Thursday, 31 October 2013

Family Kitchen Cookbook

Having a household of eight people plus frequent visitors means that we usually cook at least twice a day.  I enjoy cooking but sometimes, between people not liking things and special diets, need some inspiration. I was delighted to be able to review a new book from DK, Family Kitchen Cookbook by Carol Bretherton.

This is a beautifully presented hardback with almost 500 pages and over 700 recipes. Each recipe is illustrated, has clear instructions and a nutritional analysis. The book has six main sections

  • babies and toddlers
  • family meals
  • easy entertaining
  • food to go
  • baking
  • cooking with kids.
Each section is divided into subsections which are clearly marked at the top of the page, for example, family meals has fish, poultry, meat and many others. There are feature pages about different topics such as fussy eaters, unexpected visitors and using leftovers-all real practical stuff.

However, the only real way to test a recipe book is to cook so we've been trying this out-not all 700+ recipes but a selection.

The day the book arrived, we had some chicken left over from a roast. This went into mild chicken curry which was successful even with our fussy eaters.

Birthday season was upon us so we decided to test out the chocolate cake. The unpleasantly named devil's food cake turned out to be a delicious, moist cake.
This recipe is definitely a keeper! We also made the chocolate fudge cake which again was a yummy moist cake and went fast at our home education group meeting. Of the two recipes, I prefer the devil's food cake but both are worth repeating.
My daughter sieving for the chocolate cake.

The blueberry ripple cheesecake looked delicious but disappeared at a "bring and share" before I could try any: a reason to make this again!

We go through seasons when we eat loads of bananas and then for no apparent reason no one eats them and there is a glut. This was a time when everyone had given up on bananas. The excess were saved from waste by the tasty banana cake and the unusual, and really quite healthy banana icecream.

We ate the French onion soup and the chicken and bean stew. This again, needs to be made again.
Perhaps best of all was rosemary focaccia straight from the oven-yum!

So what did we think? The recipes have been a success. The pictures have meant that the children have spent ages looking at the book and making plans about what to cook.

I found the instructions clear and the results reliable. There are some particularly helpful ideas in the features section, particularly, around unexpected guests and leftovers.

My only criticism is that more recipes could be a little more flexible, for example, the chocolate cake recipes say that an electric whisk is needed but could say that a wooden spoon and elbow grease are an alternative! 

This is a recipe book that will be used again and again. There are certainly more recipes that I want to try. Definitely recommended!

The Family Kitchen Cookbook is available from DK at £25.

I received the Family Kitchen Cookbook  from DK in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions are all my own and those of my family.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Teaching very active little children

Little children are made active and busy but some are more active and busy than others.

This is about teaching the more active types! My only right to write about this is that I have one of these active children and one of my older children was also very busy as a young child. I am not talking about children with a medical diagnosis. 

These busy little people are lovely and lovable but tiring.

These are my assumptions:
  • This is a phase of childhood. It will, to some extent, get better with time. It isn't fair to expect a four year old to spend as long writing as his brother who is almost a decade older.
  • Active, wriggly children need to learn to sit still to work but this isn't going to happen very quickly.
  • The very active, wriggly types tend to be little boys.
I love these busy little people but they are hard work. Not needing much sleep has been a feature of both of mine and that is tiring. 

  • Loads of exercise. My busy child can't sleep without sufficient exercise. This usually means going outside every day. We don't worry too much about the weather provided there isn't a severe weather warning!

  • Multi-sensory learning which doesn't require keeping still all the time. We chalk letters, make letters in the sand in the park, use a multi-sensory phonics programme, cook with geography, history and maths, do science experiments and so on. 

  • Read aloud-this sounds strange but has been really, really important. Our very active children have been obvious from a very young age:weeks to months of age. This wasn't a surprise aged four. Reading aloud from babyhood has helped these children love some quieter time, improved their vocabularies and aided their attention spans. Both of these children have sat still and looked at picture books. I haven't allowed moving around while I read unless I'm reading to an older sibling. As their concentration increases, I increase the number of books read-this hasn't been difficult to achieve.

