Back to Normality

Tuesday was a fairly messy, tired, grumpy day, trying to get back to normal after a busy weekend and late nights all round. We seem to have got into a pattern of doing lots of fortnightly activities, which all tend to fall on the same weeks in the month, so it was our only day at home this week, which didn’t really help! Kfish and Afish had a cello lesson moved from Monday (we’d not have bothered but that Kfish has an exam coming up soon) so I took them out to that leaving the others to do normals at home, then we had a clear afternoon until Brownies for Afish. There were tents to dry (heavy fog when taken down leaves them nearly as wet as rain!), sleeping bags to air, shifts to wash and dry and an approved food delivery to put away too, so plenty to keep me busy! I left the bulk of the putting away to Bob, as it was mostly boxes to return to the workshop loft. He’s been busy with work, though, so the house is still littered…

Wednesday was WedEd, which meant a saxophone lesson for L 😀 Em gave him an hour and plenty to be working on, so he’s not short of things to practise 😉 HH did Science sessions based on the nervous system and sense organs, which all concerned seem to have enjoyed a great deal – especially the magic marble which looked like one but felt like two 🙂 We also looked at Degas and did some preparatory discussion and sketches ready for sculpture next time – chicken wire and modroc, so let’s hope the weather stays kind! TheBabs also did a fab session on surds, which I found really helpful, never mind the children 😉 Sadly, I ran out of time to fit in a Jfish and SB French session this time, and Em’s ensemble didn’t happen either (partly my fault; I didn’t realise she was waiting to scoop up recorderists when I whisked them off to do art) – we’ll prioritise that next time to make sure it happens!
Italian and choir for J, K and Lfish, while Afish and L went home and did… I know not what with Bob…

Today we started with more out-of-order History – one of Kate’s fab sessions, which was finishing last term’s theme of the medieval church by talking about the building of cathedrals and ended with small groups planning and building their own cathedrals. I had hoped this might fill Afish’s desperate need to do junk modelling, but apparently not, so I’ll try to fit that in next week, when we actually have some time at home!
We rushed from History to Multisport and then from Multisport to trombone and now I’m sitting outside Afish’s gym blogging as procrastination from service preparation for Sunday, while all the other children are at home doing at least a bare minimum of Maths, English and Music practice. Or quite possibly lying on their beds reading – can’t blame them if they are; it’s where I’d like to be :frog:

Pages of History

Our History project has been coming along slowly but surely, with field trips stacking up ready for future weeks, but Kentwell was a field trip whose timing could not be changed, even though it meant a jump forward by 1500 years! Michaelmas is the only Tudor event which fits into the time L is with us, so Michaelmas was when we had to go.
Kfish has been a page at the last few summer events and thought that this might be a good option for L too, since he would be able to follow along with other pages and have a pattern to copy and a clear routine to follow. It also meant that being French would not be an issue, since he could be some hopeful scion visiting the family. The final deciding factor was that K’s old plain black doublet and hose fitted him well and would be suitable for a page in lieu of house livery.
There were three pages most days and four on at least one, so they were more a chapter than a book, but enough to have fun together and keep busy. They spent some time policing the maze, guiding groups round the house, running errands round the estate and accompanying gentlefolk on strolls. They also played chess (Tudor rules, obviously) and even went punting, and a bonus for L was that gentry food includes large quantities of meat 😉
Meanwhile Lfish was also in the house, mostly singing, dancing or playing the viol, all of which suited her very well.Bob and Jfish were with the alchemists, which J has decided might be something he would like to do for longer next time. Afish and I were down to be pedlars, but Afish defected to the cotte for the weekend and then came and peddled on Monday only.I think the cotte feels like a second home to her now, since she has spent two or three weeks there every summer of her life 🙂
We had to leave in a bit of a hurry on the Monday to get Lfish and Kfish to string orchestra and Jfish home in time for his English session, which meant an early and organised start to get the tents down and then a fairly agonising wait while the last school party took their time at the market, dallied by the front gate and finally left!
I’ve suggested that the children write up their three days of being Tudor and put it into their project folders, then we can see if we can fill the gap between Bronze Age and Tudor before L goes back to France. It may be a bit of a romp through the centuries, but it’s good to have a goal!


