Wednesday, 16 April 2014

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit

One warm day, last summer, the two youngest children and I went to a book signing by Judith Kerr. This was part of a round of signings in honour of her 90th birthday. We came home with two more of her Mog books and the memory of a lady who was happy to chat the the children about their cats and her cat.

At the time, I vaguely remembered reading When Hitler stole pink rabbit as a school girl. More recently, I found this autobiographical book, in the library and decided to reread it.



Judith Kerr was brought up in a secular Jewish family in post World War I Germany. Her father, Alfred, was a well known anti-Nazi journalist who wrote and broadcast against the Nazi party which was gaining ground. Just before the 1933 elections which brought Hitler to power, Alfred's position was becoming risky and being warned, by a sympathiser in the police force that he was at risk, he suddenly left for Switzerland. The rest of the family soon followed as the election was taking place.

When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit follows Anna, otherwise known as Judith, through life in neutral Switzerland, Paris and eventually to England. The time must have been traumatic for the parents: their income disappeared as newspapers in Switzerland refused to publish Alfred's work; the Germans burnt his work and put a price on his head. They managed to protect the children so that Anna and her brother thrived on their changed circumstances. 

Paris wasn't any better for the parents and initially, wasn't great for the children either. The description of going to school in an unknown language is worth reading but gradually, both children managed to excel. Max, the brother, really hadn't worked in school in Germany but rose to the challenge of learning French and did far better academically, in Paris. One gets the impression that he had been rather bored before. Judith Kerr says in her note at the end of the book that the years of sudden exile in Switzerland and then in France

It was more difficult than our life in Germany, but for my brother and me it was also more interesting and I thought at the time that on the whole it was an improvement.

The book ends as the family arrive in England in the rain.

One of the reasons that I read this was to see whether it was a potential read aloud for an interwar years history unit that we hope to do next year. I plan to read this to my children, currently 5 and 7. It is a particularly useful background to what was happening in Nazi Germany but isn't written in a frightening manner. It does mention a family friend who, in very reduced circumstances because of his background,  takes an overdose and dies. Beyond this, whilst the threat to Jews and the Kerrs, in particular, is firmly in the picture, what comes across is Kerr's love for her family and zest for her new surroundings.

Recommended.

Disclaimer: I borrowed this from my local library to read.

Every bed of Roses

Friday, 11 April 2014

5 days of England: the countryside

Welcome back to the last post in this series on learning about England. I hope it will be useful for those of us who live in England and want resources to help our children learn more about their native land as well as those from abroad who may want to visit either in reality or virtually.

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: History
Day 3: Food
Day 4: The language

Today, I'm writing about the lovely countryside but really mean any green or seaside outside space. England might not be large but there are green areas everywhere. Cities have plenty of parks, allotments and other green spaces. 
This is on the outskirts of London

Morden Hall Park is less than ten miles from Trafalgar Square, in central London.
A London park

Not everyone will agree with me but, in my opinion, the weather is such that it is possible to go out most days. Warm, waterproof coats and wellie boots are part of my essential home education equipment. We wouldn't go out if there is a severe weather warning but otherwise try not to let weather deter us.

The sea is always relatively close: never more than 70 miles away from any point in England.

Some websites about nature in the UK:
Nature Detectives: this has many activities for children. There is a paying section but there are also many free activities on the site.
RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has a bird identification section, nature reserves and an annual Garden Watch.
London Wildlife Trust runs nature reserves in London as well as having a section, on its website, about different habitats and species in London.
Woodland Trust has information about woods around the country.

Some of my favourite outdoor places:
The Long Mynd in Shropshire
North Downs in Kent
Morden Hall Park in London
Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door in Dorset
Lake District (definitely best out of season)
The Cotswolds

This is just a short list: there are so many more beautiful places. Please write about your favourite outdoor places in England in the comments.

Some of my fellow Schoolhouse Crew members are also taking part in the 5 days blog hop, this week. Do visit these blogs
Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness -- International Meals
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren's Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources
or click on the banner for even more topics.
April Blog Hop 


If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

5 days of learning about England: the language

Welcome back to this series on learning about England. I hope it will be useful for those of us who live in England and want resources to help our children learn more about their native land as well as those from abroad who may want to visit either in reality or virtually.

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: History
Day 3: Food
Day 4: The language


It didn't dawn on me for many years that I might have an accent. After all, isn't the way that I speak normal? When I went to medical school, I was teased about my Kentish accent particularly dropping the last g on words so, for example, working became workin. My children still notice that I say yer rather than year.

Still, I was a bit shocked when I listened to an audiobook version of Anne of Avonlea. Surely, Anne couldn't have a Canadian accent?


