Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Set on a course to never give up

True. The event last night did not quite go as fantasised. My ecstasy in a wood.

To explain, you non-followers of such things, it is prime nightingale tweet-tweet time here in eastern England, and I am driven by this powerful fantasy of catching this sodding bird in a full-throated sing song after dark.

The pure sound of this bird will be intense and magical, as promised.

Of course it isn't. It leaves me traumatised in the middle of nowhere at the isolated and rural Bradfield Woods close to midnight, with a terrified Squirrel hanging off my arm because we have set off the security lighting at the remote Visitor's Centre and the dogs are barking. Possibly distant, but maybe getting closer with each insistent woof.

The owl doesn't help. It is one of those sounds that is, basically, a woman screaming. Maybe she is a real live banshee, and she screeches I'm coming to get you over the tree tops, which incidentally are rustling with menace and threat. Or that is what it all now seems, and so far the evening's intense and beautiful pleasure hasn't been assisted by the fact there is a lonely parked Volvo in the car park, and it isn't ours.

Obviously, thanks to Shark's whispered suggestion as we are blindly stumbling along a track in the pitch black with one torch between us, the other car belongs to the murderer. They routinely prowl these lonely Suffolkscapes after midnight, strewing the dismembering limbs of victims in sacrifice under the coppicing. I do not suggest that aloud, but Squirrel hears it anyway.

It all fails, of course it does, because the nightingales are not that stupid they can't hear us coming from ten miles away, but I shall be back next year with another attempt, never fear about that.

However, not all is lost. I take the children in daylight to the lovely gravel pits at Lackford Lakes, where I can spend a few hours, before returning to normal life, staring at this bush.

The other twitchers are most helpful. Although don't think of me as a twitcher, not at all. I will only say that one day I shall suspend this blog, come and live in Suffolk all summer, and bring binoculars, which I shall claim I only hold to spy on the neighbours.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Call it ointment on the soul

We have been too busy. So this, I have to do. Grimes Graves, Norfolk. One of my most treasured places. Like heaven on earth!

Yes, it is an odd reaction, considering local folklore tells this is where the devil dances.


I make for one of the abandoned pits, lay down over the sheep shit, stare up at the sky, and listen to the skylarks. I watch them rise, soar, and fall, performance artists of the air, like they're bursting with helium before they plummet as rocks, and making me wish that I had feathers and might, for once, join in.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

In fashion at the British Museum

Take Shark, Tiger and Squirrel to the British Museum for a fashion photography shoot.

No, really! We are so out of place, we look like the aliens we are, zoomed in from Planet Z-342.

Fortunately, this workshop event takes place in a basement, so the ordinary museum-visiting earthlings are spared the sight of Grit (hair everywhere, messy) offloading the kids (hair everywhere, messy).

Here they are, in the museum bowels, in the 'digital educational discovery space' taken over by Samsung.

I have reasons. I booked the gritlings on this afternoon fashion workshop because a) it was free, b) I could offload the kids while I enjoy a couple of childless hours in the Members' Room, c) I like to shove the gritlings to places outside their comfort zone at every opportunity, and d) more in aspiration than a reflection of reality, maybe it will one day encourage the gritlings to attend to the hair and the mess. I have never been able to do much about it, maybe the children offer better hope.

This workshop seemed to fit the bill, 'using ancient cultures as your inspiration for planning, styling and shooting a fashion story using professional cameras and a range of costumes.'

I leave them to thrash around in a costume box with someone else's expensive camera while I enjoy the delights of the Members' Room.

I am a big fan of the 'Friend' system in museums, theatres and the like, simply because I can swank it over the ordinary non-friendly public. Especially at the British Museum! Walking to the head of the queue for the Pompeii exhibition waving my magic entrance card is exhilarating when I am followed by the expressions of undisguised loathing from the hundred people shuffling in a miserable slow-moving line outside the gift shop. What could be a better benefit of Friend membership than this?

But I think the advertising blurb for 'magnificent' and 'breathtaking' views from the Members' Room is pushing it A LOT. The only view seems to be stare directly down over the courtyard cafe and watch people eat lunch. (Admittedly their lunch comes without the 10% member's discount, so maybe that is the magnificent bit.)

