Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Home Educating Secondary Age Children


Several times, recently, I've been asked about home educating secondary aged children. I'm no expert. For what it is worth, I am home educating two children who are now secondary age and have another who is a home education graduate and is now at university. I have no experience of home educating sixth form age students nor of home educating children who have left school close to the age when they would sit GCSEs.

These are just a few thoughts:

  • Reasons for home educating don't change just because a child is a bit older. 
  • Keep a long term view. If you plan for your child to take UK exams and go to a sixth form then the sooner that you work out how many I/GCSEs they need the better. Do you have a local exam centre? What do they charge? The go-to site for information about exams is the HE Exams Wiki. 
  • You don't need to, and probably can't, teach everything. There are group lessons, online courses, paper courses with marking provided and tutors. Yes, there is a cost implication for all of this. Group lessons can be particularly good value. If you don't want to pay or can't afford to pay then there are helpful free online videos, particularly for maths and science. These are a couple of examples, Corbett Maths and Free Science Lessons. There are many more!
  • Secondary education at home is costly either in time or money or probably, realistically, in both. That isn't necessarily a reason to avoid this route but do count the cost!
  • It is easy to get over focused on exams. Secondary education is about more than just exams! Don't forget the rest of life. We carry on with morning time. The books we read change and we discuss more complex issues. Pre-pandemic, we went on trips and met in groups. We hope this will all gradually restart over the next few months.


    Have you home educated secondary aged pupils? Any advice?
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Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Questions Women Asked: Historical Issues, Timeless Answers

 As a woman, it is helpful to read about Christian women of the past who might have had dissimilar lives but often faced challenges not so unlike those which we face today. Simonetta Carr has just produced such a book: Questions Women Asked: Historical Issues, Timeless Answers, published by Reformation Heritage Books.


This new book has short biographies of thirty one Christian women from Marcella of Rome who lived in the fourth century to Jeanette Li who died in 1968. Some of the women are relatively well known such as Monica, the mother of Augustine and Anne Bradstreet, the American poet; others, particularly Marie Durand, deserve to be better known and several were completely new to me. Each chapter is comprised of a short biography followed by a section called Food for Thought which includes some quite challenging questions which involve thinking through the life of the woman concerned, in the light of Scripture and our response to this. At the end of each chapter is a short list of reading For Further Research.

A particularly interesting chapter is about Sarah Sergeant Miller. I hadn't heard of Sergeant Miller before but she struggled with depression and doubts, along with a gambling addiction and a flirtation with laudanum. She continued with her despair for the first five years of her marriage and only shared her difficulties with her husband after this, probably, as a result of mistaken teaching from her mother. Thankfully, she was able to emerge into Gospel light and be a great help to others.

Simonetta has written this book around questions that these ladies asked. These questions are varied:

Will my son be lost?

How can I nuture a son who lives miles away?

How can I be sure I am saved?

What can I do if my husband neglects me?

What should a mother teach her children?

Can women write about theology?

Must I forever mourn?

Can Christians have disturbing thoughts?

and more.


I was impressed with how often these women had useful correspondence. Sometimes, they were helping others and other times they were needing encouragement or asking questions. Is correspondence something that we neglect in our day? I'm not arguing that we all have to write and seal letters; email would do as well! 

Anyway, this is well worth reading and then rereading. It would make an excellent choice for a book group as there is so much to discuss.

 Highly recommended.


Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of Questions Women Asked. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Using "Out of the Smoke" in a Book Group

 I recently reviewed Out of the Smoke. Having appreciated the book myself, I made the decision to use it for my year 6 and 7 book group. My post about using Out of the Smoke with the book group is on Matthew Wainwright's blog. Do pop over there and have a read. 



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Friday, 19 February 2021

Inspiration for Winter Days

This week, I was looking round the house for a book when I found the autobiography of Patricia St John.

Patricia St John wrote Christian fiction for children. Her most famous books are Tanglewood Secrets and Treasures of the Snow. Miss St John was the child of missionaries to South America. After Patricia was born, they decided that Patricia's mother would stay in England with the three young children while her father would return to the mission field. Patricia was mainly raised by her mother and grandmother. She recounts tales of a happy, boisterous childhood which was the inspiration for many of her stories. Her mother courageously took her young family to Switzerland for a year. This was a time which later led to the writing of Treasures of the Snow. Patricia grew up and trained as a nurse, during the Second World War. This was followed by many years of serving the Lord as a nurse in North Africa. There were many trials and many answers to prayer.  This book is joyful and points to Patricia's Lord and Saviour. The photo is of my old edition but there is a newer edition available. The autobiography is written for adults but would also be suitable for teenagers.

