Saturday, 31 January 2009

An awful lot of biology....

..... this week in our house. In addition to the guinea pigs, who apparently are not calling to their babies, as my maternal instincts decreed, but are in season and calling to any boy available, we had our Labrador neutered.

Now I had explained to the girls that he had to go to the vets for a little operation because he was barking a lot and was trying to find a girlfriend lady dog, which was also making him wander off when daddy walked him.

Unfortunately he returned with a great big plaster stuck on the affected bits. Hettie roared with laughter and said 'I didn't know they were going to cut those bits off' and Issy asked if he could still 'poo'. Oh, and 'Why did you do that?' looking shocked.

The dog, looking distinctly fed up at the intimate examination, returned to his basket. I added further explanation that those were the bits that made him want to find a lady dog to be his girlfriend. 'Is he a girl now?' asked Hettie. 'No he's still a boy' I replied. A long silence ensued, before all eyes turned to daddy, and then there was an outbreak of hysterical laughing.

While myself and the girls fell about laughing dh joined the dog!

So after guinea's breeding and dogs neutered, it was time to return to school today. Hettie worked hard and Issy finished Week 3 of Sonlight with no complaint, so that was good. I spent a lot of time talking to many people about maths club, art club and science for the HE group and didn't seem to get anywhere tbh. Still sure it will all get sorted in the end.

I ordered some larger protractors and set squares from a company having a clearance sale, not realising quite how big they were. The long side of the triangle being about 2 foot long!! Dh asked if we were planing to do the loft conversion ourselves :o) OK so they're a little bigger than I thought. I'll blog some pics!

Weekend plan: Housework as usual!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Faith, Snails and Guinea Pigs!

An unlikely combination in some ways, but they've all been discussed this week in our house.

I don't really discuss religion as a rule - or blog about it - I always feel it's a thing personal to myself. I was bought up within the Church Of England as a child and my faith is my own. I don't call my dh an atheist as I don't care much for the word, so I usually say, on the rare occasion someone asks, that he has no religion. A general discussion between us some years ago led to us to agree we would bring the children up and allow them to decide which religion, if any, they wished to follow. Not all of you may agree with that, however that is the mutual decision we came to.
Now, both children have been given the same answers to questions, information and so on, but Hettie, it has become apparent, believes passionately in evolution, and Issy believes just as passionately in the Creation. So we have somewhat of a split in belief around here. Further discussion between dh and myself. Decision remained the same really, but we've had a long chat with the girls about understanding and tolerating the beliefs of others. So Hettie has continued her study of Charles Darwin and Issy & I - well we snuggled in bed and read the Bible. We re-read about the creation and her comments were 'that's much better' and 'I think God probably should have had 3 weeks rest, he was probably really tired, the earths pretty big' Oh and obviously 'Did God create Guinea Pigs?'
And so onto snails, more precisely our Giant Land Snails. Created or evolved, they sure are rapidly increasing in size:

A little bit of science - Hettie built a model of DNA and amazed me by pretty much remembering the parts of a cell.

And Issy made a sheep that grows crystal wool, its not working that well so far!!

And lastly we come to the guinea pigs. We let them out in the indoor run and I'm not sure whether it was the sudden freedom and space but it became quickly apparent that at least one baby was a boy - if you see what I mean ;o) Dh woke me with a cuppa at 6.30am and the phrase 'Your guinea pigs are at it' OK time for action! All babies are boys and so they have been separated from their mummies. This in turn led to mummies standing on their houses and squeaking loudly - into the early hours of the morning! This morning dh woke me by saying 'Your guinea pigs sound like they're going to explode' He was right - the mummies were making the strangest noise like a phone ringing, which got louder and louder. They really did sound like they might pop!
All seems quiet this evening at last, children, snails and guinea pigs. Peace at last.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

I'm Becoming Obsessed....

.... with 3 ring binders or folders as we call them in the UK. You see I order a fair amount of the girls curriculum from the US - you may have noticed :o) Sonlight is great because it comes with a binder for the instructors guide and I think I got a binder for science or was it language arts?? Anyway I digress, what I hadn't realised was that the US have 3 and 5 ring binders and we have 2 or 4 ring folders.

I tried re-punching the sheets and basically it made a mess and it was easy to tear. I'm a bit fussy about things like that. Hettie's Real Science 4 Kids workbooks have 3 holes punched. The problem is if you want to add any work, you need a 3 ring hole punch. OK so after chatting with some other HE mum's we decided you could make a template and use a single hole punch - I have one already, never used before - for punching additional work.

