Thursday 30 September 2010

Love Latin

My friend Beth has posted, over at Life as a Spiritual Marathoner, about why Latin should be a part of every child's education. Well worth a read. We are working on Latin for the first two reasons that Beth states and in the hope that it will be a spring board to learning New Testament Greek.

I would be interested to know the books that other people have used for Latin. We are currently using Minimus which is a very easy introduction and rather light on grammar.

We hope to go onto either Cambridge Latin or a more grammar based course.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Reading aloud to older children

When we started home educating, almost 18 months ago, I started reading aloud. Of course, I had read aloud to babies, toddlers and early readers, and still do, but with the busyness of life and homework and after school activities reading aloud to school aged children disappeared. They read to me the school's allocated 10 minutes a day, "Could you try to use a bit more expression", but I stopped reading aloud to them.

We took our, then, 8 year old out of school and started a steep learning curve. I wasn't sure that reading aloud was a proper use of time but thought I would give it a go with the aims to reading just above ds's reading level or to encourage him to read other books.

Reading aloud has been a success although like most such things providing hard evidence is difficult. After all, performing a randomised controlled trial of reading aloud would be impossible and probably unethical.

My guess, from my own observations, is that ds has benefitted in terms of vocabulary and general knowledge although I have been less successful in persuading him to read the read aloud books on his own. The books that I read seem to be set apart as "reading aloud" books.
I will list some books that have worked well. Books to avoid-I can't read funny books well, I laugh too much. I've refused to read "The family from One End Street" for this reason so ds has to read this himself.

We often link the reading into our history or geography so when we were learning about North America, we read "Farmer Boy".

To my surprise, ds wanted me to go on to read the rest of the series, despite the fact that they are about girls so we've read the whole series which lasted rather longer than our study of North America.

We did take a break from the "Little House" series when we studied South America to read "Journey to the River Sea" which is an exciting story with evocative descriptions of the Amazon.

When we eventually finished the "Little House" series, we were studying the Tudors and the Netherlands so combined the two by reading about the Rise of the House of Orange and the Dutch wars against the Spanish.

During the holiday, I read part of "Ned" aloud. This doesn't fit into our current projects but ds loved "Ned" which is a fictional story about a Barnado boy.

I've written recently about our current history readaloud, "Lord of the Forest" so won't re-iterate here.
In addition, we are finishing "The horse and his boy".

Next, I'm not completely sure but probably some GA Henty to fit in with our history project for the next half term, the Stewarts.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Chocolate pavlova

Chocolate pavlova-yummy. I'm very grateful to eldest dd for making this.
Recipe from "101 chocolate treats".  None of us are chocoholics-oh,no.

Friday 24 September 2010

Oddments of a frugal nature

Cloth nappies-I've just done really well buying used toddler sized nappies from the Real Nappy Exchange. This is run by Real Nappies for London but seems to cover an area larger than London. Price varies and some nappies are just for the cost of postage. Obviously, the quality may vary. Mine came from two different people and were all in good to excellent condition.

Children's activities. Some of the best things are free. One activity that our three year old loved was getting up to see the sunrise. Somehow, we avoided waking the little one and this was a great chance to talk about the sun's rotation, creation and why we need the sun. It was also a lovely bit of individual time and we finished by having croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast. Not a summer activity-we did this in spring but now the days are getting shorter, this would become feasible again.

Another free activity-birth stories. I don't mean the gory, pain and panic variety but a sanitized version especially for three year olds. Ours cover what Mummy was doing the day before, the time she went to hospital, how she got there, when the baby was born, the size of the baby relative to siblings, the colour of the baby (the fact we've had two blue boys and a pink boy causes some confusion! Conveniently, the girls have been pink), who came to see the baby in hospital and what they thought, details about going home and so on. I have to repeat various stories every day-this is a great in car activity although I do tire of it sometimes. This is a time when the child knows that they and their siblings were welcomed and loved and that we were thankful to God for them. Whilst I might tire, our three year old doesn't!

