Friday, 31 August 2012

Because I like power with my responsibility

One of the brilliant things you get to do in the ordinary home educating day is TAKE POWER.

It is a total thrill. Home education means you get to exercise some control over the learning and the environment, organise the resources, assess the pace, introduce the stuff that meets with your approval, and bring up people who enjoy doing things you do. Yes, whether it's embroidery, completing RSPB jigsaws of native British birds, or learning about German Expressionism and what is an auteur. You get to choose.

Now I've heard all those accusations: sad women in middle age living through their children, preventing them becoming their own people, surrounding themselves with companions to swell out the aching days of a lonely and frustrated life... Blah Blah Blah.

That type of argument can be used for any anti-woman anti-home ed purpose. Go and complain that musical parents teach their kids a musical instrument, Jewish parents have Jewish children, and people who run shops bring up kids who know how to handle themselves in business.

It's a simple fact. Parents play a big part in the upbringing and culture of their kids. The way I think about it is, may as well do it deliberately.

For which demonstration, is film night chez Grit. I prepare the popcorn and press play on A Man For All Seasons, the 1966 version with clever, tight screenplay by Robert Bolt.

By the rolling end credits, I note that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger haven't moved a muscle throughout. They've stuck with this lengthy, talk-heavy, conscience-loaded, play-to-film, all the way through.

Tiger awards it nine out of ten. Shark and Squirrel agree, on the basis that nothing could ever get ten out of ten because that would suggest perfection. Then we have a debate about conscience, belief, principle, and the point at which we'd sign a document to save our skins. (Quickly, it turns out in my case.)

Then I think, Was that extraordinary? No exploding buildings, no dinosaurs, no KABOOM BAM BAM BAM, no zombies, cute deer, wise-cracking animated animals running from bursting ice sheets, nothing that I'd think of from a popular film, yet here are the Gritlets, expressing opinions on Thomas More's conscience and Tudor politics.

I'm putting this entirely at my door. I'm having the credit for it as a result of the power with this responsibility, an outcome of a cultural, creative education, the result of an upbringing that values learning about the role of the auteur.


Okay, I admit there is that other thing. Bringing up the kids to make their own independent judgements. So when they choose the DVD of Ice Age 4, you'll find me in the other room, probably doing the embroidery and the RSPB jigsaw.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Considering the future

Yup. I am unlikely to send out three kids into the world with CVs boasting GCSE passes of 10 A* grades each. Or even 5 A* grades and a few humble others. But will the lack of a basketful of GCSEs harm them, as you say?

Let's look at the reality. My kids might emerge from home ed at age 16 with CVs that show an eclectic range of courses, some intriguing and uncommon skills, a scattering of GCSE grades in a bizarre range of subjects, and a whopping great load of interests, curiosities, and experiences that don't fit into any box labelled for that purpose.

I'd also hope that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger know how to learn stuff for themselves; how to organise their study and respect people who teach them. Maybe those qualities will show in an interview. (Or maybe not, if in five years Tiger remains painfully shy, if Squirrel still lives on Planet Squirrel, and if Shark doesn't climb out of her pre-teen awkwardness, in which phase she is presently sinking.)

But are they worse off because of a CV which reads like an antidote to an A* shot? We're asking each of our children to think about the next few years in terms of the interests, curiosities, and experiences they'd like to look back on and use to head off into the future.

Of course in this enterprise, I'm being egged on. By people who tell me they see lines of A* candidates, one after another, and they are lovely. It's just that so many are non-critical and non-thinking. When they're asked what interests do they have outside school, the response is nervous laughter, indifferent answering, a questioning gaze and, worst of all, an expression that reads 'What interest would you like me to have? Tell me what it is, and I'll tell it back to you'.

That's unlikely to be my three kids. Shark, set on watery futures, is this week on a lake again, sailing, taking her junior stages 3 and 4 certificates. She attends her weekly diving club, and her browser tabs are a variety of fish forums, tank health, water quality and how to prevent fin nip. I don't think she's headed for a career in Accountancy. Squirrel, appropriately enough, says astronomy might be useful. Tiger wants me to find an embroidery course, and lace making would be helpful.

So while I know that children in school work so very hard for those lines of A* - and don't forget, I've taught there - a bit of me hopes that they have time to do what we do: develop interests out of the system, do things that fire them up in passion and delight, and let them create futures for themselves that are expressions of themselves. And that, as far as I know, doesn't come with a grade at all.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

To school or not?

Going back to school?

Sometimes the decision to say No - to home ed instead - it's easy; you just continue doing what you do, and it feels a natural why do anything else?

But sometimes the answer isn't easy. I can tell. In the days before a new term starts, this blog receives a determined scrutiny, where your googling is not only for bali men naked, squirrels dancing, and passive aggressive panda.

Really people, you poke about every historic post on home education, dragging out every observation on joys and fears, hazards and enterprises. Six hours intense staring from some of you. I feel I should be covering my nakedness with my hands. And now I truly am glad I never let you see the sore stuff.

But if you're still undecided, does it help to ask this one question?

Will home ed work for you? For a moment, forget Think of the child! What's best for the child! That's an easy way to feel guilty. Forget the guilt.

If home ed doesn't work for you, then it's not going to work for Tinkertop. If you know that in truth you don't want home ed, then find another route - bash the local authority until they give you the package you want; go back again to the school and make their approach fit your agenda; turn every tactic used at you to get the answer you need - whether that answer is a paid for tutor, part-time attendance or specialist school support.

But if you think home ed could suit you - fits with your aims, ambitions, your intentions for your child - then a term or a year out of school to try? It won't kill her.

If you can bear the crap days, say I don't know but be curious at the limits of your knowledges, forgive yourself for approaches that went worse than wrong, wake up to see a trashed house, bear the moments when you terrify yourself with your fearful responsibility, reassure yourself, face another day - then you probably have the strength to see it through.

You'll need that strength when Tinkertop doubts, when someone says you're doing it wrong, when an unhelpful neighbour airs their suspicion, when the angry in-law demands you answer the charges, when a local jobsworth denies you access, when politics turn against you, and when you read yet another journalist dash out whole articles without recognition or awareness, failing even to grasp the gulf that exists between those words, school and education.

If this blog helped a little along the way in that decision - does Tinkertop go to school or not? - then I'm glad. At the very least, keeping a public home ed diary - successes and failures, doubts and certainties, stuff we do - it's all here to say you're not alone when you take that step. If you decide for home ed, find your local group and meet dozens more with the same doubts and resolves.