  • Sufficient hands on activities at home. Home education does mean more free time. There isn't any travel time to and from school or nursery or collecting siblings. We have found that a wooden train set, puzzles, Duplo, Meccano and a model garage are helpful tools in keeping busy people happy and occupied. They also lead to many fascinating discussions and drawings.

Does this work? Hmm-sample size of two makes this difficult. If you see my current active child after a time of still concentration, you might wonder. 

There are other people with busy boys. These websites have many ideas for just this population!

The book Homegrown preschooler has a positive attitude to teaching these children at home and many helpful ideas.

My Pinterest board, Home ed for little ones has pins with ideas for this type of child.

Do you have any very active children? Any helpful tips?

This is linked to a Schoohouse Crew blog cruise called Teaching the chatty wriggly child.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Golden Years

As a carer for an older person and someone who practised for several years as a physician for older people,  I was interested to review Christopher Bogosh's book The Golden Years published by Good Samaritan Books.

Mr Bogosh writes about ageing from a Christian and US perspective. He covers the demographics of ageing in the US, effects of ageing and touches on the interesting topic of which changes are "normal" effects of ageing and which are part of disease. There is a chapter on healthy living which contains some general information on topics such as nutrition and sleep. The section on sleep usefully combines information about sleep with a Christian view on what to think about when sleep evades. However, I was a little unsure about the evidence base of some of the recommendations, for example, on the amount of water to be drunk per day and the advice on food supplements was rather vague.

The older adult eating a well-balanced diet will receive most of the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to live a healthy life, but some additional supplements may be helpful.

So, does this mean that an older adult does or does not need supplements?

The chapters on Preventative Healthcare and Healthcare Management are written in the US context and are, to a large extent, irrelevant in the United Kingdom. It is particularly important to note that the law on making decisions for someone who cannot make decisions for themselves is different in the UK. However, the chapter on Healthcare Management does include a section on carers. I feel that this is sufficiently important to have its own separate chapter but maybe that is because I am a carer.

The final two chapters cover medical conditions . The first of these chapters starts with a Biblical explanation of suffering but then attempts to be a mini-medical textbook for the lay person. Like any mini-textbook, there are features that are over simplistic or anachronistic, for example use of the term CVA for stroke. The statement that
People with dysphagia require a feeding tube to prevent aspiration and to maintain adequate nutrition.
This isn't always correct and the first step may be to modify the diet and the rate at which food is offered rather than consider a feeding tube or referral to hospice care as suggested by the book.

I was also interested by the dismissal of  concerns:
Some Christians translate Paul’s warning to care for family members (1 Tim. 5:8) as a mandate to provide twenty-four-hour hands-on nursing care for spouses or parents, even when they do not know how to provide it.
I don't believe that this necessarily means having to provide 24 hour care but for those who do, this needs more explanation to be helpful.

Overall, this is an interesting book but probably more relevant in the US than in the UK. It is useful to look at ageing from a Biblical perspective and of course, the Biblical aspects are relevant to everyone and will remain relevant when Obama care is a memory.

The Golden Years is available for at £11.11 and from Good Samaritan books at $10.99.

I reviewed the Golden Years  from Good Samaritan Books via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions are all my own.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Autumn break

We are taking a two week autumn half term break from formal work.  The term is long and this is such a colourful time of year. We've been outside as much as possible.

Middle Son has had to do some work. He studies German and history with Northstar who were working as usual this week so he knuckled down and did the work without needing to be reminded.

We all took sometime off though, for a trip into Kent, stopping at the lovely Knole Park for a picnic and walk. If you live in the South East of England, Knole is a must visit place. The house has some fantastic Tudor portraits, not that we saw them this week, and the deer park is an amazing place for children to run. It was so good to be together and for my husband to manage a rare day off.

When we take a break, it is always interesting to see how the children spend their time. Younger Daughter loves art and spent an afternoon painting whereas Younger Son spends hours with Duplo. Of course, there were the parks and walks.

 Den building is something that the two younger children wanted to do this week.

