Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas Day

We had a lovely long walk along the river and on the beach.

A and Granny

Snowy mountains across the Moray Firth
The best present in the world!!
Christmas dinner :0)

Monday, 21 December 2009

Sunday, 20 December 2009


Woke up to this loveliness-

And here are mummy snow and baby snow-

Had a fantastic time playing out in the snow, including a snowball fight that went on for over an hour! (I won by the way - I'm much more devious than A).

Then we came in and had an afternoon of quizzes - out came the quiz_box from last year - we had general knowledge quizzes; staring contests; and a humming 'name that tune' quiz (A won this!).

I feel like I have done nothing but laugh today :0))

A decided this evening at about 9 o'clock to do some work on her Joanne Harris booklet - a while ago I suggested she do some research and produce a piece of work on an author she liked, this was just an attempt on my part to give A a bit of a challenge and get her to produce something she felt proud of. I was quite surprised at her choice of author, and impressed. Anyway, I love the fact that she was still working away after 10 o'clock, by choice, on something she was clearly enjoying.

I spent this evening pulling together my 'evidence' to send off to the job centre - surprise surprise - a couple of days after my last posting I got the letter through requesting self employment evidence for In Work Credit! Feeling more or less ok about it now, I just tidied up and updated my 'work diary' that I had tried to keep, and I also have invoices for the payments I have received and my paying in book for my work bank account, so hopefully that will be all they need. Mandy's comments after my last post certainly helped put my mind at ease - thanks for that!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Thought I'd do a little post about work, as I've not mentioned it much since I went self employed, and I know that from a home ed point of view there are others considering self employment who might be interested.

Generally - going quite well.
One of the things I'm having to get used to is switching focus/roles. Because of the way we operate, A spends a day or two a week with my Mum, as well as going off to clubs and friends to play. I'm not always sure exactly when she is going to return, especially from my Mum's, and I like to leave it fairly open for her to decide so that she doesn't feel like she's being offloaded and feels like she has some control over whats happening and how she spends her time. I work from home, but it is still A's home and its important she knows she can be here if she wants/needs to be, even if I'm working.
Its really important to me to be flexible, this is one of the main reasons I don't feel I could work in a conventional job with fixed hours and be the parent I want to be. Its also one of the problems I'd have with A being in school - the same rigid structure of how you spend your time. Sometimes its really important for a child to have time with their parent. There may be an obvious reason - if they are upset about something - or there may not. There may be periods where they need lots of this time, and other periods where they don't seem to need it at all. Above all, it is not predictable, it cannot be fitted into a schedule or routine.
I want to be available for as many of these 'times' as possible, because once they've gone - your child buries or hides that need - they are lost.
I know some who would accuse me of 'spoiling' my child by seeking to be available like this, or of failing to teach her about the reality of the world - that you cant get everything you want when you want. I disagree. I want my child to know that she is important to me, and I want to connect with her as much as possible. Materially she certainly doesn't get everything she wants, but time and love are not things I am going to purposely deny her just to teach her about how shitty the world can be, she'll learn that through experience I'm sure.
Anyway - getting back to the point about switching focus - what I'm having to do is put aside work if A seems to need me, and grab opportunities to pick up work while she is out or otherwise occupied. I have to admit, abandoning something I'm working on and leaving it in a pile for later is not always easy. Giving up trying to read through something because A is nattering in my ear, and turning my attention to what she is actually saying, without resentment, is not always easy. But it is getting easier. Its not an ideal way to work, but I am a parent first, so this is the way it must be.

Another issue I'm struggling with at times is: how do I prove that I'm working?
Now, I know that I am doing at least 16 hours a week 'work', but not all of it is paid work. As a freelancer I am trying to build things up, and a lot of time and effort goes into work that may never be commissioned. I do have some fairly regular clients, and there are more possibilities in the pipeline, but how to demonstrate this?
Maybe I don't need to worry about this, but I know that while I am receiving Working Tax Credits and - more importantly - In Work Credit, there will come a point when I will receive a form in the post asking for 'evidence', and the type of 'evidence' they will want is probably not the sort I can give them. I can give them bank statements and invoices showing payments I have received, but if they add it all up it wont come to 16 hours paid work a week. How do I document all the hours on the computer researching magazines/planning, researching and writing articles/brainstorming ideas/writing emails to editors/detailing my talents on listing sites/interviewing potential subjects of articles/studying books on freelance journalism?
I could tell them I've done these things, but what evidence can I give?
I gave up trying to write down hours I've worked as its all so bitty and irregular, so I cant give them a nice, neat timetable of what I've been working on, which is what they would like I'm sure.
I suppose I'll just have to wait for that form to come through the door and deal with it then. I'm just dreading having to phone them and try to explain my dilemma - I've had dealings with the centralised job centre before and it was NOT fun, they have their boxes to tick and anything outside that is just not recognised. Now I'm just depressing myself!!

