Friday 29 May 2015

Balancing Half Term

This half term has been about balancing:

  • older and younger generation
  • children and essential catching up around the house
  • house and the garden
It is easy to write as though I had come to the right balance but this is still a work in progress. 

We started out with a family celebration alongside a trip to the sea. This balance seemed to work reasonably well-that was before life got complicated.

Monday was meant to be a day on our church's annual outing but instead, Grandma was admitted to hospital. We managed to get the children to the outing-there was no point them hanging around hospital, all day. We are hoping that Grandma will be able to come home soon.

I had always intended to do some catch up this week but there just seemed a vast amount to do. I'm talking essentials and yes, not even that is all done. Middle Son has done sterling work in the garden which was needed. 

We did fit in another outing to Knole Park in the driving rain and eventually, some hail.

The clothes that I thought were waterproof proved that they weren't! I thought that we were relatively hardy about the rain but we all wanted to go in the dry. The State Rooms are fascinating. The guides kept telling us that they were cold but after the rain, it was a relief not to be wet and being dry felt warm. 

Half term is a time to read. I seem to have several half finished books.

 David Cloud's Keeping the Children continues to challenge. Plenty of food for thought. 

I'm pulling together some books for a children's book club which is an excellent excuse to read children's books. Jim Cromarty's biography of Hudson Taylor The Pigtail and Chopsticks Man is the first that I am reading for this purpose. Do let me know if you can recommend books about different countries of the world for 7-11 year olds. 

On the way out to hospital, on Monday, I pulled a book off the shelf to have something to read while waiting. As a result, I am a fair way through Georgi Vin's Three Generations of Suffering. A thought provoking read about Christians in an atheistic society.

For light relief, I downloaded Choosing Home:20 Mothers celebrate staying at home. The chapters are short vignettes of different mothers and their perspective on staying at home.

The read alouds are on hold. Does that mean that they are not too successful, if we can wait a week? Younger Daughter has wanted a couple of Dickens' simplifications over the holiday. Dickens isn't quite the same simplified! Aldophus Tips, by Michael Morpurgo, as an audio book is currently being enjoyed for what must be the fourth or fifth time.

One text that has seemed so relevant this week has been
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 
James 1 v5

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Wednesday 27 May 2015

Artistic Pursuits-One Year on

I'm no artist but I do have a child who loves art. My inclination would be to be rather light on art but this would be unkind to this particular child. We try to provide plenty of art materials and some local lessons but also use Artistic Pursuits. 

We use Artistic Pursuits about once a week although we had a gap, part way through the year, when mainly self designed art happened.

Artistic Pursuits is a curriculum from the US designed for home educators. We used the Early Elementary book 1 which covers K-3 which in UK terms is year 1 to 4. The spiral bound book contains 36 lessons. Each lesson has a theme. In this book the first 14 lessons were around What artists do, the next seven were about What artists see and the final 15 were about Where we find art.

Each lesson consists of an introductory page which might include an exercise for the child, perhaps around observation or could be an introduction to where art is found and the culture where a particular art form is found.

 The second page of the lesson is looking at art. A wide variety is included from cave paintings and stained glass from a Medieval cathedral to twentieth century art from around the world.

The final, and usually longest part of the lesson is practical art. This draws on techniques from the art in the second part of the lesson. This is well laid out and makes clear what resources are needed.  There is also a resource list at the front of the book. The techniques cover clay, to pastels and watercolour and construction using tissue paper and card. 

An example chapter could the around art in streets. The introduction was around Roman statues and their purpose. The looking at art page shows a photograph of a statue of Marcus Aurelius on a horse with some background about his reign. The activity is making clay animal sculptures.

So how did Artistic Pursuits work for us?

  • This book is easy to use at home.
  • The third part of the book which looked at historical art was very well received and part of this linked in well with our history.
  • There are clear equipment lists.
  • Some of the illustrations of children's art were by quite young children. My eight year old found this off putting.
  • We found that we needed a break to allow some self-designed art to take place but that we then went back to the book refreshed.
Will we use Artistic Pursuits again? Probably but as part of a programme which hopefully, will include books about art history, art classes and gallery trips. The next book in the series is based around artists and I am sure that this format will be very successful here.

This is a resource that I would recommend, particularly for home educators who don't have an art background.

I purchased this book for the use of my family. The opinions are mine and those of my children.

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Tuesday 26 May 2015

Galore Park-Junior Maths

This is the first of the series about curriculum one year on.

Galore Park produce books mainly for the UK market and primarily aim at private schools although many home educators use their products. 

We used Galore Park maths books for some years with Middle Son. I have been impressed by
  • the clear layout
  • explanations
  • amount of practice for each topic.
Last September, Younger Daughter started Galore Park Junior maths book 1. So how has this worked?

