Friday, 3 July 2015

Musical notation made easy

Younger Daughter has been working on reading music and now has come up to ledger lines-those little lines which are used when the stave has run out of lines so that higher or lower notes can be fitted in. Her teacher has provided some helpful mnemonics but adding extra notes was a challenge.

So we decided to try a multi-sensory way of remembering. This involved

  • playdough for notes
  • spaghetti for lines in the stave
  • white paper
  • magnetic letters-could be replaced with labels
  • ribbon or pipe cleaner for the clef-putting the ribbon or pipe cleaner into the correct shape was the most difficult part!
We set the notes out
Treble clef-notes in spaces

Treble clef-notes on lines

Bass clef-notes in spaces

It was then easy to add ledger lines and work out the names of notes.

Something strange has happened to the bass clef but this does show the principle well.

Hopefully, this will translate into easier recall of the note names and will be easy to set up again, for review.

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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Children of the Storm

I've recently reread Natasha Vins' autobiography, Children of the Storm and was surprised at the relevance of this book.

Natasha was the daughter of Georgi Vins, a Baptist pastor in the USSR, in the 1960s and 1970s. What made life difficult was that the state was atheistic and Natasha's father wasn't going to compromise his faith and give in the state restrictions on his faith. The family joined the Unregistered Baptists which led to a life of persecution. For Georgi, and for his elderly mother Lydia, that meant imprisonment. For the rest of the family, the implications were social disgrace, being picked on at school, being denied the chance of a university degree and even the threat of the children being removed from parental care.

Natasha was taught, in school, that religion was a lie and that the lessons she was taught, at home, were old fashioned and impeded advance. As a teenager, she had to face the stark choice between these two worlds and after her conversion, she went to work with an underground printing team.

Eventually, Georgi Vins was stripped of his citizenship and sent to the US in a prisoner swap. The rest of the family were given no choice but to follow and carve out a new life.

How is this book relevant in the post-Glasnost era?

In a time, when the Western world is also becoming aggressively atheistic, we need to understand the pressures that we may have to face. We need to remember Moses who
Chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Eygpt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Hebrews 11v25-26

Reading this book, reminded me of Jocabed, the mother of Moses, who didn't have much time to teach her son but managed to teach him that he wasn't Pharaoh's son and that serving the Lord is greater than the riches of Eygpt. Nastasha Vins was taught by her parents and grandmother within the limitations that they had. The Vins parents both had to work; the state provided education and part of the time her father was absent either being in the underground or in prison. 

Do we make the most of the freedom that we have? Yes, our children will learn secular humanistic values from everything around but are we teaching them about the Lord and His great love? 

Correct teaching didn't change Natasha. She had to come to know the Lord for herself but the Lord used the faithful witness of her parents through difficult circumstances. 

This challenging book is suitable for older children and adults. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Year Two Curriculum

I have hesitated from posting this because in many ways choosing the curriculum is easy whereas making it interesting and relevant is the challenge. That challenge generally involves using the curriculum plus other resources. This post is like presenting the bare bones of our education without the muscles and skin.

My youngest is six and so would be in year 2 next year. Hmm, I can't quite believe this. Anyway:

We are currently reading through the Catherine Vos Children's Story Bible and plan to continue this. Alongside this, Youngest Son is working on Bible memory work and we sing a hymn from Our own hymnbook or Psalms and Hymns of Reformed Worship each morning. Youngest Son would like to sing How pleased and blest was I every day but in order to achieve family harmony, this doesn't happen.


Reading:Youngest Son is currently using Dancing Bears.

We plan to continue with this although it doesn't always cause the greatest enthusiasm. We hope to supplement this with some other books.

I almost forgot to write about our reading aloud but this is a vital part of our day. I read aloud several times a day including some older picture books, poetry and chapter books. I list the chapter books and some of the longer picture books in the Books Read section of my blog. 

Grammar and Spelling: Jolly Grammar 2 Pupil Workbook.
We find that grammar is best learned when accompanied by action games!

Handwriting: Schofield and Sims workbooks and some practice in sand/playdough etc.

Writing: This is a bit of a mixture: some ideas from Writestart, others from Pie Corbett's books and the daily emails from Bravewriter. The plan is to do a mix of fiction and non-fiction with much of the writing sparked from books that we have read together.


