Thursday, 3 September 2015

What does your child need to know?

I've just finished reading What your year 2 Child needs to know, edited by E.D. Hirsch Jr and published, in the UK, by Civitas. My understanding is that the US edition is a little different,  in terms of history, geography and measurement. The art also reflects art which can be seen in the UK.

My review reflects thoughts about the book

  • educationally
  • politically and
  • spiritually.

What your year 2 Child needs to know is part of a series of books of similar names, ranging from year 1 to year 6. The books are based on the presumption that to participate in society fully, a child needs a common core of knowledge. There are three reasons given why a core of knowledge is necessary
  • to make schooling more effective
  • to make schooling fair and democratic
  • to help create cooperation and solidarity in schools and nation.
Some of the concern about a lack of a core of knowledge has arisen from places and times when there has not been a set and co-ordinated curriculum which has led to repetition and gaps. Most people can attest to this. I remember learning about contours three years running and know that there are some big gaps in my knowledge. This general concern has led to the National Curriculum, in England. However, this book has much more detail than that in the National Curriculum.  The aim is to replace vaguely defined processes with a set of knowledge to be learned. 

The idea is that the book can be used by parents to help their children learn but is also phrased simply so that it can be managed by children who are trying to improve their own education.

The book is divided into subject areas and contains considerable detail. For example, the Language and Literature section contains advice on learning to read and write including suggestions of books for early readers. It has over 100 pages devoted to poems, short stories and sayings which a child of this age (6-7 years) should hear. The end of the chapter has a list of suggested resources including books for teaching reading, beginner readers, websites and mobile apps.

Each subject is set out in a similar way. Religions are slotted into history and geography.

This set of books are said to have influenced Michael Gove in proposing the new National Curriculum. 

This book looks at monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Sadly, its treatment of Christianity misses the mark. The death of the Lord Jesus is described as 

Although many people began to follow Jesus, other people became his enemies. His words made them angry and scared. And so they hurt Jesus, and eventually they killed him. 

This is miles away from 
Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. 
Hebrews 9 v28

God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 
Romans 5 v8
Missing, too, of course, all the prophecies about the death of a suffering Messiah.

As a home educator, I don't have to follow the National Curriculum nor E.D. Hirsch Jr's prescription for my child. However, it is sensible to be aware of what children of this age could be learning. This of course, may be suitable for the age of the child but not necessarily for this aptitude and ability. 

The poems and short stories are something that we will, and have, been using. I will cherry pick. I don't like every story but there are some that I was delighted to find for example, the story of the boy at the dyke. 
Art and music aren't my strong points and so these sections were helpful and in particular, the resource lists. I have memories of learning folk songs, in school, so was pleased to find the words of some of these.
I didn't find the maths particularly stretching and found the activities rather uninspiring. There are more maths resources and games available which could improve this chapter. The history was fairly thin and the section on Christianity coming to England was complicated to understand as the chronology of the Romans leaving was implicit rather than explicit in the section.
The science section concludes with short biographies of famous scientists which I will use as a read aloud. 

So, yes, I will probably dip into this book and use it was a reference rather than a definitive guide. 

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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

September Inspiration

September and, like many others, we are about to start back to more formal learning. I have some reservations about the long holiday and we need to get going again. Having said that, this is a brilliant time of year to go away. This time, last year, we were away this week which proved a brilliant not back to school activity.

I don't have any preschoolers, any more, but found this post by Lizzy quite convicting about older children too especially

 It is easy to consider things which are definitely optional absolutely necessary, but to be flexible about things which should be essential.

Danika has published an enormous list of Christian history books for children of different ages. I certainly haven't read all of these books myself but the list will be helpful when researching books.

We are hoping to start our nature studies with Exploring Nature with children (review soon), this week so this post from its author, Lyn Seddon, about how to set up a nature journal was relevant. We love some lovely empty journals just waiting to be used.

We should never stop learning and Annie Kate's article about modelling the joy of learning for our children was challenging and inspiring. This has inspired me to write a list of books that I ought to read. What would you put on a must read list?

This is apple season and with a biggish crop, I am always looking for more uses for apples. This post helps to avoid wasting the skins although I tell myself that composting isn't waste.

Have a happy September!

