Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Rounding up, navel gazing and stuff...

After deliberating whether or not to even read The Mozart Question, we ended up reading it and going to see the theatre production. We enjoyed it. It was sparse in comparison to most theatre productions we see but the strength of the story and the talent of the actor made it possible I feel.

We enjoyed it so much that we stayed for a post show talk. I need not have worried about how it would be portrayed to children. It became apparent that in advance of staging the production they had put a lot of thought into how children learn about traumatic events, and how at younger ages some things are best explored through the imagination as opposed to stark and potentially deeply distressing facts.

We went along to The Great North Museum and visited this guy - a life size Tyrannosaurus Rex.

He was accompanied by hundreds of absolutely fascinating things, but I have to say, I did not enjoy the visit. There were screens with moving images on the floor and ceiling. There were background sounds playing all of the time and lots of visitor activated sounds (push button stuff) which was incredibly loud too. Call me old fashioned but the noise, special effect lighting and screen just over loaded my senses and distracted from what I really wanted to see. There were times when it felt like being in a really naff nightclub - flashing lights, loud noises and strange specimens.

We have been strawberry picking and we have also dug up a lot of potatoes from our garden. Delicious.

Hermione is almost ready to wrap up the Tudors. We have covered all of KS2 national curriculum on it and much more. It's only recently that I have looked at the national curriculum and I wish I had done so much sooner. It's very reassuring. As for KS2 anyway it certainly is just a thin covering with wide brush strokes - this and that but not a lot of detail. I suspect there will be lots of areas where it just won't be detailed enough for Hermione's liking. When she's interested in something she likes to find out all there is to know - which can't be a bad thing!
We have spent literally hour on end jumping these waves - with friends and just us. Summer is well and truly here and we're loving it!

Seeing how both of the children interact with the sea really rings the changes in their confidence since last summer. Watching them the other day Craig ad I were just thinking about possibly buying Hermione one of those small surfboards - a body board I think it's called. She would love that.
We visited Newby Hall and for the first time I got to wander around the sculpture park. It was absolutely amazing. I was awestruck by some of the sculptures. They are all for sale and I would have dearly loved to have brought some home with me but alas that will be for when I win the lottery - which could be a long way off considering I never play it.

It's not entirely clear from the picture but these willow horses were life size.

I've had many deep and meaningful conversations with Hermione, who has spent what seems to be an incredible amount of time of late swinging from her favourite tree, and pondering out loud whether Macbeth was truly evil or was he just weak and corrupted by the witches and Lady Macbeth.

We have compared and contrasted creation and evolution quite a lot. That is one of her favoured debates these days. I've even been questioned about Mary Madeleine and whether or not she did actually give birth to Jesus' child.
Hermione and Miles have discussed about how the earth was once thought to be flat and that people may fall off - but later it was found to be round - 'but then do we ever really know?' she said.
Oh, they make me laugh and sometimes they take me by surprise. I don't always have the answers they are looking for, but that's one of the great things about our situation - we have the time to sit and ponder life in a way that those with tighter schedules don't.
A university friend caught up with me recently and we talked about the downsides of our own education. We both concluded that the youth of today have way too little time for navel gazing and that it should in itself feature on the time table. Call it processing, observing, formulating one's own ideas or whatever - it's certainly a very under rated process and one which we concluded could have enhanced our learning experiences greatly.
Blinkin Blogger! Squashing evrything up again!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Sugar crafts,sand and stinkin headaches

Hermione tried her hand at sugar crafting last week. She made some beautiful flowers.

We have had a wonderful day at the beach today. Craig and the children spent over two hours jumping waves and building castles to be swallowed up by the tide. I lay on the rug and wondered if I will ever learn to come home at a reasonable hour when we go out to dinner with friends.

I'm pleased to be moving on from this past week. There have been so many competing demands on my time and energy that I feel seriously depleted. I really need to reconnect with my oooomph.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Elderflower and strawberry ice cubes

Made by Miles.

Shell munching chooks

Earlier in the week we spent a day at the beach with ten other home edding families. It was glorious. Much fun was had by all.

Miles collected some shells, sand and seaweed to take home to make a seaside picture.

He took his time with it and did a fabulous job.

Unfortunately we turned our back for one minute and those pesky hens snaffled all of the shells!

It's a good job they're lovable!

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Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

You know how every now and then you get a moment to just kick back and say 'wow'? A bit like the calm in the storm if you know what I mean. Well amidst yet another very busy day today, (which I will no doubt recap in a round up soon), I had the good fortune to spend five minutes gazing upon the original Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, painted by John Martin in1852.

