Saturday, October 27, 2007

Finding Our Feet

We are settling into our new home despite most of our belongings still being in boxes. Progress on the decorating front has slowed, something that needs to be addressed urgently if we are ever to unpack the mountains of boxes that inhabit virtually all the rooms. Since moving in Thea and James have been sleeping on the landing - yes it is a big landing!
With concern growing over climate change we are trying to do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint. Living in a town means we can now walk to the library, swimming baths, railway station and shops. We are also extremely lucky to have a woodland at the bottom of our garden which we can access via a gate. The woodland leads down to a lake and some very attractive countryside. Other efforts to reduce our footprint include buying our fruit and vegetables through an organic box scheme and purchasing a manual push mower. Our old electric lawn mower burnt out on the last grass cut at the farmhouse. I think all the mole hills and vole holes were just too much for it. I am well impressed with the Qualcast Panther, no effort to push and gives your lawn those lovely stripes - just like a bowling green!
At the beginning of October we went to a local home education group meeting. Everyone seemed really friendly and it gave Thea and James the opportunity to meet some other children. Thea has also joined Scouts and James Cubs.
We are following the Maths Enhancement Program materials. It is particularly good for Thea as it provides work books for Key Stage 3 and 4, and what's more its FREE. Home educators can get a password to enable them to access the teacher's notes and answer sheets - I discovered this by ringing the Centre for Innovation in Maths Teaching. Apparently the materials are popular with home educators in America.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Moving On

After six months of chaos we are finally in our new home and its chaos. So what have we been up to over the past six months? For anyone who might be remotely interested here is a very very brief summary:

April - June
Renovating our old house to sell. Must have done something right as we sold it within four days and for the asking price so no complaints there then.

Packing up far too much stuff, giving loads away on freecycle and making too many runs to the local tip.

Very tearful and heartbreaking goodbye to friends and family.

Arrival at our rented property in Fife, a lovely property with stunning views over the Firth of Forth.

Spent five hours in BT pay phones trying to get a phone connection, eventually succeeded and after moaning about appalling level of service got three months three rental as compensation.

Friends and family visited and we spent some very enjoyable days exploring Fife.

Bought a house with very interesting internal decorations - yes more decorating looms on the horizon.

Pursued by former Education Authority as children have been classed as missing persons; that's what you get for being open, honest and fully transparent. I have made a formal complaint and received a sort of apology. I will post the whole saga shortly as it maybe of interest to other home edders who are about to move.

September - today
Had a well earned break in the Lake District in between stripping wall paper and knocking out a wall.

Tuffdy, Thea's six year old guinea pig, died - very sad.

Moved house again this time courtesy of a man with a van and us with a Luton box van - not something I want to repeat unless we loose about fifty percent of our belongings. Oh and in between all this we have been doing some home education including learning Latin - so salvete omnes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


A month has passed since I last blogged I can hardly believe it. Life is truly stressful at the moment. I am still trying to throw off the viral infection that has been hanging around for over a month now. Unfortunately with the DIY chaos and packing I think there is little chance of a full recovery until we are settled in the new house. Yes we managed to find somewhere to live in Fife - a very lucky break as there is a shortage of properties in the rental sector (well ones we would consider living in). We have taken out a six month lease on a farmhouse which has fantastic views - pictures to follow in a few weeks. When we first viewed the property there were three deer grazing in the adjoining field and a couple of buzzards soaring overhead.
Our current house is a DIY nightmare at the moment. We have no kitchen and the fourth bedroom is a project in progress. The new kitchen should arrive in a couple of weeks I just need to find a kitchen fitter. Well better get of to Focus I need some Dulux paint for the kitchen ceiling. Four coats of Wikes matt still hasn't achieved the desired result ... am I sick of painting ceilings or what!!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bird Activity

The birds appear very active in the garden at present. I am pretty sure that a pair of robins are building a nest in the ivy on the garage. Also spied a blackbird and a wren checking out the same ivy for potential nesting sites. Could get a bit crowded in there. Yesterday morning when I was watching the bird antics on the nut and seed feeders I suddenly caught sight of something different moving on the ground underneath the feeders. It was a little wood mouse, very cute. I will miss the garden when we have to move just hope we can find a place in the country with a few trees and shrubs.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Germs and Gender

Finally feeling well enough to post. Our household with the exception of Nigel has been hit by a particularly nasty strain of the flu virus. After feeling wretched for almost a week the kids and I have decided that we are not attending anymore home education events that are held indoors as they appear to be breeding grounds for some very nasty bugs. This is the second time that we have all been quite ill after attending such events. I can't understand why some parents think it is acceptable to take their sick kids to events and spread their germs around the rest of us. Well we have had enough if they won't stay away we will. Just in case anyone thinks I am being unfair and that we could have picked the germs up elsewhere you only have to look at the evidence. We are not the only family to have been hit by the offending bugs after attending the two events. The incubation period from initial exposure to development of symptoms also ties in with the event dates. So I have to say the evidence is pretty strong. Well rant over and on to other things.

