Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ten Days...

For me to post in just 10 days is quite something, but I'm still going to have a job to think back!

Nothing much new on the home ed' front really. We're just plodding along nicely, so I'll bullet point the things of note (for the record really)...

  • Completed All About Spelling Level 4 with Lilo and DD, but wasn't really happy that either of them had the 'rules' sorted in their heads very well, so have decided to repeat the level with both of them. It won't hurt and will hopefully cement a few things that are shaky atm.
  • ETC Online ~ Taz 2/3rds through book 3, DD Bk 6 Lesson 3:1 (completed Bk 5 in ten sessions), Lilo BK 6 Lesson 4:1 (7 sessions so far) ~ making slow but steady progress).
  • Reading ~ Stitch is reading an abridged version of Robinson Crusoe, DD reading Five on Treasure Island (I thought the Famous Five would appeal to him and it's easy reading, without being TOO easy), Lilo reading Shadow the Sheepdog ~ again easy reading, but hopefully ticking her 'interesting' box. It's so hard to find books for her, because at 10 she needs older content, but her reading level and comprehension of what she reads would not keep up. TP about to start a new book, having just finished 'The Body Book'  Minnie re-reading Ballet shoes, and thrilled to bits with a hard-back copy I bought her on Amazon for less than the Kindle edition! 
  • Maths ~ Minnie whizzing through Miquon purple and decided to try to re-tackle some of the Year 6 conquer maths and actually finding it easy enough, so hoping Miquon has done the trick for her and plugged some gaps :D. Lilo struggling to get to grips with fractions in Miquon Yellow, so finished the section but have asked her to work through fraction on Conquer Maths until she has it sussed out more in her head :D DD happily plodding through Yr 4 Heinemann maths without any issues. Stitch almost completed Year 2 Collins Primary Maths, so will then move on to working through Yr 2 on Conquer Maths, but I think he will sail through it. The only concepts he struggled with a little, were the ones to do with shapes ~ reflections, rotations, etc... which fits a little with the way he struggles to process those concepts in every day life too, so no surprises there, but all the 'concrete' maths he is very solid on and can explain to me quite complex ways of finding solutions :D
  • Geography ~ we have been looking at urbanisation in rural areas, and in poorer vs richer countries. It has raised some interesting conversations and ideas about solutions to the problems it brings! One suggestion by TP was to build one Mega building and everyone and everything be under one roof ~ the whole world! We thought about that for a bit and considered some of the pro and cons... can you imagine!! Taz  suggested that all the shopping could be in one mega-rise building then people wouldn't have to travel to more than one place for anything ~ I pointed out we sort of have that in places like The Bullring (to which he has never been) and we discussed the problems that places like that themselves present. We went on to discuss the effect of internet shopping on ALL genres of 'real' shops, from small family businesses, to town-centre shopping, to business parks ~ all negatively, and yet also positively affected by on-line shopping. This week we talked a little more about 'commuter villages' (such as the one we live in) and how history has changed the nature of our villages across the country, to the point where many of them consist of little more than a few 'nice' houses and pub ~ no village shops and few young children. We also discussed how health care and public transport are often not so easily accessible in rural communities which means more people, especially those with young families, choose to live nearer to towns, with all those amenities close at hand.
      Strangely all my children tell me they "don't like Geography!" - yet it very often brings the most relevant and interesting conversations to our school room ~ so we aren't stopping it ;-)
  • Zoology ~ we made some fossils! Looking at the differences between fossils formed in mud/sand/clay ...

  • Art  ~ last week was a bit of a cheat ~ we just did some wax relief painting ~ easy for the littler ones for a change ~ and Taz did some more of his Airfix helicopter. We didn't do any art this week as Paul & I had to be at the college by 4 for Jake's (Bugs') parent's 'consultation' ...