When I picked up the gritlings again, I hear they had dressed up Shark in Ancient Roman drapery, to mixed effect, and that the workshop was declared alright to quite fun.

For me, this was no bad day, thanks to the imagination of the British Museum for offering teenage  workshops released from tedious National Curriculum targets, and thanks for the magic card system, gaining me a couple of hours off to read a book. Recommended.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Too busy

I am overwhelmed with tickery-tockery. Really, I should have been an automatic calendar, running by computer, then it wouldn't have mattered.

Because today I co-ordinate our comings and goings with three different families from 9am to 9pm, bringing my three kids to three different points with six other children via astronomy clubs, play dates, and swimming sessions. Between times I reschedule the walk-and-talk, rearrange the theatre booking, organise the London date, navigate the telephone and shop, then meantime clear up, cook dinner, empty bins, and set the laundry churning.

Some nights, when the days are like this, too busy to think or to rest, I lay my head on the pillow and try to remember whether I really did beome a software program running on a blind routine of motion. Then I feel fear how it all passes and I never knew that I was alive. I try to remember, as the hours clicked by that day, whether I hurt or felt happy or knew the wind on my face.

I must have been alive. I remember, through the clock ticking and the anxiety running too high, catching Squirrel's horrified widening eyes on finding the only swimming costume in the shop sized for her, and  laughing at her expression from my bellywards up.

I remember eye-spying in passing the last half-muffin from breakfast, cold but buttered, abandoned on the kitchen table, and no-one around to ask, Does anyone want this? Delight.

And I found, put here by a daughter hand, the moments taken from a day to follow impulse and curiosity, a ring of petals and leaves tatty and crushed, maybe drawn from a pocket or held in a clammy fist, where an eye, not mine, absorbed and intent, set the colour and shape swirling round, laying it all out, out of time.

Friday, 26 April 2013

(But I will still need morning coffee)

People who have no children have a deep misunderstanding of what it is all about.

In their child imaginations, they make-believe how children will simply be there, maybe like surprising and dainty travellers they will lead through a journey, nicely skipping through summer, the supportive adult distributing fond knowing smiles, yet still busy about their day's purpose, considering perhaps a nice stroll, hand-in-hand, to a favourite cafe where mama will order Frappuccino Latte, Hot Chocolate and biscuits.

Well I was soon disabused of that idea. Thanks to the gritlets general and particular growing up, which has involved wrapping themselves round lamposts while screeching, knocking each other's teeth out, and coming down with three doses of chicken pox on Christmas day.

I have had to find ways to enjoy it all, one way or another, for the option has been a rope in the woods. But surprisingly, against my finer instincts which frequently tell me to run in the opposite direction and as far away from children as I can get, I find myself now bouncing along in their tow, enjoying the nonsense they get up to and the endless trouble they cause.

Like today. Fizzy comes round to join in the monthly wood thrashing and then, when she is properly brought into the ways of living in the wilderness, takes herself and the gritlets down the bottom of the garden to make a fire in the old barbeque tin, where they make soggy doughy bread, and discuss how they can all live in the garden over the summer, living on a diet of nettles and dandelion roots while their beds are composed of woven grass spread under the damson tree.

I listen to this while I stand there with a bucket of water in anticipation of the fire eventually igniting and burning us all to cinders, and I start to think it is a lovely Fizzyish idea, being able to live with the dark and light of the hours, watching the late-night birds settle and rise again, seeing the dusk fold into night. I could do all that, eating hawthorn and nettle for tea, filling my pockets with ripe damsons, then bedding myself down on springing grass to wake with the dawn.

For a moment it all makes sense. This is what children are for. They make the impossible, possible.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Workshops for teenagers?

It seems to me that la famille Grit is now conducting a survey of KS3 workshops around the shires.

See? I even have all the lingo, what with those National Curriculum Key Stages 1,2,3.

I wouldn't have known what you meant a few years ago. But, you home educating parents, there is a disjunction from larking about in the fields with children aged under 11 and these secondary years. Not a culture change entirely of our own making. I observe two trends.

