Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Children's Chapter books set in Europe

In the autumn, the home education group, that we attend, is looking at Europe. In preparation for this, I am looking out a couple of chapter books about Europe for the book club. An excellent excuse to read some more books and quality children's literature makes for relaxing reading!

I realised that there are far more books than I can use. Some I won't use because several of the children have already read them and others are slightly more difficult to obtain, sometimes because they are out of print and one, strangely for a book about Europe, because it has to come from the US.

Anyway, this is an overview of some of the chapter books about Europe that I have enjoyed. There is another waiting to be read and another waiting to be ordered when I have read them they may be added. 

Heidi was one of my favourites as a child and my daughter loves the book too. A beautiful story with themes of the Prodigal Son. Sadly, this won't make the cut as too many of the children have read the book.

Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St John, is another beautiful book set in Switzerland. It has a disaster, peril and a strong Christian message.

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. This book could also includes France and England.

I have written about The Good Master recently and this book will probably be one of my selections for the book club.

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong is a Newbery Medal winner. This book tells the story of a tiny school in the Netherlands and the attempts of the children, and ultimately, the whole village to attract storks to nest on their roofs.

Piet Prins was a post Second World War Dutch politician who also wrote children's books. These books are rather difficult to source in the UK but the Shadow series and particularly, the books When the morning came and Dispelling the Tyranny from the Eighty Year War series were popular here.

United Kingdom
It is difficult to know where to start! 

The Family at One End Street The hilarious story about a dustman and his washerwoman wife and their large family.

Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine series is set on the Welsh border and in Sussex.

Children of the New Forest is historical fiction set in the New Forest. 

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome is set in the Lake District. This book is iconic but I have to be honest and say that my family is divided between those who love the book and those who find it tedious. My personal view is that people who love the book are lovers of sailing and outside living.

Milly Molly Mandy is iconically English although set about ninety years ago.

The Silver Sword by Ian Serrrailler. Strictly speaking, this also covers Germany and Switzerland.

Detectives in Togas is a detective story set in Ancient Rome.

The Endless Steppe is an autobiographical account of life in the Second World War,

Please do add your recommendations. I realise that the Balkans and Scandinavia are unrepresented. It would be great to remedy this imbalance!

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Thursday, 28 April 2016

April Books

April has been a productive book reading month for me although I seemed to manage to read rather less to the children, over the Easter break. Anyway, I'm trying to catch up on this now.

Our current read alouds are

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Youngest Son is loving this book although his sister is less keen and I'm realising that I don't understand a fair amount of this book. Nautical terminology is going right over my head. This book should come with a warning that it fuels the requests to go camping again!

Fine Print: A Story about Johann Gutenberg by Joann Burch. This is the Veritas literature selection for our current history. Again, a rather technical book in parts.

South Sea Rescue by Kay Walsh is our current book club selection.

13 Buildings Every Child Should Know by Annette Roeder has been a major success. I intended to read from this a couple of times a week but there have been requests for a building each day. We are due to finish it tomorrow and everyone will be sad. This is a beautiful book about 13 famous buildings around the world. There are details of the construction and reason for each building along with a time line and some simple architectural terminology.

My own reading has been dominated by prereading books for the book club. One of my current reads The Wheel on the School illustrates the issues around this. So far, the book is engaging and would be ideal for the book club except for one thing: it has to be purchased from the US so books will take a few weeks to arrive. I'm wondering whether this is such a problem that I will need to find a different book or whether there is some other way round this.

I've written about The Good Master. 

Stone Fox is a short read and a bit of a tear jerker. Ideal for children probably from about six. Spoiler alert: avoid if your child is sensitive about animals dying.

How to teach Shakespeare to your Children by Ken Ludwig.

I'm not a great Shakespeare fan and this book hasn't changed that but it has helped me understand more about Shakespeare's plays and how to make them accessible to my children.
The main premise of the book is to teach the children short passages from the plays so that something is familiar to them. Along with the passage, the child needs to understand the meaning of the passage and the play. Ludwig uses passages from some of the most well known plays and goes over their background.
At the end of the book is a helpful list of resources including children's versions of Shakespeare and videos of the plays

Pitchin' a Fit by Israel and Brook Wayne was a challenging and Biblically based book about getting angry, or rather, not getting angry with children. Some of the questions were challenging in looking at trigger situations and the Biblical view of anger was helpful.

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 2 by JC Ryle. I have written before about how much I like these books. They are pithy, relevant and avoid the wordiness of much Victorian writing. The sections are ideal length of reading in about 10 minutes once a day.

Please recommend books. I am particularly looking for children's chapter books about the continents of Oceania, Europe and South America but any other recommendations are gratefully received.

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Monday, 25 April 2016

Updates for Home Educators

One of the things that I have missed most since leaving medicine is the professional development: the conferences, grand rounds and departmental meetings. These times are for learning, not just of facts, but for discussion and inspiration. Educating children at home is also a professional work and to do this well, we need to keep learning.

Like medicine, to educate well and happily, we, home educating Mums, need opportunities to talk about the best way to educate our children. Over the years, I have found that these opportunities are there and this is a short list of what I have found most helpful. Please feel free to add your own sources of professional development for home educating mothers.

One of the reasons that I started blogging was to have a discussion with other home educators much as I would have presented a case in a medical meeting and then had a discussion.

Some of the blogs that I have found most useful for information and discussion are
Angellicscalliwags-Claire is from the UK and manages to fit so much into her day. I often refer to her blog for ideas.
Se7en is a South African blogger who has been homeschooling for many years. Again, there are helpful lists and ideas. 
Every Bed of Roses is the blog of Chareen from Australia. Chareen is a particular expert at resources lists.
An Island Family by Grace posts once a week, meaty posts full of lists of ideas.
Teatime with Annie Kate. Annie Kate is an experienced home educator and originally a physicist who writes helpful reviews.
Education is a Life is a Charlotte Mason style home education blog based on Prince Edward Island. 

