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!