Friday, 1 February 2013

The perennial problem.

We've hit February already. How did that happen? January has passed in a pile of snow and much wrangling about maths.

The perennial problem in this house. How best to get to a point where you have enough knowledge to get you through life understanding the basics. So your tax code makes sense or you can work out how much paint to buy. Or feel confident enough to go for a GCSE or A Level. Life learning certainly plays its part for us, especially with the younger two. Using money, saving up and spending. Cooking, measuring and playing with different equipment offers practical skills so regularly that leaving home being able to manage a budget, feed and clothe themselves shouldn't be a problem. But that little bit extra, hmmm, here we struggle.

So we try a system and see how it goes. No pressure from us if they're working up or down a year group or two. This new year they're all on the same site. I sit and help when needed. We are able to spot some gaps, feel good when we confidently understand something and get through a lesson or two without a battle.

We'll see how we go. But hey, here's the bonus, if it doesn't keep working we'll change it. For us that's the beauty. Also we get tea and biscuits after.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Life, lack of day light, general slump, ups and downs and needing a break.

Still around in other spaces but not so much here. The words got stuck or lost or maybe they needed to be held back. Nevertheless we carry on our journey.

Making big choices and checking out new places in taking the next step. Application letters are being written and igcses plodded on through. How to sell yourself when you're 15 and would just like the chance to carry on learning? Albeit in a new venue, but with a passion and interest. Having to prove your desire is a big thing that's taking up a lot of headspace in his and mine.

Bumbling along in other areas always feeling the nag to be doing "something" but with bodies and heads, big and small, needing some space to rest, play, read or rumpus without an agenda.

The lack of light inhibiting how much we want to get outside and even when we want to get up. But really we ought to. Shouldn't we? Well, we haven't. We've sat, snuggled and slept. Coming out the other side now with a small glimpse of early morning light and a renewed focus. Music exams need practice, lines need to be learnt. Spaces look ripe for organising and enough energy is returning to give them the time to do it properly.

Out of the dark we've noticed that our reading and writing has improved. That we're willing to try something new that pushes us further. Maybe there is something to be said for a stretch of hibernation. We are looking forward to more light.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 8 October 2012

Happy holidays

Perks of home educating include not scrambling to get up every morning, teaching fractions with cereal and cake and holidaying whenever we want. There are plenty others of course but these are some of our favourites.

Having just come back from a lovely, sunny, warm and out of season trip to Turkey I appreciate just how lucky we are. Lucky that we have been able to achieve this sort of holiday for the very first time. That we were able to be with all of our children. That we have our own business that now lets us make these choices and allows us to work on the beach!!

But coming back and wading through the washing and settling back to normality has my head thinking in a "oooo, but what are we doing, learning, planning" way. Struggling with supporting the teen with exams we don't quite believe in and thinking we must do SOMETHING because we've been doing NOTHING for months.

We must have learnt something on holiday? A trip to a new country. Well there's a new language we've all been trying to get our heads around. And staying with our new Turkish in-laws means we get the full submersion technique! Learning with pointing and hand gestures is fun. But we also learn also about the history of the language and the country. What it means to live in a country straddling east and west. While there the news grew much more serious for the people living along the border with Syria and thoughts turn to the young men that now form a part of our family as well as theirs that have yet to complete the required national service. Of course we have not written these things down. What they have seen and heard will vary with their ages. What they retain will be different too.

I'm hoping their memories will be as happy as mine full of sunshine, history, food and the warmth of people only too happy to share their home, family and time.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Oh, I don't know.

So I bought the text books, set books, York notes, paper, pens.

The teen requested them. He has a plan.

We've made ourselves available to support and encourage.

We shall attend open evenings, meet with teachers and check out Alevel syllabuses.

But I really don't know about these bloody GCSEs.