My podcast diet recently has been Mended Teacups and Life more extraordinary. 

Mended Teacups is the podcast of two UK home educators. It is friendly, helpful and applicable to where I am as a UK home educator. 

Life more extraordinary is quite different. It is the podcast of an academic coach with episodes about revision methods, learning differences and how to achieve your academic best. I haven't listened to every episode but have found some helpful ideas and links. While we are on the subject of academics, I recommend Learning How to Learn by Barbara Oakley and Terrence Sejnowski. This is written for teens and explains how to learn using some neuroscience on the way. 

A couple of maths sites which are free and useful. Topmarks isn't just a maths site, although that is all that I haven't used anything beyond the maths. It has a teaching clock and number frames as well as games for number bonds, multiplication and division and more. Ideal for primary aged children.

 Corbett Maths has a primary and a secondary site. Both sites have five maths questions, at different levels, for every day  of the year (plus answers!). There are also videos. I haven't used the videos much, or the primary videos at all, but the questions are helpful for revision. Unless you have a maths whizz kid, I don't think the questions are suitable for KS1!


More winter activities!

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Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Activities which work in an online Home Education Group

 As promised in my last post, these are some activities which have worked well in an online group meeting

  • Presentations by children. We have a weekly slot for these and strangely, they often work better online than in person. Have you ever sat in a meeting where a young child is trying to talk to a group without a microphone? It is so much easier to hear when a computer microphone is used and additionally, there is no peering round heads to see pictures.  The use of quizzes after the talk has also increased.
  • Book clubs- are easy to run online. We run four different, fortnightly, book groups for different ages. . The only group that we haven't taken onto the internet is that for the preschoolers. Sadly, loans of books between families which were very frequent and popular don't work. However, we have been able to continue to have book recommendations and plenty of enthusiasm. Not sure that I ought to allow the renaming as the Bookwork, the Bookiest Bookworm etc another time though! For anyone who needs to know, it is possible to disable renaming on Zoom.
  • Science for older children. We run a fortnightly chemistry group for children in upper KS2/lower KS3 and also groups for older children with topics from biology and physics IGCSE. Obviously, these aren't good for practical science although the younger group can be asked to do some practical science at home e.g. growing salt crystals or chromatography.. Quizzes are easy to run using either Powerpoint or Google slides. Google documents make it easy to share slide shows and suggested practical activities with parents.


Kitchen Chromatography
  • Scavenger hunts work are popular with younger children

  • I do miss meetings for mums, sitting someone's house, drinking tea and eating cake, while handing round curriculum but meeting over the internet is the next best thing. So much of this isn't perfect but is so much better than nothing. It is possible to encourage one another in lockdown!

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Friday, 22 January 2021

Home Education Group Online

 For the last few years, Lizzy (Peaches at Home) and I have run a fortnightly home education group. Over time, it has grown and by the beginning of 2020,a group of us were running a meeting which included an older session at the same time as the primary aged group for the first part of the afternoon and dividing into four different age book groups towards the end. Then came Covid and we had to stop. Over the Easter break, we realised that it would be better to have something rather than nothing and that something would have to be online so we put the group online from April 2020. Since then, we have always had some of the meetings virtually although we were also able to have  outside sessions during the autumn.

This is probably the most important lesson that I have learned from this. Something is better than nothing and it is worth having a go.

None of the mums in the organising group are particularly techie. We went with Zoom because one was using that in her church and so had a week or so of experience on the platform. Initially, we only had the free version of Zoom. Our new offering wasn't perfect but for most of us, it was much better than nothing. Our children had something different to do. One of my main problems in lockdown has been answering the question 

What are we doing today?

Saying 

Work

isn't usually a satisfactory answer whereas the promise of a book club or online chemistry or scavenger hunt is.

To be honest, not every family wants to go online and that is fine but for the majority who do, it is worth a go! 

I hope to post later about some of our most successful ideas.


One activity which we have run online is being a judging group for the Royal Society Young People's book prize.

