Tuesday 29 September 2015

Ten Poems for Children

We've recently started having poetry teas but even before this, poetry has been something that I have enjoyed reading to the children. These ten poems are some of our favourites. They are all available on line hence the links. This list caused a great deal of discussion and one of my children wanted to have a much, much longer list-perhaps for another time!

Cats sleep anywher,e by Eleanor Farjeon. This is a great poem for cat lovers; very easy to learn and true to life.

Excuses, by Gareth Owen, is a poem that I read aloud almost daily as the children love its humour.

Chocolate cake, by Michael Rosen, is relatively new to us but has become popular. Children may appreciate parallels between this and the story of Bad Harry's party in My Naughty Little Sister.

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening, by Robert Frost, is best read with the beautiful illustrations by Susan Jeffers.

Sand in the sandwiches, by Shirley Hughes, is a poem that gets quoted every time we go to the sea and comes from the lovely anthology Out and about.

What is pink?, by Christina Rossetti, was about the first poem one of my children learned. 

The Lion and the Unicorn is a traditional rhyme. This link gives fascinating information as to its origin. 

Macavity: the mystery cat, by T.S. Eliot, is probably the most famous poem from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

The Painting Lesson, by Trevor Harvey, always causes amusement and comments about Mum's appearance!

Buckingham Palace, by A.A. Milne,is a poem that I remember from my childhood.

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Friday 25 September 2015

A snapshot of our week

Just a few pictures from our week.

Crowns to go with our history about Charlemagne.

Play dough volcano for science.

Sunset nature walk while learning about the Harvest Moon. We didn't go at quite the full moon. That is on Monday with a lunar eclipse.

We saw so many bats. There are two just visible in this picture near the top.

We've just finished Castle by David Macaulay. This has so much detail and really fits in with our study of the Middle Ages. The vocabulary is complex and my eight year old enjoyed the book more than her younger brother. For the first time, I now have some sort of understanding of the structure of castles.

Augustine: the Farmer's Boy of Tagaste is a book that Younger Daughter and I read. His mother, Monica, was an amazing example of a praying Christian mother. 

Alfred the Great  is an old Ladybird history books. I have said before how much these are appreciated by our children. They have a picture on each double page and seem to light an interest in history.

My reading has slowed down. I'm finishing Sketches in Church History but need to be inspired about something to read next. Ideas?

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Tuesday 22 September 2015

Living Water in the Desert

Living Water in the Desert: True stories of God at Work in Iran is the latest book in the Hidden Heroes series written by Rebecca Davis and published by Christian Focus. This book is about God's work in Iran.

The book starts with the work  of Henry Martyn back at the beginning of the nineteenth century and then follows through the succeeding years with mini-stories of Kurdish and Iranian Christians. The major struggles of people coming to faith in the Lord Jesus are described as well as the clear witness of the lives of Christians. There a remarkable testimonies: the chief who purchased a Bible from a missionary and was converted through reading it. Twenty years later, when he was well known as a Christian chief, the missionary who had sold him the Bible found out what had happened and rejoiced at how God had used an apparently barren time in his life.

Living Water in the Desert continues with modern day testimonies including believers who have lost their homes and lives for the sake of the Gospel. I hadn't been aware of the large number of people who have turned from Islam to the Lord Jesus, in Iran, since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

This book is a challenge to pray for believers in Iran. They are an example to us with their willingness to suffer and even die for the sake of the Lord Jesus. Yes, they do often seem poorly taught-there are frequent mentions of dreams/visions and lack of clarity around believers not marrying unbelievers. This is all the more reason for us to pray for them. It is encouraging to hear that many people have turned to the Lord Jesus even in a land which seems so against the Good News of the Lord Jesus.

Like other books in this series, Living Waters in the Desert finishes with some background information about the sources of the stories. Finally, there are questions for each chapter. These are useful but it would be useful to have added some about the authority of Scripture and thinking through the reliability or otherwise of dreams. 

The age range of the book is said to be 6-7 for reading aloud and 8-14 for reading independently. I think that this book is probably best suited for the older end of this age range and as an easy read for adults.

