Saturday, 28 February 2009

Egg Shampoo

I prefer to use natural products on my body because the skin is the largest organ we have, and it absorbs anything that's put on it.
I'm OK with natural soaps which I can buy locally, but shampoo is a little trickier.

I thought I had found a great one, made from Neways, a company that advertises that they only use safe ingredients. Then they confessed that they use parabens. So when my daughter found the NAKED range of products in the local chemist (drug store for my American readers), I used their shampoo. Unfortunately I realised that it may be an OK shampoo (not wonderful, in my opinion) it still comes in a plastic bottle with no chance of refilling it.

I then came across an article on a blog talking about shampoo bars, but they only seemed to be made in the USA and by very small family businesses who all happened to be out of stock at the time of looking.

I used to wash my hair every day, but then I read an article about never washing hair. Some people have found this to be very successful. Apparently after a few weeks of gross hair, it settles down to be glossy and wonderful. I thought, "Oh, that would be the greenest and cheapest option. Let's do that."

Well I got to the gross, itchy, uncomfortable stage and decided to compromise and wash my hair once a week.

I then came across a lady who says she never buys commercially produced cleaning and beauty products but uses natural products just as nature made them. This included using an egg to wash her hair and body.

So now I keep a little basket of organic free-range eggs in the bathroom. I wash my hair once a week with an egg that I break into a beaker and mix with my fingers. I have found it works best if I use half the egg, work it into my hair and rinse it thoroughly, then use the other half and do it again. I need to rinse it very well or my hair has a horrible feel to it next week. However, if I do it correctly, my hair is beautifully clean, glossy and soft.

I have also used an egg to clean my body and face, and it works very well, but it is cheaper to use the soap.

Friday, 27 February 2009

The Erosion of Freedom

I do not care for the books that Philip Pullman has written but he has written an amazing article on the erosion of the British people's freedom in recent years.
It was first published in the Times and could be found at the Times online. But it was later blocked by them. (You will see why when you read it. The power elite that owns the Times would not like this information to be circulated.)

Fortunately a few people liked it so much they put it on their blogs and sites.
You can find it at present here at the Libertarian Alliance

I have pasted it here, just in case it goes missing again. I think it is important to spread the word and the internet is still mostly uncensored in many countries so the more sites that inform people about this sort of thing the better.

©Philip Pullman 2009

Are such things done on Albion’s shore?

The image of this nation that haunts me most powerfully is that of the sleeping giant Albion in William Blake’s prophetic books. Sleep, profound and inveterate slumber: that is the condition of Britain today.

We do not know what is happening to us. In the world outside, great events take place, great figures move and act, great matters unfold, and this nation of Albion murmurs and stirs while malevolent voices whisper in the darkness - the voices of the new laws that are silently strangling the old freedoms the nation still dreams it enjoys.

We are so fast asleep that we don’t know who we are any more. Are we English? Scottish? Welsh? British? More than one of them? One but not another? Are we a Christian nation - after all we have an Established Church - or are we something post-Christian? Are we a secular state? Are we a multifaith state? Are we anything we can all agree on and feel proud of?

* £34bn cost of state-run surveillance databases

* Former spy chief says UK is now a police state

* First ID cards are to be issued within weeks

* COMMENT: that’s a bit rich, Dame Stella

The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are

You’re mistaken about yourself

We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless

We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you

And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised

The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity

Whatever your opinions are, we don’t want to hear them

So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are

And we do not want to hear you arguing about it

So hold your tongue and forget about protesting

What we want from you is acquiescence

The nation dreams it is a democratic state where the laws were made by freely elected representatives who were answerable to the people. It used to be such a nation once, it dreams, so it must be that nation still. It is a sweet dream.

You are not to be trusted with laws

So we shall put ourselves out of your reach

We shall put ourselves beyond your amendment or abolition

You do not need to argue about any changes we make, or to debate them, or to send your representatives to vote against them

You do not need to hold us to account

You think you will get what you want from an inquiry?

Who do you think you are?

What sort of fools do you think we are?

The nation’s dreams are troubled, sometimes; dim rumours reach our sleeping ears, rumours that all is not well in the administration of justice; but an ancient spell murmurs through our somnolence, and we remember that the courts are bound to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and we turn over and sleep soundly again.

And the new laws whisper:

We do not want to hear you talking about truth

Truth is a friend of yours, not a friend of ours

We have a better friend called hearsay, who is a witness we can always rely on

We do not want to hear you talking about innocence

Innocent means guilty of things not yet done

We do not want to hear you talking about the right to silence

You need to be told what silence means: it means guilt

We do not want to hear you talking about justice

Justice is whatever we want to do to you

And nothing else

Are we conscious of being watched, as we sleep? Are we aware of an ever-open eye at the corner of every street, of a watching presence in the very keyboards we type our messages on? The new laws don’t mind if we are. They don’t think we care about it.

We want to watch you day and night

We think you are abject enough to feel safe when we watch you

We can see you have lost all sense of what is proper to a free people

We can see you have abandoned modesty

Some of our friends have seen to that

They have arranged for you to find modesty contemptible

In a thousand ways they have led you to think that whoever does not want to be watched must have something shameful to hide

We want you to feel that solitude is frightening and unnatural

We want you to feel that being watched is the natural state of things

One of the pleasant fantasies that consoles us in our sleep is that we are a sovereign nation, and safe within our borders. This is what the new laws say about that:

We know who our friends are

And when our friends want to have words with one of you

We shall make it easy for them to take you away to a country where you will learn that you have more fingernails than you need

It will be no use bleating that you know of no offence you have committed under British law

It is for us to know what your offence is

Angering our friends is an offence

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as
the Protection from Harassment Act (1997),
the Crime and Disorder Act (1998),
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000),
the Terrorism Act (2000),
the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001),
the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001),
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002),
the Criminal Justice Act (2003),
the Extradition Act (2003),
the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003),
the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004),
the Civil Contingencies Act (2004),
the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005),
the Inquiries Act (2005),
the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005),
not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.


