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Month: February 2012

Ode To The Missus (sponsored by the number 43.5)

Ode To The Missus (sponsored by the number 43.5)

43.5 is a magical number. It’s the world record for cell efficiency in a solar panel. It’s Google’s share of US online advertising spend. It’s the top speed in mph of a camel. And, as it just so happens, it’s the proportion of my time on earth spent with the missus.

It’s been a spooky number all the way through our relationship. For example, when I first met Emma I was a student at the University of Sheffield. Every Friday night I went clubbing with my mate, Steven Hayward. We scammed cigarettes from the Marlboro girls, pretended to be budding music producers and danced until the early hours in the hope that our sweet moves would overwhelm an onlooking pair of drunken beauties.

One cold February Friday night my mate turns up exactly 43 minutes and 50 seconds late with some bird. I remember the time distinctly because I was watching Noel Edmunds on TV on our crappy blue-screen box and timing how long until the picture switched to yellow-screen. I was that rock and roll.

I was also 43.5% of the way through my Goblin Meat Pie which for those of you who aren’t familiar with the brand, is low-grade dog food wrapped in suet and steamed. It’s as cheap a source of protein as is possible to consume without getting into a fight with kitty and a blender. It is also so heavy that it rarely decides to evacuate should a man drink his own body weight in cheap lager.

The source of Steven’s tardiness was Emma, brazenly stood in my room in a turquoise faux-leather rain mack, fishnet tights and para boots. As classy a first impression as that was, I remember thinking that she didn’t speak much, but then I wondered whether she had to. Stevie had obviously scored early and was bailing on our night out, leaving me on the bench with only 56.5% of a meat pie left.

Disappointed, I decided to spend my GBP4.35 to buy a packet of smokes and the nastiest tasting white wine I could find. Thus armed, I walked the spookily precise 435 yards from my house to hers and sat between them for the remainder of the evening….you guessed it, 4 hours and 35 minutes.

Only when I was satisfied I’d pissed off my mate sufficiently that he wasn’t getting any action that night, did I retire and deem it sweet payback. As it turns out, Emma quite liked a man who wasn’t afraid to buy white wine in Sheffield and so we turned into an item. The rest as they say is history.

We spend 43.5% of the time wondering what happened, weathered 43.5 arguments over the last 17 years and have worked out that each of us get our own way about 43.5% of the time. The kids win the other 13% although that’s on a steep curve up.

Here’s to another 17 years. I might even be able to stretch to some better wine by then.

Outward Bound

Outward Bound

Today we ventured out with friends to a favourite nature trail, the wind was enough to pinch our cheeks but the sun paid for all.  We basked for a good couple of hours, even eating our lunch at a picnic bench outside.  In February!  At this time of year it can easily be -40C so to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine felt like a holiday.

Whenever we visit this place I’m always amazed at how much we pack in to our visits.  Today there was skating on a makeshift rink, imagination games, nature observation, the chance to run (and run!) free and wild, art made in the snow, kindness practiced and I’m sure many other things that I can’t quantify in words.  Plus Mummy got the chance to sit and catch up with a friend, bonus!

After weeks of grey, ice rain and snow, today felt like a shining gift, a little winter oasis signposting our journey toward spring.  Despite my eagerness to see the green growing season return, if there are more days like this one ahead I think  I can bear the wait.  Just.

Right Now

Right Now

Here’s a slice of life from me at the moment, so right now I am…

– Enjoying the beautiful ‘fake spring’ we get every February.  Only -9 tomorrow, wooohooo!

– Thinking about new ways of cooking and lots about the kinds of ingredients I want to use, getting more done in the kitchen this last week.

– Noticing that I get stressed about parking in town, pollution and noise so feeling grateful for our country retreat.

– Feeling amazed and lucky to be living in such a beautiful home, in such a beautiful place.

– Learning new things on my whole foods course.

– Taking it easy after being hit with a heavy cold and recognising my need for low key in the coming months.  It would appear I have adrenal fatigue (more on this another time) so I’m taking time to be peaceful and learning to enjoy liquorice tincture.

– Listening to Kathy’s new e-book as an mp3, so much more relaxing and can be done with eyes closed on the sofa!

– Watching my boys grow before my very eyes and learning to appreciate their quirks and selves a little more.

– Exercising patience, with the boys, the dogs, myself.  Finding it exceptionally worthwhile.

– Wondering what I’ll be doing this time next year.

– Planning many, many sewing projects.

– Loving the shift since Imbolc, I know it is a way off but spring is in the air this week!

– Hoping that this upswing will last and that I can start working towards a healthier and more energetic self.

– Knowing it will take time, but feeling joyful none the less.

