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We haven’t done much remarkable lately. The five-year-old is learning to read, fairly organically. The seven-year-old is reading voraciously, a mixture of Enid Blyton and non-fiction and things she finds lying around. The one-year-old can stand on tiptoe and almost jump.

Weirdly, I haven’t read to the older two for AGES. I’d like to, but I am not sure how to invite them to join me; they are always so BUSY. We’ve done a bit of cooking together, housework, adding up and measuring. I’ve been teaching the eldest the tricks of spelling and mental arithmetic, mainly when I’m too busy to go and help her “properly” but it all seems to help.

Biology continues to fascinate. I guess just having a body is interesting in itself. Certainly the one-year-old likes getting her clothes out of the way and having a good explore.

They’ve been interested to see how potplants revive when watered after a prolonged period of neglect. And how mould grows in damp places. Educational housework. Heh.

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.

Aha! My eldest reads like crazy, though we are now beginning to keep up with her intake ok, but the middle child didn’t much want to until lately. It turns out that in spite of not wanting to she can read the names of almost all the characters in the “Floppy books” (Oxford Reading Tree) and a few things like “a,” “the,” “and,” etc.

I have bought a bunch of Key Stage materials so that I have some idea of what other people will expect them to know. Looks like they know pretty much most of it and I can see about filling in the gaps if that looks appropriate. We Shall See.

There’s nothing in there about their areas of special interest, though, because I got the stuff in WHS. Human Anatomy, Sewing, Growing Food, and Cooking aren’t part of the under-sevens tested standards, it seems – literacy and numeracy are the big ones.

Ah well. I’ve never been very big anyway.

Because of our careless, happy go lucky, parentally disinterested take on education – um, or possibly child-led, it all depends – we don’t often have clear evidence of what the children know or don’t know.

But we happened to see the back of a book Linnea was reading to Emer the other day, “Until I Met Dudley,” and it said Key Stage Two, so although it’s a Baby Book by their lights, I can confidently say she’s reading at the right Key Stage. And then later she made interconnected words with Bananagrams letters, and it turns out she does know the alphabet by heart, though she only ever sings it “wrong”, presumably because that’s funnier.

I have no idea what stage she’s at mathematically but I expect I’ll find a way to figure it out soon enough.

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


“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.

Gory Stories

I just realised I left the bit about reading scary, gory sections (to Linnea, 4y6m) from books hanging. The pig-butchering and headcheese-making scene in Little House in the Big Woods went down well, but the book got incredibly boring at the sugaring-off dance, so we’ve left it for now. We’ll come back to it again, later, I think – she likes to flick through it and look at the illustrations of the parts we’ve read and “read” them to Emer (2y3m).

When my naughty little sister was good has no scary bits.

We are now in another phase of no-no-don’t-read-to-me-mummy. She has also decided that she can’t write her name – and has never been able to write her name – this has always been so, this will always be so – perhaps we’ll read 1984 next.

Along with not being able to read again comes a leap in personal hygiene and grooming. And more begging for a bruvva.

Well, it was all my own issue. Linnea was quiet and attentive during the description of killing and eating deer, then more involved – active – something – for the description of building and using a smokehouse. The part which really disturbed me, as a child, is the pig-butchering, and that’s coming up soon. We Shall See.

Linnea is very pleased that they had a dog to protect them from the wolves.

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.

Dinosaurs. We are all about dinosaurs at the moment. Rob and Linnea both know 67 times more than I do about them. I don’t think either of them would be terribly impressed by the cardboard pterodactyl costume in which I once incarcerated my sister.

And Linnea still swears up and down that she cannot read. Nope. Can’t. I don’t mind much since she has conceded that she can keep her underwear dry all day and all night. The whole reading thing is so emotionally loaded – it’s like I have a responsibility, as an early-reading bright parent, to have an early-reading and bright child; early reading is in fact often used as evidence of brightness, and its lack implies… Hmph.

I do realise that number two daughter is getting far less art input than number one daughter, presumably because I have less time to keep the house clear enough – hopefully the new wipe-clean flooring (replacing, of all things, acrylic-mix beige fitted carpet!) will help me allow them more messy art. Though I will never become reconciled to washable (hah!) markers.

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