Mud & Mischief

Just our way of home educating our three girls; assisted by an allotment, a Land Rover and a heap of ingenuity.

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Location: South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

LEA looming

Been a hectic week - hardly been in the house.

Have just realised that the impending visit of Mr Eyebal from Doncaster LEA is next week... eeep. Must get that letter in the post. Procrastination is my middle name - no wonder xmas has snuck up on me so ruddy quick.

I have a horrible feeling I'm going to have to go to Meadowhell to have a quick blast through the remains of the Yuletide shopping. Ugh.

DH is off work at the mo with a bad back - no entirely sure how he did it, but one minute he was walking across the garage forecourt to pay for the diesel on Tuesday, the next, I thought he was having a heart attack. Later, he said it felt like someone had stabbed him through with a sword (this from a man who used to fence, and now does bu jutsu with a more substantial blade than just a foil). So that's been him buggered for nearly a week now. Ended up at A&E having him x-rayed to see if he'd chipped a bone or slipped a disk. Nothing. They gave him lots of lovely co-codamol though, and some anti-spasmodics to try and help his back relax.

Of course, the drugs had the same effect on his brain - I now have a space cadet for a bloke. The girls think it's funny having Daddy in cloud cuckoo land...

Our visit last week (I'm so baaad at this blog thing) was to the Deep in Hull. What a great day out! The girls loved it and I did hear myself wonder aloud how long it took to polish all those nose prints off the aquarium glass each evening. Sharks, rays, coral reefs, even a tubular tank of glow-in-the-dark jellyfish. We'll definitely be going back there again. :) It's a shame the shop was shut, but they were refitting it. There is also another section opening at some point. Their little education booklet is good - comes with a pencil and a thick cardboard back so the kids can use it on the way round the place. Although it was a little advanced for D and G.

T was ecstatic though - I think which ever planet she comes from must be populated by strange multicoloured beings that float around... kind of like Daddy at the moment, thinking about it. :)

Right, bedtime. Before I fall asleep face down on my keyboard and wake up with lots of little square imprints across my forehead.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Too much time on ones hands

Leads one to fill in stupid internet quizes.

Having a friend with too much time on his hands leads him to send you links to stupid internet quizes...

I'm 71% freak!!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Blacksmiths, armour and snow!

I'm not going to apologise for only posting twice a week - I think I should resign myself to the fact that real life gets in the way of doing stuff like this, and feel pleased that I manage to remember to update my blog more than once a fortnight.

Monday was quiet, Tuesday we went swimming as it was DH's day off. All three little'uns were delighted to have Daddy to themselves for a whole day and we had a very peaceful, productive and enjoyable day. I was even talked into taking the small ones for a 'treat' ie, happy meal land. Eurgh... I know now why I normally avoid the golden arches at all costs. Sure, they enjoyed what they ate, but then we had to cope with two loopy kids and a very grouchy baby for the rest of the day. I felt bloated and out of sorts too - and I'd had one of their so-called healthy chicken wrap thingies. DH, of course, demolished mandatory Big Mac, fries, chicken wrap, large soft drink and half of T's burger, then decided he wanted something sweet and bought a donut and a McFlurry! He must have a digestive tract made of cast iron. :)

Wednesday was 'day-out-day'. We went to Leeds Royal Armouries with Grant, G and B. G is D's age and B is F's age, and poor ol' T is in the middle... no, I can't keep them separate, and mix up the names constantly, so I don't expect you to keep track of 5 kids, either.

The Royal Armouries is such a fabulous place - I think we'll be going back there. We only managed to do two floors. But the girls loved it - we saw two different presentations. One was a two-handed broadsword demonstration, and the other was a girl dressed as Joan of Arc, complete with full armour, chain mail skirt, sword and helmet. When asked, she said the armour weighed four or five stone and took her over half an hour to get into. The three older girls (D, T and G) sat there entranced whilst the woman in the armour recited Joan's last impassioned speech, and then told them the rest of the story. G leaned over D and asked "is this really real?" in the best stage whisper I've ever heard. I think half the museum heard her. :)

Today we did some housework, D did a little writing but got rapidly bored of that. We were supposed to be going to an art morning at a place called the Point in Doncaster, but we were very out of sync and didn't manage it. Instead, we had an early lunch and went to visit a blacksmith friend, who happened to be working on some chain mail! The girls were fascinated by the way a big bucket of c-shaped bits ended up as a swathe of metal fabric. We'll be going back once he's got his forge up and running - we happened to visit in the middle of a remodel.

