Saturday, 22 October 2016


For a special birthday celebration, Younger Daughter and I went to Paris this last week. Paris for the day was mad, exhausting and wonderful. Rather to my surprise, I ended up less tired than my daughter despite being over four decades older!

We caught an early Eurostar from Kings Cross St Pancras to Paris.

The highlight of our trip was the Musée d'Orsay. This is a former railway station which was converted into an amazing gallery after its platforms became too short for modern trains. It is full of the most amazing and famous paintings. Many of these were paintings that we had read about and seen as prints. 
The building itself reminded us of the clocks in Hugo Cabret which is set in another Paris railway station.

We were able to see right behind the clocks.

Seeing so many van Gogh paintings with the heavy brushstrokes and thick paint was amazing as well as seeing Degas' Little Dancer. We had read Lawrence Anholt's book about the Little Dancer but weren't prepared for how small this sculpture is in real life.

Next, we went on a boat trip and saw Notre Dame. I hadn't planned this as an educational trip but it turned into one. There was the Notre Dame with the Rose Window, gargoyles and flying buttresses that we had learned about in the Veritas Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation course last year.

We got off at the Louvre but didn't go in. We just wanted to see the pyramid.

Hot chocolate!

At this point, I was beginning to feel a bit guilty as my daughter was tired and we had several hours to go before our return trip. We pushed on, walking the Paris streets to the Opera and the shops.

Then a final trip up to Sacre Coeur.

After another sit in a cafe then we walked up although not quite to the top.
Paris in the dusk and rain.

I was grateful to my husband and Middle Son who held the fort at home so that we could go.


  • a ten hour day in Paris is exhausting for a ten year old, and their parent!
  • despite the exhaustion, we are both glad that we went.
  • seeing the real pictures is the high point of art appreciation. I was glad that we had spent time reading James Mayhew's Katie books and Lawrence Anholt's Little Dancer as well as looking at other prints. 
  • the Orsay made us hand in our backbags and just carry valuables. They gave me a thin plastic bag for my purse and passports but this gave up. It would have been easier to have taken a small bag of my own.
  • our local library had up to date (2016) guide books with maps. I had Paris maps downloaded on my phone but ended up using the map in one of the guidebooks.
  • revising French with Duolingo was worthwhile although most people speak English anyway. 

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Autumn half term: the Highs and the Challenges

We've just reached the end of the first half term of the year. As usual, there have been highs and lows. As time goes on, I do think that it is important to take into account our individual slants on things. I'm a pessimist and tend to second guess everything. Tiredness exacerbates this trait so it is useful to look at the substantial highs of this autumn as well as areas which need attention.

The Highs

  • Morning Time is a regular part of our day. It means that we start the day with the most important things: God's Word and prayer. We have been using this time to learn the children's Sunday School memory work as well as to read from The Child's Story Bible. We read from the Bible itself at different times of day. We learn hymns that we typically sing in church.
    Added to this is a cycle of art appreciation, music appreciation, maths games and a science book.
  • Poetry tea.
  • Cycling each day.
  • Regular meetings with our friends in the home education group where we are learning about geography: Europe, this term.
  • Trips out: recycling unit, Chiltern Open Air Museum, Fire, Fire exhibition at the Museum of London and a special birthday trip for ,Younger Daughter, to Paris.
The Challenges
  • The increasing around care for my husband's frail mother. Yes, this is part of life and part of learning but balancing this with the children hasn't been easy. As far as possible, I try to arrange meetings/conversations so that they avoid timings when I am working with the children but medical equipment deliveries don't respect our working hours and I can't dictate times to the district nurses.
  • Fine tuning curriculum. This is an on-going process. So far, this term, I have had to alter spelling and Latin plans. Just using Nessy for spelling wasn't sufficient so, in addition, we are using All about Spelling. This is something that I have used before with Younger Daughter but dropped to make extra space for reading practice. All about Spelling is new to Youngest Son. Nessy is still being used as it is useful and fun for extra practice.
  • Latin. It become obvious that it would be best to use the primary Latin curriculum, Minimus, before going onto Galore Park Latin. This change has worked well.
  • Maths hasn't really been a challenge before but this term has seen maths become hard work and it has felt as through progress has been slow. About a week ago,I realised what might be the root of the problem. We have been starting with morning time and then English. The children have been starting to tire, every day, when we reach maths. After half term, I'm hoping to alternate starting with English and maths.
Any thoughts about high points or how you would tackle these challenges?

