Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Resources Page

I've added a page up the top to put my home-made resources in!

These are here in good faith for personal use, please let me know if you've used them and credit me where possible, I'll try to do the same if I happen to borrow anything.

The first thing I have for you is a set of dinosaur silhouettes that you can cut up, laminate and use for anything you like :) 

Print two and play matching games or use them on a large timeline or map.

Enjoy.

Monday, 5 December 2011

"Orwellian Schemes"?

"A graduate is taking legal action against the government over a scheme which she says forces people to do unpaid work." via BBC
I'm really struggling with this report that was just on the news. I would love to hear a bit more from Cait - the aforementioned graduate; things like whether she has worked before, what experience she already has and what sort of job she wants. 

I'd like to ask her whether she had to work during her degree, and where she got money from to support herself during those three years. I'd like to find out how difficult it is to find work in her field and what other students from her graduating year are now doing.

I'd like to ask whether she believes she is entitled to JSA until she finds a job exactly in her field. I'd be interested to find out why she thinks the Job Centre is the right place to find a graduate career. I'd like to hear how she spends her time when she's not volunteering at a museum. Is she improving herself, creating a kick-ass CV, keeping on top of her field?

I don't like to criticise without knowing these facts. 

But.
Man.
I...

I can't get over feeling that this STINKS of entitlement.

I detest the idea of unpaid internships, of which this government scheme is a dumbed-down version. But sometimes, just sometimes, you have to get over yourself and do what is necessary. Which means taking a job beneath your skill level. Which means working hard, finding opportunities and taking things in your stride. Because everything you do should further you, whether you are only working towards the next pay cheque or bettering yourself to move up the ladder. 
  
I'm not saying Cait should have just got on with it. She obviously felt insulted by it, but no-one walks into a graduate job. Even the people who seem to do so have usually been working their a*ses off for 3+ years. Perhaps working a job alongside their degree. Perhaps working two jobs whilst also developing a portfolio of work in their own time. Perhaps working hard on an extra-curricular activity that turns out to be the thing they do for the rest of their lives, the degree being a leg up or a period of time to develop.

So what should a graduate expect from a government funded partnership scheme? Well, you certainly shouldn't assume they'll give you something awesome. Especially when that scheme is contracted through a large company. When you enter a framework that expects conformity, through a scheme administered by a big business, where does it say that they have to give you exactly what you want?

Cos that scheme? The whole structure of it? It ain't about what the lowly job seeker wants, is it?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Self direction with Sonic

My girly is trying to use a handheld Mega Drive. And getting really frustrated with it not doing what she wants.

It's hard to stand back and stop myself from showing her.

The litany of 'If you want to play you play, but if you're frustrated you can put it down,' is getting tiresome, but what is the alternative? What will she learn if I do it all for her?

I'm obviously happy to help her read and find what she's looking for, but I'm not going to play the game for her. I can facilitate her use of the game ('What happens when you press this button?' 'What's happening now?') but I won't tell her what to do.

And guess what this approach led to: she realised that to find the game she wants, she needs to read. 

She wanted 'Sonic and Knuckles,' so we worked out that it had 3 words and started with /s/. Then it was a matter of puzzling it out with logic. She found the game then realised there was another Sonic game underneath.

So, what have we learned by playing on the Mega Drive? Through the intrinsic motivation to play the game we want we have practised:

  • letter recognition
  • counting  
  • logic
  • whole word recognition and matching

Not bad for half an hour of work.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Banana and Date Breakfast Muffins!

Let's lighten things up a bit here!

I've been investigating making muffins for about 6 months now and finally think I'm getting the hang of it. 

I invented these with NP and they were well received by all, they are low on (added, refined) sugar and not too fatty (I think). I reckon they could be tarted up a bit more with some nuts to slow the release of the sugar, perhaps some chopped walnuts? 

