Saturday, 31 December 2016

Starting the Day Well

This is the first post in the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. This is an annual event run by Susan from Homeschooling Hearts and Minds. This year, there will be five weeks of the Fair with the following themes

  • Week One: See how we learn: the Nuts and Bolts of what makes our home education come together
  • Week Two: Playing with Words: the Language Arts
  • Week Three: Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic and Science
  • Week Four: Social Studies and more Science
  • Week Five: Seeking Beauty: The Arts and anything that adds Beauty to our World
This week, I hope to write about how we start our day. 
I am convinced that having a set order to our day saves thought and hassle. The way we start the day also shows what is most important. For this reason, we have a set order to our day
  • Morning Time
  • Rest of the morning: mainly English and maths
  • Afternoon: other subjects
Groups and meetings with friends tend to happen in the afternoon which means that we are more likely to miss afternoon than morning subjects: this is intentional. 

Morning Time is the most important part of the day. We start with the most important things: prayer, a Christian book, Bible learning and a hymn. We also include in this session a little fun boost for subjects that might need this and some enjoyable subjects which might be missed and don't need too much time. We don't do these subjects/boosts everyday but once a week. Alternatively, they could be put on a loop of any length as described in Sarah Mackenzie in Teaching from Rest.

Note: the Bible part of Morning Time happens every day but the extras, apart from the daily maths, happen on four days of the week.

These are some of the resources that we use for Morning Time.

Bible book
A Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos-we finished reading this during the autumn and have now started
The Ology by Marty Machowski.
We read from the Bible itself during family worship and in the evening with the children so use a Christian book for this slot.

Bible Learning
During last year, one of the children completed the Trinitarian Bible Society Sabbath School Memory work prize since then we have worked on verses from the children's Sunday School and other Bible verses.

Generally, we try to learn a hymn. I try to work out which hymns often come up in church and make sure that we learn these. In addition, we have worked on learning Great is the Gospel of our Glorious God by Vernon Higham, Let us with a Gladsome mind in the early autumn, and O come, O come Emmanuel and Come Thou long expected Jesus in December.

Other Subjects in Morning Time
I wanted to add in a little extra maths, this autumn, and found the free app Bedtime Math. Despite the fact that we don't use this at bedtime, this has been well received. Each day has a paragraph or so about a topic followed by maths questions at different levels. Younger Daughter likes to read the paragraph and questions to us. The lowest level is very simple but the questions get gradually more challenging. They aren't particularly difficult though and answers are provided.
In addition, once a week, we will play a maths game in this slot. Favourites include

  • Sum Swamp-really a bit too young now but very loved.
  • Trilemma
  • Equivalence dominoes
  • Time Lotto
  • Tables matching pairs
  • Tangrams

Music Appreciation
This is a subject that we rarely actually did before it was added to Morning Time. Initially, we used the Ladybird composer books but once we had finished these, we started to use the six minute podcasts from Classics for Kids. There is a weekly broadcast but so far, we have tended to chose composers or music which fits with the rest of our learning. Recently, Younger Daughter worked on a European music topic for her piano teacher so we linked the podcasts to this.

Art Appreciation
We have used a variety of sources for this
  • James Mayhew's Katie books
  • Lawrence Anholt books
  • the 13 ... Children should know series. We have use the bridges, buildings and artists books.
  • Picture study using postcards purchased from an art gallery.
Again, we have used a variety of sources
  •  Books short listed for the Royal Society Young People's Science Prize. Our book club was part of the Judging Panel for  that prize so we were able to read copies of these books. Our favourite and the prize winner was David Macaulay's How machines work
  • Model ear and eye.
  •  A page from a science encyclopaedia. We use The Ultimate Book of Science
  • Very occasionally, we do a science activity often using the Dyson Foundation Challenge Cards
This routine sometimes alters. Sometimes, instead of maths we will do a spelling or phenomic awareness game such as Slug in the Jug or correcting punctuation and talking about grammar in a sentence. We have also used this slot to read simplified Shakespeare.

What has changed
Many families read aloud during Morning Time. Other than short read alouds as part of music, art or science, this hasn't really worked for us. I sometimes read to the children over breakfast and usually, after lunch but find that adding a longer read aloud to Morning Time just takes too long. My aim is that Morning Time takes about 30 minutes. Another ten minutes is fine but otherwise, we struggle to fit in other morning activities.
When the children were younger though, we did read picture books in this slot, particularly, their Five in a Row book for the week. This worked well but as books and chapters have become longer we have changed this.

