Saturday 31 December 2011

The changing scenes of life

Many years ago, my husband and I chose Through all the changing scenes of life as one of our wedding hymns. A strange choice but one that we have never regretted. 
This hymn  is Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady's versification of Psalm 34.
It seems also to be suitable for New Year, especially in these uncertain times. Uncertain to us but certain to God.

Through all the changing scenes of life
In trouble or in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ.

Of His deliverance I will boast,
Till all that are distressed
From mine example comfort take
And charm their griefs to rest.

O magnify the Lord with me,
With me exalt His name;
When in distress to Him I called,
He to my rescue came.

The hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Deliverance He affords to all
Who make His name their trust.

O make but trial of His love,
Experience will decide
How blest are they, and only they,
Who in His truth confide.

Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear;
Make but His service your delight;
Your wants shall be His care.

Friday 30 December 2011


I was planning to post something useful about time and caring. However, having spent much of this afternoon on two fruitless missions  related to caring, and having managed to spend time hauling a wheelchair in and out the car and taking an elderly person out in the greyness of a wet December late afternoon, I'm not sure that now is the time to post on this. May be in a few days, I will feel up to posting on what not to do.

Anyway, little people need activities. Yesterday, I mentioned Miss Belle's new book, the Big book of science things to make and do. We're doing more activities from this.
There was the layered liquid jar: coloured water, oil and golden syrup-introducing density.

and today, slime. The children had expressed interested in the slime page and then yesterday, Anna at the Imagination Tree posted a link to her marbled oobleck. So we really had to have a go.

Cornflour, water and, thanks to Mr Exuberance, lots of food colouring. We used some red, blue,green and black and it looked like, well, slime.

 Miss Belle was not impressed-she wanted hers to look beautiful like the marbled oobleck on the Imagination Tree. Mr Exuberance was very, very happy-he made "waterfalls" with his hands, dripped the slime onto paper,

and announced that his very coloured hands were "alien hands".

 He would have spent ages playing if it hadn't been necessary to feed the rest of the family. We need to try this again for Miss Belle, using less extravagant amounts of food colouring.

It interests me how the activities for children about solids/liquids and gases generally use unusual or atypical materials but this was a fascinating in a rather slimy way.

This is shared on the Linky party at Living Intentionally and Fun stuff Fridays.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Rocket thank you cards

After a rather unsuccessful attempt at thank you cards yesterday, I was looking at the Usborne  Big book of Science things to make and do and realised that there was an idea for a space picture and another for rocket tessellations which could be tweaked to make cards.

So I cut out simple rocket shapes from coloured card and Mr Exuberance, 35 months, glued these onto card. He then sprinkled glitter onto glue to make fire.

 Rockets need doors and extra flames-I cut out and Mr Exuberance glued. There was a fair amount of glitter around!

We were both quite pleased with the results and had to find Roaring Rockets to finish the rocket theme.

This is linked to Works for me Wednesday where there are many, many more idea, the linky party at Living life intentionally and It's playtime.

Monday 26 December 2011

Sense and Sensibility Patterns Sale

Sense and Sensibility Patterns is run by a friend, Jennie Chancey.

Jennie has designed patterns reflecting historical clothing but which can be made and worn today. The patterns are clear and I've managed to make them which, if you know me, is quite an achievement.

Jennie is a home educating mother and despite a recent move to Kenya is still hoping to bring out new patterns in the Spring. For now, though, she has an end of year sale with 15% off patterns. There are e-patterns which is idea for those of us not in the US.

Please note that I am an affiliate and will earn a small amount from purchases through this site. The opinions in this post are my own.

Friday 23 December 2011

Being a three generational family at Christmas

Over Christmas, many "conventional" families morph into three generational families. For some that means that healthy Grandma cooks the dinner with adult children to help with the veg and the little ones play or perhaps that is just wishful thinking.

Many families will find out that Granny isn't quite as well or that her memory isn't as good as before.

So how to survive a three generational get-together.

