Thursday 30 June 2016

Summer so far!

This blog has been rather neglected recently. June, in our family, has been about taking Middle Son to exams; increasing amounts of time spent caring and a joyful few days spent camping with three of my children, in Suffolk. We've just come back from camping so this will be short. It has been good to have a time to recharge, to think and sleep! The campsite had a silent after 10pm rule which was greatly conducive to rest. 

We spent hours on the beach.

These holes are the nests of sand martins. 

Evening sea.

Sand and pebble sculpture by Youngest Son.

Our tents. We are not professional campers although it is surprising how much can be cooked on one burner in the rain!

 This end of the year is hard work and I know that I'm not the only tired home educator around.  It is easy to get overtired and lose perspective. I am grateful for a husband who held the fort at home and that we were able to have a break. Refreshed and grateful!

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Wednesday 22 June 2016

30 Summer Science and Numeracy activities

Last week, I wrote about how we plan to continue literacy learning over the holidays. This post is about science and numeracy learning. As before, there are 30 activities on the basis that the holiday has about six weeks and activities are done on five days. The plan is to have a maths or science related activity for each weekday of the holidays. 
These ideas aim to continue practice with number operations in different and hopefully practical ways. The science is designed to encourage interest and curiosity about the subject rather than around a curriculum.
Please add more ideas as having a variety is useful!

  • Planting seeds. Cress grows quickly but radishes and green leaves also give fairly quick results. Try growing the seeds in different conditions. Cress and green leaves will grow inside on a sunny windowsill.

  • Harvesting potatoes. If you haven't grown them then a friend or family member may let children help. This is an activity which my children look forward to each year.

  • Growing crystals-this is surprisingly easy using table salt and a piece of string.
  • Maths games e.g.Trilemma, Sum Swamp, BrainBox

  • Fizz-Buzz. A quick tables game. All the multiples of one number are replaced by the word fizz. Those playing then count replacing the relevant numbers with the word fizz. For example, if three were selected, the players would say one, two, fizz, four, five, fizz. Another table can be added, for example five which can be replaced by buzz. Using both tables together, counting would be one, two, fizz, four, buzz, fizz, seven etc. Fifteen is fizz buzz. 

  • Practice doubling while doubling up a recipe.

  • Practice weighing and estimation while cooking

  • Work out pocket money or holiday money, what it will buy and change.

  • Work out the areas if you are planning to do any decoration over the summer. 

  • Investigate a rock pool

  • Use a timetable on a bus or train journey

  • Nature walks

  • Visit a science related museum

  • Visit a different nature habitat-woods/marshlands

  • read some science and maths books

  • Smartie maths-yes, maths with sweets. I don't intend to do this more than once but one of my children keeps asking for this!

  • make cardboard clocks

  • make bread or sourdough bread for a change

  • make yogurt

  • devise a healthy family menu to the appropriate budget. When we have done this with the older children we let then put in the on-line order so that they can be sure that they are within budget. Do check the items before finalising the order!

  • dot to dots-these can be found on the internet using multiples to help skip counting

  • suduku

  • filter muddy water 

  • volcano making with sodium bicarbonate and vinegar-we have done this so many times that I don't think of this as educational but we might try using lemon juice instead of vinegar for variation.
Please add more ideas. It is useful to have a choice of activities for me to choose from, even if I only put out one for my children!

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Monday 20 June 2016

June Books

June has been a rather different month with trips to take Middle Son to exams, now thankfully, over. 

As a change from watching the waterfowl in the park, 

we started a read aloud while waiting for an exam to end. I had been meaning to read The Green Ember to my younger two all year. Younger Son is enthusiastic about this book and has been asking for extra chapters.

When we started The Green Ember, we hadn't quite finished our previous read aloud Swallows and Amazons. My childhood copy is so battered that it would completely fall apart if I took it out of the house! As a child, I had mixed feelings about this book and as an adult, I know why. I don't quite understand Swallows and Amazons, all that sailing terminology is a bit beyond me. Anyway, now we have read to then end, we hope to watch the film which I'm hoping will make all the mysterious sailing talk clear. 

Younger Daughter is enjoying a book that I found when it was free on Kindle, Still more stories from Grandma's attic by Arleta Richardson. We haven't read the earlier books in the series but are loving the funny, stand alone stories from this book. In addition, the story about how Mabel and her parents cared for the Grandfather of a neighbouring family who was suffering from dementia is beautiful, respectful and a lovely picture of Christian hospitality. 

