31 October 2014


I read a book to my youngest recently, I forget the title, at the end of the story there was a series of questions you could ask based on the story.  One of them was who are your friends?  I was expecting her to reply with the name/s of some of the children she regularly plays with.  Her answer?  Trees!  Like me she has fallen under their spell.  As a teenager I had one poster on my bedroom wall not of any of the bands that I loved listening too at the time but a poster of trees.  I have often wondered what became of that poster I took it with me when I left home and it travelled around with moe on my many moves, nearly twenty in ten years.  I suspect it got left on a wall somewhere......

I love a walk in the woods, any woods will do at any time of year.  The colours, sounds and smells are unique to each wood, a walk in the woods is a guaranteed feast to the senses.  I have been feasting my senses from an armchair this month, well actually my bed as that is where I do most of my reading, with the wonderful book The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge.

This is a book in three parts, the first deals with the definition of trees, classification, how they may have evolved and the wonder of wood, an amazing natural material.  The middle section details all the tree families and gives some examples of each, to go into detail on them all would make for a very big book indeed, and where they grow in the world.  This was fascinating as trees belong in so many, varied families many of which contain species that are not trees.  I was ready to move onto the final section when this one finished as my head was starting to spin with all the details.  The last section was, for me, the most interesting.  It details how trees live and survive, where they grow and possible explanations why,  their relationship with their local environment including fauna and lastly the future of trees with the warming of the atmosphere.  I have loved reading this book, it has been a fascinating insight into the science of trees.

I am undecided what to read next, some fiction A Sudden Light by Garth Stein or more non fiction about Trees, Tree Wisdom by Jacqueline Memory Paterson.  I hope I have the time to read both next month.

29 October 2014


...is for Yew...

...Latin name Taxus derived from the Greek toxon, meaning bow.  This is a highly poisonous tree and this connection formed the derivative 'Toxin' which has been given to poisons in general.  The Yew is dioecious, the male and female flowers are on separate trees, the pollen is spread by the wind.  Wind pollination is generally a hit and miss affair so any tree that is wind pollinated produces masses of it.  The fruit, which is only to be found on female trees is small and green (you can just see two in the middle of this picture), the beautiful red parts are a cup grown to cover the fruit, which becomes a black seed inside.  The seeds are distributed by the birds who devour them, particularly thrushes and blackbirds, the seed is not digested and the birds drop them as they fly.

They live to a ripe old age, some are thought to be thousands of years old.  They achieve this great age as branches and shoots root into the ground and eventually grow to form new trunks, which then join the main trunk.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project

27 October 2014


...this week of...

...happiness a windy walk with the children, finding the time to do all our usual things in amongst preparation to go away, watching an amazing puppet play

...sadness that a family we invited to join us are not able to canoe with us this week 

...creating a few rows on a scarf, lots of expedition food 

...reading The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 259. We Love Divali by Saviour Pirotta, 260. The Divali Story by Anita Ganeri

...learning about morsels, Jack Frost, apples and apple trees, why snow is white, Divali, coal

...thinking about my brother who had a bicycle accident this week and is now in hospital

...wondering about making some wee peg people for Martinmas

...hoping for dry weather this coming week

...looking forward to a wonderful week in Scotland!


If anyone knows what the flower is please let me know in the comments, the picture was taken this week.  I was really surprised to find such a delicate flower at this time of year, where we live it is cold now.

24 October 2014


I listened to a programme on the radio this week.  I was driving at the time so only half listening distracted by the road and a car full of chattering children.  The programme was discussing the impact of telephone exchanges on the lives of young working women, there were interviews with women who had worked as operators, many of these operators went on to marry engineers who worked in the same buildings at this point I tuned in and turned the volume up!  One of my grandmothers was an operator the man she married, my grandfather, was an engineer.*

A while ago I read about Prayer Shawls.  I had seen them mentioned on many a blog post and had mistakenly assumed they were made to be worn in church to keep you warm, many churches in my country are cool/cold all year round.  A prayer shawl is usually made as a gift to be given to a friend or person in need. Knitted and interwoven with your thoughts for the recipient in mind

Last year a friend of mine had a tough year, she struggled to keep it together and at the beginning of the year I felt a strong desire to make her a special gift.  I don't  manage to see her that often but wanted her to know that she was in my thoughts.  I cast on a shawl in January and slowly knitting the rows often in between other projects with deadlines.  The pattern was chosen specifically for her, not one I would have ordinarily have knitted, there was lots of lace which is not my favourite.  As I knit each stitch, each row it was woven with my thoughts for her and her future.  It is not very big as I expected it to be, despite blocking, I do hope she likes it.

