Monthly Archives: November 2010

Advent begins. St Boniface gives us the evergreen tree.

It’s the first Sunday of Advent, the new Liturgical year begins and the whole journey from Galilee to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem and beyond begins.

We are supposed to stay awake and be ready. As part of that getting and being ready our family set about putting up the Christmas decorations and getting the house sorted and ready. It’s a bit like getting ready for a very special visit. We want the place to look good and sparkly, so that the Guest, when He comes knows He is welcome.

Alex puts up the Christmas tree and the children help to decorate it. We often make popcorn and cranberry strings to hang.  Iona makes gingerbread and chocolates to hang on it. We have some old baubles that come from the tradition of hanging apples on the trees in times past.

The tradition of the Christmas tree comes from the mission of St Boniface to the Germans. He left his home in Devon and headed off to bring the Light of Christ to the pagan Germans. He found them worshipping some pretty nasty gods> Wotan apparently liked to have gifts left for him on a sacred oak tree, and these gifts included sacrificing children.  Boniface took and ax and chopped the offensive tree down so that it and it’s god could claim no more victims.

It seems to have been a remarkably common practice in pagan times to offer children to the gods in return for wealth and prosperity. (Molech, Saturn, Crom Cruach, Wotan, that god of the Aztecs…the list goes on)

You would think that Boniface and his fellow monks would have been attacked by the Wotan worshippers when they saw their tree hacked down like that, but it is told that a fir tree sprang up from the roots of the destroyed oak. The fir was an evergreen symbolising the eternal life of Christ. St. Boniface added some lights to it so he could teach the people about Christ in the dark nights and have some light. 

Fir trees were used by Christians in Germany at Christmas from that time. Some were hung upside down from the ceiling apparently. [picture credit]

The German people spread their tradition over time, but it didn’t actually reach Britian until around the 1830s.  

So, don’t forget St Boniface and his ax. If you get wrapped up too much in what piles up under the tree and forget the Man whose birthday it is, maybe it’ll be St Boniface with his ax coming down your chimney instead of St Nick.

God bless.

Frugal Friday: freebies.

I’m going to try and do some Frugal Friday posts- whether freebies or cheapies or some ideas for keeping the debt collectors at bay.

Today’s are Freebies. THIS WEBSITE offers quite a few free downloads and games for children learning Greek, Latin and Spanish using the books from Classical Acedemic Press. We haven’t any of their books yet, but I hope we can get some soon. Even so the free colouring books for Greek and Latin vocab are useful and I think fit in reasonably well with Linney’s Latin and his free MP3s and KidsGreek which is also free.

While we are on the subject of languages I recomment free British Sign Language Stories, which is just a lovely site.

Just as interest I noticed that Latin is to be part of the Baccalaureate . It must have mentioned in the White Paper. Latin and Greek are both classical languages that open up a whole world of linguistic understanding and history. Also it’s just fun for the children.

The White Paper on Education; does it mean anything for Home Education?

The awaited white paper on education has been published. The media have various things to say on it, but there seems some sensible suggestions there.  Some of the media report that there will be more freedom in the curriculum but I don’t get the impression this means the banal national curriculum will be scrapped.

Ofsted say that bad teachers need to be sacked! Well Duh! But of course as all the comments below various articles tell us, getting rid of bad teachers is nigh on impossible. There is a view that the unions protect bad teachers at the expense of everyone else.

Then there’s the constant refrain that parents need to be more involved with their children’s education. But despite the fact that under law (Ed Act Section 7) parents have the primary legal right and duty to ensure our children receive a suitable education, parents still send their children to schools where nothing much like education happens.  It is made more difficult by the fact that those of us who did ever try and get to grips with what our children learned and were soon told to butt out and leave it to the “experts” and “professionals”.

Anyway, I can’t help thinking that Mr Gove is attacking the problem from the wrong angle.

Why are so few children able to learn in school? Why do so many leave school and have no literacy or numeracy skills and not enough social skill to get a job? Why are teachers in primary school complaining that children can’t talk?

Why do, apparently intelligent young people who have a string of qualifications to their name so often come across as socially awkward, unreliable and not very sensible?

I think there are a lot of root problems that need some serious weed killer before lopping of the heads of the weeds. The root problem is that families are not caring for their children much these days, institutions are. 

This is thanks to a massive push begun before Labour got their mits on power, to have both parents in work and to force single parents back into work before their children have learned to talk!

The media reports on the white paper don’t even mention the role of parents as primary educators. Is this because of shoddy journalism,  or is it because the paper doesn’t mention parents either?

It’s time to make mincemeat; both kinds.

It’s that time of year when the house just has to smell of all things spice and brown sugar. So, even if I am too chicken to put the central heating on (the bills the bills!) we still get a warm glow from the scent of all spice and cinnamon.

