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Making a start · Thursday January 4, 2007 by Ann

by ann
Well I’m here-briefly!
I’ll start blogging properly after Tuesday, when we have returned from a long weekend away in Cornwall.
Today has been busy though-maybe after the weekend things will return to normal after the festivities.
My stepson has been staying for the last few days, he came for the New Year celebrations, which pleased us all. He lives in Nottingham and we don’t see him as often as we’d like. One of my stepdaughters also stayed along with her three year old daughter, Nancy, who we are looking after this week. I took my stepson into Birmingham to catch the train home-at the same time meeting Lucy our youngest, who has been away staying at a home educating friend’s house. I am so thrilled that she has begun to be so independant, after leaving school at 8 years old she was assessed as being severely dyslexic and I was told that she would never manage lessons without 1-1 supervsion. Her friend’s mom sorted out train times and today she caught the train from Chester and managed a change at Crewe-all by herself! She was confident she could do it. Thank goodness for mobile phones-I knew she could contact me if she got into difficulties. When I enquired how the journey went she said it had all been fine, although she had been a little puzzled about the spelling of ‘Crewe’ The ‘extra e’ on the end confused her and she wondered if she had got it wrong-so she checked all the boards to see if there was another place spelt something like ‘Crew/Croo/Cru’, when there wasn’t, she realised she was right first time-and therefore didn’t need to phone me. This conversation led us back to an old subject of English spellings and the root of words- a subject she is very interested in. My other two childre are dyslexic, but not as severely so, they learned to read at an earlier age than Lucy and seemed to accept spellings were the way they were told. Lucy was diagnosed as having no ability to recognise shapes of words or the sounds the letters make. She started to read finally at 13-and she questions the spellings of words all the times. She wants to apply logic to them or to at least understand the root of it or why it defies known spelling rules.
The ‘Crewe/Croo’ comment also made me realise anew, just how much harder a dyslexic has to work to make sense of the world.
Anyway on arriving home, Lucy went straight to her laptop and signed into MSN to chat to her friends all over the country-again something I doubted at times that she would ever manage without me! She caught up with another home ed friend ‘Melissa’ last week who she hasn’t been in contact with since Peak camp ‘05, just before this particular friends family moved abroad. Melissa was flabbergasted that this was actually Lucy typing on MSN. Her comment was “Your writing and spelling are so much better-you couldn’t have done this when I saw you last-I wouldn’t have been able to understand you!” but of course, like most 14 year olds Lucy wants to be able to converse with her friends and this has been a huge motivation for her-and a jolly fun way of practising too!

I have got to dash now to go shopping ready to leave in the morning-my cousins are having a 20th anniversary party on Saturday night. We have a special deal at Travelodge-one of their family rooms for £15 a night-thank you to the home educating friend who told us about them. At that price, we decided to take advantage and stay for several nights spending some time in north Cornwall and also visiting Dh’s family in nearby Plymouth. My sister’s family are joining us for 2 nights but of course have to return on Sunday night so their girls are back in time for school-shame!
See you Tuesday!

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Back from a brilliant weekend away · Tuesday January 9, 2007 by Ann

Back from a brilliant weekend away, to a busy start to a busy week.

I took David into college this morning, where he is doing the second year of his A levels. When David left school six years ago aged thirteen , we recently had been told that because of the degree of his dyslexia and in particular his short term memory problems, if he worked really hard, he may achieve grade D at GCSE. Since then we have enjoyed an autonomously educating lifestyle. Following David’s interests he has looked at several history projects and done science experiments and watched interesting television programmes, discussing them endlessly. Purposeful conversation on a one to one basis has been a large part of David’s education as well as lots of fantasy role play, Warhammer, ‘Magic the Gathering’ games, computer and PlayStation games. We have had such a good time since he left school but we have done no formal school work at all. We were thrilled when, on returning to the state system at FE college he managed to achieve grade B’s at As level. He has done so well socially and academically. When he returned home he went off to his bedroom to get his head back into one of the six books in a fantasy series that he had for Christmas. What a major difference to the days in school where he hated any sort of reading!

Alice has spent the day doing last minute studying for her first As level exam tomorrow. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the promised lap top computer is in place for the exam. It was not supplied for her mock exam before Christmas sigh

She chose to cook for us all this evening, as a distraction. Alice is a vegan and has become very interested in food and nutrition. This has made life so much easier when dh had to go on a low fat diet for health reasons-I have had a very good teacher at home!

On the way home from dropping off David this morning, I picked up Lucy, from an overnight stay with her friend Penny. Lucy goes to ‘Explorers Scouts’ on a Monday night and generally stays over with her friend Penny, who is also home educated, afterwards.

Lucy spent a lot of time on her lap top again today, showing me some of the websites she is interested in and the things she has written there. She was trying to persuade me to start a ‘MySpace’ of my own after giving me a virtual tour of sites of mutual friends. It is impressive how keen she is to read and write on these sites. This appears to be a medium that she is most enthusiastic about. with her reading and spelling improving dramatically along the way as I said before.
She spent some time then writing in her diary, which is a major achievement for her, given her level of dyslexia and then went onto developing some songs she is writing.
Lucy sings all of the time and she was also practising some songs she intends to perform at an up and coming audition.

We also spent a fair amount of time, getting the house back to rights after the Christmas festivities and the weekend away, before Lucy went off to Choir. Choir had a social evening this week-they will return to proper rehearsals next week, but tonight was about planning concerts for the coming year, making a new CD and the residential schools at Easter and in the summer. Lucy is keen to be involved in all of the events, she went to Easter School last year and really had a good time.