This still leaves the binder problem. Dh said just order them from Sonlight if you really need them, I think I only want about 4, but they only do blue and we like different coloured binders for subjects. Now that sounds really finicky but it helps the girls quickly find their work. Besides blue is for boys - only joking ;)

Tonight I had another brainwave! PING - Amazon. Oh goodness there's a vast array on there, with sizes in inches and all sorts. Are all US 3 ring binders the same size??? Help me out here I just want some 3 ring binders!! OK I do like the ones with the clear pocket on the front, but we can live without those.

I must have something better to be doing - aah yes a chilled glass of wine!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Now I'm Mad...

... there's yet another 'consultation' [and I use the term loosely] by the government about home education in the UK. The difference this time is it is being heavily insinuated children are more at risk from child abuse and neglect and are more likely to be enforced into marriage. Its insulting to home educators and other minority groups who are being targeted, with no evidence to back up these opinions. Home education groups are asking for the evidence of this, but they have none of course. Having worked with abused children and adults in the past I find it very worrying that apparently if you attend a state school you're less at risk. Who is looking out for those children who attend school and ask their teachers for help only to be ignored? or those children who attend school and are too frightened to ask for help?

Please, please fill in the consultation - we need to make ourselves heard - here Children can give their views - here

Its quite amazing to me that schools are failing to reach standards yet we as home educators are apparently failing our children by removing them from a system that fails them day after day.

Hettie made an observation this week which for me entirely validated every reason I have for home educating. Her friends at Brownies (schooled) asked her what she was doing 'at school' She replied world geography and for history Ancient Mesopotamia:

H: 'Mum they didn't know what I was talking about'
M: 'What did you say?'
H: 'I said it was ancient Iraq - they looked blank'
M: 'What did you say then?'
H: 'I said there's been a war in Iraq, don't they watch the news or read the kids newspaper?'
M: 'What are they doing in school?'
H: ' They didn't really know - must be really boring, they just watch tv all the time'

On a lighter note our baby guineas are growing fast. Here's dh helping out - ha ha ha:

The Alphasmart Neos went down a storm - and they're actually using them:

We went to a Shakespeare workshop day and met some new HEers. Girls had a great day, Hettie swopping email and phone no's with some boys she met and I made friends with some new mums. We've been invited over to their houses so that's great. Issy joined in and had a fab time.

We're planning a loft conversion and the architect came today to measure and give us plans. Fantastic news is the building regulations have changed and we probably won't need planning permission, so it should all go through really fast. Mrs D - have I got some organising to do, best buy dozens of storage boxes!

And finally laugh of the week goes to Issy! My cousin - Little D [6ft 2 and stocky] - a builder came to take some measurements for the conversion. He is loud and chatty and makes the girls laugh anyway. But Issy was completely amazed when he sat at the key board [dirt and mud and all] and knocked out some 'rag time' and a variety of music. She could not stop talking about it, she was so shocked - 'he doesn't look like he can play the piano' was all she could say. I can see my building work is going to be constantly interrupted by piano playing:

Off to write to my MP!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A Long Day Out!

Meeting up with other home schoolers on the train and at the museum went smoothly thank goodness and we all gathered in London's Natural History museum. Issy was delighted because her new home school friend J - who happens to be [in her own words] 'a real life American' - came along for the day.

We managed to get a good discount and went into the Darwin Exhibition. I have to say it was very impressive. Firstly there was no feeling of this is definitely what happened in the past, more of a this is what Darwin did and what conclusions he came to. The children all went off and did lots of work - well they looked like they were anyway! Very fortunately Issy and her friend J were taken by J's 'mom' and went off to see the dinosaurs and bugs in the museum. I had the buggy - great it had no children attached, just a heap of bags and coats!

We perused the shop and obviously came away with a couple of books each, and then off to the science museum. We went straight to the 'Launchpad' and the kids had great fun playing with everything, we mums' sat and chatted. Great thing is there are lots of people who work there with bright orange T shirts helping out the kids and encouraging them to try things.

Issy and her friend J, who is 5 years old and Issy is 8 - they sure grow them tall in US!

We obviously then went to the shop here as well - more science kits than you've ever seen in one place! We got a couple more bits here and then time to head home through the London rush hour. Not fun with a group of kids but they were all really good. Issy managed well although she was a little stressy with all the crowds.

Kids all thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we mums' had a great laugh with R who is American, while we compared what we thought Americans did and what she thought British did!! We discussed God, evolution, queuing, online dating, jogging, diets, teeth and the weather, amongst other things. Isn't it nice when you make new friends!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

We Were...

