Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another Week...

Not sure why my blog posts seem to have fallen back to weekly, but it is not intentional and kind-of annoying as it means they end up lengthy and perhaps somewhat boring! Sorry folks :( But I'm going to make this brief - promise!

I'll start with Tot-School stuff. Easier by picture post :D
Firstly Nat and Caleb enjoyed some Reader Rabbit time together (in Jake's study).

This is all the smaller ones working together on the 'little red table'; maths for E and Pre-reading 'odd one out' stuff for C. He is really good at it and I am constantly amazed at his observational skills. Maybe this comes from not being able to communicate clearly for so long: he has spent a lot of time observing the world!! Just look at that pencil grip too :) OK - so he needs to drop the second finger under, but not bad for a 3yo!

Then one afternoon N decided that skittles was a good game and amused himself for ages with this activity. I was in the room and he was quite happy to let me take pictures and say "ready, steady, go!"

For the others it was a pretty normal kind of week, back to the books and routine and generally more settled. We even finished chapter one of SYRWTL Spanish together - at last!! I wonder how much they will all remember and carry into chaper 2 ?! I did take big J to one side on Monday night and chat to him about attitude and responsibility towards his work and amazingly he improved for the rest of the week. I have also given him Study Skills to work through in the hope that it might help him understand himself a bit better. He has already started making himself smoothies for breakfast :)

On Thursday we took at trip to Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and met up with a few other more northerly HE'ders - at least that was the idea. Sadly, as some of them had eaten on the train and we had not, we had to stop for lunch which meant we spent too much of the rest of the day chasing their tails :(. All the same we did say Hi briefly and we did get to spend lunch time with the Off the Pathers - which was nice :) And to boot we did have a lovely day, the kids all had fun and I think they learnt something!
This picture is my lot of sewer rats!! The rest of the pics can be seen by clicking the mini-album below..

2009_01_29 MOSI

So I reckon that's about it for our week - nothing too exciting really, but at least a little out of our ordinary :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

LONG week!!

It's been a mish-mash of good and bad this week. It was our non-book week and these are supposed to be a rest for me and a change for the kids, but tbh I'm not sure that they work all that well in the first regard as I usually end up more stressed at the end of them than I do when we are in routine. 

Monday - C had a bit of a temperature so we kept him home just in case he went down through the morning. As it was he was fine most of the day and has been fine since. We started off the day with squircle board which for this week's theme was The Vatican and person of the week was The Pope. They were interested enough in it (even if I did struggle to get stuff together for it). I had planned to make a rosary bead as a craft to go with, not that we are Catholic or anything, but just as something about a different 'strand' of our Christian faith. As it was that never happened because I didn't get round to resourcing it! After squircle board the children tried to re-act Jake's play of a part of Melusine. While they were doing that I spent some tot-school time with C working on shapes and patterns with this;

Sadly the 'play' ended up with the boys squabbling (as usual) and me taking over as 'narrator' - really no big issues, just J2 not being able to accept not being in charge! Once that was over the kids all got measured ready for our 'drawing to scale' activity. Was amazed to find that Jake is almost 160cms already - that's 5'2"!! He's not yet twelve - he will be as tall as me by the time he reaches his teens at that rate! Also interesting that there was only 1cm between J2 and A (representing 2.5 years in age!!). We then took a break for a bit & later in the afternoon I sat them all down and did an ad libbed lesson on drawing to scale. This actually meant a little bit of explanation on decimals and how they can be translated to fractions (of cms). I was amazed at their seeming level of understanding. When I asked what 5/10ths was E (age 5) - with the help of a little picture - was the one who saw it was 1/2. It was complicated to teach three concepts in one, but somehow I think they really got it and the drawing went really well. They drew themselves 1:10 (hence the reason for the decimals lesson). I didn't teach them about ratio, but simply said they were going to draw themselves 1/10th of their real height, which in effect meant they learnt about ratio too without knowing it was called that. They did some great pictures of themselves and I want to keep the outcome as a memento of how tall they are just now and how they all drew and coloured at this age.

Tuesday - Thursday 
We decided (with a little persuasion from me) to make a start on this. I bought it ages back, along with some others in the series and ever since we did an American Indian one, Boo has been begging to do the other one. I didn't want to do the same type of thing again just yet + storage of the gorgeous models is an issue! Instead I persuaded them all to have a go at this because we can make a lapbook with the models (as most of them are flat). They did succumb and we had a good time with it for the rest of the week. We have learnt about the seven systems of the body (an overview), types of body cells, some types of body tissue, the brain and it's functions, neurons, eyes, and ears. We didn't quite finish off all I had hoped - which was to do sight, touch and smell and complete 'The Nervous System' (and associated organs), but we can pick up next non-book week. That's the beauty of lapbooks :)
As an aside, but relevant all the same, I have been sadly stunned by how LITTLE Jacob knows about all this - considering he got Level 4 Science SATS. He didn't know the 7 systems of the body. Even once he had been informed of them he couldn't clearly sort out which system he thought each major organ should be in - meaning he does not have a very thorough understanding of the basic functions of any of the major organs of the body. I know science and memorisation of facts are NOT his strong point at all, but really... I am SO glad I decided to push this now because it will be teaching Jake the stuff he should already know without him feeling like he is being patronised by me. Hopefully it will give him a starting point for some more serious science next year. I can't imagine he is ever going to do anything really scientific in life and I have considered dropping 'science' as a whole subject out of his curriculum entirely (giving him more time to focus on art and dance - and the things he excels at), but in reality a) I don't think he would really want me too as it "can be fun sometimes" and b) I think he should have at least a basic level knowledge of how the world hangs together. But it does make me wonder exactly what science (if any) he did at school!