The rest of the week we’ll be busy every day with various activities, some home ed group based and some not. It always makes me smile if someone says that “Socialisation must be a problem for home educators” This week socialisation is a problem-there is so much of it!!

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Anxious-and taking it easy! · Wednesday January 10, 2007 by Ann

I took Alice in to college today-she wanted to get there early to make sure the laptop is there for her exam. Yesterday a lovely home ed friend who lectures in sociology, came over and revised with her, reassuring Alice that she does know her stuff for the exam today. I still can’t help being anxious for her though, exams for someone with SEN are always going to be even more nerve wracking than normal.

David caught the second bus in, he hasn’t got a lesson until the last session, but wanted to be there early to revise with a bunch of folks from his class. He has the first of his second year A level exams at the end of this month.

Lucy had a lazy start. She is still recovering from the weekend away, followed by a sleep over after Explorers on Monday night.
We were meant to be going to a local home ed meeting, but by that time Lucy was working on something on her laptop and she didn’t want to stop-and who am I to disturb such industry now that she has finally ‘got it’?? It is unusual for her to want to miss this group meeting, as she usually loves the team games, such as rugby, which is the focus of this meeting.

So instead of rushing round, preparing a packed lunch and dashing to get out of the door on time, we had a real ‘taking it easy’ afternoon. I actually got some phone calls done for work, arranging to see clients at a later date. i didn’t however do anything about painting the middle room which is was the other thing i was supposed to be doing!

There was a time when the middle room was our dining room. However, since our children have become teenagers-and are home educated, it seemed that personal space has become more important.
The girls used to share a room, but without a school desk or locker or anywhere else other than here, to have as any sort of
personal space, it seemed like a rearrangement of the household has become necessary. The room that was the study has now become David’s room, the study is now located in what was the living room, the living room has now moved into the dining room and the dining table moved into the kitchen-and one of the freezers went out of the door to make way for it. We have lost some family space in this but gained on personal space. Now the children have somewhere totally of their own-where they can retreat, have friends round, make a mess etc. Dh and I now feel much less guilty for using our bedroom in the same way and now have a stereo up there and it has become our sanctuary as the children’s rooms have become theirs. And we no longer fall over bodies all over the lounge, when other HE teens come to stay!! Dh and I remind our selves that one day we will have our study back-but until then we are enjoying the company of these lovely teenagers whilst we can!!

After a relaxing afternoon, we suddenly had a rush to get Lucy to dance classes as we hadn’t realised the time! She does ballet, tap and freestyle. She has also become a member of the ‘Dance company’ at the school. This is incredible, IMHO for a child who was so dyspraxic and dyslexic she had no sequencing skills and who couldn’t remember which move came next! Slowly, slowly she has improved from being the one hiding at the back, copying everyone else, to the one who the teacher asks to demonstrate! She came home tonight with the news that the dance company will be performing at a big show in March, in Manchester, in front of approx 4000 people.
I am convinced if she had been struggling with keeping up with the pressures of school and the home work, she would never had time to practice and develop as a dancer-and I wonder if the exercises and routines have improved the dyslexia and dyspraxia symptoms. We’ll never know for sure of course, one can never be certain that what one is doing is best for ones child-you can only ever go with what you think is the right thing to do and then hope for the best. So far we seem to be doing alright!

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Hibernating weather, but we got going eventually! · Thursday January 11, 2007 by Ann

Well Alice was reassessed for Dyslexia today. (How organised is that-she had her first AS exam yesterday and the college assessed her today!) She returned home tonight to tell me-”guess what?-I am dyslexic!” Apparently her reading and spelling have improved, but there is not much change in her writing speed. I’ll be interested in the written report but I don’t expect it will tell me anything I didn’t know.

The rest of us had a slow start to the day, but then it is real hibernating weather.
There was another home ed meeting on today, swimming this time, where the local group hires the pool for an hour, but Lucy decided not to go as none of her friends appeared to be going this time-and also because her muscles are still aching from her first evening back at dancing for a while.

Instead we spent sometime watching UK History on TV-this time we watched the “200yr old house”. Women’s role in the home is a subject we have looked at before as Alice is very keen on women’s issues. The 200yr old house fits into this very well-as well as having a relevance to interior designs, which interest Lucy. It looks at the changing uses of the house and the roles of the people who inhabit it, through the ages. We had lots of discussion around this programme and will return to it I am sure, at a later date.

David spent the first part of the day revising and then went off out for an interview for a part time job-which he got! For so long he wouldn’t go out of the house on his own-not even to go to the local shop. Slowly slowly he has come out of himself, becoming independent a step at a time. The first time he applied for a Saturday job a couple of years ago, we were all gobsmacked as he went off and did so by himself. The acceptance of him by the home ed community, locally and nationally has been a big factor in this. We have travelled to many of the camps and gatherings and the children have made friends and regained the confidence lost in school. Now David has the confidence to attend college and go out and get himself a job in the popular pub in the town-the one where all the people he used to go to school with go to! I can hardly believe this day has come ;O))

Lucy and I got the maths work books out again at her request. Once more we had to go over old ground again and she was very frustrated. It seems the difficulties she used to have in remembering words still seems to be occurring with maths instructions. She clearly is developing an understanding in maths in real life-she manages her own money very well for example but still has real difficulty in remembering these rules when they apply to written maths. In the end I found the words that made sense to her-for now, but tomorrow I fear we may have to do it all again-if she requests it. I won’t be pushing it-I recall that she suddenly asked how to tell the time last year. I did the same as I had done over and over before and drew a line down the centre of the clock, writing ‘past’ on one side and ‘to’ on the other and i wrote the numbers on the side again, Suddenly she said “Oh I understand-why haven’t you explained like that before?” when I said I had she said she felt like someone had just switched her on and she understood now. She still can’t read digital clocks, but that’s okay, she has found a way to get a normal clock face displayed on the computer and on my mobile phone. I am sure at some point in the future she will suddenly ‘get’ digital displays.
In the meantime, we’ll be shopping tomorrow morning and I’ll get her to do the maths in that as reminder of what she can do.

