Thursday, 23 March 2017

Book Catch-up: Reading Challenge

I have fallen way behind with posts about the Reading Challenge. Using this challenge has proved useful to push me into reading beyond my usual fare of children's books, biography and the occasional novel.

Anyway, some highlights from my reading. I have put the category of book in brackets. The full list is found at the page called Books read 2017.

These Strange Ashes (By or about a missionary) This book by Elizabeth Elliot was recommended by a friend. Elizabeth Elliot tells the story of her first year as a missionary, how everything went wrong and what God brought out of this.

Jonathan Edwards (Book less than 100 pages) This book is from Simonetta Carr's lovely series of picture books. They aren't cheap but everyone that I have read has been well worth reading. The books have maps, timelines and pictures. The book about Jonathan Edwards ends with a great quote from a letter to his daughter. I usually don't mind whether I read books or ebooks but these are proper books that are beautifully produced and even feel good. Highly recommended.

God's Smuggler (Choice) Another book recommended by a friend. An amazing story of God's provision and how Bibles got into the former Soviet block.

A guide to Christian living (Christian living) This is a chapter from John Calvin's Institutes in book form. It is short and surprisingly readable.

I've just ventured into audiobooks via Librivox. My first try was a bit of a fail. Augustine's Confessions was just too difficult. My second try was John Buchan's Mr Standfast which was better but much harder to follow than in print. Has anyone else found that they can only manage easy books on audio?

Current reading and challenges
As usual there are several books on the go

  • Market day of the Soul (Theology)is about how the Lord's Day was kept during the years 1532 to 1700. This book isn't quite what I had thought. My aim had been to read a book about the Biblical principles for keeping the Lord's Day so that I could then work out practical details. It is really more historical which is interesting but I still need to read a book about principles. I do wish that the old spelling had been updated.
  • The Nation's Favourite Poems (Poetry). A fascinating read and has forced me to read some famous poems that I haven't read before. I have been surprised by the world view of some famous poets and have enjoyed the introduction to others.
  • The Zookeeper's Wife (New York Times best seller) This is a true story of how the Zookeeper of Warsaw Zoo and his wife sheltered Jews during the Second World War. A fascinating and easy read-so far.
Challenges-OK, I have got stuck on a few books and this is why.
  • Holy War (recommended by your pastor). This is on the church recommended list. Why did I get stuck? I lent it to someone else in the middle of reading it which probably wasn't clever.  Anyway, it has been returned so hopefully, I can get reading again soon.
  • Catastrophe: Europe goes to war 1914 (history). I like this book but it isn't the sort of book to read just before midnight or while the vegetables are cooking or in ten minutes after lunch. I'm hoping to finish it but it might need to wait until my summer holiday.
  • John Calvin on Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Haggai.(commentary) This has been a challenge for similar reasons. It requires time and proper concentration. I had a slot for it first thing in the morning but have been thrown by the difference in length of the sections.

As always, I love book recommendations and would be delighted to have any advice on audio books and managing longer books.

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Book Catch-up: Read alouds

It is a while since I have written about books. We usually have several read alouds running at once. 

The current read alouds are

The latter is a strange read aloud but is much loved by Younger Son. We only read a page or so at a time and it usually provokes discussion. 

Other recent read alouds have been those for the Book Club. These were Gentle Ben for the older group which Younger Daughter attends and Charlotte's Web for Youngest Son. Youngest Son loved both of these books. 

A friend recommended Gentle Ben some time ago and it has been a great choice for our North America topic in the book club. It is about a friendship between a boy and a large brown bear. The book is set in Alaska where livelihoods are dependent on the annual salmon run. Fascinatingly, the Swedish authorities refused to screen the television programme made from the book, as they were worried that it might encourage people to befriend a potentially dangerous animal.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading The family with Two Front Doors with Younger Daughter. I have written about this book before but recommend it. We hope to study the Second World War next year and reading this book, is helpful background to some of the antisemitism which existed between the wars and the effect of the Holocaust on families. Yet, despite this the book is mainly happy and centres around family life and a wedding.  Having read the book, we are hoping to make challah.

We have also finished a children's biography of CS Lewis:The Story Teller by Derek Bingham. My children all love the Chronicles of Narnia so finding out more about CS Lewis is an obvious extension. Younger Daughter is keen that we read War in the Wasteland next. This is a fictionalised telling of the atheist CS Lewis's time in the trenches in the First World War and his thoughts about faith, at that time. 