... surrounded by teachers at the London Bett Ict Educational exhibition, which made my SIL and I chuckle no end, especially when presented with a badge each with HOME EDUCATOR stamped on the front. They could have just stamped 'leper' on our heads. No offense to anyone suffering with leprosy, but you get my meaning.

Still we had a great day. We purchased a Neo 2 for each of our children, a variety of books and a copy of Word Shark and Number Shark each. Neo's should arrive tomorrow, and the 'sharks' have been a great success here already. Amazing if you tell chidren its a 'treat' rather than 'school work' how much they can do! Have to say these computer programmes are very very addictive - I've been playing with them :o)

We loved Writeonline but refrained from subscribing! Well at least for now - we blew our budget on the Neo's. Managed to stop for a bite to eat and a quick drink on way home though!

Hettie has managed to write about an A4 side for history today about the laws of ancient Mesopotamia - great work! Issy has completed all her Sonlight work and more.

Tomorrow we're off to the Natural History Museum to see the Darwin exhibition and hopefully will have some time to spend at the science museum. Some difficulty here, because I have one child who believes in Evolution and one who believes in the Creation. However the lesson has become one of respecting the beliefs of others and that is no bad thing. So packed lunches are ready, worksheets ready to print out early in morning and lifts etc arranged.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

What actually is....

.... a curriculum?? We structured home educators bandy the word around and after a recent post of Luke's I got to thinking what actually is a curriculum? Is it the whole package meaning the plan and all the resources or is it just the plan alone? I did a bit of web searching and found a guy wrote a book in 1918 called The Curriculum. Maybe we all need to get a copy :o)

The word curriculum has its roots in the Latin for race course. This guy described the race course as the deeds and experiences whereby children learn to be members of an adult society, or some such thing. It seems to back up home education nicely I thought. The deeds and experiences of my own children do not need to follow a state school system to be part of adult society. In fact with their learning difficulties/challenges that definitely doesn't work for us. For some children it works and for others it doesn't.

But not so much info on what a curriculum actually includes. I had always really believed that the curriculum was the plan and schedule, and not the resources needed to carry out the plan. With Sonlight its a bonus because you get the plan/schedule and all the resources in one [or two] boxes, ready to go. Same with some others - Winter Promise, FIAR and so on. Then you come to classical education, like Well Trained Mind and Ambleside Online and there's no actual resources included. Does that make the second any less of a curriculum or does it mean that no-ones cashed in and packaged a curriculum? Not that I believe the first have cashed in by the way, I think they've offered something needed by Home Educators and offer good products.

I can't really decide if the plan/schedule alone classes as a curriculum because you have to get the resources in order to implement them. What I do know is there is a severe lack of curricula which include resources for UK home educators. We constantly turn to the US for both curricula and resources. Maybe there's an opening for someone?

As for me - well I have my 'in a box' Sonlight for Issy, it works and it's easy, saves time and she's learning. For Hettie I've 'made' a curriculum and resourced it from a variety of sources and that works for her. They're both learning.

Not much learning this week actually, as the baby guinea pigs have taken up a lot of time - 5 guineas eat far more than 2, and they're just so sweet! Issy had to have an anaesthetic and have 4 teeth extracted, which was another day gone and its been mad.

So we will try to get some sort of 'curriculum' met tomorrow and Saturday I'm off to an educational exhibition in London with my SIL. Theory being we can look before we buy - Ok maybe just an excuse for a day out with no kids, a nice lunch, and a credit card :o)

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Enter the Babies!!

As you probably guessed they've caused quite a stir and a rush to the supermarket to buy lots of nutritious green veg for the mummies.

Lovely for my girls and Issy came down at midnight to have 'one last look' Babies are venturing out today, so lots of time to watch them. Of course Issy's baby is bouncing and leaping about the cage and started nibbling some veg today. Hettie's are quieter but following mum out. All look healthy and well!!
Issy preparing lunch:

Hermione and Baby 1:

Baby 1 is very nosey and seems to always have her nose poking out the door!

Ginny and Babies 2 & 3:

Baby 3 or 4, we can't tell the difference yet!

Hopefully all will settle down again in a couple of days. Oh well its all science!

Monday, 12 January 2009

We Got A Great Deal....

.... because I paid for two guinea pigs, but today:

This little guinea pig had one baby,

And this little guinea pig had two!

