Tuesday 31 July 2012

Living history-Leeds Castle

It is always a bit of a challenge to find holiday activities for children ranging in age from 3 to 18 but this castle, that covers history from Norman times to the present day, has been a success.

Leeds Castle, in Kent, was recorded in the Domesday Book,  lived in by medieval queens and used by Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

 This produced plenty of armour, traditional castle features and pictures of Tudors to keep the two younger children happy. There was even opportunity to try on helmets, chain mail and to use a cross bow.

 More recently, it was the home of an heiress, Lady Baillie who had socialite parties in the 1920s. There is fascinating detail about the staff-42 were employed-and we spent time wondering about whether anyone now could afford to employ 42 people on their personal care. Why are we so fascinated about someone who didn't have a particular role beyond living on their inheritance?

The grounds are fantastic-a moat, beautiful gardens and a castle play area.

 We saw eels in the streams.

The downside-definitely the cost. This was eye watering although the tickets do last for a year-we will have to go back!

Thanks to the three older children for taking the photos.

This is linked to Field Trip Friday.

Thursday 26 July 2012


One of our family members is hoping to study at Cambridge so Miss Belle and Mr Exuberance were keen to visit and see what the place is  like.

This last year, we've realised that train travel is so much easier now we don't have to use a stroller so off we went on public transport. In retrospect, bringing little people back through London, on the tube on a hot day, in the rush hour, two days before the London Olympics are due to start wasn't particularly clever. Still, we had a successful, if exhausting, day.

Cambridge was just full of bicycles.

Of course, the colleges




The children hadn't realised or probably, more correctly, I hadn't explained that Cambridge is more than a university. They were impressed by the bookshops -is this nuture or nature? The museums were also a hit.

Bear looking at a bollard at the entrance to the Sedwick  Museum of Earth Sciences.
This museum was particularly child friendly and the iguanodon reconstruction was a real bonus. We wouldn't agree with the historical interpretation of much in the Museum but it is worth viewing, none the less.

Lion outside the Fitzwilliam Museum
We looked at the Egyptian collection and the amazing paintings on the coffins.

We were tired after this so wandered to the River Cam.

The cows were a surprise-I'm not a Cambridge graduate!

There are some tired children. I'm not sure how far we walked but it was very hot and they are both too big for me to carry!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Weight of a Flame-the passion of Olympia Morata

I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't heard of Olympia Morata before seeing this book, by Simonetta Carr, in the Chosen Daughters series. Needing to do something about my ignorance, I purchased the book.

Olympia Morata was born in Ferrara, in Northern Italy, in 1526, and seems to have been a precocious child. She was soon fluent in Latin and Greek and was invited to court as the tutor and companion of Anna, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Ferrara.

 In many ways, she was a true daughter of the Renaissance and was encouraged by her teachers, to devote herself to  academic pursuits rather than the the typical occupations of women, at court.

Italy in the sixteenth century was a dangerous place especially for people who had Protestant beliefs. Olympia's father, a professor, was a Protestant but managed to keep his place. However, Olympia had to return home as her father became ill and after his death, found that she had lost royal favour. Her own beliefs were put to the test and it was at this point that she came, from an intellectual faith, to a true faith in Christ for herself.

Olympia's faith was tested. She soon found that life in Italy was unsafe and had to travel to Germany. Her life, there, was anything but easy but she relished the religious freedom, indeed, her husband turned down a better post that they might retain their freedom of worship.

Her life was short but she left behind writings which are still in print. Perhaps she has been largely forgotten because one of her greatest works was the versification of the psalms in Greek something that most of us cannot attempt to read.

This is a book that leaves one thinking over its subject. We can learn much from her, particularly

  • An intellectual faith is insufficient.

  • Religious freedom is worth more than professional advancement.

I was left wondering about a woman in the sixteenth century whose gifts were largely academic but who managed to create a happy, secure and godly home for her husband and young charges. 

This book is definitely worth reading. It isn't a difficult read-I finished it in an evening.

I brought my copy from the  Christian bookshop Ossett but as it is published by P and R Publishing is probably more widely available in the US.

Disclosure: I brought this book for my own reading and am publishing this review as this is a book that I have enjoyed and would like others to read. The opinions are all my own.

Friday 20 July 2012

Summer days

We are now a couple of weeks into the summer break and a few themes are emerging

  • Books after breakfast, especially with Mr Exuberance. 

  • Cycling with a little girl who has just learnt to ride and improves daily.

  • Going outside everyday, whatever the weather.

