Monday, 31 August 2015

Home Education Wobbles

September isn't an easy time for home educators. Conversations, both in real life and on Facebook, become filled with new schools, uniform and Mum's coffee mornings. Schools sound wonderful academically and even spiritually. Every school seems to have an outstanding OFSTED report and to be a lovely Church of England school, usually with a godly headteacher.

There always seem to be a fair few parents who wondered about home education who decide that their child is going to school. This does pinpoint that we are on a quieter route.

As home educators, it is easy to feel inadequate spiritually and academically. Yes, and what is more that is probably true. None of us is sufficient of ourselves. God is our sufficiency.

If we are taking this less trodden road because it is our conviction that this is how we should bring up a child in the nuture and admonition of the Lord then our duty is to be faithful. God has promised to give wisdom to those who ask. 

 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
 James 1 v 5
This is the time to go back to basics. This is the time to revisit why we home educate. One of the best things that we were advised was to write this down.

Of course, we need to provide the best possible education. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the possibilities. If you are a new Christian home educator, then start with Bible, English and maths and build out. It is easy to be thrown by home educators whose children are taking maths GCSE aged 7 or by concerns about whether you should provide DT. Do the basics first and remember that you are doing this to the Lord and not to man.

Home educators need encouragement so we shouldn't forget to meet up with others either formally or informally. The best ideas usually come from other home educating parents. School ideas may not work at home. 

Enjoy the children. Enjoy being able to take them outside when everyone else is in school.
Enjoy being able to go to museums and on trips when they are not full of families on school holidays.
Enjoy seeing the children when they aren't over tired.

 Enjoy not having to get tired children to do home work.

Enjoy seeing the children learn and talking to them about what the Lord has done.

Bless the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me bless His holy name. 
Psalm 103 v1

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Books for Children about the Middle Ages

We are using the Veritas self paced course on The Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. Veritas has a helpful list of suggested books which we add at the point when these are suggested but we are also hoping to add  to this. My list isn't exhaustive. I'm using these books with my children aged 6 and 8 but do bear in mind that one of the children loves history and would spend all day learning about history given half a chance. 

This list is mainly for the Middle Ages and Renaissance. There are some more books that I would like to add for the Reformation but I need to do some prereading first, for age suitability.

I'm always looking for more ideas so feel free to suggest books.

General Books
  • Story of the World:volume 2. The Middle Ages. Susan Wise Bauer's book is the basis of its own history curriculum but it is well written and easy to add as an extra. We already had this book but not the activity book. However, since I found the activity book in the local home education library, of course, I borrowed it. The activity book has been a rich source of ideas and discussion, particularly, around the authenticity of the recipe for Viking bread.
  • Great History of Britain by Anne and Paul Fryer. This is suitable for many children of this age to read on their own and has clear, large print.
  • Our Island Story. This classic, by Henrietta Marshall, has many chapters on the Middle Ages. 
  • Simonetta Carr has produced a range of biographies in her series Christian biographies for Young Readers. These are beautiful books containing illustrations, maps and timelines. Several of these cover the Middle Ages and the Reformation: These books aren't cheap but are well worth adding to your library.
  • Ladybird history books again have a wide range and many cover characters from this time period. They are out of print but can often be found second hand fairly cheaply.
  • Saint Patrick: Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael McHugh. Don't be put off by the saint in the title. This isn't hagiography but the account of a Christian missionary in the Early Church.
  • Beorn the Proud is the story of a young Viking chieftain. I am sure that this book presents a rather rosy view of life as a Viking captive but that does make it suitable reading for children!
  • The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge
  • Lord of the Forest by BB is the fictionalised story of an oak tree and starts in the Middle Ages. 
  • Enid Blyton's Tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur and his knights. The Veritas list includes the Roger Lancelyn Green version of Robin Hood.
Other Non-Fiction

  • Castle and Cathedral by David Macaulay. These are fascinating accounts of the way in which a fictional castle or cathedral was built.
  • DK Eye Witness guides including Renaissance, Knights and Leonardo. 
  • Double Take: Two sides One story. Battle of Hastings. This gives Harold and William's side to the story. My children have strong opinions about who was really entitled to the throne so this will make interesting reading.
What would you add to this list?

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wild London

It always surprises me, how much of London is green and not at all built up. Richmond Park is an example of this-there are times when it doesn't feel at at all like London. An ideal summer trip with children even if the day is overcast. 
Deer-I loved the antlers poking out.