For the past few months it has become increasing apparent that Thea is moving into the pubescence phase - both physically and emotionally. We have chatted about what the changes mean and how it is all part of growing up. Initially she said she didn't want to grow up. I remember feeling the same myself at her age, sometimes I am amazed at how very similar we are in our thoughts and feelings - spooky. I also said to her that whilst our bodies change from a child to an adult form and we can't stop and shouldn't want to stop this remarkable process we can still retain the child within us. For as Roald Dahl says "When you grow up and have children of your own do please remember something important - a stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY." And I say to be SPARKY you have to remember what it is like to be a child.

My mum recently purchased two very good kids books from The Book People which deal with the physical and emotional issues of growing up. I am well impressed with these publications despite their pink for a girl, blue for a boy stereotypical covers. Thea has read the one written for girls from cover to cover. Just wish they had been around when I was at school much more informative and far less embarrassing than any sex education lessons I had to endure - still cringe now thinking about them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Half Term

It is half term in North Yorkshire so the children are making the most of seeing their friends. Thea and James have both had friends for sleepovers and last night Thea spent the night at a friend's house.
This morning we attended a meeting of the Tees Valley Home Education group. It was great fun and James thoroughly enjoyed building with Teifoc Bricks (brick laying in miniature), Mum thought it was pretty good fun too. A reporter turned up at the meeting from a local newspaper, she is writing an article on home education, I wonder what spin she will put on it. During the afternoon Thea made some Peppermint Creams and then set up a stall outside to sell them. She made 20p - an entrepreneur in the making perhaps?
I have been looking at houses in Fife and haven't yet seen anything that really catches my eye. I can definitely see us living in the caravan for a few months. I am so pleased we have invested in a more deluxe model.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Kissu Capers

Much of the weekend has again been spent decorating and when I haven't been decorating I have been clearing out junk. Its amazing how much stuff you accumulate over the years and we haven't even started on the garage or loft yet!!

On Sunday we decided to go for a walk with some friends. Although the weather was misty it was noticeably warmer than earlier in the week. After 12 years in a wardrobe and a rucksack the Kissu (storm shelter - perhaps best described as a tent without poles) was finally put into action. The kids had great fun trying it out and it made a cosy retreat for our snack. Even the dog joined in on the fun - see last photo. Can't imagine what any passing hikers made of the whole episode - must have looked very strange!

Today we went to the first meeting of a home education group in Durham and had an enjoyable time playing games and making valentine mobiles. Lets hope the group is now able to build upon this successful first meeting. There is certainly a need for more of these types of events across the North East region.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Still tired from the day trip to Fife. The snow was a bit challenging in the borders but we managed to get to the interview with 30 minutes to spare.
I tried to take some photos of the Forth Road Bridge for Thea and James but as we didn't have time to pull over the overall effect was less than impressive - nice rear shot of a white van but even a speed camera could have done a better job!

Just heard from Nigel we are emigrating to Scotland. Guess that means the DIY will be stepping up a gear. Perhaps its time to write to DIY SOS with a desperate plea for help. I think I could live with the embarrassment of appearing on TV if it meant everything was finished in a weekend.

When I collected Thea and James from their sleepover my mum commented how much she thought James' reading had improved. I was really pleased that she could see a difference but what pleased me more was that he felt confident enough to read to her.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Triangular Numbers

Spent most of yesterday feeling unwell so I decided to encourage the kids to watch Schools TV on BBC2, not something we usually do. We all thought the Maths Challenge was good fun, I think we will start watching it on a more regular basis.

We have been exploring the concept of triangular numbers - a number that can make a triangular dot pattern. Good job I bought the Primary Maths Dictionary as I don't remember ever doing triangular numbers at primary or secondary school. After working through some examples Thea rushed off to get a box of Tobelerone and swiftly arranged the sweets into a triangular number configuration. Thea then raised an interesting point - how can 1 be a triangular number, it doesn't make a triangle. After some consideration she then said if the dots were triangles as opposed to circles that would work, see picture below.
Both Thea and James decided to spend Tuesday night and Wednesday with Nanna rather than accompany Nigel to Fife for his interview. A wise move given the weather forecast. I don't know what it is about us and Scotland and extreme weather.