A week of mostly being at home, catching our breath, keeping up bookwork… oh and getting ready for Kentwell – more of an issue for me than for the children! Isn’t it amazing how things which were put away confidently ready for their next wearing turn out to need of hours of mending and tlc? Then there are those wretched children who insist on growing, so that things need altering, or on telling you now that those things you thought fitted nicely have actually stretched and need taking in? I’d like to say that at least it will now be ready for next time, but I’m not so complacent!

Quick rundown of the week, leaving it to you to work out who did what:

Monday – cello lesson x 2, string orchestra x 2, football x 1, Guides x 1

Tuesday – Brownies x 1

Wednesday – choir x 2, Italian x 1, library visits x multiple

Thursday – gym x 1, judo x 2

Friday – lie-in x too many = no sports, library visits x 3, violin x 1, choir x 2, wind group x 1, CB brass x 1, technical gym x 2, orchestra x 2, choir friend birthday celebration x 1 😀

Saturday – early start x 7 ready for the drive to Kentwell

Whoosh – that was the weekend!

Saturday started, as Saturdays are wont to do now that we are into term time, with music school. J had an invitation to go back to school and play for Open Day so Bob took him to the station bright and early and I did the music school run, meaning to come back straight away and get on with jobs. They’re singing Cantar una cancion alegra which is always fun, so somehow I ended up staying through the Sing Up! session and only coming back after that. Bob, back from the station, took his laptop to a side room and worked while they did theory and orchestra, then he and the children went to collect J, which made life a little interesting timing-wise (J missed the earlier train) for getting Lfish back in time for gym. She ate lunch in the car on the way there and back (so as not to have cramp from exercising on a full stomach 😉 ) and was only a few minutes late. I’ve been trying to walk more, so took the chance to get in a good hour of walking while she was at gym – I definitely feel better for it. I miss the days when we were able to walk everywhere 🙁

After such a busy week we thought tired children might appreciate a lazy afternoon, so we fished out the popcorn maker and they chose a film to watch 🙂 That meant the Saturday house tidy didn’t happen, though, and with our social worker check due on Monday it was a necessity this week, not just a good habit to try to maintain, so Sunday after church found us all scooting round, each having chosen a room or part of a room to take on. I forgot to set the timer so we ended up doing more than I might have asked, but it is nice to see the results 😉

Sporty Thursday; full Friday

This has been a week of Going Out! Thursday was Multisport, the first one of the new term, which kicked off with dodgeball and basketball. All four partakers came out hot and sweaty, having had a good couple of hours of running around. Meanwhile Afish and I had been to the supermarket and managed a big shop, even remembering to use some of the vouchers which generally sit forgotten in my handbag until I fish them out to find they’re out of date already 🙂

Rushing back from sport we just about made it to trombone and were quite relieved by then that we hadn’t yet found out about sinfonia for this term! Trombone was followed post-haste by gym for Afish, while the others had a chance to do some catching of breath and catching up on normals before K and L headed off to judo.

Both Thursdays and Fridays have activities on alternate weeks; unfortunately this term the alternate weeks are the same, so we have a quiet week followed by a busy one. I’m sure you can guess which this one was! It was not easy to get any of the boys up so we left rather later than planned and arrived at Conservation partway through the discussion and planning meeting. The children went off to play while we talked about the shape of the group and how we can make it work better for everybody, but especially for those older children, like J and SB, who often find themselves the oldest in a group and are desperate to do at least a few activities with their peers. Hopefully some of our ideas will bear fruit; we’ll try it for a term at least and see what happens. There wasn’t really a planned activity, since it was the first meeting, but we needed to saw wood into smaller pieces for the fire to cook dinner and the fire had to be lit and tended. Sausages always taste better for being cooked over a real fire 😉 the children all gradually drifted off to play in the park then, leaving adults drinking tea and continuing to plan, and by the time I’d rounded everybody up there wasn’t time to get to the library before Lfish’s violin lesson so they had to work in the car rather than in the comfort of a room full of books and computers… That may, on reflection, have been no bad thing 😉

While Lfish and Kfish had choir Jfish and L were going to try the county music sessions on the other side of the (fortunately small) city, so I had some rushing around to do. Afish parked herself in the church where choir was and Bob collected her and Lfish from there while L, Jfish and I were introducing ourselves and working out where to go, then I had to run back and collect Kfish after his choir, walk him to the car and drive back to the music hub to collect the boys. It’s not pretty, but it seemed to work and I think they got enough out of the music to be worth doing again.

