Monday, October 05, 2009

A Plea

I know my blogging has been dismal, but I come with a request.

Thanks to the brochure inside a board game advertising Memoir 44, Dr John has been asking me about WWII (and WWI). So far the questions have been along the lines of "How many people were killed" (thanks Wikipedia!), but I'm aware that if the questions move on much more than that I will be completely unable to answer as my 20th century history is non-existant, due to absolutely detesting history at school (thank you Mrs Benns).

So, does anyone have any good recommendation for (primarily, but not exclusively) books on the world wars that would be suitable for a 5 year old? Fiction or non-fiction would suffice.

Thank you.

And I promise, normal blogging will be resumed shortly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Interplanetary Travel

Please can someone advise me on how to retrieve Dr John from the planet he is on?
I don't mean this in a flippant way, I am very serious as he is driving me insane.

He doesn't just seem to daydream, he just seems unable to focus on things. Not just educational ones either. Today he sauntered into the kitchen wanting a drink, so got the carton of juice from the fridge and wandered off with it. When I called him back to pour it into a glass, he almost seemed unaware that he had it in his hands!

He has been saying every now and then that he is bored, but I just need to suggest something and he is okay again.

Any thoughts? Is this something that is characteristic of 5 year old boys? Do I have to grin and bear it (I'm trying very hard not to get cross, but it is annoying me somewhat!)?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What do YOU want to do?

Inspired by a blog post by Jax, I asked Dr John what he wanted to learn about. I phrased it a few ways, and he came up with the following:

What do you want to learn about?
  • England - what people do there (?!), especially Gran
  • North America - the Native Americans and just America
  • Egypt (I suspect he means the Ancient Egyptians than anything else)
What do you want to know about?
  • Planets, the sun, cows, ducks and dinosaurs
What questions do you want to know the answer to?
  • Why does snow melt and why doesn't the sun melt?
Where would you like to visit?
  • Bees making honey
A varied collection of things there!

So, of course that has led to one of my favourite pastimes - looking for books!

I'm going to order a couple of books about America in the hope that we can refine the subject a bit more:

We already have a few books on native Americans, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: A Message from Chief Seattle (Picture Puffin) and More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life amongst them.

Ancient Egypt is fairly well covered too, with a fairly good section in Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Ancient Times: 1
Egypt (See Inside) and Egyptians (Usborne Beginners)

I don't have much on cows or ducks, but have a lot of info on planets, the sun and dinosaurs including a solar system model that needs to be finished.

We plan on going to the bee museum too. I find this a strange one as Dr John is quite vehement in his reluctance to even try honey. I don't think that me explaining that the nectar is turned into honey in the bees stomach and then is regurgitated helped very much!

I did also ask if he wanted to learn to read, to which the reply was "of course!".

At least now, when he wants to do anything on these things I may be able to cover them!

Although it may be a while. At the moment, he is watching The Magic Roundabout for the second time this morning, as this time he is doing the quiz that goes with it. He seems to like quizzes, particularly associated with a film or programme. He discovered the quiz that goes with the Magic School Bus dvds yesterday and enjoyed them. Of course, if I asked him questions about the film, I probably wouldn't get a response!

Yesterday, at Dr John's request, we made some gingerbread men. They were yummy and it was good to see Dr John being a little more interested in food and cooking.

Later we go to the doctors for hopefully a referral to a dermatologist for Dr John's eczema. I get the feeling his paed is more a cure-it doctor rather than a preventative type, so hopefully I won't have to fight too much.

Tomorrow, another home ed get together. Its a shame we'll have to leave early to go to yoga, but its great that people are keen on these meetings. I desparately want them to become regular events. I guess I should think about what we can do in the winter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meeting Up

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (or should that now refer to an mp3, or are they obsolete already?) I need to blog more. I have posts in my head, but they just don't make it onto the screen, and they should do, as I'm on the puter enough!

Anyway, we have been meeting up with other home educators! Yes, its true!

