Wednesday 31 August 2016

The Plan for Writing

This is the first year for about five years where I'm not having to teach daily phonics-phew! Whilst we have been knee deep in phonics, creative writing has been on the back burner: not completely ignored but not at the forefront. This year, I hope to remedy this.

Now,  I am well aware that some classical home educators do not teach writing during the early (grammar) phase of education. For various reasons, this isn't a route which we wish to take:
  • the children want to produce creative writing. They spontaneously write their own stories and poems.
  • writing is part of every day life. Fair enough, most of us don't write books but writing texts, emails and letters is something that we all need to do. 
  • copywork is something that is difficult for some children. A child can be full of ideas but struggle with the mechanics. It is possible to write a story whilst providing help with the mechanical process but for such a child, just producing copywork is demotivating. 
Having said this, I don't find teaching creative writing

intuitive. The books which I have used are
  • Partnership Writing by Julie Bogart. This has an emphasis on helping the child through a developmental phase when writing is difficult by acting as scribe when necessary. The book has some project suggestions which tend to take place over the course of a month. We use some of the elements of the BraveWrite lifestyle including Free Writing.
  • How to teach story writing at Key Stage 1 by Pie Corbett. This places emphasis on hearing stories and retelling them orally before starting to write. Does this sound like narration?
  • WriteShop Primary has a structured approach to writing and improving the piece.
  • How to Write books by QED publishing. There are four books in the series; one each about letters and emails, reports, stories and poems. These books can be used by the child.
In an attempt to keep writing and to cover different genres, I have produced a plan. Please note that this is a plan not a hard and fast rule. In the past, we have had difficulty with keeping to other people's time schedules on writing. Usually, the writing has taken longer and the editing less long than expected. I am sure that the proportions will change with time but for now, my aim is to encourage the children to enjoy writing and to keep writing. 

Extra note: if a child has weak spelling, put in the first corrections on the day that the writing takes place. There is nothing more dispiriting than no one being able to read the work the following day. We  separate the process of writing from learning about mechanics of spelling, grammar and punctuation. 

The Plan:


  • Writing from Branch Our World study of Tom's Midnight Garden 
  •  Letters and emails to real friends and relatives. 
  • Write to someone who is not known to us personally, for example, a missionary or the Queen. 
  • Write to an organisation.

  • Continue the unit study. 
  • Celebrate poetry day on 6th October by writing poetry.

  • Story writing-start by reading a story and retelling this before building in changes.
  • Write a sequel to a favourite book.

  • Poetry including rhyming couplets and limericks.
  •  Possibly write a carol.

  • Mystery story: work on planning the plot with mind maps and diagrams before writing.

  • Play: read a play to look at structure.
  • Chose a simple story for a play
  • Think of ways to perform the play
  • Write a one act play.
  • Possibly perform our play with puppets
March:Write about books to celebrate World Book Day.

  • book report
  • lap book
  • diorama
  • newspaper style book review
April:Adventure stories

  • Find a favourite story.
  • Retell the story and think of variations or a sequel.
  • plan structure of the story possibly using a story mountain.
  • Write an adventure story.
May:Non-fiction writing using different formats and topics

  • illustrated 
  • cartoon style
June:fable-using Partnership Writing
July: journal using different formats

  • diary style
  • picture journal
Do you have a view on learning about writing? Any tips?

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Saturday 27 August 2016


Things rarely stay static and we have a few changes all coming together.

Elder Daughter is about to disappear on a year abroad. We've been living in a roller coaster of visa issues but these seem to have been resolved. The children would love to visit her at some point. I'm not making promises but have looked on TripAdvisor.

This week, Middle Son had his IGCSE results. We are thankful that he has done very well and has a place at his first choice of sixth form. It is going to seem strange having one fewer child at home, in the day. The last couple of days have included multiple forms and shopping for kit. I think that he is now ready which is just as well as he starts next week.

We care for an older relative and have hit a phase when the amount of help that we need to give seems to have increased exponentially. The last few weeks have included a plethora of different personnel either visiting or on the phone, along with new equipment arriving. I'm glad that this has happened in the summer holiday when there is a bit more time. I've been working on trying to stream line our home education and to make sure that the children have things that they can carry on doing if there are interruptions. As far as possible, I try to arrange visits, phone calls and arranging space for new equipment away from the hours when I am actively teaching but inevitably, this isn't always possible.

If you have time, please pray for us in these changes and that I will have wisdom in prioritising time.