This afternoon, we went to visit Jax. Apparently Big had really taken to D at their last meeting and was dying to see her again. So we headed out down the M1 about 1-ish through heinous weather. Small and F were alternately companionable and argumentative, and F threw a couple of fabulous tantrums that I've never seen the like of before. I didn't know whether to be amused or irritated. Turns out she was both tired and hungry - silly mommy forgot about the early lunch and she'd only had about 25 minutes snooze in the car. D and Big did paper poppies and played up in Big's room for a while, whilst Jax and I went through some of this stupid paperwork the LEA has sent me. I'm a bit shy and retiring in some senses, and it was nice to have someone tell me how it was perfectly alright to tell the LEA where to, that is, what to go and do. :)

After devouring half a loaf's worth of toast and marmite like a plague of locusts, we headed home in the dark, through torrential sleet and a howling gale. Once home, it was dinner, bath and bed, and by the time I'd come back downstairs, the snow was starting to settle. In November!!! I'm such a big kid, I was wondering if I should get the sled out of the garage.

Monday, November 15, 2004

LEA contact

Well, I didn't think I'd be able to escape for too long, but I'm quite surprised as D has only been deregistered for 2 week and I've already had two letters.

The first is a green form they want me to fill in. I'm not very happy with it, to be honest. There's a section where they want me to fill in the names and d.o.b.'s of any children not yet of school age. Plus they ask if I've any outstanding parenting or legal orders, if my kids have any special needs, which curriculum I'm going to follow, which exams they will be prepped for, what subjects I'm likely to cover, etc etc. All a little bit much for a 5 y.o.!

Also, I've got my letter from a certain Mr Eyebal (no, his name isn't spelled like that but we're avoiding getting picked up by google) of Doncaster LEA this week (I can't even think that name without laughing... doesn't bode well for a meeting in person).

And it's quite patronising.

"It may be helpful for you to know that the law requires their education to be: 'efficient, full time and suitable to their age, ability and apititudes and to any special needs they may have'."

Really? Fancy that. He continues:

"Consequently, in order to carry out our responsibility, I would like to make a first visit to see you as soon as possible to discuss the arrangements you have already put in place for her education, and to see any evidence of what she has done. The first meting is one where proposals, ideas and detailed arrangements can be freely discussed. A fruther meeting to consider progress and the effectiveness of what is being provided will be made for a few months later."

He's generously given me 3 weeks notice - the date he puts in his letter is 7th December. I've asked on the SYHEC list and pretty much everyone has advised me to tell him sod off, only not in so many words. (Yes, I could hear you lot thinking that!) lol

I'm going to reply with a very nice letter, thanking him for his communique, and telling him that a home visit will not be necessary until the New Year, as we're still deschooling. I've been given a list of books I can quote at him, so I think I'd better get reading! :)

Quiet weekend

Not done a huge amount this weekend. It's been rather quiet actually.

On Friday morning, F decided to headbutt the corner of a doorway and developed the most enormous egg on her forehead - we ended up ringing NHS Direct. I've never seen a lump come up the way that one did. It reminded me of a Tom and Jerry cartoon - thump on head and huge lump just grows before your eyes. It was kind of scary too, as it was just above her right eyebrow and bigger than half a golfball. The Direct helpline were really good - they rang back within 10 minutes of us ringing, and the doc on the other end was lovely. Very reassuring, but not patronising. And then, they rang back after 15 minutes to double check we'd understood everything and that there had been no change in her condition! No complaints for the beleaguered NHS from me that day. :)

Aside from that, it's been a quiet weekend. Read some jolly phonics with D & T - D being all self important and pointing letters out to T. D did another 3-D playground - it's brilliant! This time, she was throwing a tantrum because she couldn't do trees. So I took it off her, put it to one side and we went shopping. As soon as she got back, she sat back down with it, and 5 minutes later, had figured out how to make a tree. She'd rolled a piece of paper into a tube, and then splayed the bottom out by making little vertical tears, before taping it to the paper. And they work perfectly! We're going through sellotape at an extraordinary rate of knots, but they are having so much fun. There are small pieces of coloured paper taped to pretty much every flat surface in the house. Went up to bed a couple of nights ago and found two A4 murals stuck to the wall above the head of my bed. Very cool.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Well - what can I say? It was amazing! The Lyceum in Sheffield is a small theatre, but it was just right for D's first outing. She made me proud too, sitting still and pretty much spellbound for most of the performance. There were a few bits she either lost interest in, or was a bit scared of (by the music - bit dark in places!), but other than that, she loved it.

