Friday, August 31, 2007

Menu Plan Mark 2

I spent an evening earlier this week working on a new four week menu plan for autumn and winter. It was almost done ... until Star threw a spanner in the works. She announced that she wants to become vegetarian, as she can't reconcile being an animal lover and eating meat.

So ... we had a long discussion about why most people feel it is OK to eat meat, the option of only eating ethically produced (organic, free range) meat and the need for a balanced diet, the upshot of which is that from Sunday she will officially be a vegetarian, though she has decided she will still eat fish. (She can't start tomorrow as she is spending the day with a friend, and we felt it was a bit late notice to request a menu change!)

On reflection I am very proud of her. She actually likes meat, and there are certain things she will really miss. If she can give up something she enjoys on grounds of conscience at her age, I think that speaks well of her character and is worth the bit of inconvenience involved in replanning my menu and adapting meals.

Back to the drawing board ...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #17: Macs

Thirteen reasons I love my Macs and will never, ever (I hope!) go back to a Windows PC:

1. They look so good. (What do you mean looks aren't everything? OK, you have a point, but there is no denying they are stylish. Sadly, unlike their owner!)

2. You take them out of the box. You plug them in. They work.

3. They almost never crash.

4. You don't need anti-virus software.

5. They print documents in the right order - last page first, so that the pages end up the right way round. No shuffling back-to-front piles of paper.

6. Built-in iSight cameras. No webcams with wires.

7. They don't keep asking you if you are really sure you want to do what you have just told them to do.

8. MacBooks come with magnetic power leads, so if someone trips on the lead or yanks it no problem ... no damage.

9. No slide out CD/DVD drawer. Just slip the disc straight into the side of the machine.

10. If I forget where I put a file, a Mac will find it for me in seconds.

11. My computers talk to each other. I can play music stored on the iMac on the MacBook, or access a document on the MacBook from the iMac.

12. iMovies. It keeps my children entertained - creatively! - for hours.

13. I will never have to "upgrade"(!!!) to Windows Vista

Monday, August 27, 2007

Reading Meme

As a bookworm, how could I resist taking up the open invitation at the Dumb Ox Academy to take part in this reading meme.

What are you reading right now?
Montessori. I have just finished Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful by Donna Bryant Goertz, I am half way through The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori, and dipping into Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under Fives by David Gettman.

Do you have any idea what you'll read when you are done with that?
I'll go back to the three books I had just started on (simultaneously - why do I do that?) before I got distracted by Montessori: In the Steps of St.Paul by H.V.Morton, A People's History of Britain by Rebecca Fraser, and The Story of France by Eleanor Doorly. I also want to read Home Education by Charlotte Mason while the Montessori reading is fresh in my mind, so that I can see where there is overlap between the two and where they differ. I am also planning to re-read the entire Harry Potter series over the winter.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now?
None. We have very small bathrooms with nowhere to put reading material. I normally grab something from my bedside table on the way. My current grab is the Basic Montessori book.

What's the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
The Antiquary by Walter Scott. It was required reading for my English A-level (exams taken at 18 in British schools) and I found it worse than watching paint dry. I've never been able to bring myself to read anything by Scott since.

What's the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
I recommend so many books to so many different people it is very hard to pick one. I think I'll go for children's historical fiction, as that is a favourite genre of mine ... Beorn the Proud by Madeleine Polland, which has a wonderful mix of historical detail, faith and adventure.

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don't they?
No, but they know me by sight well enough to allow me to occasionally go over the limit with the number of books on my ticket.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?
I love the Chalet School books by Elinor M. Brent Dyer, but I am always reluctant to recommend them because I imagine mid-20th century boarding school stories are something of an acquired taste.

Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? While you’re having sex? While you’re driving?
Almost all of the above. Most notably the second. Is it possible to bathe without a book? Surely dropping a book into the bath is a necessary rite of passage for any self-respecting bookworm.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits?
Not that I remember.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My excuse is that I needed to finish it quickly because I was sharing it with Angel.

I'm out of time, so if you are reading this, you're tagged!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Yesterday was a special day ...

For Tevye and I, as it was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Yes, thank you, we had a good day. Star made us a cake and we went out for tapas in the evening all on our own. And how could I fail to love someone who buys me a one kilogram bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk?

