Saturday, 5 September 2020

Home Educating in September

The first few days of September can be particularly challenging for home educators. Often, this is a time when we can feel not really ready for the new academic year and social media is full of pictures of children in smart new uniforms with shiny shoes. It is easy to feel inadequate. That applies to me, in my twelfth year of home education, and even more to those just starting out.

As home educators, this is a time to remember why we home educate. It probably has very little to do with the presence or absence of shiny new uniforms! Writing down those reasons and revisiting them can help with focus.

In addition, there is no reason why our new terms shouldn't start well. A not back to school breakfast, picnic, poetry tea or even short break makes the new term feel more positive. Don't forget that there are some major advantages, the parks suddenly empty and the cost of a holiday falls. A special breakfast is quite possible as there is no rushing to get to school on time.

Ultimately, though for those of us who are Christian home educators, we serve the Lord and rely on His strength, not our own puny wisdom. This verse has been very special to me during our years of home education.

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 

2 Corinthians 12v9 

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Saturday, 1 August 2020

A Marathon not a Sprint

In my twelfth year of home education, I am not really an old timer. There are plenty of families around who have been home educating for well over twenty years but still, over my limited experience, I am convinced that home education is a marathon not a sprint.

It is easy to feel that we need to sprint. When people are asking advice about chapter books for their five year old or how to do GCSEs aged ten, it can sap fragile confidence like the thin ice on a lake, exposing the depths of fear and uncertainty. Then we can feel that a sprint is imperative. Yet, those regular phonics sessions or daily maths do make a difference- just not in the short term. It can be very difficult to see that one day's, or even week's or month's, work has pushed progress forward. Yet slowly, over the years with daily practice, progress is made even in challenging subjects. The child who couldn't remember the months of the year manages to recite them correctly once, then maybe after a gap, again. Yes, they might not be the first child to do this but this is progress for them and it all adds up, slowly. 

At the end of a year, sometimes, it can feel that not much has changed yet all those 11 o'clocks doing maths will have changed something. We learn perseverance and so do our children.

Other years, more progress is made. Those fractions which have been a minefield for a couple of years suddenly fall into place. The neurons have connected. I sometimes think that this is more to do with maturity than my work and it may be.

At this season, when everyone has a view on home schooling because they have just over a term's experience with what the school sent home, remember that a term is very little in the grand scheme of things. We have to carry on and be faithful to our calling to educate our children at home to God's glory.

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Friday, 10 July 2020

Middle Ages History resources

We have just finished a year studying the Middle Ages. This is our second visit to the Middle Ages as we also spent a year learning about this time period five years ago. (For anyone who  wonders we do a four year history cycle but spent an extra year learning about Ancient civilisations).

My younger two, who are home educated would be in years 6 and 8 if they were in school. These are the resources that we have used this year and below, I will put a list of resources that we used previously.

  • Story of the Middle Ages by Christine Miller. This is updated from older books by HA Guerber. We used this book as a read aloud in morning time. Reading one chapter per day, it lasted from September to the beginning of June. We liked this book. The chapters are short and it covers French history as well and English. The major downside of this book is that it is American and not small so postage would be an issue. We have a print copy from days when exchange rates were more favourable but Nothing New Press sell an ebook which would probably be my choice if I were buying it again.
  • Story of the World volume 2: The Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer. I used this with my son who is 11. This book is well written and popular with the children. It also gives a balance of World history as opposed to just Western European and American history. It comes from a liberal Christian stable and Reformed Christians might would to add a bit to her explanation of the Reformation. 
  • Galore Park History for Common Entrance: Medieval Realms Britain 1066-1485. My 13 year old used this book. This book includes many written exercises including those where sources need to be compared. In fact, we sometimes selected exercises when a chapter seemed to be ending with three essays! The book is well presented although we did add videos to this. I just googled the relevant time/character plus KS3 which generally brought up short videos. I pre-watched these. The other issue with this book is that it doesn't begin particularly early in the Middle Ages so was out of synch with our other reading for a fair while. Sometimes the content was rather thin and more research was really necessary.
  • Veritas Self Paced: Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. I used this, with my youngest, as they have a special free access for lockdown for a couple of months. We had used this before with his older sister. This is engaging but expensive. As we had almost finished the year, it was  fun but not something that we decided to continue. This is definitely worth considering at the start of a year and they often have offers which make the cost a bit less.
  • Sketches from Church History by SM Houghton is my go to church history for older children. It works well in morning time.
  • Secrets of the Castle is a series of five videos about modern day reconstruction of a castle in France using traditional building techniques. 
  • Richard III: the King in the Car Park is a documentary about the discovery of the body of Richard III. This had us talking for days. There is a Richard III Society which feels strongly about Richard III and his reputation and they spearheaded the dig for his body. This documentary is more suitable for older children who can cope with skeletons and discussion of battle injuries.
  • |The Sprig of Broom by  Barbara Willard. This is part of the Mantlemas series and is historical fiction about the end to the Middle Ages/beginning of the Tudor period. This ties in well with learning about Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth. Again, this is more suitable for older children. 
Activities and resources which we used to study the Middle Ages when the children were in years 1 and 3.
  • Veritas Self Paced. 
  • I wrote about the books that we used here. In retrospect, I think that the David Macaulay books, Castle and Cathedral, would probably work better at a slightly older age. I pulled them out again recently.
  • Medieval feast. We took inspiration from the book by Aliki, A Medieval Feast. This involved cooking, dressing up, art and music.
  • Trips out. A castle and abbey are the obvious field trips for the Middle Ages and if you live within reach of Battle, visiting the site of the 1066 Battle between Harrod and William, is definitely worth doing. 
Anyway, we have enjoyed our investigation of the Middle Ages. There is so much more that we could have done but hope that these ideas may be useful for others.

