Summer 2011 in brief;
Lots of time at home playing.
TP went to stay at her Nan & Grandad's with her Cousin B ~ she had a brilliant time and amused us greatly by arriving home with a diary folder of 'what we did', together with a list of all the 'funny people we saw', which was basically a list of people that, had she been a little younger, she would have laughed at for one reason or another. It pleased me that they had the tact to just jot it all down instead of pointing and giggling. In it was listed "a lady man" ~ I don't think she has ever seen a person who she could not determine the gender of before, but Portsmouth being a multicultural, jam-packed, diverse city (as opposed to her sheltered little country existence), and travelling about on buses for a week, she saw some more 'colourful' sites!
The following week Taz went up to Scotland with his friend for the week ~ and had a ball driving ride-on mowers and caring for ponies.
Having STILL not sold our 9 seater (because Paul actually hasn't even tried yet...sigh!) and so, still being one seat short of seating all of us, with Taz away we made the most of the opportunity for some days out with the other children:
Day 1 ~ an attempted trip to the Cinema and Pizza Hut for lunch, but the Cinema was sold out for ALL suitable films, so we came home and booked! In the evening we were at a party so all was not lost!
Day 2 ~ an attempted trip to the beach @ Kirby, but as the skies turned grey and threatening by the time we got as far as Chester (half way) we opted for the indoor alternative of Blue Planet instead . Rounded off with tea @ Frankie & Benny's this actually was an expensive, but lovely day :)
Day 3 ~ a day-trip to Birmingham to have a day with the cousins! Paul's other sister & nephew were staying there too. It's fabulous when the cousins get together, they are SUCH good friends all of them!
Day 4 ~ a successful Cinema (Cars2) & Pizza Hut trip, rounded off by an afternoon in the village park, where they were celebrating the 'grand opening' of the new play equipment and almost the whole village was there, so that was good fun too!
That weekend our good friends J&T came to stay which was a lovely way to finish of our 'Staycation' :-)
Over the summer I also did some photo-shoots for friends, which led to canvases on walls and the final push toward launching as a professional photographer. SO, as of Sept 1st 'Ten Minutes From Home' came into being. I have yet to do a shoot under that name, but I do know that people are already finding me on the web and by word of mouth, so only time will tell... I've invested a little money (and a lot of time) into getting it up and running, but if at the end of the day nothing comes of it, I have lost only a little money, and at least I tried! I do not want to ever regret not having tried. And if it takes off, then great, the little extra income will be lovely!
As summer came to a close I also took a little time to think about how home-education might look this year. By the end of last year I have to admit I was spent and felt I wasn't enjoying it anymore, so I'm pretty certain the kids weren't much either! I had lost my passion & drive for it. If I am 100% honest I am not totally sure I have re-found that either, but I have found a way to make it work, make it more interesting for the children and make myself more available to them all without over-stretching myself. It has meant a return to a slightly less autonomous approach, but it's not a full U-turn!
I have stuck with my mini-skool approach, because actually it really works for us. But I have had to help the children arrange it more this year. Essentially I have assigned the mornings to the youngest three, alternating who I am working with and that being no more than two at a time on a shared subject. The third child works independently, usually on a computer task (e.g. ETC online), while I work with the other two. During the morning I cover maths, Science and reading/writing/spelling with the youngest three. Then just before lunch we all come together to work on a 'family' activity. This is where we do Geography, History, Art / Cooking (2 weeks of each alternately), or a Lapbooking project (currently Astronomy). After lunch the youngest two go off and play, Lilo has a couple of independent tasks to do and I make myself available to the older children. During the morning the older 4 are told that if there is anything they are struggling with they should mark the place and then do as much as they can. In the afternoon they can ask me about anything they needed help and we will work on it together.
As regards to it being more prescriptive this year, this is only because there are some things that need to be worked around and so the other activities have to be slotted in the right places to make it work, but there is still autonomy within that. The children and I arranged the charts together at the beginning of term, so it didn't all come from me. Also they often have more than one book to fit an activity. For example when Minnie sees the 'S&S Science' token she has 6 topic books to choose from and so can do what she most fancies that day! Also Bugs has been encouraged to add in some additional subjects this year, and so he is doing 'business studies' and IT. I was so pleased to get such a generous HEdders discount with Lonsdale (paying teachers prices).
So far everything seems to be working really well. My biggest challenge is getting Stitch to take part ~ but I am insisting that he engage with learning in the mornings, as much as possible, because he is so bright and really needs to be kept busy to stay out of mischief!! I have also arranged a raiding-shelf for Baby as he is very much on the move and into raiding mode now! Fortunately he does sleep a portion of the morning and afternoon still :).
What else to tell... Minnie took her Grade 2 ballet exam, but unfortunately didn't pass. However it seems the examiner was quite harsh and a number of girls failed this time. Their teacher was so fed up (this is not the first time this lady has marked harshly) that she has decided to change syllabus, so I don't think it was all down to lack of skill! TP and Lilo have decided to give up Ballet, but I didn't want them to do no sport at all. Admittedly Lilo does swimming lessons, but this is not a thrill to her and I know she will stop as soon as she's finished. They both asked if they could do gymnastics. So I figured why not, and while I was at it thought it might be nice for the younger boys to do something to. They both agreed to give it a go too and it has been an all round hit :-). The girls are loving it and TP is practising things in her spare time (more than Lilo). She would love to be really good I think. And DD has been picked out after just three weeks of going to try out for the boys squad!! So on Tuesday he did a 2 hour session and came out chuffed as punch, still jumping and really pleased with himself because he had managed to hang the longest from the bars with his knees in tuck position, with a 'brick' on his lap (against two other boys I think ~ both older than him)! I am really pleased for him ~ I'm just dreading how this is going to affect our pocket!! If he is picked for squad he jumps from 1 hour on a Saturday (when the others are there), to 2 hours (Tues) + 1 hour (Sat, but later). It's also going to mean a lot of too-ing and fro-ing, which Paul will not be so happy about as he does all the driving around everyday. I don't think I expected any of them to get picked so soon (although I did think if any did it would likely be DD)!
This week of course the sun came out again, so with not having got the tent out this summer we felt it need an airing. So we pitched it in the garden and the children have lived out there most of the week, doing school & sleep! Unfortunately we didn't get it down in time before the bad weather set in again (Paul was at work) and now we need to wait for it to dry again and pray that it hold with the pretty strong winds that are out there right now!! It's a tough tent ~ we are pretty certain it will be OK ;)
Is that me all caught up? I think so...