Now here's what this home ed family did today. For me, a success. We enjoyed the company of other home ed families, talked politics and church in the time of Christopher Columbus, played games of pirates and traders, drew maps of India, and ate home-made blackberry jam.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Brambling with purpose

With the rate of consumption of Co-op loaves that go on round here, six pounds of blackberry and apple jam should last us until oh, at least a week on Thursday.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Name day

Tiger declares today her Name Day. I have given up explaining this, except to say that several years ago I had a thoroughly bad idea, and was even foolish enough to suggest it in words, that if you are one of three people sharing a birthday, then isn't this a great opportunity to do some maths!

Let's divide 24 hours by 3! Now what is the point of crying about it? The answer is easy! Does it matter if you're asleep? Discuss.

The purposeful home educating mother, who never lets a moment slip by without finding instruction of something - times tables, usefulness of electricity, Degas, anatomy of sheep, reasons for the Second World War - should learn her lesson which is, frankly, bleeding obvious. Shut up and let the kid have her way. 24 hours can be all your unrivalled, non-competitive, undivided own, with a Name Day.

Well I suppose it is also an opportunity to make use of Aunty Dee spreading tablecloths, get Shark making Horse Cake (no actual horses were cooked), invite The Hat over to entertain us all with stories of her latest car-related disaster (forgot the handbrake, collision with lamp post, cat locked in boot for 2 days, etc etc) and fool about draping grapes over a cake stand.

The event was gentle enough. It brought about a behavioural saintliness and sibling cooperation, probably in the expectation of tea-time presents, but also provided more cake, friends, chat, plenty of fruit, another bucket of strawberries, and a late night. Satisfying. Teaches me that the grown up educator should sometimes shut her face, and that children choosing their own entertainments and celebrations can, yes, end in a smile.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Can't be just a party in a field

All government officials, local authorities and makers of proper forms can be proud of us.

In the interests of community cohesion, equal opportunity, social inclusion, co-operative partnership, please tick your ethnic origin, White British White and Black Caribbean Asian or Asian British Chinese or other ethnic group, I take the education specified, School Private State Home Other, Shark, Squirrel, Tiger, and Aunty Dee to the weekend Islamic festival.

There are some bouncy balls, noisy radios and stalls selling handbags. The kids wander round a bit, wondering whether to tap Aunty Dee for a bag of onion bhajis, sesame halva, or nothing, probably not thinking that every mouthful, or absence of a mouthful, is a statement of dietary requirements please express your dietary preference as a service user Vegetarian Vegan Related to religious practice such as Kosher or Halal None specified (will eat kangaroo).

After wandering round the stalls they do become a little bored, it is true, thanks to the grass-based gentility which looks more like Which family can sit around eating the biggest picnic so I tell them to count languages for daddy Dig and see if they can hear the difference between Punjabi Urdu Bengali Gujarati Hindi French Spanish Polish Arabic Turkish Portuguese Farsi Tamil and Somali Please tick.

The music occupies everyone for a while, because it's human, so there isn't any box to tick at all but it's an opportunity for the Local Authority to shuffle off and organise their colour-coded clipboards or count their hours in order to evaluate and assess the quality and accessibility of the service and identify whether any equal opportunities issues are reported by service users accessing this provision.

Just before we leave, I head over to the Religion Table. I feel I should. Surely it has to be the whole point of this festival Please tick one Christian Church of England Catholic Protestant all other Christian denominations Buddhist Hindu Jewish Muslim Sikh Not stated. A rather dashing young man is offering a Koran for the price of an argument about organised religions, so I do that, while the rest of my tribe scarper.

And when it comes time, as it surely will, to complete the educational monitoring form which could be the delight of a government officer to compile in order to explore issues for that minority community while at the same time being able to allocate resources for comparison with local or national population data or with data from other places to ensure fair compliance procedures are followed and due recording respect is accorded to all individuals self-assigning distinct educational deliveries, they can know that we can tick the religions curriculum box having attended the Islamic Festival which, by the way, went okay.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The gladness of family

Aunty Dee is staying with us for the late August holiday.

As usual, two hours before her arrival, I'm in a flapping panic. She will see the knee-deep pile of crap in which we live. Fear of exposure and humiliation sends me skittering around the kitchen floor waving a vacuum cleaner nozzle while shouting at the children. Yes, the usual stream of incoherent rubbish - comb your hair tidy up take the unicorn outside move the books clear the sofa what is this doing here uughh get it out out OUT.

Everyone ignores me because I have done this type of thing before.

Then, as normal, I reach the point of respiratory failure with all the shouting and random nozzle assaults, and I flop on the sofa to recover. Things seem to calm a little. I consider the world in perspective. I can dump all cleaning equipment in the front room to signify intention, if not actual fact, that some cleaning has been done. Surely now it is more sensible to make use of the limited time; ensure her immediate environment is welcoming and comfortable. I decide to set about her boudoir.

She will stay in the part of the house with no shower and no hot water. Inside the old cellar bedroom which flooded, leaving mould all over the ceiling. One day, when we are wealthy, we will do something radical, like have the room beautifully done over, but until then, it looks like a cellar bedroom that's been flooded. I look on the positive side of these disasters. The flood cleared out the mice nests, so I no longer need sweep her bed for droppings. And the brown staining on the walls I can imagine, between squinted eyes, that the delightful mottling patterns are indicative of an elegant distress in a suitably Victorian style. Squirrel helps with a vase of garden flowers which seems mostly composed of dandelions and privet hedge.

Ten minutes before Aunty Dee arrives, we are done, and I think it all looks rather splendid. In the last two hours I have come to think of myself as a bit of an interior designer; I snap a photograph of the garden chair I have artfully arranged in the spider corner. I consider interior design might be my next profession.


Aunty Dee comes in, hugs the children, enthuses about the dandelions, says it's alright about the cold water and never utters a word about the floor or the unicorns or the privet hedge or the mould. This is what is lovely about her. I can completely take advantage of her forgiving nature, time and time again, and know that when I'm in real trouble, she'll come down and have a go at the vacuuming herself.

Friday, 24 August 2012

More than enough, thank you

Dig is writing. Slowly.

