Thursday, 28 August 2008

Its Pie Day

We decided that today would be pie day, so A made these three little pies for our tea.

Unusual fillings maybe - veggie sausage and tomato; veggie sausage and baked beans; and mushroom and tofutti with herbs and chives - and quite a thick crust, but pretty good for A's first attempt at pie-making!

I was working this morning, so A had some time with her Granny. We then had quite a productive afternoon (aside from the pie-making). We planned how we are going to print the magazine A has made, including working out how each individual A4 page will need to be positioned on the A3 sheets we are going to use. Just need to get copying now.

We also spent a good couple of hours out on the trampoline, not bouncing but working on the story we are writing together. This is an idea that came out of our earliest discussions about home education, when we talked about the sort of things we could do together. A has remained very keen on the idea and we have had several chats about storylines, but this is the first time we've actually sat down and put something on paper. Today we both wrote a character study, including a picture, as we are each responsible for one of the two main characters. We filled in a bit of the background and history of the characters, and bounced a few ideas around (so there was some bouncing after all!) about the plot. I really enjoyed this, I think this is going to be a long term thing which we can dip in and out of as we feel inspired. And the trampoline is proving to be a fantastic sunny day study room!
Finished the evening off by reading some more of Michelle Paver's Spirit_Walker, we read the first book in the series - Wolf_Brother - a couple of months ago, and loved it. Some of the descriptions are quite gruesome as the story details the lives of ancient hunter-gatherer tribes, but it's a gripping tale. Its looking very likely that we will work through all six books in the series.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Archaeological dig

Went to the Birnie site near Elgin with the Home ed group this morning, a very interesting outing, and the weather was good for us too.
A very kindly took the highly unflattering photo of my big arse, so I thought I would share that with you.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Castles, mushrooms and nice tai chi ladies

I meant to post these castle creations a while ago as they are so pretty, but forgot, so here they are now. The first one was something me and A did a few weeks ago on a rainy afternoon. The silver one below is something created by A and my Mum ages ago. They are now up on our shelf together in the living room, and get lots of nice comments from visitors.

A took these pics today. She has developed a real interest in fungi, ever since we looked at a book my friend lent me called 'Food_For_Free' to help us with our foraging. I'm too terrified to try any of the wild mushrooms we find, as there seems to be so many 'bad' ones that look like 'good' ones. I also remember seeing a mushroom 'expert' on a Jamie Oliver programme warning about some highly poisonous mushroom that looks exactly like an edible one - the only way you know the difference (unless you are an expert of course!) is if you eat it and die. Well, that may not have been exactly what he said, but thats what stuck in my mind. Maybe I'm just a sissy! Anyway, A has decided to do a project on fungi and is busy collecting information, so along with the photos she took today, and some she made her Nonna take when she was over there, we got some more books out of the library today. We must have a look at some websites too, I'm sure there'll be some helpful ones out there.

Tai Chi this morning, I was chatting to one of the other women afterwards when she looked at A and said "when is she back at school then?", so I smiled sweetly and replied "well, she's not going back actually, I'm home educating now." She then gave a huge smile and said "Really? Well good for you!" and turning to A said "that will be fun, wont it?". What a lovely response!

A and I had a discussion last night about how we will approach things now, as her old school starts back this Wednesday so it feels like time to get a bit more organised. A wants to keep to a bit of a (flexible) routine, so we decided on 2 hours each weekday morning on English and Maths as a basic plan. I think it might be good to have this as a general rule to motivate us (me!) in the mornings - I am not a morning person! We'll see how this goes, I think there's a sense of security in it for A, because she is used to this sort of routine. At school they had their 'main lesson' for two hours every morning. The rest of the time she'll work on her various projects as and when she feels like it. There are some things we will work on together, for example learning Italian, and others I will just support her in when she needs me to. She expressed a real keeness for spelling tests too (?) so I'll go along with that. Things will change and develop I'm sure, we are still at such an early stage, but it does feel nice to have a little bit of a plan.
Bedtime doesn't seem to be such an issue, she is still staying up very late but is happy to go to her room when I ask her to (usually 9 - 9.30). I'm hoping she'll start actually getting to sleep a bit earlier once we have more happening in the mornings.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Films, Dance and Music

