Sunday, 28 March 2010
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Sunday, 14 March 2010
This is a blog about educating two girls at home. 'Nancy' is 5 years old and 'Lulu' is 9. (These are not their real names.) I am not their parent but their governess. This is a new venture for the family as the children were unhappy at the school they attended. It may or may not be a permanent arrangement as it depends how all parties feel about it.
This blog is designed to be a record of activities and achievements of the girls. I envision the audience to consist of the family, so they can keep track of their girls' education, and maybe any official body who wishes to check up that the girls are getting a good education. It may also be of interest to other people who are, or thinking about educating at home.
My educating philosophy can be described thus. Children learn by living their life. They learn when they are engaged in what they are doing. You cannot stop a child learning, unless you force them to do something they are not interested in for a sustained period of time, which has the effect of turning off their curiosity and motivation to learn. Oh, that sounds a lot like school, doesn't it? I therefore will not be 'giving them planned lessons' or workbooks unless they request them. I will however be giving them a rich pallet of experiences from which I hope they will be interested, gaining knowledge and skills as they go.
Saturday, 6 March 2010
I like to have a shower before bed, and the night I arrived here I had a great one. I use the family bathroom along with the girls. There is a bath and a separate shower cubicle.
The cubicle is large enough for me to bend down to clean my feet, the ceiling is high enough so I can stand up straight, the shower head is not blocked with limescale, the water pressure ranges from strong to stronger, the temperature is however hot I like it, and however long a shower I have, the hot water has never run out. An altogether wonderful shower!
As you can see from my comments I've put up with some drastic showers throughout the years.
One of the more interesting ones was my shower in Kuwait. The cold water tank for the apartment building was situated on the roof as were all the other tanks on all the other buildings in the city. During the months from April to November, this tank would get hot with temperatures ranging from about 28 C (82 F) in April to over 40 C (104 F) in August, then down to 25 C (77 F) in November.
So during those months I didn't turn the hot water on and used my hot water tank as my cold water supply because hot water came out of my cold tap. I was never in Kuwait between late June to late August, along with half the population - all those who could afford it vacated the country.
In the winter my hot water tank was not quite large enough to sustain the length of shower I desired, so I enjoyed going to the Hilton Resort Beach Club at the weekend.
In January the temperature can get as low as 9 C (48 F) but the swimming pool was always heated. It felt wonderfully hot on cool skin and of course no-one else used the pool much in the winter. Actually even when the weather got warmer it was rarely used in the early evening, which was usually the time I was there. The Hilton had two pools and I, preferring privacy when not wearing many clothes, would go to the one designed for children and nannies. You had to walk a long way from the car park, which put many people off. The main pool had a bar on the poolside and waiters to bring food, all of which I didn't care for.
I would swim for half an hour around the edge of the pool, so no stopping, and then I would float on my back just relaxing and gazing at the stars.
The other advantage of the children's pool was that the changing rooms were just at the pool edge so there was not much time in the cool air before being under a lovely hot shower. I used to stay so long in that shower that on a cool day I was glowing warm all the way back to the car.
I went to the beach throughout the winter months at the weekend. It was my favourite activity to sit on a lounger on a deserted beach with my knitting, crochet, sewing or a book, listening to my ipod or the waves of the calm Persian Gulf lapping on the shore, then go for a swim when the sun went down at 5pm. It was often over 16 C (60 F) and that to a Brit is a pleasantly warm day. I much prefer to keep my clothes on anyway so I was quite happy. As the temperature climbed higher moving into spring, the beach would have more people on it and I would sit with friends. And when it got too hot for me to be comfortable outside, the beach was fairly packed and it was difficult to find a lounger. By May, I stopped going, choosing to return in October.
There are several public, free beaches in Kuwait, but of course woman cannot swim there. So you see on hot days, men and boys in swimming trunks having a wonderful time in the waves whilst the women, dressed in heat absorbing black from head to toe, sit at the water's edge watching.
Friday, 5 March 2010
I was late to bed last night despite good intentions of having more sleep. Subsequently late up in the morning. Not enough time to do all my devotions, but never mind, I'll finish them after taking the girls to school.
But oh no! Youngest girl is ill and not going to school, so Mum is going to take Oldest to school and Youngest gets up and dressed and has a tantrum because she can't find the movie the Velveteen Rabbit on TV. Mum promises to print out some rabbit colouring pictures and come back to give them to her.
I ask Oldest to give me a lesson in how to work the TV and she finds a Good Witches program on TV and insists Youngest wants to watch it.
