Tuesday 27

This morning we had planned to go to Ramsey where some h.e. friends pastor a church and are having a mission for their 150th anniversary. We somehow managed to get ourselves up and ready to go by 10 a.m. only to discover the car battery was flat. So we had a day at home instead. Bee wanted to know how to catch and kill a pig, so we spent quite a bit of the day in the River Cottage Cookbook consulting Hugh on how to kill pigs as well as sheep, cattle, chickens and finding out all sorts of useful things for when we have our smallholding (she says hopefully!). We also dipped into aeroplanes and creepy crawlies and JJ produced lots of Tony Mittons for himself. They all did some hama beads, although Bee is the only one to ever complete his and Bee did some more in his dot-to-dot book and other bits of drawing and colouring. We made some cookies for home group tomorrow using a new recipe, but it wasn’t really very successful. Edible, but not as nice as they should be.

A new book arrived in the post for Bee and Mip, which we started this evening. It is by Meindert deJong. I’ve never read anything by this author (him/her?), but have often come across recommendations. The boys are enjoying it so far.

I had planned to clean the house today, but somehow we never got started…

We don’t seem to be fitting very much into our days at the moment. The basics of meals etc. seem to take such a long time. There never seems to be much time between them. Yesterday morning we had friends over and the children played in the garden for nearly the whole day. When Matt finished work they dug some compost out (and found the mising kitchen scissors half way down the composter) and planted seeds in the planers.

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This year we are growing peas, spinach and spring onions again, but we’ll give the courgettes a miss, last year they took over the planters and didn’t produce very much to eat. I wish we had more space for growing veggies. Last year we were pondering having an allotment, but decided that with the ongoing house project and new baby we probably wouldn’t have time and we very definitely wouldn’t have had time. I always forget how time-consuming a baby is.

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This morning we spent some time reading. I read a Jill Tomlinson chapter book to Bee (he insisted on reading the chapters out of order) and assorted toddler books for JJ. They playdoughed and Duploed and in the afternoon we went over to the park. We also read a few more pages from a Viking book, which Bee is enjoying.

Sandpit & Smiles

Littlest is starting to do smiles on a regular basis now.

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The boys have been out learning about architecture, and resistant materials today:
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The sandpit at the park now doesn’t have any of the large play equipment in it that it used to, so spades and buckets etc. have to be taken. It was a good job the sand was relatively quiet today. JJ left his spade for a while and another boy started using it, JJ went back and retrieved it from the other boy saying (very definitely) ‘I need it’. The health visitor a few days ago was asking if JJ was doing putting two words together yet, when what he is actually doing is putting together a variety of sentences. He will copy anything that Bee says, so if we want to add a new word to his vocabulary, then we just get Bee to ask JJ to say it (usually when we are all at the table for a meal) and JJ will happily repeat it.

The other night JJ said to me (Justine) while we were reading a book “That’s not a red house, that’s a red Tulip.” and other similar sentences. So, yes, I think he is managing to put two or three words together.

Over the weekend we visited the farm again and the boys fed the lambs who are now two weeks old. The weather was pretty miserable, but we compensated with cake in the cafe.

Before our trip to the sandpit today Bee did some of his new dot-to-dot book and the others coloured. Plus, they all played in the garden.

wednesday 21st march

Another bitty day. The boys played in the morning and we looked at a creepy crawlies book. Bee was very interested in ants, so we had to read that bit through 3 times. We tried to go out for a walk this afternoon, but JJ fell apart (he wanted his shoes, not his wellies, but we’ve lost 1 of them) so Bee and Mip played in the garden instead and I put JJ in the (indoor) swing and he went straight to sleep. Then lots more magnetix – the play value of these is amazing – Bee was making taurus and Mip was making tug boats. An amazon order arrived today with a new Tony Mitton for them – Super Submarines. We decided to put it away and save it for a crisis. Mip promptly fell apart at tea over the parmesan cheese, so out came the book! then some time looking at the moon and venus through the binoculars, and a very late bedtime.

