Friday, 24 August 2012

The week - and the trial? - ends

I didn't write an update last night because I was utterly exhausted - to the point where I even cried off going out for birthday drinks with a friend. I suppose all the coughing, clingy children and associated sleepless nights finally caught up on me. I wasn't feeling at my most resilient. And I didn't have any great pictures to show for the day.

Grandpa had taken the children on a bird walk all morning, then their auntie and cousins spent the afternoon with us, so there was no school, as such, although Elizabeth did get out her handwriting practice and Francesca did a lot of careful colouring.

We also managed to fit in some music. You should hear Sebastian playing and singing alongside me. Actually, it's probably better just to see a (silent) photo.

As I said earlier in the week, I'm sort of ditching the trial because I have decided to go ahead with real home schooling in September. I will be writing to the authorities in due course. Thus, we need to actually have some holiday while I regroup and prepare for the term ahead.

Which made me panic a bit. Being so tired, I felt quite overwhelmed (it's ok, I feel better about it today). It didn't help that I have started telling people and I'm finding that hard. I'm a bit wary of peoples' reactions.

One of my friends said, "Isn't there maybe another school you could send her to?" and another acquaintance told my sister in law that she "Doesn't approve of home schooling." Children should go to school, apparently, because it's good for society. So, I suppose I'm facing potential opposition, and a fair bit of incredulity, when I tell people that, no, I'm not desperate to get rid of my children to school and yes, I am intending to keep them at home. Most people just don't get it.

But I'm not most people (right, Dad?!) and I definitely want to do this my way. So here goes...

Today we managed to look at lots of information about the house fly and do some drawings with labelled parts. This involved the use of a magnifying glass and some careful observation.

Francesca did a lovely delicate drawing.

Elizabeth drew me and daddy, but that's ok. She had fun. And she asked me to do the dots for "mummy" and "daddy" so she could write over the words.

Francesca's best friend made a surprise appearance this afternoon, so the girls had a great play round at her house. Her mum and I agreed to make a more concrete arrangement for them to play together after school, so that the weeks don't fill up without them seeing each other, once Francesca is home educated. It's really important that we maintain her social life.

So that's where we are. It's Friday and I'm still pretty tired but I can go to bed now and leave the childcare to Mr P tomorrow morning, for a few hours' break tidying the house before our overnight guest arrives.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

That was Wednesday

It didn't seem very schooly today. That's because I've decided, in my own mind, not to return Francesca to school in September. I need, now, to shape some sort of curriculum for us to follow in September and I feel I can relax about what we actually cover in the holidays.

Anyway, we did violin then special time.

Elizabeth wanted to do dominoes in her special time. We first used the picture side:

Then did it again with the spotty side:

After that, Francesca wanted to do a jigsaw for her special time and Elizabeth also wanted to do a jigsaw so I sat in the middle and helped them both.

Sebastian got the lego out.

Then an exciting parcel arrived from Grandma and Grandad - thank you!!

We spent some time playing with the new shapes and organising the letters and numbers. The girls were very excited about their new whiteboards but I didn't feel up to letting them loose with whiteboard pens. I think I'll plan some mental maths and use the whiteboards in a structured way, otherwise we're going to probably have lots of messy colouring in and pen everywhere.

And that was that. Actually, we sung rounds in the bath and did some more embroidering at bedtime, so there were more 'learning' activities. Just no official Maths or English.

We also went to play with some friends, at their house, which was no doubt good for various extra-curricular reasons.

I told my friend I wasn't planning to send Francesca back to school in September and I don't think she knew what to say. People find it hard to imagine why I would want to keep my children at home for longer than the already 'too long' holidays. Obviously, I don't feel that way. My life is pleasanter when Francesca is at home with us and we can make full use of our days without having the pesky school run, the associated tiredness and the fighting for dominance every time she is reintroduced to the 'pack' - to name but a few advantages for HE as I see it.

No doubt more on that later but it's Thursday as I type this and they are all off on a bird walk with Grandpa.  I have much to be getting on with.

Francesca found a dead fly this morning so she brought it to me and suggested we use it to do school - so we'll be studying fly anatomy later. She also said that when she's goes to university(!) she's definitely going to take the dead fly with her.

