Monday, 31 August 2015

Home Education Wobbles

September isn't an easy time for home educators. Conversations, both in real life and on Facebook, become filled with new schools, uniform and Mum's coffee mornings. Schools sound wonderful academically and even spiritually. Every school seems to have an outstanding OFSTED report and to be a lovely Church of England school, usually with a godly headteacher.

There always seem to be a fair few parents who wondered about home education who decide that their child is going to school. This does pinpoint that we are on a quieter route.

As home educators, it is easy to feel inadequate spiritually and academically. Yes, and what is more that is probably true. None of us is sufficient of ourselves. God is our sufficiency.

If we are taking this less trodden road because it is our conviction that this is how we should bring up a child in the nuture and admonition of the Lord then our duty is to be faithful. God has promised to give wisdom to those who ask. 

 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
 James 1 v 5
This is the time to go back to basics. This is the time to revisit why we home educate. One of the best things that we were advised was to write this down.

Of course, we need to provide the best possible education. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the possibilities. If you are a new Christian home educator, then start with Bible, English and maths and build out. It is easy to be thrown by home educators whose children are taking maths GCSE aged 7 or by concerns about whether you should provide DT. Do the basics first and remember that you are doing this to the Lord and not to man.

Home educators need encouragement so we shouldn't forget to meet up with others either formally or informally. The best ideas usually come from other home educating parents. School ideas may not work at home. 

Enjoy the children. Enjoy being able to take them outside when everyone else is in school.
Enjoy being able to go to museums and on trips when they are not full of families on school holidays.
Enjoy seeing the children when they aren't over tired.

 Enjoy not having to get tired children to do home work.

Enjoy seeing the children learn and talking to them about what the Lord has done.

Bless the Lord, O my soul and let all that is within me bless His holy name. 
Psalm 103 v1

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Books for Children about the Middle Ages

We are using the Veritas self paced course on The Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. Veritas has a helpful list of suggested books which we add at the point when these are suggested but we are also hoping to add  to this. My list isn't exhaustive. I'm using these books with my children aged 6 and 8 but do bear in mind that one of the children loves history and would spend all day learning about history given half a chance. 

This list is mainly for the Middle Ages and Renaissance. There are some more books that I would like to add for the Reformation but I need to do some prereading first, for age suitability.

I'm always looking for more ideas so feel free to suggest books.

General Books
  • Story of the World:volume 2. The Middle Ages. Susan Wise Bauer's book is the basis of its own history curriculum but it is well written and easy to add as an extra. We already had this book but not the activity book. However, since I found the activity book in the local home education library, of course, I borrowed it. The activity book has been a rich source of ideas and discussion, particularly, around the authenticity of the recipe for Viking bread.
  • Great History of Britain by Anne and Paul Fryer. This is suitable for many children of this age to read on their own and has clear, large print.
  • Our Island Story. This classic, by Henrietta Marshall, has many chapters on the Middle Ages. 
  • Simonetta Carr has produced a range of biographies in her series Christian biographies for Young Readers. These are beautiful books containing illustrations, maps and timelines. Several of these cover the Middle Ages and the Reformation: These books aren't cheap but are well worth adding to your library.
  • Ladybird history books again have a wide range and many cover characters from this time period. They are out of print but can often be found second hand fairly cheaply.
  • Saint Patrick: Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael McHugh. Don't be put off by the saint in the title. This isn't hagiography but the account of a Christian missionary in the Early Church.
  • Beorn the Proud is the story of a young Viking chieftain. I am sure that this book presents a rather rosy view of life as a Viking captive but that does make it suitable reading for children!
  • The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge
  • Lord of the Forest by BB is the fictionalised story of an oak tree and starts in the Middle Ages. 
  • Enid Blyton's Tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur and his knights. The Veritas list includes the Roger Lancelyn Green version of Robin Hood.
Other Non-Fiction

  • Castle and Cathedral by David Macaulay. These are fascinating accounts of the way in which a fictional castle or cathedral was built.
  • DK Eye Witness guides including Renaissance, Knights and Leonardo. 
  • Double Take: Two sides One story. Battle of Hastings. This gives Harold and William's side to the story. My children have strong opinions about who was really entitled to the throne so this will make interesting reading.
What would you add to this list?