And those laws say:

Sleep, you stinking cowards

Sweating as you dream of rights and freedoms

Freedom is too hard for you

We shall decide what freedom is

Sleep, you vermin

Sleep, you scum.

I knew that this socialist government was passing laws at a great rate of knots, and turning us into a nanny state but I did not know our freedom was being curtailed to such an alarming amount.

So what can we do?
Firstly, pray and secondly ..... What do you suggest?

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Compulsory Education

There is a campaign for Ending Compulsory Education. I found the information on the Action for Home Education site.

On their home page they have a query about the government slogan "Every Child Matters"
Every Child Matters?

Each week: 450,000 children are bullied in school
Each year: more than 360,000 children injured in schools
Each year: at least 16 children commit suicide as a result of school bullying
Each year: an estimated 1 million children truant
Each year: more than 1 in 6 children leave school unable to read, write or add up.

Every Child Matters?

Home Education: because EACH child matters, individually!

There are many famous and successful people who are not in favour of children going to school. I like this quote from Winston Churchill
"Schools have not necessarily much to do with education....they are mainly institutions of control, where basic habits must be inculcated in the young. Education is quite different and has little place in school."

I agree that we should end compulsion and coercion in education because

*It is unnecessary: uncoerced children love to learn

*It hampers genuine discovery and development through free observations for the learner. This is done by the imposition of schemes and plans that fit a pre existing theory about when and what should be learned, and how the learning should be achieved.

*It sets up "experts" in a coercive system of learning and this limits diversity and distorts human potential and creativity.

Here is an interesting video on the history of compulsory schooling.

Another quote I like is
"I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution "schools" very well, though it does not "educate"; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing." John Taylor Gatto

"The idea is to have the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child." George Bernard Shaw

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." Albert Einstein

"We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought." Bertrand Russell

I was talking with my Wednesday year 6 class about the problem with education being compulsory. Of course they agreed that it takes the joy out of learning and that they would learn anyway even if they did not go to school. One boy, 'Daniel', who I've written about before, mentioned this poem by William Blake and quoted the lines
"But to go to school in a summer morn,
O it drives all joy away!

Here is the full poem in case you are not familiar with it.
The Schoolboy

by William Blake.

I love to rise in a summer morn
when the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me;
O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O it drives all joy away!
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning's bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child when fears annoy
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring?

O father and mother, if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care's dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Cold ears

It is wonderful that the weather in England is getting a little milder. Yesterday I had no need to wear my gloves!

It is still chilly on a bike though and people are still wearing woolly hats under their helmets.

I was pondering on this whilst standing at the bus stop, watching a cyclist go by and thought. "I am surprised to have never seen a bicycle helmet with ear muffs or flaps. During the recent cold spell we had, I was struck by the expression on the face of a cycling police officer. He looked pained. He probably was pained as his ears had no protection and they looked raw.

Sunday, 22 February 2009


Claire, my youngest daughter and I were reminiscing. I really enjoyed being with both my daughters during the summer holidays. We didn't have any money or a car for much of the time when they were little, but we did do things together.

We lived about 3 miles from the sea at that time, and one day we packed a picnic, all got on our bikes and cycled to the coast. Looking at the map I noticed that the shortest 'as the crow flies' route was across fields, so off we went.

"Slow down mum!" shouts Claire peddling her 6 year old legs like fury on her little bike over the rough track.
"If I go any slower," calls mum, "I'll fall off the bike."

We get to a fork in the track and this does not appear on the map so it looks like we are lost. We try to commune with our higher selves to see which way we should go. Claire gets nothing, and Helen and I each get a different answer, so someone isn't in tune, but who?

When we arrive at the coast we find that the sea is not actually accessible from this part, and we have to cycle down the road a ways to find a path over the dunes.

The next time we save up and take the bus.

Claire thought that was a hard trip. Then she remembered another cycle ride. We took another picnic and, following a map we set off to a picnic spot by a river which I had been to before in more affluent times when we had a car.

I wanted to avoid the roads so we headed for a path along the river. What the map did not tell us was that by August, not only was the path overgrown with stinging nettles, but it was very steep. Of course we were in shorts because it was a lovely day, so the girls, being near the ground on their little bikes could not help but get stung. The nettles though, were the least of my worries because the path was dangerously steep leading down to the river! I had visions of someone having an unscheduled swim.

We decided it was safer to get off, and use the bikes to clear a way for our bare legs to pass by those stingers.

Our misery was not over when we got to the picnic site however, because the rubbish bins were all full and there were swarms of wasps everywhere! We were hungry so we had a little bit to eat and I instructed the girls not to eat their jam sandwiches. "But that is our treat mum!" "Sorry, you don't want to be eating a wasp with your jam do you? You can have it at home as your treat for getting there."

They went off to play on the play equipment but I had to call them back because it was dangerously broken.

We were the only people there.

No way were we going back along the nettle path, so we braved the country lane, with me at the back of the line trying to protect my brood from the traffic. It took longer, and we were all so tired when we got back. It was a relief to sit on the sofa and eat our jam sandwiches.

Claire said, "That was the worst picnic we've had."
'Oh," says I, "but I've had a worse one than that before you were born."

