Friday, 8 December 2017

December Inspiration

London feels chilly today. My children are hoping for snow! The photo is from a Park Run a couple of weeks ago when the frost was thick and my feet were cold.

It isn't always easy to get up when outside is dark. This article is a very practical list of 102 ways to start your homeschool morning out right.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology has a guide to making STEM toys using cheap and cheerful items. I know that one of my children is going to love these ideas.

Hedgehogs are becoming rare. For anyone who lives in a London borough and who has access to a garden, Wildlife London will provide hedgehog detective kits on a first come, first served basis. An ideal opportunity to be involved in some worthwhile research.

This year, I have been working on the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge. I don't think that I will complete every category but it has been a stimulating challenge which has expanded my reading. My progress is here-the list of books read is first followed by the categories in the Reading Challenge. This week, the list for the 2018 Challenge has come out.

Annie Kate has published a review of a book called The Fundamentals of Literature. I haven't read the book but she follows it with a summary of concepts in English literature from a Christian world view. If you want the name of an eight verse stanza or the difference between blank verse and free verse, this is your opportunity.

Do let me know about articles that you find useful. 

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Friday, 1 December 2017

Tweens Book Club

My tweens book club has now been running for over two years. This is a quick overview which hopefully, may be helpful for anyone else thinking of running a book group.

The book club meets fortnightly at our local home education group. Group sessions last about half an hour. Currently, the group ranges from 10 to 13. Members of the group include a wide range of reading ability.

The aims of the group are to
  • encourage the group to read wholesome literature.
  • to read critically.
  • to introduce a wider range of books that the child might choose to read.
How the group works

The tweenagers meet separately for their book club. The group reads two books per term.
Criteria for the books are
  • well written 
  • acceptable from a Christian worldview
  • available in some format for less than £5.
  • not another in a series from which we have already read a book
I always pre-read the books and think this is vital. Roughly, 50% of the books that I preread are not suitable. Reasons for not choosing a book have included
  • racism
  • just didn't pull me into the story
  • too expensive or would take too long to arrive
The whole of the book club isn't devoted to the current book. We also have a time when the children recommend books to their friends and loan out books. When another child reads a recommended book, they and the child recommending both have a point. At the end of term, there are small rewards. Last term, these were bendy pencils. 

In terms of discussing the current book, I have found reading Deconstructing Penguins invaluable. Some books have lent themselves to more discussion than others. I try to keep a list of open ended questions:
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • How would you rewrite the ending?
  • What do you think is the point of this book?
  • What do you think of x character?
  • How has y changed?
The book club does not include asking the children to read aloud. In theory, I meant to start a new book by reading the first chapter aloud but so far this hasn't happened. Maybe, for the next book!

In addition, from time to time, I add an extra. These have included

  • each child taking turns to have three book recommendations from me. I used a form to ascertain the type of books that they had enjoyed/not enjoyed. If anyone wants to do this, please be warned that this involves a lot of prereading. I spent one summer reading children's books to recommend. This idea was stolen from A Modern Mrs Darcy although I did modify it a little.
  • being a judging panel for the Royal Society Young People's Science Prize.
  • a quick presentation about the background of a book.
  • a session of poetry. 

Books that we have read have included
  • Gentle Ben
  • Journey to the River Sea
  • Jungle Doctor to the Rescue
  • The boy who biked the World
  • Number the Stars
  • The Long Winter
  • One Great Purpose: Jim Elliot
  • My side of the Mountain
Useful sources for book club ideas 
  • Veritas booklists
  • Readaloud Revival
  • Sonlight booklists
  • Ambleside online free reading suggestions
  • Friends and family
I would love to know how other book clubs run and any book recommendations for my group. Thank you!

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Monday, 13 November 2017

November Inspiration

We are well into November now. Well past Reformation Day,
 Guy Fawkes night and even Remembrance Day.

November is also a month for anyone who wants to write a novel. The NanoWriMo site has a special feature for younger writers with the ability to set an individual word target and help designed for children.

