Tuesday 30 September 2014

Preschoolers and Peace-review

I remember starting home education with an eight year old, two year old and baby. My initial idea was to give my two year old nursery workbooks but discovered within a day that whilst she loved scribbling over the pages, she "finished" them in a few minutes. It rapidly became obvious that another approach would be better! By the time that the then baby became a toddler, needing to keep him occupied became one of my most major challenges.

Preschoolers and Peace often don't seem synonymous and probably one of the greatest challenges to home education is having younger children wanting to join in and have attention. Not infrequently, home education lists have questions about whether to send the little ones to nursery so there can be some peace. Kendra Fletcher, of  Preschoolers and Peace,
Preschoolers and Peace Review
has written an e-book, for home educators, Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet, from her experience of home educating her eight children. 

oPreschoolers and Peace Review
This is a practical book. The chapter list gives an indication
  • What a Homeschooling Mom needs
  • Preparing yourself to Homeschool Older Kids with Little Ones Underfoot
  • Planning around Preschoolers
  • How do I keep them busy?
  • What does a 2 year old's day look like?
  • How do I get any Preschooling done?
  • How not to just kill the time.
  • Circle Time, or How We Pull the Little Ones in.
  • Preschool Boys
  • When all your Kiddos are Preschoolers
  • Preschool Chores
  • Planning for Preschool
  • When Mama is Worn Out (or Pregnant)
  • Meal Planning 101
  • A final word of Encouragment.
The book is by a Christian mother and she reminds us to show the Good News of God's grace to the little ones and to start the day with prayer. She goes on to some ideas about ordering their day, suggesting a routine rather than a rigid timetable.

 I know that when my children were younger, the How do I keep them busy chapter would have been particularly helpful. Kendra provides ideas for occupying the little ones. Yes, there are plenty of ideas around but there are ideas which generally would work while older children are working. So for example, there is a list of high chair activities as well as other suggestions. Playing at the kitchen sink is certainly something that I allowed/encouraged while the other children worked at the kitchen table. 

The chapter about a two year old's day gives specifics of room time where the toddler learns to play alone.

The chapter on Circle Time explains how little ones can be included in the day and preschool chores has a list of possible chores by age. The end of the book has ideas for meal planning and some links, many of which are to the Preschoolers and Peace blog.

What did I think?
Preschoolers and Peace is a must for anyone home educating with little ones around. It is both practical and encouraging. Just knowing that someone else has home educated successfully with little ones in tow, is uplifting. The activity ideas were particularly helpful as were the ideas for including little ones in chores.

My only caveats are that some of us have preschoolers who don't nap. None of mine napped after the age of about two. Indeed, naps in the day were discouraged as they lead to very awake children in the evening. I don't think this is an uncommon problem. My other thought is that some of the activities suggested are more suitable for the older preschooler than a mad two year old. Use your common sense!

Overall, though, this is a must have book for anyone home educating older children with preschoolers around.

Preschoolers and Peace is an ebook and is available for $2.99 in the US and £1.85 in the UK. The link to purchase is on the Preschoolers and Peace page.

For more reviews, visit the Schoolhouse Crew blog.

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Friday 26 September 2014

Reading Aloud: 11 Practical Thoughts

This is a mini-series about reading aloud. I'm no expert just a parent who has spent an enormous amount of time reading to her children, over the years.

 I posted about Five Benefits of Reading Aloud and one thing that it hasn't achieved for us.

Now some practical points.

  • Start young, really young. We have read aloud to the children from before they could crawl. I wrote about the benefit of this in the previous post.

  • When reading to several children, we start with books for the youngest. They may then listen to the older children's books or they may not but at least they have enjoyed some books. 

  • I've never found that reading completely above the child's head helps anyone. The child doesn't understand and it is rather tedious reading aloud to oneself. 

  • Give wriggly, younger children something to do while reading chapter books. We have one child who loves to colour but another who would much prefer to be making a Lego or Meccano model.

  • Have a drink to hand!

  • Sit somewhere comfortable. We usually read on the sofa but have read in bed, in the garden, in a tent, in a den, at a picnic, on the train and probably more places. I don't read in the car. We have audio books for the car.

  • If the children don't like the book, change books.

