Wednesday, 20 June 2018

30 Days Wild - Day 20

Making the most of these long, light midsummer evenings with a simple fire in the fire pit after dinner, and chocolate bananas for a pre-bedtime snack …


30 Days Wild - Day 19

Great excitement today watching our 5 caterpillars crawl up to the top of their pot where they positioned themselves ready to turn into chrysalises … Such an amazing transformation to observe … We transferred them into the chrysalis station and butterfly habitat and now await their emergence …


30 Days Wild - Day 18

Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best … Playtime beneath a blue sky.

Playgrounds built from wood and natural materials are always the best!


Monday, 18 June 2018

30 Days Wild - Day 17

This morning, my six-year-old was set on making clay models of his favourite creatures: a shark, a jellyfish, a dolphin, a whale, a gulper eel, a butterfly, a duck-billed platypus. There is an oceans theme underlying much of his play and learning at the moment …

In the garden, the first flower appeared on my beautiful passiflora …

And this afternoon, smallest son and I sat down to watch a documentary about orang-utans: Red Ape - Saving the Orangutan. My son has loved orangutans from babyhood, and wanted to watch this although I said some scenes might be upsetting. They were. It reminded us again about the reckless destruction of Borneo's rainforests, and the relentless onslaught of palm oil plantations, row upon row of palm trees, from horizon to horizon, as far as the eye can see. Homeless and orphaned orangutans in their hundreds. And still the global market demands more, more of this madness. Please watch the programme. Please check your supermarket products for palm oil, and refuse it or demand sustainably sourced. It is in most margarines, and most snack and processed foods. It is in some breads. It is in Cadbury chocolate, much to my dismay. It is in many cosmetics and beauty products. Be warned. Awareness of this product could seriously change your shopping habits!


"Y1 should be like early years, not vice versa."

I've been saying this for years … Yet the DfE still seems to be going in the wrong direction …

"Y1 should be like early years, not vice versa."
"It shouldn't be about children being ready for school, but schools being ready for children," writes Aidan Severs.

Read the full article HERE.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Tougher Maths GCSE is calculated to multiply stress and failure

Revamped exams for 15-year-olds are retrograde and will hurt less able students, argues Kenneth Baker (Conservative peer and former Education Secretary) in The Financial Times

Read the full article HERE.

30 Days Wild - Day 16

There was a Wildfest event at one of our local Wildlife Trusts today, so my six-year-old and I went along this morning.

We had a busy day today, so couldn't stay long, but he got to bash out some leaves and flowers on to a piece of cloth to create a unique art work, and to craft a clay hedgehog, which he enjoyed.


Friday, 15 June 2018

30 Days Wild - Day 15

We have been involved for some time in a community allotment. It is a great way to learn from others and to enjoy the pleasures of an allotment without the full responsibility, which I would find overwhelming.

It is good to be part of a team, to learn more about growing things from folks more knowledgeable than I, to enjoy tilling the earth and observing the turn of the seasons.

I have found it to be a wonderful space for reflection and prayer, and for friendship to grow. And my boys enjoy it. We haven't had as much time to give recently, but today's random act of wildness involved going up to water the allotment, and to gather ripe strawberries …

There are several community allotments in our city, so if you have thought of getting an allotment, but worried you'd be taking on more than you could manage, maybe you can find a similar project near you.

30 Days Wild - Day 14

Elderflower Cordial
Recipe from River Cottage

Makes about 2 litres
About 25 elderflower heads
Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
1kg sugar
1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using). Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

Enjoy diluted with sparkling spring water. Or add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries. Or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.


Trauma Informed Teaching: A Whole School Approach

"What we should be measuring and comparing is not our children but the quality of the learning environments we provide for them." (Carol Black)

A Nashville elementary school takes a comprehensive approach to trauma-informed practices, creating a space where students feel known and supported. It is interesting as a whole-school transformation, recognising the need to change completely the environments in which we expect children to learn. Emphasizing social and emotional learning and trauma-informed practices is a path to improving students’ academic outcomes. Natalie Vadas, a special education teacher, says that when students “know they can trust you and they talk to you, their academics start to blossom.”

Many of these strategies can and do happen in a home education context, which is why our state education system has such a lot it can learn from alternative educational settings. I wish they would sit up and take notice.

Read, watch and learn more about trauma informed practice at Fall-Hamilton Elementary, in Nashville, by clicking HERE. Interesting for anyone who believes the transformation of our institutions is not possible.

Children, Learning and the "Evaluative Gaze" of School

Carol Black is one of my unschooling heroes, and this is a wonderful, thought-provoking article. Couple the 'evaluative gaze' of school with the 'evaluative gaze' of social media, and we begin to see clearly why so many of our young people, so many of us, so many of our children are struggling with our self-esteem, our wellbeing, our sense of true self. We forget who we were created to be.

Maybe this explains, too, in a way which people can understand, how reluctant we home educators are to open ourselves, our homes and our children to the judging eyes of local authorities, who may or may not have an understanding of the way learning can look outside the school walls, outside of the established system. Carol quotes, too, Alfie Kohn, whose writing I also highly recommend.

"What we should be measuring and comparing is not our children but the quality of the learning environments we provide for them," says Carol. I couldn't agree more.

