Friday, 29 February 2008

Measuring, measuring and more measuring ...

Well it's caused a bit of controversy here at Boyce View about the measuring - imperial versus metric. I stick by my stand that we still use both in this country but dh says metric, so obviously I followed up 20 minutes later by innocently asking how many kilometers from A to B, to which he replied 'what? You mean miles' - Ha, gottcha!

Still looking at it from a Waldorf perspective, the block is about relating measurement to the body and looking at how measurement has come to be. It includes lots of measuring actual things using body parts!! Mainly though, it gives an actual understanding of what measuring is. We couldn't have done this with metric because it just doesn't relate to anything. So anyway we carried on - with imperial, and Hettie understands we have metric as well.

We took measures of 12 actual feet (thanks to the home ed group) and found an average to make a ruler of Our Standard Foot.

Hettie used her actual foot, our standard foot and the actual 'real' standard foot to measure various things.

Today we had a look at the span and measured more things with our hands.

I've been working hard at trying to find our rhythm. We're getting there now, to the point where Hettie says we haven't done this or that yet! So we start the day with mental maths, at the moment times tables and ball throwing. Although today we started with 15 minutes or so of piano practice because Hettie had her first lesson yesterday. Then we followed up with a tongue twister which involved a lot of laughing! A little bit of activity - all of this is standing up - seems to set her up for more 'concentration' work.

Hettie working out 3 times tables, multiplication & division.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Mothers Day Cards and curriculums...

At our local group today S set up making cards for all the kids. The wonderful teenagers helped out so mum's didn't see their cards, so thanks to them for their help, and jolly good they were to. M continued art classes which went down well again and the mums got to chat as the kids were busy! I can't post any pics 'cos its a secret.

Issy had birthday assembly at school which entails all the birthday children getting up and telling about their birthdays, blowing out candles and getting a sticker. Now she gets very stressy about this every year, not liking to be center of attention. First year she didn't get up, second year she got up for a short time with the help of a teacher and a friend while I groaned inwardly. I should explain birthday assembly is a brilliant idea but very tedious for the mums watching. Hettie and I sat and held our breath, but up Issy jumped and very quietly, well we couldn't hear her, did her bit.

Admittedly Hettie and I did get the giggles as one teacher glared at a group of noisy 6 year olds who didn't notice her at all, and one of Hetties old teachers, a rather large chested lady, came and engulfed Hettie in a bear hug and asked her how she was getting on. She does this often when we bump into her, so while Hettie tried to avoid her I was whispering 'here she comes'. Hettie, somewhat smothered at this time managed a muffled 'alright thank-you'. Isn't it nice when your children are polite even under great duress, and how nice that a teacher from 2 years ago can still be bothered to find out about an ex pupil.

So, a few people have been interested in the Live Education curriculum which I purchased. For those of you not interested don't read any further, I'm about to waffle! Its a Waldorf - Steiner curriculum for home educators, although I think some schools buy it as well. When I first contacted them it was to enquire whether it was possible to just buy one book, but you have to purchase a full year. It is fairly expensive though the exchange rate is good for us Brits at the moment! I'd read about it on various e-groups and message boards and it is quite popular. You pay an initial fee and fill in a very indepth online form about each child and then they telephone you for a consultation. I must admit it was quick, about 3 days after I submitted the form, but I was left a little confused about what I was buying although you do get plenty of time to chat. He did stress the books you buy are for the parent to learn how to teach the subjects and not a book for children to work through.

They recommended a mixed package from Grades 1 -3 and I wasn't sure this was exactly what we needed - doubt was setting in after I had paid. But it turned out to be more or less exactly what we needed. They picked up on exactly the right levels for maths & english that we need and there are lots of ideas for lesson plans and how to develop them. You do need to really read through everything and then formulate your plan, its not handed to you on a plate, but it does mean you can add from elsewhere. I like Eric Fairmans Paths of Discovery and Donna Simmons books, and use these to supplement.

