Saturday, 31 August 2013

Friday, 30 August 2013

Macbeth, Shakespeare's Globe

I had to take the gritlets to witness Macbeth, of course I did.

Not in the cause of a GCSE, no. Neither do I tell Shark, Tiger or Squirrel how highly probable it is that one day Macbeth will fetch up in an exam room at 9.30am, bloodied and defeated.

In fact I keep my children utterly safe from the horrible knowledge that many consider a proper end result to this play is the exam essay rather than the live performance.

With a route as cruel as the Eng Lit exam, I can only sympathise with Macbeth. If you have ever taught this play in a classroom, then you may have heard Macbeth's screams as he is dissected for 5G, where his torn gut is slowly, deliberately, parted from bone and his mind crayoned over in search of alliteration. If that were all. His urgent poetry is tortured in the mouth of Kevin the Indifferent, and his reign stretches precisely to the Thursday end-of-term, relieved only by the expectation of a mock and a DVD. On and on and on, relentless it goes, until he wishes he were dead instead of Banquo.

These days I have the wonderful freedom to approach Macbeth in an entirely different spirit. I sagely warn my teenagers to treasure these vital hours in a life where we have to come to terms with ourselves. Regard the motive of ambition; follow the consequences of power; watch out for strange beings who put newts in cauldrons. But know it, enjoy it all, the thrills, the spills, and the struggles.

Dangerous standing: centre stage front, eye-level to the blood, sweat, and tears.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Day trip to Bognor Regis

That human need for spontaneity, it's got to come out somewhere.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Once again with Hunger Games

Just about a perfect day as you get.

Bunch of home ed kids get together to kill each other; wood & dog walkers bemused; I enjoy wood.

(For those interested in running the same, the rules we play by, below).

Games last 2 hours.
You need two bases for play: water and food. You must sign in for water every 20 minutes and food every 30 minutes. A parent is at each base to record your arrival. If you fail to sign in within the time, you are out of the game. There is no need to tag in for food or water in the last 15 minutes.

Each tribute (player) wears three ribbons. One ribbon on each shoulder, one ribbon on the chest. In combat you try and get each other's ribbons.
If you lose one of your shoulder ribbons you are injured.  If you lose both your shoulder ribbons you are out of the games. If you lose your chest ribbon, your wound is fatal, and you are out of the games.
If a tribute gets you out, you can't then grab for their ribbons. We rely on you being honest about this.
If you are wounded (have one shoulder ribbon remaining) you can receive medicine from a Medical Base. (You can go to the medical base when you have lost an arm ribbon, but should only take one ribbon.  You can't 'stock-up' on spares!)
If you go to the Medical Base, your new ribbon counts after you have attached it to yourself.  If another tribute grabs your one remaining shoulder ribbon while you have your new one in your hand you are out.
Players who are out, return to the parent at the picnic site.

The first player to successfully tag the Base Tree after the two hours has elapsed.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

All in the name of art. Honest.

It's a natural development, isn't it? A range of notebooks with antiqued leather, crafted in Victorian style for a niche market of Memento Mori enthusiasts

It fits in with my thinking, anyway. As I see it, there are wide-open markets and there are special-interest markets. If you want to join the throngs with your mass-produced travel notebook, then get thee to Paperchase. But if you want a special-interest hand-made notebook with animal bones dangling from the front, then come to Grit.

The only problem is, I haven't got any animal bones. Tiddles next door has some, but he's using them and may be reluctant to let me have a leg or two. I can't ask the butcher. I'm sure he still suspects me of doing in his window in 1983. But it couldn't have been me because I was never active in ALF. Even if he did oblige, he'd only offer me a great chunk of cow which wouldn't fit on the cover.

Anyway, I know where I can get animal bones. They'll be proper decayed, salt-sea licked, withered and wretched, everything perfect. 

The Thames has loads of them. 

I make the children come with me to collect a bag. I can't say they thought it was the most exciting educational experience they've had all summer - being forced to hand-pick eroded goat carcass from the banks of a river that once ran as an open sewer - but as I told them, it pays to be open minded in this world. Treat the experience as a lesson in London history. Now get picking.

And you can expect those objects of delight to appear on the Knicker Drawer blog just in time for Christmas.

Life along the Thames - not just a load of old bones

Monday, 26 August 2013

Photoblog snail amuse

Thanks to the summer news holiday, important research comes to light about the night-time fun that snails enjoy. They load up on LEDs and set off on their grand tours, which you can watch here.

Needs a notebook, methinks, for followers of the humble snail.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Three Plays at the Globe

One of the bestest, ever, really, bestest enjoyments of choosing to teach your own, is that you can choose your own curriculum.

Instance: the trilogy of Henry VI at Shakespeare's Globe.

Fantastic, all 1,2,3.

But I can choose, right? I decided that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger needed to think about the agendas - petty, personal, political and powerful - that swill about at a time of war. I thought, if they are going to be active, thinking citizens and (hopefully) a damn nuisance to someone when the politics of their time inevitably turn to war mongering, then this type of stuff should be high up on their toolkit of essential knowledge.