First, the seeping back to school of home ed kids about age 11. Several friends of the griblets went to school, some for the first time. They'd spent a fantastic time replacing the tedious school grind with a truly expansive, outdoors, inquisitive education put into place by outgoing parents, but filtered into the school-based service for the secondary exam years. Coming into our world are those children who may have coped with primary school, but for whom secondary is a harmful nightmare. So we are now moving in a slightly different composition of people.

Second, as we all look around for educational support, we're finding a decline in number and variety of workshops and activities we can pick up from museums, parks, councils, and libraries suitable for the home educated post-11-year old child.

At primary the home ed parent can't go wrong. You can keep Tinkertop busy with dozens of activities from pizza making to storytimes to archaeological games and den building. You don't need to travel about the country looking for those; you can find them in your locality. You don't need to buy the services of the educational supplies company, you can organise a group and pick up a phone. But there's only so much pond dipping you can do, right? The growth of your kids and the targeting of services means that by age 12 you're scouting for something different.

So with kids aged 13 we're looking for new stuff. But I'm finding museum and institution activities no longer offered for the interests of teenagers; they are now activities morphed into the formal, national 'KS3 workshop'.

The organisations offering these workshops are sure to make website promises that are drawn straight from the National Curriculum, and offer targets printed off from a government website. Which means they're already a step away from the concerns of teenagers. They're speaking to us not through their own voices and interests; they're addressing us though a nationally school-mediated voice rather than a local people-oriented voice. Nevertheless, we stick with it, book a session, and then find these workshops are truly of variable quality.

There is no guarantee of academic content at a 'KS3 workshop'. Parents of schooled children, you should know this too. When you fork out a tenner for the annual KS3 trip touted by the school as a 'valuable learning opportunity', know that it could all descend into 'D'you wanna touch a dead badger?' with your child enthused only to the purchase of a rubber egg in the gift shop.

So now the KS3 workshop is disappointing on both counts. First, in failing to be heard by the interests of teenagers and second, in failing to provide even what they offered for the content.

Old Grit observes an issue here for those educators working in all our dear museums, libraries and the rest.

First,  if you want to keep them involved in your disciplines, you need to consider whether you are creating workshops and activities that fit with the interests of teenagers. Please don't assume they all grunt and play computer games.

Second, you need to examine whether you really want to provide National Curriculum services for the government, or whether you want to do the thing you're interested in, have the resources to do, and the staff to help create it.

Third, you need to think it through, where you want these teenagers to go with you, when you run a session. What do you want to happen as a result of your activity? What do you want them to do and say about your outfit?

Finally, you need to make sure, absolutely sure, without exception, that you front your workshop with real, live, blood-fired people who care about, and are sensitive towards the nuances of both their audience and the discipline they're promoting. They won't necessarily come with a PGCE. In fact, that might be a hindrance.

These thoughts are all prompted because today we hit another teenage workshop at the Centre of the Cell, in Whitechapel. It promises KS3 science of the National Curriculum.

The workshop session is, basically, play a load of computer games in a pod suspended above a laboratory. It hit the presentation, commendably showing aspiration and imagination, but despite the science/medical students hanging about, still relied on computer games rather than the excitement of actual human interaction to prompt thought and provoke discussion. For us, it failed to send our teenagers buzzing home, enthused by debate, fired up with ideas, and imaginatively placed at a different point from where they'd started.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mapping the World with Art

Our regular mapping workshop, now flying us to Japan. We learn about the VOC, the place of Dutch traders, and the artificial island built in the seventeenth century.

But we're worried. We can see the end of our Ellen McHenry inspired co-op, Mapping the World. Only a few sessions to go? What on earth will we do? It has been a fixture of our fortnights for at least a decade.

Home educators, Mapping the World is totally recommended. Easy to do, filled with routes to take, ideas to play with, wander off with history, geography, cartography, cooking, craft. Here, have a trial, then bring a group of kids together in your kitchen, plan the activities, run the co-op, enjoy the experience and share out the biscuits.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Dogma and Tradition: An England for the future!

I see Minister Gove, our renowned educationalist, has pronounced again.