  • Rockets are Mr Exuberance's current enthusiasm so there has been a bit of rocket building using various materials and with varying results. He is showing his Mother's frustration when projects just don't look as good as the picture in the brain. No, he definitely doesn't believe that the process is more important than the result.

  • Planning, most evenings, when I probably should be cleaning! I quite like planning, especially when it isn't for tomorrow, and know that any labour now is likely to bring benefits later.
What I would like to add into the mix
  • more reading, for me, especially some more doctrinal books. Tiredness has been a major issue so far but hopefully that will improve. I definitely do better with thinner books! There is plenty to read: books that we hope to use for next year's curriculum, books about education, books relating to the older children's courses so I know what they are talking about (!), some recent Christian books as well as some that have been on our shelves for ages but I haven't read. 
So what does the reading list look like? Please remember, I haven't read these so can't be held responsible for their content! 
  • The Secret of Communion with God Matthew Henry
  • Parenting by God's promises Joel Beeke. I gave this to my husband so he gets first read although he is making rapid progress!
  • The Story of the World volume 1:Ancient Times Susan Wise Bauer. Next year's history, I think.
  • Science to 14 Stephen Pople-rather obviously a textbook
  • Shakespeare stories Leon Garfield
  • The undercover economist Tim Harford
No, that doesn't include everything from the main categories-not sure that success is possible.
How do you make time to read?

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Kids in Museums

Museums can either make families very welcome or make parents anxious and put children off visiting again. Kids in Museums exists to be The voice for family museum visitors across Britain.

They have produced a 20 point manifesto for helping families visiting museums and galleries. The emphasis is on what can be done and not on what isn't allowed. I loved the point about noisy children, titled Don't say ssshhhush!

Even more useful, from my point of view, at the beginning of the holidays is the list of supporters by county. This is a list of museums and galleries which have signed up to the manifesto. There are several places that I didn't know about or hadn't considered within reasonable reach for a day out. I'm thinking of adding them as possible trips, this summer

 Perhaps, more interesting is that several of our most successful trips have been to places listed.

RAF Museum is on the list of supporters and provided child friendly activities for our visit.

What do you find makes a successful family museum trip?

Monday 16 July 2012

Holiday catch up

We've finished official home education, for the summer, now so I'm "on holiday". The "holiday" seems a bit hopeful though-there is all that catching up on cleaning to do and those projects: sorting out the books that have never been properly arranged, gardening-when the rain stops and even some decoration. 

Then there are the children, yes, it is holiday time but I'm still hoping to slip in a bit of education here and there, in a more unschooling fashion than usual. Plus of course, planning for the next academic year and all those areas in which to improve. 

Thankfully, there has been rest:

  •  Little children who love mud and have spent several sessions stamping in mud and even painting each other with it. Very amusing until the little hands left rather large muddy marks on the walls!
  •  Exploring a little person's love of rockets and trying to make some boxes into a rocket. 
  • Time to go out with all five of the children-a rare treat nowadays. Time to treasure.
  • Making volcanoes with little people again and again.
Inside version-this looks rather pale as the children decided to add blue colouring inside of the usual red.

Outside version
  • Discovering word searches on the back of cereal packets
  • Time just to read books to a little person with an insatiable appetite for books.

If only I could get the balance right!

Thursday 12 July 2012

Loved and battered chapter books

Some of the chapter books seem to be even more loved than the picture books. Whilst many chapter books are only read once by each child, these are the special books that have been read and re-read.

  • Chronicles on Narnia by CS Lewis. We brought a big combined volume for our eldest when Middle Son was born. They have now been read by three children and long sections, at the very least, read to the four eldest.

  • Farmer boy by Laura Inglis Wilder. We have the whole set of books which have had several readings but Farmer Boy seems to be a favourite. This book makes me hungry-there is so much food in it.

  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri was given to me as a child. I read and reread this book and now it has been read by my children. I'm looking forward to reading it to Miss Belle, maybe next year but don't want to rush in with an abridged version.

  • Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen Taylor is a child's version of Pilgrim's Progress. This is used at church with the younger children. Our children have generally wanted the relevant chapters reread in the week.

  • My family and other animals by Gerald Durrell, again, a book from my childhood.

  • The Milly Molly Mandy books by Joyce Lankester Brisley about the family who live in the "white cottage with a thatched roof". These are old fashioned being published in the 1920s but still appeal almost 100 years later. Who wouldn't want to adopt a hedgehog, go blackberrying and have a letter from half way across the world?