There are plenty of children though who struggle with reading and writing. This can induce a fair amount of parental guilt especially when there is a societal expectation that anyone from a home filled with books will love reading. This is a really helpful article about Where kids still struggle with reading even in a print-rich home.

We haven't really got into podcasts for children yet but this is a list to explore.

I'm not an unschooler but this post about learning and living is thought provoking. Yes, home educated children do get a chance to follow their interests now in a way that wouldn't be possible for a child in school. 

This model DNA is so easy. We made it recently and unlike many other cell/DNA activities around it isn't  filled with sugar!

I am currently on the look out for book club suggestions. The club has children from 10-13. We read both fiction and non-fiction. The group has a science theme, this year but the books don't necessarily have to have a scientific theme although  bonus points if they do! Any suggestions?

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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Early Autumn Learning

Writing about our learning is always a balance. We have had some great and enjoyable days but there are always adjustments to the plans to be made and times realise how much we need God's grace. 

These are a few of the highlights of the last few months.

Our local home education group has a science theme, this year. This has meant practising activities at home in the days before each session. Particularly popular was the rocket, although I was far too busy to record it; extracting DNA from strawberries
and melting chocolate (states of matter!). 

The group was able to vote on the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize. We are now waiting to find out if our choice was the overall winner.

Younger Daughter has been working on an Explore Art Award in photography. This meant a dash up to the Natural History Museum, one Saturday, to see a wildlife photography exhibition before it closed.
This award also means working on a project. The plan is to combine art with history studies.

Poetry Tea
This term has been busy so I thought that we might have fewer poetry teas. However, it turned out the Poetry Tea was an important part of the week and no one wanted to miss this. 

Nature Walks
We are using Exploring Nature with Children and this year, using the new journal.

Seaside Trip
We had a week away, at the sea,
in Bournemouth, while my kind husband held the fort here. Our time away included a long cycle ride,
time on the seashore with rather wet paddling, a visit to Corfe Castle and the Bournemouth Aviation Museum. 

Reformation Day
Today,we have celebrated the 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 theses being pinned to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Over the last few weeks, we have been reading Danika Cooley's book When Lightening Struck about the life of Luther. Other activities have been

Of course, we had to have some themed food: sausages and Black Forest gateau.

This term, there has seemed to be more to do than time! Trying to prioritise seems a major challenge. Any thoughts?

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Friday, 20 October 2017

Sources of Home Education Inspiration: Maths

This is the fifth part of my series on resources for inspiring home education. The first four parts are

This post is about maths. The links are either resources we have used or seriously considered using. 

Early Years
We used plenty of learning from life: counting stairs, number of people eating at a meal, recipes and so on.
Games have also played a major role. Favourites have been various Orchard Games including Pop to the Shops, Ten Green Bottles and the Spotty Dog Game.

Sum Swamp has been helpful towards the end of this time, and for the next few years, and has been played over and over again. This game helps with simple addition and subtraction as well as the concepts of plus/minus and odd/even.

There are a few books which have been useful for introducing mathematical concepts.
I would particularly recommend, Less than Zero which is a fun introduction to negative numbers. 

Infant (KS1 about age 5-7)
I'm not entirely sure that I would use this again but we used Mousematics which comes as part of a Mother's Companion. This is a Welsh printable curriculum. We modified it, for example, the parts about weighing and volume we used as hands on activities rather than using the printable workbooks. In retrospect, it isn't particularly challenging and could do with more hands on work. We ended up supplementing with games and maths from life. 
Other curricula that I would consider are

  • MEP (Maths Enhancement Programme from the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching. This is a free programme although it is easier, and probably cheaper, to buy the workbooks. I did use this for a while and really regret that it didn't work for us as it is a rigorous programme, scripted and easy to use except for one thing. The problem that we had with this is that it takes about 45 minutes per day of teaching. This probably works well with a class but my children aren't in the same year and at the time which we used this also needed one to one phonics teaching. I couldn't teach phonics and maths at the same time. Sadly, the topics for each year aren't in the same week so I couldn't teach the two together. Highly recommended if you have one child or children who don't need other one to one teaching at the same time.
  • Singapore maths probably using the UK version. The working from manipulatives to visual to paper (Concrete/Pictorial/Abstract) makes such sense and is a principle that we have tried to use with whichever programme we are using.

