Wednesday 19 July 2017

Summer Plans

Now that I'm a working mum, I feel as though I have to be super efficient in order to get everything done ... even though I wasn't particularly inefficient before, but when your time isn't your time anyone (that's the biggest difference between being at home and working outside full-time), the need to get things done really ramps up the efficiency quotient.

Anyhow, here's the brief plan of what summer 2017 will look like for us:
1. R&R (Resting & Reading)
Tiger has two big bags of books that I've borrowed from the library to keep him occupied for the summer.  A quick glance into the bags show there to be a mixture of genres: 

Please note the above represents an aspirational list, and I am not fussed whether Tiger reads any of them or not.  He knows where the books are if he wants to read them.

I have a similarly aspirational list summer reading for myself:

I have a separate list of technical (work-related) books that I want to get through too, but I believe there are great benefits to be had from reading and thinking about different things (as opposed to work stuff) for a few weeks a year. 

2. S&S (Sea & Sports)
The boys are getting into sea kayaking, so will be spending time this summer taking courses in that.

And because they must always take something up a notch, I've been informed that they are thinking of 'upgrading' to power boating, later in the summer.

On a relatively more sedate front, Tiger and I will be spending a week at the Jurassic Coast, taking a residential course in geology and fossils.

3. F&F (Friends and Film)
My closest friend, a woman who I knew for over 20 years, is visiting and staying with us for a few weeks, so we'll be spending a lot of time together.  This friend of mine is a huge Harry Potter fan, and she wants to go on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, so that goes into the summer plan too.

Tiger didn't want to go on the tour when we had a Harry Potter theme in our homeschool about 18 months ago, but he now says he will go on the tour when my friend is here.  I'll probably also take her around London and Oxford to see all the relevant Harry Potter locations.

Sunday 16 July 2017

So, How Did the First Year of School Go?

So one full school year has gone by.  Actually, Tiger's school holidays started two weeks ago, but I've only just found the time now to share Tiger's end-of-school-year report.

I attended his end-of-year school assembly (photo 3), which we were told was compulsory for every parent and child to go.  Tiger, being the pre-teen that he is, was very grumbly that Saturday morning and I was not particularly in the mood for spending an entire Saturday morning sitting in a school hall after an intense 60-hour week of work.  Anyhow, both of us showed up expecting to be bored out of our minds.

To my utmost surprise, when I looked through the programme and awards list, I found Tiger's name in several places:
  1. First prize in his Form/year for academic achievement;
  2. Top prize in badminton (photo 2)
  3. Second prize in high jump
  4. Top marks in chemistry in his Form (photo 4)
  5. Achieved the equivalent of GCSE level in physics
An interesting observation I have about prize-giving in school, or in Tiger's school only since I don't know what it's like in other schools here, is that there seems to be a need to give as many out as possible.  For example, there are three prizes in each Form:
  • one for academic achievement;
  • one for effort;
  • one for improvement.
There's also one for being in second place - a certificate of commendation.  Tiger's best friend won this.

I imagine the many different prizes are to encourage as many children as possible to strive for better results.  However, I do wonder about the 'dilution effect' of having so many prizes for all kinds of categories.  What does it really mean to get a prize for "effort" or for "improvement"?

For good measure -- to check that it's just the ultra-competitive side of me thinking the above -- I checked with Tiger and Tortoise separately about what they think of the other prizes.
Tiger's response: "Everything else is 'meh'."
Tortoise's response: "What's the point of the effort prize?  The fact that you didn't get the top prize tells you that you need to put in more effort.  And the improvement prize?  Your baseline must be very low to start with to be given that prize."

Ok... so spoke the two Alphas.

Anyway, there is much more to life than school.

Outside of school, Tiger has been very busy with performing arts coming up to the start of summer:
  • he performed in a percussion concert (photo 5);
  • he performed three public shows and one charity show with a theatre group (photo 6);
  • he achieved a 'merit' in his LAMDA exam (photo 1).
The last one I am particularly proud of, because this is the first year in which Tiger did all the preparation and practices for the exam by himself.  Through his own effort, his score is 3 marks away from 'distinction' and in the interpretation/knowledge section of the exam, he scored 20/20!

In summary, a very good first year of school.  Even though Tortoise and I still have our doubts about how well the whole concept of going to school is, Tiger has definitely grown in maturity, independence and resilience by being in a non-home environment.  In fact, having a year group to pit himself against seems to have brought out the competitive streak in him like never before.  To be fair, there was no real chance for him to compete against anyone of similar age when we were homeschooling.  On hindsight, the lack of competition seems to be a contributing factor to his angst and frustration back then.

We are now planning for the summer.  I will share our plans very soon.

Thursday 13 July 2017

Guess Who Showed Up This Evening?

Tortoise have been saying that he wants to get a dog as a pet.  We've been going back and forth on this topic because I think it's an absolutely lovely idea for Tiger to have a dog to grow up with.

Except that I don't fancy picking up dog poo.  Neither do I have the time to walk the dog these days... heck, I barely get home before 9pm on most days so I'd do well to take myself on walks!

Anyhow, tonight I was home early (by 6pm!) as I was out on training.  As I prepared dinner for my family, I glanced out at the garden and saw this:

This red fox started visiting our garden a few months ago, but it has intensified its visits in the past few weeks, familiarising itself to the surrounding.

After some inspection (it was here last weekend as well), it settled itself on the bed of cut grass and slept for a good half hour.

What a gorgeous animal!

Well, since the fox is from the dog family, I'm happy for it to continue to visit us and be our unofficial pet.

Sunday 16 April 2017

Back to the Modern Day and Beyond

Does anyone recall our visit to the Muckleburgh Collection?  Can you believe that was three years ago?!

