Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Summer of Suspense

Mystery stories are always popular among the children in my book club so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review Summer of Suspense, by CR Hedgcock.  

Summer of Suspense is the first in a series of six Baker Family Adventures. These feature the Baker family who are a family with four children, who live on a farm. It wasn't completely clear from Summer of Suspense but I think that they live in the US although their cousin, Millie, who also appears in the book, comes from England.

Mr Baker has to go to England to help his wealthy brother, Clive, with a new invention while Millie visits the Baker family and plans to take part in a horse riding competition along with two of her cousins. Millie turns out to be spoiled and selfish. My initial thought was that she would be the antagonist of the story although I changed my mind as I read. Millie makes life difficult for her cousins and in particular, allows the horses loose and hides her own horse. When this happens again, Millie is blamed and no one believes that her horse has actually disappeared but when Millie herself disappears, then her cousin, Abby, the family is alarmed. 

The story then becomes  fast paced with car chases, hiding, ransom demands and criminals before reaching a happy conclusion. 

The book is written from a Christian perspective. The Baker family pray and remember Scripture at difficult times. Millie becomes a more pleasant person at the end of the book. It isn't clear, to me, whether this is just to fit in, or whether she is seeking to know the Lord. I would have liked to see Millie's character more developed and perhaps, to know more from her point of view. This may happen in later books.

The author was home educated and this is one of those rare books which includes characters who learn at home. However, this isn't a major feature of the plot and the book will also be enjoyed by children who go to school.

This story will appeal to 8 to 12 year olds, particularly those who like adventure and horses. It isn't for the very sensitive as it is quite dramatic in places and does include criminals and kidnapping. I am looking forward to sharing it with the book club.

Summer of Suspense can be obtained from Amazon or from Grace and Truth books.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of Summer of Suspense. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are my own.

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Monday, 10 April 2017

Useful home education supplies (you might be surprised)

When I think of what makes our days work, some things are obvious and others less so.
  • Large supply of pencils. We used to spend time every day playing Hunt the pencil. This is a game of dubious educational merit. Buying a large supply of pencils, every summer, has eliminated this. We just return pencils to their container when they are found.

  • Lining paper. Yes, the sort that is used for decorating. This has numerous uses: timelines, painting for younger children or at groups, brainstorming, tablecloth at Poetry Tea where it helps creativity.
    I use both sides of the paper and of course, it recycles. This post from Farmhouse Schoolhouse talks about assessing children's knowledge using similar large sheets of paper.

  • A phone. Not everyone will agree but I use my phone in morning time for music (Classics for Kids) and Bedtime Math. At other times, it is used to quickly look up topics. Yes, I know that there are problems with looking things up on the internet but it is very useful for quickly finding pictures of cocoa beans or the capital of French Guiana (Cayenne). The phone is also useful for taking quick pictures to document learning.
Making chocolates on a group trip
  • A white board. This is a recent addition, for us, but I wish that we had purchased this earlier. We use a magnetic board  with All about Spelling but also use it for vocabulary word, drawing, dictation, working out maths and so on.

  • Outside space. We are privileged to have a garden and several parks nearby but whilst all this isn't necessary, I would find it difficult to home educate without some outside space. We go outside for exercise, nature study, for poetry on sunny days, for picnics and discussion and to improve days that aren't going so well! Charlotte Mason talks about children spending hours outside-four to six hours a day on fine days from April to October. We don't usually get up to Charlotte Mason levels of outside time! However, UK government recommendations are at least an hour a day of aerobic exercise, for children, and it is certainly easier to do aerobic exercise outside. 
If you are a home educator, what are your top home education supplies?

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Thursday, 6 April 2017

Picture Books about South America

Picture books about South America seem few and far between. Over the last couple of years, we have been learning about the continents at our local home education group. South America has been, by far, the most difficult in terms of researching picture books, and chapter books for that matter. This is a South American list-some of the lists that I have researched have put Central America with South America. There are a reasonable number of books about Mexico but strictly, that comes under North America.


Anyway, these are the few that I have found.


  • Ecuador Adventure: Jim Elliot by Colin Jones. This is a picture book about the missionaries who were martyred in Ecuador in the 1950s. This is well, but sensitively, presented. This book is rather longer than the others and is probably aimed at the 7-11 age group.
  • Mia's Story by Michael Foreman. This is the story of a little girl who lives in a shanty town ,built on a rubbish dump, in Chile. The sort of book that I want to read to my children to remind them of how much we have.
  • Lost City:The Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin is the  story of the finding of the remains of Machu Picchu, in 1911, by Professor Hiram Bingham. A fascinating, older children's picture book (ideal for 5 to 10s, I would think). It does refer to Something going on. Something just beyond his eyes. What was it?
  • Tonight is Carnaval is a book about waiting for the carnival illustrated with arpilleras which are sewn pictures from South America.  For some reason carnival is spelled, throughout the book, as I have written in the title.
  • Waiting for the Biblioburro is the true story of a man who brings a library of books to remote villages in Columbia on two donkeys. This is the sort of picture book which it would be easy to use as the basis of a unit study.
I haven't seen If you were me and lived in Peru but we have used and enjoyed other books in this series.

Please feel free to add other picture books about South America in the comments.

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Saturday, 1 April 2017

April Inspiration

The end of March and beginning of April have felt like Spring, perhaps my favourite season. It has even been warm enough for a picnic.

Yesterday, our home education group had a visit from Douglas Bond. He talked about the process of writing, answered questions and read from a couple of his books, including his latest release, Luther in Love which is a biographical novel about Martin and Katharina Luther.  Sadly, I failed to take any pictures of the day although it well attended and some families travelled a fair way to be there. Ossett Christian Bookshop stock Douglas Bond's books and have Luther in Love in stock. 

Tim Challies has started a new series about Christian men and their godly mothers. So far, there have been two installments about the mothers of John Newton and Hudston Taylor. Both have been encouraging reads for those of us in the trenches. I'm looking forward to more.

There is often discussion on home education forums about entry requirements to university. King's College, Cambridge has produced a page especially for home educated applicants.

Not before 7 has a post about creating a book club with loads of detail about different sorts of club and links to resources.

I love resource rich peeps into other people's home education and have been enjoying the Farmhouse Schoolhouse instagram for some time. Elsie has produced a description of a couple of weeks of her children's home education which is full of links and ideas. I do think that it is important when reading about other people's homes to remember that we have all been given different circumstances and that ideas that work well in another family aren't necessarily right for you.

We are looking forward to a break from formal bookwork over the next few weeks although that doesn't necessarily correspond to quiet!

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