Nuff said.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Centre for Life

Everyone woke up late and grumpy this morning. We have had three bad nights with Sebastian being up at all hours, coughing and sweating and being generally miserable. This morning we were also greeted by Francesca coughing and 'feeling ill' - "I think you need to check my temperature"(!)

So it was a bit of a feat to get a sketchy sort of violin practice done, and then get everyone out of the house and headed for the Centre For Life - the Science museum.

We arrived and had a nice time - Francesca was fine once she got going and Sebastian even enjoyed some aspects of the visit. Elizabeth had the best time, probably, being perfectly well and having had the most sleep.

Anyway, you can go and look at the Life Centre website if you want to see what we did (mostly everything, including a great show about a Rube Goldberg machine) but I am Too Tired to write about it.

Suffice to say that the trip counts as a learning experience, plus a social one, since we met up with a couple of other HE families.

Here are the girls in an igloo that they built:

Now, can I go to bed?!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Home-school Moves to Kirkley Hall

We had kind of a slow start this morning, after a bad night (again) with Sebastian, who is not well. He's been waking up with a temperature and we've been giving him paracetamol and trying to cool him down. Teeth, maybe? Or a bug. Anyhow...

We did violin, first thing, building on the success of Friday by letting Elizabeth and Sebastian watch TV while Francesca practised. The incentive for Francesca was to do a 15 minute practise to finish in time to watch The Rhyme Rocket. which worked a treat. She did a great practice. I felt as though we got through a lot of things and she's sounding more in tune. We even started a second piece, which is great because there are two more tunes to be learnt for Step 11, before Anna Maria comes back in September.

Then I packed up a lunch and we headed off to Kirkley Hall. We planned not to go to the zoo today, having been quite recently (also you have to pay) but the rest of the grounds, gardens and play area are free, so we headed for the zoo play area, which doubles as a classroom.

What a lovely morning walk to school. The girls skipped on ahead doing One Two Three Wheeee with Francesca's baby.

The walled garden looked so pretty. We chatted to the gardener who invited us to pick flowers - more on that later.

Here's our classroom for this morning. Francesca is already getting on with her English work. The other two have free-run of the room, including the gated area you can see in the background which is full of toys.

Sebastian found something interesting.

"Look! Terrapins!"

Elizabeth and he found plenty to keep them busy. Although Sebastian wasn't as happy as all that, today, on account of feeling grotty and being very tired.

I particularly loved this page from Francesca's work. It finishes, "Do you know your own telephone number at home?" and Francesca has written, "yes".

There was a duck you could ride on, which became Elizabeth's horse, even though I didn't put any money in the slot.

Everyone loved him (her?)

After English, Francesca wanted to play in the play area and read all the books, which we did for a while.

Elizabeth spent ages 'writing her birthday invitation' - here it is, apparently:

Then we moved on.

Next stop, by the little hump-back bridge and the pond, in the glorious sunshine for Maths.

Even Sebastian wanted to join in.

Francesca worked through her Maths book and Elizabeth used her wipe-down English book again.

Here she is doing a careful drawing on the front page.

It's mummy and daddy, as you can see.

Then we went back to the walled garden, where the 'cutting flowers' border is. The gardener gave us some secateurs and we cut arm loads of flowers. I would have cut more but Sebastian was upset so we had to move on.

This border is planted to pick but no one ever picks them! So we were welcome to as much as we wanted - daisies, sweet peas, some kind of yarrow, everlasting flowers and a few other varieties that I cannot name off the top of my head.

We loaded up the pushchair and Elizabeth carried the sweet peas.

Then we had PE (could we call it that?!)

Climbing ropes for some.

And I sat and had a coffee, admiring the flowers. Or that was the theory. Actually Sebastian wanted to be cuddled, carried, rocked, put down, picked up, in the pushchair, out of the pushchair...

Still, the girls enjoyed themselves. Here's Francesca at the top of the tower.

And coming down.

Sebastian settled just long enough for me to relax and start a snack break (pistachios) but, alas, we soon had to move on again.

He fell asleep in the car but woke up before we got home. He's had a really struggly day, poor thing. He's waking himself up coughing - the girls are coughing too. Urgh.

Anyway, the wonders of home-school: you have no homework, and yet, you can do overtime if the mood takes you.

Elizabeth and daddy played with the 'silly story' jigsaw pieces and made up some silly - and some not so silly - stories after bathtime.