More Decorating and Orienteering

I seem to be spending most of my weekends decorating and am starting to suffer from DIY fatigue. To escape the painting and varnishing for a few hours we decided to go orienteering on Sunday morning. CLOK (Cleveland Orienteering Klub) had arranged an event at Errington Woods. Both Thea and James competed in the Yellow colour coded category and had a great time. Its an excellent way to keep fit and learn to map read.
Found this on our local home education site at the weekend, thought it was extremely amusing so thought I would share it with you all:

A woman, renewing her driver's license was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. "What I mean is," explained the recorder, "do you have a job or are you just a......?" "Of course I have a job," snapped the woman. "I'm a Mum." "We don't list 'Mum' as an occupation, 'housewife' covers it," said the recorder emphatically. I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall. The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient and possessed of a high sounding title like, "Official Interrogator" or "Town Registrar." "What is your occupation?" she probed. What made me say it? I do not know. The words simply popped out. "I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations." The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and looked up as though she had not heard right! I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written, in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire. "Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field? "Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I have a continuing program of research, (what mother doesn't) in the laboratory and in the field, (normally I would have said indoors and out). I'm working for my Masters, and already have four credits (all sons). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, (any parent care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day, ( 24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money. "There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door. As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants -- ages 13 , 7 , and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model, (a 6 month old baby) in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than "just another Mum." Motherhood! What a glorious career! Especially when there's a title on the door. Does this make grandmothers "Senior Research associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations" and great grandmothers "Executive Senior Research Associates"? I think so!!! I also think it makes Aunts "Associate Research Assistants".

Friday, February 02, 2007

More journeys

After yesterday's travels we couldn't face going out in the car again so decided to spend a quiet day at home. Had a lovely walk over to Thea's piano lesson in the afternoon. I was annoyed with myself for forgetting my camera.
Nigel received a letter inviting him to a job interview in Cupar, Fife, next Wednesday. I have checked the Met Office weather site and yep it looks like another epic journey maybe on the cards - snow is forecast!!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Traffic and the tunnel

Decided we would go to a meeting of home educators today but never got there. Instead we spent 40 minutes plus trying to get through the Tyne Tunnel. When we eventually got to the other side there was so little time left before the meeting finished we decided it wasn't worth going. Called in to see some friends and spent an enjoyable afternoon chatting and playing Chinese Chequers. Noticed that the Chinese Chequer board is a pentagram.
Thea has been given a chemistry set, which was surplus to someones requirements. I can't believe it, the set has never been used, its brilliant. Thea was soooo..... made up she can't wait to set up some experiments. There will be plenty to keep her busy, the set includes instructions for 100 experiments.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Polygons and pentagrams

James has been exploring Microsoft Excel and using it to record data and produce graphs. Thea has been giving some thought to job application forms and has produced one of her own. This interest probably stems from seeing her Dad fill in so many just of late!!
Last night we dipped into the first few chapters of The Adventures of Penrose the mathematical cat and today this led us into a math and art activity - making patterns out of pentagons and pentagrams.
This evening I found a nice little presentation about Fibonacci on the Brain Pop web site. Thea and I enjoyed watching it together and having a go at the quiz.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Spent some time looking at snail shells and seeing if their shape follows the Fibonacci sequence. We then did some reading about Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa and his famous series of numbers - 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89..... Fibonacci numbers crop up frequently in nature, for example in pine cones, pineapple skin, broccoli florets, and cauliflowers. They also appear in leaves, branches and stalks.
This afternoon we collected our latest library request - The Adventures of Penrose the mathematical cat. I am hoping it will show Thea that there is more to math than just addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. James found an interesting book - The Science of Air, one of the Tabletop Scientist publications. Judging by his enthusiasm I think he wants to have a go at every experiment in the book!

Monday, January 29, 2007

All creatures great and small

Thea has been further developing her snail sanctuary. It has moved from a wooden box to a more luxurious carboy. When she first embarked on the project she asked how she could mark the snails to help identify them. I suggested marking them with a dot of liquid paper, as you will see from the picture I think she got somewhat carried away. Not sure what the neighbours will make of these snails when they are released back into the environment, that is if they even notice. Not many seem to take a great interest in their gardens beyond mowing the lawn.

With this great interest in snails we have been taking the opportunity to learn more about their anatomy and physiology. I had a vague recollection that snails were hermaphrodite so looked up snails on the web and found this interesting bit of information on the BBC Science and Nature web pages:

"Common snails, like all land snails, are hermaphrodites. This means that they possess both male and female reproductive organs. Despite this they still need to find another snail to mate with. When two snails meet during the breeding season (late spring or early summer), mating is initiated by one snail piercing the skin of the other snail with a calcified 'love dart'. The exact purpose of the 'love dart' is not fully understood but it seems to stimulate the other snail into exchanging small packets of sperm. After mating is complete the snails will produce eggs internally, which are fertilised by the sperm that has been exchanged."

Thea has been expressing interest in getting some African land snails as pets. I have read they can grow up to 39cm. Not quite sure I think this is a good idea, they could make some monster snail trails if they escape and climb up the walls, plus they could inflict some serious damage on our houseplants. I have also been told their aroma is a touch unpleasant!! I think we will take some time to reflect on this idea!