Tonight, as I said we were at the college for Jake's review. It seems they are generally quite pleased with him, but to be honest I was not mightily impressed with them! They have a very airy fairy approach to grades etc... in that they basically are too afraid that a low grade would discourage a students from working well, so they don't give any grades at all until the end of the second project ~ end of Feb! I explained that I felt that would depend on the mind-set of the student, because for someone like Jake (and me), he needs to know where he stands or he feels he is flailing in the dark, not knowing if he is doing OK or not and feeling like he's working hard for little or no reward. I think the tutor understood, but I don't think it will change anything tbh ~ it's the nature of an arty farty department I think!! Essentially though, I got the gist that Jake is working to merit level. His target grade overall, based on his initial entry assessment, is a MM (higher level Merit), and with steady progress this is perfectly achievable. I personally feel he is capable of a Distinction, but would need more tutorial support to achieve it ~ which he is sadly not all that likely to get. Although his tutor said "all he needs to do is ask," in reality he is not always available and knows that, so he kept saying things like "but it is all written out for the students in the 'objectives' guidelines." To Jake though, those guidelines might as well be written in Dutch for all the help they are to him :( 

Jake's other concerns about certain 'personalities' in the class were rather brushed aside, so I will need to keep a careful eye on that with him. He is being slightly bullied/intimidated, but tbh he doesn't help himself by not being able to keep his mouth shut at times. He opens himself wide for attack ~ like handing them ammunition. He's just not very worldly-wise or diplomatic! That said his tutor did mention how impressed he was with the way Jake has handled the transition into college from Home-school, and that his energy and enthusiasm were a real asset to the class dynamics :D

Aside from the chids, I too have been learning something this week...
For YEARS (literally since I was a small girl) I have wanted to learn to crochet. I had a ladybird book when I was girl that was supposed to teach me, as no-one in my family crochets either, but I could never make much sense of it and even going back as an adult it wasn't easy to follow. I managed to eventually make a square block  of double stitch, but couldn't get any further. I wanted to make a granny square ~ SOOO badly! In the end I resorted to You-Tube (oh the joys of modern technology) and watched a video or two! I realised I was using the hook like a knitter (not that I knit, but I can a bit) and wrapping the wool instead of hooking it up. I got the same result mind... So now I'm practising doing it properly, but it's not as comfortable and I keep dropping everything! All the same, I have managed to make 5 granny squares, all different sizes (due to different wools and hooks), but I'm getting there :D I've also made a phone sock and two MP3 player socks for the girls :D. I'd like to attempt a small blanket for my Nan for mothers day (thinking a square or two each night), but I need to get some wool first ~ some decent wool ~ this horrible, cheap, rough 3ply is doing my head in - it's so 'splitty'.

I've also found time in the week to complete Lilo's sock-cat that she got as a kit for Christmas ~ helped by taking it to do at a soft play centre early in the week, giving the little chids a run around and me a break!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mini drum solo by Taz

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 So Far...

There's been a bit of Tot-Schooling going on;

Chip really likes his new 'Zimbbos' game, but equally just enjoys stacking the elephants!

And knocking them down!

He also rather loves playing on the Hudl tablet that we got for the younger boys to share, but Flash sites don't work on it, so he still pinches my phone sometimes (which is old enough to still do Flashy things!)

We've done some science...
Investigating Static Electricity

And today, I didn't take any pictures, but we were looking at which materials conduct electricity and which insulate it.

Today was also Art day.

We finished off these pieces, based around the work of GUSTAVE KLIMT, that we began last week. This was possibly one of the most stretching pieces of art we have done so far. It doesn't look difficult, but it definitely required some thinking outside of the box ~ something my children are not so great at doing!
  Their first inclination was to use the shapes as objects, so a single rectangle would represent a persons body, rather than a build up of shapes doing so. Eventually though, they clicked into the idea and this is the result ~ they are all pretty pleased with these :D

Top to bottom, left to right...
Stitch's (there are birds, a sun, a sky, a man, a tree ~ so I guess it's a 'Field scene'!), Lilo's 'Beach scene', DD's 'Man on a Bridge' (or a rocket), Minnie's 'Abstract Order', TP's 'Music Man'

While we were busy doing that Taz was working on his Airfix helicopter that he received for Christmas. He's worked on it for a lot of hours already ~ there are SOOOO many tiny bits ~ but he's making progress :D

One of the girls' popular pass-times at the moment is making these;

on this 'Rainbow Loom'. 