For Angel, who is now the proud owner of her first ever pair of pointe shoes.


I have one.

Mercifully she is now asleep. My turn next. I hope.

What animal are you?

It is the middle of the night and Little Cherub decided it was time to party. (Yes sweetheart, those shiny bangles are very pretty, but could we play putting them on and taking them off in the morning, not at 2.30 am?). So instead of sleeping I have been reading blogs and taking quizzes. I'm not too sure about the result of this one, though cocoa sounds good.

You're a Gorilla!

Highly social and group-oriented, you like hanging out with the same people constantly. You have either black or gray hair and spend a good deal of time grooming it or getting others to groom it for you. Sleep is a big part of your daily routine and you like to either make very loud noise or no noise at all. You have more skills with language than most, however. One of your absolute favorite drinks is hot cocoa.

Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

HT: Too many blogs to list.

That figures!

What's your theological worldview?
created with
You scored as Roman Catholic,You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal




Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical


HT: Mrs Pea

It seems my Wesleyan upbringing still lingers a bit, too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Baby Blogger in Training

How to get Mummy's attention

... when she is sitting on the floor writing an email to Daddy.

Clonk her on the head with an empty coffee mug.

Be sure not to do this until after you have thoroughly bent the arm of her glasses and added "visit optician" to her to-do list.

Faith Boxes

I have been pondering ways of introducing a toddler to religion (or should that be religion to a toddler?). Inspired partly by the liturgical year books I have been making for Little Cherub, and partly by these Feast Day boxes at the Onion Dome - yes, I know I keep getting inspired by Katherine. She is very inspirational! - I have decided I am going to make Faith Boxes. Initially I was thinking of basing them on the liturgical year, then realised the idea could be extended to cover many aspects of religion.

I am going to start with an Advent Box - I always find I do better starting things in Advent. My head does Advent for new beginnings. I even attended my first ever Mass on the first Sunday of Advent. This is what I have planned for the contents:

  • Nativity figures - I have a set of squishy plastic figures for toddlers bought from the Early Learning Centre when Angel was tiny.
  • A wooden St.Nicholas figure. I have a Santa figure that looks fairly St.Nicholas-ish.
  • Various small books telling the Christmas story. I still have a set of little board books covering different aspects which should be just right for Little Cherub this year.
  • Pictures of the Five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
  • Pictures of St.Nicholas, St.Lucy, the journey to Bethlehem and the Immaculate Conception
  • Pictures of St.Lucy's Day celebrations
  • A tiny Advent wreath, if I can make or buy one
  • A little Advent calendar, with spaces for stickers (and something to stick on it).
  • A CD with seasonal music
  • A square of purple felt or cloth to use to set things out on

As Little Cherub grows, the contents can be updated with Playmobil figures instead of the toddler ones, a map of the Holy Land, three part cards for the Rosary pictures, O Antiphon symbols and cards, and so on.

On Christmas Day I can swap the box for a Christmas one. Then I have lots of ideas for other boxes ... Lent, Easter, Mary, Saints, Bible Stories (New Testament and Old Testament), the Mass, Church, Sacraments, Prayer. I think a few of these could make a great addition to Montessori shelves.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #16: Classical Music

Thirteen of my classical music favourites:

1. Allegri, Miserere
2. Haydn, Trumpet Concerto in E Flat
3. Vivaldi, Concerto in G for Two Mandolins
4. Bach, Concerto for Two Violins
5. Elgar, Cello Concerto
6. Vaughan-Williams, Fantasia on Greensleeves
7. Rossini, William Tell Overture
8. Handel, Hallelujah Chorus (from Messiah)
9. Mozart, Horn Concerto No.4
10. Beethoven, Symphony No.6 (Pastorale)
11. Vivaldi, Esurientes (from Magnificat)
12. Pachlabel, Canon in D
13. Rodriguez, Concierto de Aranjuez

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Montessori inspiration

... from the Onion Dome.

If you are at all interested in Montessori education at home, don't miss reading about how rich, varied and beautiful it can be. And if you have not already seen it, make sure you also take a look Katherine's learning room.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Today's minor achievement was making a batch of playdough for Little Cherub. I have a tried and tested simple, non-messy playdough recipe that I have used for years ...