Both children are enjoying reading the Greek Myths and Legends. James is following the stories in The Orchard Book of First Greek Myths and Thea is reading the Usborne Illustrated Guide to Greek Myths and Legends.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Big Garden Birdwatch

I am suspicious that someone has tipped off the birds that it is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. The birds are noticeable by their absence or perhaps a weekend is not the best time to pick for the survey. I think there is too much disturbance - too many people around, including hubby who is painting the garage fascia board!
After an hour of watching the birds these are our results:
Starling x 2
Sparrow x 3
Blackbird x 2
Blue Tit x 1
Great Tit x 1
Chaffinch x 1
Wood Pigeon x 1
Greenfinch x 8
Robin x 2
Jackdaw x 1
Coal Tit x 1
James has been revisiting Study Dog. He is now on Level 3 and definitely making good progress. I have spent much of the weekend having a declutter. The dinning room is filling up with bags of stuff for the charity shops. Thea has made a snail sanctuary and a shoe rack.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Parties - fun and politics

Spent and enjoyable few hours at a birthday party for one of our home educating friends. It was lovely seeing children of different ages all playing so nicely together.
Today was my meeting with our local MP - what did I have to say? Actually quite a lot in ten minutes. I raised the issue of the Government's consultation into home education. Our MP promised to ask when the consultation was to commence but being a member of the opposition he acknowledged he probably wouldn't be given a very definitive answer. Something along the lines of "shortly" but he would ask anyway. He said if we had any specific questions that we wanted raising with Ministers he could do that for us and asked us to copy him in to our response to the DfES consultation.
I then took a few minutes to highlight some specific concerns I have about the way home educators are treated and how we are prejudiced against. In the current education system if you are dissatisfied with the State system and unlike Ruth Kelly you do not have the means to opt for the private system, home education is your only real choice. Once you opt to home educate you are immediately prejudiced against. For example, you cannot access many of the resources available to state schools, finding exam centres that take external candidates is extremely difficult, and if you want to access courses at an FE college and your child is under sixteen then you have to pay for them. All in all a very inequitable system. Our MP acknowledged that whilst he had never previously considered the problems faced by home educators he agreed the education system was inequitable.
One slightly worrying comment he did make was that if his party were in power he thinks they would have some reservations if there was a huge increase in the number of people home educating as it would be almost impossible to monitor - hmmmm. Well even given this last comment I think it was a fairly positive meeting and it is good to know that our MP is at last doing some work for us after all we do pay his wages.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Our Feathered Friends

Spent a quite day in the house yesterday. The weather was still very cold, James seemed to be sickening for a cold and Thea's toe was too painful to walk on. We baked bread and oat cakes, which worked out very well and spent some time doing literacy and math.
Hurray! Today we have been able to venture out again. Thea and James scootered down to the library to collect some books, I followed on foot behind. Whilst in the village we picked up ingredients to make bird cakes, we are taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the weekend. A few months ago Thea sent for a booklet from the RSPB - Family fun with birds, it has some good ideas including - a speedy bird cake recipe, how to make pine cone lardy seed feeders and edible pictures. It was a messy job making the bird cake just hope the birds appreciate our efforts, which are now hanging up outside on our gazebo.

Have just subscribed to Enchanted Learning for a year, I have been thinking about it for a while. Seems good value at $20 (£10.42).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A White World

Woke up to a white world this morning, very pretty. James was desperate to get outside and play in the snow so was up and dressed in no time - a pleasant change. Poor Thea couldn't enjoy the snow as her toe was too painful to walk on. I think our walks in the countryside are going to be curtailed for a few days.

The pantomime we saw last week has inspired Thea to write a play of her own - Ping and the Appalling Pong. The play is about a giant with a windy problem. A group of villagers set off to kill the giant because they think he is stealing their electricity but find he isn't responsible. All ends happily when the villagers harness the methane gas and use it to produce green energy. Very funny especially the "Eh bye gum, I smell the pump from a giant's bum!"
Thea and James have also been very busy making costumes for the play.
This evening we have been finding out some facts about Ethiopia - Fluffy's next stop over. Ethiopia is the most mountainous country in Africa: almost three quarters of the country is higher than Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain. Unique among African countries, Ethiopia maintained its freedom from colonial rule, the one exception being the Italian occupation of 1936-41.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Travels around the world

Just had to delete a spam comment from my blog and change the comments settings, I hate spammers they are the lowest of the low.

