School

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We were supposed to go to the hospital for a tedious checkup thing today, and I was going to enliven it with a visit to the Museum of English Rural Life again, but the toddler has possible chicken pox so that was out. I cancelled my appointment, the sun suddenly came out, and this happened:

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Digging up our Grow Your Own Potatoes bag.

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Finding a recipe…

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… and following it…

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… and finally, serving it to their adoring and hungry mother. It was delish, actually, and there’s more dressing left over for later.

I was so impressed and pleased that I decided to dig out their corner and make it nice again:
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New term! September! New year! In an alternate universe, Linnea is in something like Year Three, I think, and Emer is starting Year One. Actually, they are nothing of the kind, but it sometimes helps to remember what we’d be doing if they were, sometimes.Linnea recently read her first Young Adult novel – a friend had just finished Anna Carey’s The Real Rebecca and was going to lend it to me, but Linnea got there first. She really, really enjoyed it, and although it took her longer to read than most of her books – that is, more than one sitting – she persevered over little bursts of reading over several days, and finished it all. She hasn’t told me what it’s about or what about it she enjoyed, but she kept going back for more and wants us to buy it.Emer is getting more and more like a pre-reader, though I may have the technical terms wrong. She is reading some words and can recognise all the letters and write some things, but isn’t reading sentences or anything yet. I’ve offered to do regular reading practice with her but she’s not interested.Astrid can walk, and says all SORTS of things which we know are real words, and today Rob saw her spearing pasta with a fork and feeding herself with it. So that’s nice.I wonder what we’ll do this year?

I just discovered Khan Academy. Given that the seven-year-old spent today wandering around saying stuff like “I want to do number bonds!” and has been craving what I think of as tedious repetition in maths, this is brilliant. One grows tired of setting these things oneself and for some reason long sheets with dozens of exercises on a page don’t appeal to her, she wants dozens of exercises but no more than three to a page, if you see what I mean.

Emer found it dull, though. Emer, in fact, has been wondering whether she might like to start school. We Shall See. Now that Linnea is getting actual sleep almost every night, instead of having prolonged anxiety attacks, or attacks of anxiety, rather, we have far more options available to us.

Emer’s big thing of the day was reading to me. She read me almost all of a Big Bear, Little Bear book – she has it almost word-perfect, which makes me think she’s genuinely reading some of the words as memory-joggers. I hassled and harassed her big sister into performing “reading” for me, and it’s lovely to see it happening naturally for Emer, now that I’ve learned to leave well alone.

And Astrid can take one step, and says “Up” and “Ush” (push) and all our names and everything.

The other day, as Linnea was eating her supper, I said “Your friends who are in school – they are all five, like you.”

“Yes.”

“The other children who are five are all learning to read and write, at school.”

“I don’t want to do that.”

“OK. Let me know if you want to.”

Her cousin in Sweden is also learning to read and write, because she is seven.

The children around us are getting used to being at school six hours a day. I’m not, but they are settling down ok.

And we’re working out what is best for us, too. We need to go out less, I think; my children want to spend hours at home playing with lego and reading books and dancing.

I’m trying to make a handy to-read pile for the four-year-old as we can get through fairly large chunks in one go. Someone else I know is reading “Little House In The Big Woods” to a much younger child and I am going to flick through it to see how bad the butchering / beestings incidents are, because Linnea will notice if I skip whole chapters. She tends to hand me the book open at the page we were last on (presumably using the numbers?) when it’s time to start reading again.

Edit: On page four she looks out her window to see two dead deer, and the butchering goes from there to the end of the pig bit, on and off. Now, she knows about meat-eating animals, and that people are made of meat, but me and my ex-vegetarian sensibilities are a little concerned that she’ll react more or less like I did when I learned where meat comes from. I was a terrible, tedious bore, but at least I could eat dairy products. A vegetarian four-year-old would really complicate things on us here.

On the other hand, looking at the very first illustration, a Garth Whatsisname one of Laura skipping along waving her bonnet, and Mary walking primly along with an armful of flowers, I
see that I was set up from the very beginning to want to hit Mary in the face with a lump of green, stringy, slimy seaweed and stuff some crabs down her dress.

My eldest child is four years, four months and three weeks old. The babies who were “in” our antenatal class have all started school – some of them are two months older but they are all about her age.

And this week many of them are on full days.

That’s thirty hours a week.