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tbsp cream of tartar
2 cups boiling water
1 tbsp cooking oil
food colouring

Mix the salt, flour and cream of tartar together.
Add the boiling water, cooking oil, and food colouring.
Using rubber gloves, knead a few times.

That's all there is to it! When you start kneading it feels like a sticky disaster, but soon resolves into a nice, soft playdough. I omit the food colouring. My daughters have always been more interested in what they can do with playdough than in what colour it is, and it means there is no risk of staining clothes, furniture or carpets. If the dough gets onto soft furnishings it brushes out easily once dried, and it washes out of clothes. Stored in the fridge in a plastic bag it will keep for months.

The recipe comes from a book I picked up at railway station bookstall discount pile when Angel was small - Four Seasons: Creative Activities for Young Children, by Alice Traer Wayne, Shirley Charlton, and Gwenn Boechler. Published in Canada, I have no idea how it turned up at Euston Station, but I am glad it did as we have used it a lot over the years. The activities are divided by season, and are mostly simple and use items I usually have to hand.

Encouraged by Star and A-next-door, Little Cherub was a picture of concentration, absorbed in the possibilities of picking bits of dough off a large ball and piling them up on each other. She only tried to eat it a few times.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Little Cherub's book choice ... Little Lamb

Little Cherub likes books, but until recently she only liked looking at them by herself, and considered any attempt to read them to her or look at them with her an unwarranted parental intrusion. She now likes to look at pictures with us and ... da, da! ... to listen to a story. One story. Little Lamb by Kim Lewis. It is a board book we found at the library, with clear pictures and short, simple text describing how a farmer's daughter bottle feeds a lamb. In Little Cherub's view this is the ultimate in literature and must be read at least five times consecutively. Every night.

I only discovered Kim Lewis's books when Star was at the top end of the age range for them. She has written and illustrated some lovely picture books about farm life in northern England, such as Floss, Emma's Lamb and First Snow. Worth checking out for pre-schoolers. There are also two more toddler board books - Little Calf and Little Puppy. I'm hoping our library will have these too.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Parenting Checklist

I am still reading Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful (I think I have around seven books on the go simultaneously. Not surprisingly I haven't finished any in a while!), and I thought these suggestions for family life for an early elementary child - ages 6 to 9 - were worth sharing. Donna Bryant Goertz recommends:

  • A slow-paced lifestyle with long hours of sleep on a regular schedule, a nutritious diet high in protein and fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of exercise, and a generous amount of time in nature.
  • Someone to behold the child's face with joy, hold her, hug her, and treasure her for herself alone.
  • Someone to read chapter books aloud for twenty to thirty minutes every day, at a level three years beyond the child's reading level.
  • Someone to recite poetry every day, a new poem each week.
  • Someone to sing every day, a new song each week.
  • Someone to tell delightful stories of the child's own life.
  • An atmosphere of open curiosity and inquiry, in which everyone in the family treasures learning.
  • Responsibility for caring for himself and his own things as well as contributing to meal preparation and the care of the house, garden, and pets.
  • A two-hour weekly limit on all screen media - movies, videos, TV, and computer games - combined.
  • Freedom from being dragged around on errands.
  • Freedom from the cynicism and sarcasm appropriate to later years.
  • Parents who say no cheerfully and mean it.
  • Parents who wait until their children are in bed to listen to music, watch movies, play computer games, and watch TV programs, even the news, that are not appropriate to the children's ages or that would give children more media hours than is best for their development.
  • Parents who establish and uphold a family child-rearing culture that is appropriate the the child's age and who support age-appropriate independent thought and action and an age-appropriate role in decision making in as many areas and as often as possible.
I think Charlotte Mason would have approved.

I fall woefully short on almost all of these, but this list gives me a number of ideas for things to work on with Star, and for the future with Little Cherub.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The sorting hat says ...

I am a Ravenclaw. Which means I am clever, witty, intelligent and knowledgeable.

But then, you knew that, didn't you? Why else would you read my blog? And if you disagree, I'm sure you are much too nice to tell me so.

Which house are you in?

HT: Willa at Every Waking Hour.

Keyboard Maths

Oh dear! It seems I should not have taken a mathematical approach to my keyboard disaster by turning it into an equation.

