Sunday, 30 May 2010

And Then There Were Three...

At last I have managed to get hold of a few photos of the one act play that Rhiannon recently took part in with the Clarbeston Road players.  Here is the cast - all teenagers except for one who was just 9!  Don't they look cool!

The play was about a group of young people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where no adults remain alive.  The events of the play are tragic and leave only three of them alive at the end.

Scenes from the dress rehearsal.  The play was performed at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven which has a large stage.  Because of this they were unable to rehearse on the small stage at the hall where they usually rehearse and perform, so they had to rehearse in the hall to get used to the space that they would have available on the day.

Rhiannon wielding a stick............

Publicity photos for the local paper.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

More art.....

.........from Rhiannon.  Another fantasy piece in pen and ink.  She wasn't too happy with the girl or the background.

If any of you are into the "Skulduggery Pleasant" books, the characters are Tanith (that's the girl brandishing a sword) and the Torment (I think that's the spider).

Although the characters are from a book, there were no illustrations of them so they are her own interpretation of them.  

She's definitely getting more confident with using colour and is now moving away from copying other people's work or photographic images - I think that's quite a leap, and one that is happening even though she does not have alot of time for art at the moment, whilst preparing for exams. (Sigh!)

In which we are amazed and delighted at the product of a humble Tescos egg.....

With just a week to go until Rhiannon's first exam life is truly hectic - especially since we will have to travel to my sister's house in Wetherby so she can sit her exams in Harrogate!  It's always a major operation going anywhere with my lot - even if it's just for a day.  Trying to help Rhiannon in her last phases of exam preparation is hard work enough without having to get packed and organised for a week and a half away.

We enjoyed a lighter moment over the weekend though when our duck egg finally hatched!

The duckling is huge!  He/she is fit and healthy and has now moved to be with the lad who didn't believe a supermarket egg would hatch!  Don't worry, he does have a proper home to go to once he is old enough -we wouldn't have agreed to incubate the egg purely for experimental purposes!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

In which we wonder what is the purpose of exams, and why there's so much slate in my garden....

Well spring has finally sprung here in Pembrokeshire and life is as busy as ever.  Thought it was about time (or perhaps a bit overdue) to sit down and have a quick update on some of the things we have been up to!

With the good weather I've been trying to get our little garden going, and it really does seem to be taking up a disproportionate amount of time.  Trying to create something attractive but also productive is pretty tricky in such a small space but we have a cunning plan!  Rhiannon (of course) came up with a design as she said she didn't want it looking like an allotment!  I quite like the allotment look but I will bend to her superior sense of style!  Trouble is the digging is hard work because the ground is very compacted and full of slate.  The boys have helped me quite a bit and Derek when he is around, but Keira is only interested in the fun bits like sowing seeds (who can blame her!)  We've managed to dig a couple of beds but I've got loads of stuff to go in and more beds to dig.  Each bed, although only small is taking over a week to double dig.  Then we go off with our squeaky wheelbarrow to raid a pile of well rotted manure that no one else wants (the neighbours already think we're eccentric).  Then because the soil was so compacted there's not enough room in the hole for our soil to go.  So now we have piles of unwanted soil and slate rubble which is really making the garden look attractive (sigh!)  It's all looking a bit of a mess at the moment but at least it's nice to see some produce popping out of the long as we can keep the armies of slugs at bay!

Gardening isn't the only thing we've been doing though.

We've started to get out and about again - back to the beach, fab walks and trips to the Botanic Gardens of Wales and the Centre for Alternative Technology.  We normally manage to get out more throughout the winter but it was just so relentlessly wet and windy, there was little pleasure to be had in it.

Guess where!

Rhiannon took part in a one Act Play festival at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven.  They put on a challenging post-apocalyptic play called "And Then there were Three".    It was about 6 children trying to survive without adults following a global catastrophe in which all adults over the age of 18 had died of a deadly virus.  Sounds a bit hard going I know,  but it was fantastic and surprisingly entertaining, given the subject matter!  It won't be too long before its' back to Panto rehearsals for a bit of light relief!!

Jo with Derek at his book signing!

