Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Sandwich Generation-are we Kidding Ourselves?

While I was preparing the lunch, I listened to part of a call in to You and Yours about people who care for adults and children in their family. This is now available on iPlayer. Like many others, I fit into the definition of the Sandwich Generation-we care for an older relative and have children at home.

Yes, it is busy. There isn't much free time. Many people have children, a job outside the home and an older relation for whom they care. Yes, it can be stressful but we are kidding ourselves if we think this is new. The past was a bit different in that there were more children (think-more work and more help); fewer domestic conveniences (think-no washing machine), fewer women working outside the home but less access to care workers for the ordinary family.

There are two sides of the coin: the caring family that is there to help out. We all want that. On the other hand is the hard work and often, stress. 

Perhaps, my generation thought that we could get out of this. I remember, as a child, hearing people talk about the welfare state caring for older people. But God's Word always applies-it is easier to see this now as it is so obvious that the system can't provide for all of our needs. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the welfare state and that there is basic care for older people without families. However, its provision for the elderly doesn't set the solitary in families. 

We don't have to do all the hands on care ourselves. The woman in Proverbs 31 had other people to help. Still, the family is responsible (1 Timothy 5) and we need to be prepared to care for our older family. We learn about caring for our children but rarely for our older folk. 

Perhaps, our major problem is that we aren't prepared for our relatives to become frail. Yet, whilst some people are still working into their 90s, there are  others who will have to have almost everything done for them to maintain their dignity.

How can we be ready?

  • We need to be aware of the fact that parents and other family members are getting older and at some point we may have to help. That help may be a number of forms: supporting them in their own home, having them to live in our home or helping them find, move into and support them within a care home.

  • While people are well, we can discuss their wishes. If they had to go into a home, where would they want to go? Would they like to live with the family? Would they like to be in a Christian home? Have they visited it? It may be strange having this discussion with someone who is fit and well but this is the easiest and best time for the conversation. 

  • We need to prepare ourselves. God has made us to serve. This may involve the less than glamorous helping of someone who is older to live a happy and fulfilled life. 

  • Talk to those who are already caring. There are plenty around! I was greatly encouraged by an older lady, now in Glory, who had had a large family, a job, was busy in church life and a carer for an older relative. Just knowing that she had managed, was a help but when I asked her how she had survived those years, her reply was By God's grace. There are many things that carers need but none so much as God's grace. 
Please join the conversation. Are you part of the sandwich generation?

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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Reading Schemes for Struggling Readers

Some children seem to learn to read effortlessly but for others, reading is one of the most difficult things they have to do. I have posted before about some pluses and minuses of reading schemes for home educators. This post is about reading schemes for children who find reading challenging or who are likely to find reading difficult. I mean children who have
  • siblings/parents with dyslexia/reading/spelling difficulties
  • speech challenges

I'm no expert just a home educating parent in the trenches!

This isn't about getting advice as to why a child is having difficulty although for peace of mind and help to know the extent and nature of a child's difficulties, it may well be wise to have a formal assessment.

Anyway, onto schemes. I have only had experience of the first two but have added the other two as these may be useful for comparison. These are reading schemes not spelling schemes.

Toe by Toe
Toe by Toe is a UK produced book for parents, teachers and anyone else working with children with dyslexia and other reading problems. It is designed to be used by the non-specialist and starts right from the beginning, with the letter sounds. It is not designed to be used as an initial reading scheme for a 4-5 year old and is recommended for children 7+ and has been used with adults who need a remedial scheme.

Toe by Toe is pedantic and insists on being used as instructed in the book. Everything has to be read correctly three times with each reading being 24 hours apart. There is loads of practice including nonsense words. The book is logical and structured. Yes, and it seems to work. The book claims to work for dyslexic people who improve "toe by toe" and the book does what it says on the label. The time to complete the book varies but one year is said to be about average.

The book is designed to be used for 15-20 minutes a day. I don't use a timer but we work for that sort of length of time.

  • The book works and doesn't assume that a child has understood or can read better than they actually can.
  • Slow and systematic. No introducing of three concepts in a day. 
  • There is space for extra practice where a word is causing trouble.
  • Toe by Toe isn't exciting. It works but it is daily drill. We use it after I have read a book aloud and before we do some collaborative reading. Keeping up interest seems to be almost as important as working on the mechanics.
  • The book is consumable. I would beware of a second hand book unless it is absolutely unmarked.
  • The font isn't large. It might be wise to make sure that eyesight has been checked first.
At £25 Toe by Toe seems expensive but for children who may otherwise need tutors, this is a small price to pay. One lesson with a tutor might outweigh the cost of the book.

Dancing Bears is part of a series of books from Sound Foundations Books.

This publisher produces a variety of books for teaching reading. Dancing Bears is where I would start if I were teaching another child to read and is designed for young children. This part of the series can be used for children with and without a specific learning difficulty.

 Dancing Bears works systematically through synthetic phonics and CVC words but does assume knowledge of letter sounds.

Other parts of the series include Bearing Away which is a manual to use with children with learning difficulties who haven't learned basic letter sounds and Bear Necessities which is the "industrial strength" version of Dancing Bears. 

The authors of these books (I imagine specifically Bear Necessities) claim that they will work for children for whom Toe by Toe works less well. According to them, these are low-ability pupils, younger children, and pupils with more severe learning difficulties. 
Dancing Bears only uses real words although some are fairly obscure! I find that my children prefer real words to random nonsense words.
I've only used Dancing Bears but this includes daily phonics practice, gradual introduction of new sounds, plenty of word practice, some rather zany stories and use of a cursor so that a child has to read letters in the correct sequence.
Dancing Bears A costs £18. Books B and C cost £15. The set can be purchased for £47.