You can read the full article by clicking HERE. Please do.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

30 Days Wild - Day 13

This afternoon we gathered with friends to learn about Midsummer and St John's Tide. St John's Wort is just emerging from bud, and we gathered the flower heads to marinate in extra virgin olive oil in the sunshine until the oil turns red to produce an antiseptic oil, good for use on broken or bruised skin and for rubbing in to soothe aching muscles and joints. I have friends who know about such things, and am trusting their advice. For now, our jar of oil sits infusing upon our window sill.

We also gathered a basketful of sweet-scented elderflowers with which to try making elderflower cordial, inspired by my friend, who had made some already and shared it with us today. Absolutely delicious with sparkling water for a refreshing summer tipple.


30 Days Wild - Day 12

Antics in our garden this morning, watching a pair of squirrels raiding our bird feeders. A pigeon was also after the seeds on the ground around the feeders, and the approaching squirrel was intimidated by the pigeon's presence.

The squirrel cautiously edges closer, folding his tail over his body and holding himself low to the ground. He is determined, though. The pigeon stands his ground, but the squirrel has the advantage of being able to climb the pole and hang upside down to raid the feeders.

Now the pigeon's patience pays off, as the squirrel's antics throw a good amount of seed to the ground for him to peck up. There is a pair of blackbirds gathering worms in our garden each day, too, and robins and tits on the feeders. Smallest son is keen to spot and identify the many winged visitors to the garden.

This week, on several occasions, I have taken a different route home which has taken me off the main roads and down the quieter by-ways through open countryside. It is pleasanter driving, and a small detour from the rush of urban life which can help us connect with the countryside. A good tip for busy parents ... Too much of my time at the moment is spent driving Mum's taxi!

In other news, our caterpillars are steadily growing ... How many days until they transform into their hanging chrysalises? They are being watched with interest!


30 Days Wild - Day 11

Monday mornings usually take us to our local leisure centre for swimming, and my 6 year old enjoys playing on the play area out front. But there is always a scattering of litter around the place … some drink cans, and plenty of plastic, usually cups, straws, wrappers. There is a bin there, and I really don't understand why people can't be bothered to use it. Anyway, we often do a brief litter pick around the place. My son has become expert at spotting pieces of litter!


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Consultation

I have spent the best part of two days studying the Department for Education's consultation on revisions to the guidance for Elective Home Education, and it feels like an arduous task. However, it is important.

Reading through the paperwork, it feels as if the attitude towards home education moves from an innocent until proven guilty position, by which I mean you are left alone until and unless there is a cause for concern, under which circumstances the local authority already have the powers they need to act; to a guilty until you can prove you are innocent position, in other words, home education is shrouded with suspicion and mistrust unless and until parents prove to their local authority that a suitable education is being provided. This seems to go against the presumption of innocence so important in a modern democracy.

The document is unnecessarily draconian and authoritarian. It is also long, unwieldy and daunting to engage with, especially when we are busy with other important things, such as educating our children! However, there are many resources around on the web to help you to complete the document.

Read, research, utilise the help and advice on offer, then fill in the form in your own words. This blog post from Dare to Know is particularly useful. Have a look, and remember, you don't have to agree. Share your own experiences, your own opinions on this …. Make your voice heard. The deadline is July 2nd.

Suggestions as to how to Complete the EHE Call for Evidence

Sunday, 10 June 2018

30 Days Wild - Day 10

Lots of activity in the garden today from the baby great tits, and my 6 year old also enjoyed making a cress caterpillar ...


Saturday, 9 June 2018

30 Days Wild - Day 9

This morning, I was summoned urgently to our garden by my 6 year old son ... "Mummy, there are lots of little birds in the tree. 4 or even 5. Come and see. Quickly!" Indeed there were a number of little fluffy balls of grey and yellow, and a lot of noisy chirps and chirruping. Our assumption was that a family had fledged their nest. We watched for a good long while as they hopped around our and our neighbours' gardens, flitting from trees to rooftops to feeders, and not sitting still for long enough for me to snap a picture until the late afternoon ....

In the evening, we watched the film 'Albatross' with a friend of ours, in celebration of World Oceans Day yesterday. You can watch the trailer HERE. The film documents the life of the albatross colony on Midway Islands in the Pacific, an environment which looks pristine, but where toxic plastic is killing these amazing seafaring birds in a most sinister manner.

It is an artistic and emotive film, beautifully shot, which seeks to forge an emotional connection between the audience and these graceful giants of the skies. Of course, those of us familiar with Coleridge's poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) see also the metaphor, that as we kill these haunting birds, we bring a curse upon ourselves. Perhaps our collective responsibility for the rubbish which chokes and kills the albatross is a burden we must carry about our necks and carry as penance. Indeed, the film maker, Chris Jordan, hopes the story he portrays will change the way we see everything.

When we see the destruction of the natural world, it seems to me right that we should be moved to grief. This grief is an expression of our love for our beautiful world, for our fellow creatures. At the end of his film, Chris Jordan reflects upon his experience ... "I saw that grief is not the same as sadness or despair. Grief is the same as love. Grief is a felt experience of love for something we are losing or have lost. When we surrender to grief, it carries us home to our deepest connection with life. I didn't know I could care about an albatross."