Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Thank you Robert Krampf

We subscribe to a lovely science site. Robert Krampf who owns the site has a wonderful gentle sense of humour which has us giggling as we watch.
You can get free videos
but after belonging to the free site for a year we decided that it was worth the very small subscription fee to get all of them.
We have done some very enjoyable experiments based on chocolate but the one that recently caught Beth’s fancy was for making ice cream without a freezer.
There seems to be a (junk) food theme going on here.

Making ice cream 1

Making ice cream 2

Making ice cream 3

Making ice cream 4

Making ice cream 6

Making ice cream 7

Making ice cream 8

We had a lot of messy fun doing this. Being an expensive ice cream fan myself the result didn’t really appeal but Beth loved it and we learnt about keeping the crystals small by agitating the mixture, about raising the freezing temperature of ice by adding salt and about the heat transfer process that this initiates that takes the heat out of the mixture and makes it into ice cream.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

An Early Birthday Present

I spent Sunday at Eden Hall Day Spa with Jo as an early birthday present from her. Since she returned from six months of travelling we have not seen as much of each other as we would have liked because of her VERY demanding job and a complete ground floor renovation due to a burst pipe. So it was wonderful to spend so much relaxed time together.

We enjoyed the pool and spa


Had a lovely lunch


Some much needed relaxation


And chilled after our facial



And I even fitted in a yoga class.

A fantastic day, thanks Jo.

Monday, 20 October 2008

I’m not a supporter of children stabbing each other

But I had to laugh when the BBC showed the clear instructions that a Nottinghamshire head teacher had sent to the homes of his pupils on how to make the very implement he didn’t want the kids to make.
It is not surprising that an inquisitive eight year old decided to try and make one too. He has been excluded, how great it would be if his parents could discover home education. Then his impulse to learn and experiment would not need to be demonised and punished in this way.
Inspired by this news item this is how Beth very happily spent her morning.

Fixing the pencil

Part way there


Thank you BBC

I trust her implicitly not to want to use this to hurt anyone; if she cuts herself we will deal with it, this sort of minor damage is an inevitable part of life. If I didn’t want to get burnt I would have to give up cooking!
She has done this to:
see if it works
see if she can do it
She will use it to:
cut up cardboard
cut up plastic
sharpen her pencils

In use

And who knows what else. But I know she will not use it to inflict damage. Why? Because I know her and believe me she is not an easy kid, not a well behaved kid by average standards, but she is beginning to feel understood, she is beginning to uncover her competencies from the mountain of failure heaped on her by the school system. She is beginning to have happy as her normal state of being, she has no reason to hurt herself or anyone else. And I know that and do not need to punish her, scare her or try and suppress her normal curiosity just in case.
And of course she had to add her own touch in the pencil on the other end and a rubber in the end of the cap.
Now to solve the problem of how to sharpen the pencil on one end with the knife on the other!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Beth's 10th Birthday party

Blowing out

Beth was 10 on 20th March. I finally organised the party for May 11th. That means I need to start organising about 50 days before her birthday at least if I want to have the party anywhere near her actual birthday She had it in May last year as well! Do I want her to have another party? Could I get away with not having one!

It went very well in the event despite half the guests not being able to make the only Sunday that I could book the climbing wall. Beth amazed us all by clambering up to the top of the highest wall with remarkably little difficulty. What else can she do that we know nothing about?

The food went down well, there was plenty for the adults as I had massively overcatered, we actually ate the last of it for tea last night. Beth then went home with a friend for a lovely afternoon lolling in a hammock and splashing in a pool. I managed to finish strimming the lawn without feeling guilty for neglecting her and Bruce managed to work without feeling guilty about neglecting me. A good day all round.

More pics here Maire's" flickr photos

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Back after a long gap

I still can't actually think about my last posting and it certainly knocked me off the blogging ladder but life must go on and I plan to gentle my self back into it with a few simple posts based mainly on photos.

The weather here has been wonderful and after a couple of weeks when it felt like we were practicing hermits we had a trip to Garden Organic, Ryton on Tuesday. It is a lovely place with a lovely and dangerous shop. I restrained myself somewhat but managed to find a strawberry planter that seemed big enough not to require hourly watering. We met up with a lovely group of home educators and after a tour of the gardens (By the adults we were quickly deserted by the children) we joined them in the Children's garden for a picnic lunch.