Jo helped to publicise a new book called "Is" by Derek Webb.  It's about a girl who believes herself to be the reincarnation of Isenbard Kingdom Brunel.  Jo took part in a dramatisation of parts of the book which took place in Haverfordwest Library and the Waterfront Museum in Swansea.  He really enjoyed it and as a bonus, it triggered an interest in Brunel and we have been watching some documentaries about his life and work as a result.

We had an "eggy" time over easter, having our first go at painting eggs.

We also began incubating some duck eggs!  There is a lad in the village who simply couldn't believe that we'd successfully hatched quail eggs that had come from a shop.  So he found someone who wanted some ducks and bought some duck eggs from Tescos.  He put 6 eggs in a make shift incubator he'd thrown together in his bedroom and gave the other 6 to Rhiannon to put in her proper incubator.  Needless to say, none of his eggs developed, but one of Rhiannon's is doing well!  It shoud hatch in under 2 weeks now, so we'll keep you posted!  Still it's a bit sad there's only one.......

We hope it won't be long before we begin incubating some bantum eggs for our own garden.  We will be getting our eggs from a local breeder who specialises in wynadotte bantums.  We are told they are good layers (for bantums) and something smaller seems better suited to our pokey little garden!  The only thing that's holding us back is that we will be away for Rhiannon's exams and then again for HESFES and there's no one here we know well enough to ask to look after young hatchlings.  Apart from anything else we don't want to miss any of that part anyway!  So we'll probably pop some eggs in the incubator before going off to HESFES  (it turns the eggs automatically).

Oh yes....those exams.  Rhiannon is just over three weeks away from her first exam.  It really has been an eye opener.  We spend more time talking about how to interpret a question to work out what the examiners want to hear than anything else!  Learning how to jump through the hoops in the right way is critical to success!  What happened to learning something in a meaningful way?  Frankly it all seems a bit of a waste of time - but it is so frustrating because society at large places so much emphasis on acquiring these pieces of paper.  It's hard work to find a different way through - yet I'm more than ever convinced that it would be worth the effort.

An example - Rhiannon is turning into a fine creative writer..............yet she finds it almost impossible to write anything worth reading in a time frame of 40 minutes.  So she may not do too well in the exam.  How then is a future employer/college or whatever supposed to judge her literacy skills fairly on the basis of this exam?

The boys too will be greatful when exams are over, since the work is tying us to the house somewhat.  Most days, after doing maths, they read, play chess, play physics games on the computer, whittle pieces of wood, make models, play guitar, cook,do some art and play with Keira.  I feel pretty guilty that they are not getting to do more of the many things on their lists of stuff they want to do, but Rhiannon needs so much support on the final run up to the exams - marking exam papers, discusssing answers, testing her on word definitions and so on.  It's amazing how time consuming it all is.  All I can say is thank goodness she's not sitting 10 subjects!!!!

And here's one of R's latest creations done in pen and ink and very much from her own imagination.

More pictures to  add but will try to do that tommorow.  I am reeling from the shock that I've actually posted something at all!  Time for a strong cup of coffee me thinks.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Facing prejudice

Today I accompanied Rhiannon to a college interview.  She wants to do a First Diploma in Art and design which is equivalent to 4 GCSE's - nothing earthshattering, but she wants to pursue a career in art and design and having been mostly self taught in her art, she wanted to start with a basic course to "fill in" gaps in her knowledge and experience before progressing to more advanced courses.

The interviewer clearly did not get home education.  She couldn't understand why she was only doing 2 GCSE's (the requirement for the course).  Why didn't she have any predicted grades for her GCSE's?  Why didn't her Biology exam include a practical?  Why wasn't she doing art GCSE?  Why was she home educated anyway?  Does she have any friends?  I think she thought that there must be something "wrong" with Rhiannon and at the very least, I must be a bit of a weirdo or certainly irresponsible.

I fumed all the way home.

I was left feeling angry and frustrated at her blinkered views - almost felt like saying "you can keep your course then if you are going to be so prejudiced!"  It also left me feeling full of doubt about my decision to home educate......have I let her down?  I hope not.

But Rhiannon is determined to forge on ahead and prove her prejudices wrong.

A couple of A*'s at IGCSE wouldn't go amiss, but that would be administering pressure on Rhiannon just to make me feel better.  At the end of the day, when you home educate it has to be about the child and not your own ideas and aspirations, nor your own sense of comfort.