The keyboard is now reassembled. No letters are sticking.

But ... all the letters on the top row are typing numbers.

Back to the drawing board. Or should that be the mathematical textbook?

Little Cherub's Liturgical Year Book

I have been working on a project intermittently for the last month or so ... a Liturgical Year Book for Little Cherub. I bought three small 6 inch by 4 inch photo albums from Paperchase - just the right size for little hands - and I am filling them with simple pages for various feasts, seasons and saints days. Each book holds 24 pages, so there will be 72 altogether, each with pictures for her to look at and some simple text or a prayer. The plastic holders mean the books will be robust for her to handle. Here are a couple of sample pages from the August to November book I am currently working on:

Feast of Ss.Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, Archangels (September 29th):

St.Therese of Lisieux (October 1st):

Friday, August 17, 2007

Keyboard equations

A-next-door + glass of lemonade = desk covered in removed keys + cleaning with wet paintbrushes + hairdryer + keyboard drying out in airing cupboard.

An alternative equation (and probably a more successful one) is:

A-next-door + glass of lemonade = new keyboard

Note to self: remember to enforce rule about children not eating and drinking near computers.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Love or convenience?

From The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori

When the child goes to bed in the evening he calls the loved person and begs him not to go away. When we go in to dinner the tiny child that still feeds at his mother's breast would like to come with us, to stay near to watch us, not to eat. The adult passes by this mystical love without perceiving it. But the little one who so loves us will grow up, will vanish. And who will ever love us as he does? Who else will ever summon us on going to bed, saying, "Stay with me"? When the child is grown, he will say an indifferent "Good night". Who then will be eager just to watch us while we eat, though he eats nothing? We defend ourselves against this love that will pass away, and we shall never find anything to equal it. We in our turmoil say, "I haven't time, I can't, I have a lot to do," and we think in our hearts, "The child must be taught better, or he will make us his slaves." What we want is to be free from him to do what we ourselves like doing, so as not to give up our convenience.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

LOAFing Update #3

I haven't written an update on the progress of my LOAF plan - my attempt to be a ethical consumer - for a while. I'm still hanging in there and making slow but steady progress. In fact, I'm no longer just LOAFing; I've become a LOAFER

Locally produced
Most of the contents of my organic fruit and veg boxes are grown fairly locally - in the same region, at least. Gaps in the boxes are filled with imported produce, but the provider never uses air-freighted goods and keeps imports to the minimum necessary to ensure a reasonably balanced selection. I still plan to start buying some meat from our local butcher's shop but haven't got there yet. I'm going to start this once I start walking into town regularly (see toddler days plans!) as I will pass the shop.

Organically grown
I'm definitely an organic fruit and veg box convert. I like the taste, I like that I am supporting small businesses and responsible farming practices, and I am getting used to having a fridge full of mud (all those freshly picked potatoes and carrots ...). I now have a regular weekly order for a medium veg box, a fruit box and a fruit bag. This just sees us through the week. I'm managing to keep wastage to a minimum, though I currently have rather a lot of chard in my fridge I have no idea what to do with. Other organic food is hit and miss because of the cost, though I do try and buy at least some organic items. For example, today I bought organic milk for Little Cherub and organic butter, along with my decidedly non-organic bagels and appallingly over-priced Invisible Crust bread, which is the only bread Star will eat without whining. (I'm not sure which I resent most: paying over the odds for icky bread, or the sense of shame that I cave in to the whining.)

Animal friendly
I still hanker after buying organic and / or free-range chicken, but haven't managed to screw my budget up to it yet. Meanwhile I still avoid the large supermarkets' meat as much as possible and stick to Waitrose.

Fairly traded
I am more aware than I used to be of fairly traded products and try to pick them off the shelf more frequently. I now only buy fairly traded coffee, and occasionally tea. I bought sultanas (golden raisins) from the Traidcraft stall, but couldn't bring myself to pay that much for chocolate. I know. I should.

Environmentally friendly
I am gradually switching over to environmentally friendly cleaning products. Maybe half the products I use are now Ecover versions. I think I have Ecover washing up liquid, dishwasher rinse aid, spray cleaner, toilet cleaner, fabric softener and a couple of other items. I have not yet managed to take the plunge and buy Ecover dishwasher tablets and washing liquid (powder clogs my machine) as they are so very much more expensive than the non-environmentally friendly versions.

