Friday, 29 January 2010

First debriefing

My baby's back!

We have heard all about Anne Hathaway's Cottage over dinner. I think this was the favourite Shakespeare site they visited. It does look ever so quaint. Apparently the gardens are beautiful.

They had enjoyed looking around Shakespeare's House too, although it seems Anne Hathaway's had the edge.

They enjoyed wandering through the streets of Stratford taking in the Tudor architecture. We have a little in our region but not a lot. We really had to go hunting for it when we studied the Tudors.

I have only ever visited Stratford once and that was on a school trip as an A level student studying Hamlet. I still have vague recollections of the atmosphere and architecture. I'd love to go back again some time. The tickets they bought for many of the attractions are valid for a year (as seems to be the case with many places these days). I would so love to go.

We have read lots about the life and times of Shakespeare but I don't think any books could rival the experience she has had there this week. I hope that like me, she will also have fond memories of her trip to Stratford for many years to come.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

My baby's coming home soon!!!!

It's been a funny old week. I've plummeted from serenity to despair and back again in equal measure on countless occasions. I'm lucky. Save for one occasion when Hermione went on an overnight break with Craig, I've never been apart from either of my babies. On Monday Hermione and Nana headed off on a five day break. We have spoken on the telephone every day but I still feel as though I have had my right arm chopped off. They're coming home tomorrow. Yay!!! No doubt there will be tales to tell, experiences to recount and lots of photographs to see.

I've spent some great time with Miles this week. It's so good when we're all together but it's great to be able to really tap in and focus on one persons interests too. Miles' fascination with the Romans is passing and is being replaced by WW2. He has been flicking through some books Hermione got from the library. The books are primarily about the Blitz and are heavily illustrated. He's been wandering around the house with big clean paintbrush painting pretend white stripes on the door frames as they did on the lampposts in the blackouts.

We've spent time with friends and hour upon hour playing and reading stories all snuggled up together on the sofa. There's been much drinking of hot chocolate, blueberry munching and general frivolity.

We spent an afternoon in one of our local military museums where Miles rode a tank and an army jeep. We looked at gas masks, weapons and ration tins. His catch phrase at the moment is, 'there's your rations, now make them last!'

We bought some fab stuff at market.

We've spent some (but probably not enough) time outdoors and played with the remnants of what was one of our coldest starts to the new year I can remember.

We watched some craftsmen blowing molten glass. We also saw something which we found most peculiar - sand from the beach which had been hit by lightening and had fused together.

I am enjoying reading Blitz Cat a lot but couldn't help but break off and sneak in Sun Horse Moon Horse when it arrived from Amazon Market Place. My Amazon Market Place habit is becoming quite serious. I must get it under control.

Can you remember that I decided to talk about chalk figures carved into the landscape at Book Club? Well, Sun Horse Moon Horse is a historical novel set in the Iron Age which puts forward an explanation as to how the White Horse of Uffington on the Berkshire Downs came to be there. I think Hermione is going to really enjoy this one. I did.

I had so many plans for this week. I thought that with fewer meals to cook, less clearing away to do, less washing to sort etc I would really get on top of planning - you know, what we're going to study, places we're going to visit, people to see, things to do etc. I've ended up doing nothing like that. I've felt a lot of feelings though and that has to be good.

Oh, by the way, have you seen this? A Tesco store has banned people in their pyjamas. I'm not sure what to think. I have been known to go shopping in my nightie, but I always wear a long coat, fully fastened, on top. Don't think I'd go shopping with my jim jams just kinda 'out there' if you know what I mean. What do you think? Would you be offended by the sight of pyjama clad shoppers in the bread aisle?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Memory lane

What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, reading aloud to Miles, stories that Nana used to read to me as child.

This series of Ladybird books, published before I was born and long since out of print, are currently Miles' favourites.

The wild rabbit which has made our garden one of his regular haunts since the heavy snows has been named Bobbity after one of the rabbits in The Runaway.