While we were in Norfolk, I thought it would be good to revisit this marvellous museum where Tiger and I spent a whole day carefully looking through every piece of equipment.

Strangely, this time it took us a little more than 2 hours to go through the collection, and we even spent 45 minutes at the cafe to have lunch!  Maybe it took us much shorter time now because:
  • Tiger is bigger now so he can read faster, walk faster, and
  • his interest in military history has moved past its peak from three years ago.
In any case, I am glad I was able to fully support his interest back then and gave him all the necessary exposure that he craved.

From the (slightly) historical military vehicles at the tank museum, we moved on to a modern luxury brand saloon car assembly plant.

 It was a fascinating tour of the Jaguar assembly plant, seeing the robotic arms at work.  No photos were allowed in the plant, but you'll get a good sense of what it is like from the video below:

However, I am more intrigued by the incredible corporate turnaround of the brand:

While we were not running around, we managed to do a bit of potting while enjoying the lovely spring flowers that in bloom.

Meanwhile, Tiger is devouring a new series of sci-fi books -- yes,  he has finished reading all the Star Wars books we can find.

He is now moving on to Star Trek.

According to Tiger, Star Trek is more relatable because the story has earth as the anchor planet for the crew -- a planet that Tiger has some familiarity with.  Despite this, Tiger remains a big Star Wars fan, along with his best friend at school.

The boys are currently in Wales enjoying their boys-only, male-bonding trip.

This gives me plenty of time for the much needed me-time, hence my able to write two blog posts to provide some catch-up news to all who are interested.  A few more days of peaceful and quiet time for reflection before I go back to the relentlessly frantic stress of work. 

Saturday 15 April 2017

School-Holidays Homeschooling

I am becoming a half-term/school holiday blogger!  Since Tiger started school and I started full-time work, our time together has been limited to weekends and school holidays, much like most families.  While I miss certain aspects of our homeschooling life, such as having control over our own time and working to our own schedules, I am happy to report that Tiger has settled very well in school and has made a number of good friends.

Tiger has three weeks off school for the Easter break, so between my husband and I, we managed to cover the half-term child care arrangements using a combination of sleepovers for Tiger, alternate days off and working from home.

I feel as though I dropped back into my homeschooling mode on my days off, taking Tiger to various activities and field trips.  He spent a few days climbing, playing table tennis, and practising archery.

When we were still homeschooling last year, Tiger became very interested in the study of geology, specially fossils.  We had planned to visit the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences but somehow never got round to it, but we finally made it there during this holiday.

While we were back in the swing of 'half-term homeschooling', and looking at fossils and prehistoric life, we went to Cromer,

near West Runton where a very exciting prehistoric Rhino skull has been found recently.

We were there to see the collection in Cromer Museum.

We also went along to the Lynn Museum to look at a significant Bronze Age monument,

the Seahenge.

The Lynn Museum is quite a remarkable little museum.  Not only does it house the Seahenge, which can be considered a water-based, timber version of the Stonehenge, the museum also holds an impressive collection of artefacts from prehistoric times through to the 20th century, including the skeleton of a Anglo Saxon warrior who was buried with his shield boss and spearhead.

When we studied Victorian Britain, and especially of Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist, we looked briefly into the workhouse system and peeped through the gates of a disused workhouse building in London near Dickens' residence.  While in Norfolk, we finally went inside an actual workhouse that is now the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum.

While previously we were under the impression that the workhouse was a unanimously oppresive place,

our visit to the Gressenhall Workhouse Museum has changed our minds somewhat, as we read accounts of a few previous inhabitants who were given help at the workhouse that they would not have had otherwise.  For example, young children in the workhouse were given lessons who would otherwise have had to find work as chimney sweeps or who would end up as street urchins.  There was also the account of a boy who had lost his legs due to an accident and who was given artificial limbs at the workhouse, and was given lessons such that he went on to become a teacher's assistant, got married and had a family of his own.

Of couse, I realise that such success stories are few and far between.  For 99% of the workhouse population, entering the workhouse is very similar to being given a life sentence where one is stripped of one's freedom and dignity.

Sunday 8 January 2017

May the Force be with Us

One of the key positives for Tiger in attending school is to have found a best friend in his class, a French boy, L, who shares his passion for all things Star Wars.  Tiger spent a whole day hanging out with L at his home (talking non-stop about Star Wars, according to L's mum) and also went to the cinema to watch the latest franchise movie:

Since I have not totally forgotten my previous role as a homeschooling mother, I then followed up with Tiger's interest by taking him to the Star Wars exhibition.

Given his current obsession with Star Wars, Tiger really enjoyed the exhibition.  I am not a sci-fi fan in any way but I have found the slightly philosophical theme (about making choices) of the exhibition to be interesting.  We had the opportunity to 'mould' a character by the end of the exhibition, and the below are our Star Wars characters:

Back home, Tiger whipped out the dot-to-dot book that I got him for Christmas and started playing with it.  Doing the dot-to-dot is nothing especially intellectual, but Tiger enjoys it, as so I, and doing what we enjoy is a good enough reason to carry on with the activity.

Besides, this is how we have always supported and will continue to support Tiger's interests, aligned with his increasing fleet of Star Wars models.

If you happen to be as ignorant about the various space vehicles as I am, here is a video that I have found to be useful to bring me up to speed with what the Millenium Falcon is:

Of course, one needs to know about Walkers:

Where does this obsession begin?  I trace it back to two Christmases ago.   Since then, Tiger has caught the bug, despite my best efforts to distract him from it.  When I saw that I could not save him from it, I let him immerse himself by reading all the related books we could get our hands on.


Having said that, I must confess that I struggle to see the importance of knowing the entire chronological history of Star Wars...
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