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Friday, 20 October 2017

Friday Reflections - 75

We have had our home education group today, and it was a fun way to end the week. This week the subject was plant and animal cells, and we have carried out a number of fun activities.

I lead the younger group (those aged up to 8), and we made simple collage diagrams of plant cells together:


And models of animal cells using jelly:


I also set up our microscope with a slither of onion for the children to look at, which went down well.

It's always a relief when it all comes together; preparing for the group is dominating a lot of my thinking time at the moment, and I'm never quite sure if it will all work out or not.

The older group made models of cells using pizza, and also learned about DNA. They extracted DNA from strawberries together, which sounded exciting.

Earlier in the week, we went on our nature walk, looking at autumn trees. The children took some bark rubbings, as well as drawing the leaves and fruit or seeds of their chosen tree.



The rest of the week went by in a bit of a blur! I'm finding it hard to make sure that we are fitting everything in, though my marking box is full each day. It's always reassuring to see that we have done quite a lot, even if a bit depressing to see that I've forgotten to do my marking just as I am hoping to finally go to bed at the end of the day.



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Family Devotions - Resources

Each morning during the week, Michael leads our family devotions over breakfast, as he has since the children were very small. Sometimes he leads us bit by bit through a book of the Bible, but often he uses one of a number of useful resources which are available for this purpose.

Here are a few that we have found helpful:

1) Table Talk by Alison Mitchell



These provide a short Bible study - a few questions to discuss about part of the Bible, a chance to think about how the passage might apply, and some ideas for prayer. It pairs up with XTB Bible notes, so a child could go on to do further study on the same passage. We found that these notes were particularly useful when our children were aged about 4-8.

2) The Big Picture Family Devotional by David R. Helm



These notes take you through the whole Bible story, with a memory verse to learn for each week as you trace the story of salvation together. We took our time with these notes, and although we are not word perfect on all the verses, it is encouraging to see just how much has stuck in the children's minds. It is a good way to get a sense of the shape of the Bible, and to commit some scripture to memory. These notes are probably better suited to slightly older children (6 +).

3) Wise Up by Marty Machowski



These notes are centred on the book of Proverbs, although certain themes are explored in other parts of the Bible too. Each day focuses on a particular Bible passage, has some reflections to read out loud, and some questions for discussion. It was good to have some thoughtfully applied Bible devotions for us to use in discussion with our children. Again, these are probably better for slightly older children (6+).

4) Awesome Cutlery Family Devotionals 


Our children have enjoyed listening to our Awesome Cutlery CD - full of Bible truths. This set of family devotionals picks up on some key gospel ideas, with simple explanations of what they mean. These would probably be aimed at younger children (8s and under), but our older boys have enjoyed them nonetheless. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Friday Reflections - 74

Last Saturday, Michael and the boys went to visit the Tower of London with the archaeology club that the older boys belong to. They really enjoyed themselves, and seemed to have learned a bit about the history of the Tower too.

At the Tower of London

Meanwhile, I took my 6 year old off to visit another local parkrun so that we could have a trip out too. This run begins with about a mile uphill, so she did very well! She also enjoyed wearing her parkrun "10" t-shirt (a reward for completing 10 parkruns) for the first time too.

A New T-Shirt!

Later in the week, we all went to the park one morning for running (or cycling for my eldest). Although it was a bit chilly when we started, by the time we were sitting down for our picnic breakfast (very popular cinnamon rolls), it was glorious.

Picnic Breakfast

On Thursday afternoon, we decided to repeat our red cabbage indicator experiment that we had enjoyed so much at our home education group, but to test more substances. We made lots of pretty colours - and the children are very enthusiastic about science at the moment.

Red Cabbage Indicator Results

My 8 year old was down to cook for our Bake Off watching this week, so he made pizza for us all to enjoy.

Making Pizza

Finally, we finished our week with a trip to Dover Castle. This was a brilliant trip to do: plenty of space to explore, and such a lot of history to learn about in one location. We visited the medieval castle, the Roman pharos (lighthouse), a Saxon church, and tunnels used during World War II. We have English Heritage membership this year, so hopefully we will be able to go back in a few months and see the bits we didn't get to visit today.