Miles and Craig are experimenting with things that will complete an electric circuit. I should probably use this time to re acquaint myself with the dishwasher. Ta ta.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


A good friend always tells me that negativity cannot abide roses. So, as I trudged round the supermarket late last night, I was delighted to see a store assistant marking down four lovely bunches of roses to 10% of their original cost.




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Even if life doesn't instantly transform into a bed of roses, they've certainly made the place much more pleasant to be in! I do so love flowers. Given the choice between clothing, chocolate, wine or flowers, I know what I would choose almost every time.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Ho hum

Oh dear, what a week. Despite having had lots of long leisurely chats with friends, I'm still pleased to see the back of it. I'm not sure how I would have got through it without those long chats.

Can you remember when this happened? Well, the resulting insurance dispute is still ongoing. We still have not received a penny following the loss of our livelihood. The stress is quite indescribable, but in an odd sort of way I have adapted to it - or so I was beginning to believe. It's been driving me silently to distraction this week, and that combined with drizzly weather, post long term nursing hormones and other niggles I think I'm about to boil over!

Never mind, I'm not going to berate myself for having done minimal educational stuff, housework etc etc this week. I've been way too busy staying sane!

There's lots to look forward to - Nana and Hermione are off on an educational jaunt soon, we have a family birthday this weekend, won't be that long till my sister is here and come what may I am eternally wrapped in loving arms.

Onwards and upwards - wasn't it Churchill who said something like you must look for the opportunities in difficulties, rather than the difficulties in opportunities? Who ever said it was right. Life sends us lessons so that we may learn and grow.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Counting to ten

I’m counting to ten and trying to just breathe through it.

Small child complaining of feeling ‘not right’ – that is till I contacted friend and told her I wouldn’t be able to go and listen to her orchestra concert tonight. He made a miraculous recovery after that. Argghhhhh!!

One larger child insisting on making more fairy cakes than you can reasonably wave a big stick at, in order to sell and raise money for the UNICEF Haiti appeal. Great thought but, shame on me, I really wasn’t in the mood to spend the evening scrubbing pink icing from every surface in the kitchen and crunching hundreds and thousands with every step.

One mother totally harassed because she still can’t get over the fact that she can’t find any chalk for her Book Club plans. Has now consigned herself to just *talking* about chalk and chalk carvings on hillsides. Oh, and why do so many of them have to have such huge ‘man bits’? I’m sticking with pictures of horses.

Three gerbils, still looking incredibly cute, but yes, they do have a distinctive smell. I was wrong.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Normal service has been resumed I'm pleased to report.

After spending an absolute age late last night trying to find free printable Montessori style landform resources I splashed out and paid the £1.69 it cost for these fab ones from Absorbent Minds.

I think that because you can get so many great printables for free from the Internet it becomes difficult to accept that you should ever pay - or perhaps it's just me that feels that way *grin*.

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I think these will be well used and we've already learned quite a lot from them.

Got to dash - it was tapas on Sunday and it's Italian tonight! I'm leaving Craig at home this time though. This is what has happened after moaning to friends about having snowbound cabin fever - I'm now going out FOUR nights this week! I dread to think what state I'll be in by the weekend. I've certainly not gone out this much in a week since I became a Mama.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Note to self

There are times when one should avoid cosy evenings in tapas bars, surrounded by good food and wine.

Next time we have creative movement class, French lesson, board game group and St John's Ambulance in one day, I will stay home with a cup of chamomile tea the night before.

My head is thumping - and the days not done yet!!! I suspect this is what happens as you grow old, two glasses of wine instead of your usual one, can wipe you out!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Up, up and away

We're getting quite into kitchen science. This is certainly the way for us to go right now - small, simple experiments that we can understand quite easily. The periodic table will have to wait for the time being!

We put some bakers yeast into a small bottle and 'brought it to life' with warm water and sugar to digest. The result was that it produced a gas - carbon dioxide - which would ordinarily make your bread rise but on this occasion was trapped in our balloon.


