For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In transition again

Just a very brief post to let you know there's lots to tell, but courtesy of BT and Sky we don't have broadband at the moment and dial up costs an arm and a leg, so we've decided only to go onto the internet in dire emergencies. Like this one. To let you know I'll not be posting for a week, or maybe - probably - two weeks. If it takes any longer I - or a member of my family - might make the news because of action undertaken against Sky and or BT.
Hopefully broadband is reconnected before it comes to that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The new man in my life

I suppose telling people on the FOC list was the first step towards coming out with this not very well hidden secret of mine. People around me have been wondering what's kept me going in the past couple of months and I've been attracting comments about this glow in my eyes, the blush on my cheeks and the happiness that I'm apparently radiating.
So here it is.
Yes, there's a new source of inspiration, a new man in my life. I thought it was impossible for anything or anybody to penetrate the mist of tiredness and lacklustreness (is that not a word, dear spell checker??) around me, but this hot blooded macho Mexican managed to go right through it and hit me in the core of my being. He speaks the words of truth that I've been yearning to hear for such a long time, he is passionate and he is so in touch with nature. He inspires me to an entirely natural approach of problems and trauma's and he teaches me a whole new way of being. Our relationship has empowered me and given a new shine to my life.

I adore him.
Best of all, our relationship is one hundred percent virtual. Very convenient for me. I can just about manage to watch him on telly, visit his website and read his inspirational writings. More physical input would spoil it all, assuming I could muster the energy in the first place. It's ideal the way it is.
His name reflects the powerful leader that he is.
Hail Cesar.
I'm at your feet.

Fortunately, the children have taken to him from the very first moment they laid eyes on him. And Ken cannot but agree that Cesar is the missing link in my life. And he cannot but like the guy, too. I think the family members, or to use Cesar's terminology, the pack members benefitting most from the new man in my life are my dogs. Within the space of one single week we (as a family) have managed to take on the role of leaders and they have become the followers they need to be. They are so much more balanced, there is no more rivalry between them, we are not constantly trying to work out which one of them is the alpha dog, because that's no longer the question. We're in charge. We're the pack leaders. And they are very happy and willing followers.

By watching his dvd's and programme (National Geographic Channel or Sky3) practically every day, and by reading his books, he has become an integral part of our natural curriculum. He teaches us about behaviour and psychology in dogs, but also in humans. We learn how important it is to live in the present, to be calm and assertive, and to be respectful and non-judgmental, all at the same time.
To me, Cesar is another one of these very special teachers.
In my opinion he is what Soul in Education is all about.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mastering maths and science

I thought this might be a good moment to update you on our home ed activities. I just typed that down to see what it looks like and what it feels like to give it that name. Because it certainly feels strange to think about it as such. I don't consider anything we do not to be a home ed activity, really. For a while I tried to uphold the opinion that watching television and playing games on the computer weren't real activities, let alone educational ones. My children have taught me how wrong I was about that. For weeks at an end both Myrna and Owen took the trouble to list everything they'd learned from these 'square activities' and I must admit, I was impressed.
I wasn't the only one impressed. Since a few weeks we have a real and proper tutor coming to our house, Mr R. He's a retired maths and science teacher and he comes every other Thursday morning to do these subjects with Myrna and Owen. They'd both expressed a desire to 'do more maths and science' and Myrna even wants to work towards a GCSE. I've
blogged before about this growing interest and about me feeling inadequate to offer them sufficient challenges and support.
I asked a friend of mine, who's a teacher at one of the colleges in this area, whether she knew somebody with 'soul for science' and she introduced me to Mr R.
He's everything you'd want a teacher to be, most of all flexible and able to go with the questions of the children, without losing his own focus. He has a true love for anything to do with science, biology being his favourite subject. Which resonates one hundred percent with my two, especially Myrna.
The first time he came they did maths, because he wanted to get an idea where they were, how much they knew, so that he could work out what to offer them.
I sat in, of course. Don't want to miss a chance to get a little wiser myself. And I was so amazed to see how little time it took them to convert their practical knowledge into sums. The other good thing about Mr R is that he has a sense of humour that matches that of Owen. When he asked: "If you divide a pizza up into eight equal parts, what do you call one of those parts?" Owen replied: "Too small", Mr R couldn't stop laughing. And to "What do you get when you want to give eight men and their wives an equal part of the pizza?" Owen knew the answer too: "Sixteen hungry people."
I could see these answers coming from a mile away, but Mr R obviously heard them for the first time...
Last week they did biology. Mr R had brought a microscope that was at least a hundred years old and they had to assemble it. Meanwhile he was asking questions about all the individual parts, and to his and my amazement they knew literally everything. What the parts were called, how lenses were made, why you needed light, and much more complicated stuff. Then they went into detail about cells and DNA and that kind of complicated matters, of which I must admit I know very little. So whatever they know, they certainly haven't learned it from me.
Mr R was obviously impressed and asked how they knew so much. Myrna just shrugged and said: "Well, we go to museums, we watch documentaries and films on television and if we want to know more we just look it up on the internet or in a book."
The last half hour of each session Mr R spends with me, to explain the things where the kids and he went too fast for me :) and to give me some guidance so I can help the kids with their homework (hahaha).
Even though I am one hundred percent convinced that what we do is the best for us, for our children, I secretly felt very proud when Mr R said he hadn't expected so much knowledge with Myrna and Owen (because I'd told him we hadn't done any formal curriculum education) and that he really enjoyed their open and inquisitive minds. He also said that after the first session he realised that he needed to prepare these 'lessons' in a different way, because he'd done more in one session than he would have done in three weeks in school.
It's great to see the enthusiasm in the children, too. They are genuinely looking forward to their sessions with Mr R and have asked if we could do them on a weekly instead of a fortnightly basis. I'm afraid that for now it's just not feasible financially, but maybe once the house move (and the double rent) is behind us it could be an option.
Mr R must be genuine about enjoying it, because he's offered to lower his hourly rate if we want to go to weekly sessions. When they were doing maths he spent quite a bit of time trying to understand how Myrna did her calculations (I think they were multiplying fractions). She has her very special own way of doing these things and apparently Ken and I aren't the only ones finding it difficult to follow. But Mr R persisted and let her explain again and again, until he understood. Now he's telling everyone about the extraordinary way she's taught herself to do these sums. It's a prime example of lateral thinking, according to him.
It's wonderful to see how they inspire each other, how teaching can also be learning and vice versa.
In preparation of next Thursday the kids have been gathering everything they could find about the human skeleton. They even had to sit and watch one of these pathology programmes, bless them... The sacrifices one has to make in order to obtain proper education...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Moving forward

