Friday 28 March 2014

Spring days

We are coming up to our Easter break so I thought that I might write about home education in our family, over the last few weeks. Mainly, some of the things that have worked well for us, some books and some thoughts. We aren't a typical family- who is? What works for us may not work for you but other people's ideas have often been a springboard for me to find something that works for us.

What has worked for us

  • Studying the Georgians with my younger two. They have particularly enjoyed some of our trips. I'm hoping that we might fit in another one or two over the next few weeks.

  • Middle Son has been studying history with Northstar Worldwide over this academic year. He finds this a fair amount of work but has learnt new skills particularly around extracting information from sources. He is currently studying the First World War. Interesting for me, as I hope to reach the First World War with the younger two in the autumn which should, of course, tie in well with the centenary events.
  • The younger two have enjoyed some hands on science with Supercharged Science (review coming soon).
Pressing flowers
  • Middle Son has just starting using Conquer Maths. He was using a textbook but didn't like either my explanations or those in the book so Conquer Maths which has videos seems ideal. So far, so good!
  • Going outside, of course.
  • Ice skating, well, perhaps not for me. I've still got to pluck up my courage!
  • I was reminded, recently, by Home Education Novice's post about the Christian Focus Lightkeepers books so pulled out Ten Girls with talents to read with Younger Daughter. This is a fascinating book and there are biographies of women that I have never heard about interspersed with famous people such as Sarah Edwards and the Countess of Huntingdon. These, of course, fitted very well with our Georgian studies although that wasn't by my planning.
  • My younger two have been loving the Usborne sticker dressing books. They have Kings and Queens and Knights. I haven't seen the others in the series but have appreciated the standard and information in those that we have.
  • My husband read and recommended The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg. This is subtitled The biography of a language. I've just started it. This will be a long read for me but looks fascinating.
  • Spring is a time to start planning for learning in the autumn. I love the unpressured nature of planning a long time in advance. There are plenty of decisions to make although there are some things that work well for us and I hope to continue. Galore Park maths books were something that I used for Middle Son. I'm hoping to start Younger Daughter on Junior Maths 1 in September.
  • Planning physical exercise so far, much of the children's exercise has been informal: runs in the park, going to the playground and so on. They do ice skate and swim but I'm wondering about some more formal sport. There are several possibilities!
  •  I'm tired by the end of term and this time, so are the children. We've had minor illness this last week. I'm hoping for some outdoor time and rest over the Easter break. I shall probably need some thoughtful but not too challenging books. Any suggestions?
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Monday 24 March 2014

Pinterest and planning

Pinterest is an on-line pinboard. Members have boards for different interests, can follow other people's pins and have their own followers. My Pinterest boards are here. 

Pinterest is useful for collecting my ideas in one place and for storing inspiration for the future. I find it far easier to link to an image than put a website or page in my favourites. A particularly useful feature is being able to search my own pins; this is a quick way of finding something that I know I've pinned. 

It saves so much time having resources in one place when the time comes to detailed planning. Resources can be collected gradually over the months prior to learning about a topic.

I tend to pin either as I read blog posts or as I research.

Storing information (I have linked to some of my top boards):

Five in a Row

Learning to read



Home education for older children

Home ed for little ones

Top educational pins from Delivering Grace

Five ice activities

Modelling blood cells

Modelling the nervous system

Saving money on educational trips

Six free maths activities

Ways to save on home education resources

Finding information from other pinners

These are some helpful people/groups to follow for home educating parents:

School House Review Crew

Shecki B

Young Hosannas

Kathys Cluttered Mind

Ben and Me

Chareen {Every bed of Roses}

Sarah @ Frugal Fun for boys

If you are on Pinterest please leave your link in the comments so that others can follow you.

Homeschooling with Pinterest
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Friday 21 March 2014

Books set in the UK for older children

This is a list of books for preteenagers who are avid readers and has a distinct UK flavour to it.

  • Rosemary Sutcliffe's Roman trilogy starting with The Eagle of the Ninth.
  • The Woolpack by Cynthia Harnett. There are other books by this author that I haven't read but understand to be high quality children's historical fiction.

  • Lord of the Forest by BB.
  • Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series. In my experience, this series is either loved or hated!
  • Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine adventure series.
  • Douglas Bond's Crown and Covenant  series set in the Scotland of the Covenanters.
  • Ned by Barbara Coyle which is the story of a Barnardo boy in Victorian London.