Or I'm told I could send them to school. I guess so they don't miss out on the essential knowledge their peers are now learning... hmm, what is it essential for the average school child to know? Ahem. The flavours that condoms can come in.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

This should be my edukashun record

All this knicker drawing won't inform the woman at the local council should she come a-calling,will it? I must remember, this is the intention of the blog. To keep a record of the education offered to the gritlings Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. Even if it isn't taken up.

Well, be ye not afeared, Woman at Desk in Local Council. Grit provides this blog as the source of all her home education information.

Here we go. Deep breath.

We offer maths (waving a GCSE text book about); English (reading loads and loads and loads, watching films, and suffering mama with a childishly silly voice while she pretends to be Mr Wopsle); Latin (scary teacher once a fortnight); chemistry (cooking); biology (trying to grow Cedric the caterpillar in a jar. I think Cedric is dead. Squirrel says he moves when we are not looking); art (drawing pictures of horses and stuff); history (visiting places and listening to Radio 4 history of science programme while mama shouts Did you hear that? Did you? I'm putting it on the iplayer); physics (rolling marbles about the floor and twanging rubber bands); PSHE (living); geography (mucking about in the local river); music (mama turns up the volume for Mark Radcliffe's folk show, Wednesday at 7pm on Radio 3); sport (Shark - subaqua but cannot do it while has hole in knee; Squirrel - horse; Tiger - alternate horse); religious studies (listening to mama arguing with Radio 4 TFTD and telling Anne Atkins to shove her face up her arse); and loads of other stuff not even on the tick sheet you use! Like we do Law, Politics, More Cooking and Banging Nails into Wood.

There. I think I did my duty by Woman at Desk. That should provide enough summary information, maybe until about next June.

Guidelines for Local Authorities here.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Long may we footle

Normally, I am happy to live and let live. No, really! I even taught in a school and everything! So it's an option, right? And I was within a whisper of choosing that option myself for Shark, Tiger and Squirrel, because it seemed like the easy way out.

Until I had to prise a toddler out a toilet. It was then I realised that school was the hardest option. May as well lie in bed tomorrow morning and call it education by another name.

But recently, I became a bit cross about the school option. I feel more reluctant to shrug my shoulders and say, It's an option, right? Because don't the stories I'm hearing get worse and worse?

No longer is it good enough for primary schools to eliminate art, craft, dance, drama, music and anything which sniffs of a personal expression, they must eliminate all possibility for creative thinking as well.

So the one afternoon per month that Tinkertop got to choose a project to do? Eliminated. Because we must do more spelling. Spelling has an answer and two hours on a Friday afternoon of an open-ended project on dinosaurs has no right answer and we cannot grade you.

What are you people doing sending your kids to these institutions? It is feckin obvious that under government instruction they are bent on controlling your child's mind, determined to destroy any creative footling-about time and simply narrow down the options Tinkertop has when she reaches for that piece of paper.

It is deeply ironic when I also hear stories from Asia; the ones where industry buys in creativity from the West because oops! The state-controlled education system created armies of drones with barely a creative idea to share amongst them.

So what does the West do? Set on a course to destroy what originality we have and create a copy-culture of the 50-kids in a classroom type you can find in China.

It's obvious to me what I have to do for my own. Model footling-about time, follow fancies, indulge in passing creative thoughts, encourage whimsical what-iffery, and say to Squirrel You're spending the day sewing leaves together? Sure, go ahead. We have nothing else planned.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Day off

Enjoy a hive-free day! Yay! I have a face! With eyelids! Godknows how that was achieved. Probably I hit some magic combination of antihistamine, fish oil supplement and probiotic yak pee. I have tried a few esoteric solutions now. The usual ones like coconut oil, olive oil, goat milk, baby lotion, soda potion, pee and honey? I tried them all already.

Whatever, enjoy the day. No doubt the magic balance I achieved for such calm facial harmony will be gone tomorrow, when I will once again officially carry my public certification as one of society's more ugly members.

The thing is, I find that many remedies work. For about an hour, until the hives flood back again. So I can say, in all level-headed consideration of the matter, that chronic hives are one of the most horrible things I have ever had to endure, and I have had quite a few challenges to date.

Hives are like a burn; they can tear open skin that becomes as dry as sandpaper (nice). I can wear only particular clothes (smooth white cotton). I can eat only a restricted diet. I carry the anxiety that straying from my miserable fare will cause that type of pain which is beyond tears. Imagine going face down into the nettle bed! Come up again smiling; you may as well. You have to endure it all day and all night and there is nothing you can do about it. 

Anyway, Doctor NHS refuses to prescribe yet more short-term steroids; he says my idea about taking them on-off is a great idea. If I want to die. So I have a fistful of more pink tablets that won't do anything, I keep another pointless diary, and next month I can enjoy another trip to the dermatology clinic, where I will set myself a personal challenge to provoke the nurse to naughty laughter at vulgar jokes involving the word pizzle.