I'm quite a newcomer to podcasts, partly, because I don't always find concentrating easy without something to see but they have become my companion while cooking and doing housework. My favourites are

Dawn at Lady Dusk has a series about podcasts around home education called Podcast Addicted.
Social media forums
These can become overwhelming and I find there needs to be a balance between usefulness and time taken. However, these are great for asking questions. We have had great success with educational games from list suggestions and a discussion helped me refine my ideas about a science curriculum. Currently, I find three Facebook groups helpful
  • Christian Home Educators UK
  • Charlotte Mason Conversations UK
  • Well Trained Mind.
Yes, that is classical and Charlotte Mason. We are eclectic home educators! I am finding that Charlotte Mason's ideas fit one of my children particularly well.

These are all closed groups.

One of my friends has arranged a couple of meetings for local home educators to meet and show their favourite books/curriculum/ideas. Meeting with other home educators, both informally, and at groups has often been a time for exchanging ideas and for enthusing me to look out or at a book or curriculum. 
As iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Proverbs 27 verse 17

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Nature Pen Friends Update

Back in March, I wrote about a nature table swap arranged by Lynn of Raising Little Shoots. The swap is now open for registration so do head over to Lynn's blog for further details.

Hope that many of you will take part.

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Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Good Master

Kate Seredy seems to be a fairly unknown author here in the UK. I had heard her book The Good Master recommended by US home school forums and wanted to read it as I am looking for books about Europe for the book club. The book had a Newbery Honor award in 1936 which made it sound promising.

The Good Master was published in 1935 but is set in Hungary in the years preceding the First World War. The author was brought up in Hungary and it is based on the summers that the author spent on the Hungarian plain. 

Kate is a motherless city child whose father is unable to control her so she is sent out the the country to her Uncle Marton, his wife and ten year old son, Jancsi. The first few chapters have scenes where the cultures clash: Kate thinks that Jancsi in his peasant clothing must be a girl and Jancsi thinks that Kate is swearing when she uses the previously unknown words: phone and taxicab. Kate also turns out to be wild, fearless and determined. Uncle Marton, who is the good master of the book, rapidly succeeds in taming Kate who starts to enjoy country life even though she resists the ten skirts thought necessary for wearing at Easter. The children have many adventures; Kate helps Jancsi and some of the farm hands learn to read by setting up an evening school and there are retellings of Hungarian tales before, of course, a happy ending, set at Christmas time.

In many ways the book reminds me of Farmer Boy: the self-sufficiency, the lack of waste (there is a comment about not wasting one apple), the hard work but also the generally prosperous farm. 

I recommend this book for children aged 7-11. It is an insight into rural life and a long gone style of living.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

April Morning Basket

We have always had a morning meeting. Initially, reading a Bible book and praying but more recently we have added to this. These are our plans for April.

We plan to start the third volume of The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos. This is about the New Testament. 
We also use the Trinitarian Bible Society memory work and sing a hymn or chorus.

Art appreciation-weekly

More architecture and history than art, maybe, but I find this book is interesting and the younger children haven't looked at it.

Music appreciation-weekly
We are due to start on the third, of three, composers in this book: Schumann. Once we have finished this, we have the other Ladybird book of composers to use.

Nature study-weekly
This book should fit in well with our science which is about aquatic creatures. I love these old Ladybird books.

This isn't our main science just the part that happens in morning time.

I'm not sure whether this book won't be a bit too difficult but plan to use it initially to read about submersibles and submarines which are a current interest of Youngest Son.

We either revise a table or play a maths game in Morning Time.
Games that we play are

  • equivalence dominoes
  • times table matching pairs. The next step is to play this as Snap. The game is from Brain Box. 
  • Pizza Fraction Fun game from Learning Resources
  • Sum Swamp-I want to get away from this game. We have played it so often!
  • Time Lotto
  • Fraction snap from Brain Box
There is so more that we could do but I know that this amount works for us. I have been enjoying Pam Barnhill's podcasts about morning time. These have many more ideas! 
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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Bateman's-a celebration of poetry

One of the most repeated poems at our poetry teatimes is Kipling's Smuggler's Song. In addition, my husband has read The Jungle Book to one of the children. So it was time to visit Kipling's adult home, Bateman's. This is in a lovely part of the Sussex Weald and is owned by the National Trust. 

The house dates back to the seventeenth century

and is close to old smuggler haunts. We drove through Hawkhurst, home of the Hawkhurst Gang on our way. Beautiful now but probably rather unpleasant in the days of the smugglers.

The children loved the rather late Easter egg hunt which took us through the gardens,

to the wild flower meadow,

water wheel

and mill.

Hoping it wasn't too pretentious, we had hot chocolate and scones outside the coffee shop, in the walled garden, and read A Smuggler's Song.

The house doesn't feel enormous. It feels as though a family lived here. 

Probably, though, the most useful thing that I learned is that seven year olds concentrate much better when given a phone camera. Just don't forget to turn the flash off. Anyway, the photos of the house interior are a mixture of mine and my children's.
A clock older than the house.


Kipling's study-see the overflowing waste paper bin.

Recordings of Kipling's works were on this replica radio.

John Kipling's bedroom with his school uniform. He was killed aged just 18 in the First World War.

Model ship

Copies of Kipling's works.

A place worth visiting, partly to put context to Kipling's works and just because it is such a beautiful and child friendly place.

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