Other bits and pieces – Bee’s first tooth fell out at the weekend, we watched some of The Blue Planet together, Littlest had her eight week check at the doctors and JJ his 2 year check with the health visitor. All fine, although the doctor (a locum, I think) was very unsettled by the lack of vaccinations.

I’ve been reading from the Andrew Whitley Bread book, which Matt gave me for Christmas and starting to gear up to actually make some (making bread regularly makes my new year’s resolution list every year – and doesn’t happen every year!), and I’ve continued reading lots more John Holt and mulling over our HE approach.

The boys spent the morning playing Duplo while I started to put together an educational statement and think about how to use the blog for recording their education. I’m trying to make sure we are at least slightly prepared if the LEA make contact and want to know what we are doing. I’ve been wondering about the blog for a while, we are using it to keep in contact with the Grandparents and as a very loose record of what the boys are doing and sometimes it feels a bit difficult to combine the two. So, probably what we will do is either devote the first paragraph of a post to recording the boys activities and then put anything else afterwards or put the two into seperate posts. That way it will be easier to refer back to if needed.

The rest of the day followed with drawing, playing outside, bits of reading, connect 4. Still lots of questions on addition and fractions and spelling questions too now.

‘Children (like all people) will live beter, learn more, and grow more able to cope with the world if they are not constantly bribed, wheedled, bullied, threatened, humiliated and hurt; if they are not set endlessly against each other in a race that all but a few must lose; if they are not constantly made to feel incompetent, stupid, untrustworthy, guilty, fearful and ashamed; if their interests, concerns, and enthusiasms are not ignored or scorned; and if instead they are allowed, encouraged, and (if they wish) helped to work with and help each other, to learn from each other, and to think, talk, write, and read about the things that most excite and interest them. In short, if they are able to explore the world in their own way…’ From John Holt in ‘Instead of Education’

Its been a pottering along quietly sort of week. There have been a lot of kitchen table activities and a lot of roller-skating practice. We’ve been at home nearly all week and only went out on Friday afternoon to meet up with some Muddle-Puddle friends at Central Park. The sand area has been re-designed and the boys had a good time playing in it.

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I finally finished all the thank you notes on my list (Christmas, Littlest, Mip, JJ!!) with much relief, although I’ve thought of a few since then that hadn’t made it to my list. I’ve also read a Derek Tangie (Downshifting from London to a Cornish Flower farm) which has prompted thinking on whether we are still planning on moving out of the city. On the one hand we very much want our boys to have more outside space than they have now and on the other hand we’ve spent six years restoring this house and have more inside space than we can use. I’ve also read bits from an ‘Unschooling’ book and the more I think on our home-education approach the more I can see us heading in an unschooling direction, although still using lots of the Charlotte Mason ideas and Ambleside Online resources.

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We grind hemp seeds (amongst others) for our muesli and a little while ago Matt found some out of date seeds so he threw them out onto the green in front of our house for the birds to eat. However the birds don’t seem to have eaten many and there is now a luxuriant patch of small ‘hemp plants’ growing outside! Not sure if we should get out the lawn mower/spade in the middle of the night to go and sort them out or maybe do something else?

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Bee ‘reading’ to JJ.

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Giving children the right start???

Article from BBC discussing the UK school system’s tendency in nursery and reception to prepare children for Key Stage 1, compared to many Scandinavian countries who see this period of a child’s life as preparation for life!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6435257.stm

It says:

Perhaps there is a link here with the recent Unicef report that suggested British children were bottom of the table for international happiness and well-being?

Roller Skates

JJ has turned two very effectively, with frequent tantrums when things aren’t going right. This is such a change from a boy who has always been so easy-going and amenable. It is also a bit awkward when combined with a baby and Mip (who falls apart very readily). I may have to re-instate JJ’s afternoon sleep. if things don’t improve to help us get through the day.

