Friday, May 04, 2007

This week, we have been mostly.....

  • Learning about abscesses, because I've had one. This led onto discussions about septicaemia, septic shock, antibiotics (intravenous and oral), and intensive care. Luckily discussions were all that was needed, but the teenaged children of single parents need contingency plans: one adult down makes them the (temporary) adults! We also covered issues like the workings of the immune system, the theory of homoeopathy and the procedure in medical emergencies. They knew most of it, but a refresher course is always handy.

    No, I didn't make them sit down and learn this stuff, but the left side of my face being swollen up led to lots of questions along the lines of: "What's the matter with your face?" (Sometimes they do act like typical teenagers. They ask each other that question all the time.) And: "Well, what are you doing about it?" and "Why?" and "How does that work then?" and, "Oh, so what are the symptoms of septic shock?" We actually sat together en famille and made the joint decision, well in advance, at what point to call in medical help based on the pros and cons of doing so.

    I'm frequently amazed by the difference between my own childhood and that of my children, and that was definitely one of those times. I'd have been told nothing. If I'd have asked questions, I'd have been told to go away, as would the children of many families at times of stress I think.

  • Learning about politics - specifically the electoral system, because we went to vote yesterday. Lyddie misheard and thought we were going on a boat! I said no, we're going to vote, which triggered another "What's that?" and "Why?" question and answer session. She was fascinated with the whole concept and very excited about the voting procedure itself. I think it was the secrecy of the ballot and the reasons for that which especially captured her interest.

    Tom, voting for the first time, asked how he was supposed to know who to vote for. I suggested Google and he went off to search, but came back disgusted with the paucity of online information about local candidates' views and plans. All he could find were their names, addresses and phone numbers. He even tried Googling their names: nothing. We dug out a couple of leaflets we'd received from the Lib Dems and Labour local offices recently, so he could look at those. We've received nothing from the Conservative candidate or local office, so they lost any chance they may have had of receiving his vote, I assume.

    No party has been canvassing up here, as usual. I was telling the children that ten years ago, when we moved in here, they came up our street knocking on doors and chatting to householders, but never since. I miss that. It made me feel like someone might be interested in what individual voters actually thought, beyond the cross on the ballot paper. I'm increasingly disillusioned by the depersonalisation that results from party politics.

  • Creating works of art, on paper. Lyddie and Zara did, anyway. Zara was suddenly curious to wonder what people drew and wrote with in the days before mass production, which set her off on a series of experiments with charred sticks, coal and charcoal. She eventually found that she could produce a good picture with the charred end of an incense stick. "What did they use before the mass production of incense sticks?" I asked and waas told to hush, because, "This works." Hmph, so much for my autonomous learning!

    Lyddie discovered a box full of art and craft stuff on our bookshelves and has been quietly filling our dining table with fascinating pictures. She's splodged paint on paper, covered it with other paper and peeled off to see the effects. This, in various forms, kept her busy for about a day and a half. Then she started painting with her fingers, hands and feet. Finally she discovered the glue and started collaging. The brilliant thing is that all this was totally self-directed and we could clearly see her thinking it all through: "What happens if I try this?" "Oh wow, look at that," etc. She kept bringing the end results to show us.

    We've found that natural learning is strikingly different in terms of intensity, from adult-directed learning. Lyddie has been using the craft box for about 5 days in a row now and is passionate about working out what she can do next and improving on what she's doing now. She's totally immersed and involved in the process of developing these ideas and producing the results that she sticks with it for hours without rest. I predict that she'll reach a natural finishing point sometimes in the next few days, and possibly not want to do any art work again for a few weeks or so, when she'll start another intensive few days' work on it.

    Prior to that she was writing incessantly: names, mostly, but any words would do. And I've just heard her reading a story to herself, so she is still doing other things besides.

  • Discussing the history, workings and effects of the UK education system over dinner yesterday, which we ate outdoors in the sunshine. The boys are both looking at college and uni from the outside, through various friends' eyes, and giving them consideration. Ali has one friend who is studying programming at uni and Ali is quite impressed by the course and his friend's progress on it. I asked if he was tempted to apply for the course himself and he isn't at present. Neither Tom nor Ali likes the idea of trying to study in a large group when there might be a lot of distractions. "Would it not help to have inspiring tutors?" I asked. "Yes but that's pot luck isn't it?" they said, and went on to criticise the system of employing and allocating tutors and developing syllabi, about which they both knew a surprising amount.

    It was one of those discussions that went on for ages and covered the issue from many angles and considerations. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. They really are excellent company.

    Blogger Allie said...

    That's a fascinating account. The election has led to lots of conversation here too. D and P spent ages talking about proportional representation and voting systems in general, I think. We got canvassed (very briefly) by a Green party bod. We stupidly told her she had some votes from us and so she wasn't keen to stop and chat through policies!

    9:46 am, May 04, 2007  
    Blogger HelenHaricot said...

    we have also been discussing it. we did a postal vote as at the time wasn't sure we'ed be at home this week. SB wanted to know how we made sure they did what they promised - as if!!

    9:58 am, May 04, 2007  
    Blogger Gill said...

    I'm not going to vote again until we're canvassed properly. As Tom says, they don't deserve our vote if we can't even find out their individual opinions about issues, or share ours with them.

    9:32 am, May 05, 2007  

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