Younger Daughter's passport from the Children's University arrived this week. The Children's University is a way of recording learning outside the classroom which seems ideal for home educators. In reality, the learning counted tends to be organised "extra curricular" activities like art, science award or nature conservation awards. Still, it looks fun and covers things that Younger Daughter finds particularly interesting.

This week, we've had a Church Thanksgiving so it has been a time to think about the many, many things for which we are grateful.

Books we are reading:
I'm reading the Golden Years by Christopher Bogosh.
 Eldest Daughter and I decided that we needed some light reading, so Christmas with Miss Read came this week. Life is a bit busy at present so I'm trying not to read too much!
Recently, I reviewed the Witness Men by Rebecca Davis. Younger Daughter loved this book so now we are reading The Good News must go out by the same author. This is about missionary work in the Central African Republic and is gripping reading. Younger Daughter keeps asking for "one more chapter".
Youngest Son is ready for me to read him early chapter books. Some of my favourite early chapter books appeal more to girls and we really don't like the Horrid Henry type genre. I put a request on a Christian home education Facebook page and had many suggestions. I'm planning and looking through these. Do add some more!
A review copy of Seasons of the heart by Donna Kelderman arrived yesterday. I found the quote below in it.

To think about
From Frances Ridley Havergal about God's guidance
In perplexities—when we cannot understand what is going on around us; cannot tell whither events are tending; cannot tell what to do because we cannot see into or through the matter before us—let us be calmed and steadied and made patient by the thought that what is hidden from us is not hidden from Him. If He chooses to guide us blindfold, let Him do it! It will not make the least difference to the reality and righteousness of the guidance.

Friday, 25 October 2013

VocabularySpellingCity-a review

I still remember the embarrassment of coming last in the spelling test. It didn't help that the English teacher's idea of a spelling test was a set of random words. My children aren't intuitive spellers either. Many people have reassured me that children who read widely can spell but this didn't stop one of my children finishing Pride and Prejudice whilst quite unable to spell prejudice.

In view of this is was useful to have an opportunity to review VocabularySpellingCity with Younger Daughter, aged 7.

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VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership is a programme which can be used with children throughout their years of formal education, from year 1 to year 13 (US K-12) The  It allows the teacher to enter spelling lists for that child or to use lists on the site. A major bonus for us is that those spelling lists can be in UK English.

The programme has many videos explaining how it works and how, for example, to add a spelling list. 

I used the programme to add weekly lists. Younger Daughter then used the programme to play spelling games,

 photo letterfall_zps87fc7ce0.jpg  take practice tests and at the end of the week, her actual spelling test.  Younger Daughter had her own account and we also set up an account for Youngest Son. Youngest Son, aged 4, didn't actually use the programme as it seemed a little complex for a four year old learning to sound out CVC( consonant vowel consonant) words.  We used the programme on four days a week, using the first day for work introducing the spelling words. One set of spellings caused some difficulty so we took a second week working on these. 

The games can be used in two ways either the teacher can set specific games as an assignment or the child can choose their games. I let my daughter do the latter-I wanted her to learn the words but wasn't too concerned how she learned them. If a child chooses their own games, the programme does not appear on the recording screen. This wasn't an issue for us as I was in the room while my daughter did her work but might be more important if the child was unsupervised.

Younger Daughter found that there were particular games that she preferred: Wordsearch, LetterFall, HangMouse and Missing Letter. Some of the games might have been more suited to older children. We found that it was useful to take practice tests most days and the actually spelling test at the end of the week. Using the programme to give the spelling test, freed up valuable time for me to spend with my other two students.

There are numerous other features available: flashcards,

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printable worksheets, handwriting practice, language arts lessons covering topics such as synonymns, antonymns and possessive nouns, useful word lists and educational articles related to spelling.

As a Premium Member, I had a toolbox on the page from which I could manage lists, set assignments and see test results.

What we thought
This is a useful programme particularly for a child who doesn't find spelling intuitive. Having games to play was helpful and made learning spellings more fun. It was also helpful to be able to take practice tests and have these results and those of formal tests stored for me.