Integrated Tot-School.
At some point in Tuesday C played with this a bit (note the ever present Hula Hoop packet!),
 at other points he joined in with us a bit and did some colouring along with the others. He was disappointed not to be able to cut anything out of the project work, but was not content to do some cutting out of his own, so we did have a melt down or two :(  However, he did enjoy joining in with our make-believe 'ear' (toilet roll and greaseproof paper), and the couple of games we have played to help get ideas across; for 'NO BONES!!' one person calls out an action like "skip", or "hop", etc... and then at some point shouts "no bones," at which point everyone else flops to the floor like jelly - amidst fits of giggles as they all land on top of one another! Mine can play this game endlessly it seems & they ALL love it! :) Ellie calls it the floppy game and has wanted to play it everyday since Monday! Then "SILENT MESSAGES" is designed to help them understand the workings of neurons. They all stand in a circle holding hands. On the word "Go!" I start of a timer & one person squeezes the hand of another. They pass the squeeze around till it gets back to the beginning hand. The last/first person then shouts "Stop!" The idea is to see how fast they can get the message round. A variation on the theme is to stand them in a line finger-tips to finger-tips and pass 'tickly fingers' along the line (and maybe back again) as fast at they can . This is actually a little harder, but possibly better as a visual illustration of how the dendrites and terminals of the neurons work. They were fascinated to think that while they were acting like neurons the neurons in their own bodies were doing the same thing, only at lightening speed!

Thursday pm
The smallest ones went for a rest and I played Ticket to Ride with the older four (P 'teamed up' with Jake). J2 won - with 8 journeys under his belt!! A lost, but not by a great deal and she did remarkably well considering her age (8) and the fact she had NO help until the very last. Jake & I drew scores exactly. 

If you are wondering why all this lovely together-school stuff would be more stressful than our normal routine I can explain. I have an 11.5 yo joker-boy in my classroom, a 10yo hoppity, "can't control my laughter" son who sits opposite, an 8yod getting to the 'I know everything before I do' stage, a mousey 7yod who forgets what you said 2 seconds ago (& who is quite capable of giggling along with the others) and an airy-fairy 5yod who takes every item of fact and makes it part of her fantasy world!! Mix that together with a 3yos who wants in on the act and a 20mos who climbs up and dances in the middle of the table you are working on to make sure you notice him!! That makes quite a cocktail and it's not very conducive to everyone listening and learning sensibly, 'front lead' teaching from me. Now one-on-one these kinds of 'free(r)-style' weeks might be even more fun and not requiring of the 'teacher' bit so much, but in a mixed age group that haven't quite learnt enough respect for the next member, I get a headache! They all call out comments (although that is getting better), one makes jokes, and they all try to be the first to show off how much they know, or worse still I have one that rarely answers anything because she knows if she says nothing for long enough someone else will give the answer! It's not like we aren't doing the hands-on fun stuff too, but I have to do a bit of 'teaching' for it all to make any sense to the younger ones (and maybe the older ones as well it seems). On Tuesday morning it did actually get to a point where I wasn't willing to continue trying to 'keep order' and I made them all do an hour of silent book-maths instead! They were not happy but it did the trick. The girls were 90% better after that, but the two big boys still mucked about too much for my liking and so had to do ANOTHER hour of maths after school. I don't like using maths as a punishment really, but it needed to be something they were least likely to need me for help with and that they didn't want to do! I gave them all a straight up chat after school and said that if things didn't improve drastically not only would I call off THIS non-book week, but I would be considering not scheduling them in at all next year - and I would scrap non-book DAYS as well. This definitely got them thinking and they did majorly improve for the rest of the week - now they need to show they mean it by keeping it up next time round! I am not into 'crowd control' - that's not what I want my HE to look like. I want it to be good fun, but I need them all to understand that it is only fun when it is fun for everyone - and that includes me - and for it to be that way they need to learn to learn a lot more respect for each other (and me) so that everyone gets a fair share at taking part, I can think clearly and not get be-fuzzed & grumpy and we can all learn together and from each other. School should not be a competition - it should be am exhilarating ride!!

Moving on...
P went away on Thursday to his Grandad's funeral in Portsmouth, leaving me solo for the last couple of days. So after all the busyness of the day I ventured out to kitchen to cook tea. When tea was done I was seriously flagging and I think Jake saw this and kindly volunteered to bath the small boys :) He duly did so very well while I washed up. He even managed to put N's nappy on and was so chuffed with himself for doing it right - "Wooo, I'm a real big bro now!!" That was such a blessing as it didn't mean I had to face a sink-full of dishes late at night or in the morning :) He can definitely pull out the stops at times. Shame he let himself down though by omitting to tidy his room, or put away his clean pile of clothes (which he should have done while I was cooking tea), thereby hindering the actual putting to bed of the baby by about 1/2 hour - but also, at the same time, getting me out of another exhausting game with the big boys! I had said (why do we do this to ourselves?!!) we would play their new Star Wars Risk game that they got for Christmas, but that we haven't had time to look at it properly yet - if everyone else was in bed by 8pm - which in the end they weren't ;) Boys came down and played Hue Knew together while I read my rss feeds and emails. Not long after they went up at about 9.15pm my Internet went down, so I played on ACCF for a bit and paid off my mortgage part one :) Then I went to bed!