It’s time to get into the kitchen and find the large mixing bowl.

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Heart rending conversation about home education.

On Thursday we made it into town to attend a home ed group we haven’t managed to get to before. Everyone had a good time and it was great to meet some new families taking the step to home educate despite some obvious trepidation.

There were a couple of teens there too. One of the mums asked Iona if she had any regrets about home education. She had home educated all her children from the start so none of them had been to school, and the oldest was now 24.

To my surprise Iona said “Yes.” I was actually talking to someone else at the time but her answer made us all look at her. She said she regretted that she had ever been to school because she feels she has missed out on so much knowledge and skill. She told how she walks Ronan to Beavers sometimes and as he walks along he tells her all sorts of things about what he has been learning. She said he seems to know so much about so many varied things- astronomy in particular – and she never had that varied and broad education at that age.

While she has had better chances to learn since she was pulled from school (about 5 yrs ago) she said she still feels she missed something that the younger three are having.

I was quite touched by what she said-and certainly the other mums and teens there nodded quietly in understanding and agreement.

A little answer to how we socialise our children hehehe.

H/T Shana of St Huberts

Home Education – socialisation.

 I can’t remember if I have ever posted on the great Home Education question that must be answered by all parents and many children at some point in their home educating life; How will they be socialised?

Of course home educating parents are probably as good, bad or indifferent to teaching our children good social skills as parents who send their children to school. What the questioner usually means in fact, isn’t about proper socialisation, but will they have lots of friends and acquaintances (and enemies) who are exactly the same age as they are?

The short answer is “No, they wont.”  They will have friends and acquaintances (and possibly enemies) of all sorts of ages and that is a more natural way to live, learn and grow that a classroom.

But does it always work? That’s the difficult question that I think many of us who home educate try to duck because we are in knee-jerk-defensive mode over the whole hostile questioning thing. But I am coming across quite a few HE parents who are admitting that they are finding it difficult to help their children find friends and that one or two are beginning to feel isolated. A parent who stays home with the children will often talk of isolation whether they HE or not, simply because most families around us have two parents working full time- so they aren’t around.

Part of the problem appears to be that so many HE families end up sending their children to school for secondary education. As someone who pulled two children out of secondary education I am wondering why so many parents choose to send their children to school then.

I think fear plays a huge role in this. The UK culture is quite different from American culture in that there is a very deep-seated and long-standing view that parents, just by the fact of being parents – and mother’s in particular haven’t a clue what to do with our children. (We are so useless that we need adverts on buses telling us to talk with our babies).  So it’s a huge step for a parent,  to stand in the face of all the opposition and so much of it from “experts” and say, actually my child can grow to adulthood in a home educating family.

So, many families find that as their children get older, their HE friends have moved on to school and it’s harder to stay in touch.  Then there is the scattered nature of Home Education in this country. Most of us don’t have fellow HEers in the same road, or up the road we are lucky if there are families within a hard drive of us. We have to plan and think through how to meet up and when and what we will do. A friend of mine has said she has accepted that to HE she must travel and another HE mum said it to me today.

Today we went to a HE group we’ve never attended before and had a lovely time. It’s a support group so no lessons are going on, though as it happens in a library the children had a free rein with the books. But the important thing was that parents had time to meet, talk and get to know each other a bit, and so did the children.

I am not sure how things will go for us on the socialisation-out-and-about front. I can’t drive any more and it doesn’t seem that I will be driving for a long time (if ever). So, we have to rethink.  I feed the HE jar as much as I can so that we can cover taxi fares within a reasonable distance. I receive mobility allowance with my DLA which helps. [until the Govt take it away as they are planning to do apparently].

Meanwhile we are making the effort needed to ensure the children can mix and make friends, whether HE ones or schooled ones.

Interestingly (and sadly) we have met a few school children who are struggling to make friends at all. They are lovely children, quietly spoken and just a little shy and that means they have no friends at school and have left scouts because of the quite nasty behaviour of the other children.

Alex informs me he has more friends now, since being HEd and going to college, than he had at school (where he was miserable), so however difficult socilaisation might be for home educated children, we are probably in a better place to deal with it than children who can’t be socialised at school.

Essentially, helping our children find good friends and giving them the right opporunities for this is something all parents need to deal with, whether our children are in school or not. It is only through teaching our children good social skills and manners that they are in a position to make good friends, which happens over time and not all at once.

While I have found parents who say their HE child lost touch with friends who went to school, we haven’t had the problem the other way round. Both Alex and Iona still have friends they made at school and in a couple of cases friends they made in nursery when they were 3.

I do wonder what other families have experienced in this and what they have done about it.

Home Education Freebies.

