Free range gerbil & fractions.

It’s been back to Earth this week after our wonderful holiday. It all seems a bit like a dream. The icy weather has really been biting today and it really does feel a world away from the sunny beaches of Barbados, even though both are actually on Earth and very much in the same world really!

The kids were actually really happy to get back to Wood School, especially A who is still enjoying the newness of all the freedom and time to explore and play outdoors. I seem to have spent the week trying to catch up on the extra housework from being away. This sounds like a paradox but I’m sure I can’t be the only person who experiences this. Why is it that the less time you spend in the house, the more housework there seem to be? I think small pixies come into my home and create laundry, washing up and general chaos. One day I’ll catch them and put a stop to this nonsense!! I had some help with the housework from A today which I really appreciated. I often feel that it can be harder work getting the kids to pull their weight in the home than it is to get on and do it. The problem is that I really do need their help. We’re lucky enough to have a large house and I enjoy home educating and I’m even happy to be single at the moment. The combination of all these things, however, means that I really can’t manage it all on my own. Add in my ongoing pain issues and being pregnant and it leaves me feeling pretty grumpy a lot of the time recently. I noticed what an enormous difference it made to my mood when A did a wonderful job of tidying and dusting the living room. I felt relaxed and happy and genuinely appreciative. I’m looking forward to relaxing this evening in my living room rather than sighing and huffing and puffing in frustration at all the mess! I think it’s time to put a bit more effort into getting ‘Happy House Hour’ up and running again in order to reap the long term rewards.

Jessy isn’t having much luck with his pets this week. After the untimely demise of his poor cat Penny-Patch, his little gerbil Alicia then got loose in the kitchen. She’s been happily wandering free for a couple of days now. At first we were worried as there are large holes leading into the wall cavities. Jessy made a huge barricade out of boxes, chairs and washing powder boxes to try and stop her getting to the holes. It became rather difficult to come and go in the kitchen. We did fear that she was lost for good after not seeing her for a while but we’re now becoming familiar with her favourite hide outs, we just can’t catch her! I did manage to get her in a box but she leapt out again. I’m almost becoming resigned to having a free range kitchen gerbil although I’m not happy about the hygiene implications. I think we might have to resort to a humane mouse trap.

Jessy and Penny earlier this year.

Jessy and Penny earlier this year.

Alicia the escapee gerbil

Alicia the escapee gerbil

A is keen to start working towards some badges for Scouts which prompted us to have a look at the available badges for both Cubs and Scouts. I do wish they gave you a handbook like they did when I was young, nowadays you’re expected to look it all up online which doesn’t feel the same somehow. Jessy has decided to go for the Pet Care badge as he is already caring for his pets so he’s part way there. A found a Circus Skills badge which will tie in perfectly with the Circus Skills group they do on Tuesdays. She also decided to go for the Writers badge and sat down immediately to write a poem about going to Scouts. She’s really enjoying Scouts and had the benefit of their first trip away this Friday when she went caving. I was a little worried she’d get scared and not enjoy it as she can suddenly become anxious about all sorts of things. She arrived home though at nearly midnight full of excitement about her underground explorations. The next day she drew some pictures of the different things she’d seen and said she’d like to do some writing about the caves as part of her Writers badge work.

We had friends round to play on Saturday and again today. I feel like we haven’t had as many friends round recently so I’ve enjoyed seeing them play, although it did take quite a lot of effort to keep them all off the computers. I feel as if the screen time has stretched out a little and that Jessy and A haven’t been playing as much as they did previously. I think this often happens as the days get shorter and colder and every year I worry about it!

Jessy’s mind is still active though as he showed me today when he came to do a little mental division of fractions while I was doing the washing up. He’s always been good at spotting number patterns and he told me that if you want to work out half of a fraction you just have to leave the top number the same and double the bottom number. He asked me what half of 3/4 is and I went through a complicated process to work it out only for him to tell me he already knew because of the pattern. At first I told him it wouldn’t work for all fractions but then realised he’s quite right and it does always work! We tried some different ones and then tried simplifying the answers when necessary.

I finally made it back to circus skills after 3 weeks of hospital appointments on Tuesdays. It was lovely to see how much the children have improved, particularly on the trapeze. A has decided to steer clear of the trapeze now though as she fell off last week and was really struggling. Jessy surprised me today by agreeing to perform in the Christmas show! He’s never wanted to do anything like that before, but when he heard the performance is only 5 minutes long he felt he could manage that. I feel quite excited! A is going to be the Ring Master and Jessy is going to be on the trapeze with a friend.

Jessy has just got back from Cubs and after all my talk of badges we realised he completely forgot to complete his Home Safety Badge booklet which he was supposed to take back today! Ooops!