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Okie dokie, Hermione is at church with Nana and Miles is at football practice with Craig. It would be nice to think this is the time to relax with a magazine and a cuppa but hey ho, the house is a tip, gotta fly...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Crack pot friends.

A friend made me some beautiful salt dough ornaments and I have chipped one. I'm really cross with myself. This picture doesn't do them justice. The detail on the bumble bee and roses is amazing. I'm going to try to touch it up with paint.

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Here is something else, sent to me by a different friend.

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.

'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.'

The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?'

'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.'

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.

Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'

Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

So, to all of my cracked pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Gerbilarium and chalk problems

Do you like our latest addition? I love making toys for the children. I made this little fellow yesterday at Miles' request but he's already got some stuffing coming out. I think he's been involved in some very lively play today!


This afternoon we made a gerbilarium. Craig helped to make a hole in the cage and attach it to a tank which we drilled ventilation holes in. They love it and I have to say I'm becoming really quite smitten with them. Their fingers and toes are seriously cute.

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We have read the Butterfly Lion in the past but are re reading as it's our Book Club title this month. We all take an activity to Book Club and I was hoping to do some science experiments with chalk. I wanted to show how absorbent it is as I think this ties in nicely with the story - the butterflies come to the chalk lion to drink. Ah well, it was all very good in theory but the experiment didn't work. I then realised that most chalk you buy for black boards isn't actually chalk at all. It's a kind of plaster and colourings mixture. So, where to buy some 'real' chalk? I have found plenty on the Internet but don't really want to be paying £10 plus or so for some chalk. Any ideas?

Also, can anyone recommend where to get cheap rock samples for science? I want lots of different rock samples for experiments, but again they all seem very pricey, particularly considering I want to use them in a way which will essentially break them down - experiments about erosion etc.

Jumping back to talk of our Book Club, our local library has agreed to give us a group ticket so that we can order multiple copies of a set book in advance. Hopefully this will mean that all families will be able to take that months title away with them at the end of Book Club and return it the following month. This will be great as sometimes much of the month is spent tracking down the book and then having to rush to read it in the last week.

I feel really lucky that I live in an area where there are lots of active, go getting and community spirited folks within our home ed community. When I think of all the things we do (more of that another day - there's lots in the pipeline round here right now), the visits we go on, the wealth of knowledge and experience people have and are willing to share, loans of books, games etc, wow, I know I say it a lot, but I am truly blessed.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Tracks in the snow

The wintry conditions appeared to be improving but we awoke to find ourselves in Narnia again today.

I also awoke to have Hermione announce that she was just feeling a bit nervous yesterday and still does want to learn Chinese after all. So glad I wasn't put to the test. She starts this week.


Nana thought there were some large and unusual animal prints in the garden today so I had this bright idea about making plaster paris casts of them. I looked it up on the web and it sounded straight forward.

We made a cardboard collar to contain the plaster, dusted the print with plaster powder and filled with wet plaster.


The results were far from satisfactory. They were abysmal. I think it may have been better to place a layer of clingfilm between plaster and print as the snow stopped the plaster from setting properly. There again that may just be me being silly.


So, we are no further forward with identifying the tracks. To be honest I think it is just a rabbit - a different one to our rabbit. Nana is convinced it's a fox or the likes.

A watercolour bird.

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Here’s a dilemma. Hermione has been asking for ages to learn how to speak Chinese. After much digging and smooth talking I have managed to find her affordable weekly lessons from a native speaking person. Great I thought – that is till Hermione announced that she no longer wants to learn to speak Chinese. What would you do? I hate the idea of coercing her into doing something she no longer wants to do, but at the same time I’m a facilitator of her desires – not a doormat, thank you very much.

I have told Hermione she must give it a try. That went down like a lead balloon. I feel bad but then I think it would be bad to let her think that it is okay to waste my time and that of all the people who have helped me to sort it. I won’t make her go for ever and a day, but considering all the fuss she’s had I think she should give it a try. Seriously un-cool, coercive parent eh?