Bee found the roller-skates today (passed down form his Uncles) so he and Mip spent the day learning to roller-skate in the garden. I’m not sure they became particularly competent, but they enjoyed themselves a lot. Poor Bee – when Matt came home early today Bee was full of enthusiasm to show him how good he was on roller-skates and jumped out of the kitchen down the step to the patio on his skates and inevitably ended up on his bottom.

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Otherwise the last few days have consisted of painting, lots of magnetix, a bit of reading, lots of Duplo, playdough and baking and Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs when JJ can’t be consoled.

Fraught Sunday

I (Matt) got up and took Bee off to Church this morning, where he enjoyed being in A’s group. A is a friend he has known for a while, she is about 8 and really enjoys looking after Bee. They are in the same age group at Church so Bee always looks forward to going to “A’s group” (and to “A’s Church” as he refers to it). Mip wasn’t interested in eating breakfast before the deadline of having to leave for Church and didn’t really seem to notice that I was going, despite having said he wanted to go.

Justine seems to have some of the cold that has hit us, but isn’t getting it anywhere near as badly as I did! JJ is having a bit of a hard time with it and has had several “good” crying sessions today. Or at least we are hoping it isn’t the fact that he has turned two.

Justine has just realised that some of the children may actually have my eye shape after all. She hadn’t realised what size my eyes were until today when I deliberately showed her them with my glasses off. It is our seveth wedding anniversary on Sunday, which means we’ve known each other for well over ten years!

I came home from Church to find everyone in the cellar watching a Thomas DVD. JJ had just fallen asleep after crying for a long time.

Had lunch then in the afternoon I took the older two out to see some friends in Hampton. They have two boys aged 7 and 5, 15 months apart like our two. We had a nice walk around the lakes and Bee and Mip got their wellies very dirty. I forgot to bring the wellies back in the car and left them outside our friends house. Must say sorry to them for leaving them two pairs of very muddy boots. The walk was good, but seeing their 7yo and 5yo playing football together made me think that I must teach Bee more football. Good to know that all of our children have a good chance of making the school football team!

For Mum:
Here is a link to a blog that talks about the German HE family that have been in the news recently (disclaimer – I’ve not read it in detail):

I’ve just had two days of holiday (from work), which has included getting over a cold. Aside from not feeling too great, we have had a really good time.

Today we went back to Peterborough Museum (having been there the day before yesterday) as there was a visiting Planetarium. I knew Bee would want to see this as we have steadilly been creating the night sky on his ceiling in glow-in-the-dark stars. Last night we had been looking at one star with the binoculars (I’ve had them since I was a boy!) and I was telling Bee that it was probably Venus and not a star after all. When we got to the Museum we booked to go into the Planetarium an hour later. So, we spent some time looking around the other bits of the museum first (it isn’t big!). Bee already seems to have some favourite areas that he likes to go into and they have a few toys out here and there for younger ones. I’m convinced that on the map from 1876 there is a house on the site of our house, so I might investigate that one day as ours was built in 1915.

Looking through the light exhibitions again, a model of an eyeball reminded me that we have an eyeball making kit (found in Oxfam last year) sitting on a shelf at home and decided that we should get it out later.

At 11:50 we dutifully turned up outside the room for the planetarium show. I had realised it would be a temporary dome thing, but hadn’t really thought this through. The planetarium turned out to be an inflated dome in the museum room that is usually used for classroom type activities. We had to crawl into the dome via an access point on the side, but once in could stand up. As we got in there and sat down surrounded by all these other people with our sleeping baby and toddler, I wondered what would happen if either of them decided they didn’t like the experience. We then had a presentation about Venus, followed by the stars being projected onto the inside of the inflated dome (we were inside too). The first star to be shown to us was Venus, which was exactly where we had seen it the night before! Next came identification of various other constellations and an incredible view of the amount of stars that there really are in the skies. I couldn’t see the boys (!), but from whispered conversation with Bee, he was excited. JJ was quiet and littlest just slept on my lap, with a little occasional bouncing. I can’t believe we got away with having a baby and toddler in the pitch-black darkness of the inside of a dome tent with no easy way out for a half-hour presentation and none of our children cried(!).

