Catching up

Getting a bit behind already 😆 so time for a bit of a catching-up post, I think.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, although we hardly seem to have *done* anything 😕

The week before last, after parents and tots (and the infamous milk incident!), we had lunch with a friend and then walked home, L on my back in the Ergo, with all our bits and pieces in the rucksack (useful but definitely less comfortable as it changes the centre of gravity) and a boy holding each hand. On the way we met a woman with a boy somewhere between my two in age and a baby in a pushchair, who stopped us to ask if my sling was comfortable. By the time we had finished talking about it, what it was, how it worked, where to get one etc, the boys were arm in arm and chatting as though they had been friends for years 🙂 so we decided on a slight detour to the park rather than walking straight home.

It turned out that the woman was Canadian and they were in Cambridge for just a few months, which were almost over 🙁 and had not bothered to get the boy (Z) into school for such a short time so were effectively HE, but only temporarily – anyway, the children got on like a house on fire (we’ve had to meet up a few times since due to popular demand) and we got to talk slings and carriers as they are about to go off for 10 days walking/hiking in the mountains in Italy… She fell in love with the NG Ergo (I think seeing me carry a 2 year old comfortably helped!) and we were lucky enough to then spot one up for sale second-hand on ukparents so she should have one in time for the holiday 😉

I guess this counts as socialisation for both the boys and me 😀 – shame they’re leaving so soon though 🙁
Oh, and I’m now on the look-out for yet another highly-recommended book, but with very little hope of finding it as it is both Canadian (I think) and out of print: Five Minute Miracles. Loads of simple ideas for five-minute educational and/or fun activities which require little or no preparation. If I can’t get hold of a copy, I guess I’ll just have to start compiling my own…

We met Z and family again on Tuesday (church coffee morning) and again on Thurs (p&t) and now have just one week before they go; I’m torn between cramming lots of meetings in because the children get on so well and not doing that because I don’t want the boys to feel they have found a new friend only to lose him again.

This is made more acute by the fact that another HE family, with very similar aged children, doing almost exactly the same things (even to having middle children at same preschool) has just moved away, leaving K unwilling to go to preschool at all (M was his best friend both in and out of preschool), L missing her first real friend and J a bit lost as we spent so much time with them as a family that even though he and O had their moments he will miss them all a lot. I’m feeling rather bereft too 🙁

Two steps forward and one step back

The good news is that you end up one step further forward than you started, so you have to take heart in that. Bit of a theme for yesterday and today:

  • Yesterday J and I started catching up with the World Cup scores and putting them on our wall chart. Then by the power of maths we started to work out who had qualified from the group stages (yes, we were behind). This went really well, although we ran out of time after two groups. I think that J got a lot out of it as he saw there was a point to doing the sums. Tonight when I tried to do a bit more he was too tired after the afternoon’s bouncing, so we managed one more group with some effort. If I take a step back from the extra effort required, he’s still done maths more willingly than he has for a while.

  • After Jax and Kath pointed out Sage to me, I switched to it rather than using Bloglines to keep track of my RSS feeds. I love the auto-discovery thing, and the fact that it just works. One thing I miss from Bloglines is being able to tell it to hide feeds with nothing new on them.

  • The final forward/back (then forward again) was with the site. Ho hum. I expect I’ll get it just so eventually. I’d found out what the real problem was – when you turn on nice permalinks in WordPress (that don’t have question marks and random numbers in) WordPress updates the .htaccess files behind your site for you to tell Apache (the web server) to use one of its groovy features (mod_rewrite) to turn ugly permalinks into spiffy ones. Strangely it assumes that part of the turn-on-grooviness instructions are already there and doesn’t bother adding them.

    If you have an incomplete set of instructions Apache gets confused and your site disappears. Having sussed all this out, I fiddled with the site this morning before work and turned it all on and checked I could see the site. Hurrah! Nice permalinks! When I came to blog at lunchtime I discovered I couldn’t – same problem as before, but this time limited to just the WordPress admin stuff. I then realised that the admin stuff lives in its own directory on the server, which has its own .htaccess file, and I hadn’t added the missing bit of the instruction to that one (just to the main one for people reading the blog). I couldn’t do anything about it as I can only fettle at home. I’ve now fixed it all, and it’s all lovely and shiny, at least until I try to do the next bit of cleverness.

Just a perfect day?