I was pleased that we could customise the programme to use UK spelling: no writing of color, check for cheque or empathize!

I did find the programme slightly complex to use. I had to log in and then my daughter. There are numerous videos to explain the working of the site but I would have preferred written explanations which can be quicker.

We plan to continue to use VocabularySpellingCity on about four days per week. It is a helpful programme particularly for children who have to work hard at spelling.

Premium membership of VocabularySpellingCity costs $29.99 (about £18.51) for up to five children in a family.
Some of the functions of the programme (Basic membership) are free on line: importing and sharing lists, some of the games, the worksheet creator and spelling tests. However, the record keeping function, the language arts, many of the games, the flashcards and the games and activity logs are not available on the Basic function but are available as part of Premium membership. This page has a table with the differences between the two types of membership.

To read other reviews of VocabularySpellingCity visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.
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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Applying for review opportunity

I wrote recently about the opportunity to apply for the Schoolhouse Review Crew for 2014. The application form is now up! I've been a member of the Crew for a year now and it has allowed us to try new curricular materials including on-line programmes, books for me and the children, a physical maths programme, lapbooks, unit studies, historical fiction, a cook book and more. Other Crew members have reviewed different items. Reading their reviews has been helpful and we are now using a writing curriculum which I learnt about from other Crew members' reviews.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew will be taking applications for the 2014 Review year from October 24 - November 8!

Are you a homeschool blogger?
Do you enjoy writing reviews?

Then you might be perfect for the Crew! 

Some requirements for being a part of the Crew include the following: 

  • First of all you must be a homeschool mum or dad. You don’t have to home educate all of your children, but you must home educate at least one. 
  • You must be willing to use the review products for about six weeks in your home, before writing your review. Review periods have deadlines and requirements for the reviews. You must be willing to follow these requirements. No, that doesn’t mean you must write a positive review. But it does mean that there are certain elements that are required. And the deadlines are firm. If you are often late for deadlines, the Crew is probably not for you. 
  • You must have a blog on which to publish your reviews. Your blog needs to be active with a following. By active blog, I mean that you should be blogging regularly, at least weekly, about your family and homeschool (in addition to your reviews). Your blog should have followers — RSS feed or email subscribers, as well as in social media. The Crew does not accept brand new bloggers who just set up their blogs for the purposes of applying to the team. 
  • Are you using social media to promote your blog? Activity on at least one social media platform is a requirement to serve on the Crew. Which one is up to you — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google Plus are the options. You will need to be willing to promote your reviews there and post a widget or plug-in publicly on your blog, indicating how many followers you have in social media. 
  • You must be willing to check into the Crew's Review Management forum. This is where information is disseminated to the team. The leadership does everything possible to make things easy for us, outside of writing the actual review, but you need to be willing to participate by checking in almost daily. 
  • Sample reviews are helpful. If you’ve never written a review on your blog, go ahead and write one for curriculum you are currently using in your homeschool. This will help the leaders see how you approach writing reviews. 

Why should you want to be a part? 
The Crew has over 250 review bloggers and has been running for over five years.
It takes the job of reviewing seriously but the leadership team are supportive and provide guidance on writing reviews in a professional way as well as clear deadlines and reminders about this. There is a mentoring programme for new members provided by established members of the Crew,a social media networking group, many blog and social media tutorials, and lots of incredible opportunities for our team, including blog carnivals, the opportunity to guest post on the Crew blog, and the blessing of some incredible friendships.

How can you apply? 
After making sure you meet all of the requirements, if you believe you would to an asset to the Schoolhouse Review Crew and wish to join us, please click over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to apply.

Come be a part of The Old Schoolhouse family!

The Crew isn't just for bloggers in the US. It would be good if other UK home education bloggers applied! 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Parties for the reluctant parent

I don't look forward to children's parties and am certainly no party planner. Over the years there have been several incidents that I would prefer not to repeat: the crazy boys in a restaurant, the cake catching fire and the child suffering the consequences of too much cake. Some incidents have been a bit surreal: the occasion when my husband had competing job offers and was engaged in negotiations about them in the middle of a child's birthday party.