This was going to be a short post - ha!
I don't want to end here with that negative stuff - the truth is I am really enjoying my work, and am very glad I went self employed. There are worries, and moments of panic still, but looking at the bigger picture I know I am working towards something for a better future. I know I will overcome the difficulties. It might not ever make me wealthy, but I am doing something I have always wanted to do, something I enjoy. Thats the best kind of job I reckon.

Christmas hearts - for Sally

Sally was asking about how we made our Christmas hearts - they are not difficult, just a little bit fiddly. I hope this photo helps explain the process:

we cut out a red and green piece of felt as shown above - I used a cardboard template as you can see, just to make sure they were exactly the same size and shape (which is quite important for the next step).
Once we'd cut the two slits, we weaved the two pieces together (the fiddly bit!), then pinned them to keep them in place, then sewed along the edges.
Lastly, we sewed on some sequins (not shown in this pic), punched a hole in the top and tied on a ribbon.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The girl's social whirl

A was singing at her old school's Christmas Market with the choir yesterday, very enjoyable to watch and listen to. She then disappeared with a gang of mates while I caught up with a couple of people and did some shopping. After a couple of hours I was ready to go, but A wasn't! Luckily another parent offered to bring her home later on, so I left her there.

She had a great time, as far as I can tell the group (about six or seven of them - girls and boys - all 11/12ish) did their own thing, including going off to the local shops, while the parents were involved in running stalls etc. This kind of thing is happening more and more often, and to me it feels positive, if a bit weird. She really is growing up.

Today she has gone off to the cinema with a couple of the friends she was with yesterday (with their parent - apart from anything else the nearest cinema is 15 miles away).

I have to say I am really enjoying seeing her burgeoning independence, and the self confidence that clearly follows. We seem to have entered into a new phase of this, which I think is partly a result of all the new group activities she is involved in. The latest of these - the creative writing group - is fantastic, and I'm sure will do wonders for her confidence.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Received this in my viva parcel yesterday:

I can see that my new year weight-loss plan (for when I've finished all the chocolate I've ordered in for Christmas!) is just not going to happen!!!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Crafty TV day

This is what we're having today - in front of the box, working on this years Christmas project (see below). We have about 22 of these to make and send off with cards (we've made the cards already - we usually do that in January!). So far we've made 8, but not all of those have the sequins sewn on yet, so today we really need to crack on.

A's concert went very well last week, and she really enjoyed performing. There are another couple of carol singing gigs coming up with the choir, so she's all excited about that. One of them is at her old school's Christmas Market, and the other is at the big shopping centre in Inverness.
We have also discovered that there is a local children's creative writing group, so A is going to go along on Monday and see how she gets on. She knows a couple of the girls who go, so that makes it easier I think.

I have been getting a lot of headaches over the last year or two, and just recently had a couple of attacks of a weird visual disturbance - a kind of curved, shimmery blind-spot. This lasts for about 20 minutes and leaves me with a headache and feeling sick and woozy. After a trip to the doctor I have discovered that I suffer from migraines, or 'ocular migraines' to be more precise. In a way it is a relief, as I had myself all worked up about brain tumours etc, but I just hope they don't get worse.
At the moment I take ibuprofen when it gets really bad, and the doctor said there were lots of different stronger painkillers I could try if things got worse, but I hate taking pills, and would like to find a more natural remedy. Am thinking of trying acupuncture. Any other suggestions?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Happy Day

No book-learnin going on here today - had a wonderful long walk in the sunshine, then a huge clearout of our bedrooms, including some furniture shifting. Feels like we have new rooms.
I've done some online Christmas shopping this evening, and have ordered in far too much chocolate (vegan_store is a very dangerous site!)*. Also some books and stocking fillers.
*just had an email informing me that the postal charge for our area is £11.99 instead of £4.95 for the rest of the UK - extortionate! How can they justify that? Wont be ordering from them again!!

Here are a few pics from our day:

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


We went off to Elgin on Monday, to go to the big library, but also with the intention of buying a chemistry set for A. This is what we came home with!

A was so thrilled to find it, her interest in forensic science and detectives is ongoing, and she is currently working on something for the next Quaker children meeting to do with solving crimes (I'm not totally sure what its all about, she had a long meeting with the adult who is taking the meeting and has been working on various bits and pieces for it. All I know for sure is that I have to bake some biscuits for it?!)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Another busy week!

I really feel I need an extra day in my week.