Parents and Tots again today, but this time with milk 😆
J and K’s new friend Z came along (with mum and baby sister – and she’s managed to buy the NG Ergo I pointed out to her so looking forward to playing with that when it gets here :D) and S was there, so there was quite a posse of older boys and I let J just get on with it rather than trying to do any set work. Z had brought along some little water squirters so they rushed around outside while the little ones stayed safely inside. L did lots of playdough and playing with babies 🙂
When it came to story and song time I decided to put my foot down and made J and K come and sit quietly rather than running around as they have been the last few weeks; it’s not fair on the littlies and they actually enjoy it once they get into it 😉 We sat and they chose a book each. J wanted to read his to me rather than the other way around, so I got to listen to Two-Can Toucan, then we started on K’s choice of The Three Little Pigs, but it was too long and we ran out of time… which actually proved to be a bonus as J took over, took K, Z and S to a corner and read the rest of the book quietly to them while the rest of us sang. K was lured over to the singing (by Humpty Dumpty) when the book was finished, but the rest of them just got another book and carried right on reading 😀 I was so chuffed, especially by how confidently – and flawlessly – J reads now.
Once everyone had gone we had lunch in the church hall with Rebecca and Jonah, then went to a new soft play place in Fenstanton to meet Emma and her boys.
The place proved to be well laid-out and ideal for mums to chat and children to wear themselves out, so it was a great way to spend an afternoon catching up with old friends.
Came home just before the rush hour, picked Bob up from work early, cooked tea while he did some maths (working out football tables) with J and then the children rushed round the garden with water squirters again before we ate. K and L both conked out pretty much straight after tea; Bob and J curled up to read next chapter of The Horse and His Boy and I’m about to go out running with a friend.
😀 Contented sigh 😀

Guilt guilt guilt!

Just recently we seem to have been doing next to nothing on the HE front 🙁
Life has been so busy, mostly with my things, that I’ve not had the time or the headspace to get J motivated to work at all.
I seem to be spending a lot of time visiting/helping out friends, one way or another, and J has to tag along. He doesn’t seem to mind, but does occasionally (and rather plaintively 🙁 ) ask when we can start snuggling up in bed and reading again. We will soon, I promise him, then the next thing comes up and another day goes for a burton. Today we’re cooking (but that’s educational, right? 😉 ) and then heading off to visit a friend (taking the food with us) so again any reading that happens will be J reading to K and L or to himself.
I think I need to rethink a few priorities.
On the plus side, have just arranged to buy practically an entire Core K package (secondhand) so from September will be able to follow someone else’s routine (differentiating up for J and down for K where necessary) and see if that works better than trying and failing to set our own 😆
Right – off to supervise flapjacks!

Full weekend

Katy’s already posted about our weekend, so I will just fill in some extra stuff rather than repeat everything.

The first thing to say is actually one of the last to happen: Katy’s recognition service. I was very glad that L stayed asleep (on me) until Katy’s well-deserved applause, even though we were making each other hot. Also, I’m very proud of Katy, for all the hard slog she’s put into her preaching. The training itself is like an Open University course – theology, church history, Bible study, how to lead worship etc. – and then there’s preparing the services themselves which can take up most of a week’s spare time. (Long before your formal recognition you’re doing services by yourself.) I have learned a lot sitting in Katy’s services, and know she has a gift for preaching.

Katy mentioned in the service today that motherhood and preaching have largely occupied the same stretch of her life. This made me remember when she was just starting out and we would put J down to sleep in a tiny travel cot bag in the vestry of whichever church we were at, and he’d stay asleep until the end of the service. Things are a bit trickier these days on the child care during Katy’s services front!

On a completely different tack, I was struck by the contrast between two Ikea workers yesterday. We stopped off at Ikea on the way back from the baby shower in order to break the journey and it also has some strange irresistible pull on the car. (Hmm… Something wrong with the space-time continuum, captain?) We got there late, but there were still people in the cafe so we tried to get something to eat. The chap behind the counter said he’d run out of pasta which was a blow as there wasn’t much else we wanted. It turned out he did have some but it had sat in the serving thing for ages and so was a bit chewy. After only a little to-ing and fro-ing we managed to get it anyway and it was duly appreciated by the children. Thumbs up to common sense Ikea workers.

