Saturday 28 January 2017

Joy in Home Education

This is the last week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair(VCF). This link, to Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, tells you all about the Virtual Curriculum Fair. Susan, at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, runs the VCF and has put an enormous amount of work into making it work smoothly.
My posts for the previous weeks are Starting the Day Well, a Poetry Feast, Maths: a Subject in Progress and History, Living Books and the Imagination.

This week the topic is about Seeking Beauty: the fine arts and everything that brings beauty to our homeschools. This,too, has been the most difficult to write because I have already written about topics which bring much joy to our days. To me, joy and beauty are closely linked.

This post is written with the risk of sounding as though all the time is easy and joyful. That isn't true. We struggle with some subjects and some days are challenging. This is balanced by the joyful times.

Joyful times include Poetry tea, Morning Time and Read alouds. I would add to this
  • discussions
  • time outside
  • trips out
  • home education groups
Discussions-spontaneous discussion is one of the joys of home education. Some days, it seems that we don't  have important  discussions and then, usually, at a busy moment we start to talk. Topics can be  about anything from the Bible, to politics, to money, to science and so on.

Time outside-last year, we used Exploring Nature with Children. I recommend this highly. This year, we have used it more loosely but still do a nature walk each week as well as going outside to cycle, walk and exercise every day. This year, one of the children has been particularly interested in taking photos of our nature walks rather than drawing. 
If we have a bad day then going out often seems to improve moods and turn things round. 
We go outside in most weathers. The children have ski jackets, waterproof trousers and wellies for when the weather is bad 

and have discovered that they have the playground to themselves if the weather is even slightly inclement. 

Trips out
Days out are one of the real beauties of home education. 

Trips out have included castles, open air museums,
central London museums, farms, art galleries, a recycling plant, a food bank and river trips.
 Some trips we do as a family, some with other home educating friends and others as part of a large group. 
London is a great place for visits but successful trips have been local: pond dipping, walks in the woods with friends or a local photography exhibition.

Home Education Groups
We currently attend one home education group regularly. We find that going to a group is something that we all enjoy. It can also give some opportunities that might otherwise be difficult to find, such as, giving a talk to a group or taking part in a book club. 
This was some French food provided by a French member of the group as part of our session about France.

This post has been a useful exercise for me, realising how many joyful moments there are in our days. I am grateful for this particularly, at a time of year which sometimes feels less than joyful!

Now I invite you to visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about seeking beauty in their homeschools:

Living & Loving Art by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Putting the Fun in School by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Art Fun In Our Homeschool by Amanda @Hopkins Homeschool
Fine Arts Is The Fun Part by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Washing Dust Off Our Souls by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Bringing Beauty Into Your Homeschool Through Poetry by Dana @ Roscommon Acres
Seeking out the beauty... by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Joy in Home Education by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Teaching Drawing (When You Can't Draw) by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Homeschool Art for the Artistically Challenged by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Jesus, Peace, Freedom & Our Homeshool by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos
Fine Arts Options in High School by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Reluctant Artist? What do you do? by Annette @ A Net in Time
Making Fine Arts a Priority by Lisa @ McClanahan 7
Creative Pursuits by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Arts and Crafts in Our Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Where Do You Find Beauty? by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Looping our Beauty Topics Saved our Homeschool by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully

Please do link up your posts about Seeking Beauty: the fine arts and everything that brings beauty to our homeschools.

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Thursday 26 January 2017

January Books

Last year, I posted about books that I planned to read for the Reading Challenge (#vtReadingChallenge). So far, that list has only a vague connection with what I have actually read.

So far, I have read

Beggar of Volubilis. This was actually a read aloud but also, rather conveniently, filled the slot of the children's book. This is one of the later books in the Roman Mystery series, by Caroline Lawrence, where the children hunt for a famous jewel known as Nero's Eye. This quest takes the children in a caravan across North Africa.

