Monday 30 May 2011

Last week

Last week, was the last week before our half term break. We had a busy time with Five in a Row where we rowed "When I was young in the mountains."  I've written a bit about it on the Five in a Row page.

Stacey commented letting me know about the FIAR resources on Homeschool share. This site also has FIAR-like ideas around other books-many of which are easily available. One downside of FIAR is that a few of the picture books, around which the curriculum is based, are out of print and very expensive. We made the decision not to use these particular books so this site is a great boon.

Hopefully, though, several packages will arrive this week containing in print FIAR books. Exciting-I love book packages! Now, to declutter to make bookshelf space.

We are taking a break from FIAR, this week, for half term. We have people to meet up with, every day, so would struggle to find time. Half term, got off to a good start, on Saturday, with Middle son and a friend, finding a newt in our garden-the first for several years. The picture of the newt was a bit sad-camoflage doesn't help photos.

Instead, a photo of our photos from the Potatoes for Schools campaign. Hope they carry on growing well-I don't have green fingers!

Saturday 28 May 2011

William Cowper

During a train journey, today, I had the chance to read some William Cowper.

Cowper was a contemporary and friend of John Newton, in Olney but a very different character. He was from a prominent family who hoped that he would achieve high office but severe depression prevented this. Cowper was converted, after an initial severe episode, and went on to write hymns and other poetry. He lived, for many years, in Olney in a house backing onto Newton's. He had several further episodes of depression.

I'm no expert on poetry. John Gilpin is a fun read-not what I was expecting. There was a very tempting illustrated copy in a second hand bookshop today. John Gilpin was apparently popular in Cowper's life time.

The hymns are fascinating and many are still well known-"God moves in a mysterious way", "Sometimes a light surprises", "What various hinderances" etc.

Perhaps the most striking from my recent reading is the hymn that follows. This really is a hymn not a poem-not the sort of thing that would be sung in public. It is based on Isaiah 57 verse 15 "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the spirit of the contrite ones."

The Lord will happiness divine
On contrite hearts bestow;
Then tell me, gracious God, is mine
A contrite heart, or no?

I hear, but seem to hear in vain,
Insensible as steel;
If ought is felt, 'tis only pain,
To feel I cannot feel.

I sometimes think myself inclined
To love Thee, if I could;
But often feel another mind,
Adverse to all that's good.

My best desires are faint and few,
I fain would strive for more;
But when I cry, "My strength renew,"
Seem weaker than before.

Thy saints are comforted I know,
And love Thy house of prayer,
I therefore go where others go,
But find no comfort there.

Oh make this heart rejoice, or ache;
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it, if it be.

Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Around home summer holiday activities

We are coming up to May half term and, soon after, the long holidays. Whilst, we could home educate all year round, we don't. The complexities would be too great with the eldest two being in school.

We don't plan to spend every day close to home but realistically, like much of the rest of the population, we will spend most days not too far from home and with petrol at record prices that probably isn't a bad choice.

So, what can the children do, in place of the default screen based activity? We are keen to restrict screen based activity but that means something has to take its place. I have written before about activities for middle childhood but have revisited this as I need to have careful plans in place before the holidays hit.

These are mainly activities for our local area but are possible in many areas. We live in London and there is so much to do in the centre but it takes time and logistics to get there. There is plenty of information, elsewhere, on what can be done in the centre.

These lists are, in many ways, for me but feel free to use them and to post comments to add to them.

Indoor activities
Card making
Preparing for hospitality/big picnics here with several friends
Menu making
Craft/painting with younger siblings-helping them with an adult within sight and earshot!
Crystal set
Chemistry set
Planning Blythswood box
Paper aeroplanes/boats
Competitions-The Biblical Library in Blackpool often has historical essay competitions for young people in the summer, Cath Kidston usually has a craft competition running

Outdoor activities-at home
Gardening/clearing wild patch for vegetables
Planting Christmas potatoes
Making solar oven
Painting garden furniture
Photographic record of part of garden

Activities in the local area
Kite flying
Bat walk/nature walk/night walk
Picnic in local parks/open spaces
Roller blading
Library summer reading challenge
Older children's playground/park gym activities
Bird watching
Photographic record of changes in tree/scene

We have found that both Usborne and Dorling Kindersley have books with plenty of activities for children in middle childhood.

Monday 23 May 2011

5-a-Day books-week 6

Last week, The little red car with its catchy birthday tune was the favourite. Both children keep repeating snatches of the books we are reading or have read.
All this week's books seemed popular today and I had to read several twice.

It does seem to be important for Miss Belle, who is four and a half, that the books are new to her.

