Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Early Autumn Learning

Writing about our learning is always a balance. We have had some great and enjoyable days but there are always adjustments to the plans to be made and times realise how much we need God's grace. 

These are a few of the highlights of the last few months.

Our local home education group has a science theme, this year. This has meant practising activities at home in the days before each session. Particularly popular was the rocket, although I was far too busy to record it; extracting DNA from strawberries
and melting chocolate (states of matter!). 

The group was able to vote on the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize. We are now waiting to find out if our choice was the overall winner.

Younger Daughter has been working on an Explore Art Award in photography. This meant a dash up to the Natural History Museum, one Saturday, to see a wildlife photography exhibition before it closed.
This award also means working on a project. The plan is to combine art with history studies.

Poetry Tea
This term has been busy so I thought that we might have fewer poetry teas. However, it turned out the Poetry Tea was an important part of the week and no one wanted to miss this. 

Nature Walks
We are using Exploring Nature with Children and this year, using the new journal.

Seaside Trip
We had a week away, at the sea,
in Bournemouth, while my kind husband held the fort here. Our time away included a long cycle ride,
time on the seashore with rather wet paddling, a visit to Corfe Castle and the Bournemouth Aviation Museum. 

Reformation Day
Today,we have celebrated the 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 theses being pinned to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Over the last few weeks, we have been reading Danika Cooley's book When Lightening Struck about the life of Luther. Other activities have been

Of course, we had to have some themed food: sausages and Black Forest gateau.

This term, there has seemed to be more to do than time! Trying to prioritise seems a major challenge. Any thoughts?

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Friday, 20 October 2017

Sources of Home Education Inspiration: Maths

This is the fifth part of my series on resources for inspiring home education. The first four parts are

This post is about maths. The links are either resources we have used or seriously considered using. 

Early Years
We used plenty of learning from life: counting stairs, number of people eating at a meal, recipes and so on.
Games have also played a major role. Favourites have been various Orchard Games including Pop to the Shops, Ten Green Bottles and the Spotty Dog Game.

Sum Swamp has been helpful towards the end of this time, and for the next few years, and has been played over and over again. This game helps with simple addition and subtraction as well as the concepts of plus/minus and odd/even.

There are a few books which have been useful for introducing mathematical concepts.
I would particularly recommend, Less than Zero which is a fun introduction to negative numbers. 

Infant (KS1 about age 5-7)
I'm not entirely sure that I would use this again but we used Mousematics which comes as part of a Mother's Companion. This is a Welsh printable curriculum. We modified it, for example, the parts about weighing and volume we used as hands on activities rather than using the printable workbooks. In retrospect, it isn't particularly challenging and could do with more hands on work. We ended up supplementing with games and maths from life. 
Other curricula that I would consider are

  • MEP (Maths Enhancement Programme from the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching. This is a free programme although it is easier, and probably cheaper, to buy the workbooks. I did use this for a while and really regret that it didn't work for us as it is a rigorous programme, scripted and easy to use except for one thing. The problem that we had with this is that it takes about 45 minutes per day of teaching. This probably works well with a class but my children aren't in the same year and at the time which we used this also needed one to one phonics teaching. I couldn't teach phonics and maths at the same time. Sadly, the topics for each year aren't in the same week so I couldn't teach the two together. Highly recommended if you have one child or children who don't need other one to one teaching at the same time.
  • Singapore maths probably using the UK version. The working from manipulatives to visual to paper (Concrete/Pictorial/Abstract) makes such sense and is a principle that we have tried to use with whichever programme we are using.

Junior (KS2 about age 7-11)
This is the reason why I have been so long in posting this.
We have used/use Galore Park maths successfully for two of our three home educated children. These books start at year 3 and are designed for private schools. We use the older edition where they have two sets: the Junior books which cover years 3-5 and the So you want to learn set which covers years 6-8 so going up to the Common Entrance exam. I note that the newer edition seems to be arranged by school year.
Points to know about these books

  • After we finished the year 8 book, I found some year 9 work for Middle Son before starting GCSE work but I wish that I hadn't done this. The end of the Galore Park books would have been a great place to start GSCE maths and he really coasted for that year.
  • The series has textbooks but no workbooks for anything other than tests. We have not used the test workbooks. We have found that writing out problems can be majorly time consuming and slow progress for younger children. I have often written out the questions when they are younger and gradually move to getting the children to write them out.
  • The books progress in a spiral manner. If a child has forgotten a topic or finds it difficult then it is worth going back to the previous year's book.
  • Buy the answers! I spent several years working out all the answers because of a mistaken belief that this was the only way to be sure that I understood and could explain clearly. What it actually meant was that I was working out maths at midnight so the marking could be done. It is worth checking that you can do the first and last questions but not really necessary to do everything between!
Galore Park has worked less well for one of the children. We spent some time working on one particular topic using the concrete/pictorial/abstract approach then using one of the Schofield and Sims Understanding Maths books. This worked well so we are currently using other books in the same series. This series has a clean lay out. It is not necessary to write out the whole problem although sometimes, supplemental squared paper is necessary. 
Please note that home educators are able to use the tutor discount which makes a substantial saving.

One cheap and cheerful item that we use every day is 10 questions. I write 10 questions in the children's maths exercise books each day which they answer at the start of maths time. The questions cover topics that need revision and are individualised for each child.

We quite often finish maths time with a game. Games that we use frequently are equivalence dominoes, fraction bingo, Brainbox fractions and tables and Trilemma.

I have written about learning tables before.

Senior (Key Stage 3 about 11-14)
We used the Galore Park maths books to the end of year 8 (age 13) then changed to Conquer Maths and a year 9 text. KS3 Conquer Maths was well organised but as I stated above, changing to GCSE work would have been better.
At this point, we also occasionally used Khan Academy as a backup for further explanation of some topics.
I am not going to comment above KS3 as we used a tutor of GCSE maths.

This is a post about sites which we have used for adding to the maths curriculum. 
Squeebles is an app occasionally used for tables practice. 

Please feel free to recommend maths resources which your family have enjoyed.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Chai Chat....with Sarah

Nicola who blogs at The World is their Classroom has been interviewing a variety of different home educators including reasons why people home educate, what a typical day is like, socialisation, physical exercise and much more. Today, my chat with her is up.

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

October Inspiration

We are almost a month into term and there has been plenty going on. Our home education group has been studying science and planning this has been busy, as well, as providing my children with the chance to help me practise activities. Recently, we did acids and bases at the group and used Sarah Dees' magnificent rocket activity for the older children. It worked very well but I'm sorry, teaching and running the activity took precedence over photos.

Ambleside online has produced an enormous list of Charlotte Mason resources. Many of these are relevant for those who aren't strictly Charlotte Mason followers.

Helping children learn about subjects where we are weak can be challenging. This is a helpful article about teaching music appreciation for non-musical mothers

Reformation Day is on the 31st October and this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther pinning his theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenburg. Talking mom2mom has a free set of intricate colourings of the Five Solas which are ideal for older children. The Trinitarian Bible Society produce a rather splendid Reformation timeline.

It is easy to get dragged down by difficulties when home educating. This isn't a Christian article, and this shows in the solutions, but the list of joy suckers is pretty accurate.

Hope that your autumn is going well. Does anyone else struggle with not overloading the day but wanting to fit enough in?

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