Saturday, September 29, 2007

Arithmetical adventures

Last week the girls' school ran a workshop for parents to explain how they teach arithmetic to children Star's age. I went. It was ... interesting. For context, I should explain that over the last ten years or so British schools have been encouraging children to find their own methods of calculation. I gather it hasn't worked (how surprising) and they are now teaching selected methods again. Most bear little resemblance to the traditional methods we were taught.

So, for those of you who may be curious, these are the methods that are supposed to produce the most right answers (no marks for efficiency or elegance!) ...

Straightforward addition in columns with carrying of tens, hundreds and so on.

"Borrowing" tens and hundreds is considered too confusing for this age group because of those horrid problems with zeros in the top line. Instead of subtracting, they are supposed to count on using a number line. So for example, 384 minus 129 could be calculated this way ... start with 129, add 1 (=130), add 70 (=200), add 100 (=300), add 84 (=384). Add together 1+70+100+84 to get 255. It doesn't look quite as bad shown graphically with a number line. Not quite.

For multiplication they use a grid system, which I can't show very well using blogger formatting. Once you see this written neatly, it does make sense as the same method can be used for simple multiplication, long multiplication, problems with decimals, algebraic problems - anything involving multiplication. To find 256 x 34, you would draw a grid with three columns and two rows. Across the top write 200, 50 and 6; down the side write 30 and 4. Then multiply each combination something like this (the asterisks are because blogger won't let me leave a space) ...

**** | 200 | 50 | 6
30 |6000 |1500|180
4 | 800 | 200 | 24

Then add the six numbers (6000+1500+180+800+200+24) to get the answer (8704)

Angel was taught last week to use this method to expand algebraic expressions such as (3a+2b)(2a-b). It works. You can see clearly what you are doing, and it helps to avoid getting into positive/negative tangles.

Trial and error. Let's try 125 divided by 4 ... you could start with 10 fours. OK, 10x4=40. Not enough. How about 20x4? 80. Not enough. 30x4? 120. Ah! Getting close. Five more to go. How many fours in five? One with a remainder of one. So we have 30 fours add 1 four ... answer is 31 r1. Are you converted? Would you tackle division that way? No, me neither.

Eat your heart out Singapore. Why teach arithmetic the good old fashioned way when you can make it so much more ... um ... interesting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The German is back


Christmas cheer?

I know there is a tradition of hanging jolly, fat men as ornaments on Christmas trees, but I can't decide whether this offering from the American Chesterton Society is taking things a step too far.

What do you think? Would you hang GKC on your tree? Do you think he would have approved? I suspect he would have found it very amusing, but I'm still not sure I could bring myself to use him as a Christmas ornament. And at $20 plus international postage it is a purely hypothetical question.

HT: The Blue Boar

Baby abuse

A new TV series started this week in which families try out different approaches to babycare taken from classic twentieth century childcare "experts": Doctor Spock, Jean Liedloff (The Continuum Concept) and Truby King, who spawned the "put them on a routine, leave them to cry and dump them in the garden in a pram for hours" school of parenting. Angel and I watched in horror as a tiny baby (only a few days old) was left to scream while its parents and the mentor they had been allocated sat downstairs drinking a glass of wine. The baby's older sister - quite naturally - could not understand why nobody (including the mother) was allowed to cuddle the baby. The mentor was of the opinion that no rational parent wanted their lives interrupted by a baby, and there was no reason the baby should be "allowed" to demand attention.

I am not sure whether the government's E-Petitions site is worth its bandwidth, but there are occasions on which signing one at least makes me feel better. If you are a British citizen or resident you can sign one asking the Prime Minister "to take urgent action to protect infants and their parents from television programmes that promote outdated and discredited parenting theories" here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Early years education

I am still pondering the shape I would like Little Cherub's early learning years to take. (What fun to have so long to ponder ... I can change my mind lots of times ... just think of all those plans I can make and discard.)