Wednesday, 20 February 2008


I have just heard that a friend of my sons, not close but someone he went to school with and met occasionally to do parkour has been killed on the same road as Catana. The road that passes yards from our door. I do not know many details, it was the early hours of Sunday morning, maybe he was drunk, maybe the driver was drunk. He was 17, 18, a lovely boy belonging to a lovely family. I have known them slightly for years, visited for coffee a couple of times when my youngest was small, they have a girl a year older, and another boy of about 16. I have memories of them carrying on with life, living, playing, working attending school concerts, Christmas fairs. I cannot get away from the feeling that all that time although we could not see it there was a cloud over their heads saying life as you know it is going to end abruptly one cold night in February 2008. We do not know if there is one over ours.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Having cats

I have had cats since as a four year old I persisted in begging for one for long enough to break down my animal phobic mother. The result an adored black and white moggie called Bimbo.

I can’t remember what exactly happened to him but there followed a series of much loved cats, Blackie (lost when she ran away from our camper van in the middle of a Welsh holiday to deliver her litter of kittens and never returned to our calling). I was about nine and it broke my heart. Lady a petite dark tortie, mega mum to many very beautiful kittens, who lived into her late twenties and looked kittenish for her first twenty years. We kept some of the kittens and lost some to the road. One she chased away as it reached maturity.

The anxiety and the worry when a cat disappears and you don’t know whether it is dead on the road, or injured with no one to help, or locked in someone’s shed or garage confused and not knowing what to do have made me question the wisdom of having pets.

Having been loved by and having loved many cats though in the end I decided philosophically that the price was one worth paying, nothing in life is risk free after all is it?

However, when it is time to pay and not time to enjoy the situation is not just philosophical.

We have been in that sad position recently with our 8 month old kitten Catana. He was knocked down by a car nearly a week ago and has been in the vet hospital since. He has broken his jaw very badly it has been partly repaired but may still need another operation. We have been taking it day by day and the vet has not been optimistic but we have visited him everyday hoping that our touch and our voice would get through to his swollen brain and at last he seems to recognise us. Although today this was the view that met us.

The view that met us
We couldn't blame him for being cross, it has been a painful and confusing time for him.

At the vets
He soon came round and seemed to be enjoying the strokes.

Recognising us at last

He has a long way to go and we don’t know when we will get him home. He is Beth’s special kitty and adores her, licking her hair and biting her nose and keeping her company each night. He has been missed by everyone, especially his sister Blue.

Only his mum has not been bothered, she has wished for her annoying teenage babies to be gone for a while, I wonder how she will react when he comes back which it increasingly looks like he will.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

In the early spring garden

The emergence of the snowdrops has me back in the garden again. I forget how much I love it; an hour or more can pass without the slightest boredom or impulse to go and do something else. No guilt, no internal struggle to stay on task, just sheer enjoyment. And there are so many signs of life.


Winter flowering clematis

Witch Hazel

Verbena Bonariensis

I invited Beth into to garden to help and tried to be Ok with the fact that she scathingly said ‘no way, I’ve felt the temperature'.

I’m working on the front garden which is unusual for me as I don’t care much about appearances, or it seems my poor neighbours, and the back garden is my pride and joy. But the spring is the best time in the front garden, with snowdrops and tiny crocuses hidden under all the old growth. There are black and white tulips and primroses and hellebores, and I want to see and enjoy them.

I had been out for about an hour and as the light faded I decided to do one more thing, plant some tulips that I had bought as a present but which had arrived too late. I had no sooner pushed my trowel into the ground than a little voice says 'stop Mum you know I love planting'. I suppose the interest in the preparation can be allowed to develop in its own time.

I am trying hard to deschool myself and embrace unschooling, I still have a long way to go.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Arts and crafts

We finally got round to visiting a new group we have been meaning to try for a few months. It is science and art based and I have been sure that Beth would love it, however as it is on a Monday I have not had my thinking cap on in time to get there. Today we managed it and Beth loved it.

It was a shame that I misread my TomTom and ended up at Broadmarsh car park in Nottingham before I realised that I was going in totally the wrong direction. 38 minutes later we arrived an hour late! Everytime this happens I promise myself I will look at a map as well as putting the post code into TomTom, oh well next time.

Dyspraxic moment apart it was a real success and Beth was very good about not getting to finish even one thing. The running about with light sabers while the tidying up happened went down expecially well.

Light saber

And she finished off her snowman at home.


Thursday, 24 January 2008

A perfect day

Since starting home ed 16 months ago Beth and I have been very fortunate in being warmly welcomed into so many groups of home educators that we could be busy and socialising nearly every day. Beth has also found, for the first time in years, like minded girls who like to run and climb and imagine adventures, not that she has given up on the boys whom she still loves to play with.

However she has needed a lot of unstructured time and cannot cope with anything slightly schooly so we have not been able to take advantage of many of the wonderful events on offer.

Now I feel that things are moving forward for us, Beth has started spontaneously writing again and drawing


and yesterday agreed to attend a home ed event at Rosliston , part of the national forest, looking at soil and how the creatures that live in it recycle leaves and bark etc.