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Tuesday 23 August 2016

Thinking about Maths-Mathematical Mindsets

Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative TeachingMathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching by Jo Boaler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mathematical Mindsets is a thought provoking book about ways to improve teaching of maths and to produce pupils who love and explore the subject rather than fear and shrink from it. This book has inspired me to think about more open ended tasks and not to be afraid of setting tasks which involve maths that I have not yet taught. There are helpful ideas to avoid children developing a mindset where they think that they are failures at the subject and on a positive side, aiding them to see the creativity of maths.

The second chapter is devoted to the value of mistakes and how they can be a powerful learning tool. This makes sense but often isn't the way that maths is approached.

Common maths procedures such as speed drills receive short shrift in favour of deeper thinking around open ended maths tasks.

As a result of the book, I hope to introduce more open ended problems and to take my children to some sessions which involve exploring maths ideas.

Why the three stars?
-It isn't always easy to see how to integrate this book into a home education context. It is embedded in a classroom culture rather than the more tutorial style learning which is usually used at home.

-The book contains information about the dangers of tracking/setting which makes sense but from a personal point of view, I remember being in unset classes and the boredom and frustration this caused. Maybe, with proper tasks things would have been different.

My final comment is that I have been trying to mentally integrate these ideas with the discussion, in the UK, over this summer about superior results from mastery curriculum (on the Singapore maths lines). If anyone can direct me to answers about this, I would be very grateful.

Definitely worth reading, digesting and then deciding how to act.

View all my reviews

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Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from my local library. The opinions are all my own.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Year 3 Plans

One of the beauties of home education is that education can be individualised. Youngest Son has been very keen to learn some physics and like many little boys, doesn't have a long attention span. This has meant that my plans for him need to
  • include physics
  • have short slots
  • include narration to encourage careful attention
  • alternate types of activities
  • include hands on activity
Our educational plans are founded on God's Word. We start the day with learning about the Lord in Morning Time.

Nessy and plenty of reading aloud to me. 


For the first time, Youngest Son will be able to take part in a book club. We will be reading the books at home as well as having other family read alouds, often related to history. In the first half of the autumn term, we hope to have a unit study about Tom's Midnight Garden  from Branch Out World. I plan to review this around half term.

My aim is for a little writing each day. More details of the grand plan, in a separate post.

Youngest Son uses the Schofield and Sims handwriting workbook. We have done writing in salt but it is difficult to write much with this method and we probably need to increase stamina. We will include some blackboard writing.

Poetry teas have led to Youngest Son being familiar with certain poems. Last year, Excuses was his favourite. My plan is that he becomes familiar with a larger range of poetry.


Galore Park Junior Maths book One. In addition, we hope to attend some local maths exploration sessions.


Youngest Son is very keen to learn some physics. Wildflowers and Marbles has lesson plans based on David Macauley's book The Way things work. 
To go with this, we will add some K'nex educational kits and some simple books on physics.
My plan is that we will have short sessions, a couple of times a week.

We are still using the Apologia Swimming Creatures book and plan to continue this as well as our weekly nature walks, using Exploring Nature with Children.


Story of the World, book 3: Early Modern times. We have the activity book but will use our own extra books, particularly around English history and church history. Hopefully, there will also be some trips out. 

We don't plan anything formal beyond the continent study that we hope to continue in our home education group (Europe, North and South America are the relevant continents, this year). Geography will also come up in history; in following the travels of friends and family and in learning about believers in other lands.


Singing and music appreciation form part of our Morning Time.


Art appreciation is part of our Morning Time while art will be included in history. 

Physical Education

We plan to continue swimming lessons, cycling and time outside in our local parks.

There is still a fair amount of planning to be done, particularly, around the practicalities of fitting everything in! I'm a bit concerned that we may be trying to do more science than is realistic.

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Tuesday 16 August 2016

Marie Durand

Some of my ancestors were Huguenots (French Protestants) so I was brought up on Huguenot books both fiction and non-fiction. There were daring escapes and people who died for their faith but few books about prisoners. Yet, there were women who were imprisoned and men who were galley slaves, for years. 

The other day, I read Simonetta Carr's latest book on Marie Durand.  This is part of the series of Christian biographies for Young Readers published by Reformation Heritage books. Other books in the series are about John Calvin, Augustine of Hippo, John Owen, Athanasius, Lady Jane Grey, Anselm of Canterbury, John Knox and Jonathan Edwards. 