Junior (KS2 about age 7-11)
This is the reason why I have been so long in posting this.
We have used/use Galore Park maths successfully for two of our three home educated children. These books start at year 3 and are designed for private schools. We use the older edition where they have two sets: the Junior books which cover years 3-5 and the So you want to learn set which covers years 6-8 so going up to the Common Entrance exam. I note that the newer edition seems to be arranged by school year.
Points to know about these books

  • After we finished the year 8 book, I found some year 9 work for Middle Son before starting GCSE work but I wish that I hadn't done this. The end of the Galore Park books would have been a great place to start GSCE maths and he really coasted for that year.
  • The series has textbooks but no workbooks for anything other than tests. We have not used the test workbooks. We have found that writing out problems can be majorly time consuming and slow progress for younger children. I have often written out the questions when they are younger and gradually move to getting the children to write them out.
  • The books progress in a spiral manner. If a child has forgotten a topic or finds it difficult then it is worth going back to the previous year's book.
  • Buy the answers! I spent several years working out all the answers because of a mistaken belief that this was the only way to be sure that I understood and could explain clearly. What it actually meant was that I was working out maths at midnight so the marking could be done. It is worth checking that you can do the first and last questions but not really necessary to do everything between!
Galore Park has worked less well for one of the children. We spent some time working on one particular topic using the concrete/pictorial/abstract approach then using one of the Schofield and Sims Understanding Maths books. This worked well so we are currently using other books in the same series. This series has a clean lay out. It is not necessary to write out the whole problem although sometimes, supplemental squared paper is necessary. 
Please note that home educators are able to use the tutor discount which makes a substantial saving.

One cheap and cheerful item that we use every day is 10 questions. I write 10 questions in the children's maths exercise books each day which they answer at the start of maths time. The questions cover topics that need revision and are individualised for each child.

We quite often finish maths time with a game. Games that we use frequently are equivalence dominoes, fraction bingo, Brainbox fractions and tables and Trilemma.

I have written about learning tables before.

Senior (Key Stage 3 about 11-14)
We used the Galore Park maths books to the end of year 8 (age 13) then changed to Conquer Maths and a year 9 text. KS3 Conquer Maths was well organised but as I stated above, changing to GCSE work would have been better.
At this point, we also occasionally used Khan Academy as a backup for further explanation of some topics.
I am not going to comment above KS3 as we used a tutor of GCSE maths.

This is a post about sites which we have used for adding to the maths curriculum. 
Squeebles is an app occasionally used for tables practice. 

Please feel free to recommend maths resources which your family have enjoyed.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Chai Chat....with Sarah

Nicola who blogs at The World is their Classroom has been interviewing a variety of different home educators including reasons why people home educate, what a typical day is like, socialisation, physical exercise and much more. Today, my chat with her is up.

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

October Inspiration

We are almost a month into term and there has been plenty going on. Our home education group has been studying science and planning this has been busy, as well, as providing my children with the chance to help me practise activities. Recently, we did acids and bases at the group and used Sarah Dees' magnificent rocket activity for the older children. It worked very well but I'm sorry, teaching and running the activity took precedence over photos.

Ambleside online has produced an enormous list of Charlotte Mason resources. Many of these are relevant for those who aren't strictly Charlotte Mason followers.

Helping children learn about subjects where we are weak can be challenging. This is a helpful article about teaching music appreciation for non-musical mothers

Reformation Day is on the 31st October and this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther pinning his theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenburg. Talking mom2mom has a free set of intricate colourings of the Five Solas which are ideal for older children. The Trinitarian Bible Society produce a rather splendid Reformation timeline.

It is easy to get dragged down by difficulties when home educating. This isn't a Christian article, and this shows in the solutions, but the list of joy suckers is pretty accurate.

Hope that your autumn is going well. Does anyone else struggle with not overloading the day but wanting to fit enough in?

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