Remember he toured China a couple of years ago? How he was starstruck? Especially how those hard-working Chinese come toppety-top in international measuring sticks for maths, science, more maths, and more science.

The might of Chinese education! How seductive it is. How powerful the man who brings it about! But to achieve it, Minister Gove must first Reeducate the People of England and Wales using the Chinese Characteristics witnessed at first hand.

Then what can we expect? We stubby-fingered, stumpy legged Anglo Saxon types? Clinging doggedly to our romantic Swallows and Amazons myths of agrarian childhoods while we look no further than the pig's mud we are grubbing for hedgehogs to roast.

1. Tinkertop, never too young.
Parents, in the Reeducation of the People With Chinese Characteristics, this will become your first Govian duty!

Brush up Tinkertop's interviewing technique. Even though she's aged two. If she is to succeed in our glorious national enterprise, Tinkertop must offer herself up to scrutiny, identify her failings, and make self-criticism as necessary. Then she may learn properly how to lay out the train set according to true Govian principles.

Welcome to Gove's model of early Asian education. Nurseries in Hong Kong run interviews. This is serious busine$$. The nursery Tinkertop attends can affect her final university place, so she must provide the correct interview answers! (It's bread.)

Not only good for Tinkertop, but good for business! Price competitive pre-school education sessions, crammer courses, and intensive toddler coaching!

You think I'm joking, no?

2. The 12-hour school day.
Tinkertop can never relax now she won that nursery place! She must maintain the intellectual pace of the intellectual elite. A twelve-hour day for school kids, including after-school-school, weekend camps, plus a punishing amount of homework.

3. No play. 
In the Govian future, of course it will not be possible to send your ten-year old out to play.

Let's adopt the Chinese approach to playground provision. Playgrounds for anyone over the age of five? Forget it. Remember, hedgehog grubbers, kid playing is A WASTE OF TIME. Outdoor activities prevent desk study. Sitting on a wobbly duck will not help you memorise Govian-certified facts. The energy expended by legs is proved to drain the brain. Climbing a monkey bar will never improve a maths score.

Parents, the school will expect you to do your duty. Schedule, schedule, schedule. All the way to graduation.

4. Continuous testing. 
Monitoring, testing, surveillance. All here to benefit Tinkertop and her ilk who would backslide into hedgehog roasting the moment the pressure is off. International scores must be maintained and their acceptance reinforced.

(And if Tinkertop stubbornly refuses to perform well in her exams, this is probably due to her moral failure, her spineless parents, and her gutless agrarian-noddled teachers.)

5. Teacher beware.
Under the Gove regime, Tinkertop must achieve A grades. Otherwise your pay will dip. Under Minister Gove, all teachers will compete and be paid by results where the results are grades. You will be made to comply via classroom inspections; at every opportunity these will weed out any who maintain wrong thinking - that schools are performing some sort of fluffy community goal.

In the Reeducated future, name-and-shame techniques will be used to identify bad teachers who fail to deliver the prescribed curriculum. Then let Chairman Gove come to save us!

6. Keep Tinkertop's brain busy.

Now Tinkertop reaches secondary level. Preferably in a crowd, where expressions of individuality invite social humiliation, where rote learning and chanting are good, where demonstrations of independent thinking are bad.

Keep Tinkertop occupied with mindless repetitive tasks; this is the perfect training for work.

(What do you mean, sounds like preparation for a life spent making steel in a backyard furnace? It's keeping people employed without the use of any critical faculties at all!)

7. Create an elite. 

Power cares not about left or right, capitalism or communism. Power is. Chairman Mao cared not about 'levelling the playing field'. Gove can learn from this. Talk equality but via the educational system put into place an elite; where family dynasties reign supreme, and where business covertly stitches up deals with government in areas of common interest.

8. Bring in the enforcers.
Obviously the Annoying People won't give in quietly to the programme of Govian Reeducation. Better steamroller the lot of them, throwing up smokescreens of politics and criticising them all as anti-patriotic fifth columnists. Meanwhile, effect all changes quick and dirty; avoid challenging statute law; use pressure on reluctants via the special advisers. (Trans for the awkward squads: Gove is coming to get you.)