  • GA Henty books are historical fiction some of which is set in the UK. I haven't read many but one of my sons tells me that the plots become "sameish" after a while. Many are available free on line.
  • Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat.
  • Saint Patrick: author Michael McHugh
  • The Railway children, The Treasure Seekers, Five children and It by E Nesbit. These seem to be available free for Kindle.
  • James Herriot books about his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales.
  • Scholastic Double Take book about 1066.
  • War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
  • Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian. This story of a World War II evacuee is more suitable for the older end of this age range due to the child abuse described.
  • Again, for the older end of the range, is Moonfleet by J Meade Falkner. This is free on Kindle.
Please add your own suggestions.

I have some other book lists for anyone looking for books for avid readers:

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Tuesday 18 March 2014

I don't like being a servant

Maybe I didn't realise, at the time, but one of the things I rather liked about being a physician was leading a group of doctors, making an assessment, teaching, having others follow parts of the action plan and write down my instructions. At home, I had a cleaner and childcare. I didn't have to clean the toilets, tidy the toys or sweep the entrance hall. I was treated with respect and my opinion valued.

I chose to change all that and I don't regret being at home; teaching the children, seeing them learn and not having the stresses of needing sudden childcare cover just because a child had a vaguely sticky eye. Still, there are parts that I don't enjoy. Recently, there seems to have been more of the menial.  It is easy to feel like "just a servant". OK, I'm a wife, mother, daughter, carer, educator not just the servant but it can feel like that. 

Caring work, particularly, can seem undervalued. It would seem better to be teaching Sunday School than be around home to make sure an elderly person doesn't fall and gets a cup of tea. It sounds better to admit to being a physician than a mother at home or even less interesting, someone caring for an elderly relative.

Should I mind? In many ways, minding is just pride. Sinful, selfish pride. Why shouldn't I clean the toilets, arrange appointments, sweep the halls? This is honourable work. 

I was struck by the verses 
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2 v 5-7

The Lord Jesus gave up far, far more. What does my reputation as a minor physician matter? He left the courts of heaven. He washed feet that were doubtless hot, dirty and sweaty. Why should I complain. He has given me these tasks for now-I deserve much worse. He didn't deserve to leave Heaven but chose to do so. He endured far, infinitely far more than I have to face and for my sake and all of His other people. I shouldn't complain.

How bitter that cup,
No heart can conceive,
Which he drank right up,
That sinners might live;
His way was much rougher
And darker than mine;
Did Jesus thus suffer,
And shall I repine?
John Newton

This is linked to Growing Home.

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Monday 17 March 2014

Seven Travel games

I guess most parents of small children have heard the cry

Are we nearly there yet?

 before they have traveled for half an hour down the road.

We try to keep some audio books, in the car, but games provide variety. Games are particularly useful when travelling on public transport and trying to avoid extra luggage.

All these games only require a child and either an older child or an adult. They can be extended to involve more people.

  • Counting games: anything can be counted depending on the age of the child. Coloured cars, coloured doors, Christmas trees and so on.

  • I spy is particularly useful on the bus, I don't know why but it is. Beware of children trying to play with phrases and restrict them to nouns rather than adding in adjectives. We tend to play using the word's initial sound although this tends to invoke the wrath of older children who want to use the letter name. It is easy enough to play with both.

  • Fizz, Buzz. This makes tables fun. The multiples of one number are designated as fizz and those of another as buzz. For example, multiples of five are fizz and multiples of two are buzz. Counting then starts taking turns to count so counting from one to ten would go

    fizz buzz

     Obviously, other tables can be used or more added with different sounds.

  • The Bible game is a yes/no game to guess a Bible character. One person chooses a character but doesn't name them. Everyone else asks questions that can be  answered either yes or no until the correct character is found. It is useful for helping children learn who was in the Old or New Testament, who had a book named after them and so on. It is easy to teach the terms Epistle, prophet and Pentateuch with this game. Beware, if you find yourself getting into difficulties, of the child who is convinced that Zacchaeus is  in the Old Testament.

  • History game: the yes/no game can be played using characters from the rest of history. The level of difficulty can be altered according to the players or adjusted to their recent learning.

  • Items game: another yes/no game to guess objects. The person who chose a zipper kept us all guessing for ages.