I was at college with her dad, Adrian. It was an unusually hot summer. The sun was so hot that we darted from patch of shade to patch of shade going from one building to another. The roses had all withered and we had several showers a day because the only place that had air conditioning in those days in Britain were the Marks and Spencers stores.

So, on Saturday I planned a picnic by a stream under a shady tree. (I do like picnics). I found just the spot on the map, so off we set in his newly acquired car.

Unfortunately this red car turned out to be a 'lemon'. The only thing that prevented the engine from overheating was to have the heater blowing full blast onto us. So, already hot by the temperature outside, I was roasted by the car inside. It didn't go onto Adrian! Still, I thought it will be worth it when we get there.

When we 'got there' we found that the stream had dried up! And there were swarms of insects under the shade of the trees, so we turned round and headed back in the boiling car. My body was so hot I felt my blood was boiling.

Adrian's place was next to a school outdoor swimming pool. There was a hole in the fence, and we had all had a few midnight swims before, so I was looking forward to a cooling dip in the pool when we got back.

But of course the teachers were there with their families on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon. They were shocked to see us climb through the fence and wouldn't let me in the pool. At this time I felt my blood was dangerously hot and was desperate to cool down. A dip in the pool would do just that. But no, so I rushed to the bathroom and filled the bath with water. It took a long time laying in that cold water before my body felt normal again. I can still remember the feeling of being in danger from the heat.

I have never felt like that since, even when I endured the 114°F (45°C) temperature of a June day in Kuwait. (Mind you, I didn't stay out in that for more than a few minutes.)

I still enjoy a picnic, although I steer clear of them in August when the wasps are around.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

My Picture

This is my profile picture on Facebook. Lots of people have commented on it, that I thought I would tell it's story.

It is called 'Patricia the Tutor' because one of the girls that I tutor took it using my phone. I help her with maths.

One evening she said "I wish you were here all the time because I feel calm and understand things when you are here."

She already practices EFT when she feels a little panicky about things. Her teacher even invited her to teach it to her class, because she has improved so much in her understanding and application of maths.

So I replied "Would it help to have a picture of me to look at when you are feeling this way?"

She said "Yes."

So I gave her my phone to take a picture of me. So there I am in my 'tutoring pose,' slumped on the table facing the child.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The First Step

Today I took my first step.

The first step towards becoming a foster carer. Sue from Foster Care Associates visited me for a chat. Well, it was more of an interview than a chat because she wrote down most of what I said.

She told me that it would take about 6 months to go through the vetting procedure, which includes 3 days of training.

I thought about becoming a foster carer during the summer just gone. I asked for an information pack from the Local Authority and spoke to someone on the phone. The person said they needed someone like me, with my background - mother hood and teaching primary children.

I bought a book on the subject from Amazon Attachment, Trauma and Resilience: Therapeutic Caring for Children by Kate Cairns
to give me some idea as to what I was letting myself in to. I read just enough of the book to come to the conclusion that this job would be too hard for me.

Also I did not want anyone poking their nose into and judging my life.

However I knew I needed to do something other than teaching as I was not happy being part of an education system that is detrimental to children's learning and emotional wellbeing.

I have now come to the conclusion that fostering is my next step, my next calling. So I contacted Foster Care Assosciates and have now started on the long road to becoming a foster carer.

I have started a new blog to document this journey so please subscribe if you are interested in following this new adventure.
The new blog is at

Monday, 16 February 2009

Busy Day

I decided to change my dining room into a bedroom for me so I could rent out the room I was using. Since moving to this house this is the 4th room I've slept in. I started out in the largest bedroom, and it really is very big. Then, having decorated the smallest bedroom, I moved into that whilst I decorated the master bedroom.

Well, I stayed in there because I rented out the large room. I then decorated a third bedroom and rented that out too. (He is since left so it is empty for another tenant. Could it be you?) Then I moved out to let my daughter move into it whilst I decorated her room.

I slept on the lounge floor for a while, but now I have moved into the dining room. It has a wooden floor, which looked smart and was very practical for a dining room, but it made the room cold.

Fortunately someone was throwing out a carpet, advertised it on freecycle and brought it round to my house. It fits very well in the middle of the floor. It had a lovely effect because it feels more cozy but you can still see the lovely wooden floor all around the edges of the room.

Last night I took another Freecycle delivery of a bed and a large blue wardrobe. It was painted a lovely shade of forget-me-not blue, but it didn't look right on the wardrobe. I would love to have something that colour hanging on the rail inside the wardrobe but it dominated the room so I decided to paint it.

In every room that I decorated in this house I have used white paint for walls and woodwork. So I painted the wardrobe white. It took four coats but now it looks so much better.

I was not idle whilst waiting for the 4 coats to dry. I got two loads of washing on the line outside, then put the clothes in the airing cupboard to air before the dew fell on them later in the day. I ate lunch, washed the dishes, checked my emails and facebook and wrote a page for my daughter's website. She has not put it up yet as she was at work all day looking after toddlers but it will be up soon. In the meantime take a look.

Sunday, 15 February 2009


There is a boy in the class I teach every Wednesday, who I will refer to as Daniel. He is a tall, thin boy with delicate features and blond hair. He stands and walks with a stoop and his head bowed as if he is not happy to be standing so tall. He is intelligent and curious and sensitive, and always has his head in a book. He is a great fan of Michael Morpurgo and has read many of his books several times.

At the start of the maths lessons, when I am waiting for everyone to get ready, he wastes not a minute, his head in his book.

He has a wonderful way with words and writes the most amazing poetry that would not be out of place in a published book.