  • If you don't like the book, stop reading. There are plenty of other books out there!

  • There are many occasions in a day for reading. I tend to read aloud at breakfast, in the early afternoon and at bedtime. My husband reads the Bible aloud at a mealtime and then reads to the younger children at bedtime. Yes, they often have books from both parents at bedtime.

  • We tend to stop reading aloud, except the Bible, when the child is a very competent reader. By this, I mean, able to read classics competently on their own, although I know many families carry on with read alouds beyond this stage. 

  • We read a mixture of books. Current read alouds are Leading Little Ones to God, Caddie Woodlawn, The wanderings of Odysseus, Monasteries (a history book by Unstead for my history lover), Jungle Doctor pulls a leg plus picture books.
What do you do to ensure your read aloud time goes well? It is always fun to know what other families are reading. Please share!

Hip Homeschool Moms

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Thursday 25 September 2014

Maestro Classics offer

Sometime ago, I reviewed two of the Maestro Classics Maestro Classics Review
productions: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
Maestro Classics Review

and My name is Handel: the Story of the Water Music.
Maestro Classics Review
 Since then, I have bought the Swan Lake production which Younger Daughter loves.
The Story of Swan Lake - MP3 format only

Maestro Classics are an excellent introduction to music for children. They play the relevant music with an introduction to the author/composer, have a song to the music which the child has the opportunity to perform and a section about the music. We have enjoyed our Maestro Classics digital downloads and plan to  acquire some more.

I am delighted that Maestro Classics currently have a 20% discount for readers of this blog. Order any digital download and enter the code DELIVERINGGRACE at checkout. For US readers, this offer also applies to CDs. This offer is valid until December 10th so is ideal for presents!

Disclaimer: I will earn a small sum from purchases through this offer.

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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Five benefits of Reading Aloud and One thing it hasn't achieved

Reading aloud to my children is something that I enjoy and judging by the number of requests, so do the children. I have read to all five. These are some personal thoughts about what reading aloud has and has not achieved for our family.

Reading Aloud has led to a love of books. This has been particularly important for the child who has found learning to read more difficult. Interestingly, the child who likes books least has probably had the least read aloud time.

Reading Aloud has helped active little boys sit still and listen. I started to read to all the children before they could crawl. The busy little boys loved books before they could move which meant that when they were restless toddlers they still loved to cuddle up for a book. This was particularly beneficial when feeding the baby or  when their energy exceeded mine.

Reading Aloud has boosted vocabulary. I don't always explain difficult words particularly when they are obvious from the context. This hasn't stopped the children picking them up and using them.

Reading Aloud has lead to shared jokes, experiences and points of reference. "You remember when...".

Reading Aloud has lead to some appreciation of the correct way to hold a book, how to respect it and which way the pages turn.

BUT Reading Aloud has not lead to early reading. Yes, I have run my finger under the words, on occasion, and pointed out words but my children have needed separate reading instruction and none of them have been especially early readers.

 To read the other post in this mini-series, please click: Reading Aloud: 11 Practical Thoughts.

Hip Homeschool Moms

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Friday 19 September 2014

First Fortnight Back

I meant to write this a week ago as First Week back but that didn't quite happen. Something about a new term; getting used to new timetables and books. It has made me tired anyway!

There is something extra happening everyday mainly because Middle Son is working for exams so has some tutors and groups. Younger Daughter has also started some eagerly awaited piano lessons.

We have enjoyed the beautiful autumn weather and conker hunting.
As usual, we have many conkers-I should probably use these for Youngest Son's maths.

The younger two are continuing our pattern of mornings doing Bible time, English, maths and finishing the morning with Veritas self paced history. After lunch, Younger Daughter has a half an hour book time either for reading, looking at or listening to books. After this we have read aloud time, Spanish, geography, science, art, First World War history, outside time or groups. This sounds exhausting but items apart from reading aloud and Spanish only happen about once a week-less for the groups. My real difficulty with this year is not the odds and ends we do in the afternoon but fitting in all the different components of English: phonics, spelling, reading, writing, handwriting, comprehension and grammar. Any advice? We are really consistent about the phonics and reading but less so for the other components. 