The good points are it gives the right level needed as they mix grades to make up packages, and do this if you have more than one child. The books are full of advice, ideas and tips on how to plan our days. You have also paid for ongoing consultations by email or phone. So I had a list of about 5 key questions and emailed them and got a really quick & full reply, with further ideas and clarifying things I needed to know, like how long shall we do for maths, we're having problems with this etc.

So the question is would I buy more? .... well at the moment I can safely say I will buy grade 4. Its working for us and its given me a new way to present things, with a helpline if I get stuck!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

You just can't win.....

.....sometimes. Sometimes you do - like sticking with the expensive Live Education curriculum you've bought and getting results. We've (both) learnt The Owl by Tennyson, and enjoyed it, Hettie's making fantastic progress with learning the times tables. We've had a good 3-4 week block about buildings and shelters and Hettie has a brilliant main book of lovely pictures and writing. We've managed to discuss (with no arguments) what to do next and decided we would start measurement before we finish the block on buildings (nitty gritty of how to build a house) I haven't shouted 'you could be in school' for at least a month. Hettie spent a long time today learning needle felting - OK I over warned about how sharp the needles are and she was a bit paranoid.

So I decided to buy a building kit from Myriad which would fit in nicely with our work. While I was at it I bought a kit to make a flower fairy for the nature table, thinking I can adapt the kit pattern to make other things, and browsed through the site and saw some silk squares of material. Now I keep reading about these silk squares and how great they are for children to 'use their imaginations' but to be honest thought mine were a bit too old. As you can probably guess I added some to my order.

Our parcel arrived this morning, needle felting went out the window, as we ripped open the box. I waited eagerly for Hettie to pounce on the building stuff, but no ..... it was the squares of silk. She played with 3 squares of material for an hour and a half. I hit the laptop. Every 5 minutes she bounced in the room saying guess what this is?

A Parrot

The sky, the grass & a daffodil

We eventually got round to the building blocks, alright I might have insisted.

So sometimes you just can't win, Isobel came home and played with ..... the silks. In fact she's taken them to bed with her. Now if I'd have known years ago I only needed a few bits of material ....

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Badgers and Birthdays ....

We woke up to a lovely sunny day, and a lovely clear view out of our bedroom window - we don't have curtains. The photo doesn't really do justice as we could see clear across to Kent today.

However we also woke to three big holes and a few smaller ones freshly dug in the new lawn. The badgers had struck overnight, despite our fencing in the area, at least one had burrowed up onto the lawn. We have had over 20 in the garden before (when I used to feed them every night) but not any for a while now. Badgers apparantly move sett periodically, a bit like moving house. I have heard them recently back in the garden again, so maybe they've moved back into their old sett. I think it was only one, any more and there probably wouldn't be any turf left. Still dh spent some time fixing the fence more securely and filling the holes in.

Despite some cursing of them under my breath, I do know their babies should have just been born and in a few months will be pottering about. I do love the babies in the garden, but will resist the temptation to feed them - well at least by the back door or on the new lawn.

And Issy was 7 years old today. It was all a bit too much excitement for her, but we had a lovely day.

Lots of pink wrapping paper is essential.

Baby Born complete with ice skating outfit.

Sylvanian Grand Hotel - heaven knows where that's going to go!

We had nanny & grandad over for Sunday roast this afternoon and birthday celebrations.

More presents! My Auntie S sent Issy a beautiful gold necklace, which I think may need to be put away safely but she loves it.

Nanny had a lovely time playing with the hotel!

We're now watching Bruce Forsyths 80th birthday, you gotta love Brucie! And a new series of Lewis tonight, not quite as good as Morse, but I still enjoy it. I'm loving Ashes to Ashes as well, I seem to be developing a strange attraction to Phillip Glenister much to dh's amusement. Ok must get knitting some flower children for the nature table which needs to be changed in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Work, work and more work!!

