Monday, 29 September 2008

School Festival

I found out last week that it was the Michaelmas festival at A's old school today, and a friend suggested we come along. A was very keen to go and watch her old classmates do their musical bit, so off we went this morning. I was a little wary - wondering what emotions this might stir up for A, bearing in mind she hadn't wanted to leave the school. She was quite nervous going in, but enjoyed watching the festival and happily caught up with some friends after the performances, with soup and cake. I overheard one friend ask her "so do you like being home educated then?" to which she answered "yeah, its really fun!" :0)

I have to be honest - I didn't enjoy the experience so much. But then I never did enjoy these social events (apart from the proud Mum bit). I came away thinking 'thank god I'm out of all this'. I know that part of this is due to my own insecurities in social situations, but it was such an unfriendly and unwelcoming place. I don't know if this is common of most schools, maybe its more intense in a small school like this where parental involvement is at a high level (so everyone seems to know everyone else's business), but as I looked around I just thought "what a bunch of bastards". Yes - that is me being bitter and cynical, I know this, but I also hear the sort of things people are saying behind each others backs, and there is so much back-stabbing going on while they all pretend to be so 'spiritual'. I do have a handful of close friends there, and others I quite like, but I find the environment itself really draining and negative. I'm torn in a way because I know A was very happy there for the most part, so there is something positive going on, but for me it was a trial.

The whole thing left me feeling quite down and crabby, but I am getting better at dealing with those sort of feelings - came home, put Orkestra del Sol on the stereo, and we had a mental dance session in the living room. Felt much better after that.

On a lighter note - found our picture in the local paper (below - it wasn't on their website so had to take a photo of the actual paper!)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Folk Museum and other things

On Friday we went to the Highland_Folk_Museum in Newtonmore with some of the home ed group. Very interesting place, the first time I had been, although A went last year with the school. The children spent a lot of time at the 1930s style schoolroom, and the little old fashioned sweetie shop was a favourite. I found the early 1700s township fascinating (below).
There was a lovely mix of ages, and A really enjoyed helping out with a couple of the littlest ones. I got sicked on by a baby, but he was very gorgeous so I let him off.

An A-sized cottage

Granny took A to the theatre to see One_Giant_Leap, which they both thoroughly enjoyed.

On Thursday night we had dinner with A's other grandparents, and I had a good chat with Nonno about languages (as well as his native Italian he speaks several others). He seemed genuinely pleased when I mentioned that I wanted to do some basic Italian with A, and is quite enthusiastic about helping us out with it. It will be great to have someone to guide us with proper pronounciation. He's promised to dig out some old books and games he used with A's Dad and auntie when they were little.

A had her drama class Saturday, then played with a friend all afternoon, and in the evening we went to a fire party in the dunes at Findhorn. My friend was celebrating doing fantastically well in her RHS exams (clever woman - they are really hard!). There was some drumming and guitar playing, and a young lad doing some fire poi - amazing. Didn't manage to get any decent shots of the fire, but below is the path down to the party, lit with little candles (a bit of a pathetic photo - sorry!)

Thursday, 25 September 2008

I don't know

Had a few 'I don't know' days. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something I find quite annoying, this habit I have of never being totally sure that I haven't got things completely wrong. I can see the value in being open to other people's ideas, but I do envy people who appear to have it all sorted in their own mind, and know where they are heading and what they believe. I always have this sneaking suspicion that I've missed something vitally important.
This is a recurring theme through all areas of my life, so of course applies to home education too. Even though I know this is the best thing I can do as a parent for A at the moment, there are still moments of panic when I wonder if I've got it wrong. I try to tell myself that its important to keep questioning and evaluating my reasons, and therefore healthy to feel this way, but to be honest I'd prefer to be more sure of myself.

A few people who I've spoken to about HE seem very concerned about having a 'curriculum'. I usually mention the fact that I can easily 'keep an eye' on the 5-14 guidelines, and that seems to satisfy them. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to actually have a look at them, so I did. My main reaction was 'why?' - and this again confirms for me that I don't think mainstream school is the best place for A. Why do we want children to all reach the same standard at the same age? Why do they have to attain specific skills by age 6, or age 8 or whatever - why is this the ideal? And once these standards are in place you cant help but get into the mentality of comparing kids and it all becomes a big competition. Maybe that works well for kids who are naturally very competitive (or maybe it just appears to as they manage to jump through all the hoops and 'achieve'), but A doesn't respond well in a competitive environment. Some kids just don't.