  • Country game is a little different. Someone says a country and the next person has to then come up with another country beginning with the last letter of the first country so a sequence might be
The rules can be varied to allow continents, cities or even mountains (it isn't good to get K2!). It also becomes obvious that many countries both begin and end with the letter a.

Do you have games that you play while travelling? Please do share them in the comments.

This is linked to Growing Homemakers.

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Friday 14 March 2014

Home Education and Interruptions

Over the last month, we've had plenty of interruptions to our days. Grandma has come home, from the hospital, and that has been a positive thing but to help there have been carers, physiotherapists, home care agency assessors, nurses and several other professionals. Most of these have arrived during prime home education time. Yes, that has bothered me.

Does this matter?

In some ways, it is easy to say that the children need to learn that people are more important than academics and yes, that is true. However, when the morning carer arrives during phonics teaching on a daily basis it may matter.

Additionally, these professionals will see that we home educate. Hopefully, they will understand that the children need breaks but it does help if the children are usually doing some work.

How has all this worked? Variably, to be honest. I've also found that it is easy, too easy, to be anxious about missed time.

How we've tried to work round interruptions

  • Whenever possible, we arrange appointments at times when the children are not working so either at lunchtime or towards the end of the afternoon.

  • Asking the children to do parts of their work independently at times. This is fine for the older two but five year olds need supervision/help most of the time that they are working. Mine certainly does!

  • Reading Eggs is one way that we keep the younger two occupied. It isn't our primary method of learning phonics but we find that it is helpful for re-enforcement; the children can use it independently or one can help the other. 

  • Other on-line programmes. Reading Eggs is the best programme that I have found for independent learning but ixl also works well for maths.

  • I have, on rare occasions, asked Middle Son to listen to the end of a reading book.

  • Taking breaks when the interruption occurs and then working a bit longer later.
Still, I'm wondering about the Easter holidays. Usually, we become unschoolers in the holidays: the children follow their interests and I try to strew educational items around to catch their attention. This means that I read aloud a fair amount, the younger two draw, paint, make models and love history trips out whereas Middle Son hones his computer skills! This time, there might be a little phonics and fun maths for the little ones.

How do you manage interruptions?

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Monday 10 March 2014

Learning about the Georgians

This term, we have been looking at the Georgians. This isn't an area where there is an abundance of material for younger children.

These are the resources that we have either used or plan to use with my younger two aged 5 and 7. 
  • Our Island Story by HE Marshall
  • Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
  • R.J. Unstead's Looking at History Section Life in Georgian England from Book 4 Queen Anne to Queen Elizabeth
  • Ladybird books on Handel and Nelson.
  • Faith and Fame Horseman of the King about John Wesley
We started with the Unstead book. I do recommend this book which was written for primary aged children and details some of the major events along with social history. The book has several pictures on every page and is an easy read for young readers or can be read aloud. Look out for this second hand as it is out of print.

  • Bath
  • Georgian London
  • British Library exhibition The Georgians revealed (just Younger Daughter-I think this might have been too difficult for my 5 year old)
  • Georgian large house-I'm still deciding which one!
  • Possibly Chawton-Jane Austen's house
  • Portsmouth to see the Victory
  • National Portrait Gallery Georgian room- don't do this just after the Tudor room. The Tudor room is exciting for younger children and the other rooms then receive the fag end of their concentration! Just saying.
There are so many more places that we could visit: The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the Handel House Museum, the National Gallery, the Open Air Museum, the Carriage Museum to name a few.

    People for special attention
    • George Frederick Handel
    • Gainsborough
    • John Wesley
    • George Whitfield
    • Jane Austen
    • Admiral Nelson
    • the English monarchs
    • Handel's water music and several other pieces of Handel's music.
    • Pictures by Gainsborough
    Of course, there is far more that we could or should have done.  

    Please do add any resources that you have used or would recommend.

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    Saturday 8 March 2014

    Jungle Doctor

    Many, many years ago, I avidly read the Jungle Doctor books by Paul White. We had some at home and others were borrowed from the Sunday School library. Those borrowed were finished well before the week was out. In fact, these books were a major influence in my choosing to become a doctor. As it turned out,  medicine in England at the turn of the twenty first century wasn't completely the same as medicine in Africa in the 1930s: it was certainly tamer, hopefully safer and some of the illnesses were different. Still, the history taking, making a diagnosis and treating weren't so different and were brought to life in a vivid manner in these books.