I would love some recommendations, particularly, as I am putting together some ideas for reading around history from September when we hope to look at the Victorians followed by the First and Second World Wars.

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

5 Ways of Helping Children show Care to Older Family Members

Most families will have some members who are elderly and frail but helping children to show love and respect can need thought. It is easy if Granny can go out and talk to the children but when someone is housebound and challenged cognitively then this can take more thought. These are a few thoughts from personal experience. Please do add more ideas in the comments. Sometimes, our efforts feel woefully thin.

I have started from the premise that children shouldn't be involved in personal care but should be able to help add joy to life.
  • Visit but just for a short time. Generally, people love to see younger relatives but they find them tiring. My eight year old pops into see his Grandmother on most days. He will talk to her for a minute or two then go out. When we went down to see my Mother in a nursing home, I usually didn't stay as long if I had the children with me. Sometimes, we broke the visit into two, split up by a playground visit! On other occasions, the children visited for a short while and my husband took them out while I stayed longer.

  • Help choose presents. Finding presents for very frail people can be difficult, especially, if they are on a modified diet. Sometimes, a child can suddenly hit on a great idea especially, if this is something that the whole family has been discussing. One of my children spotted a lovely illustrated book which was ideal as a gift. Some people may appreciate pictures and cards from the children although do handle this sensitively, particularly if there is cognitive impairment involved and Granny/Grandad can't be relied upon to say the appropriate thing!

  • Read/recite part of the Bible or a favourite poem. The children and I recently practiced and read Daffodils: I wandered lonely as a cloud.  Make sure that you also provide a large print version and that hearing aid/reading glasses are used, as necessary.

  • Look at old family photographs together. The children will be amused at the sight of their parents as children or older siblings when much younger.

  • It may be appropriate to involve an older child in meal preparation. One of mine has been able to puree a roast properly. This means pureeing all the components separately and shaping them so that the meal looks attractive. Realistically, it is not possible to do this and serve up at the same time! While normal fish and chips were still on the menu, one of my older children was always happy to go to the chippie for his Grandmother.
Don't forget to encourage the children to pray for their older relatives.

Be sensitive about
  • cognitive impairment. Remind the person you are visiting of your name, even if you are a son or daughter. Don't test them on the names of the grandchildren/greatgrandchildren. People can enjoy your visit even if they can't remember your name. 
  • Hearing issues. Avoid background noise and speak clearly.
  • There may be times when it isn't appropriate to take children to visit. They are few and far between but if the older relative is distressed or in pain then a visit may not be right. Generally, though it is better to visit.
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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

March Inspiration

This February doesn't seem to have been as grey as some and now we are in March! Very almost the end of winter.
Photo by Younger Daughter

We are always looking for more science activities to do at home. We enjoyed this video and have already done several including the lovely Skittle investigation.

Yet more science! Last year, our home education group book club took part in the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize as a judging panel. The application form for this year is now up. Any children's group which can read, discuss and vote on the shortlisted books is eligible to apply.

This year is the five hundredth anniversary of the Martin Luther pinning his theses to the door of Wittenberg church.The Trinitarian Bible Society has produced some quizzes for children and is awarding children who complete the quiz correctly with a copy of the Commemorative Reformation Bible.

This Reading Mama has a useful chart for analysing fiction. I can see myself printing this off for my book group. There is a similar non-fiction chart.

If you have children 10 or under who are interested in learning languages then this Junior Language Challenge may be for you. It starts on 10th March but sign-up is happening now. 

There is almost too much going on! Shakespeare Week is also on in March. I'm not sure that we will do Shakespeare Week, this year-I'm struggling to fit everything in! Anyway, the site has plenty of ideas for learning about Shakespeare. 

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Thursday, 23 February 2017

A day in Education at Home

There isn't an average day but I thought that I would write about a fairly ordinary day. Like most days, there were some differences: on more days than not we see other children and not going out because of the weather is a very rare event. Anyway, here goes:

 We were about on time starting, today. Sometimes, we lag. I don't like dragging tired children out of bed and the children can be a bit reluctant to have breakfast when there are carers in the kitchen but today, things went fairly well. When we start late, I try to stop a bit later for lunch.

We start Morning Time with prayer, a reading from The Ology,
work on our memory work which is currently Psalm 98-today we focused on verse 4 and sang our hymn for the week: Before Jehovah's awesome throne. We then did the day's problem from Bedtime Math. Today, this was about Lego towers. 

Younger Daughter then went to read The Thieves of Ostia while I read Charlotte's Web to Youngest Son. 

