Friday, 31 January 2014

Our January

January 2014, in England, has been wet-very wet and muddy.

It hasn't quite kept us indoors though. Sessions at soft play and ice skating made up some indoor exercise.

The children have hoped, against hope for snow. It probably didn't help that I read Snowflake Bentley with them.

Home education:
The younger two spent mornings on English and maths. The children have loved using some games, this month:

  • Sum swamp for number bonds to 12, odd and even. A great game that takes about 10 minutes to play.
  • Slug in a jug works on rhyming words and includes several which are spelled in different ways.
  • Pass the word is a spelling game, against time.
One of the children has started a new phonics programme: Phonological Awareness Training which works on word endings, teaching -in separately from -ine to avoid problems with "magic e". So far, so good! The reading is improving so something is working. We are still using Jolly Phonics for our youngest as this appears to be a better fit for him. 

In the afternoons, the younger two children often paint, go outside, have read alouds for history and science as well as a chapter book. Charlie and the chocolate factory has been a success so far!

We are reviewing a young children's music curriculum, Kinderbach. Review in a few weeks!

My reading
I've been reading Kate Adie's book Fighting on the Home Front about the role of women in the First World War. Whilst I certainly don't agree with everything in the book, it is a fascinating read. Kate Adie comes from a feminist stance and doesn't have an understanding of why what the Bible says might come above societal norms but having said that, I'm enough of a feminist to think that it was quite unjust for women to be paid less than men for the same job or to be arbitrarily prevented from having certain roles.

Earlier in the week, I alluded to Andrew Bonar's biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne. This is due for a reread and so far, I'm a few chapters in. This is a definite recommend!

The rest of life
We've waved Eldest Son off to university again. We all miss him.

Caring responsibilities are increasing. God gives strength for the day. I'm grateful for this.

I'm looking forward to Spring and the children to snow!

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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

M'Cheyne Bible reading plan

Robert Murray M'Cheyne was a nineteenth century Scottish minister who ministered in Dundee at a time of revival in the church. There are several biographies of him but the one written in the year following his death, by his friend, Andrew Bonar, is well worth reading. It is simply called the Life of Robert Murray M'Cheyne.

M'Cheyne died at the young age of 29 but before he died produced a Bible reading plan which is still used today. 

The aim is to read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in a year. The beauty of this plan is that different parts of the Bible are read at the same time so that a book that is more difficult to understand is read alongside perhaps part of the Psalms or a Gospel. 

M'Cheyne himself divided the scheme into Family and Secret portions of two chapters each per day so a total of four chapters per day. These can be used as readings for Year 1 and readings for Year 2- reading the Family readings one year and the Secret readings the next. 

M'Cheyne died unmarried. I assume that those who attended his Family worship were his sister, with whom he lived, and servants. M'Cheyne wrote in his introduction that these portions should first be read alone and at family worship, questions asked about the chapter. Realistically, using the Family portions in a family with young children might be challenging. Maybe, this is an excuse to say that we have never used the Family portions in family worship. Please do comment if you have used them in this way. 

The readings do work well for personal devotions. I know that there are schemes which cover the Bible more quickly but this slightly slower scheme is an advantage for anyone who is liable to speed read. 

The dates provide useful accountability and the plan is easy to use.

The scheme is free and available at several places on line. It is also in the back of some Trinitarian Bible Society Bibles as a two year scheme. 

Highly recommended for anyone looking for a Bible reading plan.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Homeschooling Essentials: the big outside

Today is the last day of the Homeschooling Essentials series.

Day 1: a reason to home educate.

Day 2: a support network

Day 3: a place

I was going to write about essential equipment and talk about computers, printers and maybe, even my laminator but if push came to shove, I could manage without these. Managing without going outside is quite another issue.

Going outside seems like an added extra but has tremendous benefits:
  • exercise
  • general well being
  • nature study
  • place to meet with others
  • history
Most of these benefits happen with very little effort, particularly for younger children. Sadly many children haven't had the regular experience of spending time outside. 

Charlotte Mason suggested spending at least two and up to six hours a day, in summer, outside. OK, managing six hours a day outside might be challenging but two might be a more realistic goal. 

Where to go? Certainly in England, there is so much choice
  • gardens
  • parks
  • woods
  • beaches 
Local councils will have lists of parks and some other open spaces but also see
What about the weather? We don't go outside if there is a severe weather warning but apart from this, in England, going outside is fine in most weathers with the appropriate warm and/or waterproof clothing. Wellington boots have become an essential for my younger children. It means that they can enjoy mud and puddles with me laughing not scolding. For very young children, waterproof trousers and all in one suits make going outside much easier.

What to do outside? The children will run, find trees to climb and roll down hills but for further inspiration look at 

What do your children like doing outside? 