Otherwise, there is nothing good about this condition. Even the name is crap, isn't it? It sounds like not much at all, maybe something that is picture book and possibly cute, like fat-bellied bees in yellow striped waistcoats. But I want a proper horrible sounding name like Skewerataxicosis. Any foul sounding names to call this horrible state, gratefully received.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The best days of holidays

I have my finger off the pulse of the house. Basically, all my parental duties are cancelled for August.

The children have helped. Shark has gashed open her knee which has put paid to her sub aqua ambitions and means I am not driving her backwards and forwards to lakes to be killed by rat wee. Otherwise, not much doing. Squirrel and Tiger I am taking twice a week to a film-making course at a local arts group and I even managed to split that activity with another mama.

I guess it is all going well; I think they are making an intense psychological thriller about a mutant banana who goes crazy and ties up tomatoes, probably threatening to squirt them unless they reveal the secrets of the grapes. It will probably make a screen debut at your Cineworld soon.

Anyway, neither of my offspring have complained about the film-making experience yet, and no-one from the arts centre has rung up with a strained voice to request their removal.

In fact my only real interaction with the whole event has been to provide lunch.

I began that parental responsibility admirably. I demonstrated to anyone who cared to look how great was my love for my children; I delivered it in a nutritionally sound packed lunch, containing artisan cheese sandwiches, fingers of organic carrots, sun-dried raisins and petite apples with no artificial waxing.

The enthusiasm wore off quickly. Today I forgot. I dug down into the strata of the freezer that is March 2012 to locate a pack of reduced price white-flour bagels. I threw them at Tiger as she was leaving, shouting Don't forget lunch! Fortunately I missed her head by at least an inch.

Otherwise, I am spending my hours serenely, gently, in my Knicker Drawers. Today I have stitched the book made for anyone who ever stood on a rock, looking out to sea. Squirrel has joined forces with me on this one; we have collaborated splendidly and I may have found my design partner. She handmade the paper that I used for the inside back cover, for selected torn pages on the inside, and for the fragments tucked into the back of the book onto which you can stitch shells or attach pictures. It's charming. If I sell it, I shall pay her handsomely.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Battle of Bosworth

Back to the Bosworth Battlefield for the latest on Richard III.

Personally speaking, my vote's with Leicester. They should get the bones. York already has enough excitement. It has the Minster, proper walking walls, Clifford's Tower (where you can recreate the slaughter of York's Jews by audio), and it has the Railways Museum which (before they dismantled it) had the manager's office from Wolverton Railway Works plus a reconstructed Stephenson's Rocket.

If that wasn't enough of a celebration of English culture, York also has piles of historic houses, the Shambles, an uncontrollable river, a defunct chocolate-making heritage, and the amazing Jorvik Centre.

At Jorvik, you sit in a trolley like one of those spinning tea cups and trundle past Viking dummies doing what Vikings do, i.e. sell fish, shout at each other, and go to the toilet. Admittedly our last visit was with Shark, Squirrel and Tiger in um, 2006? (Before Blog), but I bet things haven't changed. Squirrel won a tee-shirt in their story writing competition about Eric the Red. Her story was, frankly, crap, like Eric the Red sails away and falls off the world. The end.

Which proves my other point. Not only does York possess fine period pieces in the great commerce of history, they are also very good at promoting it nationally and internationally. They sold their town quite successfully to our Squirrel aged 6, who recalls the tee-shirt fondly. See my point? Do they need a Richard III?

Leicester? Not doing such a great job with their assets (whatever they are). So, if we gave them our dead monarch - and he comes complete with a ready-made global reputation - then surely they can only benefit, no?

Right, as one of the millions of relatives to Richard III, I got my vote in.

Here, have a reenactment of 1485.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Daphne, cake, August, etc

I had pencilled into the diary the outdoor cinema event, but by 2pm I am indoors, wearing two fluffy jumpers and a coat, feeling the need to don my woolly socks and shutter the windows from the beating rain. In my new spirit of stay-at-home, I decided to not sit in a fold-up chair in a wet field. I am a bit sad about that, because I still feel it's what I should have done, but I am trying to indulge myself elsewhere.

Anyway, it is August. Strange, this means - even though we don't do school and I have no pressure to follow any targets, times, or tests - I still breathe an educational sigh of relief; I take August as a holiday, and feel righteous in abandoning and ignoring my offspring in the hope they will wander about looking bored.

Left alone to my own intrigues I flip through the newly purchased Latin book (recommended) and am reminded of Ovid's Daphne. Kindly, I stitch her a notebook so she can chronicle the chase and the change. (Not that she can ever open it with her weathered twiggy fingers.)

Sadly, the children do not become bored, so I have failed on that parental holiday obligation. Squirrel is up to her inscrutables, Tiger plays the horse game, and Shark researches fish, emerging at one point to cook cake-on-sticks without the sticks.

I think they could make excellent atoms, so anyone coming round here for chemistry, at some point you can expect to make these.