Nigel gave Thea a National Geographic magazine and she was quite taken by an article titled - Meet The Dikika Baby, A Three Year Old From The Dawn of Humanity. Her Discovery Holds Clues To The Origin of Childhood. The 3.3 million years old fossil skeleton was discovered in the Afar Badlands in Ethiopia. After reading the article we spent sometime locating the area in an atlas and marking it on our large laminated map of the world, a useful resource acquired from our local freecycle group. Looking at the map must have created a spark in Thea's imagination for she announced she was starting a project that would involve her soft toy fluffy taking a trip around the globe, or more accurately the large laminated map. She then promptly made a miniature version of fluffy to stick on the map. Fluffy's starting point for his travels is the little known Island Jan Mayen.

Fluffy - Little and Large

Jan Mayen Island

Jan Mayen is a volcanic, desolate, mountainous island named after a Dutch whaling captain who discovered it in 1614. The island, which is under Norwegian control, lies 950km west of Norway and 600km north of island.

AREA - 377 sq km

CLIMATE - arctic maritime with frequent storms and persistent fog

TERRAIN - volcanic island partly covered with glaciers

NATURAL HAZARDS - the most recent volcanic eruption was in 1985

VEGETATION - some moss, grass and fungi

POPULATION - no indigenous inhabitants. A crew of 18 man the Long Range Navigation Base and the Weather and Coastal Services Radio Station

ANIMALS - only birds

TEMPERATURE - winter average 5 degrees Celsius, winter average -5 degrees Celsius.

James has been enjoying exploring the BBC Jam Web Site, in particular the science section. This morning I received in the post the Interactive Weather Presenting Kit from the Met Office (Key Stages 2 -4). I think I will have to spend some to getting to grips with how it works!

Activities and Accidents

A hectic weekend. James went quad biking on Saturday and had a good time. Saturday evening Thea attempted to hurdle a piece of furniture and failed, bashing her toes badly in the process. The result of this collision was a trip to A & E on Sunday morning and a diagnosis of a broken toe. Thea is currently unable to put any weight on her foot owing to the pain, swelling and bruising. Her broken toe has been strapped to the adjoining toe to give it some support.
Sunday evening Nigel and I worked late on his bullying complaint in preparation for a meeting on Monday. I hope he is soon able to secure another job elsewhere as I am not confident his current employer will deal with the complaint very effectively. Whether it is school or in the workplace the victim always seems to get a raw deal.
Decoration of the house continues a pace as I am convinced a move is in the offing. If a job offer does come we are not sure whether to sell or rent our existing house, its a difficult decision.
I have just applied for membership to The Living Math Forum and have been browsing the Living Math web site, looks interesting. It has tempted me to make a couple of book purchases - Read Any Good Math Lately?, Anno's Magic Seeds, and Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sugar and Spice

Thea expressed an interest in making some mustard after seeing a programme on the television. We found a recipe for old fashioned mustard on the web and had a go at making it -very tasty.

Old Fashioned Mustard Recipe
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup of dry mustard
1/4 cup of water
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs beaten

In a saucepan mix vinegar and mustard. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to slow boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until thickened, about ten minutes. Store in fridge. Makes approx. 370 gms.

Also found a web site giving lots of recipes using Coleman's mustard. I think we might try the vegetable curry. The site has an interesting section telling the history of Coleman's Mustard in words and old photographs - well worth a look.
Some interesting facts about mustard courtesy of Mustard James
  1. A one acre field of mustard produces 1 tonne of seed, which produces 880kg of mustard flour which produces 4760kg of wet mustard, which produces 47600 jars of mustard.
  2. The word 'mustard' comes from the Latin 'must' (much) and 'ardens' (burning).
  3. It is believed that mustard was first cultivated in India around 3000BC and came to Britain with the Romans.
  4. Mustard was first used for medicinal purposes.
  5. Over 3,800,000kg of mustard is sold each year.

James (that's my James not Mustard James) has just read Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold, he really enjoyed it. I have just reserved him the sequel Super Fly Guy. It is lovely to see him so chuffed when he reads a book with relative ease.
Watched a very interesting programme on BBC 2 tonight - Timewatch - Killer Cloud: In 1783 thousands of Britons died in a terrible environmental disaster. Victims of a huge volcanic eruption in Iceland, they choked on the poisonous gases that enveloped Europe. The ensuing winter was one of the worst on record and took countless more lives. The tragedy wrought by the Laki eruption is well documented in Iceland but its impact on Britain has remained a mystery for the past 200 years. Timewatch goes in search of the evidence of Britain's forgotten disaster. One slightly annoying thing was I feel asleep in the middle so only saw the beginning and the end.