Wednesday: Hundertwasser, 3D drawing, homeostasis and saxophone

It was a WedEd Wednesday this week (hooray 🙂 ) so we headed over to the Beans’ with good intentions for an early start. We should have left early to get fuel on the way but L, who has been looking forward to his saxophone lesson all week, forgot that a lesson needs a saxophone so had to go back and get it. And then had to go back and get the music. We still had enough time to get fuel though, and to pick up some pasta to share for lunch, so we stopped at the supermarket and filled up then I pulled into the drop-off/10 minute wait space and sent Jfish in for pasta. A few minutes later he rang to say he couldn’t find any of the large bags I’d suggested and didn’t know what to get. I abandoned the car and ran in to show him (he was right; they had no big bags so instead I grabbed a medium sized bag and some cheese while he hunted for the bottle of water he wanted) then ran back out to the car to wait while he paid. Some time later he still hadn’t appeared, so I asked Kfish to pop in and see if he was at a till and to hurry him up if need be. As Kfish went in he passed within a couple of metres of Jfish – we could see them both from the car. Apparently, though, they couldn’t see one another, since Kfish disappeared into the bowels of the shop and Jfish came out to the car. I explained what had happened (the others were laughing too hard by now) and Jfish immediately volunteered to run back in and fetch Kfish, then did so before I could stop him. We waited, torn between frustration and laughter, for a few more more minutes, watching our nice early start tick away, and then Kfish appeared, shrugging his shoulders to say he’d seen no sign of J.It was like a scene from a farce! Once we’d explained he was about to dive back in, but we called him back and instead he hovered in the doorway ready to jump up and down and call if he spotted J. By the time J finally sauntered back out to report his failure to find K the children still in the car were killing themselves laughing 😆

Anyhoo, we eventually made it, only to find that poor HH had a migraine, so rather than starting with Science I scooped up all those who wished to do Art and we talked about Hundertwasser. We looked at some examples of his work and pulled out a few key ideas (such as using bright colours, links with nature, use of spirals, love of water, individuality and personality, avoiding straight lines) and we talked about his theory of skins (your own skin, your clothes, your home, your immediate environment, the wider environment) and the buildings he designed. The basic idea for art was to take lollipop trees as a basis and start with a bright background then make black patterned shapes to stick onto it. Another option was to design a village or street in the style of Hundertwasser – Lfish and the other older girls opted to do this together, with great teamwork 🙂

Since the art was in sections for those doing backgrounds and then shapes, TheBabs took people as they were ready and introduced them to the idea of making up solids from 3D diagrams, then doing their own isometric drawings and 3D drawings. Even Afish was able to work out plan/side/front view cards and relate them to the solid objects and the boys in particular did some really good work with the drawings.

The lovely Em also managed to fit in a long-awaited saxophone lesson for L. This way there’s a definite slot once a fortnight, but we’ll need to think about how to get a lesson into the in-between weeks.

By now HH was feeling a little more human so we had an earlyish lunch and then moved on to Science, which was done outside since we were dissecting kidneys and the smell might have been overpowering in the kitchen! We had looked in advance at a powerpoint about homeostasis, so when HH asked what the topic was going to be Lfish was able to answer 😉 There was a kidney each, but not enough blades, so the actual dissection happened in pairs which worked well because some first cuts showed things better than others but each pair ended up with something where they could see each of the things we were looking for from the sheet HH had provided. Afish gave up first (she’d not been very keen in the first place tbh and felt the last time we dissected kidneys was enough to keep her going for a while!) and went to play, but the others carried on valiantly and managed to identify the key features and talk about their functions. I think L felt a bit uncertain as to what was going on at times, but the occasional quick check kept him on track with what we were doing and each week it should get easier for him to follow.

