Thursday 31 July 2014

July Inspiration

OK, July has almost ended and we are enjoying hot summer days with hardly any formal work. My younger two are doing a very little. Youngest Son asks to do his phonics programme, Essential Skills Advantage, which is a positive sign! Review coming soon. Mostly, we are just enjoying the summer.

I did copy this amazing demonstration of why it is important to wash hands properly with soap. My children didn't want oil and glitter on their hands so I demonstrated. This definitely works and all the glitter came off my hands. This pleased the doctor in me. No pictures from me though as my hands were too messy to touch the camera for most of the activity.

Frugal Fun for Boys has written about chores including a list of age appropriate chores. I need to implement!

Hwee at The Tiger Chronicle has been to the Matisse exhibition at the Tate Modern. Her son went on to research Matisse and produce a beautiful collage. I haven't watched the video yet but this is something that would be easy to reproduce with children. While I'm writing about collage, this is a link to one of my favourite pieces of art. I've only seen this collage once when it was on display at a gallery in Rye but it is so special that I'm excited about finding a photo of it, on line.

If you are in England, don't forget English Heritage's children's events. My children loved the archaeology day at Eltham Palace. The Palace itself can be a bit disappointing for children as the Tudor part is quite small and the main feature is the Art Deco part of the house. None of my children have appreciated Art Deco under the age of ten, and probably rather older. The Tudor Great Hall  where Henry VIII received his education, still stands and does have some Tudor dressing up clothes.

This article about wasting a homeschool year stuck a chord, with me. There was so much that rang true. For me, the message about evaluation was particularly relevant. I'm not particularly into doing tests with younger children but I do want them to see their progress, particularly with reading, so  hope to give them a simple reading test and video them reading at the start of the year. Any other thoughts on not wasting time?

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Monday 28 July 2014

Avoiding the summer crowds

The summer holidays aren't really the best time to see the sights: the beaches are crowded; museums are heaving; theme parks have painful queues and even the local park has no free swings. Usually, as home educators, we have the playground to ourselves with perhaps one or two little children and their parents. Add in a little drizzle, and we have the place to ourselves.

 Don't get me wrong. I do want the children to play with others and usually they meet with other children, of varying ages, on at least six days a week but I'm not a fan of a long wait for a quick swing or not having a chance to look at museum exhibits properly. It isn't fun to go with friends and keeping an eye on the children becomes difficult. Other mothers are much more likely to start to chat if they aren't trying to get their children onto a swing or see where they are.

I don't think there is a real solution and doubtless, there are important lessons to be learned in taking turns, queuing and patience. However, there are a few ways to avoid some of the worst of the crowding. Please feel free to add your own thoughts.

  • Make the most of the garden or any other private outdoor space available. My children have discovered some rather ancient cricket stumps and we have been playing "cricket". Probably, a case of the blind leading the blind but the children have been really happy. For me, it is reasonably easy to find a few minutes for a quick game of cricket. Real gardening has kept two of the children busy.
  • Go early in the morning or late in the evening. We have avoided the wait for the library reading scheme just by turning up soon after the library opens. We didn't need to arrive at 0500, just at 0920.
  • Avoid the worst places. In my book, these are the Science Museum, popular beaches and theme parks. Beaches can be great in the evening. The Science Museum and theme parks are better in term time. If you aren't a home educator, try an inset day. The best time for popular museums is the beginning of term before many schools are visiting.
  • Go to less popular parks or local venues. In my area, there is a very popular park with a large playground but plenty of smaller playgrounds and other pieces of open space that are less popular. 
  • Less well known museums have holiday events which aren't over-subscribed and are sometimes free.
  • Some holiday locations are much more crowded than others. We have found that inland areas are often cheaper and less busy. The Black Mountains, Shropshire and Suffolk have been particular favourites of ours. 
  • Going on holiday out of season is of course, another option for home educators.
How do you avoid the summer crowds?

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Wednesday 23 July 2014

Imperial War Museum

The London Imperial War Museum was closed for months, until the end of last week. New First World War galleries have been opened to commemorate the centenary of the start of the War. Since we plan to learn about the First World War in the autumn, this seemed a "must visit" place. So, having managed ten pin bowling, first,  we wandered off to the Imperial War Museum.

Once we reached the atrium, I realised that I needed to give instructions to the children about what to do if they were separated from me-it was very full. Thankfully, my admonitions were unnecessary.

 I hadn't been to the Museum for ages but thought that there were fewer objects on display in the atrium. 

The labeling seemed a bit confusing with video displays in front of each item. It wasn't always clear, to me, what the item actually represented. I don't think that seeing the exhibits with children and worrying that they might get lost actually helped!

We wanted to see the First World War galleries. However, we arrived just before 1.30pm and all the day's timed tickets were gone. We could have waited until 4pm when admission is allowed without tickets but it seemed a long wait and there was no guarantee that it wouldn't have been very crowded.