So, so sorry there's no picture, I'll remedy that next time we make them. Have to say, there's some guesswork gone into remembering this, but I hope you enjoy them.

makes around 12 large muffins

150g self raising flour
50g wholemeal flour 
100g oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
pinch of salt
50g soft brown sugar
c.100g chopped dates
3 really ripe bananas (the browner they are, the sweeter)
50g sultanas
1 large egg
60g melted butter
c.2 tbsp of milk (just for binding because the wholemeal flour sucks up liquid, add one at a time to make sure you're not adding too much)

Get some muffin tins ready in your preferred manner. Grease really well or use some paper cases. 
Put your oven on a high temp (gas 6 or 7, 200-220c, 400-425f) and put a tin filled with water in the bottom (the steam is supposed to help your muffins rise) 
You will be turning this temp down later - don't forget!
Mix the dry ingredients together by sieving them all into a bowl, then add the dried fruit and have a good stir. 
(if you chop the dates yourself you might want to roll them in cornflour before adding to the mixture to stop them clumping together) 
Mash the bananas to a good smush in a separate bowl then chuck them into the melted butter and whisk in the egg slightly. 
Put the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to a cakey-slop with some of the milk, don't take too long over this, make sure they're *just* combined. 
Spoon into the prepared tins (I fill them to the top and do a little peak in the middle so they rise like mini mountains :) 
TURN YOUR OVEN DOWN TO gas 4/180c/350f
Bake in the oven for 20-25mins. They will be nice and brown when they come out.

We love cooking with bananas and dates because they are lovely and sweet for baking, it might even be possible to reduce the amount of sugar you add, but that's an experiment for next time.

You can also change the proportions of flours, but remember, the more wholemeal you use, the more liquid it will suck up, making your cakes drier if you don't add more!

Please leave me a comment if you make these ;o)

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Summer Reading Challenge

Children are often liable to take you by surprise, aren't they? 

At the moment, we aren't using any kind of structured learning but we are doing lots of reading and taking advantage of every opportunity. In this environment, over past month, my little one has discovered something awesome.

The glee on her little face when she takes a book off me and says, "Now I'll read it to you mommy," eek! It still makes me grin.

She uses a number of techniques to help her read the story, but I don't think it involves the writing at all. It reminds me of the wordless books that I think form level one of The Oxford Reading Tree. It has also set off a chain reaction in my head of Awesome Things We Can Do Now.

So, how does she do it? 

Firstly, she chooses books that she knows well and recalls the exact words from memory, she uses inflection she's heard from us.
Then she looks at the pictures to jog her memory.
If she can't remember the exact words she sometimes gets frustrated, but she has recently tried substituting similar words (and received a lot of praise for thinking of that idea!)

She has also recalled and re-told the story of Peter Rabbit for me, without the book, in order to create our own little version of the story in a mini-book (thank you, zine-making obsession, I knew it would get me somewhere, even if I never made one of my own!)

This week, she used her new skills to finish her first book in the library Circus Stars challenge.

I'm so excited to see what happens next in our reading journey and I'll be updating the fun reading stuff we get up to on the way :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

School, Socialising and Being Different

OK, I need to talk about school.

I'm not sure where this will lead. You know how hindsight is, it makes you feel much more important and self-righteous than you ever probably were; adult brains do love to rationalise past actions. It's important though. It's important in the context of why I want to Home Educate and why I don't agree that school is necessary for all children. Yet, please, don't for a moment assume that this encapsulates everything about my approach to HE, it does have an influence, but this is more a reactionary post than a personal doctrine - it needs to get out there, even if said influence is minimal.

It's about being 'social'.

Because school isn't a social experience for everyone. People ALWAYS have 'socialisation' in the baggage of worries they bring to any conversation about Home Ed. I won't repeat what other people have to say about it, you can find extensive information if you bother to use Google.

Anyway, anecdote time. I can't say I 'suffered' at school, I was offered plenty of help, I didn't receive any serious bullying, I didn't perform badly. But a lot of the time, I didn't go.

It's not something that was ever addressed successfully. My only perception of it now is that I didn't want to be there. Over time it became easier and easier not to be there. Every time I managed to maintain the work,   I proved myself right. I remember sitting in lessons thinking other people were stupid. I remember sitting in lessons fuming angry for no reason. I remember feeling so f*cking apathetic about it all.

I probably thought I knew best, but I don't remember thinking that thought. 

Anyway, what do you know? I, the girl whose high school attendance was often barely more than 60%, completed a degree at a Russell Group Uni with 1st class honours. Few people thought I would. Some voiced their fears, some emanated them without words (though I'd count my two 6th Form history teachers and my Mr Onions among the few who DID think I could do it).

And the school? Well, they accommodated me. Can you believe it? At a time when parents were being fined for truancy, the school let me do it. Because I was still achieving.

Well, what does all that tell you about school? I'm not sure. 

