Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Girls just like You/Boys just like Me

Jean Stapleton has written a couple of Christian children's books which we have appreciated: Read with Me and God's Special Tent. The latter is an explanation of the tabernacle, the special tent in which God's people met in the wilderness and includes instructions for making a model. So, we were pleased to learn that she has written two more children's devotional books: Girls Just like you: Bible women who trusted God and Boys like me: Bible men who trusted God.

Each of these hardback books contains fifty devotions around either men or women in the Bible. The format is a title, a suggested short Bible reading which is often only one verse, a retelling of the narrative followed by something to think and pray about.  Each book has a ribbon bookmark which seems a sensible addition. 

The characters vary from the very well known: Abraham, Mary and David to the less known Jehoiada and Jehosheba who were real heroes as well as  Shiphrah and Puah.

These books are recommended for ages 3-5 if read aloud and 6-10 for reading independently. This seems about right although I wish the publishers had not started the first paragraph of each day with a large capital which makes the first word  more difficult for young readers. 

These books are ideal for children who need an easy devotional book to read on their own or to read with a parent. They can be obtained from Christian Focus or Amazon.

Disclaimer: I was given these books by the author but was not expected to provide a review.

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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Learning Plans 2017-2018

We have just started our more formal learning again and with a new year there are a few changes. This is a list of my plans. Please note that what works for us may not work for you. Having made this disclaimer, I would add that many of my best ideas have come from other home educators' plans.

Younger Daughter is almost 11 so UK year 6 and Youngest Son is 8 which is UK year 4.

English aka Language Arts
English consists of multiple parts

-Reading. I am planning a time of individual reading, after lunch. This will be reading of the children's choice. Youngest Son will also read aloud to me daily.

-Writing. During morning time, I plan to work through the writing workshops in How to teach English at Key Stage 2 by Pie Corbett. Most  writing will be linked to topics in other subjects.

-Spelling. The plan is that one child will continue to use All about Spelling and the other will use Touch Type Read Spell.

Handwriting: Younger Daughter has been practising calligraphy over the holiday and will have some time to work on this. Youngest Son will use a handwriting workbook and copy work.

Typing: Nessy Typing and Touch Type Read Spell.

Poetry: we plan to continue to have a weekly Poetry Tea. This is much loved and has many benefits including reading aloud, enjoying and discussing poetry, reading dialogue poems with friends and writing. In additon to this, Poetry Tea helps with  planning a small snack and decorating a table.

Grammar and punctuation: we plan to use the Galore Park English books for this.

Extras: We hope to read Julius Caesar, this term, both in a simplified version and as the actual play to fit in with a Royal Shakespeare Company production of this play for schools in the late autumn.

We tend to start math with 10 questions which I write in the children's maths books the previous day. These tend to be short and cover topics which might need revision.                                                                                                                                            
Youngest Son has already started Galore Park Junior Maths book 2 and we hope to continue this.

Younger Daughter is using a different programme this year with the Schofield and Sims Understanding KS2 workbooks.

Maths games most days.

Energy: its forms, changes and functions from the Elementary Physics Series.

Exploring Nature with Children: we are planning to use the new journal although work on one journal between the three of us.

Our home education group is studying science, this year and the group is also a judging panel for the Royal Society Young People's Science Book Prize.            

This year we plan to study the Victorians and the First and Second World Wars.
For the Victorians, we plan to use Our Island Story as the core text and for the First and Second World Wars, The Story of Britain by RJ Unstead.
We hope to supplement with many other books, trips and activities.  This week, we have been consulting a rather old copy of Mrs Beeton to write a Victorian dinner menu.

I have planned three country afternoons during this term. In addition, we use Seterra and probably will use the geography from Valley Christian School Online.

Younger Daughter is signed up for an Explore Art award and has done her first activity for this. While she is working on this Youngest Son will be working on coding using Code.org. 

We plan to use Classics for Kids weekly during morning time. We sing each day and Younger Daughter has piano lessons.

We do a little Latin daily using Minimus. Younger Daughter is already familiar with book one so this is revision for her but new for Youngest Son. 

Physical education
This is mainly informal with visits to the park and time on the trampoline most days. Younger Daughter has been running with friends and has started to go to Park Run, on Saturdays. I would like to add in some longer cycle rides.

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Saturday, 2 September 2017

September Inspiration

I had every intention of blogging more in August but despite having a break from formal learning, this hasn't quite happened. We have had various trips out,
a photography workshop and many friends to play, plus a garden which has been wonderfully productive.