And that about takes us up to speed! Today was Friday group at my friend's this morning, followed by Lasagne for lunch, which, thanks to having been able to get the kitchen tidy last night, I made this morning before I went out - I am never that organised!! There is something about P being away that means I get all 'driven' but by 9pm I am done for - except I stay up - don't ask me why! (My answer would be because if I don't blog now I will forget my week). N went for a rest after lunch and the others played nicely. The kids go out to club at 4, but before they went tonight I got them to do all their chores (rabbits, tidy rooms, tidy lounge & hallway, clear & wipe table) so that tonight would be easier. I didn't have Jake to help me tonight because he is at a 'half knight of pear' (half night of prayer - sleepover - fun night). Once they had gone C went on Reader Rabbit Nursery for a bit, giving me a window of peace - well maybe, only by the time I had finished washing up from lunch N had woken from his nap all grumpy and C was bored of the computer :( I put 'Cars' on for C and snuggled N on my lap - at least that way I would get to sit down quietly for 5 minutes, where N promptly fell back to sleep :) Once he was settled I put him down on the sofa under a blanket and set to writing a bit more on this blog... A few sentences later the rest came home (ho hum...). Round 2!! P and I set to in the kitchen (not long cleaned up remember) making promised scones for Tea. If A had made them she can do them alone, but P wanted ME to make them with HER - so like the nice Mummy that I am, I did - and they were lovely and she did really well, but the mess..! After scones J2 remembered that I had said we would have Angel Delight for pudding today and had not done it at lunch time, so he set to making that in the kitchen and dishing it up for everyone - more mess..! N & C woke up and played in the lounge - more mess..! By bedtime tonight I was running well out of steam, so this time J2 offered to help (no little kid's baths tonight), so he went up and tidied his room while A read C's favourite book to him (One, Two, Buckle my Shoe...), then tucked C up, said prayers with him and put his music on. He then went and read stories to the girls. I usually try to keep it to a shared story, but he read at least two! Said prayers with them all and put on their music for them :) He came downstairs looking a little more weary than when he went up and declared that it was more tiring than he thought!! It was nice though as it gave me a few mins to be with N and just chill with him - not that he really ever chills much these days except when he is asleep! J2 & I then played with N together for a few more minutes and he asked me how to put N's nappy on, so I showed him, but N was in manic, reaching overdrive mode, so it would have been impossible for him to do. Once N was down in bed J2 ate the last scone and got a big hug from me before he went up to bed.  At LAST I get to finish my blog - the mess can wait till morning!! Now I'm done & I'm off to bed - I've no more energy left for today and I have 3 girls to get ready for ballet in the morning!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Don't Fly - I Slide

Of course laying a new carpet in a bedroom does mean getting an old one downstairs - and of course that just has to be taken advantage of!!

Joel's room looks great with a rearrange and a new blue carpet - he is so happy to loose the pink one :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Photo Blog of our Busy Day

Discovering Radar technology!

The mapped results

Volcanic explosions

Candle Making

My Busy Bees!!

To see the rest of the photos click below
Busy Non-book day

Snap Shots of the Tots Today :)

The difference some time makes!

Sharing nicely (for once!)

Learning to jump!
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Absent Comments, Crazy Plans, Buttons and an Empty Tummy :(

I have spent most of the evening reading all my rss feeds from all the blogs that I follow - so I think that amounted to over 30 posts!! I haven't left comments on many, but consider yourselves thought of!

Today has been OK - pretty run of the mill really. Lots of EC happening today actually. Tomorrow might prove to be a little crazy but hopefully a lot of fun! The plan goes something like this;
AM - Astronomy - including finishing of a radar experiment from last term
Lunch and a playgroup pick up.
PM - make beeswax candles (activity left over from last weeks squarcle board that got postponed due to Roman day/shopping trip).
- scale drawings of whole family (measuring needed first) to enhance geography lesson this week.
  - watching BBC documentary on the Pompeii - The Last Day (courtesy of YouTube) which is about 50 minutes or so.
- doing volcano experiment again (just because it was fun!)
- watching Abbie's presentation on Australia (for English)
- Letting three of them act out a section of Melusine from Jacob's english. (He thinks that it looks like a good book so might try to track that one down for him).
- do a Spanish vocab test with Jake. 
- and anything else we can cram into the day - or maybe not!!

The good thing about a lot of this is that the littler ones can get involved a bit too :) I let you all know how it goes!

Caleb has mastered doing up buttons and peeing standing up through the 'slotted fly' on his PJ's!! I got down some old PJ's of Joel's from the loft the other day (green combat winciette material) which C fell in love with, but also decided had to be fully utilised! Hence the developmental leap forward. In the day he sits on the loo still, but in these - he stands!! And the's so cute to watch him painstakingly trying to do up these buttons. I am amazed at his persistence and patience - he keeps going until he succeeds and does not loose the plot. There are four on the top, so just enough to make it bearable for both of us I think. And for those of you thinking it came from me you'd be wrong - the decision to do them himself was entirely his :) I think he realised if he looses patience with them he will either have to ask for help (which he so does not want to do), or end up trying over and over again!! I guess it bodes well for the future that he can concentrate that hard on something if he is really motivated to do so - and I reckon that leaves the ball in my court to find the motivators! So he can now fully cloth himself with every item except those with laces. He can do buckles, Velcro and buttons, and he can do pull-on and pull-up. 