We had found a family that we originally met a couple of years ago when S gave up being an Usborne organiser and I bought her stock from her, but we didn't contact each other for a while. Since we met again earlier this year, we have seen each other roughly once every couple of weeks. It is great to have someone to chew the fat with, who 'gets' our HE choice. She has two sons, Thomas and Curly (not their real names, but I feel that I need to start using more than initials!). Thomas is 5, and Curly is 3.5. The three boys get on great together, and as Carrie (blog name for S!) and I can chat for England, its a great relationship.

Carrie organised a home ed get together at her house, which was extremely brave of her, particularly as Thomas is on the autistic spectrum and doesn't cope too well with lots of people. I can't recall how many came, but I just remember that the kids spent all their time outside and the mums (and one dad!) hogged the kitchen. It was great. I had met several families before at the Not Back to School Picnic last Sept, but met a couple of new faces too.
Conversation revolved quite a lot around the standard introductory questions: "why do you it?", "what regulations do you have to follow?", "do you have permission?" etc. Hopefully the more we meet up, the more we can move away from these and get into the nitty gritty of life!

Inspired by this, I organised a meetup down by the lake. I'm aware that Bildung zu Hause, the Swiss Homeschooling organisation is very Swiss German, so invited several French/Swiss Romande families that I had heard about.
We ended up being at least 9 families, 3 of whom were French speaking. We had to leave at 4.30pm to get the van ready for Chris Evans (my blog name for dh!) to take Dr John (used to be M!) away for the night and they were still going strong.

I feel positive. These people do exist, and they seem keen to get together on a regular basis. I had thrown out the idea of a coop, a bit like latinetc (see elsewhere on the blog ring) a few weeks ago and I had a couple of replies, but I think now that it may have been a bit early. I do tend to run away with myself a bit!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Conversation of the Day

M: Mummy, I'm going to learn about life......

M: Mummy, which came first, the romans or the egyptians?

Me: The egyptians.

M: I don't believe what I'm hearing.

Accountability and Knowledge

So, I'm sitting here, translating the curriculum for years CIN, CYP1 and CYP2 into English, and its strikes me how little parents of schooled kids know about their education. I wonder how many of them have even considered looking at the curriculum, or the education departments website, or know what is expected of their children to progress to the following year. How many parents turn up at parents evening, listen to all the positive words that the teachers has to use and go home again glowing at the report, and happy in the knowledge that the school is doing everything it should be for their child, even if they have no clue what that is.

Maybe I'm doing a disservice to other parents, and everyone is sitting there, as I am, reading or translating this wonderful 100 page document (but I doubt it!).

This may be a thought that is obvious to seasoned home educators, but really didn't occur to me until I was trying to work out what
"By language activities, the competence to communicate already acquired by the child's family environment is developed. This skill is essential to develop the best in authentic communication situations where the child is the receiver, or the issuer."

actually means!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Big Update

I keep making notes of what we've been doing over the last 3 weeks, but it never seems to make it into a blog post, so I'm condensing everything into one.

We had a fab time. It was great to see people again that we haven't seen since the last Kessingland, and also meet new people. For one thing, it means that I don't feel so much of a stalker going round the blog ring now!
I got moulded to one of the kitchen chairs, M spent the whole time off playing, particularly with S, and A was happy. If I'm honest I was more worried about A than any of us, because his laptop is surgically attached to him, but he was happy playing with the kids, doing some washing up (wonders will never cease!) and playing board games (we now own Carcassone).

M has continued going to atelier twice a week. He does really enjoy it. I will be sad when he has to stop going in the summer, although he may be able to join on a Wednesday with the kids from ecole enfantine (first two school years) although we will have to think about that, as lots of other activities happen on a Wednesday (school half day).
I've set him a challenge each time to come home with a new French word. Obviously he always forgets until he sees me at the end, and hurriedly asks the monitrice what the first thing he sees in French is. Although last week she was confused she told me as she didn't know what 'poo' was. Just hope that he didn't see one of them lying around!

M and I had a meeting with a language school last week, about getting lessons for him. All seemed to be very positive and exciting - until we got the price. I imagine that there are some private schools that would cost less for 6 months, than it would cost us for M to have a 90 minutes lesson once a week for 6 months!
Still, we have another lead for a teacher who got a friends eldest child up to speed for entering school that I am going to contact.