More recently, using some US curricular materials and working with the mainly US ladies on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I have become a bit more aware of my British English and yes, there are a fair few differences (US/UK):

  • pants/underpants
  • chips/crisps
  • jumper/pinafore dress
  • sweater/jumper
  • -ize/-ise
  • silverware/cutlery
  • flashlight/torch
  • color/colour
  • favorite/favourite
  • check/cheque
  • store/shop
  • airplane/aeroplane
  • truck/lorry
  • freeway/motorway
  • trash/rubbish
  • eraser/rubber
  • dishwash/washing up liquid
  • all purpose flour/plain flour
  • gas/petrol 
I still am a bit puzzled about SUVs. I know they are some sort of car but what? Any answers from US friends?

We happily used the Five in a Row study guide and books for sometime but when we looked at Truman's ant farm the play on the words ant and aunt just didn't work. We say aunt as unt and ant as, well, ant! This didn't stop one of the children loving the book but he had to have the issue with words explained.

Do you have an accent? What version of English do you speak? Please feel free to add to my list. I know there are many more words that aren't quite the same.

Some of my fellow Schoolhouse Crew members are also taking part in the 5 days blog hop, this week. Do visit these blogs
Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness -- International Meals
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren's Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources
or click on the banner for even more topics.
April Blog Hop 


If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.

Supercharged Science

Hands on science is something that my children enjoy so we were pleased to be able to review e-Science Premium Membership from Supercharged Science.

Supercharged eScience Review
Supercharged Science is an enormous homeschool science programme designed for children of all ages from Year 1 to older teenagers (US grades K to 12). The programme is online and accessed via password and login codes. It is based around topics and these topics are taught via experiments and activities which can take place at home. There are 20 topics in the K-8 programme. These include motion, matter, biology, magnetism, energy and astrophysics.


Supercharged eScience Review
The premise of Supercharged Science is that if a child starts learning science with an experiment and gets excited about this, they will want to learn more around the subject. The programme is designed to appeal to visual, auditor, kinaesthetic and digital leaners.

Aurora Lipper, the teacher, is a rocket scientist and obviously takes great delight in making science fun for children. Helpfully, the site also has the science activities grouped by grade level which was particularly useful deciding which could be done by younger children. There is also a helpful section called Getting Started which explains how the site works and has links to simple experiments with household materials.

We dived in with some of these activities from the Getting Started section. Each activity has a short written introduction, a list of what is needed and a short video explaining what to do. Sometimes we needed to watch the video more than once to make sure or watch the video and then play it with stops as we did the activity. Most of the experiments have activity sheets with questions.


We microwaved soap

although we didn't have the soap that Aurora suggested and made the microwave smell for several weeks! Moral is to follow the instructions fully!

This is the appearance of microwaved soap!

Other early experiments included a catapult which was easy and a great success with my five year old and flying contraptions which theoretically shouldn't fly as well as paper aeroplanes which were catapulted across the garden.

We then explored the pre-K/K section of the site. There were investigations on sensing temperature: very simple and very effective.

Making clouds sounded exciting but we couldn't make this work maybe because I was a bit cautious about heating up this contraption.
We hid pyrex in oil and went onto some Life science which is what I would call biology where we pressed flowers

 and made a waterscope. I have to say that we failed to make the waterscope work although we had fun leaning over a ditch with it.
We have a terraqua column sitting in our kitchen which is successfully growing basil. We have discussed making more so that we can change variables.

In order to fit in with some science at our home education group, we filled in a tracking traits form which we found on the first grade part of the site. 

Most of the items needed in the sections that we used were readily available at home or at least one which has been home educating for some time! A supply of lolly sticks was easy to find here and was used for the catapult and harmonica but I'm not sure whether many non-home educators have supplies of lolly sticks. For more advanced units, it is more likely that items will need to be bought  particularly for the electricity and electronics topics.

Aurora says, in the Getting Started section that three things are needed to get the most out of Supercharged Science: time to spend on the experiments, realising that it isn't necessary to do everything and being prepared to ask for help. Aurora provides help via questions at the end of the activities. We found that our questions were answered by running through those questions that had been previously asked. 

What we thought
Using hands on activities does spark interest in science. We watched the videos together before going to do the activity and then thought about the how and why. We found that some of the activities the children were quite happy to leave whereas others such as the terraqua column generated interest in how things grow and whether we could design a simpler system to look at what plants need. My five year old is particularly keen to do more Supercharged Science activities.

Supercharged Science is large and can initially seem overwhelming. The getting started page, grade levels and the conversion chart are particularly helpful. The's e conversion chart for 22 different texts shows which eScience units fit with which chapters.

We love hands on science and this is a regular activity with my younger children. It has been helpful to have a resource with so many new ideas to explore, however, if you don't like hands on science then Supercharged Science isn't for you.