  • Don't presume that the older generation can or will help but the children need training so they can help.
  • Think in advance whether an older person can manage the stairs, where they will sleep, whether they will need a commode (can be hired from the Red Cross).
  • Have the phone numbers of the GP walk in centre and work out where the 24hour emergency pharmacy is and how to get there. This might sound silly but we've certainly had to talk to the out of hours service and visit the emergency pharmacy over Christmas and the New Year.
  • Getting to church takes longer. A two year old can be carried if you are late, Granny can't.
  • Work out access problems in advance.
  • Think about church and sensory problems. Will a large print Bible/hymn book be needed? Is there an induction loop? If not, where will be the best place to sit-it might not be at the back with the babies. Will the family need to sit in two halves?
  • Older people love watching the present unwrapping-make sure it is done when they are there.
  • Find some occupations suitable for everyone. This isn't always easy but board games and old photographs are a possibility.
  • Make sure that the children have instructions about how to talk to the hard of hearing.
  • It isn't unkind to take the children off for a walk and let older people rest.
  • Confusion will be worse out of context but undiagnosed confusion needs sorting out.
  • There may be sorting out to do after Christmas-that confusion or weight loss need investigating. Someone may need to encourage/ensure that an appointment is made, provide transport and be an extra informant.
  • Finally, it is very easy to feel sorry for yourself-I know, been there. It isn't worth it. God's grace is sufficient. Look up and remember what we are celebrating

Thursday 22 December 2011

Christmas thoughts

This week was when I wanted to catch up but it hasn't worked quite like that. Plenty to do and then, being a carer, unexpected illness can and does intervene. I've spent my first Sunday morning in a supermarket, collecting a prescription, and have made acquaintance again with the time waiting to get a simple answer about equipment from Social Services. The thought of filling in a multi-page carers' questionnaire made my heart sink and stuff it back in the envelope.

Anyway, it has been good to have other food for thought.

One of my favourite bloggers produced a lovely piece about their simple family giving, Se7en +1 stockings to fill. There are links at the end of the post to posts about the handmade gifts that her children make for one another. So good to keep Christmas in perspective.

Another piece for perspective comes from The Wanderer;  looking at Christ or Christmas whether our first aim should be to celebrate Christmas or the Lord's Day. It will be good to have the solid joys of Reformed worship after some of the froth of the season or is my name Scrooge?

Not about Christmas but refreshing and good for mulling over is this post from HSBA- 30 truths about Home Schooling. Lots of sense and nuggets of wisdom:

 No one ever said homeschooling was easy.

You will doubt yourself. That shows that you’re human, not a failure.

It doesn't say that home education is bad for the housework but it is! Probably because training and teaching the children is so much more interesting than housework perhaps a cleaning slot after English, next term.

Monday 19 December 2011

When God made the world

When I heard about When God made the world by Daniel and Naomi Sayers, published by Gospel Standard Publications, I rushed to order it. Better still, I wasn't disappointed.

Finding quality young children's picture books about the Bible isn't always easy.

This book is simple, Biblically based, attractive with pictures on each page. Each page has a photo or photos, simple text and a Bible verse, from the Authorised Version.

It is booklet format and so cheap-£1.95. I ordered from Ossett Christian bookshop.

I'm hoping the authors produce more of this type of book.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Reading and motherhood

So far, this year, I have read innumerable picture books to my little children, some read alouds to Middle Son, and increasingly to Miss Belle, and  a few books for my personal reading.. I'm not particularly proud of the number in the personal reading group-it isn't enormous and most of the books are fairly light.

I'm not counting Bible reading which I count essential. The M'Cheyne Bible reading plan is excellent.

What were those other books? Well they were on

  • mothering 
  • home education
  • the Authorised version of the Bible
  • biographies 
  • novels
The high points of the reading year-

  • Seeing the invisible by Faith Cook. A collection of biographies of less well known Christians-an easy read and a bit of a tear jerker. An easy read. I managed much of it while waiting with Grandma at appointments.
  • Loving the little years by Rachel Jankovic. Thanks to my friend Rachel, not Jankovic, for giving this to me. This gets into what it is really like to be the mother of littlies and how God teaches us so much through this.
  • George Knightley, Esquire, Book One by Barbara Cornthwaite-OK a novel. Emma from Mr Knightley's point of view. Can't wait to get book two.
The low point of the reading year was not keeping up with the Ossett Christian Bookshop reading club. The problem was very practical, I set aside time on Sunday afternoon to read. A quiet time with Mr Exuberance having his nap and no one else to watch but virtually as soon as I came up with this plan, Mr Exuberance dropped his nap. Such a shame as the books are excellent but do need dedicated time and not post-midnight time.

