You could be forgiven for thinking this has turned into a horsey/riding blog, but there is still some home education to report, honestly! There will be some later in this post, but first you’ll have to humour me with the horsey bit…
Here we are at the end of July and Emily’s had Blue for almost a month now. She’s unrecognisable from the girl she was a month ago, both in terms of riding skills and personal confidence; it’s hard to believe how much progress she’s made! A month ago, she was still struggling to get to grips with canter, had to use spurs to get much of a response from Blue and was quite nervous of handling him. Now she looks like a pro getting him in from the field, grooming him and tacking him up and has become pretty fearless on board too. The spurs went in the first week of the loan and will only now put in an appearance when she needs to give precise dressage aids which need to be done in too small an area to just use your heel (hence why dressage riders wear them).
This has been a particularly good Blue week. In Monday’s lesson, Emily’s teacher started her off on turns on the forehand, which is the first “real” dressage move you tend to learn, and a first step towards lateral work leading to leg yield, half pass and other fun stuff. Emily’s finding it really hard, because you need to get your left leg, right leg, left rein, right rein, seat and shoulders all working independently of one another in order for the horse to understand what to do – but she’s had a good go at this week, with some success, and can carry on working on it.
On Wednesday, Blue had new shoes fitted, which we had to pay half of, with his owner paying the other half; before the farrier arrived, Emily took Blue out onto the main A159 road for the first time, as part of a circular hack to and from the riding school. She’d been on the quiet roads around here a couple of times, but the main road is really fast and quite scary. He wasn’t bothered at all, even though nobody bothered slowing down for him (hiss: drivers up here are soooo rude!). They were only there for a short distance, maybe five minutes at most, but it was definitely another hurdle gone and another boost to Emily’s confidence. On the way back, we had to pass our house….so we stopped to say hello and introduce the grandparents to Blue….and then we thought we might as well pop him in the back garden for ten minutes 🙂 He had a fantastic feast on the grass 🙂 🙂
Yesterday, Emily reluctantly tried bareback riding for the first time. She wasn’t particularly keen and had to be “persuaded” to give it a go ( <– evil Mummy), but she conquered her nerves really well and by the time she’d finished she had good control of Blue at a walk, with a bridle but minus a saddle. If you’ve never ridden bareback before, it’s pretty scary and very hard to get your balance and not slip off.
And then today was another fabby Blue day; the yard and school were very busy, so we took Blue out down the unmade lane at the back of the riding school and out into the open fields. There’s a huge grassy field which the farmer doesn’t mind horses riding in. Last time we were there, Blue was a bit spooked by the wind and although he walked about in the field, he couldn’t wait to turn round and leave. Today, taking his confidence from Emily, he *loved* it there, and she and Blue were cantering around like mad things, with Blue enjoying a much freer and faster canter than he can do in the ménage. The ground was bumpy and uneven and at one point he stumbled a bit and Emily lost the reins, but she wasn’t bothered at all and quickly regained control. In between cantering bouts, Blue had a rest stop and lots of grass. When we’d finished though, and were about to head back, something spooked him from where he had his head down eating grass and he suddenly took off at a very fast trot back down the lane; again, Emily stayed calm and just got him back to walk and then halt. A few weeks ago, both those incidents would have really shaken her.
At least all the walking about on hacks with Emily and helping at the stables has helped my weight loss; it’s stalled a bit this last week, but I haven’t put any weight back on and am still very pleased with how it’s going.
So, the home ed bit. There’s been more of a rhythm this week and we’ve got a surprising amount of work done. French is still going really well – we’re onto chapter 9 of Grammar Based French now and will be starting chapter 10 next week. Jon and Emily between them have also picked up some very old French textbooks at various sales and they’re going to prove useful too. In computing, Emily and Gramps are still working on their complicated binary whatsit thingamajig, with Emily’s computing homework sometimes stumping her but she’s giving it a very good go.
In economics, Emily’s tried some of the GCSE questions at the end of the first section of our GCSE Economics course, and has done pretty well if you don’t count an unfortunate mix up with some supply and demand diagrams. In politics, I finally managed to find a relatively cheap copy of the American Politics part of the politics A level course, so we’re going to start that next week, so that hopefully we have half a clue what’s going on in the runup to the next presidential election.
The biggest surprise of the week (month/year/home ed career) was with maths. We haven’t done any maths for months, but on the spur of the moment I decided to give Emily and old foundation level GCSE paper to have a go at, split over two sessions. She did astonishingly well and would easily have got a C, as far as I can tell – with C being the highest mark you can get on the foundation paper. If it were allowed to go higher, I reckon it would have been a B. She breezed through the vast majority of it. OK, it’s only foundation level – but she’s only 12! I’ve now got a list of a few points to revise, before we can move on to topics we haven’t yet covered which are on the higher level paper. That was a hugely useful exercise because a) it gave Emily confidence, b) it gave me confidence and c) it reassured me that we don’t need to spend any more time faffing about with the basics and can move on to proper trigonometry, quadratic equations and whatever other dark arts are in the higher papers.
The biggest problem my wonderful daughter had with the GCSE paper was in showing her working. She *hates* having to show her working, because she does the majority of it in her head or in random scribbles that make no sense. She understands the principle of why they insist on asking for working, and why half the flippin marks are allocated to that…so she understands that she’d be losing dozens and dozens of marks by not putting her working down on paper in an understandable format – but she objects on principle!
In English we’ve been focusing recently on different styles of written English – for instance, she recently wrote a polemic piece; this weekend’s homework is to provide a character profile of someone she knows using understated humorous techniques. We went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at the cinema (yes, I cried, and I reckon there was a sneaky tear from Emily too) and I’m delighted to say that her former love of the Harry Potter saga has well and truly reawoken. I don’t know where it went, over the last few years, when she had such scorn for the whole thing (although I’d lay bets that the influence of some former “friends” had much to do with that), but it’s back, and we rather like it that way. We bought a boxed set of the paperbacks last weekend because we’d given away or sold all of ours; it arrived four days ago and she re-read the first book on the first day, the second book on the second day and the third book on the third day; she’s now on chapter 12 of Goblet of Fire. We’re enjoying watching the films on ITV on Saturday evenings too – since we also sold/gave away all of our DVDs when she decided the whole thing was rubbish! I’m re-reading them too (well, reading, in some cases, since I never did read the first three books the first time round) and enjoying.
I’m still struggling to find a science course that is engaging, challenging and not dumbed down; yet again I’m finding that everything up to GCSE level is just daft, with everything over that being too hard. However, I’ve settled on getting these “Essentials” year 8 books and seeing where that takes us. However boring it is, at least we’ll know the stuff is covered up to and including where she would be at school.
With history, we’ve decided to go back to History Odyssey, which is a fantastic set of courses. We’ll go for Early Modern Level Two, which neatly covers the period in history we’ve looked at least so far, including several major topics we’ve barely touched such as the French Revolution, the age of reason and early American settlers, as well as slavery. Emily’s fascinated by French history at the moment, so it will be good for that too, although towards the end where it focuses much more on American history we’ll probably anglicise it a bit. We have the timelines already from when we did the Ancients Level One course years ago; best of all, the first 20 odd lessons (and associated maps etc) are free to download, although the whole thing isn’t particularly expensive in any case.
So I think we’re all set for some decent education in months to come. If I can find a way of getting photography back on the agenda too, along with much more violin, it will be perfect!