  • clear layout
  • Helpful explanations although I add to these and probably would do this whichever book we use
  • logical progression through topic
  • Reusable books
  • Spiral approach so that if a topic is not understood one year it is repeated the next.
  • There is more writing for the child than in a workbook style book. This can be an issue at this stage and can affect output. I have written out some of the problems myself to help with this.
  • So far, it doesn't look as though we will get to the end of the book by the end of the year. Yes, I could have divided the book up and pushed on regardless but decided that, at this stage, it is more important to go for understanding. Interestingly, the topics seem to be front loaded with the four operations then sequences and fractions. After this come three chapters about measurement and another about time before going onto angles and data handling. 
  • It is necessary to add some extra practice, for example, around tables. One of the main reasons that we won't complete the book, this year, is the amount of time that we have spent on learning tables. 
Will we use Junior Maths Book 2 next year?
This is a question that I have been battling with and have not quite decided. The choice is between Galore Park Junior Maths book 2 and CIMT. The main advantage of CIMT is that it uses a workbook format which includes less writing. It also seems to have more review. Galore Park is more of a known quantity and I have the next book ready and waiting.

I suspect that whatever we use there will be games and other activities added in. Regular games and other activities, this year, have included

  • Sum Swamp-really a bit easy but often requested for fun.
  • The BrainBox tables game.
  • Trilemma
  • Tell the time Lotto from Orchard Toys
  • Pizza Fraction game from Learning Resources
  • Number square colouring for tables
  • Timed tables using my phone timer
  • Skipping tables out
What are your favourite maths resources?

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Friday 22 May 2015

Curriculum-a year on

As we come towards the end of the academic year and start to think about next year, I thought that it would be worth posting our thoughts,over the next few weeks, about some of our curriculum over the past year.
Often, reviews are of a short use of a programme and these can be very valuable but I often find that, over time,  curriculum either

  •  becomes a loved part of our lives.
  • we carry on to the end because it is useful but not especially loved.
  • it stops working for us and we change to something else.
Now, what works for my family may not work for yours and of course, the reverse also can apply but I'm hoping to give reasons and pros and cons of each item to help others considering the curriculum to decide. 

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Wednesday 20 May 2015

10 money saving ideas

What ever the economy is or isn't doing, most people haven't got too much money in their pockets. These are just a few money saving ideas, starting with those that save small amounts and going up!

  • Use loyalty vouchers. It isn't worth buying just for the vouchers but it is a shame to let them go to waste. These are often useful for days out.

  • Shop the house. There may be something already in the house that can be used for the art project/wrapping paper. 

  • Grow your own. It is worth working out the saving for different crops. We have found that there are major savings on salad leaves and herbs along with fruit but that, for us, tomatoes can be expensive to grow.

  • Buy from discounters. We tend to stock up every few weeks on items which are particularly good value. We have found that Lidl is particularly useful for passata, washing powder, coffee, chocolate, fruit and vegetables. Our local farmers' market is an expensive place except for the vegetable stall which is excellent value.

  • Cook from scratch. This is particularly relevant for larger families. We particularly save when making soup, bread and pasta sauce.

  • Eat less meat. Meat is expensive so having some vegetarian meals and making the meat in a casserole go further by adding pulses makes economic sense.

  • Avoid wasting food. I find that often waste comes by putting too much on a child's plate. The answer is obvious! Left over vegetables can often be added to a soup or casserole. Mashed potatoes can be shallow fried in patties. I coat these with flour or cornmeal. 

  • Pass on used children's clothes and gratefully accept, and use, clothes passed on to you. 

Please do add your tips!

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Monday 18 May 2015

Facing Opposition

One way or another, home educators, and perhaps, particularly Christian home educators, face opposition.

 Not all is bleak, as there is also encouragement and we have found that those who have encouraged us are not always those from whom we have expected encouragement. Still there is opposition and downright hostility. Yes, sometimes this is for a reason and it is sensible to think about why we have encountered a particular reaction but often the negativity is not well thought out. This leads to sorrow and hurt feelings especially as the decision to home educate has usually been made after months or years of thought and seeking the Lord's will. 

I was struck reading 1 Peter 3 about how apt these words are for those of us who face, have faced or will face hostility and railing.

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 
For he that would love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 
Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace and ensue it. 

May the Lord help us to show this spirit.

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Tuesday 12 May 2015

UK Christian Home Education Bloggers-2015 list

My post about UK Christian Home Education Bloggers is the most popular post on the blog but it is time for an overhaul.

This is a list of UK based Christian home education blogs. 

