Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Oh no he didn't.....OH YES HE DID!

I have soooo much to blog about - mainly about our time in New York - but so far I have failed miserably to get around to it. The days just go past so quickly and since my children NEVER go to bed early there doesn't seem to be much time left for anything else! I've decided I need to get back to blogging from now and perhaps pop in a few updates of the more interesting stuff we have been doing as I go along. Perhaps next year I'll get better at all of this ;-)

Anyway, back to the title of this post. Rhiannon has recently
joined a local theatre group, the Clarbeston Road Players. She is really enjoying being in the group which has members ranging in age from 7 to 80+. She's made lots of new friends and at last has a social's not been easy for her at 15 moving to a new and very rural area to make new social contacts. But she's made the effort and come up smiling as it were.

Well it's panto season, and she is playing the cat in "Dick Whittington". She designed her own costume and does her own stage make up - it takes her about 2 hours! Here are a few pics.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Foxy encounters........

"What do ya reckon then.......?"

Monday, 28 September 2009

Without any words...........

Thought it was about time I got around to updating the "title picture" of the blog. The last photo was taken in May 2007 and we hadn't even moved to Pembrokeshire at that point. Alot has happened since - the children have certainly grown and at last we are settling into a home of our own again.

I couldn't believe how difficult it was to choose another picture! There was only room for one! I agonised for some time over my choice.

Then I became intrigued as to why the choice seemed so important.

I suppose it's because I felt the photo had to say something about us as a family - where we are, where we're going, the things we love, enjoy and value.

Sounds a bit precocious doesn't it! But I think that on a subconscious level at least, it was things like that that led me to make my decision.

So what do you make of us then?!!!!

Images can be so powerful it's almost scary.........and this is only a blog!

Perhaps I'll change the picture a little more often so I can share the others that were "just right" ............ and tell you a bit more about us without any words!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dragons, drawing and discovery!

Just had to share this beautiful pencil drawing my daughter did yesterday for a birthday card.

So far she's self taught, (with the exception of a painting and drawing correspondence course she has been doing.) She's thinking of doing an art/design based National Diploma next year at Pembrokeshire College. It will be interesting to see what professional guidance can do for her work. But I'm glad she's already learnt to be self-reliant! She has already learnt to discover how to do things for herself. She has no one to tell her how to create an effect here. Every day is a journey of discovery!

I think that now she needs more, but I hope she will never forget to believe in her own ability to find a solution to a "problem".

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Story of Stuff

Today we've been talking about "stuff" and thinking about the implications of "stuff". Dh found a great website which I wanted to share - It starts with a great 20 minute presentation which brilliantly shows the links between all those issues we know to be important regarding the environment, exploitation of natural resources, cheap labour in developing countries etc etc.... but helps us to see the bigger picture. It is very much based on the American system but nevertheless, the points apply to all of us living in the Western World! It was a great conversation spinner and we hope to follow it up with some real action.

I am sure many of you are already well informed on these issues, but the children learned alot, and for me it helped put many things into perspective.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we I think I'll just knock up a few handbags out of those old jeans......!

Friday, 28 August 2009

In which we discover when it is OK to throw oneself off a bridge...!

The answer................when you are jumping into a river dressed in a helmet and life jacket, and someone who knows what they are talking about says it is safe! Still doesn't sound like a good idea to me though!

However, it turned out to be the highlight of a day out with our newly formed HE group, Kayaking in Llandysul!

Rhiannon poised for action

Oops - missed with the camera

Sam at the ready

I think he liked that.......!

I thought you were supposed to use boats or something.......................

Monday, 24 August 2009

In which we consider the joys of new houses, cardboard boxes, home education, more boxes, slugs, boxes, broken computers and much more....

So, we've done it! After 3 years of planning we've moved into our house in a Pembrokeshire village, 30 minutes from the coast.....bliss!

"Are you all settled in yet?" people ask! "Well you have been in for nearly 2 months".................actually NO WE'VE BARELY STARTED!!! Can't think why really!

Things don't look too bad on the surface - you can move around the place fairly unhindered and I know where all the important things are (like the tea and the wine glasses...). Just DON'T open the door to the garage ...................that's where we shoved everything! Still, I'm feeling optimistic - I reckon about another 3 years and we'll have sorted that lot out and perhaps dh can get his van in the garage (if it hasn't already rusted away).