Cost
Supercharged Science's e-Science curriculum costs $37 (about £22.03) per month for K to grade 8 (year 1 to 9) and $57(about £33.94) per month for 9th-12th grade (year 10 to 13) where more material is available. Currently, there is a special offer for readers of the Schoolhouse Review Crew of the first month for $1 (about 60p). This page has full details. 

For families who like science activities, I would recommend Supercharged Science. If you aren't quite sure, there is a free five lesson science mini-progamme here



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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

5 days of learning about England: the food

Welcome  back to this five day series about England.

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: History resources

Today, I'm writing about food. My only qualifications are that I'm English and I like food.

Like most national food, English food depends on what is available. So over to some famous foods!

Fish and chips
Almost every town has a chippie and most chippies don't just sell fish and chips but add pies and sausages as well. Fish and chips tend to be one of the cheapest meals bought out. Many people only buy chips which, of course, reduces the price!

The fish is usually caught in the North Sea. Cod is the most common but coley and haddock are almost always sold too. Traditionally,the fish is deep fried in batter.

Can fish and chips be made at home? Yes, of course although I have to admit that I've never made proper fish and chips. I'm a bit scared of deep fat frying having seen a saucepan catch fire as a child. Probably a deep fat fryer is the way to go but then it might encourage us to have fish and chips far too often. Anyway, this is a link to a fish and chip recipe.

Scones
These are easy to make at home. This recipe is similar to the one that I use. Traditionally eaten with clotted cream, they are also yummy with butter and jam. They don't keep well so eat soon.

There is debate about whether they are pronounced with a long or short o. This is partly a regional issue. My contribution to the debate is that the n is followed by a silent e so the o should be long!

Christmas pudding
At Christmas, we eat a heavy fruit boiled pudding for dessert. This is my version of Christmas pud.


Jacket potatoes
These aren't classical English fare but something that is eaten often here and less often elsewhere. Jacket potatoes are so easy and make a great base to a meal with salad, cheese and any left over meat or fish. To cook, clean one largish potato per person and pierce the skin three or four times with a fork. Place in the oven at 180C and cook for about an hour until soft. The cooking time obviously depends on the size of the potato! These are ideal for cooking when the oven is on for some other reason.

Simnel cake
This is a traditional Easter cake. It is a fruit cake cooked with marzipan in the middle and topped with a layer of uncooked marzipan. Traditionally, the top has eleven balls of marzipan on top of the flat layer. These are said to represent the number of the apostles after Judas had left.
This is the recipe that I use:
Ingredients:
8oz (225g) plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
6oz (180g) brown sugar
5oz (140g) margarine
3 eggs
2 tablespoonfuls milk
3/4 lb(340g) sultanas
3/4lb (340g)mixed dried fruit (can be substituted with other types of dried fruit to taste)
1lb (450g) marzipan
small amount apricot jam
Method
Prepare an 8" cake tin. Line the base.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the other ingredients up to and including the milk.
Mix well with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Add the fruit and mix.
Place half the mixture in the cake tin.
Divide the marzipan into thirds. Roll out one third to just less than the size of the cake tin. Place this marzipan on top of the first half of the mixture.

Place the remaining half of the mixture on top of the marzipan.
Cook at 150C (300F/gas mark 2) for two and half hours to three hours. Cover with foil after the first hour. When cooked a skewer placed in the upper part of the cake will come out clean.
Cool.
Roll the second third of marzipan to a circle the size of the cake.
When the cake is cold, turn upside down so the top is flat. Cover with a thin layer of apricot jam to help the marzipan to stick to the cake. Place the circle of marzipan on top of the cake. 
Use the remaining marzipan to make eleven balls to decorate the top of the cake.

Enjoy!

Everything else
In a multi-cultural society, many of us eat a mixture. Our menus will have traditional English, Italian, French and Indian food on a regular basis.

What is your favourite English food?


Some of my fellow Schoolhouse Crew members are also taking part in the 5 days blog hop, this week. Do visit these blogs
Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness -- International Meals
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren's Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources
or click on the banner for even more topics.

April Blog Hop

If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

5 days of learning about England: history resources

Welcome back to this series on learning about England. I hope it will be useful for those of us who live in England and want resources to help our children learn more about their native land as well as those from abroad who may want to visit either in reality or virtually.

Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: History

I'm no historian, just a jobbing home school Mum who is trying to introduce her children to the history of her native land. My aims in teaching history to my younger children are to

  • help them to develop an enjoyment for history
  • Develop a sense of relationship of events in time
  • Learn a Christian perspective of history. Christianity has been very important in England's history but is often ignored in secular history for younger children. 
  • Learn about primary and secondary sources and have some idea of the possible biases of each.
England has a long and fascinating history. We can see so much and for us, trips to historical sites are important and tend to enthuse children.
Stonehenge

The Roman Baths, Bath

Battle Abbey

Bodiam Castle

Georgian Bath

Many of these sites have re-enactments or hands on activities for children. My younger children can still march in Latin, over a year and a half after they were taught this interesting skill, at Fishbourne Roman Palace.
 It is much easier to understand why William the Conqueror won having seen a reenactment of the Battle of Hastings which for non-locals didn't take place in Hastings!

We have found that English Heritage re-enactments tend to be particularly well planned. From the experience of only having attended one some time ago, I was really impressed with the annual History Extravaganza. 


There are so many historical sites but many are managed by
These are places to start for those wanting a virtual tour as well as anyone wanting to visit.

Books
It is difficult to know where to start. 
I wrote recently about UK fiction for children. Several of these titles are historical fiction.

We particularly like the books by R.J. Unstead. These are out of print but easily obtainable and were specifically written for primary aged children (grades K to 5). 

Other resources
  • Ladybird books which have a picture on each page.
  • Our Island Story by H Marshall. This is quite old but is in print and also free on the internet. Of course, it doesn't tackle modern history and tends to be light on church history.
  • Christina Eastwood is a Welsh home educator who has written a couple of volumes called The Story of God's dealings with our nation ( a history of England and Wales).
  • Usborne sticker books really appeal to younger children. Younger Daughter loved one about the monarchy.

Websites
The BBC schools website has some useful resources. Some periods in history are missed which reflects the current National Curriculum.
Primary homework help (formerly Woodlands Junior) is another site worth visiting.

Please feel free to add to these resources in the comments.


Do join me tomorrow to learn more about my fascinating country.

Some of my fellow Schoolhouse Crew members are also taking part in the 5 days blog hop, this week. Do visit these blogs
Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness -- International Meals
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren's Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources
or click on the banner for even more topics.
April Blog Hop 


If you enjoyed this post you may like to follow Delivering Grace by Google Friend Connect, G+,FacebookPinterest or e-mail.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Victus study skills: a review

Learning to study efficiently is an underrated skill and something that I felt would be helpful for Middle Son, aged 13, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review Victus Study Skills System products.


Victus Study Skills Review
We received the Victus Study Skills System Student Workbook and the Victus Study Skills Teacher Edition.


Victus Study Skills Review
These are both spiral bound books which are designed to be used with students in grades 5 to 12 which correspond to UK years 6 to 13. The Workbook has 65 pages and the Teacher Edition has 82 pages. There are ten lessons which are designed to be used either over a week or spread over a couple of weeks. Each lesson takes about half an hour. We chose to use the books over a fortnight.

The System is based on three questions:
  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • How do I get there?
The books work through aims- both long term and short, learning style, organising time and space, reading and note taking techniques and more.

The idea is that the parent, or teacher, goes through the lesson, with the child before the child completes the workbook.

The teacher workbook has three sections: an introductory section which explains about the course, possible teaching schedules and has a list of helpful techniques to make the programme relevant and useful to the child: a section which explains how to introduce and teach each lesson along with copies of what is in the student book and for the worksheet type pages, the correct answers. The last section is an appendix with extra materials including goal setting forms, information about ways of organising work and a particularly useful list of mnemonic devices and strategies.

What we thought about the programme
Looking at study skills was helpful and Middle Son found the learning style questionnaire and the list of suggestions for each learning style particularly helpful. It was helpful to develop awareness about the way he learns as well as making aims clear. 
Several of the lessons had sheets to complete of a fill-in the-correct-word-in the space format which was really quite tedious. Middle Son became quite fed up with these. The teacher manual has copies of correctly completed sheets but this doesn't seem to be the best way of learning particularly for children of this age and leads to concern, from the child, about whether synonyms are appropriate or not. The lessons with different activities: goal setting, time management, learning style questionnaire, note taking were more valuable.
The Teacher Edition felt "schooly". Students are mostly described in the plural and the lessons were structured in a way that one would teach to a class rather than the way that an individual child would be mentored.
The appendices are particularly useful and their content should not be ignored. Some of the most helpful time management resources were in this part of the book, in particular, the 168-hour exercise.

Overall
This is a useful resource and something which should be introduced to teenagers. Much of the content was useful but changing the worksheet style pages to something more open ended would improve the retention of the contents.

Cost
The teacher edition costs $40 (about £24.13) and the student edition $20 (about £12.06). I note that there is also a student DIY edition for $25 (about £15.08) but did not review this. This might be ideal for families where the mother is having to be split in several directions during work time!


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