Friday, 22 July 2016

After the End of Term

Silence has hit my blog at the end of the summer term. Yes, it is tired time. In addition, we have reached a new phase in caring which is taking time. Part of the summer, will probably be spent with occupational and physiotherapists and rejuggling. 

I know that there are plenty of people busier than me and I'm grateful that around this season, there are times for reading, appreciating the warm weather and having a break. I'm glad too, that we do have support in this caring journey. Caring is something that I couldn't do on my own without my husband and children, the professional carers and most of all, the Lord.


It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3 v 22-23

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Monday, 18 July 2016

War in the Wasteland

Finding literature for children about the First World War isn't always easy. It certainly proved challenging when we were looking for resources for younger children but finding books for teenagers about this time period can also be difficult. 

Douglas Bond has published a book of historical fiction,War in the Wasteland, about 1917 in the trenches and nineteen year old Jack Lewis aka C.S. Lewis. This book helps to fill the gap.

The story is told from the perspective of  Nigel Hopkins, a young private who is under the command of the young officer, Lewis. This isn't the older Christian Lewis who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia but a young atheist officer. Lewis knew little about war and was very young. His first day in the trenches was his nineteenth birthday. 

The book takes the young recruits from embarking through training, battle in the trenches to injury and the hospital. The trenches were not pleasant places and the book does have some vivid descriptions of the horror of the latrines, the rats, the mud, the bodies and trench foot. Several of the book's characters die. However, I suspect that any description has to be less than the full horror of the situation. 

Scattered through the book are conversations between Lewis and his friend Second Lieutenant Johnson. Lewis was an atheist whereas Johnson was moving towards theism. These conversations are about the intellectual basis for atheism and a seeking for something, Someone, with meaning and beauty.  This book isn't a conversion story. Jack is not a Christian at the end of the book just a wondering atheist.

Is the book worth reading? Yes, definitely.
Who should read it? Adults and teenagers with an interest in the First World War and/or CS Lewis. 
Who shouldn't read this book? Young children. There are quite vivid descriptions of war and devastation such as when a bomb landed near a military cemetery. This isn't a book for precocious five year olds but I will be saving it for my younger children to read as teenagers and allowing older members of the family to read it. 

In the UK, War in the Wasteland is available from The Christian Bookshop, Ossett.


Disclaimer: We were given this book as a gift but I was not required to review it. The opinions are my own.

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Saturday, 16 July 2016

July Reading

Summer is here and I'm hoping that the rest of July will provide plenty of reading time.

As usual, I am not reading one book at the time. The current books are Holiness by J.C. Ryle. This is a reread of a book that I read several years ago. Whilst this book is a challenging and helpful read, it has longer sections than J.C. Ryle's Thoughts on the Gospels making it a more difficult book to read in fragments of time.

My Kindle tends to be carried around in my bag for odd moments. Currently, I am reading 20000 Leagues under the Sea which has been recommended by my older sons. It took me a while to get into this book, not being a science fiction fan, but I'm gradually acclimatising.

Duncan's War, by Douglas Bond, has been on our shelves for several years. I have glanced at it but not sat down and read it properly until now. This is historical fiction about the Scottish Covenenters and is an exciting read, about dangerous times, which will probably become one of the Book Club recommendations.

There has been plenty of discussion about teaching maths recently. Just before this discussion hit the news, I had found Mathematical Mindsets in the library. The author, Jo Boaler, is a professor of maths education at Stanford. This book is about helping all students believe that maths is approachable and that they are able to tackle the subject via a positive attitude to maths. It makes fascinating, and at times, challenging reading. There are plenty of ideas about improving maths teaching although I'm still trying to work out how this would work out in practice around a maths curriculum. Hopefully, the latter part of the book will address this. 

The Grandma's attic series has continued to be popular with Younger Daughter. We have now finished another volume in the series, In Grandma's Attic. She is now having a break from this so that there is time to read Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mystery series.