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Monday, 31 August 2015

Home Education Wobbles

September isn't an easy time for home educators. Conversations, both in real life and on Facebook, become filled with new schools, uniform and Mum's coffee mornings. Schools sound wonderful academically and even spiritually. Every school seems to have an outstanding OFSTED report and to be a lovely Church of England school, usually with a godly headteacher.

There always seem to be a fair few parents who wondered about home education who decide that their child is going to school. This does pinpoint that we are on a quieter route.

As home educators, it is easy to feel inadequate spiritually and academically. Yes, and what is more that is probably true. None of us is sufficient of ourselves. God is our sufficiency.

If we are taking this less trodden road because it is our conviction that this is how we should bring up a child in the nuture and admonition of the Lord then our duty is to be faithful. God has promised to give wisdom to those who ask. 

 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
 James 1 v 5
This is the time to go back to basics. This is the time to revisit why we home educate. One of the best things that we were advised was to write this down.

Of course, we need to provide the best possible education. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the possibilities. If you are a new Christian home educator, then start with Bible, English and maths and build out. It is easy to be thrown by home educators whose children are taking maths GCSE aged 7 or by concerns about whether you should provide DT. Do the basics first and remember that you are doing this to the Lord and not to man.

Home educators need encouragement so we shouldn't forget to meet up with others either formally or informally. The best ideas usually come from other home educating parents. School ideas may not work at home. 

Enjoy the children. Enjoy being able to take them outside when everyone else is in school.
Enjoy being able to go to museums and on trips when they are not full of families on school holidays.
Enjoy seeing the children when they aren't over tired.

 Enjoy not having to get tired children to do home work.

Enjoy seeing the children learn and talking to them about what the Lord has done.

Bless the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me bless His holy name. 
Psalm 103 v1

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Books for Children about the Middle Ages

We are using the Veritas self paced course on The Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. Veritas has a helpful list of suggested books which we add at the point when these are suggested but we are also hoping to add  to this. My list isn't exhaustive. I'm using these books with my children aged 6 and 8 but do bear in mind that one of the children loves history and would spend all day learning about history given half a chance. 

This list is mainly for the Middle Ages and Renaissance. There are some more books that I would like to add for the Reformation but I need to do some prereading first, for age suitability.

I'm always looking for more ideas so feel free to suggest books.

General Books
  • Story of the World:volume 2. The Middle Ages. Susan Wise Bauer's book is the basis of its own history curriculum but it is well written and easy to add as an extra. We already had this book but not the activity book. However, since I found the activity book in the local home education library, of course, I borrowed it. The activity book has been a rich source of ideas and discussion, particularly, around the authenticity of the recipe for Viking bread.
  • Great History of Britain by Anne and Paul Fryer. This is suitable for many children of this age to read on their own and has clear, large print.
  • Our Island Story. This classic, by Henrietta Marshall, has many chapters on the Middle Ages. 
  • Simonetta Carr has produced a range of biographies in her series Christian biographies for Young Readers. These are beautiful books containing illustrations, maps and timelines. Several of these cover the Middle Ages and the Reformation: These books aren't cheap but are well worth adding to your library.
  • Ladybird history books again have a wide range and many cover characters from this time period. They are out of print but can often be found second hand fairly cheaply.
  • Saint Patrick: Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael McHugh. Don't be put off by the saint in the title. This isn't hagiography but the account of a Christian missionary in the Early Church.
  • Beorn the Proud is the story of a young Viking chieftain. I am sure that this book presents a rather rosy view of life as a Viking captive but that does make it suitable reading for children!
  • The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge
  • Lord of the Forest by BB is the fictionalised story of an oak tree and starts in the Middle Ages. 
  • Enid Blyton's Tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur and his knights. The Veritas list includes the Roger Lancelyn Green version of Robin Hood.
Other Non-Fiction

  • Castle and Cathedral by David Macaulay. These are fascinating accounts of the way in which a fictional castle or cathedral was built.
  • DK Eye Witness guides including Renaissance, Knights and Leonardo. 
  • Double Take: Two sides One story. Battle of Hastings. This gives Harold and William's side to the story. My children have strong opinions about who was really entitled to the throne so this will make interesting reading.
What would you add to this list?

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wild London

It always surprises me, how much of London is green and not at all built up. Richmond Park is an example of this-there are times when it doesn't feel at at all like London. An ideal summer trip with children even if the day is overcast. 
Deer-I loved the antlers poking out.

 Old trees-this old oak reminded me of the one in Lord of the Forest.


