Saturday, 31 January 2015

Fun with Mental Maths

Learning about numbers involves becoming familiar with numbers and manipulating them without writing. I like my children to have some practice with mental maths every day so was pleased to be able to review a game, Numero and New Wave Mental Maths books from Prim-Ed.  

Prim-Ed is an educational publishing company based in Co Wexford but in addition to supplying books to Ireland, it has resources linked to the National Curriculum. It has separate sections on its website for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Obviously, as home educators, we don't have to keep to the National Curriculum but maths is a subject where we tend to watch the National Curriculum closely. 

We were able to review the New Wave Mental Maths Year 2 book and the New Wave Mental Maths Year 3 book.
New WAve Mental Maths Workbooks are available from year 2 to year 6, with a year 6 extension book also available. The books are attractively presented with a clear font although not with the use of  an infant style a. The books are set out with a ten question test for each day from Monday to Friday. The final column is for assessment: scores can be kept here and there is a place for a teacher's comment. The back of the book has number squares, a list of symbols, properties of shapes and lists of days of the week and months of the year, information about money and time. 

Obviously, the idea of the book is to use it daily. One of my children was very keen and soon realised that she could do two days' work in one. My daughter, in year 3, could do a test in less than five minutes. My younger child took rather longer. 

Dot to dots were especially popular. New concepts are gradually introduced such as symmetry, interpretation of charts, addition of higher numbers and fractions. On some weeks, the results could be plotted on a simple graph.

What did we think?
These are a quick and painless way to practise mental maths. We will be continuing to use these books. The tests are quick and the children enjoyed them.

New Wave Mental Maths workbooks cost a very reasonable £3.99 per book.

Numero is a game designed to make mental maths practice fun.
 We were sent a Numero starter pack consisting of cards, an instructors guide
and a poster with the basic rules.

Numero has a fascinating history. It was invented by Frank Drysdale who was a teacher of physical education and minister until a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease forced him to retire in 1989. Four years after this, he devised Numero as a game to play with his grandchildren and to help him to continue to use his own mind. Royalties from the sale of Numero games go to The Drysdale Family Foundation Trust to further the work of Alzheimer's Australia.

The beauty of Numero is that it can be played at different levels. We started at the most basic level which works on addition skills. The game is quite simple although it is necessary to read the instructors guide before starting. There are three basic moves: a take, a build and a discard. Although the rules are simple, there is ample opportunity to use strategy. At the most basic level, only addition is used but wild cards are added so that the game can use subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, square, cubes and square roots. We haven't added all of these yet but have enjoyed adding the simpler wild cards. The game ends when one player has run out of cards. The winner has the most cards; alternatively, a slightly more complex scoring can be used which gives extra value to certain cards.

We played Numero with two and three players. The children are aged eight and six. They managed the lower levels well. Obviously, it wouldn't be appropriate to introduce wild cards before children understand the relevant concept but is a fun way to re-enforce ideas. 

What we thought
The children love this game and request it. I found that reading the Instructors Manual was necessary before playing. This takes a few minutes and it is wise to have read this before deciding to start a game!  This game is an excellent and fun way to practice mental maths concepts. Recommended for home educators and other parents who want to help their children with mental maths.

A Numero starter pack costs £6.95.

I was provided with these products for the purpose of this review. The opinions are my own and those of my children. We were not required to provide a positive review nor were we compensated in any other way.

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Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Door in the Wall

The Door in the Wall is a short book by Marguerite de Angeli based in the Middle Ages. It won the Newberry Prize in 1949. The black and white illustrations are by the author.

The story is set in London and on the Welsh border. The town in Shropshire is fictional but it seemed, to me, to bear similarities to Ludlow. 

Robin, the hero of the story, is a 10 year old boy, left behind in London whilst his father goes to fight for the unnamed king, in Scotland and his mother has to go to be lady-in-waiting to the queen. Robin contracts an illness which means that his legs cease to function. Sadly, at the same time the plague is rife so Robin is left alone, in the house. Robin, himself, is told by the doctor that he does not have the plague. I wondered if he had contracted polio.

Robin is rescued by a monk, Brother Luke, to takes him to the monastery and cares for him. Brother Luke tells Robin to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it. As Robin gains strength, he learns new skills: reading and writing, woodwork and music. Robin realises that these hold the key to escaping the wall of his illness.