I have been reading Montessori books, and trying to work out what would work for me and what would not. I think taking some Montessori ideas would be good, but that diving right into Montessori is not a viable option for practical reasons - investing in "proper" Montessori materials for one child would be too expensive, physically it simply isn't possible to provide a Montessori environment (not enough space, too much clutter), and I think Montessori ideally needs a small group, or at least a couple of siblings. There are aspects of Montessori I think would suit us, though - practical life activities, some of the easier sensorial materials, the whole-to-parts approach to geography and history, and possibly the bead materials for maths.

Over the past few days I have been reading a lengthy thread about Waldorf-inspired education on the 4 Real boards. This has brought into focus the overall shape I would like our days to take - kind of Waldorf-ish in following daily and seasonal rhythms, and with a greater emphasis on art and crafts than I had with the older two. Waldorf in its entirety does not appeal to me - all that anthroposophy is a turn off, and while I like fairy tales it has too much in the way of fairies and gnomes for my taste - but the rhythm and art aspects do.

Next stop in my ponderings is Charlotte Mason. I want to re-read her ideas on early education in the light of the reading I have done on Montessori and Waldorf.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Tales from English History

I picked up a three volume set of Great Tales from English History by Robert Lacey a while ago when the Book People had them on sale, since when they have sat on the shelf. I finally picked up the first one last week. Not before time ... these are good! Lacey's love of history was inspired by good old Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall's Our Island Story and Our Empire Story, and he aspires to be a historical storyteller in the same tradition, focusing on the great personalities of English history.

From what I have read so far, he does a good job. The short chapters are vividly written, and he is able to bring characters to life in just a sentence or two. For example, his description of the Emperor Hadrian ... "a patient and thorough man who spent half of his twenty-one year reign systematically travelling the boundaries of his vast Empire, sorting out problems." The books are written for adults, but could be used as an introduction to British history for older children (though be aware he is a little more explicit about certain things than a children's author would be).

One nice snippet from the chapter on the warrior queen, Boadicea (Lacey sticks to the old spelling of the name, rather than the currently popular Boudicca) ...

There [is no] evidence of another great myth, that Boadicea fought her last battle near London and that her body lies where she fell - in the ground on which King's Cross Station was built many years later. Her supposed grave beneath platform ten at King's Cross is the reason why Harry Potter's Hogwarts Express leaves, magically, from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.
Who knew? (Well, J.K.Rowling for one, I suppose ...)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Auf Wiedersehn

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodbye ...

The German has gone, as inexplicably as it arrived.

Normal English Blogger service is resumed.

Little Cherub's Book Choice ... The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Little Cherub is finally moving on from Farm Animals, having mastered baa, moo, quack, miaow, woof and a whole range of domestic animal noises (or approximations thereof ). We have been playing with Playmobil animals and discovering that "tiger goes ROARRRRR!!!!!" One of those little "ping" noises went off in my head, and I decided this would be a good time to produce an old family favourite, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. It was! She listened to the entire book the first time I showed it to her - usually she likes to familiarise herself with new books a few pages at a time and it takes a while to work up to a full reading.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a simple story about a girl and her mother who invite a visiting tiger to tea. The tiger eats and drinks everything in the house, so when daddy comes home there is nothing left for supper. Clear pictures and text make the book appealing for toddlers as well as preschoolers. I remember two year old Angel knew the entire book by heart.

Judith Kerr also wrote a series of books about Mog the Forgetful Cat, who is much loved here. Another of Cherub's current book favourites is a Mog board book, Mog's Kittens. A few years ago the series was completed with Goodbye Mog, in which Mog dies and is replaced by a new kitten. I simply couldn't bring myself to read it, as I am a dreadful wimp about such things and knew I would sob from beginning to end ... so in this household Mog continues on, forever alive and maintaining the upper hand in her dealings with the various people, animals and inanimate objects that cross her path.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More German

Now I have spotted this under the box for composing posts:

Tastaturk├╝rzel: dr├╝cken Sie Strg zusammen mit: B = Bold, I = Italic, P = Publish, S = Save, D = Draft

Judging by the comments on my previous post about bits of Blogger appearing in German, it seems to be a European thing ... which is at least logical.

Is it a Blogger plot to create a single European state? Or are they trying to teach us all German by immersion?