Marie Durand was a Huguenot teenager in the early eighteenth century. She was imprisoned as she was the sister of a Huguenot pastor, in the days when being a minister meant a price on the head.

When Marie was taken to the Tower of Constance, in Aigues-Mortes, she was a teenager and engaged to be married. She only left the Tower thirty eight years later as a woman in late middle age. Her brother had died for his faith; her parents were dead and her fiance was banished. 

Life in the Tower was tough: mosquitoes in summer and rain and snow coming in during the winter. Food wasn't plentiful and the mosquitoes carried malaria. There were sometimes challenges from living so closely together and doctrinal differences. Despite all this, Marie didn't renounce her faith. She wrote encouraging letters to others, as well as missives to officials, asking for the release of the women. Marie was better educated than many of the other women so held a school in the prison for their children.

This book is challenging. Would we remain so faithful under persecution? How about people who are imprisoned for their love for the Lord in our day? Do we pray for them?

Like all of this series of books, Marie Durand is a beautiful book. It includes a map, timeline, background information and illustrations in a well produced hard back.

Highly recommended. This is my favourite in the series, so far. In my opinion, all Christian families should own this set of books. The books aren't cheap but are definitely worthwhile. Ossett Christian Bookshop stock the books in the UK and the Reformation Heritage Bookshop in the US.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use.  I did not have to write a review but wanted to recommend this book.

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Friday 12 August 2016


Sometimes life seems to go along smoothly and at other times, there are big changes. We are going through a time of change. One child is about to go away for a year as a part of their university course and another is about to go to the sixth form after being home educated. These are events that we have anticipated but we are also going through a time when we are needing to provide more care for our older family member.

This week, there has been a hospital admission and discharge as well as a meeting to plan increased levels of care. Of course, that means more people have to come to our home to make more assessments; new kit will be delivered and we will have more care givers in our home. We are grateful that we can have support but sometimes the whole process with all the meetings and phone calls involved gets overwhelming, as well as the sadness of knowing that this is needed.

This morning, I was sitting, in a nearly two and a half hour meeting, and thinking about the neglected housework; the children who were waiting for a picnic in the park; the floor that had just had milk spilled on it and the extras that were going to need arranging. It all felt too much. There are far busier people but for me, at that moment, the burden felt heavy. Then I remembered, these verses by Annie Cousins.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, 
He sendeth more strength when the labours increase; 
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace. 

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again! 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, 
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, 
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

God's grace is sufficient for me and for everyone who trusts in Him.

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12v9

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Tuesday 9 August 2016

Year 5 Plans

Although I can't quite get my head round this, Younger Daughter will be year 5 age in September. I think that is about US grade 4. Thankfully, as home educators we don't have to pay too much attention to her year nor do we have to follow the National Curriculum but instead, she can have work tailored to her.

I have struggled planning this year as there is so much I would like to fit in but am well aware that often less is more.

Back in July, I wrote a post about our Morning Basket so I won't include that here. The Morning Basket contains our Bible learning which is the foundation of everything else that we do.

I am planning various strands to this: first, discussions with the book club, at the home education group and second, some cross curricular work. Part of the latter, will be through books related to history but for the first half of the autumn term, we have a study of Tom's Midnight Garden using a unit study from Branch Out World. I hope to review this at the end of the first half of the autumn term.


Private Reading
There will be a daily slot for this, after lunch.

This will assume a larger place and my aim is to cover different types of writing. I have a plan which will be in a separate post.

We will mainly work on this with writing poetry into the family poetry anthology although I may need to make some time, once a week, for more specific practice.

We plan to continue poetry teas.
Grammar and punctuation
This will be part of Morning Time. I hope to use A Practical English Grammar by Thomson and Martinet which has been recommended to me and looks ideal.

After some thought, the plan is to continue using the Galore Park Junior Maths series. This year, we hope to use book 3.

Last academic year, we started the Apologia Junior book about Swimming Creatures and hope to carry on with this.

 The aim is to continue weekly nature walks. We will probably still use Exploring Nature with Children as a spine as there is so much in this book and we certainly didn't do anything like all of the additional activities but we will also draw/photograph/find out about plants and animals that we see.

Latin is new, this year. Younger Daughter is very keen to start this. We hope to use the Galore Park So you really want to learn Latin prep and the workbook that goes with this. The plan is to do a little Latin each day and I expect that it may take more than a year to complete this stage. The aim is for solid learning not speed!

