radegund: (swans)
Couldn't resist recording this before recycling it - it's one of the pieces of scrap paper on which [livejournal.com profile] niallm and I write to the Oyster's dictation, for him to transcribe (this is infinitely less irritating than spelling out while he writes in real time). It's from October, back when the stories were rather less sophisticated than they are now.

The numbering was his idea; it helps him keep track. One of these pages can last for hours, as he goes away to write down the latest entry and then comes back for more.

1. The adventures of small animals.
2. The squirrel hunter is back - we're safe!
3. Miaow! Run for your lives!
4. Don't eat me!
5. Goldilocks and the 3 Bears
6. Bears got honey for their porridge. A mean girl called Goldilocks stole all their things. They were very cross at the end, though they made friends.
7. Little Red Riding Hood
8. Little Red Riding Hood was bringing some buns to her grandma's house. A wolf stole them. But then she made some more at her grandma's house, and they had a delicious meal.

See, it's not just CBeebies that likes a nice happy ending. I'm not sure what the Oyster makes of Humpty Dumpty, actually, but at the moment he's finding it very hard to take stories with nasty or scary elements. Either he insists that I stop reading, or he asks me to scan ahead and make sure everyone's OK. No Brothers Grimm for him.

This evening was a bit extreme: he got worried when Mrs Tabitha Twitchit sent Mittens, Moppet and Tom Kitten out to the garden in their clean clothes. I assured him that nothing terrible was going to happen, so we made it through to the end and agreed that the only bad bit was the smacking ("Why did people think it was a good idea to hit children?").

And yet he swallows the fantasy-testosterone-soaked swashbuckling of the Howard Pyle/John Burrows Robin Hood.

Complex child. What a surprise.
radegund: (swans)
I'm kind of fascinated by how the Oyster's storytelling skills are developing. His current method is to dictate the story for me to write on scrap paper. He tells it fluently, while pacing up and down like a lecturer, then copies what I've written into his book, adding illustrations as he goes.

Robin Hood continues to be a hot theme: specifically, summaries of the achingly patriarchal version by Howard Pyle (retold by John Burrows). Today's implementation was particularly coherent, so I'm noting it here.

This is more a record for me, really, but you might find it amusing )
radegund: (swans)
From the Pen of the Oyster

The Oyster is mostly writing books these days. He's still really into the logistics of book production: to the existing panoply of detail (page numbers, contents pages, barcodes, blurbs, etc.), he has added a full-scale copyright page, with the publisher's name and address, copyright statement, rights statement, and printing details. He also sometimes adds a dedication.

He asked me (ages ago) what he should call his publishing company. I suggested Oisín Books. he thought for a moment and said, "No - Oisín Lots of Books", which is obviously much more accurate.

He rarely finishes books, but today he did one for his aunt, who was coming for dinner. It's called Adventures, and comprises six somewhat gnomic stories, as follows:

1. The Princess and the Dragons
A porcupine set out, and he found a palace where he brought back a princess to Dragonland.

2. The Chocolate Tower
Once there was a carpenter who built a chocolate tower. He didn't want a monster to get it, so he sellotaped the monster's feet to the floor.

3. The Antelope
There was an antelope who invited a girl to her home. They had a lovely time there.

4. The Bad Dragon
There was a dragon behind the door. A knight slayed him.

5. Monster Oisín
A monster ate Oisín! But his Mama saved him.

6. A Bucket and Soap
There were two brothers. They made a mess. They cleaned it up.1

The blurb on the back: Read these stories.

His writing is getting quite precise, although he does like to work quickly, and practises dashing off the letters with a careless flourish. He also likes playing with typefaces, though: sometimes he'll go a day or two putting serifs or curls on everything. He likes initial drop-capitals too (the more lines they span, the better).

He is - and this is pretty exciting - beginning to concede that he can read. A little bit, anyway. Tonight we took turns, page by page, with Meg and Mog, and he did really well. He gets enormously frustrated when he feels he can't do it. He wants to be the best reader in the werreld.