We haven't been up to much. On Thursday Hettie followed her usual day and really worked hard which was great. She spent some time building her brick house in the afternoon. I worked Friday, while Hettie was at grandad's and I worked until 7pm today on the never ending bookwork for our business as the accountant is coming Monday! The girls went to drama, singing and dance club today which they really enjoyed, Hettie even commenting that she may join in the dancing next week! So now everyone is over tired, up too late, excited about Isobels birthday tomorrow, dh is on call and has been out twice already tonight so I think mummy needs to get off the laptop and go sort her gang out!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Good group...

We had a really good home ed group meeting today. We had a dad start art/drawing classes with the older kids while the younger ones started on lapbooks. Then the younger ones got to do some art for the second half. Everyone got really stuck in today which was lovely to see. One slight problem was we took up quite a lot of room in the library so we are now looking at a room they have to hire, we had about 13 families and I lost count of the kids!

We were looking at Ancient Egypt and Hettie promptly found out about housing to put in her main book this week. She obviously does listen to me.

So that really was the day gone and it was rushing to nanny's for a quick cuppa before off to pick up Isobel. Then we had to frantically practice Hetties fencing work before she went to class tonight. I don't think she could have picked a sport with more rules if she had tried! Its the hundreds of definitions she needs to learn that are really difficult, but we fell back on my newly acquired Waldorf knowledge and set the definition to a rhythm and marched around the lounge with rubber swords. It really seemed to work and hopefully she can remember the 5 we worked on tonight. She's determined to get her Grade 1 because she can probably start in some competitions then.

Hettie and Isobel want to get up at 3am to wach the lunar eclipse which I wish I hadn't mentioned. They will be upset if I don't wake them up and dh will be upset if we wake him up! What's a girl to do?

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Back to school!!

I worked yesterday and did some running around, errands and shopping so we delayed school work until today. Having purchased the Live Education home school curriculum I've been spending some evenings reading and re-planning our days. From the initial consultation form and telephone chat I have to say I recieved exactly the right package of curriculum books. I had a prompt reply to some questions I had today with some good ideas as well.

So today we started with learning a poem. I chose The Owl by Alfred Tennyson for the first one and we marched about the lounge in time to reciting the poem. It leant itself well to some actions as well, despite my initial thoughts that it might be too 'difficult' for Hettie to learn. We followed up with ball throwing and catching practising the two times tables. Then it was onto our buildings and shelters main lesson and we looked at desert dwellings. This led to a lot of looking at deserts on world maps and in atlases. I've also taken some Grade 3 ideas from Eugene Schwartz Elements of Grade 3 which has been really helpful.

After lunch we watered the new lawn - got to take care of it now! Then off to the shops to get some material for our nature table before Brownies this evening. We had some good news in that Issy can start Brownies next week which is a lot earlier than we expected.

I've spent the evening sorting out lapbooks for our local group for tomorrow and so now I'm going to sort out everything ready to take, and then sit back with a glass of chilled white wine!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

A Lawn!!

Ok so its probably silly to get excited over some grass but we've been planning & trying to get it sorted for 6 years now - the garden slid down the hill at one point just after we moved and so years of waiting to make sure it had all settled again. I'm over the moon with an area of level lawn.

We all raked topsoil.

We had lessons from Bert about how to lay the turf.

We helped flatten the joins.

And finally we had a lawn - hooray!

So we still have quite a bit of work to do but at least we've got somewhere grassy to sit this year!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

What can I say ....

Except we're worn out this evening! In fact I'm so tired I can't think what to write and we're going out to dinner tonight, which means tidying before my mum & dad get back to babysit and getting ready. I actually feel like a long soak in the bath and pj's with a take away!

Anyhow we worked hard today helped, as always, by my dad Albert or Bert as dh calls him. And although there is no turf down yet, we have a fairly flat area, rotovated and ready for topsoil & turf tomorrow. Fortunately for us my dad is a gardening expert.


