Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Energy and the End of Term

This week marks the end of term. No, we don't home educate year round. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I am looking forward to the holiday.

This is the end of term when creativity fails, when I am glad to have a plan and when any unsorted areas in the plan show up. This is the week when I realise that the read-aloud isn't going well and we end up reading Sixth form at St Clares as a replacement.

This is the time when I know that I can't possibly be the mother that I should be when I need God's grace more than ever. This is the time when I need to remember, more than ever, on one of my favourite texts
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness
2 Corinthians 12v9

At a recent service, we sang a hymn which seemed so relevant for a Christian mother at the end of term. I don't recall ever having sung it before.
This hymn is a thought of the futility of relying on our own strength and based on Psalm 127. It was written by the Victorian hymnwriter Harriet Auber although she seems to have used a different version in her Spirit of the Psalms. 


Vain the toiling of the builder
 Where a home knows not the Lord;
Vain the watching over loved ones
    Where there is no help from God.

  
Vain are all the years of labour,

    Times of trial and distress,
And, without God’s love and favour,
    Vain the talents we possess.



Vainer still the hopes of Heaven

    That on human strength rely;
But to them shall help be given
    Who in humble faith apply.


  
Let us seek the Lord’s Anointed,

    And His pardon, life and peace;
Souls are never disappointed
    Who, through Christ, their prayer address.


  
May our lives bring light and blessing

    And redemption to the young;
May they, Jesus’ love confessing,
    Swell the everlasting song.



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Friday, 20 March 2015

Our Week: Shakespeare and Frogs

This week was Shakespeare Week, both nationally and in our house. Now, I'm not a complete Shakespeare fan but he was a major influence on the language and I wanted the children to be aware of some of his plays, his times and some of the idioms which come from his writing. 

Thanks to the resources on the Shakespeare Week website, some junior versions and a visit to the Globe Exhibition, this was very successful. One of the children was absolutely fascinated and definitely wants to see the inside of the Globe and some real Shakespeare plays.




Apart from reading junior versions of Shakespeare and a story of his life, we used a story starter from the website, watched a junior version of Henry V, listened to a Shakespeare song, learned about idioms and related them to other books (e.g. Arthur in a Pickle). The BBC education site has some useful clips of life in William Shakespeare's day which were enjoyed. 

This is the end of Shakespeare Week but the Royal Shakespeare Company has free educational broadcasts. Home educators can sign up for these. The next is Much Ado about Nothing on 30th April. 


The younger two also set up a little experiment with cress seeds and different sowing conditions: dry/wet, light/dark, compost/paper. We have rather a large number of controls.

For me, the best part of the week was going to a local pond. We hoped that we would be able to see the frogs and some frog spawn and we weren't disappointed.
At first, we didn't see anything.
 Then there was some frog spawn

and finally, it became obvious that the pond was full of frogs.
There are at least two, under the water, in this picture. I think there might be a third. We saw loads more but didn't manage to take many pictures.

We did talk about the solar eclipse. There wasn't much to see in London due to cloud although the temperature dropped and the light levels went down a little but nothing like the more dramatic eclipse in 1999.

Of course, there was plenty of play. All three of my home educated children have been playing Minecraft together. There has been cycling and scootering and making space helmets which have rather depleted my supplies of kitchen foil.

We've been reading the Andrew Matthew's Shakespeare Stories, Mystery at the Globe, Pompeii: buried alive (to go with the Veritas self-paced history), Taking Root by Diana Kleyn and Joel Beeke and Lights in a Dark Place: true stories of God at work in Colombia.

Hope you have had a happy week.


The Homeschool Post

Weekly Wrap-Up

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Shakespeare Week




A little trip to go with Shakespeare Week although do check whether the Globe itself is open in the afternoon before going! Just saying.


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Monday, 16 March 2015

Updated UK Home Education resources list

I have just updated my UK Home Education resources list. 

Again, please note that this is not exhaustive. These are products we use rather than everything that is available. Having said that, please do feel free to add items in the comments.

The new items are


Shakespeare Week-this supports an annual Shakespeare week aimed at primary aged children but has a list of useful resources for teaching younger children about the Bard.

CIMT is the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching. They produce a free maths curriculum called Mathematics Enhancement Programme. In reality, this isn't quite free as workbooks need to either be printed or purchased. 

Poetry Line has poems by various modern poets including some clips of poets reciting their own poetry.

Centre for Literacy in Primary Education is mainly aimed at teachers but has some useful book lists.

Prim-Ed produces National Curriculum related resources for the primary years.

Toe by Toe is the website for the UK manual of the same name. This is a manual for teaching struggling readers to read. It is a no frills approach which is designed to be used by parents with their children.

Again, please comment with your favourite UK resources-I'm always on the look out for more ideas.

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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Six thoughts about children and trains

Having just traveled to Wales by public transport, here are some thoughts about what does and doesn't work when travelling with children.

Don't bite off more than you can chew
The first summer that we were home educating, I had a baby, a two year old and an eight year old. Being new, I didn't want to miss any trips from the local group so we trailed to central London on a several stage journey. The toddler's legs grew tired so she had to be carried and we were so slow! I finished the day with exhausted children and with a migrain.

I know that there are people who manage public transport with several little ones but I'm not amongst that number. For us, public transport became easy once we discarded the pushchair. 

Work out whether the journey will be something that you personally can manage.