 Old trees-this old oak reminded me of the one in Lord of the Forest.


Signs of impending autumn.


and model boats.

Just for anyone else who might think of doing this, make sure that you know the location of your car park and remember that the Isabella Plantation has more than entrance. Don't ask why you need to be warned!

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Providing Food for Older People

Eating frugally in a three generation family can be challenging. 

  • there are different needs and may be special diets
  • larger range of likes and dislikes
  • need to have a different approach to likes/dislikes of the older generation than the children
Realistically, Granny or Grandad can't be told that if they don't like their food, they have to try at least some. Alternatives have to be provided. Of course, this does have knock on effects on the children! 

Many older people have conservative tastes in food and this seems to narrow as they get older. So, pasta, rice and curry may be out. This has financial implications, you might be able to make a pasta bake with three rashers of bacon in the sauce feed eight but if Granny doesn't eat pasta this doesn't really work.

How to manage?

-Sometimes, it is necessary to cook two main courses. It is unrealistic to expect the rest of the family to live on an endless supply of meat, two veg and potatoes! In addition, this probably isn't either the healthiest and certainly isn't the cheapest option.
-The second main course might have to be a ready meal to save sanity!

Ready meals
  • vary widely in cost. The supermarkets sell ready meals for £1-£1.50. This is for a standard adult portion. I don't usually shop at Asda but they do seem to have the widest range. The specialist suppliers (Cook/Wiltshire Farm Foods/Oakhouse Foods) do have a reasonably wide choice but tend to cost £2.70-3.50 per mini meal. Full sized meals are more expensive.
  • Standard supermarket ready meals may be too large for an older person and putting the whole meal on the place leads to waste. There are two ways round this; either serve up half the meal on one day and leave the rest for the next day. Alternatively, if another family member is either extra hungry or less keen on the food provided for them, they can eat the extra half.
  • Supermarket frozen ready meals are cheaper than those on the fresh shelf.
  • Of course, ready meals can be made at home. When a favourite meal is served, put a portion in a small container and freeze this or even have a special cooking session. I rarely seem to have time for the latter but saving an extra portion does work.
Meals that may appeal to everyone!
I have failed to find enough to make a month's menu! Still, here are a few ideas.
  • Roast chicken/gammon/beef/pork/lamb
  • Casserole-chicken/sausage
  • Sausages and mash
  • chicken kiev
  • quiche
  • lemon chicken
  • chicken goujons
Desserts may be expected by older people and may be important to help them eat enough. I'm not convinced that providing dessert everyday helps the rest of the family so try to provide a choice of fruit or ice cream. 

Please do comment with thoughts/menu ideas or how you feed the older members of your family.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Summer 2015

Like most Summers, this has been a mixture of wonderful trips, fun around the neighbourhood and plain tiredness. Having a holiday where various people fell ill probably didn't help with the latter. Thankfully, they both seem recovered. 

Anyway, we have spent a fair amount of time around our local area. This has included

  • doing the Big Butterfly Count
  • the Library Reading Challenge
  • Cycling, playing, tree climbing and meeting friends in the park
  • gardening. Digging up potatoes is especially popular. 

  • Going for a walk in the woods in driving rain and finding that there was almost nothing to be found for den building
  • Playing board games
  • cooking. This week, the children cooked biscuits to eat during the biscuit edition of the Great British Bake Off. Note: making three sets of biscuits for one programme is rather excessive. 
  • Colouring. The Trinitarian Bible Society colouring book of Psalm 23 and Johanna Basford's Enchanted Garden have been the main books used.
  • Reading aloud. One of the children has just discovered Old Possum's Book of Cats and Return of the White Book  has also been popular. Her brother loves Famous Five, perhaps more than the rest of the family!
The biggest trip has been a day trip to Bournemouth on the train. This was a long and tiring day but definitely worthwhile. Bournemouth has the right kind of sand for sand castles,

 somewhere to paddle and a funicular railway.

My husband has been working so hard but was able to take off a little time to take the younger two to the Gladiator Games.

How do you spend the holidays, particularly, those days when there isn't anything special going on? Do you have to work hard to prevent boredom or constant requests of the computer setting in? By September, we will be well and truly ready to start work again. Already, I have someone making lists for our Poetry Teas! I just need to finish my planning and make sure that we have something to write with and on. I have been mulling over whether we should take such a long break and how we should try to honour God in the summer. 