Now, the reality is I'm certainly no art buff but I was quite blown away by this picture. Seeing it here just doesn't do it justice. It sort of drew me in, churned me up and spat me out.

This has also prompted me to think that now that I have a colour printer I can print more works of art from online to strew around the house and discuss as and when.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Death of the Yorkshire Pudding

I have discovered today that Miles has an egg intolerance. He also has a dairy intolerance but I already knew about that.

So, what the heck am I to do with all our eggs if they're no longer to be included in family meals? Thankfully I'll still be able to make lots of omelets and quiches as he didn't eat them anyway.

Hmmm. Vegan cake recipes anyone? I have a couple that I like but could do with some more. Vegan cakes seem to be so hit and miss that I'd prefer to try ones that have been tried, tested and recommended rather than stabbing in the dark.

I've managed to find vegan pancake recipes but I suspect this tolls the death bell for the humble Yorkshire Pud. Roast dinner won't be the same again. I've adjusted to dairy free, gluten free puds but take out the egg and the will be nothing left!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Sunny days and full moons

Today has been the hottest day I can recall in a long time. We had plans to meet with friends but Hermione woke with a hacking cough so I thought it best to call ahead and issue a warning - just to find our friends were also hoarse and barking. With plans rescheduled for next week we set about a day chilling in the garden.

Miles found that the best way to chill was in his rather large legionnaires hat and a liberal dolop of sun cream - hence the full moon on a sunny day. I got some cracking pictures but it goes without saying that cyber space being what it is, most certainly not a place for naked children, they won't be appearing here. Instead I'm going to offer you this guy, who probably best reflects how I feel in the sun.

I was going to have a bit of a round up tonight. We have done so much lately that I want to share. That will have to wait though. I'm whacked and need to get off to bed to prepare myself for what hopefully will be another day of doloping sun cream, licking ice lollies and sticking my toes in the paddling pool.

Sunny days!!!!! Yay!!!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Home Ed Review

I rarely venture into politics on here but since I’ve been asked I can’t resist but to share my thoughts. Having said that, the last couple of weeks have not been without some hair raising personal moments so I can’t declare to have considered every aspect in minute detail or come up with any solutions.

Well, I know the home ed community is up in arms about this, but come on, what did we really expect?

These aren’t original well thought out proposals. As we all know they’re little more than platitudes. But then could we really expect reasoned, considered and workable proposals? I’m a lot of things, but surprised certainly isn’t one of them.

I have heard Graham Badman being referred to on various lists as ‘evil’. He isn’t evil, he’s just a bloke behind a desk, doing a job. Let’s not shoot the messenger. He just had the unfortunate task of putting forth what a high percentage of people in this country think. Our country is awash with people who believe you can stem the flow from an artery with an elastoplast, or indeed stamp out child abuse and substandard education by slapping a few ill thought out regulations on a minority (and therefore vulnerable/easy target) group.

It goes without saying that I am appalled with many of the recommendations. I have always said that I would communicate with the local education authority if needs be, attempt to work with them and co-operate. However, that is upon the proviso that there is a relationship of mutual respect. No respect, no relationship. Some of the new proposals, particularly automatic access to the family home and unaccompanied child, go well beyond what could be expected of a mutually respectful relationship. Up until this time I had always thought I would be willing to allow the LEA into my home, but that was to be upon my invitation, not an order. I won’t be ordered. I won’t be coerced. Behind this tree hugging, teabag knitting, earth loving mama lies a Rottweiler – rarely seen but there all the same.

Having said all that, if I truly believed that by embracing the regulations it would mean that there would be an end to child abuse and substandard education then I would have to think long and hard about balancing the rights of me and mine with the wider community interest. Obviously I’m appalled by child abuse. Equally I am appalled by any children not been given an adequate education (be that at school or home). Some children are abused. Some children get crap education at school. Some children get a crap education at home. These regulations are not going to change that one bit.

What is the solution? I’m not entirely sure, and this is something which concerns me greatly, as I feel that as a community we lash out at the government but I don’t think we always put forward workable proposals in response. Perhaps the reason for that is that it is impossible to regulate home education in the way the government wish to. They cannot control what goes on in the home. There needs to be trust. Trust that children will not be abused, and that parents who elect to home educate will fulfil their obligations to do so.

Why do some people abuse their children? Why do some people elect to home educate and then fail to take that responsibility seriously? I don’t think any of these things happen because a child’s name is not on a list, that the annual visit from the LEA has not taken place or that the parents have not been approved to home educate.