So when do I read? Same as for most mothers:

  • after midnight
  • in waiting rooms-having an older relative with several appointments living with us has been good for reading
  • a few minutes between finishing home education for the day and doing the next thing
  • on rare train journeys
  • holidays
Now is the time to plan for next year. What could improve? Well loads but practically, maybe an aim to get through a few more books perhaps 24-two a month. The bit that troubles me is mainly reading light books but then there are only certain books that can be read at gone midnight. So, I'm looking for books that are easy to read and not too long but challenging, probably, mainly in the areas of
  • Christian living
  • biography
  • home education or education in general
  • doctrine-bit light on doctrinal reading
Lets be honest, I'm going to read a novel or two but they don't need planning, I'll find them! The first book planned is a novel, though, a reread of Pilgrim's Progress.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Finding the Treasure Seekers

This autumn, my reading aloud focus has changed from Middle Son, aged 11, to Miss Belle, aged 5 but Middle Son was very keen that I finished reading The Story of the Treasure Seekers,  by E. Nesbit.

In this book, the six Bastable children try to restore the fortunes of their family with sometimes hilarious results.
We finished the book, recently and so set off to find the scene of the book.

 The Bastables lived in a semi-detached house with a portico on the Lewisham Road, near Blackheath. The Lewisham Road was easy to find but finding a semi, with a portico less so. There are many newish houses and flats. Built, I guess, on bomb sites post-war. The Treasure Seekers was published in 1899 so much may have changed since then. We did find a terraced house with a portico.

So on to Blackheath, the scene of many events in the book.

Was this where Lord Tottenham was ambushed?

Now where we really struggled was identifying the Uncle's house. Blackheath seems to have suffered relatively little from bombing. The description is
The cab went right over the Heath and in at some big gates, and through a shrubbery all white with frost like a fairy frost, because it was Christmas time. And at last we stopped before one of those jolly, big, ugly red houses with a lot of windows."

Now, as far as I can see most houses in Blackheath are built of yellow London brick not red brick and most, to my way of thinking, are anything but ugly. I haven't spent ages looking into this but couldn't find out about possible locations on the internet although, presumably, someone must have looked. I did wonder afterwards, whether we should have spent time looking on the Greenwich side of the Heath.
Anyway, here are a couple of possibilities.

Would this be pre-1900?
More likely to have a shrubbery.

If anyone knows, I would be delighted to find out.

This is linked to The Field Trip hop and Fantastic Foto Fieldtrips.

Monday 12 December 2011

Chocolate maths

Middle Son always tells me that when he went to school little work was done for the last week, week and a half or even two weeks of term. Now my idea is to work to the bitter end but there has to be a bit of compromise somewhere so when I saw the chocolate unit over at Aventures in Homeschooling, I knew this would keep everyone happy.

There are many helpful ideas on the free chocolate unit study at Homeschool Share including some maths ideas covering different ages. We hope to use some of their ideas, tomorrow, working out the mean, median, mode and range of the numbers of different coloured Smarties in a packet for Middle Son. Excellent revision as he did just this, earlier this term. Mr Exuberance can count Smarties "One, eat one" and Miss Belle can do some addition or may be subtraction might be more accurate.

Today, I thought that Middle Son could do something a little different. I love good, dark chocolate and he loves milk chocolate so he made bar charts of the nutritional content of 100g of both forms of chocolate-I was surprised.

 Of course, the packet didn't tell us about endorphins or micronutrients which would, of course, have given a different result.

Then, Middle Son looked up the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for a child of his age. Using the upper end of  energy recommended, he worked out how many 100g chocolate bars would be needed to provide sufficient energy. This turned out to be 4.3-4.5. Again, using the same chocolate bars as before, he calculated what this would provide in terms of protein, fat and saturated fat-perhaps, not such a surprise.

This is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop and Living Life intentionally.

Friday 9 December 2011

The Queen's Life Guard

Today, Middle Son had a  home education group visit to the Cabinet War Rooms which fitted in perfectly with the Second World War history that he has been doing this term.

I knew that Miss Belle and Mr Exuberance were going to find this less interesting so decided to visit Horseguards Parade which is two minutes walk from the Cabinet War Rooms.

 To make this more relevant, this week, we read Madeline in London
and AA Milne's famous poem Buckingham Palace.

Rather to my surprise, we managed to catch changing of the guard.
The old guard -just as in Madeline
Well, isn't it lovely-they're standing sentry
Right here at the Whitehall entry.

The changing of the guard

The new guard
and the changing guards parading. The Life Guards are on the horses with their backs to the camera. Difficult to run round to get a better view with children in tow.

The Blues and Royals are on the opposite side.