This is like a mathematical equation, I'm sure of it. The less of significance you have to say, the easier it is to dash out 3,000 words, do the laundry, pick up Shark from the lake, and cook dinner.

When you have Important Things To Say, then ten hours spent rewording three paragraphs might produce a sum total of 250 words. At which point I come along with a red pen and take out 15.

As you can see, while I am working alongside Dig, I have a little spare time on my hands.

I have made a lot of notebooks.

Collect Me. Knicker drawer notebook for the Collector of Curiosities. To use this particular notebook, you must first wear a red velvet cap (obviously embroidered and sporting a tassel), have long bony fingers, and keep the curtains drawn so that your late Victorian study interior is suitably dimmed. Shafts of weak sunlight can pick out the dusty air and fall upon your curiosity cabinets, in which hidden and secret places you jealously stow inscrutable objects like slices of teeth and feathers from extinct birds.

On the inside you may keep records of your most delectable finds in long hand, preferably in a Copperplate writing style that is impossible to read. Quill pens only.

Artistry Me. Soft skin toned leather with simple wax cotton binding. Pretend the beady button isn't 20th century acrylic but 15th century amber. Suits Michelangelo.

Basically, I've been rummaging through boxes of postcards and finding new reasons for the ephemera to be.

Unearth Me. Ammonite, sliced, polished, elegantly decorating the front of a geological notebook.

Tell Me. My favourite. Story/note book, totally undistinguished, and unadorned by anything. Inside, however...


Intriguing snatches of items, letters, envelopes, pictures; stitched, glued, bound; make your own plot. Provided me with endless delight.

Monastery Me. Whimsically following a line of thinking for history-inspired notebooks, here stitching in an offcut from the Lindisfarne Gospels (obviously original).

The longer Dig spends, the worse this will become. Sadly, I predict that soon it will make perfect sense to me, producing a notebook that is perfect for any student of King Haakon VI Magnusson of Norway.

Talking of niche markets...

Pluck Me. The Lute player's notebook. (The lute just looks sad. Inside, it is laughing.) 

Embellished with a gold letter L. Suitable for a lute player called Linda, probably.

Howabout Sparkle Me Stupid. Those are REAL diamonds on the front, HONEST. Inside is a ridiculous quantity of glittery sparkle which by rights should kill dead any interest in sparkle for the next 500 years.

Supplied with a pot of glitter to scatter in the eyeballs.

Lace Me. The lacemaker's notebook. Thanks to Tiger and Squirrel attending a lace fest last week with the Olney lace making circle. I came home and stitched up a simple soft black leather notebook pinned with lace samples.

I liked the idea of the black leather for the lace ladies. Maybe I will explore some avenue of lace porn for the over-70s.

Finally, Organise Me. A neat brown sueded notebook with pockets, pencil, paperclips. For the industriously organised. Maybe I should give this one to Dig.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

I'll eat my head...

Yes, I will chew off ears and all, if it's true that Gove had nothing to do with the grade boundary adjustments for GCSE.

Really, I find his denial - no interference, pressure, nope, nothing to do with him - remarkable. It makes him sound more suspicious than ever. Who believes the claim that the grade changes were made wholly by the exam boards? Strangely, all working together, independently, merely responding to the syllabus change, at the very last minute?

A little bit of me feels Gove needs a sympathetic pat for trying it. It's like your four-year old denies he rang 999 when the fire engine turns up at the door, but you know he just adores Fireman Sam.

As to the motives? Maybe it's a move to force schools to become business-minded academies; maybe it's a step up to the rhetoric about making exams harder to pass; maybe it's a move towards that goal of monopoly exam boards; maybe it's a shifty slip towards O level/CSE by other means; maybe he reckons it's an appeal to the part of the vote that likes to hear talk of toughening up; perhaps he thinks it does all that, and this is a moment when he can lose the goofy look and be known as Hard Nut Gove, firm but fair, denying he is interested in the job of party leader.

Well, you might not believe this, but exams affect the home ed world, too. Plenty of kids who've never been to school take GCSE exams. Often at their own speed, sometimes starting young, sometimes starting older, sometimes missing them out altogether and going straight to A levels or other courses. But our world now is abuzzin' with exam emails, sometimes with results, sometimes with the relief that the process is complete, sometimes wondering what their child will choose next.

If Shark, Squirrel and Tiger decide to take exams, and I'll be honest, I am dangling them in front of their noses if they want them, then I'll be like most other parents on exam day; whatever the result, I'll be ridiculously proud of my daughters, and know that whatever else the grade signifies, it truly marks another step closer to the edge of the nest.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fun with a forester

The National Trust owed me one.

End of June, they said, Grit, what would you like to happen now? To which the answer was, Walk round the Ashridge Estate with a Forester who knows his trees and his history.

After some lengthy negotiating process to which I brought an attitude of entitlement to the nation's tree treasures, and an irksome holier-than-thou home educator's tone (I apologise, but we have to use all means at our disposal to get what we want), the National Trust duly delivered.

Thank you, National Trust, and thank you to the delightful Forester who obviously knew his trees and his history.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The way the market goes

I take Tiger to a workshop with DoubleTake Movies, an educational service for film and animation working in schools, kid's groups, and communities near you. I booked her in, paid for her, dropped her off. I found this company through a private contact, but they advertise in Primary Times.

Tiger says it was alright; she liked the software which made filming easy. She wasn't sure about the two boys in her team. Apparently they wanted a film about exploding dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that go BOOM BOOM BOOM then their heads fall off and the body explodes KABOOOOM. Tiger says she wasn't impressed. They all compromised instead on a dinosaur that disappears. PFFT. (No puff of smoke.)

Well, the point of this is not to tell you about Tiger's animation workshop. It's to say, if you are thinking about not sending Tinkertop back to her primary school come September, and you don't want to do everything yourself, it's become flippin' easy to buy in the educational services your child wants, and you can call it a creative curriculum.

Although it's the school summer holidays, so these companies are more visibly pitching at parents, in truth they're working all year round. Workshop deals, offers on packages, recommendations for events, information on where to find an artist who'll teach mixed media: poke around and you'll find hundreds of places offering resources. You'll find a shed load of people hoping to take cash off you for a full range of learning services. Get stuck and there are dozens of alternative educators to ask. Look around. Your local museum probably offers a deal on a Key Stage 1 and 2 workshop; you don't have to be a school to pick them up, just go in and ask.

