Monday, 16 March 2015

The Monday Update

The travelling Aunty is here. She is sleeping in the cellar with a mouse. I tell her that the mice always come in winter, and there's very little we can do about them. This is what you get with old falling down Victorian houses. Mice. It is normal.

In other news, Squirrel is experimenting with clay. She has managed to fire small pots by first blasting them in the oven at 200C then placing them, wrapped in foil, into a coal fire, which we only light when we have visitors or the temperature sinks to 0C. She is getting quite good results, so I hope there's a career in it. Either clay pot making or lemon-peel stitching.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mother's Day

I had to buy my own bleeding heart.

All for charity

I decided to inflict a few days of ordinary home ed / life stuff on planet earth.

Let's face it, the planet is already weighed down with so much crap, it will barely notice another bucketful.

(Although if this week's postings do tip the balance - sending us spinning into collision with the sun - then I apologise in advance.)

Shark took part in a swimathon last week organised by the Rotary Club.

We were late entrants, so we only discovered the rules after we arrived. Apparently, our team had one hour to swim as many lengths as possible. We also discovered we could have six members in our swimathon team.

Six! Our home ed team had two swimmers. At the last minute, two other children joined in. (Apparently they were not home ed, they said they just didn't want to swim with their own teams.)

Then we discovered one of our new entrants was asthmatic, and the other couldn't swim. We discovered this half way up the pool, when, on his turn, he sank.

As the home ed team (back to two members again) completed its 6 lengths, we noticed how the school teams were ridiculously competitive, boasting 1,298 and 1,301!

We thought that at next year's swimathon, we could easily show the world a thing or two about how home ed can organise itself. So, next year, I am joining in. I am going into training, and I'm going to do it in fancy dress. (I cannot be bothered to collect sponsors or anything. Just give a load of spare cash to some charity or other and I'll dress up anyway.)

(Proves that home ed children are just as good at joining in, if not better.)

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Of course it works!

Does it work, then? This home ed lark?


Of course that's the answer! Not one of my three home ed children have yet taken themselves to a park bench, clutching a bottle of voddy and a sense of exclusion / alienation / detachment from society / despair at ever finding a job / etc.

On the other hand, I can't deny, sometimes they are a bit strange.

I heard the snippet from the new Caitlin Moran programme and the interviewer/reviewer completely missed the identity type that seemed to stare me in the face!

Home ed kids develop this bizarre mix, which sets them apart. They can quote at length George Orwell / Aristotle / Jane Austen (thanks for the example, Tiger) and they make references to how Ovid's tales of metamorphosis can still be identified in Tudor drama (thanks again, Tiger), but then they are totally puzzled about how you can open a bag of crisps using one hand and your teeth. (Tiger!)

No wonder they get their hands stuck in letter boxes. Tiger would, too. Home ed kids can spend a great deal of their time indulging their passions with nineteenth century translations of the Icelandic Sagas (oh dear, Tiger) but can I trust her to open a bottle of beer safely? Reader, I cannot.

All of this completely bypassed the interviewer/reveiwer-type person, so I wondered if they had a conventional schooling.

Which led to me wonder if I should go back to that daily blog of home ed life. So I can show everyone this bizarre and eclectic mix of cake and dark matter which I think characterises yer average home ed family home.

But mine are grown up a bit now. And one of the reasons for not doing the blog everyday is to give us some private, unaccountable, growing up space.

But I went slyly to check up on Squirrel to see if she would provide me with some material. Oh. Her Tuesday busyness seemed to be sat in the cellar flicking a pencil up in the air and trying to catch it. Five hours later, I popped in on Squirrel again to find out how she was getting along! (Still flicking a pencil up in the air and trying to catch it, but dropping it a bit less often.)

Maybe she is trying to catch up on the lost years of schooling.

But it is not the stuff I think I should report on. Instead, I have gone back through the diary to find out the home ed things we did to stop them going to the park bench.

If you are considering home ed at any age, be reassured. Home ed kids do not 'miss out'. Except maybe for how to negotiate letter boxes, crisp packets, and beer bottles.

Talking, reading, taking lessons from Radio 4
Radio 4 has some crackers, hasn't it? History of the State and History of Debt? Fascinating. We are supplementing listening with Ha-Joon Chang's 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism. I FULLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. Every teen should read this book. Or as I do it here, read it aloud over lunch (in the manner of a medieval monk reading aloud the teachings at mealtime).

Finding cheap deals
Example Opera. The Royal Opera House School Performances. In fact, The ROH has helped so much turn my gribbletots into proper opera lovers, I now must buy the Cineworld screenings as well. Hence the little gritlings are found watching, for their birthday treat, Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer.

Mostly with the lovely, lovely, Ramblers. The teens also walk by themselves, in the manner that I suppose teens do, with their restless wandering spirits. But instead of pent up frustrations leading to the voddy, it is propelling Shark to examine the lengthy borders of water courses, rivers, and canals.