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wild London

It always surprises me, how much of London is green and not at all built up. Richmond Park is an example of this-there are times when it doesn't feel at at all like London. An ideal summer trip with children even if the day is overcast. 
Deer-I loved the antlers poking out.

 Old trees-this old oak reminded me of the one in Lord of the Forest.


Signs of impending autumn.


and model boats.

Just for anyone else who might think of doing this, make sure that you know the location of your car park and remember that the Isabella Plantation has more than entrance. Don't ask why you need to be warned!

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Providing Food for Older People

Eating frugally in a three generation family can be challenging. 

  • there are different needs and may be special diets
  • larger range of likes and dislikes
  • need to have a different approach to likes/dislikes of the older generation than the children
Realistically, Granny or Grandad can't be told that if they don't like their food, they have to try at least some. Alternatives have to be provided. Of course, this does have knock on effects on the children! 

Many older people have conservative tastes in food and this seems to narrow as they get older. So, pasta, rice and curry may be out. This has financial implications, you might be able to make a pasta bake with three rashers of bacon in the sauce feed eight but if Granny doesn't eat pasta this doesn't really work.

How to manage?

-Sometimes, it is necessary to cook two main courses. It is unrealistic to expect the rest of the family to live on an endless supply of meat, two veg and potatoes! In addition, this probably isn't either the healthiest and certainly isn't the cheapest option.
-The second main course might have to be a ready meal to save sanity!

Ready meals
  • vary widely in cost. The supermarkets sell ready meals for £1-£1.50. This is for a standard adult portion. I don't usually shop at Asda but they do seem to have the widest range. The specialist suppliers (Cook/Wiltshire Farm Foods/Oakhouse Foods) do have a reasonably wide choice but tend to cost £2.70-3.50 per mini meal. Full sized meals are more expensive.
  • Standard supermarket ready meals may be too large for an older person and putting the whole meal on the place leads to waste. There are two ways round this; either serve up half the meal on one day and leave the rest for the next day. Alternatively, if another family member is either extra hungry or less keen on the food provided for them, they can eat the extra half.
  • Supermarket frozen ready meals are cheaper than those on the fresh shelf.
  • Of course, ready meals can be made at home. When a favourite meal is served, put a portion in a small container and freeze this or even have a special cooking session. I rarely seem to have time for the latter but saving an extra portion does work.
Meals that may appeal to everyone!
I have failed to find enough to make a month's menu! Still, here are a few ideas.
  • Roast chicken/gammon/beef/pork/lamb
  • Casserole-chicken/sausage
  • Sausages and mash
  • chicken kiev
  • quiche
  • lemon chicken
  • chicken goujons
Desserts may be expected by older people and may be important to help them eat enough. I'm not convinced that providing dessert everyday helps the rest of the family so try to provide a choice of fruit or ice cream. 

Please do comment with thoughts/menu ideas or how you feed the older members of your family.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Summer 2015

Like most Summers, this has been a mixture of wonderful trips, fun around the neighbourhood and plain tiredness. Having a holiday where various people fell ill probably didn't help with the latter. Thankfully, they both seem recovered. 

Anyway, we have spent a fair amount of time around our local area. This has included

  • doing the Big Butterfly Count
  • the Library Reading Challenge
  • Cycling, playing, tree climbing and meeting friends in the park
  • gardening. Digging up potatoes is especially popular. 

  • Going for a walk in the woods in driving rain and finding that there was almost nothing to be found for den building
  • Playing board games
  • cooking. This week, the children cooked biscuits to eat during the biscuit edition of the Great British Bake Off. Note: making three sets of biscuits for one programme is rather excessive. 
  • Colouring. The Trinitarian Bible Society colouring book of Psalm 23 and Johanna Basford's Enchanted Garden have been the main books used.
  • Reading aloud. One of the children has just discovered Old Possum's Book of Cats and Return of the White Book  has also been popular. Her brother loves Famous Five, perhaps more than the rest of the family!
The biggest trip has been a day trip to Bournemouth on the train. This was a long and tiring day but definitely worthwhile. Bournemouth has the right kind of sand for sand castles,

 somewhere to paddle and a funicular railway.

My husband has been working so hard but was able to take off a little time to take the younger two to the Gladiator Games.