I bet some home educators are hissing SHUT UP GRIT. We don't want EVERYONE knowing about this sort of thing! We have to be the exclusive few who have it sussed! And we TRUST each other to be committed educational types. We don't want any old Tom, Dick and Harry home educating! It has to be a thought-out choice with an educational theory and a philosophical basis!

Yes, those too. But aren't conditions right for more parents to take out a year or more to home educate? As shifts in the economy maybe put one parent at home, and we all take up allotment gardening, repair, recycling and commitment to local communities and shopping on the High Street, maybe home ed starts making sense for more people as a lifestyle change. Maybe the educational philosophy will come second.

And there's that education as a business thing. The market for educational products, goods and services is a huge and profitable industry, working on large to small scales all around the world. Schools - and parents - can buy in services and the conditions for them to do so are being encouraged everywhere.

But as the educational system fragments a little more; as kids are peeled away from conventional schools and mainstream education; as we all go off to our individual home ed journeys to match curricula and workshops to kid interests, I think the centre's impulse to monitor will grow. It's in their instinct to keep eyes on what we're doing, where we are and - most importantly because it serves a market and economic interest - what educational goods and services we're buying.

Well, there are my thoughts: I'm not surprised Wales is flying the suggestion to have a home ed register.

For reference, the download to the 17 July Statement on the Legislative Programme by the Welsh Government is here.

[...] The Education (Wales) Bill ... will set out a number of proposals including requirements for the registration of the education workforce, reform of the statutory framework for children and young people with special educational needs and the registration of children of compulsory school age who are home educated.

The basis of the provisions within this Bill will be formed by the outcome of the public consultations on the requirements for registration of the education workforce; the consultation which sets out the proposals for reform of the legislative framework for special educational needs; and the consultation on the educational provision made by home-based educators.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Let's ban all books and see what happens

I visit the library to return a book of essays on Henry V and hand over my three pound coins in the overdue fine.

I never read the essays, but I don't begrudge the three pounds. I feel I've done a citizen's duty: borrow the occasional book, drop it on the mantelpiece, then take it back a month late. It helps out.

I enter our small local library with a lot of love and fondness, but am I alone in doing that with a sense of resignation? Their days may be numbered and, short of strapping ourselves to the bookshelves, I don't feel I have much power in the end decision.

It's not helped, I know, by the fact that we now no longer visit weekly. It's not just the noise from the open planning or the computers whirring away. Nor the chatty, welcoming style in which they invite all comers to take part in library events. It's mostly on account of the obvious fact that the household Grit now has more books than they do. Admittedly, most of the titles living on our shelves also have their stamp inside - the one in small caps reading WITHDRAWN, followed by the librarian's hastily scribbled 60p. I probably only paid half, given they usually do a buy-one-get-one-free offer.

I don't know where the library will sit in my children's minds. For me, it's tied up with forbidden knowledge and illicit rule breaking, so no wonder I took to it like a place of aspiration and desire.

Where I grew up, we attended Sherwood public library every Saturday morning - except if it coincided with Christmas, when we went on Wednesday. It was an experience akin to attending church. I had to deliver myself promptly to my mother for morning departure wearing polished shoes and appropriate clothing. The library was a 20-minute walk away and the talk on the route would be on improving matters such as books to choose for a beneficial occupation of one's time.

Once arrived, the hushed rooms smelling of linoleum floor cleaner and old wooden furniture, I had to be relied upon to sit quietly in the secure children's section while my attendant adult went about their devotions in the historical romantic fiction aisle, returning to collect me 30 minutes later with a sniffle, slightly moist eyes, and an armful of hardbacks.

Most importantly for these early experiences, I was not allowed beyond the doors to the children's room, to wander into the grown up part of the library. I was told (unreliably I thought), that I was noisy. After some interrogation on this point, sure I wasn't that noisy, I wheedled out of my mother that the grown up section contained books with things in them that she wouldn't like me to see.

Well, that did it. The grown up section of the library became an aspiration, a destiny. It became a more desired goal than anything in the world; more yearned for than being able to draw a human face that didn't look like a caterpillar, more wanted than a Beano annual or the free gift strapped to the front of the Dandy; more desired than the innocence of childhood. I wanted the grown up library. It would be a rite of passage. It would mark my maturity and affirm my rightful place as a citizen who would not stop the world from working because they had seen things in books.

What did I expect to see when I finally got into the grown up library, I'm not sure. But I planned my illegal entry with precision. First I trialled out my shoes on the kitchen floor, walking across it on tip-toe, listening out to hear if they would betray me with a squeak. Reassured they would not, I then planned my escape from the children's section minute by minute.

I would tell my mother that everything was normal, that she could rely upon the fact that I wasn't up to no good, then I would wait until the librarian had her back turned. Unseen, I would slip noiselessly past her guardian desk, slide between the two sets of double doors, and enter the room of forbidden delight where the grown ups could look at things in books.

I did it, too. When I got in there, I pulled a book off a shelf in haste. In reflection, I clearly hadn't enough  courage to tip-toe very far down the general fiction aisle because I only reached the letter C. Wilkie Collins. To me he marked the edges of my bravery. I turned over his pages not quite understanding what it was that I shouldn't see, but hastily trying to see it before my allotted five minutes were up, and I had to return to relative safety with Stig in the Dump and the Finn Family Moomintroll.

My interest in making discoveries on the bookshelves of libraries has never quite left me, although I have to say the library isn't helping. In fact, these days it makes the delight of a thrilling discovery awfully difficult, thanks to the policy of removing all the books and stocking up on endless supplies of Catherine Cookson, DVDs, and How to Use Manuals for Microsoft Software.

Shark, Tiger and Squirrel are growing up holding books, living alongside them, and developing quizzical minds, I'm sure of that. They can pull down any book that catches their eye at any time, for any leisured reading or quick reference. I'm stocking up on young adult fiction in great anticipation of each moment.

But still, I could try them out with the old fashioned way of controlling the knowledge and demanding the pleasures of discovery are deferred. I shall visit the library and borrow my full fifteen-book quota, leave the stash of Catherine Cookson and Windows for Dummies on the mantelpiece, say don't look inside, then come back a month later and see if their pages have been surreptitiously turned.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


Gave up the idea of visiting the Battle of Bosworth Field for their annual bout of Richard III vs Henry Tudor.

