Tuesday, 3 March 2015

March Inspiration

Winter is ending! Welcome to March.

Our children were born over 15 years and the younger children aren't having quite the same upbringing as the older ones. Our younger children are home educated with a Mum who doesn't work; an older relative who lives with us and without a nanny and cleaner. This is very different from the life of our older children at the same age. Jess Connell has written about What if the littles grow up different from the big kids because yes, they won't be the same.

Middle Son is studying To Kill a Mockingbird for his English literature so I was fascinated to read this article about a new novel from Harper Lee.

My youngest is a busy little boy and needs his work presented very differently from his sister to keep up interest. I found this article about how to teach boys effectively interesting and certainly, the first two points seem to improve engagement.

The All about Spelling blog has produced an article with different spelling strategies. The mnemonic strategy is something that one of our children used extensively and successfully. It seemed easier to remember a complex mnemonic than a spelling. The article does caution against overuse of this approach!

Being a sneaky home educator, I'm always trying to bring in covert learning. The Unlikely Homeschool has 50 ways to sneak in learning and several of these are new to me. I'm sure that there are many, many more!


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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Dementia by the Sea

Wet, windy Eastbourne hosted a Dementia Conference today run by Pilgrims' Friend Society. The Pilgrims' Friend Society is a Christian charity which runs care homes but also wants to shape the issues of ageing that affect us all.


This conference covered the issue of dementia but also looked at issues for family caregivers some of which are relevant whether or not the person who requires care has dementia or not. In addition, there was a session around Visiting and supporting people with dementia. 

As this was a Christian conference, there was an enormous emphasis on the person with dementia retaining their personhood and how that in God's sight, those of His people who have dementia are precious and a part of the body of believers who still need the continuing ministry of other believers. Of course, I knew this before but hearing it articulated clearly was so helpful and a reminder to look out for brothers and sisters with dementia.

The session about carers had some of the rather scary statistics about how caring influences health of caregivers adversely including an apparent increased incidence of dementia in those care givers as well. 

There were some practical suggestions to help which included having others pray, Scripture verses pinned up, having a "crisis" friend, learning to look after oneself , having an eternal perspective and interrogating oneself with Scripture.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him.

Like most conferences, I have attended, one of the most helpful parts is talking to others:  those on the end of a new diagnosis or involved in the nitty-gritty of caring or who advocate for older people and want to be able to show practical Christian love even if that means making sure that the church doormat looks like a doormat and not a hole to an older person.

Plenty to mull over and a great to come home with new ideas and insights. Practically, I know there are caregivers who would benefit from a day such as this who just can't get out. I'm very grateful that my husband and older daughter could help look after the young and old so I could have a day off but many people don't have this luxury. Just a thought, for anyone who knows a caregiver who finds it hard to get out!

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Friday, 27 February 2015

Of Wales and Crystals

This week has been about Wales and crystals. Youngest Son started talking about sea water evaporating to make salt so we made our own salt solution and let it evaporate.

We then coloured two containers of salt water and suspended a string between them. This became more dramatic as the week went by.


 This is the initial appearance.
After a day.
After four days-yes, we had added a second string.

We also found a crystal set that had belonged to one of the older children so were able to produce copper sulphate
and sulphate of aluminium and potassium crystals.

In keeping with the Welsh theme, the children have heard, acted and rewritten the story of Prince Llewellyn and his faithful hound, Gelert. 
They have learned the hymn Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah and watched a couple of videos about Wales. Links via Young Hosannas.
We finished Rainbow Garden.

Youngest Son had completed his maths book and I wanted to start him on a maths curriculum which we can use for several years. This week, we started to use the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching Curriculum. So far, so good! I like the way in which it is set out with a detailed lesson plan and the style seems to suit Youngest Son. Perhaps, a post on this curriculum at a later date.

What we have been reading:
The set of Jake books by Annette and Nick Butterworth have been a great hit. We've just finished the last. Jake is a mischievous dog who always seems to end up the hero of the day. These are simple books which have been appreciated by both younger children. 

I've been finishing How to teach story writing at Key stage 1 and using its ideas. Other reading

  • Twice Freed
  • I don't have enough faith to be an atheist
  • The other side of the dale 
I've been starting to plan for next year. I'm looking for a new science curriculum and shopping my house for books to go with studies of various countries. We have a fair few books so this has proved a useful start!

Please do share ideas for books to go with different countries. I'm looking for chapter books and picture books.

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Rainbow Garden

Books help to make a topic more exciting and capture the imagination. My younger two are learning about Wales and so reading Rainbow Garden, by Patricia St John, which is set in North Wales, and starts in late winter/early spring seemed ideal.