Half days were exhausting enough – one child was too tired to play with us after her second or third week of half-days at school. She was tired and cranky and cried with disappointment. Full days mean thirty hours a week.

Today my eldest daughter slept until 10 am. I have no idea why she slept so long. She just did. If she’d been at school, I’d have had to wake her a full two hours earlier to have any hope of getting there on time. She’d have been cranky and uncooperative – she is, when she’s woken up rather than allowed to wake naturally – and we’d have been late. And then, because she’s tired, she’d find it harder to get to sleep in the evening and be worse the next day.

And all this just as the sun comes out during the day – we had a miserable summer – and the mornings are getting darker and the evenings are drawing in.

I am so glad we’d already made this decision because I think I’d have made it in a hurry this autumn otherwise, and wouldn’t be so comfortable with it.

We’re hoping to go to Oxford to a museum on Thursday. Assuming I can work out how to get there. It’s cheaper than train tickets to London.

Well! We were ill the week before half term and then it was half term, so L was away from her two-days-a-week nursery for two weeks. The change was striking. She relaxed. She started to admit to knowledge again. She got really interested in dinosaurs and boasted about her knowledge. She started to draw again, and draw well, not at the peculiar regressive standard she had been at for a few months. She asked me to help her with a complicated dinosaur collage.

So the first Monday of the new term rolled around and she said she didn’t want to go, so I phoned the nursery and asked to speak to her key worker, because I wasn’t sure nursery was still the best place for her. I ended up speaking to someone I don’t know at all whom I was assured was The Manager. She told me that Linnea doesn’t do anything she’s asked to do, doesn’t use any of the offered opportunities, doesn’t join in the group activities, doesn’t socialise, and “is very negative – I don’t know if she gets it from you.”

That seemed fairly clear cut. The child I live with is outgoing, sociable, friendly, and definitely not negative unless provoked.

So she hasn’t been to nursery and she’s thriving on it. She’s doing her maths book and reading to herself and generally being lovely. She’s friendlier and less stressed. And I’m happier, too.

It’s sad, because I really liked that nursery and I loved her key worker, but she outgrew it quite quickly, I think, and it wasn’t good for her any more.

I’m so pleased the L I love is living with us again. And that we have so much more free unscheduled time. We’ve been painting again!

Doubts

Since she’s four, I’ve been hearing more and more that she ought to be at nursery. And that she must start school soon. More and more and more. And I’m also hearing about friends’ children who are reading, writing, hang-gliding etc, at the same age and younger.

It’s hard to remember that Linnea responds badly to being tested and prefers to keep anything she’s ever been tested on a secret. I know she can read because she’s done both word recognition and letter sounding out – but she swears now she can’t do it. And it seems to be true. Part of me thinks I’ve failed and part of me thinks she’s working on some new skill to do with reading, where before she did rote shape-recognition and guesswork, she’s now trying to figure it out from individual letters and she doesn’t quite like it as well because she can see the bits she doesn’t understand.

Praise is hard to navigate. It makes her fail on purpose.

All of this makes me think school would be a bad idea for her. But also that I’m a total failure, because goodness, a four-year-old who can’t read! I could read at four. Loads of my acquaintances children can and do read at four. Where have I gone wrong?

And let’s not discuss bladder control.

Nursery school

I have a difficult attitude to school, it seems. Recently we visited the local Montessori nursery
and it was so gorgeous that I decided to let Linnea go for her free place, one afternoon a week. We sorted out all the paperwork and after the half-term break, she had her first day.

That was Monday – it’s Wednesday now.

First, I was afraid we were going to be late, so I chivvied her along. Then I was afraid we were too early, until I saw some other mothers. Then I was worried I’d done something wrong, like hung her coat on the wrong hook, and then I didn’t know how to say goodbye appropriately.

Luckily, none of this fazed her in the least.

Then when it was time to pick her up I had to phone ahead to make sure I had the right time, and when I did pick her up I was anxious about going to fetch her from wherever she was.

She enjoyed herself enormously, I think, and everything is fine. But I need to work on my issues. I called my mother, and she says she felt the same when we were in school.

This morning, Linnea informed Rob that Ernest and Buttercup go to school. No, they don’t. But she’s sure that all Big Kids do, and they are both bigger’n she is, so…

Thing is, they’re our main contact with the Home Education community! Also an excellent source of childcare and isopropanol.

There’s a lot out there about school.

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