Monday 31 October 2011

The United States

This week's books for Mr Exuberance (2years 9 months) and Miss Belle(5 years) this week are about the US. I'm a bit hesitant about putting up this post as there are so many people who know more about picture books from the US. These are from our family collection. Please note that we are British and are by no means experts on the subject. Feel free to suggest your favourites.

 The reason for this theme is that several of our Five in a Row books, for the next few weeks, are set in the US. Sadly, there won't be a field trip this time!

 This week we are "rowing" Lentil by Robert McCloskey. The children have taken to this immediately with several requests to read it "again". I've managed to keep to three readings today. This is set in the fictional Alto, Ohio. Robert McCloskey  also is the author of Make way for the ducklings which we have previously enjoyed.

 The little red lighthouse and the great gray bridge by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward is set in New York. We are revisiting this.

 All the places to love by Patricia MacLachlan is a beautiful story set on an American farm. The pictures, by Mike Wimmer, are detailed and evocative. This story looks at different places, around the farm, loved by different family members. Probably, too, one of the most beautiful books I have seen about a new sibling.

 The jolly barnyard by Annie North Bedford is a Little Golden book. This is a funny tale, in rhyme, about how the animals propose to honour the farmer on his birthday. I like the turkey best:
 As well as I am able
 I'll decorate his Thanksgiving table.

 The last book won't be read straight through each day but we plan to dip into it. This is the ABC word book by Richard Scarry.
Happy reading!
This is linked to 5-a-Day books at the Imagination Tree.

Friday 28 October 2011

Teaching children about money

I've just ordered a book  to teach about money and finance in a more formal way but ordering this book reminded me of the informal way that we have used to teach Middle Son, aged 11, about finance.

We told Middle Son to imagine that he was 18 and working 35 hours a week in a Minimum Wage job. He would therefore earn £4.98 per hour. (UK minimum wage for 18-21 year olds).

His task was to work out his total earnings per week and produce a budget. We didn't allow for the possibility of debt-the budget had to balance.

So he set to and worked out a menu which he costed using an on line supermarket. He looked at the cost of rented accommodation, clothing, leisure and travel.

Not surprisingly, it was difficult to get the budget to balance.

This project led to useful discussions about
  • giving and tithing
  • priorities in budgeting
  • renting vs buying
  • mortgages and how they work
  • saving
  • how to cut expenses
  • living alone vs living with parents or sharing
  • where to buy food
  • how to earn more
  • the value of study to increase long term earnings
Of course, this can be extended on and on but it was a useful exercise which took several hours of work over three days to complete.

Please do comment about how you teach your children about finance.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Firework playdough

We are coming up to Guy Fawkes night on 5th November. Last year, Mr Exuberance didn't like the sound of the fireworks so this year some preparation is needed.

Making some playdough seemed an idea way of talking about fireworks, and their sounds, whilst having an enjoyable time.

We made black cooked playdough using this recipe. Previously, I had managed to make some grey playdough so I was fairly generous with the black food colouring. Grey playdough is less than inspiring. We added loads of glittery shapes-the playdough seemed to eat the shapes. Maybe they melted but we used the whole of two little bottles. The glitter was designed to represent colourful fireworks against the black (playdough) sky.

We decorated lolly sticks with pipecleaners and strips of shiny paper to represent rockets and pompoms to look like large fireworks in the sky.

We talked about fireworks and loud bangs and how after the bangs there are beautiful colours. It became obvious that using the word "rocket" clouded things as Mr Exuberance thinks of rockets as transport to the moon!
I left the playdough out and over the afternoon, both Mr Exuberance and Miss Belle came and played with the fireworks altering their position and talking about them. Probably worth repeating over the next few weeks.
This is linked to It's playtime and Living Life Intentionally Linky Party.

Monday 24 October 2011

Library books

After our  exciting trip which linked with some previous books, I don't have a special theme for this week's books. It seems that many Mondays we start reading our 5-a-Day books and then go to the library and find a whole lot more books. 5-a-Day becomes more like 10 or 15-a-day. So this week's plan is to make life simpler and use the books from a recent library trip.

Our local library allows each child up to 15 books which is a fair number to keep an eye on and read. I should say that I am sensible and only allow five or six but it wouldn't be true. We do end up with large numbers of books. I have selected five for our 5-a-Day which we will plan to read each day. These also seem to be the children's favourites of the current bag of books.