We have been to one group so far, this term. There are two components to the activities: something from Bake through the Bible to illustrate a Biblical truth. This house shows God's faithfulness in providing a home for the Children of Israel. 

Youngest Son wanted to make a tent.

The second component is a Five in a Row book and activities around this. Last week, we looked at How to make an apple pie and see the world. I failed to take pictures of this as I was arranging this part of the activities. Hopefully, I will take some for the next book. Anyway, we put the appropriate ingredients on the map; played with apple playdough(recipe from the Imagination Tree. I used four teabags instead of two); made or attempted to make compasses and made a world puzzle.

Younger Daughter is very keen to sew. With some trepidation as my skills aren't great, I have started making a skirt with her. She is very keen and loves to use the sewing machine. 

What we are reading: There seem to be a plethora of read alouds, at present. This week, we have read Mailing May which is a delightful picture book about a real girl who was sent in the post in the US, in 1914 and started Caddie Woodlawn. Both of these were from our local homeschool library: great finds as I hadn't expected to see either here in the UK. The Great History of Britain is also very popular and has been prompted from just being read in work time to also being requested as a bedtime story; review coming soon. Each morning, I read aloud a chapter of Leading Little Ones to God from a battered volume which has now been read to all of our children. If I were buying this again, I would buy a hardcover volume!
I've just finished Isobel Kuhn's book By searching and have another of her volumes to read. First, I need to read To Kill a Mockingbird which is one of Younger Son's books, this term. I read it years ago but realised that I have forgotten all beyond the basics of the plot.

Listening: Some friends have lent us Our Island Story on CD. Younger Daughter likes to listen to this over breakfast. I've been listening to some acapella hymns.

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Thursday 18 September 2014

UK Home Education Resources- Updated

This post was originally posted in January 2013. It needed some updating. I have checked all the links and added in some more. It is also one of the tabs at the top of the page, for reference.

I've pulled together a list of my favourite UK home educating resources. This is not exhaustive.

Please feel free to add your recommendations in the comments.
This particular list does not include individual blogs. I have a separate post about these.
In addition, I have purposely omitted individual books in the interest of brevity!

This only includes UK sites. There are many, many useful sites across the Pond and like many other home educators here, I go on the forums and occasionally, pluck up courage to pay lots of postage! However, there is plenty of help here including some people who conveniently import from the US.

Many but not all of the sites are Christian. Whist these are sites that I have used, I do not claim any responsibility for the contents of any of these sites.

Home education groups

  • The Deut6v7 yahoo group is one of the most helpful resources. This is a specifically Christian, UK home educating group. 

  • Most areas have Google or Yahoo groups for local home educators. Most of these will have people of very mixed philosophies but can be a useful resource about local events.

  • Facebook has many home education groups but the Christian Home Educators UK group is very active. 
Home education organisations and sites

  • Paula Rothermel has researched UK Home Education. Her work is a decade old but is some of the precious little research on the subject.

  • Fiona Nicholson campaigns for UK home educators. Her site includes the latest on government thinking.


  • Conquest Books are a family based business who sell home education materials and other books. They sell Apologia, Five in a Row and Artistic Pursuits amongs others. Their delivery tends to be fast.

  • Ichthus Resources sells a wide range of home education materials including Singapore maths and science. 

  • Galore Park sells curriculum mainly designed for private schools. They are home education friendly and are used by many UK home educators. We particularly like their maths books.

  • The technology shop is based at a London Primary school but sells a rather eclectic range of items from pulleys and propellers to googly eyes and small kits.

  • The Book People have discount books. We have done particularly well with books around art.

  • Schofield and Sims sell workbooks and posters. We use them for mental maths. Our almost four year old world map came from them. The posters are printed on heavy paper and need to be attached to walls with velcro pads.

  • Cambridge Latin Course supplies the Latin course that we use but also has extensive cultural background material and as well as vocabulary and grammar quizzes on the website.

  • Skoldo produces primary French and Spanish resources including song downloads.

  • Northstar Worldwide is a UK based Christian secondary age on-line learning site. They have courses for GCSEs and IGCSEs as well as catering for younger secondary age pupils.

  • Civitas have produced a Core Knowledge curriculum which has an interesting table showing the curriculum by year from year 1 to 6.