Lucy and her friend Laura have arranged for Laura to come and stay for a few days. Lucy met Laura at one of the home ed camps in the Peak District a couple of years ago and they met again at HesFes last summer. They have stayed in touch ever since and
Laura came up to stay with several of Lucy’s other friends for Lucy’s birthday in October. This is the first time Laura has come up by train, so Lucy and I have to leave tomorrows meeting early in order to meet her train in Birmingham.

We cooked a home made soup together today, taking the opportunity to discuss the requirements for a balanced diet-and how that can be supplied with a vegan and vegetarian diet. A very satisfying lesson in so many ways!

We have spent some time today further discussing a Philosophy group the teenagers want to develop. This is something that interests Lucy and her friends and they are keen to enroll the help of some of the other parents to get them started. Hopefully tomorrow at the meeting we may get a date and time for the first session sorted.

Lucy and her friends at this home education group, were recently successful in getting £1500 worth of funding for their drama group. Last year they performed at a local towns street theatre-but it was all done on a shoe string, with the fabulous drama teacher giving her time completely for free. With the funding they have obtained, this year they are able to pay her, go and research the themes they would like to develop and buy materials for props and costumes, The youngsters are hopeful of purchase some sort of music system so they can be heard this time when performing in the same street as several other groups-this was a big problem last year. Tomorrows meeting should also give chance for them to decide on details-although i think we may have to arrange a separate meeting for that, as they may just be too busy enjoying the drama group to be getting themselves organised

Lucy and I have been reading the Tarot cards again tonight, using a guide book to help us-an unusual choice for a reading book perhaps-but that is what Lucy chose as something she is interested in, and therefore is motivated to read. david read comics and then fantasy books, Alice chose magazines. I am happy to use whatever they choose.

Lucy has sent a fair bit of time on her laptop again today, we were lucky enough to have be given an unexpected lump sum of money recently and we decided to spend it on laptops for the children. This has revolutionised things for all three of them.
Alice desperately needed it to keep up with college work-as she cannot bring her college laptop home. David is using it for college work too. All three use it to keep up with home ed friends via MSN. Lucy told me tonight that it has set her free ;o)

We have become involved with the wonderful Iris and Geoff
Harrison, founder members of EO, who are now active in setting up a charity to help dyslexic children and young people get computer hardware and software that they need. Hopefully the girls and I will be in a position to help others understand the difficulties so that we can raise funds for this charity. Through this charity we have been able to try out some of the software available and what we have already, is making a huge difference in giving the children independence in accessing information.
Lucy and I have spent some time today discussing what we would like for a “Statement of purpose” for this charity and what else we want from it. This is a huge learning curve as we have never been involved with anything like this before.

Still none of our home education journey has been as I expected it to be-but it has all been enjoyable, even when it has been a challenge!

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Yesterday at the Home Ed group meeting and on learning to read. · Saturday January 13, 2007 by Ann

Too tired to blog last night.
We had a wonderful day with our HE friends. There was a meeting in the south of the county, at a youth centre. One of the other mom’s organises it and we have a growing group meeting there.

Lucy and I love going, there is a drama session and we have watched the shyest of youngsters become confident performers. Then another room is used for music practice and across the hall there are folks of all ages getting on with all sorts of crafts. Lucy and I both had a go at weaving willow and came home clutching the results of our efforts, a sort of small twisted baskets, which we both think will look great hanging in the hall, perhaps holding candles.

We had to leave early to go and fetch Lucy’s friend Laura from Birmingham train station, so have agreed to contact Kate the organiser to arrange a meeting to discuss what to do with the funding for the drama group and to contact another parent to set up the philosophy group, both of which the teenagers are very interested in.

On the way to the station Lucy and I had our usual ‘purposeful conversations’-this time we began by covering the state of affairs in Iraq. We have a close friend who is an Iraqi refugee and we know that his family are still in Baghdad. We moved onto conservation and how we can make a difference to preventing global warming and finished of discussing human biology and the way that nerves transmit signals that make muscles move. I am often fascinated how far ranging her questions and comments are and how much we can cover in a short time. It is easy to see whether someone has understood when you are in a one to one situation-I don’t need her to write an essay explaining the points to me.

Then we went to dinner at the house of another home ed family we have become friends with. A very enjoyable evening was had by all and the possibility of another long sailing trip for Alice came up. A couple of summers ago she had the opportunity to go sailing with another family of home educators. Together they sailed up the west coast of Britain from south Wales, along northern England and up to Scotland. Then the winds sent them to Northern Ireland, Eire and the Isle of Man, before they returned to Scotland reaching the Isle of Arran before returning home. Alice acted in the ‘big sister’ role to the three boys and in return had the experience of a life time! Last summer she returned to the boat again for several weeks as they bought the boat down the east coast starting at Edinburgh. This fabulous experience is beyond anything we dreamed could happen for our children and certainly gave Alice a different aspect on learning than the one we thought she would get when she left school! We’ll keep our fingers crossed that another such trip might happen.