Do visit some of the other blogs writing around the theme of Homeschooling Essentials.

or pop over to the Schoolhouse Crew website for more.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Homeschooling essentials: time

Welcome back to the 5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials series. Today, I'm talking about time.

Day 1: a reason to home educate.

Day 2: a support network

Day 3: a place

Home education takes time. Biblically, education isn't restricted to the formal time learning Reading, 'Riting and 'Rthmetic. 

 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 up. 
Deuteronomy 6v6-7

Of course, some time needs to be given to formal paper learning and certainly, for us, this works better at the same time every day. We tend to work during similar hours to schools but this is just what suits us.

Home education doesn't just take children's time, it takes parent time. Time to teach, time to encourage and mentor, time to listen to reading, time to read aloud and so on. Not only that but there is planning time, research time, marking time and recording time. Perhaps, most important-time to be together. 

This means that there are choices to be made. I realised that I couldn't combine a professional career and home education. Other people have had to give up other professions, hobbies and life styles.

This also means that there are choices to be made on a daily basis.  Don't think that I always get this right-I don't. 

A few thoughts about making time. Please feel free to add to this as I could do with more ideas!

  • People are more important than things.
  • Put the washing machine in the evening and the next load first thing in the morning.

  • Plan meals and put the easiest meals on the most busy days.
  • On-line grocery shopping is a friend!
  • Present shopping on-line is also a friend.
  • Try to make routine appointments after formal learning time or when having a day off.
  • Have a family calendar and/or weekly planning meeting with your spouse. This might not seem to save time but it has saved us several major clashes.
  • If an arrangement sounds too complicated on paper, review! 
  • Have bags for outings/swimming ready in advance.
  • Have homes for shoes/coats-don't ask why I know this is important!
  • Prioritise.

Do visit some of the other blogs writing around the theme of Homeschooling Essentials.

or pop over to the Schoolhouse Crew website for more.
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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Homeschooling essentials: a place

Welcome back to the 5 day series on Homeschooling Essentials. Today, I'm taking about the need for a place to homeschool.

Day 1: a reason to home educate.

Day 2: a support network

The term home education or homeschooling suggests that the process takes place at home. Of course, this isn't completely true; education can take place on trips, on nature walks, in home education groups and outside classes but primarily home education takes place at home. 

Home isn't school so having a school room isn't an essential. Like most other home educators in the UK, and probably in the world, I don't have a specific school room. We do however, have a place to learn. What is necessary for that place will vary from family to family. For us it includes

  • somewhere to sit and read together, for us, the sofa
  • a table for written work

  • storage space for written work and educational games
  • places to store books. This includes those being read and bookcases for the others. We don't necessarily keep all the books in the room in which we work.
  • somewhere to display art, posters, weather charts and so on.
  • a small blackboard
  • computers
  • floor space for my youngest to play. 
We use our living room for most work although the kitchen table, covered by an old oil cloth, gets used for art and craft. 

From time to time, we have had a nature table although I do find that it is difficult to keep this together and tidy. 

We have found that somethings change with time but having a set place helps.

A few thoughts that we have found helpful.
  • I was concerned about the height of the table for my youngest whilst writing. Having investigated buying a desk, I realised that the higher than usual chair that he uses at the kitchen table would also be ideal for his writing. We just move it each morning.
  • The cost of drawers to store work varies tremendously. We brought ours for under £20 per unit at a local cheap hardware store.
  • We often/always loose pens and pencils. Having a labelled drawer for these has helped tremendously.
  • For anyone who struggles with organisation as much as I do, label the drawers of a unit. This has saved me so much time!
Please share tips for organising your home education space. 

Do visit some of the other blogs writing around the theme of Homeschooling Essentials.

If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Homeschooling essentials: a support network

My post today is about support networks for home educators. This is part of a five day series of Homeschooling Essentials.

Day 1: a reason to home educate.

As a home educator life is often lonely. Most of the other mothers of your acquaintance will have children in school. They will be posting pictures of children going to school/nursery/preschool for the first time. They will talk about having more time in September and will meet up for coffee during the day. They may think or even say that they think your choices strange. Others may be more supportive but just won't quite understand what it is like to be a homeschooler.

So it is really important to have a support network but how do you get a support network if you are the only home educator in your family/church/area? These are a few thoughts.

  • The Lord is always near. We can always call on Him. Others can be busy and not really understand but the Lord knows all about us. 
O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and my uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 
Psalm 139 v1-2
and one of my favourite verses:
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12v9

  • Your spouse should be the next most important member of this network. It is difficult to see how a Christian wife should home educate without her husband's encouragement and agreement. This doesn't mean that the husband will be doing the home educating: he will probably be far too busy earning the family's one income but he can and should be a sounding board for major decisions and issues. There is also no problem with talking about difficulties that it might be unfair to mention to non-family members. Obviously, there are single parents home educating who do not have this source of support who will need the next category more than those of us who have supportive spouses.