The thing is, home education is a full time job in itself, so when faced with unpacking and all the hassle that goes with a house move it can all be a bit taxing.

Then there's computers....what is it with them? My dh carefully unplugged our PC, lovingly packed it away, moved it himself to the new house just 15 miles or so down the road, carefully plugged everything back in and hey presto - it wouldn't work. WHY?????!!!!! It has taken 2 months and a gazillion phone calls to get a little man from New Delhi to sort it out for us!Aaaaarrrggghhhhhh! Like we have time for this!

That said, it's nice to be back in our own place again. Here are a few pics as requested by some...

The house

Part of the rather small garden!

The neighbours.....

It all looks very neat and tidy but don't be deceived. For example if we don't take some immediate action re: the windows they'll be rotting in places given a year....all 26 of them! Eek!

Then there's the plague of slugs in the garden. The other day Rhiannon found the quail feeder full of them - evidently they love layers pellets. It's a good job I haven't started my veg plot - it would be decimated by now! ("What's that?" I hear you say, "no veg garden yet? What can you have been doing these last 2 months....?!")

Oh and then of course, there's the boxes......

Still we've been trying to regain some sense of normality. The children have decided they want more structured work to do!! Some IGCSE courses are beginning to creep in for the older ones....! But there's still lots of informal learning going on too and I think that's where the best learning happens!

Then we've been getting back to art courses long forgotten!
Still life in pastels

Sam sketching (complete with pastel all over his forehead!)
Then there's been lots of cooking.....
Home-made burgers

And there's been a birthday for Jo..........

Rhiannon has been busy - she has recently joined a local theatre group which she is really enjoying. And a real turn up for the books..... she has now started thinking about college possibilities for the future! It's taken a while to get to this point but I wanted it to be in her own time. How many of us were "bullied" by careers teachers in to making decisions about our futures long before we were really ready? I know it happened to me. On paper I was the model student - just 14, and a career path all mapped out. I never gave it another thought - just went from one qualification to the next until I reached my goal........only to realise at the age of 22 that it had all been a big mistake. I'm not suggesting I can stop this happening to my children nor that sometimes early vocations do not become successful and fulfilling careers. I just think that if I hadn't been so pressured to make career decisions at such a young age I would have probably taken a very different path. Anyway, enough of me......Rhiannon has no definite plans as yet but I think she has finally decided the broad area she would like to study more seriously. So she's now trying to find out what qualifications she may or may not need to move forward. I just need to find the balance between letting her find her own way and giving the right amount of support and encouragement. I'm always afraid of pushing too hard in my anxiety to make sure she does the "right thing". She's not a terribly "driven" personality and admits she needs a bit of a nudge sometimes. I just don't want to be responsible for "nudging" her into something she doesn't really want.

The boys are still surfing - they passed their level 2 British Surfing Association Awards a couple of weeks ago, so they're having fun with that! They're also making some new friends in the village and are enjoying the greater freedom they have here to go off on their bikes and explore.
Well that's a quick run down of our goings on.....trouble is I always leave the blogging for so long that it seems like a daunting task and there are too many thing to say. So once again I'm promising myself to make more of an effort....!
We're off kayaking tomorrow so will try to remember to put in a report ;)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Fairies never go to bed.....

....according to my three year old! She has been walking around the Botanic Gardens of Wales all day dressed in a pair of fairy wings and a sparkly crown. We had a lovely day pond dipping, looking at what we'd caught under microscopes, and later, den building. A day when HE seems right and purposeful, when everyone is happy and learning by default.

Then later, I had a comment from an old "friend" on Facebook about HE and the proposed monitoring arrangements which were frankly derogatory to all home educators. The implication being that we were all lazy and just "couldn't be bothered to send our children to school". I was angry and upset, not just for myself but for all the many selfless, hardworking home educators I have met over the past three years. Maybe I've been lucky (or just oblivious) to have not encountered such prejudice before, but it brought home to me just how unaware most people are as to the law regarding education. How narrow minded people are. Sad to realise how people cannot see that everyone is different, so that a "one size fits all" style of education can never work. I am not in any way critical of those who send their children to school - I did it once - but how dare they criticise me for choosing to fully exercise my responsibility and right to educate my children in the way I see fit!