He writes long, elaborate stories in a mature style. However, they can sometimes be a little gritty or dark. I have noticed that Michael Morpurgo has written dark and 'realistic' episodes in the two recent books I have read; 'Private Peaceful' and 'Alone on the Wide, Wide Sea'. I would not be comfortable if my 10 year old were to read these books. I think they are more suitable for someone of say, 14. Daniel's latest story, written for an assessment, ended with the main character committing suicide because his father and all his friends had perished.

Although Daniel has several siblings, he prefers the company of adults. He does not have any close friends among his classmates even though they have all been together since they were four. When the class went on an adventure holiday together he preferred to sit with the teachers rather than the other children. This was not welcomed by them and they engineered the going-into-the-dining-room so he would have no chance to do this. This ageism attitude is a shame because I expect Daniel would hold his own in most adult conversations.

He never enjoys going outside at playtime. Unfortunately the staff at the school still insist on him going out to play because 'he has got to learn to play with the other children'. He has had the opportunity to learn to play with them twice a day for 6 years but has not managed it yet. I wonder why adults insist that all children should play with other children? It seems to me that Daniel does not have much in common with the children in his school. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with him, anything that needs fixing, just that he is different from the others around him.

As you can imagine, he does not like playing football. (English football.) Or hockey, or I expect tag rugby, which is the next game of the PE curriculum. He does, however enjoy cricket, he tells me, but sorry Daniel, that is not on the National Curriculum at this time. It is not just that he does not like playing football, he uses the 'h' word for it. Because he does not like these games he is not very good at them. Therefore the other children in the class do not want to be his partner, be in his group or have him on his team.

We have been recently doing hockey and I made a big mistake during the last lesson. I decided to let Daniel be the captain and pick his team, because we were going to play a game. I don't usually do this picking teams business, as I usually give each child number. Somehow I thought by having him pick teams it would give him a bit of kudos. But I was wrong. What happened was that when he picked someone for his team they would make a face/noise to show their displeasure. When he was deciding who to pick, some of them would be visibly 'willing' him to not pick them. I felt really bad that I had put him in this position, and he had to endure this until all children were in a team.

At the moment Daniel attends a small, friendly Roman Catholic Primary school that has a family atmosphere. I dread to think how he will fare when he goes to the state secondary school next year!

It seems to me that he is a perfect candidate for being home educated. I can almost hear those people, who do not know much about home education, say, "but he has to learn to get on with people" and "how will he become socialised staying at home all the time?" Well, if he was home educated he would be meeting more people in the community, at the library, museum, shops etc. And it is likely that he would find a kindred spirit amongst the other home educated children who meet together regularly for various activities.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

A Sensible Judge

Are you the same as me? When I was young and naive I thought everyone was the same as me.

For instance I was very surprised when I found out that not everyone reads any print that their eyes light upon. Some people see print and do not read it!

I wonder if it has to do with curiosity (to read everything presented) or maybe self discipline (to prioritize your time efficiently)?
I am one of those people who read everything that their eyes light upon.

When I was younger (and ate breakfast cereal) I would read the packet every day, just because it was on the table in front of me, even though the information was no different to what I read yesterday. I still read every road side advert.

So it can take me a long time to decorate a room when I use newspaper to protect surfaces. I don't usually read newspapers because the news is usually depressing. But, of course, when I am painting, the print is staring at me, and I at it, so a lot of it goes into my brain. Well, the other day, when I was painting the woodwork in the bedroom I was decorating, an article lifted my spirits.

A man had fallen whilst climbing a wall in a gym and broken his back. No, this part is not the spirit lifting part, I'm not heartless (chuckle). The judge in the court case for compensation decreed that the gym was a quarter responsible for the injury because they did not say the mat on the floor would not stop all injuries. So they had to pay a quarter of the £4 million asked for.

However the appeal judges pronounced that the injured man was 100% responsible for his injuries because he knew it was a dangerous pursuit and it was obvious the mat would not stop all injuries. The judge said he wanted to set a precedent that people who choose to pursue adventurous and dangerous activities are 100% responsible for the consequences. YESSS!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

What Does Autonomous Learning at Home Look Like?

Well, to answer that question here is post by Bernadette, a mother of 4 children who learn at home. She is describing a day at her house.
You can find this post here

Yesterday, Isobel was sitting playing with our Connect Four set, making patterns with the counters. She told me "When you start a row with red and do alternate colours, you finish with red, that's how I know it's an odd number. There are four reds and three yellows in this row and four yellows and three reds in the next row, so there are the same number of each colour in two rows and there are six rows so there are the same number of each colour in all of it. that means there must be a red one missing because I have two yellows left and only one red". Then she counted them and told me she had been right, there were 22 reds and 23 yellows, a red counter wwas definitely missing.

A little while later David was sitting playing with a plastic carrier bag, when he suddenly leapt to his feet and said "The more air is in a parachute the more slowly it goes!". He then rushed off try making a parachute to test his theory.

Emily spent some time playing Wii Sports as usual, beating me at a game of tennis; she also spent a long time singing a song from a TV programme she's watched a couple of times and gradually evolving a dance to go with it as she repeated it over and over again.

At bedtime Charlotte came and asked me a question about the Great Barrier Reef so I found her some videos online. She watched them with me, identifying most of the fish she saw and telling me interesting things about them.

I love the way Isobel notices things and works out logical proofs for her observations. I love that David can figure out how parachutes work just from messing around with a bag, and that he gets so excited by his discoveries that he has to test them straight away. I love that Emily learns songs so easily, even though she can't pronounce the words properly yet. I love the way Charlotte can acquire and retain such huge amounts of knowledge about the subjects she finds interesting.

I love love love autonomous education and the effect it has had on our lives.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Protecting her child

I was riding the bus home when it started to rain. So I wrapped up and got my umbrella ready as we neared my stop.

