Tuesday 25 February 2014

Asia: Its People and History-a review

My children have heard about some Asian countries from friends and from church. Some of these places have come alive from friends' stories, pictures and hospitality but other countries were little more than names. In view of this, I was delighted to have the opportunity to review a new book, published this week: Asia: its People and History by Bonnie Rose Hudson. This book looks at six Asian countries from a Biblical worldview and encourages prayer for persecuted Christians.

The countries are

  • Laos
  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal
  • China
  • Iran
  • Vietnam
The countries can be investigated in any order.

We used this book for reading in our morning Bible Time. So far, we have learnt about Nepal and Laos. Nepal is a country that the children knew a little about already, from church, so it was helpful to build on this whereas Laos was a mystery to both me and the children. We have just finished learning about Laos and hope to "travel" to China next. 

The book is actually set out in weeks, with a section to be read each week, but it worked well on a daily basis. Each country has a story about a child who lives there with discussion questions. There is a portion on the history of the country and another on its geography. There is a clear emphasis on what conditions in the country are like for Christians and an encouragement to pray. The end of each section has suggested activities which are linked to the activities section at the end of the book. These include crosswords, map puzzles, word searches and more. In addition, there is free bonus content on Bonnie Rose Hudson's site.

The suggested age range for this book is 8-12 although the website states that it can easily be used for older students. My younger two children, at 5 and 7, are a little under the suggested range. It was still quite possible to use the book with them. We took our world map off the wall to check the location of the countries each day and focused on memorable facts e.g. Mount Everest is in Nepal and Nepal's flag is two pennants. We didn't do the written activities as these would have been difficult for my younger children. The stories of the lives of ordinary children appealed to them. Reading the book daily helped with retention of the story and of facts.

This book is an ideal resource for Christian families, whether home educating or not, who wish to find out more about Asian countries and what it is like to be a Christian within those countries. Definitely recommended.

The book is available as an ebook from The Old Schoolhouse Store at $6.95 (about £4.16). There is a promotional code here  02asia14! which gives 25% off the cost until 15th March 2014. It is also available from Amazon.co.uk at £4.27 or from Amazon.com at $7.11. In addition, it is available from Smashwords at $6.95. At Smashwords it is available in formats for Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader and ibooks. It will soon be available as a paperback from CreateSpace.

Bonnie Rose Hudson hopes to write a further similar book about other Asian countries. She would like people to leave suggestions about which countries she should cover, on her website.

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Monday 24 February 2014

Home education and technology: a love-hate relationship

Technology and, in particular, the internet, is an important part of our home education.

We use on-line teaching programmes both for the younger children and for Middle Son's home education. This brings many benefits:

  • the children can learn languages that I can't begin to teach
  • they can access specialists where I only have basic knowledge
  • one child can be working on something while I can devote my attention to another child
  • the children become familiar with media that they will need in the future
  • practice can be provided in a fun way.
  • there is something available for the children when I have to manage hospital appointments or talk to district nurses.
The programmes that we use most are
  • Reading Eggs for the younger two children. The children love this extra way of practicing reading. I don't think that it would be a sufficient programme on its own but is helpful for re-enforcement. 
  • IXL for maths practice.
  • KinderBach for music
  • Northstar Worldwide for Middle Son's German and History.
We are beginning to use a Kindle for my early reader. It is much easier to read large print and so easy to change the font size. This is something that we are likely to use more, in the future.

The other major use of the internet is for my research and planning. It is so helpful to be able to download a chapter of a new curriculum in order to assess this. I also make use of Pinterest in planning. (My Pinterest page is here.)

However, I do have some reservations.
  • It is easy for the children to finish their work and then change to a computer game or children's programme. Before, I realise the whole of their break has been spent in virtual reality rather than imaginative play. 
  • Educational programmes can encourage the children to become rather obsessed with computers and computer games. I am keen to try to keen the younger children from spending excessive time on computers rather than interacting with people and making their own occupations.
  • The programmes that we use, for the younger children, don't require much writing and no handwriting. I prefer to use them as an add-on rather than as the main source of teaching.
How do you use technology with your children? What safeguards do you put in to ensure balance?

For more posts on the topic of Technology in the Homeschool click on the graphic below (available from Wednesday 26th February).
Homeschool Technology

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KinderBach: for early music lessons- a review

Music is a subject where I knew that we weren't doing as much as I wanted so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review The KinderBach online piano membership withTeacherCorner 
Kinderbach Review

from KinderBach.

Kinderbach Review
KinderBach is an on-line programme which teaches young children the basics of music, specifically of the piano or other keyboard instrument. The programme's own description is
Piano Introduction for Young Beginners in Home Educating Families
There is another version of the programme for group settings.