More recently, I've come to an accommodation with children's birthday parties and some, recently, I've even enjoyed. Just in case there are other people out there for whom children's parties aren't their favourite activity. Here are my thoughts on reducing stress and managing children's birthday parties.

  • Very young children don't need parties. A one or two year old needs a loving family and will probably enjoy a cake. We have made simple chocolate cakes with buttons for first birthdays.
  • Parties don't need to be large. 
  • Mixed age parties can be easier to manage. 
  • Short is good but that short time needs to be organised. If the parents want to chat at the end and the children play informally that is great and a sign that the party has gone well.
  • Helpers-teenage children can be really useful. Make sure there are sufficient helpers for the number of children.
  • Sometimes an outing can take the place of a party. Last year, one of the children chose to take a couple of friends to the Battle of Hastings re-enactment rather than have a party. This was low stress and a fun but muddy day out.

  • Quiet activities reduce over-excitement. I well remember my Mother saying "Excited and silly and you will end up in tears" which seems sadly true of parties. We've found that some version of sleeping lions is a useful quietener. Sleeping princesses goes down well with little girls. Kim's game works well with children old enough to attempt to write or draw objects.
  • Creative activities: decorating ice creams or cup cakes,
    making name plates or bracelets and decorating plant pots are all activities that we have used successfully.
  • Use music that isn't overly noisy for games requiring music. We have found that The Four Seasons works well.
  • Watch that the younger children don't eat too much-OK, I failed on this one recently!
Enjoy the party and remember that you are teaching your child even with this. Is this a celebration and thanksgiving for another year of life with a calm, happy parent or is it an encouragement to "me-centredness"? 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Bridgeway English-a review

Bridgeway English is a grammar and writing course produced by Bridgeway Academy.

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The English course has three components: a grammar book,

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  Focus on writing 

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 and an answer key.

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 I was pleased to have the opportunity to review these books as I had been looking for a grammar and punctuation course to add to Middle Son's writing course and English literature work. Middle Son is 13 and would be in UK year 9 or US grade 8. Bridgeway Academy's website states that the books are suitable for grade 7 to 12.

 Each book is spiral bound. The Focus on Grammar and Focus on Writing are consumable books where the student fills answers in the book. Somewhat confusingly, these books are described as remedial books. This almost put me off reviewing them but once further information was available it became obvious that remedial was going to mean tasks like going over the eleven rules of capitalisation and the uses of colons and semi-colons along with identifying compound and complex sentences. This wasn't quite what I expected for a "remedial course". I wonder how many adults can remember the eleven rules of capitalisation?

Middle Son was able to work independently on the workbooks. Unlike many English grammar books, they avoided "busy" work, such as writing out the whole sentence in order to underline the verb. Each section contains a self explanatory introduction, a section to fill in to assess understanding of this introduction, followed by practical exercises. For example, the section on different types of sentences starts by listing these; followed by questions where the student has to list the types of sentence and their function. It then goes on the short sections on each type of sentence each of which is followed by questions on that type of sentence and a section where the appropriate sentence, e.g. an interrogative sentence, is underlined. At the end of the chapter are sentences where the correct punctuation must be added and different types of sentences written. I marked Middle Son's work but the books do state that as the books are self-instructional the student can mark their own work except for the end of section tests. The Teacher Answer Key has smaller copies of each page with the correct answers so this could be given to the student to mark their work.

Book 1 is Focus on Grammar. It is divided into six sections or PAKs. Much of the initial work is on sentences: types of sentences, definition of sentences, components of a sentence: subject and predicate, sentence fragments, run-on sentences and how to correct them and compound sentences. The latter part of the book covers parts of speech, followed by a final revision unit.

Book 2 is called Focus on Writing and covers PAKs seven to twelve. This starts with more work on sentences: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex and subject-verb agreement; followed by work on verbs, work on punctuation and proofreading, including proofreading symbols.

 PAK 10 covers letters of various types, including  e-mails. PAK 11 is a little different but includes information about study skills and taking tests as well as critical thinking. The last unit is a revision unit and includes the final test.