Overall, this is a book which encourages us to give thanks for God's work and urges us to pray for His people in Iran.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Living Water in the Desert for review purposes. The views are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Monday 21 September 2015

Nature Study-Autumn Picnic

As I mentioned in my last post, we had an autumn picnic as our nature study. Actually, the theme was an equinox picnic but it was a few days before the equinox and there was a general autumn theme. Again, we used Exploring Nature with Children. Don't forget that my 30% voucher for this excellent book is valid until 30th September. 

Having eaten, first of course, we went on a scavenger hunt. We looked for red leaves.

Evergreen leaves.

Conkers-OK this wasn't part of the hunt.

The children decided to put down conkers for squirrels and a squirrel came and collected a conker. 

An oak with a partially rotted interior.


There was plenty of tree climbing and some sketching.

I love the way that we are seeing more in a very familiar environment. 

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Friday 18 September 2015

Fine Tuning

We have just finished the second complete week of this term. 

This was a week where we had our second poetry tea party. We invited another family, had our tea with poetry and then the afternoon finished with some impromptu tree climbing! I think that poetry teas will remain on the agenda.

The other, very successful addition to our home education, this year, is Exploring Nature with Children. This week, we had an autumn picnic which included apples from our garden 

as well as our nature walk. 

 More science has been about rocks. A friend lent us a great collection (this is only a small part)
which was handled, classified, tested for buoyancy
and reaction with vinegar.

There were little gem stones to polish as well.

Maths is one of the areas needing adjustment. Both younger children started  off doing the Centre of Innovation in Mathematics Teaching's Mathematics Education Project (MEP) this term. Youngest Son had been working on this for part of last year and it has worked well but adding a second child to a different year has proved challenging. This is a programme which requires a fair amount of teaching and also covered some concepts that hadn't been introduced in the previous programme. All in all, it seemed to make more sense to move Younger Daughter on to Galore Park Junior Maths book 2 rather than continue with a programme which seemed to be a less than good fit. 

On the other hand, All about Spelling has been working very well. This seems a better, more logical and less stressful way of teaching spelling than the Jolly Grammar so I plan to change Youngest Son to All about Spelling.

Our current history read alouds are Minstrel in the Tower which goes with the current Veritas history. I don't object to this book but it isn't the best of the Veritas selections. On the other hand, David Macaulay's book Castles is a splendid account in words and pictures of the building of a castle. The vocabulary, in places, is quite technical and my eight year old appreciates this more than my six year old. 

We tried a new home education meet up, this week, at an adventure playground. Everyone was friendly and the playground was new to us but the children and I realised that they are growing out of such venues and were some of the older children there. 

We are continuing to use The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos but have left the Trinitarian Bible Society Bible learning scheme, for a short time, to concentrate on some Sunday School Bible learning that the children have been given. The hymn We plough the fields and scatter seemed to fit in well with autumn time.

I guess that I am always going to be fine tuning and guess that I'm not the only person who has had to make adjustments!

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Tuesday 15 September 2015

Exploring Nature with Children

Nature study is something that I have been keen to add to our agenda on a regular basis. Whilst we have walked outside regularly, our outings have tended to lack focus. Just at the end of the holiday, Lynn Seddon published a resource which we are using as a gentle guide our nature study.  Exploring Nature with Children is an ebook which has ideas and information for a whole year of nature studies.


After an introductory chapter with information about nature journals, finding a place for a nature walk and a nature table, the book is divided into seasons and each month has four different nature study ideas. The book begins in September but there would be no reason why it shouldn't be started in any month.

The introduction to the book includes information on making a nature journal, selecting a spot for regular nature study and keeping a nature table. None of this is complicated and the whole book is set up so that it can be used with multiple ages.

Each week has a specific theme so our first week had the theme of seeds;

 this week was minibeasts

and next week looks at the harvest moon.

Each week has
  • a nature walk activity along with information, for example, about seed dispersal. How much or little of this information is used is up to you and is likely to vary according to the age of the children. Observing and recording in a nature journal is encouraged both for parents
  • and children. 
  •  a book list. Some of the books are likely to be in many home libraries such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar but others are less well known. 
  • a poem. These tend to be quite short and we have read them while out on our walk.
  • a suggestion for a picture. These have been easy to find on the internet.
  • extension activities which include craft, writing, art and gardening. For example, some of the ideas for the last week in September include planting Spring bulbs, writing a list of things that remind you of Autumn and finding out the sunset and sunrise times, recording them in the journal and making thumb nail sketches of the sun as it rises and sets; plus three other ideas for this week.
The nature walks vary. Usually they are around the place chosen for the regular nature walk which can be a garden or park as well as fields or woods. However, some look at a pond and others suggest going somewhere different. The time of day isn't usually specified but some of the walks are at dusk or at night.

