Saturday, 21 January 2017

History, Living Books and the Imagination

Welcome to Week Four of the Virtual Curriculum Fair 2017. More information about the Virtual Curriculum Fair can be found here. This week's theme is Exploring our World: Social Studies and the Exploratory Sciences. My post is about history.
The previous week's posts are Starting the Day Well, a Poetry Feast and Maths: a Subject in Progress.

This year has been an unusual year for history. We have officially been studying Early Modern times (from the time of James I until the mid-nineteenth century) but this isn't where the real learning has happened. The real learning has been about a much earlier time and has been precipitated by children's literature. Younger Daughter loves early history and has spent much of the autumn learning about Roman times with the help of Caroline Lawrence's books: The Roman Mysteries and the two new Roman Quests. 

This has led to

  • a trip to a Roman site where we met Caroline Lawrence 
  • a day of Roman activities
  • Roman cooking 
  • dressing up as a character from the Roman Mysteries for an archaeology club Christmas party. This involved research into Roman clothing and hair styles
  • learning about Roman numerals
  • writing a book review
  • having more background to reading the book of Acts.
  • an interest in Latin and the roots of words.
  • many discussions on topics from geography to Roman morality to the Emperor cult to Christians in Roman times. We have used these books as read alouds which I think is important in terms of learning and being able to talk about the contents.
This isn't the first year that the history learning has really been sparked by living books. 

What is a living book? It is a book which inspires interest in a subject. It is usually written by one person rather than a committee. That person has an enthusiasm for their subject so pulls the reader in. The term was coined by the famous Victorian educator, Charlotte Mason.

For the previous two years, we used the Veritas Self Paced history and the literature suggested with this programme. These books, and the programme, which my daughter loved, led to the first phase of interest in early history. We read 
  • Detectives in Togas
  • Hostage Lands
  • Black Ships before Troy
  • Lysis goes to the Play
  • Theras and his town
  • A Trojan horse
and more.

Last year, we used the Veritas list again and studied the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. Books again, captured the imagination and led to a successful year in history learning. 

This year, we changed curriculum. The new curriculum does have literature suggestions but so many that I was rather overwhelmed. I had a few books lined up but  these just haven't managed to capture the imagination in the way that the Roman Mysteries have. At the end of the year, I suspect that my children will have gained more knowledge and perhaps more importantly, enthusiasm for learning about the Romans that for the period 1610 to 1850. 

The moral for next year, is that I need to find a few living books that capture the imagination. Once the children are spending their free time thinking about the Victorians, World War One and World War Two, they will learn almost whatever I do. In the meantime, we will probably visit a villa or two and read more Roman stories.


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Saturday, 14 January 2017

Maths: a subject in progress

This is the third post for the Virtual Curriculum Fair 2017. This is a five week series of posts from a variety of different bloggers around various areas in home education. 
My first post was about Starting the Day well and last week's was about poetry: A Poetry Feast.

This week's topic is Patterns: maths, logic and some science. Maths is, unexpectedly, it is a subject about which I feel a bit wobbly. Up until this year,maths has been a strong topic. We certainly aren't a mathsphobic family: Middle Son is studying maths in the sixth form and Eldest Son has a maths related degree. Maths gets discussed around the table and jokes sometimes have a maths related punchline. So what has gone wrong?



Younger Daughter is on her third year of the Galore Park maths books and Youngest Son started the first book during the last academic year but they have both got stuck on topics. Fractions and tables to be precise. I like the way that Galore Park is a spiral curriculum and have sometimes gone back to the topic in a previous year when children have got stuck but this year has felt like thick mud! 

This autumn, I decided that we had to reinvigorate our maths. There were some additions


We decided to have a break from Galore Park and used the Nessy Numbers programme for a few weeks. We used the time telling part of this first which was great for sorting out fluency and changing 12 hour to 24 hour times. It was fun and removed the tension. Neither child is dyscalculic so I don't know how effective it would be in this scenario.

We are also using Nessy for extra times tables work.