It was a really different interpretation, too. Quite dark, lots of erotic undertones that went straight over D's head (apart from the bit where Anthony and Simon almost share a kiss... "mommy, I thought he was supposed to kiss the swan?"), but with fabulous costumes, and a very clever use of lighting and big swathes of blue silk when Anthony drowns himself at the end. the two leading dancers were Japanese too, which gave the whole perfomance a very different feel. I loved it. :)

The same company, The Northern Ballet Theatre, are also doing a Dangerous Liasons... I love that film so I absolutely have to find out where they're doing that!

And as for HE - well, at one point D leaned over and informed me in a stage whisper that there were 14 swans onthe stage "but when that black swan comes back it will be 15, right?" We read all the posters, browsed the programme, I made her look for the correct number during the intermission (our drinks were at C7 on the long bar - she found it :). We counted naked baby angels painted on the ceiling, talked about the various instruments down in the orchestra pit. We were sat in the second row of the circle, so we had a great view.

All in all, a great success.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


I'm so touched by the comments left - I have no idea how to reply to individual ones though.

So, to answer a handful of questions -

T's finger is just fine thanks. No brusing, swelling or anything - thanks for the arnica Sally!

Veggie boxes come from Goosemoorganics in Wetherby. I finally bullied them into delivering down here. :) Beef comes from Brookfield Beef in Blythe. I have just been given a contact for organic pork in Chesterfield that I need to follow up. What's Lemba, btw? We do industrial sized most things here.

And Sally - thank you. I never realised the effect I had on your 'Angel'. But she is. :)

Newstead Abbey

Had a lovely day out with the girls. We went to Newstead Abbey which is down near Nottingham. Unfortunately the building itself was closed, but the gardens were all open.

There are formal, 17th century walled gardens, a lovely enclosed herb garden with ancient pear trees pruned to create archways, a Japanese garden, an ancient cedar tree, yew corridors, water features... We spent a couple of hours just wandering around, losing small children in the shrubbery. We went with our normal exploring companions, Grant and his two offspring, (daughter same age as D, son same age as F). The older girls had a ball, with poor T trying gamely to keep up.

The abbey was the home of Lord Byron, and we talked some about poetry. Of course, that rapidly degenerated into rude limericks... We're going to get a book out of the library though. I was quite disappointed the house wasn't open, but it does mean we're going to have to go back in the spring when it reopens. They're doing a lot of restoration work on it at present. But the best bit was the waterfall that came out of the large lake - there was a little path along the side of the fall pool, and you could get right behind it! The girls thought that was the absolute highlight of their day, peering out through the water at the babies who were parked out on the path. They took lots of pictures, as Grant had brought along two minature digital cameras.

I was pleasantly surprised I managed to fit us all into the truck too - I know it's got seven seats, but that uses up pretty much most of the interior space. As well as 5 kids and 2 adults, we squashed in 7 jackets, a picnic, two changing bags, some extra shopping we bought whilst purchasing picnic stuff... well, you get the picture. The double buggy had to go on the roof rack. Good job it didn't rain too hard. :)

I can't wait for tomorrow - D and I are going to the ballet. I feel like a little kid again. I've never been to the ballet. Sounds pretty sad, I know, especially as I'm a complete classical music freak, but first with college, then small children, I've never managed to get to the ballet.

We're going to see Swan Lake. D is so excited too. At least she's stopped referring to it as Barbie Swan Lake - now she's telling everyone we're going to see Ballerina Swan Lake. I'm taking a rook of books and notepads and munchies for her - it's two and a half hours (I think that's including a remission) and I really don't want her to get bored. We're also catching the train home, which in itself is going to be a big adventure. DH gets T and F to himself for a day, which they'll enjoy. No doubt they'll go inflict sliced white on the geese at Lakeside.

The girls are all glad DH is back from Holland. They really do miss him when he's away. Even though they only see him for an hour or two in the evening most days, they notice when he's not there.