Five English Reformers, by JC Ryle. This is a book about five of the Protestant Reformers who were martyred in the reign of Mary I. The book is worth reading but really could do with some heavy editing. It is complied from six separate talks and so there is a fair amount of background information which is repeated. Much as I like the writing of JC Ryle, I did object to the statement that the Roman Catholic church never changes. This is demonstrably untrue, for example, new doctrines have been added from time to time.

The Loveliness of Christ is head and shoulders above any other book that I have read this month. It is short excerpts from the letters of Samuel Rutherford. The book isn't long but needs to be read slowly and savoured. Several of the quotes found their way into my commonplace book.

I am Malala was a book that I read for a current issue book. This is the autobiography of the girl who was shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls. I didn't know much about the politics of Pakistan and this was a fascinating introduction.

Charles Hodge was a Bite Sized Biography from Evangelical Press. This particular volume was written by S. Donald Fortson III. I knew very little about Charles Hodge before, beyond that fact that he wrote a Systematic Theology. His life was at a time when the issues of abolition and Higher Criticism were coming to the fore. It was also interesting to see how the denominational issues played out.

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark is a Newbery Award winner set in Peru and was read as part of my search for books about South America to read with my home education book group. Cusi is a boy living high in the Andes with llamas and an elderly mentor. There are mysteries about why he is there and why he has so little contact with the outside world. Eventually, Cusi does go on a long trek and discovers why he is set apart. It is quite mystical and describes a fair amount about Inca religion. To my mind, there were still some unanswered questions by the end. What is the main idea behind the book? Probably, to find the path set for you(? by whom) and follow it. I suspect that I won't use this book for the group but there seem to be so few books around about South America. Suggestions are welcome-the children are mainly upper KS2 age (9-11).

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Tuesday 24 January 2017


Just a note about why I haven't been around much recently. We care for my husband's elderly mother. She spent most of December in hospital, very unwell. Rather to everyone's surprise, she pulled through this and has come home. Being home doesn't really mean she is better rather that she is poorly somewhere else and waits on the shores of Jordan.

We are grateful for the help we have from a large package of care and from various other agencies as well as friends who have volunteered to have the children, have visited and have prayed.

Please remember us and, particularly, Alun's Mum in prayer. I may not be around quite so much at present but do hope to have a little time towards the end of this week when I may be able to write.

Thank you all.

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Saturday 21 January 2017

History, Living Books and the Imagination

Welcome to Week Four of the Virtual Curriculum Fair 2017. More information about the Virtual Curriculum Fair can be found here. This week's theme is Exploring our World: Social Studies and the Exploratory Sciences. My post is about history.
The previous week's posts are Starting the Day Well, a Poetry Feast and Maths: a Subject in Progress.

This year has been an unusual year for history. We have officially been studying Early Modern times (from the time of James I until the mid-nineteenth century) but this isn't where the real learning has happened. The real learning has been about a much earlier time and has been precipitated by children's literature. Younger Daughter loves early history and has spent much of the autumn learning about Roman times with the help of Caroline Lawrence's books: The Roman Mysteries and the two new Roman Quests. 

This has led to

  • a trip to a Roman site where we met Caroline Lawrence 
  • a day of Roman activities
  • Roman cooking 
  • dressing up as a character from the Roman Mysteries for an archaeology club Christmas party. This involved research into Roman clothing and hair styles
  • learning about Roman numerals
  • writing a book review
  • having more background to reading the book of Acts.
  • an interest in Latin and the roots of words.
  • many discussions on topics from geography to Roman morality to the Emperor cult to Christians in Roman times. We have used these books as read alouds which I think is important in terms of learning and being able to talk about the contents.
This isn't the first year that the history learning has really been sparked by living books. 

What is a living book? It is a book which inspires interest in a subject. It is usually written by one person rather than a committee. That person has an enthusiasm for their subject so pulls the reader in. The term was coined by the famous Victorian educator, Charlotte Mason.

For the previous two years, we used the Veritas Self Paced history and the literature suggested with this programme. These books, and the programme, which my daughter loved, led to the first phase of interest in early history. We read 
  • Detectives in Togas
  • Hostage Lands
  • Black Ships before Troy
  • Lysis goes to the Play
  • Theras and his town
  • A Trojan horse
and more.