Our other addition is something that we have used before with Middle Son but not with the younger children and that is Khan Academy. This has proved helpful when a particular topic has proved difficult and we are currently using it for fractions. We have never used Khan Academy as our main curriculum but more as way of helping with difficult subjects and having an explanation that doesn't come from me. It has been great for this: free, with explanatory videos and practice questions.

We plan to move back to Galore Park slowly but with these additions and substitutions as necessary. 


Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and the Mathematical Sciences this week:

Finding Our Math Equilibrium: Our Plan for 11th, 7th, 5th, and 2nd Grades + Free Printables! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Math Resources and Programs for All Ages by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Math (doesn't) Stink! by Jennifer King @A Peace of Mind
When Math is NOT Your Thing by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
Math U See and All the Supplements by Laura H @ Four Little Penguins
Discovering Patterns in Our World: STEM Studies by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Junior High Math by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Science & Math for Struggling Learners by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
Maths: a subject in progress by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Taking Mathematics out of the Textbook by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acre
Maths for a Very Maths-y Boy by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Practical Math by Annette @ A Net in Time
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Math, How I Loathe Thee by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Math and Logic in Early Elementary and Preschool {virtual curriculum fair 2017} by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos
Low Stress High School Science and Math by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Are these toys or manipulatives? This is math? by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully
When You Don't Have a Math Plan by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Clear Horizons by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
A Few Thoughts on Teacher Math by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset


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Thursday, 12 January 2017

Searching for Second hand Children's Books

This is the second post in a series of two about which books to search for second hand. The first post dealt with specifically Christian authors whereas this post is more general.

I haven't read every book by these authors so use discretion. However, these are authors whose books I have enjoyed and are the authors that I look for in second hand shops. I'm sharing my secrets!

 R.J. Unstead was a headmaster and author of children's history books. I remember devouring his books when I was in school. We particularly like People in History which has short biographies of famous people in British history and lovely big font for early readers.

 Enid Blyton is well known and I wouldn't spend too much time looking for most of her books except for her Tales of Brave Adventure which is a child friendly retelling of Robin Hood and King Arthur. A book that I haven't seen, but is often recommended, is her Nature Lover's Book.

Barbara Willard wrote the Mantlemass series. I have only read one of these historical fiction books for older children but keep an eye open for the others. In addition, her book Penny Pony was a book that the children enjoyed a couple of years ago. An author worth checking out in the shelves.

BB was the pen name of Denys Watkins-Pitchford. We have only read Lord of the Forest which is a history and natural history of an oak tree in Sussex over several hundred years from the Middle Ages to the Second World War. However, he wrote many other books including the famous Brendon Chase.

Malcolm Saville wrote children's adventure stories set in Shropshire and Sussex. I loved these as a child and have some rather loved, tattered copies. Sadly, second hand copies are only available at enormous prices so I keep my tatty versions!

Ladybird history and nature books. These are famous and worth having despite the recent parodies. The history books, in particular, are often available relatively cheaply.

If you don't have a copy of Edith Holden's The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady then look for this. We dip into this book for nature study and usually have it open at the relevant month on our nature table.

Our copy of The Macmillan Treasury of Poetry for Children has been used so much that the covers are falling off. Again, worth looking for in second hand shops. 

I would love to have some tips about which out of print/older children's books you recommend.

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Saturday, 7 January 2017

A Poetry Feast

This is the second week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. This is a five week series of posts from a variety of different bloggers around various areas in home education. Last week's post about Starting the Day Well and with links to all the other week one posts can be found here. This week's topic is Playing with Words: the Language Arts or what we would call in England, English or literacy. 

My post, this week, is about poetry in our home education. 

I have written about poetry previously
Ways to enjoy poetry and rhyme with young children
Poetry and Young Children
Poetry Resources

Nowadays, we have a special poetry slot at our weekly Poetry Tea. This is an idea from Brave Writer which now has a separate Poetry Teatime website.

We hold our poetry tea at the same time each week.  One of the children usually selects a recipe and makes a snack. We are trying, not always successfully, to pull away from sweet snacks but fruit and homemade sushi sandwiches have been popular.