Most homeschooling mothers plod through plans that, if not exactly humdrum, are enlivened by only the occasional flash of creativity. Out in the blogosphere there are a few who are in a different league ... imaginative, creative, inspirational, and willing to share the fruits of their creativity with the rest of us. Now Theresa of LaPaz Home Learning is sending her son to Hogwarts. And you can go too! She has created the ultimate Harry Potter rabbit trail and posted lesson plans for herbology, care of magical creatures, potions and alchemy here.

How I wish we were still homeschooling so we (or would that be I?) could have fun with these!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My true age ...

I'll settle for 35 - though I told the quiz I didn't lie about my age!

HT: Elizabeth

You Are 35 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Out to lunch

The reason I wasn't blogging last weekend ... I was out to lunch.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blog anzeigen

Blogger is talking to me in German.

When I publish a post the "you have posted successfully" page comes up in a mixture of English and German. Instead of a link saying "View blog (in a new window)" I get "Blog anzeigen (in einem neuen Fenster).


Is it just me?

Normal service resumed

Phew! This morning was much better than yesterday. Until then I had been pleasantly surprised at how smoothly our mornings were running. Our downfall was a combination of my own slow start and Star feeling off colour. I could live without too many mornings like that!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Morning Routine

6.45 (time I am supposed to jump into the shower) - Drink mug of tea thoughtfully provided by Tevye. Tea hot and self slow. Now running late.

6.55 - Finish tea. Urgently need to shower. Cherub urgently needs to nurse. Nursing trumps shower.

7.05 - Tevye leaves for work. Cherub dumped in cot (crib) while I take shower. Angel and Star dress.

7.10 - Out of shower. Rescue cross Cherub. Try to change her top as Tevye has dressed her in one that belongs with a different outfit. Cherub will not stay still. Give up and leave her in vest and trousers.

7.15 - Star complains new age 9-10 school shirt is tight. Star is a slim just 9 year old. Pretend not to hear complaints as no other clean shirts.

7.20 - Angel complains age 12-13 school shirt is tight. Angel is an ultra-slim 12yo. Angel changes shirt. Give age 12-13 shirt to Star. Make mental note not to buy school shirts from Tesco. Cherub occupied trying to stuff herself into my clothes.

7.25 - Everyone dressed, apart from half-dressed Cherub. Star can't find hairbrush / sports kit / homework. Star tired and emotional. Cherub finds Hama beads. Remove Cherub from beads. Find Star's hairbrush, sports kit and homework.

7.30 - Cherub shrieks when Angel tries to dress her. Stays in vest. Star shrieks because hair knotty.

7.35 - Brush Star's hair. Try to organise breakfast.

7.40 - Star shrieks because cannot find hair elastics. Still tired and emotional and complains she doesn't feel well. ("Are you well enough for school?" "Don't know." "Shall I ring F and say you are not going?" "NOOOO!!!!!!"). Find only remaining unbroken elastics in bag she used yesterday.

7.45 - Finish getting breakfast. More shrieks from Star. Hair elastics have fallen into toilet bowl. Half an hour of whining and wailing takes its toll. Shriek at Star. Star emerges slightly chastened and clutching soggy hair elastics. Wash hair elastics. Star manages to finish hair.

7.50 - Eat breakfast. Star becomes human. (Duh! Blood sugar!) Little Cherub fiddles with Cheerios.

7.55 - Star announces she needs a file folder for school. Amazingly am able to lay hands on one instantly, complete with remains of schoolwork from three years ago. (So much for decluttering.) Empty out folder and help Star reorganise schoolbag. Angel eats apple and supervises Cherub. Cry from Angel: "Mum! There's a Cheerio fountain here!"

8.00 - Girls leave, amazingly on time, with sports kit, lunches, bags and looking presentable. Rescue Cherub, still in vest, from high chair and ascertain that Cherub has indeed created a Cheerio fountain, evidenced by Cheerios over table, chair and wide area of floor.

8.02 - Angel returns to say that J-next-door is not ready, so can I please fill in a forgotten form for her to take to school.

8.05 - Angel leaves again. Clear up Cheerios. Finally manage to finish dressing Cherub (should just have left her in the original top!). Breathe deep sigh of relief.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Star and Angel have been told at school that the girl hurt in the accident is doing better and is expected to be well enough to return to school before too long. I so hope this is accurate - the local paper yesterday described her condition as "critical but stable".