A has spent a lot of time painting this week (I sometimes think she would happily spend all day every day painting!) and came up with a whole series of 'modern art' pieces. Very interesting. Not something I'm particularly into - modern art - but I think we may have to go down this avenue ;o)

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Happy Girls

A has had a very social weekend! On Friday afternoon we went and picked up two of her friends from her old school. It was very weird driving up to the school again, but A got a lovely welcome. We actually got there a bit early and managed to disrupt the class as one of the boys spotted us out of the window, next thing you know there are a load of kids hanging out of the window calling to A. I think she quite enjoyed all the attention, and she didn't show any signs of wanting to be back there as a class member.
A few of us went off to Findhorn bay as the weather was magnificent, and we spent a couple of hours there. Then I took the three girls over to Nairn beach (see picture), then home to ours for a sleepover. They had a great time, and I got some peace and quiet, apart from them getting up and disturbing me with their giggling at about 6.30 on Saturday morning.
Saturday afternoon A went off to another friend's house to play, and had a very happy time there too.
I had a very exciting night out on Saturday - went to see Orkestra_del_Sol in Drumnadrochit - a fantastic night!! It was all very last minute, my friend and I had seen them play before a few months ago, and said next time they play near us we will take the kids as they would love it. However, we never managed to get organised and book tickets for various reasons, so I didn't think we'd get there, but with about an hour or so to spare my friend rang and said she'd managed to get two free tickets from a friend who knows the drummer - so off we went! Unfortunately my friend's kids were with their Dad, and A was too knackered to come after her busy weekend, but the two of us had a great time - they really are a fantastic band, such fun. Next time we will definately take the kids.
Today we went off to spend our prize book tokens (the picture still hasn't been in the local paper - hopefully next week). A bought a Fairy_Fashion book, and an Usbourne Pirate_things_to_make_and_do activity book, and I got Yevgeny Zamyatin's We . Should keep us busy for a wee while.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A long one (just warning you)

A couple of pictures of Arbroath here - I didn't see much of it but it seemed like a nice little town. I managed the drive ok (just over 3 hours each way) but certainly didn't enjoy it. However, my biggest fear was that I would get sleepy and that didn't happen, so I was relieved about that.
The conference was very interesting and got me thinking about lots of different aspects of home education. The main speaker was John_Taylor_Gatto who I didn't know much about. After hearing him speak I really want to read some of his books. Someone at the conference made the comment over coffee that Gatto is a better writer than speaker, and he did seem to ramble a bit, making it difficult to follow his thread at times (the fact that he spoke for so long - two sessions - added to this), but he clearly held a huge amount of information on his subject, both from research and his own experience.
He talked a lot about the origins of modern schooling, how schools evolved and the purpose of schools. He had a very American perspective of course, but much of what he discussed was relevant to us too. I have to admit there were times when I felt he was coming across as some kind of conspiracy theorist, and I don't think that went down well with some of the other conference attendees (there were teachers and Education Authority representatives), but when I read some of the handouts about what he achieved as a teacher I couldn't help but respect him. Thats why I want to read some of his stuff, as I think I only heard a fraction of what he has to say, and would like a wider view.

The other speaker was a solicitor from the Education Law Unit at Govan Law Centre, who deal with many home educating families having problems with LEAs. Again - very interesting - but very specific, and not much of it relating to my situation (thankfully).

I also went to a workshop on autonomous learning. A lot of this was geared towards dealing with education authority people, and how parents 'prove' their children are learning through the autonomous approach. Some good discussions, and great to hear from people who are actually doing it (including a teenage girl who was home educated in this way).

So what did I come away thinking??
A lot of Gatto's talk reaffirmed my feelings about mainstream schooling. Its not what I would choose for A. But there is a lot of other stuff going around my head, and I still haven't really processed it yet. It has inspired me to do some more reading though, and I will probably post more on this.
Another area I'm now thinking about is LEA involvement. I haven't had to inform them I'm home educating as A was at an independent school, but they may at some point catch up with us. Its not that I'm particularly worried about this, but I'd like to be prepared if they do suddenly contact me.

A beautiful rose we spotted on Monday - walking home in the rain.

One of our little (?) friends, who live at the bottom of our road. We always stop and have a chat, A says this one is called 'Patch'.

We both have colds at the moment, so are lying around going "I hate being ill", and listening to story CDs. We did manage to get out and bring a few wheelbarrow's full of wood round to stock up (our landlord lets us help ourselves to his massive wood pile - nice man). Its definately feeling like autumn now, and I'm terrified about my gas bill so am trying not to use the central heating much. Our flat is very old and draughty with high ceilings, and is very, very cold in winter, so I think we'll just live in the living room where the wood burner is when it gets too cold.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Oh No!

I have to get up at about 5am tomorrow!!
Several weeks ago I booked for the Learning_Without_Limits Conference run by Schoolhouse (the Scottish home education support organisation). At the time I was so enthusiastic about going that I didn't really think about how far away Arbroath is (where its taking place). I'm still really keen to go, but I'm dreading the drive! Hopefully it will be worth it - I'll let you know ;o)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

We Won Something!

Last week A was grumbling that 'we never win anything', then later that same day I got a call from a local library to tell me we had come second in a competition and won £15 worth of book tokens! So yesterday we went for the presentation and had our photo taken for the local paper - very exciting. For the competition we had to go round the high street finding books in shop windows, writing down the authors names, and find the secret phrase made up from the first letters of the authors surnames. So now we must get to a bookshop and spend our winnings.
We also met up with some friends yesterday who had been away since the beginning of July, and whom we had really missed, so a good day all round.