Now we need to tackle motivating him to eat!! He is such a poor eater it breaks my heart, but I really struggle to know how to deal with it. I wasn't going to blog this, but I just think I might...

Today all he has eaten is about a quarter of a slice of toast and Marmite for breakfast, three nibbles of a ham tortilla wrap for lunch, don't know what snack at playgroup (if any) and no tea because he refused it! No crisps or chocolate because he has to eat his savoury to get them. How does a three and a half year old sustain his existence on that? This is not unusual for him either :(
Paul started a motivation chart tonight with a line from his favourite nursery rhyme: "nineteen, twenty, my plate's empty!" and the reward of a new toy car for an empty plate. Now to set him up for success he had only two tiny mouthfuls of chicken nugget (something he will sometimes eat about 6 whole ones of), a miniscule amount of potato (like half a teaspoon) and three baked beans - literally. He took one look and screamed and screamed and screamed - "I hate tea, I hate chicken!" Even though he knew he would not get the car (or pudding or sweets (we have a few sweeties at the end of our evening meal as reward for good eating/behaviour at the table) ) he persisted and went to bed on nothing in the end :( We figure tonight was a power control battle, but all the same... The scary thing is nothing motivates him more than toy cars, so this is a really tough ball game! I genuinely think he does not get very hungry and really cannot be bothered with food (not dissimilar to me in fact) but without the knowledge or rational thought that food is actually essential to our well being and therefore has to be eaten anyway! Strangely he is most often well and he seems to have a normal amount of energy, but he is very light and he is very petite for a coming up 4 in May child, so I do think his poor diet is having some effect on his growth, in that it is VERY slow (N is almost catching him up in clothes now - one size behind!). 

Here is the list of foods C will usually eat & drink; 
  • ham, 
  • 'clean' chicken (or any other meat so long as we tell him it's chicken!) - that's white breast meat with no brown cooking marks or sauces, 
  • beef occasionally, 
  • SOME chicken nuggets (depending on coating), 
  • cheese, 
  • Pepperami (if we have them), 
  • cheese strings; 
  • VERY occasionally a bit of boiled 'dippy' egg, or ham omelette
  • Marmite and Nutella in tiny amounts on a tiny bit of bread, 
  • milkshake & Ribena
  • chocolate (just straight milk chocolate, no frills) 
  • & Hula Hoops. 
Yup - that's about it!!
He won't eat any other carbohydrates, fruit or vegetables - and believe me we have tried almost everything in many forms with him - he just won't eat it!! He won't even eat those things listed if any of the 'forbidden' foods has touched them! We still put on his plate whatever we are having (this tactic has always worked with all my others who are mostly excellent eaters of most things), but often at the cost of a boy who eats nothing from it :( I have had fussy eaters before at age 2-4, but this is different and so much more extreme...

...And now N is getting all fussy on me too (but he is a hungry boy, so I'm hoping it's just an age phase with him).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I was pointed to a new photo-competition website from a friend's website and fancied having a go, so the photos I post can be found HERE
The first entry you may recognise (she is not mine!), but this is possibly one of the best shots I've ever taken - well I think so, so I hope the owners of the child are OK with me using the shot! It is somewhat old now anyhow!
It's just a bit of fun really :)

School & TotSchool Happening Here.

Well sometimes it seems I can do it all :) Today went smoothly and generally fun was had by all. Nat didn't seem so distructive and managed to involve himself a little in our classroom today, so I guess that's TOTSCHOOL worthy :) Check out the photos of him discovering magnetism (by clicking on the little square you'll see nice quality ones)!

2009_01_13 Geomag TotSchool

After that he settled onto Phoebe's knee for a while to watch her on Ed' city and for once didn't mess with the keys or the mouse!
Aside from that we learnt about Ceasar Augustus, discussed the number 5 and the letter V and the fact that V is also the roman numeral for 5. Then we had maths. Jake had an end of topic test for fractions on ConquerMaths  and got 10/15 first attempt, and 100% 2nd attempt. Mostly his mistakes seem to be silly ones (silly miscalculations) or misreading/understanding of the question itself - which stems more from his struggle with comprehension of english than from a struggle with the maths! Overall though, he seems to be working better with just letting him work online. He is more co-operative about it at least, despite saying he really does not like maths. I can see why he doesn't like it though: he is more the creative artistic sort - enjoys art and dance, hates maths and science and anything where he has to try to retain important information. Even so, he is not at all bad at Maths - pretty average I'd say, but at science I think he is always going to struggle with the 'thinking it through logically' aspect of it. Phoebe finished her section on division and is excited to see that she is doing 'time' again next - as she just 'gets' time with little difficulty. It has been really interesting watching her maths developing actually. Maybe because she has a foundation in Miquon, maybe because her mind works differently from some of my others, maybe because I have been so much more hands-off with her and allowed her to work much more at her own pace, but sometimes, when she has her head in the right gear, she makes some suprisingly advanced and logical calculations by methods that I have never taught her. I enjoy seeing her blossom and it is so un-forced. And to boot she has almost completed Yr 1 EdCity English now. I'm hoping I will see a vast improvement in her spelling anytime soon - and I hope it will happen as naturally as some other things seem to have with her. She is about half way through the Ed'City maths. I think maybe at the end of MPH 1B she can take some time out to finish that off - and the rate she is going that won't be long!
We did a bit of geography, discussing scale and lines of latitude and longitude. We made a plan to draw our family to scale on Thursday - might be fun! Then we rounded off the day with Spanish and ended up playing a memory game. It was good fun :) I think in the end we had 15 objects in our school bag, ranging from pencils to walls!! "En mi mochila tengo..." The younger girls went out pretty soon, but enjoyed watching myself and the boys getting in a muddle ;) It was good practice of masculine and femine forms too.
Homework has generally been done well and mostly today has been happy and content - doesn't mean I'm any less tired, though my stress levels are definatly more tolerable on days like today ;)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Romans & Toys in Chester