Last year, we used the Veritas list again and studied the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. Books again, captured the imagination and led to a successful year in history learning. 

This year, we changed curriculum. The new curriculum does have literature suggestions but so many that I was rather overwhelmed. I had a few books lined up but  these just haven't managed to capture the imagination in the way that the Roman Mysteries have. At the end of the year, I suspect that my children will have gained more knowledge and perhaps more importantly, enthusiasm for learning about the Romans that for the period 1610 to 1850. 

The moral for next year, is that I need to find a few living books that capture the imagination. Once the children are spending their free time thinking about the Victorians, World War One and World War Two, they will learn almost whatever I do. In the meantime, we will probably visit a villa or two and read more Roman stories.

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Exploring Our World this week:

Notebooking Our Way through History by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Studying the Where and How by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
The History of Our Mysterious Struggle With History by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Social Science, Science and Exploring our World - Our Path by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Learning History Through Fiction by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
History in Our Homeschool by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Exploring Our World Through History And Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Bringing History to Life! by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
History, Living Books and the Imagination by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Exploring our world comes in many different forms. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Bible, History and Geography by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Beyond the Books - Social Studies and Science by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Exploring the World with Living Books by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
High School History & Science without Textbooks by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Exploring the World Starting with Canada by Annette @ A Net in Time
Visit The World Through Video by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Nature Study is Our Favorite Way to Do Science by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully
What A Wonderful World by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
The Time we got Lost in the Woods by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acres

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Saturday 14 January 2017

Maths: a subject in progress

This is the third post for the Virtual Curriculum Fair 2017. This is a five week series of posts from a variety of different bloggers around various areas in home education. 
My first post was about Starting the Day well and last week's was about poetry: A Poetry Feast.

This week's topic is Patterns: maths, logic and some science. Maths is, unexpectedly, it is a subject about which I feel a bit wobbly. Up until this year,maths has been a strong topic. We certainly aren't a mathsphobic family: Middle Son is studying maths in the sixth form and Eldest Son has a maths related degree. Maths gets discussed around the table and jokes sometimes have a maths related punchline. So what has gone wrong?

Younger Daughter is on her third year of the Galore Park maths books and Youngest Son started the first book during the last academic year but they have both got stuck on topics. Fractions and tables to be precise. I like the way that Galore Park is a spiral curriculum and have sometimes gone back to the topic in a previous year when children have got stuck but this year has felt like thick mud! 

This autumn, I decided that we had to reinvigorate our maths. There were some additions

We decided to have a break from Galore Park and used the Nessy Numbers programme for a few weeks. We used the time telling part of this first which was great for sorting out fluency and changing 12 hour to 24 hour times. It was fun and removed the tension. Neither child is dyscalculic so I don't know how effective it would be in this scenario.

We are also using Nessy for extra times tables work.

Our other addition is something that we have used before with Middle Son but not with the younger children and that is Khan Academy. This has proved helpful when a particular topic has proved difficult and we are currently using it for fractions. We have never used Khan Academy as our main curriculum but more as way of helping with difficult subjects and having an explanation that doesn't come from me. It has been great for this: free, with explanatory videos and practice questions.

We plan to move back to Galore Park slowly but with these additions and substitutions as necessary. 

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and the Mathematical Sciences this week:

Finding Our Math Equilibrium: Our Plan for 11th, 7th, 5th, and 2nd Grades + Free Printables! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Math Resources and Programs for All Ages by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Math (doesn't) Stink! by Jennifer King @A Peace of Mind
When Math is NOT Your Thing by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
Math U See and All the Supplements by Laura H @ Four Little Penguins
Discovering Patterns in Our World: STEM Studies by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Junior High Math by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Science & Math for Struggling Learners by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
Maths: a subject in progress by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Taking Mathematics out of the Textbook by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acre
Maths for a Very Maths-y Boy by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Practical Math by Annette @ A Net in Time
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Math, How I Loathe Thee by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Math and Logic in Early Elementary and Preschool {virtual curriculum fair 2017} by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos
Low Stress High School Science and Math by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Are these toys or manipulatives? This is math? by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully
When You Don't Have a Math Plan by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Clear Horizons by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
A Few Thoughts on Teacher Math by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

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Thursday 12 January 2017

Searching for Second hand Children's Books

This is the second post in a series of two about which books to search for second hand. The first post dealt with specifically Christian authors whereas this post is more general.