She has a "conditional offer" for a place on the course, providing she acquires 2 "D's"  in her exams!  I can only assume she is likening Rhiannon to a schooled child who only takes 2 GCSE's.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Looking forward to spring and a view of Mars!

In the winter our HE activities do seem to take on a more indoors approach.  Pembrokeshire is very much an outdoory kind of place but the wind and the wet do not invite us out as much as when the weather is more clement.  Now as January draws to a close we are looking forward to the promise of spring and the chance to get out and about more.  I have so many plans and ideas in my head of things we can do and enjoy.  The winter wearies me.

A pressing task is the need to design our small garden for maximum productivity.  Fruit, veg and chickens as well as better accomodation for our quails is planned, not forgetting flowering plants to help our honeybees and butterflies.  The children have come up with some lovely suggestions for the design, so now we need to pool ideas and get digging and constructing.  I'll keep you updated of our progress!

One thing that seems to be tying us to the house more than usual is Rhiannon studying for IGCSE's.  She started in October and is taking the exams in May so she has a packed schedule to ensure she is fully prepared when the time comes.  I addition she is completing her art correspondence course and trying to build a portfolio of art work and photography for when she is called to interview at the local college.  She is only taking the exams she needs to get onto the course she wants to do, but it is still time consuming just learning to jump through the right hoops to pass the exams - at least that is what it feels like to us.  I'm not sure much learning happens which is a shame, and another reason why she is not taking more exams than absolutely necessary.

Sam's been doing alot of science lately - yesterday he did experiments on viscosity of liquids.

We're also watching a great series on BBC - "Chemistry: A Volatile History".  It's fascinating stuff and is putting alot of what he is learning into perspective, as well as making me realise what my Chemistry teacher must have been rambling on about all those years ago!  I highly recommend it to anyone like Sam who loves a bit of science - lots of bangs, flashes and pretty colours :-)

Jo is currently quite determined to learn to play his guitar and to learn to sing.  Guitar I can help him with for a time but I'm looking around for resources and ideas to help with the singing.  I can sing to a point but was never taught to sing properly which I regret.

So now it's a wet Friday afternoon and blowing a gale.  Enthusiasm is lacking so we have been trying out some one-point perspective drawing.  Sam decided to have a go at drawing his skateboard!

Jo looked at photographs and tried to identify the vanishing points and horizons.  Rhiannon of course is way ahead of us in that department so she has been experimenting with sketching eyes.

And tonight, at around 9pm, we're hoping to get a view of Mars (cloud dependant).  Apparently it is only about 62 million miles from earth and should be visible slightly above and to the left of the moon.  We'll let you know if we're lucky!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Meccano, flour and the alphabet.

Sam's been designing away with his meccano set recently acquired from Santa :-)  Here was what he came up with the other day.

I also got hold of this lovely new cookbook around Christmas.  Its' focus is cooking with children and it works through different food groups.  I really like it because it is not at all patronising like alot of books aimed at children.  It really aims to teach children about food and how to cook properly with an understanding of some of the principles behind it all.

At the moment we plan to work through the section on flour.  We're finding out about the different types of flours, why they're different, their different uses, the relationship between flour and the beginnings of civilisation and so on.  The section takes us through all the main uses of flour.  Today we started with bread and raisin bread and had alot of fun making, experimenting and tasting!

                          Mixing the ingredients

                             Is it s'posed to be this sticky?

                 Stretching that gluten!

I hasten to add that baking is not a rare event in our household.  Normally I do it or I tell the children what to do and they do it!  After doing years of food science when I was at college (oh so long ago) it's just never occured to me to help the children see the whole picture...........understanding for example, what was so important about using "strong flour" for bread, what is strong flour anyway, what are we trying to achieve when we knead and so on.  I think I often didn't think to talk about such things because they seem so obvious to me.  But the more we worked together, with this book as a catalyst, the more I realised how much was not obvious to them!

I thought that they may find all that food sciency kind of stuff a bit boring, but they really seemed to enjoy getting a better understanding.  And of course there's no better science lesson than one that ends up with something you can eat!