I sat here instead, waiting for work from the husband-writer. I tried not to growl. I resigned myself to the wait. I told myself, I knew this particular project would mess up my schedule for gallivanting round the country, claiming to be providing an education for the offspring. And we'll go to their excellent museum soon. Midweek, when the kids are back at school and it's quiet.

I waited. By six o'clock I knew for sure I could have spent the entire day at the battlefield and my absence wouldn't have made a scrap of difference to the end result for this particular project (still waiting for copy).

But isn't this forever tricky? Not the working partnership, but the going out and about for a home education.

There is a fine line between enjoying oneself and educating the children. But I have to make it appear like it's a gap as big as the Grand Canyon. If Dig is home, where inevitably he is working, then I must carefully state, hand on heart, that my motive for removing his big and noisy tribe of daughters is, obviously, to keep the house calm and peaceful for his intellectual benefit. On return, I must never say, not once, how brilliant the day was, not how much fun it was, not how Richard III was fantastically handsome, nor how cheap the ice creams came in at under a tenner.

Yes, I would have been enjoying myself hugely - negotiating cut-price student entries, talking to the off-duty education officer, requesting preferential treatment for all manner of goods and services, browsing in book shops, casting appreciative glances at Richard III, and smelling vaguely of vanilla ice cream - but on return, I must dutifully exclaim, What hard work this day has been. I am quite worn out with all the education I have been doing, walking around the battlefield, having to discuss Tudor politics and watching people mess around in costume. You would not believe how wearisome this is. However, I have done this for you. I sacrificied my day, so you could work!

If the husband's face looks as if it is headed in the wrong direction (no clean socks, no dinner, nothing in the fridge, petrol tank now needs filling), then I have to quickly think up an argument that was had between Shark and Squirrel, or between Tiger and Shark. It's no good finding a minor disagreement over whether the vanilla or raspberry ice cream tasted best. It has to be a quarrel of dramatic turns, dangerously close to shame and public humiliation, courting ejection from the site; something requiring my complete and exhausting involvement. That is the only way to gain sympathy at this point. After living with me, Dig knows the taxing amount of emotional labour, stressful diplomacy, and endless patience required to unpick what is basically a pointless argument, taking it all seriously enough to provide a practical and agreeable solution. After my story of woe, he will realise I have spared him from experiencing misery, all out of the goodness of my heart.

If that fails, and I cannot elicit any sympathy with that, I say Did you get any work done?

That usually swings it. He escapes, shiftily, back to his office, and I tell the tribe of noisy daughters, Kick up a bit of a fuss now and we can all go to London tomorrow.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Bringing it all together with the Cake of Doom

Isn't the outdoor cinema culture brilliant?

If you are a home educator, it is like a gift from the heavens, and it's free.

Today's screening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the city park gives me an opportunity to kill several education birds with one stone. And, as we know folks, everything counts as an education in my world.

Thanks to Indiana Jones, I can yatter on about popular culture (1980s fashions in shoulders and hair); deliver Mother's Propaganda Lecture on the Representation of Women Engineered for Capitalist Economic Purposes (for which thank the film convention of dumb, blond, and screaming); talk over the role of the male in some popular narrative fiction (strong and manly. Oh how I wish it was true); and introduce a practical cookery session as a means of exploring the plot of this particular 1984 offering (thus remaining faithful to Home Education Law One).

For that last educational pursuit, I set Shark on the challenge of making a Temple of Doom cake. I tell her it must be suitable for an action movie with a deliberately culturally ignorant portrayal of Indian cooking. (Since her cake must also contain turmeric, ginger and coriander, but go easy on the curry powder, it sort of seems to support the point neatly.)

Friday, 17 August 2012

Warriors, settlers and nomads

Do you have those people in your world you don't see very often, but when you do, you have a glimpse into a whole different way you could have lived your life, and you think, How I miss this person! What worlds they could show me! Why aren't they in my life more than once a year?

That is Oo. I see her only once a year. Then I wish Oo lived properly here in England, and not as she does, far away in Dubai. Once a year she leaves the Middle Eastern heat of the sun to come breathe our cool English summer air, filled with diesel fumes and drizzle, and catch up, in one day, with me.

When I see Oo, I know she is a kindred spirit, and I know her from, oh, I don't know, maybe two million years ago, or from the age of the dinosaurs. I probably met her when she was clobbering a Velociraptor to death while I pondered on the usefulness of a sharp stick. Oo, in other words, doesn't faff about like Grit. She is a woman of action, and don't get on the wrong side of her because she still has the club. But somehow she is very enriching to Grit: I am easily led and she is filled with good ideas for distraction.

So today is going to be perfect: I can escape all predictable duties of cooking and kids, and meet her as quick as I can, at Euston. We'll spend the hours making all the dreadful business of life suit our advantage: we'll enjoy turning into our mothers, anticipate the thrill of revenge when we die in wordless accusation with perfect martyrdom; and imagine the hundred different lives to lead after the duty of motherhood is over.

Well I wish she could stay here, in England, all year long. We start our day's high ambitions with art at the Royal Academy, then slip down to Horse Guards Parade to ogle young men, before finishing the afternoon lounging in boho cafes threading away from the Southbank, discussing who we are made by circumstance, place, and years: warriors, settlers, or nomads?

Nomad, definitely. But I have that other life; I must be the responsible woman who returns humbly home to fret after three kids.

I console myself with distant fantasies. Somewhere in the future, I'll see Oo for longer than one day, and we'll engage in all manners of unwise enterprise. We'll start off, we two unrepentant ladies, nomad and warrior, beginning from the South and crawling down from there; I resolve, I'll not come home until three days have passed, when no-one ought to ask me where I've been, nor what I've done.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Geologists in the making

Thank you to Stowe Landscape Gardens and Bucks Earth Heritage Group for their excellent geology week.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

It's not a fancy, it's a learning experience

No-one can have tea because I SAY SO.

Tiger must research the shortcrust pastry layer with its river of jam, because that is EXACTLY like the Classical Greek creation of the underworld, submerged beneath the marsh of the Styx. Then Shark has to tell us about the frangipane layer or OBVIOUSLY the Asphodel Fields, where you can lose your duties, imperatives, and humanities amongst that sublime almond savoury. And Squirrel can stop whining and tell us all about her findings on the Elysian Fields, where the righteous get to eat the cherry top. TRUE.

