Sunday, 22 February 2015

Feeling Sheepish in the Lake District!


There is the sound of a whirring sewing machine in the kitchen as my daughter starts her first attempt at dressmaking. We discovered a newly opened scrap store yesterday and came home armed with material, stamps, paint, magazines, wool and ribbons- heaven! Half term has been a haze of sewing, crocheting, planting and creativity. In fact my daughter has said she would like to have a go at making her own clothes, so having managed a cowl with material from the scrap store and mastered how to thread the machine she is ready for trying something simple.I will post the results when we've made something!

It's half term but ,as with any home educating family , the learning always continues. We received a text from my daughter's ELBS (enviromental and landbased science) teacher this week to say her lambs had been born and did she want to see them? We didn't need to be asked again.They were born right on cue on Pancake day.Two tup lambs.
Weighing the lambs


At Boon Cragg national trust farm in Coniston lambing normally takes place in April where there are two lots of around 400 lambs born every year. The students' sheep, of which there are eleven , were sponged to time the birth for February so they could get individual attention as the students have to weigh them and monitor their health. First the lambs were weighed, then their sex was checked to see whether they were gimmers or tups.



Practising with the spray paint







Then after a practice with the spray canister, they were each numbered.The sheep in the barn were Charollais and there were several Tup lambs.The farmer normally prefers the gimmers (female sheep) but this time he was pleased as he wanted to sell them for breeding as the Charolais will be shown at Westmorland show.They weren't particularly attractive sheep like the Herdwicks, having rather square faces and being all white (at least these were) but they make a good price. One of the ewes had given birth to three lambs but had sufficient milk to feed all three.Another sheep lambed after her with a singleton lamb. If she had lambed first then one of the three would have been passed to her to feed to make it easier.


Numbering the lambs



My daughter's lambs on the other hand are Texels . There were outside when we saw them but would be brought in at night.It took us a while to get them to pose for their pictures!





My daughter's lambs with their mum!




And all the time we were up the farm we were surrounded by the sights and sounds of spring. The snowdrops are out and the primroses and crocuses and the daffodils are just about to open ready for a new half term of planting and growing in the new school greenhouse!

Spring is here again!
Texels

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Computer Programming for Kids!

I've been planting primroses in pots today.It's one of the spin offs of having a large garden, flowers such as primroses, foxgloves and forgetmenots seed profusely and there are always spares. I'm hoping that these will root and bloom in time to pot up into pretty cups and mugs for Easter as we are planning a coffee morning to raise money for our local NAS.

Google is coding. In fact he has been coding for the last fortnight. He's been talking about "matrixes, " "vectors," and  "variables".Then a friend added "arrays" to the mix - a whole new language for me! As always in these cases when I don't know the answers I've bought him a book which arrived today  The Computer Game Design Course  . At the moment that's what Google  thinks he wants to do , so until he decides otherwise thet's what we'll concentrate on. Google tells me that he is using Computercraft from Minecraft but he has already bought a tome called Java for Dummies. My friend tells me that once you can program then it's fairly easy to read other computer languages too .

Google tells me that he was speaking to a friend who goes to school and is a year older than him. His friend is doing programming as part of the national curriculum and they are using Scratch . I recognised the name and realised that Scratch was the program used by Google four or five years ago when he first began to dabble in programming and I was looking for advice. The advice I was given was to give him the space and time to teach himself and that's exactly what I did. It's working too.Computers are such an intricate part of our world and whether we like it or not it helps to understand them.

So if, like me you have a child who loves computers and you aren't at all technically minded, don't worry.Just sit with him and ask him to explain what he's doing, get on home education forums and ask for advice, borrow or buy books, watch you tube, do online courses.Anything and everything to build up your knowledge in readiness for your child's next step (because it does appear to work like building blocks, Google learns for an intense period then stops for a while and starts up again when his brain has absorped all he's learned)
If you are looking for a simple book for beginners then this one wasn't around when Google was small but looks clear and interesting.Computer coding for Kids It's cheap with. The Book People. We also borrowed this book which is more expensive from our local library which some may find useful!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Changing the world of School!

Yesterday I watched a documentary called Schooling the World  It hit me like a lightening bolt that the current education system in the western world is way past it's sell by date. Desperate to give their children the chance to be educated and have opportunities they hadn't had ,parents in India were sending their children to school in towns and cities with the result that the children no longer had any idea of how to live independently outside of an economic society. One villager explained that as children it had been drilled into them the need to keep the rivers clean as people living beneath them on the mountain had a need for drinking water, now the rivers in the valley were full of litter and polluted leaving the water unfit to drink. This,she explained, was because the children no longer had an attachment to the land and didn't understand the consequences of their actions.

The point of the programme was not to say that we shouldn't be educated but that a western form of education was irrelevant and indeed was often harmful to community and society where the culture and traditions were different.

The message of Westernised education was that education brought with it better jobs, money and success. In fact it was the villagers working high up in the mountains who seemed the happiest, despite their way of life. Children played contentedly in the fields whilst their parents worked and villagers sang and laughed as they worked together.