Over the next few weeks we'll be doing loads more with flour - pastry, pasta, sauces, cakes, pancakes......yum!  And I'll try to remember to share our successes (and failures - not too sure about the pasta already!)

Keira on the other hand is really interested in letters at the moment.  This is not something that we have imposed on her.  She is very much leading the way here.  Currently she chooses two or three letters from the alphabet every day.  She likes me to cut the letter shapes out of card and she decorates them.  She's finding out about the sounds the letters make and can tell you how to spell some simple words.  It's her main activity of the day at the moment.  We'll have the alphabet sorted in no time!!!


                                                             Letter "e"

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A funny kind of day.......

After snowing lightly for 12 hours solid we find ourselves marooned in a snowy Walton. There ia about 2 foot of snow directly surrounding the house due to the large quantities falling off the roof, and some of the guttering has even broken off! Once again there was no school for the children living in the village so the boys spent the day building snowmen and igloos with their friends. It's been fun and the snow is very beautiful, but it has been virtually impossible to get about for us. The nearest food shop in any form is 20 minutes drive away, even in good weather, and activities looked forward to and enjoyed such as swimming lessons and dance classes have been impossible to get to. So we'd all like it to thaw now.

But for my eldest daughter and I the day has been overwhelming consumed by an unexpected learning experience!

She loves to use Facebook. Living in a rural area, she finds it a great way to chat to her friends and generally keep in touch. To be honest it's been a bit of a lifeline for her recently.

Well she was sent a group invitation to join a group that is campaigning against the new home education laws. She joined the group and thought she'd send out invitations to join to everyone on her contact list. This seemed inocuous enough.

To cut a very long story short, she received some very aggressive and abusive responses to this from some of her "friends", which she tried to deal with in a mature assertive way. However, they persisted in misinterpreting everything she wrote and twisting her words. After being accused of being "full of s**t", together with sarcastic comments such as ..."what is the home educated genius doing today then..." she decided to post on the home ed group, sections of what these people had said to get their comments! Well that opened a can of worms. Many articulate and well informed people, who are lobbying to protect our rights, got involved in the debate. It was all a little overwhelming but encouraging as they were able to put these young men straight about many of their misconceptions in a way we were finding hard to do.

We were shocked and horrified by the level of aggression expressed by these boys. We couldn't see how the issue should matter to them. The irony of it all was that they were implying that they were getting a better education at school and that home educated children would be indoctrinated by their parents opinions, unable to think for themselves, as well as being overly sheltered from life experiences. Yet their spelling was appauling, and the use of expletives when they were losing an argument, offensive. They had been well and truly indoctrinated by the system as far as I could see. They certainly struggled with the art of thinking and could not listen to or consider another point of view. I am not suggesting that all schooled children are like them It was just two teenage boys who were ill informed and unwilling to listen. But it certainly reinforced my conviction that school is not for my children at least.

It was at first an upsetting experience but as a result we "met" new people who were willing to give of their time and effort to help and support us, even if just in cyberspace! We learnt about how contentious some issues can be, thought about how to deal with them, learnt a bit about politics and the difference between assertiveness and aggression and which is the most effective.

You just never know what learning opportunities may come your way do you! Mind you I'd rather not have too many days like today :-)

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snowing crazy......!

Well they said they were going for a walk but you never know what will happen and where your feet might take you when you step across the threshold!

I think Jo has his heart set on the next Winter Olympics.....!

Feeling a bit chilly.....

....well aren't we all at the moment? All the snow is beautiful but we've been pretty much snowed up for a week and a half now and with the nearest shop 20 minutes drive away, and being unable to get to drama, swimming lessons, dance class etc, the novelty's beginning to wear off. The other day we had a bit of a panic as we'd run out of food and it was snowing heavily. None of our country lanes are gritted and there isn't much traffic at the best of times. It's like driving on an ice rink. It was like a great adventure trying to get to the supermarket! It was a sobering thought, realising just how dependant we were on such places.

Still, it IS beautiful and it's been lovely to see everyone's snowy photos, so I thought I'd add a few of ours!

Arty picture!

More arty pictures.....!

And again...!

And another...!

Sam ...what has he done to that skateboard?!

Keira's snowman

Trying to snowboard on a sledge!

Well there's not much sign of this lot thawing....perhaps we could have a go at building an igloo or something!