I'd seen them about on the internet a fair bit, and I managed to bag one for a tenner just after Christmas. I don't think the big two girls have really put it down much since! A great little purchase, mainly to say thank-you for all their help over Christmas, but I'll be needing more elastics and closing clips VERY soon!

Aside from school, we've seen some stunning sunrises;

and had some spontaneous visitors (of whom I failed to take pictures), when The Manor Borns paid us a visit en-route to Liverpool to collect a guitar for C. It was lovely to have them stay over and to catch up a bit, especially after our total failure at doing so in London before Christmas (when our family's sick-bug destroyed our plans for the day). All four girls disappeared upstairs and for most of the evening we did not see them at all ~ although the giggling was plentiful enough! Minnie cannot wait to have C come and stay again ~ they really had a chance to get to know each I think, and they got on well :D

Ok ~ so I think at last I am up to date. Lets see if I can keep it that way shall we!!


...It's hard to believe it is already the middle of January and I haven't blogged since Lilo's birthday ~ that's Chip's 3rd Birthday and the whole of Christmas missed!

December was not as smooth and exciting as I usually like it to be. We had things planned that just didn't happen for one reason or another. One of those was a day-trip to London. Minnie was meant to be meeting up with some other H'Ed children and having a day at the Opera, seeing Carmen. I was taking her, along with Taz, TP & Minnie, and we were going to make a day of it ~ visit Harrods, Hamley's, maybe Selfridges, pick up Minnie and go to see the lights in Oxford and Regents St, buy chestnuts from the street sellers and maybe see the Christmas markets in Hyde Park ~ we were all really looking forward to it... BUT the night before we were going I was very sick :( I would have forced myself to go (though in hindsight that would have been stupid), but Minnie was also sick in the morning and so was Joel! So, that was that, no London outing this Christmas :( I rang Qjump from my sick-bed and managed to get the majority of the train fare refunded (THANKFULLY), so had hoped to possibly make the trip between Christmas and New Year, but by then the money was gone again and the time was never really available either ... maybe next year then!

Minnie took a couple of days to pick up after the bug, and gradually everyone but Bugs and TP came down with it in one form or another. Not all were sick, but all definitely had dodgy tummies! Some got over it in a blink, a couple had it twice (!) and I just took forever to feel right again. Every time I ate anything I felt immediately sick, so was having to eat little and not to often. It was not until about New Year that I felt properly well again. 

  Not being well for 2 out of 4 weeks of December, just threw everything for me. I had a shed-load of photography work to do: I had done a charity shoot in November that I still needed to finish editing, but I also did an engagement shoot in November, for which I then had various things to do that were new to me and took more time than an average editing batch. However, I enjoyed the challenge and my customers were chuffed with the outcomes :D. 
  Aside from that, of course, I had to make sure all the family gifts were bought and delivered here in time, which involved more than a few hours on Amazon and other sites! Blogging really just fell to the bottom of my priority list :(

So, in some way, I shall try to attempt to get this blog up to date and, for those of you so inclined to view, I've included slideshows!!

Chip's Birthday...
  ...was a lovely relaxed day; opening presents in the morning, all of which he loved and then going bowling in the afternoon. To begin with, at the alley, he decided it was his party...and he'd refuse to join in if he wanted! We didn't make a fuss though and, thankfully, before very long he was really having fun :D He's a funny little man! You can never be 100% certain that he is going to be game for anything ~ even the things you know he usually enjoys. Anyway, on this occasion it all ended happily with no massive tantrums (phew). 
  After bowling we took a trip to Tesco to pick-a-pizza each. Some of us had customised pizza made, and the children were fascinated by watching the shrink-wrap go on! 
  It seemed funny to think back to the days when I was 17, doing my 'A' Levels and that was exactly my job ~ to make pizza (in Asda) for the morning's shelf stock 3 nights a week, and 'to-order' for the customers on a Saturday. I remember the job with mixed feelings, but it paid my rent!