    Recently, we were given some copies of the Jungle Doctor books and Younger Daughter and I have been enjoying them

    The Jungle Doctor series of books tell the fictionalised story of an Australian missionary doctor in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Paul White really was a missionary doctor in this area from 1938 to 1941 and the stories are based on the experiences that he, and others had. As the stories are written in the first person, they give the impression that they all happened to Paul White but some were the experiences of his colleagues. The books were written after the Whites had to leave due to the illness of Mrs White. The books have a clear Christian message. Paul White and the other workers at the hospital were working for the Lord to save souls as well as bodies.

    Reading these books decades later and after over twenty years in medicine, they are still appealing but more scary. The medicine is like a historical record: M and B tablets for meningitis, nothing disposable, plenty of improvisation without going through an ethics committee, aspirin for everyone for pain and so on.

    Yet these stories live on. The medicine is dated, the society is dated but the stories are compelling. What makes them compelling? The humour-Paul White isn't afraid to laugh at himself; the reality-not all the stories have happy endings; the medicine-yes, it is old fashioned but the realities of desperately sick patients come across honestly; the action; the people and the love for the Lord who inspired the work of the Church Missionary Society hospital.

    Recommended for children from about 7 and well, they are a fascinating light read for adults.

    My copies are loved older copies but Christian Focus has republished these books

    This is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

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    Wednesday 5 March 2014

    March Inspiration

    I can't quite believe that we are two months through the year. February was a bit of a messy month for us, with family illness and getting used to carers coming in and out. Hopefully, March might be calmer.

    Life is busy but I still have to read. I need time to read my Bible every day but also like to make time to read other books. Without a reading mother, the children loose a reading role model and I lose the chance to learn, improve our home and education and the opportunity to be a refreshed, vaguely sane mother. Crystal Paine has written a helpful post about how to fit more reading into the day.

    Not everyone is able to home educate and many families have to make the big decision or whether to or not to home educate. Sarah, at Frugal Fun for Boys, has a post about just this decision. Do check out Sarah's blog as well, she has many helpful ideas.

    Blogdom is full of blogs and posts about younger children and their education. Informative posts on home educating older children are particularly useful. This post, from Homegrown Learners, is about homeschooling big kids.

    Concentration is an issue for children particularly in this age of multi-media so here is a thought provoking article on just this subject.

    Last, Kirsty, from Young Hosannas, did a lovely unit study with her children about Wales. I'm married to a Welshman so we ought to do a similar study. It might be an excuse to visit Wales again.

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    Monday 3 March 2014

    Motivated Moms

    Keeping the house clean and tidy is a constant challenge and one at which success often seems out of my reach. So you can guess that I jumped at the chance to review a Motivated Moms product.  Motivated Moms is a company that provides chore planning materials both as e-books and as an app. I reviewed one of the Motivated Moms Ebooks.
    Motivated Moms Review

    There are a variety of e-books available:
    • black and white/colour
    • page a day/half page a day
    • chore planner in two sizes with a week per page
    • with/without a daily Bible reading planner
    I chose a black and white half-sized chore planner with daily Bible readings. As I wanted this planner to be available in the kitchen, I printed it and filed it in an A4 folder. The planner prints on 29 pages with two weeks per page. The pages can be cut in half but I chose not to do this. The weeks on the same page are adjacent weeks. The last two pages are set up to be used as a two week menu plan.

    Motivated Moms Review

    Each week is dated with items on the left which need to be done daily and other items, for individual days, on the right. The Bible Readings are at the end of the left hand column and follow the Bible through book to book. Each item has a tick box beside it.

    The items on the right hand side do not all come up weekly. Some appear monthly, some fortnightly, some weekly and some on alternate days.

    Does it work?
    Obviously, the system can help but doesn't do the work. I trialed this at a challenging time: Grandma, who lives with us, was admitted to hospital and then discharged home with carers calling several times a day as well as multiple visits from other health care professionals.

    No, I didn't manage to do everything on the lists but yes, it definitely helped. Some items, such as sweeping my hallway have become part of my daily routine. Other items were broken into small chunks such as cleaning the refrigerator where only one shelf is cleaned per day. In my house, this vastly increased their chances of happening. The dishwasher door was cleaned because it was on the list and could be done quickly rather than waiting until I had a major kitchen blitz.