Do you have this type of beginning to your day? How does it work in your home?

I invite you to see how my fellow bloggers learn in their homeschools 

The Evolution of Our Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Us-School Because We Are Us, Not Someone Else by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
It's All About the School by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Setting the Stage- the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair! by Lisa N. @ Golden Grasses
New Year, New Goals, New School! by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Homeschooling - A Glimpse into How We Do it by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Spotlight on How We Learn in Our Homeschool by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Our Unique Eclectic Homeschool  by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
How We Learn on the Go by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Home Education - 10 Ways We Make It Work by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Schedules, where would I be without them? by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Education at Our House by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Starting the Day Well by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Making a Change - Accountability and Responsibility Through Routine by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
A time to be encouraged is coming.. the Virtual Curriculum Fair by Annette @ A Net in Time
Loving the Moment! by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind
Keeping Our Homeschool Organized by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Homeschool Goal Setting – Looking Forward, Looking Back by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
How We Choose Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
This Is How We Homeschool by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
How we don't learn in our homeschool & how I don't plan {2017 Virtual Homeschool Curriculum Fair} by Meghan @ Quiet in the Chaos
Learning Our Way by Lisa @ McClanahan 7
Limping Along: Our Semi-Eclectic Approach to Homeschooling by Debra @Footprints in the Butter
2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair: See How We Learn by Dana L @ Luv'N Lambert Life

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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ideas in the New Year

The 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair opens at the start of the New Year. 
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This is an annual event run by Susan from Homeschooling Hearts and Minds. Over twenty home education bloggers plan to participate in five weeks of posts about the nitty gritty of home education. This is ideal for

  • home educators looking for inspiration
  • anyone considering home education
  • anyone curious about how home educators go about the business of education
Each week has a theme:

Jan. 2---See How We Learn-organising home education and how we get everything done

Jan. 9---Playing with Words, the Language Arts (English for those of us in the UK!)

Jan. 16---Discovering Patterns, Maths, Logic and Sciences

Jan. 23---Exploring Our World, History, Geography and more Science

Jan. 30---Seeking Beauty, the Fine Arts and Everything that Brings Beauty into our Homeschools

Each blogger will approach the subjects in their own individual way so do read around the group. I have listed those participating below. If you are a blogger and want to take part, request to join this Facebook group by tomorrow evening!

Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Laura H. @ Four Little Penguins

LauraOinAK @ Day by Day in Our World

Lisa N. @ Golden Grasses

Jacquelin C. @ A Stable Beginning

Jennifer King @ A Peace of Mind

Michele Pleasants @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool

Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Kym Thorpe @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Yvie Field @ Gypsy Road

Dana Lambert @ Luv'N Lambert Life

Debra B. @ Footprints in the Butter

Sarah J @ Delivering Grace

Annette @ A Net in Time

Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine

Lizzy Peach @ Peaches @Home

Meghan W. @ Quiet In The Chaos

Amy L. @ Adorable Chaos

Kristen Hamilton @ Sunrise to Sunset

Kim @ Good Sweet Love

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Monday, 26 December 2016

Still Alice

I really don't know why I hadn't read Still Alice before: I ran a memory clinic; care for someone with dementia and watched my own mother deteriorate from another neurodegenerative condition. 

Still Alice is an honest novel about a woman with early onset Alzheimers Disease. Alice, the protagonist is just fifty.  She is a brilliant academic psychologist at the height of her career, with a successful husband and three adult children,who develops not just memory loss but the other issues that come with Alzheimers: difficulty with executive function, disorientation and mood changes. 

Still Alice is a gripping read. An inexorable decline and scary. The slight dips in memory,the difficulty finding the right word, then the getting lost. The issues around genetic testing and the changing relationships with family: some worse and ironically, one rather better. The story is told from Alice's point of view which makes the story more powerful. Alice's search for other supporters in the same situation makes so much sense and is, indeed, something that is sometimes provided. One of the most powerful parts of the story is how a small group of people with young onset dementia were able to provide support for themselves both in person and on line. Difficult issues are touched on: thinking about suicide, not recognising family, turning the house upside down, perceptual problems, sleep/wake disturbance.