So now we have 5!!!!!! Oh yes, I definately had two girls, no not me, I didn't get conned into buying a boy and a girl, but actually I had two pregnant girls! Dh commented 'only you could get 2 pregnant ones' A big shock when I looked in the cage and found a minature of Hermione. My friend looked on in shock having never seen a baby guinea pig and said she never had that last night! My SIL whipped Ginny out to check 'she' really was a 'she' only to find a fat and squirming tummy. Ginny obliged us by having twins this afternoon.

The pet shop gave me a free cage for compensation and offered to take them off my hands but is that going to happen?? - I think not :0)

Anyway mummies and babies doing well. Baby 1 has been out skipping and hopping around the cage and getting squeaked at by mum. Babies 2 and 3 have not been out, but mum as been stuffing her little piggie face!

I was a little concerned in case I was doing anything wrong and the book I've got just gave detailed instructions on how to resuscitate a baby GP - I think not - so I rang dh's Aunty A who said 'how lovely', leave them to it and they'll manage fine on their own!

So no Maths, English or Sonlight today but - don't tell dh - we had a fantastic zoology lesson!

PS Pics to follow - I didn't want to scare them with the flash,

Thursday, 8 January 2009


..... the TV series of Little House on the Prairie. It's available to collect now with a magazine each week. My sister and I loved it - apparently dh can't stand it, which I can't really understand. Anyway we went out at lunch to buy the first issue - American pioneer history in educational terms - and popped in the bakers with Hettie carrying it and its excessive packaging. Much to the girls amusement the 3 ladies behind the counter and 2 in the queue all started shouting 'oh that was my favorite' and other such phrases.
Hettie having enjoyed the books asked me if the TV series is the same to which I unfortunately had to reply its about 30 years since I watched it! Isobel, with full confidence in her mummy, said 'well it must be brilliant if you still like it'. So it was with some trepidation I sat down to watch it with them. All turned out well, and it was as great as I remembered. The girls sat riveted and we really did have a good discussion about what life must have been like for Laura and Mary.
The morning had gone fairly well and Isobel carried on with her Sonlight Language Arts and then went onto some Montessori maths, using a home made tens and teens board and then did some spelling work.

And she did some addition using the beads. We worked on number bonds to ten and she grasped it pretty well.

Hettie opted out of Galore Park Maths, but happily got on with some division work using the Montessori board.

Isobel played with the cylinders, which she loves. We have a small set rather than full set which I purchased at Absorbent Minds.

It's actually quite tricky to fit the non coloured ones back in their gaps although Hettie is fantastically quick! We did some matching work with them.

We read our Sonlight history and Read Aloud, and Hettie worked on her geography project and notebooking.

So, after lunch it was a well deserved DVD afternoon I think. Hettie's Chemistry book and workbook arrived today. This is most definately not my area, so I'm wondering if I should have bought the teachers book as well. Oh well I'm sure it can't be to difficult - after all its aimed at children :o) OK I've looked - I may need to use the web for back up here!

I'm hoping to get out tomorrow and have a nature walk, even if it's just around the garden!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Why On Earth....

.... would anyone want to read a 100 classic book collection on a Nintendo DS?? Now I'll read pretty much anything classics, bestsellers, rubbish and even the back of a shampoo bottle if necessary. Can you imagine if you drop your Nintendo in the bath while having a sneaky quiet read away from the family? Or worse, if you dropped one belonging to your children. Are they water tight? Apart from that I'd have to wear glasses to see that tiny screen and they would steam up - I like a hot bath. I realise you can change the font size, I'd probably only fit a few words on the screen!

Today I was up and raring to go, OK probably not raring to go, but ready. Girls still sound asleep at 9am. Did I wake them? No I did not. Did I do housework, washing and ironing? No I did not. Sorry Mrs D :0) I read my book. Slovenly without a doubt. Still at 9.20am, which must be like midday to you early risers we were breakfasting and eventually got going.

Issy did some English work

Hettie ate another pencil during maths!

Issy did some Montessori maths.

And they both busied themselves while I read aloud.

And yes, we had another successful Sonlight Core K day!! I am chuffed. Hettie wondered why anyone would possibly want to bind their feet to make them smaller, after I'd read about Gladys Alyward being a foot inspector in China, and Isobel surreptitiously eyed her rather long narrow feet! No doubt she will cut up a pillow case and they'll be bound up by morning.

I definitely had the wrong Core before. Its working much better to aim at Issy and add work in for Hettie. Because if Hettie does nothing else she still gets to do Issy's history/geography and read aloud, which I'm sure is much more in depth than she would be doing in school anyway.

