Thursday, 2 April 2015

February project, Lichen

 Well, I can't tell you what books we used for this project because I was astonished and horrified to discover that there aren't any.

Yes, you read that right. Apart from a very dry, out of date and out of print handbook, there are none. I couldn't understand it - lichen makes the PERFECT project for kids - it's easy to find, rarely toxic, and the perfect living example of a symbiotic relationship!

Anyway, the Natural History Musuem website came to the rescue with a great identification guide and we used wikipedia too - did you now that Ethnolichenology is the study of the relationship between lichens and people?! There's TONS of connections and usage, they're still used to die wool for Harris tweed and they were used extensively in embalming in ancient Egypt.

So we learnt lots, had fun and are forever changed - we can't go anywhere now without spotting all the lichen, and boy is there lots of it when you're looking out for it!

We did LOTS of spotting - not hard, they can be found on walls, pavements, our car, even - lots of drawing and sketching.
Here's some particularly fine example, our pet lichen here that now live in the kitchen, thriving with plenty of light.

Petal was inspired to do a series of colour studies based on lichens.

March book log

Not much this month cos of illness and various educational related dramas, plus I'm writing another book.

New to me
Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen
Gorgeous farming memoir, really enjoyed this. Looking forward to another which she's apparently penning now, as well as gestating their eighth child!

Fog by Michael Wombat.
Jolly action romp with the protagonist suffering from amnesia and trying to work out who they are as well as how they've got themselves into a madcap situation involving killer oculists.

Clover Twig and the Perilous Path by Kaye Umansky
Sequel to the incredible flying cottage, a stronger story I thought, involving Clover's youngest sibling getting lost down a magical road.


Nothing worth mentioning. Milly Molly Mandy, Peanuts, Poriot short stories, still ploughing through the Tree book.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Books and Biscuits


This is our great work book haul from the weekend.  Dot needed some higher level ones, both the girls fell in love with the word books, I got Fluff the handwriting one as he declares he can't read or understand joined up writing so I thought learning to do it himself would help, and you can't have too many times table resources, right?!

The flash cards are great too, as it happens the topics covered are the ones we've covered and are covering at our lessons and we took them along today (we were doing rooms of the house and stuff you find in them) and used them in the lesson.

Today also included biscuit making as it was Fluff and Dot's last football training session before the Easter holidays and we like to make something for the various coaches etc when we're coming up to a holiday. I picked up a reduced set of biscuit cutters in Sainsbury's the last time we did a shop as believe it or not, we didn't have any Easter themed ones. 

Dot, Hoofie and Fluff all helped make these, which may have been why I forgot to put ginger or bicarb of soda in them! They still tasted ok though - we diligently tasted them of course. The football coaches loved them, now we just have to make a few more batches for the tennis coaches, tap teacher and ballet teacher!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Would a Swan by any other name taste as meat?

So on Tuesday night, Petal, Dot and myself sailed off majestically to our local cinema to see the live broadcast of the Royal Ballet's production of Swan Lake, introduced by Darcy Bussell and a revival of the Anthony Dowell production of 1987.

It was really very interesting, having seen the Bolshoi Ballet's production on live broadcast at the cinema in January with Petal (I thought I'd blogged about that, but apparently not) to see the VAST differences between the two. I don't know why I was surprised really, after all I knew full well how different two productions of the same Shakespeare play can be, and I knew that Swan Lake has set pieces and the rest is down to the choreographer, plus I've seen several different endings.

So the Royal Ballet's version was set in Tchaikovsky's Russia with lavish Faberge inspired sets and victorian costuming with the tragic but sort of triumphant ending where the lovers chuck themselves off a cliff thus breaking the curse, destroying Rothbard and being reunited in death . Bolshoi had a traditional, medieval fairytale setting and staging and the surprising ending of Rothbard winning - he has gains full control of Odette at the last and Siegfried is left heartbroken and shattered.

So Mathew Golding, dancing Prince Siegfried for Royal Ballet was in a very dark blue that looked almost black rather than the traditional white that the Prince usually wears. He did show up nicely against Odette, the white swan, but not against Odile, the black swan, and was often a bit lost in the shadows especially in the big black lake side setting in the second and fourth acts.

The Royal Ballet swans were not in tutus - they were in white, and their knee length layered gauzy skirts were pretty and simulated plumage very well - but you know, it wasn't the same! It didn't LOOK like Swan Lake!

The Royal Ballet also had a nice mixture of nationalities and ethnicities in the company which was really great to see BUT they also had a range of sizes and heights, so the usual uniform look of the corps de ballet, particularly the swans, was lost. The four cygnets, for example, were not of the same height - one was several inches shorter than the others. It was really noticeable and unfortunately I found it really off putting. I did love the young dancers from the Ballet School though, we got two in the first act with a decent sized bit to do and a group of young swans in demi point which were lovely to see and lovely for Petal and Dot to watch.

The presentation was different, there was lots of pauses in the music as dancers got into position and waited for the music to start - there was far less of this with the Bolshoi which therefore felt more seamless and flowing. Bolshoi also took their time over the applause and curtseys over the set pieces rather than rushing into the next section regardless of whether the audience had shut up yet or not, like the Royal Ballet did. Also the Royal Ballet didn't keep character for the curtseys - the ones within the ballet yes, more or or less, but not at the end, which I found interesting.