Amongst other things:
We checked the life of a load of batteries and sorted them into dead and alive.
We went to the supermarket and used their hand held scanners to do the shopping. I also showed M how to weigh all the fruit and veg (making sure he wasn't leaning on the scales whilst doing so!)
We planted some seeds in troughs for the windowsill (lavender, asters, mixed herbs and mixed salad leaves). The salad leaves led into a discussion about doing things for others, as M doesn't like lettuce so wanted to know why he had to plant some!
We read through the Usborne book See Inside Your Body, as a result of a bony cuddle (me having the bony arms, apparently!).

On the evening we arrived back from the UK, M had just gone to bed when we heard a shout. He had managed to get his plastic kaleidoscope stuck on his finger! In the end we had to cut it off (the kaleidoscope, obviously!), but managed to salvage the 'mirrors' and the end of it, so at some point we'll get round to putting it back together again.
Over the winter M's eczema has got worse again, so we've tried him on lactose free milk and yogurts. A definite improvement. It hasn't solved it (the summer will be the true test) but its a start.
Both M and I have had a cough almost all the time since coming back. Its beginning to annoy me somewhat, although M seems to be unfazed by it.
We've all been to the dentist for a checkup and clean. M's teeth were fine, as were A's, but I've had to have a wisdom tooth out and a filling. Hopefully that will be it for me for a while!

We made some fimo aliens (pics maybe, when I get them off the camera) from a kit from Merry.
We drew a scene for some animal stickers to go into, finding out that we could smudge the felt tip on the photo paper to give different effects.
We also made a stained glass type picture of a bird, adding feathers for a tail to dramatic effect.
Conquistadors are one of M's fascinations (he wants to be one when he grows up!) so we made a Spanish flag for his ship. (Note to self, Christopher Colombus)
I bought M a small hardback book with blank pages, to take with us on the train etc. He has been drawing in it, and then likes to write the name of what he has drawn. We have also done some writing on the whiteboard, either him asking me how to spell something, or I ask him. I think that he has a good idea in his head how things are written and how to split up words, but cannot translate a written word into speech (ie reading). I find the whole thing fascinating.

M has investigated a few more of the Daily Mail DVDs that MIL sent us a while ago, including Black Arrow and Westward Ho. He was interested to know that the same author, Robert Louis Stevenson, had written a couple of them. Maybe I can follow that up by finding out more about the guy.
Tintin is still watched, over and over again.
We also have French TV on in the mornings. There are several English favourites dubbed into French, and M doesn't sit down so much to watch it, but I'm working on an idea of osmosis!

We went to the English storytime session at the local English bookshop. M was definitely more attentive than the others (schooled, you see ;P ) although I was slightly concerned that when we got home he insisted that we could only speak if we raised our hand.
We bought a couple more Magic Tree House books when we were in England. It hadn't occurred to me that there would be an American and British version, so the two new books have a different cover style to the ones we already own, which seems to offend my sense of completeness! Anyway, I have read Night of the Ninjas to him setting off lots of sneaking around play, and also Lions on the Loose (I know, I realise that they are probably best read in order!).
His English and French magazines arrived and they've made good bedtime stories.
Lots of other book reading going on, and I am slowly suggesting that he spell out one word in the story, although he normally does that once and refuses to read the same word in the rest of the story. I guess reading will be another thing that he comes to in his own way.

Obviously plenty of these have happened, but a few have stood out for one reason or another.
We talked about charity, what it means and the idea of doing something without expecting anything in return. I tried not to focus too much on the 'starving children in Africa' side of things, partly because M is very sensitive about anyone being hurt (although this doesn't translate to his playmobil games!) and can start wailing at the most surprising things (Nanny McPhee was an example yesterday) and partly because I would like him to get hold of the global idea of charity. Obviously this concept will take a while!