This week, I included three books from the library, a book that I picked up second hand on Saturday and our FIAR book which she hadn't previously seen. Mr Exuberance who is over two years younger is quite happy to have books repeated and enjoys having some previous weeks' books as bedtime stories.

Monday Run-day by Nick Sharratt is short and catchy around the days of the week.

Amazing animals rainforest romp by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker has rhyming text about the South American rainforest. There are extra animals to find in the pictures which the children enjoyed today.

Master Bun the Baker's boy by Allan Ahlberg and Fritz Wegner is from the Happy Family series. This fitted in well with our FIAR book today where we were talking about different occupations.

A Mountain Alphabet by Margaret Ruurs was my great find from the second hand sale.  I had never heard of it before but it is brilliant. It is a truly beautiful book about the Rocky Mountains with so much detail in the pictures by Andrew Kiss. The text is full of alliteration and there are notes at the back giving more information about the pictures. It also fits well with the next book which is about the Appalachian Mountains.

When I was young in the mountains by Cynthia Rylant is our FIAR book for this week. It is a simple story about life on the mountains. We are looking forward to exploring this book further. Corn bread is part of a meal in the book and is on the menu for tomorrow-I'm looking forward to that!

Take a look at 5-a-Day books and join in!
5 a day books

Thursday 19 May 2011

Blooming chickens

We have roses in our garden which are just beginning to blossom.

Last year, we pressed some of the petals and just last week, I realised that there were still some sitting in the flower press.

Ideal for making a princess dress, I thought but Miss Belle decided that they would make a much better chicken so chicken they became.

First, we used them for a counting activity and then, Miss Belle filled in an outline of a chicken with petals and added an eye with oil based pastel. The chicken now adorns our kitchen wall.

I've linked this to the It's playtime link up. Do visit to find plenty of play ideas.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Lentil soup

I can't believe that I haven't posted my lentil soup recipe. Kim at Life in a shoe is looking for recipes with lentils. We eat this, for lunch, at least once a week and the children prefer it to any other soup.

6oz red lentils (the cheap and cheerful variety)
1 carrot
1 onion
1 glove of garlic
2 pints stock (preferably homemade)
1 can tomatoes

Chop the carrot, peel and chop the onion and crush the clove of garlic.
Open can of tomatoes.
Put all ingredients in a large saucepan.
Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Puree and serve.

Serves 4-I double this for our family of 8.
Freezes well.

Serve with grated cheese and wholemeal bread.

The other recipe that I use is copyright but is from the Cranks recipe book and is the lentil slice which is very yummy and vegetarian.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

English Bible timeline

We have just purchased a beautiful colour timeline of the English Bible.

It is a reproduction of an original by Abigail Mohon who, I understand, is a home education graduate-a rare species in the UK.

The timeline is in 100 year intervals from New Testament times until 1400 when it alters to 10 year intervals ,for two hundred years, to include the major events in English Bible translation. It is a beautiful piece of work and contains loads of information.

It can be purchased in a large size (three sections 420mm x792mm) for £8.99 or as a small size (two sections 297mm x 840mm) for £6.99. We have the larger size which I suspect is preferable in terms of font size. It is available from the Trinitarian Bible Society and I believe that their branches outside the UK will also stock it.

The timeline can be viewed on Abigail Mohon's website.  Click the images for a more detailed view. Please note that there are also free colouring sheets of Tyndale, Wycliffe and a ploughboy on the site.

Monday 16 May 2011

5-a-Day books-week5

We have enjoyed 5-a-Day, this last week. Miss Belle has been wandering around quoting from books we have been reading. The books which rhyme tend to hold both children's attention best.

Please see the FIAR page for activities around The Story of Ferdinand, from last week.

This week's books are

Madeline in London by Ludwig Bemelmans. Another from the Madeline series-this time, a visit to London and again, in rhyming text.

The little red car by Nicola Baxter. This is another Ladybird book with repetition which is best sung. This has appealed to all my children and I had cries of "Read it again", this morning.

Bluebell is a simple book with flaps and rhyme. It features princesses so appeals to Miss Belle. I can't say it is the most exciting book ever but then I'm not the judge.

Hairy McClary at the vets by Lynley Dodd.  Mr Exuberance loves this book-it is probably his favourite of all the Hairy McClary books that we have read. He is especially fascinated by Hairy McClary not being on every page.