I was at a conference on Tuesday - 'Immunity From Pandemics: Protecting Yourself & Your Community', put on by the Shen_Foundation . Very interesting stuff with some excellent speakers. In particular Prof_Mark_Harrison from Oxford who spoke about historical perspectives on pandemics; and Dr Zaijin Ren who talked about her extensive experience of flu prevention projects in China, particularly in relation to use of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Meanwhile, Granny took A to see a play - Playing_a_round_with_Shakespeare , which they both enjoyed very much. I'm sad to have missed it myself, it sounded great - very funny apparently.

Choir and drama on Wednesday again - the choir have their first performance next Friday and A is very excited about that, and rehearsals for the drama performance (next month) are developing well. A and her friend are coming up with some great ideas about costumes and slapstick routines for their roles, they make a good comedy duo.

A had her third piano lesson and I am so thrilled with the way its going. Its not so much the level of playing (although she's catching on to things very quickly), but more the way she approaches it and communicates with the teacher. She is showing herself to be a very mature and intelligent young person, and I feel very proud of her.

On Friday we had a home ed group visit to Duff_House , where the children learnt about how it was used as a POW camp during WWII. The activity leader was really good - in character as a soldier, but not too shouty or intimidating. I think the kids had a lot of fun.
A certainly enjoyed it, and also enjoyed seeing a few friends again, particularly the girls who came over to ours a couple of weeks ago. She managed to have a bit of time with them after the group activity, and we're going over to theirs sometime soon.

A has spent this weekend with her Grandparents, and also had the chance to see her little half siblings and their mum. She's not back yet so I don't know how it went, but I'm sure they will have had a lovely time, and Nonna will be exhausted!! (but in a good way).

Friday, 6 November 2009

Films, drama, singing, piano-playing...

This has been quite a hectic week for us. We saw some films as part of the
national_schools_film_week , the first time we've taken part in this as we were away last year, and the Steiner school A used to go to (unsurprisingly!) never participated. It was very easy to book (online), they had no problem accommodating home educators.
On Monday we saw Kirikou_and_the_Sorceress , a fantastic West African film about a little boy born with the ability to walk and speak. Very different from the usual Disney/Pixar films we're bombarded with.
Tuesday Granny took A to see The_Secret_of_Moonacre , which they both seemed to enjoy.
Yesterday we saw The_Spiderwick_Chronicles , which I found a bit scary, although A didn't. Quite fun though.
Kirikou was definitley my favourite, A says Spiderwick was hers.
A also watched The_Cat_Returns , at home. I only saw tiny bits of as I was too busy to sit and watch it, but it looked really good, and A really liked it. We've seen a few of these Japanese animation films now, and love them.

A is having a great time at her new drama class, and they are preparing for their Christmas show next month. Its so good to see her enjoying drama again, she's been in various drama groups since she was about six and always loved them, but there was a bit of a gap where we couldn't find a suitable one, until a local class started up this August. One of her best friends goes as well, and they usually get together after class for a while, so thats a good arrangement for all.

A has also joined a choir, which I'm delighted about because I've been encouraging her to do this for ages (she has a great voice). Its at her old school, so she knows most of the people already, and is a mixture of adults and children which I think is really good. I drop her there and wait in the car - there's no way you'll get me singing (it would be very unpleasant for all invovled) - which is ok as I get to catch up on some reading for an hour or so.

And... I have managed to find a great piano teacher who lives just round the corner from us! I've been trying to find someone to give A piano lessons for months - asking around a lot etc - so its fabulous to have found someone so near. (I'm having to borrow the car every week for choir now as that is ten miles away and we have to get straight back for drama the same night, so I really didn't want to have to borrow it another night for another class.) The piano teacher seems very direct and clear in his approach, but in a gentle way. He doesn't 'talk down' to A, but treats her as the intelligent person she is, and already seems well aware of her tendency to panic when she gets things wrong, reassuring her that she's doing really well. She's only had two lessons so far, but I'm really pleased with how its going, and more importantly so is she!

Workwise, things are going well so far, although I still have panicky moments where it all feels out of control. I'm struggling with time management, but I knew I would, and I also know I'll get there and become more organised as things progress - I'll have to!
Trying to sort out the official stuff like Housing Benefit has been a bit frustrating (again - I knew it would be!) They like all the information to fit the boxes they have to tick, and want definite figures for earnings etc, which is all a bit impossible if you are just starting out as a freelancer! So I'm doing my best to give them as much as I can, hopefully it will all get sorted soon, as its highly unlikely I'll make enough to pay all my rent at this stage. That is the ultimate aim of course, but it will take a while to build things up.