January-VAT goes up to 20% on 4th January. In my experience, there are few reasonable grocery offers at this time of year and January is grey and cold so heating bills go up. I'm wondering about stockpiling a few staples to make January feel better-probably tins, toilet roll (there is VAT on toilet roll!), cartons, cleaning materials and washing powder. Is anyone else planning to do this? Have you any tips?

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Thoughts on second hand sales

A few random thoughts and a list of best pickings!

Nearly new sales are second hand sales with pretentions. The goods are just the same.

A useful piece of advice that was given to me, is to go for the most expensive or rare item on your hopeful list first.

It goes without saying that it is best to be at the front of the queue-this is an admonition to myself-not good at getting to places early on Saturday mornings. Don't think that because a sale is in an expensive area or at a private school no one else will want to attend-this isn't true. It is amazing who you meet at second hand sales!

Don't buy trash-just because it is second hand doesn't mean something should be frayed or stained.Check zips.

It isn't worth buying more than is needed although it might be worth buying quality children's clothing in a larger size.

Some places only accept cash and in fairly small denominations-up to £5 notes are usually acceptable. I've not had any problems with having £10 accepted when paying over £10.

Just because something is sold second hand doesn't mean it is cheaper than something new. I've seem books and strollers sold for more than the new price.

Best pickings
-children's books
-baby sleeping bags-check the zip first!
-cookery books
-children's clothes especially coats and dresses

What are your second hand sale tips?

Monday 20 September 2010

Oil and meal

Some more of John Newton's verses which I was shown recently. I thought that these are so suitable for mothers with little ones when it is difficult to have an uninterrupted service and we struggle with tiredness reading God's Word. I haven't found these in any modern hymnbook-this is from a facsimile of Olney Hymns-with the "f"s changed to "s"s for ease of reading.

By the poor widow's oil and meal
Elijah was sustained;
Tho' small the stock it lasted well,
For God store maintained.

It seemed as if from day to day,
They were to eat and die;
But still, tho' in a secret way,
He sent a fresh supply.

Thus to His poor He still will give
Just for the present hour;
But for tomorrow they must live
Upon His Word and power.

No barn or storehouse they possess
On which they can depend;
Yet have no cause to fear distress,
For JESUS is their friend.

Then let not doubts your mind assail,
Remember, God has said,
"The cruise and barrel shall not fail,
"My people shall be fed."

And thus tho' faint it often seems,
He keeps their grace alive;
Supplied by His refreshing streams,
Their dying hopes revive.

Tho' in ourselves we have no stock,
The LORD is nigh to save;
His door flies open when we knock,
And 'tis but ask and have.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

"Lord of the Forest"

This summer, I puzzled about history, for this term. We study history in a chronological order, well usually, and had just finished the Tudors. The Tudors are exciting and there are plenty of resources, activities and places to visit. The Stewarts are another matter-sorry to any Stewart experts out there. By far the best way of introducing this topic seemed to be to celebrate Guy Fawkes night and then Thanksgiving but they were inconveniently placed at the beginning of the second half of term. I toyed with altering the calendar but couldn't quite imagine Guy Fawkes at the beginning of September.
Thankfully, at this point, my cousin came to stay and suggested using "Lord of the Forest" for the half term.

I hadn't heard of this, out of print, book before. It is written by "BB" who apparently was Denys Watkins-Pitchford who also illustrated the book-under his real name with beautiful scraper-board black and white illustrations.
The book describes the life of an oak from when it was planted in 1272, in the Sussex Weald, until the Second World War when its last acorn is planted. Natural history and scenes from English history are woven together to produce a fascinating book.
The book lends itself to so many other activities which we have scarcely even started. I am indebted to my cousin for suggesting several initially.
Obviously, scraper-board art needs to be followed. I wasn't able to find white but the coloured card is surprisingly effective.