9. Effect a culture change. 

Unfortunately, England does not share the knee-jerk cultural reaction when you mention the gaokao. In China, the gaokao exam is everything. It is access to your future life. Everything stops for the gaokao. Planes are re-routed, traffic ceases, neighbourhoods are monitored for noise. Shame that the wild and wilful Anglo Saxon hoards with their annoying finger-jabby anti-authoritarian leanings are not so deferential. But they can be persuaded, no? We can start with single exam boards; they will be far easier to manipulate directly from government.

10. Create a national fantasy. 
Under the influence of Mao, whole villages strived to out-do each other with evidence of high crop yields, the marvellous record on steel production, the wonders of increased productivity! Chairman Gove needs to similarly encourage the information-propaganda machine: tell us how his changes have reaped wonderful rewards. Expect tales of international success and excellence. A new utopia is at hand. Out with the olds. In with Chairman Gove!

Soon, Chairman Gove will have his name by every white board in the land. The photograph will follow. See then! The Reeducation of the People With Chinese Characteristics is complete! Our Great Leader Chairman Gove!

We love Chairman Gove! We love Chairman Gove!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Femme fatale

Thank goodness the gritlets are doing things with sticks! I don't ask. The deal is, on some days I leave them alone, and in return, they leave me alone.

I suppose the stick-launching and deer-spearing is inspired by that wolf-botherer, Michelle Paver. Oh well, we all have our thing. My labours, in the notebookery room, inspired by an Edwardian brothel.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A grand day out

I introduce Shark, Tiger and Squirrel to posh, attending a performance at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.

The evening already followed on from a cultured day out at the British Museum with Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Here I photographed the back of Squirrel's head to prove an (upper crust) education is indeed being provided. (As you can see, she last combed her hair in February.)

But I was not told off by the museum guard, not at all, even though photography in the British Museum exhibitions is strictly not allowed. I like to think I avoid any challenge to my actions thanks to my natural command of the situation. A striding-about confident manner and a sense of righteous entitlement that I obviously share with all English posh.

Also I have found the technique useful, of sidling up to anyone in even a minor position of authority and attempting to divert attention from my inevitable transgressions by wheedling and whining, and using my extensive repertoire of grovelling and ingratiating. (And if all fails, I can kick off Tiger so she can create a diversion and I can get away with it.)

My posh also did not glide quite so effortlessly at the Royal Opera House, it is true. I had a fight with the ticket man. He started it. But I am gracious enough not to punch him on the nose. That is another feature of English posh, which I include for the benefit of the American reader in Minnesota. We do not like to put anyone in an awkward situation. Like flat out on the floor, even though they deserve it.

Afterwards myself and my young charges sat outside hunched over a Tesco value meal (cold and reduced) not at all looking like hobos in hoodies, nor fending off an aggressive pigeon, nor commenting in loud voices about how pointless are ballerinas and how they have no bosoms.

Also, I should confess, the performance at the ROH was not Die Zauberflöte so I am maybe stretching the posh. It was Marcus du Sautoy, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, taking over the underground theatre, running through a set of number-related stories to explain how Mozart was a freemason and hid stuff in his flute. Which opera, incidentally, we are not seeing because I cannot afford to chuck 200 quid on a seat and by the time I got to the website, all the cheap seats without a view were sold.

Anyway, it is something to do with polyhedrons.

Nonetheless, bar for the fight and the small amount of hissing, I conclude that we are probably quite posh today, enjoying the sort of upper-class education usually reserved for young ladies of gentry folk. Oh, except for the tomato dribble down the left bosom, and the squint. Don't count those, either.

Friday, 19 April 2013

It always begins in order

 Look! Chemistry made simple with edible molecules!

In reality, it is a Chemistry session disguising mayhem, complete loss of control, and utter ignorance on behalf of the workshop leader.

Today's session decends into let's set it on fire! and goes downhill from there.

 (For pity's sake avert your gaze from the state of the hob.)

Fortunately, we have some copper.
It doesn't work and it doesn't burn green.
Shark has some tricks up her sleeve and tries washing up liquid instead.

Now each time I offer this session I become more panic-stricken than the last. As the kids depart, shouting, That was the best ever! I am left to chew my nails, wondering what on earth I can do next that can possibly top the last.

