Thursday 26 April 2012

Polish cake and learning about countries

Today, Miss Belle and I made mazurek wielkanocny which is a Polish Easter cake. Yes, it is a bit late but we didn't quite get to make it at the right time. The recipe came in our Polish parcel from the cultural exchange. It is an unusual recipe requiring grated hard boiled egg yolk-still it tasted good although it doesn't look as professional as the one on the recipe picture-do they ever?

We've loved the cultural exchange for learning about other countries. The other resource that is popular here is the UsborneJigsaw World atlas -simple enough for a five year old, and even our three year old enjoys joining in.

This was our Polish package..
It had sweet goodies,
a beautiful painted egg,
Polish coins  (euros),
a cut out of an egg made with sheep shearers-quite amazing,
a sweet little sheep made from corn, I think,
and more besides-postcards, leaflets, a map, a book about the culture, egg decoration and information about the country.

Next year, I'm hoping to extend this and learn about countries in little mini-projects-unit studies if you like- lasting 6-8 weeks. We've done this a couple of times before, with Middle Son, and this has been very successful but now hope to do this with the younger children. Successful components before included

  • map work including salt dough and cookie maps as well as more traditional maps
  • cooking
  • history
  • read alouds
  • music
  • industry
  • interview with person from the country
  • famous artists and their pictures
There is so much more that can be done-just need to decide where to start!

Tuesday 24 April 2012

List mania

There seem to be so many interesting lists,  of a vaguely educational nature, around at present. This is all good, at the beginning of term.

In lieu of preschool has some fascinating lists. I particularly liked the 26 things to talk about in the car (need to memorise this one) and the one about getting children ready to write. There is also a list for getting children to like books but I'm not sure we need that here-I don't want to read aloud all day and all night.

Creekside learning has a list on 10 ways to read more to your children. Why do I want lists about reading aloud more? I did like the poetry teatime idea and after a recent bout of laryngitis, audio books may be the way forward!

National wildlife, from the US has 10 reasons kids need fresh air.

The time has come to learn about Shakespeare and conveniently, when this was on the list to be done this new term, Se7en has a post with the steps they have used to learn about the plays-sounds much more friendly than the way I learnt and quite accessible for younger children.

The Living Math site is full of lists-I want to investigate some maths readers. The Learning math naturally list is full of ideas for maths for younger children. I must put in the disclaimer that we don't just use a "Living math" approach but also use quite conventional textbooks, particularly for Middle Son, however, some of our best maths has been not from texts but living maths: bar charts of birds and favourite colours, the calculations of which garden produce was profitable and the work around making a budget.

Now to implement some of this!

Friday 20 April 2012

10 ways to save in the kitchen

  • Use the oven full. This is easiest with a fan oven but with can be done with any oven. Good choices for lower shelves in a non-fan oven are meringues, rice pudding, sliced tomatoes and cooking granola.
  • Add pulses to meat dishes and use dried pulses, pre-soak, boil for 10 minutes then add to casseroles.
  • Home made marmalades and jams are not cheaper than the cheapest shop bought but better. They are far less expensive than equivalent quality products.
  • Make your own stock.
  • Use left over vegetables in casseroles.
  • Make your own bread. We calculated that our bread maker paid for itself within 100 loaves. We eat at least a loaf a day. Additionally, home made bread tastes so much better.
  • Probably heresy, but value plain flour makes a fine white loaf, in the bread maker.
  • Make home made soup. We had a flyer through, this week, advertising soup which cost 8 times the price of our home made lentil soup. Some vegetable soups may be even less.
  • Grow herbs on the windowsill.
  • Don't take recipes too seriously-substitute. My children say that I am always doing this but there is no reason why sultanas can't do for currants. Don't take this too far-like with like.
Over to you. How do you save in the kitchen?