Just a few practicalities

  • It is worth sending round a weekly email with links to all the meetings for the week. Yes, the links may be recurring but we all need a reminder. This isn't my job but I have often been thankful that Lizzy has done this so I don't have to search too hard for the link.
  • It is easier to spread meetings over the week as families may not have sufficient devices or a fast enough broadband connection to have multiple children in different meetings. Younger children will need parental supervision anyway.
  • I don't tend to mute the children as they are usually enthusiastic and want to participate, however, it is worth checking how to mute them first just in case someone's little sibling decides to cry!
  • Similarly, it is worth knowing how to control renaming, chat boxes and how to turn off someone's video if they distract themselves and others with altering background. Why would I need to know this?
  • Meetings don't need to be long. Something is better than nothing! Free Zoom is limited to 40 minutes if there are more than two devices in the meeting. If you should run out of time, it is possible to log back in on the same link. Having said that, we are very grateful that the group has been gifted Zoom membership which allows us meetings over 40 minutes.
  • It is easy to have a Zoom meeting with yourself to practice! I had frequent meetings with myself, initially, to work out how screen sharing worked, how to share videos and slide shows. Zoom isn't difficult!
Have you put your home education group online? I would love to know how this has worked, and particularly what has gone well, as our group is very much a work in progress.

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Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Top Books of 2020

 This year I have read between fifty and sixty books. They fall into several groups

-children's books. Some of these, I have read aloud to my children and others have been prereads before using with a children's book club that I run; using for book recommendations or prior to reading aloud with my children. 

-adult fiction. This has been dominated by Agatha Christie, this year, as my younger daughter has discovered her books and likes to have someone to discuss them with. Reading them isn't a hardship!

-Christian books which I have read to learn more about the faith or for  encouragement.

- adult non-fiction. This is a bit of a ragbag.

I grade the books that I read from 1 to 5. Looking through, no books have received a one this year. This is probably because there have been books which I haven't bothered to finish. Anyway, onto the best.

Children's Books

I enjoy reading children's books and this year, some have been particularly worthwhile.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a classic set in a fictional time in history. What or who are the wolves? It has an encouragingly happy ending. Ideal for children aged about 9-11.

Stella by Starlight is a book that deserves to become a classic. This is set in North Carolina in the 1930s in a black family. It details the struggles of the men of the community to register to vote against a background of Klu Klux Klan activity. 

Next term's read with the book club is Out of the Smoke which I reviewed earlier.

A friend recommended On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. I'm not usually a big fantasy fan but this is written particularly well and my youngest has been very keen for us to start the next volume. 

The faithful spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot to kill Hitler was ,again, read at the instigation of a friend. This is a reflective comic book aimed at older children. There is so much to think about in this book: theology, history, pacifism, loyalty to country and when to stand up and be counted. I don't agree with Bonhoeffer in everything, certainly not theologically, but this is a book that I am booking forward to reading and discussing with my children.


Adult Fiction

Agatha Christie has been fun and the best of the year was And then there were none although it is definitely creepy. 

I guess that I need to read some more fiction, next year. Suggestions are gratefully received!


Christian Books

This year, I have reread some of Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. I don't know how many times that I have read these but they are straightforward, helpful commentaries on the text which don't strain the meaning.

A Passion for the Impossible:the life of Lilias Trotter is the biography of a wealthy Victorian artist and friend of John Ruskin who gave up all her hope of becoming a famous artist to go as a missionary to Algeria. 

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: a Devout Muslim encounters Christianity 

This is the raw testimony of a a Muslim lad to starts to work through the truth of the information that he has always believed about Christianity and then the foundation for his Islamic beliefs. A thoughtful book showing the beliefs that many Muslims have about Christianity, Nabeel's love for his family and the cost that he paid to follow the Lord Jesus.


Adult Non-Fiction

Tyneham: a Lost Heritage

I picked up this book which had belonged to my Mother in law and wasn't sure whether it would be worth reading. It is Dorset local history and I wasn't sure that it would grip someone not born in the county but it was definitely a keeper. Tyneham is a village which was taken over by the military in the Second World War and never returned. Lilian Bond tells the story of growing up in the manor at the turn of the twentieth century and a world which has gone forever and a place which has changed beyond recognition. 


I have written short comments about the books which I have read in this year's book list. As always, I have some books on the go

  • Wonder  by R.J. Palacio
  • Prisoner's of Geography: Ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about Global politics
  • More than Conquerors: an interpretation of the book of Revelation
  • Spurgeon's Devotional Bible- My husband and I have been reading this together for a couple of years and, God willing, will finish this tomorrow. This might be heresy but I prefer this to Spurgeon's Morning and Evening as the comments follow the text more closely.


Please feel free to recommend books for me for next year! 


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