Francesca continued embroidering her cushion cover and is making rapid progress, mum.

So, I reckon we did an hour of actual 'work' as in English and Maths. We also had fresh air, exercise and lots of other experiences along the way. We would have been more productive if Sebastian had been less clingy but that'll pass, obviously, when he's feeling better. It didn't really feel like 'enough' school but I'm relaxing a bit, having pretty much decided to start officially home-schooling in September. I've got all year!

About the Maths - Francesca was doing 'adding 10' and 'taking away 10' which she was most unsure about, having to count on or back each time, despite being familiar with the concept of place-value and me saying, "Look you've got one ten and four units, what if we add another ten?" etc. She was using her number line and making a hash of it. This is a 'note to self' (and Seymour) really, but we must do more reinforcement work on this idea - easy ways to add or take away 10 - before we gloss past it in the Maths book. Just a thought.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Home school - A Model Day?

We really did proper home-school today and it felt like a huge success.

Overall it was happy, productive, relaxed and harmonious. A great day!

We were up a bit late, this morning, and I felt a bit of pressure to get a move on and start the day. I think it was gone 9.30 before we'd all cleaned our teeth and I was encouraging Francesca to do violin practice.

One good thing: being Friday, I let Elizabeth put the TV on while Francesca practised. That certainly prevented her from wanting my attention during the practice and allowed me to relax about the time I was spending.

I usually do what I call a 5 minute practice with Francesca, so it doesn't seem too daunting to her. In fact, I've been increasing the time to about 10 minutes, recently, and even that is not quite enough.

Today I set the timer for 15 minutes, although I didn't tell Francesca that at the beginning.

Lengthening the time meant that I felt more relaxed about the time available and I stopped pushing her quite so hard to get on with the tasks.  She played her scale and arpeggio beautifully and was soon onto the piece.

The piece is always a stumbling block for Francesca - she finds it hard and is therefore reluctant to tackle what seems like an insurmountable task. I'd discussed this with Seymour last night and he'd suggested breaking the onerous-looking tune into smaller chunks. Thus, I asked Francesca to play just the first bar, which she did quite easily. I had her practice that a few times, and then the next bar, and the next... We soon got through the whole piece and her confidence was soaring.

I knew she was anxious to see what Elizabeth was watching on TV so I let her watch Show Me Show Me as a treat for having worked so hard at the violin practice.

Then we got down to school work.

We started with English. Francesca loves her 'Gold Star Literacy' workbook and was happy to work for about half an hour and would have kept going longer, I think. She works independently and loves the fact that she has to award herself a gold star sticker at the end of each page.

Sebastian sat up too and wanted to do drawing. Francesca was really lovely with him, showing him how to draw things and write things. She wrote 'big' and 'little' on his page, in appropriately sized writing so he would learn.

Elizabeth wanted to continue practising writing letters in her handwriting book. She uses her wipe-downable literacy book first, to get the hang of the letter formation, then she traces carefully over my dots on her special hand-writing paper. She did a row of 'd's and a row of 'i's this morning. She gets a sticker at the end of each row, which she thinks is great.

Then we did Science. We were answering the question, "Are there the same number of Smarties in every tube?"

I gave Francesca 5 tubes of Smarties, labelled A-E and a pre-made results table to fill in. I was so impressed with the way she organised herself - tipping the Smarties into bowls and counting them into a different bowl, labelling the bowl with the right letter and filling in the results table. "How do you write thirty three?"

At one point, she lost count and patiently started again.

When we looked at the results (32, 32, 33, 13 and 31) she spotted that one looked rather strange and actually suggested we check it again.

It turned out not to be 13 but 30. An error in translation really - she'd said to herself, "twenty eight, twenty nine, thirteen."

We were able to draw a conclusion and predict what we would find if we counted another tube of Smarties (which we then did and were right!) It was a good investigation although Elizabeth and Sebastian couldn't wait to be allowed to eat the Smarties. I had to give Sebastian some of his own to experiment with.

Francesca drew a picture of herself wearing a lab-coat on the back of her page. She had a big smile because she was enjoying it.

Friday is TV day, so I had promised the girls they could watch TV this afternoon, after 'school'. They wanted to watch The Rhyme Rocket, which started at 1.20, so we had time for lunch, Maths and Music.