How do you spend the holidays, particularly, those days when there isn't anything special going on? Do you have to work hard to prevent boredom or constant requests of the computer setting in? By September, we will be well and truly ready to start work again. Already, I have someone making lists for our Poetry Teas! I just need to finish my planning and make sure that we have something to write with and on. I have been mulling over whether we should take such a long break and how we should try to honour God in the summer. 

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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

August in Books

Every time we have a break from more formal home education, I have great hopes about reading and then reading again. Sometimes, this works and sometimes, it doesn't. This time, I have ended up having multiple books partially read but fewer finished.

Anyway, my current books are 

Sketches in Church History by SM Houghton. This is at least my third reading of this book and my reason for rereading now is to see whether the book is suitable to read aloud to my two youngest. I love this book: it is an easy read covering Church history from the early Church to the nineteenth century from a Reformed Protestant perspective. Still, I suspect that the children will benefit more in another couple of years.

Over the last few months, I have become quite enthused about my vegetable garden perhaps because Middle Son has helped extensively with the garden. Anyway, we have been eating potatoes,
watching the pumpkins daily
and hoping about the beans.
Before anyone thinks that my garden is a complete success, I need to point out that the carrots and tomatoes have been a complete failure and the brussel sprout sowing has yielded only one plant. Anyway, this balance has enthused me to read Joy Larkcom's Grow your own Vegetables.
This has been tremendously educational and also has short sections so it can be read while waiting for the dinner to cook or while watching swimming. The latter had the side benefit of leading to some helpful gardening advice from another mother. 

My home education reading is What your Year 2 Child needs to know. I will probably review this once I have finished it although I'm not making particularly fast progress. Still this is an interesting book from educational, political and Christian perspectives.

Ages ago, I started to reread J.C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on Matthew. I find this book clear and helpful but sadly, in the business of life, it got left for a while. More recently, I have started rereading it- a section a day and yes, I was foolish to stop. Ryle has such clear and relevant things to say and expounds the passage in an unforced manner.

I'm hoping to find time to read about exegesis and have lined up Berkof's Principles of Biblical Interpretation which looks readable even for a mother who tries to read at silly o'clock. 

With the children, I have been reading aloud Return of the White Book which I reviewed recently. I'm enjoying a second run through of this missionary book.

Marcia Williams books are also proving popular and our library seems to have a plentiful supply! Some of these books are making me think about the role of teaching children about myths and legends; whether they should learn about them and how to teach them in a Biblical context. The books have certainly led to some interesting discussions.

Finally, we can't escape The Famous Five. Certainly, much of Five Run Away together wiled away a long journey.

Have you read anything recently that you would recommend? Anyway recommendations are gratefully received but I would love recommendations for books on Christian education. 

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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Poetry Resources

Reading poetry with children can be a happy and relaxed part of the day whilst learning about vocabulary, rhyme, ways to expressing thought and emotion and how to write happens imperceptibly.

We have used a variety of resources and ways of incorporating poetry
We use anthologies, picture books and very occasionally, poems from the internet.

Our favourite general anthologies are

  • The Macmillan treasury of Poetry for Children-this is out of print but can be picked up second hand and is well worth acquiring.
  • 100 Best Poems for Children edited by Roger McGough. This is a selection chosen by children. I don't like every poem in this book but this book is well loved by my children.
We also use
  • Out and About by Shirley Hughes.
    This was our top poetry book when the children were tiny and we have gone through more than one copy. Lines still get quoted
Sand in the sandwiches,
Sand in the tea
Flat, wet sand
Running down to the sea.
  • When we were very Young by AA Milne
  • Kings and Queens by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon
  • Are we nearly there yet?collected by Gervaise Phinn
  • T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats I have only read a couple of these poems to the children but plan to use this in the autumn so that we become more familiar with this collection. Anything about cats is very popular here!
I wish there were more poetry picture books. The best are real feasts!
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers.
  • Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrated by Ted Rand
  • Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Illustrated by Susan Jeffers.
  • Grass Sandals: The travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak. Illustrated by Demi. This book contains haikus.
In reality, we don't use the internet for poetry as much as we might. However, the Poetryline site is worth exploring, particularly as it is possible to listen to the author recite their own poems.

Please let me know about poetry resources that you enjoy. I appreciate being able to add ideas to our bank of ideas.

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