Rainbow Garden was given to me, as a child, and was one of my favourite books so revisiting it, with my children has been a pleasure. You can see, from the photo, that this is a loved book!

The story is of Elaine, an lonely, rather spoiled only child, being sent to the country as her mother takes a job in France. The family with whom Elaine will live are a noisy big family living in a cold vicarage with their minster father and busy mother. Wales in January isn't quite the beautiful countryside that Elaine expects and a large, boisterous family is rather unpleasant to a child who is used to quiet and her own way. In her culture shock, Elaine takes refuge in a deserted garden but the refuge turns sour as Elaine removes a shell from the unoccupied house to boost her standing with the other children.

Elaine is brought to confront her guilt and to the Lord for true forgiveness. The story doesn't end there: Elaine has to learn how to live as a Christian through happiness and challenges. A mystery is solved, a new friend made and there is a major decision.

I had thought that my eight year old would enjoy this book but my six year old has also been captivated by this book and I'm only allowed to read it when they are both together.

The book was published in 1960 but the book doesn't come across as dated probably because the major themes are either eternal or related to relationships and the countryside. There are one or two ends which don't quite tie up such as honeysuckle in early spring and a timing which didn't seem quite right. The children haven't noticed and this is only something that I have seen reading this as an adult. 

There are some parallels with Secret Garden which my eight year old noted. However, the books are quite dissimilar in other ways and Rainbow Garden has a Christian message absent from the older book.

Recommended as a family read aloud or for middle childhood independent readers.

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace has been high on our list of must visit sites. Having a child who loves history and the Tudors, in particular, we couldn't miss this. We made the decision to go at half term when there were extra events available. All great until the aforesaid child was unwell. Now, I'm fairly robust about children and illness. Providing they aren't a risk to the general population or ought to be in bed, we tend to carry on as normal. Even so, I had some doubts but the offer to postpone the trip was refused so away we went with a recovering child!

We didn't arrive by boat but it would have been a traditional way to arrive. Interesting to think about the proximity of some important Tudor palaces to the Thames.



I loved the detail in the brick work.

In Henry VIII's Great Hall

The figure at the top is Cardinal Wolsey the original owner of the Palace. It was confiscated by Henry VIII after Wolsey failed to obtain his divorce.

Amazing ceilings

There was artifact handling but the children weren't keen. Hmm, this is what happens when half well children go out. They did enjoy the actors playing Cardinal Wolsey, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell.

Henry VIII's kitchens were full of meat, thankfully of the model variety. I would have loved to see some replica Tudor cooking but that didn't happen while we were there.

Other highlights were the Georgian table decorations made from folded, starched linen.

We couldn't understand why William III had so much weaponry to decorate his rooms.

Younger Son was very keen to try the Maze and yes, we escaped.

I preferred the informal parts of the gardens.

We didn't exhaust Hampton Court Palace but by this time, I had children who needed to go home.

Recommended but avoid with children who are slightly under par!

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Monday, 16 February 2015

Never is a very long time

A statement which always makes me feel shivery is

I would never put my parents in a home.

I've heard this so many times. Mainly, from people with healthy parents who are able to help them and not in any need to aid. Sometimes, and particularly when I was at work, from people who were now faced with managing a parent with complex needs. Sometimes, they would manage somehow and sometimes, they would have to sadly, and guiltily renege on a promise.

Should Christians ever allow their parents to go into a home? Is this ever right and should we promise our older family members that we will always prevent them entering a care home?

Of course, this statement assumes that the parent can't make that decision. As children, we can't dictate where parents live if they still have the ability (capacity) to make that choice.

What are the circumstances when it can be difficult to care for someone? These fall mainly into three groups.

Relating to the older relative: These difficulties are usually around issues such as wandering, aggressive behaviour, faecal incontinence, difficulties with transfers and hoisting, very high falls risk and difficulty with feeding. Some of these issues can be overcome with appropriate medical management but some will persist despite the best of intentions.

Relating to the younger relative: These difficulties often relate to poor health. Major health problems such as needing chemotherapy, severe depression or painful arthritis would make caring challenging in the extreme. A sick spouse or child may change a manageable situation into something impractical. There is good evidence that care givers have poorer health than the rest of the population and often fail to be able to make time to visit the doctor for themselves. 

Then the combination of the frailer person and the person providing care may just not work. There may be a personality clash or there may be the risk of elder abuse. Yes, none of us are exempt from this and there are going to be times when we are tempted to shout or worse. 