Where are you blue kangaroo? by Emma Chichester Clark. We've had other Blue Kangaroo books out before. In this one, Blue Kangaroo gets lost again and again.
This is the bear and the picnic lunch, by Sarah Hayes, is a book the children were excited to find as we have another in the series. This is the sort of book that gets read twice before breakfast. The text is simple and in rhyme.
Suddenly by Colin McNaughton is an amusing book about Preston Pig and how he evades the wolf, perhaps completely accidentally.
Down by the cool of the pool by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees is another book in rhyming text with lots fun onomatopoeic words. This book is by the author of one of our favourites, Amazing Machines.
I want a sister by Tony Ross is part of the Little Princess series. Probably more popular with the children than me-the princess is rather spoilt but it has a satisfactory ending!
This is linked to 5-a-Day books at the Imagination Tree. 

Friday 21 October 2011


We've had a bit of a French theme going in our Five in a Row books-Madeline, The Glorious flight and Mirette on the high wire and last week also in our 5-a-Day books. There was a reason-we had a family day out planned to Paris-a very special treat- and yesterday was the day.

We got up horribly early, soon after 3am-no pictures at that time in the morning! It did mean though that we arrived in Paris not long after 9am, French time.

Paris is so different although, superficially, so the same.

We looked out for "An old house in Paris that was covered in vines" but didn't see it although we saw this

and some old houses.
Of course, we went up the Eiffel Tower.
and saw other "Madeline" sights from there. The Arc de Triomphe is in the middle.
Was this the bridge where Madeline frightened Miss Claval?
Then we left the "Madeline" theme and went to the Pompidou Centre. You either love it or hate it. I find it fascinating. There was a children's exhibition, the Blobterre with plenty to appeal to different senses; all except taste, I think. Miss Belle wasn't so impressed by the rest of the modern art and asked about the location of the Mona Lisa. Maybe we chose the wrong gallery for her.
A fascinating, tiring day. In retrospect, I would have

  • taken the stroller. Mr Exuberance wasn't exuberant by the end and fell asleep on his big brother's shoulders.
  • done more research. We wanted to find food for the way back but couldn't find a boulangerie.
  • perhaps have planned a slightly shorter day.
Overall, though a good day. It is such a privilege to be able to visit so easily.

This is linked to The field trip hop and the Hip Homeschool Hop.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Autumn thankfulness

We have so much for which to give thanks.

The other day, Eldest Daughter decided to carve a thankful pumpkin.
First she took out the flesh and made soup. Then she carved the flesh with "In all things give thanks."

A lovely way to carve pumpkins in a profitable way.
Do be careful with the very sharp knife though-not an activity for young children.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Apple recipe compendium part 1

Probably more for my own benefit than for anyone else, I am putting a list of apple recipes in one place.
We have tried  these recipes, except for the chutney where I used a slightly different recipe. Where possible, I will link to the recipes and where that isn't possible to where the recipe is found and give an idea of what the recipe is like.

The first part does not include desserts and cakes. I hope to cover these in a future post.

Granola with apple compote ( peel and core apples and simmer with enough water to cover the base of the saucepan. Take care not to let the saucepan burn. Puree if wished but this isn't strictly necessary if the apples are cooked to a pulp).

These are surprisingly good and healthier than the many dessert recipes.

Apple and tomato-I have successfully substituted tinned tomatoes for fresh.
Curried parsnip and apple

Main course
Apple and mushroom chicken casserole-this is adapted from a recipe given to me by one of my aunts.
4 chicken thighs
1 tablespoonful of oil (I use vegetable but whatever you use in cooking)
1 onion-peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic-diced
2 carrots -chopped
1 cooking apple-peeled, cored and chopped
8 mushrooms-chopped
500ml/1 pint chicken stock
parsley/thyme/sage to taste

Brown the onion
Add the garlic and mushrooms and brown for 1 minute
Add the chicken and brown.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to simmering point
Cook for 1 and 1/2 hours at 180C/350F until the chicken is cooked.
Serve with baked potatoes.