This year, we started using the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching materials. These have worked well and we plan to continue to use these. We buy the workbooks rather than printing off sheets (less for me to lose). I do wish that the lesson plans could be put on my Kindle.

I'm working on my own resources for science, following the themes from the year 3 National Curriculum but with a Christian worldview. I teach science to both of the younger children together hence the choice of year 3 themes. We have started using this over the last term but it needs more work and refining.


Youngest Son watches some of the Veritas Self-Paced with his sister. The history song and the games tend to be popular but some of the detail of the Council of Chalcedon was rather difficult! Youngest Son is just below the recommended age for Veritas. We use the Veritas at the end of the morning and after maths and English so sometimes, Younger Son plays at this point. 

He usually joins in with listening to the read alouds. We have also been using the Story of the World Middle Ages and its accompanying activity book to re-enforce what the children have learned about with Veritas. Youngest Son enjoys this and we plan to continue using this. 
Viking bread was particularly popular. Apparently, it tastes best with tomato ketchup. 


Our home education group is doing a world project, focusing on a different continent each term. We hope to build on this at home.


I would love to introduce Younger Son to some foreign language, probably Spanish. I recently reviewed a book that should help to provide a Spanish culture but still need to choose something else to go alongside this. 


We sing each morning and I hope to introduce Younger Song to the basics of the keyboard and reading music in the coming year. I hope to add a composer of the term and use the resources on Classics for Kids and Classic FM.


We plan to continue to have regular art sessions at home and will probably use some of the Usborne resources. 

The greatest component of this is almost daily cycling but also includes swimming and football.

Please let me know which resources you have used for this age and particularly, what you have found sparks an interest in reading independently.

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Home Educating in Different Circumstances

We all have different challenges and joys in our lives, whether we are home educators or not. For people who home educate, those circumstances give a different flavour to the way they go about their children's education. 

Through July and the beginning of August, I am hoping to have a series of posts from some guest bloggers who home educate in different circumstances. The aim is to encourage those thinking about home education and those who are already home educators as well as to give some practical suggestions.

The areas that we are covering are 

  •  home educating while caring for an older relative-Sarah (me) at Delivering Grace 

  • home educating the larger than average family-Caroline at the Joyful Keeper 

I hope that you will be able to join us.

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Challenge of Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts was a well known evangelical hymn writer who lived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His well known hymns include

  •  When I survey the wondrous Cross
  •  Joy to the world and 
  • Sweet is the work, my God, my King. 

What is less well known is his education and his own role as an educator.

Watts' parents were not members of the Church of England, at a time when not worshiping in the local parish church was an offence. Watts' father was imprisoned for his non-conformist convictions. Isaac was 14 when the Act of Toleration was passed which gave freedom to worship to non-conformists (Protestants who were not part of the Church of England). What this Act did not give was the freedom to have a university education.

Young Isaac was a bright lad and wanted to be a minister. A wealthy friend offered to pay for his university education which at that time would be at Cambridge or Oxford. This would have meant joining the Established Church but Watts turned down the offer as he wished to stay loyal to his convictions.

Instead, Isaac went off to the Non-Conformist Academy in Stoke Newington.

Watts wasn't called to a church straight after his education but became a tutor. He wrote some books around education, including The Art of Reading and Writing English, and poems for children. His book on logic became the standard text at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale for many years. Yet, even though this was an important work, it pales into insignificance compared to the effect of his hymns.

Watts was faithful to his convictions and God blessed him.  That must be a lesson to us. Of course, most of us aren't educating children quite like Isaac Watts but his education is a challenge for us: that non-mainstream education was sufficiently high quality to prepare a young man to write a major text as well as to make a major contribution to hymnody. 

So for me as a home educator, the challenge from Watts' life is to

  • be faithful to the Lord even if that means being counter-cultural.
  • provide a high standard academic education so that children are able to use their God given abilities
  • remember that the spiritual outlasts, and outweighs, the academic.
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Saturday, 20 June 2015

52 Weeks of Family Spanish

We are an English speaking family and learning other languages has often been difficult. Rather to my surprise, Older Daughter is doing a language degree, in Russian, but I think that having Russian as the second language in the house would be rather challenging! The younger children do need to learn another language and we need, some how, to create a culture of speaking in another language. Spanish seemed a reasonable choice as it has reasonable simple phonics; I studied it in school and the children know Spanish speakers from church. 