Signs of impending autumn.


and model boats.

Just for anyone else who might think of doing this, make sure that you know the location of your car park and remember that the Isabella Plantation has more than entrance. Don't ask why you need to be warned!

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Providing Food for Older People

Eating frugally in a three generation family can be challenging. 

  • there are different needs and may be special diets
  • larger range of likes and dislikes
  • need to have a different approach to likes/dislikes of the older generation than the children
Realistically, Granny or Grandad can't be told that if they don't like their food, they have to try at least some. Alternatives have to be provided. Of course, this does have knock on effects on the children! 

Many older people have conservative tastes in food and this seems to narrow as they get older. So, pasta, rice and curry may be out. This has financial implications, you might be able to make a pasta bake with three rashers of bacon in the sauce feed eight but if Granny doesn't eat pasta this doesn't really work.

How to manage?

-Sometimes, it is necessary to cook two main courses. It is unrealistic to expect the rest of the family to live on an endless supply of meat, two veg and potatoes! In addition, this probably isn't either the healthiest and certainly isn't the cheapest option.
-The second main course might have to be a ready meal to save sanity!

Ready meals
  • vary widely in cost. The supermarkets sell ready meals for £1-£1.50. This is for a standard adult portion. I don't usually shop at Asda but they do seem to have the widest range. The specialist suppliers (Cook/Wiltshire Farm Foods/Oakhouse Foods) do have a reasonably wide choice but tend to cost £2.70-3.50 per mini meal. Full sized meals are more expensive.
  • Standard supermarket ready meals may be too large for an older person and putting the whole meal on the place leads to waste. There are two ways round this; either serve up half the meal on one day and leave the rest for the next day. Alternatively, if another family member is either extra hungry or less keen on the food provided for them, they can eat the extra half.
  • Supermarket frozen ready meals are cheaper than those on the fresh shelf.
  • Of course, ready meals can be made at home. When a favourite meal is served, put a portion in a small container and freeze this or even have a special cooking session. I rarely seem to have time for the latter but saving an extra portion does work.
Meals that may appeal to everyone!
I have failed to find enough to make a month's menu! Still, here are a few ideas.
  • Roast chicken/gammon/beef/pork/lamb
  • Casserole-chicken/sausage
  • Sausages and mash
  • chicken kiev
  • quiche
  • lemon chicken
  • chicken goujons
Desserts may be expected by older people and may be important to help them eat enough. I'm not convinced that providing dessert everyday helps the rest of the family so try to provide a choice of fruit or ice cream. 

Please do comment with thoughts/menu ideas or how you feed the older members of your family.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Summer 2015

Like most Summers, this has been a mixture of wonderful trips, fun around the neighbourhood and plain tiredness. Having a holiday where various people fell ill probably didn't help with the latter. Thankfully, they both seem recovered. 

Anyway, we have spent a fair amount of time around our local area. This has included

  • doing the Big Butterfly Count
  • the Library Reading Challenge
  • Cycling, playing, tree climbing and meeting friends in the park
  • gardening. Digging up potatoes is especially popular. 

  • Going for a walk in the woods in driving rain and finding that there was almost nothing to be found for den building
  • Playing board games
  • cooking. This week, the children cooked biscuits to eat during the biscuit edition of the Great British Bake Off. Note: making three sets of biscuits for one programme is rather excessive. 
  • Colouring. The Trinitarian Bible Society colouring book of Psalm 23 and Johanna Basford's Enchanted Garden have been the main books used.
  • Reading aloud. One of the children has just discovered Old Possum's Book of Cats and Return of the White Book  has also been popular. Her brother loves Famous Five, perhaps more than the rest of the family!
The biggest trip has been a day trip to Bournemouth on the train. This was a long and tiring day but definitely worthwhile. Bournemouth has the right kind of sand for sand castles,

 somewhere to paddle and a funicular railway.

My husband has been working so hard but was able to take off a little time to take the younger two to the Gladiator Games.

How do you spend the holidays, particularly, those days when there isn't anything special going on? Do you have to work hard to prevent boredom or constant requests of the computer setting in? By September, we will be well and truly ready to start work again. Already, I have someone making lists for our Poetry Teas! I just need to finish my planning and make sure that we have something to write with and on. I have been mulling over whether we should take such a long break and how we should try to honour God in the summer. 

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