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Lists and the great outside

This holidays we have used a rough list of possible activities. This has worked really well. We haven't done everything but it has been useful to have ideas. Having this as a reference point has meant that we have done more than we would have done without.  It can be easy for holiday time to just get lost. I'm already thinking about a summer list so was rather interested to see that the National Trust has produced 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4. The aim is to get children off sofas and into the open air.

This fascinating list includes skimming stones, rolling down a hill climbing trees, canoeing, mud slides, throwing snow, light a fire without matches, find a geocatch and abseiling.

 My three year old has done 15 of these-not abseiling- and I'm not too sure about encouraging more eating apples straight from trees. My 11 year old is running out of time and has about 15 that he hasn't done. I'm planning to use this for ideas although haven't decided about signing up for the whole challenge yet.  Some aren't practical yet-not sure about 3 year olds canoeing but a mud slide is another matter. I'm just surprised that with all the interest in mud and mud painting this hasn't happened yet.

 There must be some doubt about how accessible some of these ideas are for many families-there are significant costs to canoeing, bouldering and  abseiling. In some ways it is a shame that they didn't keep to the large number of free or low cost items. However, this list is worth a browse even if you don't decide to go for the whole 50.

Monday 16 April 2012

Titanic:The Ship of Dreams

I was excited to read Titanic:the Ship of Dreams, from Christian Focus. It was good to have a Christian perspective on the Titanic story at a time when there has been so much publicity about the centenary of its sinking.

 Robert Plant writes about the voyage of the real Titanic passengers, John Harper and his six year old daughter, Annie (Nana). For obvious reasons, this is written as historical fiction. The book tells of a train journey to Southampton, embarking on the Titanic and possible events of the voyage including meeting the famous Astors and the Captain. The events of the night of 14th/15th April 1912 are covered and include how Nana was rescued as well as the documented events as John Harper witnessed to others of the saving power of the Lord Jesus, even while in the water.

The book is well written and suitable for children. My younger children have been quite interested in the Titanic, for some time, so this book was ideal. My five year old loved hearing about a child of her own age. I must say that I found the book fascinating and particularly once we realised that John and Nana Harper's home, at the time of the voyage, was in London.

John Harper was minister of Walworth Road Baptist church and lived in Denmark Hill, Surrey. We live in London so after a little research the children and I set off to find whether his house still existed and the site of the church.

Denmark Hill would now be described as being in London, not Surrey and is about three miles down the road from the site of Walworth Road Baptist church. This area was subject to a considerable amount of bombing in the Second World War followed by redevelopment so we weren't sure that we would find the house. However, rather to my surprise, we were able to identify it.
This is John and Annie Harper's house in Denmark Hill.

Sadly, Walworth Road Baptist church no longer exists. It appears to have been demolished in 1950. It was close to a housing development which is itself now empty and waiting for redevelopment. The actual site of the church seems to have been used for a petrol station. What fascinated me was that Walworth Road Baptist church was only 0.3mile from the Metropolitan (Spurgeon's) Tabernacle which in 1912 was being pastored by Dr A.C. Dixon and is still, very much, in existence today.

I was unable to find a picture of Walworth Road Baptist church but did find references to it in the biography of C.H. Spurgeon by G.Holden Pike. This included Spurgeon attending its opening service.

Anyway, this is the current site-rather sad and awaiting redevelopment.
 Unlike the building, John Harper's message lives on. One of the things that I particularly liked about this book are the short Bible studies at the back. These are under the title "Take five minutes" and cover issues like the most important thing in life, the Bible and why God allowed the Harpers to board the Titanic. These are short, pithy and an ideal length for children.

I don't know whether John Harper ever prayed these lines
May I live a life of faith,
May I die Thy people's death
but they certainly seem to characterise his life and death.

I recommend this book. It is suitable for children from about five if read aloud but has plenty in it to interest older children.

Titanic:the Ship of Dreams was provided to me by Christian Focus as an e-book. The opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Pear and ginger crumble

This is a easy dessert which can be prepared ahead and also freezes well.