The Bible talks very clearly about our responsibility to older family members.

Honour thy father and thy mother.
Exodus 20 v12

If any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. 
1 Timothy 5 v4

If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them and let not the church  be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
2 Timothy 5 v16

So, yes, we are responsible but there is nothing that says that we necessarily have to do all the hands on caring ourselves. The wife in Proverbs 31 had servants to help with her duties and we may need help with ours. For me, at present, that means that we have carers come into the house twice a day to help. Yes, I could do everything myself but it would be difficult to manage with my other responsibilities. 

For others, that means that an relative has to go into a home. I know about this from personal experience. My Mother was loving cared for at home by my Father and care workers but latterly, her health needs dictated that she was better being looked after in a high quality care home.

Why is it damaging to promise never to put someone into a home?

  • It can lead to broken promises.
  • It can lead to major guilt.
  • Making this promise, leads to placement in a care home happening in an emergency, often from hospital. Researching and finding a place in a high quality home most suitable for that person is difficult in this scenario. A thought out choice to go into a home means that time and care can be put into choosing and changes of care home are less likely to occur.
  • Sometimes, it can mean that someone struggles to provide adequate care as the amount or type or care needed is more than one person can provide.
  • It makes the assumption that once a parents is in a care home, the family is no longer involved. This need not, and should not, be the case. That would be reneging responsibility.
So please, think twice before making this statement. It isn't fair to yourself or your relative.

And yes, I have vested interests!  I currently look after my husband's Mother who lives with us. We hope that she will be able to live with us for the rest of her life but don't want to make promises we can't keep. My Mother was cared for beautifully in a Christian care home with nursing for the last years of her life. Although currently, I do not practice as a doctor, I worked as a consultant in Medicine for Older People for nine years until January 2011.


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Friday, 13 February 2015

The Week before Half Term

We usually follow school terms so next week is a half term holiday. Personally, I think that half terms are wonderful inventions: not too long to forget too much but a break when a rest is needed. Yes, I'm looking forward to half term.

This week, the younger two started a project on Wales. We listened to a Welsh male voice choir singing traditional songs, looked at maps and made a gingerbread map.
I told them the story of Mary Jones and her long quest to buy a Welsh Bible. We read R.S. Thomas' poem The Tramp and watched a programme about Snowdon. Younger Daughter painted a picture of leeks and daffodils. We are hoping to do more work on this project after half term.

We have worked on the different parts of stories using the concept of a story mountain and reading several of Julia Donaldson's books: The Smartest Giant in Town, Zog, Tiddler, Highway Rat and the Snail and the Whale. This lead onto some story telling partly the long running Saga of King Ethelburga the Saxon (my husband tells me that Ethelburga was a woman's name but this has been running so long that I can't change the name) and Younger Daughter telling a fascinating story with strong allusions to Narnia.

Sadly, the end of the week has been a bit of a struggle with illness. One reading lesson had to be curtailed as the child concerned lost their voice. 

We did manage to get out to two home education group meetings. One was about Henry VIII, for the younger group. The children painted portraits but Youngest Son decided to paint a tree. There are times when I think that I have been too open ended about art.

The other group always includes cooking which is very popular. We also read a Five in a Row book and do activities related to that. I sold my manuals some time ago so the activities are probably nothing like those in the handbook! Today, we read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge. The children made bridges using spaghetti, elastic bands and tins. 
They also produced a collaborative painting of a river using poster paints and a length of lining paper.

There has been a great flurry of taking cat photos. I think the children want to enter the local veterinary surgery competition.


Apart from the Julia Donaldson books, we have also been reading 
Children's Story Bible by Catherine Vos
Jake the good,bad dog 
Katie Morag
Pirates of Pompeii.
The Adventurous Four
Oscar's New friends-New Bridge Farm
One tiny turtle
Tracks of a Panda
Ice Bear
The Emperor's Egg
Growing Frogs

This probably sounds more than it really worked out to be. The Julia Donaldson books, Katie Morag and the last five books are picture books so quick to read. The last five are from a set of Nature Storybooks that I purchased from the Book People ages ago and are firm favourites with Youngest Son.

My personal reading has been rather less:
I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.
Road to the Dales: The Story of a Yorkshire Lad
How to teach story writing at Key Stage 1.

The latter is, as you have probably guessed, a teachery book but so far has some very practical tips. I hope to write about this later..

Over half term, I hope to think about how to store sample work and how to make the places where the children do most of their learning more attractive places. These are weak areas for me. Please do share any tips!

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