Home for lunch and panicking that we weren’t going to get out in time for the afternoon activity, which was going to FM for the birthday of a friend. We’ve got to know them through the PCHE group that we have set up and it was the birthday of the 10 yo boy in their family. There were quite a few other HE families there plus some from the village where our friends live. It was a lovely afternoon at FM with lots of play for our boys and Bee got to play with his current favourite friend. E is the same age as Bee and his face lights up every time he finds out that she is going to be at something we will be at. Also there is another family (who go to the same Church as us) that have a boy who is 6 months older than our Mip and has the same name. It is very funny to see that he has many of the same character traits. I enjoy watching when they call him and he doesn’t respond (or even seem to notice they exist) as this is exactly what our Mip is like. This makes me realise that we’re not going completely wrong with Mip and it is just ‘normal’ behaviour for a boy of that age. It also makes me feel guilty about the times I get cross with him for being on another planet and not responding, when really I need to be more patient with him and realise the stage he is at. Not sure I’ll ever get that one.

When we came home we constructed our eyeball, but didn’t really get much time to try it out properly as JJ was a bit tearfull. So, we settled for watching Thomas while Justine made tea. Then time for bed and quickly adding Canis Major (the big dog) onto the ceiling.

Some photos from JJ’s birthday:
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Matt had booked yesterday and today as holiday, although I had forgotten so hadn’t planned anything. Which was a good thing as Matt, Mip and JJ were all feeling a bit rough with colds and wouldn’t have been up for anything very ambitious.

Yesterday morning Matt JJ and littlest all slept. B and Mip played out in the playhouse and I gave the bedrooms a desperately needed tidy and clean. Then later in the day. Littlest and I went shopping, and Matt and the boys dropped into the museum where they were doing an exhibition on light.

This morning we all went down to the farm and watched while twelve cade lambs were delivered from a nearby farm. The boys had turns bottle-feeding them.

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We came home via the NVR station at Wandsford to arrange for our membership. Then this afternoon Matt and Bee went to the tip. Bee seems excited about the fact that we still have one more lot to go to the tip, but Matt is not so excited about making another journey there. I read stories to the boys and then they went and played outside. They all got wet and muddy so we bathed them afterwards.

Matt and Bee added Gemini to the ceiling galaxy before bed. We seem to have managed to bring bedtimes forward, although it did mean a 6:30 start this morning, which is the down-side.

Getting them all out did seem a little easier today. The littlest seems to reliably sleep all afternoon in the pram and this is making the prospect of being out for the afternoon less daunting. We were down at the farm again this afternoon and saw the first two baby lambs.

The day passed in the usual way. We read in the morning – we started with a selection of Tony Mittons for JJ and then read one of their new books on Knights and a chapter from Little House in the Big Woods. The Magnetix are being very popular at the moment. I put them on the kitchen side where the older two can reach them but JJ can’t and they have made a variety of animals, boats and a very long line of cannon(s?).

Matt started making constellations of glow-in-the-dark starts on Bee’s wall. He bought these a few weeks ago when he had an appointment in Leicestershire near the National Space Centre. Apparently he had to go in and buy something so that he could get some change for the car park?! So, tonight they put up Orion and Lepus. Bee insisted on having Orion on his wall next to his lamp, but this should fit quite well with the other stars stretching across the ceiling.

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What is this pink doing amongst so many Navy Blue Coats?!!!

Cosy Sunday

Church this morning, and then, as the rain looked here to stay for the afternoon, we lit a fire and spent a cosy afternoon in. We watched some more of ‘March of the Penguins’, read about knights and castles, I re-read some of Mister God this is Anna (which apart from being such a good book is also being very interesting from a home-schooling point of view) and Matt and the boys built some more of the house. JJ fell asleep with Matt on the sofa just before tea, but Matt woke up in time for tea and to put JJ to bed.

Radio 4 Today programme on Home Education

They did a piece on HE, you can listen to it if you like. I found the link on the Today webpages.