I have just read these two news articles Boy's Detention After Apple Snack and Girl has Report from Wrong School. Found them linked from Aspies Home Education blog. What is happening to our education system - perhaps better not answer that or my blog entry would be in danger of becoming an essay. I was annoyed at the end of the last school year when I received a report for James, in one section the teacher called him by a completely different name. Just confirmed my beliefs that the teacher didn't know my son at all.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

More Epic Journeys

Was today the best day to visit the National Railway Museum? - ironically probably not if you were traveling by train. Just when I thought our epic travel journeys were over they came back to haunt us with a vengeance. Getting to the NRM was fairly straightforward unfortunately the same could not be said about the return journey. Upon reaching York station for our homeward bound journey we found it grid locked with nothing moving north or south. When I enquired about the next train to Northallerton I was told I had better think about booking into a hotel for the night or find a taxi. Would the train company cover the cost of the taxi I asked - reading between the lines I felt the answer was probably no. Well our determination and patience paid off and we were eventually able to get a train home an hour later than originally planned not too bad when all things considered.
The River Ouse swollen by rain
Purchasing a platform ticket to see the Royal Trains
James and I were much amused by the bath in the Royal train. We pondered over how the water could be contained within the bath whilst the train was in transit. Our question was answered by the audio guide which explained that when the bath was in use a strict speed limit was enforced.
Constructing trains

Railway Karaoke!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Living on Rations

Spent the morning looking at wartime rations and cookery books. We wondered how vegetarians would have faired and whether they were offered anything else in place of the meat rations. An article on the Vegetarian Society web site referred to vegetarians having to get a special ration book, this entitled them to an extra egg a week and an additional 3oz of cheese. We worked out what our weekly rations would have been:

Weekly Rations for a Family of Four
8 eggs
6oz (150 gms)tea
6oz (150 gms) preserves
1lb 8oz (600 gms) sugar
9 pints (4.95 litres) milk
12oz (300 gms) cooking fat
1lb (400 gms) cheese
6oz (150 gms) butter
9oz (225 gms) sweets
6lbs (2.4kg) pulses
Seems quite generous I don't think would we have starved as long as we had access to plenty of vegetables.
Went to see the Snow White pantomime put on by the village amateur dramatic society. It was worth every penny an absolute scream.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No News

How nice to see the sun again and have a let up in the windy weather. The days are growing noticeably longer now, which makes you feel spring is not so far away.

This morning we finished cataloguing all Thea's books and the library had its official opening with the cutting of a ribbon. Before lunch we visited the village library to check out the numbering system of the fiction and non-fiction books. We were surprised to find that the fiction books had no call numbers but were merely arranged in alphabetical order. We asked the librarian if he could recommend a web site that might provide a more detailed list of the Dewey Decimal Classification numbers. He suggested we look at the cilip (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) web site. I've had a quick look but haven't been able to find anything.

Whilst we were in the library we bought some tickets for Snow White, which is being staged in the church hall by the local amateur dramatics group. We are all looking forward to seeing it tomorrow evening as their productions are usually extremely good.

On our journey home from the library we decided to walk back through the fields and along the river bank, it was lovely. Nell enjoyed a dip in the river, too cold for us.

We spent the afternoon baking and looking at the box of books from The Book People that Nanna had bought us. I am particularly impressed with the set of How To Guides that tell you everything you need to know about the hottest topics in the world today. The Usborne Big Book of Things to Draw looks pretty good too.

The fruit scones and marble buns turn out well, there are very few left! No news on the job front so I guess that's a non starter and its time to move onto the next opportunity.

I have received a letter in a House of Commons envelope, confirmation of my 10 minute meeting with our local MP. I am going to speak to him about the DfES consultation on home education. Hmmm given the generous time allocation I had better ensure I am well prepared.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Waiting Game

No news as yet so I am beginning to think there will be no job offer. Well I guess its a case of let's put it down to interview experience and move on to the next job opportunity.

Thea wanted to set up a library using her many books so we spent most of today looking at book classification systems and creating an Access database of all her books. Found a really good site that explains all about the Dewey Decimal System. The Dewey Decimal System was created by Melvil Dewey, a librarian born in Adams Center, New York, in 1851. He died in 1931 but his Dewey System legacy continues to live on in libraries all around the world.

Aberdeen Adventure

We have returned and if Nigel gets the job in Aberdeen I have to say it will be against all the odds. For anyone who is interested in our exploits over the past four days here is a summary. After debating whether we should leave on Thursday with the caravan we eventually decided to give it a go although I have to admit we were all rather concerned about the weather forecast. We eventually departed around noon but this proved to be a false start, 12 miles into our journey we realised Nigel had forgotten his paperwork - very frustrating.