The table is laid for Poetry Tea, sometimes, around a theme such as the season 
or an event such as Remembrance Day. Recently, we have often covered the table with lining paper and provided pens rather than using a table cloth. The idea is to encourage writing, doodling and general illustration of the poems. 
We often invite a friend or friends for Poetry Tea. Everyone attending has to choose a poem and either read this or have it read for them. Poems have been written for the occasion. 



On occasion, we have variations on Poetry Tea. We read Kipling at his house, Bateman's. There was the end of term treat with a new anthology and a visit to a cafe. We have had poetry picnics in various seasons!

We now have a large family anthology in which we write our favourite poems and poems written by the children. In retrospect, I would have used a smaller book. Our book is larger than A3 size and is difficult to manage on the table!


Benefits of Poetry Tea


  • Increasing awareness of rhyme
  • Becoming aware of some well known poems
  • Coming to love some poems
  • Repetition leading to increased understanding
  • Repeated reading leading to increases in fluency and skill in reading aloud. Dialogue poems have been really popular for this. Excuses is the favourite in this category and is read/recited weekly!
  • Writing poetry
  • Reading recipes
  • Conversations about themes in the poems. The discussions have sometimes lasted far longer than I anticipated.
Tips for Making Poetry Tea work
  • Some children like poems more than others-all have to sit for a snack, drink and listen to one poem from each person. 
  • Funny poems seem to appeal to those less keen.
  • I let the less enthusiatic disappear after the minimum expected while keener children can sit and discuss.
Poetry Suggestions
I have previously written about Poetry Resources. In addition to these, we also now use 
  • The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
  • Secret Laughter by Walter de la Mare
  • Where the Poppies now grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey. This is a picture book around a poem about the First World War.
  • The Nation's Favourite Poems-please note that this is not a children's book and not all the poems are suitable for a children's poetry tea. 
  • Over Hills and Dales: The Illustrated Poetry of the Natural World
Current Favourite Poems and their authors
  • Excuses Gareth Owen
  • Chocolate Cake Michael Rosen
  • Please Mrs Butler Allan Ahlberg
  • The race to get to sleep Brian Patten
  • On the Ning Nang Nong Spike Milligan
  • Henry VIII Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Robert Frost
  • A Smugglers' Song Rudyard Kipling
  • Gran's XI John Kitching
  • In Flanders Fields John McCrae
  • A Dragon in the Classroom Charles Thomson
Please let me know about your children's favourite poems or anthologies. I have wondered about having some Poetry Teas around a particular author but haven't really done this yet, apart from a visit to Bateman's. I would love suggestions for themes and extensions to our teas.

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are writing about Playing with Words this week:

All posts will be live by Monday, January 9th at noon EST.
Delight Directed High School English by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Act Your Part Well- 2017 VCF by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
The Search For Language by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
Our Top Picks for Language Arts by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Multiple Approaches to Language Arts in 2017 by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
How We Cover the Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Use Your Words by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
The Art of Perfecting Macarons by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Loving Languages Every Day by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind
Speech Therapy & Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
The Readin' and Writin' Part of Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Children Who Love Books by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Customizing High School Language Credits by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
A Poetry Feast by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Teaching Language Arts without Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
I know your pain and it is worth it! by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Language Arts: Our Style by Annette @ A Net in Time
Words! Words! Words! by Lisa M @McClanahan 7
10 Wonderful Word Games (+1) by Lori @ At Home: where life happens

Finding the Right Words by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
What About Reading Comprehension? by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
Teaching Grammar and Writing Through Discussion by Chelli @ The Planted Trees



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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

January Inspiration

Happy New Year! I meant to post earlier but life has been busy. I'm not sure that it will quieten down anytime soon. We care for an elderly family member who has been very ill, in hospital. We are delighted that she seems to be on the mend so we are now involved in the arrangements for what will be a very complicated discharge from hospital. It will be lovely to get her home though.

We have also been enjoying having Older Daughter home from abroad for a few weeks. 

This house is very full of books so I enjoyed this post on steps to giving a book that will be loved.

I'm not successful at being a book minimalist or a minimalist about anything else, if truth be told, but Northern Nester's post about minimalist wardrobes for large families made sense. I do think that larger children's clothes will take up more space than that suggested and I know that 3-4 pairs of socks would be a struggle especially as the washing machine eats socks. 