Sometimes I feel like I took the resources they offered and taught myself, but that's pretty arrogant, and inaccurate. Sometimes I feel like I had such a strong desire to be alone that perhaps I dealt with it in the only way available to me. Sometimes I feel like I was simply too self-absorbed and obstinate.

But besides all this educational rubbish there is one thing I do know: school, itself, didn't teach me to be sociable.

My friends taught me to be sociable. The school environment didn't facilitate socialising: it was an opportunity to meet people, but it wasn't the place to develop meaningful relationships. That part happened outside of school hours, with the people I had found. I didn't WANT to see people at school, I wanted to avoid them.

As a teenager, so many other things were important in my life, but school was just there. I never thought I was going to fail, I just wasn't sure when I was going to get around to it. I guess I was like many teenagers: if you ask them they'll tell you that school gets in the way of socialising.

Ahem. I know that all this secondary school stuff isn't relevant to my 4-year-old's education, who knows, perhaps she'll go there one day herself. Until then, however, no-one is going to convince me that school is a better social experience for her. She can get social interaction with different people every day of the week if she wants it, or stay at home with me if she wants to be alone. Her need for interaction is important to her and she will damn well tell me when she wants to go somewhere. And I will listen and adapt. Because I can, because it's important, and because it's my duty.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

"She's going to be in my family one day"

I was invited to the preschool Teddy Bears Picnic last week. It was pretty likely I'd be standing around for an hour, not speaking to any other parents and appearing to be a stuck up cow (my mom calls it 'aloof'), but for the sake of watching Miss J's face when introduced to Pink Bill Murray, I attended. 

Little NP was ecstatic to have me there and made a beautiful jam sandwich for us to share, with lettuce and teddy bear ham on the side (NP's philosophy: why make a choice when you can have both?)

I wasn't wrong: the hour was spent with everyone paired up with other parents they already knew, barely acknowledging anyone else. I played with the kids then had a nice sit in the sun. NP grabbed a bike and was soon joined by a little boy from the next-door (mostly evil) nursery. They sped around the playground track together for the best part of 10 minutes, talking, racing, waiting for each other to catch up. It was gorgeous. 

They came over to see me.

Little Boy: "This is my friend"
Me: "Oh right, this is my little girl, I'm her mommy"
LB: "She's going to be in my family one day"
Me: "Is she? Well that's nice, are you going to get married"
LB & NP: "Yes"
Me: "Are you having a nice ride on your bikes?"
LB: "Yes these are both Mini's and they have a V8 N"*
both speed off happily
Me: "Oh OK then"

must attempt to ingratiate more into acceptable parental society to get these two together more often. 

*This is what it sounded like to me, god knows what the last bit was meant to be, but I found it pretty damn funny

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Breastfeeding Ettiquette

We were at RAF Cosford yesterday (interesting visit by the way, and free apart from car parking, I liked the hands-on science things and the Cold War exhibition).

We passed by a lady who was breastfeeding a small baby, probably under 3 months I guess (what do I know? It's been more than 3 years since NP was that small) poor baby had such a twist in her neck to reach the breast. But I didn't want to be a busy-body. I'm kicking myself now for not going over to chat to the woman. 

How do you approach somebody when you can see their breastfeeding positioning might be causing them problems? Do you leave them to it (like I did) or reach out a hand of friendship and support interference and judgement to help?

I don't really need to ask the internetz; I should have helped, at worst I'd have received the startled rabbit look of an uncomfortable person waiting to be told off; at best, a friendly chat.

Still don't know what I would have said though.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

McDonald's Toys

Appropriate for a 4 year old?


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Interesting Times

My girl has had a fabulous day at Thomas Land, Drayton Manor Park. She ran around the whole place, had a beautiful temperament all day and was a joy to be around.  

Our whole day has been an exercise in positive parenting. When she had a minor freak out on Bertie the Bus, Mr Onions and I 'whee!-ed' and 'wow!-ed' with gusto. When she was shocked at the speed of the roller coaster I described how it felt, giving her positive words to explain the sensations. I think it worked: she wanted to go back on every single thing, even the ones where she nearly pooed herself. 

After the combined excitement, adrenaline and sugar rush of the theme park you'd think she'd be wiped out. but no; as soon as we got home she found a Thomas magazine and started colouring a picture (after five minutes in search of the perfect blue.) Then, completely unprompted, out came a writing workbook she was given for her birthday (dear buyer: thank you, the party was manic and I know which family it came from, but not who specifically, I'm sorry! Mommy fail). She did a whole page on her own.

