Friday, 30 October 2009


One of the gift pumpkins became a new style for us of Jack o lantern.  I saw some beautiful examples of lanterns where the skin was partially cut away rather than completely just to let the light shine through on Flickr and showed them to Beth thinking to help her make one later.  But when I eventually wheeled  into the kitchen it was done and dusted much to my surprise and a very good effort I think it was.

 Beth had great fun making a blood transfusion pouch for her vampire self, unfortunately face paint now makes her face itchy so we couldn’t go the whole hog.
 She absolutely adores trick or treating, something quite alien to us and something we have resisted.  She has been out with the older kids in previous years, they complain about doing this as we wouldn’t let them do it but usually help out, but this year neither of them were available so Bruce swallowed his reservations and took her.  She had a great time as usual getting a large hoard of sweets and some money and coming back glowing with the cold and the excitement of it all.
The evening was finished off with a not too bad pumpkin soup, for some reason I can never find the last recipe we used so have to look for a new one  each year.  This was not the best one I have ever made but it was Ok, but not one to save so I will be in the same position next year, and will probably be wondering why I haven’t saved last years!
And Jamie took my camera out and took these lovely pictures of the moon.
And just for the record I am still non weight bearing and using a wheelchair here.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

In the Garden

It was a beautiful day so we made it into the garden to try out the new chimnea.  My access to the garden includes two wheelchairs an ikea office stool and some very undignified and at times quite scary acrobatics, but it is worth it.
In the garden

However, getting a good blaze going in the chimnea proved to be far from simple.  It is sold as a wood burner and we have plenty of that lying about since my fall stopped play in August and nothing but the most essential tasks have been done.  Possibly it was because the wood was a little damp having been left out in the weather or maybe bits of folded paper are not a good way to start it although we also used dried out foliage and cardboard.  It was very smokey and I felt sorry for the neighbours but we did eventually get it giving out some heat.

In the garden

In the garden

We still have much to learn about using it.  We were supposed to be burning the blighted tomato plants but didn’t get that far but we did harvest the last of the tomatoes.  This year some of them survived the blight and although we have had blight for about a month we have still been able to harvest the tomatoes though in smaller quantities.

In the garden

The light was beautiful,

In the garden

and I was able to steer myself around, camera round neck and get some shots of the autumn colour that we have been planting for, for the last few years.

In the garden

In the garden

In the garden

In the garden

In the garden

The peppers have been absolutely fantastic this year and we haven’t bought any for a while.

In the garden

Not quite justified the cost of a £200 greenhouse but give it a few years!
I managed to get to the back of the garden and have a dig around for the garlic that I was sure was there but no one else could find.

In the garden

I also harvested seed from some of them and was stupidly surprised to find that the seeds look like little garlic cloves.

In the garden

So I planted some up and got Bruce to put them in the greenhouse to see what happens.  I hope it will be the obvious.  The fist time in nearly three months that I have got my hands in compost and hopefully a taste of things to come.

While down at the veg beds I noticed this taking over, it is very pretty but I have no idea what it is.

In the garden

And as we were out so was Beth at least for some of the time, getting some much needed sunshine and fresh air.

In the garden

And while we were out one of our neighbours asked the kids if they would like a couple of pumpkins from their allotment, a very kind gesture which reassured me that we hadn't annoyed them too much with our smoke.

In the Garden

Jack o lanterns and pumpkin soup here we come.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

My Birthday

I am now at least 20 years older than I feel and approaching one of those ages that we all feel we will never be.  It was a really nice day though given the ambulatory constraints. 
I got a Wii fit balance board and it is a good job I couldn't use it as it was busy all day just keeping up with the kids.

My Birthday

Who impatiently awaited their turn.

My Birthday

My Birthday

As you can see the day was a bit exhausting for the only resident functioning adult.

An alternative view of the kids.
My kids

Beth gave me a chimnea, a present that is also for Bruce who's birthday is in December, and something we have wanted for some time.


Then a pedicure for me, a real luxury and necessary for the mental health of the hospital staff who will be assessing my progress very shortly.

My Birthday

These patterns intrigued us and no one was quite sure how to explain them, something for google in the future.