In contrast,children in the classrooms, both in America and India looked disengaged and bored. Obviously the director chose his shots well but the message was clear that if we lump everyone together and teach them all the same thing then we lose our individuality and our creativity and at its worst it effects our ability to live sustainably and community disintegrates

The system we have now is three hundred years old. A short period of history in the scheme of things. Schooling became a compulsory when people flocked to the cities for work as a result of the industrial revolution and parents needed child care and a way to help their children read and write so that they could get employment.

The intention was well meaning - to pull people out of poverty and mould them to suit the workforce. We are however in the middle of a new revolution. One where technology enables you to learn remotely and when you need to. We live in a society when people are beginning to realise that money doesn't bring happiness and that many of the things we are doing to our planet in the name of the economy are destroying our planet , our health.and our sense of community.

Our children , need life skills. They can't all be farmers but they do need to know where their food comes from, the impact of additives in our foods and chemicals on our crops.They need to understand the  influence of large corporations over Government and the economy .School isn't teaching them these things neither is it teaching them  the ability to think for themselves and make decisions following their own research rather than merely accepting what is 'spoon fed' to them through the media and the education system.

It's time for change, not the sort introduced by government every two or three years but a radical shake up or how and what our children learn . I wonder when it will come?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Snow going back!


 "Just landed in Turin" came the text from my daughter this morning as I set out with the dogs. My husband has taken her and her brother on their first skiing trip which is something they have wanted to do for a few years now but couldn't afford to do. The chance to go with school was a possibility but when my husband realised that in fact three of them could go for the same cost as one child with school AND have two lesson with a British Olympian ski instructor to boot then it was clear that the opportunity for our children needed to be grasped.

We looked at what she would learn- a new sport to enhance her P.E . G.C.S.E and her D of E. The opportunity to experience first hand glaciation, a subject which she has covered for geography, the chance to practice her French (despite flying to Italy they are skiing in the French Alps). The chance to improve her photography skills (she is doing photography for her D of E ) and trying out the thermal springs and learning why they are warm.

Google was anxious, he didn't fancy skiing and I had visions of being stuck up a mountain with him refusing to come down so that's how we came to the decision to stay behind. Life is too short, you need to grab opportunities when they come along as they might not come round again.

My plan is to take a break too. To do new challenges and try new food.Watch films I've been meaning to watch for ages, read books and most of all walk. I've been on a new walk this morning up the fells.It took me up above the village and I've  taken photos above our house,seen my first lamb,witnessed swathes of snow drops and arrived home feeling rosy and healthy. Another walk is planned for tomorrow ,it's forecast cloudy but dry!


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Working together for the better!



Well the New Year is here and all sorts of new ideas keep popping into my head.I find it always helps keep me on my toes to find new challenges and goals and it's the best part of home education too as no two days are every the same.

On the walking front I may have found myself a walking partner to help me with my  walking practice  for the C2B this year.As with many things in this house,it sort of happened by accident. In my walks round the village I've often bumped into a lady who is probably my nearest neighbour from the next hamlet, in that she lives two fields away from my house and I walk along a public footpath which runs behind her house when I take the dogs out. Her  vegetable plot lies adjacent to the path and it is a great gathering spot for discussion and passing the time of day.

Some time ago I was speaking to her and said that instead of all the villagers walking alone we should have a designated day when, if you felt like company, we should meet up at an appointed place and time each week and anyone who happened to be there , whether elderly, young , fit or frail could walk together (a sort of community walk).

A few weeks later we met at a Ceilidh and she said, " I was thinking about the walking idea, perhaps we should give it a try" .So for now it's the two of us.We had our first walk last Thursday, chatting and getting to know one another and we found we had a lot in common. She is even thinking of doing the C2B! We are walking again next week and I'll report back and let you know how we're getting on.

I've also plucked up the courage to offer a neighbour a patch of our garden to grow vegetables. I've been toying with the idea of a community garden for a while now as we have so much land and there is'nt enough time in the day for me to keep it all well tended.She would like to grow vegetables and I would benefit from someone tending a patch in my garden. Again,although I had been mulling over the idea for a while, it wasn't planned. Our neighbours had run out of wood for their wood burner, and whilst we have lots of wood, we have no wood burner so my husband offered them some seasoned wood that we had piled up in the garden. In return we got a lovely bag of home  made scones and my neighbour  chopped up a fallen tree with his chain saw and took it away for burning next year. It turns out that he has various chain saw certificates and can help us cut some trees down so he is going to do some work with my husband in the garden and use the space we have to store some wood for next year.

The idea of becoming self sufficient really appeals to me.It is happening gradually as the children become more independent and I have more free time. Having the hens means I am able to give the surplus eggs to neighbours in return for a donation to our local National Autistic society. I didn't buy them to make money,I love them clucking round the garden when I'm out in the sunshine and this year we took our first batch of battery hens which are all doing really well and looking plump and happy in their new homes!