Today was the first day this week we could just be at home, so we had some maths and English this morning - we've been working on place value for maths and A has struggled with this. I think its getting a bit boring for her going over it again and again, I've tried to find different ways of explaining it to make it clearer, but then I worry I'm making it even more confusing by explaining it differently! But I've found some games in this book which a friend gave me a while back that might help. For English A chose to use A Ladybird 'Grammar and Puctuation' workbook that Granny gave us (strangely I cant find a link to it!?). As workbooks go it wasn't bad, and A seemed to focus very well with it. In between all this 'sitting down learning' stuff has been much drumming and other percussion type noises going on in the kitchen, which is always good :0)

Baking Day

This was a couple of weeks ago, A decided she wanted to bake something completely by herself to take to Nonna & Nonno's. She did a very professional job, I just sneaked in to take a few photos.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Happy (belated) Halloween!!

I have had a sick computer :0(
I had to send it away to have some nasty stuff removed, but got it back today all cleared and protected.

We had a great Halloween, spent the day at a friend's party, tooks the kids guising, then my friend took her girls and A to a ceilidh (I couldn't face any more socialising, so stayed in with a DVD). We stayed over at our friends, and had a lazy Sunday - I left A there for the afternoon.

A's pumpkin:
a little bit of carving:

And you have a scary cat!
(the little one is mine)

Here are some wonderful ones we saw in a shop in York:

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A busy week

Well, I finally took the leap I've been planning for the best part of a year, and officially registered as self-employed! I am now a freelance writer/researcher. I haven't blogged about this before much for a few reasons. Partly because this blog is primarily about our home education experience (although its impossible to separate that from our lives generally I suppose). Mostly because I just wasn't comfortable writing about it. Anyway, now it is a reality and is going to affect us both quite a lot.
This week I've been dealing with a lot of the official stuff - phone calls etc - and have found it quite stressful. I think once everything is in place and I know what money is coming in and can budget accordingly I will relax a bit. I'm really looking forward to the 'work' bit, but it will mean juggling things a bit more time-wise. A is old enough to understand what's going on, and is very supportive, even asking if she can help with some of my work as part of her home ed. I just need to make sure 'work time' doesn't eat into 'A time', but I will be mainly working when A is at her Granny's.
I spent the whole of Sunday doing some research work - my first bit of paid employment as a freelancer - but got a bit carried away and forgot to take breaks from the computer. Consequently I ended up feeling like my head was going to implode and was unable to get to sleep until about 3am. Not a good start!

Anyway, enough of my stuff, what else have we been up to???
Very much enjoying the new series of Scrubs - a programme A introduced me to. Makes us both laugh like maniacs. Particularly like the misanthropic Dr Cox.

Granny arrived home from her trip to Napoli, with lots of pretty little gifts for A, and a huge bottle of Amaretto for me (mmmm...she knows me so well).

We had a lovely day out with some friends in Aberdeen. Went to see the
Mueck exhibition at the Art Gallery, which I absolutely loved. The giant newborn baby was so beautiful, amazing detail.
We also had a nice lunch and wandered round the shops a bit. Miserable weather, and a very crowded train journey there and back, but good company makes all that irrelevant.

Today we had some friends over from the home ed group - a Mum and her four daughters. We had met them at several different events, and at one of the more recent ones A worked in a group with the two oldest girls and got on very well with them. So when A was feeling a bit lonely recently I decided to invite them round. It all went very well, the girls all played happily, and the youngest (a four-year-old) took a particular liking to A, which was very sweet, and well received by A.
I really enjoyed getting to know their mum a bit better, and we discovered that we lived round the corner from each other when A was a baby! Small world! Hopefully we'll get out to visit them at their place soon.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Last photos of York (I promise)

Barley_Hall is a restored medieval town house.

A feasting in the Great Hall

Where the fire place was in the middle of the Great Hall

A plague doctor, nightmarish figure, part of the 'Plague, Poverty and Prayer' exhibition.

The Roman_Baths_Museum was tiny, but full of fascinating stuff, like this Roman equivalent of toilet paper.

This was a great little place - we had a wander round, looked at some of the art work and chatted with the very friendly proprietor. Would have been nice for A to do a bit of painting there, but she felt a bit conspicuous as no one else was painting when we went in.

Rowntree Park

This lovely park was just a couple of minutes walk from our guest house.

Friday, 16 October 2009

York again - lots more pics!

We visited the Minster , but only went up the tower as the rest was too expensive (we were running low on funds at this point!) Lots of steps, but great views.

Clifford's Tower - part of York_Castle , and site of a horrific anti-semitic massacre in 1190.

We went to the Castle museum too, the prison exhibition was really interesting.

Spotted these on the wall of an old church in the centre of York - gorgeous!