Grandma has enjoyed the general summer bustle and we have made major progress toward her being able to sit out of bed. It has been a long, long saga!

Planning for next year has happened and I hope to post about the resources we hope to use soon.

Earlier in the holiday, we popped into a temporary exhibition of Shirley Hughes' work. Shirley Hughes is famous for her books about Alfie and also Dogger. We particularly like her poetry anthology for younger children, Out and About. 

The Read Aloud Revival has had an interview with another favourite childhood author and illustrator, Helen Oxenham. Helen is the illustrator of Going on a Bear Hunt and it turns out that she is married to John Burningham of Mr Gumby fame.

Nothing to do with education but, at long last, I have found a yeasted banana bread recipe.
Yummy! I have tried increasing the number of bananas for extra flavour but this didn't make much difference to the taste and adversely affected the consistency. If any is left, this loaf is great toasted.

Some time ago, I reviewed Hazel Stapleton's book Looking back with ME. This was orginally privately published but has now been attractively republished by Day One Publications.  

Not infrequently, I am asked about starting home education and resources. Now, into our ninth year, we use a mixture to suit the children's needs and interests. I hope to post about the resources for this coming year very soon. However, there hasn't been a UK Christian curriculum divided by key stages and looking toward UK exams. Just recently, I found out about Valley Christian School Online which plans to fill this gap. I haven't used the resources as yet but am in the process of signing up to use some of the Key Stage 2 materials. It is looking very promising and if all goes well, I plan to update about this.

Farmhouse Schoolhouse is a US blog and Instagram feed and one of my favourites. There is a new post about resources on the blog. I like the disclaimer that the post is to give ideas rather than something to copy. The part about not buying cheap crayons resonated. We have found that, here in the UK, Straedtler pencils and Berol felt tip pens last far longer than cheaper alternatives. 

We are looking forward to the start of the new learning year and hope to be having a not back to school picnic with our home education group to celebrate! Do you have plans to mark this time of year?

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Friday, 25 August 2017

The Girl who thought in Pictures

It isn't always easy to help children to understand people who appear different. Background knowledge is  needed to help them befriend people who may behave in different ways. The Girl who thought in Pictures: The story of Dr Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca, is a successful attempt at explaining about how life felt for one autistic young girl.

Temple Grandin is a professor in agriculture and has autism. This book about her is a picture book with rhyming text.
The illustrations, by Daniel Reiley, are clear and make such sense in a book where the major character thinks in pictures.
I particularly liked the front and back pages. 

Temple was an unusual baby and found loud noises
and some sensations difficult to manage, in addition, she was a late talker. These difficulties made school a challenge and adding bullying into the equation meant that Temple snapped and was expelled. Temple had a supportive mother who sent her off to stay with an aunt who kept a ranch. Temple was in her element with the animals and this led to a high flying career in agriculture as well as in  advocacy for autism.

A lovely book which shows how people with apparent disabilities can succeed with the right encouragement. The unsung heroes of this book are Temple's relations who helped her find her strengths.

The last few pages contain fun facts, a time line and a potted, more formal biography.

Recommended particularly for children from about 5 to 8.

The Girl who thought in Pictures is published by the Innovation Press and is available from Amazon in the US. In the UK it is available to preorder from Amazon.co.uk. It is releasing on 29th August. It is currently available from the Book Depository and Wordery. In the US, The Girl who thought in Pictures is sold in Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: This book was supplied to me for review. I was not required to write a positive review

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Monday, 14 August 2017

New Nature Journal

Lynn Seddon's Exploring Nature with Children is the best resource I know for learning about nature with a family. As part of this, Lynn suggests making a nature journal and now, to help with this she has produced a guided nature journal to help you and your children keep a record of what you have learned and seen. The journal is set up by seasons with a section for each week and includes
  •  a page for a picture about the nature walk. This page has a box to record the weather
  • a poem to copy
  • an art study page
  • pages for extension activities
  • a place to record nature books read 
  • a calendar of firsts
The journal comes as a pdf and is available in printing and cursive versions. 

I am looking forward to using the journal with my family and creating a record of our year. 

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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Sources of Home Education Inspiration: History

This is the fourth in a series about resources in home education. 
Part 1: Sources of home education inspiration.
Part 2:English
Part 3: Science
This post focuses on history. There are plenty of materials around so I have concentrated on those which we have used.