Please add your book recommendations!

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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

London Zoo

We are almost at the end of term and it was time for a zoo visit.

This trip was actually funded by our local council. Yes, the council. Not because we are home educators but as part of my last year's carers' assessment, I was offered a trip to the zoo with my younger two. It has taken almost a year for the funding to come through but it did arrive and we went to the zoo. Of course, there are other low cost ways of going to the zoo!

We saw a tiger. The female has just had two cubs so only the male was visible.


Giraffes



Pelicans-spot the heron at the end of the line.

Penguins-these were the real highlight. We went to see these first and stayed for a talk about the penguins but then came back to watch them feed. 



Thoughts about London Zoo:

  • London Zoo is busy. We avoided the summer holiday but today, it was full of school parties. 
  • The Zoo isn't the most accessible of places and public transport isn't well signposted. 
  • We took coats as well as suncream and needed both. There are a few places to shelter in a downpour but most of the zoo is outside. 
  • There is so much to see that it isn't possible to do everything in a day. For us, the highlights were the animals that I have shown: the penguins, tigers and giraffes. An additional plus, as the Winnie statue for the bear which was the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh. 
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Friday, 8 July 2016

High Points of the Year

We are slowly coming to the end of our academic year. I'm working on lists and ideas for next year as well as evaluating what has and hasn't worked. You will be spared the latter but here is a list of some of the highlights.

Poetry Tea
Tuesday afternoon is Poetry Tea Time and a popular time of the week!
We have all become familiar with more poetry. Sometimes the poetry has sparked wide ranging conversations. We have mainly had poetry tea at home but we have pulled our books out at Bateman's , home of Rudyard Kipling and in a coffee shop while waiting for Middle Son to take an exam.

Poetry Tea has sometimes included friends who have even written poetry for the occasion. We have also started a family anthology which includes poetry that we have selected and poems that the children have written.

Plans? I would love to have some themed teatimes and ideally, would like us to eat fruit  rather than less healthy delights!


Morning Time
I have written about our future plans for Morning Time recently so won't elaborate except to say that this has proved a happy and useful part of the day.

Nature Study
We have had a weekly nature walk using Lynn Seddon's Exploring Nature with Children  as a guide. Going outside and observing more has been a plus and amazingly, I have enjoyed my nature notebook.
We also took part in a nature swap with a Scottish family which was fun even if we realised that London lichen is rather tiny compared with the Scottish variety! The swap plus some of our London finds are displayed on our rather full nature table. 


Read Alouds
Many of our read alouds have been around either history or related to the book club. It is sometimes challenging to find books which appeal to both of my younger children. Recent favourite books have been Swallows and Amazons (Younger Son) and the Grandma's Attic books. The latter have appealed to both children although chiefly to Youngest Daughter. We have almost finished our second book in this series and there have already been requests to download the rest.

Pencil Holder
I'm embarrassed to stay this but providing a pencil holder with a plentiful supply has saved us so much time, this year, Previously, I had assumed that each child would need a pencil with a couple in reserve. This may work in other families, and I know that I'm not the tidiest person on the planet, but we wasted so much time looking for lost pencils. At the end of the year, our supply is dwindling and I will need to buy more over the summer. I don't intend to start in September without a large number of pencils ready to be used.

Nessy
Nessy is new to us, this term and has been a great boon. I have written before about second line reading programmes. One of these, in particular, has proven valuable and has given major measurable results but has been painful to use. We really needed a change and to something that was fun. I found out about Nessy on a reading website; we used the free trial and signed up. We are still fairly new to Nessy but the children love the programme and are very happy to work on it. One child needed a complete break from their reading scheme so has just been using Nessy while the other has used Nessy plus a scheme. 
Nessy is designed for children with dyslexia or who are behind in reading for some reason. It has three branches: reading and spelling, numbers and dyslexia assessment. We have only used the reading and spelling. There is an initial assessment for placement and the teaching is via videos and games. The children earn nuggets to spend in Monkey Town to make their monkey look cool or unlock various buildings. 
Nessy costs £60 per year plus VAT for one student and £70 per year plus VAT for two students. There is a home education discount which was about the same amount as the VAT. So far, this seems to be money well spent!