I think the damage from nursery has nearly been eradicated :)

Check out the joy on these faces:

Happy people and pachycephalosaurs

Friday, 8 July 2011

Daisy Chains in the Sun, a poem

My talented sister wrote a poem based on this blog post.
Daisy chains in the sun

I've never felt better
than when I've sat alone
making daisy chains in the sun.

I've never felt better
than when I'm sat alone
away from everyone.

I love to watch
the people pass by
and wonder what they've done.

Feeling so sorry
for all the children
whose parents seem no fun.

I’ve had enough
of monotony
and the empty lives you’ve spun.

Laugh like I'm different?
Well maybe I am,
but I like what I’ve become

Because I prefer
to sit alone
making daisy chains in the sun.

I think she should start a blog and post her lovely work, don't you? Especially while she's on summer break from uni!

This is the second time someone has used my blog for inspiration, which feels really nice.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Gendered colours

I've been waiting for NP to develop some sort of gendered attitude towards colour, and recently I thought it had happened with Gary and Pink Bill Murray (whose name will surely be hilarious to a select few and ridiculous to all the rest)

Even though I said that Gary and Bill are boy names she insisted they were girls. 

"Why are they girls?" I asked, and I'm *almost certain* she mentioned 'pink' as a defining factor. 

So I tried a little gentle probing, "If they were blue would they still be girls?" 

She delivered a more withering look than I thought a 4 year old was capable of and said "Yes" in a tone that told me in no uncertain terms, "Mommy, you are the greatest dumbass in the world."

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Growing vegetables with kids

A very happy green-fingered lady
We've been growing vegetables in our garden for 3 years now and I can't believe that this year is the first time we've tried something legume-ey (that's a scientific word, btw).

We've had plenty of success with potatoes for a couple of years but decided to give the soil a rest from those this year. A quick check in my self-sufficiency book has just proved that my ability to retain useless information is in fine form, as we've managed to plant the above sugar-snap peas in the spot that previously held potatoes.

I was hugely proud of myself for constructing a frame for the peas and NP has been delighted with her 'peapods'. We gave her a choice of seeds and she decided to grow sugar snaps because she loves them so much - she eats them raw. Every visitor to the house has been dragged outside to view them and as soon as she spotted me harvesting them she was right there yanking them off and whooping for joy.

I definitely think all kids should get a chance to grow veggies of some sort, even a tiny pot of salad would be great, watching things grow and taking care of them is a great conversation starter for learning about nature and sometimes even a good way to get them to eat vegetables. People always say that cooking with your kids makes them want to eat the food they've made; growing things is another step in that chain. 

Friday, 24 June 2011

Education for Everyone

I decided to broaden my own mind and experiences by taking up a new hobby or two:



NP is loving her new toys and the crochet bag to keep them in. I'm currently working on a crochet brooch for her birthday and will probably get on with a few more practice pieces like these before I embark on a bigger project. 

There are some fab magazines out there which give you loads of stuff to get you started with knitting and crochet. I'm lucky in a way that I learnt the simple knit stitch and had a French knitting set as a child, giving me a good grounding to learn more complicated things now. It's a great alternative to time-wasting TV or laptop time (you know the kind I mean, where you're aimlessly filling time, rather than catching up on hugely important blogs and YouTube. Ahem.)

BTW, if anyone's got a Spongebob Squarepants pattern I'll be forever in your debt :)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Tiffany Aching

Want to know one of my weaknesses? Kick-ass strong women. I have a few favourite female fictional characters, but Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching and Granny Weatherwax should be right near the top of that list.

Pratchett books get devoured over here. I savour every last drop, give a big sigh, feel slightly bereft, then leave them for a few months. I recently finished re-reading 'I Shall Wear Midnight' then went on to populate my Kindle with far too many a few more Discworld favourites that I don't have in paperback. 

The Tiffany novels* could almost be textbook pieces of feminist-inspired 'empowered' female stories. Tiffany's coming-of-age seems to have come full circle in 'I Shall Wear Midnight', when she returns home to take up her Witchy role. Did I mention I LOVE Coming of Age Stories. About Women. Who Kick Ass?

