Friday, January 27, 2012

Breaking News: Reading

Well,the 5yo decided that five to eight this evening was the time to start reading. She started trying on a jigsaw, so I got a Peter and Jane book and she rattled through the first 20 pages -- up to page 42, with every other page an illustration -- before she started making more errors than not. I think she's going to take off as a reader soon. Peter and Jane are really useful for building confidence. She might be ready for Oxford Reading Tree too.

Gifted Children

I used to proudly announce that L, now 7, was really really clever and brilliant and super bright and way ahead of her age. And then I stopped.

I'm not sure why. It's difficult to think about. I think it's partially that she wasn't reading fluently until she was almost six, in spite of reading at least a bit from age three. It's partially that people can be quite nasty when one says one's child is bright. Some of it is that she has never been as visible in her achievements as other children - she tends not to write cute angry notes, or do sums I can point at, or tell everyone everything she knows obsessively, like some other children. I've never had a nice clean progression of her academic achievements to draw on. When she's consciously learning something she denies all knowledge of it - even what she used to know before she decided to learn more - until she reaches a level of competence she herself is comfortable with.

And the late reading thing really got to me; I can't remember being unable to read, and I know for sure I was reading ok at three and very competently at four, though my handwriting was atrocious and got me into a lot of trouble until I was seven or so (after that it was just impossibly tiny).

Then I had E, now 5, and she wasn't as obviously miles ahead of the curve, and is also temperamentally much easier in a billion ways, though less independent and outgoing and so on. And I got less and less comfortable with the comparison inherent in "gifted" as a description. E is gifted at being easy to get along with, but still hardly reads at all - almost no whole words - even though she writes a lot.

And A is 18 months and she's more like L, though less extreme, and using words like "gifted" or even "clever" makes me very uncomfortable at the moment, because compared to other children - which is what "gifted" and "clever" do automatically, they are comparisons to the norm - I might be mislabeling them.

And I worry that they're not gifted enough when I see other people's children discovering the cure for cancer etc. Mine are discovering what happens when you soak all the cardboard pieces in a board game and send the plastic bits for a ride around the bathroom in the pirates' dinghy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Did. Did not.

  • Get everyone dressed.
  • Get two of three children outdoors for at least ten minutes (told them about babies dying of rickets).
  • Helped one child plant basil and bake scones.
  • Helped another work through a Marks and Spencer maths workbook. It has nice shiny stickers.
  • Cooked apple and cinnamon pancakes for lunch.
  • Dragged third child indoors covered in mud when the rain went from "heavy" to "torrential." I love toddlers but I don't want her to swim over the garden fence and away.
  • Combed plasticine out of one child's hair, using oil to get the last bits out.
  • Put two children in the bath (we never have one person using a bathful of water, ever, I think)
  • Got kids to put their stuff away, a bit. Clean laundry, anyway.
  • Had toddler nap at a useful time.
  • Showed toddler "C is for Cookie" on YouTube.
Did not:
  • Do anything at all before noon.
  • Go out and pay library fines, deliver things to charity shops, collect prescription
  • (Related) did not take meds
  • Go out to home ed group, because we did nothing before noon because of all the after-midnight activity in this house
  • Defenestrate anyone
Altogether a win day, really.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Consultation time!

The whole thing is here - I am pulling out the bits I think are specifically relevant to home education, just for you. The good news for those of you who tried to read the Badman report is that this document is coherent, which helps a lot - I don't need to comment much, just draw your attention to some bits for you to look at. I'm looking at two things - the extract from the consultation document I think are relevant, and something referred to in it - "Building Engagement, Building Futures" which is a link to a page which links to a PDF (why not just a web page? no idea). I've highlighted some parts in bold.
1.1 The Education and Skills Act 2008 sets out that from 2015, all young people (16 and 17 year-olds) will be required to participate in education or training. This change is happening in two phases: from summer 2013 all young people will be required to participate in education or training until the end of the academic year in which they turn 17, and from summer 2015 onwards until their 18th birthday.

1.2 This does not necessarily mean that young people have to stay at school. They will be able to participate through three options:
  • Full-time education - whether at a school, college or otherwise.
  • An Apprenticeship.
  • Working full-time (for 20 hours or over per week and for at least eight weeks) and undertaking part-time study alongside (for the equivalent of a day a week).

1.3 Our strategy to increase participation (Building Engagement, Building Futures) sets out our policies to support the commitment to full participation of 16 and 17 year-olds in education and training

2.1 The areas of consultation are:
Residency - the duty to participate applies to all young people resident in England. Judgements on where a young person resides may need to be made in a very small number of cases; we propose not regulating here and leaving this to the discretion of local areas.
Full-time education - for those young people participating through full-time education (if not at a school), how can we best define what is meant by full-time education in all its relevant settings? Here we set out two options: a blanket rate of minimum full-time hours for all education types (which we suggest should be 534 hours annually), or a more differentiated approach for the different types of education provision.