Instead, we went to the Horrible History spy exhibition,

the exhibition of medals, First World War art exhibition (Truth and Memory) and the Family at War section. I don't have photographs of the exhibition of medals or the First World War art as photography isn't allowed in these galleries. Both exhibitions are well worth visiting. The medals tell the story of heroes who won the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. The art shows differences in attitude to the War and is thought provoking. 

The Family at War section isn't new but documents the life of a local family in the Second World War. There is an Anderson shelter which my youngest was keen to sit in. While we were in the shelter, another visitor told us that this was clean unlike his family Anderson shelter which had become very muddy with use. There was information about rationing of food and clothing.

My thought is that we should visit again once the Museum has been open again for a few weeks and after the school holidays. Many state schools only broke up today so I imagine that the difficulty getting into the new galleries will get worse before it gets better.

We also found that the first two levels were very crowded but that this was less of a problem further up in the Museum.

Has anyone any recommendations for educational trips about the First World War for younger children?

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Tuesday 22 July 2014

Six ways to learn tables

Times tables are something that, in my opinion, need to be learned. This is one of the things that the younger children will be working in the autumn. Each day, in addition to saying the table, we plan to do other activities to help with learning. Here are six. We will probably do one per day.

  1. Group sets of objects corresponding to the table. We have used shoes, money (2ps, 5ps and 10ps), stickers and the abacus for 5s and 10s. Hopefully, we will find more!
  2. Times Tables Snap: this has cards with four different ways for making a number e.g. 24, 2x12, 3x8 and twenty four, and can be played as matching pairs or snap. So far, we have used the matching pair game but need to work on speed so that the snap game can be played.
  3. Colouring or circling 1-100 squares with the appropriate multiple. This is a great way to see patterns. It is worth making one 1-100 square and then photocopying them to save time and effort! Different patterns can be superimposed in different colours. My daughter went on to add the 10x table to this grid.
  4. Times table sheets. Ubersmart Math Facts has free sheets to print off.
  5. On line practice. We are currently using Ubersmart Math Facts. Review coming soon!
  6. Fizz-buzz. This game needs no equipment. A number and its multiples is designated as fizz and another as buzz. For example, two can be fizz and three can be buzz. The child/children and an adult then count substituting two and its multiples with fizz and three and its multiples with buzz. So counting would proceed: one, fizz, buzz, fizz, five, fizz buzz, seven, fizz, buzz, fizz, eleven etc.
We haven't sung tables but I am interested to know how this might work and recommended tunes/recordings.
Please do add other suggestions-the more the merrier and the more interesting times tables will be this autumn!

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Saturday 19 July 2014

Curriculum choices for Year Three.

Recently, I wrote about our choices for Year One curriculum for Youngest Son. His sister is just over two years older, aged seven. The choices for Year Three have been difficult: there is so much that Younger Daughter finds interesting and so many fascinating choices. Then there has been a difficult balance around reading. Younger Daughter has found reading difficult. Yes, she has made progress particularly over the last six months but she hasn't achieved her long standing ambition to read The Secret Garden. Perhaps, this year. So, trying to balance reading and other subjects has been challenging. 

The curriculum here is the skeleton. We fill in with many other resources. For example, we use literature to support English and history.

 I am currently reading Leading Little Ones to God with the children and hope to continue doing this. We work on learning a verse a week. My plan is to continue doing this from a psalm so we can learn larger portions. We have a hymn of the week using hymns that are often sung in church.

This year, we plan to carry on using the Rod and Staff reader with the accompanying reading and phonics workbooks. I hope to link spelling in with the phonics. The reading will continue to be daily whereas grammar, writing and comprehension will take turns though the week.
I have recently reviewed WriteShop and I hope to continue using this flexible curriculum for writing.
Much grammar will be informal in our morning Circle Time but I have Galore Park Junior English One to use if we need something more formal and also for comprehension. 

This coming year, I plan to spend ten minutes each day practicing tables and mental maths. I have several plans for working on tables (hopefully a post, at some point).
In addition, we plan to use the Galore Park Junior Maths book 1. Middle Son used the Galore Park books and this worked well for him. I don't bother with the answer book for the Junior books but found that having one saved time, once we used the main So you want to learn maths books.

The Apologia, Flying Creatures book is our plan. We found the Human Anatomy and physiology a little difficult for a seven year old. I'm hoping that Flying Creatures  is a little easier!

This is where life starts to get complicated. We were gradually working through to modern times and were due to study the First World War this autumn. Then, I had the offer to review the lovely Veritas self-paced history. We looked at the modern course but this was US history so went for the Greeks/Romans and New Testament. We loved this course so now I have to decide whether to go on with the First World War or carry on with the Veritas. I'm hoping that it might be possible to call Veritas Classical Civilisation and manage both!

