's home educating methods seem far more attractive than yours? Do other people's children seem far better-behaved and better-educated than yours? Do other parents seem more patient than you, other homes cosier and less squalid?

Or is it just us?

Hasty gardening

I need to take a bunch of photos of our plants, but I'm not getting around to it.

Various flowers have turned up from the bulbs we planted last year. The apple tree and fruit bushes are doing ok, in spite of the raspberry bush having been uprooted; the others are ok and the raspberry might well survive. You never know.

The pots on the table in the bay window are all looking full of life and enthusiasm.

The potatoes from are chitted but we don't have quite enough compost to plant them yet because we used it for other things. I'll buy more compost soon and plant them. The milkman delivers compost, for some reason.

We have yet to chop up the tree we removed to make space for the apple tree, and we have yet to build the cold frame.

But I went out and found a major disaster zone today, so Emer and I spent a while tidying sticks while Linnea was clearing the bricks away from the base of the tree ("to stop it blowing over!") and we are now no further backwards than we were on Friday, four days ago. We had a full and frank discussion about watering, too, and why pouring 10-litre buckets onto tiny areas isn't the wisest course.

I love the verb "to chit."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friday Club: Passing on my values to my children

I haven't blogged much this past week, but the Friday Club prompt is ‘Ethics and activism’ which is very me, really.

We're not what I usually consider religious, but I do hold strong views and strict morals, in my own way, and I have put a certain amount of effort into figuring out how to influence my children to behave in ways I consider morally right and to avoid behaving in ways I consider morally reprehensible.

One of the things we've done to help us with this is start attending Quaker Meeting most weeks, locally. A religion that lets atheists in helps, as far as I'm concerned, and it's a hotbed of ethical and political activism - it's one of the few places where I'm not on the outside extreme edge.

What do I do? I try to be mindful of the fact that we share the planet with billions of other people and cause as little damage to it and them as possible.

Ethical consumerism. We buy our groceries primarily from the, which helps us make sure we're getting local, organic, or Fair Trade goods, in general. They also do post-consumer recycled toilet paper and printer paper, and various other non-food things.

When Linnea hit an age to be useful in a sweat-shop I went along the high-street and asked for the shops' policies on ethical sourcing. No-one does it, basically, but H&M and John Lewis both have written policies about their supply chain, saying nothing about slave labour but promising that they don't source from anyone using children under 12 or 14. So we buy a lot of clothes second-hand or from, because having my children wear things which might have been made by children their own age bothers me enormously.

We don't drive. We walk, or get the bus, or cycle - we have a tricycle which, when it's in good repair and my SPD is ok, can carry two children and an adult in the passenger box, or two children and a baby in a carseat, or three children.

We donate to charity and give money to buskers and beggars - the latter mainly so that the children see us giving something to someone, since charity donations are mainly done via online banking, which isn't visible to a four-year-old, but I do have a history of feeding homeless people even when I'm not doing it for show, so I don't feel too hypocritical about it.

We vaccinate, to keep people who can't be vaccinated safe, and when we're ill we warn people before seeing them, so that they can decide whether or not to be exposed to our germs. We fine-comb for headlice and tell people if we get those, too. We teach our children how soap breaks down germs and why they must wash with soap if they want to kill germs, though water is fine for just making things look clean. We don't use antibacterial this and bleach that.

The children tagged along when I was a Helper for the Breastfeeding Network, almost every week for two years, and when we volunteered at the food co-op, and when we shoveled snow off the paths and did shopping for neighbours the last two winters.

We take a general interest in what goes on around us, and the children have seen us write letters, volunteer for hours in various contexts, or just follow the news vocally. They are exposed to our ideas on slavery, sexism, xenophobia, selfishness, oppression, rats, cats and elephants, all the time. I have a lot of opinions to go around.

And it seems to sort of work. At least, it worked for my mother, though I don't think she predicted I'd be quite as rabid as I turned out. And my daughter stopped being vegetarian when presented with sausage rolls... but I still think some of it sinks in.

Time will tell. At least, I tell myself, I tried.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Friday Club: A favourite childhood memory

The Friday Club

I did this last week, sort of, so I thought I'd do it again.

My favourite childhood memory is a bit tricky to pin down. There are the ones I, as an adult, approve most strongly of - my mother teaching me hopscotch using chalk on the kitchen quarry tiles, and a shoe-polish tin full of dirt; watching my mother dig a drain outside the house to reduce the damp in the downstairs bedroom; times she made us feel special and cared-for when we were ill or she chose something just for us because she knew us well. But those somehow don't quite cut it.

What actually does, what lives like a memory and is called to mind involuntarily and makes me happy and excited and peaceful, is a quality of weather.

I don't have a very good vocabulary for weather, so this could be difficult.

There's a particular kind of morning - pretty early, definitely no later than 9:30 am - when it's not hot, and not wet, and I can hear birds (pigeons or seagulls work best). The air is kind of crisp and damp-smelling. There are clouds, but not ominous ones. It may or may not be misty. And I'm outdoors, whether urban or rural.

Those mornings are exactly like the ones from - if it's pigeons - holidays at my Nana's house, when we'd get up and eat cereals we never had at home, and then go out into the garden. And if it's seagulls, they're like mornings on Inis Mór, in my mother's house, when I'd get up (often before anyone else) and cook a huge pot of porridge and again eat and out, adventures and excitement and getting things done - so sometimes we'd get up to do work, not play, but it was satisfying and useful and enjoyable just the same, hauling seaweed or water or something, children working with adults.

So that kind of weather, those sorts of mornings, fill me with energy and a sense of safety and anticipation.

The light was never right for the years I lived in London, though. It's pretty often right where we live now.

Here are the other entries in this carnival:

My Friend Next Door from QWERTY Mum.

My Mum was the best storyteller from Baby Budgeting.

A Favourite Childhood Memory from Patch of Puddles.

Domino Trails from Mummy From The Heart.

Freedom from Live Otherwise.

A Favourite Childhood Memory from The Gingerbread House.

Birthday Memories from The Diary of a Frugal Family.

Please Turn Over from Bibsey.

Not Tonight Josephine from Cheeky Wipes.

Freedom from Little Legends.

A Favourite Childhood Memory from Who Teaches Whom.

Holidays from Seasider In The City.

Making Paper Boats from Red Ted Art.

Remembering a Fishpond from Mymumdom.

Canada from South of the River Mum.

Goodbyes from Notes From Home.

Tens and tomatoes

I got out of bed a few times today. I went to the GP, then came home and got back into bed. I got up and helped the children start soap-carving until we all lost interest (I will buy less ecologically sound soap next time, which will be easier) and got back into bed. And I got up and helped Emer plant tomatoes, and then did place value with both of them (one at a time, since I was establishing that Linnea understood how to use place value to make addition easier, and just explaining to Emer that it exists at all).

Not bad, really. I had much better plans, yesterday, but apparently I'm still too ill to carry them out.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Chittin' time

We got our free seed potatoes in the post a while back and today was the designated Chitting Day. So we did. It was something of an anticlimax - opening a packet and putting seven seed potatoes in eggboxes isn't very exciting - so we also filled some pots with compost and planted basil and chives (we don't know which is which because the seed packets were opened and investigated last week, all over the stairs) and marigolds, which have lovely seeds which we really enjoyed.

Then I almost collapsed and had to get back into bed, because I am still ill, but it was good to do something for a change.

Linnea was too ill to join in properly - she couldn't focus enough to plant even one thing, just fidget and spill things and kick people - but when we do the next lot of things, which is tomatoes and radishes, I expect she'll be able to help.

Antibiotics really do work. I do love having access to healthcare.

Last year's window plants: here and here.

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