Brought another pot back from college tonight - this pottery lark is fun. :) I am now the proud owner of a pumpkin tealight holder thingy, and square green pot with an oak leaf on the front. One day, I shall figure out how to put pics into this blog...

Now I really need to stop rambling like a grasshopper on catnip and go get some sleep.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Get a grip

Must try and update this more regularly. Been a bit of hectic few days, though, as DH disappeared to Holland on Monday, doing the flower auctions and such, so I've had two nights without him here. Weekend was chaotic too, with friends for dinner Saturday, fireworks and a Chinese meal out on Sunday...

We went to a little home ed gathering on Monday and it was great to put faces to names - all these people I've been reading about and talking to on various lists (SYHEC, MP etc), and suddenly, they have faces and kids and my three loved it. Barbara, Sarah, Sal, Kirsty, Jax... my terrible memory deserts me a this point. There was playdough and bricks and a table with paper aeroplanes and whirly gigs to colour. D decided she was oldest and felt quite grown up in the car on the way home. "It's nice meeting those other children and helping them do stuff, isn't it Mommy?"

It was good to meet Jax's Big and Small. After reading Jax's blog I was convinced that D and Big had been cut from the same bolt of cloth. Nice to know I'm not the only one banging my head against the nearest wall when faced with a total alien being masquerading as my daughter.

We had a really good day today too, so that's two days in a row. Spent the morning doing a workbook, some KS1 computer games and then she and T sat at the table and shredded half a ream of white paper, two rolls of sticky tape and some card. They had so much fun. D made a 3D paper playground, all on her own. I was stunned. She'd cut out strips of paper and made a slide that stood up off the base, a set of swings and a see-saw. It was 50% sellotape, but as far as imagination, construction, etc etc I was over the moon. :)

This afternoon was spent tidying up, the girls had a quick nap then we went to meet Grant & Grace at the soft play centre in town. Little scruffier than Brewsters, but at least you can sit and talk whilst the kids all run around within view. We left there at the very late hour of 7pm and got home in time to meet Grandma who had come to "help me put the girls to bed". DH's mum always does this when he goes over night somewhere. It's very sweet, but sometimes I want to ask her what she's doing the three or four nights each week that I put them to bed on my own.

However, she had been to Meadowhell (saved me a trip!) and, on request, bought the Jolly Phonics books. I've heard lots about these books, and as they were 3 for 2, decided to get all 7. Well, Grandma did. T brought me the first one, watched me do the S-shape and then copied me whilst going ssssssnake. Then - she looked around the page, looked studious for a moment and proceeded to point out three s's in the text! Proud momma or what? Child genius - shame she's not on the same planet as the rest of us.

Classic T-ism. Take T out of car tonight and she looks up into the sky and goes "ooh, mommy, stars!"

"I know," I said. "Pretty aren't they? Which planet are you from then?"

T studies the sky for a moment.

"That one," she says definitely, pointing to the North Star. Thought I might drop her with laughing...

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Not much in the way of 'schooling' going on today, I'm afraid. Got up, dressed, breakfasted and then were out round the supermarket. Ugh. At least I didn't need a huge amount (we do the organic veggie box thing, and buy meat locally) so all I really had to do was stock up on tins and the industrial sized boxes of Weetabix that are necessary to households with small children.

Then it was round to Grant's house to leave children with Kerry whilst we went for our run. Well, we're still at the jog-a-bit, walk-a-bit, jog-a-bit, amble-a-bit phase, but I'm sure we'll be running the whole mile round the lake by the New Year.

Home, a few books read, dinner made and Daddy even made it home for tea - that was a treat. Bedtime and we're here. Browsing blogs when I should really be experimenting with that gluten-free flour. It makes dreadful pastry, but I promised Grant some mince pies... guess I've got 7 weeks till Xmas. :P

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Seems like this posting is well overdue. Sometimes I feel like there are a dozen people in this house... but really, there are only 5.

Himself (sometimes labelled DH, other half or Daddy) is a florist. And before you ask, no I don't often get flowers. If I do, they tend to be of the "this is a new variety and we're testing them out to see how long they last", or "I might need to take these back into the shop in a couple of days for funeral work", etc. He works 10 hours days, leaves at 7am and is never back before 6pm. And subsequently, he's the girls' favourite parent. Daddy's girls, without a doubt.