Star is doing well. She isn't great at going to sleep at nights at the best of times, but thanks to a couple of nights of settling down in our bed with the TV on (not our normal practice!) as a distraction, the accident hasn't let to any sleepless nights. I think busy days at school have also helped to stop her dwelling on it.

The remote is still missing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Little Cherub has now been responsible for ...

  • Seven Portmeirion plates in smithereens.
  • One pair of glasses with a seriously bent arm that can't be repaired as the arm is cracked.
  • One watch dropped on a tiled floor. It worked until the battery ran out, but when the battery was replaced it fell apart. Not worth repairing.
  • One lost remote control. She really tried to look for it, bless her. She understood what was missing and pottered around hunting and squeaking plaintively, but clearly had no idea where she had put it. Angel and Star were promised a reward if they could find it, but no luck.
So tell me ... where could a baby hide a remote?

And no, it is not stuffed into the VCR. We looked there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The downside

Star has found herself bearing a heavy emotional load this week. Her best friend F isn't settling in to their new school (she has a history of school-related problems, but homeschooling simply isn't possible for her). On Monday F went to school sobbing. Then there was a misunderstanding with a teacher. More sobs on the way home. Worse on Tuesday. Discussions with parents and teacher led to some resolution and less tears. Meanwhile Star has coaxed and comforted as best she can.

Then today, worse to come ... walking to school this morning, one of Star's classmates was hit by a van. Many of the other children, including Star, saw the accident ... hit and run, a white van whose driver was speaking on his cellphone and drove off without stopping. The little girl was taken to hospital with head injuries. The children at school were told she was in hospital but not in intensive care, so please God her injuries are not life threatening. So more emotion to handle ... there were many very distressed and frightened children today, both at the scene of the accident and at school. Although Star held together, she too was shocked and frightened.

If you would, please say a prayer for the injured girl, for F, for Star and for all the children who are struggling with today's events.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Seeing yellow

You Are a Yellow Crayon

Your world is colored with happy, warm, fun colors.
You have a thoughtful and wise way about you. Some people might even consider you a genius.
Charming and eloquent, you are able to get people to do things your way.
While you seem spontaneous and free wheeling, you are calculating to the extreme.

Your color wheel opposite is purple. You both are charismatic leaders, but purple people act like you have no depth.

HT: Theresa at LaPaz Home Learning, who was looking for a red to shake up her mellow green. I must admit did get red on my first attempt at this quiz, but it really wasn't me. One minor tweak on the second attempt and I turned yellow, which is my favourite colour ... and I'm much happier being a nice yellow crayon than a bold, intense red. Not sure about the calculating bit, though.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

First week reflections

A few reflections on the first week of our new school adventure ...

Angel is absolutely in her element. As a true Myers-Briggs extrovert type she is energised by people, and the social whirl of school has her buzzing. She is in hyperdrive. We were doubtful that she would be able to continue with all her extra-curricular activities and manage a full school day, but agreed to let her try and see how it panned out. Even she is surprised at how easily she is coping so far. Homework? No sweat. The two pieces of homework she has had so far have been done the evening they were set.

She and two new boys in her class all got put into the bottom maths group "for now". I think that after all this may turn out well, as she has already learned two things: she is not bad at maths after all (would she listen when I told her this? No!); and she does not want to be stuck in a class that she is finding ridiculously easy. She is now on a campaign to get herself moved up as quickly as possible - by getting top marks, sticking her hand up to answer every question, and finishing everything before anyone else.

Another plus for Angel is that the PE teacher discovered she is a dancer and has made her a Young Leader for dance. Young Leaders get to help organise sports clubs, dance shows and so on for the younger children. They were appointed at the end of last year, and Angel was rather peeved that she had missed out on the opportunity. She was delighted to get a second chance.