My grandmother was a knitter, she wanted to teach me as a teenage but I wasn't interested, if I could turn back the clock............. She made me many things including a jumper for my eighteenth birthday.  I still have it.  A traditional aran jumper which I wear every autumn/winter.  I got it out of the back of my wardrobe last weekend to air it, in anticipation of the colder weather this week.

I always have a small light knitting project on the go, something portable which I can take anywhere. It's a great conversation starter!  I was knitting at a recent home ed meet up and some members of the group came over to watch and ask about what I was doing.  I was using dpn's which not everyone has seen or come across.  Somehow myself and another mum ended up setting up a monthly knitting group in our local independent bookshop, a knit and natter with a difference.

The web of life is intricate.  It takes you on a journey that is sometimes unexpected, but usually exciting.  Linking the past with the present and the future. It is keeping my memories of my wonderful grandparents alive.


*They didn't meet like this, but through their shared loved of dancing.


Project notes here

22 October 2014


...is for Xylem...

...the tubes in a tree which transport water from the roots to the leaves.  The water travels by two methods, transpirational pull through negative pressure that pulls the water from the roots and soil or by root pressure, water traveling by osmosis (a difference in pressure) into the root from the soil  creating a positive pressure that forces liquid up the xylem.  As the water evaporates from the leaves more is drawn up through the tree to replace it.  These tubes only live for one year, new xylem are grown each year from the cambium, a layer of tissue between the inner bark (phloem) and the xylem.  As the tree grows the inner rings of xylem become the heartwood, the outer rings the sapwood.  

The dead xylem is visible as the rings of a tree when it is cut down.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project

20 October 2014


...this week of...

...happiness a wonderful walk with the children, time with friends, a quiet week, knitting and sewing time

...sadness the behaviour of a child which has crossed a line from exuberance to intent and another child getting hurt in the process, but its the mothers reaction that has made me sad, the child has no boundaries and cannot deal with all his power and control

...creating a hat, my first appliqué, lists for packing, lists of food, a few rows on a scarf

...reading The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 257. We Gather Together by Wendy Pfeffer, 258. Christopher's Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow.

...learning about the water table, groundwater and aquifers, rhythm, spiders, Central American cultures, Sukkot and Judaism

...thinking about a friend of mine whose Husband is very ill

...wondering about a day out being organised in December and whether we should go 

...hoping I can get all the preparation to go away sorted in time

...looking forward to a Canoe expedition we are starting on Saturday

17 October 2014

Our days....

One of the things I most often get asked as a home educator is what does a typical day look like.  I find this incredibly difficult to answer as I suspect most of us would if asked the same question.  I have often said that to an outsider it might look like we are not doing very much, most of our days are probably similar to how you might spend a weekend (if you have children that is).  I also suspect that they are waiting to hear how we do our lessons and mentally ticking off the various subjects as I mention them.  We don't do any teaching in this house something that I know is hard for people who are not home educating to comprehend, most of us have learnt in a school and that is all we know about education.  It is a radical idea to throw out the lessons, the teaching and let learning happen, it feels like you are stepping into a big void that has the potential to swallow you up and then spit you out saying now that was a daft idea.  In order to understand, or at least comprehend, where I am coming from all your preconceived notions of education need to put to one side, to deschool yourself, difficult I know I have done it too. I do do some preparation, as a framework for the day to ensure it has a good flow to it.  I have read on blogs of other home educators what a day in their house looks like, they have kept track of everything their children have done in a day.  It is something I have been meaning to do for a long time, just out of interest I did this for one day this week.....

...the day started as it sometimes does with breakfast.  I get up before the children and use that time to prepare myself for the day.  I lay the table with all the things they need for breakfast, they help themselves and then clear it away.  Sometimes they eat their breakfast first thing, sometimes a hour or so after they have woken up.  My eldest (E for the rest of this post) did this my youngest (Y for rest of this post) decided to do some colouring first.  Whilst they were both engaged in this we had a conversation about the Robin Hood story, what the various characters may or may not have done and whether it was true, a myth or possibly based on some truths which moved us onto the game of Chinese Whispers a game which is difficult to play with three but we had a go anyway with interesting results, I started with my head hurts, which ended up with no egg yurts!