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Thursday, 2 July 2020

Home Educating in Unusual Tiimes

We have been home educating for over eleven years now. Like everyone else, our lives have changed over the last few months. 

Early on, our home education group made the decision to plan for a term of online activities. I must say, that this has been a real blessing. 

In the days when we met in person, we had a meeting once a fortnight with groups for different ages running concurrently. This doesn't work for online meetings. In addition, the free version of Zoom, which we use only allows meetings of 40 minutes. We have gone for four meetings a week of up to 40 minutes. Three of those meetings are for age specific groups and one is for children to give presentations.

I have been amazed at what has been possible due to the ingenuity of parents and children. Please don't think that all these ideas are mine-they aren't! These are just some of the activities that have taken place.

  • scavenger hunts
  • book clubs
  • science lessons
  • poetry teas
  • cooking sessions
  • brownies from the cooking session
  • quizzes
  • watching and comparing film clips
  • games such as the Bible character 20 question game 
  • a concert
and far more.

At the beginning of lockdown, there was a plethora of free online activities. We tried a couple but found that we really needed to continue with the work which I had already planned. Lockdown has had a strange effect, in that we are at least a couple of weeks ahead of where we would usually be at this point in the year. We plan to do some slightly different activities for the last fortnight of term. 

One activity which we have added recently and plan to keep as part of our day is BSL Club. This is run by a friend from church. One of the children has already learned some BSL so this is more revision for her but new learning for my youngest and me. The videos are short so we practice what we have learned before and play a video in morning time.

It has been, and continues to be, a strange time but not without encouragements. 

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Saturday, 30 May 2020

Geography for older children

Last Summer, I made the decision to put together our geography resources for this year. We have been using these items over the last year and this plan has worked well. My home educated children would be in years 6 and 8 if they were in school. 

I hope that these will be useful for others too.

  • Galore Park Geography books. My year 8 child uses these books. There are both  human and physical geography books. To be honest, the human geography book has raised much more enthusiasm. We have added videos and reports, for example, on the ethical status of clothing manufacturers. Videos are easy to find using KS3 and the relevant topic in the search bar. I tend to use videos which are under 10 minutes long and pre-watch them first. 
  • Living books. These have included Seabird (avoid if you are squeamish about whaling!), A London Sparrow (biography of Gladys Aylward) and Shackleton's Journey.
  • Blog posts from Blog about Britain.  This is updated several times most weeks and is ideal for reading in Morning Time.
  • A board game: On the Map from Oaka Resources. Not cheap but highly recommended and at one point, was used daily.
  • Online quizzes from Seterra
  • We always have a world map on display and atlases readily available.
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Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Christian Emergency Home Schooling UK

Two Christian home educators, Christina and Joanne, who have about fifty years of home education experience between them, have put together a blog , Covid Emergency Home Schooling UK, aimed at parents who have been thrown into teaching their children at home. 

They make suggestions for a plan for each day which includes a Bible time, maths and English followed by a lesson plan for each day.The lesson plans have a clear Christian worldview.  Topics have included The First Round World Bicycle trip, the Trojan Horse, World Health Day, Samuel Morse and much more. The lesson plans include activities, extension work and things to think about. Christina and Joanne have tended to take something that happened on that day in history as the basis for that day's work. The work is geared for primary aged children. 

It seems that work provided by schools varies from a whole day online to very little. These lesson plans provide an ideal opportunity to have something ready prepared to teach children either when there is little provided by school or to profitably use extra time. 

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Saturday, 11 April 2020

Home Educating during Lockdown

At first sight, it might seem that home educating during lockdown is the same as home educating at any other time, except for the knowledge that we are now in the majority. But, this isn't what home educating is usually like. Usually, we have either classes, a group or meetings with friends every day. My children are used to doing their work at home but not exclusively staying at home. 

Hearing people whose children usually go to school talk about the transition to school at home has made me reflect about the changes for us and think that these might impact even more on previously schooled children. 

  • There is an overwhelming mass of free material. At first, I thought that we would take advantage of this but actually, we all felt that it was better to continue with what we were used to doing. We have only really taken advantage of one offer and that was for a programme which we had used before, Veritas self paced history.

  • We have continued with the basics through the holiday. We don't usually work in school holidays as there are friends to see and groups stop but at present, we want to keep a bit of structure-something remotely resembling normal.

  • Morning time has carried on. We have added a daily reading of Psalm 46, God is our refuge  and strength, A very present help in trouble, which seems appropriate, to our learning of Isaiah 53 verses 1-6. Our current read aloud is something completely different, King of the Cannibals: The Story of John G Paton by Jim Cromarty. This is an engaging read. We read it years ago when our older children were little and it lead to some games of cannibals! Having older children now has meant that it hasn't elicited this response. As usual, we sing a hymn, pray and also have a history read aloud. This has been Story of the Middle Ages by Christine Miller since September. We are currently on chapter 120 out of 148 so the end is in sight. Apart from its length, it has been a successful addition to our study of the Middle Ages covering events in mainland Europe better than any other book, I know, for this age group. 

  • We have carried on with the Veritas self paced for our youngest. Our other home educated child has managed to finish a long running programme, as well as make head way with several subjects.

  • Online meet ups have taken the place of actual meet ups in my diary. Our established home education group has just gone online along with some classes. Running a book club or biology class online has become the new normal. 

  • Of course, cooking has continued along with some letter writing, knitting and loads of swingball.

Reminding the children that the Lord still reigns and trying to provide a stable structure to life is more important than doing every exciting new programme at this point in time.

 How have you found having children learning at home over the last few weeks?

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