Star seems to be enjoying things overall, but is a bit more ambivalent. She has been more stressed than Angel about little things - has she got the right colour shorts for gym? what happens is she isn't on the list for lunch? - and as all her year are new her friends don't know the answers any more than she does. She also doesn't have Angel's energy levels. She gets home tired and crotchety, and needs food and an hour flopped in front of the television before she comes round. I'm hoping her stamina will build up as she gets used to the school routine.

She has also discovered that school is not fair. Her best friend F's entire class was given a lunchtime detention because a number of the boys carried on talking after they were warned to stop. Star was very indignant on F's behalf. (Fortunately, Star's class teacher seems to be more focused with discipline.) I asked her what the best and worst things were this week: worst was F's detention; best was Wednesday because she liked the lessons, especially art. The school has just reverted to a house system (think Hogwarts), and she was pleased to get a house point - amazingly this was for tidying stuff away quickly!

Look what I found!

I have been doing some research for Tevye who leaves for his trip to Gdansk in a couple of weeks. His father left Gdansk (then Danzig) just before the Second World War, and Tevye has long wanted to visit to trace his family roots. I found the address the family lived at in 1939, pinpointed it on Google Maps and Google Earth ... and then found a website with photos of Danzig taken in 1928, including this one of houses in Ankerschmiedegrasse, as the street was then known. I wonder whether Tevye's father grew up here, or just lived here towards the end of his years in Danzig?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Rosary Three-Part Cards

I have been gathering things to put into the Faith Boxes I want to make for Little Cherub. I started downloading pictures of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary for Advent and Christmas, and ended up making an entire set of Montessori-style three-part cards for all twenty Mysteries. For now I will just put copies in the boxes as pictures to look at - though I am beginning to wonder whether I should extend the boxes for Star and include the full three-part cards now.

You can find a beautifully clear description of how to use three-part cards over at the Onion Dome, where Katherine has made available cards illustrating the Great Feasts of the Orthodox liturgical year and icons of North American saints.

If you would like to download copies of the Rosary cards, you can find them as a .pdf file here (if I have done the technical stuff right!)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #18: Favourite Saints

Excluding the Holy Family to leave more scope, a slightly random selection of favourite saints (ask me again tomorrow and I would probably give a different list) arranged in more or less chronological order ...

1. St. Peter. I find it so reassuring that Jesus chose an impetuous fisherman who couldn't live up to his own expectations to lead his Church.

2. St. Thomas. Another thoroughly human saint. If even one of the Twelve could doubt Jesus, I feel better about my own weaknesses and inadequacies.

3. St. Joseph of Arimathea. The rich man who gave up his own tomb to Jesus, only to have it become the site of the Resurrection. The story that Joseph subsequently came to England and settled at Glastonbury may be legend, but it is a beautiful one.

4. St. Helena. I can't help but admire a woman whose influence helped convert an Empire, and who trotted off to the Holy Land in her old age to try her hand at archaeology. And she is one of my patrons, as my middle name is Helen.

5. St. Nicholas. The real Santa Claus.

6. St. Benedict. The father of monasticism in western Europe. His rule is so humane and still applicable nearly 1500 years after he wrote it.

7. St. Thomas Becket. Who would have guessed that King Henry II's egotistical, display-loving chancellor would end up a saint and a martyr. Pig-headed, stubborn and at times a thorn in the flesh even of his friends, Thomas's flaws make him seem very real to me.

8. St. Hugh of Lincoln. An outstanding English medieval saint. Even Henry II was prepared to tolerate outspoken cricitism from Hugh, which says a great deal for his force of character.

9. St. Francis of Assisi. Simply extraordinary.

10. St. Thomas More. Brave, humane, intelligent, likeable, and prepared to die rather than go against his conscience.

11. St. Teresa of Avila. An woman of great energy and humour as well as outstanding spiritual qualities. I chose her as my confirmation saint, then realised later that her feast day is my birthday.

12. St. Bernadette of Lourdes. One of the first saints I "met" after I became a Catholic.

13. St. Michael the Archangel. Can I count him? Representative of all those angels that guard and defend us. (I suppose chronologically he should be first!)

High School Memories

As school is the topic of the moment this meme seemed appropriate ...