The time comes for Robin to travel to Shropshire to begin his knightly training. Kind supporters enable him to participate in as much as possible until the town is invaded by the marauding Welsh and the castle besieged. Robin is able to take an exciting part in events although telling too much would spoil the book!

This book is gives insight into life in the Middle Ages. It brings up issues of the plague and the role of the monastery. It does not go into detail about the politics of the time nor issues within the Medieval church. I plan to read it to my children, next year, to go with their history. I know that we will have plenty of discussion around the Welsh v England issue since I have a Welsh husband and the children are very attached to their Welsh heritage. 

The book has a happy ending although I did wonder about the real fate of a child who lost the use of his legs, at this time. 

Recommended.

I purchased this book for the use of my family. 

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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Adding Sparkle to Home Education

This is the last post in the Virtual Curriculum Fair. This week, we are looking at anything that adds beauty to our home education.

This week the hosts are

 Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
and
Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Last week, I wrote about our history curriculum. The week before about maths and the first week about English.

This week, I want to talk about those things that add a sparkle to learning. Often these will be topics which range across the curriculum. I hope to add some links and inspire some ideas. Many/most of these ideas are UK based because that it what I know about but hopefully, these ideas may spark inspiration even if the actual events are not available for you. There are so many more ideas: I can only scratch the surface. Please add activities that your family has enjoyed in the comments.

 I will arrange items roughly into subjects. 
English
  • Booktime provide free book packs for UK children of reception age whether or not they are in school. The application form for home educators is here.  My younger two both received their free books when they were reception age. It is always exciting to have books in the post!
  • John Betjeman poetry competition for 10-13 year olds, again in the UK. 
  • The Shakespeare week takes place from 16th-22nd March. Home educators can sign up in the schools section once they have emailed to verify their email. This took less than 24 hours for me. There a plenty of ideas and events in the list.
  • Local productions. 
  • World Education Games have a Literacy Day.
  • Poetry picnic or a poetry tea party.
  • London has some great book activities: we enjoyed the Book Benches, last summer and Paddington Bear more recently. I see that a Shaun the Sheep trail is coming to London and Bristol.
Maths

Science
  • Grow your own potatoes is a scheme for primary aged children which provides potatoes and bags to learn about the process of growing potatoes. We used this for a couple of years but tend to grow so many potatoes anyway that it wasn't really much of a learning experience and I resented having to dig the potatoes up early to weigh them! However, if you don't usually grow potatoes this is worth doing.
  • The Royal Institution has its famous Christmas lectures which are also available on line. It runs events: both lectures and hands on sessions which are open to home educators.
  • RSPB BirdWatch-free and can be done at home!
  • The RSPB also have children's membership with attractive magazines.
  • The Nature Detectives site has many free activities around nature and the great outside.
  • Displays of birds of prey. We have been to two different free displays in our local area-watch the flyers!
  • World Education Games have a Science Day.
  • James Dyson Foundation have free ideas cards and engineering boxes which are loaned out.
  • Science Fairs

History

  • There are so many places to visit. Please check out my links to Days out. In the UK, both English Heritage and the National Trust have special deals for home educators. The terms and conditions can be a bit restrictive: National Trust visits all have to be in term time.
  • Many venues run hands on sessions which are open to home educators. We enjoyed a Tudor Day at the Museum of Kent Life.
  • I've not been but the Tudor re-enactments at Kentwell Hall are popular with home educators.
  • Local museums: we have been to tours with actors dressed as characters from history. Some museums  are to be avoided in school holidays as they are so packed but this is also the time when there are many worthwhile events. We have particularly enjoyed the Roman themed days at Fishbourne Roman Palace. The British Museum children's packs are only available outside school hours: I know from sad experience!
  •  I haven't tried this yet but there is a Young Archaeologists' Club with regional branches.
  • The Protestant Truth Society has a history club for children: Time Travellers' Club. They produce high quality booklets about various historical figures. Obviously, this is written from a Protestant viewpoint.