This group was perfect for us, there were no expectations of what the children would get out of it, they could take or leave as they chose. This meant that Beth could relax and enjoy herself.

Taking her own portrait

For me it was so good to be outside walking amongst the trees, the day was dry and mild, and there was even a tiny peek of sunshine, ambrosia to my eyes after so much rain.

The short educational session was followed by hours and hours of outdoor play with the children constantly grouping and regrouping with remarkably few problems, I hardly saw Beth and was able to catch up with “old” new friends and meet new people.

I feel so lucky to be a part of so many groups of friendly enterprising mums and dads with great ideas and lots of energy and enthusiasm, especially this one. Thank you to all of you.

Beth was inexhaustible and after hours of running around the park she still wanted to play in a little ball pit that was part of the centre and as I had promised that she could (before I had any idea of how long the event would last) she did. So followed another hour of play with a very forward three year old and a look around a very expensive dolls house shop.

And home to sleep on the sofa, me that is, and a short rest and refuelling for Beth who was off to taekwondo a couple of hours later. She later told me that she was determined to attend taekwondo however tired she was as she wanted to succeed at it. This level of commitment is a new for her and I think she is able to feel this way because she is not now emotionally exhausted and angry and resentful as she was all the time when she attended school.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

To do

I decided to do a short blog today as I have too much to do, and I decided to make this the subject.

A typical to do list

To do

Here are my notes.

The more I tick off my to do list the more there seems to be

Out or in

Pull of conflicting needs and requirements

Priorities immediate long term urgent, distractibility, over focus, lack of focus

Enjoying it while you do it, not panicking

Self and others

I then came across this doodle, it explains my problem much more realistically and succinctly than i could:


Doodle by Lee. The code for this doodle and other doodles you can use on your blog can be found at Doodles.

You just have to replace resume with accounts or internet shop and spacebook with Flickr and you are there.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Home education

Beth and I have been home educating for 15 and a half months now and she is a lot more relaxed and beginning to be self motivated.

When Beth was at school her special needs teacher always told us to play games with her to help her improve her number skills, but what works in general and in theory does not always work in practice. Previously Beth would have found the possibility of not winning too upsetting (we are still wobbling on a knife edge here but she is much better than before); you might say well a child has to learn to lose well and be a good sport, but what about games are meant to be fun and children learn well when having fun. Beth also had acute confusion between numbers especially 8 and 9 together with impulsive counting on which led to her getting her position on the board wrong. She does not take well to even the slightest hint of criticism perhaps because in the school system she has been wrong from the start just for being who she is, perhaps because she has a highly sensitive nature and is easily shamed.

Playing this game of Monopoly with her I watched her understanding of simple counting and number labels accelerate, it was fascinating and reminded me of Montessori’s “windows of opportunity”. She learnt more in that game than in the whole of the previous year and I think this was because the game happened at just the right moment and this is what makes autonomous learning and unschooling so effective.

Playing Monopoly

This level of confusion in basic number skills does not mean however that Beth does not understand number concepts. Here she is with her brother (supposed to be revising for A level maths) learning basic algebra, and picking it up straight away.


We both love stories and I try to make sure that Beth’s dyslexia doesn’t mean that she misses out on children’s literature, both by reading to her and by supplying her with audio cds of her favourites which means she can listen to a book as many times as she wants too. I have also recently found a great organization called Calibre which loans tapes and CDs to the blind and dyslexic and this helps cut down the cost and provides variety.

The book we are reading at the moment is Physik by Angie Sage, the third part of a gripping and inventive magical trillogy.

Reading Physik

Despite being unable to read fluently yet Beth has amazing comprehension and is always ahead of me in guessing what will happen next and very rarely has to ask for clarification of the plot. Being literate really has nothing to do with the act of reading, to my mind it is much more to do with an understanding of the way language can be used to entertain and entrance, to terrify and to bring one to the edge of one’s seat with anticipation. Beth has had these pleasures from a very young age and yet at school she was labeled as having literacy problems because she will be a late developer of clerical skills. I feel this is a dangerous and fundamental misunderstanding that pervades our education system. Taking her out of that system has limited the damage, but four years of being seen as defective will take some time to undo and emotionally she is still very fragile about her weaknesses.

She also has plenty of time to just play with no peer group telling her that she is too young to play like this or that she is being babyish. Nonsense I know as many adults love dolls houses but still the sort of taunt used by kids trying to maintain their status in the playground culture.

And this week she has started a totally autonomous project, exploring the textures that can be found about the house and making rubbings of them and has also begun to combine the textures to make art, and best of all has organized them herself into a ring binder. Of course the offcuts, scraps and rejects are still left for me to tidy up, but there is hope on the horizon!

Maybe she will let me take a picture of some of them to share soon.

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