1. Who was your best friend? Stephanie

2. Did you play any sports? Several, but none well. I was not enthusiastic enough to be a regular member of any school teams, though did play occasionally as a stop gap. My favourite sports were tennis, volleyball, swimming, netball and athletics (I couldn't run for toffee, but I liked throwing the javelin).

3. What kind of car did you drive? You have to be 17 to get a driver's licence here, but for the last few months of my school career I drove my dad's Austin Maxi. An old workhorse of a car that made all sorts of ominous sounding noises which in fact were just normal Maxi clunks, creaks and whistles. It stalled a lot.

4. It’s Friday night. Where were you? At home in bed. Home. Not school. This is noteworthy as it was a boarding school - I was a weekly boarder and only went home for weekends.

5. Were you a party animal? No. Never have been.

6. Were you considered a flirt? It was an all girls school.

7. Were you in the band, orchestra or choir? Yes. Orchestra, playing viola. I think I also sang in the choir for a while.

8. Were you a nerd? No. More nuisance than nerd.

9. Were you ever suspended or expelled? Almost. Not for any specific misdemeanour, but for general insubordination and disruptive behaviour. Fortunately the school tolerated me long enough for me to turn into a fairly normal member of society.

10. Can you sing the fight song? We didn't have one. I don't even remember having a school song, though I think there must have been one.

11. Who was your favorite teacher? Miss North, who taught history and kindled my enthusiasm for the past. One of those truly gifted teachers who love their subject and are able to transmit that to their pupils.

12. What was your school mascot? We didn't have one.

13. Did you go to the Prom? There was no such thing in those days, though proms are becoming popular here now.

14. If you could go back, would you? Not a chance!

15. What do you remember most about graduation? Absolutely nothing as we didn't have any formal graduation ceremony. I do remember a girl in the year above us misbehaving spectacularly during the final school assembly for her year, but as this is a family blog discretion prevents me being more specific!

16. Where were you on Senior Ditch Day? What????

17. Did you have a job your senior year? No, but I spent the following summer assembling electric plug sockets and parts for TV aerials.

18. Where did you go most often for lunch? School cafeteria. No choice.

19. Have you gained weight since then? Er ... yes. Enough said!

20. What did you do after graduation? Whatever it was it was so unspectacular I have absolutely no memory of it.

21. What year did you graduate? 1978

22. Did you attend any of your reunions? No. So far as I know our year have never had a reunion. I do keep in touch with two old school friends.

HT: Catherine at Living Life to the Fullest

Anyone else want to play?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Doing "normal"

For the first time in eight years I am now leading a life most people would consider normal - older children at school and myself at home with just a toddler, rather than homeschooling which is generally considered here to be decidedly odd. However, I long ago reached the point of feeling that homeschooling was normal and school odd, so "normality" seems rather topsy-turvy.

I'm trying to get used to quieter, toddler paced days. Yesterday Little Cherub and I pottered around Oxford. I intended to visit the Ashmolean Museum, but it was closed due to the St. Giles Fair, so we inspected the fair, Borders, Blackwells (a Tardis bookshop - it looks small from the outside, but has a basement with 160,000 books in one room) and the University Parks. Here are the Cherub and her Baby investigating leaves in the park.

Cherub insisted that Baby (officially named Rosie but usually known just as Baby) must come with us, despite the fact that two in a sling was rather crowded. Any attempts to smuggle Baby into my bag were met with much disapproval.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


For those of you curious about what children do in school, here are the girls timetables. They have five lessons a day, each one hour long. The structure of the day is Registration / Assembly (2o minutes), Lesson 1, Break (15 minutes), Lessons 2 and 3, Lunch (55 minutes), Afternoon Registration (10 minutes), Lessons 4 and 5. They start at 8.50 and finish at 3.30.