At the end of each section, the material is meant to be reviewed verbally and then the section review which is really a test. The book states that 80% mastery is to be achieved in the final test or the section is to be reviewed.

What we thought
This is a thorough course. In the UK, we probably study grammar less than in the US but it isn't, at all, what I would think of as a remedial course, more a course that could be taken in a year to improve grammar and writing skills. In my opinion, it shouldn't be used alone but is a great course to use in conjunction with other work for comprehension and English literature. We certainly plan to continue using the book for the rest of the academic year.
Middle Son's favourite subject isn't English but spontaneously volunteered that he likes this course. I suspect because it is so logical.

I wouldn't have chosen this book from the description on the vendor's site. The description didn't quite add up. The programme is described as "remedial" but the information then states that the contents of the course include "sentence fragments, run-on sentences, compound sentences...prepositions and prepositional phrases".  Book Two includes "clauses, sentence variety, subject/verb agreement...letter writing, business writing, study skills, critical thinking and reasoning."
It would be really helpful if there was more information on the site and in particular, perhaps, a sample chapter. I am pleased that we had this opportunity to review and use this helpful and thorough programme. It would be a shame if others missed this.

Each book costs $23.33 (£14.45 on the calculator on my computer today).

For further reviews of this product and also of Bridgeway Academy's on-line courses visit the Schoolhouse Crew Review Site.

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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review opportunity!

Regular readers will have noticed that I have been writing reviews for the Schoolhouse Crew over the last year. The Schoolhouse is about to recruit the Review Crew for 2014 so if you home educate and have a blog, you may want to pop over to the Schoolhouse blog to find out more.

If you are interested, don't forget to keep an eye on the Schoolhouse blog over the next few weeks.

Reviewing has been interesting but more important, has been a helpful add on to my children's education and also meant that we have had educational resources that we wouldn't otherwise have known about. In addition,  review products can reduce the expenditure needed on educational products.

These are the items that I have reviewed over the year and there are more coming up! Other reviewers have reviewed different products and those in the US will have a different range available.

The homegrown preschooler: teaching your kids in the places where they live

Homeschool Spanish Academy
Beauty in the heart
Lone Star Learning (Target the question)
Homeschool Programming
Flowering Baby
Mayan Mystery
A journey through learning
Homeschool in the Woods-Great Empires

Sacagawea (Brave explorers every child should know)
Touch Math

Circle Time: Plan the best part of your school day
Simplified Dinners
Reading Kingdom
Understanding child brain development
Student strength's report

Fun Trips in London

Today, I'm writing about Fun Trips.

Since I live in London, that is what I'm talking about. I've put in plenty of links for anyone who would like a virtual trip!

It is really hard to know where to begin as there is so much to see and do.
Just a couple of general points:
  • driving in central London is busy, parking is expensive and during the day, in the week involves paying congestion charge. It is better to use the buses and tube.
  • many museums are free. I've marked free venues with a F. Exhibitions in these venues are not necessarily free.

London has a long and rich history.
The Museum of London (F) is devoted to this. It is child friendly and the old London walls are just outside.

The Tower of London is an iconic part of London's history. Many famous people, including Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey were imprisoned here. Lady Jane and a couple of Henry VIII's wives lost their heads here.

Greenwich Palace is just a ruin now but if you are visiting Greenwich, it is worth popping in to the Old Naval College which has artefacts from the excavation of the old Palace.

Hampton Court Palace is a fabulous Tudor Palace with regular events including actors as period characters. If you are interested in the Tudors, then this can be a whole day visit. It is possible to visit via a longish trip on the River Thames.

Westminster Abbey is really more of a national monument than a place of worship. It is disappointing as the latter but fascinating as a burial place of many famous people.

St Paul's Cathedral was rebuilt after the Fire of London by Sir Christopher Wren. It has a famous whispering gallery.

Science Museum (F) is a favourite with children. It has two interactive areas: The Garden for small children (up to about 6) and Launchpad for older children. The Launchpad has frequent demonstrations. Word of advice, from experience, avoid school holidays!