Perhaps time and money would be better spent looking at why these things do happen. Perhaps it’s time to stop micro managing in an attempt to be seen to be doing ‘something’ (even if it is futile) and instead begin to address the larger issues. It’s time to quit trying to regulate something such as home education in this way. By its very nature it cannot be effectively regulated in this way. To do so is like trying to herd wild cats.

The government and country at large want to believe that child abuse is being tackled and that all children can receive an adequate education. That’s fair enough and a very laudable aim. My concern is that the longer that is spent chopping off leaves, the stronger and longer the roots will become. It’s time to leave us alone and address the real problems – substandard education and child abuse – neither of which have been shown to be more prevalent in electively home educated families. The focus is all wrong. Elective home education isn’t the problem. Child abuse and substandard educational provision is. How are the government to find answers to these problems if they don’t even look in the right place?

I won’t live in fear. I won’t allow the fear of a bogey man (or Badman) lurking around the corner to spoil the immense pleasure I get from enjoying a close and loving relationship with my children – in terms of their education in addition to all other areas.

At the same time I won’t sit back and do nothing. Due to personal pressures right now I’ve not yet had a chance to put pen to paper and express my concerns and make my very own recommendations to the powers that be, but that’s not to say I don’t intend to. I do intend to, and I will.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Flowers - feed ya face

We now have nasturtiums in bloom in the greenhouse. That's probably a bit misleading as they tend to be snaffled by one or other small person as soon as they open their petals.

There are 'salads' and then there are 'salads with flowers' in my view - the later being much more appealing than the first.

Some of the elderberries are beginning to bloom too and the hawthorn won't be long either I'm sure. Oooh, elderflower lemonade and hawthorn tea on the horizon.

I've been thinking a lot about the consultation since Clare asked my views. I had of course thought about it prior to that but Clare as spurred me to try to get my head around the bigger picture. I'm off to bed now to ponder it further and will be back soon no doubt.

Night night.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


Peas, dwarf beans and runner beans are all doing well. As per usual I have lots of runners but not enough peas and french beans. If only everything would crop like runner beans!

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Friday, 12 June 2009

Sacrifcial crops

I was talking about organic veg growing yesterday with someone who is very much in the know – an experienced organic box scheme grower.

I asked him how he protects his plants from caterpillars and slugs. I explained how last year all of my sprouting broccoli was wiped out within a week by caterpillars. He said the best thing to do is to just carry on and ignore the pests. He suggested I consider last years sprouting broccoli to be a sacrificial crop which will help to change the eco system for the better. Apparently because the caterpillars were there in such large numbers their predators will have registered that and will continue to remember so and will be around in greater numbers this year awaiting a caterpillar feast. I hope he’s right. He did say that they had tried netting but found their brassicas did much better not netted as once netted the slugs could do their worst and were not under threat from birds.

He was definitely of the view that enhancing predator habitat is certainly the way to go. Time to sort out the wooden pallets I’m saving to make a big bug house I think!

The other day I caught four wood pigeons in the act of eating all of my cauliflowers. They are still rooted but are virtually bare stalks now. I’m not sure if they’ll rally round. What eats wood pigeons? Would I want anything to eat the wood pigeons? Can be tricky this gardening business.

The tomatoes are coming along ever so nicely. We've already eaten quite a few.

Broccoli is forming heads.

The first time I have managed to raise any pak choi without bolting. Yay!!

A mass of turnips, peas and chard. Apparently mixing your crops can confuse pests.
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Thursday, 11 June 2009

Worm Survey

We spent most of today with a group of other home edding families carrying out a worm survey.
In addition to digging for the worms the children also helped to distinguish between and separate the immature from the adult worms, and then identify exactly what kind of worms the adults were.
Do you know there are worms with yellow tails?

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Altered books and stuff

Miles and I spent a wonderful day down on the farm with friends today. Hermione and Nana also had a great time when they met with friends for brunch. I'm so glad Nana is so involved with the children. It make it so much easier to meet every one's needs.

Back at home we marvelled at how the young doves nesting in our garden have really changed in the last week or so. Last week they were fluffy and tottering on the top of the fences. This week they are decidedly less fluffy and are making confident short flights.

I've just arrived home from spending a wonderful evening with a friend, drinking tea and putting the world to rights. I acquired some sunflower seeds and excellent second hand children's books too.

Last but not least I have been invited to join a local Altered Book group. I'm flattered and very interested but am aware that I don't always have the amount of time I would like and am also acutely aware that I haven't even finished the squares for my granny challenge yet. I'll have to give this one some thought.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Tiramisu, eighties revival, free theatre tickets, pole dancing and more

As usual life is busy as ever here and this is just a bit of a round up.