Off the bus, brolly up, the bus pulled away. I noticed a family walking on the opposite pavement. Two children lagging behind mum who pushed a buggy. I was surprised to see the mum with bare arms. It was not warm at all outside. I looked again and saw her thick tights and boots. Hmm. Then I saw her coat draped over the buggy, designed to protect the occupant from the rain.

I admired her selflessness in putting her child's comfort ahead of her own.

It was a thick dark coat so I hoped the child was asleep and/or not afraid of the dark, and that there was some way that air could get to the child.

And I hoped they would be home soon.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Value of Lazy

I was very interested to read this entry in a blog I follow called Life Without School

Becky wrote about a conversation she had with friends on how our culture views laziness.

The sentence I like best from the piece is
"Why isn't reading a book all day as valuable as attending a compulsory class?"

You can see the whole post here but I have pasted most of it here for ease.

"Webster's says that the definition of lazy is: averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent. Sounds pretty negative, huh? Particularly because we live in a culture which values work and productivity above many other things. We've created a system of pay-offs and incentives to train children to become workers so that we can continue making more, being more, doing more, and then we hurry up and do a little bit more so that we can finally relax when we're 70. Interesting system, I think. And not very supportive of creativity, mindfulness, or letting things unfold in a gentle manner.

As we sat around the table and debated, a visiting grandfather insisted that his skepticism of unschooling stems from the belief that structure and discipline must be taught, and that said structure and discipline are necessary in order to achieve future success. He was educated in England, and when he looks back on his childhood, he is certain that if he had not been required to go to school, he would have been completely and totally lazy. He also believes that he would never have accomplished the things in life that he has, had it not been for his education. When I asked him about the word lazy, he explained that he probably would have laid on his bed and read most days, and would never have been motivated to explore or learn anything new on his own. And here lies the question: What does it mean to learn something new? Why isn't reading a book all day as valuable as attending a compulsory class?

This fascinates me. And I'm also not surprised to hear it. If you've been educated by a system from a very early age which maps out your learning and schedules your time for you, of course you are going to wonder whether it is possible to do anything of your own accord. Many of us who are raising unschooled children were not unschooled ourselves and have had to work hard to re-train our brains in this way. What I realize now, of course, is that a child who chooses to "laze around" and read all day is learning a whole lot. To some it may look like laziness, to me it looks like an education.

Chances are good that folks like this particular grandfather may indeed have never become lawyers or accountants or physicians, had it not been for the gold stars and incentives handed out in school. But the bigger question to me is certainly, what else would they have accomplished at their own pace and in their own time? The external motivation that school places on kids to work hard for future success is tempting. However it involves handing over our children's internal motivation to a team of adults who may or may not have their best interests at heart.

And what about success? Why can our culture not value the success of the child who chooses to become as juggler as highly as the one who chooses to study law? Imagine the possibilities in a community where a child's internally motivated choices are valued regardless of standardized test scores, future earning potential, or eventual retirement benefits. Imagine the sense of health and well-being that would radiate from a community of people following their internally motivated passions freely, pursuing lifestyles in alignment with their interests and talents. Quite possibly, road rage, stomach ulcers, and ridiculously jam-packed schedules would become a thing of the past. People would become human beings, not human doings.

From the outside looking in, I suppose our unschooling lifestyle could be considered lazy, by conventional standards. We go to bed when we're tired. We wake up when we're not. We eat when we're hungry and we read or play and take adventures when we feel like it. Some days we're busy and some days we're not. Some days just not killing each other is the best we can do. But it's rarely about productivity and it's never about anyone else's agenda but our own. We focus on ourselves, each other and our place in our community as well as the world. We build relationships and explore possibilities. We don't call it lazy, we call it our unschooled life."

Monday, 9 February 2009

Walking in this weather

I was booked today at a school 21 minutes walk away from my house. Well, that is what Google maps told me.

I could have got the bus but it seemed a waste of money. When I worked at that school before I rode my bike but I have retired my bike for the winter as it is not comfortable riding it in biting wind and wet conditions and positively dangerous on icy surfaces.

After the snow and ice of the last few days it was raining today so I took a large umbrella. As I was walking I noticed the temperature was warmer than of late. As I was wondering why I wasn't cycling, a cyclist passed me on the road with both his hands in plastic bags (not matching), and taped at each wrist. I then remembered that wet hands get cold when exposed to wind, and thought THAT is why I'm walking.

I saw a few daffodils blooming in pots in front gardens and crocus buds showing their colours too. I was glad to have seen this sign of spring because there were still patches of ice on the sunless patches of pathway.

It was quite miserable on the way home as the temperature had dropped and the rain seemed colder. I was tired from having a challenging class of 5 and 6 year olds, many of whom were not yet ready and did not want to learn to read and write and do teacher directed activities. I abandoned the afternoon planning and let them choose what what they waned to do.

I kept a careful eye on the traffic and the surface of the road. Nearing home I was taken unawares by a forceful shower of icy water drenching my left side. Looking back I could not see a puddle on the road but noticed the lorry, with it's heavy weight had forced water up from a drain cover. (A lorry, for those unfamiliar with the word is : "Lorry": A truck is a type of motor vehicle commonly used for carrying goods and materials. (From Wiki via my friend Jennifer.)

Google was wrong. It took me 29 minutes. I know those who are familiar with my walking speed will say, "But oh mum, you walk so slowly. no wonder it took you longer!" However I will counter that by telling you that I didn't walk my normal speed. I walked uncomfortably fast the whole journey. If I was mathematically inclined I could work out the percentage to add on to each journey I take, when checking Google maps walking times, but I'm not so will just have to guess. And gauge how long it will take to look at the daffodils and smell the roses.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Purl Bee needs you!

