Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Martin Luther on families

I found this Martin Luther quote in Elizabeth Elliot's book, The shaping of a Christian family.

Our natural reason looks at marriage and it turns up its nose and says, "Alas, Must I rock the baby?  Wash its nappies? Smell its stench? Stay at nights with it? Take care of it when it cries? Heal its rashes and sores? And on top of that care for my spouse, provide labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that? Do this and do that? And endure this and endure that? Why should I make such a prisoner of myself?"

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all those insignificant, distasteful and despised duties in the spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, "O God, I confess that I am not worthy to rock that little babe, or wash its nappies, or to be entrusted with the care of a child and its mother. How is it that I without any merit have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving Thy creature and Thy most precious will? Oh, how gladly I will do so. Though the duty should be even more insignificant and despised, neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery or labour will distress me for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in Thy sight.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening

I've loved the Robert Frost poem Stopping by woods on a snowy evening, for years so was pleased to be able to get the Susan Jeffers' illustrated version for the children.
It is difficult to describe this book as anything else other than beautiful and it would make an excellent present for a poetry loving adult, as well as for children. It is fun to muse on meanings for the poem while reading it to the children.

 After purchasing the book, I discovered that it was a Five in a Row book. It is our "row" for this week.
One of our aims for the week is to learn the poem.
For fun, we turned our box model of Mary Ann from Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel into a sleigh.

 Sleigh pulled by faithful hound. Note the snow made from a blanket.

The children hadn't seen a real sleigh so we found a video of reindeer pullling a sleigh in Finland.
I found this idea for a rhyming tree and had fun doing this with Miss Belle.

We have some other wintery books and poems to read:

Out and about through the year by Shirley Hughes. This is a seasonal collection of poems which we read frequently. The winter poems go well with this week's book.

The Shepherd boy by Kim Lewis

Kiss good night, Sam by Amy Hest
Winter Garden by Ruth Brown

This is linked to TGIF Linky party, Mouse grows, Mouse learns. and Wierd, unsocialized homeschoolers.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Apple recipe compendium part 2

I meant to put this up a while ago but after about three months of apple picking, processing and desperately pressing bags of apples on friends, I took a bit of a break from thinking about apples. Now it is apple time again.

This is the second part of my list of apple recipes. I decided to take out the cakes as my list wasn't particularly long and there are plenty to be found. A couple of friends have told me about the amazing Apple recipe round up at The Pink Whisk. Definitely worth a look-I'm looking forward to making apple lemon curd. This isn't a comprehensive list of the dessert recipes that we use-just a few favourites.

Apple pie with shortcrust pastry.
 Do remember to read How to make an apple pie and see the world with your children when you make this.

Apple pie with filo pastry
 I use ready made pastry. Put two pieces of filo pastry crosswise in bowl, drizzle over melted butter, add two more pieces of filo pastry and repeat butter, fill with peeled, chopped apple, add sugar and cinnamon to taste, cover with two more pieces of filo pastry. Take the pastry ends and roughly cover the apple. Drizzle with more melted butter. Cook at 200C/400F for 25 minutes.

Apple turnover
basically a parcel of puff pastry filled with peeled, chopped apple, sultanas, sugar and cinnamon. Glaze with milk or egg and cook at 200C/400F until the top is browned.

Apple cobbler

Christmas pudding

Baked apples
Apples-one per person
Dried fruit
Brown sugar
Mixed spice
Core but do not peel apples.
Stuff the core space with dried fruit and a little sugar. Note that the dried fruit is sweet so only a small amount of sugar is needed.Sprinkle with mixed spice. Cook at 180C/350F for 25 minutes until the apple pulp is soft. Serve with custard.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cranberry thanksgiving

I am a bit hesitant to write about this book so have the caveat first-I'm English not American. Having said that, I am writing about Cranberry thanksgiving because the children, and I, have all learnt so much from it. I love it when I learn from the children's books and the Five in a Row books often bring up things that I hadn't known before.