I tackled the never ending war with the brambles, and then I started digging over one of the beds ready for potatoes to be planted, unfortunately with Bert looking on (in foreman capacity) nothing less than double digging would do. I dug every bramble root I could find out and painstakingly pulled any other weed and root out by hand. It doesn't actually look much but if I can finish tomorrow the pots can go in. Then just two more beds to go for the rest of the vegetables.

The girls ran round all day and so did the dog. So everyone is muddy and tired out and hopefully will all sleep well tonight. I know I will.

Friday, 15 February 2008

A nightmare with the turf ... and Monopoly

We sat in today waiting for our turf and played monopoly, which Hettie got at Christmas. Both girls loved it and got the hang of it really quickly. Isobel - our little fluffy pink girl - became a lethal female tycoon as she raced round the board with hotel hotspots springing up everywhere. It was really good maths practice with lots of working out of money and counting moves. Hettie realised some strategy was a good idea.

In the middle dh rang to say the man with the turf was outside - he was actually next door which was why I wasn't answering. The top soil hadn't arrived only the turf, but should be here tomorrow he said. Fine I said shivering in the cold (what happened to the sun) and waited while he lifted the pallet of turf down from the lorry.

The trolley jack couldn't lift the pallet over the little kerb. Much grumbling began about 'I'm always saying it's too heavy'. I stayed patient for about 20 minutes, but then suggested perhaps we could carry some of the turf down the drive to lighten the load. So I ended up carrying half the turf myself. Eventually when most of it had been carried and I was freezing and covered in mud he managed to move the trolley onto the pavement. It then got stuck halfway down the drive because the nylon stuff that had been holding the turf on had got all wrapped around the wheels. Another 20 minutes later he dragged it the rest of the way.

Once he was on his way (still grumbling) we had a lunch break and back to monopoly while we waited for the rotovator to be delivered. Fortunately this chap said 'sign the sheet luv and get back in the warm' which I obviously did. Monopoly carried on until Issy landed on a particularly expensive road of Hetties and refused to pay. Ok we laughed at the face she pulled despite knowing it would cause a tantrum, which it did. She stomped off and I worked out the final assets. They whooped me, Isobel won - no more Mrs Nice Mummy, in the future its every girl for herself as far as monopoly is concerned.

Dh arrived home and had to lug all the turf into the back garden but Hettie wrapped up and went to help. She also unloaded the dishwasher, filled up the bird table and carried in a load of wood for the fire. Have a feeling she's after something!

Well she tried!

So now tomorrow hopefully the topsoil will arrive and we will have enough turf!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Flowers are .....

.... the way to a girl's heart!

So are tickets to see Neil Diamond at the O2 Centre in London! Lucky me. Lazy morning and then got into gear and tidied and cleaned top to bottom, and managed to produce a nice meal of salmon on a bed of spinach, with cheese sauce and mash. And I've tidied kitchen tonight instead of leaving it until morning.

Great excitement as tomorrow top soil is being delivered. Grils can't wait to watch it being tipped onto the drive.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Picnic time.....

We drove over to a friends today and went out for a walk and a picnic. It was beautiful and sunny, but a bit chilly. The girls had a lovely time with their friend running around, climbing trees and building a den. Even Isobel who is never comfortable going to new places - we haven't been before - managed to join in. She also climbed a tree with no help, up or down. Isobel is not the outdoorsy sporting type so I was pleased she managed to play with the others.

Dh has ordered topsoil and turf to get some lawn down at the top of our garden, and its all arriving on Saturday. So it will be wonderful to get part of the garden sorted out, even if its just a small part!

I picked up a copy of Carrie's War by Nina Bawden while we were at the library last week which I was forced to read, disect and discuss in school, but enjoyed every bit of it this time around. While dh and Hettie were at fencing tonight I soaked in a bath and finished it. Isobel, probably tired out by all the fresh air played computer games and so I had an hours peace! Usually as soon as I get in a bath she hops in with me.