Mirette on the high wire by Emily Arnold McCully

This is our FIAR book for this week.
There is plenty to explore in this book which is fiction based on the life of the famous highwire walker, Blondin. Today, we have talked about some of his feats and found photos of the Niagra Crossing as well as Philippe Petit who walked between the Twin Towers in 1974. This lead to a brief discussion about the fate of the Twin Towers.
We had omelette for lunch-Blondin cooked omelette over the Niagra Falls. The solid floor in the kitchen was fine for me.
While I cooked lunch, Miss Belle and Mr Exuberance, walked on a "highwire" or rather a string on the floor and had great fun acting out making omlette on the wire. Funnily, they rapidly decided that it was better to cook in a boat aka as the washing basket.

Friday 13 May 2011

Home education and professional development

This is my second attempt. Version #1 was posted yesterday just before Blogger went down and now appears completely lost.

In my job, professional development was mandatory and took a fair amount of time. Not that I resented this as keeping up to date and improving practice are obviously important. There were plenty of conferences, in-house meetings, journals and on-line training as well as centres of excellence to visit.

Now, I am still a professional-wife, mother, home maker and educator and I still need professional development. My newest role is that of educator and so there is a fair amount of research and reading to do.
It isn't easy.

Here in the UK, there are few home  education conferences. There are plenty of blogs both from the UK and overseas which can be helpful. .

I would love to visit centres of excellence-home educators with an established record to sit like a fly on the wall gaining ideas about managing different ages, how to teach English as a non-specialist and prehaps most of all, how not to loose sight of the important aims in the plethora of detail. Any offers?

Books are great. I have recently finished "Elephant in the classroom" by Jo Boaler which looks at successful and less successful methods of teaching maths. This book has modified the way that I think about and teach maths although change has been easier with the little ones and it has been easier to find interesting books about maths for pre-schoolers-"Nigel's numberless world" by Lucy Coats has been a recent success.

From a Christian point of view, RC Sproul Jr's book "When you rise up" has been a challenge to our thinking.

There are so many questions though. Previously, I was taught that professionals generate questions but finding answers as a lay person in a specialist world can be interesting. Don't get me wrong-I do think that parents can teach their children and I do know that a profession's thinking can shift in an unhelpful or even amoral direction. It is easy though to lack confidence-to look at the waves rather than at the Lord.

My current questions are around literacy, IT teaching, exercise and how to provide it and, more for the future, whether at some point we should teach Koine Greek.

Literacy is a good example.

Miss Belle is desperate to read; not just anything but "The Secret Garden" She recognises letter sounds, the first sound in words and sometimes can manage to sound out three letter words-not enough for "The Secret Garden" not by a long, long chalk. Miss Belle is well aware of this. Now, we are plodding slowly on trying not to talk about "The Secret Garden" other than in its electronic form.
 I'm wondering
Have I gone wrong? I am well aware of other four year olds who do read.
Should I jump to look and say? After all, adults don't tackle new words by phonics but by syllables.
Should we just give up for a while? Her older siblings who were in school at this stage, didn't really "get" reading until they were five.

Instinctively, plodding seems right but some research would be good.

Does anyone have resources to recommend-not just around literacy? If you are a home educator, how do you go about answering this type of question? If you are/have been a teacher what are your favourite resources and are they accessible to a lay person?
Thank you.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Make way for ducklings

This is the Five in a Row book that we enjoyed, last week. I am planning to make a separate FIAR page to post FIAR activities, from now on. Please check this if you are interested in FIAR.

Please note that my children are quite young, 27 months and 54 months so we have used the easier activities suggested and sometimes used easier activities of my own devising.

Anyway, we "rowed" Make way for ducklings, last week. This is a classic by Robert McCloskey describing the search of a pair of ducks for a nesting place and the travel of the mother with her eight ducklings to a more permanent home. It is set in Boston, USA.

We had read this book before so we didn't go back to Google to look at the sights mentioned in Boston as we had done this not so long ago. This is fun to do as the swan boats mentioned in the book really exist and there is a sculpture of Mrs Mallard and her ducklings.

We read some other duck books: Ping and Webster J Duck. A big bird watchers book, with plenty of illustrations, was much enjoyed.

In addition to reading the book, this is what we did:

Monday: This was a public holiday but we went to our local park to look at the ducklings.
Tuesday: We counted the ducklings in the book. Miss Belle wrote numerals to eight on some paper ducks. Mr Exuberance just stuck ducks that I had numbered in his book.

We made ducklings. This is easier art than suggested in the book.
Both children painted an outline duck yellow.

Mr Exuberance stuck yellow objects on his duck.

Miss Belle had clear ideas about her creation which is a Mandarin duck. These are occasional visitors to our  park.