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

A Bird, a Girl and a Rescue

A Bird, a Girl and a Rescue, by J.A. Myhre, is a fantasy adventure story set in Africa. The author has written about the setting from experience, modeled on places where she has lived and her children's school. This book and the earlier book in the series, A Chameleon, a Boy and a Quest were, originally, written for her family.

This book tells the story of Kiisa who is sent to boarding school away from her family and valley. On her arrival, she finds that her father has given her an unusual present, a talking bird. As Kiisa settles in, she finds that her bird is able to carry messages and give advice. 

The story follows Kiisa through being bullied; finding her place in school where lessons are less than inspiring that those she was used to having; to a football tournament and a raid on the school. Kiisa and her bird travel through the jungle with the help of a talking monkey to effect a rescue and protect the jungle.

In many ways, this book was fascinating. The descriptions of the school and jungle come across as real. The anxiety of living where there are rebels nearby came across clearly but I do have some reservations about the role of the talking animals. These animals seem almost an add-on to the plot. Theologically, they are used to give messages from the Creator. This felt uncomfortable in a story which is clearly in a setting based on reality. Did the bird imply that God sends messages in this way? There certainly didn't seem to be mention of reading the Bible nor to any great extent of prayer. The story isn't set up as complete fantasy in the same way as the Narnia books but as low fantasy: fantasy elements in a real setting which makes the role of the animals more difficult to rationalise.

Overall, a fascinating read and great to read a book set in modern Africa but I can't wholeheartedly recommend this book due to the odd role of the Messengers, talking animals. 

The book is designed for children from about 8-11. It is published by New Growth Press and is available from Amazon.

Disclaimer: I was given an e-copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review. The views are my own.

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Friday, 7 October 2016

Latest Adventures of the Book Club

One of the activities at our home education group is a book club or rather two book clubs. I run the older group and a friend runs the younger group.

The older group has children from 9 to 12 and includes both voracious and struggling readers.

We have a couple of books for each term which are connected to the term's theme. This term we are studying Europe so the older group are reading Lois Lowry's book, Number the Stars, about Jews in Denmark during the Nazi Occuption. Later in the term, the book is The Good Master.  Both books have some themes of treatment of minority races in Europe before or during the Second World War. I can't say that I selected them for this reason but it is a useful unifying point. 
The younger group have been reading Emil and the Detectives and are due to read Patricia St John's beautiful book, Treasures of the Snow.

A recent highlight for the older group has been being a judging panel for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize. Voting was completed today ably chaired by one of the children. 

 Being a judging panel meant that we were given six science books. Each child had to read the books and make a judgement about them. 

Being rather mad, I decided that I would work on individualised book recommendations for each child. The children filled in sheets about the genres they like and dislike, and their current reading. Over the summer, I read children's books. This term, I have read children's books and I have almost reached my target of three recommendations for each child. I talk about the recommendations at the rate of one child per meeting, with the whole group present. 

The children also recommend books to one another. Both the child making the recommendation and the one who then reads the book have a small reward.

Plans for the next few months include a visit from the author Douglas Bond, in March 2017. This is open to home educators who do not usually come to the group. If you are interested and can get to London, please let me know.

Whilst I enjoy running a book club,my knowledge of literature is a bit on the limited side. If anyone is in a similar position, I recommend Deconstructing Penguins for some ideas about how to look at literature with children.  If anyone reading this runs a children's book club, I would love to know how it works as new ideas are appreciated and there is much to learn! 