I used to use the atom RSS feed. You know the one that is orange? I loved it 'cos I could put my feeds on my menu toolbar. It was full and I also had a file that had all the blogs I follow too. I had them in order of interest so the ones that I enjoyed most were at the top of the list.

I had subscribed to a site called The Purl Bee, a fabric shop's blog. It was only of mild interest so was down near the bottom of my list. A post called "The Purl Bee needs you!" told of the need for people to complete a survey for them. I didn't do the survey but I don't think what happened next was related to this fact.... Or was it? (Cue the Twilight Zone theme tune De-de-de-de de-de-de-de.)

The next time I looked in my blog file I noticed the whole of the Purl Bee blog had been taken over by "The Purl Bee needs you!" post. Every post was called 'The Purl Bee needs you!"

A day or two later I noticed another blog, that had been next to it on my list had been taken over by "The Purl Bee needs you!" This was a little inconvenient, but not much as the blog was not one of my favourites. I thought it would all go back to normal in a while but it didn't. Instead the Purl Bee took over another of my blog subscriptions.

I thought "This is taking a long time to get back to normal. Maybe it will sort itself out when I restart my MacBook."

But it didn't. The Purl Bee got greedy and took over another two. At this point I thought that something might be wrong and wondered vaguely how I could cancel the subscription to the blogs. I had a little look but could not work out what to do so left it.

A few days later "The Purl Bee needs you!" had taken over some favourite blogs and I made more of an effort to delete the subscriptions. I found how to do it but the infected ones would not delete! The ones that weren't infected deleted fine, so I knew I was doing the correct thing.

I wrote an email to the Purl Bee to tell them about this phenomenon. The webmaster was amazed. He had not had anyone else complaining of this so he attempted to duplicate the problem. It would not duplicate. I told him that as he wasn't subscribed at the time that "The Purl Bee needs you!" post went out he would not get the infection.

Anyway, of course that ravenous Purl Bee ate all my blogs and then climbed out of the blog file and ate all the rest of my subscriptions on the bookmarks menu toolbar. Literally, because they all disappeared.

In fact the whole of my bookmarks disappeared. I am an avid collector of bookmarks, putting tags on them ('cos I use Firefox) and saving them for 'a rainy day'. Actually, even though it rains a lot in England I rarely refer to my bookmarks but I like to know they are there.

The Purl Bee disabled my bookmarking ability and so cannot use that function at all.

I used to have a Google toolbar and saved bookmarks onto Google but my Firefox does not support it.

Fortunately I recently discovered iGoogle and so I now use my iGoogle page to save bookmarks and have another one for my blog subscriptions.

This way I can access them from any computer. So something good comes out of every adversity.

I don't know what the Purl Bee virus is doing now. I hope it died of indigestion. If anyone has advice that will cost no money I will be happy to listen (or rather read it).

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Tooth Fairy

Last Tuesday I was teaching a class of 6-7 year old children. Two girls had brought a letter they each had received from the tooth fairy.

One girl had written a note to the tooth fairy explaining that she had swallowed her tooth and so had made one out of card to put under her pillow. She brought in a letter that the fairy had typed on a computer in tiny print, with a printed pink background. She read it to the class. The Fairy told her that she left the tooth for her to show her friends at school and not to worry about swallowing her tooth, because "it happens all the time".

The other girl brought in quite a different letter hand written in sparkly purple ink on writing paper printed with pictures of fairies. Each letter had a curl or two on it, (must have taken the fairy a long time to write) and the girl told us it was awful writing. She read out her letter too and the fairy wrote that her name was Flutter.

To my knowledge no-one mentioned the fact that these were two very different letters. But they may have pondered on it later of course.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Global Warming

I was standing at the bus stop in town the other day watching a young lady ride a bike in the road. The snow was falling. She wore a knee length wool coat, no hat and no helmet. But she was however, carrying an umbrella. Yes, that's right an umbrella .....and it was open. She had one hand on the handle bars and the other holding the umbrella, trying to prevent the snow from landing in her face.
To do this of course she had to hold it low, but then she could not see where she was going, so the umbrella was bobbing up and down as she alternated the position of the brolly.

Standing at the bus stop with me was a teenage girl clutching a ring binder labeled 'Child Development". She was shivering. Probably didn't have a vest on. (Vest as in the English use of the word - undergarment for the torso.) Why is it that the young would rather shiver than wear adequate clothes? It is so common to see a young person shivering with no coat on. I had 2 vests, shirt, fleece jacket, warm coat, fleece gloves inside fleece mittens, two pairs of socks in warm sheepskin and leather boots and a large pashmina that I wrap around my head and neck and an umbrella stopping me getting covered in cold wet snow. I must admit that I was a little chilly but only a little. No shivering certainly.

My mind goes to the theory that we are in danger from global warming and we must take drastic action like switching off all the lights. We've certainly experienced the lowest temperatures in England this winter that I can remember ever having.

Surely there was global warming happening as the earth came out of the ice age? I'm sure there were no aeroplanes creating large carbon footprints across the sky at that time.

I'm all for reducing the amount of pollution being spewed out into the air. I re-use, recycle and compost. I cycle or use public transport but I do like visiting other countries by plane.

And it is certainly a little chilly at the moment.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Home decorating .... again

Having spent most of the week avoiding decorating the bedroom that prospective tenants are viewing tomorrow evening and the weekend, I have eventually started on the project. I am now having a sit down break, whilst one coat dries, so decided to post this.

Last night the weather people forcasted more snow so I was hoping for the day off today because of school closures.