Thursday: We talked about our area and how we go to the park and the local library. We made a map of this. Middle son, aged 10, became very interested in this and helped work on this. In retrospect, if I had realised that he would want to join in, we would have done work on scale and used a compass. As it is, the map is quite symbolic. We did "travel" the way to the library with our fingers.

Friday: we talked about the life cycle of the duck and particularly how the duck sits on the eggs in the nest to incubate them. Miss Belle and Mr Exuberance made eggs with ducklings in them. Mr Exuberance's looks neater as he can't cut out yet and needed a fair amount of help.

Miss Belle did her own cutting out and wanted to use a translucent sheet behind the duck so that it could just be seen. She had three layers: pink shell, white duckling and translucent sheet.

Miss Belle and I talked about rhyme as the ducklings names all rhyme: Jack, Mack Ouack etc. I wrote out a set of simple rhyming words.

At the end of the day, we walked in the park again. We didn't see many ducklings but saw plenty of ducks.
Mr Mallard

Mr and Mrs Mallard

Mrs Mallard

5-a-Day books: week 4 take 2

We struggled, a bit, with 5-a-Day, last week. By day two, I realised that the problem was that I had chosen books that I had already read and reread to the children and Miss Belle was getting a bit fed up and wanting something different. It didn't help that we went to the library on Tuesday, and took out close to the maximum 15 books each, so there was demand for the new books.

This week, I've decided to use books that are quite unfamiliar to the children and I'm carefully hiding the new FIAR books bringing out one each week.
So this week, we are reading

The story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf-this is also our FIAR book for the week. Not the train, this time but a story of a bull in Spain with fun illustrations.

The little red hen is a Ladybird book with plenty of repetition and somehow, I have managed not to read it to the younger children. One of the advantages of having several children and many books is that some escape notice.

Appley Dappley by Beatrix Potter is another that escaped. It was a gift when our second child was born and we read it over and over to the older two but it hasn't been read in recent years!

Noah and God's promises by Gloria Truitt has the Bible narrative in rhyme. It is an Arch book-these have been around since I was a child. I have only seen a limited number but understand that some are better than others.

Duck's day out by Jez Alborough isn't new to us but is one of Mr Exuberance's very best books so is included. This is a short book -again in rhyme.

These were well received today. We sat on the steps of Portcullis House, waiting for Middle Son to come out from a home education group trip to the Houses of Parliament, reading Duck's Day out! Sorry no photo-too difficult to co-ordinate two under fives, the book and a camera!

Monday 9 May 2011

Children's day

Yesterday wasn't Mother's Day, here in the UK. We have Mothering Sunday three weeks before Easter.

We chose yesterday, for no particular reason, to have Children's Day.

Why? We wanted to thank God for entrusting us with our children. Obviously, we wanted to pray for them too- not that that is just left to one particular day.

What did we do? We gave each child a book. In fact, this wasn't completely my own idea. My Mother used to give each of her children a book on the Sunday nearest to her wedding anniversary.
Table with the books waiting for the children.

My husband read Psalm 127 and 128 for our family worship.

I had meant to make special food but we were out the previous day and this didn't happen. In fact, we ended up with "shop" pies for dessert which are considered an extra special treat by some. There were some yummy chocolate brownies for tea- thanks to our eldest daughter.

What were the books?

Eldest son aged 17-The real university challenge by Andrew King.

Eldest daughter aged 15-Anne Bradstreet-Poet and Pilgrim by Faith Cook.

Middle son aged 10-African Adventures by D Anderson

Miss Belle aged 4-Stop and look at God's Word by Donna Drion

Mr Exuberance aged 2-Ferdinand the Engine CD by Ann Benton. This is our third copy of Ferdinand and was greeted with much nostalgia by the older children: "I remember how we listened to the tape until it wore out and kept slipping."

Ferdinand is an allegory based around a steam engine, his Inventor and the Manual for Driving Railway Engines. It brings in songs with catechism questions which are memorable but don't always scan. Despite this the children have all enjoyed this-Mr Exuberance was certainly excited about the chuffing.

All the books were brought from Ossett Books.

Would we do Children's Day again-quite possibly. It was a joy to see the children around the breakfast table, with their books, with Ferdinand chuffing in the background!

Friday 6 May 2011

Around and about

Trisha often makes me think but her post on teaching doctrine to children is something that I have printed out and have read again and again. I'm working on putting some of her ideas into practice. Her caveat is particularlarly searching.

The Trinitarian Bible Society have published a 75 page booklet, "The Authorised Version-a wonderful and unfinished history" to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. It goes through the history of the Bible and its translation.Starting from early days with handwritten manuscripts through Tyndale and Coverdale to the King James Version. It is illustrated throughout and would be readable by older children as well as adults. It is free to download from the TBS.