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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

August in Books

Every time we have a break from more formal home education, I have great hopes about reading and then reading again. Sometimes, this works and sometimes, it doesn't. This time, I have ended up having multiple books partially read but fewer finished.

Anyway, my current books are 

Sketches in Church History by SM Houghton. This is at least my third reading of this book and my reason for rereading now is to see whether the book is suitable to read aloud to my two youngest. I love this book: it is an easy read covering Church history from the early Church to the nineteenth century from a Reformed Protestant perspective. Still, I suspect that the children will benefit more in another couple of years.

Over the last few months, I have become quite enthused about my vegetable garden perhaps because Middle Son has helped extensively with the garden. Anyway, we have been eating potatoes,
watching the pumpkins daily
and hoping about the beans.
Before anyone thinks that my garden is a complete success, I need to point out that the carrots and tomatoes have been a complete failure and the brussel sprout sowing has yielded only one plant. Anyway, this balance has enthused me to read Joy Larkcom's Grow your own Vegetables.
This has been tremendously educational and also has short sections so it can be read while waiting for the dinner to cook or while watching swimming. The latter had the side benefit of leading to some helpful gardening advice from another mother. 

My home education reading is What your Year 2 Child needs to know. I will probably review this once I have finished it although I'm not making particularly fast progress. Still this is an interesting book from educational, political and Christian perspectives.

Ages ago, I started to reread J.C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on Matthew. I find this book clear and helpful but sadly, in the business of life, it got left for a while. More recently, I have started rereading it- a section a day and yes, I was foolish to stop. Ryle has such clear and relevant things to say and expounds the passage in an unforced manner.

I'm hoping to find time to read about exegesis and have lined up Berkof's Principles of Biblical Interpretation which looks readable even for a mother who tries to read at silly o'clock. 

With the children, I have been reading aloud Return of the White Book which I reviewed recently. I'm enjoying a second run through of this missionary book.

Marcia Williams books are also proving popular and our library seems to have a plentiful supply! Some of these books are making me think about the role of teaching children about myths and legends; whether they should learn about them and how to teach them in a Biblical context. The books have certainly led to some interesting discussions.

Finally, we can't escape The Famous Five. Certainly, much of Five Run Away together wiled away a long journey.

Have you read anything recently that you would recommend? Anyway recommendations are gratefully received but I would love recommendations for books on Christian education. 

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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Poetry Resources

Reading poetry with children can be a happy and relaxed part of the day whilst learning about vocabulary, rhyme, ways to expressing thought and emotion and how to write happens imperceptibly.

We have used a variety of resources and ways of incorporating poetry
We use anthologies, picture books and very occasionally, poems from the internet.

Our favourite general anthologies are

  • The Macmillan treasury of Poetry for Children-this is out of print but can be picked up second hand and is well worth acquiring.
  • 100 Best Poems for Children edited by Roger McGough. This is a selection chosen by children. I don't like every poem in this book but this book is well loved by my children.
We also use
  • Out and About by Shirley Hughes.
    This was our top poetry book when the children were tiny and we have gone through more than one copy. Lines still get quoted
Sand in the sandwiches,
Sand in the tea
Flat, wet sand
Running down to the sea.
  • When we were very Young by AA Milne
  • Kings and Queens by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon
  • Are we nearly there yet?collected by Gervaise Phinn
  • T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats I have only read a couple of these poems to the children but plan to use this in the autumn so that we become more familiar with this collection. Anything about cats is very popular here!
I wish there were more poetry picture books. The best are real feasts!
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers.
  • Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrated by Ted Rand
  • Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers.
  • Grass Sandals: The travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak. Illustrated by Demi. This book contains haikus.
In reality, we don't use the internet for poetry as much as we might. However, the Poetryline site is worth exploring, particularly as it is possible to listen to the author recite their own poems.

Please let me know about poetry resources that you enjoy. I appreciate being able to add ideas to our bank of ideas.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Return of the White Book

This summer, I have been looking for titles for a book club at our local home education group. The theme is the World and we hope to start with the continent of Asia.