This morning at 7:20, the time I needed to be at the bus stop, I phoned my headteacher to see if the school was closing today. I was only partly dressed as I was sure it would be closed. She and other teachers are often in school at this time. However the conversation went like this.

"Hi Anne. How's it going?"
"I'm parked at the bus stop outside English Martyrs Church. If you're ready you can have a lift in."
"OK, I'm coming."

Well, I couldn't really tell her "No, I'll wait here until you get to school and decide to close today." Could I? Because she might have decided to keep open and then I would have been very late.

So I scrambled for my clothes and boots, (fortunately there was something ironed), threw some food in my bag for breakfast and lunch and tottered off down the road trying not to slip on the fast melting deep snow.

There was another teacher in the car, (that is why she was parked there). Three of us live in West Reading but the school is situated in North Reading. The roads were a little tricky but we got there alright. However as we were nearing the school we noticed the conditions were worse because it was much higher ground. I expected this to be the case. There was more snow and the temperature was colder so not so much slush. The approach road to the school was dangerous. I expected this because it is always so slippy even when it is just a frost.

Anyway, we got into school and Anne decided to close the school. So there was fun and games trying to change the telephone message whilst the phone kept ringing. She had recorded a message last night saying the school was open. She wanted to wait until 9:30 to let some workmen in but we actually left to go home at 11:00 am. She was gathering up paper work and information so she could work at home.

As it was I was gainfully employed in marking, recording the levels of the children and preparing more lessons but I would rather have been at home decorating. I am not on a contract and only get paid when i work so was pleased that I would be getting paid for today.

When I got home I found Claire was there. She had waited in vain for a bus and when phoning into the nursery, where she works, was told that the buses were not running and they had two children and four staff so her boss told her to go home.

So we have been washing walls and ceiling and painting.

The last time I painted was over 3 months ago, when we were preparing another bedroom for a prospective tenant. (Also at the last minute.) I had found a system where I do not wash the brushes or roller until the end of the project because I'm all for not doing unnecessary tasks. Instead I wrapped them in aluminium foil. However I started using a plastic carrier bag for the large roller because the foil did not like to be used more than twice.

Well, because we were so last minute, and the tenant viewed the room whilst the paint was still drying, we shoved the painting paraphernalia into the garage and because I was lazy and did not want to wash the brushes and roller I left them.

So now I can report that the foil did not keep the brushes from going stiff but the plastic bag kept the roller perfectly!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Selfish adults 'damage childhood'

This is a very interesting audio.

The aggressive pursuit of personal success by adults is now the greatest threat to British children, a major independent report on childhood says. Home Affairs Editor Mark Easton at the BBC, reports on the call for a sea-change in social attitudes and policies to counter the damage done to children by society.

Thirty thousand children and young people, parents, professionals and organisations contributed to the two-year inquiry into childhood, managed by The Children’s Society. The evidence submitted was considered by the independent panel of experts.
‘A Good Childhood: searching for values in a competitive age’ is the final report of The Good Childhood Inquiry, managed by The Children’s Society.
The Patron of the inquiry was The Most Revd and The Rt Hon. Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Chair of the Inquiry was Professor Judy Dunn, Professor of Developmental Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London

The report is heavily evidence-based and covers the lives of children, beginning with family and friends, expanding to lifestyle, values and schools, and ending with mental health and child poverty.
The Children’s Society is a leading children’s charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK;

Here is what the report says in a nutshell.
Leading experts today identify excessive individualism as the greatest threat to our children. In a landmark report on A Good Childhood, commissioned by The Children’s Society and published by Penguin, they show that children’s lives have become more difficult than in the past, and they trace this to excessive individualism.
This produces more family discord and conflict; more pressure to own things; excessive competition in schools; and unacceptable income inequality. According to the panel, excessive individualism needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.
Their report is based on detailed evidence and findings, and leads to challenging recommendations.
The findings include:
* The proportion of children experiencing significant emotional or behavioural difficulties rose from 8% in 1974 to 16% in 1999, and has remained at that level.
* Some 70% of children agree “parents getting on well is one of the most important factors in raising happy children.”By contrast only 30% of parents agree with the statement - a significant difference of perspective.
* Children with step-parents or a single parent are, on average, 50% more likely to suffer short-term problems with academic achievement, self-esteem, behaviour, depression or anxiety.
* Only a quarter of the children who are seriously disturbed by mental health difficulties get any kind of specialist help.
* Increased exposure to T.V. and Internet increases materialistic desires and reduces mental health.
* Children who spend 18 hours taking a Resilience Programme, which teaches children to manage their own feelings and how to understand and care for others, are half as likely to experience depression over the next three years and also do better academically.
* Britain and the U.S. are more unequal than other advanced countries and have lower average well-being among their children.In Sweden 8% of children live at below 60% of median income. In Britain the number is 22%.
The report makes recommendations to parents, teachers, government, media and society at large. They include:
* People who bring a child into the world should have a long-term commitment to each other and should aim to live harmoniously with each other.
* For children whose birth is not celebrated through a religious ceremony like christening, there should be a civil birth ceremony where parents celebrate the birth of their child and vow to care for the child.
* Support for parents should include free parenting classes available around childbirth, and psychological support if their own relationship falters, or if their child has emotional or behavioural difficulties.
* At least 1,000 more psychological therapists should be trained to support children and families.
* Schools should be “values-based communities” promoting mutual respect between teachers, parents and children. They must develop character as well as competence.
* Personal, social and health education in secondary schools should be taught by specialists trained to teach these difficult subjects.
* Teachers in deprived areas should be paid significantly more than elsewhere to ensure that teaching quality and teacher turnover is no worse in deprived areas than elsewhere.
* School league tables and SATs should be abolished. Testing prior to GCSEs should continue within schools but purely as a guide to the progress of every individual child.
* Advertising aimed at children under 12 should be banned, as should all advertisements for alcohol or unhealthy food on television before 9 p.m.
* The government must achieve its target for the reduction of child poverty.
The report’s author, Lord Richard Layard, said:
“Our evidence showed clearly how stressful life has become for many children in all social classes. We identified a common thread in these problems, which is the excessive individualism in our culture. This needs to be reversed, and children to learn that being of use to others is ultimately more satisfying than an endless struggle for status”.
Chair of the inquiry and co-author, Professor Judy Dunn, said:
“In the Good Childhood Inquiry we had a great opportunity to see how children today experience their lives within their families, at school, with their friends (and enemies!), their problems and their pleasures. We looked critically at the evidence for and against the beliefs about children today that get media attention. What we learned has lessons for all of us - parents, teachers, and those concerned with policy making and the care of children.”
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“This landmark report for The Children’s Society says the aggressive pursuit of individual success by adults is now the greatest threat to our children, and we are determined to do something about that. Essentially the report brings a taboo into the open which is that we have to confront our selfish and individualistic culture. We need to realise that we are collectively responsible for the welfare of all children and that together we can make childhood better.’’
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, comments on the Good Childhood Inquiry:

“Our children deserve the best we can give them, and I hope this Report will stir us to action in the wide variety of areas it touches upon. The Report shows something of the energy, the good sense and the vision of so many of our young people. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the well-being of children and young people in this country is far from being the priority it should be, and this Report spells out in carefully researched detail some of the ways in which we are failing them. It is a clarion call for us as a society to do better.”
'A Good Childhood: searching for values in a competitive age’ will be published by Penguin on 5 February 2009, priced at £9.99.

A Snow Day!

We rarely get snow days in the South East of England so today was special. We all knew it was coming and so at 1:00 am, before I went to bed, I looked out to see if the snow had arrived. It had! Well, I couldn't resist going out in it, being the first to make my mark on the pristine snow.

Usually if it snows here it doesn't settle, melting as soon at it lands on the ground. So today was a real treat.

I got a call this morning at 7:30 to go into a school on the other side of Reading. If the weather is fine I cycle to this school as it is a 2-bus journey. The other day when I went there though, I walked down the hill to a different bus route road, to get the bus that would take me straight there.

Today however it was too slippy to go down the very steep hill so I did the 2-bus journey. It didn't look like the road had been gritted, or maybe it was snowing too heavily to make a difference, but the traffic was going very slowly and the number of people at the bus stop kept multiplying as they kept arriving for their normal buses that were not appearing.

This scenario happened again at the bus stop in town and I arrived nearly one hour late.

The Year 6 class I was to take was depleted by half their usual number - down to 15. There were no lesson plans to follow so we had a great time. They did their normal morning writing, about the snow, and then they decided to plan their strategy for war with the other classes with snowballs. One boy made a few diagrams showing the relative positions of the class team, and another boy made a 'before-we-go-to-war' speech whilst pacing up and down. Some others knelt down as he spoke, getting right into the spirit of it all.

The school has the use of a large field that adjoins the playground so there was plenty of room for building snowmen and the 'war of the classes'.

When we got inside puting socks and gloves on the old fashioned large radiators, there was a very funny incident when one boy the 'class clown' as it happens, could not get his wellies off. He had been rolling down a slope and so his socks had got wet. This had caused friction and, together with the boots being a little too snug for two pairs of socks, caused his boots to be wedged on. We managed to get them off with another boy and I holding him onto the chair and two other boys pulling his boot. I'm glad no-one walked in as we were doing this because it must have looked very 'unprofessional'. Especially as we were all laughing merrily as I was physically manhandling the lad to keep him from being pulled from the chair.

The old Victorian building is well equipped to dry wet clothes but the newly built building for the 3-5 age group has no facility for any drying! How daft is that! The architect and the person overseeing the project obviously had no idea that children that age are constantly needing to change clothes for one reason or another. Just washing hands at the sink without rolling up sleeves causes a need to change and dry the garment. Also there are only 3 toilets between 2 classes of 30 children! There was no thought that the children would all have to go to the toilet and wash hands before they went over to the dining room at midday.

Anyway, back to the Year 6 class day. I mentioned I knew sign language and they were eager to learn some so that is what we did next.

After lunch and another play in the snow, I found a book about Aung San Suu Kyi, from Burma, so I read some of her early life story. Unfortunately we didn't get to her adult trials before they needed a change of activity. I found some nets of 3D shapes and so they decorated them before cutting them out and making them up. They very happily chatted to each other, whilst doing this, very pleased that I was allowing them to sit where they liked. There were very interesting designs. This took them a long time, some doing 4 different shapes.

This was one of those days where I thought, wow, I'm getting paid for having fun.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Amy Walker

Amy Walker is a very talented young lady.
She is a superb actress - very believable, expressive and able to speak in many different accents. She also has a lovely singing voice.

My favourite video of hers, showing her immense acting talent, is "Hamlet Flosses".

In this next video she not only sings the song "Stand by Me" a capella, but accompanies herself using humming and clicks of the tongue at the same time!

She put this video up so she could advertise her project.

This is the synopsis of the film that Amy is inviting everyone to be part of by donated $1 to the making fund.

Synopsis Haiku:

Three generations
gather for a birthday feast.
Lifestyles collide.
Old wounds re-open.
Love is misinterpreted.
Until, with new eyes,
they begin to see:
“We all love in different ways,”
yet we’re Connected.