1 Entirely fictional, alas!

From the Mouth of the Feaster

The Feaster's language continues to explode: he's now doing big beautiful sentences. "We a-going on a train!" he said, over and over again, on Sunday as we travelled home from Sligo.

He tells us where he wants to go ("diffway", or perhaps "sofa"), how he wants to get there ("a carry-oo" or "hand"), and what he wants to do when he's there ("muk" [milk], or perhaps "a-watch a-Woddy a-Buzz a-ta'vishin" [O got Toy Story for his birthday]). He commonly greets [livejournal.com profile] niallm when he gets home from work with "It's a Niall!" In the past few days he's learnt "I want" and "I like".

The fluency deserts him when he's upset, mind you, and he's reduced to "Not!" or "Not-a-ahhh!". When greatly moved, he falls back to the ultimate negative, "No, go 'way!"

He likes being cuddled and told he's so lovely - "so yoffy!" he exclaims back. At bedtime he likes "suguss a-cudduss a-muk" [snuggles and cuddles and milk].

Comparisons are, of course, odious, but I'm pretty sure his enunciation is much clearer than the Oyster's at the same stage. He goes for full words (rather than just the start) and seems to self-correct fairly quickly, where the Oyster held onto his original versions for longer (still does, in some cases). I wonder if this has to do with the fact that the Feaster appears to be more musical than the Oyster.

Because of the quick correction thing (oh, and the chaotic-squalor thing), we haven't kept a diary of the Feaster's language the way we did for the Oyster. Typical parents-of-second-child behaviour, I suppose. I kind of regret it - but it's also true that his words change more quickly, and people can understand him better, so it'd be less immediately useful.


Nov. 4th, 2009 03:24 pm
radegund: (Default)
Yup. What I was downplaying as a heavy, chesty cold (with fever) at the weekend was this morning diagnosed as ... dun-dun-duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun - swine 'flu.


(I say "diagnosed" - the doctor didn't order a test, but she says it's the obvious conclusion.)

More to the point, it's also what the Feaster has had in parallel with me over the past few days, AND it's what the Oyster suddenly came down with yesterday evening. He's currently in the oh-god-wretched phase, while the Feaster and I are definitely over the worst (thank any relevant deities). [livejournal.com profile] niallm may or may not have had it the week before last. If he didn't, I suppose he'll get it next...

I've had muscle aches and cold symptoms since last week, with an unshakeable headache since about Saturday. My fever spiked on Sunday night, and had more or less abated by Tuesday morning. I spent Monday completely out of it, and Tuesday maybe half there. Today I am up because I have to be, but if I didn't I wouldn't. Niall and K have been running around looking after everybody, because they are made of solid gold.

The Feaster has been physically attached to an adult damn near constantly since Sunday, including seven- or eight-hour feeding sessions each night.

The Oyster is on Tamiflu, but since the Feaster and I are on the mend we're not.

I thought it was quite amusing the way the doctor danced around the actual moment of diagnosis. She first asked if the Oyster had any ongoing health issues, and then she chatted some more about the symptoms, and then put her head on one side and said something really coy, like "had you any feeling yourself about it, or...?" And it was only when I said I assumed I had 'flu of some sort, whether swine or otherwise, that she nodded and said the likelihood was that it was the OMG HORROR OF TEH TERRIFYING OINK ITSELF. Whereupon a dark cloud covered the face of the sun, and a rain of frogs fell from the ceiling of her consulting room, which I thought was pretty tacky, but there you are.

Anyway. We'll be back up and running in due course. Meanwhile, this headache had better go away, or there'll be trouble.


Sep. 30th, 2009 12:12 am
radegund: (wet-stones)
On my way back from snapping the Lisbon posters I've just shared with you (and aren't you glad to have had your lives thus enriched), I met this little character in our hedge. It kindly stayed quite still while I took this shot.