My criteria for inclusion are
  • home educating family
  • evangelical Christian although inclusion does not imply that we are agreed about doctrine
  • posting relatively frequently
  • some content about education 
  • I've come across the blog-obviously! Please let me know about other relevant blogs and I will add them.
The blogs are in alphabetical order. Do visit them and be inspired!

Angelicscalliwags is written by Claire about her children's history based home education but there is so much more: a pond study, science, Before Five in a Row.

 An Island Family by Grace is a blog which is relatively new to me. Gwen's posts tend to be full of links to resources and frugal ideas.

As He leads is joy is where Beth writes about home educating. She educates her child with Down syndrome and writes about this as well as her trips around England. Beth hails from the US and it is always fascinating to see ourselves as others see us.

Another blog by a Beth is the eponymous Beth Baker's blog. This is subtitled Homemade. Homegrown. HomeEd. Beth covers these three areas in her writing. I love her phrase Like Joseph's coat, home education is many coloured.

Boyschooling, not surprisingly, has an emphasis on teaching boys although this isn't exclusive. This blog has helpful book recommendations and ideas for home education outings. 

Ellie at Create with your hands writes about home education and play based activities.

Delivering Grace, well that is me! And this is about why we home educate.

Helen writes at For His Glory. She features unit studies done by her daughters as well as some resource recommendations.

Gracieschool posts about teaching her young children. I especially like the posts about early writing and art.

Home Education Novice is written by Kondwani, a pen name meaning "for ever rejoicing" about her journey educating her young children. She has thoughtful articles about learning from children and motivations. 

Jenny at Home schooling for a Dozen or more posts about educating her 10 children and often features book reviews which are always refreshing.

Homeschool on the Croft is written by Anne and has the most beautiful pictures of the scenery around her island home. 

Organic Education features Alice's family's home education but is also useful for links to topical and political articles about home education.

Our cup of tea is from Debbie who is an American living in the UK. This is a tremendous resource for geography and a blog I visit when putting together a country unit study.

Sarah at Pyjama School writes about Montessori based home education for her two young children. She has tutorials for making DIY Montessori equipment: a particularly helpful frugal resource for home educators.

The Frog-Academy is about a large family in the North of England. The art ideas are worth exploring and I enjoy reading about another family with teenagers.

Caroline at the Joyful Keeper writes both about the Christian life and about home educating her children. 


Through the Lattice is a blog from an older home educating family. I love the pictures although I dare not show the pony pictures to Younger Daughter. She already has schemes for keeping a pony in the back garden!

Shirley posts at Under an English Sky. She has the most organised and attractive looking planner that I have seen and loves to post about her garden.

Young Hosannas is a blog by Kirsty who home educates her five young children. She has practical ideas for learning with little ones and the learning is naturally and clearly rooted in God's Word.

Please do let me know about other UK Christian home educator blogs. 

You may also enjoy my page about UK home education resources.

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Tuesday 5 May 2015

Bitesize Biography: Ulrich Zwingli

My children are about to start learning about the Middle Ages and the Reformation so I was delighted to have the chance to do some background reading about Ulrich Zwingli. 

Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein

Evangelical Press has produced a series of short biographies and this is a new addition to the series, written by William Boekestein.

First, a disclaimer: I am neither a theologian nor a historian.

This book introduces us to Ulrich Zwingli, man of the late Middle Ages and to some of the history of Switzerland. 

Zwingli was born in Switzerland, spent most of his life there and died in a Swiss civil war. It became obvious, early in Zwingli's life that he was academically gifted and he was given a Renaissance education so that he was well versed in Classical writers and later in the Church Fathers. 

At the age of twenty two, Zwingli was ordained as a priest, apparently without theological training. Through his early charge, Zwingli moved away from Roman Catholic belief to a more Bible centred faith. A trip to Milan seems to have sparked interest in whether the Roman Catholic church could sustain latitude in theological matters as well as a desire to learn New Testament Greek. 

I am still rather vague about Zwingli's personal faith. The book states

In Zwingli's embrace of the Greek New Testament we see evidence of his continuing conversion. His was not abrupt like that of Luther. Rather, God brought him gradually into a deeper and more sanctified relationship with himself.

Zwingli was a powerful man and from his first charge seems to have been consulted about national affairs. In time, he became minister in Zurich. Whilst in Zurich, he lead the reformation there and was an advocate for restraint in the way images were removed. Like most reformers, he had enemies and those who disagreed with him. Luther and Zwingli were in many ways not so far apart theologically but disagreed on the physical presence of the Lord's body and blood in the Lord's Supper. Sadly, this lead to a rift between them, probably more of Luther's making.