For Maths, Elizabeth played her counting ladybirds game on the computer and Francesca got her Maths workbook and was happy working away independently. Alas, when I looked at what Francesca had done, I was surprised to find it was wrong.

The instructions were to colour in a queue of people: "Colour the 3rd person blue, the 7th person green" etc but Francesca had started with the first person and was colouring them in turn. She had not understood the significance of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.

I talked her through it and wrote the labels under each person and she was soon back on track. It wasn't hard for her, just previously un-encountered.

Elizabeth did jigsaws. Sebastian was napping by this point.

Then it was Francesca's turn on the computer, to practise recognising the notes on the musical staff. Unfortunately, the computer decided to do an automatic reboot, right in the middle of the game, which took so long it was then time for The Rhyme Rocket, so not much note-practice was done after all.

The girls were so happy watching TV and it was so quiet in the house that I put on an audio-book and tidied the kitchen, sorted the washing and started to cook dinner.

Francesca asked me to watch Zingzillas with her, and we snuggled together peacefully on the sofa, watching a really excellent violinist playing ever so fast.

I couldn't resist saying, "Oh Francesca, I don't want you to go back to school!" and she said she would rather be at home too (result! Yeah!) I'm more and more inclined to give home ed a go. If I don't try it now, I'll probably always wish I had.

In other news, lots of family, including the visiting cousins came round at teatime and stayed to help with bathing, which the girls loved.

More days like this please :)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Bird walk and cousins

Well, as far as school goes, today didn't happen, but it was a nice, healthy, happy one anyway.

Grandpa took all three, plus some cousins, on the bird walk this morning, which meant that I could get on with some more article writing to promote the bread website.

They had some fresh air, exercise and perhaps a little natural history lesson en route.

Then we spent the afternoon playing with the cousins plus Francesca's best friend who had come for a one-day-only visit.

Does this count as PE?

And perhaps this is Science and/or Maths? They were measuring the length of their spaghetti by counting the squares on the table cloth. An early graphing experience, perhaps.

Gastronomy?? I won't be surprised if this one turns out to be a food critic.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cafe Classroom

Finally, a day of sort-of school.

I had high hopes of a regime - some time-table-following and things ticked off lists, but no.

Seymour was due to arrive back, for a brief visit, on his way to work in the morning, so there was too much excitement to start work. We didn't do violin, managing only to have breakfast and wash teeth before it was time to go out the front and wait for daddy.

When Seymour had gone, the girls quickly became absorbed in drawing and writing tasks, self instigated. I was happy to let them be, frankly. I wanted them to draw pictures for Hannah's birthday and I liked the productive, peaceful atmosphere.

Elizabeth wanted to carry on learning to write. We took this picture to show daddy:

She did lots of lines of letters, in the end, with great concentration.

I managed to have special time with Sebastian, playing ball and rolling cars to each other.

Francesca had just received a new prayer book from someone and she started to copy out one of the prayers. She did the first line and then drew a lovely detailed picture to go with it (to send to Hannah). It had a fish that she copied from Elizabeth's literacy book, a jellyfish and an octopus, all neatly coloured. Quite a feat of concentration.

Elizabeth drew a multi-coloured Heffalump:

And Francesca wanted a photo of her finished work too:

Also this morning, I played dominoes with Elizabeth and Sebastian, then I read them some chapters from The Large Family. Then we had lunch.

After lunch we set off to post Hannah's present and decamp to Caffe Nero for afternoon school. Sebastian had a good long sleep and the girls did a lot of 'work'.

Francesca did about 5 pages of her literacy book.

Even Sebastian was quite well occupied when he woke up. They have good toys at Caffe Nero. (Yes, it is spelt with double f)

Comfy chairs to work on:

Elizabeth-height tables for doing sticker books:

And built-in entertainment:

Back home, via a few High Street errands, they all played outside for a while and the girls took some colouring into the play house.

Later, as I cooked dinner, they moved to the dining table and continued with colouring in (Francesca) and fast words practice (Elizabeth) - both totally self-directed.

I'm going to need to develop tasks that they can do independently and encourage them not to 'need' me every five seconds, so I can spend more quality time with each of them. They are good at choosing useful tasks to get on with but they want me to be there All The Time, checking in with what they''re doing.

Anyway, we had a peaceful and quite productive day today. Seymour is bathing them as I write. I wonder if we can squeeze violin practice in before bed?!