I have been quite a committed recycler for a while. We currently have an "orange bag" system, where we put certain recyclables into an orange bag to be collected by the council along with our other rubbish (trash). Next month the system changes to alternate weekly collections - standard wheelie bin one week, an orange-topped recyclable wheelie bin the next. Quite how we are going to fit two weeks worth of rubbish into the one wheelie bin I don't know, despite my best efforts at recycling. The orange bin takes cans, plastic bottles, paper and card, and we also take bottles to the recycling bank. Old clothes and books go to charity shops or recycling bins (clothes go to the Salvation Army and books to Oxfam, I think). The boxes from the fruit and veg are returned weekly, and most of the produce is packed loose or in recyclable card cartons rather than plastic. On the other side of the coin, I have also started buying recycled paper products - no point in recycling if nobody will buy the products. And I freecycle. I love freecycle! Such a genius idea, using the internet to put people who have things they don't want or need in touch with people who do want and need them. One thing I keep meaning to do is to make a dent in our mountain of plastic carrier bags by remembering to reuse them instead of accumulating more.

Overall, I think I'm doing quite well as a LOAFER. Small steps, but definitely heading in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Star!

Yesterday was Star's ninth birthday. Strangely I have already been thinking of her as nine for a month or so and kept telling people her age wrongly for some inexplicable reason. Whatever ... now she is officially nine.

She celebrated with a trip up a climbing tower with two of her friends followed by a meal at Frankie and Benny's. They looked the strangest threesome. A-next-door is very blond and is head and shoulders taller than Star and her other friend F, who are both dark. They looked for all the world like an elf and two hobbits. I tried to capture this in a photo, but didn't manage it - probably because they none of them stayed still for long enough. As all three are equally eccentric characters it was more Muddle Earth than Middle Earth, but they had fun (and I stayed sane. Just.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Toddler Days

Yesterday I sat down and planned out a new routine for my toddler days - the time I will have with Little Cherub during school term time. I like my plan :). We will be doing lots of different things, but all at toddler pace. No rushing from A to B.

Once Angel and Star leave for school at 8 I'll spend an hour on housework and laundry, with Little Cherub "helping" (or - more likely - hindering). We may not get much done to start with, but over time it should improve. I hope. After that we will go out for the rest of the morning, somewhere different each day:

Monday - Mass followed by the park
Tuesday - Mass, then a trip out somewhere (the farm, the zoo, the woods, visiting friends, shopping, anywhere else that takes our fancy). If I want to take a day trip somewhere, we can do that on a Tuesday.
Wednesday - visit Grandma
Thursday - Mass followed by the library
Friday - Jo Jingles music and movement class (I used to take Angel to this and she loved it. Star wasn't interested, but I have a hunch Little Cherub will be), then out for lunch with Grandma

I want to be home in time for lunch at 12, followed by a couple of hours quiet time for Cherub to nap while I have computer time or read. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays the rest of the afternoon will be free until Angel and Star get home; on Wednesday we will go to the toddler group at our Church, and on Thursday there is Toddler Playtime at the swimming pool so I may take her to that.

I'm planning to walk to as many places as possible, as it is the only way I can see to fit exercise into my routine. I only have the use of the car on Tuesdays and Thursdays anyway, which means that I have to walk the rest of the time anyway. It takes around 30 minutes to walk to the town centre (Church, shops, park, library and so on), so that will give me a fair amount of stroller-pushing exercise.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Geography picture books

I am on a roll ... more library finds, this time with geographical themes. I am on a mission to find books that will bring the world alive to Little Cherub once she grows into them. I used many of the books from these series with Star, and intend to use them again with Little Cherub. I discovered that Barefoot Books publish a number of books set around the world, including these by Laurie Krebs:

We're Riding on a Caravan: An Adventure on the Silk Road
We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania
We're Sailing to Galapagos: A Week on the Pacific
We're Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt
Off We Go to Mexico: An Adventure in the Sun

I saw the first two, which looked lovely - good illustrations, simple rhyming text, and some extra background information at the end.