Pork slow cooked with apple
Apple sauce (see compote recipe) with roast pork or goose
Apple and onion stuffing with roast turkey/chicken

Braised red cabbage and apple

Do let me know your apple recipes. I am always looking out for more.

Monday 17 October 2011


We are enjoying the beginning of half term and so this week we aren't reading a Five in a Row book. Instead we have a bit of a cat theme. I'm not quite sure why; one of the little ones really doesn't like cats. Thankfully cats in books seem to be different.

Mog and Bunny is a book that we have read to all five children. Strange to think that I've been reading it for a decade and a half.

Misty by Rod Campbell is by another classic children's author. I can't remember which child acquired this book. I couldn't find a picture and our copy is a bit too battered to display!

The lighthouse keeper's cat by David and Rhonda Armitage has been one of our Five a Day before. A funny story of what happened when the cat was offended.

Tiger by Nick Butterworth was a Bookstart book. The story of a kitten who wants to think that he is a tiger.

Finally, a real classic, Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter. I love these books and Mr Exuberance is starting to enjoy them too. Beatrix Potter has such a rich vocabulary and detailed pictures. This book was part of my childhood. It is a pleasure to introduce it to my children.

This is linked to 5-a-Day books at the Imagination Tree.

Friday 14 October 2011

Interview with Anna from the Imagination Tree

I’m delighted that Anna from the Imagination Tree has agreed to be interviewed. If you haven’t visited the Imagination Tree do hop over. It is a must if you have young children-full of ideas which are fun and educational as well as the vital recipe for play dough.
Anna was recently awarded the MAD blog of the year award for the Imagination Tree.

Anna and I attend the same church so I know her in real life as well as on the internet. My children especially like the Imagination Tree because they recognise Cakie and Pop.
Thank you, Anna, for agreeing to be interviewed.
Many people have been inspired to do arts and crafts with their preschoolers by the Imagination Tree. What made you start your site?
Good question! I became a full time Mum after 10 years of very full-on teaching and was initially shocked by the change in pace in my life having just one little one to care for. I found myself feeling frustrated creatively and wanted some sort of outlet for my ideas and to keep me challenged, on my toes and in touch with my teaching. When my little girl became one and I started to do lots of hands on activities with her, some friends asked for ideas and I realised that people might like to have activity ideas to do at home with their own children. And so the blog was born! It is less about us as a family, which is the traditional blogging style, and more of a collection of activities for readers to dip into when needing an idea!

The thought of the mess involved with paint and creative play with pre-schoolers can be off putting. You seem to launch happily into messy play with your little ones. Presumably, you must have some ways of preventing the mess from being overwhelming so that the play is fun, for all concerned. Have you any suggestions about this?

I know I am more relaxed about mess than lots of people and perhaps that doesn’t reflect well on the state of my home in general! I think the best advice is to do as much as possible outside, where the mess isn’t such an issue. Otherwise, using wide, shallow boxes (such as garden trays or under-bed storage boxes) to contain the mess works pretty effectively. I think you can teach children not to go crazy with messy play materials by making sure they help clean it all up if it goes everywhere. By a certain age they are aware enough not to make so much mess in the first place! But I believe that if mess takes place during some seriously engaged play then it really is a necessary by-product.

One of the things that I love about the Imagination Tree is that many of the ideas involve ordinary household items.  Beyond these which other art/craft items would you suggest are most useful ?
 Washable paint, PVA glue, chunky chalk, glitter and sequins, pipe cleaners, air drying clay, thick paintbrushes, cartridge paper, coloured card, feathers and googly eyes, sellotape and a laminator!
Do you get any time to enjoy art/crafting yourself? If so what is your particular interest.
 I used to love to do little paintings, paint furniture, cross-stitch and to applique onto cushions and clothes but I rarely create time for my own crafting these days. It’s something I’d love to do again in the future. My next mission is to learn to crochet and to use my sewing machine properly to make dresses and toys for the girls.
I know that your faith is very important to you. How does it impact on your everyday life?
 We are a Christian family and that impacts our whole world view and the way in which we approach the raising of our children. We want them to grow up with a huge love and compassion for people around them and to learn to be responsible, hard working and respectful. Most of all we pray that they will have a deep love for God and a desire of their own to please and follow Him as they grow. We try to have family worship twice a day and C is learning Bible verses as part of this, which she loves at the moment!