Acid baths? Combustion? Magnets on the old telebox? I am open to suggestions.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

We're supposed to be here for art, dammit

I am in love with Pothole Dog. Here she is.

Isn't she lovely? I think we share many similarities in disposition. Like enthusiasm for the outdoors, and falling into ditches in an undignified manner.

However, there are significant differences. When she falls down a hole, she comes up with several thousand pounds of vet bills. When I resurface, I have to provide my own elastoplast.

I note there are other significant differences, too. Like the way Pothole Dog comes with a pedigree and I come from a family where we don't ask too many questions.

Also, she totally ignores me. For this, I have a secret admiration. Look, I am all up close and personal and she's not paying me any attention at all! The only way I'm going to get her attention is if I smell like a dead pheasant. But it simply makes me all the more determined to fondle her luxurious chocolately ears.

Don't you dare call them liver in my hearing unless you want a punch on the nose. It is chocolate, all the way through.

But I see, I am not the only one she has won over.

I love Pothole Dog even more now, considering the long and difficult journey I have trod.

Anyway, forget about that. The educational reason why we are here is to collect Goldsworthy resources to compose into swirling pictures that walk the line between nature and art.

(A bit like Pothole Dog's lovely, lovely ears. xx)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Culture clash

We had visitors recently; children who normally go to school. They came to enjoy a session of chaos with the Gritlets. All went well, until the Gritlets started to debate whether, for that afternoon's social meet in the park, everyone should take knives

In Gritlet-code, the word knives conveys the thoughts, Maybe we're going somewhere with hazel, elder, willow or holly! I can make bows and arrows; you can make that stick we use to aim spears; we can carve patterns and Squirrel can make beads!

In school-child code, the word knives means something quite opposite. Possibly their time with the Gritlets hadn't gone as well as they imagined. Maybe - judging by the jaws of our visitors falling somewhere about the floor while their eyes goggled in terrible silent panic - knives mean, I'm going to slit you from ear to ear, puncture your belly and leave you bleeding like a stuck pig with your head on a pole.

I was a little sad when the Gritlets couldn't find their knives quick enough to take them to the park. That would have been a fine education for our schooled visitors, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Educate against the answer

Don't know whether to be delighted by the showing on these snatched photos or not. A group of kids sitting down, putting up their hands, requesting speaking permission from a teacher.

It looks like everything's in place here for a conventional school interaction (bar the uniform): the seated obedient pupils, paying respectful attention to the custodian and arbiter of all knowledge, i.e. the single voice of authority conferred by the teacher. The seated children show the discipline within the group, and of the self; they pay respect to turn-taking, and are compliant to the rules.

I bet it all equates in the mind of the conventional that these children must be learning! (But maybe not quite as much as the normal school child, because this lot doesn't wear uniform).

Well I can't deny any of it, since my three come out from the KS3 session at the National Archives in Kew saying they have indeed learned stuff.

But then I know we're doing alright - no, we're doing better than alright - because Shark says the point of the workshop? It was too simplistic. Like the starting question, basically, Was the British Empire a good thing? To which the answer arrives, two hours later, key stage target ticked, rabbit out of hat, Yes, good for Britain, not for everyone else.

Shark confides afterwards, I didn't agree with the answer. Because I think it's all a bit more complicated than that.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Fun, fearless and free. And it's only Monday

Seriously, people. You don't need - unless there's a special and specific reason - to fork out your hard-earned cash for tutors supplied by your local Educational Services Supply Company on anything you can do yourself, supported by a group of like minds. Gather together your own skills, wit, wisdom, and intelligence to the matter. Save your cash for when it gets exam-based.

Today, it's Mapping workshop, with no tutor, because we can sort this one out ourselves, thanks to Ellen McHenry, Neil MacGregor, a stack of books, some open-minded mamas, a bunch of curious kid brains, some biscuits and a fistful of plasticine.