Well, I am a smug bastard home educator. You didn't think we could do something as simple as just eat a fekking Bakewell Tart, did you?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Can't wait till it's over

I'd like to say, working closely on a project with one's chosen life partner, well, isn't it all hearts, flowers, and sex games involving the office filing cabinet.

It isn't. At least not round here.

Here - thanks to our unavoidable mutual interest in birthing a 94-page book on the future of the comma* - I will find that working together as the Grit'n'Dig team will be, ahem, difficult.

But we have done it plenty of times before, so I know what I'm in for. At least now we do not resort to chucking objects at each other's heads or having screaming fits over the turn of a phrase or the choice of italics. We merely pass electronic copy and image between each other in grunts while both of us try and fettle it once and for all. Yet I already anticipate how the process will alternate between moments when we look at each other in gratitude for a job well done; and one minute later, when that solid and shared understanding is unpicked so completely and intimately that I never want to see the bastard ever again. (For that read both book and husband.)

The problem is, unless you share identical brain-twinning with your chosen partner, working together on a creative product is a slow process far more excruciating, exposing, precarious, and dangerous than any other shared and partnered moment of living, whether it be refusing sex, or declaring it's not your turn to take the bins out.

The reality of working together is that day after day of gruelling negotiation over the Great Book of the Comma, I will come to know what it is like to live in the partner's writing brain (annoying, requires endless patience); I will have to tip-toe through another's complex thought processes (filled with obstacles, requires enormous diplomacy); I must navigate a way through their political difficulties, strategy problems and unresolved issues (requires me absolutely to keep my mouth shut); and then, as the editor part of the ill gotten team, I will have to understand, construct and help articulate a persuasive world view from their point of view (requires a great shift of thinking and a not insignificant wilful suspension of disbelief).

If that wasn't enough, there is always lurking that unspeakable peril. By the time you have finished creating together your profound work of great endeavour, the Big Forecasting Book of the Comma in the South East Asia Region, you will turn to your partner and resolve that you never want to have anything to do with their brain ever again, thank you very much, now give me mine back, because all it wants to do after that shredding experience is something unintensive, undeep, unlaborious, uncomplex, and unpainful, like mindless sex with the milkman and buying a pair of pointless sparkly shoes.

* Not available in your local bookshop.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Breath of fresh air

There can be only one route for a child who has spent the weekend forcibly locked inside the belly of the Royal Albert Hall being delivered an intensive dose of religious nineteenth century choral culture. It's to get outside into the open air as quickly as possible.

The semi-feral child wolves can here breathe again, then go off to satisfy their juvenile animal urges, i.e. think up improper uses for several varieties of grass, consider how the physical properties of trees might be employed to no good purpose, upset the inhabitants of bushes, ponds, trees and rocks, and wonder whether in the next life it would be a good idea to live as a sheep.

Enjoy, my children. The good news is, you don't have to grow out of the urges.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Prom 41

Tiger's good nature with the Proms is wearing thin.

It cannot be a result of the hours we have packed her into the sunken pit of a windowless, airless orchestra hall. Nor the way I have haphazardly thrown stale picnic foodstuffs at her, gathered at speed from the Co-op reduced bin in an en route gallop to the railway station. Nor the way we have subjected her to a company of 500 blissed-out scholars of nineteenth-century choral works and told her to keep quiet.

I blame the trains.

Travelling back and forth from the shires to Euston on London Midland. It's such an emotionally exhausting experience. You're either waiting to be prosecuted for something naughty with your ticket or made to stand up until Watford with your only source of consolation being to glower resentfully at people with fat bottoms and hand luggage occupying more than their fair arse use seat allowance.

But there is the rumbling of the malcontent. We plot beforehand on what would reward Tiger for enduring a weekend gruelling promming. Give her a horse. Not possible, says Dig. Take her to look at pictures of horses. Aha! The British Museum obliges! Then we can feed her a bowl of pasta. Job surely done.

She cheers up a bit, so it works. I suppose it's a remedy of sorts for you too, if you are musically suffering, enthused by horse, and like pasta.

But then the respite is over. The clock ticks round to the appointed hour. We must introduce Tiger to Shoenberg's Gurrelieder. The growling starts.

But this is the best one, I plead. It's a big narrative romantic. Not like one of his compositions when he went a bit funny. This is the one when he was so pissed off by the audience, he refused to turn round and acknowledge them. See? It comes with vengeance and spite delivered with the romance. Just up our street!

Who couldn't love such a brilliant story? Set in a castle, battling it out with all human failings of power, love, revenge and murder. That's only the start. Blasphemy, cursing, the rising of the bones of the dead, rattling chains and anguished spirits whipped mercilessly across the sky. You hear bones and everything! And an old man speak-singing! If that package isn't wonderful, I don't know what is. Honestly, isn't it all much more viscerally engaging than two hours of We are the servants of the Lord?

But the growling doesn't stop. So I am forced to deal with Tiger like any normal parent would, whose 12-year old is about to wreak havoc with a stomping fit in front of a paying audience of the general public.

I pretend she is nothing to do with me, then I scarper and hide in the toilets. After ten minutes I creep out, sidle up to her and try to placate her with promises of after-show nirvanas if only she shuts up for the next one hour fifty minutes (without interval). She can have anything, basically. I stop short only in promising her a horse to keep in the bathroom.

Dig, who has studied proper parenting, takes over, gives her the programme, and whispers that neither of her sisters can have the programme because it is all hers.

That is a much better strategy. Divide, rule, and conquer. Now go and listen to a little bit of Gurrelieder and tell me if you think you'll like it just as much as me, or just as little as Tiger.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Prom 39: Caution, likely to offend

Well, my post called Prom 39. You were there when I last looked, at 6pm, indexed by Google.

But, by 9am next morning, you were GONE. All trace of you DISAPPEARED. A blank space where your wrods should be.

Woah. Sinister and SPOOKY.

Dig says he is not surprised. He says there exist mystical fingers who roam our ethers looking for copy knockers that upset, distress, cause reputational damage, harm, disfigurement, offence, indeed any and all general objection when connected with brands, names and identities. Once found, the magic fingers whisk away, by deniable means, all knocker copy quicker than you can say Jack Robinson. (Due apologies to Jack Robinson.)

I'm inclined to think it's true. The reason my post Prom 39 disappeared last night is because the Virgin Mary has reputational brand management consultants working for her right now. They have pilfered my post.

