Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Two times table

With shoes, some of which need cleaning,

and two pence pieces.

I wondered about pairs of socks or knives and forks next. Any ideas?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Cheese and onion quiche

It is useful to have some stand-by recipes that aren't expensive and use ingredients already on hand. Cheese and onion quiche is exactly that and it is a "forgiving recipe" so many of the ingredients can be substituted.

The principle is that a pastry case is filled with onion, cheese and an egg custard and cooked.

Home made or shop brought short crust pastry rolled to fill a fluted dish 10" (25cm) in diameter.
2 medium brown onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cup of grated strong hard cheese (I usually use Cheddar but Parmesan is an excellent alternative)
3 large eggs
1/4pint (150ml) whole milk
Heaped tablespoon of yogurt
Ground pepper


Blind cook the pastry case for 15 minutes at 200oC (400F)
Lower the oven temperature to 180oC (350F)
Chop the onions.

Gently soften the onions in olive oil.
Fill the pastry case with onion

and then with cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt and ground pepper using a fork. Pour over the onion and cheese.

Cook at 180oC/350F for 30 minutes until the top is set and golden.

Serve hot with baked potatoes and salad.
When cold, this makes excellent picnic food.
Serves 6

The variations are endless.

  • It isn't necessary to use a pastry base. Do grease the dish well if a pastry base isn't used. It isn't necessary to grease the dish if using a base.
  • Leeks/spring onions/red onions can be substituted for the onion.
  • Using bacon instead of cheese makes the traditional Quiche Lorraine.
  • Other chopped, cooked meat,  such as chicken or turkey, can be used for bacon. 
  • Flaked tuna or other fish can be used instead of cheese.
  • Single cream can be used for milk or more yogurt substituted for the milk.
  • Almost any hard cheese can be used although the more flavour it has the better.
  • Other vegetables can be substituted for one, or even two, of the onions, for example, tomatoes, courgettes or parboiled broccoli.

This is linked to the Schoolhouse Crew Blog Cruise and Try a new recipe Tuesday.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013


Having a child who is fascinated by history leads to some interesting trips. For the last few months, Youngest Daughter has wanted to know who built Stonehenge and why. She has built clay models and talked about visiting.

Having talked so much about the place, it was time for an outing. Thankfully, it was a beautiful clear February day-cold enough for ice on some muddy patches but warm enough for a few daisies to be open.

It isn't possible to go right up to the stones after all they are fairly old! We had an interesting discussion about how they were old in Roman times and the time between the present day and Elizabeth I compared with that between the building of Stonehenge and the Romans. I need to pull out our timeline again!

The work to transport these stones, some from Wales, and then upend them must have been tremendous. The larger stones are thought to have come from only about 20 miles away but would have taken 200 people to move them.
 The stones are shaped and the lintels are held in place with a ball and socket type joint fashioned using stones.

The shadows from the stones were long- even at midday. We talked a bit about the possibly beliefs of those who built the place; how the way that it was aligned, to the sun's rays, appears to have been important and the Creator of the sun.

I couldn't believe this was February!

 The Heel Stone

The whole area is surrounded with ancient burial mounds.

A fascinating, strange place.

We finished our day with a walk with friends and then a picnic overlooking the Salisbury Plain, just as the sun was setting.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork. 
Psalm 19v1

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Friday, 15 February 2013

Sri Lanka

We've just reached our half term break. I find that by half term, I'm tired and, I suspect, rather inarticulate. Apologies for several mistakes in yesterday's post. I had proof read but still didn't see them. Hopefully, they are now rectified and I hope that this post is free from similar errors.

Recently, some friends lent us a DVD about an orphanage in Sri Lanka. Having seen this, the children were keen to find out more about the country. I must say that this proved easier said than done!

First, we looked for children's books.
How to make apple pie and see the world talks about Sri Lanka as the source of cinnamon and shows its location on a map.
The other book that we used was very old but did have a clear description about the tea growing process, even if it talked about Ceylon and I had to do rapid conversions from Imperial to SI units!

The younger children coloured flags-the components of the flag represent the Singalese, Tamil and Moor populations.

Youngest Daughter coloured her first map and we made the discovery that the capital is not Colombo but Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte named by a president, after himself.

Middle Son and I worked on Asian countries and then Asian capitals on Seterra. The capitals took a fair amount of work!

Middle Son was set to research the challenges facing the country using information from the World Bank and Wikipedia.

We all looked at photographs of this beautiful country; both from this source and from this travel site.

Youngest daughter painted elephants.

Traditional food often involves fish and coconut so we made a curry. 

The recipe I followed was rather sparing with chili so this was surprisingly mild and of course, there is tea-still known as Ceylon tea.

Please do let me know if you know of any more Sri Lanka resources as I found that there was a relative paucity of child orientated information.

This is linked to the history and geography meme and Living Life Intentionally.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Free education resources

There are hundreds and maybe thousands of free education resources on the internet.

This is to point out what we actually use.

Seterra is a geography programme. It can be used on-line or downloaded. We've now taken the download option as that allows scores to be recorded. Middle Son and I both play usually using maps linked to topics that Middle Son is studying. I've found this highlights the poverty of my geographical knowledge!

Starfall is about phonics. It has rather catchy, too catchy, little ditties about the sounds. It also has stories and games. I suspect that it is possible to manage the games with little in the way of reading skills but the phonics section has been a useful adjunct.

Bible Road Trek by Danika Cooley is a three year Bible survey written at four different levels. We don't do everything mentioned and could easily cycle round again at greater depth. Bible Road Trek is new this year so I haven't seen the latter parts of the series and we also haven't used the notebooking pages which are very, very new.

The BBC schools typing programme has been a real hit with Younger Daughter. It does have records that smash when typing has been done correctly.

Do you have any free home education programmes that you use from day to day in your family?

Homeschool for Free

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Flowering Baby

PhotobucketFlowering Baby, LLC is a "Whole child developmental approach." for children from birth to five. It has sections for each of these year groups.  Flowering Baby is based on activities that the author, Martha Saunders, did with her son, using input from her mother and second author, Carolyn Schulte, an early education expert.

We have been using the four to five programme.

Photobucket  and I've had a look through the three to four year programme as I wasn't sure which would be best for Youngest Son who has just turned four. These products are available as CDs.


 Both the three to four year old and the four to five year old programmes have two sections. There is a section to be used each month and another with twenty four themes. The suggestion is that two of these themes are used each month. So far, we have used the Aquarium and Arctic life theme and most appropriately, the one on winter.  The month curriculum guide covers  about 12 days of the month whereas the themes last three to eight days.

The CDs for the age groups younger than three are not divided up in this way but, instead, are divided into age months with activities for twenty days in the month. These include singing, stories, early maths concepts, games and craft.

The programme is intended to take 20-40 minutes a day. Using the four to five year old programme takes closer to 40 than 20 minutes.

Each day, the month guide gives activities which usually include reading to the child, listening to the alphabet song and practising writing an individual letter and exposing the child to another language. Flowering Baby suggests using Spanish but also state that another language can be used. We chose to use French.  Most days there is a maths section which might be simple counting using toys or other objects or something around shapes. Other activities include learning about a healthy diet, following instruction games and learning one's phone number.

What we thought about Flowering Baby:
The read alouds went well especially as the author allows leeway for changing to other more readily available books on the same theme. There were several suggestions for arctic/aquarium books. We managed to find several of these, and more.

Youngest Son liked the maths activities. Taping a shape on the floor and walking round it was a real success.
 The music section made me think about having music playing more and it was helpful to have a prompt to start another language at this age.

However, the writing section was difficult. Youngest Son is only just four and whilst he enjoys learning about letters and finding objects beginning with a letter, writing is something else. We worked instead on fine motor control in different media. Looking back some of the year 3 activities might have been more suitable as these focus on holding a crayon or pencil, mark making, drawing simple shapes and the child's name. Year 4 includes writing mainly with a different letter to practise each day.

Flowering Baby is produced in the US and this is reflected in some of the days which are celebrated. President's Day and Groundhog Day don't feature large in the UK!

The themes were appreciated especially as we had snow just as we started the topic of winter. Taking a snow walk, as suggested, became easy!

Flowering Baby is available from the Flowering Baby, LLC store. Samples of the 4-5 curriculum can be seen at the bottom of this page and the 3-4 on this page. The 3-4 and 4-5 curricula both cost $38 for CDs. However, for a 10% discount, use the code Blog10 when ordering.

To read more reviews of Flowering Baby go to The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Renée of France

The Bible is transparent about the failings of God's people but some Christian biographies suggest that a state of sinless perfection occurs on earth. Not so this biography of Renée of France by Simonetta Carr, published by EP books.

Renée is a lesser known Reformation character and a deeply flawed one. Renée was born a French princess but married off to a lesser Italian potentate for political reasons. Renée had Protestant beliefs which were not shared by her husband but there was also marital discord on account of Renée's spending habits and the rather French character of her court.

This fascinating biography leads us through Renée's life, in Italy, where she was visited by famous French reformers including Clement Marot, the poet, and John Calvin as well as by thinkers whose understanding was less than reformed. Poor Renée vacillated between standing firm for the Reformation and compromise. Did it matter whether she attended mass and the Lord's supper? Would she be causing offence to others if she stopped going to mass? Should she keep reformed thinkers at her court or dismiss them?

Renée's husband, the Duke of Este, died suddenly and Renée made the decision, against John Calvin's advice to return to her estates in France. She narrowly escaped with her life in the St Bartholomew's Day massacre and her estates became a haven for Protestants. Yet, Renée had a problem: her son in law was the Duke of Guise who was a major force for the Roman Catholic side in the Wars of Religion, in France.

One of the fascinating features of Renée's life is her almost thirty year correspondence with Calvin whose letters are pastoral and encouraging. He urges Renée to have sound teachers in her court; deals with whether the way we worship God is important and urges her to submit to the church and support it.

There is so much to learn from this frail saint in these days. It is easy to criticise but how many of us would be ready to stand firm under pressure to conform which might mean loss of property or even life? Renée suffered from having preachers who compromised for convenience sake. She made mistakes but sought forgiveness. Her weakness meant that she was viewed with suspicion by many Protestants and yet, the King of France refused to allow her a Roman Catholic funeral because of her Protestant views.

Definitely, a book to read and muse over.

I was provided with an e-copy of this book for the purposes of the review. The opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Fun Science

Some of our happiest moments are when we are doing "informal" science. Middle Son and Younger Daughter do have formal science curricula but the add-ons are appreciated and the part that I most enjoy teaching/arranging.

Younger Daughter and Youngest Son sometimes request that we "do science" meaning some hands-on science. Most of the activities take only a few minutes and many use ordinary household materials.

Today, we had a bit of a science afternoon.

The potatoes from the Potatoes for Schools project needed chitting. Youngest Son spent some time taking them out again and then replacing them. Thankfully, the two different varieties sent aren't the same colour!

Middle Son spent made bread. We've talked about yeast many times but today talked about the role of kneading in distributing yeast.

 The final product disappeared fast-too, quickly for a picture.

A couple of weeks ago, Youngest Son helped plant an amaryllis bulb. He insisted on putting his Bob the builder in with the bulb which has proved a useful measure of its height.
This is the bulb when it was first planted and the picture below is today.

Recently, I brought some paper coffee filters and we used these in two activities:

Chromatography: separating the dyes in felt tip pen ink.
We made the filter paper damp and then put a large blob in the centre. We were careful not to use primary colours for this. True primary colours will not separate.
The two blobs on the right started out as one green spot.

Best of all, filtering very muddy water. Making the mud was a happy occupation and resulted in particularly dirty water.

We poured it through a funnel,
filtered it
 and refiltered it.
The end product certainly wasn't fit to drink but was a fair representation of a water purification process.

One of the requested activities was, one of the few that we hadn't yet done, from the Usborne Big book of Science things to make and do. This involved making a balloon into a rocket on a string. Sorry about the blur-the balloon was travelling at speed!

Virtually every week, one of the children makes a volcano. Youngest Daughter enjoys this but her little brother likes to be in on the act and added vanilla today for extra fragrance.

The important ingredients are the vinegar (acid) and sodium bicarbonate (alkali) but the children like to add washing up liquid and food colouring. The washing up liquid creates extra bubbles.
Mix all the ingredients, except the vinegar, in a broad necked jar on a baking tray.

 Add the vinegar and watch the volcano.

These are a few links to other fun science activities:
 Mixing oil and water
Science in the kitchen
Opening flower activity
and some Fun science resources.

This post is linked to It's PlaytimeFun SparksHomeschool Science Share and Tell, Living Life Intentionally  and the Old Schoolhouse Crew blog cruise.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Plantagenet mystery

Richard III's remains have now been found. Will this mean the solution to another mystery, that of his supposed son Richard Plantagenet?

Richard Plantagenet supposedly spent most of his life working as a bricklayer before being discovered, in old age, by the Lord of the Manor, at Eastwell, in Kent.

Barbara Willard wrote a fascinating fictionalised version of his life, The Sprig of Broom, as part of her Mantlemass series.

Maybe, one day, if the right grave can be identified, DNA testing may solve this mystery.