Aside from the usual playdates and playing at atelier, and being with other kids at football and yoga (am I allowed to say that the yoga teacher thinks he is attentive and responsive and really a great kid? ;) ) we had a sleepover (M and me) and we also went to visit a homeschool family in another canton that we had met about 2 years ago. I expected to stay a couple of hours, but after 8 hours I decided it was probably time to go! S and I chatted about anything and everything, I admired and coveted her vast array of books and resources and M, A and L played with very few hiccups. I think that S enjoyed it, as A is autistic and as a result they find it difficult to go anywhere and meet new people.
We also met up with some friends to go to a time exhibition in the same building as M's atelier, also with a exhibition by Niki de Saint Phalle. Unfortunately, M wasn't feeling very well, and spent most of the time on my lap, but as it is so close, we can go back again.

Other Stuff
M has had a haircut :( We have always left it his choice, but ask him every now and then if he would like one. However, in this case I think that he was influenced by certain members of my family when we visited them. Grrrrr!
There has, as usual, been lots of playmobil playing going on. We really need to have a sort out, although I've been saying that for weeks now, but the amount we have is really ridiculous.
The base ten blocks and pattern blocks have come out and structures made. One day, we might get round to using them for the purpose for which they were made!

Phew! Of course, I've now taken so long to write this that another few days have stacked up, but they will have to come in another post.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Catch Up

I keep writing notes to help me remember what we have been doing and then not blogging them, so I'm making the effort today!

Over the past week, and by no means exclusively we have:
  • discussed the healthiness of apples, if they are classed as sweet things and what type of sugar they have in them.
  • played shops. Chose items to sell, decided what price to sell them for, wrote the price stickers, then sold some items and we worked out what change was needed
  • read M some Faraway Tree, most specifically the part where Connie gets ink on her dress
  • more being read to.
  • played with the pattern blocks, making pictures leading to a discussion about the differences between squares, rectangles and diamonds, introducing the idea of right angles (which I found extremely difficult to explain for some reason)
  • lots of den and dungeon making, including making me an accessory to an escape attempt
  • card sewing (you know, the cards that have pictures and pre-punched holes in them)
  • had a film afternoon - watched Madagascar in the blacked out living room with popcorn
  • discussed what camels eat. I wish I was a bit more confident in my answers. I felt the need to check my reply, whereas M had the confidence of youth, and was right anyway.
  • gone to football. I love watching M playing football. He isn't that skilled in it, but he concentrates so hard. I just wish some of the others were a little less aggressive and more friendly. A lot of them go to the same school and so know each other pretty well. They can be quite mean to kids that they don't know. It makes me sad. I was impressed by M helping the coach to put the bibs, balls and goal posts away without being asked. It was only him and another child doing it, all the rest buggered off home.
  • watched quite a lot of tv as usual. The Peter Pan obssession has calmed down a little, which I am grateful for, as I find that film disturbing in so many ways. Even though the dvds that MIL got from the Daily Mail are poorly produced, they cover some good stories, and this week he has watched The Odyssey, Hiawatha and Tom Sawyer again.
  • more story dictation has occurred. When we are in the UK next week, I am going to see if I can get hold of a dictaphone for M so that he can record stories in his own time. Maybe we'll try to develop them a little and draw pictures to accompany them.
  • learnt some French. We've done a little more with Léo and Lulu the puppets from La Jolie Ronde and I challenged M to learn a new French word at atelier on Tuesday. I said that if he did, he could have a small treat (which ended up being half a piece of chewing gum Lol!). When I went to collect him, he turned to his teacher and said, "Ima, whats twin in French?" and then ran outside to tell me the answer and demand his treat. Not quite what I was wanting, but he did fulfill the terms of the agreement!
  • Today we are going to see if he can do a taster session of yoga. All his friends do it, but in the past he hasn't wanted to go. He has now changed his mind, partly I think because he will be able to see his friends regularly.
In other news, I have enrolled myself on an intermediate French course. I feel that my French is of a reasonable standard, but I'm not really progressing much, so I need a helping hand.

Tomorrow we are going to look at some camper vans. We had planned to do another Big Trip this year to Canada, but A has a contract until at least July, and the flights alone were a lot of money so we thought it would be better to buy a camper and then we can just take off more easily at weekends etc.