I feel very strongly that this type of autonomous education has been exactly right for all of our children. In particular it has allowed Lucy to have continued to get the education she requires whilst allowing reading and writing to catch up in it’s own time. In school her severe learning difficulties meant that she was hindered from getting information as reading was the main access to it-and the pressure to be able to learn to read at the same pace as everyone else left Lucy feeling more and more frustrated as she simply could not do it. The test at the Dyslexia Institute in the months before we deregistered Lucy proved that she actually had an IQ which put her in the top 10% of the population but that she had a reading ability comparable to the bottom 3%. Effectively though, the dyslexia had masked her intelligence and her intelligence had masked her dyslexia. The teachers at the very nice little school she attended, told me that she was just below average intelligence-they were very surprised to find this was not the case and that the DI actually recommended that she should be given a ‘statement of special educational needs’. Fortunately Worcestershire LEA refused to issue one until she had been at stage three of the register for one year, even though the Educational Psychologist that she then was seen by, agreed with the DI assessment, as this gave us time to find out about home education and get her out of school before a statement was issued.

On first leaving school we tried many of the reading schemes recognised as suitable for dyslexics and this merely put us through even more stress as Lucy screamed and cried her distress at them, even when we tried to do them for just a few minutes at a time. Eventually we began to listen to other home educators who were autonomous in the way they went about education for their children. I read the books on the subject and shut the workbooks and reading schemes and let Lucy get on with living life and learning as she went along. We ‘read’ books together whenever she wanted to read them (with me reading and Lucy trying to follow the words), we got audio tapes from Calibre.org.uk for people who have difficulty accessing the written word, as we felt that it was important for Lucy to grow to love books of all sorts. If she asked me what a word said I just told her-and then asked if she could now see that is what it said, which often meant explaining in detail the root of the word. I stopped asking-”what do you think it says?” or “you have a go and see what you think it says” and I stopped other people such as my mother doing that too. I danced down the corridor of the cinema the first time she read “Ladies” and we celebrated with every realisation that she had read some word or other maybe on a street sign or on a bus. So slowly she has made progress and yesterday she read the word ‘perception’ when we were reading the tarot cards and said “that was perceptive of me wasn’t it?” She now manages to use her computer almost entirely without me-coming and asking for the occasional spelling and mostly without the ‘Texthelp’ software we now have loaded onto the computers she uses at home. The software is there – as we are- to help when she is having a bad day or is very tired, when the dyslexia symptoms are more marked.

Lucy is a singer by nature and has it seems, a very good voice. She can sing Jazz, Opera, Musical Theatre and popular songs. She has now appeared at the Hesfes cabaret a couple of times and had her own slot last year and was very well received indeed. She has begun to appear at local festivals and go for auditions-with so far great success. Her singing teacher wants her to go for an audition for the junior section of the ‘Birmingham Conservatoire’ – which take place in April/May each year. This has given Lucy a self imposed deadline to meet as she wants to be able to be reading well by then. Her grandmother has been called in to help and Lucy goes to stay with her (when Grandma is not away on holiday, as she is at the moment) after dancing on a Wednesday night to play word games, something they love to do together. Here we continue to play other games to practise her reading and number skills – ‘Absolute Balderdash’ is even more hysterically funny when you have a family of dyslexics playing it! In fact having a family where it is normal to be dyslexic, makes life easier as everyone understands the mistakes you make or that sometimes you simply have a bad day. It must be very different for someone if they are the only one with such difficulties in a family.

Today has been a good day for us all. Alice was at work at a little family run business that sells natural soaps and shampoos etc. Her bosses tell me that they had loads of applicants for the Saturday job, but that Alice stood out “head and shoulders above the others” as she was so confident and articulate-I have lost count of the times I have heard that said about home educated teens. Sales have apparently grown in her favourite items such is her interest and enthusiasm for the subject of chemical free toiletries. Since coming home tonight she has been ‘chilling’ listening to jazz and playing her saxophone-which is lovely to hear.

David has been at home revising-and reading the fantasy novels he got for Christmas. He has gone out now with his bass guitar to practise with his friend.

Lucy and Laura went into town to buy a present for one of their friend’s birthdays-a bunch of their friends will be staying over as a birthday celebration tomorrow night, Since returning they have been playing card games and searching on the computer for information about their favourite band and they are now watching a ‘chick flick’ in Lucy’s room.

I read an article today in the newspaper, on how teenagers brains are a ‘development in progress’ and it really is true that they need to sleep more-going to bed later and getting up later than adults do – so I’ll act on that – as i would have done anyway and go off to bed leaving them to it!

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Catching up · Wednesday January 17, 2007 by Ann

Catching up after a couple of days without blogging.

Today is the sixth anniversary of the children leaving school after deregistration!! ;o) We have never looked back or had any regrets, not once. This has bought freedom from bullying and a return to self confidence and self belief for our children. Happy people live in our house!

On Sunday we had an early start, taking a friend to the airport, so there was a warm cosy feel to coming home with the newspapers and having a brunch together.
We have found increasingly that our teenagers are engaged with news and current events, because they talk to us and are around when we watch the news and read the papers. They are interested in national and international politics and often put forward their views on a variety of subjects. the three of them are very vocal on their thoughts about the idea of raising the end of compulsory education age to eighteen!

Alice has her radio alarm set to radio 4 and loves it. She picked up this whilst sailing on the boat that summer. She will often come down to us to air some views about something she has heard discussed wanting to take the subject further or to shape her thoughts on why she agrees/disagrees with the topic. Alice will then often pick up on corresponding articles on the internet or in the newspapers.