I was rather interested when I found Return of the White Book partly, as I had already enjoyed some titles in this series with my eight year old and partly, because this sounded ideal for the book club. What is more, I wasn't disappointed.
Return of the White Book
Return of the White Book is the story of how the Gospel came to hill tribes in Burma in the nineteenth century. The Karen tribe had an oral tradition about Creation and the Fall. They believed that God had gone away from them as a result of their sin but that instead they had to appease evil spirits. Fascinatingly, they also believed a story that one day a white man would come, from over the sea bearing a white book which would tell them how they could be reconciled with God.

Adoniram Judson came to Burma in the early part of the nineteenth century. One of his early co-workers, George Boardman, was sent to the town of Tavoy, nearer to the tribes. A member of the Karen tribe who went with Boardman was the means of translating for and introducing Boardman to the tribes. Soon, they met members of a village which held a sacred book. No one could read the book but it was venerated, even worshiped, as possibly being the book of their legends. The book turned out to be the Book of Common Prayer! Boardman and his co-worker were able to teach, at this stage, not from the Bible in Karen but from the Bible and a catechism in Burmese.

Many of the people of the tribes had their hearts opened to the Gospel and were converted. The entrance of the Gospel gave the people liberty from many of their fears.

The return of the White Book describes the lives of some dedicated workers for the Lord. George Boardman who died aged 30  in the midst of his ministry to the tribes was particularly used to bring God's Word to the Karen people. 

There is plenty to discuss. There are a couple of sections at the back of the book which help with this. One of these sections deals with sources used for the book under the title About the missionaries or How much of this story is really true? The other section is Thinking further and deals with some of the questions that might be discussed in a book club or that you might like to talk about with your children.

I would highly recommend this book. It is suitable for children from about 6+ as a read aloud and for children from about 9 as an independent read. The book, ideally, should be read alongside Irene Howat's biography of Adoniram Judson, Danger on the Streets of Gold. Although, The Return of the White Book is a children's book, there is much in it which is food for thought for adults. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with Return of the White Book for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are mine.

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Monday, 3 August 2015

Home Educating a Child with Special Needs

Today's post is the last in the series about Home Educating in Different Circumstances.

 The first four posts were

Today, Beth, from As He leads is Joy, is talking about Home Educating a Child with Special Needs.

Do Special needs children and home education go together? Special needs is a term that can be applied to a wide variety of issues. Can teaching special needs children at home be done? 

I am writing from the perspective of a mum who has a daughter with Down Syndrome. My daughter is high functioning. I don't know that I had always considered home education for my daughter. The decision to home education came as a result of already home educating her brother and realising that the education that the school was offering her was life skills and I knew she was capable of more than that. 

As you consider home education and special needs, there are often doubts that come up in your mind or questions that others might ask you. 

The Doubts

1. I am not qualified. Being loving parent who wants the best for your child and is willing to do what needs to be done if enough qualifications. You know your child and the best way to educate your child. 

2. Is it legal? Home educating special needs children is legal in both the UK and the US. It might take a few requirements but it is legal.

There are challenges to home educating a special needs child. Some of these are the same challenges you have any home education child. 

The Challenges

1. The time required out of you as the teacher is greater. I need to be there with my daughter more than I would with a normal 11 year old. There are limited things that she can do independently in regards to her learning. I need to guide her learning a bit more. That means that I need to sit with her, review with her or remind her. Teaching a special needs child takes time. 

2. Finding resources and adapting resources can be a challenge at times for special needs children. There are numerous websites where you can buy therapy items and I have purchased various things over the years. These can be expensive at times as well so you need to be able to evaluate the resource. 

3. Finding support and encouragement that is both supportive and encouraging can be difficult but will help you be able to go continue on. I love the friends that speak into my life encouraging me with the progress that they see in my daughter. It is easy to look and see an 11 year old that does not know the basic addition facts and miss the progress that is being made. The friends that support and encourage help me to continue on.

4. Home educating a special needs child requires that I be disciplined. I need to be organised and have a plan for the day. I need goals for our year. My daughter is happy to play in her room and talk to herself. She loves to "take a break" and sometimes is it just easier to allow that but I need to be disciplined to motivate and encourage her to learn. 

5. Getting therapy and help can be a challenge. At this point there are minor areas where my daughter needs help. We have not done a therapy program for the past two years. Often therapy is through the school system and so working outside of that system to get the therapy can be a challenge. That is a challenge that we continue to face and I am still working at how to overcome this. 