KinderBach is designed for young children aged 3 to 7. I used it with my two younger children aged just five and seven. Youngest Son, aged five, had had virtually no music teaching before using KinderBach whereas his sister had had some early American organ lessons so was aware of the names of the notes and simple written music. We used the programme each week day, after lunch.

The programme uses a log-in name and password. Once the actual on-line portion is accessed, there are six levels each of which is divided into ten weeks with four lessons per week. There is an activity book to print off for each level.

Kinderbach Review
The lessons are short: typically the on-line lesson lasts 4-6 minutes and an activity page to go with most lessons. The activity sheets may be a simple tune to play, loud/soft notes to distinguish, cards to make to place on the keyboard, beat notes to colour and  much more.

Each week's lessons has a very short introductory video with an outline of the week and what is needed. Generally, the items required seem to be coloured pens or crayons, a rhythm instrument and a piano or keyboard of some description. Some weeks require "cardstock". I found that it was easier to print the items which were said to need card on paper and then laminate. The videos explain that many household items can be used as rhythm instruments so there is no need to go out to buy something special to use. We used saucepans, pieces of wood and surfaces to bang.

The lessons are taught by Karri Gregor who has written the course.

Kinderbach Review
KinderBach is completely self-explanatory and assumes no musical knowledge at all. The children are taught their way around a keyboard with the help of characters, Frisco and Dodi the Donkey.

The children colour and cut out cards to find notes on a keyboard:
 C# and D# are Dodi's House

F#, G# and A# are the Train Station.

They also play simple matching games to teach finger numbering.

In addition to the lessons and activity books, there is a Teacher Corner 

Kinderbach Review
with lesson plans, a Teacher Aid Book with more printable sheets to back up the lessons and mp3s of the songs.

What we liked about the programme

  • It was really easy to implement.
  • The children enjoy it, particularly, Youngest Son who had virtually no previous musical teaching.
  • The sessions are short. Younger Son often asks for more than one lesson per day.
  • Apart from a keyboard of some description, very little equipment is needed.
 What worked less well for us

  • I had planned to start Younger Daughter, aged 7, on a higher level in the programme. This didn't work out because the characters and nomenclature used in KinderBach, really needed to be known before she could tackle these levels. She watched the videos with her younger brother but I wasn't able to use KinderBach  to advance her playing.
  • The workbooks tend to involve a fair amount of colouring. Sometimes, this can be simplified to circling the loud or quiet sound in a particular colour which can be useful for little boys who prefer not to colour!

We like KinderBach and plan to continue using it. This is an ideal programme for parents who don't feel able to teach music themselves and for children with no previous experience of reading music or using a keyboard. It is set up in a way that makes it easy to use at home. 


A year's membership of KinderBach plus Teacher Corner is usually $130 but is currently discounted at $95.88 ( about £57.63) which comes to $7.99 (about £4.80) per month.

For other reviews, do visit the TOS Crew website.

Crew Disclaimer

Friday 21 February 2014

History explored in Bath

The place that I really wanted to show the children, while learning about the Georgians, was the City of Bath. This city has amazing Georgian architecture from being a fashionable spa town at that time.

Bath is so much more, though, than the Georgians and it seemed silly to miss the Roman Baths while we were visiting.

Bath is readily accessible from London by train so we embarked on a day trip. The children thought the journey was long although a selection of books, paper, stickers, snap (why did I sit in the quiet area?) and food provided entertainment. Having lunch at 11am on the train, gives more time to explore, of course.

A short walk from the train station are the Pump Rooms and Roman Bath complex.

Splendid although partly covered for renovations.

Like many historical sites, audio guides were provided with either a child's version, an adult version or the Bill Bryson story of the Baths. 
The Baths date from Roman times but above the baths, which are 4 metres below street level, the building dates from the Victorian era.

This is real Roman pavement.

The ducks weren't adverse to a swim maybe they liked the warm spring water.

These are the only hot springs in the UK. Some emerge under one of the bath areas but the excess drains away through a Roman drain.

These pieces of masonry are the best part of two thousand years old.

The Baths are child friendly. The children had the opportunity to dress up as Romans although only Youngest Son availed himself of the opportunity. They were also given a sticker puzzle to fill in as they went round. We didn't get ours quite right and realised this just before the end. Both children were given certificates, none the less.

On our way out of the Baths, we popped into the Pump Room to have a look at the pump used in Georgian times by those "taking the waters." Apparently, the waters can still be taken by local residents or those registered disabled. Not falling into these categories, we didn't take the waters. I have memories, from childhood, of the waters tasting rather unpleasant so we probably didn't miss much.