Jfish, SB and I managed a little French oral practice and a quick bit of future tense revision then it was time for me to take K and Lfish to choir. J had a trial Italian lesson and test set up so also needed to come, but Afish and L were not looking forward to lots of waiting around so were very happy when TheBabs came to the rescue with the offer of a lift home so they could stay longer and join in with the various games about to start.

Italian went well and J has now embarked on a year of lessons with the aim of achieving GCSE at the end. The other children in the (small) class have been learning with the La Dante institute for a while already, hence the test to see whether he would be able to fit in with them and keep the pace of the lessons, and half of them have an Italian parent so it should move fairly fast, I think 🙂

A good day all round, really, with thanks to HH and galoka for hosting and Science, TheBabs for Maths and lifts, Em for saxophone and T41 for the reminder to look again at La Dante 😀

Creswell Crags

Having studied the prehistory of Britain we thought another field trip was in order. Since Creswell Crags is one of the most important Ice Age sites in Europe it seemed a good candidate 🙂
We set off rather later than planned, and without J as he had decided to stay at home and work (hmmm) but at least that meant the fog had a chance to clear first. The journey took a couple of hours, following L and Kfish’s directions (worked out yesterday as a Geography exercise 😉 ) but with a slight rethink at the end when it became clear that their route took us a fair distance further than necessary.
After such a long time sitting the first priority was stretching legs, so we set off round the gorge to peer into all the caves. Sadly the tours only run at weekends or as prebooked visits (currently all booked for several months ahead) so we had to content ourselves with the outside and easily accessible parts, but it was still quite stunning. We all enjoyed climbing up the cliff face to see what view the cave people might have had and imagining how we might live in one of the caves. The children all decided that Mother Grundy’s Parlour was the most promising to live in, even though Pin Hole is the one where most art has been found and Robin Hood the most visited. We also attempted to feed the ducks (having been given a couple of bags of duck food when we arrived) but they were clearly well-fed and contented so ignored us all morning and only came to eat when we returned from our walk and tried again.
As we were heading out we saw a school party in the outdoor classroom learning to throw sticks at targets, so we talked a little about how people might have hunted. Another party was on their way to a cave visit, with hard hats and head torches; we were lucky enough to arrive at the cave they were visiting just as they left, so had a chance for a good peek in 😉
On the way back we stopped at the themed playground so we could all enjoy climbing on a mammoth, riding on a rhino, sitting on horses and reindeer, hiding in a house made of tusks and exploring the obstacle course. Time was rushing by, however, so we went back to the centre, where there were finds to excavate and microscopes to examine and identify finds. Upstairs the queue to buy tickets for the permanent exhibition was very long, thanks to a school party coming out of the shop to make purchases (same desk) so we ducked into the free temporary exhibition first, where we found the actual bone discovered in Pin Hole cave and decorated with the rather grotesque and cartoonesque figure of a man. The exhibit was all about different readings of what the picture might be and might mean: perhaps a cartoon drawn to give an impression of movement, an overblown exaggerated drawing, a figurative depiction, a man wearing a ceremonial mask or even a figure half-man, half-creature. We can only speculate, and the exhibition encouraged us to do just that.
Then we wandered round the permanent exhibitions and learned more about the crags, the finds there and how they have fed into knowledge of the Ice Ages and the fauna and flora of the area then. Each child chose an item to write about later in the week. The videos were very good, including one showing the landscape as it might have been in different eras. It was odd to think that Derbyshire was once so warm that rhino and hyenas lived there, and then so cold that the whole area was deeply frozen and people fled back across the ice to mainland Europe or survived huddled in caves for warmth. The children’s favourite exhibit was a computer-aided depiction of various pieces of rock art where you could trace the lines of the picture and the important ones would be highlighted. This made it much easier to see which lines were deliberate and which incidental and allowed us to see why the pieces were considered to be so exciting.
We finished with a look round the shop and buying a postcard each for their project folders.
Despite a slow journey back we just made it in time for Afish to get to Brownies 🙂