    Now, please don't think my house is perfect. Anyone who has seen it will know quite how far from the truth that is but it is cleaner rather than dirtier. In view of the past month or so, that is quite an achievement and is thank you to Motivated Moms.

    There were items that didn't apply. I thankfully put a line through taking medication and more puzzled, put a line through buying furnace filters. There were also a few items that I added: my stairs need vacuuming but this didn't seem to appear. Similarly, cleaning the bread bin was mysteriously absent. Motivated Moms comes from the US. Are bread bins a peculiarly English necessity?

    What I liked about Motivated Moms 

    • My house is cleaner. A big plus!
    • It is simple and saves me planning. Another major plus for busy days.
    • It makes housework feel less overwhelming. Small chunks are good.
    • Items recur so if I don't clean the microwave it will reappear again soon and hopefully, get cleaned.
    • Having small amounts for each day.
    • The weeks start with Sunday not Monday.
    What I didn't like about Motivated Moms

    There is only one thing that I didn't like but that is a fairly large negative for me. This is that Sunday has a fair number of chores. We like to keep Sunday as the Lord's Day and do as little work as possible on that day. As a result, I don't have a list for Sundays and certainly don't want to be clipping coupons on the Lord's Day or even menu planning. 

    I tried to do the Sunday chores on Saturdays which is the quietest day on this planner. I wonder whether the Sunday chores could be moved to Saturdays or Mondays for those who want to keep the Lord's Day special?

    Overall, I have found Motivated Moms really helpful and plan to continue using the planner. My hope is that my house will continue to get cleaner: there is still a long way to go!

    The Motivated Mom 2014 e-books are available at $8 (about £4.77).

    Click to read Crew Reviews

    Crew Disclaimer

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    Saturday 1 March 2014

    Maths Games for Younger Children

     I want to help my children like maths and mathematical concepts. 

    These are games, suitable for children aged up to about 7, which my younger two have enjoyed. Please do comment with other maths games for this age group.

    Games when out and about
    These games need nothing more than a child and a parent and are ideal for journeys.

    • Counting games: How many red/yellow cars? How many Christmas trees? The latter is not so useful in March! How many step? How many cows? The variety is endless.
    • House numbers: one of my children learnt his numbers from the numbers on gates. House numbers are also particularly helpful for the concept of odd/even. Beware of roads where the odd and even numbers don't match properly!
    • Shapes: hunting for shapes while out and about. Extra shapes can be made with twigs.
    • Fizz/buzz. This makes tables fun. The multiples of one number are designated as fizz and those of another as buzz. For example, multiples of five are fizz and multiples of two are buzz. Counting then starts taking turns to count so counting from one to ten would go
    fizz buzz
     Obviously, other tables can be used or more added with different sounds. 

    Games at home
    These are games that my children have enjoyed.
    • The Spotty Dog game (Orchard Toys.) This game works on counting, number recognition and correspondence to six. A very neat and well designed game for younger children.
    • Ten Green Bottles (Orchard Toys) is another counting game but works on numbers to ten.
    • Various number puzzles.

    • Tell the time (Orchard Toys-I don't have any financial interest in this company!) helps with early time telling skills. It uses o'clock, half  past, quarter past and quarter to.

    • Pop to the Shops(Orchard Toys) uses toy money in a buying/selling game.
    • Playing shops and restaurants. My children have had hours of fun with these games and learn about money at the same time.
    • Sum Swamp (Learning Resources) was recommended by another home educator. We bought it for one of the children recently and have played it many times a week since. This game uses addition or subtraction using two dice and a plus/minus dice. Additional extras are the odd/even squares. This has been useful for number bonds and speed of working. A plus for me is that the game takes about 10 minutes so it is easy to fit in a quick game at the end of the morning or before bedtime.
    • Months puzzle: for some reason, learning the months isn't always easy but we have found this puzzle helps.
    • Geoboard: not really a game but something my children enjoy for making shapes. I have a large and a small board. The large board is better and easily used with the endless supply of rubber bands that seem to come via the postman.
    • Duplo/Lego: the possibilities are endless. We use this for patterns, counting, working out addition and subtraction, modelling multiplication, demonstrating graphs.
    Over to you. Which number games do you play with your children?

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