  • Rainbow books sell the Maxwell family books. I've used Managers of their Homes which is a helpful and detailed introduction to scheduling. 

  • Branch Out World is run by a UK home educator who produces picture book studies of books easily obtainable, think Dogger and Katie Morag, in the UK. 

This section is generic not related to any particular part of the UK.
  • Kids in Museums advocates for younger visitors to museums. They have a manifesto and a list of those organisations that have signed up to this. This organisation is also worth approaching should you, perish the thought, discover a museum that is not child friendly.

  • National Trust manages historic homes and gardens. They offer reduced membership to home educating families although unless you never want to visit during school holidays, bank holidays or weekends, it is probably better to consider family membership.

  • The Woodland Trust has maps of woodland open to the public. Don't miss their Nature Detective site which has many free activities for children. Most of these activities don't require a trip further than the garden or the local park.

Educational Sites
  • Home Educators don't need to follow the National Curriculum but it can be useful to have an eye on this.

  • Woodlands Resources is a site covering various aspects of the National Curriculum (mainly KS1 and KS2) and more besides.

  • The BBC Schools site has some resources. I prefer the primary part of the site. My younger children enjoy the language area.

  • School physics has explanations aimed at different age groups and in different degrees of depth. 

  • Royal Institution's RI Channel has science videos including of its famous Christmas lectures.

  • Nrich is a maths site with challenges and fun maths for ages from Lower Primary to Upper Secondary. They aim to "enrich the experience of the maths curriculum for all learners".

  • IXL is an international organisation but with a UK specific maths practice site.

  • The National STEM Centre has a website with 

Added value

  • Booktime distributes a book bag with a couple of books to reception age children each year. Home educators can apply using this form.

  • World maths, literacy and  science day are hosted each year by World Education Games. These are free to enter although Matheletics runs the games and obviously gets publicity.

  • Grow your own potatoes is designed for primary schools but home educators, with children in the relevant age group, are able to register and enter the competition for heaviest potatoes. 

  • The Royal British Legion produces a free learning pack for educators. This includes DVDs and a poster. The DVDs have sections on both the First and Second World Wars and there is a guide as to suitability for different age groups.

  • The James Dyson Foundation produce Challenge cards which contain 52 science, technology and maths challenges. These are free to educators and use materials found around the house. They also have engineering and ideas boxes out on loan. We haven't tried the boxes yet!
Over to you. I love to find new educational resources. What would you add?

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Tuesday 16 September 2014

The 7 Minute Life-a review

If, like me, you constantly struggle with time management then there is a great attraction in having a new planner to help.  The 7 Minute Life's aim is to prioritize, organize and simplify your life.
7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
 In order to achieve this, a 90 day planner is used-The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner.
The planner is a spiral bound book protected by transparent protective covers measuring 7.3" by 8.5" (about 19cm x 22.5cm).
The Company helpfully produced a video which explains more about using the planner. This video takes about 12 minutes but there are shorter videos explaining about individual components of the planner. 

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is designed for adults trying to organise life at work and at home. 

Before using the Planner on a daily basis, I worked on some of the tasks at the start of the book. Please note that this part of using the Planner takes more than 7 minutes. Once the Planner is up and running, planning for a new day only takes around 7 minutes but the initial work does take a little longer. I discovered that the more effort that I put into this, the better the Planner worked for me. These tasks included 
  • prioritisng aspects of life such as faith, relationships, tradition, success and a whole long list of other parts of life.
  •  writing down a purpose in life.
  •  a page about what is loved about work, strengths and "high value activities."
  • mental clutter list-those things that never get done or cause clutter and stress.
  • 90 day goals including breaking these down into actions.
  • life goals
  • lists for unfinished work and home tasks
  • 7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
  • home repair contact list
  • grocery list
  • address book pages
  • annual, 90 and monthly calendar.
  • meeting planner.
It is important to at least start to fill these in before going onto the daily planner. I found the 90 day goal list and pages of lists of unfinished tasks particularly useful whereas the life goals page was a bit overwhelming. I don't know exactly what God wants me to do for the rest of my life so it felt difficult to fill in this section.

