Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A magical place

Today we visited Crook Hall in Durham, a place we return to once every couple of years.  Each time, its charm increases, its interior displays have developed and its garden has grown.  A hidden gem in the city centre, nestling only a few hundred yards from the concrete horrors of the passport office, this lovely little 13th century house weaves a special magic.

When we first visited, dd and her friends were most taken with the ghost stories, which may or may not have any foundation.  Apparently, the ghost of a beautiful and heartbroken young woman (aka 'the white lady') periodically appears on the staircase, and there are spectral sensations to be felt on touching the walls of the Jacobean hall.

Spooks or not, it's a lovely space in which to walk, to draw, to tackle the maze, or simply to sit and chat.  Much drawing done today by dd, which will doubtless end up in some digitized form further down the line.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Climbing the wall

Climbing the wall ... literally ...            

Today, the home ed teens went rock climbing.                         

You know, those poor, sheltered kids who never get out among other children! (LOL)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Pride and Prejudice

I've certainly learned my lesson regarding the Comments sections of mainstream newspapers.  This report on why Brangelina's children won't go to school prompted so many prejudiced and stereotypical views of home education that I couldn't resist countering some of the more extreme assumptions.  Naturally, my pride in dd's achievements and interests shone through, which clearly irked some of the more judgmental participants in the debate.  The fact that DD attends a writing class facilitated by a professional author (alongside schooled children - it's one of those social activities that they don't believe our kids have access to) was evidence to this person that I am "an idiot of a parent".  Presumably, this was because I had the arrogance to believe that a published writer might be best equipped to help children with their own writing.

And despite several home educators outlining exactly how much socialization our children have, comments kept on coming through to the effect that children shouldn't be home with their parents all day.  Because it's well known we keep 'em in the cupboard under the stairs until they turn 18!  I despair, really I do.

Never again - it's not worth the effort to type a response to such ignorance.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The forces of darkness

We've just come back from Whitby Gothic Weekend. It's our fourth visit and every time I'm deeply impressed by the warmth and friendliness demonstrated by the dark and scary looking people we encounter there. Judging; books; covers, that kind of thing ... 

DD is a huge fan of dystopian science fiction, so veers towards a really futuristic look.  "1984", "Brave New World", "We", "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" - that kind of thing.  So much so that one of her 14th birthday presents was an  electric sheep T-shirt from Think Geek .  I'm gradually becoming very enamoured of the steampunk style. There's something really enchanting about alternative histories where the future is clockwork, Babbage's difference engine really did change the world a century before the internet, and the likes of HG Wells and Jules Verne were dealing in reportage rather than science fiction.  

DD sees this kind of thing as hopelessly romantic and holds true to her much darker visions.  Well, except in the case of the inspired lunacy that is Robert Rankin's world . Sadly, in terms of the real world, I think her dystopias might be much nearer the mark.

Sunday, 30 January 2011


Dd has one of her fairly regular bouts of tonsillitis. Though gradually - hopefully! - decreasing in frequency, every few months they leave her well enough to potter about at home but too croaky and headache-y to venture out too far. Sometimes I think they represent her body putting some brakes on too much activity and, if so, it sure works. We've spent the last few days virtually glued to the sofa, just enjoying companionable quiet. She might be online, playing WOW or reading TV Tropes, or we'll watch a comedy show together. We've played a couple of games of chess (slightly bad-tempered on her part because she normally beats me easily when she's not so groggy). Not much talking because resting her voice helps. And I've pottered around the house, catching up on washing, baking bread, and taking it pretty easy myself.

Which is great, because the book I have on the go at present is by the editor of The Idler. Tom Hodgkinson's How to Be Free is a gentle anarchist polemic calling on its readers to reject the trappings of the career treadmill and modern consumer society and instead learn to live cheaply, locally and with a renewed joy in simple pleasures such as being with friends and family. It's certainly not perfect. For instance, its viewpoint is very much that of a male journalist who can easily freelance, it's a bit too reactionarily anti-TV and his portrayal of medieval society is a tad naive, verging on the rose-tinted. He also seems to think that the Diggers were protesting against Tudor norms, which would be a Civil War and around 50 years off the mark. But the general drift is still inspiring. It's made me appreciate all the more the down-time at home. And it's set me determined to get out into the garden at the first opportunity and to grow some more of our own food. The question is, will dd come along and help to dig? Jury is firmly out on that one ...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Tiger parents and results culture

There's been something of a press furore about Prof Amy Chua's claims that the methods of ultra-strict 'tiger mothers' are superior to our lax western ways. Quite apart from the gross cultural stereotyping in such claims and the title of her book, it's upsetting to read her confident assertions that bullying and belittling children is the only route to success. Dd just achieved A grades (of which even a so-called 'tiger mother' might approve) in the IGCSEs she sat in November, without any such coercion. She simply chose to study a couple of subjects which she liked in a format that she was comfortable with. She didn't have to miss any sleepovers or TV or games. She didn't have to do anything. Ultimately, will a particular IGCSE grade really matter? Probably not - it might conceivably mean a few less hoops to jump through for a very particular range of careers. Even so, in real life, people are valued for a myriad things other than such ephemera. But at least she has the pleasure of having achieved what she set out to do, without having been berated or disparaged or forced to conform to someone else's vision of what she should be.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Lionel Logue and credentials

We've just got back from a trip to York where Friday's rain forced us into the cinema. Lucky us - because we got to see "The King's Speech", which deserves all the plaudits it's currently attracting. Brilliant performances from all and a fascinating story of adversity overcome.

What prompted me to write about it here, though, was the scene just prior to the new King George VI's coronation, in which various members of the powers that be challenged speech therapist, Lionel Logue because his techniques were self-taught. Logue was an Australian actor-turned-elocution tutor who had learned in the wake of WWI to help shell-shock victims to recover their voices and their confidence. But, to the chagrin of the British establishment, the man who was helping their new king overcome his stutter was working from experience rather than from qualifications and credentials. Of course, those with more formal qualifications had advised their patient to smoke more because it 'relaxed the larynx' or stuffed his mouth with marbles and ordered him to speak, because that was the received wisdom of the time. I suppose that these were the guys with qualifications because regurgitating received wisdom is often the surest way to pass an exam. Instead, Logue watched and listened and developed his techniques through empathy, experimentation and observation. And in this case the unqualified person won through because he was capable of learning from experience.

Who'd have thought a costume drama about a turbulent period of royal history could include such subversive educational matter?