This concept also applies to baggage. We had two bags each of which one was a back pack. None of them were heavy. We had a pair of shoes each and the minimum acceptable number of clean clothes. 

Avoid the rush hour
This is what I should have done but didn't!
We did avoid changing tube at one of the busiest stations but the rush hour is difficult with children. They get squashed, people aren't patient and its far easier to get separated.

If you have to travel in the rush hour then the children need clear instructions about what to do an escalators, to stay close and what to do if they get lost.


Activities
My children needed a fair few activities for the journey to Wales, none of which could weigh much. These included
  • children's magazines. These usually also include activities.
  • Uno cards
  • Books read aloud. We finished two books and read the whole of another on our journeys.
  • a sheet of paper with a list of items for the children to spot and tick off. 
  • Colouring.
  • Drawing
  • Games-charades was popular this time. I did insist that this had to be played sitting down! Other options that we have used before are I-spy, listing all the animals/countries/famous people beginning with each letter of the alphabet, the Bible game (identifying Bible characters with yes/no questions), the history game (similar to the Bible game), fizz-buzz.
  • Meals-imperative on a long journey. Packed lunches are much cheaper than train food.
  • Looking out of the window: this doesn't work for a whole journey but the Conwy Valley line scenery was suitably impressive.
Seats
Sit together, of course, and if possible book a table relatively close to the toilets. This is particularly useful if there is only one adult who needs to supervise children in two places at once. 

Stations
It takes far longer to get off trains and there always seems to be a gap between the platform and the train! A reason to have a free hand to help a child.

Teach the children to help
Young children can carry childsized back packs. My eight year old carried all her own clothes and my six year old carried most of his but we did travel light.

Ask the children to help count the right number of pieces of luggage to go on and off the train.


Happy travelling!

Please add your tips in the comments.

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Friday, 13 March 2015

Wales

Having just finished learning about Wales, in theory, the next step was a field trip.  My husband kindly held the fort while I took the younger children to see the Land of their Father.

We decided, no I decided, that we would travel on public transport. Better for a tired mother!

Public transport in Wales isn't quite like public transport in London. At this time of year, there is one train every three hours along the Conwy Valley line but then it is rather more scenic than many London routes.
The photo is a bit grainy as it is taken out of a train window, in the rain.

Yes, the rain. I had told the children that there was rain in Wales and so there was, sometimes with  rainbows.

But Wales was beautiful, I think, probably more so, at this time of year, than when I have seen it in summer. We stayed near Blaenau Ffestiniog which was fascinating in terms of the interaction between man and the environment. 

We visited the slate mine

and learned that while, in the past, 90% of slate quarried was wasted;

now none goes without a use. The smallest pieces are ground up and made into toothpaste and make up!

The hydroelectric plant is set in the most amazing scenery.


The steam railway was originally built to take slate to the coast. The carriages were initially pulled by horses until the mid-nineteenth century when steam took over.


Of course, now the track isn't used for slate nor for taking the slate miners to work but for tourists.

We walked, reveling in the space.

We pondered God's creation and what man has done to it as well as how a town which had a nineteenth century revival has so many disused churches.


Surely, there must have been too many chapels with too many seats even for the population at its height? 

Lastly, the beauty of creation.

A satisfying end to our Welsh project!

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Friday, 6 March 2015

Learning to Write Stories

Teaching story writing is something that I find a bit of a mystery so when someone on a local home education forum recommended Pie Corbett's book How to teach story writing at Key Stage 1, I decided that this was a book that I needed to read.
I have a child in Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) and a child in Key Stage 2 (ages 8-11) but went for a book about Key Stage 1 as I thought that the principles would apply to either age group and thankfully, this worked.

The book takes story writing from basics: the need to hear tales, alter them and then for children to make up their own stories (imitation, innovation and invention). This was reassuring and achievable, in fact, we were already doing some of this. Each stage has its own chapter with plenty of ideas. We used some of the ideas with a story new to my children; the legend of Prince Llewellyn and his dog, Gelert. The innovation stage led to Gelert becoming a horse and Gelert was killed with a plastic sword during the initiation phase.

There are chapters on story planning, characters, settings, writing different sections of story, types of story and style. Each has practical ideas for example, using more powerful words or using punctuation for speech.

Does this work for home educators? I guess we have all seen books that are probably great in the classroom but a nightmare at home. I well remember wondering how I was meant to run a plenary session with a 8 year old, baby and toddler!

Generally, the ideas are easy to use at home. My caveats to that are a few games which involve more children than there would be in most families and also a few references to school marking schemes without clear elaboration about what this means. However, generally, this is something that can be used easily at home. So far, for us it has inspired

  • some rereading of favourite picture books and looking at these for story structure.
  • oral story telling 
  • acting out a simple story
  • work on similes
  • work on improving a story
  • improving sample sentences
  • altering a tale
  • discussion around different beginnings for a story
There are  suggested frameworks for how the writing process can be spread out over a few days. It does separate polishing the work from writing. In my experience, it is easier for everyone if spelling is corrected on the day of writing but other amendments left for the next day.

The beauty of this book is the number of ideas many of which only take a short time each day but should, over time, improve writing tactics.

The downside of this book is the price: £20.69 for 80 pages. If you can find a copy second hand it is worth having but no, I'm not selling mine. I need this book!

Disclaimer: I bought this book for my own use and the opinions are my own.


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