It only makes me feel more determined to make HE work for my children for as long as they want it - if they want to return to school then they know they are always free to do's part of the deal.

Anyway, I'm sorry to rant, but I feel injured by this attack - I guess I need to toughen up.

To explain why I haven't been blogging.......we have finally moved to our own house - it's been a stressful year with two moves, but hopefully we can get settled now.....and I can get blogging!

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Surf and stuff.....

Highlight of the year.......the boys have joined Surf Club!! 2 hours of madness on a Sunday evening. It's what they've been waiting for ever since we moved to Pembrokeshire. And what a fantastic evening for their first surf lesson! Incidentally it was off of the very same beach where they recently filmed scenes for the next Harry Potter movie "The Deathly Hallows" - but that is irrelevant really! The only magic today was in the moment!

Apart from that we've been having an odd sort of time where I don't feel we are "getting much done" in the way of HE. But maybe those are the times when we achieve the most! Here are a couple of things that happen when "nothing happens".......

Jo has been studying the laws of physics!

Rhiannon continues to explore creative possibilities....this time with silk.

Oh yes, and when I don't interfere they just read alot....................they'd much rather read than empty the dishwasher - then again, come to think of would I!

Friday, 29 May 2009


Just wallowing in the pleasure of having spent a glorious summer evening barbequeing on the beach, the children just enjoying being and doing their own thing.....sand art, rock balancing, sand castles. paddling.....the perfect end to an otherwise pretty rubbish day!!!!

Building "Minas Tirith"

Sand Art

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Oh no, not again!

I can't believe it - another Quail dead.  We have been keeping them inside but the male likes to have a fly around - stretch his wings so to speak.  So we put him in the run during the day for a couple of hours thinking he'd be fine as long as we brought him in by nightfall.  

Three hours later we found him dead.  A friend of mine suggested a stoat the likely culprit and that it would have been able to get in through the chicken wire!

So now we only have 2.  A sad day.

We need a very big rethink on how to house our quails...............sounds like an opportunity for a design project!  Back to the drawing board................

Promise to try to post something more cheerful next time.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Quail crisis!

Bit of a traumatic day today - two of our quails were attacked and killed in the night.  We have no idea how anything could have got into the run.  We assume it was a rat.  Since we don't know how it got in we don't know how to keep it out, so now we have three quails in the conservatory!  Our poor quails seem to have been facing calamity after calamity over the past few weeks.  We've had a couple lost to rat attacks recently - we tried to reinforce the run but obviously we're missing something.  Then one of Rhiannon's baby quails died of some infection a few weeks back.  I think poor Rhiannon is feeling a bit defeated.  She does everything she can to look after her quails as far as I can see.  Things just aren't going too well at the moment.  Not really sure where we go from here.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Serious need for a mega-update!

Oh dear, I really need to work on this blogging. The trouble is the longer you leave it the harder it gets and since I haven't posted since February I need to take a very deep breath and dive in!

We've had a few visits from friends and family over the past couple of months.

Just after my last post we had a lovely visit from our good HE friends from Oxfordshire. It was amazing to see how 7 children could get on so beautifully in the same house over 5 days without a cross word! Had great fun jumping off sand dunes, cooking sausages on the beach and our friends shared their woodcraft skills with the children. Thanks! A very special time - we hope they will be back soon for another visit!

At Easter we had a lovely visit from some of our other friends in Oxfordshire. The weather was great and the children really enjoyed spending time with old friends as did I. The hardest thing about moving to Pembrokshire has been missing close friends....we've all felt that over the past six months.....but it is always great to spend quality time with them when they visit.

My sister and family managed their first visit (its a heck of a long way from Yorkshire!) last week. It was so nice to share a bit of our beloved Pembrokeshire with them. The highlight (for me anyway) was our visit to Skomer to see the puffins, but I think Uncle P found it all a bit strenuous! Here are a couple of Rhiannons pictures...

