Monday 29 May 2017

Spring 2017

Some half terms are stellar times filled with exciting trips and a feeling of progress being made. Others are slower and this last half term has been one of those. Realistically, we have worked steadily and progress has been made. I find that when I am tired it often seems that we have done little whereas looking back at topics and goals can be more helpful.

Just before the start of the term, we had a trip to the sea especially to look at rock pools. The sea is a long way from London but it was worth going, especially as this term's science is around swimming creatures.

Younger Daughter has been running, each week, with some friends.  This last week, Youngest Son also joined in. Sadly, a nerve root injury in my back means that I haven't been able to join them, so I've had a relaxing time looking after whichever children haven't run.

This week, we have tried to cook potatoes in a home made solar oven. We managed to get the temperature to 70C but failed to cook the potatoes!

Our read alouds have included

  • The Ology which is a summary of theology for children in a beautifully presented book.
  • A Bear called Paddington for Youngest Son's bookclub. This book was very popular.
  • Journey to the River Sea by Eve Ibbotson for Younger Daughter's bookclub. This is a well written book set in the Amazon. I think there are holes in the ending but the children enjoyed the book.
  • My name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley. This is a fun twist on history which Younger Daughter and I enjoyed together.
  • We haven't quite finished Archimedes and the Door of Science. This  book encompasses history, science and maths by someone who is an enthusiast about the subject. We are reading it a chapter at a time during morning time.
Just when I thought that we hadn't achieved much this term, my daughter asked if she could hold a bake sale. She organised, cooked for, decorated and ran a sale in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital almost single handed.

This week is a  UK half term holiday.  We aren't bound by the system but these are a great invention and we are all looking forward to a week to recharge, catch up and see friends.

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Thursday 18 May 2017

Sources of home education inspiration: English

This is the second post with resources for home education. I don't pretend to list every resource. These are either programmes/sites which I have used, referred to or seriously considered using. The comments are my personal views.

  • Early years: we loved the picture book based curriculum, Five in a Row which has ideas around picture books. Even if you don't use the books, it is worth checking out the book lists. Branch Out World has a similar type of idea but produces unit studies around UK based picture books.

  • Learning to read. Opinions on learning to read vary and some children seem to learn with very little instruction. For the rest, programmes which teach synthetic phonics seem to have evidence based approval. We have used Jolly Phonics but found that there wasn't enough repetition nor explanation of some difficulties. 
  • I have written about reading programmes for children who need more instruction. If I were starting to teach a child to read now, I would use either All about reading or Dancing Bears. Reading Eggs is a popular on line programme. It is helpful re-enforcement for other reading instruction as is Nessy.  The latter is particularly useful for learners who find reading difficult.

  • For spelling, we use All about Spelling. This is a methodical, teacher intensive programme with plenty of review built in. In the past, I have used Schofield and Sims spelling workbooks with an older child. These are a cheaper alternative for children who don't struggle with spelling. 
  • I haven't used but was impressed with Alpha to Omega which would cover reading and spelling. Again, I haven't used the Structured Word Inquiry but this sounds a fascinating way to help children with spelling. I haven't been able to find a book about this-I'm sure that someone should write one or tell me where one exists! Nessy is a painless way of re-enforcing spelling.

  • Creative writing. There are an enormous number of programmes around and even more views on how to teach creative writing or, indeed, on whether it should be taught at all. Anyway, we have used WriteShop which has clear instructions; Bravewriter which has somewhat less clear information about what to do but plenty of encouragement for helping reluctant writers and a set of books: . Pie Corbett's books are helpful. I have used the Key Stage one book, How to teach story writing at Key Stage 1, and also Jumpstart: Literacy games for 7-14 year olds. A helpful set of books are published by QED and called How to write. 

  • Grammar, punctuation, comprehension. We don't do as much grammar as schools seem to be doing for the year 6 stats testing. We tend to use the Galore Park books for this part of English although we have the older edition. The newer edition seems to include more grammar. Jumpstart, by Pie Corbett, has some games which can be used. This year, we have used Writing with Ease which has worked reasonably well for one child and not at all well for the other. This is sold as a writing course but includes copy work, dictation and close style narration. I find the narration questions similar to the comprehension questions in Galore Park. The premise of this book is that creative writing is not necessary at a young age. I struggle with this idea so wouldn't use Writing with Ease alone for writing.

  • Handwriting. We have used several programmes: Schofield and Sims (we liked this but my children need more than two thin books worth of practice), Getty Dubay (this worked well until we reached cursive which looked too different to UK script), Morrell workbooks. I have wondered about Handwriting without Tears but rejected this as the cursive was unlike most UK styles. Please let me know if you have any recommendations. Ideally, I would like something which can be done for a short time daily.

  • ExtrasShakespeare week has plenty of resources for introducing younger children to the bard. Don't forget the local library for books. Recently, I have used the library online search more and more rather than just looking at random when I arrive. 
Please do write about your favourite resources and let me know if I have left out some major area. 

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Wednesday 3 May 2017

May Inspiration

May is coldly beautiful here, this year. 

As we start our last term of the school year, I am planning for next year. Tempting as it is to buy loads of new curriculum, this isn't always the right choice. This post talks about not needing new resources.

One thing that I am wondering about doing new year is the John Muir award. I haven't quite decided yet but it looks interesting. Has anyone used this programme?

A piece of kit that we aren't planning to change is All About Spelling. All about Learning Press has a useful blog and there is a recent article about 7 ways to make spelling logical.

The Katie books and some of the Lawrence Anholt books have been very popular here so I was pleased to find a post about art books for children which includes these and adds others.

I really enjoyed this piece of writing about how the author learned from both her  homeschooling mother and mother in law.

Finally, not a post but a book that is proving helpful is Pie Corbett's Jumpstart!: Literacy-Games and Activities for ages 7-14. It was recommended to me recently and I have been using it this term. The activities are short and a quick way to add in a little extra writing or work around words. We add one activity to Morning Time, each day, but the games could  be used at many different times of day to introduce topics or to give extra practice.

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