Eldest daughter is 5. Can't decide whether to use her proper name, a pseudonym or just an initial. I've noticed very few people refer to their children by their real names in blogs... make an executive decision, for goodness sakes... D it is.

D was de-registered on Monday - had been in Class One at the local primary school, but enough was enough and I decided I wanted my little girl back, not the moody, nasty, bad tempered, smart mouthed, 5-going-on-15 brat that school turned her into. And remarkably enough, having not been to school for 13 days as of today, she's already almost back to her old self. I'm nervously waiting for the catch in the situation, but fingers crossed...

T is my middle one. She'll be 3 in December and inhabits a planet somewhat different to the rest of us. There's an expression that goes "the light in her eyes is the sun shining in through the hole in the back of her head". That's my T. The lights are on, but nobody's home. To be honest, she's scary smart - can count to 20, sing the ABC's song, write a couple of letters even. But her speech is dreadful - she has a great vocabulary, but little grasp of grammar or pronunciation. And add to that the time she spends in her own little world... well, to be honest I was worrying about autism and the like around her second birthday.

However, all is well. I've relaxed, stopped worrying and am just letting her get on with things. And that seems to be the best way with T. Autonomous should be her middle name I think, not Bronwyn. :)

And then there's little F. Damn, I knew it was a mistake to use initials. Oh well. Blue eyes, curly locks, cutest little 17 month old you ever did see. And she can shatter glass at 100 yards with her scream when thwarted. She's an adorable angel with a temper like I've never seen. D was a placid baby, and T was only mildly assertive, when compared with F. Ye gods... do not deny the baby anything. And she ruddy knows it. She seems to be picking up words rapidly - she knows more words now than T did at 2 years old, but then, F is a Gemini. I have a feeling we won't be able to shut her up in a year or two.

However, I have no cause for complaint really. All my girls sleep 12 hours at night. They are all healthy, no medical problems *touch wood* (F's infantile eczema has cleared up, and we tend to forget about the menningitis at 10 days old, no side effects or repercussions there, thank the gods) and to be honest, I feel like one of the luckiest moms in the world. :) Yeah, yeah, mushy, but it's late, and I get that way after a glass of wine.

To round the family out we have Merlin the dog, a 6 year old mongrel (bit of collie, bit of lurcher, lots of whippet), Moose the guinea pig and the truck. It's DH's pride and joy, a Land Rover Discovery and we do lots of muddy things with it, go off-roading, green laning, tow the van, do rallies/shows/events etc, and its part of the family really. There's not that many vehicles that can take three kids, both parents, half a ton of gear, pushchair, picnic and dog up the side of a mountain along a 2000 year old Roman road in comfort, and then back home down the motorway at 80mph with little more than a polishing of the brake lights.

And now, I shall stop rambling and post this. With a little luck, I may even find myself on the MP blogring, when Jax works her esoteric stuff with codes. :)

well, I've tried two days running to update the blog, but something has gone amiss. Never mind, I'm here now.

Seems I'm a once a week poster at the mo. Still, we're now officially home educating. :) Still can't quite believe we've done it. We spent half term floating around the countryside - two days on a friend's dairy farm in Cheshire, then three days with the caravan in the Peak district, doing some green laning with the Disco. :) That's a separate blog all together. Must figure out how to post picture on here.

And then, Monday morning, I did it - went and took eldest's de-reg letter into school. Total ruddy wuss, mind you - kind of chucked it at the secretary, mumbled soemthing about passing it onto the head and then bolted back to the car. Which at first appears quite daft, but I'm a sensitive sort and don't like offending someone. Which basically what I've just done - after all, taking your child out of school is really telling the teachers that you don't think they can do their job properly, which in my books counts as rather offensive.

Anyhow, enough of that (and just how many times can one use the word 'which' in one paragraph?)

Today was a good day - we went to Doncaster's little museum, which has a rather neat variety of displays, and one large stuffed growling bear which alarmed the smaller two somewhat - until the littlest one realised the bear wasn't really moving and that she'd rather climb up it to see why. Did reading of various exhibits (literacy), studied old maps of Doncaster (history, geography), and counted the old medals in the war room (numeracy). Then it was off to Brewsters for an hour's belting around the nice, new, clean play area (P.E.). After lunch, that wasn't bought from Brewsters I hasten to add, we went and fed the ducks, geese and swans at Lakeside (unsure as to classification - nature studies? lol)