My Birthday

My birthday tea, which arrived after a few squabbles in the kitchen were resolved, was delicious. Well done Will for a marvelous fist mega cook, this is the child who swore he was never going to cook a few months ago. And thanks Jo, Jamie, Nick and Beth for kitchen help and support.

celebration dinner

Then for the cake, something we would usually make, but under the circumstances we decided that life is too short.

My Birthday

Blowing out the candles
All in all a lovely day.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Autonomous Education in Action

Healthy Eating.

When getting herself breakfast today Beth asked me to read out the sugar and salt quantities in the ingredients list on her cereal carton.  She has always been interested in eating healthily but is beginning to want to relate what she knows to what she eats.

So she brought me the cereal she was considering and I read out the quantities of sugar and salt.   She went away seemingly satisfied only to come back in a couple of minutes with the salt and sugar weighed out.

How much salt and sugar?

She was horrified and that cereal was definitely out of the running. She then bought me a packet of Shredded Wheat which is much better but she had noticed that the cereal with milk contained a lot of sugar and that got her interested in the sugar in milk, so we googled it. First we found this site which is not too keen on milk at all. Then one that is much more keen.

This video was fun to watch and I would do well to take note but we could not find Almond milk for delivery in the UK. Probably we will have to actually go to a health food shop for that, which we will do when I am back on my feet because she is interested in trying it.

This discussion about healthy cereal led to questions about healthy bread and the difference between white and wholemeal bread. We learned that white bread only contained the endosperm while wholemeal contained the bran and the wheatgerm as well which is where a lot of the nutrition is.

This image explained it well.


Our search then led us here, and then here, which exposed some of the horrors of processed food, and we had to look at the worst cereal, NestlĂ© Curiously Cinnamon.

This site looked interesting to me but not to Beth so we didn't tarry here.  Perhaps we will go back and have a look at sometime in the future.

A break occurred at this point when we realised that Beth was in danger of missing French, however she found out when she got there that it was off for half term (still got to get our head around this went to guides as well, we haven't done many things that have broken for school holidays in this way before).  French lessons combine with social time in the park and luckily someone else had made the same mistake and they had bought their very young puppy with them so win win for Beth.  You know who you are and thank you!

We then covered baked beans : ( and cheese.

This is what a hundred grams of cheese looks like.

100 gm cheese
Any more than this and you are definitely getting too much salt not to mention fat.

Baked beans seem to be out of the question if you want to eat anything else with salt in that day!

We looked at pizza and decided they need to be home made and wholemeal, shop bought ones have massive amount of salt.  We thought of french bread pizzas but can't find wholemeal french bread

And Lynda McCartney pies, a family favourite contain 17.5 grams of salt equivalent.   Arrrggghhhhhh!!!!

That is 12.5 gm more than a woman's recommended daily allowance.    Arrrggghhhhhh!!!!

An excellent unintended consequence of all this was the rediscovery of the Usborne Beginner's Cookbook which went missing four years ago when we had the kitchen redone and has previously avoided all efforts to find it.

We have had to stop as I am exhausted and need a break before cooking our extremely unhealthy shop bought pizzas for tea.  We always have lots and lots of sliced veggis with them but I am not sure that will compensate for the salt content.

Beth grumbled a bit as she was not exhausted but then accepted it and is now playing Adventure Rock on her computer, a game she recently discovered for herself.

It was fortunate that I had had nothing else planned for today-although it was unfortunate that this is because I have two broken legs and can't go anywhere - however autonomous learning does not always take place at the most convenient of times as Jax points out.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Today for Beth

Today for Beth a listen to this video which generated much delight.

Some creativity that involved cutting up a plastic bottle with a penknife.  The only outcome the LA would be able to see is something that Beth has more than mastered; mess.

A play in the garden with two younger home ed friends as their mums have kindly come to have a chat with me before the Friday French group starts..  This is a Jolie Ronde group that Beth tried just after coming out of school and found too schooly, but has recently restarted and is enjoying.

Back home to about two hours spent on the homework!!!!  A minor meltdown about the inevitable lack of perfection and a major achievement on my part in just expressing sympathy and no solutions.  Of course she created a solution for herself and ended up pleased with her work.  Bouncing around the room beaming I'm learning French, it is astonishing how much pleasure learning gives when the child totally owns it.