I’ve really noticed a change in the baby’s movements this week. I can actually feel kicks now rather than just squirms and my belly looks huge! I’ve been getting together a few bits and pieces including treating myself to some clothes from a brand called Molo which I adore! Here are my favourites!

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My version of buying ‘gender neutral’ just involves buying whatever I like, so I’ll either end up with a boy wearing ponies and pink or a girl wearing blue lizards! (and vice versa of course) Well, that’s it for this week.

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Diving into Fractions

“What is half of three quarters?” Jessy asked me yesterday morning. We had 10 minutes before we had to leave to catch the bus. Still, I feel compelled to answer questions like this. I realised quickly, however, that I didn’t know the answer. Jessy ran to get paper and a pen. Maths is not my strongest point. I can understand most mathematical concepts if I put some effort into it but I found myself puzzling this one through trial and error and hastily scribbled diagrams. I think I was more impressed than Jessy when I came up with the answer and remembered the ‘magic’ formula for dividing fractions! I realised I could do with some help though, so I told Jessy I’d search out a book while he was at wood school.

I headed for Waterstones on Deansgate. The books in the children’s section were all aimed too young. The books in the Teaching Resources section cost a fortune and didn’t seem to include fractions anyway. Discovering a hand book for teachers entitled ‘How to Get the Little Buggars to Behave’ gave me a huge ‘I’m so glad I Home Educate!’ moment. Eventually I found the right section and began to browse the maths books. I have no idea what Jessy would be learning if he were at school, so I started with the books aimed at his age group. They weren’t even writing fractions yet! So I went up a notch into the 8-9 category. At last some fractions appeared, albeit a fairly basic introduction. The 10-11 age book began to tackle dividing fractions in order to simplify them. I realised that the equation we had tackled over breakfast was probably teenage level maths! I needed to keep it close to the original question he’d asked in order to hold his interest, but I realised that he’d need to understand these initial concepts in order to tackle the more complicated stuff. With this in mind I added a ‘Times Tables’ book and headed to the checkout.

I must have pitched it right because he was keen to try the books today. After I’d dealt with the dead mouse in the living room left by the cute fluffy cat we currently live with, Jessy breezed through the 8-9 level fractions without a hitch. One of the things that always amazes me about Jessy is how he improves whilst seemingly doing nothing. It was lovely to see how his writing had come on dramatically. The last time we did a maths workbook it was completely illegible. He got every answer right but couldn’t write it down. I had a proud Mummy moment as I watched him easily fit the mixed fractions in small boxes with clearly written numerals. I wasn’t surprised by this though, he focused on writing and drawing for a long time. His literary interest temporarily eclipsed his interest in maths, and it sometimes seemed as if he struggled with even simple addition which he could accomplish with ease previously. So I was pleasantly surprised to watch him sail through maths topics above his age range.

It shouldn’t surprise me really, It’s the whole point of autonomous education – that we learn and achieve when we are interested in something. I should also be used to the waves of interest, the natural ebb and flow of an autonomously educated child. The waves can be nerve racking to ride at times! Skills appear to be drowned by new interests and you fear they will never resurface, only to find them bursting through the waves bolder and brighter than ever. So I enjoyed seeing his mathematical skill re-emerge and still going strong! We added decimals to his range of interest after I explained how they have a lot in common with fractions.

Jessy bravely tackled the first part in the 10-11 book but I could see his concentration was waning . He was clearly capable, just getting tired and I didn’t want him to think he wasn’t up to the challenge. After peering at the mouse, which had been saved in a plastic container, we decided to have a break. We watched the video of Felix Baumgartner doing his record breaking jump from the stratosphere. It was very impressive, but I think we both enjoyed the videos of his earlier base jumping and gliding stunts even more. Jessy giggled with glee at Felix jumping in a taxi, stuffing in the trailing parachute still on his back to escape after an illegal jump! We spent a while browsing videos of skydiving and base jumping and talking about whether we’d like to try it.

We buried the mouse before dinner. Jessy named the mouse Bobby McAlister and wrote a tombstone for him.

Dinner was very exciting because Jessy lost his first tooth! Being over seven and a half means this has been a long wait with some of his peers having lost their first tooth years ago! Jessy is convinced that the Tooth Fairy is actually Santa which I think is a very interesting theory. He wanted me to Google it to discover whether he’s right or not!

Later on Jessy picked up the Times Tables book and I had to fight my urge to persuade him to go through the book in order. He wanted to do the activity with the pictures of doors and keys. He’s had a fascination with keys for years. It was part way through the section on the six times table, but Jessy always tackles things in an ad hoc fashion! One completed quest on Reading Eggspress later and it was time for bed.