Ground ginger
Muscavado sugar
Plain flour

Peel and slice pears.
Add ground ginger and brown sugar to taste-most pears are naturally fairly sweet.
If the pears are hard, cover and heat at 150C/350F until soft. This is not necessary for soft pears or if you like a little bite to them.

Make the topping. I'm really bad at measuring and make this entirely by eye, however,I usually use about 1 oz butter/margarine per person.

Mix the fat with oats and flour until it has the consistency of gooey breadcrumbs. I think the secret of success is to be generous with the oats and mean with the flour. Use approximately twice the weight of oats/flour to that of fat. My preference is that at least half of the dry mixture is oats.

Add sugar to taste.
Add topping to fruit and cook at 180C/400F for 20minutes.


Monday 9 April 2012

Garden world using an egg carton

Having come home from a rather soggy egg trail,

 I was pleased to find out about Tinkerlab's creative challenge using an egg box.
The idea is for children to create something with an object-in this case an egg box. The aim is that this is child directed.
Miss Belle wanted to make a garden. She cut the box in two and used the lid of the box for her garden. She used up-cycled green tissue paper for grass.
Shells from the beach, last year, were added for a path, along with plant pots made of cut out egg holders from the bottom of the box.
She started out making paper flowers but this became a rather gluey and ineffectual procedure so added camellia flowers from the garden with the one paper flower that did work.

The finished article

Saturday 7 April 2012

Inspirational blogs

It has been a while since I updated my links and looking at the page, before this update, they were certainly in need of some attention. Today, has been an odd day-in bed with laryngitis-but this might be within my current speechlessness. I am limiting myself to 2-3 in each section but plan to expand the links page beyond that.

Please do add your favourites in the comments.

UK Home educators

Pyjama School is the blog of a mother who home educates her two young children. She often has simple ideas that I have used. This post about cutting skills was something that we have copied.

Susanna is a friend and recent home educator who blogs at The berry bush.

Under an English sky-I especially enjoy for the posts about nature study in the UK.

Other Home educators
Se7en is a South Africa site and such a find. I don't know how the Mother Person finds so much energy but there are so many ideas here. Worth a look both for home educators and others wanting out-of-school ideas for their children.

Not a blog but a website, From wisdom has a wealth of ideas and thoughts for home educators. I found the language section particularly helpful.

Thinking kids is a recent find. I love the book lists and most of the posts provide food for thought.

Christian but not relating to home education
Caroline is a UK home educator but the aim of her blog is to "Encourage, and share, with other like-minded ladies who wish to honour the Lord in their role as wife and mother.

On Eagle's wings is written by Christian lady who has had mylagic encephalomyelitis for years. 

There are so many pre-school blogs out there but one of the ones that I enjoy the most, and is by a friend, is The Imagination Tree. We always use the no-cook playdough recipe from here.

Another pre-school blog that I read regularly is Sunhats and Wellie boots. This has plenty of outside activities which always goes down well here.

Just because I like the pictures and domesticity, Pleasant View Schoolhouse

Do share your favourites.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Fullness of joy

This week, I've been to the funeral of a lady whom I have known all my life, whose sons attended the same school and who was a member of the church I attended as a child and where I was baptised as a late teenager. She had loved and served the Lord Jesus for many years. I looked to her as an example of a Christian lady who had had heavy family responsibilities but was able to say that she was given strength for her tasks. Yes, of course it was a sad occasion but we were reminded that she is now enjoying "Fullness of joy".

As we stood around the graveside, in this Easter week, it seemed so appropriate that we sang

Low in the grave He lay-Jesus my Saviour!
Waiting the coming day-Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grace He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives for ever with His saints to reign!
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch His bed-Jesus, my Saviour!
Vainly they seal the dead-Jesus, my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey-Jesus, my Saviour!
He tore the bars away-Jesus, my Lord!

I was so struck by the hope from a risen Saviour who has prayed that His people see His glory.

May we all also make sure that we are ready for our last day on earth and able to say that the Lord Jesus is our Saviour.