  • Not really a chapter book but well used is the Macmillan Treasury of Poetry for children. This is a bit patchily used as the children vary from hating poetry to requesting something from the "Rhyme book" every evening but definitely something that we have used again and again.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

10 Loved and battered picture books

Whilst trying to bring order to children's books, it struck me that the battered and repaired books were generally the most loved. Many of these are books that we have read to all five children over the last 18 years.

 These books are not the latest but have stood the test of a few years. They may not even be the best-we have found some great books recently but are books that I've probably read hundreds of times.

  • Richard Scarry's Busy Workers looks at all the people who help

  • Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg didn't appear until child number 3 but has been read enough to fit into the Loved and Battered class. Evocative pictures from the Second World War and memorable rhyming text.

  • Alfie's feet by Shirley Hughes was brought second hand in 1995. Each child has wanted this book read again and again. They can probably empathise with Alfie's problem.

  • Another Alfie book is Alfie gets in first again by Shirley Hughes. Alfie gets in first and locks his mother out. What family doesn't have a story akin to this in the archives?

  • Another Shirley Hughes book, yes, we love her books, is Out and about through the year. This is a simple anthology of her seasonal poems for children. This isn't so battered-the original was replaced. When we go to the sea, I find myself repeating the Seaside poem
Sand in the sandwiches,
 sand in the tea,
Flat, wet sand running
 down to the sea.

  • Parables of Jesus by B Ramsbottom is part of a series of books about New Testament events that have been published over the last few years. This is one of the older books in the series and is well loved for its simple but clear text and full page colour illustrations.

  • God is everywhere by Carine Mackenzie is again part of a series of books. These are about God's attributes. We really preferred the older editions with slightly dated photographs rather than the more modern cartoon-type pictures. We still have one or two of the older books around but most have just worn out and had to be replaced with the newer series. The text is clear and well suited to smaller children.

  • Benny the breakdown truck by Keren Ludlow and Willy Imax is a collection of five stories.
There is a yellow breakdown truck
And Benny is his name.
He works at Smallbills Garage
And breakdowns are his game.

  • Kipper's birthday by Mick Inkpen seems to deal with a difficult concept but is much appreciated for also covering the important subject of birthdays.

  • The blue balloon, again, by Mick Inkpen is fantastic fun-the fold outs have been sellotaped but no one seems to care and I know it almost off by heart.
Just 10-there are many more.

 I would love to know about other people's loved and battered picture books.

Thursday 5 July 2012

July inspiration and an award

I can't quite believe that July is here and the end of the academic year. Not that child training stops. The Biblical command to teach God's commands to our children isn't limited by time of year.

We are looking forward to doing some different things. Something that is likely to be a one off is seeing the Olympic torch.

Over the last few days, as we've been approaching the end of the year, Middle Son and I have had great fun with Seterra which is a free geography game. We have been challenging each other and discovering rather large gaps in our knowledge. My knowledge of the regions of Japan is sketchy to put it kindly. We haven't done anything like all the quizzes but the countries of Europe and large countries of the world have been played several times. I'm planning that we continue playing this over the holidays. Thank you to Annie Kate at Teatime with Annie Kate for posting about this.

I was excited to have been awarded the Liebster blog award by Clare at Smooth and Easy days. This award was created especially for blogs with fewer than 200 followers.

I am passing the award on to these blogs.

Create with your hands. Ellie has three young children and writes about creativity with them. Don't miss her pirate posts!

Leading little hearts to Him is a Christian home education blog. I first found this when researching Five in a Row books. Christine's Five in a Row posts are detailed and have some great ideas.

Debbie at Our Cup of tea is an American home educating in the UK. The geography posts on this blog are amazing resources and have saved me loads of work-always a good thing.

Do visit these blogs!

While I'm talking about links, for those of you on Pinterest and Facebook, do pop over an see the Delivering Grace pages. 

Monday 2 July 2012

Edith Cavell

While we were in central London, last week, we walked around to the side of the National Portrait Gallery to see the statue of Edith Cavell.
I was interested to see this, again, as I had recently read A cup of cold water: the compassion of nurse Edith Cavell  by Christine Forenhorst. This book is in the series Chosen daughters published by P and R publishers. Whilst the series might suggest that this book is written for girls, I can't see why it wouldn't appeal to boys although I can see the series title putting off some boys!

My knowledge of Edith Cavell was minimal so it was good to find out more and a little about her faith. The book is a fictionalised biography so I was a bit disappointed to discover that one quite amusing scene which appeared to be pivotal to her faith didn't actually happen. That aside, I enjoyed finding out more about this brave and determined lady who was also a talented artist, fund raiser for a Sunday School and governess plus being fluent in French.

This book is suitable for older children probably 10+ and would fit in well with learning about the First World War.