Below is the (not very short) piece I sent them to say what I thought about the article….

On the piece on Today about Home Education…

First of all I want to say well done on a radio programme that is usually excellent, entertaining and informative. I enjoy listening to Today and often rely on it for my intake of news and current afairs.

However I’d like to put across the following thoughts on your piece on home education:

The interviewer stated the numbers of children in HE, without even mentioning that the estimates for numbers of children in HE are wildly differing as such numbers are inherently difficult to assess.

The interview showed some children clearly interested in the history that they were learning, isn’t this a good thing? A child who is allowed to go off and research a subject they are interested in and follow it up in the way that they want, isn’t that good? It seems that the family were a good example of HE, so why was this not followed up in the interview when the interviewee was ranting about how terrible most parents were that were doing HE and how most of them just wanted to get their kids out of school because they had had problems with truanting?

Lots of time in museums and libraries. Sounds like something most schools would be jealous that they can’t provide.

Your interviewee goes to mainly working class estates, is this representative of home education in general? From the various HE groups that we attend I would say there is a very wide cross-section of people who choose to home educate.

The reasons stated by your interviewee about why people decide to home educate were narrow and all either negative about schools or due to problems with the children. There are many other reasons for home education, for example to be able to do with your children lots of things that they enjoy and that they will learn from, or create a close knit family, or so that the children can be involved with other children who are of different ages and backgrounds, or to ensure children can spend enough time simply running around outside.

I wish I had noted the amount of times I have heard an education minister being pulled apart on your programme for the state of our schools. One of the latest ones seems to be that schools should provide each student with an individual learning plan and that teachers should do that for the students in their lessons. We already do that at home. Our teacher to student ratio is so low that every student can have loads of attention from the teacher during the course of a whole day.

It did not seem that there had been any research done on the regulatory framework around HE as the interviewer was saying “don’t we have a legal obligation to send our children to school”. This lack of research is unlike your programme, or maybe I should be more suspicious of your other articles too…

“Can they do a good job of it?” What, parents who love their children and give them one to a few attention? Parents who have decided to educate their children at home instead of send them to a free service? Parents who are enthusiastic about what their own children will learn?

Here comes a really frustrating quote “Leaving aside obviously that they are not getting the social mix that they are getting at school”. The social mix at school consists of spending most of the day with the same group of children who are all exactly the same age. The social mix for HE can consist of whatever the parents want it to be, for example meeting up with other HE families who have children of varying ages, being involved in community groups, interacting lots with other adults. Which is likely to equip our children best for later life? Is it putting them into a group of 30 others who are all the same age or is it mixing them with a variety of people of different age-groups from baby to OAP?

The interviewee stated that in order to teach, the teacher has to be ahead of the children all the time? How was anything ever invented or researched if we can only learn from those who are ahead of us. A good aspect of HE is that it isn’t necessary for the parent to know everything that their child will ever need to know, but instead the parent can ensure through a close relationship with their children that the children are grasping how to learn, how to research things and how to discriminate betwen fact and fancy.

I happen to be an ex-teacher, so I know a bit of what school can be like. I’d rather my children were spending time doing what they are doing (going to museums, the park, getting together with friends, discussing maths at mealtimes and so on).

I am so struck by how little research seems to have been put into the hands of the interviewer for this piece. Was any research done for this interview or did the interviewee just happen to be available at the last minute.

There are many other issues that could be talked about that relate to HE. What about talking through the stuff in Germany that is going on with HE due to a law that Hitler introduced?

Did the interviewer not listen to the family talking about their experiences of HE, because I would have thought that if he had listened to it he would have had his interviewee on the ropes over his views of HE not working and should have probed to find out if there really are other families like the ones that were being interviewed.

There are plenty of HE organisations who you could go to for a well thought out opposite side to this issue. In future please do.

As I said at the beginning of this I rely a lot on the BBC and specifically the Today programme for my intake on news and current affairs, I know now that I shall have to more carefully scrutinise what I hear!

Yours

Matthew Pearson