At about 1.00pm we got onto the A1 near Sedgefield and were hit by severe cross winds reducing our traveling speed to around 45 miles per hour. The gusts were very unnerving particularly when we crossed the Tyne. AA route finder calculates that a journey from Middlesbrough to Aberdeen should take around 5 hours 16 minutes this obviously does not take in to account extreme weather and towing speeds!! With the Forth Road Bridge and Tay Bridge closed to any vehicles except cars without roof boxes we had to cross the Forth via the Kincardine Bridge and the Tay near Perth. The congestion on the Kincardine was horrendous due to roadworks and all the redirected traffic from the Forth Road Bridge. Needless to say with all these problems it took us slightly longer the 5 hours 16 mins.
Eleven hours later we arrived at our destination, a small campsite near Aberdeen. If we thought our troubles were over we were sadly mistaken. First we had to try and locate the late arrivals area not an easy task in the dark and with poor signage. Unfortunately for us we got it wrong and were met the following morning by the somewhat upset wife of the campsite owner who I don't think ever really forgave us. Fortunately for us her husband seemed not to be of the same disposition and he very kindly helped us unhitch the caravan. This was a big relief as the hitch had jammed on and I had had visions of driving Nigel to his interview with the caravan in tow. I'm not sure what impression this would have given to his potential employer.
After setting up Thea and I took Nell for a walk in the woods. It was good to stretch our legs after all the traveling, that was until I stooped down to duck under a fallen tree. Yes you guessed it my back went. What else could go wrong I can hear you ask, plenty believe me. The directions for the interview were not clear and we ended up at the wrong place. I think we just managed to get Nigel to the required location with a few seconds to spare not the best way to reduce your stress levels. Whilst Nigel was being interrogated the kids and me spent a couple of hours looking round Aberdeen. We visited the library and the art gallery and looked in a couple of shops. I have to say I was quite taken by the city with it clean granite buildings and impressive architecture.
With the weather forecast deteriorating we decided to make for an early departure and left on Saturday rather than Sunday. On our return journey we called in at Dunnottar Castle, a very dramatic place and well worth a visit if you are passing. The conglomerate rock upon which it is built is impressive too.
Luckily at this time of year visitor numbers are not great so we were easily able to park both car and caravan in the car park. Spent Saturday night near Jedburgh. Sunday we visited some friends at Corbridge both who are teachers and both who are completely demoralised with teaching. A real shame as they are really dedicated and given the freedom very inspirational.
Well that was our four day adventure, we now await the outcome.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Close Encounter

I mean't to post this before Christmas but forgot so thought I would share this little tale with you now.
If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush how much is one on the head worth? Sitting in our living room I heard a sickening thud. I knew immediately the cause of the sound - a bird flying into the french doors. I went to investigate the sad outcome and found a Great Tit lying on the patio. The small bird was still alive so I took it inside to see if it was about to expire or was merely stunned. After holding the tiny creature for a few minutes it started to perk up so I decided to take it back outside. Once in the garden the bird perched on my hand and looked about, it then hopped onto my shoulder. Not satisfied with this vantage point it hopped onto my head, much to the amusement of the children. It seemed quite happy on my head perhaps it had something to do with my hair resembling a birds nest. In fact it was so comfortable it started to sing. I walked around to encourage the bird to move to another perch, by this time I was getting cold as I had stepped outside in my stocking feet. The bird was not for moving and kept on singing. Our dog by this stage was getting quite agitated at the site of the bird on my head - not something it sees every day. Eventually the bird decided it had had enough and flew off to find another perch. I have had some close encounters with nature over the years but this has to be one of the most remarkable. I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of our natural world, no man made article can ever compare. Well for me that was my Christmas gift even if it did come early.
Oh and by the way it didn't leave its calling card on my head, just in case you were wondering.

Planets and packing

Lost my blog entry last night when the computer decided to shut down. It has started doing this of late I think there is a conflict between the Microsoft software and the new wireless router software, very annoying and it always seems to do it when I'm writing up my blog. Perhaps it is trying to tell me something about my writing!!

Yesterday the LEA Home Education Advisor returned my phone call. She seems very friendly and was able to update me on progress regarding accessing library books marked schools project and the setting up of exam centres for private candidates. All sounds very positive, fingers crossed these things become a reality very soon - the wheels of local authority or not renowned for turning quickly.

Called in at the library yesterday afternoon and picked up a children's abridged copy of Jane Eyre for 30p in the book sale. Thea was really please as she has been wanting to read the book after watching the BBC series last year. I also got a book - Picasso's War: the extraordinary story of an artist and a painting that shook the world. The painting in question is of course Guernica, I was always fascinated by this and his other pictures as a child. I am looking forward to reading the book, I think I will take it with me to Aberdeen to read in the evenings.

Last night we experimented with making salt scrub and produced something that was quite acceptable. Followed this Lavender Salt Scrub recipe minus the sweet almond oil and vitamin E because we didn't have any.

I was really touched this morning when I found a blog comment from toe-by-toe-man, I have been checking out the web site and found lots of really helpful tips, thank you Keith and keep up the good work.