Today we've signed the tenancy agreement on the new house. Which from now on I'm going to call our house. And even though the original idea was to move in on the 1st of December, we've decided to start moving in as soon as possible. As in now. Well, tomorrow.
I suppose in the back of my mind I was somehow still expecting something to go wrong. Stupid, I know. Not very positive thinking and all that. But that's just how it was. I found it very difficult to believe my luck. There's always this little voice in me that keeps wondering out loud why on earth I think I am deserving of this all. So I was holding back. Bracing myself.
And then we couldn't use the shower in this temporary house for more than a week because there was a leakage. So we phoned our new landlord to ask if it was okay to use the shower in that house, and he said: "Sure, it's your house now, you're free to do what you want." As he'd said before, when he gave us the key and told us he wouldn't start charging rent until the 1st of December because we couldn't get out of the six months contract for this house.
Ah, the Great Distributor at CSC is really showing me in all kinds of ways that the house is ours, in every sense of the word. And that we'll be alright. Looked after. I just have to repeat that to myself. And writing it down helps, too.

So onwards we go! Today I've polished the laminate floor and I've cleaned all the windows. Ken and Owen have moved the freezer out of storage into the garage and have made a start with putting cupboards and storage shelves in place in the (double!) garage. Myrna's new bed is up in her new room. It's one of these with bookshelves and allsorts attached to it, and she's already put all her books in it. It's becoming more and more our house. Every time I walk in there it feels as if the house breathes "welcome". I want to be in there by the end of next week.

I have found a good use for this temporary house while we still have to pay the rent on it. It's our eighteen's birthday present to Anna Lynn that she can stay and live in it until the end of the tenancy. She is absolutely over the moon with it and can't wait for us to move out. It's one of those presents that makes both giver and receiver happy, because for us it means she gets to stay close to us for a bit longer. We're delighted that it looks like she's staying in England for a while. That'll be good for all of us. She's even said that if she hasn't found a place of her own by March next year, she'll want to move into the caravan that we've now got parked next to our house. Lucky us!

The other good thing that needs mentioning is that Ken has made it through to the next round in applying for a really nice IT job and I'm keeping everything crossed that he gets it. That would be so good! He would be bringing in the money then and I could concentrate on the children, the household and I could still write if I want to (and I do so want to!). But there wouldn't be this constant pressure of deadlines on one side and children asking presence and guidance on the other side.
Also, I think this house is just a bit too small for two adults, two teenagers, two dogs and two cats. Especially if they're all members of this here family, all needing and claiming their own substantial space.

But I have a really good feeling about this job for Ken, and - more importantly - so does he. Plus I have genuine faith in the Great Distributor, who I'm sure will send us all the necessary bits of the jigsaw. All we need to do is gracefully receive and put them together.