Lots of play with friends in the park as three sessions take place on Friday afternoon giving plenty of time for the children to socialise.

Autumn Watch in the evening.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Learning Without Teaching

This post has been inspired by Jax

The Other Side of the Story

A Silent Assassin

My name is John.  I'm not your typical story hero.  I'm not a hero.  I kill the heroes.  Why do good guys always win the stories?  Cause it's not like that in real life.  But you better be glad about that if you're anyone like me. I'm not against people.  I don't care about people, its just I'd do anything to get paid.  I'd say anything.  I'd probably even kill my own family. Well depends, though it would have to be a lot of money.  Anyway, there's this one case that got me .... seriously ... in trouble.  And this, this is the story, I was creeping down the alleyway, I'd just finished my last task, don't really wanna talk about it; it wasn't a nice one.  I had to up the price a lot on the person, it was hard, I wouldn't do it otherwise.  But there was this van, I swear it was following me.  I crept round the alleyway, I hated people following me, plus they could want business or they could want to kill me, or they could be doing business I suppose, if you put it that way.  I quickly went into the alleyway, [bit i can't hear here]... but then two people got out, big build, nothing like me.  I'm the silent assassin with the gun, they're the silent assassins with hands.  Them guns, couldn't do nothing without em but hands they could strangle me, that's what I was worried about.  They were getting closer and the alleyway was a dead end.

This is the beginning of a story my 11 year old is making up.  I do not say writing, she is recording it with her digital voice recorder and I have just typed it up.  This is straight off the recorder, we would usually go through it and discuss punctuation, sentence structure and sense.  She cannot read fluently without a lot of effort and cannot write anything of any complexity.   I have not asked her to do this and I do not ask her to edit any of her work.  She insists.  I say insists because shamefully I am a little reluctant, she is my third severely dyslexic child and I have scribed myself out.  I do it though, that is my job and despite my reluctance I am impressed.  Her grasp of how to vary sentences in order to retain the readers interest comes entirely from her own observation of the books that have been read to her and the tapes she has listened to.

At her age I could not have done this, say we were given an essay to write for weekend homework, something like 'A day in the life of a penny' or some such thing, Sunday evening would find me behind the sofa in floods of terrified tears.  Make the assignment open ended and it got worse.   For me the pressure totally destroyed any creativity I might have had.  Lessons on grammar and sentence structure, participles adjectives etc, totally confused me, some of the instruction was at too simple a level and undermined my understanding, some was confusing, to the unready dyslexic brain adverb and adjective are too similar to be distinguished from  memory.

This may never be finished but it is a better proof of her understanding of the power and use of the written language than any number of work sheets or exercises.  And the desire to do this is fragile, make it in any way compulsory and I think the desire to do  it would disappear.   Before she did this she had done no creative writing for at least six months, I do not think this has held her back.

Introduce into this situation a 12 month plan and an order to exhibit the learning therefrom and the fragile joy of self directed exploration of the world around her, of which literature, in books, cds, tv and other media composes a not insignificant part would be severely damaged.

I know for certain that Beth would not be doing this if she were still in school.  By shining a bright harsh light on what she could not do the local authority school would have further undermined her confidence and disabled her strengths.

This same local authority wants to inspect my provision!  And if Graham Badman and Ed Balls have their way they will be able to force themselves into my home and make Beth answer their questions on her own.  They may get more than they bargained for, but what if they take offence and take it out on us.  Can we trust a system that supports a head teacher and board of governors concealing the tying up and whipping of a six year old girl by the governors children and sacks the conscientious adult who tells the parent and this is upheld by tribunal?  If it had been your child what would you have wanted?

And as far as we can tell we will have no right of appeal.

the G 20 March. Put People First

Earlier in the year we went to the G20 march. It was wet and cold but an interesting day. I would have liked to have seen more fallout from this.
Act now

A nice picnic at the G20 march

Beth and Bruce wet and cold at the G20 March
Will at the G20 march

Mark Thomas at the Put People First protest

Tony Robinson at the Put People First protest

Bianca Jagger at the G20 March


The crowd at the G20 gathering


Another view of the crowd at the G20 march

Group photo

Home made banner at the G20 march

G20 March, Put People First