I've decided to have a cut flower patch too. I am clearing some land to help my neighbours get started with their vegetables. I will just extend it to add a flower border which will give me pleasure and hopefully lots of flowers for our cottage!

So it looks as though I'm going to be busy.Hopefully in the summer I'll be able to post some photos of  the flowers I've grown!



Thursday, 15 January 2015

We don't need no Education.Teachers leave those kids alone!

I've been reading Free to Learn .It's a book about unschooling which often works well with oppositional Autistic children. It explained that you have to  turn your ideas of 'education' on their head and give back control to your child.It certainly worked for us.

So when my daughter (who is in mainstream school) tells me that some of the pupils in her year were not allowed to do "COPE" as an option because the powers that be think "they are too clever", or that the government are going to put an end to the ELBS. (Land based science to you and me) or that they won't be doing GCSE. P.E . at school after the current course ends, alarm bells start to ring!

One thing that unschooling has taught me is that it enables your child to learn for themselves what interests and motivates them and what is relevant to them at that time.Having a foot in both camps I am learning that my daughter is not being taught to question what the teachers tell her but simply to apply the knowledge to her exam papers so that she gets a good mark.That's all well and good in the short term but it certainly diesn't prepare you for  life beyond school.

Only this morning on the radio, politicians were looking at ways to encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle. Insisting that young children  have a school dinner and banning packed lunches or deciding to discontinue GCSE P.E is unlikely to have the same impact as learning to grow your own vegetables, or spending a day on the fells dry stone walling or hedging and nurturing a love of gardening or the great outdoors.

The trouble with the current education system is that it is not forward thinking enough.It lurches from one idea to another as one by one a new education minister is put in power wanting to put his or her political stamp on the education system.

So where does that leave us? We can't all home educate our children although we do all want to give them the best education we can .

The answer I think is to realise that the education system has its limitations.It's not meeting the needs of many autistic, dyslexic or other children challenged by disability or learning difficulties. Education starts with us at home.We cannot all be Mathematicians or linguists or scientists but we all know people who are or have access to television documentaries about things we don't understand.

Sit down at the table together for family meals (apparently most of us don't do that anymore).Share news, discuss what has been taught at school, throw in opposing views for discussion and encourage our children to get involved in activities outside school such  as Explorer scouts, community choirs, Duke of Edinburgh, where they will learn a whole new set of skills currently missing from the national curriculum.Enable them to be well rounded individuals who follow their passions .Guerilla Learning is a great place to start changing your perspective if you are not already questioning the system. It's never too late.Education in the UK is compulsory until you are 18 in the UK nowadays.I am confident that the Frost family education will continue for life!

We don't need no Education.Teachers leave those kids alone!

I've been reading Free to Learn .It's a book about unschooling which often works well with oppositional Autistic children. It explained that you have to  turn your ideas of 'education' on their head and give back control to your child.It certainly worked for us.

So when my daughter (who is in mainstream school) tells me that some of the pupils in her year were not allowed to do "COPE" as an option because the powers that be think "they are too clever", or that the government are going to put an end to the ELBS. (Land based science to you and me) or that they won't be doing GCSE. P.E . at school after the current course ends, alarm bells start to ring!

One thing that unschooling has taught me is that it enables your child to learn for themselves what interests and motivates them and what is relevant to them at that time.Having a foot in both camps I am learning that my daughter is not being taught to question what the teachers tell her but simply to apply the knowledge to her exam papers so that she gets a good mark.That's all well and good in the short term but it certainly diesn't prepare you for  life beyond school.

Only this morning on the radio, politicians were looking at ways to encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle. Insisting that young children  have a school dinner and banning packed lunches or deciding to discontinue GCSE PE is unlikely to have the same impact as learning to grow your own vegetables, or spending a day on the fells dry stone walling or hedging and nurturing a love of gardening or the great outdoors.

The trouble with the current education system is that it is not forward thinking enough.It lurches from one idea to another as one by one a new education minister is put in power wanting to put his or her political stamp on the education system.

So where does that leave us? We can't all home educate our children although we do all want to give them the best education we can .

The answer I think is to realise that the education system has its limitations.It is not meeting the needs of many autistic, dyslexic or other children challenged by disability or learning difficulties. Education starts with us at home.We cannot all be Mathematicians or linguists or scientists but we all know people who are or have access to television documentaries about things we don't understand.

Sit down at the table together for family meals (apparently most of us don't do that anymore).Share news, discuss what has been taught at school, throw in opposing views for discussion and encourage our children to get involved in activities outside school such  as Explorer scounts, community choirs, Duke of Edinburgh, where they will learn a whole new set of skills currently missing from the national curriculum.Enable them to be well rounded individuals who follow their passions .Guerilla Learning is a great place to start changing your perspective if you are not already questioning the system. It's never too late.Education in the UK is compulsary until you are 18 in the UK nowadays.I am confident that the Frost family education will continue for life!