The Barefoot Books catalogue includes a number of other appealing titles, like these:
My Granny Went to Market: A Round-the-World Counting Rhyme by Stella Blackman
Catch that Goat: A Market Day in Nigeria by Polly Alakija
Tenzin's Deer: A Tibetan Tale by Barbara Soros
Elephant Dance: A Journey to India by Theresa Heine

Ack! That wishlist!

Good King Wenceslas

Browsing at the library again yesterday, I found another Geraldine McCaughrean picture book with a Christmas theme: Wenceslas. This one is a retelling of the story of Good King Wenceslas, based on the Christmas carol.

Another book for my wishlist.

One hundred and ten years ago today

... Enid Blyton was born.

As this is a children-ish, book-ish blog I thought that deserved a mention. Maybe her work boasted more quantity than quality (according to a news report I saw she wrote over 700 books), but whole generations of British children have grown up reading Enid Blyton and characters like Noddy and Big Ears, the Famous Five and the Secret Seven have all stood the test of time.

Many people don't realise that Enid Blyton was a keen naturalist and in addition to her children's fiction she wrote a number of books on nature study. I have Round the Year With Enid Blyton and some of her short Nature Lovers series, but a search on Bookfinder showed up a whole list of nature themed titles.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Victorian "dress"

A couple of commenters have been intrigued by the clothing worn by my great-great-great-grandfather in the photograph below - if you are curious, it is a shepherd's smock. I'm not sure if they were only worn by shepherds, or whether they were also used by other farm labourers.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #15: Homeschooling

I forgot to do a Thursday Thirteen last week, so this week you get a double dose (a day late).

First, thirteen things I will miss about homeschooling when the girls start school ...

1. Spending so much time with two of my very favourite people.
2. Being able to get up in the morning whenever we like.
3. Reading good books aloud.
4. Taking day trips and holidays when everyone else is in school.
5. Planning curriculum (even if I do always end up changing my plans!)
6. Getting together with other homeschoolers.
7. Snuggling at home with warm blankets and hot chocolate when everyone else has to go out in the winter cold.
8. No busy work or homework.
9. Tailoring the girls education to their needs and interests.
10. Lots of time to talk.
11. Plenty of time for outside activities.
12. Independence.
13. Flexibility.

On the positive side, here are thirteen things I am looking forward to ...

1. Having lots of time to enjoy Little Cherub.
2. Doing fun toddler things.
3. Having a cleaner, tidier house - at least some of the time.
4. Being able to go to daily Mass more often.
5. Not being responsible for teaching Angel maths.
6. Slower-paced days.
7. Peace and quiet (relatively speaking).
8. Hearing about the girls' school days.
9. Having to arbitrate in less sibling disputes (I hope!)
10. Less juggling of competing and sometimes incompatible needs.
11. Being a kinder, gentler, less stressed mother (again, I hope!)
12. Planning and implementing a new routine.
13. School holidays :)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Look what I found!

My great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Bates, photographed c.1870.

Amazing what you can find when you Google.

I love the internet!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Book Review: Father and Son

Just look what I found at the library!

Title: Father and Son
Author: Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Fabian Negrin
Age Suitability: 4 and over

I am a fan of Geraldine McCaughrean, and this picture book is one of her best. Written from the perspective of St.Joseph wondering what he can possibly offer as a father to the Son of God, this book brings home the reality of just Who was born in that stable:

What lullabies should I sing to someone who taught the angels to dance and peppered the sky with songbirds?

How can I teach him his words and letters: he who strung the alphabet together, he who whispered dreams into a million, million ears, in a thousand different languages ...

The text is short but deep, and is complemented by illustrations showing father and son together in a variety of childhood scenes. I was surprised to see only a three star rating on Amazon for what I think is a five star book, but this was down to a bad review by someone who found the language and concepts too advanced for young children. If, like me, you enjoy picture books with more complex language and with religious themes you will love this. It is one of those rare books that took only a brief glance to know that I just have to buy it.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful

When I posted my summer reading list I forgot to add another book I had ordered ... Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful, by Donna Bryant Goertz. I had seen it recommended on an email list, and when it arrived I wondered how useful it would be. It is essentially a series of case studies of off-the-wall children in a Montessori early elementary classroom (ages 6 to 9). My eccentric, non-peaceful child is nine, the child I am thinking of taking a Montessori approach with is only one, and this is not a classroom situation. Despite my initial reaction I am finding it an interesting and worthwhile read, both for the insight it provides into how a Montessori classroom works, and for illustrations of ways in which difficult behaviour can be handled respectfully.