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Thursday, 6 October 2016

No change Jehovah knows

Last night, at our church Bible study, we sang this hymn by Horatius Bonar who was a nineteenth century Scottish minister and hymn writer. The last two verses of this hymn really struck me.

I hear the words of love.
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
And I have peace with God.

'Tis everlasting peace!
Sure as Jehovah'sname,
And stable as His steadfast throne,
For evermore the same.

The clouds may go and come, 
And storms may sweep my sky-
This blood-sealed friendship changes not:
The Cross is ever nigh.

My love is oft-times low,
My joy still ebbs and flows;
But peace with Him remains the same-
No change Jehovah knows.

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His trust, not mine, the tie.

We change and our feelings alter but the Lord never changes. His promises are secure.

 This reminds me of the verse 
 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
1 Peter 1 v24-25
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Monday, 3 October 2016

October Inspiration

I love October: colours of autumn  with the edge of trying to grab sunshine before grayness of November. 

 Just recently, I was surprised and delighted to find Delivering Grace on a list of top 100 homeschooling blogs on the Healthy Moms Magazine.

The amount of art going on here sunk down during the summer. I have been working on increasing this with the lovely Art Lab for Kids. Now to add to this, Tinkerlab has a seven day art challenge with daily emails with arty ideas. 

Younger Daughter requested to learn Latin this year. We are using the gentle Minimus Latin, initially and found this supporting website. This has ideas which are useful for any starter in Latin or to support learning about Romans. The programme and site is designed for primary aged children.

One concern about home education is whether parents can teach every subject well. Of course, the answer is no. This article from Eclectic Homeschooling explains how we all manage this.

Recently, a great hymn writer went to be with his Lord. This link is to the congregational singing of Great is the Gospel of our Glorious Lord and also provides the words.

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Friday, 30 September 2016

The Mousehole Cat

My children have always loved extension activities from picture books although we don't do many of these nowadays. Towards the end of the summer, they needed something extra to do so I purchased Branch Out World's unit on The Mousehole Cat. 

The Mousehole Cat is written by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley. It tells the legend of the Tom Bawcock, the Cornish fisherman who saved the village of Mousehole from starvation, with the addition to this retelling,of his cat, Mouzer. The picture book is aimed at an older audience than many of the genre and was appreciated by my seven and nine year old. 

We didn't read the story each day that we worked on activities although we both read it and watched a reading of the story on Youtube. 

The Branch Out World unit comes as a pdf. It has an introduction to the unit, five days of activities and an appendix with maps, timelines and printables. The days of activities are divided into

  • Exploring the setting
  • Exploring the words
  • Exploring the pictures
  • Exploring science
  • Exploring maths, crafts and more.
I must say that there is vastly more in this unit than we managed to do. The introduction suggests deciding how many activities to do depending on the age and interests of the child.

This is just a little flavour of the activities which we did
  • found Cornwall and Mousehole on the map and investigated more about Mousehole.
  • we collected some brochures about Cornwall and looked at these.
  • looked at photos of the celebrations in Mousehole
  • found pictures by the artist
  • explored the concept of stippling, looked at a picture with a magnifying glass and drew a picture of an egg and used stippling to show shade.
  • narrated this picture 

  • made a list of items that cats love.
  • made a ripple tank to show diffraction.
  • planned a weekly menu. 
  • Made a regional recipe. We made Cornish pasties. The unit gives a couple of fish recipes but the children were keen to try pasties. I'm not sure that they were my favourite but my attempts to get the children to try star gazy pie failed! 
The Branch Out World unit was well thought out and saved me loads of time. I doubt that I would have been able to come up with so many activities. It was very easy to customise for my own family. The children were engaged by the activities.

Branch Out World sells from its own website, in sterling, or from CurrClick, in dollars.

Disclaimer: I purchased the Branch Out World Picture Book Explorer for the use of my family. The opinions are my own and those of my children.

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