This is US based programme devised by the home educating mother of a child who has dyslexia. It is also used by many people whose children do not have reading difficulties as it can be taken at any pace. This book is suitable for young children learning to read.
I haven't used this programme although we do have its companion All about Spelling. All about Reading was a main contender when we chose Toe by Toe.
All about Reading is multi-sensory and also builds in plenty of review. There are accompanying readers. 
It is rather more expensive than Toe by Toe but would be a better choice for a child learning to read from scratch. Several components are necessary to use the scheme: Interactive kit, Teacher's and Student manual and readers.
It can be purchased, in the UK, from Conquest Books. 

I haven't seen this book but this is designed for use in adult literacy. The book is said to be suitable for learners from 8 to 80 and uses a phonics based programme. Again, this is designed for the non-specialist. Children have used this book to teach their parents or other children.
Yes, we can read costs £35.

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Monday, 6 April 2015

April Inspiration

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. 
Why seek ye the living among the dead? 
Luke 24v5
Today was warm and felt like Spring. I've planted some vegetables although whether they germinate remains to be seen! 

As always, I have a large pile of books to read and a home that is littered with books. As a home educator, I would like my children to love reading too. Recently, I came across this post about establishing a reading culture in the home. 

If you have a child who is learning to read and finds sitting still challenging, then this post about Hands-On Activities for Beginning readers is for you.

 Marianne Sutherland has produced another must read article about Best Spelling apps for Children with Dyslexia. 

I can't quite bring myself to do this activity, yet, as it involves play dough made out of sugar but do take a look at these circuits made out of play dough. Does anyone else find the thought of stickly play dough made from sugar rather off putting?

While we were away recently, we discovered some lovely colouring postcards from Johanna Bashford. They are sold as adult colouring books but we have found them ideal for children who love colouring. The gallery features inspirational colouring.

Last, I've recently found a new UK Christian home educator's blog: An Island Family by Grace. This comes from a family who have just moved to a Scottish island. Posts include frugal living, home education in Scotland and moving. 

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Friday, 3 April 2015

Good Friday

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss.
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the cross of Christ my God,
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet.
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts

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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Three Read Aloud Series

Reading aloud seems to just increase. Currently, I read aloud in the afternoon and at bedtime. Sometimes, we squeeze some extra reading in at the end of the morning. Train journeys are also prime read aloud time. The children also persuade my husband to read to them every evening. 

These are three sets of books that have won approval recently. 

The Jake books by Nick and Annette Butterworth.
These are short chapter books about a mischievous dog and his owners. Right, and Jake, always prevail! These are great for children who are just starting to read chapter books, and my initial intention was for Younger Daughter to read these, until her brother decided that he wanted to hear them read aloud. We have found some of this series in the local public library.

Shakespeare stories by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross.
Again, very short books but with a synopsis of a Shakespeare play. The books only have one or two quotes from the actual plays but have generated interest in seeing the plays.

Patricia St John books
I suppose that strictly speaking these are not a series but a set of books for children by a Christian author. We have devoured Rainbow Garden,
Tanglewood Secrets and are currently reading Treasures of the Snow. I have to admit to pulling out my copy of Twice Freed, a story based around the Biblical character Onesimus and rereading this. When a friend lent us Treasures of the Snow, I read it through within a day or two. I had to check it was suitable! Hmm, I don't think my daughter was taken in. 
All the books that I have mentioned, except Twice Freed, are ideal for children from about 6 and above. Twice Freed is aimed at a slightly older audience. I would guess about 10+.

I love to know about different books and series which we will enjoy. Please share.

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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Top Family Days Out in England

This is a personal list of some of our favourite days out. It is limited by places which we have visited and by our own personal bias. We live in the South of England so that is probably over-represented. Please add your own favourite places-we may not know about them or they may be on our wish list and your suggestion may prioritise them!

Best Museum:
Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.

Best fairytale castle: Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

Best historical castle: Dover Castle

Best outside day for the family:  Carding Mill Valley, Shropshire

Best Educational Trip: Chocolate Museum, London.

Best free Museum: Science Museum, London

Best Beaches: Dorest-difficult to decide between Sandbanks and Lulworth Cove

Best town: Ludlow

Best mysterious historical monument: Stonehenge

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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Energy and the End of Term

This week marks the end of term. No, we don't home educate year round. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I am looking forward to the holiday.

This is the end of term when creativity fails, when I am glad to have a plan and when any unsorted areas in the plan show up. This is the week when I realise that the read-aloud isn't going well and we end up reading Sixth form at St Clares as a replacement.

This is the time when I know that I can't possibly be the mother that I should be when I need God's grace more than ever. This is the time when I need to remember, more than ever, on one of my favourite texts
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness
2 Corinthians 12v9

At a recent service, we sang a hymn which seemed so relevant for a Christian mother at the end of term. I don't recall ever having sung it before.
This hymn is a thought of the futility of relying on our own strength and based on Psalm 127. It was written by the Victorian hymnwriter Harriet Auber although she seems to have used a different version in her Spirit of the Psalms. 

Vain the toiling of the builder
 Where a home knows not the Lord;
Vain the watching over loved ones
    Where there is no help from God.

Vain are all the years of labour,

    Times of trial and distress,
And, without God’s love and favour,
    Vain the talents we possess.

Vainer still the hopes of Heaven

    That on human strength rely;
But to them shall help be given
    Who in humble faith apply.

Let us seek the Lord’s Anointed,

    And His pardon, life and peace;
Souls are never disappointed
    Who, through Christ, their prayer address.

May our lives bring light and blessing

    And redemption to the young;
May they, Jesus’ love confessing,
    Swell the everlasting song.

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