When I asked a question about creating a family culture of speaking a second language on a home education forum, someone recommended 52 Weeks of Family Spanish by Eileen McAree. 
Product Details

This is a simple book around introducing elementary Spanish to the family with ideas about how to practice phrases at meal times and in the car along with simple games. I like the idea that it also introduces a different Spanish speaking country in each section with ideas for making meals or having celebrations.

52 Weeks of Family Spanish isn't going to have you speaking at a high level but in terms of children learning simple phrases, colours, body parts, items in the home and names of rooms this seems helpful. I haven't used the book yet but plan to implement the ideas alongside more formal Spanish learning, in the next academic year. 

The book ends with a list of resources including websites, apps and podcasts which are free which is again useful, in my quest to introduce another language into our family culture.

I purchased 52 Weeks of Family Spanish as a kindle download for £3.24 although it is also available as a paperback.

Other books in this series are 52 Weeks of Family German and 52 Weeks of Family French.

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Monday, 15 June 2015

Curriculum for Year 4

Younger Daughter will be year 4 age (grade 3) in the autumn. As home educators, we aren't tied to a particular level nor to the National Curriculum. 

This outline is really just a skeleton and doubtless, trips and other extras will be added.

We are currently reading through the Catherine Vos Children's Story Bible and plan to continue this. We have only just reached the Children of Israel in the wilderness so there is a fair way to read. Alongside this, Younger Daughter is working on the memory work from the Trinitarian Bible Society Sabbath School Scripture learning prize and we sing a hymn from Our own hymnbook or Psalms and Hymns of Reformed Worship each morning.

Reading: The plan for the initial part of the year is to continue working on Toe by Toe. Finishing this is likely to take into the New Year. Just using Toe by Toe for reading is dry and we also have individual reading time and time for reading to me, as well, as plenty of time for me to read aloud to the children. 

Spelling: I would like to re-start All about Spelling which took a backseat when we started Toe by Toe. There is a limit to the number of phonics programmes it is possibly to use per day! Once, Toe by Toe is finished, we plan to give more attention to spelling with All about Spelling. In the interim, we plan to use the spelling exercises in Galore Park Junior English Book 2.

Writing/Grammar/Comprehension: Galore Park Junior English book 2.

Handwriting: Morrells Handwriting book 3.

Typing: BBC Dance Mat Typing

After some thought, and using a practice printout, we plan to use CIMT year 4. Younger Daughter has liked the format when she has seen her younger brother use CIMT and so hopefully,it will work well for her.

I'm working on my own resources for science, following the themes from the year 3 National Curriculum but with a Christian worldview. Yes, Younger Daughter will be in year 4 but her brother will be in year 2 and I plan to teach them both together. We have started using this over the last term but it needs more work and refining.

Veritas Self-Paced has been a winner here. We have just started the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation course. The children are making scrapbooks to go with this. Younger Daughter is very enthusiastic about hers and has had several ideas to add. We also hope to visit some sites relevant to the course and to add to the literature with some books of our own.

Our home education group is doing a world project, focusing on a different continent each term. We hope to build on this at home.

Younger Daughter did a little Spanish but this has taken a back seat, this year, to concentrate on reading. She has started doing some British Sign Language, with a friend, and has loved this. We hope to continue with the BSL but to do a little Spanish. I have been reading a resource to go with this, review soon!

We plan to continue the piano lessons that Younger Daughter started this year. Music has, otherwise, felt a bit "thin", this year. We have sung most days and plan to continue this but also to add a composer per term. Classics for Kids and Classic FM both have helpful resources on their sites. 

Younger Daughter has some art lessons which we plan to continue. She loves art so we tend to keep a reasonable supply of materials for her to use for her own projects. In addition, I am vacillating between using Artistic Pursuits and the Usborne Complete book of Art Ideas.

Currently, this includes swimming and cycling and the plan is to continue.

Please let me know about any resources that are particularly useful and anything I have missed!

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