After Mum and Oldest depart, Youngest finds her colouring pages of boys from yesterday and puts stickers on them, then starts colouring the girl pictures that mum printed for Sunshine. I switch off the TV and she doesn't notice. We talk about the pictures she's colouring. The phone rings. it's Mum wanting to know what size shoes I wear. Dad, in China, wants to know. I add, in a panic that I have wide feet (it's very difficult for me to find comfy footwear and I wouldn't dream of buying anything without having tried them on or have the option of returning. I actually only buy a tiny fraction of shoes I try on.) Mum assures me the footware under consideration is certainly wide. I think "What is she referring to? Are they yetti boots?" Youngest asks about the rabbit pictures and is told mum is choosing them now.
She then tidies up all the pens, crayons, papers etc without any prompting from me.
She goes upstairs and shins up the door post and looks like she is going to slide down the bannisters.
I'm thinking "Should I encourage this activity. I know Mum would tell her to not do it if she was home. However, I encouraged my own girls to slide down the bannisters under supervision. I remember when they had a friend to play and they all slid down the bannisters, the mother of the girl was totally shocked that I would allow such a thing!"
Fortunately I didn't have to make a decision, because she finds her Woody doll and makes him slide down instead. I catch him at the bottom. Woody is wonderful, he only rubs his head and gets up again when he falls on his head. He has a cloth body with plastic head and hands and so it's easy to make him gesticulate with his hands whilst he is talking. He can even find his hat and put it back on his head again. He seems to enjoy sliding down the bannisters, well, at least he doesn't complain. Well, his talking facility has been curtailed due to overuse so he has to speak through Patricia.
She says she has Buzz Lightyear and so up we go to the spare room where all her possessions have been dumped and search through a pile of character toys. (Many of the toys she has are characters from films.) Buzz can speak for himself but only has a few phrases. I tell her "I don't want to catch him at the bottom of the banisters. He's so hard, he'll hurt me." She also has the girl cowboy character. Youngest gives her a name, but the problem is I can't remember the character's name, from when i saw it at school once as an end-of-term treat for the year group, and can't understand Youngest's pronunciation.
She wants to watch the DVD and finds, amongst an enormous amount of discs, Toy Story 2, which I haven't seen. She knows how to put the DVD into the machine, making sure she breathes on the disc before rubbing it against her jeans, but neither of us know how to get it showing onto the enormous flat screen TV. The phone rings and I suggest she answers it because I think it's her mum. It is. Youngest asks about the pictures and Mum tells her she's printing them now. I ask her how to get the DVD playing on the screen. So we get it going and she immediately goes off to the loo. When she comes out she goes into the kitchen for a yoghurt.
Meanwhile I've paused the DVD for her and check what she's doing in the kitchen and prevent another yoghurt pot from being consumed, offering a box of food I prepared yesterday. Youngest rarely chooses any protein to eat and there is a plethora of carbohydrate snacks in the house. So in the box is a chicken leg, a sausage, some sausage rolls and baby sweet-corn. I cooked them yesterday whilst the fish pie was being cooked. She chooses the sausage rolls but wants them nuked in the microwave.
Back in the lounge she wants to phone her mum to find out what's happening to the rabbit pictures. She doesn't know how to use the phone and so I get the phone number and call out the numbers so she can press the keys. I'm not sure if it's the particular font or she cannot read many numbers but I had to show her where the numbers were or she would have pressed the wrong keys. Mum assures her she's just about to go out the door and will be there soon.
Youngest sits down with the enormous box of Barbies and Kens to play with and I turn off the DVD without a murmur from her. She gets out the camper van and the horse. The horse is interesting because it walks and clops and neighs. At my prompting she finds the Barbie with loose hips that can sit on the horse and it walks as far as it can in between obstacles. Woody's legs prove too long to sit comfortably and the horse does not go well for this rider.
I find a Barbie with hair down to her feet that's not surprisingly tangled. I ask for a brush, but there's none to be found. So I go up to Mum's room to get her brush. Youngest is so shocked that I'm using her mum's brush that she decides to phone her to 'tell on me'. She gets the phone and pretends to phone, and even speaks. I tell her "Your mum will see I'm using her brush when she comes with the pictures so you'll see what she says then."
I enjoy brushing all the Barbies' hair and clothing them whilst she plays with Woody, the horse and camper van. I remember playing with similar dolls when I was young. My sister and I would style the hair and dress each doll - we may have had 3 between us and then I would be done. This would upset my sister because in her mind, that part was the preliminary to actually playing with the dolls and I wasn't interested in doing that.