I haven't read every book by these authors so use discretion. However, these are authors whose books I have enjoyed and are the authors that I look for in second hand shops. I'm sharing my secrets!

 R.J. Unstead was a headmaster and author of children's history books. I remember devouring his books when I was in school. We particularly like People in History which has short biographies of famous people in British history and lovely big font for early readers.

 Enid Blyton is well known and I wouldn't spend too much time looking for most of her books except for her Tales of Brave Adventure which is a child friendly retelling of Robin Hood and King Arthur. A book that I haven't seen, but is often recommended, is her Nature Lover's Book.

Barbara Willard wrote the Mantlemass series. I have only read one of these historical fiction books for older children but keep an eye open for the others. In addition, her book Penny Pony was a book that the children enjoyed a couple of years ago. An author worth checking out in the shelves.

BB was the pen name of Denys Watkins-Pitchford. We have only read Lord of the Forest which is a history and natural history of an oak tree in Sussex over several hundred years from the Middle Ages to the Second World War. However, he wrote many other books including the famous Brendon Chase.

Malcolm Saville wrote children's adventure stories set in Shropshire and Sussex. I loved these as a child and have some rather loved, tattered copies. Sadly, second hand copies are only available at enormous prices so I keep my tatty versions!

Ladybird history and nature books. These are famous and worth having despite the recent parodies. The history books, in particular, are often available relatively cheaply.

If you don't have a copy of Edith Holden's The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady then look for this. We dip into this book for nature study and usually have it open at the relevant month on our nature table.

Our copy of The Macmillan Treasury of Poetry for Children has been used so much that the covers are falling off. Again, worth looking for in second hand shops. 

I would love to have some tips about which out of print/older children's books you recommend.

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Saturday 7 January 2017

A Poetry Feast

This is the second week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. This is a five week series of posts from a variety of different bloggers around various areas in home education. Last week's post about Starting the Day Well and with links to all the other week one posts can be found here. This week's topic is Playing with Words: the Language Arts or what we would call in England, English or literacy. 

My post, this week, is about poetry in our home education. 

I have written about poetry previously
Ways to enjoy poetry and rhyme with young children
Poetry and Young Children
Poetry Resources

Nowadays, we have a special poetry slot at our weekly Poetry Tea. This is an idea from Brave Writer which now has a separate Poetry Teatime website.

We hold our poetry tea at the same time each week.  One of the children usually selects a recipe and makes a snack. We are trying, not always successfully, to pull away from sweet snacks but fruit and homemade sushi sandwiches have been popular.

The table is laid for Poetry Tea, sometimes, around a theme such as the season 
or an event such as Remembrance Day. Recently, we have often covered the table with lining paper and provided pens rather than using a table cloth. The idea is to encourage writing, doodling and general illustration of the poems. 
We often invite a friend or friends for Poetry Tea. Everyone attending has to choose a poem and either read this or have it read for them. Poems have been written for the occasion. 

On occasion, we have variations on Poetry Tea. We read Kipling at his house, Bateman's. There was the end of term treat with a new anthology and a visit to a cafe. We have had poetry picnics in various seasons!

We now have a large family anthology in which we write our favourite poems and poems written by the children. In retrospect, I would have used a smaller book. Our book is larger than A3 size and is difficult to manage on the table!