I'm not entirely certain why I adore these kinds of stories. I think it's to do with the 'overcoming' aspect. Tiffany has to get over herself to develop. She makes a sh*t load of mistakes. She's selfish, she shows off, she makes a big f*cking mess then goes and cleans it up, taking responsibility for herself. Styling herself after Granny Weatherwax (I mean, who wouldn't?) 

What I was really taken by, both times I read this book, was the support of the other Witches. TIffany has two places she depends on for emotional support, her Dad and the Witches†. The interesting thing about the witches is that it's not exactly them who support her; they serve as a means for her to remember to rely on herself. They are so unwaveringly THERE, reminding her of who she is, making her determined to succeed; they are the ultimate role models, idols and friends.

Those are the kind of people everyone should have in their lives.

Anyone else have a favourite female character? What makes them special?

*(four in total, The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight)**
**You have to have footnotes if you're talking about Pratchett.
† Well, there's actually three I suppose. Her own Granny is the third, but I like to think of her more as Tiffany's inner strength, as Granny Aching passed away before the Wee Free Men, she's a bit of a totem for what Tiffany aspires to be, and is probably the reason why she likes Granny Weatherwax so much. Damn I could write so much about this!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Counterbalance

I believe our life is a process of juggling to preserve a fine balance; thus to reset the equilibrium that was thrown off by our super smug home educating post on Monday, the universe has thrown us a glorious cold that has left the rest of the week looking mostly like this:


This, I suppose, is actually another benefit of HE: little lady gets to spend her poorly time concentrating on getting better and doing the little things she enjoys (like Lego - which also doubles up as an educational tool for fine motor skills, following instructions, translating 2D pictures into 3D reality, shapes, number recognition etc. etc.) and neither of us have to worry about 'missing' anything.

(well, apart from being confined to the house with a child that can't even walk down the stairs)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Writing and Phonics

As an aside to our tale from yesterday, I thought I'd chat about the Phonics workbook we were doing, and the Playful Parenting technique that, I felt, gave us a massive breakthrough in working together.

I know, it sounds hideously boring, but I managed to demonstrate to myself that Playful Parenting really *does* work better than having a conversation, sometimes. I'm in no way connected to the author of the book, I simply had it recommended to me and found it at a good price on Kindle.

The premise of Playful Parenting is joining the child in her world, instead of forcing her into the parental world of 'Do As You're Told.'

For example:
NP has become very anxious about 'doing writing.' I blame the school nursery entirely for this because they regularly forced the kids to write their names, making NP do it against her will by holding the pencil with her, so that they could assess her. After this, she was unhappy about writing unless someone was helping her in this way. I also think she has performance anxiety about getting it perfect (which is probably inherited from us freaks ;)

Yesterday she dearly wanted to have a go at the workbook, she flicked through and found the pages she wanted to do (as I bit my control-freak tongue about working through the pages in order) and found the letter 'M', which we haven't officially 'done' yet (in terms of listening to the songs etc, we have, however, been writing 'Mommy' quite regularly).

We chatted about the page and NP had a go at a capital M. Then she told me I had to do the rest. I wasn't about to start filling in the book for her, how would she learn anything from that?

I decided that the situation here was about control. She was trying to gain a little power in a situation where she felt unsure and inadequate. I felt I needed to give her a way of having power without confirming her belief that she wasn't good enough to do it (which is what I thought would happen if I filled all the letters in perfectly for her).

So I decided to have a tantrum. I huffed and grumbled that I was rubbish and I couldn't do it. I said "I can't!" I pretended to cry about it. I said she had to help me do it.

With a tiny smirk, she filled in the first letter, free handed. I looked at her, wide-eyed, and said "You wrote a 'mm'" Not praising, just a statement.

This game continued until all the letters were filled: she would tell me to do it, I would have a little tantrum, and then she would cheekily fill it in herself. She finished the whole page independently.

Now, they weren't perfect, and she didn't mind, we'd had a fun game and she'd managed to do it all.


Playful Parenting and self-reflection are things I'm really keen to share with other parents because it's so easy to fall into the trap of only ever treating your kid 'one way.' We tend to speak to NP in quite a mature manner, having conversations and reasoning with her about behaviour or routine. This works OK if she can see the point of what we're saying. However, sometimes she gets into this state of mind where she wants to 'play up,' causing escalating irritation and eventual arguments that negate the whole point of what we were trying to achieve at the time.