This is much simpler, I think. We have purchased the Veritas geography curriculum, Legends and Leagues. A lesson a week should get us happily through the course. Of course, there will be some geography in with the history and just in life.

In the last term, we started to use Artistic Pursuits. Younger Daughter loves this and would do a lesson a day. I haven't moved art into the everyday category although I'm not going to stop her doing extra later in the day.

I'm really in two minds about this. We have done a little Spanish over the last year. Younger Daughter finds phonics difficult in English so I have some reluctance about doing more formal language. However, I don't want to take away the opportunity to learn another language. I was impressed with Homeschool Spanish Academy which I reviewed last year. The final decision needs to be made in the next few weeks!

We plan that this will be the year when Younger Daughter starts piano lessons. I have been teaching her, very slowly, on our American organ but she is ready for something more formal. I also hope that we will listen to our History of Classical Music.

Physical activity
Younger Daughter has swimming lessons and we try to go outside most days. There are various ideas around about more sport but nothing decided yet!

Do you have any curriculum that you would recommend for this age group? I feel that I have left out a fair amount. For example, at some point, in the next year or so, we need to fit in some typing. There is a limited amount of time and I don't want to cause overload. Any thoughts on balance?

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Wednesday 16 July 2014

Old and new

Yesterday, my husband and I had the gift of a trip up the Shard. This was really special as this area is important for us. I trained at Guy's Hospital Medical School (now part of the big GKT-Guy's, King's and Thomas's-Medical School) which is just yards from the Shard and spent a large part of the first year of our marriage working at Guy's Hospital.

My first job was as a medical house officer and I started work three weeks after my wedding. These are now called Foundation Year 1 posts but then were colloquially known as house dogs. Just to give you an idea of the status of my first job! My husband's secretary earned more than I did and didn't work a 1 in 4 rota. Now, these rotas don't exist anymore but twenty five years ago, junior doctors worked on rotas which no one else really understood: a 1 in 4 really wasn't bad. Many doctors worked  1in 3. One of my senior house officer posts was a 1 in 3.

Anyway, just to explain, a 1 in 4 means being on call every fourth day and weekend. This meant going to work at 0900, working through the day and then through the night. If things were quiet then it was possible to get some sleep but there was no guarantee. The next day was worked as usual and the young doctor went home when the work was finished. I wasn't very fast and hadn't learned that skipping lunch made me slower so often my finishing time as 8 or 9pm. 1 in 4 rotas being so much better than 1in 3 were almost always internal cover rotas which meant that the juniors had to work extra nights and weekends to cover their colleagues' annual leave.
 The middle window, on the top floor, was my first on call room. It seemed symbolic to come back almost 25 years later.
 Looking up, there is the Shard. Of course, it wasn't around 25 years ago.

This is the Medical School which is now just called the Hodgkin Building and part of a big medical school. Over the door, the words Medical School are still carved.

The Shard was fantastic. The lifts were fast and the views fabulous. We worked out the streets and landmarks. We found our church and identified the green spaces.
Spot the Tower of London.

The winding Thames

The beginning of sunset. There is artefact at the top of the picture: the Shard has circular glass and it is difficult to avoid all reflection.

Looking up further

The sun going down

 Almost set

Night on the Thames

In memory of walks along the Thames before we were married. The actual Thames walkway hasn't altered much until past the Belfast and then the buildings are all new.

A special evening and a mixture of old and new.

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Tuesday 15 July 2014

25 years

Today, my husband and I are rejoicing at the gift of 25 years of married life.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy name. 
Psalm 103v1

Life hasn't always been easy although there have been plenty of blessings, not least, the gift of five children. Still, there have been challenges and sorrows: miscarriages, redundancies, moves, health challenges, long hours, career changes and becoming carers. There isn't anyone else who has shared so many experiences with me. I am grateful to my husband for being there when I worked stupidly long hours and fell asleep over my dinner, night after night. I am grateful for his presence when I was gloomy and anxious over our babies; for being a loyal listener; a sounding board for ideas and always someone to pray with me and for me. 

Even more, we both give thanks to God for all His blessing to us. 

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Saturday 12 July 2014

On the edge of the Cotswolds

A short trip to the edge of the Cotswolds, minus children.


In the countryside


Tapestry celebrating the Duke of Marlborough's victory at Blemheim. These tapestries are fabulous and were made in wool and silk. The bright colours are in silk. They were made in Belgium and only male workers were allowed.

Birth place of Sir Winston Churchill at Blenheim. He is buried in the churchyard of the adjacent church. The strange picture attached to the head of the bed contains his curls, cut aged five.

Column commemorating the victory of the Duke of Marlborough


Underneath this tomb is another carving of a skeleton. Burford church was fascinating as a piece of history: records of the donations to alms houses, lists of clergy from 1200 and the memorial stone of a man murdered in the 1690s. 

 Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Psalm 90 verse12

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