We have been trying to fit trips in and had thought Monday might work, but in the end it was a normals day, with added cello, as usual for a Monday. Lfish set off for Guides in the evening, only to find that this week was one which has been omitted in order to get a nice number of meetings into the term.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Last term we kept meaning to try a new multisport session in the opposite direction to usual. Having a free Friday morning this seemed a good time to go. It’s cheaper than our usual one because there’s a substantial sibling discount and it was fun, but the boys were all older than any other children afaics, so not ideal age-group-wise. We may go again whenever it won’t clash with Conservation and hope it picks up a few older children. We’ll see.

Home for normals then off to violin, dropping L and Kfish at the library on the way. Afish had been hoping to meet up with a friend and we had books to collect from another mum at friend’s school so we went there after violin and found books but no friend, so she came with us to the library to find the boys and then she and both Ls went home with Bob while Kfish had boys’ choir.

On Saturday there was a big heritage day in Cambridge, which included music from members of choir, and lots of Kentwellies dressed as Tudors to welcome Queen Elizabeth I on a recreation of her tour of Cambridge colleges 450 years ago. We missed the beginning because of music school (which L said was easy to medium for the music, but medium to hard for the English, so probably a good balance) and then Jfish and L both declined to dress up and Kfish decided to go back to civvies as soon as he could after singing, but the rest of us had a lovely time selling sweetmeats and huzzah-ing as the queen went by, culminating in evensong in the gorgeous King’s college chapel. Some photos were taken, and some more, and a video too. (At 2:57 or so in the video you’ll see the vicar of Great St Mary’s – which was hosting the event – doing his first bit of Tudor re-enacting in a costume borrowed from a Kentwellie, which he really enjoyed.)

Meanwhile the boys went to see the workings of the Corpus clock and then visited the Whipple.

On Sunday Kfish had Eucharist and mattins, so it was an early start for him and Bob, while the rest of us went to our local church for a special service led by two Salvation Army majors to commemorate the beginning of WWI. We were given replicas of the booklets handed out to soldiers 100 years ago, with St John’s gospel and a few hymns.

In the afternoon we had a chore-pause and then filled the now brightly painted volcano with bicarb and vinegar. This didn’t produce the enormous eruption that was hoped for – the children’s choice of a large bottle inside the crater might have stopped the ingredients mixing as well as in a smaller bottle – but it was still enjoyed by all. Bonus fun came from catching the CO2 given off by the reaction in balloons, and then using the CO2 to put out a candle flame. Jfish even had the bright idea of first emptying the balloon into a glass, and then tipping the glass onto the flame. This was to make sure that the fire extinguishing was from the CO2 and not the sudden whoosh of a random gas.

Trombones, volcanoes and judo!

Lfish did a trombone taster session at holiday orchestra a while back, and I’ve been looking for something musical she can do and not take ttoo seriously,so we decided to ask Jfish’s teacher if she could fit in a short Lfish lesson with his lessons. Today was the first of those, and went well 😀 Apparently she has a high embouchure, which makes beginning hard (lots of low notes in bbeginner pieces) but bodes well for tthe future. There’s a limit to how much she can play for now though, as her arms are too sshort to reach beyond sixth position 😆

We left the others finishing off making volcanoes, today’s big activitysince L knows a llot about them in French so finds them accessible iin English. First we looked at articles about tthe Auvergne and L told us about family holidays there, then we looked at general information about volcanoes and then decided it would be ffun tto mmake oone. Afish opted for a small clay version, which she lacquered when dry, then we all got together to make aa large paper mache version based around a bottle so that once it’s dry we can fill t with bicarb and vinegar to make an eruption.

When we were drawing up weekly timetables for this term we asked L what else he might like to do and he answered without hesitation that he wanted to ddo judo. Fortunately we managed to find a class we could get him to and this evening was tthe first session of term, so he and Kfish went along and tthey’ve just got back. It seems to have gone well and they are both keen to return next week 😀