Shopping tomorrow for office stationary and folders for our home ed group lapbooks on Ancient Egypt. And housework and organisation because looks like we'll have a houseful at the weekend laying turf.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Spring Gardening!!

We had a lazy morning today so I spent some time sorting out bits for our home ed group. One of the dads is going to do some art/sketching lessons every week and we're starting some Ancient Egypt lapbooks next week. The little ones are doing All About Me. In UK we have Mother's Day coming up so we're getting some craft bits together for that. Its quite a relief that the library are being so accommodating to our group because it means we can really plan for some topics & activities now, and we don't have to pay for hall hire & insurance.

Stirring ourselves into action we set off for the garden centre,which is huge, so we spent an hour or so wandering round. The girls got some child size gardening gloves and we picked up some pansies and primroses, and a few other bits that are fairly safe to plant now. We also got lots of vegetable seeds and seed potatoes, planning our veg garden. We just have to dig over the beds now!

Hettie did really well and only needed a little help.

Isobel did really well with some help and watered everything.

Not arranged very artistically yet, but all looking quite promising!

We spent the rest of the afternoon tidying, sweeping & stacking pots, well actually I did with intermittant help, but they should both be worn out after a day of fresh air and bouncing on the trampoline. We achieved some of our Waldorf curriculum today with very little effort on my behalf, except chatting about crop rotation and caring for soil & plants while we worked. Fingers crossed for some more sun tomorrow, I might get some digging done. We are going to make a planting plan for the year as well this week.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Sunsets and sunny days....and chickens!

We had the most beautiful sunset yesterday while we were at the wedding reception, it was a lovely day. The wedding was great although I must admit to feeling a tad under the weather today! The girls had a lovely time and went to bed at midnight.

So, technically its The Thames but on a lovely day in Southend you could be anywhere!

We decided today as it was so nice & sunny again we'd get some gardening started. The blossom is appearing and that means the never ending brambles and weeds will soon be choking the garden again if we don't get an early start. Its a big garden and we need some organisation if we're ever to get on top of it all, so we've decided to firstly spend a couple of weekends getting rid of rubbish. By the way it doesn't look steep but you need an oxygen tank on the way back up!

Isobel picked some weeds and re-planted them. The furry wellies are for fashion gardening!

Sisters can play nicely together then!

Well we should have good weather all week and Isobel is on half term holidays so we should be able to get more gardening done, and that fits nicely in with our Waldorf Grade 3 curriculum. We're going to look through our gardening books together and make a wall chart for when to plant seeds etc. Dh is planning the turfing of the top of the garden which in turn means I am of course planning flower beds & borders. He also, somewhat reluctantly discussed somewhere to put up a chicken coop - Hooray!

Friday, 8 February 2008

Nice trip out today....

We went out today with our home ed group to a local country park. We had arranged an Egyptian Hieroglyphics trail which involved the children working in teams to solve clues and run around answering questions. One of the dads worked very patiently with some of the children who are dyslexic & some younger ones, and surprisingly they all managed to do some writing and reading out loud without a trace of embarressment. The older ones organised themselves well and everyone joined in.

Fortunately the sun shone all day and so we could eat our lunch outside. We had 15 children of varying ages and they all mixed together really well, which meant mums and dads could chat and drink tea from polystyrene cups!

The park has a huge adventure playground so all afternoon was spent running about, climbing and swinging. Hettie and one of the others took their bug catchers (ours is fast becoming part of my handbag) and some of them set off to look for things. They came back with a collection or pond snails and wet feet. The snails were returned to their pond with no prompting after being examined.

Hettie is tired out. Dh bounced with Issy on the trampoline after school and played 'dollys birthday' which involved more tea party food made from sand, pass the parcel, and playing a board game. To my great amusement dolly managed to beat them all and won the game. She didn't eat much sand cake though.