I have managed to find a caravan site at Inverurie so if the weather doesn't deteriorate too much we should be able to accompany Nigel up to Aberdeen for his interview. Must get the van packed now if we are to leave by 10.00 am tomorrow, I reckon it will take us a good six hours to get there. That's if we are not blown away on route - the weather forecast is looking slightly worrying.

This afternoon we met up with other home educators at the Planetarium at Wynyard Woodland Park. The one hour show about space was excellent and I think we will be making a return visit. Afterwards we had a lovely walk along the old railway line and through Thorpe Wood, it was very tranquil. Well I'm off to finish the packing and then I will have to clean the guinea pigs out before they go on vacation to a friends.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Uplifting experience

Decided to make our bread making session into a science lesson today. We talked about yeast and its properties and why it is important in bread making. The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking and Zoom Sci provided some good ideas for experiments. We made yeast-air balloons or to be more precise yeast-carbon dioxide balloons. If you want to try this at home you will need the following:

1. 6 bottles (these need to be all the same if it is to be a fair test. We ended up using Grolsch -bottles as I couldn't find any others that were all the same. Its a good job Christmas has just been otherwise I think we would have struggled to find enough bottles).
2. Dried yeast - enough for half a teaspoon per bottle
3. Warm water
4. 6 balloons
5. Measuring jug
6. Various sugary liquids (we used apple juice, orange juice, treacle, mashed banana, lemonade).

1. Fill each bottle a quarter full with warm water
2. Add half a teaspoon of yeast to each bottle
3. Fill the first bottle half way full with one of the sugary liquids
4. Fill the second, third, fourth and fifth bottles with different sugary liquids. Make sure you add the same amount of liquid to each bottle.
5. Fill the sixth bottle half way full with water. This is the control.
6. Put a balloon over the opening of each bottle. The ballon that inflates the most will show which liquid produces the most carbon dioxide.

We decided to check our balloons at 30 minute intervals. Initially the banana mixture produced the most carbon dioxide, followed by the treacle, apple, lemonade, orange and water respectively. After several hours the treacle solution had produced the most carbon dioxide followed by the orange, mashed banana, apple, lemonade and water.

Next bread making day I think we will look at why gluten is important.

On a trip into the village to buy balloons for our experiment Thea spotted Issue 1 of The Art of Knitting, special offer 99p. If you want to learn how to knit its a good buy, with Issue 1 you get a set of 4.5mm needles, two balls of yarn, and a DVD showing you how to knit. The DVD is very straightforward and easy to follow. Even if you don't buy any other issues this one is worth getting. Thea has taught herself to cast on from the DVD.

This afternoon I spent time with James going through his Toe By Toe work book and Letts Maths Basics. His reading is definately improving but his fluency is still not what it should be. However, the main thing is he is happy and he now sees that he can read.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

DIY disaster

Much of this weekend has been spent decorating the hall, landing and staircase. I have virtually finished applying lining paper to all the walls and we will soon be able to paint. We are desperately trying to get the house in good order in case we have to sell or rent it in the coming months. Although we have lived in the house for over eleven years there is still much to do. I can see the next month being very hectic. It's ironic to think that after living in a constant state of DIY for the past eleven years we are now about to end up with a lovely home which in all likelihood we will not be able to enjoy. I have vowed that next time we buy a property we either buy a building plot and erect a kit house or buy a property that needs nothing doing to it. I can't face another ten years of DIY!!
Received an email today about a new home education action group - AHEd. Just debating whether to sign up as a member/supporter. Anyone interested in becoming a member and/or supporter of AHEd should email
Tonight we all sat down in front of the TV and watched the Ray Mears' Wild Food, we found it fascinating. I am looking forward to The Truth About Food, which starts on Thursday BBC2 9.00pm - 10.00pm.

Friday, January 05, 2007

New Year's Resolution

After falling behind with my blog writing last year I had made a new year's resolution to try and keep my blog more up to date in 2007. There already appears to be some slippage. Christmas proved to be a bit challenging for us - Nigel, Thea and I were all ill on Christmas Eve and Day with the cold/flu bug that has been doing the rounds. As new year approached we were on the mend and were able to spend an enjoyable New Years Eve with friends.
2007 looks like it is going to be a year of uncertainty. I have now given up work as balancing home education and work has proved impossible. Work for Nigel continues to be a nightmare with the bullying as bad as ever, we now feel his only option is to find another job. Next week we are accompanying him to Aberdeen where he has secured an interview. We have very mixed feelings, if he is offered the job it will mean a huge change for us. Whilst the opportunity of a fresh start in a beautiful part of the country is appealing leaving family and friends will be difficult and I know we will miss them very much.
Received a letter just after Christmas from the LEA telling us the Home Education Advisor would be visiting us on the 20th March - nice Christmas present.
I have just read a very good about home education and sustainability: How is Home Education Sustainable.