When we have been without visitors life has been a mixture of house hunting, hospital visits to investigate my dh's dicky stomach, spending time enjoying our new surroundings (i.e. Pembrokeshire) and ....oh yes, HE! To be honest it's been a bit of a barren time on that score. I think we have all felt unsettled not having a house of our own - I don't think its being in rented accomodation as such that has been the problem. More the fact that we know we want to move on....and we have looked at alot of houses.....frankly we're all sick of it. I have found it difficult to focus on working with the children and as much as I would LOVE to work in a fully autonomous way, the children increasingly want more input from me. But then again if that's their choice I guess that's still autonomy?! I always had this vision of autonomously educated children floating around the house all day contentedly exploring and asking questions and me being there just at the right moment..............................oh dear - need a rethink!

Having said all that, I do think we have turn
ed a corner as a family with regards to HE in just the last couple of weeks. At last we seem to have found our feet..its only taken 2 and a half years. Its difficult to explain but things are calmer and more fun. For example the other day we were talking about atomic structure - I never thought that could be enjoyable but it was (or am I getting too old?) It was something about the way we were able to share ideas, ask questions, think about the concepts that felt so constructive. I don't think I ever experienced that feeling through my entire education. It felt really important - not the subject matter - but the process we were going through, the way we were helping eachother discover new things. I don't think that would happen at school - there just wouldn't be time. Don't get me wrong - I have no illusions that all will be hunky-dorey from now on, but something has changed that feels more right. (Of course I may be eating my words by the next time I post!)

Anyway, off my soap box. Here are a few other things we have been up to.

We painted rocks.........

Rhiannon hatched more quails.........

.....and some chickens for a local HE friend who has a smallholding.

Keira cut, stuck and painted.........

The boys did lots of exercise.....

And we all played on the beach!

Its a tough life but somebodys got to live it!!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Nomads and Musicians

My dh is always complaining that because of his work he feels like a Nomad! Well this week we've been thinking about the Nomads who were kicking around in about 10,000BC. So we thought that in true home ed style we should have a go at building a shelter in the paddock and cooking up a feast over a roaring fire! This is the moment when I realised that home ed has really transported me into a kind of parallel universe....never before in my well ordered life would I have even considered such a thing! The children say that I'm "coming on" and "showing signs of improvement" though I must admit the control freak in me keeps trying to get out.

Well the children set to constructing a somewhat precarious shelter and covered part of it with animal skins (...... old dust sheets actually, but you get the point!) Then they made a fire pit whilst I "foraged" at the local farm shop for roots and funghi and "hunted" for a nice rump steak.

Well it was all going rather well until we tried to get the fire going and actually cook on it! In my optimism I had placed a large bucket of water next to the fire pit, but I needn't have worried. It took about 2 hours and a whole box of matches (I mean flints ) to get some thing like a fire going!! Oh the shame of it..........we have HE friends who are experts at such things!

Finally managed to produce something edible but the children concluded that even the Rayburn cooked faster than this and they really didn't fancy the idea of being Nomads! They certainly got an inkling of how hard life must have been for the Nomads compared with our own comfy way of life...........mind you, I'm sure the Nomads were more competent than us at surviving in the "wild" !!! Next time (if there is a next time) we are resolved to make a bigger fire pit so we can actually get some heat into it!! We all stink of smoke now................

Keira continues to demonstrate the natural desire to learn that all young children seem to have. For example she often watches Rhiannon and Jo practising their violins. Yesterday she got a music stand, music (a rather tricky Double Concerto by Bach) and her ukele, perched under her chin as best she could, and she began to play. After a minute she stopped and turned to me saying "can you help me Mummy, I don't know how to learn it!" So we let her have a go with Jo's is a pic - doesn't she look serious!

She so much wants to play like Rhiannon and Jo. I sometimes wonder what to do when children have such big ambitions - surely she is too young to tackle something so challenging (my natural instinct is to get out a recorder ). But at the same time I don't want to limit her through my own preconceived ideas. Perhaps there is a danger that just as we often expect too much of our children, maybe there are other times when we may inadvertently squash their enthusiasm because we think something may be beyond them. As for Keira, it is probably a phase that will pass - but maybe not. Why do I assume that she is incapable of extraordinary things?

One thing I have learned today..........I'm rubbish at building fires.