As a wife and mother of two preschoolers, and one on the way, how do you make the time to write?
 The way I have approached writing the blog has evolved over the past year or so since I started it, to coincide with the girls growing older and slowly dropping naps etc. Now that I am practised at it I write a post much more quickly and tend to write only in the evenings after the girls have gone to sleep. I don’t really enjoy watching TV so choose to spend some of my free time this way instead, which I see as my hobby and stimulation for my tired brain! I plan my posts in advance and schedule them to be published ahead of time, so that I don’t need to turn on the computer in the daytime often.

I’m always fascinated by the books other people enjoy. In the spirit of your 5-a-Day books, can you share your all time favourite children’s books and perhaps, your own favourite books.
  That question is hard! There are SO many wonderful children’s books out there and I think (if I admitted it) I am addicted to them and would happily line my shelves with hundreds of titles! I just love Dogger by Shirley Hughes because of the strong connection with my own childhood and the wonderfully evocative memories of my Mum cuddling me close on her lap as she read it to me so often. Later on I loved The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton and I feel impatient for C to grow up so I can read this to her too!
My own favourite book, apart from the Bible, is currently One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp which is such a beautiful reminder to take every single gift to us and treasure it, as a way of bringing us our ultimate happiness and fulfilment in life.

Thank you.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Apple turnover

I've written before about our amazing apple harvest. It hasn't been picked in one go this year as it is easier to manage in bits but the photo, from a previous year, shows far, far fewer apples than this year.
We are storing many apples both in the freezer, bottled (canned) and as jam.

 It seems silly not to use them now as well. One favourite recipe is apple turnover. It is amazingly quick and can be made one day and reheated the next. I often make it on Saturday for eating on Sunday.
3-4 Bramleys depending on size
500g puff pastry (I'm lazy and tend to buy a block)
granulated sugar
sultanas (optional)
milk to glaze

Heat oven to 200C/400F
Roll the pastry to a rectangle shape very approximately 30cmx 20cm (12"x8").
Peel, core and slice the apples.
Layer apples on one half (lengthwise) of the pastry.
Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sultanas to taste.
Fold over uncovered pastry half.
Place on baking tray.
Glaze with milk.
Cook for 23-30 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

Serve with custard, ice cream or yogurt.

Leftovers, if any, can be served cold or reheated.


This is linked to the homemaking linkup at Raising Homemakers.

Monday 10 October 2011


Following on from The Glorious Flight, we are continuing the French theme this week.

Our main book is Madeline by Ludwig Behelmans and we plan activities related to this.

Today. we painted some paper models from  Made by Joel. They need to dry and then be folded tomorrow.

We are rereading the Glorious Flight by Alice and Martin Provensen as we all enjoyed this first time round and it has particularly come to life, for the children, after our trip to Dover.

Mirette on the high wire by Emily Arnold McCully is a previous Five in a Row read and is also set in Paris.

I'm not sure whether this is foolhardy but I've added Les Couleurs which is a Coccinelle book. There are pictures on every page about colours. It was enjoyed this morning, after some bemusment about Mummy reading in French.

This only adds up to four this week. I did wonder about adding Babar the king by Jean de Brunhoff. It is likely that we will read it this week but it is looong and I didn't want to plan to read it every day.
Miss Belle has been wandering round saying "Bonjour". Should be an enjoyable topic!

I have linked this to 5-a-Day books at the Imagination Tree.

Saturday 8 October 2011


An assorted collection of posts that I have found useful. Hope you enjoy them.

 This is a helpful post from The Homeschool Post which addresses the issue of patience or lack of it and what God requires. Useful for all mothers without limitless patience, not just home educators.

I had planned to link to Sun hats and Wellie boots' post about laminating leaves especially as my husband has just brought me a laminator. Visitors to our home now find little laminated cards reminding them that "the door" is well, "the door".

Since finding the laminating leaf post, I saw the The Imagination Tree autumn play collection which includes the leaves and many other ideas. A fascinating resource with plenty of ideas for us. In the mean time, here is our version of laminating autumn in the garden-picked and designed by Miss Belle.

This document is something completely different. It is a document written for Canadian professional educators about improving boys' literacy. It is practical and has many helpful ideas and also statements which ring true.This, quite long, publication has many ideas for parents of boys especially in the middle years of education.