The daily progress report is a double page spread for each day. The picture below is of the left hand side.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
The right hand side has space for
  • appointments
  • thank you notes
  • voice mail and notes
The aim is to spend 7 minutes a day planning the next day and, in particular, five things that will be done before 11am in order to further aims.

How did this work for me?
  • It was helpful to make a list of things that had been nagging me or I had put off doing.
  • Thinking through my purpose in life and 90 goals was helpful. I think that I have been more organised about winter wardrobes and it has lead to me planning an educational trip which might otherwise not have happened.
  • The unfinished tasks list was usually sadly full but pulling five out did mean that I tackled some otherwise neglected jobs.
  • This planner seems to have been primarily designed for the business world and not for home educating mothers. I have virtually no voice mails but many emails. I didn't write these into the voice mail column as dealing with them direct seemed more efficient. Again, I didn't list my daily contacts: I didn't quite see the point as a home educating mother. Perhaps, I could have put them down as a prayer list. 
  • Working through five tasks before 11am worked reasonably well during the holidays but once we started back with our home education timetable, this became difficult. Either, I put items on the list which tend to happen anyway: make the children's breakfast, start home educating for the day (a bit before 11am-I hope!), open the door for the carer, make Grandma's breakfast, put the washing on etc. Not really much point writing these, however, if I wrote in items that I really wanted to sort out, there just wasn't time in these hours. Five before 11pm might work better while we are home educating.
  • It was helpful to have a reminder to write thank you notes.
  • I used the space for notes on a fair few days. It was helpful to have this space to start planning out ideas and saved mislaid sheets of paper.
Overall, I found that having to work through aims and goals was helpful but the planner would be even more useful if it could be customised for home educators.

The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner costs $24.95 ( which currently is about £15.33).
7 Minute Life is on various social media. 
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/The7MinuteLife

Twitter - https://twitter.com/allyson7minutes

Pinterest - http://www.pinterest.com/the7minutelife/

Google+ - https://plus.google.com/+AllysonLewis7/posts

You Tube - https://www.youtube.com/user/AllysonLewis
For more reviews visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew site.

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Wednesday 10 September 2014

September Inspiration

We have now started back into our home education routine. Having a not back to school week away was fun though and even educational.

This article is about a family who are taking a year off to explore the UK. The children are going to have a year of road schooling. I don't think that we are ever likely to do this and at £20000 for the year with no income coming in, it isn't cheap! The family have a website, Do Try this at Home, with a blog and outside ideas including frugal meals for eating outside. 

I'm not a great speller. I still remember getting the lowest mark in the spelling test that my English teacher in form III(2) sprung on us with no warning. Sadly, some of my children have inherited my spelling ability so I was interested to see a post on spelling tests by This Reading Mama. In addition, to explaining why she doesn't give spelling tests, there is a really helpful section on teaching spelling.

In the midst of the First World War commemorations, I wanted to read some poetry to the children and came across a poem of Raymond Briggs called Aunties. I heard it read by Michael Morpurgo but it is written in this preview of a book that I haven't read. This poem is definitely worth reading and something that I have shared with my children. I still remember my parents' unmarried aunts, with affection; they would have been similar age to Raymond Brigg's aunties.

Over the next few weeks,planned posts include First World War educational resources and reading aloud plus reviews of Middlebury Interactive Languages and The Great History of Britain.

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Saturday 6 September 2014

Not back to school: On the Welsh borders

While Facebook has been full of pictures of children going back to school, we have been away on the Welsh borders. Yes, I'm going to pay for this on Monday when there is over a week's worth of washing, starting back to our more formal home education and doubtless a few other things as well.

Still the Welsh borders are worth a day of hard work.

Sunsets and night walks. We saw bats and heard owls.

There were castles.

Stokesay Castle

The older Ludlow Castle with is turrets and winding stairs. Youngest Son kept finding new passages and stairs.

and a priory at Much Wenlock. This is a gem and a place that I hadn't seen before. It must have been magnificent in its Medieval completeness.

Of course, there was plenty of outside time:

walking in streams and on Offa's Dyke.

We had evenings of games, eating outside or sitting around the woodburning stove. I  am thankful for a break and for the beauties of creation and beginning to feel energised for the start of the new term. A worthwhile, not back to school week!

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