Monday - Music, French, Maths, French, RE (Two French lessons in one day seems an odd arrangement to me. RE = religious education, which means learning about religions, rather than being taught religion.)
Tuesday - Design and Technology, Science, English, Maths, Humanities (History and geography are lumped together as humanities, alternating in two week blocks.)
Wednesday - Humanities, PE, Maths, Design and Technology, English (Design and Technology for Angel includes art, woodwork, needlework and "food technology".)
Thursday - Maths, Science, English, PE, Humanities
Friday - Science, English, IT (= Information Technology = computers), Humanities, PSHE (= Personal, Social and Health Education, which so far as I can see is a catch all for whatever the government currently fancies indoctrinating children with)

Monday - English, Science, Maths, Humanities, Design and Technology
Tuesday, English, Maths, French, Science, PE
Wednesday - English, RE, Maths, Art, Science
Thursday - IT, English, Music, Maths, PE
Friday - Humanities, Maths, English, English, PSHE (Yes, that really is two separate English lessons, not a typo. Why? No idea! The second class is taught by a different teacher to all her other English classes.)

Bags are packed ...

Bags are packed, uniforms are on, and off they go!

First day update ...

Angel: After a couple of hours orientation - getting new timetables, new books and so on - she had maths, English and humanities lessons. Maths is streamed so she had to sit a test to decide which set she should be in. She will find out the result tomorrow; if she makes the middle group I will be happy, but I'm afraid that the combination of our various maths disasters with lack of test-taking experience may mean she will end up in the bottom set, which would be well below her true ability level. English meant a spelling test for everyone, and she didn't tell me what they did in humanities, though she was assigned a piece of writing about Martin Luther King as homework. True to form, Miss Efficiency already has it done. Her plan is to keep ahead of the work, without exerting herself one iota more than necessary.

Star: Also started with orientation, then did French (mainly singing), science (identifying solids and liquids - ridiculously easy) and PE. No homework for her yet. The school notes say she is supposed to do 15 to 20 minutes of independent reading at home daily, but she says her class teacher is getting them to do their reading during the registration period. One boy in her class was sufficiently badly behaved to be given lines - this on his first day at the school!

Both came home quite happy. So far, so good.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Of aeroplanes and fish ...

Yesterday was one of those days when we all went in different directions. Angel and I went to the Shuttleworth Air Show to play with the brass band (I have been promoted and am now an official band member, but playing baritone horn instead of euphonium - the euphonium gets lots of twiddly bits, and I am still finding even the straightforward second baritone part a challenge!). I have to admit we are not plane enthusiasts (sorry, Dorothy, no RAF background I'm afraid ;) ), but I enjoyed playing lots of catchy, appropriate music - themes from the Dam Busters and The Great Escape, arrangements of English folk tunes and so on. It all had a nice, nostalgic feel, even if we didn't appreciate the various historic machines on display (ex-World War II, biplanes and so on).

Meanwhile, Star went to a car boot sale with my brother. (Translation for Americans: boot = trunk; people pay for a pitch then sell unwanted items from the back of their car. Paradise for clutter collectors.) She came home thoroughly pleased with herself, having invested fifty pence in this:

It sings. It sings when an unwary person walks in front of it. It sings Put Me Back in the River and Don't Worry, Be Happy! It lip synchs and wiggles while it sings. It is - in my not so humble opinion - both gross and irritating in equal measure. Star is delighted with it. I knew I should never have let her loose with my brother!

Meanwhile, Tevye and Little Cherub stayed quietly at home, apart from a gentle stroll to the shop to buy a newspaper.

Little Cherub says "Ooff!"

Little Cherub's new literary fixation is this Farm Animals board book, which has to be read umpteen times a day. It is DK style, with clear photographic pictures and minimal text. She isn't interested in the text anyway, just in what noises the animals make. We have now moved on from "That's a cow. Cow says moo" to asking her what the cow, sheep, dog and so on says.

"What does dog say?"
" 'Ooff!"

I am being bashed insistently on the knee with Farm Animals as I type.

Duty calls ...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
John Keats
September is here, and autumn just round the corner. Hard to believe that "warm days will never cease" given that we have had so few this summer. Angel keeps telling me that September is forecast to be warm - let's hope she is right and we have a long Indian summer this year. Though I suppose what I want is the sun more than the warmth. Bright autumn days with just a hint of a nip in the air are my favourite.

And with the new season a new chapter of our lives is beginning. Angel and Star will begin school on Tuesday, and we can all start to get into a new routine. This summer it has felt as though life has been on hold. I like new beginnings, but once they are decided upon I don't like having to wait ... I want to get started!