Check out That Reource blog on a regular basis.  I’ve done some litte Greek and Latin sheets to go with Linney’s Latin and KidsGreek. (NB. KidsGreek needs to be opened in Firefox and you’ll need to download the Greek lexicon to read the lessons properly. It’s all free).

You can download a pdf LATIN HERE and the GREEK HERE

The end of the Temple and the world.

There’s something reasuring about Malachi saying the baddies will get their come-uppance.  It fits nicely with the notion of the Last Battle (as those men of the Inklings Lewis and Tolkein both saw it) and the happy ending we are all hoping for. 

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Home Education- a day in the life (or two)

It’s Thursday. I get my cup of coffee and clutch it for warmth as I set about helping a tired and bleary three year old get some breakfast. The other two have had breakfast and are playing upstairs.

After morning prayer and second breakfast for the two early eaters, I set about the kitchen and dishwasher and put the washing on. The dryer is bust so I cave to necessity and put the heating on. Then, to assuage my nagging guilt, I put the washing on the radiators because that’s making the most of them.

  It’s time to sort the work piles out. Thursdays are low-key for work piles as there’s other stuff to do.

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Parenting – you just have to be there.

long time ago when I was still a working (outside the home) mum and trying all sorts of schemes and plans to be a real-at-home-mum, I used to buy those stupid magazines that are supposed to be for “women who juggle” or even more cynically “women who have it all”. I realised fairly quickly that the shoulder padded, high heeled denizens who wrote the articles were not talking to little ol’ shift working nurse and mother -me. I then had a blinding revelation that these women wouldn’t understand my whole ethos over work and motherhood. They liked their high flying careers and were more interested in the stuff their salary provided than in people in their lives. The least of these people were the children. There were a glut of articles from “mothers” who proudly boasted of the fact they actually didn’t love their child, (or if they had pushed the boat out and had two – children). They wrote of how liberating it was for them to acknowledge that they didn’t love, or even particularly like their children.

What was clear in these articles, but I am not convinced the mother’s who wrote them realised this; was that they spent such little time with their not-beloved children, they didn’t know them. They were strangers who received material goods and a place at boarding school from the shoulder-padded ones.

I never bought or read another women’s magazine after that.

It may have been nice to try and convince myself that all those hours of work, were really a good idea and not damaging the family. It would certainly have been less tiring if I hadn’t constantly been trying to find ways to work less hours and still earn enough money to pay the bills; but I knew these articles were essentially lying to tell an awful truth. Parents who don’t spend  lots of time with their children, are not parents at all.

During the really rough time when I was the main breadwinner and worked silly hours (sometimes up to 60 a week) I tried to convince myself that this was good for the family. It wasn’t. Frankly I shouldn’t have done it. Being in debt is nowhere near as bad as not being with the children.

But sometimes families have no choice, and these days as we face another economic pit, I am finding more and more mums and dads in impossible situations.

My friend has to work around home educating her children. They don’t live an extravagant lifestyle, but the bills must be paid. Meanwhile I was talking to a mum yesterday who, like too many, is a married single parent as her husband has to live away from home Monday to Friday while she is bringing up their little girls. They long for a settled contract so that they can live closer together (contracts of 6 months or at most a year are the norm for hum). There isn’t one on the horizon.

Another friend of mine lives away from her husband a few days each week while she cares for her sick daughter (who has CFS) and helps with the grandchildren. She says it works well because her husband supports the care of his daughter. I am quite sure none of these mothers would ever get so much as a paragraph of attention in a glossy, but what they do is massively important not just for their families, but for the rest of us. Apart from anything, they inspire and help keep people like me going when I would rather give up.

If this new Government really wants to undo the damage done to our society, economics and culture, they need to be brave and support families. They need to encourage and enable one parent to stay home with the children until they are adults. If they really want to cut the benefits bill they need to help families take care of one another. In fact let’s be straight here- women are the child rearers and carers in the vast majority of cases; so LET women do the work.

Full time mothers, home educating parents and carers save the taxpayer millions of pounds.

We know from plenty of research that children learn and develop much better if they are with a full time parent (usually mother) and this in turn has to be better for the future development of the country.

The miserable, unsocialised, lonely, medicated unemployable kids leaving school with barely enough language skill to get by are not going to kick start the economy for these politicians to feel good and grab votes.

Enable someone to be home for them. Save money on Nursing Homes by having someone at home to be the carer. There could be genuine encouragement to stop putting our children and elderly relatives in institutions and then I bet even if the money didn’t flood into the country, there would be a stronger community and less poverty overall. 

It’s a dream I know, and I am not so optimistic as to think the disintegration of the extended family can be remedied any time soon (if ever), but plenty of people find an alternative extended family through local networking; through community life. Sadly this is really hard for so many because everyone is out at work all day. Old people and young mothers with their children are abandoned then – and HE families have learned that they have to travel to make networks work.