Because they have been home educated for the last six years, they have been here whenever there has been an election and have discussed with us political beliefs and ideals. We have discussed Parish Council elections, County Council elections and General Elections. They understand the role of each level of government, as we have answered their questions with interest.
David’s 18th birthday actually fell on the day of the last General election-so he was very engaged with the whole process, taking an active interest in the beliefs of the different parties and questioning representatives when they turned up on our doorstep.
We spent his birthday celebrating with family and friends-the home ed crowd were coming and going all afternoon, taking a trip to the local poll station for him to vote (where they had noted his birthday and joined in with a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ when they realised who he was!) We went out for a family meal and then came home to watch the results of the elections. Tom and I left him to watch through the night as it got far too late for us.

Anyway, on Sunday after reading the paper and brunching together, Toms brother Richard arrived. He is emigrating at the end of the month to the Philippines and he bought over some family things he wants to leave with us. We got the world map out again and discussed how far he was going, the time zones and the weather over there to decide again, when would be the best time to go and visit.

Tom and Richard gave Lucy and her friend Laura, a lift to a friend’s house where they were going for a birthday sleepover. Apparently as part of the birthday celebrations, they went for a hike up one of the local hills, where they picnicked together. they had all dressed up for the event-so had then to do a lot of running around to keep warm.
The overnight stay turned into two and they have been on long walks with a bunch of their friends, horse riding and had loads of time to play games.

This meant Monday night turned out to be a free night for Tom and myself as the other two were away from home too! Alice stayed over with a friend she has met at college and David went to play ‘Fantasy role play’ games overnight with some of his home ed friends.
When we first started to home educate, one of the assumptions of others is that we would never have free time to ourselves. As the children have got older, this has been even less of an issue for us. They have had no constraints of having to get up early for school, so it hasn’t mattered if they have stayed up late with friends or not. We have spent a fair bit of time going to home ed camps and gatherings and the children have made lots of friends locally and nationally. We have found that this has meant that they have started to travel independently to go and stay with their friends for a few days at a time, or their friends come here to stay, as Laura has done this week.
It is unusual for all three of them to be out of the house at the same time – I am not sure I like the resulting peace and quiet at all although Tom and I quickly went out for a few hours together.

Everyone returned home yesterday, David and Alice had gone straight to college for their first lesson of the day and returned here afterwards. Lucy and Laura were picked up in time for Lucy’s opticians appointment. Then Lucy went onto choir practice again, Alice arranged her next saxophone lesson and David got on with his revising. Then we had dinner together and entertained my old friend from my nurse training days, who is up from Brighton for a visit.

Today will be quite busy again. We have decided to go to the cinema this morning with Lucy and Laura. All tickets before midday are £3 and using a mobile phone deal, we will be get two of us in for the price of one -so four people for £6, into a cinema that will probably be empty of other people. Using ameinities like this when they are free from crowds and much cheaper is another advantage of being out of the school system

Lucy and Laura are going for a bike ride this afternoon if the weather holds-although not seeming to be educational at first, they will of course notice what is happening around them, so the changing seasons, the natural world and what new houses have been built since last Lucy went down that lane, will bring in social studies and local politics into the conversation when they get back no doubt.
Yesterday on looking for something in answer to an enquiry from a member of our local group, I found this;
Organic Structure
I thought it was a brilliant piece and it describes exactly why and how we educate our children too!

Lucy will have her usual three hours of dance classes and rehearsals tonight and then after picking her up I’ll be dashing to Birmingham airport to pick up my mother who returns tonight after a holiday in Egypt-I can feel a whole lot of interest in the Egyptians coming on…...........

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Fantasy Games-Warhammer and Role playing. · Saturday January 20, 2007 by Ann

When we were still deschooling after deregistering the children, one of the first things that David got into was playing the computer game ‘Baldur’s Gate’. The other young teen lads who were HE’d locally were playing it, and we quite approved (we were not so autonomous in those days!) as it has riddles to solve as you go along.

Encouraged by his enjoyment of this fantasy world, I suggested that that all of this perhaps began with the popularity of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings” So David decided to have a go at reading it. He had never been successful in reading a real novel before-his dyslexia had made it too difficult and he didn’t have the motivation. He began with my copy of ‘the Hobbit’ and enjoyed it. I managed to find a Lord of the Rings boxed set, which broke up the books into a set of seven, making each one much more readable. He managed to read the first part before going to see ‘The Fellowship’ at the cinema. I was keen that he read the books first, as there is so much more to them than is in the films.
He set himself a target to read the next part of the Trilogy before it came out at the cinema and did the same thing with the final part, ‘The Return of the King’. He was very pleased with himself! I know many adults who have wanted to but been unable to read the Lord of the Rings book.

The local home ed teen lads also played ‘Warhammer’ and went along to the local Games Workshop (GW) after our HE meeting every Thursday. Warhammer had been played at school but had been dismissed by the cool kids as something for ‘geeks’ and so David hadn’t got involved then, as he was keen to be seen to be fitting in.
David loved going to the GW each week and was the first thing he was really happy to do without us, in the company of other adults. He has commented many times since, how the staff in a GW treat everyone as equals. Ds soon asked for the ‘codex’s’ or rule book for his army and for the codex for his friends armies. He started saving birthday money and pocket money to pay for his own models and developed several armies which he enjoyed making and painting. he prefers Warhammer Fantasy but has a small 40K army and a Lord of the Rings Army, in order to play with friends who have those armies.
David has now read several books on the subject and still races to read the magazine when it arrives every month. We enjoy visiting Warhammer World still-it is based up in Nottingham but we have had several trips with HE friends and have ended up staying all day (The staff are very kind to long suffering parents and don’t mind how long we sit around over a cuppa in the bar)

Encouraged by this, he told me that he needed more books to read and asked if we could get some more Terry Prachett ones as he had read one of a friends, this started a real enthusiasm for reading fantasy books! As I have already said, he is now plowing through a set of Warhammer fantasy books, by William King at the moment, with great enthusiasm.