Mum arrives with my wages, the colouring pictures and a laptop with the Velveteen Rabbit downloaded onto it. Youngest wants to go back to the office with her. Mum tells her "It won't be any fun because people will be working and not able to give you attention. Anyway Patricia will be wanting to go get her plants now, so you better get ready. I'll brush your hair."
I say "I wanted to brush her hair before, but she told me she wasn't going anywhere, so didn't need it brushed."
Mum replies" I have to wrestle it into shape by spraying stuff on and drying it."
I grab the brush, taking out the mounds of Barbie hair trapped in it and tell her about Youngest's reaction to my using it. (I would be better to stop talking about the child to her mother. It's not respectful to the child and she doesn't like it, but it's such a habit, it's not proving easy to change.)
It's news to me that I want to go out. Well, actually I do want to go get plants today, but I thought the child was ill and so didn't want to suggest taking her. I was actually just about to make some food for me, but youngest is getting on shoes, having had her hair brushed. Emma obviously doesn't want to leave her and it takes her quite a while to get out of the door.
On the short journey to the town centre we ask Archangel Michael for protection in a mantra that Youngest is now joining in with. Then she asks to sing the Thank You song so we spend the rest of the journey thanking God for everything she can think of. Youngest has brought the rabbit colouring sheets and a tub of crayons, and unfortunately keeps wanting me to see the pictures as she finishes them. I see a car park but no entrance to it and drive round the whole shopping area before finding the entrance to the multi-story car park. I enter with trepidation. I was actually trying to avoid this place, due to the size of the car. Amazingly I manage to negotiate the whole in, park and out procedure with no scrapes and only a little embarrassment as I try to exit the parking space whilst someone waits for it.
Mum had given Youngest a £20 note to spend on a plant and pens and whatever she wanted apart from clothes. "Because you've got enough of those and Daddy will be bringing far too many things back with him from China on Monday." She is very compliant whilst we are out, which is a surprise to me, even when I explain she doesn't have enough money for everything that her eye alights upon. She gets a plant for herself, a pot of chrysanthemums for her mum, a Winnie-the-Pooh ceramic money box to paint, a packet of everything she needs to create a wooden spoon family, and a create-you-own-fairy-doll set for her sister. It was my suggestion she gets something for her sister because I knew she'd be jealous otherwise.
Back home she eats the chicken and sausage after nuking them, and I make some food for myself, but don't have time to eat it. She starts to paint her Pooh, but it's time to go get Oldest from school.
We arrive just in time and the only parking space to be found is outside the parent's office. On the short walk to the office, I notice Oldest being out of sorts and I ask her what the matter is. She won't say, so I suggest she's jealous of her sister, 'cos she's been home all day. She's reluctant to admit it until I tell her it's OK 'cos it's normal. She brightens up after that, happy to have her feelings validated. Of course we visit mum as we do every day at this time and there's the usual "Can I stay at the office?" question. But on mention of the present awaiting her at home, Oldest changes her mind and is eager to go.
Arriving at home Oldest enthusiastically starts creating her fairy doll whilst still in her coat! Youngest opens her wooden spoon family package and asks for help. "I'm going to be in the kitchen having something to eat and a cup of tea, so if you want help, why don't you come into the kitchen?"
Neither girl moves so I go and have a break, suddenly feeling tired. Youngest comes in and continues painting her Pooh money box.
She wants two fried eggs on bread and waits until I finish eating before climbing onto the counter so she can crack the egg in the pan. Her mother won't let her do this because she might get shell in the pan, but I think that if she does, she'll learn to do better next time. Yesterday she managed to break both yolks but today they were intact. She even managed to transfer it unbroken to her bread!
Oldest had her chicken, sausage and sweetcorn but gave the sausage rolls to Youngest. Of course they had to all be nuked.
Oldest had asked for help in the beginning, but then said "I've got the hang of it."
Youngest wanted the Velveteen Rabbit to play through the TV, but I don't know how to do that because Emma couldn't tell me because she didn't know. Youngest then chooses the TV over the Velveteen Rabbit and is excited to see the film Bolt on the Disney channel.
Oldest wants help to put the hair on her fairy doll like in the picture, but I can't work out how to do it. She works out her own way and it's very good; just like the picture. Youngest wants help to make a wooden spoon person but I don't do much because I'm mesmerised by the TV. She makes a really good person after all with no help.