Hermione has been doing loads of 'work' at her own request. Today she spent a long while pretending to be a royal ambassador reporting back to royalty in different countries about the appearance and various attributes of Henry VIII. She produced various letters describing him both in real life and in his various portraits which he wanted people to see.

In addition to working together we have also spent quite a bit of time working in very small groups with friends. Hermione's creative writing skills are coming on a treat thanks to the enthusiastic and fun approach of a skilled friend. We've also been working with others on some science topics and enjoyed a wonderful few hours exploring liquids and solids last week - partly in the form of melted chocolate, strawberries and marshmallows - my kind of science lesson!

I'm looking for some 'lighter' literature for Hermione. I think a lot of the historical novels and plays we have been reading recently have been a little heavy for her. I think the Macbeth DVD tipped her over the edge slightly on the violence and gore front. I've decided to step back from that front for a wee while and have even sold our tickets to go and see the stage show later in the year. Any suggestions for classical literature for an eight year old who needs something a bit fluffy right now but something which will also be at an appropriate level of understanding? I'm no sure that makes sense - hopefully you will know what I mean.

We have managed to bag a couple of free theatre tickets through the Night Less Ordinary scheme. Both of the children go free so I just have to pay for myself to take them to a children's show. Not bad eh?

Miles has joined a new story group and a new play group. He's loving them both. I stay the whole time and that suits us just fine. He's really coming out of his shell and enjoying going out a lot. There was a time when he wanted to stay home all of the time and it's wonderful that he now feels there is a big world out there just waiting for him to explore.

Hermione and I went out to an Italian restaurant one evening. We shared a fabulous tiramisu (we were so full from our pizzas). It was the first time Hermione had had tiramisu and I think the experience was educational in itself. Delish!

We went to an eighties revival sort of concert last night and had a fabulous time. I think I mentioned the other day that I am worried about the impact some images have upon young girls and how they perpetuate the myth that being dangerously skinny or airbrushed to within a millimetre of your life is good. Well, this production was performed by students and I was delighted to see girls who may have been a size 14, 16 or 18 up on stage in shorts or leggings, dancing, singing and having fun. That's what I want my children to see - people exploring their talents and enjoying life regardless of age, shape or any other element of physical appearance. The only downside to the evening was that I've been singing Love Shack by the B52s ever since.

Things are doing fine on the gardening front. The mooli have bolted which is a shame but not the end of the world. I pulled all of my little turnips and discovered that I really don't like them. Having said that I wasn't willing to waste them. I made soup with some and made a veggie crumble with the rest - mixed with other veggies too of course. We are picking lots of mixed leaves, chard, baby spinach and herbs. Miles has been picking the mangetout from the greenhouse - no one else has managed to get any yet! I've a few pak choi which amazingly haven't bolted and I think we will eat those this week. Lots of flowers on the runner beans in the greenhouse and beans are starting to form on some of the dwarf french beans. Those damned hens have decimated more of my pumpkin plants. I swear, I'll abandon all my principles and turn them into nuggets one of these days!

The garden still needs masses of work though. One of the really great things about it this year is that Craig is developing a little enthusiasm too and we tend to potter together in the patch on a Sunday. This weeks pottering was somewhat curtailed after arriving home in the wee hours of Sunday morning following a night of curry, chardonnay and excellent company. It takes so much longer to get over these things I think as the years roll on.

Talking of years rolling on I'll turn twenty two later this week. I may take up pole dancing to celebrate. What do you think?

Right, that's it, off to bed. Tomorrow is looking ever so hectic as both Hermione and Miles are expected in various places. I'm hoping that once I find these 25 hour days I may also find a 'two places at once' pill.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Vienna Vegetable Orchestra

If you have a spare moment then you could do worse than to pop along here and watch the YouTube clip of these folks playing their vegetables. Goodness, some of those carrots sound better than flutes I've heard!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Macbeth dvd review

We watched Shakespeare4kidz production of Macbeth on video this evening.

At £20 for the DVD it isn't cheap, although still cheaper than a couple of tickets to go to see the stage show. The production is a recording of the live stage show.

It is apparently suitable for KS2 ans KS3. I'm not really up on Key Stages but I *think* KS2 is from seven years old. I absolutely loved it and sat mesmerised throughout. It's musical, lively, easy to follow and very engaging. I'd recommend it to all adults. As for children I'm not so sure. There were some scenes that Hermione found disturbing even though she is very familiar with the story and we switched off before she had seen the end.

I have seen countless productions of Macbeth and this is my favourite by far. As for it's suitability for younger children I'm not so sure. I would recommend watching it yourself before showing it to your child.