We did think about printing using wood-cuts, as the illustrations look similar to woodcuts, but discarded this idea, on grounds of safety. The younger ones enjoyed printing with oak leaves-a safer option.
We are working on creative writing and map making around an imaginary oak.
Hopefully, ds will create a timeline, perhaps using as a base, something like the oak he painted.
Oaks in the Sussex Weald do, however, have a link with an important part of Stewart history. We have talked about the non-conformists who met in the Kent and Sussex Weald, in secret, prior to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. There were stories that I was told, as a child, about this. The services with no singing and the deacon praying a long prayer, at the end of the sermon. The minister left in this prayer but anyone else who left was known to be a traitor.
We have become much more aware of oaks rather than just the "conker" trees. The children discovered that we have an oak in a corner of our garden and have discussed how best this can be tended and whether some shrubs around it need to be removed.
Future plans may include lino printing, clay models of acorns, planting an acorn-there is some current interest in a bonsai oak, further investigation of what it would be like to have been a villager in 1272, a half term visit to Weald and Downland Openair Museum  
We've enjoyed this project which has been so much better than trying to do the Stewarts without festivals!

Tuesday 14 September 2010


This is my cheap and cheerful recipe for granola. This makes a large amount but disappears fast.

1kg bag of value oats
500g bag of value sultanas (or other dried fruit. Dried banana is especially tasty.)
1 and 1/2 American cups of golden syrup (my cup helpfully says 250ml) If you prefer, you can substitute honey.
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoonfuls of vanilla
2 teaspoonfuls of cinnamon

Put the oats in a large roasting tray. Warm the golden syrup, oil and spices gently and then add to the oats and stir.
-I've found it best to add the oil first as then the golden syrup doesn't stick to the measuring cup.
Warm in oven at about 150 Celsius for about 20 minutes (I put this in the bottom of the oven when I'm cooking something else and don't worry too much about the precise temperature). Stir once or twice during the time in the oven.
Remove from the oven. Immediately add sultanas and cover with foil until cold.
Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Schedule-one week in

We've been following our schedule for a week, now.
There have been benefits and a couple of major challenges.
The real improvement has been early in the morning. I realised, when writing the schedule, that I really did need to get up half an hour earlier (shouldn't be writing this now!). This has paid off, with other tweaking, for the morning so that we have managed to have breakfast and family worship, in one sitting, and have the older children out on time. Dh has been able to go for a walk and, in a change, to the schedule, take our 10 year old out for a bike ride, at the same time. They have come back in time to start work and home education respectively. All sounds too good to be true! Well, that part has been fine, of course, it could all fall apart tomorrow-I'm a pessimist.

The challenges, however, are around hospital appointments and our dear little toddler.

We are a three generation family. This involves a fair number of appointments at the hospital. Despite my best efforts to have all these in holiday time, there have been three in the last week. There is at least another one due next week and these may continue, at the rate of one or two a week, for weeks to months. The appointments have been at different times of day although it is possible that, in future, most might be at the same sort of time. I think that this will make things easier as it will be possible to arrange learning and also activities for the little ones, hopefully outside of the waiting room.

The schedule does involve a column for our toddler who is a dear exuberant little fellow. It doesn't really allow for all his escapades. Yesterday, he drank water from the bird bath, ate chilli powder and changed the washing machine programme before 10am. Yes, he was supervised-I was hanging washing in the garden and didn't quite get to the bird bath, which is too high for him to fall into, in time. Yes, I was in the kitchen and yes, we are working on training and yes, we probably need to work harder on training! We do have "preschool" time for him and his 3 year old sister. It works really well for our daughter-we made a "toddler friendly" recipe, from the Tesco magazine today. Dd enjoyed counting, talking, sprinkling ingredients and generally helping but Mr Exuberance wasn't really interested-standing on a chair trying to put salt in the teapot was better. Be warned, if I offer you tea.

Realistically, I suspect that the activities I offer are geared at his sister and are too hard for him. I have also scheduled a playtime for him with his sister which isn't really working. He probably needs more Mummy time. Any other ideas will be gratefully received.

Scheduling school work has worked well, as I always knew it would. I haven't altered what worked for us, last year, very much.