After two happy years with Veritas Self-Paced, we plan to change to Story of the World volume 3: Early Modern Times. This change is solely because the last two years of Veritas Self-Paced history become more US based and we wanted something more general. We hope to use the Story of the World activity book alongside the book but will probably follow our own extra reading and hope to add in some trips. The plan is that our extra reading will focus on British history and Christian history.

We don't plan anything formal beyond the continent study that we hope to continue in our home education group (Europe, North and South America are the relevant continents, this year). Geography will also come up in history; in following the travels of friends and family and in learning about believers in other lands.

Younger Daughter will continue her piano lessons and the music appreciation, in Morning Time.

Art is the subject which still needs most work. Some art will be linked to history but I do need to add in a little more.Younger Daughter loves photography so something around this theme might be a possibility. Art appreciation happens in Morning Time.
Physical Education
We plan to continue swimming lessons, cycling and time outside in our local parks.

Typing really fell by the wayside, last year. This year, I hope to give it a regular slot with

Phew, that seems massive and there were things that had to be left out. 

Any thoughts about the art? Do your children learn other subjects and any thoughts about fitting everything in, without overload?

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Monday 8 August 2016

Rebecca Stubbs: The Vicar's Daughter

Last week, I ordered Rebecca Stubbs: The Vicar's Daughter by Hannah Buckland. I wasn't quite sure whether this would be for a present or as one of the suggested books for one of the older girls at the book club but the blurb was enough to make me want to read the book. Sometimes, checking the suitability of books is a pleasant task!

This book is set in the mid-nineteenth century in Kent and East Sussex. Rebecca Stubbs is the only daughter of an Evangelical vicar and his wife but finds herself orphaned at the age of seventeen. She wants to be independent but doesn't want to be a governess so goes into service as a housemaid. This is very different from Rebecca's previous life. She learns about the rigid societal structure in a Victorian large house. Even the housemaid giving help to the scullery maid is frowned upon. Rebecca is a Christian but finds that there are challenges in her new life from the conversation around her; man made rules and just the difficulty of finding time to pray. 

Rebecca's life is lightened by a new friendship which ultimately leads to promotion. Will this lead to her happiness and how will she manage in a new village where the preaching is less than encouraging? Will the way that Victorian society is structured with rigid divides between the classes, get in the way of Rebecca's happiness?

I'm not going to give spoilers but will say that my initial thought was that this book was an enjoyable read but that the plot was going to be predictable. I'm glad to say that I had to revise my opinion of the latter.

The author brings out Rebecca's spiritual struggles clearly and realistically. 

Is the rest of the book realistic? I'm no historian but there were one or two items that made me wonder. Would a vicar's daughter have really ended up in service even if she didn't want to be a governess? Rebecca had a new spring dress  for her interview. Maybe it was a mourning dress but there is no mention of this but my understanding was that mourning would have been worn for a year and would have been recognised as such. On the other hand, Hannah Buckland obviously knows the Kent/Sussex area well. Having been brought up in Kent, I appreciated this aspect of the story. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would give it 4*. It is suitable for teenagers as well as adults. Now, I have to decide whether to keep the copy and use it for the book club or give it as a present. Rebecca Stubbs: The Vicar's Daughter is available from The Christian Bookshop Ossett.

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Thursday 4 August 2016

August Inspiration

We spent last week in Yorkshire. It was a precious time; partly, because we had all the children together which doesn't happen so often with some adult children and partly, because the holiday almost didn't happen. Thankfully, we were able to go and the care arrangements here worked well.

My hope is that I can use August for planning, catching up with some neglected household chores, reading and time with the children.

In terms of planning, I found this post about free homeschool sites. We have used some but not all of these sites. Not mentioned but worth visiting is Seterra.

Another freebie is the Institute of Excellence in Writing's Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization which is free until the end of August. Confession time: we won't use this course in the way that it is written but will use the poetry anthology at Poetry Tea.

I have written about our Morning Time and enjoyed Marianne Sunderland's post on The Best Homeschool Hack-Morning Time. She finishes the post with a useful list of resources.

Amy has written about postnatal depression (PND) and specifically, how to help someone with PND. I have started to write about PND on several occasions and more draft posts about this than any other subject. Anyway, please read Amy's post.

Something a bit different, Se7en has a post about making eco-bricks. That would be a great project.

Hope you are having a restful summer!

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