We went to see a film today at the Ballerina_Ballroom_Cinema_of_Dreams film festival, something very exciting that's been going on locally. We saw a strange little 1957 East German film: 'The Singing, Ringing Tree' (it was apparently on British children's TV as a series, but before my time as I had never seen it). Possibly the weirdest film I have ever seen, but very enjoyable, even to the many children there, who must be used to all the clever digital trickery of todays kids films.

The venue was the old 'Ballerina Ballroom', which had been used as a dancehall and music venue years ago, although I had only ever known it as a bingo hall. It had been decorated beautifully for the festival, a little cafe to one side, and the main room set up with deckchairs and beanbags for the filmshow. (We were quite comfy on the beanbags, but I'm glad it wasn't a long film!). The whole experience was lovely, not a bit like the multiplex!! There was such a friendly atmosphere, more like watching a film with a huge gang of friends, with cheering and clapping, and plenty of laughter. I'm now regretting not booking for more films, but hopefully there will be another festival, there is certainly the demand for it - they had to put the film on again because so many people got turned away for the first showing.
Its wonderful when something like this turns up on your own doorstep!

We have watched a few films at home recently, mostly dance films: Step_Up; Step_Up_2_The_Streets; Save_The_Last_Dance; which have been inspiring A. She did ballet classes from the age of three, but recently gave it up. The classes had become much more geared towards doing the exams, she did her first exam last year but really didn't enjoy the experience and was very clear she didn't want to do any more. Although her teacher said she didn't have to do the exams, the class was all about learning what was needed for it so I think it became quite boring for A. I felt quite sad at her leaving, because she was quite a good little dancer (I know, I'm bound to say that as her Mum!). But she had been saying for quite a while that she wanted to leave, and as the person who paid for the classes and gear (!) there seemed little point in pushing it if she wasn't enjoying it.
She has always loved modern dance too, and used to go to a drama/dance class that my friend ran, which she enjoyed. She doesn't seem keen to join any classes at the moment, but is very happily making up her own routines. She even tries teaching some moves to me (oh dear!).

Another activity she has been doing a lot recently is composing songs on her keyboard, some quite impressive (again - a Mum's view!). My immediate response to all this musical 'talent' is to encourage her to have lessons, and as with her other creative/artistic endeavours she is very unenthusiastic about classes or lessons. I'm not sure how far to push her on this one (if at all), she seems to be very 'musical', and picks things up quite quickly, and I think if I found a good teacher lessons could reveal to A just what she's capable of. But then again, I had piano lessons from the ages of 5 -12, and although I can read music and have a good understanding of the theoretical side of it, I'm certainly no pianist and never play now - I just never had the passion for it. The music exams I did as a kid killed any confidence I might have had as I was so focused on 'not getting it wrong'. I think I'll just let her tinker for a while longer before pushing the idea of lessons.

Monday, 18 August 2008

End of the school holidays

This summer seems to have gone by so quickly - the schools in our town are back this week. I've had quite a few people ask "so when is your home schooling going to start?" to which I've answered in my usual vague way "well, we've sort of already started...". I find it very hard to give any coherent explanation of what we are doing and why, which is obviously not very helpful to the people who are genuinely interested. I suppose I haven't really got my head round it properly yet, I know why we are doing this and I know I have good and valid reasons, but trying to verbalise it is impossible. Its so complex and there are so many reasons. I feel like I'm rambling now, which is not unusual!