A drama ensues when Oldest alerts me to the fact that one of the kittens is eating her chicken bone. I leap into action and try and get the bone from him as it's dangerous for cats to eat them, due to it splintering easily. The cat has his jaws firmly on the bone and, not wanting to get bitten, I decide to not force his jaws apart but shake him and he lets me remove the object. Youngest, whose kitten it is, is upset by the picture of me shaking the cat and rushes upstairs shouting at me. I can't find her. She's good at hiding, so I call to her reassuring her the cat was OK and I wasn't harming him, but trying to help him. I leave her to calm down on her own and go to wash the dishes.
They ask to go outside so I suggest they tidy up the lounge. They do a good job. I insist they put warm coats on and they have fun bouncing on the enormous (of course), trampoline. They also have a climbing and swing set that they
availed themselves of this too. Mum comes home to find me trying to persuade Youngest to take her roller skates off whist on the tramploine.
Phew! I hand over responsibility.
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
I'm wondering what's in me that's causing me to live in another house where people have loads of 'stuff'. Hmm, maybe a sign that I have loads of 'stuff' to transmute?
This house has 4 rooms upstairs, designed to be bedrooms. Three of them have beds, a chests of drawers and wardrobes. The girl's bedrooms have a double wardrobe in each and the parents have two double wardrobes. There is another room that doesn't have a bed in - no room for a bed. It has three double wardrobes and 4 chest of drawers all full and spilling over. There are piles of clothes on each chest and in the middle of the room.
A scene on Monday morning getting ready for school.
Emma to youngest daughter, "Which jacket do you want to wear?"
Daughter, 'The brown one."
"This one?" says Emma reaching over a pile of clothes into a wardrobe packed with small coats. She pulls out an imitation fur lined dark brown leather bomber jacket.
"No, the other brown one." And out comes another bomber jacket. This time lined with thinner material and a lighter brown. This is a perfect jacket for her life as a pretend boy. She puts it over her school uniform of black trousers, white shirt and black knitted, zipped jacket.
Emma turned to me. "She has loads of clothes but only wears a few favourites over again."
"Sensible girl." I thought. "This five-year-old's using her own strategy to not get overwhelmed."
Emma looks gorgeous every day, wearing beautiful clothes to work. So far she's worn understated elegant clothes in neutral colours of the earth. The policy in this house is to only iron clothes before wearing, because they just get messed up when stored ironed. So it's up early for her each day to get her clothes looking immaculate. Unusually, Craig does the ironing when he's home. "But he doesn't do anything else," she said "apart from maybe make some porridge." So Emma makes the packed lunches.
The kitchen cupboards are crammed with food, and so is the fridge and the two freezers. And they still shop every few days for food!
This is such a repeat of the house in America I was living in, but these people don't have the excuse of stocking up for a possible hurricane.
Emma knows she's a shop-a-holic and wondered out loud what the hole was she was trying to fill with all this shopping. I thought that was very perceptive of her to realise she was trying to fill a hole. She said "It's probably because we've been held up and not able to expand the business for so long."
I must analyse those dreams I've been writing down. Maybe they'll give me a clue as to why I'm repeating the living situation. Things have got a little better in my bedroom though, because the only things that are clutter in this room are the many tiny shoes under the bed that the youngest doesn't wear. Much improvement on the piles of boxes, and other junk higher than me that I had in the other place. Oh, and at my friend's house that I stayed in, between housekeeping jobs, I also stayed in a room full of junk. Sigh.
So if anyone reading this has any clues for me I'm very willing to consider your views.
Monday, 1 March 2010
After a long weekend of 'settling in'. I started my job as Housekeeper/Nanny-soon-to-be-Governess.
The mother is giving us a week to get to know each other before she takes the youngest out of school. Just in case the child changes her mind.
Over the weekend I moved into the youngest child's room. Her things were dumped into the spare (storage) room. She sleeps in her parents bed so they thought it would work, but of course she is used to coming into her room when she wakes at the weekend. And now she doesn't have anywhere she can call her own. This is only a temporary arrangement until the father gets back from China on the 8th March and sorts out the room downstairs for me. At present it has a running and rowing machine and a sauna in it. And now it has my bicycle in there too because the garage needs sorting out before that goes away. That room isn't as big as it sounds. The rowing machine does not have it's own floor space.
So I got to know the girls a little. None of the doors in the house are ever closed apart from (presumably) when the adults go to the toilet, so the closed door to my room didn't signify to the girls. The eldest girl did knock each time she wanted to come in but always expected entry, and the youngest just opened the door and walked in. The mother wanted me to explain that I wasn't always available to them because, she said they wouldn't take any notice of her.
So how do I explain to a 5 year old that I want some privacy without making her feel rejected?