We didn't set out today to spend a stash of money, but it happened none the less! But we had a brilliant day and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the outing.
We began the day by following the Roman wall from where we parked, along the river and back up into town. The children were willing to listen and learn from all the plaques along route and I think they discovered quite a lot from them. The route led us through the Roman gardens, where there was a 'little ampitheatre' where they used to have coq fighting, and also here were the roman baths and a model (pretty authentic) of a hypercourse system, which J2 was fascinated by and the others thought climbing on was fun!
Next stop was the ampitheatre itself and all the children were amazed by it. There really is not too much to see, but I had warned them of that fact, but they were stunned to think they were standing were gladiators had fought and died (and just had to have a go at being gladiators themselves of course!!) around 2000 years ago!! Jake just kept wishing they had revealed more and I can remember feeling the same myself as a kid when I went to places like this, but he was able to understand the fragility of the remains and therefore the need not to expose it unduly.
After a quick stop into Game to buy rechargable battery packs for the Wii controlers, we headed back to the car and drove over to Pizza Hut for lunch. If you're going to have a day out with lots of kids this is always a good bet as they eat stacks, behave nicely (because they are too busy eating) and it actually is not that much more than MD's for much better food. My boys sat with plates full of salad and I haven't seen E eat so much in ages!! P had a mountain of ice-cream which she nearly finished, but not quite! They were all so pleased to have lunch there :)
And almost lastly, across to the road to the infamous Toys 'R' Us. I have never taken 7 children all at once into a toy shop before, but I was thrilled at how well they behaved! We didn't lose any of them and they were all very controlled and carefull with their choices. Sadly P and I were not so well behaved or self controlled! N & C had £48 left from Christmas money sent to them & A had some left over birthday money from last year in the bank. However, the others, because most of their money had gone toward the Wii, only had £15, so we had said we were only going to spend £15 on each of them today... BUT of course we didn't!! I think we spent almost all of C's money in the end, but he was pleased with what we got. Sadly the pram that A bought herself and the RC car that Caleb chose are both faulty and need to be changed/refunded :( Ho-humm!! P will probably do that on Saturday - alone!
Last stop was Sports Direct where P spent his last bit of money on another new shirt. To give him his due, his work have started requiring formal dress recently, meaning he needs more shirts. J1 & J2 both needed new trainers, so those were duely purchased and well, it was 5.30pm and the day was done!!
P dropped me at music practice and came on home to un-package all the new things, and then get the kids calm enough to go to bed!! Thankfully it was a sandwich tea :)
And here are the BIG pics of our day, or you can watch my mini-slideshows! ...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Week so Far...(another mammoth post)

Yesterday was a fun day on the whole and involved making a volcano in a bowl and a tsunami in the bath for geography (to round up the chapter on plate tectonics and fault lines etc...). The children were still a bit slow with their work, but worked with a generally good atitude. All the same I was exhausted at the end of the day - I think the sheer length of it draws it out of me too much when they are being so slow and we are no sooner done and Jake is into homework time and I am 'on call' again. I have tried to encourage him to take his homework to his Dad because I am all taught out by then, but he seems to prefer pestering me!

And then in the evenings I am trying to 'fly' but I'm more like 'floundering' atm - I simply don't have the stamina for a mountain of washing up and floor cleaning at the end of a long day - not once I folded and put away the washing and made sure the front room is 'fresh' for the next day (or for us to relax in at the end of the day) - and where is MY time - I don't exactly enjoy housework, so that doesn't count as ME time at all and I so need my down-time each day!! So I ignored the washing up for an hour, played on ACCF and promptly fell asleep till midnight, when I crawled up to bed with an earache. P helped we ear-candle my ear (which did the trick) and I slept soundly round till 8am this morning - only to be faced with that untouched mountain of washing-up!! :(