Geography
  • We joined a culture swap and exchanged packages with people around the world. This was fun, very educational although not cheap. The items for the boxes tended not to be particularly expensive but postage was another matter. Sadly, the site though which we arranged our swap doesn't seem to be functional but this is something that it worth pursuing. 
  • Postcard swap-we arranged our own postcard swap when we were learning about the United Kingdom.
  • Travel! Not always easy but definitely worthwhile.
  • Following the travel of others. We spend time over Christmas, following a journey through Russia as well as plotting the temperature in Russia and the temperature here, in England, on a graph.
  • Sponsor a child and find out about their country.
  • We've learned much from hearing about local pastors supported by our church as well as meeting them when they visit.
  • Cooking meals from other countries. This is always popular!
Art
  • Many world famous galleries can be visited free of charge. In London, this applies to the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, The Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
  • The Big Draw is an annual festival, each October, with different drawing events through the country.
Music
  • Lunchtime concerts are often free.
  • The Classical Spectacular schools matinee at the Royal Albert Hall has tickets available for home educators although I see that this year's event is sold out. I have taken children much younger than KS2 to the event very successfully!
Other
A group of other bloggers are also writing about adding beauty to home education. I hope to add specific links on Monday.  Please feel free to link to any posts that you have written about art/music/handcrafts or anything else that adds beauty to your children's home education. The linky is here.

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Friday, 23 January 2015

This Week: Keeping Going

This week was different. I was fifty on Sunday-yes, half a century and on Monday, we went to my Mother's funeral. A day of rejoicing that she is in Heaven but sadness for our loss. A verse that we sang seem apposite:


'Tis Jesus the First and the Last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We'll praise Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that's to come.

It all went well and I was pleased that there was no snow. 

Tuesday was a "back to normal" day but we were all rather tired. I guess not an unexpected effect. Sometimes, I'm grateful for a routine so yes, we got English, maths, history and reading aloud done but it wasn't a sparkling day or week. Strangely, I have a post for the Virtual Curriculum Fair ready to go up about Adding Sparkle to Home Education. I think I need that! Still, we have done the basics and sometimes, that has to be enough. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, we can add some of the more interesting items again.


We did manage to do the RSPB Bird Watch and see a green woodpecker in the process. We see, or hear, woodpeckers not infrequently.

The interest in Pompeii has continued with our reading of The Secrets of Vesuvius. Last week, Youngest Son became fascinated with volcanoes so we have been reading about them, making pictures of them and, of course, making model volcanoes with sodium bicarbonate and vinegar. The model has little resemblance to the real thing. The jar in the background has some layered liquids (golden syrup, oil and water) which looked fascinating on the window sill until I knocked them off. Not a great combination to clean off the floor!


Building has kept Youngest Son busy with Duplo (cranes and other vehicles) and meccano (swords and shield) along with making circuits with his Snap Circuits. He has discovered that drinking chocolate and saliva carry electricity although the later is associated with a fizzy tongue!



I was tired so my plans for learning to crochet, blogging often and starting to learn New Testament Greek went to nothing. Hopefully, next week! My elder daughter has given me a book a learning to crochet and another about learning New Testament Greek: I am keen to keep my brain working! As it happened, I just managed a light, fun read: Gervase Phinn's book The School Inspector Calls! The current reading is a potential read aloud for next year: The door in the wall by Margaret de Angeli. There is something about planning months in advance being fun whereas immediate planning is far less interesting!



A few interesting articles:
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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Living History

This is the third post in the Virtual Curriculum Fair, this week co-hosted by



Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue


 The first week was about English and the second about maths. The topic this week is about Exploring Our World. I'm planning to write about history as it is such an important part of what we do. Others may be writing about geography, world cultures, worldview, biology, botany, geology and more.

 History is something which for my younger two is hobby as well as something about which they have to learn.

Again, I will talk more about the younger two, aged 5 and 8. Middle Son, aged 14, is less of a history addict but is using the Northstar Worldwide IGCSE history programme.

The backbone of our history, at present, is the Veritas self-paced history: New Testament, Greeks and Romans.
This is an on-line programme that we use each day. Each lesson lasts about 40 minutes. I tend to watch along with the children, ostensibly to help with the Spelling Time feature but more because I enjoy learning along with the children. It also comes with some useful cards which summarise each topic. We are also using some of the literature selection that goes along with this. The literature, and the actual programme, varies in difficulty. Younger Son will sometimes give his Duplo more attention but has picked up a fair amount.

We have made several timelines to go along with our history. We go for cheap and cheerful using wallpaper lining paper and a reasonably large scale. The combination of this, the Veritas song and umm, the Horrible History monarch song keeps the children's historical ideas in reasonable chronological order.