The first thing to grab me was this statement in the introduction:

Children today respond to the Montessori prepared environment in various ways, just as they did in the early years. Children who are surrounded at home by excess in the way of toys and pampering require greater talent and effort on the part of the teacher over a longer period of time to reach regular, deep, and lengthy engagement ... children who lead less cluttered and indulged lives respond more immediately to the Montessori classroom.
To what extent do my children have cluttered and indulged lives? Are they surrounded by excess? Are they pampered? In some respects I fear the answer is yes.

What do I need to change?

Food for thought.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Farmyard Tales First Nature Book

A book I ordered to put away for Little Cherub arrived today: The Usborne Farmyard Tales First Nature Book (not to be confused with the Usborne First Book of Nature, which is something else entirely).

It is exactly what it says on the cover - a lovely first nature book for little ones. Both Angel and Star went through stages of enjoying the Farmyard Tales books, a series of easy readers with dual text (each page has a simple sentence for the beginning reader, together with slightly harder text to be read aloud or later for the child to read themselves). The First Nature Book has the same characters introducing various aspects of nature study. There are clear pictures of common birds, insects, trees, wildflowers and so on for the child to identify, and a number of simple nature activity ideas. I'm sure I have all the information and ideas already in other books, but this pulls it all together neatly into an appealing format for preschoolers and beginning schoolers. Each page also has the usual Farmyard Tales hidden duck to hunt for. And the Book People are selling it for £2.99.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bubble Gum Maths

How I wish I had seen this post from Lissa at the Lilting House when she first posted it two years ago. I think it could have reduced Angel's mathematical pain significantly. I plan to stock up on chewing gum and bubble gum and try a scientific experiment when the girls start getting homework.

Personally, I suspect chocolate would have the best SSB effect.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Mrs Tiggywinkle

My regular readers know from my repeated attempts to get off the ground with FlyLady that I am a Sidetracked Home Executive. Cleaning and tidying do not come naturally to me ... but I realised today that there is one area of housekeeping I do enjoy. Laundry! I actually like ironing. I also like hanging out and taking in washing - particularly that nice, clean, fresh-air smell when taking down the clean clothes.

And no, I'm afraid my laundry is not always up to date. And yes, the ironing pile does build up ... but I do usually manage to do better in this area of housekeeping than most others.If you wish, you may call me Mrs.Tiggywinkle :).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More Montessori Musings

In my musings about Montessori education one of my concerns was my inability to be a purist about the method. In the light of that I was delighted to read Don't Throw the Baby Out With the Bath Water by Suzanne at Blessed Among Men. She makes a case for Montessori being about principles rather than method, about a way of viewing education rather than a collection of materials. Here is her list of the principles at the heart of a Montessori-style education:

*The freedom of the child
*The absorbent mind and its functioning
*The importance of work: How a child's work differs from that of an adult
*The sensitive periods of development: Child led learning
*The prepared environment
*Spiritual preparation of the teacher
*Poverty of spirit
*The need to protect and shield the child
*The importance of joy in work

I confess that part of the attraction of Montessori for me is the stuff. I like the idea of having lots of manipulatives and activities available. However, I can see I could easily end up obsessing on collecting the right bits and pieces to the detriment of the underlying principles - of putting the bathwater before the baby. I ordered The Secrets of Childhood from the library and collected it yesterday. There should be lots of food for thought there.

Funny ... I intended to make myself a reading list for the summer, but never got round to it. Now it seems to have made itself:

* A People's History of Britain
* In the Steps of St.Paul
* The Secrets of Childhood
* Flatland by Edwin Abbot (a "living geometry" book recommended to me by a friend, also collected from the library yesterday.)

And when I finish those, more H.V.Morton.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

A random blogthing ...

You Belong in Fall

Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...
You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings
Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you

I have a theory that people prefer the season in which their birthday falls ... and yes, my birthday is in autumn.