Leaving the Roman Baths and wandering round, we saw a rather unusual form of taxi

as well as the Royal Mineral Water Hospital.

Of course, we really wanted to see the Royal Crescent and the children were very keen to see the ha-ha.
I've done nothing to the colours on this picture-the sky really was this colour. Two minutes later, there was a hail storm.

Number 1 Royal Crescent is furnished in Georgian style and open to the public. 
I was a bit nervous about visiting. We had last visited about 13 years ago and on that occasion, I had found the staff less than welcoming to children. Nothing could have changed more which was definitely a relief! The children were provided with backpacks full of interesting items along with a quiz on a clipboard. There seemed to be two quizzes: one for under 7s and one for 7-11s. The backpacks had some delights like fans, magnifying glasses, smelly bottles, telescopes and simple dictaphones. 
As we visited at half term, we also managed to hear part of a session about Georgian clothing, wigs and make-up. Some of this was available to try on.
 Footman at the door.
Sedan chair ready and waiting.
The front stairs-the back stairs, for the servants, weren't so grand.

Then a walk, through the beautiful Circus and back to the train. 

I love Bath and it is one of my favourite places for a day out. Even better, if it is vaguely in the guise of educating my children!

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Tuesday 18 February 2014

Asia: its People and History-a preview!

Asia: its People and History is a book that my children and I have been enjoying for the last few weeks. This book tells the stories of Christians in six Asian countries as well as something about each country's history and geography. I'll tell you more soon!

In the meantime, there is a pre-order sale until the end of the week. This e-book is available for $4.95 ( about £2.97) instead of $6.95 ( about £4.17) from the Old Schoolhouse.

 Bonnie Rose Hudson, the author of Asia: its People and History has answered a few questions.

When writing a new book, how do you go about planning for it? Do you have a method you use, or is each one different? 

I'm a planner by nature. I love to lay out all the details and know where I'm going before I take the first step. But, I've noticed that God often likes to remind me that I'm not the one who is in charge of my life, He is! So I usually start a project with a hook and an outline. I need to know the heart of the project before I start. That's what gets me excited about writing it. What will its purpose be? What will it illustrate? I write an outline, or have one in my mind, but the story or project always takes lots of unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes the research doesn't pan out and I have to choose a different direction. Sometimes the outline doesn't go far enough. I remember working on the first book-length project I tried to write. I had a beautiful outline for the entire book. I had covered the entire outline in four chapters! I had some major re-planning to do on that one!

 What other projects will you be working on in the near future?

That's a hard question to answer. I can tell you what I think I'll be working on next, but as I said earlier, God likes to surprise me and rearrange my carefully laid plans often! Right now I'm busy writing curriculum for SchoolhouseTeachers.com and an occasional article for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I wrote a children's book that is waiting for an agent or editor to pick up so that it can move to publication. I am working on the process of querying agents and editors with it now, but it is a very long process. Meanwhile, my book's main character, a boy named Jake, blogs every week on my blog Exploring with Jake (http://writebonnierose.wordpress.com/). In the next few weeks Jake will wrap up a study of India and start a series of posts about Christians who are being persecuted today for their faith in places around the world. I'd also like to continue creating copywork and printables for my website, WriteBonnieRose.com.

 What is one lesson you learned from writing this book?

That God's plans are far better and wiser than any we could make on our own. 

  Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing a book?

Making the time to do it. 

Did you always have a talent for writing, or is it something you wanted and needed to work harder to achieve?

I think it's important to realize that there is a difference between a talent and a skill. To me, a talent is a God-given desire and gifting to do something. It's part of who you are. I can't not write. It's part of me. If I don't take the time to be creative and write down what is going on inside my heart or my mind, I get cranky--just ask my family! But just because I love to write doesn't mean I automatically know how to do it right or just sit down and write perfect rough drafts! There is always more to learn about how to use the best words to express what you want to communicate, how to craft a story that holds a reader's attention, how to avoid grammar mistakes, etc. Learning never ends, and most of the time, I wouldn't want it to.

  Do you have a certain writing space, somewhere you go *just* to write your books? An office, a lake cabin, a hotel? What do you love about that space? How does it inspire you?

I don't have a writing space. I do have an office/library that I enjoy sometimes when I write because I can close the door and enjoy being surrounded by books! But I will write anywhere, anytime I get the chance, including on grocery lists at the store, in the car (provided I'm not driving, of course), on a notepad by my bed, it really doesn't matter. I can get lost in an idea almost anywhere!

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Monday 17 February 2014


Thank you for your kind messages, both here and on Facebook, after my post about our current complicated life.