Just a little encouragement and a lot could change.

Institutionalisation leads to dependancy; another reason to Home Educate.

We watched a few minutes of Emergency Bikers last night. It’s a programme that follows the work of the paramedics and police in Birmingham.

As they followed the paramedics there was an astonishing statistic put out by the narrator that of all the 999 calls the bikers are sent to deal with, only around 10% are actually real emergencies. The rest are from people who can’t take care of a bit of a problem or are deliberately hoaxing. I was very surprised, and a little dubious of the figures.

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The Educational Paradigm in our Home Education.

It seems that Sir Ken Robinson and his great ideas is making him the darling of Home Educating parents. THIS Youtube Vid is doing the HE rounds. While I can’t disagree with Robinson on his view of modern factory schooling and I have said more than once that one of the primary reasons to home educate is so that our children are not subjected to the stultification of the National Curriculum., I think the root of the educational paradigm problem is the lack of truth and humanity. It is because the nature of the person is not recognised, that schools crush it and with it they crush creativity.

The other massive problem in education today is the complete lack of history. The arrogance of those who dismiss the people of the past as though they have nothing whatsoever to teach us, who [believe we] are further along the evolutionary line and therefore nearer Superman than those idiot Jesuits and medieval peasants. Even Robinson falls into this trap with his silly ahistorical remark about only those who could afford it getting a Jesuit education. Umm, so the untouchables of India were rolling in dosh were they, when St Francis Xavior SJ was teaching them? And the indians in Paraguay? Oh and the slave labour Indians in South America who relied on the Jesuits and Dominicans to help fight for their rights, and education – they were rich? 

As soon as I see people say things that are simply not true, I question the rest of their words. So I treat Robinson’s words with extreme caution, though my inclination is to agree with him. [But I agree more with the Man who said someone who can’t be trusted with the small things, certainly can’t be trusted with the big ones.]

The lack of history in education is raised often in some political circles, so that it even reaches the mainstream press occasionally. Bizarrely then, I read comments in blog articles about the degree price hike problem in which a degree in history is considered pointless. [Perhaps if it’s not real history it is].

Schools have no sense of reason, habit of virtue or sense of where we come from. They have, therefore, no foundation from which to teach.

I want my children to learn who they are and what is real and true. I want them to hone their reason so that they have the tools for discernment. I want them to know, in some depth, where they have come from, and who the genuine great thinkers were and what they thought. I want them to appreciate beauty, because in that there is truth to be found.

There is no point in critical thinking if all that is spouted is unfounded opinion and relativism.

There is no point is the absolutes of mathematics if everything is relative.

There is no point in history, if there is only black legend and fog.

And there is no point in literacy is there is nothing worth reading.

Charlotte Mason’s educational atmosphere is built on the strong foundation of the habits of discipline and honing virtue, so that children grow in the genuine hope of discovery; the discovery of truthful things. She wrote in the assumption that truths do not contradict one another. She wrote with an understanding of the place of the family and the genuine personhood of all children. “Children are born persons,” she wrote. There are in fact conceived persons- personhood is a state of being; a rational being.

Schools offer none of this. Personhood is lost in the demands of the factory machine. Machine’s don’t think, they don’t reason; they just “do.”

I don’t want my children to “do” I want them to “be.” There are persons in their own right-and always will be.

Gwen has ideas for self-betterment.

I very rarely wear make up. I wonder if Gwen is ashamed of me. 🙂 But then I’ve never been caught in the green or had a numb hand from mascara….

The great University and fee question.

I have talked before about the serious question of whether young adults need GCSEs and A’levels in order to find gainful employment or secure a place in University. With the new Government and the uncomfortable fact that the country is broke, we are facing the prospect of degrees costing £27k + leaving graduates with unimaginable debt. So, being the parent of three adults I wonder what their prospects are. The boys both have jobs and Iona has a little work here and there. The thought of any of them taking on such a massive debt burden when, as things stand, graduate unemployment is rife, is absurd.

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Home Education- a “hotbed of tropic intensity”…or a Monday in the life.

Back in the olden days when I was at school we actually read the books we were studying and so I read The Mayor of Casterbridge cover to cover. Later I read other Hardy books (man could have benefitted from a dose of Prozac but he could write well) including Far From the Madding Crowd. I think I may have studied it because I remember the line describing Boldwood where beneath his quiet demeanour  the man was “a hotbed of tropic intensity.” For some strange, psychologically questionable reason that phrase lodged in my brain and has never been removed.

I think it can describe our home education quite well, at times. It all looks quiet enough as children eat breakfast and play in their pjs while I’m cleaning the kitchen and getting the washing on the go. But then after morning prayer and making sure a good steaming cup of Lady Grey is at hand, the educational endeavours get under way.

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