Roman Pharos and a Saxon Church

Going to the Castle
It looks like a great week - and we have had lots of good days. In fact, I have spent most of the time feeling like I am getting nowhere! Objectively, this isn't the case, but when we are busy I always feel like everything is about to fall apart. I also find it easy to notice all the things I haven't managed to do (and there are always plenty of those). Nonetheless, this week the children have learned plenty, had some fun along the way, and we are ready to begin it all again next week.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Teaching the Reformation

The 500th Anniversary of the start of the Reformation is fast approaching.  A few years ago, we began to celebrate Reformation Day each year on 31st October. This year I am planning to take a full week out of our usual schedule to focus on this topic. I've not got everything completely sorted, but here are some of the activities I have planned:

1) Reading

I plan to use a number of relevant books to read aloud to the children in our morning slot. These will include Reformation ABCs by Stephen J. Nichols, John Calvin - What is the Truth by Catherine Mackenzie, Martin Luther - What Should I Do? by Catherine Mackenzie, and When Lighting Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther  by Danika Cooley.

I will also set reading for my older 3 to read during the week. My 12 year old will read Luther in Love by Douglas Bond, My 10 year old Courage and Conviction:Chronicles of the Reformation Church by Mindy and Brandon Withrow, and I will set John Calvin: After Darkness Light by Catherine Mackenzie for my 8 year old.

Reformation Reading

2) History

My plan is to look at the life and influence of one reformer a day for five days (probably Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Tyndale and Zwingli). We'll use the books I've planned to read aloud, as well as other resources, such as this video of the life of Martin Luther (in playmobil!).

My hope is that each child will also focus on the life of one key figure for the whole week, and produce some kind of written work detailing the life of their reformer. I'm not completely settled on how this will work, but I'm thinking of some combination of drawing and writing would go down well!

As well as looking at the lives of various reformers, we will study the history of the time in broader strokes. I plan to review some of the Story of the World chapters that we looked at last year, and perhaps do some extra activities alongside.

3) Bible

As well as a reformer a day, we'll also take one of the five solas of the reformation each day, and do some Bible studies based on that particular theme.

We'll also use these free colouring pages, one for each sola.

4) Activities

I'm hoping to go on at least one trip out with the children, probably to the National Portrait Gallery to try and find as many reformers, or people associated with the reformation, as we can.

We usually make a cake to celebrate Reformation Day, but this year we may try to have a meal that is in some sense Reformation themed. I'm not sure what this will mean in practice, other than that we will eat sausages (my eldest insists!).


Friday, 6 October 2017

Friday Reflections - 73

By this stage of the week, I am usually pretty exhausted, and this week is no exception. However, as I look back at the week, there have been lots of great days and all the hard work has been well worth it.

We have had a few running outings together. Last Saturday, we went to parkrun. My 8 year old ran the fastest he has managed yet, and my 10 year old kept going to the end even though he was finding the run tougher than usual. They both did really well.

My 10 year old finishing his run with Michael.

We also had a family breakfast in the park so Michael and I could alternate watching children and running, and so my 12 year old could ride his bike. It broadly worked as an idea, though it would be better if we got out the house a little earlier. We also got caught in a very heavy rain shower, but went ahead anyway! Fortunately, the sun came out and we were able to dry out a bit while the children played in the park.

 "Mummy, look at me on a class 1 lever!" (We've been reading about levers!)

I also went for a long run this week, and completed a half marathon distance for the first time. That may explain some of my tiredness!

This run coincided with the big event of the week - my eldest's twelfth birthday. We celebrated with presents, cake, and a Father-Son trip to a Dr. Who museum and shop. He had a great day!

Birthday Fun

Amidst all the excitement, we found time to watch Bake Off together again, with jam tarts made by my 6 year old for the occasion.

Jam Tarts!

Today we met for our home education group again. We had the second of our science sessions. It was a lot of work to prepare, but it was a very enjoyable time (if more than a little hectic at times!).

Our topic was acids and alkalis, and each child made red cabbage indicator and used it to test a number of household substances. The results were impressive!