And then on Sunday we fly to the UK to go to Melrose for the week and then visit rellies for a week. I always get apprehensive attending these type of events, partly because a lot of people know each other pretty well, including the children, and also I can find them fairly intense.
So go easy on me! Please.

Monday, February 02, 2009


(as dictated to me by M)

Once upon a time in a far off land there was a guard called Sir Maxalot, and he just loved money, but there were pirates in the caribbean and that was a problem because he lived in the caribbean sea too.

One night as they were sleeping, a big big ship arrived which looked like a merchant ship but was actually a pirate ship!

Then they saw it, and they raised the conquistador and navy flag, and then there was a big battle and some got killed and some were alive and there was 100 guards and there was 1000 pirates and then all the guards got killed but there was still one left, Sir Maxalot and then he took out his spear and the pirates raised their guns and swords and axes and then there was a big cry from the magic fairy and she was going to get killed but she had spells and the pirates also had a naughty witch who cast a spell on her and turned her into ice!

Then Sir Maxalot took out his lance and then the pirates raised their guns right into his eyes. Then they raised all of their weapons in his eyes. Then Sir Maxalot took his knife out and stabbed one in the eye so he had to have a pirate patch. One was a grumpy pirate and he got out his two guns and he spat right on the leg of the armour. He was a really grumpy and nasty pirate.
Then Sir Maxalot and Sir Lancelot came and there were a few surprise attacks. Then the prince came with a really long sword and then the king came. Then the guard came, so there was a lot of good guys to defend and a lot of bad guys to attack. There was a big battle.

Finally the prince was dead and the guard and the king was still alive, and he chopped all the pirates in half pieces.

Then they all lived happily ever after and that is the end of the story.

Friday, January 16, 2009

We Have the Lurgy.....

Yep, M and I are afflicted. Cough, headache, sore throat etc. Add on to that 2 nights of no sleep for me and we've been quite pathetic.

I have managed to read Magic Tree House 1, 2 and 3 to M though and played a few games of Junior Monopoly, McD's Monopoly (which is between the junior and adult version), Les Chevaliers Tumultueux and got the train set, so we haven't done too badly!
Obviously lots of tv watching has occurred too (Tintin, Walking with Dinosaurs, Peter Pan, Wallace and Gromit).

Hopefully the weekend will see a return to form, and we can get out and about again.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Back to it Monday

A was back at work today. Its been nice having him here for 2 weeks and makes me hanker for our long holidays. This year we had planned to go to Spain and North Africa for a couple of months in about April, but A's contract has been extended again until the end of June, so we'll do Melrose, and spend a week afterwards visiting relatives and then probably 'do' Spain for a month in July, although maybe we'll travel the length of Italy instead.
So really, we have no idea!
Of course all this depends on buying a camper van, and for that we need our swiss driving licences.

In the morning M did about 10 pages of a Wizard Whimstaff maths book. I asked, but he seemed happy to do it, and I didn't push him too much, so it was a pleasant experience. And to think that a few days ago I commented that he didn't seem like a workbook sort of guy!

I read some of his French magazine to him, and then we decided to go into town in the afternoon to get some more French books. I wanted to get the books suggested in the La Jolie Ronde book I have, but turns out that they were all out of stock or unreferenced. Guess I'll be getting them from Amazon then :rolleyes (need to get some emoticons on this blog, but no idea how)
We got 5 books in the end, Sur La Banquise (I am a bit concerned that the colony of penguins live in the north pole), T'choupi fait du vélo, T'choupi au square, Petit Lapin Blanc fait les courses and Je suis Puma Féroce. Should keep us going with the books I found in the charity shop the other day.
France 5 also have a kids section, Debout les Zouzous and Midi les Zouzous, so we watched that this morning. Samsam is a great hit (he's in our magazine too) and having Roary and Peppa Pig helps as he recognises them from UK tv.
We really want to ramp up the French now. It seems strange that M is so reluctant to learn it, as it would mean that he could speak to his friends at atelier, and he hears it every day, but I think that it is because he doesn't really have a choice. My stubborn little boy! (like mother, like son)

The evening was a bit strained, a combination I think of daddy coming home and being tired from our trip to town (we spent 90 minutes in the bookshop; M occupied himself looking at the Tintin books and was most put out when an assistant asked him to sit on the sofa to read it, rather than lying on the floor!). A and M played with a train set that A picked up cheap, but meant that M didn't want to go to bed and it descended into chaos pretty quickly. Thats what happens when you don't read the signs. I tried not to interfere, but I had to have words (with A!).