  • Home educating friends. It really is worth looking for local home educators. There don't need to be many but it is worth having people to actually meet, from time to time, and who can be at the end of the phone/e-mail. I really appreciated having people to talk to during my first term as a home educator and still run things by a local friend. Sometimes going on a group trip can be a chance to chat with other mothers, help the children build up friendships and encourage everyone!

  • Prayer warriors. Several older friends have let us know that they pray for us as a family. These people are supportive of our decision but aware of the fact that this isn't an easy route. Most of these people did not home educate their children, most of whom have been adult for many years. I am profoundly grateful for these people. Even if you aren't a home educator yourself, do think about putting some home educating families on your prayer list. 

  • Internet support can be invaluable. I personally, feel that the Facebook and Yahoo groups are best for questions such as 
Which geography curriculum would you recommend for an 11 year old?
What are your favourite read aloud chapter books for a 6 year old?
I've had really useful answers to such questions.

There are some links to UK groups on my page about UK home education resources.

Do remember though that you are also part of other people's support networks. 

Other home schoolers are contributing to this five day series. 

 Julie @ Nurturing Learning
 Adriana @ Homeschool Ways
or pop over to the Schoolhouse Crew website for more.

This is linked to Teach me Tuesday.

If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Homeschooling essentials: a reason to home educate

Welcome to a 5 day series on Homeschooling Essentials. I'm joining with other bloggers from the Schoolhouse Review Crew to write about features that we consider essential for home education. Of course, what is essential in one persons eyes may not be in another. Do visit the other blogs!

My first essential is a reason for home education.

Home education/ homeschooling-call it what you will-is hard work. There are times when nothing seems to be working: the children don't seem to be learning, patience is diminishing and other pressures make home education difficult. This is the time when it is necessary to be sure of the reasons for choosing the harder route.

Before we started home education, a friend told us to write down why we home educate so that we could have this to refer back to when times get tough. This is sound advice.

We home educate because we want the children to be taught from a Christian worldview. This doesn't mean that we want them to be ignorant nor that we don't want them to know about other religions/ways of living. We don't think that we will make them little Christians, only God can do that, but we firmly believe that we have a duty to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

I've written in more detail about our decision to home educate here.

This doesn't mean that our children are taught only one point of view and schooled children are taught from a broad range of views. Schooled children, in the UK, are generally taught from a National Curriculum that has a secular humanistic worldview. There is great upset if Six Day Creation is mentioned in the classroom. Yes, I teach from a Christian point of view but we see science and history programmes which certainly aren't made for our worldview. These can be used as discussion points.

It is worth putting in times of evaluation. There may be reasons why a child might be better in school or when home education has finished its useful role. Again, this is something to put into the written out reason for choosing to home educate.

Please join me tomorrow when I will be thinking about the essential support network.

These are just some of the Crew who are writing about Homeschooling Essentials.

 Julie @ Nurturing Learning
 Adriana @ Homeschool Ways
or pop over to the Crew website for more thoughts on this subject.

If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Growing your blog while managing your home-a review

I was delighted to see this e-book advertised on Jacinda Vandenberg's site, Growing Home. Growing your blog while managing your home: The Ultimate Guide for Christian Mommy Bloggers was just what I was looking to read. After all, there is only one of me and a husband, five children, an older relative, home education, church and keeping house that take precedence over blogging but blogging helps keeps me sane, gives me ideas and helps to focus my other tasks. It is the equivalent of my Continuing Professional Development in my previous career. The issue is how to make time and manage that time effectively.

Jacinda has a large and active blog so is an ideal person to write about this subject. Her book has four parts
  1. Creating a vision and maintaining a schedule
  2. Content and design
  3. Growth and monetisation
  4. Logistics and legalities
The book is short but packed with information. I'm planning to go back through the book and implement one idea per day. There are so many helpful tips from having a Christian Mummy blogger as a mentor, scheduling status updates, most efficient ways to write and so on. 

Jacinda has thoughts on simplifying home life and a copy of her schedule. My only niggle is that her children are all very young so do helpful things like nap and are all in bed by an early hour. That does create more time but then, I guess, are much more dependent when they are awake. Another person's load can always look easier from the other side of the fence!