We have loved our nature walks. I wasn't sure how my youngest would find them but he has been an enthusiast and has drawn several labelled  pictures in his journal.

In my opinion, the big pluses of this book are that it

  • is flexible and can be used for different ages. Some of the classification information would be best suited for older children but even toddlers will enjoy looking for seeds and minibeasts.
  • the encouragement for parents to take part. I'm no artist but have enjoyed making my own journal. It has also been an encouragement to look up questions that might otherwise have just floated aimlessly through my mind. What is that tree? What type of spider is this? Is this object an oak apple? Are all oak galls the same? 

  • Encouragement to go outside throughout the year.
  • The book starts in September but can be started at any time in the year.
I warmly recommend this book. Whilst it is written by a fellow UK home educator, this is the type of book that families with schooled children could also enjoy as nature walks would be a great way to relax after school or at the weekend.

Exploring Nature with Children is available as a PDF. Some people have printed this off but I have loaded it onto my Kindle, for convenience. It costs $15 (price in dollars as it is sold from a US site although it is written from the UK). However, Lynn has kindly allowed me to offer my readers 30% off using the code DG15. This code is valid until 30th September 2015.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Exploring Nature with Children for review purposes. The views are my own and those of my children. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Wednesday 9 September 2015

Poetry Tea

This autumn marks the start of our Poetry Teas and this week was the very first event. I can't claim any credit for this idea. Poetry Teas are the brain child of Bravewriter. This isn't a curriculum that we have used so I can't vouch for this but the idea of a poetry tea was appealing!

For us there seem to be several benefits

  • Continuing to enjoy poetry read aloud
  • Making a special time to sit down together
  • Moving poetry out of an overcrowded morning into a marginally less crowded afternoon!
So what did we do? 

Younger Daughter made and filled a Victoria sandwich cake.

We had tea or cocoa, depending on taste, with cake and then poetry, sitting at the table with candles and a tablecloth.

The poetry consisted of some of the children's favourites: Cats sleep anywhere; Excuses, Excuses; The Dragon in the Classroom; Brian's Picnic amongst others. I see my role as expanding the repertoire so chose Michael Rosen's Chocolate Cake which was completely new to us and Macavity: the Mystery cat which isn't completely unfamiliar but the children don't know well.

So how did it go?

The cake and poetry were a success and this is something that we are keen to repeat.

In terms of doing this on a regular basis, we plan to have some Poetry Teas just for the family but also invite friends sometimes. 

My two thoughts about a regular Poetry Tea are
  • at some point, I would like to introduce something more serious than the frothy, funny poetry which is popular with the children.
  • We could do without an extra snack, of cake, every week. Youngest Son would like to eat pork pies but I was thinking of fruit! 
I'm going to need plenty of ideas for poems to read aloud to children. Do you have favourite poems for reading to your family?

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Monday 7 September 2015

Nature Study-Seeds

Over the last few years, we have spent a fair amount of time outside and made some attempts at systematic nature study but it has always fallen by the wayside. It has been difficult to find enough time to prepare properly and although I studying biology to the sixth form, there are glaring gaps in my knowledge. Enter, a new book by Lynn Seddon, Exploring Nature with Children. I'm planning a proper review of this lovely book, next week but wanted to show how this has succeeded in getting us outside observing, recording and learning.

The first week's theme was seeds and since the children were keen to look for conkers, this seemed a win-win. 
The first tree that we found turned out to be a London plane. Now, this has proved a bit of a learning curve for me. First, I needed a  tree guide to identify this and then it turns out that London planes were popular in the nineteenth century as they are relatively resistant to smog. 

We all sat and drew in our new nature journals. We used water colour pencils.

Of course, there were oaks and acorns. Oaks have such rough bark.

Of course, we found our horse chestnuts although the real conker season is a week or so off and an ash tree.

This theme has had us looking elsewhere: rosehips in the garden.

Plane trees at the Geffyre Museum.