Hettie worked on some of her biology course book today, looking at cells and how they work. It was a bit too much to do a whole chapter in one sitting so we did about half, and will finish the rest later this week.

We finished the afternoon with 3 rather riotous games of Frustration, where I ended up very frustrated because I got beaten by 2 girls and a teddy who was making a fourth for the game. Oh well can't win 'em all!

Monday, 5 January 2009

A Good Start...

Well sort of. It snowed here and although we managed to get to Art Group, it was only to find it had been cancelled. Thankfully its only just down the road.

I had planned to pick a little ease back into it work from my planning while they were at art. So a bit of faffing about but we got stuck in, including Issy.
She started with her Sonlight Language Arts and reader, and it all went swimmingly. Core K level is much more suitable for her than Core 1. Some of it was a little easy, but she copied her spellings and made them using the Montessori wooden letters. Surprisingly although she can discuss topics in depth and has a fantastic memory, and can read fairly fluently she still struggles with letter sounds so I decided it won't do any harm to re-cap. She loves hands on stuff!

She then did some work from Jolly Phonics - her choice!

Hettie meanwhile, worked on her Galore Park maths, subtracting eleven mentally. 10/10 and then 7/10 so I was really pleased. She wasn't very happy with the 7 until I explained that would easily be a 'pass' mark. She carried on with Explode the Code but fell back a bit on reading and sounding out, so I nicked Issy's Core K reader and she did much better. Then she carried on with her Geography World Trail and a quick verbal test showed she had remembered the names of all continents and oceans as well as lines of latitude & the Equator. Not bad for someone with memory retention problems, so we moved onto lines of longitude.

Hettie has decided she would rather do a week of geography and then a week of history because otherwise she finds it bitty. Geography is not my favorite subject but hey ho.

She then started on tracing and cutting the continents to make a Pangea picture, while I read Issy's Core K history/geography book Hero Tales and then they both marked Gladys Alyward's journey from England to China on their markable maps. We all liked this book, it was clear and easy to read, though they thought from the picture Gladys was a man!

That was enough for Issy and after lunch she disappeared off to her bedroom, but not until I read a chapter of her Read Aloud - The Boxcar Children, which she sat with her hands over her eyes because she didn't want me to read it, but then promptly started to discuss the 'nasty bakers wife' when I finished. I know, I know, you would think she'd put her hands over her ears if she didn't want to listen, but no. Hettie then finished her picture and we looked at her First News newspaper.

In between all this I managed to get the Frost Free freezer defrosted and scrub the utility room, cook lunch and hoover through. It was great they both got on with it in the morning, but I felt like I had a bit of invisible elastic bouncing me back and forth between them. Of course dh came home from work and uttered those immortal words 'Been doing anything today?' which I ignored rather than be impolite and swear at him.

So will tomorrow go as well? - mmm I won't get my hopes up :0)

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Good Read....

... and I like a good read!

When Hettie was assessed as having dyslexia I read an awful lot of books around the subject. So it follows I ordered a lot of books about Aspergers Syndrome, particularly those about girls with Aspergers, which I haven't actually read properly yet.

So this weekend I started to read Pretending To Be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey It was one of those books you just can't put down - funny, moving and to me familiar. Worth a read even if you don't have a child or know anyone with Aspergers.

Rest of the weekend - well I decided to tidy and organise. I made a good start. I actually boxed the Christmas deccies properly before storing in the loft, Issy's room got an overhaul (with dh helping) although half an hour after I finished she started pulling everything out again!! It makes her feel physically ill if its tidy - don't ask, we just live with it. At least it's clean underneath, oh and the 'frost free' freezer is defrosting. Hettie wants her room sorted, so I've promised next weekend hers will be turned out. She likes it tidy.

I did a mountain of ironing and hopefully can finish the last bit tomorrow. I'm thinking of getting a 'lady who does' in this year, and for once dh didn't murmur, so I take that as 'go ahead'.

So hopefully tomorrow will be back to normal. Girls are off to their art course in the morning and hopefully that will give me a couple of hours to sort their work boxes out!

Edited to add: You really all should read the We Are Here blog for a frank and funny look at home education and family life in general.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

You're Not....

.... staying up next year kids - far too boisterous! Actually they thought it was great fun staying up until one in the morning. Although Hettie struggled a bit, it was normal bedtime for Issy so no problem there!

How long now?

Happy New Year!

Dancing at midnight is obligatory!

But jumping on dad is more fun!

Ok enough now - get to bed!