Petra has been blogging through the alphabet. Her verses for U-Uzzah is a thought provoking meditation on this portion of Scripture.

And this is London in Spring.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Five in a row

My Five in a Row package arrived this week.

Five in a Row (FIAR) is a curriculum based around picture books which are read each day for five days. The idea is that each day, after the reading, there is a lesson based on the book. Lessons cover "social studies"-history and geography, language, maths, art and science. The manuals are full of ideas for lessons. There are far, far more ideas than it would be possible to use in a week.

The books used are some of the best picture books I know about; from old favourites like "Peter Rabbit" to "How to make an apple pie". They are often award winning and have proven their value over time.

The manuals state that up to five, FIAR can be used alone but after this can be combined with phonics and maths. It is not a phonics programme.

FIAR is aimed at children aged 4 to 8. My initial thought was that this seemed rather old to be using picture books but having looked at the manuals, there is an impressive content which certainly isn't dumbed down. In addition, the picture books are definitely at the older end of the scale.

I'm using FIAR for Miss Belle aged 56 months and Mr Exhuberance aged 27 months. I suspect that Miss Belle is just old enough and Mr Exhuberance is a bit young. We are using the younger activities and adding a few of our own. There should be content for a time to come.

In addition to the books, there are ideas on the message board on the FIAR site and links to blogs with some wonderful ideas-here.

The downside
-not all the books are in print. We have made a decision to use the books that we have and that I have just brought and then buy those that are reasonable price. I'm not spending £50 for one book.

-there is so much to do and some of the ideas on blogs are so beautiful that it is a bit overwelming. I always had comments like "Presentation could be better" on my school reports and it has come back to haunt me!

Despite this, I plan to post on what we have done and I think that we will have fun with FIAR.
This week, we are "rowing" "Make way for the ducklings".

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Who said it would be easy?

A group of us are learning the Bible book of Philippians. Today is Wednesday in the Word for sharing what we have learnt from the verses this week.

Yes, it has been good to be learning God's Word again but no, I couldn't think of anything much to say.

So, I looked at Calvin on Philippians but failed to find a pithy memorable comment to take away and think about. I was sure that my trusty Olney Hymns would help but Newton hadn't written hymns on anything before chapter four.

What can I say? Learning is hard work for my middle aged brain. Not impossible but hard work.

Like most other people learning this, I'm busy. Or at least I think I'm busy so the learning doesn't always get done at the most favourable times-those times are used to help little people learn or keep them and the rest of the family fed.

Recently, I have come back to this text again and again. It applies even here.

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4 v 14-16

Monday 2 May 2011

5-a-Day books: week 4

The children and I are enjoying 5-a-Day books. They wanted today's books read before breakfast-we managed to hold off one to be read over breakfast-the other four were read before.

Today is a public holdiay in the UK. Tomorrow, we go back to normality. I don't think that I will manage to read books before breakfast then!

Anyway, this week's choices are

The very busy spider by Eric Carle of Hungry Caterpillar fame. This has been a favourite for some time.

All shapes and sizes by Shirley Hughes. This is one of her toddler books-beautiful pictures and text looking at contrasts. The children have learnt much of this by frequent repetition but still love this.

Cuddly Dudley by Jez Alborough is from our local library and on loan for the nth time. It is more commonly known as Cuggly Duggly here.

Make way for the ducklings by Robert McCloskey is also our Five in a Row choice for this week. My FIAR manuals haven't arrived yet with all the holiday post but I decided to start this anyway. Hopefully, more of an update next week but for now, we decided to do a little trip to go with this. In lieu of a visit to Boston, we visited our extended garden aka the park, to see some ducks.
On the left, it is just possible to see a camouflaged Mallard on a nest.

Two ducklings-there was a fair amount of discussion as to whether they were Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack,Ouack, Pack or Quack.

Our final book for this week, is also a duck book.
Webster J. Duck by Martin Waddell is about a duck who couldn't find Mum Duck.
I've been realising that we have a fair number of books about ducks obviously a favourite theme for children's authors; it seems to go down well with the children.

Tornado in Alabama

A couple of years ago, we had a friend to stay who had with her, as her helper with her baby, Kelly Crawford's eldest daughter, Bria. We were all shocked to hear, last week, that the Crawfords had lost their home and most other material possessions in the tornadoes which hit the southern United States.

The Crawfords all escaped with their lives but friends of theirs lost their husband and father, as well as their home.

The latest post on Kelly's site has interviews with Kelly's husband and representatives of a couple of the other families involved.

Here there is more information about the relief effort and ways to help those who have lost so much.