We’d got a couple of drinks that gave free refills. There was an announcement on the P.A. that the restaurant was now closed (although they were letting us finish our food), and Katy noticed a member of staff doing tidying up type things near the drinks machines and said I ought to drink up and get a refill quick. I did the drinking part, hurried to the machines and was told by the tidying worker that the she’d just turned the machines off. It was obvious that she wasn’t going to turn them on again, which was a shame as I now had no drink with which to finish my meal. I know it hardly registers on the grand-scheme-of-things-ometer, but it just seemed a bit unnecessarily unhelpful – couldn’t other things have been tidied up first?

Bah! I’ve given Ikea two whole paragraphs and sound like Victor Meldrew. That wasn’t the intention so I shall end with a thought that struck me this week. I was marching across town one lunchtime to help with child logistics and crossed a common that is the venue for the fairs that visit. One was in the process of being set up, so it looked less like a fair and more like a travellers’ community (albeit with specialist vehicles). There was a girl of about 12 sat at a table enjoying a book she was reading and it occurred to me that the people who do fairs are home educators like me – it’s just the setting that’s different. Their children will have much more exposure to some things than mine will – British geography, buying and selling, marketing, logistics and planning, mechanical engineering, (advertising) art and so on. The fact that this was a major realisation then reminded me that I’m not as open-minded as I like to think I am.

Structure – musings

When J first came out of school he oscillated between wanting to be totally free and wanting to follow school structure, even to the extent of asking for healthy fruit snacks, like they have at school, which he wouldn’t eat (just as he didn’t eat them at school) because he doesn’t like fruit!
We gradually came to a compromise of doing maths (Singapore maths) and English (Beyond the Code) each day and pootling apart from that, only for him to then rebel against doing any set work at all 😕
I suppressed my concerns and my conviction that some set work is what will suit him best and waited for him to realise it for himself and I think he finally has – but it’s so hard to do! How much should I impose it on him? Some days it seems to take forever for him to do even a single page and yet another day he’ll sit and do 10 in a few minutes!
I keep telling myself that things will get better when K is no longer at preschool, as the half hour walk there and 20 minutes back for drop-off, plus 20 mins there and half hour back for pick-up, really disrupts the day and limits what we can do and how much freedom J can have in when and how he does things. I guess I’m kind of assuming that everything will be easier once I have two of them to sit down and work together, but then I suddenly start to panic and think I’m just kidding myself 🙁 and things will be even more chaotic but without the enforced exercise we currently get each day 😆
I suppose I shouldn’t really complain as the usual reason I can’t get J to do things (and that we are late everywhere) is that his nose is constantly glued to a book!


I have been meaning to write about last week since we got back, but first I had to set up this blog, upgrade our Flickr account, go to work a bit and so on.

The simplest thing to say is that I had a really good time. About 45% of this is due to the fact that the children enjoyed camping. Our only previous experience of camping with them did not go well, and so this was a big unknown. Fortunately the kids loved it, which meant we could enjoy it too, and we can do it again in the future. Another 45% or so was the other adults there – normal people, who accepted us as we were and who didn’t panic when we talked about home education (as you’d expect for an HE camp!). What the other 10% was, I don’t know.

I was trying to think why our local HE group hasn’t produced warm fluffy feelings as much as MuddlePuddle camp did. I think there’s nothing wrong with the group, but I haven’t done many activities with them, and each activity is for half a day or less and so all the normal stress of logistics and child shepherding mean that I’m so busy with all that so I can’t get much out of it myself. Maybe I should do more, like the Beans?!

Oh the tyranny of the blank page!

I’ve been trying to think how to start and having no great ideas, so it seems the best thing to do is just to wade straight in! Of course, this is helped considerably by the fact that I should be making the most of L actually deigning to sleep on the settee by herself (rather than attached to me) for a while to get some service preparation done… There is nothing like a more important task to help get the minor ones done – or is that just me?

Will come back and blog about Kessingland later, I think, as that really will take some time, but it would be good to get today done while it’s fresh, especially as it marks a minor triumph for both J and me. We went to the CHEF Great School Run in Cherry Hinton Park and joined in, running (well, jogging) 2km without stopping – although I did have to slow down occasionally to let L get her biscuit into her mouth and have a drink. She complained that I was bumping her too much otherwise! We used our new marine Leo Storchenwiege (swapped lots of nappies for it ;)) and very comfy he was too, if a little long. Might have to try shrinking him a little…
After the run we froze our ankles in the paddling pool and then picnicked in the sun, then went and collected K, who had been on a Brunswick trip to “the Pumping Station” (Technology Museum) and then home with his friend M.

L is still asleep and I really do have a service to prepare, so I guess it’s time to be good and get on.