Cranberry thanksgiving, by Wende and Harry Devlin, is the story of a girl who lives with her grandmother on a cranberry farm. Each Thanksgiving Day, they each invite a visitor to eat the meal including Grandmother's famous cranberry bread, made from a secret recipe. The guests this year are the smooth Mr Horace and the rougher, old sea captain, Mr Whiskers. An attempt is made to steal the famous recipe and it turns out that things are not as they seem.
Geography: We found New England on the world map. I have been fascinated to learn about cranberry bogs and the harvesting of cranberries-something that I knew nothing about before last week. We watched a video about harvesting and looked at the four air sacs in the cranberries which enable them to float.

Bible: This story has such a strong link to Samuel being sent to anoint David in 1 Samuel chapter 16. We have talked about "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." and read about David's anointing.

History: I was brought up on the old Ladybird history books and we have a little collection. This week was the turn of the Pilgrim Fathers.
The children acted out the story of the Mayflower and the arrival in the New World-they loved this.

Science: I was inspired by Almost Unschoolers to use the anthocyanin iin cranberries as a pH indicator using vinegar and sodium bicarbonate. It worked well although I didn't take photos as we used very small quantities of my rather precious cranberries. The photos on Almost Unschoolers show their results beautifully. Of course, we had to add the vinegar to the sodium bicarbonate and see what happened. 

A first introduction to the concept of acids and alkalis although Miss Belle and Mr Exuberance had seen what happens when they are added together in various volcano experiments before.

Maths: We had to make cranberry bread. This introduced the concept of  recipes which use volume measurements rather than the weight measurements that are more familiar in the UK.

Language: It was appropriate to read books about thankfulness and blessings alongside Cranberry Thanksgiving.
We  read the beautiful illustrated Psalm 103 by Johannah Bluedorn.

and Count your blessings by Jeane Cabral. This is a counting book with magnets to add to each page.

Lastly, we had a turkey Thanksgiving dinner along with our cranberry bread.
 Hopefully, some happy memories and learning for this book.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, especially to my American readers! 

This is linked to Mouse grows, Mouse learns.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Nature study-oak trees

In our area, oaks are probably the most common tree. 

I wanted the children to be able to identify an oak, know a little about the importance of oaks in history and to understand about how they shelter other wildlife. 

My favourite children's book about oaks is Lord of the Forest by "BB".

 Middle Son and I have read this previously but it is rather old for the little ones. Instead, we looked at the pictures and talked about the text regarding the English oak in the Reader's Digest Field guide to the trees and shrubs of Britain. We discussed old houses where the oak beams had previously been part of ships and how oaks have had to be protected. The supply/demand issue caused a fair amount of interest. 

Of course, then we had to go to see the oak in the garden and make rubbings of the bark.

There were acorns and leaves to collect for rubbings and drawings.

While the children drew, I read aloud The secret life of trees

and Sara Coleridge's poem Trees

The Oak is called the King of Trees,
The Aspen quivers in the breeze,
The Poplar grows up straight and tall,
The Pear tree spreads along the wall,
The Sycamore gives pleasant shade,
The Willow droops in watery glade,
The Fir tree useful timber gives,
The Beech amid the forest lives.

Perhaps next, to go and identify these trees-most we can find easily, although I'm not so sure about the aspen or poplar.

This literature based approach to nature study seems to be working for us and is so easy. I'm using books that we already have. Equivalents are easily obtainable at the library.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Spending time with older children-exploring breadmaking

Middle Son doesn't always appreciate our breadmaker bread so we asked him to make his own.

He used the BBC white loaf recipe but added garlic to the butter and chopped spring onions to the flour. The top was sprinkled with mixed herbs.