The house was looking a bit like a whirlwind had been through it so we all spend a bit of time tidying up and putting away, until we could actually see a few surfaces again.  By this time Y had had breakfast and they had both got dressed something that doesn't always happen quite so early in the day, often they get dressed to have lunch.  If we are going out in the afternoon I usually insist they get dressed early on, if we are at home all day I am less bothered.  Having tidied up they then decided to play with the lego in E's bedroom building little objects and playing with the mini figures.  At some point Y wandered downstairs with a Where's Wally? book and looked at it on the sofa.  E followed soon after and sat at his desk playing with a spinning top and watching how it spun, he then attempted to spin it on a slopping surface playing around with the angle and the material, he also tried moving a piece of paper under the spinning top whilst it was spinning, successfully.  A sword fight took place next, with lots of fair play and negotiation about what was going to happen next, how injuries were being managed and other imaginary sword fighters also engaged in the 'battle'.  We had a bit of screen time next with Y watching a few programmes of Nina and the Neurons on CBeebies and E playing a couple of online games and reading a bit more on Tank Encyclopedia.  

We have been practicing the concepts rhythm and beat, last week we listened to lots of different music and played a drum to the beat of each, this week we listened to some poetry and beat a drum to it doing so loudly and quietly I also read out some poems that I had chosen from a wonderful poetry book Rhythm Rhymes (published in the 1960s and now out of print I would expect).  Doing this short activity for a couple of weeks has done wonders for my children's sense of rhythm and beat they can 'hear' it in the music they listen to and I hope if they do play music together they will find their sense of time too.  Next week I think we will either do some conducting the beat and working with playing quietly and loudly or we will move onto some singing and finding our voice.  It was great that when we had finished our rhythm activity they put some music on, danced around to it (in time - hurrah) and played drums.

Whilst I was preparing our lunch, leek and potato soup, they carried on dancing and drumming interspersed with a bit of drawing on paper and on the blackboard we have in our dining room.  At some point they drifted upstairs (leaving me to listen to their music - that happens a lot) and played with lego again acting out dramas with their mini figures.  Lunch was eaten and we sat and shared a chapter of The Hutman's Book about the Moors and a poem Meg Merrilies by John Keats.  If we have lunch at home we always finish our meal with a chapter from our shared book and a poem which I choose related either to the story/book we are reading or the time of year.  On Tuesday which is our 'nature' day we also have chapter from a book Come our of Doors by C.D. Dimsdale which details what nature is up to for each week of the year.  I have tried various ways to share stories and poetry with them and this is what works for us.  I started with the story and then slowly added the other elements.  I know some people start the day with this but my children were not interested then, now it has become an important part of our meals at home together and it finishes our morning too.  If we are going out for the afternoon we will do so after lunch is cleared away.

The day I recorded all that we did, we would usually go out to a friends for the afternoon, for play and singing.  It was cancelled this week so we were at home for the afternoon too.  We played two games immediately after lunch, Home Builders and Winter both co-operative games and firm favourites here.  E really struggles with losing so I bought Winter for him one Christmas and it was a really good move he much prefers these games to ones which have a winner.  We have four of these games now.  It is great that we can now all play these together as Y is old enough to engage in the discussion and be part of the game.

Earlier in the day, when the children realised that singing was not going to happen, Y expressed an interest in walking up the village to the park in the afternoon, as it was dry we decided we would go out for a short time.  I also wanted to pop into the garden centre in the village, it is just a small one but it does sell most things you need, I was after some spring bulbs and hoped they would have some.  Sadly they don't stock them I shall have to go elsewhere.  As we were walking up the village we played I spy with colours and talked about how you could drive a car when you couldn't walk.  They played on the park equipment and we all played tig until we were exhausted and set off home playing I spy and talking about what makes a sentence.

It was tea making time when we got home so whilst I got on with that the children headed upstairs to play with playmobil creating a campsite with a cafe.  Over tea E told us funny jokes and we talked about numbers, adding them together and taking them away, what the biggest number is and how we imagine numbers in our heads.  I shared lots of books with Y after tea, reading them together on the sofa, Y listened in and read some of his own too.  Then it was time for a bath and bed, ending the day, as always, with my settling each child in bed and asking them what was their favourite part of the day.  At this point I go to bed too, settling down to read my book until my eyes will not stay open anymore.

The rest of the week we had more writing and drawing, more lego and playmobil playing, more reading books together, more interesting conversations about a huge variety of topics, a den built played in and then carefully packed away together (not all on the same day), a walk in a local wood and spotting three red squirrels, a day out at forest school, baking biscuits, planting spring bulbs (yes I did find some), more dancing to music.  This is the ebb and flow of our days.

It was interesting that I posted earlier in the week about science, I was pondering whether we needed more in our week and then look what happens when I write it down.........