The next article has an over-hopeful title but has some helpful points about habits.

This post, from Kitchentableclassroom is about strewing

I have started on the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge but haven't finished anything yet. There are three, maybe four, books on the go:

  • Five English Reformers by JC Ryle. I am enjoying this but the book could do with editing. It is made up of six talks which leads to repetition between chapters.
  • Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Dickens' hint laden prose is intriguing.
  • The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford is a beautiful book but can only be read in small snatches as it is full of short quotes from his letters.
  • The beggar from Volubilis by Caroline Lawrence is a current read aloud. I wasn't going to count this as the children's book on the list but might as we should be through it fairly soon. I would like to have completed one book for the challenge!

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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Starting the Day Well

This is the first post in the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. This is an annual event run by Susan from Homeschooling Hearts and Minds. This year, there will be five weeks of the Fair with the following themes


  • Week One: See how we learn: the Nuts and Bolts of what makes our home education come together
  • Week Two: Playing with Words: the Language Arts
  • Week Three: Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic and Science
  • Week Four: Social Studies and more Science
  • Week Five: Seeking Beauty: The Arts and anything that adds Beauty to our World
This week, I hope to write about how we start our day. 
I am convinced that having a set order to our day saves thought and hassle. The way we start the day also shows what is most important. For this reason, we have a set order to our day
  • Morning Time
  • Rest of the morning: mainly English and maths
  • Afternoon: other subjects
Groups and meetings with friends tend to happen in the afternoon which means that we are more likely to miss afternoon than morning subjects: this is intentional. 

Morning Time is the most important part of the day. We start with the most important things: prayer, a Christian book, Bible learning and a hymn. We also include in this session a little fun boost for subjects that might need this and some enjoyable subjects which might be missed and don't need too much time. We don't do these subjects/boosts everyday but once a week. Alternatively, they could be put on a loop of any length as described in Sarah Mackenzie in Teaching from Rest.

Note: the Bible part of Morning Time happens every day but the extras, apart from the daily maths, happen on four days of the week.



These are some of the resources that we use for Morning Time.

Bible book
A Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos-we finished reading this during the autumn and have now started
The Ology by Marty Machowski.
We read from the Bible itself during family worship and in the evening with the children so use a Christian book for this slot.

Bible Learning
During last year, one of the children completed the Trinitarian Bible Society Sabbath School Memory work prize since then we have worked on verses from the children's Sunday School and other Bible verses.

Hymns
Generally, we try to learn a hymn. I try to work out which hymns often come up in church and make sure that we learn these. In addition, we have worked on learning Great is the Gospel of our Glorious God by Vernon Higham, Let us with a Gladsome mind in the early autumn, and O come, O come Emmanuel and Come Thou long expected Jesus in December.

Other Subjects in Morning Time
Maths
I wanted to add in a little extra maths, this autumn, and found the free app Bedtime Math. Despite the fact that we don't use this at bedtime, this has been well received. Each day has a paragraph or so about a topic followed by maths questions at different levels. Younger Daughter likes to read the paragraph and questions to us. The lowest level is very simple but the questions get gradually more challenging. They aren't particularly difficult though and answers are provided.
In addition, once a week, we will play a maths game in this slot. Favourites include


  • Sum Swamp-really a bit too young now but very loved.
  • Trilemma
  • Equivalence dominoes
  • Time Lotto
  • Tables matching pairs
  • Tangrams

Music Appreciation
This is a subject that we rarely actually did before it was added to Morning Time. Initially, we used the Ladybird composer books but once we had finished these, we started to use the six minute podcasts from Classics for Kids. There is a weekly broadcast but so far, we have tended to chose composers or music which fits with the rest of our learning. Recently, Younger Daughter worked on a European music topic for her piano teacher so we linked the podcasts to this.