We have just started one of Simonetta Carr's biographies to go with our history. This one is of John Calvin. These books are accessible, clear representations of church history and well suited for 7-11 year olds.

On Sunday evenings, I have been reading the children one story from The book on the Window sill and other stories. These are short Christian stories, often about the way of salvation. They are not dissimilar to the Building on the Rock books by Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn. 

A summer holiday task, which I love, is choosing our read alouds for next year. We hope to be studying history from about 1600 to the mid-nineteenth century. I will probably use some of the recommendations in the Story of the World activity book but want to add more British history and Christian history. Any recommendations?

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Thursday 16 June 2016

Big Bible Science-a review

Big Bible Science: Experiment and Explore God's World by Erin Lee Green looks at science from a Christian perspective. Its target audience is children between 7 and 11. It is ideally used with a parent or other adult.

Erin Lee Green is a former science teacher who now home educates her children in Puerto Rico.

There are 21 chapters covering physics, chemistry and biology. Topics include

  • gravity
  • Newton's laws
  • electricity
  • acids and bases
  • combustion
  • plant requirements
  • the water cycle
  • the angle of the sun's rays
  • classification
  • the nervous system
  • the digestive system
and plenty more.

The book has a fairly extensive introductory section covering how to present the lesson, the components of each chapter, safety and a chart showing which activities a child can do on their own, when someone else will be needed and activities which should not be done without an adult and a section on notebooking. Whilst some of the activities can be done without an adult, my own view is that a child will gain far more from this book if it is used with an adult. Of course, children may well want to repeat activities on their own.

The lessons are all called experiments. Each one has 

  • an objective
  • a clear list of materials needed. Most of these items are to be found around the house.
    A notable exception is a zoo trip for the second animal classification chapter. 
  • a Big Idea is then introduced which is a scientific explanation of the lesson from a Biblical point of view. This includes a memory verse. This section could be read aloud but is much better used as a basis for talking to children. The author says that this should be completed before starting the activity. Some of the Big Idea sections are fairly long and might be better used in a Morning Time at a separate time to the activity. There is a note on timing, in the introduction, which suggests breaking the lesson up into sections and I have found that this works better in practice.
  • Activity or activities-this is the scientific demonstration or experiment.
  • Apply it-this section applies the principles to everyday life and also applies the Biblical principle.
  • Go beyond is for students who want to learn more, for example, learning about Galileo or studying a quarter moon with binoculars.
Finally, the end of the book has a short section with biographies of famous scientists.

This book is ideal for Christian home educators. I found that breaking the lessons into small sections worked better than using them as a whole, indeed, this is what the author suggests but I didn't take this on board initially. It is also a book which could be used with schooled children during the summer holidays. 

Big Bible Science is available from Christian Focus Publications, Amazon or your local Christian bookseller. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Big Bible Science for review purposes. The views are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Monday 13 June 2016

30 Summer Literacy Activities

In just under six weeks, the summer holiday arrives in England. We aren't year round home educators and are looking forward to the break but there are some hard won reading and writing gains which need to be consolidated. I have read many posts about people just carrying on with reading lessons as usual but I know this wouldn't be popular. My alternative is to try to find an enjoyable activity for each day. 

The holiday is roughly six weeks and my aim is to have an activity for each weekday. Doubtless, successful activities can be recycled! This list has thirty activities so roughly one for each weekday of the holidays.

  • new or new to them books. Having older siblings means that there are often books that can just be pulled off our shelves.

  • a reading challenge. We have used the library one for several years but might construct our own.

  • poetry picnic

  • Bogle

  • Junior Scrabble

  • Cooking using a recipe

  • using an old read aloud for a child to read. Some of our Five in a Row books will be ideal for this.

  • activities related to books: so far, ideas have included acting out books, making puppets and art. 
  • recipes related to books. One day, I will make proper baked beans like in Farmer Boy.
  • New read aloud. A humorous book would be ideal but I have a bad reputation of laughing so much that I can't read so this might have to be reserved for an audio book.

  • share reading a book

  • audio books

  • write the shopping list

  • email a friend ( we allow our younger children to email friends via their parents' and my email accounts).