Highly recommended. We all know people with dementia and this book helps to get inside their minds, makes sense of what might make their confusion worse and gives clues about how best to relate to people with this distressing condition. This is an adult book although it wouldn't be unreasonable for an older teenager to read it. There is a little bad language but it is not a major feature of the book.

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Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas

Christmas is a bitter sweet time for us. Two years ago, my Mother went to Glory on Christmas Day and this year, we are celebrating at a time when another older family member is seriously unwell in hospital. 

Thankfully, Christmas is a time when we can also celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus to give blessings which last for time and eternity.

When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Galations 4 verses 4 and 5

This lesser known  hymn explains the true significance of Christmas: the coming of the Saviour of the World and the better Sun.

The race that long in darkness pined
Have seen a glorious light:
The people dwell in day, who dwelt 
In death's surrounding night.

To hail Thy rise, Thou better Sun,
The gathering nations come,
Joyous as when the reapers bear
The harvest treasures home.

To us a Child of hope is born,
To us a Son is given;
Him shall the tribes of earth obey,
And all the hosts of Heaven.

His name shall be the Prince of Peace,
For evermore adored:
The Wonderful, the Counsellor,
The great and mighty Lord.

His power increasing still shall spread;
His reign no end shall know:
Justice shall guard His throne above,
And peace abound below.

John Morison

This Christmas sermon, from last year, tells about Heaven's great announcement about the special birth. 

Wishing you all a happy Christmas and a blessed Lord's Day.

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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Book Plans 2017

Over 2016, I have worked on two reading challenges with some but not complete success! It has been a learning curve. Yes, there has been a chance to read books that I wouldn't have otherwise tackled but I have learned that having prescriptive challenges doesn't really work for me. There were books that had to be read for running a children's book club or for my children's education which didn't fit into the challenges. 

So for 2017, I hope to try a less prescriptive list without specific titles and where most of the books can be any age. This list is the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge. It includes categories which are specifically Christian but also some quite general categories including the useful Book of your choice. This reading plan has four different goals. I hope to aim at the Committed Reader which includes 52 books over the year. This year, so far, I have read 64 books so this should, I hope, be realistic. 

The challenge suggests starting with the Light Plan and choosing these books first so these are my current ideas. Please note that I haven't read these books so they aren't recommendations. If you have read them, please comment about your thoughts on these books

Biography: A passion for the impossible: A life of Lilias Trotter-Miriam Rockness

Classic novel: Ivanhoe-Walter Scott

History: Catastrophe:Europe goes to war 1914-Max Hastings

Book targeted at own gender: Mere Motherhood-Cindy Rollin

Theology: Spurgeon and Hypercalvinism- Ian Murray.

At least 400 pages: Nicholas Nickleby-Charles Dickens

Book your pastor recommends: The Holy War-John Bunyan

Christian living: The Lord's Day-Joseph Pipa

More than 100 years old: Five English Reformers-JC Ryle

Published in 2017-not sure but possibly Douglas Bond's upcoming book on Luther and Katie.

Children/teens: J
ourney to the River Sea-Eva Ibbotson.

Book of choice: Still Alice-Lisa Genova-Edited 26th December 2016-I have just ruined this plan by finishing this book today! Highly recommended though.

Current issue- I am Malalia-Malalia Yousafzai

Have you read any of these books? Any other recommendations? I hope to find books for the later stages of the challenge, as well, so ideas are most helpful.

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Long Winter

Next term, I hope to read The Long Winter with the book club at the home education group so it was time for a reread. Now, I think that this was probably my fourth reading of The Long Winter-once as a child and twice to my older children. 

The Long Winter tells of the Ingalls family's struggle to survive through the harsh winter of 1880-1881 in the new town of De Smet, in South Dakota. The winter of 1880-1881 is thought to have been the harshest known in the USA.

In the first book in the series, Little House in the Big Woods, the Ingalls family had extensive stores prepared for winter whereas in this book, they were comparatively poorly prepared. They had just moved to their claim and the land had only been cultivated from the prairie that year, meaning that yields were poor. Winter came in October with the first blizzard and continued until April. It became obvious very soon that the claim shanty was not somewhere to spend the winter. From the description, I imagine it to have been rather like a shed. The Ingalls did have the option of moving to Pa's empty store in town so went there for the winter. 