 It amazes me that at a few months off three years,Mr Exuberance has slightly but distinctly different tastes in books to his sister. He prefers books about machines and non-fiction whereas Miss Belle likes anything that involves princesses.
Finally, Kelly. at Generation Cedar, has posted about maintaining the margins. She defines this as
Margin is the space you leave around life’s events. It is limiting yours and your family’s activities and it is ultimately learning the important practice of saying “no”.

I'm off to finish preparing for the Lord's Day-that best of margins for all of us.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Avoiding spending

Since living on one income, I have realised even more how many of the most important things in life don't rely on money.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Luke 12 verse 31
 Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12 verse 34

I haven't posted about frugal living for ages mainly because it is difficult to find anything different to say and I don't want to add to the general gloom.

 This is a list of ways of saving mainly quite small amounts but since everyone seems to be squeezed at present hopefully these may help.

  • Beans are a great way to eke out meat in a casserole. Dried beans are about half the cost of tinned. Red kidney beans, for some reason, are an exception and are amazingly cheap in tins. Dried beans do need soaking overnight and then boiling as intructed by the packet, usually 10 minutes. The simmering part can be done in the casserole.
  • Steamer-cooks two vegetables for the cost of one.
  • Cars. We have saved a substantial amount by owning a small car and a small people carrier instead of a minibus. There is a major downside in that we can't all go out in one car- a real pain for holidays or long trips. The savings are in terms of insurance and petrol as the cars use less petrol and we tend to use the smaller one where possible.
  • Washing line-saves so much. Putting the washing on last thing at night so the wash can go out first thing helps in autumn and spring.
  • An energy saving monitor is a fascinating device. I'm not sure that I would spend £27 on one. Ours was free with a energy company promotion. It has really highlighed how much energy the oven and tumble dryer, in particular, use.
  • The oven-following on from this-is an expensive device and we try to use it full. This can be an issue with children who love to cook! We are working on co-ordination and doubling recipes.
  • Science equipment-this is specially for home educators- but the Technology Shop has excellent value science equipment plus DT kits and some interesting odds and ends. We did very well on googly eyes!
  • Points cards-Tescos/Sainsburys/Boots/Maximiles etc. There are millions of pounds in unclaimed points-don't forget yours.
  • Please feel free to add your ideas!

Tuesday 4 October 2011

The White Cliffs of Dover

I mentioned that there was one more activity for The Glorious Flight and that was a visit to Dover. Louis Bleriot landed just above the White Cliffs just over one hundred and two years ago.

Actually, the trip wasn't primarily arranged for this reason but as a Home Education group outing which fitted with Middle Son's history. The pleasure of Five in a Row is that I could arrange to have just finished a book which was so applicable for the little ones.

Trips can be a bit of a challenge with children  far apart in age (Middle Son is 11 whereas Miss Belle and Mr Exuberance are four and two respectively) but this proved a great way of including them and making the trip meaningful. There are also some very accessible books about castles which we used in the week before the trip. Probably the favourite was I wonder why castles had moats.and other questions about long ago.

Hopefully, we can make future trips work in this way too. I have some ideas for the next trip!

We had a fabulous almost summer day which definitely helped.

Dover Castle is a fantastic historical venue. All the children enjoyed the  Great Tower which has medivael funishings. There was so much to talk about. Miss Belle is fascinated by history and was in her element.

I was more surprised at the awe with which the little ones touched the Roman lighthouse. It does seem amazing that there should still be a light house standing over all those centuries and that the lower levels have been there for almost two thousand years. It says something for the standard of the building.

All in all a useful trip and an enjoyable day out, to boot.

By the way, home educators are entitled to free entry to English Heritage sites. We went as a group but I understand that it is possible for individual families to book.

This is linked to Field trip Friday.

Monday 3 October 2011

For the children

Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying,
We are praying for our children.

Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret hidden peril,
From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand pluck them.

From the worldling's hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Holy Father, save our children.

Through life's troubled waters steer them,
Through life's bitter battle cheer them,
Father, Father be Thou near them.
Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging,
Holy Father, for our children.

And wherever they may bide,
Lead them home at eventide.

Amy Carmichael 1867-1951