  • write to a friend

  • write to someone abroad-missionary, sponsored child

  • treasure hunt using written clues

  • read a magazine-the RSPB produce an attractive magazine for children as part of their junior membership.

  • read a newspaper. First News is particularly designed for children and is eagerly awaited here.

  • read somewhere different: reading in a tent or at a picnic

  • word searches

  • Word Trek (free app. The higher levels are very difficult but this starts at an easy level and our children have redone these)

  • Word Smart another free app but where it is possible to design the child's challenges

  • Word cards to make random sentences

  • Provide a new notebook

  • Start a journal
There are undoubtedly more ideas. Please share what you do to encourage reading over the summer. 

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Thursday 9 June 2016

Chartwell-a place of adventure

Guest post by Younger Daughter who also took the photos.

This half term we went to one of the home of one of the country's most famous people, Winston Churchill. We discovered what a home for the prime minster would have been like and the amazing gardens that surrounded it. They did not let us take pictures in the house but the imagination is better, so our story begins. 

First, a walk in the woods that made you imagine that  you were in a book or a fairy tale.

Buttercups and the smell of the country.

Wild flowers just like a book. 

 A little lake with hundreds of fish!!!

I wonder where this leads?

English woodland and in six of the trees were old fashioned board swings, just like the ones that my Great-Grandad made

The duck pond had goslings. 

Yet another pond and more animals. 

The drive and front garden, just mowing that lawn would take a little while.

Walled gardens. This wall was built by Churchill himself but after ninety years is in need of repair. I think it is safe to say that Churchill was more suited to being prime minster. 

The house is having work done due to water coming in. 

We loved the purple sage- the colour of plums

 and the purple irises.

A place where story can unfold and an adventure can start.

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Monday 6 June 2016

June Morning Basket

June is a complicated month as Middle Son has two weeks of exams. On these days, sadly, but inevitably, the Morning Basket will be neglected. Anyway, hopefully, there will still be plenty of days when we can keep to our usual routine. This is just a brief season.

Morning time is one of the happiest times of the day-short, easy sections and I have learnt from it as well as the children.

Anyway, this is the plan.

  •  Prayer
  •  section from A Child's Story Bible. We are currently reading the New Testament volume.
  •  memory work. We are learning Psalm 103. One of my readers reminded me about the lovely illustrated Psalm 103 by Johanna Bluedorn which I have now pulled out.
  •  a hymn. At present, a free choice from our church's children's hymnbook.

Art Appreciation-weekly
We are continuing to read 13 Bridges every child should know and finding that some of the bridges have been in the news both in Florence and Paris.
I'm working on a plan for picture study for next term so back to more traditional art.

Music Appreciation-weekly
We haven't yet finished the Ladybird book of Composers-Beethoven next.

Maths-daily (this isn't our only maths time but a time for fun maths and a little revision!)
I have just purchased some maths story books:
  • How much is a million?
  • Divide and ride
  • Less than zero
Other activities for this slot are
  • estimating
  • fraction equivalence dominoes
  • trilemma
  • tables matching pairs
Geography weekly
Currently, we are running through some capitals.

Read aloud

We have finished most of our collection of Beatrix Potter books. My enthusiasm for reading in this slot varies but I hope to read Emil and the Detectives next.

Do you have a morning time? Do post suggestions and thoughts.

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Thursday 2 June 2016

June Inspiration

It is almost summer although London is decidedly chilly at present. 

Fitting in well with summer is the Wildlife Trusts 30 Day Wild challenge. I'm hoping that we will spend plenty of time outside. The last couple of days, we have spent some hours out of doors but mainly in playgrounds. Anyway, here are the dog roses spotted on our journey.

Creekside Learning has produced more ideas for handwriting practice. The mud writing reminded me of when we tried mud painting- an unforgettable experience!

Edsnapshots had an excellent podcast about maths in Morning Time. There is a fascinating list of resources and some useful suggestions in the actual podcast. I have one of the books winging its way to me!

Adventures in Literacy Land had a post about using Marcia Williams' graphic novels. It is written from a classroom perspective but has some different thoughts about how to use these books. These books are popular here and we find that the library stocks a wide range. So far, we have used them as an introduction to authors but may expand!

Finally, some simple instructions for keeping nature notebooks and making the point that this isn't some exclusive home education club but for everyone.

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