I know that I shouldn't be overly worried about how 'other people' view what we're doing, its just that fear of looking like an idiot when someone wants a quick, concise answer and I haven't got one to give. Most people seem to assume that I will keep to school hours, cover the national curriculum, and sit A down with workbooks. If I mention autonomous learning they look at me like I'm a maniac. Part of me understands that, because it is very radical to most people, I just wish it didn't knock my confidence the way it does at the moment.

This issue came up today in particular because I go to a Tai Chi class on Monday mornings, so A comes too and just brings something along with her to do quietly at the back of the room. Once the schools go back I know I'm going to get lots of questions and feel I'd like to be a bit prepared for that.

This has led to a general feeling of 'lets get a bit more organised', so to start with A and I are going to have a meeting to discuss and develop a plan on how we would like to approach home education. I am also going to attempt to keep some kind of a written record on what A is learning.

A has been pretty busy lately, autonomously learning ;-))
Apart from designing and creating various items of clothing (pictures soon!), and teaching her Nonna all about wild mushrooms, she came home from her Grandparents with a 20 page 'Beauty' magazine she had created all herself. We are going to photocopy it and give some copies to her friends. I love the way she is starting to really get her teeth into her little mini projects now, with absolutely no prompting from me. Her strength is definately her creativeness, I never know what she'll come up with next!

By Popular Demand...

Here is the recipe for those delicious cakes:

Basic Chocolate Cupcake (makes 12)

8floz (230ml) soya milk
1 tsp vinegar
5oz (140g) caster sugar
3floz (90ml) vegetable oil
1&1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4oz (125g) plain flour
1&1/2 oz (45g) cocoa powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F/175C/gas mark 4 and line muffin pan with paper cases.
Whisk together soya milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.
Add sugar, oil and vanilla extract and beat until foamy.
In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, bicarb, baking powder and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain.
Pour into cases, filling three quarters of the way.
Bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Eat while still warm, or allow to cool completely and ice with chocolate 'buttercream'.

Chocolate 'Buttercream' Icing

3oz (115g) vegan margarine
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6oz (170g) sieved icing sugar
2oz (55g) sieved cocoa powder

Place all ingredients into a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth and creamy.

* we added dark chocolate drops on top of the icing, as they weren't quite chocolatey enough for us!!

OK, so its not the healthiest snack, but we all need a treat now and again ;-)

Friday, 15 August 2008

Chocolate heaven, mmmm

We baked these lovely chocolate cupcakes today, using a recipe from a leaflet that came with my vegan magazine. VERY naughty, but also very delicious!!!

Its been a nice lazy day, long lie-ins, a bath, a leisurely breakfast, and a little TV. A then decided to cut a pair of her jeans into shorts, and make a waistcoat out of the offcuts, I was quite impressed. We then had to rush to make the cakes in time for her to take some with her to Nonna and Nonno's, where she is staying this weekend - again! Its very unusual for her to go two weekends in a row, she usually goes to stay every couple of months or so and we both go over for dinner every couple of weeks, but there were events on which Nonna wanted to take her to last weekend and this. A will also get a chance to see her younger half siblings and their Mum, which she loves.

I get to spend the weekend working on my OU essay, not much fun, after so many years of studying you'd think I would be better at time management and not leave it all to the last minute. To be honest I've not enjoyed this current course as much as I thought I would, not sure why as its an interesting subject, but it will all be over in a few weeks and I can rest my brain. Still, at least I've got the cakes to keep me going!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Down in the Woods Today...

No pictures of our woodland adventures as I very stupidly forgot my camera, so just this lovely one of an upside down, mid-flip A on our trampoline. I love this photo!

Our trip to the woods was with the local home education group, and it was great. The forest rangers took us on a walk and we talked about the different types of trees and some of the wildlife, then it was off for lunch and a bit of pond dipping which the kids all thoroughly enjoyed. A happily joined the other kids and seemed totally at ease, a good day all round actually.