I highly recommend this book to all Christian Mummy bloggers. It retails at $7.99 (about £4.82).  I was impressed enough that having bought this book, I decided to become an affiliate so should you buy via the link below or on my sidebar, I will make a small amount from each sale. 

 photo jancindaad3copy_zpse9525575.png

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Homeschooling Essentials-5 day blog hop coming up

Next week, many of the bloggers from the Schoolhouse Review Crew hope to take part in a 5 day blog hop about Homeschooling Essentials. Each blogger will be writing about what she considers essential.

Please join me and my fellow bloggers for this series.

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials 

For a sneak preview, my first post is about having a reason to home educate rather than send the children, with the majority of others, to school. I won't be writing against schooling but saying that to go against the trend it is vital to have a reason.

Looking forward to next week!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Looking at wildlife-Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

Each year the Royal Society of Protection of Birds (RSPB) has a Garden Birdwatch. This is a fun occasion to look at wildlife with the whole family. The time that the RSPB ask for is one hour. The survey can be done in a garden or local green area.

I've found, before, that younger children can't manage anything like this long but enjoy joining in for a few minutes. We've tended to do the Birdwatch from inside to prevent little people scaring away birds and animals.

Last year, the questions weren't just about birds but other wildlife too. 

The Birdwatch, this year, is from 25th-26th January. We are hoping to watch on 25th. Our results this year might be a bit skewed by these little creatures who don't believe in protecting birds. 

Despite this, we saw a Greater Spotted Woodpecker just a few days ago, in our garden. Somehow, I doubt that will happen on the day of the survey.

Have a happy time looking for birds in the garden.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Reading Enid Blyton with children

Enid Blyton was born in South London and educated on the outskirts of Bromley, Kent. As most people are aware she was a prolific children's author. Children over many years have loved her books although whether her own two girls had a happy home life is debated.

We have Enid Blyton books dating from my husband's and my childhood as well as books that our older children have bought or been given. Enid Blyton wrote several different types of children's books from mystery, books about life at boarding school, books with a magical theme, retellings of older stories, some books about family life and books about nature. There is a full list on the Enid Blyton Society site. I haven't read anything like all of them!

I read Enid Blyton as a child, so did my husband.  Our older children cut their teeth as independent readers on these books. Now, I'm reading the books aloud to a child who hasn't quite got to reading them alone. Rereading them as an adult is proving interesting.

The major benefit of reading Enid Blyton is that her books are easy for early readers and increase confidence and speed. One of the reasons why Enid Blyton books were banned from libraries at one point was their rather restricted vocabulary. The plus side of this is that they are easy for young readers. Once a child has had a little practice, he or she can finish a Famous Five or Secret Seven book in a day. I'm quite grateful for this help with the transition to being a competent reader both for myself and my children.

Reading the books aloud has lead to more discussions and a child who can recognise Enid Blyton favourite phrases and occupations in the books. Food is certainly a recurring preoccupation and descriptions of yet more food lead to the comment, That is so Enid Blyton.

Childhood is portrayed as happy even when quite scary things happen. Scary adventures they often occur in the context of a jolly (and that is an Enid Blyton word) camping holiday.

I probably shouldn't admit to this but I find myself wanting to know what happened next, even though, I know the adventure will end safely and happily.

Some children have become stuck on Enid Blyton and wanted to read nothing else. That hasn't been a problem for us; the children have naturally gone onto other books after six months to a year of enthusiastic Enid Blyton following.

All isn't plain sailing though. 

Another recurring theme is that the baddie looks bad or has a scar or ugly face. We've had several discussions around the Lord looking on the heart and outward appearance not being an indicator of the heart. The children can be quite cruel to those who aren't quite like them. Some of the descriptions in the school stories can only be described as bullying. Gussy in Circus of Adventure had quite  a difficult time for his propensity to cry and his long hair. Cultural differences and a particularly stressful time probably accounted for both.

Adults don't get away without stricture. Robert Kent's mother in Six Bad Boys certainly didn't behave well and didn't arrange proper care for her son but no one seemed to consider whether the fact that she had recently been bereaved had anything to do with this. Whereas the neighbours, the Mackenzies are portrayed as happy and almost unable to do wrong.

There are a few phrases that annoy me: lucky probably being the chief of these.

Adventures always end well. An exception would be Six bad boys which ends well for the major character but less cheerfully for some of the more minor characters. This means that these books are usually suitable reading for fairly young children and even the ending of Six bad boys is more salutary than scary. Still, most of these adventures shouldn't have ended quite so well: some of the exploits are frankly dangerous. Five go off to camp is typical: the children explore old railworkings which are used by a dangerous gang. Again, a subject for discussion.

No, I'm not planning to stop my children reading Enid Blyton. I'm not keen on the magic books and we have generally avoided these but we will plan to continue to read and discuss the others. Hopefully, the younger children will soon be whizzing through Famous Five on their way to reading more demanding literature.

This is linked to Saturday Review of Books.