This all lead to an interest in Fantasy Role Playing games. I have found a website to explain a little more about this as it has been brilliant for our son.
What is FRP
From playing games with his friends for a while, David decided to write his own game so that he would have a turn at being the Games Master. he spent ages writing out the story and the developing the characters. This is around the time that my worries about autonomous education for dyslexics, really slipped away. Here was my son, not only reading book after book but now was also writing reams, from his own free choice. Asking for help with spelling and punctuation when he needed it. And even my mother could see that looked at from a slightly different angle, this could be seen as creative writing, not something that many teenage lads would do with such enthusiasm.
Since then we have had many times when his HE friends would arrive with their sleeping bags and they have played here long into the night. They eventually have fallen asleep in the early hours and woken and played again. I always managed to remember to stock the freezer up well before they arrived and they stuck to the rules, that they washed up whatever they cooked and ate.
At the moment David is playing his friends game, choosing an evening that fits into his college routine and stays over at Jon’s house going straight to college next day.

We have had another busy couple of days. Yesterday Lucy took Laura into Birmingham on the train to meet her connection to go home, it has been lovely having her to stay. Her parents have agreed that she can join us for a local groups stay at Biblins Youth Centre for a holiday together, later in the spring. Together with our friends, we spend time walking, canoeing down the river Wye and exploring the local area together. It is one of our favourite holidays.

Then a group of of local HE families met together at one one of the member’s home, to discuss the budget for this years drama group’s production for the Malvern Street Theatre. Last year, the group put on a drama piece at the Street Theatre and thoroughly enjoyed themselves and brilliant responses from the audiences in the street. It was, however all done on a shoe string. The drama teacher gave her time for nothing to our children at a local HE meeting and at all the extra rehearsals. We managed to cobble together props and costumes for the piece. The lovely people at St Annes Well Cafe in the Malvern hills let us use the upstairs rooms to practice in.

This year the youngsters have been successful in getting some funding from a local organisation, for this years production. The only proviso is that the money has to be spent by the end of this financial year. It has been a useful exercise for the teens to be involved in how we spend our budget, with enough money (after paying the drama teacher this time) for a sound system and advertising, for props and costumes. Best of all though, they secured some money in the funding for a research trip ;o) Now they just have to decide how they want to spend it ;o)
Any trip they undertake has to be supported by receipts and fit within the budget. So far they are wondering whether to have an over night stay in London, taking in the Science Museum-the theme they have chosen is ‘Time’, but maybe they will go to Greenwich-or maybe somewhere else completely?
I’ll let you know what they decide.

We stayed to lunch after the meeting and then Lucy and her friends spent some time making a film-they have done this several times before and enjoy making and editing short productions. When I left they were looking up different music on the computer together. I’ll pick her up from the train station later this afternoon.

David has gone off with his dad and Uncle Richard, to move furniture, Richard is emigrating to the Philippines next week and they are busy emptying his flat. Alice has gone off to her Saturday job, leaving step daughter Louise and her daughter Nancy here with me. I have to go to get ready for the arrival of the furniture they are bringing here. And I didn’t get round to painting the room first either!

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A level exams and other stuff. · Tuesday January 23, 2007 by Ann

Well another week of home education has gone by.
David did his first Sociology and Psychology A levels exams yesterday and today. It will be interesting to see how he has done this time. David is very focused, when he decides to do something, he puts his head down and does it consistently to the best of his abilities. He has asked us to go to college tomorrow night for the parents evening, so it will be interesting to see what they have to say about his progress.

Alice on the other hand does not wish us to go into the parents evening, she says this is her life and her education and she is in charge of it. That’s okay by us too. She will ask if she needs our further involvement as she asks for support and help if she needs it with her course work.

All three of them are home right now. David is chilling out after the exams and talking to his mates on MSN and playing some of the computer games I managed to get from Freecycle

Alice is working on a General Studies assignment, she has to do a power point presentation on an area of conflict.
This morning she has been chatting about the opium production in Afghanistan, she had heard something about it on the news and has been looking it up. We have also been talking about the Freedom of Information Act. She and her dad have also been watching “The Map Man” on ‘UK History’ channel. Since going sailing a couple of years ago along the coast, she has been really interested in navigation and map reading. It also lead to an interest in the geology of the seashores in particular and so she like us, loves the programme “Coast”. This has so much information about the geology, geography and social history of the British Isles.

Yesterday afternoon Alice, Lucy and I went into Birmingham shopping for clothes, talking three year old Nancy with us. Shopping for clothes has always been really difficult for Lucy as clothes often ‘feel funny’ and she cannot bear to wear them. Combining that difficulty with finding something in her very particular style and something that fits well and it becomes very difficult indeed to find jeans/trousers for her. It has got to the stage where every pair of trousers that she had, had got a hole at the knee, so there was no choice we had to go shopping. When we found a pair I was really daft because I didn’t suggest she bought a second pair of them-it could take forever to find another pair! So we have decided when we go in to Birmingham at the end of the month, to meet a friend we’ll call into the same shop and hopefully get a pair. We’ll also hopefully have time to go to the Birmingham Library as they have a brilliant music section and all three of us love going into Birmingham Museum and Art gallery to check out whatever exhibitions are on. We didn’t have time yesterday to do either as we had to be home again in time for Lucy to go to Explorer Scouts. Explorers are going to be making bird boxes apparently, this will fit in nicely with The Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

Today we have been looking at Astrology, which has become one of Lucy’s more recent interests. We have also been chatting about conservation, which is a theme that keeps returning. In particular looking at ways we can reduce our ‘carbon footprints’ She is also practising singing. Lucy has an audition this weekend for Youth Music Theatre UK on Saturday. Tonight she’ll be at choir rehearsals again, so that will help.