Get the flash player here:

Christmas Day...
  ...was wonderful this year. It was a bit of a frugal year, but despite that I think all the children got what they asked for (they were encouraged to ask for less), or at least almost everything they received they were really pleased with. 
  The day began around 7.30am. The children had been up a bit already, but not ridiculously long, and had opened their stocking gifts, then mingled amongst themselves sharing their excitement. Eventually I called them in to 'show us' what they had ~ and they all piled in to our room with their goodies :D I think that may be one of my favourite parts of Christmas Day!
  After breakfast, it was time to set off for church. It's only a short service on Christmas day, and often a quiet one, but this year the church was full :D The children love showing everyone their new toys ~ as do some of the adults!! DD especially stole the show this year, with his flying, Tarzan-calling, sock monkey.
  When we got home, we opened a game ~ this year it was 'Dobble' - as I knew it would be quick to learn and keep them all entertained for a while. Together with 'Pixit', which Lilo had opened in the morning, that worked really well while my wonderful husband put the dinner together.
  This year Minnie was very much part of the team, helping set the table up ready for the feast. I love this part of Christmas too ~ there is something very lovely about having a pretty table. I'd do it more often, but it's simply not practical: candles and small children (or boisterous 6 year-olds) are not the safest combination, but I'm happy to take the risk just once a year! 
  Once the feast was eaten ~ and no-one had room for ANY pudding! ~ we did a quick tidy up before settling down to the business of opening the rest of the present mountain! At this point Chip was crashed out (he did that last year too ~ I think the excitement exhausts him!) so we made a relatively calm and collected start to it all. By the time he woke up the rest of the children were nearing the end of theirs, so he became the centre of attention for a while, which was nice for him :D
  Then of course, it was time to eat again! No-one was VERY hungry, but we all forced a little food down and even some pudding this time! I think it was eventually about 10pm before the children started heading up to bed, but it was an altogether LOVELY day, with lots of fun and laughter along the way.

Get the flash player here:

Boxing Day;
  It's fast becoming a family tradition to have all of Paul's family here on Boxing Day. We have the room and his two sisters only have to travel from Birmingham, so it's not too far either. Usually Paul's parents are staying with one of us 'northerners' too, so it's easy enough for them to join in, and this year Paul's brother, David, was also up for Christmas with his son (B). So cumulatively there were 23 of us here on Boxing Day! We all love being together and the children just have a ball. The only dampener on the day was the fact that both Gareth (b-i-l) and myself were feeling pretty icky. I had not fully recovered from the stomach bug I'd had almost 2 weeks prior (and having eaten so much the day before was suffering for it) and Gareth was also suffering from the same bug I think. Neither of us ate much (although there was plenty on offer) and both of us moped a bit in separate corners most of the day, but we enjoyed watching the day pass by, with lots of laughter and yet more gift sharing :D. 
  Around 7pm Paul's sisters were beginning to think about going home, when cousin 'T' came running into the room with his hand over his mouth and proceeded to spew violently - everywhere, quite a few times ~ right threw my lounge and all the way through the kitchen, to the downstairs loo ~ leaving quite a trail behind him!! Poor Gareth (his Dad), was the first on hand and it was all he could do not to add to the mess! SO, after that, once T had been lent some fresh PJ's, all the visitors grabbed their stuff and left rather promptly! Nothing like a dramatic end to a visit ;-)

Get the flash player here:

New Year...
   ...we asked a bunch of friends over to have a bit of a party. It was a lot of fun and it was nice to see the year in with more than just family this year.  All the children were allowed to stay up and all but Chip made it to midnight! He flaked out about 11.30pm!  Once midnight had passed the smaller chids were sent upstairs, but it was a while before people left and the bigger chids went up. By the time everyone left I think it was about 1.30am, but I was too awake to go to bed, so I sat and chilled on my phone for about another hour just to wind down!
  On NY's Day we asked another family over to play games. They had been unable to make it for the party, but they are a family who LOVE games like we do, so having them over was great. They brought their new games too ('Jungle Speed' and 'Kabeleo') and we played an eclectic mix of fast and fun, and more thoughtful games ALL AFTERNOON! I think we'd have played all evening too, but we were all getting a bit tired by about 8pm ~ and I didn't take a SINGLE picture!! Definitely one to do again though :D

So, that was Christmas... next blog will be life since then!!