This has effects good and bad. She is become a dab-hand at watery-knowledge. Good. Being eye-spied and quizzed by the police? Bad. Especially when they then pass an opinion about home ed meaning she is 'missing out'. To Shark's credit, she offered to argue that one through. (They left.)

Also bad is the tosser (probably literally) who exposed himself. Now, I have opinions about this. It is the first time my little girl has clapped eyes on a penis. I would have preferred, ye gentlemen, that this first moment was in the context of a caring and tender relationship of mutual trust and exploration. But oh dear! You put a bag over your head while tugging at yourself next to the privet. Just in case you were wondering, ye debonair male types, This is not a stylish look. You have not done any favours to your own kind. (Except maybe provide a catwalk idea to an up-and-coming McQueen type.) Shark remains puzzled, unscathed, and if you ever do this again to my little girl, I'm going to hunt you down and chop it off.

Litter picking
Under the guise of Global Citizenship IGCSE, community action project. This is a hoot. I totally recommend this course. I love it. The kids have to complete a community action, something with a global meaning, and carry it out. They have chosen to study the impact of pollution in fresh water, specifically looking at plastics.

I could write a book about this, thanks their work, but for now, have photographs of one strand of their industry - the litter picks. (Catchphrase: Not plastic? Not my problem!)

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This really is a litter pick and not poking swans with poles, or - as someone suggested - blind people practising by the canal with a not-very-good guide dog.

Paid-for lessons
Like Latin. Lingua Latin is whipping them into shape. (I have graduated early, on account of winning the award Girl Least Likely to Succeed at Latin).

Yes, if you are worried, there are tutors for the things your home ed kids want. Finding them at a reasonable cost is the real challenge. (I am never letting Lingua Latina go; we are locking her in the garage when the course is up, so she can carry on to A Level.)

Organised sport stuff
All out-of-school clubs apply. Tiger climbs up a plastic rock face, weekly. She can now put NICAS letters after her name. At some point, I am hoping a real rock will be involved. Also, strapping oxygen cyclinders to your back and pretending to be a fish. Shark is working on her BSAC Sports Diver. Squirrel does cak all (unless pencil flipping becomes recognised by the international sporting community).

If you want a specific heading, and you don't count being-in-the-world under social, then here, have Wide Games.

This is a Big One. Once a fortnight, a large group of people get together in the woods, organise themselves into teams, and set about each other in a competitive/noncompetitive manner. It is a serious business. If this isn't equipping them for life, I don't know what is. I am not telling you where they are or when it takes place. What happens in the woods stays in the woods.

FREE stuff
Always around. The STEM lectures are a special high point. Informed, useful, quirky, inspirational. At the local school, after hours.

Art and design
This is taking up a bit of both Squirrel's and Tiger's time. (I am suspecting that Squirrel is a protean fine artist.) To support the arty stuff, I buy sketchbooks by the dozen and we trot off both to MKG gallery and the V&A, combining the bonkers and the traditional.

Places to go
For some reason, Cambridge. Isn't it true that we don't go somewhere for months, and then for months we aren't away from the place? General wandering, museum worship, early music.

We are not calling this weekly session maths. DON'T SAY MATHS. San is leading all this, and I am monumentally grateful. I have told them how I had my face dented with chalk being hurled at me in Mrs Davy's class in 1967 when I could not answer 1x1. The answer is obviously 2, so don't start on me.

Other stuff that people organised, or we just fell into going
The Harry Potter Studio tour; sleepovers at Berkhamsted with running about and games of Cluedo;  Zonzo Compagnie's exploration of John Cage's 4 minutes 33 seconds of silence at the ROH; the Woodcraft Folk; the Deutsche Bank's funded production of Othello at Shakespeare's Globe with a meet-the-cast; film with the local Independent Film Group; To Kill a Mockingbird at MK theatre.

Undermining society
Specifically, the free-market ideologies which rip apart our world for short-term financial gain. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger attended the Climate Change Demonstration in London, March 7.

We nearly didn't, thanks to a miscalculation on mother's part (her ongoing issues with Mr Time). Tiger did not march, she watched. No-one saw the scuffles involving the polar bear.

I have views about this model of education. I'm not getting myself started on the opportunities for both left and right to grab this model to exploit it politically, I'll just say that my home ed kids love them in their present form. Grown up information, communicated in straightforward terms to people who want to be there, and you get to run it at your own pace, with your own interests guiding you, without the damage of tick boxes or social humiliations.

Up and Coming
Folk music. Shark is become very interested in folk, so I have to do something about it. Watch out. Hes Fes in South Wales? May the Lord Help Me, we are booked.

There, in conclusion, IT ALL WORKS.