 The Anabaptists were persecuted in Zurich, as elsewhere, and the most important issue appears to have been the separation of church and state with the Anabaptists believing in a church with a regenerate membership. 

It is thought that Calvin used some of Zwingli's work when writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Sadly, towards the end of his life Zwingli became very involved in politics and making war with the Roman Catholic Forest Cantons. He died fighting for Zurich. Ultimately, this lead to Zurich ministers not being involved in battles

My thoughts about this book:
  • It was helpful to learn about the Swiss Reformation.
  • Obviously, this is a secondary source but it would have been helpful to have more primary source material quoted. This is particularly important in the following areas:
  • Zwingli's conversion. I was quite unsure about what Zwingli's faith meant to him personally. There is a quote at the end of the book, in Zwingli's legacy which partly remedies this but more quotes would have been helpful. The inference from the last chapter about Zwingli's Legacy suggests that there is far more evidence about a personal faith.
  • Zwingli and morality. Zwingli did fall into immorality, on more than one occasion, and there is a quote which suggests that he was deeply repentant about this. Yet, one of the hall marks of his reformation preaching was about immorality in the clergy. Was he a hypocrite or was he preaching about an intolerable situation where he was trapped in a vow of celibacy that he couldn't keep? Supporting the latter, he certainly campaigned for priests to be allowed to marry.
  • At the end of the book, I wanted to know more about this large and complex character which may have achieved the aim of a bite sized biography!
The Bitesize biography of Zwingli is available from Evangelical Press and is 164 pages in length.

I was provided with The Bible is God's Word for the purpose of this review. The opinions are my own. I was not required to provide a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

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Monday 4 May 2015

May Inspiration

May is almost the start of the summer. For most UK home educators and certainly for people with children in school, there is still a couple of months plus to the summer break but US homeschoolers start to tantalise us by talking about the start of their summer break-now! Anyway, since I'm in England there are no summer lists in May.

Still, I've found some helpful reading. Home Education Novice has written a post about applying the Bible to discipline and behaviour.  

We've been talking to our children about the earthquake in Nepal and its effects on the people as well as reading letters from Christian believers who have been affected. It was fascinating to find a website which documents all earthquakes above 2.5 on Richter scale. In the education section, there is an explanation of the logarithmic nature of this scale. 

Allied to this, is a look at the structure of the Earth and how to make a simple model of the Earth's layers, from Lisa at An Ordinary Life.

This link isn't new but is a helpful look at the early signs of dyslexia covering some of the positives as well as the more challenging features. Yes, it is possible for a child who struggles to read to love books. I had always assumed that teacher know all about dyslexia but the writer, a teacher, seems to not have been especially knowledgeable about the subject prior to her own child's struggles. I wonder whether this is different in the UK?

Finally, a recent post about preparing children for teenage years by Gwen at An Island Family by Grace. Whilst I don't know all the resources suggested, I was interested in the idea of a teen challenge. I have a few years to prepare for our next teenager but this is an idea to mull over. 

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Friday 1 May 2015

Spring outside

This week, there has been a flurry of bike rides. The younger two seem keen to cycle before they start work each morning-I haven't decided whether this helps or hinders the rest of the day. The cycling though has lead to some impromptu nature study. 
We have seen goslings and ducklings,
  a heron,
 now flying away
 and a cormorant, in the tree.

We got talking to someone who told us that the heron was probably after the duck and geese eggs. The cormorant was an exciting sighting as we haven't seen one locally before.

Back to more traditional work, Younger Daughter has discovered a new way of practising times tables. She records them on my phone which gives her a time. We have found that it takes about 15 seconds to say a table clearly and without hesitation. It is possible to say them more quickly but they tend to get gabbled! Anyway, this is proving an excellent way of becoming more proficient.

We have almost finished the Veritas Self-Paced history on the New Testament, Greeks and Romans. Younger Daughter has loved this course; I have learned a fair amount and Youngest Son knows the history song well. We are signed up to start the Middle Ages course soon. The main issue around using this course is the time commitment. It takes about 40 minutes a day. Recently, I have found that fitting everything in is challenging. We have a daily Bible time, reading, handwriting and maths sessions but I am struggling to fit in creative writing and would like to have a daily spelling session. Against this, the children need time to play and I like to keep the afternoons for reading aloud, science, geography, art and exercise. Any suggestions? 

This week's science was meant to be looking at stems, water uptake and transpiration. I have a long history at failing at the "easy" demonstration of water uptake using coloured water. This is the current effort. Looks the same both sides to me. I now have different food colouring on order to see if I can get this to work.

What I'm reading:
What Your Year 2 Child needs to Know
Bitesized Biography of Ulrich Zwingli-review coming soon.

Weekly Wrap-Up

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