History Curriculum

  • Veritas self paced. We used this curriculum for a couple of years doing the Greeks,Romans and New Testament year followed by the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. These are all on the computer and require a daily slot to get through the sessions over a year. In addition, to the computer programme, history cards are needed. There are optional literature selections which I highly recommend. This programme was very popular with my history loving daughter. Both she, and I, learned so much. In addition, to the actual teaching there are map activities, a history song, revision games and more. Highly recommended. Sadly, the latter years tend to focus on US history which is our only reason for leaving Veritas self paced. If they had a parallel world history unit then we would be very interested!
  • Story of the World. We have used this curriculum in a couple of ways. First, to add to parts of history which we had learned out with Veritas. This worked well and second, as a history curriculum over the past year along with the activity book. Sadly, this has worked less well for us. This has been for several reasons: there are many topics but no built in revision so it has been difficult to hold the information and also because the activity book has been overwhelming. There are too many book choices, very few of which are available in the UK. We haven't used the first volume much but please note that some of the Bible sections are not Biblically accurate.
  • Story of God's Dealings with our Nation by Christina Eastwood. This is a Christian, UK history. We did find its format a little dry and worksheet based but I plan to use it again, alongside other books.

There are so many books which can be used. These books are most relevant for primary aged children.
  • People in History and other titles by RG Unstead. These books have been around for years. I remember reading Unstead's histories when I was in school. Unstead was actually a primary school head teacher after the Second World War and wrote easy histories for his pupils. The older editions also tend to have large font.
  • Our Island Story by HE Marshall is the history of the UK. It is available as a book or as an audio book. The pluses of this book are that it is very readable and that it has more detail about the Middle Ages than many similar books but the downside is that it stops at the end of Victoria's reign. 
  • The Great History of Britain by Anne and Paul Fryer is suitable for children from about six and is another book with large font making it ideal for early readers.
  • Ladybird history books are generally out of print but cheap second hand. They have a picture on each page.
  • Usborne and DK have many illustrated history books which we often add to learning about any particular time period.
  • Simonetta Carr's Christian biographies for Young Readers are beautifully produced books around characters in church history. Each book includes maps and timelines.


We have found historical fiction an amazing way to raise interest in history. This list could be enormous so I will limit this to the books which have had most influence here.
  • Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence. These have been read by both older and younger children. One of my younger children is a real enthusiast about these books and Roman times. Reading the Roman Mysteries has piqued an interest in all things Roman.
  • Veritas historical literature lists. We used these when we used the Veritas self paced curriculum.
  • My blog post on chapter books contains many more suggestions.
  • Timeline. We have sometimes used timelines and tend to make our own using wall paper lining paper which is cheap and cheerful.The Trinitarian Bible Society have produced a rather more beautiful timeline of the Reformation.
  • Visits. Adding visits to museums and historical sites is easy. English Heritage allows free educational visits although these do have to be booked in advance. Many museums are free.
  • Book of Centuries is really another way of keeping a timeline. This link explains. We haven't made a Book of Centuries yet.
  • History file. This is an idea from a friend which I hope to start in the autumn. This involves keeping a file of history work, pictures and leaflets, perhaps from somewhere which you visit, in chronological order. It sounds an easy way of keeping everything in order, both physically and intellectually. 
  • Young Archaeologists club. This is a fantastic resource. There are branches all over the country. Our club meets once a month and also has trips to exhibitions as well as talks which usually include some sort of activity and often the chance to handle archaeological artefacts.
  • Themed meals. For the last couple of years, we have had a meal themed to the history which we have been studying. The first year was a Medieval banquet and the second a Thanksgiving dinner to remember the Pilgrim Fathers. Both involved dressing up and relevant cooking as well as investigating music and wall decorations.  This has been an amazing learning experience.
Please share your favourite history resources. I'm always looking for more!

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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Exploring Nature with Children: Exciting News

Nature walks form part of our week. Over the last couple of years, we have used Lynn Seddon's book Exploring Nature with Children for weekly inspiration and guidance. I have written about Exploring Nature with Children before. 

The nature walks don't have to be anywhere special or difficult to get at: the back garden or local park are ideal venues. The book provides so much more than just ideas for nature walks. It includes a poem and picture suggestion for each week as well as titles of books for additional reading. There are also many ideas for additional activities which cover art, science,writing and more. 

Lynn is now about to bring out another volume called Exploring Nature with Children: a Guided Journal. The aim of this book is to take a child through a year of nature journaling. I am excited about this new book and will let you know about it as soon as possible. 

Exploring Nature with Children can be started at any time of year although it begins from September. This is an ideal addition to a home educator's week but could also be used with schooled children after school, at weekends and holidays.

Disclaimer: These are affiliate links but this is a resource which we have used and enjoyed.

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