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It’s been ages… February 20, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in E301, General rubbish, OU, reading, Reading with Principessa, The Principessa Files, TMA05.

Neglectful of the blog? Moi? Yes, I admit it. The evidence stands up for itself, really. But, you know. Life.

Traversing the wall.

Traversing the wall.

The last month has been doctor’s visits followed by hospital appointments, followed by unrelated hospital appointments and joining a gym, only for the gym to be neglected due to being knackered from all the hospital appointments. And then interwoven through this is the constant read/write routine for the OU studies, the read/write with Princi for her reading diary, and the read/write of permission slips for school clubs and activities. I’m kind of thankful that it’s half term right now, and thankful for Uncle Gaz and Grandand, as they have been taking Princi rock climbing and swimming (she had her first ever taste of swimming today).

Engrossed... Or maybe just sleeping.

Engrossed… Or maybe just sleeping.

The studying. Princi is doing fabulously. I finally made some snarky remark in Princi’s reading diary about the rubbish books that she was being forced to read, books that were at the level she was reading three years ago, and the teacher finally gave her a book that was more her level. It’s driving me up the wall, this school lark. Princi is so bored because they keep repeating the same things over and over – I mean, she’s still being sent home with maths homework that asks her to add and subtract in twos. When she gets given something new and challenging to do while in school she thrives, yet this seems to piddle off the teacher no end because she can’t keep up with Princi, as Princi forces the teacher to have to provide her with harder and harder questions because she rattles off the work so fast. Two years ago I wouldn’t have needed to complain, as the teacher she had then was so happy to have a kid who wanted to learn that she wanted to challenge her. The teacher that she has now doesn’t really want to be bothered. It really irks me something chronic. So during the half term Princi and I have been working on her comprehension and times tables. And just as an example, Princi started rattling off the twelve times table the other night out of nowhere, something I nor the school (who now only teach up to the ten times table) have not gone through with her, as she’s finally understood how to work the patterns. She really does make me proud every day!



As for me… Well. I think I may need some rubber wall paper soon. I am just not getting this course at all! Don’t get me wrong, my essay results have been good – not distinctly good, just good – but I don’t feel like I’m retaining or even understanding anything! Despite my fascination with words it seems that linguistics is not for me. I would definitely rather play with them than study them. Still. Only three more essays to write, at the grand total of 8,500 words, and my studying with the OU is complete. I can hardly believe that I’m almost done. I really am going to miss it. But as it is, I should be getting back to the reading for TMA05. I just have to choose an excerpt of narrative fiction now so that I can fully prepare for the essay. I’m currently deciding between an excerpt from Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, or The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. If only I could find my copy of Spares by Michael Marshall Smith, I think my decision might have been made already!

Proud Mummy Alert! January 16, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in Homework with Principessa, Proud Mummy, Reading with Principessa, the perfect word.
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Yes, it is a day for peacock feathers.

This afternoon after coming home from school, Princi settled herself down to do her homework. Even before she had started she was strutting around saying how easy her maths homework was. True to form, it was completed within a minute. Onto spelling…

Spelling is a different case entirely. Most words she can spell without much trouble. However, words with ‘ugh’ or ‘ea’ seem to be a problem, so when we came across ‘unclean’ and ‘unhealthy’ we had the growls of frustration while she guessed her way to getting it right. But, in the end, she did. Yay! Onto comprehension…


Words are like weapons and this has certainly been in the wars!

So she read the book she had to write a synopsis for last night. We talked about the story so she could work out what she wanted to write and off she went. But then she hit one sentence where she decided she wanted to break from the norm of simple explanatory words and use something a bit more sophisticated. She wanted to find a word synonymous (yes, she even knew that it was a synonym that she wanted) with happy. So she tested out some words – liked, loved, joyful – but they didn’t seem to fit with what she wanted. Then *lightbulb*. She decided to look for her thesaurus. Unable to find hers, she dug out my old, battered pocket Collins dictionary and thesaurus and searched for the word.

contented… delighted… merry… pleased….

Still nothing. But then she saw the word propitious. So I told her that if she wanted to use that word, then she should check in the dictionary to make sure that it would fit properly in her sentence. She opened the dictionary side of the Collins, but lo and behold! The word wasn’t there! I gave her my computer and she typed the word into the search engine.


  1. Giving or indicating a good chance of success; favorable.
  2. Favorably disposed toward someone.
favourable – favorable – auspicious – opportune

Perfect! The word fit exactly! It described exactly what she wanted to say. The sentence? ‘The snow, the frost, the north wind and the hail found this very propitious.’ And what did they find propitious, you may ask. Well, the story was about a selfish giant who lost spring, making it eternally winter in his garden. The perfect conditions for the snow, the frost, the north wind and the hail. This made Princi very happy, knowing that using propitious would be very propitious for her when her teacher reads her homework next Monday.

Books and words, boys and girls. November 7, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in books, Children's Literature, Parenting, Reading with Principessa.
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Well. I never, ever imagined I’d be one of those parents who complain about what their kids are reading. After all, they’re reading, right? Okay, yeah, they’re reading and that’s a good thing, but have you ever looked closely at what the schools send home with the kids to read? No? Maybe it’s worth a look.

It’s reading time!

Princi’s school uses the Oxford Reading Tree system. This breaks up the experience of learning to read into various stages aimed at particular years/grades. It’s a good idea, as long as the kids aren’t held back if they show a knack for reading – as Princi was last year. Her teacher knocked her down two stages at the beginning of the year despite Princi reading competently at the higher level at the end of the previous school year. Anyway, that’s not my problem with this system. My problem is that it’s geared more towards ‘reluctant boy readers’. With the books being sold in sets of six, the ratio of girl:boy related titles is a maximum of 2:4, meaning that most books in the series are primed for male readers. Okay, so girls are more likely to read books centred around boys than a boy is likely to read a book centred around girls, but this doesn’t negate the fact that the boy’s books are all about adventure and football, while the few girl titles are set around flirty girlie love stories or kittens or kitchen maids. And another worrying thing is the representation of parents – especially mothers. They are seen as incompetent and useless parents, especially the ones who are portrayed as working mothers. It’s a case of ‘oh, you’re such a bad parent! You’re out at work, the washing machine needs fixing, and you have to leave the older kids to look after the younger kids. Isn’t it lucky you have a boy in your family who has a knack of fixing machinery!’ It’s all ever so slightly dubious.

And then we have a story, a retelling more like, of Sleeping Beauty.  It’s almost adventurous, except it’s another boy’s title. And the first characters you meet are two male ‘fairies’ trying to find a suitable prince to awaken Princess Aurora. It’s a feminist field trip, I tell you! But just like a reluctant boy reader, the main character – the typical messy boy, but with atypical sensitivities due to being the outcast – is also reluctant to kiss the princess. But kiss her he does after an aggressive Fairy Godmother frog marches him to the princess’s castle. So now we have a role reversal, the sensitive boy vs. the selfish and tactless princess. Yes, it’s a Beauty and the Geek moment. By the end of the story, the charms of the boy have subdued and controlled the snippy behaviour of the girl, but that’s not all. To protect her ‘inheritance’, the princess more or less has to sell off the land around her castle to be developed into an amusement park while selflessly sharing her wealth with the boy. Oh, talk about sexual metaphors and harking back to eighteenth century relationship ideologies!

Or maybe the problem I have with Princi’s school reading is just me. Maybe I’m thinking too deeply about this. Maybe I shouldn’t be worried about the books Princi is forced to read as part of her ‘learning’. But to me it feels like girls are getting a little bit of a raw deal, something that has to be rectified at home with books about strong female characters who are adventurous and sensitive to others at the same time, rather than being the secondary character and reader to a system which appears to be geared towards encouraging boys to read.

Divine intervention. October 26, 2011

Posted by phoenixaeon in EA300, Mythology, OU, reading, Reading with Principessa, TMA01.

Woohoo! After a year of rubbishy TMA results (by my stupidly high standards), I am back in the land of TMA results euphoria. I had been dreading the fateful ding of the impending percentage that I use to constantly re-affirm my intelligence by, and today was the day of ding.


The usual apprehensions gripped me. How crap am I? Do I really want to know how little I actually understand? Ah, stuff all that, I’m brilliant! But then, look how crap I was last year… So I ignored the inner turmoil and signed into the OU site. Tippety-tap. Click. Click. *Close eyes tightly, then peek through fingers* Woohoo! Distinction! And for once, really relevant comments on how to improve the marks for next time. Yay! So I am now in love with this course and raring to get going with the next essay.


But that will have to wait. I have a ton of reading to do before I can even contemplate planning the TMA, which makes me think reading Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami maybe wasn’t my smartest move. And even more stupid, ordering the new Murakami book 1Q84. I am so going to want to read that as soon as, because I am loving Hard-boiled Wonderland. Add to that reading Matilda with Princi – she’s outgrown the Oxford Reading Tree books that her school was having her read, so she’s now reading the children’s novels we have at home. I think my head might just explode with all this reading!


So, time to get back to it… Once I’ve talked Princi into bed – she is playing golf with a green plastic golf club and a  Hello Kitty bouncy ball, jumping around shouting ‘Yay! Go me, go me, go me!’ I wish she’d give me some of her energy!



The end is nigh! July 4, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Happy learning Principessa, LRRH, Oh woe is Murray, Poetry, Reading with Principessa, tennis, Wimbledon.
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Oh well. I didn’t get either of the Wimbledon finals I was hoping for. Today it’s an all American/Williams/sister affair. Again. I suppose I’ll be supporting Serena, as she’s the underdog – she only (yes, I said only!) has two Wimbledon singles titles to Venus’s five. In which case, it is most likely that Venus will win.

Tomorrow it is Federer versus Roddick. Of course, I wanted a Murray versus Haas match. But as it isn’t I would love to see Andy Roddick win the final, just for something different. However, I have no doubt that Federer will win. Again. OK, I know he is a fantastic player and most of the time he constructs immaculate points and is a genius with a tennis racket, but it gets so boring! The same thing all the time. I just want a change. I know Nadal won last year, but even then it was much of a muchness, what with all the finals they have contested against each other. I also know that Federer is on the charge to beat Pete Sampras‘s record of 14 grand slam titles, the same number Federer currently holds, but please! Different! So, c’mon Roddick!

On other things other than tennis… Princi has been moved up a level or two on her school’s reading scheme. The stage 6 books are now far too easy for her, although every now and again there will be a word she stumbles over (in the last book it was wrestle and its variants and baboon), so they’ve started her on stage 7C. Her teachers even call her to the front to read books to the other kids during ‘mat-time’. I am so proud of her. She is also enjoying her phonics in school, using the Jolly Phonics (JP) method. I’m not sure how she’s doing with writing her letters though, so I might experiment with her today by breaking out the JP book I have and printing out a few pages for her. (Currently, she is watching Playhouse Disney. God, how I hate Playhouse Disney! Give me CBeebies any day.)

As for me, I have worked a lot of kinks out of the Rosie story. There’s still stuff to be done and that definitely includes combing it for obvious grammar mistakes (I am sure there’ll be some in there, there always is!), but I think it is reading better. I am still having the doubts about the flashback scene though, but I really don’t think swapping it around would make it any better.

The poems are starting to resemble finished products. There’s a lot of working out to go through on Gambling on inheritance. Not so much on Defensive crouch or Abyss, gazing. I am hoping to have these submissions ready mid next week. I want to have everything out of the door by next Friday. And then I think my productivity will diminish. After all, I have a lot of reading to get through at the moment, too.

Puppy phones. June 10, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Games, Reading with Principessa.

Lately I have been playing a couple of games on the iPhone in the spare seconds Princi has afforded me. Yes, I know. I should really be signing up for the Kid Lit course (still haven’t. Petrified!) and reading the set books for the course that are dotted around the house. But I haven’t. The iPhone has been more appealing since finished A215. The games I have been playing:

  1. Vampires Live
  2. Kingdoms Live
  3. Zenonia
  4. Space Invaders
  5. Monkey Flight
  6. Smack It Deluxe
  7. iPuppy
  8. Pocket phonics

The games in pink are the games I have purchased for Princi to play, although I have had a go too. Now, I’m not going to say anything about the games I play, because they are only things that are played for five minutes a time (exept Zenonia, which is a Zelda-like RPG). It’s Princi’s reaction to being allowed to play on the iPhone that I’m more interested in here.

As soon as Princi wakes up/gets home from school, the first thing she wants to do is play on the iPhone. I hadn’t told her I had put games on there for her, but one day she picked up the phone, read the ‘Slide to unlock’ instruction to open the menu screen, then found the games I had put on there for her. She is completely intrigued by iPuppy, although she gets very frustrated when the ‘helpful tips’ tell her things she doesn’t want to read (‘You naughty tips! Go away!’). She can sit there for half an hour cooing about her ‘beautiful puppy’, and what a good puppy he is. She has named him after one of the boys at her school (should I be worried?), though she only ever calls it puppy. For an app, it’s good for teaching her about keeping an animal and the importance of food, water and exercise for the well-being of a pet. She takes great pride in looking after her iPuppy.

Smack It Deluxe is just Whack-a-mole. She doesn’t play that too often as it doesn’t hold her attention for long. She gets bored with not being able to get to level two. But she is getting there, and it is good for teaching her a little bit of hand-eye co-ordination and improving her reflexes.

Monkey Flight is just for fun. You have a monkey on a tree catapult and you release the monkey to collect as much fruit as possible. Princi has managed to complete a level I couldn’t get passed. Well done, Princi!

Pocket phonics is what it says it is; phonics teacher. It teaches Princi the sounds of the letters and then has the interactive feature of allowing her to trace the shape of the letter/s with her finger. She still needs a bit of help with the tracing and where to start with writing the letters, but she only plays this when she is in the mood for it.

I’m quite impressed with the phonics programme. Once the letter sounds have been learned, kids can go on to learn to spell a number of words. It really is quite good. It also has the option to choose between cursive style or regular letters when learning the shapes of letters. I love sitting down with Princi to learn her phonics.

When she’s not playing games on the iPhone, she is impressing me with her reading. Today we read a book called ‘Tommy’sTreasure’. It’s one of the books from her school reading tree. Just her ability to read as fluently as she does still shocks me, but when we got to the word ‘valuable’ I started planning to break it up for her so she could work out the word and read it for herself. Only, I didn’t need to worry. She read it straight away. If I was standing I would have taken a step back in surprise. She impressed me further when I asked her to tell me what the story was about when we finished. She told me what all the important parts of the story were, and what was so special about Tommy’s treasure. Her ability to process information is really starting to come to the fore now. I’m really looking forward to when she is old enough to read things like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials, just so we can talk about books!

I suppose I should start working on her mathematics. We haven’t really tackled that yet.

Beware, the bitey fish! April 30, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bitey fish will eat you up., Conversations with Principessa, David Crystal, Reading with Principessa.
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This afternoon, Grandand picked Princi up from school and took her shopping. Before buying in the food, he took her to a pet shop. When they got home, Grandand asked her to tell me all about what she had seen at the petshop.

We saw mice, and fish, and there were bitey fish that could bite you all up.

Not Pirahna, no. Bitey fish! That made me giggle. But not as much as Princi nicking one of the books off my shelves and declaring it was her favourite. She’s not wrong. She used to love it when I read to her from this book when she was two-ish. The book is The Stories of English by David Crystal. However, when I asked her to read it to me, she flicked through the pages and decided it was no longer her favourite because the words were too little. She then went and found a little book of Celtic mythology to flick through.

Well, my back is sore from sitting at the computer. Time to relax a little.

Stalled. March 27, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Reading with Principessa, Still feeling yucky, writing.
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Yep. No breakthrough as yet, but I think there may be some jostling for headspace at the moment. There are some fixes for Cassandra percolating – I can feel them – as I let my brain relax. As for the other prose pieces, I can see how I can extend one, but still working on how to rework the other. It definitely reads more like an essay rather than a story. Bum nuggets! It may be time to take the computer upstairs and batter something out before going to bed. That’s when the ideas come out to party, and for some reason tapping away on the keyboard is feeling far more cathartic than scribbling in a book. I never thought I’d hear (or see) myself say that!

The honey, lemon and echinacea seems to be having some effect on my throat – in that it isn’t as sore as it was yesterday. Yesterday was horrible. The snuggled up in bed for the afternoon was fantastic, however. Princi was a little star, alternating between sitting in her bed playing on the laptop and jumping on my bed, crawling under the duvet, then pretending to be in a Gruffalo cave. I’m surprised the Gruffalo thing didn’t bother me more, but I was so tired nothing bothered me. I just played a very quiet, ungrowly Mummy Gruaffalo in between power naps. We didn’t get around to reading any books, but we caught up with that before school this morning.

So, off now to read Princi’s new school book with her.

Gee-tar hero! March 19, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Reading with Principessa, The Principessa Files.

This moring before school, Princi and I learned how to make a guitar in The Workshop. This was the book from the school’s reading scheme. We had read it twice before, but the reason for reading it again was to see if she had grasped some of the words that she had trouble with the first two times. For the most part she did very well, she even took her time to work out tenon saw (she said ten saw first, but when I asked her to look again she said ‘ten-on’. Yay!) but she didn’t have the same success with junior hacksaw (hacketsaw? Oh, so nearly, though!). The chisels and planes gave her trouble at first, but no longer! The only word that she continued to have trouble with was drills. This really was her bugbear, as she insisted on saying it was ‘draills’. Still, yay! Her reading is getting better every day. I am so impressed. I just have to teach her to write now.

Oh, and maths!

Building barriers… February 26, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Happy learning Principessa, Reading with Principessa, surveyors and extensions.
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So, the surveyor wasn’t the surveyor yesterday. Instead, it was only the occupational therapist with a handful of plans. While we were talking about what had been planned, I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that there is not going to be much space in the room for storage, clothes-wise, so I’m now feeling even more wary about the whole thing.  I tell you, being a mutant isn’t all that!

As for Princi’s reading… Well, the first book she was given was too easy for her. It was a stage 2 book in the school’s reading scheme, which is for kids of Princi’s age – four years old – but it didn’t really offer her much of a challenge. So yesterday she came home with a stage 6 book, for kids reading at age 6. The story was longer and had a deeper plot to follow, and she only struggled on three or four words. So impressed! And she’s all made up because her teacher takes her to the library to choose her book. I need to sit down with her now and teach her how to build up words so that she can work out the words she gets stuck on. Other than that, she is really quite a fluent reader. I suppose I need to get her moving on maths now!