Art Appreciation
We have used a variety of sources for this
  • James Mayhew's Katie books
  • Lawrence Anholt books
  • the 13 ... Children should know series. We have use the bridges, buildings and artists books.
  • Picture study using postcards purchased from an art gallery.
Science
Again, we have used a variety of sources
  •  Books short listed for the Royal Society Young People's Science Prize. Our book club was part of the Judging Panel for  that prize so we were able to read copies of these books. Our favourite and the prize winner was David Macaulay's How machines work
  • Model ear and eye.
  •  A page from a science encyclopaedia. We use The Ultimate Book of Science
  • Very occasionally, we do a science activity often using the Dyson Foundation Challenge Cards
Other
This routine sometimes alters. Sometimes, instead of maths we will do a spelling or phenomic awareness game such as Slug in the Jug or correcting punctuation and talking about grammar in a sentence. We have also used this slot to read simplified Shakespeare.

What has changed
Many families read aloud during Morning Time. Other than short read alouds as part of music, art or science, this hasn't really worked for us. I sometimes read to the children over breakfast and usually, after lunch but find that adding a longer read aloud to Morning Time just takes too long. My aim is that Morning Time takes about 30 minutes. Another ten minutes is fine but otherwise, we struggle to fit in other morning activities.
When the children were younger though, we did read picture books in this slot, particularly, their Five in a Row book for the week. This worked well but as books and chapters have become longer we have changed this.

Do you have this type of beginning to your day? How does it work in your home?

I invite you to see how my fellow bloggers learn in their homeschools 

The Evolution of Our Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Us-School Because We Are Us, Not Someone Else by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
It's All About the School by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Setting the Stage- the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair! by Lisa N. @ Golden Grasses
New Year, New Goals, New School! by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Homeschooling - A Glimpse into How We Do it by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Spotlight on How We Learn in Our Homeschool by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Our Unique Eclectic Homeschool  by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
How We Learn on the Go by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Home Education - 10 Ways We Make It Work by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Schedules, where would I be without them? by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Education at Our House by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Starting the Day Well by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Making a Change - Accountability and Responsibility Through Routine by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
A time to be encouraged is coming.. the Virtual Curriculum Fair by Annette @ A Net in Time
Loving the Moment! by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind
Keeping Our Homeschool Organized by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Homeschool Goal Setting – Looking Forward, Looking Back by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
How We Choose Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
This Is How We Homeschool by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
How we don't learn in our homeschool & how I don't plan {2017 Virtual Homeschool Curriculum Fair} by Meghan @ Quiet in the Chaos
Learning Our Way by Lisa @ McClanahan 7
Limping Along: Our Semi-Eclectic Approach to Homeschooling by Debra @Footprints in the Butter
2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair: See How We Learn by Dana L @ Luv'N Lambert Life

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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ideas in the New Year

The 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair opens at the start of the New Year. 
No automatic alt text available.
This is an annual event run by Susan from Homeschooling Hearts and Minds. Over twenty home education bloggers plan to participate in five weeks of posts about the nitty gritty of home education. This is ideal for

  • home educators looking for inspiration
  • anyone considering home education
  • anyone curious about how home educators go about the business of education
Each week has a theme:

Jan. 2---See How We Learn-organising home education and how we get everything done

Jan. 9---Playing with Words, the Language Arts (English for those of us in the UK!)

Jan. 16---Discovering Patterns, Maths, Logic and Sciences

Jan. 23---Exploring Our World, History, Geography and more Science

Jan. 30---Seeking Beauty, the Fine Arts and Everything that Brings Beauty into our Homeschools

Each blogger will approach the subjects in their own individual way so do read around the group. I have listed those participating below. If you are a blogger and want to take part, request to join this Facebook group by tomorrow evening!

Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Laura H. @ Four Little Penguins

LauraOinAK @ Day by Day in Our World

Lisa N. @ Golden Grasses

Jacquelin C. @ A Stable Beginning

Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind

Michele Pleasants @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool

Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Kym Thorpe @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Yvie Field @ Gypsy Road

Dana Lambert @ Luv'N Lambert Life

Debra B. @ Footprints in the Butter

Sarah J @ Delivering Grace

Annette @ A Net in Time

Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine

Lizzy Peach @ Peaches @Home

Meghan W. @ Quiet In The Chaos

Amy L. @ Adorable Chaos

Kristen Hamilton @ Sunrise to Sunset

Kim @ Good Sweet Love

If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.