Had a lie-in this morning, listening to Radio 4' big_bang_day stuff. I found it all quite mind boggling, but very interesting, I think A dozed through most of it - it didn't seem to inspire her! She has been quite caught up with her current 'saving the earth' project, focusing on animals at the moment. She's been using a number of books, plus googling things, and coming up with some interesting facts and info and some great drawings. She's doing most of it by herself and seems to be really enjoying it.
Maths is becoming a bit of an issue, not because A cant do it, but (as I think I mentioned in a previous post) she is very quick to give up, and becomes quite frustrated and cross about it. When I sit and go through it with her she does understand and can work things out. We've been using a couple of different workbooks which seemed good and quite 'fun', but I'm wondering if I need to find a different approach and different resources to help her. Any suggestions very welcome!!

Working backwards here - Monday was a beautiful day, after Tai Chi we spontaneously decided to head to the beach and enjoy the sunshine, so we had some chips at the little cafe and then went paddling in the sea and collected loads of shells for jewellery making. Then it was back home to our trampoline classroom for some project work and discussions. We both commented how wonderful it was to be able to get out and enjoy the last of the summer, and how much we are loving home ed :)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Does anyone know... to get approved by the Home-ed UK and Early Years HE Blogrings???
I 'joined' both of them months ago, and have the links to them on this blog, but have never been approved so don't appear on their lists. I'm trying not to take this personally ;))
I know there are a couple of other bloggers who are on their list who sometimes read my this, so was just wondering if anyone has the secret of how to get approved?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Museums and rainy river walks

We found this huge spiders web on our way to the Nairn_Museum on Thursday, the photo doesn't capture it brilliantly, but it was quite impressive in real life! The museum was great, we've been plenty of times before but always enjoy it, and there is currently a Russian Highland Connections exhibition which was very interesting. There were lots of leaflets about the Scottish-Russia_Forum which made me think again about learning Russian (I tried a few years ago but didn't get very far). I've had a long interest in Russian literature and have always wanted to go there, maybe learning some basics of the language is something I could do with A, and if she shows an interest we could look at other aspects of the country such as geography, art, literature, religion.

We have another visitor up from England at the moment, so after the museum we went for a walk by the river. Once we set off the rain started, quite heavily! But we had plenty of trees for shelter so didn't get too wet, and its just as beautiful in the rain.

Saturday was another museum day, this time in Elgin (inspired by By_other_means ). A much bigger museum than the Nairn one, and very good too. It was great to see some of the artefacts we'd heard about at our trip to the Birnie archaeological site. We were particularly interested in the section about the Picts, and now have a few other local places of interest we want to visit connected with this, not least the caves at Covesea.

This morning we were up at 7am (WHAT?!?) for a car boot sale. I really am not a morning person! The fact that it was cold and windy didn't help much either. However, A is quite happy with her takings for the morning (about £13, personally I don't think thats enough of a reward for standing in the cold for 3 hours on a Sunday morning, but maybe I'm just a miserable git!) and she's keen to do another one as soon as possible :(

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


A went to another drama workshop today with the home ed group, which she thoroughly enjoyed. There was a girl there who went to her old school (although in a higher class) and it was lovely to see them connect. There were some other girls there who A really likes and is starting to get to know a little bit now we've been to a few group things. I loved the fact that the drama teacher got the kids to work with different partners during the class, I think it pushes them to interact a bit more than they generally might, but in a safe context.
The weather was good for us, so most of us went for a picnic afterwards in the park. I had some interesting chats with some of the other parents, and am feeling a bit more comfortable now with the social side of it. It all seems pretty relaxed.

It struck me today how much more tuned in to A I am, I suppose its a natural consequence of spending so much time together. There were several incidents today where she almost burst into tears over very minor things, and I was able to take the time to chat with her and get to the bottom of what was bothering her. It turned out that she was worried that she'd upset a friend she hasn't seen for ages. I know that in the past when she's behaved like this I've got irritated and not taken the time to sit down and just give her the opportunity to reveal things in her own time, in her own way. I think this is one of the best things about home educating - I feel like I'm being a proper parent, doing all the things I should have been doing when I didn't have the time because we were always rushing somewhere.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Messy biscuits

Don't laugh!!!!
Yes, we've been baking again. These were supposed to be perfect little squares and spirals, but clearly we didn't make our dough firm enough as they all squished when we cut them. But do we care? No, because they still taste really good.
As usual our baking session morphed into a dance session, we cannot bake without dance music on, and once the goodies are in the oven there's nothing else to do but boogie around the kitchen. Its just as well really, considering the extra calories we are getting with regular cake and biscuit creations happening.
Talking of dancing, we have been doing the Latina_Tone exercise DVD in the mornings, as an attempt to wake us up and get us ready for the day. Its worked quite well I think, and has been quite hilarious as neither of us can keep up with the DVD so end up doing our own version.
A decided for some reason that today was our first day of 'proper' home education, I think its just hit home that her friends are back at school now. So she did some maths this morning. She doesn't seem to have any problems with maths apart from self confidence, she's very quick to say "I cant do it", but when I sit and go through it with her she actually picks things up very quickly.
She also wrote a story while I was doing my Tai Chi class, so she's worked very hard today.