A bit of Wii fitting for A and I in the evening (loving the Step exercises, A not so much), and then I finished Sims Kingdom. Maybe now I will get to bed in a reasonable time. I should probably practice what I preach........

Monday, January 05, 2009

Isn't it great....

...when you have a conversation about stretch marks and veins before 7.30am?!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A few of his new favourite things

As usual (well for the last couple of years anyway!) we spent Christmas very quietly. Christmas day was spent at home, just the three of us, with the usual present opening, turkey scoffing and film watching.

Then on Boxing Day we had friends round. I cooked a Hairy Bakers turkey and ham pie, which was lovely, even if the cranberry top didn't quite set. I also did a trifle and Christmas cake, which I'm not sure that they had ever had before. I'm not sure if that is because they are American or not, but I think that B made a valiant attempt at the Christmas cake considering he doesn't like dried fruit of any type, and he managed to fairly surreptitiously pass it onto N!
M had a few meltdowns, mainly over sharing his toys (and not necessarily his new ones) which surprised me, as normally he is pretty good at it. Its possible that we have shut ourselves off a bit just recently from the world, and that hasn't helped. It raised fears in A (and myself a little) that M doesn't meet up with others enough and the meltdowns are a result of home ed, but I have heard enough stories from friends with 4 year olds to realise that it is more an age thing than anything else. Whoever coined the phrase 'the terrible twos' was lying according to this little boy, as the twos were fairly calm, and we definitely have the 'foul fours'!

Then on the 27th we went to Leukerbad, as we did last year, and spent 3 nights in the mountains in a hotel. Thankfully I stayed in good health this year, as last year I missed the whole thing by staying in bed, ill. We went sledging, which was great fun, and M and A spent a morning skiing, with M going down the nursery slope on his own several times, which was a first for him. We also did a lot of swimming, and we definitely would rebook at the hotel, as it had a great thermal pool, which was fairly quiet as it is small and there are a couple of much more impressive public pools up the road, and of course the pool was free to hotel guests. M really seemed to enjoy the water this time, just using the frites to swim around and a few times even ducking himself by the edge. I have to start going regularly with him, maybe incorporating a trip to the new Bern swimming pool with lunch with A, if he can get over there from work.

Again, New Year's eve was quiet, which is just the way we like it. I've always seen the 31st of December as just another day, and actually resent the fact that (back in the days) nightclubs, taxis etc charge a lot more for that one night. I'm liking the idea that the 21st December is to be celebrated as the New Year (as read about on one of Gill's blogs ) but I guess I have another year to think about this one, and I'm not sure that A would be too pleased if I changed his year around (doesn't really like change much, does my dear hubby).
At midnight we went out onto the balcony to watch the fireworks at Ouchy, but were disappointed when none materialised. So we watched a Viennese waltz on ORF (which brought back loads of childhood memories for A), a troupe of naked Swiss Romande ladies dancing to a bizarre military marching tune, and then stayed up another hour to watch the fireworks in London, on the BBC. My nightmare evening was on ITV (honestly, an evening with Elton John, where's the celebration in that???) so the remote was hidden.

A took M skiing on New Year's day leaving me to do some end of year business accounts, which still aren't done, so I will be using Sunday to finish them off when the boys go skiing again.

So, what are M's new favourite things? Through copious amounts of Christmas tv watching (which I didn't think much of this year, although I did like Jonathan Creek and the Martin Clunes thing, The Man Who Lost his Head, I think it was) we found out that M loves slapstick comedy, Wallace and Gromit and darts, and he also has a new found interest in skiing, sledging and swimming. Things to be capitalised on, I think.