The orchestras for both were good - there were one or two suspicious notes from the Royal Ballet but their soloists were arguable stronger so they come out even

However, the biggest difference was in dance content. The Bolshoi had three big male parts - the Prince, his friend Benno and Rothbard - the owl socerer, evil spirit or evil genius, whatever you want to call him. In the Royal Ballet Gary Avis as Rothbard was reduced to some gesturing, a bit of rolling on the floor and lifting Odette a grand total of about twice. All executed excellently, but compared to the huge amount Bolishoi's Rothbard had to do it was disappointing. No wonder Bolshoi had a younger man than usual play Rothbard - Artemy Belyakov, who was brilliant.The Bolshoi take on Rothbard was that he was the dark side of Siegfried's personality so there was a lot of mirroring going on, tons of running jetes chasing each other round the stage and lots of series of turns and leaps, just like the Prince.

The Bolshoi's Benno too, had some big set pieces and some huge series of leaps and turns - Royal Ballet reduced this to a walk on bit part.

Even the Prince's part - for the Royal Ballet it was slashed almost in half! I was astonished! So Matthew Golding did look very good but I can't really compare him to Denis Rodkin (who danced the Prince for Bolshoi) because Golding danced half the content Rodkin did! Rodkin was ASTONISHING. I'd never much cared for Prince Siegfried or male ballet dancers in general before but he has entirely changed my mind on the subject.

Natalia Osipova (formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet, interestingly) was Odette/Odile for the Royal Ballet and was AMAZING. More muscular than Svetlana Zakharova who danced the part for the Bolshoi, Natalia was fantastically emotional, she oozed and leaked it all over the stage. She did the famous 32 fouettes awfully fast! I've since watched clips of her on youtube, including one of her in Don Quiote where she does a set of 32 foutettes and the audience claps so much she does them again, so 64 in total! She is tight and clean and neat and as I said, FAST. A real little dynamo of a dancer.

Zakharova is very tall and slim and elegant, her fouettes looked relaxed and effortless and half way through she was smiling, really genuinely, as if it were a walk in the park. There was more poignancy than raw emotion about her performance. They were both top notch, I think I possibly liked Osipova a bit more but that was more down to personal taste than anything else.

So in the end, I enjoyed both productions and I'd love to say they were different but equal - but I can't.

The Royal Ballet of course performed a production of top quality and it was great, but it just didn't blow me away like the Bolshoi did - for sheer amount of amazing male dance content, I have to give it to the Bolshoi Ballet.

As you can imagine, it made for very interesting discussions with Petal who also saw both productions! The Bolshoi had been on in the afternoon (as it was live from Russia and Russia is of course several hours ahead of us) but the Royal Ballet one was in the evening. Petal lasted all the way to the forth and final act before dropping off while Dot fell asleep in the second act, poor little sausage. Still, I felt they got a lot out of it and we had nowhere to be the next day. That really is one of the beauties of Home Education, that we can take advantage of great cultural opportunities like this and not worry about the impact on their education, instead it can be all about how it supplements and enhances.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Dot's shoe making project rebooted

Browsing in the library on Tuesday, Dot found this book.

In it she found this, which instantly caused a resurge of her interest in shoes, clothes and the making of them!

So we made a shopping list (glitter, shiny card) and when we went food shopping on Wednesday we got supplies.

 And here she is, modelling the finished results!
 We're going to have to find a better glue or tape that can cope better with glittering card, or maybe the stapler?

Anyway, she was happy!

And of course, as Dot was having her feet photographed, Hoof had to have his feet photographed too!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Beware the Ides of March. Or just March generally, really.

So last week was the sick bug from hell, Roo's appeal hearing for his school place and to top it off a letter from our Local Education Authority, or LEA or even just LA as it's often known.

No, not a nice letter, and that's all I'm going to say for now until the situation is sorted.

So I've been frantically making sure reports are in order and ready to go, after everyone stopped vomiting that is! Only I made it to the appeal hearing, and I'm very glad that I made it at all. I think it went as well as can be expected although I don't hold out a lot of hope. If the school has no room it has no room although I did think the reasons given were a bit week. Anyhow, we shall see. Roo's coping quite well with the limbo type situation. We've done our best to discuss fall back plans but as all the schools within walking distance are also full (and we don't much like the ones that are further afield anyway) and we both agree that early access college is DEFINITELY not going to hack it, we are stumped. I told him my theory that if it didn't happened then something better was in the wings waiting but he wasn't convinced. Hey ho, fingers crossed!

We were more or less back to normal to day which was nice - we made it out to the park with bikes and scooters and footballs and NOT ONE person grumbled at having to go out in the fresh air - I guess that's what a week of illness enforced house rest does! We were all very glad to be out again, even though it is grey and cold and not nice weather wise this week so far - it was sunny and mild and lovely last week, of course *sigh*.

We made it to spanish too - family members and jobs today, which was fun. Table time was taken care of in the morning, I've had a switch round of resources again and dug out the milk carton caps. They have letters on them and you can match them up with words on bits of paper. Got the idea from this blog here and they are a great resource - Hoofie was fascinated and Dot loved them. Petal and Fluff were pleased to see them again too.

Fluff and Dot enjoyed football - Dot's definitely back to her more robust self and really enjoyed it. I was a little afraid she wasn't feeling strong enough as she had been a bit grumbly and whiney earlier in the day and I was concerned that she was still over tired, but she was raring to go, had a great time and didn't fall asleep in the car at all, all good signs! They enjoyed a movie after dinner as a little treat, and she didn't fall asleep during that either, interestingly.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Still here

Just writing books and reports and arguing with massive comic book writers on twitter.

You know how it is.

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