Thursday, 18 May 2017

Sources of home education inspiration: English

This is the second post with resources for home education. I don't pretend to list every resource. These are either programmes/sites which I have used, referred to or seriously considered using. The comments are my personal views.


  • Early years: we loved the picture book based curriculum, Five in a Row which has ideas around picture books. Even if you don't use the books, it is worth checking out the book lists. Branch Out World has a similar type of idea but produces unit studies around UK based picture books.



  • Learning to read. Opinions on learning to read vary and some children seem to learn with very little instruction. For the rest, programmes which teach synthetic phonics seem to have evidence based approval. We have used Jolly Phonics but found that there wasn't enough repetition nor explanation of some difficulties. 
  • I have written about reading programmes for children who need more instruction. If I were starting to teach a child to read now, I would use either All about reading or Dancing Bears. Reading Eggs is a popular on line programme. It is helpful re-enforcement for other reading instruction as is Nessy.  The latter is particularly useful for learners who find reading difficult.

  • For spelling, we use All about Spelling. This is a methodical, teacher intensive programme with plenty of review built in. In the past, I have used Schofield and Sims spelling workbooks with an older child. These are a cheaper alternative for children who don't struggle with spelling. 
  • I haven't used but was impressed with Alpha to Omega which would cover reading and spelling. Again, I haven't used the Structured Word Inquiry but this sounds a fascinating way to help children with spelling. I haven't been able to find a book about this-I'm sure that someone should write one or tell me where one exists! Nessy is a painless way of re-enforcing spelling.


  • Creative writing. There are an enormous number of programmes around and even more views on how to teach creative writing or, indeed, on whether it should be taught at all. Anyway, we have used WriteShop which has clear instructions; Bravewriter which has somewhat less clear information about what to do but plenty of encouragement for helping reluctant writers and a set of books: . Pie Corbett's books are helpful. I have used the Key Stage one book, How to teach story writing at Key Stage 1, and also Jumpstart: Literacy games for 7-14 year olds. A helpful set of books are published by QED and called How to write. 

  • Grammar, punctuation, comprehension. We don't do as much grammar as schools seem to be doing for the year 6 stats testing. We tend to use the Galore Park books for this part of English although we have the older edition. The newer edition seems to include more grammar. Jumpstart, by Pie Corbett, has some games which can be used. This year, we have used Writing with Ease which has worked reasonably well for one child and not at all well for the other. This is sold as a writing course but includes copy work, dictation and close style narration. I find the narration questions similar to the comprehension questions in Galore Park. The premise of this book is that creative writing is not necessary at a young age. I struggle with this idea so wouldn't use Writing with Ease alone for writing.

  • Handwriting. We have used several programmes: Schofield and Sims (we liked this but my children need more than two thin books worth of practice), Getty Dubay (this worked well until we reached cursive which looked too different to UK script), Morrell workbooks. I have wondered about Handwriting without Tears but rejected this as the cursive was unlike most UK styles. Please let me know if you have any recommendations. Ideally, I would like something which can be done for a short time daily.

  • ExtrasShakespeare week has plenty of resources for introducing younger children to the bard. Don't forget the local library for books. Recently, I have used the library online search more and more rather than just looking at random when I arrive. 
Please do write about your favourite resources and let me know if I have left out some major area. 

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

May Inspiration

May is coldly beautiful here, this year. 

As we start our last term of the school year, I am planning for next year. Tempting as it is to buy loads of new curriculum, this isn't always the right choice. This post talks about not needing new resources.

One thing that I am wondering about doing new year is the John Muir award. I haven't quite decided yet but it looks interesting. Has anyone used this programme?

A piece of kit that we aren't planning to change is All About Spelling. All about Learning Press has a useful blog and there is a recent article about 7 ways to make spelling logical.

The Katie books and some of the Lawrence Anholt books have been very popular here so I was pleased to find a post about art books for children which includes these and adds others.

I really enjoyed this piece of writing about how the author learned from both her  homeschooling mother and mother in law.

Finally, not a post but a book that is proving helpful is Pie Corbett's Jumpstart!: Literacy-Games and Activities for ages 7-14. It was recommended to me recently and I have been using it this term. The activities are short and a quick way to add in a little extra writing or work around words. We add one activity to Morning Time, each day, but the games could  be used at many different times of day to introduce topics or to give extra practice.


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Friday, 28 April 2017

Sources of Home Education Inspiration: Part 1

All home educators need inspiration. We may be looking
  • for a new curriculum
  • to supplement an existing curriculum
  • for extra practice
  • to make a difficult area clearer
  • to construct a unit study
  • for holiday ideas
  • any number of other reasons

This post is around where I go for ideas. Please remember that
  • each family varies. What might be great for one family may not work for yours.
  • each child varies
  • blog posts, instagram and Pinterest aren't the whole story. Everyone wants to look their best but remember that we all have difficult days which may not be on show!
  • Just because something is listed doesn't mean that I agree with the owner theologically or educationally.
This post is general but I hope to put up another post around specific areas.

Anyway, here is my general list:

Other local home educators. The massive advantage of this source of information is that you can actually see the resources. Again, it is tempting to think that you have to home educate in the same way as your friends: you don't!

Advice and ideas from on line home education email lists: Deut6v7 is the UK Christian home educators yahoo list.

Facebook home education groups. There are loads of these. You are likely to find a local group helpful. The UK Christian group is very active but there is also a UK Charlotte Mason group as well as international groups for most types of homeschooling. Do bear in mind that international groups tend to have a preponderance of Americans. This isn't a problem but be aware that a lovely heavy book will have a nasty, weighty shipping cost from the US to the UK!


Blogs: my favourites include 




Instagram: this can be a great way of finding out about books. My favourite accounts are 

  • Farmhouseschoolhouse
  •  Lifeographer
  •  mrs.shannonkelly
  •  outdoornaturechallenge
  •  hswotrainingwheels
  • spreadingthefeast
  •  leahvboden

Pinterest-I tend to search for topics rather than look at particular accounts.


Brochures. The Veritas and Sonlight brochures have great book ideas even if you don't intend to use their programmes.


Podcasts. There are many relevant podcasts around. Read aloud Revival isn't specifically for home educators but is run by a US homeschooler. Pam Barnhill runs Your Morning Basket, Homeschool Snapshots and Homeschool Solutions Show.  I have found Your Morning Basket a particularly rich source of ideas. Other podcasts to investigate are Wild and Free and a Delectable Education.

Review sites. I look at The Old Schoolhouse Review CrewCurriculum Choice and Cathy Duffy Reviews.

Solomon said Of the making of many books there is no end. The same applies to home education resources. Please link to your favourite sites. 

I hope to post some specific area resources at a later date.

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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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