Mapping Mondays have become to us like hand in glove; thoughts and talks and hours passing easily. Best of all, Mapping Mondays roll on from our former years effortlessly, building on that time-honoured approach we used long ago - thematic, child-led, research-inspired fun for kids, all day long - pick a country, any country, and explore everything you can about it, places, paintings, and people. Eat it, listen to it, dance it, fashion the animal life and make a stop-go film with it.

These days, with our kids skirting the teen years, our inquiries become more advanced - religious influences, political discussions, Can you draw a relationship between the words conquest and civilization? - encouraging kids to think out their own opinions, angles, and lines of inquiry, then bring them together to challenge the ideas of others.

We have these free-flowing segueing Mapping Mondays and I can say - having had my own classroom lessons scrutinised, watched the lessons of others, sat round tables discussing best practice, picked over learning and teaching approaches - I can see, these kids are growing hugely wise about the world; home ed is a world ahead for education. And Mapping Mondays, still fine without the tutor.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

There's a book inside everyone

Finally broke the news to the gritlets. I have been keeping it hidden for some time; pretending. But it exploded out of me under repeated questioning.

No! You are not getting your reading room back!

The news was hard to break and hard to take. Finger pointings, head clutchings, fist-on-table hammerings followed a moment of terrible silence.

But it is true. The bedroom-turned-reading-room is not coming back. Not at least, in the immediate future. It is turned-mama's-workshop for her notebookery project. And, Tiger, it is the same as you need. A room of my own. Mine, mine, mine. Stop me doing what I do in there and terrible things will happen. What I am feeling right now is the same as you, Squirrel, when you grasp that lump of clay in your hands with your vision in your head and your impulse in your heart and Shark unwisely suggests you make a fish out of it.

Enough said. I am locking myself in here all day and not coming out. Now get your own lunch.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Car bound

Tear home from Liverpool (not exceeding the speed limit, obviously).

I totally deny that the return journey - without stopping off to see Antony Gormley's Another Place as planned - has anything to do with my sudden, dawning fear, the Grit Mobile has no tax and what about the MOT?

Then let this cursed blog be useful for something, like a memo to my future self: 
Grit, when you wake up and shout Oh my god I am illegal! (about this same time next year 2014), your MOT was done 13th April.
You should have got it sorted, you twerp. Now you have a lot of panicky phone calls to make, don't you?

As for Antony Gormley, well, I have come to terms with loss, over the years. It is what makes me; it is a part of my being. I have thus devised cunning ways of lying to myself, bringing loss to promise, turning opportunity from emptiness. Like, my fortune cookie which reads thus: When you leave, you should always create something incomplete. Then you can aspire to return, when there may be time and space to shape something you never could before.

Maybe see you later,  Another Place.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Liverpool Museum, er, in Liverpool

I have a slight problem about this.

Because here we are again. Going to enjoy another fine Liverpool museum and they're about to kick us out.

(The annoying head-in-the-way belongs to Squirrel)

But how can they do this to us? They taunt us with their collections, all dolled up, invite us over with an eye for the off-beat, unusual, delightfully curious, interesting, oh I could go on forever, and then they say Shove off. It's 5 o'clock and we're closing.

I tried to hide in the toilets.

Frankly, I was not surprised when I heard someone tried to throw themselves off this building the other night. They were probably clinging to the balcony shouting Make me leave, you bastards. MAKE ME.

Look, I know we are a bit odd about this - and when we were forced to leave, the man at the desk said in a voice hollow with shock Six hours? Isn't that long enough? - but you can put our oddity down to the fact that we are home educating types; we use museums as a constant source of information and we find a Saxon Liverpudlian head with unusual teeth extremely interesting.

 (Saxon Liverpudlian head. You cannot see the teeth in this photo)

We can't help it. Did you know Beryl Bainbridge wasn't only a writer but a fine painter? No, neither did I.

 (Beryl Bainbridge, painter)

And they have bits of old pot! I could spend at least an hour looking at those.

(Bits of old pot)

So it is with some regret, and a small amount of confrontation, that we have to leave the Museum of Liverpool. Yet again. I did not threaten anyone with the toilet roll holder, ignore that. But I did state the obvious. Stop throwing us out, and organise yourselves a later closing time. Then you can do the decent thing by a home educating woman transfixed by your original Saxon head with unusual teeth.