Benefits of Poetry Tea

  • Increasing awareness of rhyme
  • Becoming aware of some well known poems
  • Coming to love some poems
  • Repetition leading to increased understanding
  • Repeated reading leading to increases in fluency and skill in reading aloud. Dialogue poems have been really popular for this. Excuses is the favourite in this category and is read/recited weekly!
  • Writing poetry
  • Reading recipes
  • Conversations about themes in the poems. The discussions have sometimes lasted far longer than I anticipated.
Tips for Making Poetry Tea work
  • Some children like poems more than others-all have to sit for a snack, drink and listen to one poem from each person. 
  • Funny poems seem to appeal to those less keen.
  • I let the less enthusiatic disappear after the minimum expected while keener children can sit and discuss.
Poetry Suggestions
I have previously written about Poetry Resources. In addition to these, we also now use 
  • The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry
  • Secret Laughter by Walter de la Mare
  • Where the Poppies now grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey. This is a picture book around a poem about the First World War.
  • The Nation's Favourite Poems-please note that this is not a children's book and not all the poems are suitable for a children's poetry tea. 
  • Over Hills and Dales: The Illustrated Poetry of the Natural World
Current Favourite Poems and their authors
  • Excuses Gareth Owen
  • Chocolate Cake Michael Rosen
  • Please Mrs Butler Allan Ahlberg
  • The race to get to sleep Brian Patten
  • On the Ning Nang Nong Spike Milligan
  • Henry VIII Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Robert Frost
  • A Smugglers' Song Rudyard Kipling
  • Gran's XI John Kitching
  • In Flanders Fields John McCrae
  • A Dragon in the Classroom Charles Thomson
Please let me know about your children's favourite poems or anthologies. I have wondered about having some Poetry Teas around a particular author but haven't really done this yet, apart from a visit to Bateman's. I would love suggestions for themes and extensions to our teas.

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are writing about Playing with Words this week:

All posts will be live by Monday, January 9th at noon EST.
Delight Directed High School English by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Act Your Part Well- 2017 VCF by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
The Search For Language by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
Our Top Picks for Language Arts by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Multiple Approaches to Language Arts in 2017 by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
How We Cover the Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Use Your Words by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
The Art of Perfecting Macarons by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Loving Languages Every Day by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind
Speech Therapy & Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
The Readin' and Writin' Part of Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Children Who Love Books by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Customizing High School Language Credits by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
A Poetry Feast by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Teaching Language Arts without Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
I know your pain and it is worth it! by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Language Arts: Our Style by Annette @ A Net in Time
Words! Words! Words! by Lisa M @McClanahan 7
10 Wonderful Word Games (+1) by Lori @ At Home: where life happens

Finding the Right Words by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
What About Reading Comprehension? by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
Teaching Grammar and Writing Through Discussion by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

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Wednesday 4 January 2017

January Inspiration

Happy New Year! I meant to post earlier but life has been busy. I'm not sure that it will quieten down anytime soon. We care for an elderly family member who has been very ill, in hospital. We are delighted that she seems to be on the mend so we are now involved in the arrangements for what will be a very complicated discharge from hospital. It will be lovely to get her home though.

We have also been enjoying having Older Daughter home from abroad for a few weeks. 

This house is very full of books so I enjoyed this post on steps to giving a book that will be loved.

I'm not successful at being a book minimalist or a minimalist about anything else, if truth be told, but Northern Nester's post about minimalist wardrobes for large families made sense. I do think that larger children's clothes will take up more space than that suggested and I know that 3-4 pairs of socks would be a struggle especially as the washing machine eats socks. 

The next article has an over-hopeful title but has some helpful points about habits.

This post, from Kitchentableclassroom is about strewing

I have started on the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge but haven't finished anything yet. There are three, maybe four, books on the go:

  • Five English Reformers by JC Ryle. I am enjoying this but the book could do with editing. It is made up of six talks which leads to repetition between chapters.
  • Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Dickens' hint laden prose is intriguing.
  • The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford is a beautiful book but can only be read in small snatches as it is full of short quotes from his letters.
  • The beggar from Volubilis by Caroline Lawrence is a current read aloud. I wasn't going to count this as the children's book on the list but might as we should be through it fairly soon. I would like to have completed one book for the challenge!

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