The sunshine this week has been restorative; despite having a cold and Stephen being sick too (being sick together is not really fun although you do get to commiserate which is nice) I’ve felt very peaceful as the sun poured in and over me.  Today I sat on the sofa, listening to my e-book and I felt relaxed.  Today I walked through our fields, listening to bird song and watching them dart from tree to tree.  Today I laughed with my kids and hugged them when they were down, I found more compassion in my heart for them.  Today I watched the full moon sit just above my house, I saw a pattern in the stars like an arrow shooting across the sky.  I felt the tingle of spring beneath the ice and snow.  It feels like new beginnings, like a fresh slate.


Homeschool 2012

Homeschool 2012

It’s been a while since I posted anything about what we are up to with our schoolin’, which is odd given how much of our time it takes up and how much of my thinking it takes up!  I spent a great deal of the Christmas holidays planning our relaunch into homeschool in the new year.  Though we had managed to keep up with things over the summer and through the autumn it was patchier than I was happy with and constantly under threat from the business of our lives.  What with building a house, packing, moving, settling in and generally wishing for a small hole and a pillow to hibernate on, it was never a stress free process.

But no longer!  I can honestly say that since we started up again in the new year things have been very different.  There have been lots of contributing factors one being  Neirin attending preschool a couple of mornings a week, giving me a 2 hour window to work 1-1 with Huwyl, this works really well for us.  I’ve also narrowed down my focus on the kind of work we are going to do this year using the Ambleside Online book list as a basis for our curriculum.  I’m not using their week to week plan and there are elements that I am leaving out (bible study and books based on overt Christian teachings) but the suggestions for wider reading and history stories (50 famous stories retold and Viking Tales) are complementing our existing books really well.  

So this is what our week is looking like:

Monday: Phonics (we are using Explode the Code and Huwyl is on book 2), History with Story of the World followed by SOTW activity book activity, stories from 50 Famous Stories Retold and some Maths games on the computer.

Tuesday: Music Lesson in the morning followed by errands.  In the afternoon we do some phonics and Artistic Pursuits, a great art history and practical art curriculum.

Wednesday: Social time with friends (often a ‘field trip’ or activity) some phonics and a science experiment.  At the moment we are using a science kit Huwyl got for Christmas and then we are moving on to RSO Earth.

Thursday: Phonics, 50 famous stories, Aesop’s fables (we are using the lapbooks at homeschool share as extension activities) and Math games/activities.  We have a Math Mammoth curriculum but I am trying to vary our experience too with some Living Maths elements and games.

Friday: Free day!  Crafts, play dates, fun movie…whatever suits us on the day.

In addition to all this Huwyl does Music practice every day as well as some household chores, the rest of the time is for play.

This rhythm has taken me quite a while to find and I try to be realistic about what can be achieved, after all Huwyl is only 6!  The days where Neirin is at preschool are our more ‘intensive’ days, but even then I am aiming to keep us moving, bearing in mind the recommendation from Charlotte Mason that a child of this age should only be working for 10 minutes or so per subject.  We don’t stick to that but I think it is a useful guideline to remember when considering what a child can cope with and how much to expect.

Using some of the classical resources such as SOTW and the First Language Lessons (we are returning to then when we’ve finished Explode the Code), as well as the picture study and practical elements of Artistic Pursuits and Explode the Code,  fits in really well with the Charlotte Mason methodology of using narration as a learning tool, especially before the age of 10.  Huwyl has a phenomenal memory for stories, poems, anything he has heard really so narration is perfect for him.  He does some writing with Explode the Code (2-4 pages a day is our current goal) so I am happy for him to answer most questions verbally.  Penmanship is something we can develop a bit more next year and my feeling is that until he is 8 or so it will be a bit shaky!

Sometimes I worry that we are not ‘doing enough’ or that he isn’t writing enough, reading enough etc etc.  I know this is natural but I remind myself of what we are doing.  He is being exposed to art and art history, to ancient history and the great tales of Britain, we are exploring science, working on our own crafts, he’s learning to write and enjoys reading whatever he sees around him.  I’m not sure what he would be doing in school but I feel that the developmental path he is on now is one natural to him.  He’s allowed to work in ways that work with his natural tendencies rather than having to conform to a standard that may not suit.

Our story reading time doubles up as snuggle time on the sofa, maths can be about movement as well as numbers, if it is a glorious day outside he can have more time to play in the snow and ice.  I feel that he is experiencing a very ‘free’ education; not one devoid of work or effort but one designed for him and, in some ways, by him.   As well as developing core skills I really want the boys to be aware of how much wonder there is in the world, how many great things there are to see and do.  To have an overview of the world not a blinkered one.

I’m sure this rhythm will change again, as the season changes as our needs change.  But for now this is working really well and I so enjoy the time we have, working together on projects, reading stories and even posing for my very own portrait!  What could be better?