Busy day lined up for tommorow, Issy has a taster session at a new dance school her dance teacher has set up and Hettie has asked to go along to try the dance, drama & singing classes for the older ones. Now I never ceased to be amazed when friends say 'I don't know how you stand being with the kids every day', because I prefer being with them than being apart from them, but 3 hours child free every Saturday morning does sound like a wonderful idea. Hettie then has a party and we have a wedding so I really must go and sort the clothing situation for tomorrow out. Last time we went to a wedding I put my dress on just as we were about to leave only to find I must have grown a bit cos I couldn't do it up, and I think if I do that tomorrow dh may go on his own!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Happy Anniversary to us!

Its our wedding anniversary today. We didn't do anything although dh had the day off, but he took Hettie for a walk and they found some bugs to look at in her bug viewer, which were later identified as a beetle and two woodlice!

We had a good home school day today while dh went and played 'boats' with his friend, which involved moving his new boat to its mooring and probably lots of standing around chatting.

We started with multiplication tables warm up, throwing the ball and learning 2's. Not too successful, as I shouted 2x4 throwing the ball, the ball came back with the answer 75, but we'll work on it. Moving along to spelling, we continued on the long vowel sound A with a little more success. Obviously all this was interrupted by a continual need to check the woodlice and the beetle were still breathing.
We settled and finished our buildings and shelters work we had started earlier in the week, with excellent results. We built the igloo earlier in the week from modelling sand, available from Mindware.

Then finally we looked at our insects and looked them up on the chart, making notes about where we found them, etc, etc Then Hettie drew them in her nature main book, before releasing them back into the garden.

I had to go to work for a few hours and while I was out the girls had made us both an anniversary dinner - from modelling sand, complete with laid table. But the cake was beautiful.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Happy birthday to you!

Hettie woke up at half past midnight. I explained it was not morning to which she replied 'I thought it was dark' and wandered off back to bed. She was still up early.

She got lots of fencing clothing and a great bug catcher. She caught a centepede this afternoon and the magnification was excellent, well everyone else thought so but I squealed! We had a successful meeting at the library where our local home ed group meets each week. They're happy for us to continue meeting there (for free) and are being really helpful. We can do craft - hooray! It was a good group meeting with lots of families today and Hettie had a good time.

It's also nanny's birthday today so we went round for dinner & cake tonight. Hettie picked up some more cash and a fencing glove. Fortunately it was fencing class tonight so she got to use all her new kit and we had arranged through the club to buy her a sword. So one very happy nine year old has finally gone to bed! (With a dire warning of however tempting it may be to chase your annoying little sister round the house with a real sword it is extremely dangerous)

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

A Nasty Virus...

...struck me down very suddenly, hence the lack of blogging! I actually took to my bed and emerged for three awful hours on Sunday to host Hettie's birthday party, which fortunately was booked for ten pin bowling. Two mums helped organise the kids so I just had to sit and look like I was enjoying it.

I had ordered some Waldorf curriculum materials from Live Education, which arrived promptly. They are very pricey but I was spending a lot of time trying to plan our curriculum and you do get consultations included in the price. I finally felt like looking at them last night and although we did some work yesterday (last week was a right off) today we were a bit better organised.

We started with two times table warm up throwing a ball to each other. I think technically it should have been a home made bean bag, but the ball worked just as well. We followed that with a little mental maths, adding numbers to 20. We should have carried on with buildings, but some spelling work seemed to be a better option. The Live Ed books did help me sort out how to present spellings in a different way so was quite successful.

We were going to make a maths board game after lunch, but Hettie is a keen fencer and is starting her Grade 1, so we spent the afternoon looking at the various parts of the epee. We also started on the rules of fencing etiquette.

So tomorrow Hettie will be nine - wow where does the time go? No doubt she will be up at the crack of dawn waiting for presents!