As the children like history, there is much more that is added on a regular (read daily) basis. These are some of the resources that we use:

Books

  • The Great History of Britain-Anne and Paul Fryer
  • Our Island Story-Henrietta Marshall
  • Story of the World-Susan Wise Bauer
  • Various books by R.J. Unstead-these are out of print but worth obtaining if you have primary aged children.
  • Ladybird history books-the picture on each page helps when reading these to younger children.
  • Biographies-various. For Christian history, the Christian Focus Trail Blazer series and Simonetta Carr's beautiful Christian Biographies for Young Readers have been particularly popular. For more general history, Unstead's People in History has short biographies of famous characters.
  • Usborne have books which are very accessible to younger children. My children like See Inside London which is a flap book going through the history of the capital.
  • DK sticker books often provide an attractive introduction to a subject.
  • Picture books particularly around World War themes: Hanna's cold winter, Anna's new coat, Grandfather's journey, Fly Cher Ami, Fly, Archie's War Scrapbook,
    Mailing May, Where the poppies grow, War Game.
  • Historical Fiction: The Veritas books include fiction. Detectives in Togas was a winner as is our current read aloud, Secrets of Vesuvius by Caroline Lawrence.

CDs
  • Our Island Story-we currently have this on loan from friends and it has been great for longer journeys.
  • Marin Alsop's Story of Classical Music (Naxos)
  • My name is Handel
  • Great Inventors (Naxos)

On-line

Visits
Visits aren't a daily occurrence but happen fairly frequently:

  • Museums. Our favourite is the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum but the Museum of Childhood, Transport Museum in Covent Garden and the Museum of London are also particularly child friendly. 
  • Castles- Dover takes a whole day to explore while Bodiam is beautiful. Wales has many beautiful castles. The Tower of London is iconic. 
  • Houses
  • Roman sites. We hope to visit some more, this year but Fishbourne, in Sussex, is impressive and the Roman Baths not to be missed.
  • Reenactments. We haven't been to many although the children loved the 1066 reenactment. Years ago, we went to the English Heritage annual History Live which had an amazing number of reenactments and ended with a fly past of Second World War planes. I would love to go again sometime.
  • Other sites: Stonehenge, the Monument. My husband took Younger Daughter to Portsmouth, last year, to see the Tudor warship, the Mary Rose as well as Nelson's Victory.
Other
  • Magazines: we had a free 3 month subscription to Archeology magazine. I don't think it was used enough to warrant buying regularly buy certainly created an interest.
  • Talking to older people. We have an elderly family member living with us who remembers the Second World War and who can talk to the children about what her parents told her about the First World War.
  • Old photographs and diaries. We have old family photographs and diaries from the First World War. I don't think we are unique! This is an easy and low cost way of providing an interesting introduction to history.
  • The local area-we have been able to learn from local war memorials and blue plaques to famous people who have lived in our area. Recently, we acquired old Ordinance Survey maps of the area.
  • Objects: living with someone who has lived almost nine decades we have some older objects around the house but many grandparents and great grandparents may be willing to show old books and household items. My daughter has particularly loved looking at the intricate stitches on old hand embroidered tablecloths.
Please do comment with your recommended history resources. If you have a post on the theme of Exploring Our World please link to it here and please visit the other bloggers in the Virtual Curriculum Fair.
Exploring World History Through the Eyes of Scientists by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Exploring Our World With Social Studies by Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue
Relaxed Homeschooling: Science and Social Studies in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Living History by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Primary Sources for Delight-Directed History by Susan @ The Every Day of Education
Watching History, or Using Video Courses for Social Studies by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Exploring our World: High School Studies of Ancient History, American Government and Economics by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
History, Geography and Worldview Lessons in our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Our Curriculum Choices 2015 ~ Science, History & Geography by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun
Our Favorites for History, Geography, and Science by Becky @ Milo & Oats
Globe Trotting by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Around The World by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Bible-Based History Curriculum and Resources by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker
13 Living Book History Series for a Charlotte Mason Based Homeschool by Chelli @ The Planted Trees
Social Studies and Science in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm
The Science Life by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
History, Geography Science for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
History Social Studies and Science...VCF Week 3 by Denise @ Fullnest
Learning About our World and History by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Taking the Mystery Out of History and Other Subjects Too With Our Favorite History Curriculum by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Playing with numbers: maths resources

This is the second week of the Virtual Curriculum Fair (VCF). This week, the second of four, the VCF is hosted by Susan  at Homeschooling Hearts and Minds and Laura  at Day by Day in Our World. Last week was all about the Language Arts a.k.a. English. This week is about maths or math, for the non-Brits!