A great first week in our nature study and very grateful to have a book which makes this so easy.

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Thursday 3 September 2015

What does your child need to know?

I've just finished reading What your year 2 Child needs to know, edited by E.D. Hirsch Jr and published, in the UK, by Civitas. My understanding is that the US edition is a little different,  in terms of history, geography and measurement. The art also reflects art which can be seen in the UK.

My review reflects thoughts about the book

  • educationally
  • politically and
  • spiritually.

What your year 2 Child needs to know is part of a series of books of similar names, ranging from year 1 to year 6. The books are based on the presumption that to participate in society fully, a child needs a common core of knowledge. There are three reasons given why a core of knowledge is necessary
  • to make schooling more effective
  • to make schooling fair and democratic
  • to help create cooperation and solidarity in schools and nation.
Some of the concern about a lack of a core of knowledge has arisen from places and times when there has not been a set and co-ordinated curriculum which has led to repetition and gaps. Most people can attest to this. I remember learning about contours three years running and know that there are some big gaps in my knowledge. This general concern has led to the National Curriculum, in England. However, this book has much more detail than that in the National Curriculum.  The aim is to replace vaguely defined processes with a set of knowledge to be learned. 

The idea is that the book can be used by parents to help their children learn but is also phrased simply so that it can be managed by children who are trying to improve their own education.

The book is divided into subject areas and contains considerable detail. For example, the Language and Literature section contains advice on learning to read and write including suggestions of books for early readers. It has over 100 pages devoted to poems, short stories and sayings which a child of this age (6-7 years) should hear. The end of the chapter has a list of suggested resources including books for teaching reading, beginner readers, websites and mobile apps.

Each subject is set out in a similar way. Religions are slotted into history and geography.

This set of books are said to have influenced Michael Gove in proposing the new National Curriculum. 

This book looks at monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Sadly, its treatment of Christianity misses the mark. The death of the Lord Jesus is described as 

Although many people began to follow Jesus, other people became his enemies. His words made them angry and scared. And so they hurt Jesus, and eventually they killed him. 

This is miles away from 
Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. 
Hebrews 9 v28

God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 
Romans 5 v8
Missing, too, of course, all the prophecies about the death of a suffering Messiah.

As a home educator, I don't have to follow the National Curriculum nor E.D. Hirsch Jr's prescription for my child. However, it is sensible to be aware of what children of this age could be learning. This of course, may be suitable for the age of the child but not necessarily for this aptitude and ability. 

The poems and short stories are something that we will, and have, been using. I will cherry pick. I don't like every story but there are some that I was delighted to find for example, the story of the boy at the dyke. 
Art and music aren't my strong points and so these sections were helpful and in particular, the resource lists. I have memories of learning folk songs, in school, so was pleased to find the words of some of these.
I didn't find the maths particularly stretching and found the activities rather uninspiring. There are more maths resources and games available which could improve this chapter. The history was fairly thin and the section on Christianity coming to England was complicated to understand as the chronology of the Romans leaving was implicit rather than explicit in the section.
The science section concludes with short biographies of famous scientists which I will use as a read aloud. 

So, yes, I will probably dip into this book and use it was a reference rather than a definitive guide. 

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Wednesday 2 September 2015

September Inspiration

September and, like many others, we are about to start back to more formal learning. I have some reservations about the long holiday and we need to get going again. Having said that, this is a brilliant time of year to go away. This time, last year, we were away this week which proved a brilliant not back to school activity.

I don't have any preschoolers, any more, but found this post by Lizzy quite convicting about older children too especially

 It is easy to consider things which are definitely optional absolutely necessary, but to be flexible about things which should be essential.

Danika has published an enormous list of Christian history books for children of different ages. I certainly haven't read all of these books myself but the list will be helpful when researching books.

We are hoping to start our nature studies with Exploring Nature with children (review soon), this week so this post from its author, Lyn Seddon, about how to set up a nature journal was relevant. We love some lovely empty journals just waiting to be used.

We should never stop learning and Annie Kate's article about modelling the joy of learning for our children was challenging and inspiring. This has inspired me to write a list of books that I ought to read. What would you put on a must read list?

This is apple season and with a biggish crop, I am always looking for more uses for apples. This post helps to avoid wasting the skins although I tell myself that composting isn't waste.

Have a happy September!

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