It seems that now he HAS to read The Great Gatsby he doesn't really want to. Instead of enjoying where the story might go he's looking at every single passage waiting for the next metaphor to show itself and trying squirrel away minute details in case it's important later. While away on holiday he read every other book he'd taken and a couple of his brothers too. He read approximately 40pages of Gatsby. This is the boy who has happily read Dickens for fun, waded through Hardy for kicks and would spend hours and lots of cash in a secondhand bookstore coming out arms full of old poetry books.

And it's not just the English lit course. The maths is fine, it's a case of working through it, he finds it easy and it gets done. But it's not fun. It already feels like a waste of time. We know it's just for show. He doesn't want to study maths and he knows all he is likely to need to be able to live. The geography too, picked because of all the restrictive courses the GCSEs provide it looked quite interesting. He's now not so sure. He really can see for himself the "learn this bit, remember this bit, regurgitate this bit in exam" nature of them.  But he needs to make up the numbers. Or so he thinks. And we don't know really. Local anecdotal evidence says that some tutors welcome students who are interested, studious, enquiring and enthusiastic. Others look at you blankly as if they'd never ever heard of such a thing as home educating and now they do know are wondering why on earth you'd do such a thing to your child and also why do you think you could possibly think you'd get on their Alevel course without 15 GCSEs.

And so we're playing the game for now. Talking to colleges, going along and hoping to find that one person who will actually talk to him and ask what's he's reading, writing, doing and then listen. Hoping that maybe just four GCSE results,  a portfolio of work and recommendations from music centre teachers might just swing it.

But right now I'd like to say stuff the exams! Take a chance on a kid who just likes to read. Because in the end no one cares how many bloody GCSEs are on your CV.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Summer memories

We are sat at the table. Maths worksheets in front of two, conquer maths in front of another and the teen squirrelled away in his room hopefully working out what we shall be reading first from his igcse syllabus.

We've got that September feeling.

Well, I've got that September feeling. But they're humouring me! We are making a concerted effort with getting our maths skills to a better level. I still struggle with my own confidence where maths is concerned and I don't want to pass the fear on. We do lots of practical skills, measuring, baking, DIY and games but we think we should make a bigger effort getting our mental maths and times table skills. Our grown up girlie has been telling them how she doesn't know hers and she almost took A level maths!

But we won't be here for long. Half an hour and they'll be off. Or maybe not. We're researching for a trip to Turkey in a couple of weeks and we've been looking at where we are heading and basic information about Turkey as a country. We've never taken a holiday like this, on a plane! Always camping or staying in a cottage here or maybe France or Germany. It's exciting!

And For us this is how home ed seems to work best. Focusing on things we feel need a bit of attention, be it because of an exam, a show or even because we as the parents feel its important or because they just really want to. And then we also have the space to explore, to play, to rest. To head to the park or read a new book.

And this is what our summer has been like really.Just without the added maths. We've been lucky to have some time away camping and meeting up with friends. We've chilled out at home. Celebrated some birthdays. Home ed for us doesn't really start or stop, as adults we know we can learn something new at anytime we need or choose to and choosing to educate otherwise as a family is much the same for us.

So although I have that September feeling and the days are getting shorter, I'm embracing it! It's giving us the impetus to try new ways, think about new topics to learn about and new challenges to tackle. The room of doom has been given a once over and books changed around. And we're sitting at the table doing maths!

Now to encourage a bit of writing and my head will definitely feel like it's winning!!!

Also, a few photos. So we don't forget the fun we've had.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 23 July 2012

Summer holidays? Never!

It may well be the summer holidays for those of a schooly inclination, for us us it's always about the learning. Well, apart from when we're not. So forgetting for a moment the days where everyone is so happily engrossed in something I can practically ignore the children and read or sew or crochet or whatever and call it autonomous learning, remember that life is learning and we can squeeze educational benefit from our everyday tasks and challenges.

For instance the topic of this weeks learning shall be wholly relating to our annual trip to the fabulous Camp Bestival. We can tick off all our learning boxes and they (kids) won't have a clue!