3.2 This decision about residency is only with regard to the duty to participate - and has no bearing on any other residency decisions that may affect that young person.

3.3 The Government could specify in regulations under section 66 of ESA 2008 that certain categories of individuals are or are not resident for the purposes of the participation duty. For example, young people who live in Scotland or Wales and who cross the border to study or work.

Question 1. Do you consider it appropriate that the Government does not regulate on residency in relation to the duty to participate in order to allow for maximum local discretion?

4.1 The great majority of young people will be participating in full-time education, as they do now. Many of those will be at a school (sixth-form), at which full-time education already has a settled meaning of about 190 days per year. But for those undertaking full-time education elsewhere, we will need to define this in our regulations

4.2 We would consider the following to be the valid types of full-time education:

1. School sixth-form - as mentioned, this has a settled meaning and so need not be considered as part of these regulations.
2. College (whether sixth-form, Further Education, independent or religious training provider) - the great majority of young people who are in full-time education, not at a school, will be at a college. This would also include young people who receive their education via a college but are not necessarily attending at the college premises (e.g. young people in custody).
3. Independent Specialist Providers - colleges that provide education and care to those with the most significant disabilities and learning difficulties.
4. Home education.
5. Re-engagement provision - programmes specifically designed to support the most disadvantaged and disaffected young people back into learning.

4.3 There are two options that could be considered here. We could either set a single number of minimum hours across all providers (option 1) or take a tailored approach to definitions for different routes (option 2).

4.4 Option 1: To set a blanket minimum number of hours of education that we would expect young people to undertake if they are participating through full-time education, wherever and however they may be doing so. This would be the simplest approach

4.5 This would be the minimum number of hours, and should not be considered an overall expectation of amount of education nor an average.

4.6 Therefore, we would consider setting an overall annual number of hours somewhere between 450-600 hours per year. We suggest 534 hours per year, which would be around 18 hours per week. Whilst it is likely that the majority of that education will be leading towards formal qualifications, other types of learning should be counted [...] for example work experience as a key part of Study Programmes, would count towards the overall hours. This should be measured out over the year - taking account of any terms and breaks. We would ensure through the regulation that a sequence of programmes (each of which were, for example, of an average of 18 hours per week) would also be valid - for example, if a young person took a one week re-engagement programme (of over 18 hours) and then went onto a full-time college course.

This may have some implications for some of the provision types listed above.

4.9 For home education, this will allow the young person to have clarity that they are fulfilling their duty to participate; but it is at the discretion of the home educator as to what form that education takes. We do not want to set regulations for home education that do not exist pre-16 - but by providing a blanket expectation, we will allow all young people and local authorities to have a clear understanding of the requirements of RPA.

4.10 Option 2: As an alternative option, given that there are a number of settings where young people can engage in full-time education post-16, we could define the requirements for each of those separately.

4.13 For home education - in line with home education for those pre-16, we would not set any specific RPA requirements here. Therefore, as above, we could include this as a specific category that counts but without an hourly rate attached.

Question 2a: Which of the options set out in paragraphs 4.4 to 4.14 do you prefer i.e. option 1 (setting an overall hourly minimum level for full-time education for all provision) or option 2 (a more tailored approach)?

Question 2b: Or is there a hybrid option that you think more effective - for example, that there is a blanket rate of hours for all full-time education but Independent Specialist Providers are exempt?

Question 3a: Do you agree with our suggestion of 534 hours as the minimum requirement for full-time education under Option 1?

Question 3b: Do you agree with our suggestion of 534 hours as the minimum requirement for full-time education for colleges under Option 2?
Building Engagement, Building Futures
Page 6 "Attainment at 16 is the single most important factor in securing young people's participation and future achievement.
Page 11 "More than 96% of 16 year olds and 87% of 17 year olds were participating in education or work-based learning at the end of 2010 [but] 1.16 million young people aged 16-24 not in education, employment or training.

Page 30-31
Local authorities have clear statutory duties in relation to 16-19 year old participation - to secure suitable education and training provision and to support young people to participate, including providing targeted support to help those who are NEET at this stage. [...] Local authorities should have in place robust and timely arrangements with partners for tracking young people's participation, using their Client Caseload Information System to record this information and to identify those at risk of disengaging.
I can't find anything to make me think this is even slightly like Badman. I don't recommend reading what the second document has to say about young people NEET with disabilities, though. Unless you have low blood pressure.

Friday, January 20, 2012


It's here. Which is frankly weird, because it's JANUARY, hello? But nonetheless... We had a busy morning, in that not very busy way; it was low key and unrushed, but people seemed to be getting a lot done.
Reading maths puzzle books. I like that they don't need to be written in, so we can hand them on or lend them to others.
Using acrylic paint to colour air-drying clay. I have no idea what the shapes are supposed to represent.
Pick up that green shovel and DIG, woman!
So I pottered around the garden recording signs of spring.
No idea what's going to surface here. Tulips and daffodils and crocuses and things. The thing is, it's JANUARY and the place is bursting with little green shoots.
Fuzzy buds on the apple tree.
And on the fruit bushes. Fruit twigs, really.
JuniperJasmine berries. Wasn't that a Body Shop fragrance?
I say again, January.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I think we're going. I'm a bit scared of it, but it's on clear public transport routes this time, so I think we're going. If we aren't, I'm sure we can do something with the tickets. Wall-mount them, possibly?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sew busy


It was a hectic day. L woke about 3 am, as far as we can tell, so she was charming and delightful by noon. But we all had porridge and headed out to get sewing supplies. All three children, including the 18-month-old, walked the mile to town, and we got sewing scissors for their sewing kits, a pinking shears, some bobbins, and other bits and pieces. I allowed them to choose one fancy button each in the last shop we visited, so that was nice.

While we were out we went to M&S for a snack, as we had a gift voucher. It was lovely. A is so chatty and communicative. I don't think many people understand her, but the girls and I do, and she tells us all sorts of things. Actually, Rob understands most of what she has to say too. But she was able to tell us what things from the table she wanted, and when she wanted a drink, and all those good things.

We came home and L went straight back into the dinosaur book. She has a thing about the evolution of amphibians at the moment. And about not sleeping, but I can live with that. A was napping, and then we had a visitor who was pinned down and forced to read stories for about 90 minutes.

When the visitor left E and I did sewing machine practice; she's learning to control the foot pedal, so I had her wind a bunch of new thread onto bobbins in our fancy new bobbin box. She was very impressed and excited about the sewing machines we saw while out - she checked each of them for a thread-cutter by the needle - and is delighted with the clever design that means the machine that sews can also fill up bobbins with which to sew. It's lovely.

L messed about with old acrylic paint in the bathroom, pulling lumps apart with tweezers and melting them in hot water. She cleaned it up well and without complaint, so that was ok. She also did something with a book of animal stencils.

And then, just before bedtime, A climbed up on a bench, fell down, and hurt her mouth. She has badly hurt her mouth before, at least once. But she's up again as soon as the bleeding stops, jumping around and trying to climb up the back of the wing-chairs. Tomorrow may well start with a call to the dentist and an emergency check-up. Her teeth are still firm but the gum looks... ugly.

I wish the child being happy was a reliable indicator of things being well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Almost midnight

I'd like, after the slog of illness, Christmas, New Year, more illness, DIY, etc, to get back into blogging.

I thought I'd start by getting a little more up to date.

This week, we started Monday by doing Bananagrams before breakfast; the seven-year-old (L) mainly sees words I don't, and vice versa, and the five-year-old (E) was fascinated by how many words she could make by going through the alphabet and sticking each letter in front of AT. It all petered out before I won, which was good.

We did some sewing. It turns out that E is a natural at cross-stitch. She also made a dress for a wooden spoon doll, hemmed and all. I sewed a sort of dreadful buttonhole around the neckhole, which may or may not stop it from fraying. I can't tell. I'm not a good sewer (er...)

We made a menu for their café, where they priced things very oddly, especially E. Thirty cupcakes for the cost of one piece of cake, whole raw peppers on the menu, that sort of thing. But it depended on what we had in the play food baskets, apparently, and that was that.

In the afternoon E invited N from two doors down over to play, and they played separately but in the same room for a longish time. Meanwhile L was doing jigsaws - she's sticking to really, really easy ones, and I'm not sure what she's doing with them, but it involves telling stories. L has grandiose animation feature film plans. We Shall See; she has roped an adult friend in to help, so you never know what could happen.

Today we got up and tidied frantically, which ended up being great. E got breakfast out for us, which was lovely because looking at the kitchen before I tidied it made me feel completely stopped. The children made lunch (potato salad and tuna sandwiches) and sort of cleared up afterwards. They got out the air-drying clay to make iceberg models (?!) and later did a lot with Lego. There was reading. And writing. I can't remember which day they spent ages with L teaching E how to write "POO-BUMS" but it took ages and the lesson, well, stuck.

Part of our evening pickup involves gathering all the piles of paper, sorting them into used and unused, and returning the unused to the paper drawer. I'm not sure how long this will continue before I get completely tired of it. We did find E's map of the Pacific ring, so that was nice.

And the 18-month-old (almost)? She's fab. She's talking, more and more, though I don't think many people other than me and the other two children understand her, most of the time. She dances. She hides and makes jokes. She's very good at stacking toys and shapesorters. She, like her sisters before her, likes to be naked and takes all her clothes off at every opportunity, leading to... well, I'm glad we replaced the carpets with laminate. Very glad.

And I'm still learning huge amounts. If I could learn how to go to bed at a sensible time and get enough sleep, instead of Internet FOREVER, I'd be golden.

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