Today was mostly good, but exhaustion set in again around 3pm and again the kids were on go slow, so they still had maths to do! It could have been OK as none of them were doing anything too challenging, but somehow they all seemed to need a piece of me at the same time! E, thankfully was busy working on Ed City maths and I was so grateful of that. She gained herself another 2 gold stars today, so she must be gradually improving in her understanding of numbers :) P was learning a new topic (moving into basic early division) and needed me in 'teaching mode'- which was fine except A was struggling with some pretty easy problem solving questions and kept tugging at my sleeve (verbally) for stuff she would normally have no problem with (like 4x10). Seemed she just couldn't get her head in gear so after a couple of pages of not a lot I put her out of her misery and declared her done for the day as P had finished by then too (having done significantly more than A). This is not the rule with A so I am happy to cut her some slack when she needs it. J2 at the same time was squinnying on about being able to do the work easily and therefore why did he need to write the answers in his 'squares' book - what was the point?! The fact that I was not free to look over his shoulder and declare each one correct as he did it (i.e he got to answer them orally) was a plain inconvenience and it was (to him) a complete waste of time having to write the question numbers AND answers down!! Deep sigh...why he couldn't just get on with it when it was so simple to him I do not know! I'm sure he wasted a whole lot more time complaining and harking on about it than he would have done if he had just written the numbers & answers down quickly. Then in the throws of all his misery I had J1 come trotting down stairs to ask for my help (ho humm), so I duely left J2 to get on with his misery and do his maths and went upstairs to help J1. He was doing subraction of mixed fractions ( e.g. 3 1/2 - 1 2/3). It seems that he had already covered this in GP maths and the method that was taught in the book was different to the one on Conquer Maths. Now I must inform you that we have decided to lay aside GP maths for the sake of our sanity - there is simply too much in it for J1 to cover at the speed at which he works and Conquer maths is thorough enough and so simple to understand. He has been told that if for any exercise he scores under 80% he will have to work through that topic in GP for extra practice. He is happy with that. That said this particular topic he was doing today, as I said, he has already covered in GP maths and therefore it should have been easy enough for him. BUT he came downstairs telling me that the answers he had reached were not available to him to choose from and so (yet again) they must have it wrong!! The way CM works is that the exercise has up to 20 questions. The child has to work the problems on paper and then match the answer they reach to a selection of given possible answers and choose the right letter for each to enter in a box (so answer a, d or e - except there are more choices of answer than there are questions - just to make it challenging!!). Jake is prone to silly mistakes which lead him to declare 'them' wrong- which as of yet they never have been!! Today he had 4 (out of 18) questions that he had been unable to match his answers to. This instantly indicated to me a hole somewhere in his understanding, but I started out by getting him to try and explain how he had reached his answers. He did some kind of cross multiplication (which he said was 'obvious') and lost me instantly. I tried to gently point out to him how I would approach it and guide him towards noticing that 3x5 does not equal 7! When he had shouted and ranted at me that I was not doing it right, he did eventually see his error and said "oh - I must have added!!" (hmmm to the fact that 3+5 is not 7 either!!). So that was solution error one solved (and guess who was wrong!!). On to number two. Now this time he had a question that required him to make a top heavy fraction first, but he said that was not the way GP had taught him and he had to do some kind of borrowing thing. It looked mighty complicated to me and when I declared that I didn't think he had fully understood it he got mad with me saying, "Well that's how I've done all the others and they are right!" - which was fine except that it seemed that 'all the others' had not actually required this borrowing technique!
Now take a look at my three pictures of what was happening (please excuse the untidiness - they are made with paint and a mouse!);

This is what Jacob had done...

This is what he should have done by the GP method...
He had essentially forgotten WHERE he had to borrow the whole one from and therefore his answer was a whole number too much each time! Would you say he had fully understood? He was so mad with me for suggesting that he hadn't (apparently forgetting what to do is not the same as not FULLY understanding!) and for suggesting he tried the simpler method that was being taught to him by the Conquer Maths lesson he was working on!!

He refused to even try it, or contemplate looking at it this way- which to me is a LOT simpler & easy to understand. It doesn't have any really complicated steps to remember (or forget!);

So after a full scale arguement with him I just left him to do it regardless. By then, however, I had decifered his method and pointed out to him that you can't 'borrow' a whole number, take away from it and then include it whole again in your answer - he had had his 'oh yeah' moment and went on to get all but one right.

I think what annoyed and upset me the most was his asking for my help and then refusing to listen to anything I had to say. I had tried to walk away but he begged me to come back, only to continue screaming at me that I didn't 'get it'! He wanted to prove he had done it right by showing me in the GP book, but I wanted him to listen to another way and see if he understood it better that way. I agreed in the end that if he did the rest of the questions the way he was being taught 'today' he could then show me the GP method in the book (which he had not remembered correctly). However, I had already seen what he was talking about and knew where he had made his error - only he was not very willing to hear me point anything out to him. How do you work with someone who asks for help and then refuses to be shown where they are going wrong?! I was so mad, frustrated and upset by the end of it all that I struggled to put myself right with him for the rest of the evening :(

This then had a knock on effect on his 'homework' time - which was some English. He had been asked to write a 'detailed description of a sea mammal' and given some guide lines as to what to include. His first attempt was essentially an exact copy of the Wikipaedia page on dolphines. I told him he had to redo it as this was lazy and not acceptable (that was this morning). I asked him to read LOTS of sources, make notes and then put something together off his own back. So, what did he do..? He re-wrote every sentance of what he had previously written, tweaking a few words to make them more words he would use, but it was essentially the same thing again - same order, same facts, nothing new - except that at the bottom he had added a few extra copied sentances from one extra resource!! Anyone would think my bookshelves were void of books, but they are so not - it's like a library in my dining room!! So, guess what...yup! More tears and shouting. I tried to make him understand that if he were to just follow some of the advise he is given (by myself and his Dad in this instance) we would not get into this horrible position with me getting frustrated with him and him getting upset because he has to start again. I have told him I cannot accept the work he has done and that he is to start again - with a new sea mammal. It's such a shame really because the information he gathered was interesting and correct and had he managed to write his own piece of work, rather than re-writing someone elses, it could have been good. He has decided to do Killer Whales this time, so we'll see what happens. I hope he has understood what is needed and I even more especially hope he will follow my advice!