Lucy and Alice have made a butternut squash soup for a late lunch. It’s a recipe Alice found on the Internet-a brilliant resource for finding enjoyable vegan recipes! So I am off to tuck in to that and some delicious bread.

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On improving symptoms. · Wednesday January 24, 2007 by Ann

Lucy has turned into a real teenager, she sleeps so long now!
Alice got up early and went off to college but Lucy and David were asleep all morning. Both got up at lunch time and David went off to college for his only lesson of the day which was in the last session. we are lucky because the college is on split sites, partly in our own town and partly in the next one. David and Alice walk down to the bus stop at the site here and catch the college bus across. The bus runs backwards and forwards all day.

When Lucy got up we spent some time adapting some of her clothes so they look different and can be worn in a different way. She did some work on the laptop-alongside chatting to her friends on MSN. She has now set up her own space on ‘My Space’ and has helped a few friends to do the same. Nothing too spectacular you might think, but given the severity of the dyslexia diagnosis she was given, I am cheering inside! She is doing all of this with so very little help from us. Occasional spelling requests come our way and then queries sometimes on why the word is spelt like that-and we are back on the subject of the roots of words and language bases again. We have also been talking about onomatopoeic words and grammar rules. One to one conversations are great, you can clearly see if the child has ‘got it’ without needing to see an essay about it! I’ll let you know if she talks me into having my own ‘myspace’

Last night on the way home from choir Lucy was commenting that she knew all aspects of her ‘special needs’ have improved. Since dancing has improved her co-ordination and balance, she is able to join in with all sorts of games confidently. We think that dancing has made a big difference to her sequencing ability too. She is no longer so ‘twitchy’, there was a time when she didn’t sit still for a second, literally. Her foot would be tapping or her hands flapping or spinning a pencil-or she would be bumping into me repeatedly. She always said she couldn’t help it-and we accepted it as just being part of Lucy- although the repeated bumping into me drove me nuts some days. Lucy hardly ever does any of that now, except for occasional ‘twitchy days’. She had an over sensitive sense of smell too- we certainly couldn’t walk past somewhere like a ‘Lush’ store that sells all of those smelly soaps. If we had to pass it, it would be at a run, with her taking a deep breath and pinching her nose. She couldn’t tolerate the smell of most of the eczema creams-not even on other people. All of this has improved although she is still very fussy about the smell of shampoo/soap/toothpaste/antiperspirant etc. Indeed Alice has a Saturday job in a smelly soap shop and Lucy can pop in and talk to her without any fuss now. Clothes ‘feeling funny’ has improved too, it is still there, but not as bad as it was in the days when we’d buy six garments from a shop and five would have to go back. And these days she is very conscientious about cleaning her teeth and taking care of her hair, this is a very long way from the days when she couldn’t bear to do either. I clearly remember my mother’s despair when she asked me “Are you going to make that child brush her hair?” And I said “no”!
Her spelling , reading and writing are all improving- she has been so motivated to improve in these areas to be able to do as well as everybody else does, without effort.

The home ed community has been brilliant-if we have been out and I am not there to read something for her, one of the other children or adults has done so if she has asked, with no snide comments about her being stupid- which is what happened all the time in school. This learning to read with no pressure in her own time, has been so much better than conforming to someone else’s timetable. That way just led to the destruction of her self belief. If you are told you are stupid long enough, you begin to believe it.
because we are autonomous home educators Lucy’s education has been able to run ahead whilst waiting for the reading and writing to catch up in it’s own time.

Some of you may have heard her singing in her own spot at Hesfes- when she sings ‘Mad World’;

“Went to school and I was very nervous.
No one knew me, no one knew me.
Hello teacher, tell me whats my lesson?
Look right through me, look right through me.”

it make me cry because she is singing it from the heart -this was her reality at school.

We were so busy this afternoon, enjoying ourselves together just talking about a million and one things, we forgot the time again and had to rush to dancing -again!
Three hours of dancing later she is back here, at her laptop again, right behind me as we type this, this time looking up Annie Lennox singing live.

I am off to works head office in Milton Keynes tomorrow. I sell ladies clothes these days-to a few ladies at a time in their own homes. Tomorrow I’ll be seeing the spring/summer collection. Working this way has meant that I can look at the children’s activities first every month and plan to work around them.

Lucy has arranged to go over to a friends house whilst I am away tomorrow, so I will probably be back here over the weekend. I’ll be too busy to blog on Friday as we have another home ed meeting and then we are off to see my Mother in law for her 80th birthday. On Saturday Lucy has the audition in the morning, ballet at the Dance Exchange at Birmingham Hippodrome in the afternoon and we see Richard and his wife off at the airport as they emigrate in the evening!
Hopefully I’ll catch up again on Sunday.

PS-when I asked Lucy to tell me the words to Mad World, she confidently took over and typed in the words -spelling everything correctly except for the word ‘through’!!! She could not have done that even a few months ago ;o))

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A long post, catching up with three days of activities! · Sunday January 28, 2007 by Ann

I’m back bright and early, in a quiet house where everyone else is asleep. This is a long post, catching up with three days of activities!