 Again, I will talk mainly about my younger two children aged 5 and 8. Middle Son is working for UK exams with GCSE textbooks, Conquer Maths and is due to start work with a tutor, soon.

My aims for the younger two are that they should enjoy maths and see patterns and that they should be numerate and able to take maths exams when the time comes.

We use books but also play games. My aim is to play a maths game every day. We don't always quite manage this but play several times a week.

Our favourite which is played several times a week is Sum Swamp. I can't recommend this too highly, if you have children learning addition/subtraction number bonds to 12. It also covers odd and even numbers. Sum Swamp takes about 10 minutes to play so isn't a major time investment!

Other games we enjoy are
Time Lotto
Trilemma: this can be played at three different levels. The lowest level has multiplication and division by 2, 5 and 10 and some odds and evens. The highest level has tables to 12, common squares and square roots.
Uno
Times table snap which can also be played as matching pairs
Fraction dominoes
Triominos
Pop to the shops

Games which the children loved when they were younger and helped understanding numbers and number correspondence are 
The Spotty Dog Game
Picture dominoes
Ten Green Bottles

I have Pizza Fraction Bingo waiting to pull out and hope to be reviewing Numero soon.

We also use geoboards, plastic shapes, an abacus, a big plastic clock and Duplo as maths manipulatives. I make and photocopy 100 squares which we use for learning tables and looking at patterns.

The other main resources we use are Mousematics for up to about 7 (years reception to year 2). This is available from Conquest Books as part of the Mother's Companion.  Youngest Son is currently having a change from Mousematics and using Collins New Primary Activity Book 2A.


Younger Daughter is using the Galore Park Junior Maths book 1. learn Maths

Middle Son used the Galore Park books until the end of year 8. We found these books well presented, easy to use and having clear explanations. However, I am torn about whether to continue with Galore Park or whether to change to CIMT's curriculum (Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching) for next year for one or both of the children. I love the structured lesson plans with suggestions about how to explain various concepts-none of it is mega-science but it would save time. It is also free to download. Please note that it doesn't follow the new National Curriculum precisely. The site has a sheet which shows the differences-these appear generally to be a variance of a year between when a topic is taught.


Please visit the other participating blogs and enter any posts of your own on the topic of maths curriculum to this linky.

Learning about Patterns in Our World Through Math and Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Relaxed Homeschooling: Mathematics in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Using a Bible-Based Math Curriculum by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker
Math, Science and Logic for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Playing with Numbers by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Unschooling Science by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade  by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Numbers and Molecules! by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Math and Science in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
5 Math & Logic Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats
Giving Your Kids The Right Start With Math by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma
Math in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm
Classical STEM by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Math, Science and Logic - How do we Tackle Them? by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
The Physics of Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education
Tackling High School Science by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Choosing Math Curriculum for Special Learners by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity
Math for all ages by Denise @ Fullnest
Middle School Monday - Math With Fred by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Learning With Math and Science Resources  by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

January in Books

Now the New Year has come, we are starting reading aloud again, in earnest.

Younger Daughter enjoys the Christian Focus Trail Blazers biographies so we looked through our bookshelves and found a few that are new to her. I love shopping our own bookshelves! We are currently reading Adoniram Judson: Danger on the Streets of Gold.

I hadn't read Enid Blyton's Tales of Brave Adventure before but Youngest Son is enjoying the Robin Hood and King Arthur tales. The range of vocabulary seems rather wider than in the Enid Blyton adventure books although we certainly have used these with our older children to improve reading speed. This is again from our shelves.

Last term, we started Cleopatra by Diane Stanley. This book is one of the books which are suggested for reading with the Veritas Self-Paced history (New Testament, Greece and Rome)  that we are using. This should be a quick read.

My reading over Christmas was rather less than usual but currently I am reading Keeping the Kids by David Cloud which is an interesting and in someways, scary book about bringing up children in the nuture and admonition of the Lord.  Much of this is very helpful but I certainly come far short, in all sorts of ways. We have to rely on God's grace.

I'm also rereading Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew. This is a lovely exposition of the Gospel of Matthew with many helpful thoughts. It is also a great read for busy people: each section is short and can easily be read in a sitting. Highly recommended.

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