Tomorrow I am looking forward to. We started our study of 'The Romans' today and tomorrow we are going shopping in Chester to spend the children's Christmas money. They only have £15 each, but it'll be fun to go out and spend it all together. As we are going to Chester though, I have decided we will tie it in with a little trip to see the ampitheatre there (not much to see, but interesting all the same) amd take a look at the roman wall, which is pretty much entirely in tact around Chester. So it won't be a completely education-free day, but combined with the fun (and education) that comes from spending 'real money' (I intend to actually give them the cash to spend) I'm hoping it will be a great family day out - and give Jake and I a chance to patch things up a little - he LOVES shopping - strange boy!!

There has been a bit (not as much as I would like) of 'Tot-School' going on too. C is really into playing 'pairs' this week and will rope in any willing playmate so we have played that quite a bit. This morning he was around or 'squarcle board' time and enjoyed looking at the '2 romans' and learning the new colour 'crimson' and the place 'Colosseum' :) He stuck around while we learnt about Julius Ceasar too. I showed him Italy on the map and told him we were learning about candles this week. I am hoping that my candle kit that I ordered on Amazon on Saturday will come before the end of the week, as that is supposed to be our 'hands-on' activity for all of them this week. After that he sat at the table for a while with E and me doing some more of his same/different book until it all got a bit manic and he gave up trying to keep my attention :( I do feel bad for him sometimes. E is at an age where she can complete at least a page, once she knows what she is meant to be doing, but C needs me to repeat instructions for every problem and gently encourage him to get the answers right. He is not confident enough to just 'have a go' yet and being a perfectionist (he is my most perfectionist yet I think - in every area of his life, not just schooly type work) he is not willing to risk getting anything wrong. Hence, in my often manic 'classroom' of different age ranges and many calls of 'Mu-u-u-u-m..." he often has to wait too long between glimpses of my attention to help him move on. He then gets bored and gives up - and I don't blame him either. :( I get frustrated by it, but I can't seem to find a way to change it for the better - and I have tried! To make up for it I tend to try and fill 'break times' for the big kids with 'tot-time' (either for C or N), but consequently this means that I don't get any breaks in the day really and my chores get left until after school time, which is not ideal either... I want to spend more time with my tots - I really do (maybe then N would be a bit less 'wild'), but just how I do that is presently evading me!

Next week I am undecided as to what our squarcle board will be about: We might do Pompeii, or Vatican City. The older children were asking about the Pope this morning so I could run with that interest, but I know we are learning about the eruption of Versuvius in History next week, so Pompeii would tie in well with that. If we did Pompeii it would flow better on from this week's volcano activity and give us a chance to repeat the experiment they were so desperate to do again - I'll just need to buy in more vinegar!! We could do Vatican city the week after I guess and hope that their curiosity has not waned too much by then :)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy with a Hint of Sadness


Let it Snow!

It doesn't get much better for my kids than waking up to a garden full of snow :) It's not like they've never seen it before, it's just that it happens all too rarely for their liking here. So I was met from my slumbers with a request to postpone school for half an hour so they could play in the snow. Of course I was not going to deny them that - I was always so resentful of school when the snow would always be melted by playtime! :( I must admit I was not ungrateful for that extra half hour to change & dress N, shower myself, dress and drink a cup of coffee. I'm thinking 9.30 might be a good idea in the ordinary run of things, or is that me being disorganised and lazy? Perhaps I could maybe get up half an hour earlier instead - just maybe..!

Anyway, enjoy the pictures. Some were taken first thing by Jake (our old camera is pretty good!) and some on the way home from Playgroup run at lunchtime. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but cold enough for the snow to stay put and even tonight there is still significant coverage. It was that strange kind of snow that falls silently and like dust, so it was far too crumbly to make anything with in the way of snowmen or balls, but it did make pretty snow angels and glistened beautifully in the sunlight :) Each of them got through two pairs of gloves today (or one pair wet twice), but they all had a lovely time of it! 

School went OK for a first day back. We started our new 'Squarcle board' time;

From Let it Snow!