Our Older Relative is now home, with us, and we are getting used to a new "normal". We are grateful for the care workers who visit at home and that we can have this support, at this time.

Apologies for writing rather less than usual. We have a half term break, this week, which means that there is a little more time. Hopefully, the younger children and I will manage a long day trip: I'm really thankful  for my husband and the help that we have which make this possible.

When I was working, my specialty was Medicine for Older People. It is strange to be on the other end, as a carer and to experience, at first hand, the positives and negatives of the system as well as the challenges and joys of looking after an older person.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Georgian London

Yesterday afternoon was forecast to be rainy so I hadn't expected that we would be able to go far but it was unexpectedly sunny. We jumped at the chance to see a part of Georgian London. The younger children have been doing some work on the Georgians but the weather has mainly prevented trips-until now!

We went to see Georgian London. 

First, to Kennington Park which is part of the old Kennington Common where George Whitefield preached to thousands, in the open air. I'm not at all clear quite where on the Common, Whitefield preached. Part of the Common is now under housing so knowing the actual site might not be really helpful. Still, one can imagine the crowds.

London has some beautiful Georgian squares. We visited one in Kennington before returning to the delights of the Park.

I'm no architect but we talked about symmetry, railings and absence of bay windows. Of course, not all the railings are left as many disappeared for the war effort in the Second World War.

Of course, the sheer joy of being outside on a Spring day was the major attraction.

I'm hoping that this is the first of many fine days for trips!

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Monday 10 February 2014

When life is complicated

Life has been complicated recently: a member of the household in hospital and, almost certainly, changes when they come home.

We try to carry on but sometimes that feels like walking through the mire.

But we aren't alone.

Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Philippians 4v6

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12v9

  1. God holds the key of all unknown,
        And I am glad;
    If other hands should hold the key,
    Or if He trusted it to me,
        I might be sad.
  2. What if tomorrow’s cares were here,
        Without its rest?
    I’d rather He unlocked the day,
    And, as the hours swing open, say,
        My will is best.
  3. The very dimness of my sight
        Makes me secure;
    For, groping in my misty way,
    I feel His hand; I hear Him say,
        My help is sure.
  4. I cannot read His future plans;
        But this I know:
    I have the smiling of His face,
    And all the refuge of His grace
        While here below.
  5. Enough; this covers all my wants;
        And so I rest;
    For what I cannot, He can see,
    And in His care I saved shall be,
        Forever blest.
  6. Joseph Parker

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Play dough Skin model

We've been using the Apologia Elementary book on Human Anatomy and Physiology. Yesterday, at our home education group we looked at the skin or integumentary system. 

I wanted the children to be able to make a model of the skin so devised a quick and easy play dough model. 

We used three different colours of play dough for the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis (OK the hypodermis isn't strictly part of the skin).

Lolly sticks represented hair follicles, cut straws were used for sweat glands and rolled up pipe cleaners were poked into the dermis next to the hair follicles for sebaceous glands (I left one on the surface of the epidermis for the photo but they were carefully buried in the session.) The hair follicles and sweat glands were carefully set in the dermis.

We left out blood vessels and nerves although threads in appropriate colours could be used.

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Monday 3 February 2014

February Inspiration

The days are getting longer, I'm reading the children Wordsworth's poem about Daffodils-in hope and perhaps Spring is coming.

As a child, I often attended a chapel where the hymns were sung unaccompanied. It was a pleasure to find this website with Psalms from the Scottish Metrical Psalter of 1650 sung acapella. Many of these tunes are the same that we used to sing the hymns from Gadsby's hymnbook.

Here, in the UK, there is a push to get two year olds into formal education. One of my children went to nursery aged two and half. My thoughts on education have changed since then! Crystal Starr, who used to work in early childhood education, offers a perspective from the US where very early education is also being touted.

I've been talking about parts of speech with my younger children and so was pleased to find these activities from Frugal Fun for Boys. This fitted in well with what I was hoping to do this week so we've already had a go at these fun activities. 

One of my all time most popular posts is on UK Christian Home Education bloggers. The title of this has been changed and it is now 16 UK Christian Home Education bloggers with the addition of the Home Education Novice blog. Kondwani writes thoughtfully about issues facing parents striving to bring up children "in the nuture and admonition of the Lord." I've found myself going back to her blog to read and think over the last few days.

It was from Home Education Novice that I found a link to the Civitas Core Knowledge curriculum. This has a fascinating overview of the curriculum with suggestions for read alouds and poetry in the English section as well as suggestions for art, sculpture and buildings to discuss. A fascinating resource for dipping into for ideas.

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