'Playing up' normally happens when one of the Onions clan (myself or Mr O) is trying to 'teach.' Be it writing, drawing, cooking or how to use something, NP gets frustrated, we get frustrated, she giggles in our faces and we get annoyed. NOT the best way of inspiring self-directed learning, huh? On many occasions we didn't adapt our approach, we just kept forcing our way upon her, to little success (see where the self-reflection comes in?) So, in the future, instead of seeing it as 'playing up' I'm going to think more about 'playing,' period.



Monday, 16 May 2011

A day in our life

I decided the best way to kick off our Home Educating journey would be to join the Patch of Puddles "A Typical Home Ed Day in Photos" carnival!

Now, you might notice I don't do a lot of photo blogging, so forgive me if this goes slightly wrong, I have no idea what I'm doing :)

Today had NP and me pottering about the house, buying new shoes, having lunch out and going to Stay and Play (a group for 0 - 5's). Bit of an expensive day all in all, but good times were had (apart from usual grumbles about walking too much).

We started the day with some Jolly Phonics songs over breakfast, with 'clicking castanets' resulting in a quick percussion session:

Mommy had to do 'a a ants on my arm' too:

Daddy gave us a book about Greek Mythology last night so we read about Cerberus and Hades:
Getting the percussion instruments out of the cupboard reminded us about the Timmy Time Pop Up game we keep in there, so we had a few goes with that:
After a quick drink we got our snack and worked some more on our new sound with a Jolly Phonics worksheet:
Bit of our favourite background music (and a promise of watching some of the film later):
Some workbooks seemed like a good idea:
We didn't get any photos in the shoe shop but we had a lovely lunch then made our way to Stay and Play where we had some messy fun:
After a lovely (and exhausting!) walk home:
we settled down to watch Bilbo:

Then I cooked dinner, Daddy came home and we ate and had cuddles!

Today was definitely a 'busy' day. We don't always work on phonics every day, but I do try to introduce a new sound each week. NP started Jolly Phonics at the failed nursery and ate it up, so we decided to carry on at home. Normally we spend a lot of time just hanging out, playing games, watching TV or going to the park or library. I don't really believe NP needs much 'educating' at this age, but I take advantage of the opportunities. For about 6 weeks I've left the phonics things lying on the table for her to pick up at her will, some days she has a go, some days she doesn't. Today was a day when she felt comfortable and interested enough to have a go.

Phew, I hope that was enlightening or at least un-boring! I can't guarantee whether my future posts will or will not be like this one, like I said, this is new territory for me. Feedback always appreciated :)

Click on the house picture to see more Carnival entries!

Friday, 6 May 2011

More on education

Please excuse me whilst I work through some sh*t here, I'm slowly figuring out my relationship to school and my current feelings towards it for my daughter. If you were coming here for the feminism and analysis, I'm sorry, very little is appealing to my argumentative side these days, I think most of my passion is being channelled into my little one and her situation.

Expect reflective essays and personal history in future posts. I'm sure there will be some ranting. There usually is :)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Making Daisy Chains in the Sun

More and more, I'm finding that I care less and less what other people think.

When NP was in nursery I felt a strange obligation to fit in with the other parents, but, being the reserved and socially inept individual that I am, I would stand alone instead of striking up conversation at the gate. I think this is partly down to the co-incidence of all having had a child within the appropriate 12 month period, but having absolutely *nothing else* in common. But, if I'm going to be truly honest, it's due to the fact I have no idea what to talk to them about. Especially when all they have to give in return are one word answers and (if they're feeling generous) an awkward smile.

Today felt different. I was in the same place, at the same time, collecting NP from a different setting. I arrive first and parked my bum on the grass to enjoy the sunshine. We've been quite into daisy chains lately, so I started making one for NP as a 'hello!' gift (she does love her incentives to get home). The mums, dads and grandparents gathered like a tribe of penguins, tightly packing together under the all-weather awning, talking sh*t and being boring.

I felt relaxed and carefree, poking daisy stems and threading them together. When "Reece!" wouldn't stand still and got a gob full from his mother I didn't even 'tut' disapprovingly. (Poor old "Reece!" he couldn't look at anything a two year old might find interesting whilst his mother was waiting for "Jack!" and grumbling at "Matthew!'s" Mum.)