I should be outraged. But instead, in this intriging story of a disappearing text, maybe whisked away by the wrod police, I feel only a perverse pride. My copy, censored! AT LAST. Kicked out of advertising, failed at teaching, now having the wrods of Prom 39 ripped from me by the Good Forces of Virgin Mary patrolling Planet Internet.

I appeal only to Borges. Prom 39 is out there somewhere, roaming the universe, the wrods wrapping round us in infinite conjugations and reproductions, the whole made significant by absence.

Hey, it's a nice idea.

But in the past I have got away with a few Gods Blimeys, Aunt Fannies and Bottoms. And then I found it. So it's here, put back, below. (But don't say you weren't warned.)

Prom 39

Never mind about the children, I am learning stuff at the proms. Spending hours in the company of classical music scholars is rubbing off on me. You watch. Soon I will be all name dropping Boulez and making references to deep glowing throat and bass eruption.

In ordinary contexts, utterances like this would suggest porn, straight and simple, but not here in the refined world of the Royal Albert Hall.

Here a person can come out with a statement like the Virgin Mary has far too much vibrato in her and no-one titters. (Except me.)

But this is what I love about these music lovers, locked down here in the Arena of the Royal Albert Hall. They are so totally focused on the twitch of Thierry Fischer's wrist muscles, the left vocal chord of Toby Spence, and the exact pitch on the third note coming after the split wind, that they are blind to just about anything else in life.

Yet these same charming and gentle people who transport themselves to spiritual ethers on the floating backs of chords, and who probably emerge from the Albert Hall with extreme hair, blinking bewildered like moles, overwhelmed at the ordinary human world composed of streets and traffic lights, they are given to some of the most vicious and angry verbal attacks known to humanity.

I had to literally shield the ears of Tiger, Squirrel and Shark after one gentleman began to complain about where Fischer had put the brass. To provoke such intensity of outrage, you'd have thought the conductor blew up this poor listener's house, shot his grandmother, drank his claret, and chewed on the bones of his dead cat.

But see, I learn that stuff like this matters.

So here's the other thing I love about these classy music people. Their fantastic game of superior oneupmanship. Their technique is to be both simultaneously excruciatingly polite while delivering visceral put-downs. Their goal is to deliver a put-down so stupendously judgemental that the listener simply cannot better it, but remains only frothing in incoherent anger.

And all over whether the virgin came late after the second entry.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Prom 37

Dig has procured a weekend Arena pass for the Proms.

That is not remarkable. What is noteworthy is that he bought a pass for each of us. I am unsure about his motives. Whether it is a sudden urge to introduce his offspring to the musical preferences of the upper middle classes, a (doomed) attempt to drag his wife from her musical gutters, or because he pressed the wrong number button in the online order page.

The upshot is, we are together, en famille, for the entire weekend. Promming.

I have not complete confidence in this enterprise. I expect at some point it will conclude in a brawl. Somewhere inappropriate, just outside the Radio 3 broadcast van, or in front of the ticket checkers to the Royal Albert Hall. The entire family (Dig excluded, because he discreetly puts himself some yards away), will suddenly become embroiled in an explosive confrontation. We will undignify proceedings like a mindless mob of medieval peasants disgorging from the fields looking for some aggro. The gritlets will turn on each other in a grudge match to settle once and for all the unicorn-in-the-hedge incident of 2004, and I will be like Wat Tyler with a Stalin moustache, attempting to impose order on the peasant army by shouting and elbowing them apart while threatening all manner of repercussions like floggings and hangings and no dinners for 200 years.

Nevertheless, I am a determined Woman of the Shires. I remain undaunted. I say to Dig that it is a thoroughly good idea to take three 12-year olds for an intensive weekend promming. Especially one including gruelling nineteenth century religious works of a choral nature. Yes! It is a good idea! Triplets who have never particularly expressed delight at classical music, who don't sing in choirs, don't play instruments, can't stand up for more than ten minutes without whining, and who still bear that grudge over the unicorn-in-the-hedge (2004), well there is no reason why they cannot suddenly be plunged head first into the world of a live Radio 3 broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall.

But I refuse to be intimidated by any circumstance. I merely show adversity my determined jaw and defiantly pursue my goal of introducing the little grits to every part of the world that is within my power, imagination, and the reach of Dig's wallet.

Tonight then, in a spirit of brave enterprise and with a blind belief in achieving the impossible, I introduce the little grits to Prom 37. Elgar and The Apostles.

Right up front, I will say it wasn't us. The cause of the kerfuffle at the start of that prom. The one involving the person with the electronic beepy noisy thingy. The moment which Radio 3 faithfully recorded, which caused that agonising wait for your live listening pleasure, delayed the entire Hallé orchestra, upset a not inconsiderable number of music aficionados, caused great frothing and hissing from nearby psyched-up Arena standers, and prompted conductor Mark Elder to turn round and fix the culprit with his serious disapproving eyes. Thank God it wasn't us. No, I am not intimidated by most of the world but I might be withered by one stare from the extreme face of Our Lord Elder.

But I have to report that my other fears were unfounded. True. No brawling, no shoving, no growling, no vomiting, no throwing food, no grudge match. The triplets were beautifully behaved. This could have been due to the fact that Squirrel took herself out of the equation, so effectively reducing us to twins (piss easy).

Squirrel, we picked up straight from her horse arse week at the stables en route to the Proms. She was completely exhausted, what with all the glitter experimentation and hoof picking, so she simply lay down on the floor of the Arena in her jodhpurs and fell asleep. Shark was given the programme and asked to think about whether you have to believe in God if you are going to listen to two hours of The Apostles sing We are servants of the Lord, and Tiger was set on the challenge of counting the choir.

All in all, a successful start. Dig let the proceedings down a little by saying he would like to slap Jesus for his moral face, and I never attempted once to provoke the person standing next to me by declaring loudly Yes Tiger, this is the one you can sing along to.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Facing the arguments

Fell out with someone the other day. Pity, because until that point, everything was fine.

There we were, strolling through parkland, enjoying the gentle grass, and observing the calm lake beneath the azure sky, seeing eye-to-eye.

But then it all went wrong. Took about twenty seconds. Within three steps we were performing the verbal equivalent of circling round each other with sharpened bill hooks and deathly snarls.