We had meant to walk to the entrance of Buckingham Palace but a playground, within site of the Palace, won. A bitter wind stopped too much further exploring-still the the children were excited to see the guards and will, I hope, remember that, not the cold.

On our way home, we walked through Trafalgar Square and saw the Norwegian Christmas Tree.

They're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace-
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
"Do you think the King knows all about me?"
"Sure to, dear, but its time for tea,"
                                                     Says Alice.

This is linked to the weekly wrap up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, to the Field Trip blog hop and to Fantastic Foto Fieldtrips.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Strength for the day

This was sung recently, at church, and I found it encouraging. I know that I'm not the only person to post this hymn but wanted to put this up as it is so well worth reading.

The hymn is by Isaac Watts and differs from the original in that the third and fourth verses are reversed. The original also had another verse about Samson but , in my opinion, this is of lower quality than the rest.

Watts based this on 2 Corinthians 12 v 9-10:
He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for Thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Let me but hear my Saviour say,
"Strength shall be equal to thy day,"
Then I rejoice in deep distress,
Leaning on all-sufficient grace.

I glory in infirmity,
That Christ's own power may rest on me:
When I am weak, then am I strong,
Grace is my shield, and Christ my song.

But if the Lord be once withdrawn,
And we attempt the work alone,
When new temptations spring and rise,
We find how great our weakness is.

I can do all things, or can bear
All sufferings, if my Lord be there;
Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains,
While his left hand my head sustains.

Monday 5 December 2011

Our day-what works for us

This post is part of the Homeschool Carnival. Find out more here.

Other home educators' days always interest me and I've picked up so many ideas from other people.

This is a list of organisational ideas that have worked for us. I haven't written in aspirational ideas, for example, that I manage to have the slow cooker on each morning. It would be good if this were the case but it isn't! We have only been home educating for two and a half years so there is plenty of room for improvement.

  • First things first-start with the Bible and prayer.
  • A set order to the day-this has helped so much. This is easy to remember, unlike a school style timetable which can be different each day. Plus, whilst a child might not like every subject they get used to that fact that it just happens at that time.
  • Front load the day with the most important work. I would prefer that English and maths were done; if we fail to do art or computer studies it matters less.
  • Spend time with the little ones at the beginning. How this works for us is that after Bible time, I set Middle Son's English. He goes off to do this and I read to the younger children.

  •  Mr Exuberance, aged 34 months, is now happy to play independently, whilst his sister has time learning to read.

  • Toddlers can be challenging. I feel a bit of a fraud writing this as my little one is nearly three and is much more able to play alone, in the same room, for a few minutes, that he was even six months ago. If I needied so much time to teach reading now, I would either use nap time, if it still existed, or teach when Middle Son was free to play with Mr Exuberance.
  • Personal reading time after lunch.  The younger ones play educational games on the computer-next target for change. I hope that soon they will listen to talking books in this time.
  • Set finishing time-good for everyone!
  • Planning-I make major curriculum decisions before the beginning of the year and a rough plan of how I would like things to work.  Each week, there is a planning session for the details with a weekly chart of what I have planned-yes, we don't always keep to it but it is invaluable on a busy morning. 
  • Trips-We've realised that the best trips are closely related to the children's work. Now we also try to tie in books for the little ones and turn down trips that don't fit in with what the children are learning. 

  • Extra-curricular activities-the ones that work best for us are close to home. Petrol costs can quickly outweigh a slightly cheaper course, ignoring the time issue and exercise walking to a local event.
Do feel free to comment with your own tips. I am always looking for ways of making the day run more efficiently.

Friday 2 December 2011

Spending time with older children-this week

This is about three activities that Middle Son and I have done together this week.

Building Bonfires
We had to ban magnifying glasses and leaves last summer-the ground was getting dry and younger siblings were getting too interested.
When I was a child, we had frequent bonfires in the garden but in this day of recycling and composting, this doesn't seem to happen any more. Middle Son loves the idea of a bonfire so, this week, we have been building one. We had surprisingly little suitable wood but have made a start-now I need to do some more pruning to make the bonfire a reasonable size to light.
This really is something that we should do more often. No pictures because I was on my bike but good to get out and exercise.

Recipe innovation
To balance the cycle ride, Middle Son made his own recipe for oven "fried" potatoes. He sliced but didn't peel, a potato per person, sprinkled with herbs

and cooked at 200C in a baking tray with a tablespoonful of oil. They were good!

There are more ideas for spending time with older children here.

This is linked to the Linky Party at Living Life Intentionally.