On Thursday I went to head office of Weekenders . This is the direct selling company I work with, selling clothes to ladies in their own homes. This means I can work around my own life, choosing when to work and I have a great deal of fun at the same time. This has been vital for us to be able to home educate and pay the bills.
The new spring/summer collection is fabulous, I look forward to selling it when the season begins. I’ll be involved in the fashion Show to launch the collection, in Bournemouth in February and I am really looking forward to that. I have to go to head office again before then for rehearsals-so I’ll be leaving the EO gathering at Okehampton very early on the last morning for that.
Lucy went to her friends house, while I was at head office and i called in to pick her up on the way home.

We didn’t get to the home ed meeting on Friday, which was a shame, but we had realised that we didn’t have the required passport photos for the audition forms, needed for Saturday morning. Also dh Tom needed the car for a while too.
So we had a quiet start. Alice and David got themselves up and off to college. Thomas, stepson rang to say he was catching a train to come and stay overnight with us, so that he could come and see his grandmother, for her 80th birthday-pleasing to see something of him for the second time in a month ;o)

Lucy and I went off to our local town to get the photos, went into the charity shops in the high street, looking for tops for her-didn’t find any but did find a really nice scarf/wrap that she decided to buy, with what was left of her Christmas money.

Got home, to find Rich delivering the last of his things before leaving his flat for the final time and handing over the keys- this time he bought a futon, that he had promised to David for his room. It will be great when friends stay.

I picked up Thomas from the train station and we set off to see my mother in law. It wasn’t a huge celebration but most of her family had called in at some point during the day and we were there at the same time as Rich and his wife as they said “Happy Birthday and Farewell”

We got home about 11pm. A few of David’s friends were round-they were having a drink and playing a fantasy role play game-this is a different bunch from his regular game. Alice and Thomas joined them for a few drinks and Tom Lucy and I went to bed, in anticipation of a long day on Saturday. Alice apparently turned in not long after but Thomas stayed up and played with David and his friends, long into the night. The futon has already come into use!

We got up early, for us, on Saturday. Lucy and I caught the 9am train into Birmingham for the 10am audition. once I was sure the forms had been filled in correctly-difficult for Lucy at the best of times, but especially when stressed, I went off into Birmingham. I gota new novel and went off to a vegan cafe for breakfast.
I went back and met up with Lucy at 12md and we discussed how she felt it had gone. Apparently she felt she did well with the drama and dancing, but wasn’t happy with the way she sang today. Overall though she had enjoyed the audition as it is in the form of a performance workshop, so that is, she felt a result in itself. We’ll wait and see what the results are as Lucy is rarely happy with her own performances when she sings. She is very critical of herself.

Afterwards we went off to the outdoor market. We found a lovely stall that sold organic LOCAL vegetables ;o) We looked at how much money i had in my purse and bought all the vegetables we wanted and went and spent the rest on fruit. Lucy was astounded at the prices on the market, (we found four very ripe pineapples for £1!) compared to supermarkets and we bought almost more than we could carry!

At home Rich and his wife had arrived from their hotel. Rich and my stepson Thomas share a very witty, quick sense of humour and we were all very soon, dissolving into laughter at their one liners.
I made organic vegetable soup for everyone and we shared a pleasant family afternoon together, poignant for knowing it may never happen again.
Dh Tom then took them to the airport for the flight to the Philippines and I took Thomas to the train station to catch the train home. Lucy and I picked up Alice from her Saturday job on the way home.

We spent some time talking about blood and coagulation-the girls, Thomas and Tom have an inherited blood clotting condition, which means their blood clots far too easily. It is interesting to discover the effects some foods can have on blood clotting. Tom, Thomas and step daughter Louise, all take Warfarin as they have all suffered at least one potentially fatal blood clots. Lots of foods can affect the action of warfarin and so we have to be especially careful. Pineapples can effect how a blood clots according to some and so the girls decided to lay off chocolate (which also has a blood thinning effect) as the stuffed themselves with fruit. We discussed organic vs non organic foods and the air miles travelled by the fruits we were eating and it’s affects on the atmosphere and our conservation attempts. We took all of the peelings and waste from the fruit and added it to the compost bin. We discussed the relative merits of a compost bin compared to a wormery and moved on to what we are going to try to grow in the garden this coming year, what we have to make room for in the garden and what we can grow in containers.
Nutrition and balanced diet is a subject that comes up frequently-especially in the context of the girls respective vegan and vegetarian diets.

The children know a lot about human biology-almost inevitable I suppose, given Tom’s and my background in nursing. We have decided it is vital to know about their own medical conditions and how it affects them. Besides the girls blood clotting condition, David was born with a condition known as a gastroschesis. We consider it important that they are in a position to make informed choices when faced with medical decisions now and in the future.

David will be up very soon. He is off to Karate again this morning. he is beginning to take this very seriously. He is very keen to stay fit and already does quite a lot to this end at home. He does press ups and exercises and some Chi Gung exercises with his dad who is also interested in martial arts but Tom practises Tai Chi.

Tom and I are supposed to be going to a holiday presentation later this afternoon, but that will depend on whether he has recovered sufficiently from his activities of the last few days. Tom retired from work early on the grounds of ill health, caused by complications of all the blood clots he has suffered in the past, and it is important for him to get the balance right between having a worthwhile life and doing too much.
I’m off to put the kettle on and start the day together quietly before anyone wakes up-but also to read about and possibly post about ‘autonomous education’ and ‘TCS’.

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