The British Museum (F) has become child friendly over the last few years. Now, it has free activity packs for children. Definitely worth a visit and, due to the artifacts stolen from various parts of the world, fits in well with the study of the history of many cultures.

Maritime Museum (F) in Greenwich is a fascinating, interactive display of all things maritime. Again, there is an interactive area on the top floor. 
This Museum fits in well with a trip to the tea clipper, the Cutty Sark or to the Royal Observatory.

The National Gallery (F) in Trafalgar Square is an art gallery not to miss. Next door, is the National Portrait Gallery (F).  The portraits of the Tudor monarchs are especially successful with children.

There is so much more to see. Don't forget to walk along the Thames,

see the changing of the guard,

and check the flag flying on Buckingham Palace to see if the Queen is at home.

Please do add your favourite London sites in the comments.

Virtual Field Trips Round-Up

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Friday, 11 October 2013

What did we do all day?

In our homeschool this week:
We read Another celebrated dancing bear and learnt about Russia. We found some Russian items around the house

and looked at Elder Daughter's Russian/English Bible. 

The Azerbaijanian lamb and lentil stew disappeared before it could be photographed but I haven't got round to making the borscht as yet. OK, I know Azerbaijan isn't Russia but it is close.

Younger Daughter has been learning about mapping although Russia seemed particularly difficult, in this respect. Youngest Son turns all maps into treasure maps and was happy to cover his with a large number of "X"!

Youngest Son is enjoying numbers, at present, and wanted to play Pop to the shops on a couple of occasions. He hasn't really got to grip with different coins, yet, but this has been great for Younger Daughter who managed to play and be banker. All three children have been working on IXL maths, this week, but of course, at different levels. Expect a review in the next few weeks.

Places we are going
We can't keep away from conker (horse chestnut) trees, at this time of year.

 I was grateful that the children only found a couple of conkers today-we have quite enough! Certainly enough to be useful for counting practice. 
Younger Daughter arranged the bowls of conkers herself. I was really pleased with the way she worked at this.

Things I'm planning
One week to go to our half term break and I'm looking at what is and isn't working for us. With the younger two, we are spending most of our time on literacy and numeracy although we manage to fit in history, science and art. Whilst this is probably the right balance, at present, there are other areas that need attention. Youngest Son did a small piece of free sewing on hessian, at a home education group recently. This is something that it would be profitable to repeat and helpful for my little left hander's fine motor control. I've also realised that whilst Younger Daughter has spent a fair amount of time drawing and painting, we have neglected any work with fabric, with her, recently. 

Middle Son has some ideas for altering the way in which he does his work and I need to look at how these would look in practice.

Links to share
Marianne Sunderland has a helpful post about teaching phonemic awareness to her children with dyslexia but it has useful ideas for anyone whose child is in the early stages of learning to read.

Reading aloud is an enormous part of the day. This week, I've been reading some of the book of Job to the children along with a biography of Patrick of Ireland by Michael McHugh. Younger Daughter, now often joined by Youngest Son, are enjoying On the banks of Plum Creek and later in the day, an Enid Blyton, Six Cousins again. Of course, there are the many picture books but generally, there are just to many of these to record.

My current reading is The Pilgrim Church by EH Broadbent which I'm enjoying but rather slowly due to the large number of names unfamilar to me. Leon Wood's Survey of Israel's history is my Sunday evening read. A review copy of At home in Dogwood Mudhole arrived this week and I've been tucking in.

What are you reading? I'm always looking out for new ideas.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Poetry and young children

Young children appreciate rhyme and simple poems. I've written about ways we enjoy poetry.

This autumn, I wanted to start the younger two, aged 4 and almost 7, learning a poem. My aim is that they learn a short poem each half term which gives about 6-8 weeks per poem. Whether we manage this remains to be seen!

The criteria for the poems are that they must be short, with a clear rhyme and relevant to the children. We aren't aiming for the whole of Gray's Elegy! The first poem that I chose was Eleanor Farjeon's  poem, Cat's sleep anywhere.

This is short, easy to memorise and relevant to my children.