I give you the following examples.

Q1, How will family Phillips manage to transport 4 adults, 4 children (varying sizes and ages), 1 baby to Camp Bestival, with 2 cars and 1 roof box, stopping on route to pick up 2 more children?

Q2, How many pairs of pants can each person take to cover 4 festival days and 6 more camping in Cornwall, taking into consideration the above information?

Q3, How long will it take family Phillips to reach its Lulworth Castle destination? Factor in baby feeding, changing, crying, wee stops, coffee stops, traffic jams and Somerset detour.

Q4, How much fuel will that be? (second thoughts don't answer that *gulp*)

Q5, Can you program the Sat Nav so that it does not always want to take us round the M25 or through a field? Please, anybody?

Q6, Can you estimate how many portions of cheesy chips Mia will eat whilst being surrounded by fabulous food options?

Q7, Research the likelihood of precipitation, providing detailed water cycle and jet stream mapping. (okay so they might not do this but they can use multiple apps and get the info on an hourly basis)

Q8, How many different ways can you fold a 5m Bell tent? And then fit it back into its bag with all the poles?

Q9, You have £9.56 left in your bank account after feeding everyone at the festival for 4 days, how will you feed everyone for the next week in Cornwall?

Q10, It's Monday can you rustle up costumes appropriate to the theme "silly Olympics" in 3 days without buying more supplies?

And the list could (will) go on and on until we are wedged into the cars and heading down the road. We will have faced all manner of problems, including how we sit through another of Oliver's James Bond theme CD mixes. But it will have been worth it and who could argue with the educational validity of those questions?!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 19 July 2012

So, yes, we too saw the torch.

Did it fill our minds with thoughts of athletic prowess? Community spirit? What it takes for a young person to fulfil their dream?

Sadly no.

We waited an hour, saw a huge convoy of advertising trucks, police outriders and a cheer bus with, as the teen described, the smiliest Morrisey lookalike trying to whoop the crowd into torch frenzy. It was drizzling, that didn't happen.

Our torch bearer ran. Ran like the wind past us all. Past the young school children with their hand made torches. Past gaggles of mums, toddlers in pushchairs waving damp flags happily. Older school kids let off so that they might witness the spectacle for themselves. Office workers, old folk and of course us.

We ate our sandwiches while waiting. Chatting about what we might see. We'd been expecting huge crowds, but at the top of the high street we found a spot.

We learned valuable lessons of hold that spot and jump up and down if you're feeling chilly. We talked properly about people who'd been picked to participate in the relay and what it might mean to them.

Davy had his camera and went into covert picture taking mode, making the most of the different people out on the streets. Surely adding something to his portfolio, see, time well spent. He wasn't convinced.

And we brought a baby along for the ride too. Multi generational experiences. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's nearly time. Look here are the police.

And a sponsor truck. Cause it's important, the money, you know.

And more police. Come on, come on.

And oooo yes, here it is, oh, it's gone.

Our only shot. No idea who the super fast young man was. And here is the problem. We all saw the soft drink sponsor, the phone Sponsor, the support crews, security teams and police officers. We saw the singing and dancing bus asking if we're ready. And we were, properly ready to witness something that could bring this strange community together along the desolate high street of a struggling town. But we don't know why the man had the honour of running for his community, county, country. Educationally we were able to talk about flags, patriotism, sponsorship deals, why we needed security and all sorts of other questions. But the young minds in my educational care were bemused and disappointed. I couldn't answer all of their questions. I had no idea of this persons great deed. He could have been a hero to them, he may have already given much to his community or overcome great hurdles in his life.

I know that not everyone's experience has been like this. We know of a lady in a neighbouring town given the honour because of her services to teaching and running music services. She walked, waved, smiled, hugged and posed her way through her walk. Students and families she had touched for 20+ years came out to support her and share in the moment. As for us, well perhaps the poor chap was playing catch up! All we know is the games favourite drink.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad