Corona Crisis Crafting VI: A Dragon Needs a Tower

While the next batch of dragons is drying, I built them a tower to live in, because that’s a natural dragon habitat.

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That first layer of stones needed to be absolutely even, because any differences in height would multiply by the time I got to the top. I filled the middle stone with concrete and anchored it in the ground with some construction steel, because this stone carries most of the weight of the next layers. I used up some left over gravel to fill in the gaps. The stones are set about 10cm into the ground so they aren’t pushed apart by the weight of the stones on top.

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The next two layers. The stones are glued together by construction glue, the kind you can lift a car with. I am very proud to tell you that the second level only had a two mm difference in height on one stone, which is probably due to the stone itself. I let it set over night and finally today the first inhabitants could move in.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

There’s going to be one more on the left side. The two slightly mishap dragons also move in, lurking behind the bushes.

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I’m also happy (haha) to tell you that my mum is back in her good (haha) old shape. Yesterday I sent her a pic of the finished but unplanted tower. “You are aware that you can’t go to the hospital now if your back hurts, right?”

Today I sent her a pick of the finished tower, with grandkid! “Are you lurking around in hardware stores or what?!”

Yes, mum, I love you, too.

Teacher’s Corner: Homeschooling

Content note: Child abuse

Homeschooling is generally illegal in Germany and the longer Corona goes on, the clearer those reasons become.

A)For one thing, not all homes have the same resources. Right now you notice a stark difference in what schools can do with remote teaching. Some schools, mostly “Gymnasien” which are the elite schools in the horribly stratified German school system with a generally well off clientele are doing some fantastic things with Google Teams and all that shit. Us? Not so much. We made sure we contacted all families individually to make sure they can access learning material. In some cases that means that I print that shit out at home and send it off by mail. I’m currently telling myself that the cost is set off by not having to commute, but of course not all teachers will do that. And that’s just accessing learning material. Children still need support and an occasional explanation. I’m a teacher and kind of a “Jane of all trades” since in special ed you teach basically all subjects, though the focus is usually on Maths and German, neither of which are the subjects I actually studied. Not only do I learn easily and have years of training in teaching, but also in learning, so I know where to find resources if I’m stuck. Like yesterday when I had to do a quick recap in mechanics before working on it with #1.

Many of my students’ parents didn’t finish even the lowest school leaving cert themselves. For them school was not a good place and they are not able to do the schoolwork themselves, let alone explain it. Many don’t speak German (well) and at least one single mum is illiterate. Homeschooling massively increases injustices in education. Kids of well off, well educated parents keep learning. On the whole their situation is much less stressful right now. My kids have different rooms, there’s a garden I can send them to, for now I don’t have to worry about money or food and we have plenty of entertainment.

B) Parents are not teachers. Not even the parents who actually are teachers. Parents and teachers have different roles and relationships with a child and each of these relationships has a different conflicts. For one thing, while I am very involved in my students’ wellbeing and care for them a lot, they cannot hurt me emotionally in a profound way. While they can annoy me and even make me angry at times, I generally don’t take it personally (they often do, but they’re teenagers so they take the weather personally as well). There’s the kid who has called me all kinds of names and I frankly care more about him getting his anger under control because once he leaves school he’ll be in a hell lot of trouble for calling his boss a b*tch. With my kids things are very different. They can hurt me. they can make me worry on a whole different level. And vice versa. If I teach them at home and there’s some problem and some fight over schoolwork, they cannot go home to a safe place afterwards and complain about fucking Ms Giliell. And right now, having a safe place is much more important than ever. This would always be a problem with homeschooling, but in the current crisis, the relationship between parents and their children is so crucial, it cannot be sacrificed to algebra. When I talk to parents on the phone I tell them that this is the most important thing. School will still be there after Corona. Maths will still be there. But their relationship might not be.

C) Some teachers just don’t get it. While across the country teachers are (rightfully) snickering at parents who are currently finding out that maybe the teacher isn’t the problem, there are also teachers who show no understanding for the problems I talked about in 1 and 2. There’s a video I’ve been sent where a teen dressed up as a teacher is going “oh, homework will help them so here’s my Corona remote teaching: Do every single task and exercise from page 1 to 349! This will be graded”. My social media is full with parents being desperate about not meeting deadlines and kids crying about schoolwork.

Yesterday I was like “are they fucking kidding me” when I printed out #1’s science lessons. Not only does the teacher expect people to have a colour printer, they also expect to learn all of mechanics all by themselves. These kids have never had even the most basic lesson about power, force, mass etc. and all those other important concepts you need to understand shit like levers and stuff. Nobody is telling me that they would have been able to cover all of that in 7 lessons at school. And honestly, I needed 30 minutes of preparation before I was safe enough in using the correct terms. I also bribed her, saying that her Easter gift would come as soon as we finished this because I know that this is the thing she likes the least and she’s struggling anyway, not because she’s having trouble grasping those ideas, but because she’s on the spectrum and needs her clear structure.

Apart from that it’s difficult for teachers to asses if their worksheets are working. In class I can read the room. I can see on the faces whether something makes “click” or not, I know where to look (Is little Jeanie still paying attention and what do I need to do to get her attention). With remote learning there’s little chance of that. Many kids will ask in class, but not write an email. And yeah, even veteran teachers occasionally produce bad material. To be honest, with #1’s physics worksheets I was occasionally wondering what they want me to do. And next on the list is calculating “work”. The formula remains obscure. It has not appeared in the book pages she’s supposed to read or the worksheets up to date. She will learn about it at some later time. I’m not sure if spoilers should be a thing in physics.

And this is the most damning point: child abuse:

D) In schools, daycare, all those institutions, people see kids every day. We notice if kids don’t have food. We notice if they have bruises. I remember a mother who accused us of not having noticed sooner that her daughter was cutting herself (after we informed her, the mother, who shares a household with her daughter). We notice if they don’t have clothes or don’t come to school at all because they need to “take care” of their parents who struggle and don’t manage to give their kids the care they need. Occasionally we just plain feed them. I sometimes complain about the days when I spend more time with adults on the phone than with kids in the classroom, talking to CPS, social workers, therapists. I write “notifications of child endangerment”. None of this is happening right now. CPS is mostly shut down right now. They cannot visit families at home. If they have concrete evidence, they can send the police who are absolutely not trained in those matters (and ironically kids in good middle class homes are most at danger here because if police come to a nice home with well fed kids they won’t do shit.) All of this is happening while people are packed in bad living conditions, struggling financially. Many charities have stopped working while some still try do give at least some support. Children are no longer getting meals at school. Welfare money is already not enough and now those families lose that safe 1 buck hot meal that their children got so far. In some schools it’s even more as for example the special eds centre I belong to (but don’t work at) offers free breakfast as well. We know that while there#s never an excuse for beating your kids, such situations lead to an increase in violence. We have already seen this in China, and children are the most vulnerable. As one CPS worker who still staffs the crisis hotline said: “a four years old can’t dial my number.”

Corona Crisis Crafting IV: Face Masks

Around the world hospitals are asking for volunteers to sew masks and I started already for my sister and her colleagues, as well as the relatives who care for her elderly patients.

I’m using this pattern and it’s super easy. Time needed is probably 15-20 Minutes per mask, so grab your fabric stashes and start sewing (finally you have the justification for keeping all those letter sized fabric pieces).

BTW, I guess that some protection nobody could measure in their experiments is that wearing them really keeps you from touching your face.

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I’ll also hand out instructions with them that read as follows:

Hello,

I’m a washable cloth mask. I am not a medical product and should not be mistaken for one. I am especially no substitute for other measures like washing hands and staying at home. Please wash me before you first use me and after each use. I’m 100% cotton and can be washed at 60°. Caressing me with a hot iron is a good idea as well. I’m free. If you want to say thanks please stick to the guidelines put forward by the authorities. But if maybe you have some elastic lying around, that would be nice, so many more masks can be distributed.

Best wishes and take care

 

Corona Crisis Crafting III: Tools

Yes, I didn’t only stock up on resin, but also on tools, though admittedly I’d have bought them anyway.

The first one is a tiny foldable workbench. I still don’t have a workshop and if this lasts long enough for us to clean up the cellar we’ll also be busy digging up the garden and planting potatoes. Anyway, shaping resin mechanically makes a hell lot of dirt, so I prefer doing it outside anyway.

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The top plates can be moved together or apart and the little plastic thingies are cramps you can use to hold your stuff.

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Works surprisingly well. For the next part I removed the cramps and unpacked item #2: a plate to fix the jigsaw to:

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Oops, it looked better in the thumbnail. But you get the principle. This is so I can cut some larger pieces of resin. In the end I will get a bandsaw some day, but for now this will have to do. First object: a wannabe dragon egg.

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It’s got a piece of burl at the bottom and some gold flakes in the resin. As a container I reappropriated a milk box.

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I figured that every bit of resin I could remove with a saw would safe a lot of sanding later and girl was I right. It worked OK. As expected the vibrations were bad, especially when the angle at which I cut got small and of course holding the piece with two hands was not always possible. I will also add that I’ve got a very, very good jigsaw and the blade was new. Still a success.

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Today I unpacked another toy, eh tool, a plate grinder. I only have a belt grinder that is meant to be handheld and therefore a pain in the ass. This is something completely different and seriously makes sanding so. much. easier.

So here’s the remaining pieces before and after sanding:

©Giliell, all rights reserved: Bog oak and red resin

©Giliell, all rights reserved “Old something” and nails

©Giliell, all rights reserved: Burl and resin

BTW, if you ever want to ruin some sanding paper quickly, try having hot glue on your work piece:

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And, finally:

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The eggs aren’t perfect, but I’m happy with them. The one with the nails was hell to sand because they would heat up and burn your fingers on the other side of the piece…

Now for my favourite (cough, cough) part: sanding and polishing…

 

Corona Crisis Crafting II: There be Dragons

Another cheat post, because I started those last week as well.

I want to redecorate the front yard and therefore ordered some very cool latex moulds. I still have plenty of pouring concrete left from the renovations, so I can probably breed a lot of them.

Here’s the first, not so good attempts:

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My attempts in supporting the moulds weren’t as successful as I thought they would be. The wings on this were supposed to be upright, which isn’t a big issue, but I also made my concrete too wet*, so when I tried to demould it after the recommended 5 days, it was still too wet and the tips of the wings broke off.

Next one:

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I left that one for a few more days to dry, which worked out well, but… the weight of the concrete pushed the head down.

For my next attempts I buried the moulds in damp earth. I’ll have to get myself some regular sand for the next ones, but I hope that this time they wont be flat.

Last one is a cute little croc, only that I broke off its tail, but that was easily fixed with some glue.

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*As my dad said: It’s too dry, too dry, too dry right until it’s too wet.

Corona Crisis Crafting I

Ok, this is cheating a bit, because I made the pieces over the last two weeks or so, but it’s still something pretty that you can make indoors.

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The necklace turned out very elegant and beautiful and I’m wondering what to wear it to, once we can go out again and support our local restaurants. It’s ten individual resin pieces with Bohemian glass beads to separate them. here are some of my favourite ones:

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

Spring is Coming

And it doesn’t give a single fuck about out human woes.

It is still beautiful.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The weather is brilliant here after weeks of rain and we used it for a walk in the woods and some gardening.

Teacher’s Corner: School’s out for Corona

Sing to “School’s out for Summer”.

The ministry of education has finally acted and from Monday on, all schools and daycares are closed. Which is good and necessary. You want to know why schools need to be closed? Here’s an easy example: the primary school next to our school has two suspected cases. They share a schoolyard. One kid is the younger sibling of one of our 7th graders, the other one is the kid of one of our colleagues. Which means that if they are confirmed I may have to go into quarantine. That means no leaving the house. At all. No, not even taking out the trash. It has to be stored inside until we’re declared clear. You aren’t even allowed to put out money for the delivery service, that is considered contagious. Friends and family would have to put food on our doorstep. Oh, and no outdoor crafting.

Not closing schools would mean the kids could spread it, even undetected. I could pass it to my kids, who go to school in a different county. The cycle starts again. Of course this also brings a hell lot of problems for parents of younger kids. I already offered to take in a friend’s kids (should I be declared clear).

What I’m really salty about is how all this happened. Closing schools has been discussed for weeks. We could have had weeks to prepare. But last night the government still said that schools will stay open in order to “ensure quality education”. This morning, the news already reported that we’re being closed down, but until 10 o’clock or so we had no official information. Then we were told to prepare material for the kids, with 40-50% of them already missing. We do have an online platform, but it hasn’t been introduced properly and not all kids have the access codes now. We can only hope that they share the code among each other. I expect phone lines running hot.

On Monday we’ll have a meeting where we hopefully get some instructions. These are not holidays and of course we’re expected to do something for our money. What we can do will be seen.

Those news brought on another run on the supermarkets. Thankfully I only needed food for the weekend. OK, I admit, I stocked up on fish fingers, chocolate and coffee. Well, and crafting supplies have been ordered…

Welcome to Pandemia

As we’re all fretting and worrying, here’s the thread to do so.

I’m currently somewhere between annoyed and worried about other people. The neighbouring region in France was declared an outbreak area yesterday. Of course the kids have come to school in Germany all the time including today and we have quite a couple of kids who live in France (it’s 500m from school, many people take advantage of the lower French taxes until they notice that they also get lower French social pay…). As of tomorrow kids and teacher who live in France can no longer come to school for two weeks.

Actually we’re all just waiting for schools to be closed down completely, but we’re also asking ourselves what our politicians have been doing. Because it’s not like these scenarios  were unpredictable. Any somewhat competent administration should have discussed “what if”, decided on triggers and measures and therefore have their plans ready. Instead what we get are reactions which take precious time. Not to mention that we tend to get our information from the media, not the ministry of education.

Well, at least you should get some resin project pictures.

Personally I just told both my parents and my in laws that we’ll keep our distance. I’m not worried about me, Mr. or the kids, as we’re not risk groups, but very much worried about my mum and my father in law who probably check all the boxes on people with high fatality rates. Of course my mum thought I was overreacting…

So, share your woes, fret and complain, be annoyed with the powers that be.