Both children have enjoyed this and Younger Daughter will quote this around the house when she finds the cats sleeping, anywhere but their basket.

In November, after half term, we hope to revisit Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. This is already familiar to the children from when we studied this as a Five in a Row book almost two years ago. I don't think that they can recite the poem now but the familiarity should make it easier to learn.

Do you have favourite poems to learn with younger children?

Ten thoughts on tiredness

Probably all mothers get tired. Add home education and at least some tiredness, some of the time is a dead cert. In addition, many people have other additive reasons for being tired:
  • pregnancy
  • babies and young children
  • poor health
  • children with poor health
  • caring for older or unwell relatives or friends
  • being a single parent
  • having to work a paid job or run a business 
  • others that have escaped my tired brain.

These are a few thoughts about how to manage; perhaps, partly to remind myself.

  • The Lord Jesus was tired. He fell asleep in the boat and wasn't woken by a storm. It isn't wrong to be weary when performing our God given tasks.

  • Other people are busy too. When we are really tired it can be easy to think "I'm the only one." It just isn't true. It can be strangely comforting to think about and pray for other people who are busy. I've found it helpful to remember how hard our grandmothers had to work and how few of our modern conveniences they had.

  • It is possible to manage after a night of very little sleep. I learnt this lesson as a junior doctor, in the days before hours were regulated. There isn't much that is positive about a shift that starts at 9am on Friday and finishes after 5pm on Monday. I don't think that I ever had no sleep in that time but often had very, very little, and that with the every present bleep  but I did learn that it is possible to carry on. Of course it is easier to make mistakes so be very, very careful about safety and especially, avoid driving when tired. 

  • Occasionally, it is worth deciding to miss some sleep for a greater good. Going to a Bible Study or being hospitable may mean a couple of hours less sleep. It may be easier to make the choice of sleep with a messy house or cleaning and less sleep before the event than making the decision on coming home or when the guests have left.

  • Everyone responds to being tired in different ways. I find as tiredness progresses to overtiredness that I start to think that
Nobody loves me
Everybody hates me
I might as well eat worms.

 or something similar. When this thinking pattern starts, I need to stop. We do our children a service if we help them to recognise the signs of being overtired.

  • Routine helps. On days after being up with a crying baby or taking someone sick to the hospital, having a routine really helps. These aren't the days for exciting activities but it is easier to keep to the usual pattern of meals and home education, if at all possible. 

  • Meals- no one is going to come to any harm from the occasional easy meal or takeaway. If the budget doesn't like takeaways then keep something easy in the house. Our easy staples are curry sauce, tinned chickpeas and rice or pasta and a quick tomato sauce. 

  • If a plan sounds too busy on paper, it is likely to be worse in reality! Simplify!

  • Pray. Often I've thought that the load is too great, have prayed and things have eased or become manageable in unexpected ways.

  • Remember God's grace is sufficient.  "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect is weakness" (2 Corinthians12v9).

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

October Inspiration

This is the time of year for standing under horse chestnut trees and coming home with pockets stuffed full of conkers.

Here, in England, the weather is still mild but that won't last. This post has some very practical tips for living without central heating. We aren't planning to do that but there are some helpful and fairly low cost ideas for retaining heat. 

I spend hours reading aloud so this was timely. At the end of a long day, it is easy to read too fast! 

Nursery of the Nation has a series about blogging. This particular article is an interesting combination of thoughts about how a Christian blog will be different and how to earn by blogging.

The River Thames is, well, London, so I found this post about discovering its history, fascinating. This is a trip that we hope to enjoy some day.

Claire, at Angelicscalliwags has had an amazing series, over the summer, about learning about the Little House books while renovating their own wooden house. The series finished with a trip to the American Folk Museum in Northern Ireland. 

Last month, I wrote about a German family, the Wunderlichs, whose children were removed because they were home educated. The children have now been returned to their parents although the parents still do not have legal custody and the children have to attend state school. This is a CBN report about the case.

We are learning part of Psalm 19 and at this time of year, this seems so appropriate.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.

Hope you are enjoying the beauties of autumn, too.