The eldest girl, aged nine, I'll call Sunshine in this blog. She chose it for her blog name when I talked about her starting a blog, but she could easily be called Princess.
The youngest I could call Boy, because she wants to be one, or Spiderman because she's keen on him, or in fact any aggressive adventure hero. I could call her Monkey because she loves climbing and is full of energy. Or I could stick to the meteorological theme and call her Storm because she is so forceful. But all those names have a negative connotation in my mind and I don't want to label her negatively. I'm wondering what her Higher Self would like me to call her? Well, as I haven't got that answer yet I'll not call her anything until I'm clear what to do.
Today I didn't have the hours of school to myself as the mother, who'll I'll call Emma, predicted because Sunshine, who was not too well all weekend had nearly vomited on Sunday night so she stayed off school.
She watched a DVD in her parents bed first thing. (She doesn't sleep much in her bed either.) And then I read her some of Born to Run by Micheal Murpogo about a greyhound dog. I got it out of the library on Saturday using one of the girl's tickets. We got up to page 43 when I sensed she'd had enough. I wondered how we could remember the number and suggested we visualised the 4 being a door. Sunshine suggested the 3 was lips and so we thought the lips could be kissing the door. In the evening when she was recounting her day to her mum, she remembered the page number and mimed kissing a door.
Then she wanted to look at a new book she's got on the human body. We put the height chart poster up and measured her foot, hand and height, against it. Then she chose certain pages to look at in the book.
I then went downstairs to do my laundry and started ironing. She asked to iron and so, with a little trepidation on my part, she ironed several items of clothing. She then had something to eat and played with the kittens.
She was feeling a little better so we decided to go to the garden centre because I wanted to get a Boston Fern plant to purify the air in my room. The carpet was still giving off formaldehyde and the Boston Fern is the best plant to purify that substance. The rest of the house of course has the same problem but it isn't so apparent as the other doors are all kept open. I bought a Peace Lily on Saturday but even with the window permenantly open, I was still waking up with achy muscles, a sure sign in my body of toxicity. The Peace Lily possess half the efficiency of the Boston Fern in the formaldehyde transmutation.
The car seat was in Emma's car so we visited her at work and transferred it to the Jeep, which they've given me to drive. This is another temporary situation. When the father, I'll call him Craig, comes back he's going to sell the tiny Ka and the enormous Jeep and get a medium sized car. I will be more comfortable with that. Driving a large vehicle is fine in the USA with the wider roads and larger parking spaces but it's not so easy in Britain. Also a more economical car will be easier on my pocket when I use it for private trips at weekends.
I haven't found the Tom Tom SAT NAV to be very good. On Sunday, it tried very hard to get me to go though a pedestrian walkway. It never gave up the fight until I reprogrammed it to go home. Two community police officers were very helpful. This afternoon it wanted to take me on quite the wrong route to the garden centre. I know it was the wrong route because after the walkway fiasco I bought a map. Well, I wasn't much better than the SAT NAV and I went on a long detour of villages before we eventually arrived at the garden centre. Unfortunately the stock had run down very low due to the bad weather and so I bought all the Boston Ferns they had; 3 tiny pots, and a tiny ivy.
Sunshine's money was burning a hole in her purse and she bought two pots of Primulas.
Arriving back at Corby we were in time to pick up younger sister from school, and called into the office again for the other car seat. Arriving at school, Sunshine started coughing again, and I told her that she didn't have to be ill to stay off school. She could just tell her mother she wanted to be home-schooled. But she said she would miss her friends and wasn't convinced that having them home to play after school would work. so, maybe her mum's right and she won't be joining us for education at home.
Back home the youngest helped make fried egg on bread for herself. Then the girls made Turkey Korma under my direction. Sunshine laid the table very fancy-like and changed into a posh party dress. this was a special occasion as they don't usually eat at the table. She asked me if I had a dress, and on getting a negative answer asked me if I had anything smarter to change into. I did, so I did.
So it was into the lounge for a game of football with the youngest until Emma came home.
Earlier in the day Sunshine was asking if what we were doing would be what we'd do if I home-schooled her. Of course I said yes, and she insisted in labelling what we had done with school subjects. She couldn't think what lesson the ironing would go into so I assured her that there was much more to life than school subjects.
On the way home we made up many different verses to the song 'Thank You Lord for this Fine Day'. I suppose you could call that Music and Religious education.
At the dinner table Sunshine surprised her mother because she wanted to sing that prayer she had learned before we ate, so we sang "Thank You Lord for this Fine Food". Well, the parents did advertise for a person who shared their faith.