Do post about what has really added to your year. I would love to make improvements for next year and ideas are the fodder of progress!

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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

July Inspiration

July is really high summer, I hope! The end of June felt like summer with our few days away.

Sutton Hoo is a place that I had been planning to take the children for months but we eventually visited on our way back from camping. It definitely merits a full day visit and fits in well with Saxon history and strangely, also, with the 1930s. 
Back home, Younger Daughter has finished her maths for this year so is doing some slightly different work. We found this fun time game. Hitting the button at the right moment takes a bit of practice.

It isn't long until the summer break, so this post about encouraging resources for veteran homeschool moms was timely. I'm not sure that I consider myself a veteran but after seven years, I guess I'm not brand new! Many of the books are new to me: Unit Studies made easy has gone on my wish list and will probably wing its way to my Kindle before summer is out.

Adventures in Literacy Land is a blog by school teachers but many of the posts have ideas which are applicable in different settings. Authentic writing at home has suggestions for writing over the summer.

The last post is an older post that I found reposted but is about how Satan convinces Christians to question their salvation with points from Thomas Brooks' book Precious Remedies against Satan's devices.



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Monday, 4 July 2016

Morning Basket Plans 2016-2017

One of the best parts of the day is our Morning Time. Over the last year, I have gradually increased the items that we do in this time. The most important part of Morning Time is our Bible time but we also use it for subjects such as music and art appreciation which would otherwise be neglected and for extra practice for other topics.

These are some of the things that I hope that we will do in Morning Time next year. This is flexible, we often use this time to talk about topics that come up such as the Referendum or items around a forthcoming trip.

Bible
This part of our Morning Time consists of prayer, reading a book about the Bible or doctrine, memory work and singing.

We are currently reading The Child's Story Bible volume 3: The New Testament. This is written by Catherine Vos. We won't quite finish it, before the summer, so hope to finish this book in the autumn.
Once we have finished this, we hope to start The Ology which is a children's theology. These books won't last the whole year. We may well use Jean Stapleton's book God's Special Tent after this. We have used this book before but ages ago and I would like to tackle a model of the tabernacle.

Memory work-the children usually have memory work from Sunday School in the first part of the autumn term. Once they have finished this, we plan to restart the Trinitarian Bible Society memory work scheme. Younger Daughter has already completed the under 10s part of this so would need to go onto the older children's part of the scheme whereas Youngest Son would work on the under 10s section.

Hymn- we usually sing a hymn each morning. Sometimes, we learn a hymn but often the children choose. Next year, I would like to make sure that we learn a new hymn each month. We won't sing it every day but probably 2-3 times a week. The other days, the children can choose.

Painless Grammar and Punctuation
For the last few weeks, I have written a sentence on the blackboard, most mornings and the children have added punctuation and identified parts of speech. This has been a painless way to work on grammar. I hope to continue this but need a book which gives me a framework. Any suggestions?

Other items, will rotate and will happen once a week.

Art Appreciation
I am hoping to use a Charlotte Mason style picture study probably using postcards. Hopefully, it will be possible to tie this in with the period in history that we will be studying (about 1600 to 1850. Having just visited Flatford, I hope to start with Constable. 


Music Appreciation
Again, the plan is to tie this to history and to use the short podcasts from Classics for Kids.

Maths Game
A variety of  board games, items from life and even the odd computer game. This time game is a current favourite.

Nature Study
Either one of the suggestions from Exploring Nature with Children or looking at a Ldaybird book. 



I'm looking forward to our new Morning Time. Please do comment, if you have Morning Time, I would love to know how you arrange this time.

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