The result was yummy-this is definitely a keeper. We need to add a couple of tweaks-cook for a little longer and perhaps add fewer herbs but I really hope that he carries on with his artisan bread making experiments.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Spending time with older children-checking the car

My husband volunteered to show Middle Son how to check out the car

  • the oil
  • the water
  • the water for the windscreen
  • the indicators
  • the lights
  • the tyres
So they went out in the autumn sunshine to look at the innards of the car.
The oil
The water for the windscreen-also a good time to talk about anti-freeze

Mt Exuberance, aged two, also thought this was very interesting and managed to get rather oily hands in the process. He was particularly disappointed when he had to go indoors-maybe tricycle maintenance next.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Nature study-introduction and earthworms

We are privileged to have a garden and surrounding area ideal for looking at nature. Just in our garden, this year, we have had a swarm of bees,
hedgehogs, newts and pheasants and far, far more.

It seemed a shame to waste all of this especially as the younger children love being outside. My major concern was how to structure nature study as my guess is that the children and I often go outside and don't really see what is there.

I had looked at various books and discarded them either because they weren't UK based or because they were so old fashioned. The Ladybird series about "What to look for in autumn" etc are beautifully illustrated but talk about stooks of corn and a slightly different population of wildlife than would be relevant now.

So, I decided to do my own thing using bits from various books. The aim is to look at something in our garden initially and to cover
  •  introduction from a relevant book
  •  an activity
  •  art work
  •  poem or book on the subject
So far, we have had sessions on earthworms and oak trees.
For this post, this is just a short outline of the earthworm session.

Backyard Science was good for an introduction.

For the earthworms, we made a wormery. For this, we used sand (a little left at the bottom of the sandpit from the summer) and layered it with earth. It didn't look as neat as in this book
but digging for worms was something that both children loved. They then found plenty of leaves for the worms to eat. We have been checking the worm farm daily for signs of worm activity and to check there is food and sufficient moisture. I have had to warn the children that the worms will have to go back to the soil fairly soon-they aren't indefinite pets.

I have started my own nature book and it has been fun to draw or write alongside the children even though it does bring back memories of biology A level practicals.

Miss Belle was keen to draw the wormery as well as dictate sentences for me to write and for her to copy. Mr Exuberance has a book but rapidly went onto drawing what he described as sofas.

As for poems, I found these. I'm not really sure that poem is the right word but the children enjoyed them.

After this session, the children seemed to have lost their squeals of horror at the sight of a worm.

Do let me know if you have good nature study resources. I am keen to keep up these sessions but need inspiration!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Spending time with older children-menu planning

This activity is popular here and is ideal for children aged 8-13.

Middle son especially enjoys this. He gets to write the main meal menu for a week. Once the menu is planned, he can go to an online supermarket and fill up my basket. Once he has done this, I check over everything, discuss changes and pay.

We usually shop with an online supermarket and chose the same type of time delivery slot as usual.

The rules are
  • has to be in budget
  • has to be sufficient fruit and vegetables so that everyone can have 5-a-Day
  • Has to involve usual staples-eggs, milk, butter, margarine etc
Usually the menu has to be rewritten to keep in budget. The children do this before they show me the finished result. 

I may have to point out that it is difficult to feed eight people on one pizza even if it comes from a special company or that buying three bananas for the week is on the inadequate side.

What transpires is a compromise. I allow less made from scratch, low in saturated fat food and Middle Son gets more of his delights.

 It is wise to write this several days before shopping day in order to make sure that in the excitement no one has forgotten to order washing up liquid or some other vital that is about to run out. 

The benefits of this are that
  • Someone else plans the meals for a week
  • Middle Son gets a realistic idea about shopping for a family and budgetary constraints
  • I save time in planning and ordering and have a more discussion based role
  • The children are extra keen to cook during their menu week.
  • An opportunity to talk about what might make up a healthy diet even if one week's diet is different from usual.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

December thoughts

This time of year, I'm in need of inspiration. We  celebrate Christmas remembering the birth of the Lord Jesus but it is a tiring time, in the midst of a grey time of year and comes at the end of a busy term. It is only too easy to lose focus and it seems difficult to find energy to run a hopefully happy time for several people when hibernation seems more suitable.

 So, my verse for December is going to be
 They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.    Isaiah 40v31

A good verse to get the focus right and to know where to go for help when the volume just gets too much.

Once thing that I have been thinking about this year is the idea of a Jesse Tree. I hadn't heard to this until last year but the idea comes from the Lord Jesus being "a Branch of Jesse". The idea is to read a relevant Old Testament Scripture each day in December and add a relevant ornament to a tree. I'm still undecided about the tree and ornament part but certainly hope to read the children Scriptures about the promises of a Saviour through the Old Testament.

Having a five year old, not in school, at this time of year, is interesting. Good not to have to go to Nativity plays and events which are a travesty of what the event is about and often break the second commandment,  but slight concern, about missing out on the seasonal events. We are working on cards and carols. These snowmen are on the list to be done next and there are some special occasions coming up.

Onto other matters, I recently found a great maths site. Just right for the end of term!

One of my friends has recently started a site devoted to her upcycled accessories and with some useful tutorials which would also be suitable for older children.

Back to five year olds not in school, Booktime provides free books for children starting reception. However, home educated children are also eligible if they would otherwise be starting school. There is a dedicated page and form. The website does say delivery within three weeks, our books took nearer four but lead to a happy Miss Belle when a surprise parcel arrived.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

All those secrets of the world

This week, our Five in a Row  book is All those secrets of the world by Jane Yolen.
This is the autobiographical story of a four year old whose father goes sails off the the Second World War. It covers emotions and perspective gently and sensitively.
In the week after Rememberance Day and with a five year old very interested in the commemoration, this seemed a particularly suitable choice.
This book has plenty of discussion points from pollution to war to art. Perhaps less to show, at the end of the week, than for some other books but maybe more to think about.
So far we have looked at what happens when oil is mixed with water and talked about different sorts of pollution.
The book mentions the First World War song Over there so we listened to this.

We hope to read some books about the War and to tap Grandma's memories of rationing.

It didn't seem appropriate to go overboard on the war theme, with little one,s so the other books that I have chosen for this week are not about the war but about family events. This does fit in the All the Secrets of the world as this is about a family parting.

Jonathan Mark at Granny's by Jacqueline Sibley is a 1970s book, with 1970s illustrations, about a boy who stays with Granny while his parents are away and how he learns that God is always the same.

When the teddy bears came by Martin Waddell is about a new baby coming to a family. I had realised that Mr Exuberance might well miss out on this book whereas it has been read to the other children out of necessity. I love the gentle illustrations by Penny Dale.

When Willie went to the wedding by Judith Kerr is a hilarious tale about a boy and his pets who didn't want to miss out on the elder sister's wedding.

An evening at Alfie's by Shirley Hughes is a book brought second hand for our eldest. I'm amazed that it is still in reasonable condition. The story of how the pipes burst when Alfie's parents were out leaving the children with the teenage babysitter. Doesn't that make your blood run cold? Not half as bad as it sounds!
This is linked to 5-a-Day books.

5 a day books

Spending time with older children-games

Whilst I'm not a great fan of computer games because they seem to take up sooo much time, it did seem reasonable that if I was hoping to spend time with Middle Son then computer games would have to be part of the equation.

Racing car games make me feel sick and crash so many times that if it was real, I would be uninsurable after one round. The time had come to try something different-Minecraft. I had heard plenty about this from my son so now my turn to sample it. It transpires that Middle Son is a bit of a pro and I really didn't know what I was doing. I managed to walk forwards, backwards and to each side but perhaps better, I have more idea about the servers and the aim of the game.

Playing Minecraft with Middle Son gave me much more idea about his current interests than the more traditional games. Probably something that I should repeat-occasionally.

On to more traditional games, I avoided Monopoly and Risk as they take hours and realistically I don't have that sort of time out of holiday seasons. Middle Son would be delighted to spend an evening on one of these games-probably a Christmas treat.

We actually played Scrabble. Yes, we enjoyed it but Middle Son felt that this was a bit like work as a couple of years ago, I did allow him an end of home education week treat of a game of Scrabble. The strange benefit is that Miss Belle was desperate to have a go so I've had to pull out the Junior Scrabble and have now played with her, a couple of times.


  • Good to get more insight into computer games and no, I'm not addicted
  • I need to try another board game with Middle Son which he doesn't link with education.
  • Junior Scrabble is a good way of getting a bit of extra reading/spelling practice without little people noticing.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Spending time with older children

This is a subject that is close to my heart. Having a family with two smaller children, aged five and two, it is necessary to devote time to them. There are so many lovely ideas about what to do with little ones. This little ones really demand time spent with them but it can be quite easy to not spend time, or enough time, with older children.

The older children can occupy themselves but often there may be a question about whether their time could be better employed.I have written about activities for middle childhood before.

We have a structured timetable for the "academic" part of the day but learning is so much more than academics and as we believe in a conversational style of learning  spending time with children is vital.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest upDeuteronomy  6v5-7

I'm hoping to write a little over the next few weeks, about spending time with older children. These, older children, are vaguely defined, in my mind, as children from about eight to thirteen. This isn't about spending time with older teenagers or little ones. My child in this age group is eleven. In many ways this is written for my benefit to make myself work on activities for my child. It may not apply if your children run your farm or house but for anyone, like me, struggling with trying to improve on computer games, I hope this may have some ideas.

This isn't just about leisure activities. Some of the activities will be just for fun but others are learning important life skills leading to future independence. Other activities will be around helping others. Hopefully, many of these activities will lead to conversational time.

One of my dearest memories as an older child is of time spent talking and debating with my parents. Being taught how to apply Biblical principles to life and teasing out how that might actually apply. I would be delighted if I could make a bit of that sort of time for my own children.

Other posts in series:
Menu planning
Car maintenance
Exploring bread making
Three more ideas

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel

This week, our Five in a Row book was Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.

This was a popular book and led to several activities. Many of the activities were suggested by the Five in a Row handbook.

I wanted the children to know what a steam shovel is as I don't think that they, or I, have seen one in real life. This video came to our rescue.

I have already posted about the other books that we read along with Mike Mulligan. These were supplemented by a book full of pictures of steam trains.

Again, the book had some words in US English which we "translated".

  • shovel
  • automobile
  • janitor

The book personifies Mary Anne and the sun. Somewhat, to my surprise, this was a concept that interested the children and which Miss Belle seemed to understand.

We looked at the date of publication, 1939, and the "old fashioned" features in the book. This is something that even Mr Exuberance can manage.

The handbooks suggested making a geoboard to make squares and other shapes. Miss Belle loved this. Hopefully, my tacks and recycled board will continue to be used.

Steam is central to this book. Having talked about how water can change into ice and steam, the children made pinwheels to turn under steam power. I don't think that my automatic kettle gives a particularly strong jet of steam before turning off so this didn't really demonstrate the point.

We made our own Mary Anne.
This almost didn't survive to become Mary Anne as Mr Exuberance was so keen to sit in the box.

Having overcome my fear of sensory tubs, this seemed an idea subject especially with a box of cocoa pops which had been spilt. This was both successful and very messy especially as the most of the contents of the box ended up being poured into a tipper truck.

Finally, a cake to celebrate! There are instructions for a cake to go with the book at Homeschool Share. Miss Belle thought that it would be better to make a cake with an icing Mike Mulligan. The photos didn't do it justice and now it is partially eaten.

This book talks about care for possessions and meanness. Again, useful discussion points.

What we didn't do
Part way through the week, I found that there is a musical adaptation of the book. Something to think about for another time.

This was a busy week. There are so many activities in the handbook and even more on the internet. We didn't attempt anything like all.
My feeling is that we were light on writing based activities. We do some along with phonics but FIAR could be a good way to introduce more.
The  lapbook type printables are mainly too old but writing is something that I need include in future weeks.

This is linked to the Weekly Wrap-up at Weird, unsocialized homeschoolers and to Living Life Intentionally linky party.