Red cabbage indicator results - very colourful.

I then helped the younger children making "foaming monsters" - decorated bottles with vinegar and washing-up liquid in, which foamed up once bicarbonate of soda was added. The older group used the same ingredients to fire a rocket in the garden outside! Apparently that also worked well.

Foaming Monsters

We finished up with our two book groups. My group (under 9s) is reading Archimedes and the Door of  Science by Jeanne Bendick, and it seems to be going down well. Michael helped me make an Archimedes screw to use in a demonstration, which worked better than I hoped!

An Archimedes screw.

I find keeping up with all the day-to-day work for the children, keeping on top of running a home, being involved in some church activities, and also making sure that we keep the fun stuff (like baking or running) going pretty hard work at times. A lot of it is mundane, many of my tasks are repetitive, and much of the important work is unseen. It is encouraging to look back over a week where I have often been overwhelmed, and see that there have been many good moments shared together as a family.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Friday Reflections - 72

Last Saturday, my 8 year old ran his 10th parkrun, which he was very pleased to do. It's great to see the younger three really enjoying their running each week.

Recovering After Parkrun

That afternoon, the more significant family running event occurred when Michael ran his first half marathon.

Finishing a Half Marathon

Recovering with Supporters

There were plenty of hills, and he was pretty exhausted when he finished, but he did enjoy it. I'm hoping to run the next one with him!

Our usual work has included some autumn leaf pictures, and also a science lesson about seasonal changes and the rotation of the earth.

Art Time


Science Time

As ever, term time is pretty full on, so we appreciate the time for fun stuff as well as work. This week that has included watching Bake Off  together as a family, taking the children to visit a farm with our home education group, and heading off for a round of crazy golf with Michael as a slightly belated birthday celebration.

Michael volunteered to make a pudding for this week's Bake Off. He doesn't usually bake at all, but his banoffee pie was delicious.

Michael and his Banoffee Pie

Our farm trip was very enjoyable. The children learned about different animals, had the opportunity to feed many of them if they wanted to, and finished the trip by taking turns holding quail chicks.

Holding a Quail Chick

Michael and my trip to crazy golf was great fun - an excellent way to celebrate a 39th birthday. Michael won - so there may have to be a re-match one day.

Crazy Golf

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Committed Reader Books - 11 Year Old's Choices (2017 Christian Reading Challenge)

We're in the final stretch of our year long reading challenge, so I'm expecting that this will be the last list that I need to put together.

These are my 11 year old's choices for the Committed Reader level of the challenge. Quite a lot of the books are ones that he's read over the summer already, so he's actually made pretty good progress through them.


1) A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with: Freedom Movement by Michael Reeves

2) A book about Christian living: Sacrifice by Simon Guillebaud

3) A book about apologetics: Your Verdict on the Empty Tomb by Val Grieve

4) A book of your choice: Kid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith

5) A humorous book: Asterix The Legionary by Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo

6) A book based on a true story: The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig

7) A book about prayer: Enjoy your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves

8) A book of poetry: The Mighty Slide by Allan Ahlberg

9) A book with a one-word title: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

10) A book by Sinclair Ferguson: The Magnificent Amazing Time Machine: A Journey Back to the Cross by Sinclair Ferguson

11) A novel by an author you have never read before: Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault

12) A book about Christian living: A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God by Patricia St. John

13) A memoir or autobiography: Children of the Storm by Natasha Vins

14) A play by William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

15) A book of your choice: Death in the Arena by Caroline Lawrence

16) A book written by an author with initials in their name: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

17) A book by a female author: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

18) A book about theology: The Resurrection by Mark Meynell

19) A book published by Crossway: Reformation ABCs by Stephen J. Nichols

20) A self-improvement book: Learning to be Happy by Jeremiah Burroughs

21) A graphic novel: Obelix and Co. by Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo

22) A book you own but have never read: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

23) A book targeted at the other gender: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

24) A book about Christian living: The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton

25) A book of your choice: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

26) A book about race or racial issues: William Wilberforce by Janet & Geoff Benge