It was surreal, sitting there, apart, and not wanting to be any closer. Not thinking that I *ought* to *try* getting to know those people. Maybe I could get along with many of them, perhaps one of them could be a good friend. That would be cool. But, right there, at that moment in time, I was so happy to be me, doing what *I* felt happy doing. I was not standing alone in a crowd, masquerading as a part of something, I was sitting alone, feeling comfortable with the decision to be different.

As I've been writing this, I've been wondering what my point is. Why should it matter where I stand when I'm collecting my kid from playgroup? And my answer is this: it's not about the physical reality. It's about the feeling: the realisation, in my mental space, that I'm happy not to be a part of the cohort. I'm happy that I don't have local gossip to share and a place in the pecking order. I'm happy to wait for my girl, and make daisy chains in the sun.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

School

A slight epiphany descended upon my sofa-ensconced form just a moment ago.

I've had concerns about how NP is settling into nursery (settling?! She's been at the place since September!). I've gone the usual channels, spoken to the teacher, talked to NP about it, all to find that, come the start of each new half term, she hates it, come the start of the holidays she's slightly settled (which gets thrown off during the week/fortnight she doesn't attend).

It seems that the pressure to do what the teachers say creates a little demon inside her brain that tells, nay, insists, that she does as much as possible to disrupt this arrangement.

Well, what a surprise, my child is stubbornly independent and doesn't want to be told what to do.
She told me the other day that the other children are 'boring'.

I told the teacher that NP enjoys learning facts, and is, we would say, pretty smart.

The instant I suggested this, the teacher countered with the fact that NP cannot write. Some children start nursery being able to write, apparently (whoopee, bully for them) but NP doesn't want to, and insists on 'being helped' which, 'is perfectly fine of course'.

Hmm, yeah. I'm sure it's fine. That's why, instead of grasping onto the positive information I just gave you, you're focusing on the things she 'can't' do.

You know what? I don't give a flying f*ck whether she can write perfectly. She loves trying: she wrote 'Happy Birthday' for her cousin the other day by tracing over what I had written. The fact that she wants help to do it isn't a problem, except when you've got 20 others to deal with, Mrs Teacher.

And what is writing, after all? Here's my epiphany: it's a means to an end, it's an addendum to the actual task of learning stuff. The fact that she loves to absorb information is much more important to me at this time. Teaching her right and wrong, letting her explore the things that interest her and giving her chance to grow. These are the things that I care about. She'll come to writing in her own time.

Focusing on a physical lag seems like a fast track to a frustrated mind to me. I want to explore that mind, give her chance to use it, before she shuts it off because other people don't care.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Five things I learned in 2010

Inspiring as ever, Felicia Day put me up to this (I make it sound like we're best buddies, but all I did was read her blog; I guess I've started going ever so slightly crazy after the best part of 3 weeks in cabin-feverish swine-flu-induced exile.)

  1. Routine is the path to a calm mind
    Last year I was at my happiest and most 'together' during the times I maintained an 'autopilot' routine for housework and activities. To some people this might seem like common sense, but I'm not a born organised person. I'm scatty, distractable and selfish with my precious time (which is invariably eaten up by laptop-usage and staring at terrible t.v.) But routine gave me more time, and I managed to prioritise my internet time for really important things, which led to a huge backlog of blog posts in my Reader; subsequently, I realised that the ones I kept putting off were a complete waste of my time!

  2. I would rather work to my own schedule for less money than forfeit my sanity for wages
    I was employed for a quarter of 2010, in a job that, whilst rewarding, caused huge strain upon every area of my life. And what did I do with the money I earned? Spent it on my family. I think that sums up where my priorities lie in life. So after a few months 'de-employing' myself, I considered my options and found there was a way I could earn a small amount of money doing the thing I actually enjoy. 2011 will see how that pans out.

  3. Committing to something solely because you're good at it is not a good reason to do it, and is likely to stress you out
    I seem to need reminding of this periodically. The problem with having wide ranging interests and some useful skills is that I think that I 'ought' to do things, I 'ought' to take opportunities and I 'should' be the best. Crippling insecurity and performance anxiety ensue. So I'm weighing up my options now, and probably making some changes to my long term plans.

  4. 1 buddy who 'gets you' brings more pleasure than 10 fair-weather friends
    I met (or got closer to) some beautiful people in 2010, they know who they are. I'm so pleased to know them all :)

  5. I don't always have all the answers
    Sometimes you learn things the hard way, sometimes you never learn. Hopefully the former will apply to me rather than the latter!