 We went onto English/literacy/language arts or whatever you want to call the subject. This included

  • reading for both children.
  • spelling. Both children use All about Spelling.
    Younger Daughter had a day off spelling as she had put in tremendous effort to finish her book yesterday. I hope to start the next level with her on Monday.
  • Writing with Ease for Youngest Son.
  • Latin for Younger Daughter. We started Minimus Secundus today,
    having finished the first book, yesterday. Minimus is a primary Latin curriculum which is working well for us. 
  • Younger Son working on a talk for our local home education group. The children take turns to give a short  talk and Powerpoint presentation to the group. As we are studying countries, this is currently about a country. Younger Son's talk is about the USA so he was finding pictures of early explorers and putting these into the presentation.

Today, Younger Daughter wanted to do a Skittle and water activity. The results were splendid.
She and her younger brother then went on to make lava lamps with oil, water, food colouring and a vitamin C tablet.
I used the break to spend a bit of time with Grandma and sort out some household tasks.

Both children start with 10 questions which I write in their maths books, the previous day. These questions are usually around tables practice. After that, they go onto Galore Park Maths. 
My daughter was working on transformations and enjoyed this. 
Youngest Son continued work on equivalent fractions and then all three of us played Fraction Bingo which looks, again, at equivalent fractions.

Youngest Son requested another chapter of Charlotte's Web so I thought the lunch could wait!

Break for lunch/answering door to carers and district nurse and being around for them.

After lunch, both children spent about an hour on the trampoline and in the garden. It was very windy and we ended up sorting out some fence repairs from the wind.

We had a read aloud from Children of the New Forest and then about how bicycles work from Can you feel the Force?
At this point, the wind was howling and small branches were hurtling around. I had planned to go out, look at our bikes to fit in with the reading, do a nature walk and end up in the playground but I lost my nerve. Usually, we go out whatever the weather and  think that there isn't bad weather only bad clothes. Today, I wasn't sure how clothes would protect us from the wind so we stayed in and watched a video about Home Science activities. 

 Younger Daughter went on to make coloured sand (rice) from the instructions on the video and then a file to hold her books from another video on this channel. 

Not a bad day but not a perfect day. I would love to know about your day and in particular, what has worked well for you.

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Friday, 10 February 2017

First half term 2017

We divide our year into half terms, like most UK schools. This means that we never go too long without a break. Today marks the end of the first half term of the year.

This has been an odd half term. Grandma came home from hospital near the beginning and then my husband and the children had a trip to Moscow to meet up with our eldest daughter.

Having Grandma home has led to changes. Strangely, although we have more carers visiting and more visits, having the first visit earlier in the day has led to fewer interruptions in the morning. Although, we have had a spate of late morning visits from various professionals which has been rather disruptive to maths and led me to wonder whether we ought to change to a computer based programme. I'm not sure yet and would prefer to leave things as they are. 

The Moscow trip was exciting, in many ways because there was proper snow.

The children were also able to see some of the main sites in the city.

Moscow photos by kind permission of Younger Daughter

Youngest Son hadn't flown before and Younger Daughter had flown once when she was too young to remember so this has been an important trip.
We have spent time learning a little about Russian history, music, food and geography.

Our read alouds this half term haven't been around the Russian theme but were Little House in the Big Woods and The Long Winter for the children's book clubs. We have also started Children of the New Forest which fits in with our history and has led to a fair amount of discussion around the sides in the English Civil War. For morning time, we are reading

  • The Ology
  • Claude Monet: Magician of Colour
  • The Ultimate Book of Science
I'm looking forward to having some time to evaluate and read over half term and maybe have some rest!

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Thursday, 2 February 2017

February Inspiration

February is the next month to March! And, there is plenty to read.

Growing book by book has a Family Dinner Book club. It sounds a great idea although currently, I am struggling a bit with having care givers arriving in the middle of our main meal and needing to sort out a second different meal. Perhaps, this might work better for us at a different time of day. I don't know most of the books although can recommend Boxes for Katje,which is a real tear jerker, and The Pumpkin Runner.

Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin's house is for sale, if anyone has a spare almost £1.9 million.

A lovely thought about home educating teens, from Kat at Boyschooling. 

Thoughts about helping children who have a maths phobia. The second point is really important. People often say negative things about maths in a way that they never would about reading. How often have you heard an adult say 
I never really liked/understood maths. 


Algebra/statistics isn't useful for everyday life?

Last, a most enormous list of poetry anthologies for children which cover so many subjects. I have been drooling over the grammar and spelling books but there is so much more.

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