Thursday 30 December 2021

The Ups and Downs of Home Educating in 2021

  • 2021 has been an unusual year for all of us and home educators are no exception. There is a bit of a folk tale going around that home educators have been affected less by lockdown than everyone else; after all, don't their children stay at home anyway? Not completely true!

Anyway, the ups...

  • Lockdown was difficult but it has been a time to appreciate real friends. Those people who were willing to meet in parks or gardens on cold, wet days. The people who sent WhatsApps to keep in touch. It turns out that many of these are from the home education community and I am very thankful for them.
  • Our home education group which has had to meet partly online; partly outside-sometimes in rather interesting weather conditions and more recently, inside but we have met! 
  • It also turns out that there are new home educators. This has led to an online meeting about setting up new groups and a new Christian home education group starting. 
  • Free online resources. This year, we have particularly used Corbett maths, Maths Genie, FreeScienceLessons and Malmesbury education.
  • We have continued morning time with some books which worked well
    and others which weren't so popular but provoked a fair amount of discussion. Oliver Twist definitely fell into this category.
  • Dreaming Spires history course, Longbows and Roses for my youngest. I have wondered about using Dreaming Spires before but this summer with a child who wanted to learn more history and wasn't ready for a GCSE course, we registered. I  must say that this was with some trepidation. The workload is quite heavy and it was either going to be a bit of a disaster or would feed his history interest. Anyway, he is loving the course and we have worked out a plan for the week so that we can fit in the reading, watching and writing.

And the downs...
  • It hasn't been the easiest year. We all missed seeing friends during lockdown. 
  • Catching Covid over the summer meant that we went into the Autumn term tired.  

We look to 2022 knowing that hitherto has the Lord helped us. 

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Tuesday 7 December 2021

Wulfgar and the Riddle

 Wulfgar and the Riddle is the last in the trilogy of Wulfgar the Saxon books by Christina Eastwood. These books are historical fiction set in Southern England in the days of Alfred the Great.

Wulfgar is a Saxon wood carver who has spent the last eight years at a monastery in East Francia (part of modern France), learning his trade. He is now returning to his native village of Leofham in Wessex. However, home coming isn't as smooth as he had hoped both physically and in terms of working out whether the old ideas which he had been taught in Leofham were right or the newer ways of interpreting the Scripture which he learned in France. Wulfgar has to work out the puzzle of whether we are meant to look to the plain meaning of Scripture or whether the glosses and works of the Church Fathers bringing out allegorical meanings are more important.

Wulfgar doesn't stay in his home village for long before he is sent to work on the new Abbey church in Shaftesbury. He leaves pondering his riddle. The abbess of the convent at Shaftesbury is the daughter of Alfred the Great but really the abbey is controlled by another nun. Will Wulfgar be able to help the oppressed nuns? Will he find his vocation in carving religious images and what about the disturbing thoughts about Scripture against tradition?

This is a fast paced book for older children, probably 9-12ish. I recommend this book, indeed, the whole series and look forward to further books from Christina Eastwood.

My reviews of the first two books in the series can be found here and here

It can be purchased on Amazon or here

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of Wulfgar and the Riddle. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are my own.

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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