Here's Pickle and Scratch - Tom Tom was hiding.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

All in a day

What a day! Not so much a busy day - rather one that feels very different at the end to what it did at the beginning.

We are now the ecstatic owners of three gerbils. I have always said I would never ever have a caged animal. There's a lesson in there for me - never say 'never'. We went to the pet shop for one dwarf hamster. We opted for a gerbil upon learning that they are more sociable and being desert animals produce less waste (and hopefully that equates to less smell). We wanted one but thought two would be best so as they had company. That meant one was going to be left behind alone in the pet shop. Yep, you get the picture.

This is not one of our gerbils, but does look a lot like it. Ours are still a little camera shy. They do lots of this upright statue business though which we all think is incredibly cute. They're like miniature meer cats.

I'm not liking the smell. It's not that they smell, it's the bedding and food I can smell. I feel like I'm in a petstore. Non chemical air freshener ideas anyone?

As for the other development today, my sister has announced she's coming to stay for a few weeks, all the way from Canada! Yeah! I'm ever so pleased, not just because we love to see her, but also because she's ever so arty and creative and my own recent plans to make over my bedroom just don't seem to be happening. I'm in need of an in put of flair and expression. What better than a make over by my artist and interior designer little sis?

Currently my bedroom is a dark blue gray colour, with pine furniture and nothing on the walls. Boring huh? Well, here's what I'm hoping to create.

I want something inspired by the works of Jurgen Gorg, one of my all time favourite artists. Strong, fluid and passionate.

Something as cool and vibrant as pale lime leaves...

..yet as warm and rich as creamy baked cheesecake.

I'm also thinking texture - not so much full on textured textile art (or at least not on a large scale), but more like fluid canvas with texture, like almost tactile paintings. Paint that looks like it's been put on with a trowel. What is that? Oil on canvas?

The budget for the makeover is whatever small change is lying in the bottom of my bag - probably something in the region of about £1.79 - so frugality is the key. Walls and furniture will have to stay as they are.

I'm excited. I'm so excited that the smell of sawdust isn't irritating me half as much as it otherwise would be.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Our China display

We put up our China display today. We've been talking about China for a few days and discussions will no doubt continue till the finale of New Year on the 14th of February.

Most of the display comes from an Edupress Bulletin Board set which I picked up for a couple of pounds when an online store was closing down. I think they are great. We have one for the continents and Africa too. I would like more but cannot find a UK distributor. You can get them in America - even on (as opposed to but I've not quite got my head round the shipping and tax costs.


In addition to the standard pieces we've added a few of our own. A lot of this ties in with and arose out of reading Animal Farm.



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Not so long ago in First News there was an article about Tibet. Thinking back to that and various discussions we have had in recent days I have contacted Amnesty International to enquire if home educators can access the free education packs they provide schools with. I'll keep you informed.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Organised Mum

Well, it a tall order but I'm sincerely hoping that my new Organised Mum book and wall planner will help to transform me from one of those crusty 'always running late with toast crumbs in her hair' kinda mums to..erm....well, someone who kinda knows where she's at.

This stuff was recommended to me on a home ed list. There is plenty of room for various family members activities and even space for menus and shopping lists. Goodness, to think I may ever be that organised!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Why do I blog?

I have been asking myself this question for a few months. There have been times when I have wondered why I bother, but for reasons I find hard to explain, I'm drawn back to it. After giving it some thought this is what I've come up with.

1. It’s there when I want to talk and it doesn’t answer back.

2. It’s a bit like a message in a bottle – out there on the waves.

3. It helps me to keep a track on some stuff, focus and reflect.

4. It’s cathartic - cheap therapy.

5. It’s a sort of mingling of self with others, reaching out, making connections, invisible threads and stuff.

Assuming you do, then why do you blog?