Overall, the schedule has helped us achieve more-it is a profitable servant. We have deviated from it parts of most days and it probably needs to be revised. I received an e-mail, yesterday from the people at Titus 2 with this message around staying the course with scheduling which certainly came at an opportune time for me.

Monday 6 September 2010

Sufficient grace

One of my favourite verses. Always so true and, when things ratch up a few gears, so so necessary.

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" 2 Corinthians 12 v9

Friday 3 September 2010

What I don't buy

Recently, I wrote about where I spend. This time, I'm writing about what I don't buy. This is purely personal and idiosyncratic but I would be fascinated to know what others don't think is worth buying. I run the risk of people being rather horrified but there we are!

-Conditioner for washing. I've never quite understood its purpose-sorry to be thick.

-Cleaning cloths-using cut up holey sheets at present. We've had a glut of these, this summer. My Mum would have turned the sheets "sides to middle" before this happened!

-Disposable nappies. I will relent for brand new babies when there are always really good vouchers to be had and for holidays. Washable nappies have got so much better over the last few years. When we went on holiday, this year, and put our youngest, aged 18 months,in disposables, there were far more leaks than with washables. In fact, I can't remember a washable leak since he was about six months. Usually, I might be stingy and buy cheap nappies but the disposables that let us down on hols were one of the two main brands.

-Wipes. This is only partially true. We usually have wipes for going out but use old prefolds when at home. Cheaper and better for the eczema.

-Gravy powder. This is a bit random after the previous list and isn't really to do with cost just proper home made gravy is so much better.

-Squash. We gave up squash after one of the children had teeth problems. There are so many reasons not to buy squash. We've saved loads of money-pound or two a week for about six years now. Squash is so bad for teeth and, I didn't believe this before I had a child who was affected, but some children seem to have behavioural issues after drinking squash. What do they drink? Mainly, tap water although milk is on offer and we have fruit juice for Sunday lunch.

What don't you buy? I'm curious to know.

Thursday 2 September 2010

I'm gonna miss this

An article to encourage mothers through bath-time, and tea time, and all those other tiring times.
The older I get the more I realise that truth of this. Hope you enjoy this post too.

Wednesday 1 September 2010


This time of year means apples. We moved to this house in December, almost four years ago. When we had looked at the house, we noticed a tree with a sea of apples on the ground. It seemed a waste. We've been so thankful for this tree as well as a few other, less prolific trees. Last year, my husband had been made redundant and was in the first throes of setting up his own business. The tree did better than ever-over 400lb of apples-plenty for us and to share. God is good.

This year, again, the tree is bearing fruit. We haven't finished, or even scarely started to pick the apples.
Apples mean apple recipes. I usually end up by gently cooking some and freezing for crumbles and pies later. The Bramley website is a source of recipes. The tomato and Bramley soup is surprisingly good-I made up two batches today, one to eat tomorrow and one to freeze.
Another recipe that I often use was given to me, by an aunt, although I've altered it.

Bramley chicken casserole
chicken portions (as many as you would usually use for your family)
1-2 chopped onions (I use 2 cooking for 8)
 chopped carrots (1/2 per person)
sliced mushrooms (I allow 3-4 for mushroom lovers)
1 Bramley-peeled, cored and cut into thick chunks)
Chicken stock-I use 1 and 1/2 pints for 8
Tablespoon plain flour
Tablespoon oil

Put the oil in a frying pan, heat and add the chicken. Brown, then add the onions. When the onions are soft, add the flour and stir. Add the hot stock and stir, add in the other ingredients and bring to a simmer.
Cook in the oven at 180C for 90minutes until the chicken is well cooked. Alternatively, I use the slow cooker-check your own slow cooker instructions for timing. I use 6 hours on high.
Serve with baked or mashed potatoes and green beans.

This year, for the first time, I've made a blackberry and apple jam in the slow cooker, using a recipe from my new slow cooker book, Ultimate Slowcooker.  This jam uses less sugar than conventional varieties and will only keep a couple of months, in the fridge. Can't say this looks like being a problem here.