 We didn't cover everything on it today - bit-by-bit, day-by-day is the plan :) Motivation was not that strong for anything though, but I think everyone did at least a little of everthing they were required to. Phoebe did the most dawdling today - not sure what her problem was, but I know I didn't give her hardly enough attention today. I did however manage to do some real 'work' with the smaller ones. C did some 'same/different' work and was suprisingly perceptive with that, which pleased me. He also spent some time on Starfall and Ed' city (as well as playgroup), so he really packed it in today!! E did some very easy shapes work and also made a start on 'r' in her ABC lapbook. Today's activity was to learn the colours of the rainbow and the acronym to help her; Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. Of course I had to explain a little of what that saying actually meant without going into a full history lesson! She enjoyed learning the phrase and seemed to understand the concept OK. I wonder if she will remember it at all tomorrow?! After that she seemed to do a very good job of not being noticed that she wasn't around! Ho-hum, she's a sneeky one! She did reappear though when I got out lotto & picture pairs to play with C and joined in nicely with my 'tot-school' time :) When she'd had enough of that she ACCF'd. She can't read yet, so I'm not sure how much educational value there is in the game for her atm (not that she was on it during school time - far too distracting for the rest of us!!), but she loves it and I actually wonder whether there aren't 'life skills' to be learnt from it - like conversation: how people are affected by what we say to them (and what we infer), and the principles of 'money makes the world go round and you have to work to earn it and get along'. She likes to wander around aimlessly, but then gets frustrated when she can't have a make over, or buy a pretty hat (like mine!), so she is learning that she has to work and sell to get the bells to pay for the stuff she wants. Then there is the very obvious issue of understanding whether she has enough bells for what she wants. She seems to be able to recognise the difference between 60 and 6,450 - ie that one is a big number and therefore a LOT of bells and one is a small number - which means she doesn't have enough! I know that seems REALLY obvious, but numbers are not concrete in a 5yo mind, so I think this is quite a good concept for her to grasp and hopefully it will encourage her number recognition and maybe even advance her to a basic understanding of number placement without her even knowing! My boys learnt number placement playing top-trumps mainly, so why not ACCF :) I hope that it will help my bigger girls improve their understanding of p.v. too.

Jake was doing some work on Gravitational Potential energy today (droping ping-pong balls into flour from various heights). He enjoyed that and I was wondering about dropping him into a educational session when we do our meet-up at Manchester Science Museum as they do a KS3 one on gravity :)

With a Hint of Sadness...

We received news this evening that Paul's grandad died at teatime :( His nan died Jan 8th last year, so it is almost exactly a year since. He was just biding time really, having suffered a major stroke 6 years ago and then losing his wife a year ago after over 50 years together - he really had not much to live for anymore and was longing to go to his life in Heaven. He was well and on good form over Christmas, but then went down with D&V just after. He recovered, only to be immediatly struck down (quite suddenly) with Pneumonia. Initially it seemed he would recover, but after 4 days of IV Antibiotics and no improvement they decided to let nature take it's course - in whatever direction it chose. He died peacefully at 5.15pm today. The man who was one of the founders of this Hampton Dynasty has gone to be with his Lord at last :) It is sad, but in many ways we only rejoice as we know that he will be MUCH happier where he is gone. :)

Goodbye Great Grandad - Be at Peace.

(taken July 03)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Hello 2009!

Figured it was about time I made my first post for 2009 :) 

We enjoyed the day in Birmingham yesterday with P's sisters (one visiting from down south) and in all there were 12 children and 6 adults in her house!! Suprisingly it was peaceful enough day. After we exchanged gifts, all six girls disappeared upstairs for the majority of the day. A took her new curling tongues with her, so spent a chunk of time curling lots of long blond hair! There was a fair amount of PS2 playing on Lego Indiana Jones by boys and girls (though not my girls) and and some quiet viewing of Toy Story (1) for the younger boys for an hour's chill time after lunch (although that did draw quite a crowd in the end, not just the four small boys). The frost that blessed us with 'white winter wonderland' views on the way down the M6 at 10 in the morning, never thawed all day and made it a very cold day - far too cold to troop out  for a walk with 12 children & two recovering flu victims! But it was actually OK :) We left aroung 8.15 and were home by 9.15 (it really is a straight hours drive on a good day) - kids nearly all sleeping, so easily carried into their beds and tucked up for the night - just how I like it :) 
I was asked by a friend, later in the evening, if I have any big plans for the year and the answer was quite honestly "no". In all honesty, like others, I find plans only seem to lead to disappointment. I prefer surprises! We made plans last year and we're still here :( - I figure this year I won't make any and something might happen! I really would like to move house as we are rather cramped here. Not exactly over crowded, but more over-stimulated by the inability to get away from each other in such a small (although for most families it wouldn't be) space. 4beds and 2receps is not much for 9 people and the tinies are becoming less tiny by the minute!! One more bedroom and another reception room would be ideal, but I would settle with just an extra bedroom to get the study out from under our bed (oh! to sleep in a 'real' low-level bed again!). It would be a super-blessing to have 3 extra rooms as that would give us a spare room/study, a room for Abs & Caleb (A does not like 'pink' and the other 2 girls do and this would then kill two birds with one stone; lowering the numbers in each room and giving Joel his own room, which he needs for his drums really) and a 'school room' separate from our dining room. The ever increasing expansion of our school resources (with increasing numbers of children of school-age) is gradually taking over our dining room and it's a real pain having to clear everything away so thoroughly to eat in the evenings. It would be nice to leave just their mats and pens out at least - and project work on occasions to just 'pick up' the following morning - just close the door on it at the end of the day! But maybe I dream too hard, and I would be happy enough with an extra bedroom at least! 

So, what else... the only other things I would like to acheive are; 
  1. Less wobblies from me and my kids! 
  2. More normal sleeping hours for myself (purely because I'm not sure that being such a night-owl is very good for any of really). 
  3. Improvement in Phoebe's spelling and getting Ellie reading - first difficult, second probably not so! 
  4. A tidier, cleaner home (with a little help from a re-signing with Fly-Lady to help me along - if I don't delete all her emails!!) and a thinner, fitter self (hmmm - I said that last year and haven't acheived it AT ALL!!). 
Low goals are more likely to be achieved around here ;) Not sure if these are high, or low, or simply somewhere in between, but four is enough!