Home education is difficult and add in special needs, why bother. Wouldn't it just be easier to send the child to a local school? Some days I think that but then I need to remind myself of the benefits of having my daughter home and learning here at home. 

The Benefits

1. Home education often means one-on-one learning. I remember meeting with a developmental doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the doctor telling me that my daughter would learn best in a one-on-one learning but not home education. What? Home education is one-on-one. I will say that at the next appointment the doctor was impressed with the progress and told me to continue with home education. One-on-one learning is often what the special needs child needs and home is a great place for that learning. 

2. The education is tailored to the child. As the parent, you know your child, the special needs and so you are able to adapt the learning to the child. My daughter does a great job at reading but maths is a challenge. Our maths examples often include things that she knows, "if you had 3 sweets and mum gave you 1 more, how many would you have." Those are things that she can picture and understand so it helps in her maths. My daughter is high functioning and I do not want to limit her.

3. Her brother is involved in helping her learn and she learns from him and with him. We do some things together and I know that she will not get all the details that he will but she is learning. I am amazed at the number of countries she can find on the map. Some of that is what her brother has taught her. A few years ago her brother was studying for a memory master and trying to remember the major rivers in the United States. He was stumped and she walked by and said, "Red River". She knew it. Siblings can learn from and teach the special needs child.

4. The learning is paced at a level that my daughter can handle. It can be a slower day with more breaks or can be slowly working through the book. My goal is progress. It might not be big things like finishing the book or learning all the fact family. Progress is learning the plus 1 family or reading a short book. 

5. Life skills are taught in a real life environment. When we began home education, she was not potty trained and first two years of school that was one of our goals. So many of life skills gaining independence and being able to care for yourself. My daughter's job often is to sort the laundry; that is a life skill. 

Home education is hard work and at times harder work with a special needs child but the benefits of listening to a child read, hear the answers to the questions, see the pictures they draw are bits of reward that you are doing the right thing in educating at home. Home education can be excellent for the special needs child. 

Beth is learning to drive on the right, drink tea, wear jumpers in the summer, and various new words and phrases since moving to England in April 2014. Beth and her family minister to Chinese students as they prepare to return home to China. She has two children a 14 year old son adopted from Eastern Europe and an 11 year old daughter with Down Syndrome both of whom she home educates. All of this has taught her to trust God in deeper ways as she sees His faithfulness. She enjoys quiet mornings, coffee, dark chocolate, and warm quilts. She blogs at

For information about the legal side of Home Educating children with Special Needs in the UK, this is a specific website which is worth visiting.

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Saturday, 1 August 2015

August Inspiration

August is high summer and part way through the holidays. I think that already one of my children would really like to get back to a more structured day and learning. In the holidays, we don't have the structure that usually marks our days and this is missed. We are beginning to put something in place with a read aloud over breakfast (Jungle Doctor's Casebook) and daily trips to the park or library but I think, we should have more planning still. Of course, there are more exciting trips out but realistically, these can't happen every day!

Anyway, I have been doing some planning for next term. This involves some new books and Nelleke, at Education is a Life, helpfully posted a link to which searches for the cheapest books around the world. All that has to be done is to type in the title. The great benefit of this site is that it adds in postage to the total cost.

We are keeping up with reading aloud and the holiday has allowed more time for individual reading. I guess, like many mothers, I have struggled to keep awake while reading aloud and yes, have even fallen asleep so I thought that this post was relevant.

Years ago, when we only had little children and life wasn't quite so complicated, we had family worship every morning after breakfast and before the children went to school and we went to work. Fast forward, ten years and family worship should be easier: my husband works from home, I don't go outside the home to work and we home educate. The sad news is that it becomes more complex: not everyone has breakfast at the same time; carers arrive early; clients phone and children are out. We now have family worship usually after lunch but sometimes it works better after our evening meal. It often feels like an uphill battle which we may not be winning so I was encouraged to find this practical post by Tim Challies.

Wasting food seems criminal and yes, that makes me a criminal. I found the lovefoodhatewaste site recently which is full of useful ideas and some recipes. Broccoli stalk soup sounds worth a try.

Finally, for the holidays, making tangrams kept my children busy one morning.

How do you tackle the holidays? Do you carry on as normal or have some work for the children to do? How often do you manage trips? I don't think I have quite the right balance so advice would be helpful!

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