It's a robin, I'm reasonably sure, but with far fewer red feathers than I'd have expected. Anyone know why that might be? Age? Sex? Autumn plumage? Indisposition? Or do some robins just not have as much in the redbreast department as others? I'm mildly curious, but not, you'll note, to the extent of actually looking it up myself. Please don't go to any trouble, in other words, but if you know, do tell!
radegund: (real radegund)
I've seen various hand-made Lisbon posters around the place, but I think this pair, from near my house, take whatever biscuit might be going:

cut to save your screens from the horror )
radegund: (swans)
[cross-posted to Who Teaches Whom?]

The Oyster has been immersed in two things lately: (1) maths, and (2) writing books. I want to note down some of this stuff before I forget it, because it's cool.


Following on from this post, the 1 2 3 5 4 thing sorted itself out pretty quickly (without intervention, incidentally). The synaesthesia receded in importance, and the Numberjacks mania played itself out. So, thankfully, did the bit with me writing out pages full of numbers for the Oyster to colour in. He occasionally does that himself these days. Sometimes he just does the multiples of 11, because he likes them. He went through a brief phase of writing out the times table (or as he put it, a row of "counting in ones", a row of "counting in twos", a row of "counting in threes", and so on), but that petered out fairly quickly. He knows most of the products up to around 100, I think.

He spent a week or two as an infinity denier. At first he decided that the highest number was called Niall (love that!), and that Niall plus 1 was 0. I think he now gets that you can never stop counting. He's interested in very large numbers. He likes billions and trillions and quadrillions and bazillions. I like the way that even though a bazillion doesn't exist, we can still make statements about it (e.g. it's even, it's a multiple of 10, it's a positive integer greater than a trillion, it's 1 followed by a multiple of 3 zeroes, and so on).

He knows that there are numbers between the integers, but we haven't really got into how that works yet.

He's reasonably solid on place value, as far as I can tell. Sometimes he writes out columns of numbers where column 1 is the numbers from 1 to 9, column 2 is 10 20 30 ... 90, column 3 is 100 200 300 ... 900, and so on. Sometimes we multiply numbers by 2 until we exhaust first his capacity, then mine (to do it without stopping to concentrate or write it down, I mean), then my calculator's (to display the result without resorting to scientific notation). He really likes asking me sums, or having a repeated joke such as "What's 55 plus 55 - is it tenty-ten? *giggle*"

Did you know that if x squared is y, then (x + 1) squared is y + 2x + 1? (For example, 6 squared is 36, and 7 squared is 36 + 12 + 1.) I didn't, until the Oyster got me doing squares in my head (while driving - not recommended!) up to 30 or so.

He has the hang of the number line, and can add and subtract small positive and negative numbers fairly easily, particularly if he has a number line in front of him. His mental arithmetic above 0 is pretty good. "What's 54 plus 35 ... is it 89?" he'll say, or "Is 88 plus 88 176?" Béar Eile (his special bear) turned 107 at the weekend, and he accurately added up the ages of all the humans in the house, then had a reasonable stab at calculating the difference between that number (75, for those following along at home) and 107.

Today's little nugget was when he was counting a page full of pictures, and he counted across the first row of twelve, began to count the second row, then checked himself and counted the number of rows instead. "Four twelves, what's that? Is it 48?"

He has some grasp of bases other than 10. When he was talking to Niall about them, he observed that for base 5, you only need the numbers 0 to 4 to write any number. When the Erisian was visiting, he taught the Oyster about binary - and showed him how to count to 31 on the fingers of one hand. I'm not sure how much of that stayed in, but he appeared to grasp it - and at least when he encounters it again it'll be familiar.

It was also while the Erisian was here that the Oyster asked, "Do all the twelve numbers do that thing where ... like, 1 plus 1 is 2, and 1 2 is 12; 2 plus 2 is 4, and 2 4 is 24?" Turns out they do, as long as you put the original number in the tens column and add it to whatever's there (e.g. 5 plus 5 is 10, and (5+1) 0 is 60; 6 plus 6 is 12, and (6 + 1) 2 is 72). Not sure how far up that goes. But we were very tickled that he'd noticed.

My parents got him a 1st class maths book as a present. He takes it out a couple of times a week and does a few pages of exercises. He's done them easily, so far, once I've read the instructions to him. Mostly, what confuses him is the part about being required to demonstrate how he's getting his answers. The first module dealt exclusively with addition of two numbers with an answer of 10 or less. A few pages later, there were sums with an answer of 11 or 12. Later still, the sums had answers of 13 or 14. He's now even done some where you add more than two numbers. He flipped to the middle of the book and found sums demonstrating place value with columns of dots, and sums to calculate how much change you'd have from 10 cents if you bought an item with a given price.

If he were in school, this would be the book for his third year. To me, this seems generally supportive of our hypothesis that being home-educated is unlikely to lead to academic disadvantage for our children. Actually, what I love about the Oyster's engagement with maths is that from my perspective, it seems that he's Doing Numbers in exactly the same way that he Did Trains a while ago, or Did Robin Hood earlier this year. He's following what fascinates him, in other words, which is the key idea. It's kind of thrilling to see it in action.


There is rather less to say about books, other than that the Oyster is an enviably prolific author. He has written books about Robin Hood, books about dragons, books about trains, monsters, aliens, dinosaurs, knights, numbers. He has written books in A4 and A5 size (stapled by patient relatives, often with several stapled booklets taped together); he has written tiny little books in A7 size (painstakingly assembled by me - so far, a 100-pager and a 256-pager, with cardboard covers).

By "written", I mean that generally he draws the pictures first, then asks for the spellings to write the words (which often go in speech bubbles). Recently, he has been asking only for the words he doesn't know - he can do "the", "and", "of", "book", among others, without assistance. Also, I've adopted the strategy of writing out the phrase he wants on a scrap piece of paper for him to copy, which is less hair-tearingly tedious than calling out the letters in batches of three or four.

Before beginning to write, however, the srs bsns of putting the book together must be completed. Page numbers are very important. So are front and back covers, end-papers, and the contents page. Recently he started adding barcodes (complete with little numbers written along the top), prices, blurbs, and endorsement quotes. Some of his books have had an index.

Today's titles, as a snapshot: Elementary Trains (a present for K), Spaceman George (not sure that one went very far before being abandoned), a recipe book called Oisín's Food, and a two-part series: The Story of the Skull and Further Adventures of the Skull. These latter two were for the Boy Down the Road, who is ... ah ... very traditionally socialised, and likes weapons and fighting and horror-type stuff (but is nonetheless more or less a sweetheart). The Oyster fits his material to his readership, in other words, which I find very interesting.
radegund: (tiny-blue-flowers)
Don't know if I'm behind or ahead or right on the tip-top of the curve with this one, but anyway. Friends, it is TIME TO PLAY Cheese or Font?

Really, it is.




See? What could be simpler? Go click.
radegund: (swans)
We played Snakes and Ladders this afternoon, on a board that I drew and the Oyster coloured (he is all about making games at the moment).

We couldn't find any dice. So we played without one. We mimed rolling and throwing, and then declared what number had come up.

Nobody went down any snakes - though we had a few lucky escapes :-) The odd thing was, we only went up one ladder each. Both of us, apparently deliberately (well, definitely in my case!), passed up the opportunity to land on a ladder at least once.

The Oyster won. But only just. He got to 98, then kept rolling more than he needed to get to 100 (we were playing the rule that you have to turn and come back if you have jumps left over), until I was up in the 90s. He won eventually, and then we played on until I reached 100.

I'm fascinated by how the Oyster acted given that we both knew, from the outset, that he was going to win. Our agreement was unspoken, admittedly, but nonetheless inviolable. I expected him to roll a series of sixes, or at least to roll numbers that would take him up ladders whenever he could. But not a bit of it. I think he was more concerned with realism than with victory. And he didn't want to trounce me, either.

I'm reading Alfie Kohn's No Contest: The Case Against Competition at the moment. Provoking of much thought. Perhaps when I've finished it I'll be able to make better sense of our Snakes and Ladders game.
radegund: (tiny-blue-flowers)
Where did the time go?

We're still pretty whacked out after the extension. Snag list is outstanding, but it's essentially done. We live here now, and every day it feels less and less likely that the real owners are going to come back and evict us. Most of the boxes are even unpacked.

Our main object at the moment is to juggle the cashflow so that we squeak unscathed from payday to billpay, slaloming between our creditors like an Olympic athlete. Fun times. [We'll be fine. But it's a little hairy this month and next.]

To that end, we're penny-pinching. (Or cent-cinching, which is the same but in euros.) Problem is, we trimmed out a lot of the fat a few years ago, and it's tough enough to see where we can trim any further.

Things I'm perfectly happy to do, off the very top of my head:
  • Go back to washing my hair in bicarb and vinegar (reasonably effective, as I recall from 2006).

  • Shop more often in Lidl.

  • Find out which of our staple meals are actually cheapest and dearest, and plan accordingly.

  • Keep a hawklike eye on expenditure, and stop spending on non-essentials when the allotted budgets are exhausted.

  • Work for pay every spare minute I get (which is not very many minutes, admittedly, but I have been doing a bit of paid work).

Things I'd strongly prefer to avoid:
  • Stop buying organic food.

  • Cut out paid childcare and house cleaning (they're such a relief).

I dunno. What are your favourite money-saving strategies? I'd really love some inspiration.
radegund: (swans)
Oyster: Would you like to be a musketeer?
Mama: Not particularly.
Oyster: Why not?
Mama: I'm lots of things - I don't really feel I need to add any more at the moment.
Oyster: What are you?
Mama: Well, I'm a writer, and a mother, and someone who makes things, and a friend, and ...
Oyster: And a singer, and an educator, and a children-keep-safer, and ...
Mama: And Niall's partner, and an editor, and ... I'm lots of things.
Oyster: You're everything!
Mama: Not everything.
Oyster: Why not everything?
Mama: Well, I'm not a musketeer, for instance.

I feel all loved and appreciated, now :-)
radegund: (Default)
Too much life going on over here recently to post about it much.

The extension is nearly finished. We're in that irritating final phase where everything's basically there and mostly functional, but there are still bits of wood and plasterboard and bags of cement piled up everywhere because there are people coming Any Day Now™ to finish off various bits.

Still, though. KITCHEN.

We're unpacking boxes and assembling cheap shelving and moving furniture around at a fierce rate. It remains astonishing how much dust is actually accommodated in a given space following such activities as this house has seen.

The garden is a wasteland of black hardcore. But we have plans. Well. I have unrealistic and grandiose plans, more suited to a garden six times the size. K has some very specific plans that I think she may believe I understand rather better than I do. Then there's what the builders can do for the budget.

I've become an extension bore - you know when you're really wrapped up in something, and you meet your friends and just brain-dump at them for what feels like ten hours, eyes wide, teeth bared, fingers splaying with the earnestness and the importance of it all ... except that what you're talking about is formica countertops and semi-solid flooring, which have taken on a wholly unwarranted significance in your tunnel-vision landscape? Well, that. Argh.

Today I remembered that I used to go into town, occasionally, Before. Perhaps I will again some day soon.

Oh, it's all going to be magnificent. But it isn't yet, and I'm very tired of it.
radegund: (swans)
Oyster: I need my lunch RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW!
Mama: Yeah, me too. Tell you what, if you whine loudly enough, I'll be able to make the lunch appear.
Oyster: *thinks about this for a minute*
Oyster: *adopts funny voice* I am Physics. Just saying something and then it happens is against Physics, and Physics is very strong - bye!

So we didn't get to make the lunch appear after all.

Physics came back a little later on, and introduced me to his friends Grabbity, Words and Food.
radegund: (swans)
[cross-posted to Who Teaches Whom?]

It's wall-to-wall numbers at the moment. I don't know how many sets of Numberjacks I've cut out of paper in the last week. (For the uninitiated, the CBeebies show Numberjacks is about superheroes who are also numbers and solve maths-related problems.)

The Oyster is learning to count to 100. He frequently wants the numbers from 1 to 100 written out on a page, with circles around them, so he can colour in the circles. He usually does each column in a single colour, and I think he's working out various patterns.

He does like to go 1 2 3 5 4, 10 20 30 50 40, and so on, mind you. But he acknowledges that this is a personal quirk, and that he's simply choosing different labels to apply to the relevant quantities.

Have I ever mentioned "flower-1"? It's a very handy concept: a shortcut number that encompasses everything from 101 to 2000. So if you use it you can quite easily count up to, say, 2004, the year of the Oyster's birth. It's written with a flower (including stem and vase) and the number 1.

He's apparently synaesthetic around numbers. For the record, so I can compare later and see if it changes: 0 - dark blue, 1 - red, 2 - yellow, 3 - green, 4 - dark blue, 5 - red, 6 - yellow, 7 - red, 8 - light blue, 9 - dark blue, 10 - pink, 11 - green, 12 - light blue.

This activity all reminds me very much of the bit in John Holt's How Children Fail (or was it in ...Learn? - my copies are lent so I can't check), where he sits in his classroom with a roll of receipt paper and starts writing down the numbers in order, and the kids are dancing around in excitement and calling each other over to look - "Here's 88! Here's 129! Look - he's going to write 300 next!" - the simple fact of numerical progression being a new and exciting idea to some of them.

I love this stuff.
radegund: (Default)
Oh, LJ, I have to confess I've been cheating on you with the rest of the Internet.

It's funny how "I'll just read this one article" can lead to day upon frenzied day of burrowing through ever-proliferating Safari tabs, eyes burning, brain a-whirl. And then I turn around and realise that my friends page, which had been at a manageable skip=100 or so, now won't even display the messages I was last reading because they're more than two weeks old.

So I'm doing something I've never done before, and not trying to catch up. If you'd care to point me at any momentous posts from the last few weeks, that would be great.

I do actually write several LJ posts a day, in my head. They're good posts, too - full of interest, wit, quirk, and so on. It's depressing. I'd be such a great blogger if I ever did any.
radegund: (Default)
Saturday: Varied )

Sunday: Simpler )

And now it's Monday, and our new windows and doors have arrived! Yay!

ETA: Ohhhhh, you wanted doors and windows that FIT? Well, you should've said.


Jun. 13th, 2009 10:05 am
radegund: (swan-head)
Game yesterday afternoon was running around our local green space being a dizzying series of superheroes (e.g. one called Peter Zoopy, which I think is a fabulous name for a superhero), villains, henchpersons, guards, etc.

Oyster: Now I do an evil laugh, like this - henh henh henh.
Mama: You dastardly villain! *runs away*
Oyster: *gives chase* Seize her!
Mama: You'll never get away with this!
Oyster: Oh yes I will, you big hairy fluff!
Mama: *is reduced to helpless giggling, which allows the villain to catch up - good strategy, that*

The Feaster is talking a blue streak these days. He can say "tractor" (dada) and "car" (gaah) and "dragon" (dghii) and "donkey" (dahgii), and I'm pretty sure he said "other" (adah) this morning, meaning "other side [i.e. breast], please". When we emerge from the present chaos, we'll put up a list on the kitchen wall, like we had for the Oyster at the same stage.

They're awfully nice, you know. Here, look, I'll show you:

Photos of their respective gloriousnesses )

And finally, just because I think this deserves a wider audience (ooh, get me), here's a sticky-tape picture that the Oyster made in our holiday house at Easter. He came up with the technique himself, as far as I know. Giraffe, see?


Jun. 5th, 2009 03:37 pm
radegund: (swans)
This afternoon, on our way back from the polling station.

Oyster: Hi, I'm a superhero. Do you have a problem I could help you with?
Mama: Well ... I'd like my younger son to go to sleep, please, because he really needs his nap and he's not getting there.
Oyster: I can't do that - I only have superpowers!

radegund: (wine-pansy)
The title of my last post came from my current earworm: a particularly vicious specimen, being the inimitable (and oh, how they've tried) Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Which is there because someone on Twitter linked to this literal version.

Deathless. Go click.

[livejournal.com profile] daegaer, I commend it particularly to your attention.