By modern standards, the store wouldn't have been warm. There was no central heating and upstairs there weren't curtains to keep out the cold. The nails in the roof were covered by a layer of frost. 

Initially, the townsfolk hoped that the train would bring in supplies but as time passed, it became clear that it wasn't going to be possible to clear the track. This meant no coal, no kerosene and little food. The town was far from self-sufficient. The Ingalls had to resort to burning hay which Pa had keep hauling in from the claim. This task wasn't particularly safe as there was a risk of being caught in a blizzard. Artificial light was in short supply although Ma managed to make button lamps using axle grease. Worse, food supplies ran short and only a dangerous journey might keep the town from starvation.

This is a fascinating book although one that needs to be read under a warm duvet! In many ways, it is one of my favourites of the series as the reality of the situation comes across so clearly: pioneering doesn't seem like a fun game that we might like to copy. It also held my interest on a fourth read which must be a recommendation in itself.

I am using The Long Winter as my classic by a female author for the Back to the Classics challenge.

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Monday, 12 December 2016

Searching Second hand Shops for Children's Books

Recently, a friend asked me about the children's books that I would look for in a Christian second hand bookshop. This post is about the authors that I would check. Please note that I haven't read everything by these authors although I have read some books by each author.

I am planning another post about children's books that I would look for in a general second hand shop.

  • Paul White's Jungle Doctor books. We love these stories about a medical missionary and especially, that the stories are full of the Gospel. They are still in print but the older editions can often be found quite cheaply.

  • Patricia St John's books especially Rainbow Garden, Treasures of the Snow and Tanglewood Secrets. My understanding is that some of the later books are for older readers so do check first.

  • Mrs OF Walton's most famous book is Christie's Old Organ. Some of the books are still published. I haven't read all of her books by any means but do be aware that some have quite sad endings, particularly, in the older editions. Some modern editions have changed the endings.

  • Piet Prins. I haven't actually seen these books in a second hand shop but it is well worth looking. Piet Prins was a Dutch author who wrote Christian historical fiction, particularly popular with boys. These books have been increasingly difficult to obtain so worth checking second hand!

  • Amy le Feuvre is most well known for Teddy's Button. 

  • Deborah Alcock is an author whose books I have often found second hand although many have been republished. She wrote historical fiction for older children often about Reformation type themes. There is often a mild romantic theme in her books although it is always very proper. I have particularly enjoyed The Czar, Crushed Yet Conquering and The Spanish Brothers.

  • The Faith and Fame (Lutterworth Press) series of biographies are interesting reads. Sometimes, they seem to concentrate more on fame than faith but can be helpful introductions to historical figures.

  • Louise Vernon wrote historical fiction about Christians for children. We have found the quality to be variable. The book about William Tyndale, The Bible Smuggler, is excellent whereas the book about the translation of the King James Bible is odd. I would suggest glancing through these books or quickly prereading them before handing them to children.

  • Don't forget to look for second hand copies of books by more recent authors,for example, Irene Howat's Ten Boys and Ten Girls series and Helen Taylor's Little Pilgrim's Progress.

  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri has a clear Christian message, particularly, in older editions. The same applies to Robinson Crusoe.
Which authors would you check for in a Christian second hand shop?

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Tuesday, 6 December 2016

December Inspiration

December in London arrived with a cold blast. Our local pond was frozen for several days and we saw ducks walking on ice and even skidding.

Writing does seem to be the most complex subject to include, improve and evaluate. This Reading Mama has a post about how to make writing fun. One addition idea is covering a table with lining paper and providing pens for free writing. We often use this for our table cloth for poetry teatime.

This post from All about Learning Press made so much sense. We do a little copywork here, mainly to improve handwriting but time has told that it doesn't help with spelling. The additional factor, for very weak spellers, is to encourage accurate copying which can be useful in answering questions.

Angellicscalliwags has produced a helpful collection of her posts on South America. This would be helpful for designing a unit study. Our home education group hopes to spend a term learning about South America, next term, so this has been pinned!

This year, I have read a fair amount and read aloud even more but haven't done best well with my reading challenges. This is partly because there have been other books which I have needed to read either around my children's education or for the children's book club which I run.  Still, I am very tempted about this reading challenge for next year. It looks flexible which is useful but might stretch me to read more widely. This year, I have read between the committed and obsessed level but might stick to the former!

Food for thought: talent vs grit.

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