I have to say I feel really lucky to have this established network of home educating families so close at hand. It has definately made the process easier for me. From the very beginning, when I was just considering HE as one option and made tentative enquiries, the group has been welcoming and friendly in a down to earth kind of way.

Saturday, 9 August 2008


Well, our lovely visitors left today, and A has gone to stay with her grandparents for the night, so I am all alone. After such a hectic week I am going to really enjoy a night completely to myself.

Our friends arrived on Tuesday, and the girls immediately hit it off, leaving me and D to catch up and chat, which was great. On Wednesday we all went to a drama workshop with the local HE group, which the kids seemed to enjoy. We've only been to a couple of these group events, and being very introverted I do find it really difficult, but it turned out well as some of us had lunch together afterwards so I had a chat with a few of the other parents. They are a friendly bunch.
I do worry sometimes about my lack of sociability, not so much for me (I'm quite happy with my own company, and have enough close friends to know I'm not a complete freak!) but for the effects on A. She is naturally quite sociable and fairly confident once she gets over the initial shyness, so I will have to make sure she gets enough opportunities to mix and socialise, which means I will have to get 'out there' too. Don't know why I find this such a struggle - its not that difficult for most people surely? I waver between thinking 'its just my nature - the way I am' and 'what the hell is wrong with me?!'
Thursday we had a nice long walk, ending up by the sea (see above photo), and A was back on stage with 'Revolting Rhymes' in the evening. Then Friday we went to an event organised by the local council - part of their summer activites programme - 'mythical stories and beach sculpture'. The sand dragon that the kids all worked on was fantastic, and kept them occupied for a good couple of hours. Friday evening our visitors went to see the final performance of RR, which went down very well. They are now off on their travels again, and hopefully me and A will get down to visit them next year (they have inspired us to do a bit of travelling in the spring if I can save some money up).
Next week should be a bit quieter, we have another HE group event, and will maybe catch up with some friends. And I really ought to be working on my OU essay and project (!)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Pay It Forward

I have recently joined the 'pay it forward' exchange - details given below.
I really hope that some of you out there will be up for joining, as A and me would love to make some gifts for you :-)
Let me tell you
about it, these are the instructions: "It’s the Pay It Forward Exchange. It’s
based of the concept of the movie “Pay it Forward” where acts or deeds of
kindness are done without expecting something in return, just passing it on,
with hope that the recipients of the acts of kindness are passed on. So here’s
how it works. I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who
leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I
do not know what that gift will be yet, and it won’t be sent this month,
probably not next month, but it will be sent (within 6 months) and that’s a
promise! What YOU have to do in return, then, is pay it forward by making the
same promise on your blog.I will now Pay It Forward to you THREE, I wonder who
you will be?! Please, be a PIF! You will enjoy it just as much as we do!"And, have 6 months to get your gifts done! Come on, you know you would
love to be one of my angels. Then, one day, but you don't know will
get a gift that I have made especially for YOU!Please remember, you don't have
to knit or crochet to participate, anyone who can make a nice handmade gift is
welcome to join :)

Monday, 4 August 2008

We have had quite a busy time over the past week: visits to the Cairngorm Mountain centre and on the funicular railway, the Highland Aviation Museum (see the picture on the right), and the Culloden Visitors centre. Also a little family get-together with a barbecue yesterday, where I got to have a cuddle with my cousin's 14 week old baby boy. No, I'm not feeling broody at all - honest! (Not that there's much I could do about it if I was!!)

So, one lot of visitors go home tomorrow (my brother and his family), and another lot arrive! I have to admit - I have struggled a little bit this past week. I love my brother and his partner, and my nephews of course, but we are on such different wavelengths about most things. I feel a bit sad that there's not more of a connection between us, but I suppose life would be very boring if we all thought the same way.

Anyway, our new visitors are an old family friend I haven't seen since we were children, and her two daughters aged 10 and 12. A is very excited about sharing her room with two new friends, and I can't wait to catch up with their Mum - should be very interesting!