I'd like to think I am the sort of person who'll fly to attack quickened by arousal, maybe sublimated desire and sexual tension, meeting my match. Then I could imagine the solution could have been ripping each other's clothes off and solving that power crisis right there and then.

Unfortunately, not. I put this failure of sexual exploration down to parenthood and home education. Because the argument was basically about this: where are children in the hierarchy of knowledge? First or second?

In my view, first. I look at my kids, first-hand experience, first-hand knowledge, and I ask, what person are you? What impulses must you follow? If I play a part in bringing you and the world together, what way can it be that is helpful to you, to me, and to us all?

I've been struggling with these questions, I suspect, from the first moment I clapped eyes on these bizarre miniature human forms, with their impossibly formed rubbery skins and gaping toothless mouths, face-echoes for my grandmother and all the people who went before us that I never met, driven by their own life forces of nature, and I wondered, Who on earth are you?

But here was that other viewpoint, which says, here is a child, and this is the world as we order it, and we'll introduce the child to the world we manage, where they are led, but they do not lead.

I think that's the argument. I can't present it fully, because I bared my teeth and went at it with a bill hook. I'd also like to think I left it there, a bloodied, shredded thing in a park by a lake under the azure sky while we both walked swiftly on and never spoke again.

Now I have no conclusions to make. Except that kids and home ed obviously ruined my sex life.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Another route to sporting achievement

Do I take delight in watching this national debate unfold? The one called Sport in School.

Absolutely. I enjoy the unending national soul-searching and the free platform to air our familiar and comforting opinions. The state of schools, fascist PE teachers, pathetic parents, the future of the nation's values, competitive team games, the glory of trying and failing, woolly-headed multiculti teachers, and what's the point of running about a field when you can watch it on TV?

At the heart of this turmoil, as usual, is poor young Tinkertop. Here she is, Fattypuff Tinkertop, gorged on a daily diet of McDonald's burgers by her untrained parent who never breastfed her so what do you expect?

It's the debate we can all pitch into. So I'll endorse what millions already said. What did anyone expect when the streets and playgrounds are cleared of kids thanks to the endless fear of Mr Spooky the Child Snatcher? What was likely to be the result of a calculated greedy policy of selling off sports fields, swimming pools and local rec space to private development? Who's benefiting from fast-food feeding replacing family dinner-times? And DUH. If you chain Tinkertop to a desk for 40 hours a week chanting the 12x table just so she can make the internationally assessed school league tables look good, when does she use the monkey bars at the local rec? (Oh, sorry, rec sold for a spanking new Tesco.)

Local examples abound. Our local historic lido provided three pools and surrounding play space for ball games. The council, desperate for cash and having already failed at Icelandic gambling, sold the land to a developer for The Sports Academy (my heart sinks). They promptly fenced off the land and built a bog-standard rectangular swimming pool which remains inaccessible to the puffy paunches of the general public.

Yes, I sympathise with the hand-wringers of Britain, examining the nation's fat backsides and shaking their heads in despair at Tinkertop, size 22, age 11. I do, honest.

But I also feel a little pinch of mischievous glee, watching you go around on that national fretting carousel, people. Because here is where home ed offers a different point to stop and think.

It does me no good to say it. I'll hand it to someone who'll say, smug home educating bastard, pah, they don't share our concern, they're not one of us, they're excluded from society.

I'll take it. Because the answer for us starts here, from a base as simple as this.

Spending hours outdoors, in play, following a body's imperative and impulse for activity.

Sure, home ed kids can do team games, organised sports, clubs, groups, sports sessions, lessons in everything individual and team, from archery to volleyball. I bet - because we're bringing up ordinary people in this messy world - we can also fix up our kids with ill-matched sports, unwise competition, pointless dance, miserable gymnastics experiences, expensive mistakes, failed activities, and teenage body dismorphia too. But we don't try and impose this mix on everyone nor create a national policy out of it. We don't stick to a formula that doesn't work. We have the space and time to know our kids, watch how each individual child responds to sport, recognise how that approach worked/didn't work, take the experience in our stride, forgive ourselves, and move on to try a different tack to pursue health, competition, activity, and enjoyment.

We can do all this because we have this one big advantage. The freedom to start a day and consciously create a space for a growing child.

These people, your mini citizens, are daily in your playgrounds, gardens, fields, woods, and sports halls. They build spaces for themselves, create imaginative lives, explore limits, fears, boundaries and child wisdoms. They lead each other, build packs, solve problems, fall out, make up. By suppertime they're exhausted and healthy.

Most important, in their free created space, they ran the gauntlet of those humanities you so wanted sport to achieve: self-reliance, respect for competition, team-work, resourcefulness, individual responsibility, and the ability to pick yourself up from a broken tree branch in the climbing game, more resilient, more respectful, and more aware than before.

So my sympathies ended right there. At that tree. The fuss over sport in school will die down, the curriculum will be readjusted to include a measly two hours running about in a week, someone in the staff room will take over the role of the fascist PE teacher, and the end result still won't please parents, teachers, or kids.

And I bet that Tinkertop remains size 22.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Apples with ginger, clove and nutmeg

Regular group tackling the history of cartography through reading, playing, drawing, arting, crafting, tripping, cooking.

Exploring the spice trade through the activity of Bring Me Your Spice. We set the kids off to choose a spice, navigate a sea and land route from source island to England, pay taxes and duties through harbours and borders, then once on home land, cook their chosen spice with English apples to sell it at the marketplace. Price must cover costs en route and return a profit to fund the next voyage. (One portion can be yours for two hundred pounds.)

A bunch of home educated kids, Ellen McHenry and Giles Milton. We all make a great team.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Why Scuba diving isn't in the Olympics

As Shark says, What did you expect to see? It ends when we walk into the lake.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Being helpful

We home educating types are very community minded, are we not?

Here we are, being very helpful to our community of local geologists.

Tiger and Squirrel have helped make all manner of presentation items for their display; none of which the geologists probably wanted, and most of which they will possibly greet with a shriek when they receive. But, as I brightly say, eager little grits helping you out is better than a slap in the face with a wet fish anyday. 

Now, as I continue to negotiate delivery of earth (including one split asunder) plus feely volcano, sea scene, soil tunnels, mineral boxes, and Cook Your Rocks recipes with rice pops standing in for oolitic limestone, would any other community like help from the little Grits before we turn our energies and enthusiasms to another horse arse week? Don't hesitate to get in touch.

All for the love of rocks. (And learning.)