Friday, 16 February 2018

Friday Reflections - 89

We've taken a break for half term this week, so life has happened at a slower pace than usual most of the week.

There has been a lot of baking:

My daughter made chocolate cupcakes:

My 10 year old has baked some delicious sandwich biscuits:

Tonight he also finished baking a huge chocolate brownie cake:

My 12 year old bought himself a Doctor Who cook book, and made a Zygon Pie:

A couple of the children have been a bit under the weather the last couple of days, so we haven't been out and about as much as we might have been. We did have a long rainy walk earlier in the week, though, which was fun in spite of the weather.

It's been good to slow down a bit for a few days, and have a bit more time to rest.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Half term fun - in gloomy February

Although we are now enjoying a little more daylight, February is still a bit of a gloomy time of year - and this half term break can sometimes feel a bit miserable. Moreover, since we are slightly spoilt as home educators with being able to visit places such as museums or parks when they are quiet, we tend to avoid them during the holidays a bit.

However, the children have managed to find some fun things to do with their time during our break, and here are some of the activities that they have enjoyed this week:

1) Cooking. Always a favourite, but half term is a good opportunity to take some time over some more lengthy projects.

My 6 year old baking cupcakes.

"Zygon Pie" made by my 12 year old.

2) Stop-motion films. We use the Lego movie maker app on my ipad, which is very easy to use for hours of fun.

3) Lego set-ups. Lego is always popular, but the holidays are a good time for a collective, big project which covers half a room.

4) Reading. Again, it's hardly unusual to see children with books all over the house, but the time to read a book a day (my eldest has set himself this aim), or to spend half the morning snuggled up with a good book is fun.

5) Rainy walks. If you go to the playground in the rain, then you will probably have it to yourselves. Plus, scooting through puddles is fun too.

Scooting in the rain.

6) Sunny walks. If the weather is good, we usually avoid playgrounds, and walk in the woods or other nearby green spaces.

Being statues in the sunshine.

6) Board games. We all like a good game, and the younger two had time to play Dinopoly (Monopoly with a dinosaur theme) this afternoon, as well as for baking cakes and reading quite a bit.

7) Craft/Drawing. Actually, they have done less of this than usual this half term, but this is usually a staple activity. Using kits or coming up with their own ideas, there are plenty of options for creativity.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Friday Reflections - 88

Our home education group met today, and we were studying the topic of water. It's a broad subject, so it was a bit difficult to know where to focus for my group of 7-9 year olds. In the end, we learned about the water cycle together, and the children made a simple craft to illustrate this concept. We also had a go at making a cloud in a jar (warm water in a jar, ice in a lid on top for a few seconds, remove the lid and add a little hairspray before replacing the ice) :

Cloud in a Jar

It was slightly easier to see once we took the lid off and released our "cloud".

Escaping Cloud

We also made a filter in a plastic bottle, and used it to clean up some muddy water that I brought along with me. We put filter paper over the end of the bottle, then the children took turns to add layers: cotton wool, sand, small stones, and larger stones.

Muddy Water

The water looked pretty clear once it came through (though I wouldn't let the children drink it when they asked!):

Clean Water!

Otherwise, the week has been full of our usual learning activities. My eldest is still particularly enjoying chemistry, especially when he has to heat anything in a test tube (frequently!), so that's fun. My 8 year old has been really enjoying his maths this week ("sorry, Mummy, I got a bit carried away with Beast Academy..."), while my 10 year old probably rates baking sessions as the best bits of the week. My daughter is loving to read more and more, and has had fun times with her friends too.

My younger two decided to make a reading nest one day.

I'm finding it a bit of a slog at the moment, so it's good to look back over the week and see the good bits (of which there are plenty!). I feel pretty busy, and that I have lots of different things to keep organised too, but I am managing to keep up my running. I ran a long run last Monday, and even though I was a bit jittery about the 14 miles I had planned, it was a beautiful morning, with crisp clear skies, and a tiny fluttering of snow - well worth getting out for.

I'm still doing a bit of crochet too, and some reading (part two of a biography of Margaret Thatcher at the moment).

My current crochet blanket project.

It would be easy to decide I don't have time for these things, but it makes a big difference to me if I can keep up a few things other than just surviving another hectic week of home education and housework.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Friday Reflections - 87

Last weekend I was able to go to a day conference for the wives of church ministers. The theme was contentment. It's one of those topics that I have looked at before, but yet was so helpful to consider at again. We were looking at Philippians, and Paul's contentment and joy in Christ.

Finding contentment in Christ in the midst of sadness, or struggles, or failure, or the repetitive tasks of life at home can be hard; it is so easy to be dissatisfied with the circumstances that God has given rather than to look to Christ and all we have in him. I was challenged, and encouraged.

Sunday morning meant more of God's Word from Philippians. After a member of our congregation went to be with the Lord the week before, Michael was preaching on Philippians 1:21: For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Once again, a challenge to a Jesus centred perspective when facing death, and when looking at how to live now.

It would be wonderful if I could say that I have lived up to these truths in the last week, but I haven't. Nonetheless, the grace of God, the knowledge that Christ's death has covered my sins, has strengthened me each day - in each failure.

It's felt like an up and down week, but actually there have been some really lovely times to thank God for. We went for our nature walk on Tuesday; just an ordinary walk, but the children were happy and chatty, and my youngest was delighted with finding lots of fungus!

A Fungus Find

Walking and Chatting

I've also been encouraged to see that the children actually are making some progress. It can seem so slow at times, but this week I noticed just how much my 6 year old can now read and understand, and how much more my 12 year old can manage than last year. Sometimes it feels like we're getting nowhere - but it just happens in tiny steps!

My 6 year old reading.

Reading aloud to the children is always a highlight of the day for all of us. At the moment, the fourth book in the Wingfeather Saga, The Warden and the Wolf King is particularly popular. The children all have various activities that they can do when I read. My daughter is keen on her tapestry sewing at the moment, my 8 year old will either do his giant dot-to-dot book or also work on his tapestry, my 10 year old usually colours in his grown-up colouring book, while my 12 year old is choosing to decorated tiles in a Doctor Who theme at the moment.

My Daughter Sewing

Doctor Who Tiles
Tomorrow we are looking forward to parkrun and a fairly quiet day, though the older two boys are planning to do some cooking together. Hopefully we will all be able to rest over the weekend a little, and be ready to face another week.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Running - for fitness & fun

This year I am taking part in the 2018 Virtual Homeschool Fair, which is hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. This is the fourth week, and the topic is Enriching Our Learning.

Last spring, one of my children decided that he would like to start running. I had taken running up a few months earlier, and he wanted to give it a go. Since one of his friends also wanted to try running, we decided to meet up in a local park so that I could take the two of them together.

Once he started, my daughter (then only 5 years old) joined in, and later one of my other boys. I told them that if they could make it up to three laps round the park (5K, or just over 3 miles), I'd take them along to parkrun with me on Saturday morning. Parkrun is a free, timed 5K run, manned by volunteers.

Celebrating my daughter's first parkrun with an ice lolly.

In the end, my daughter was the first to manage the distance, but my two younger boys and their friend soon completed their 3 laps and started coming along to our local parkrun too.

We're now regulars at parkrun, aiming to be there every week when possible.  We even ran on Christmas Day - and made it back in time for church! It's good for their fitness, and a good way to be part of a local community. Michael and I take turns to run with the children or to run at a faster pace.

We've also volunteered to help a couple of times, and will do so more in the future. The children really enjoyed this - particularly when they got a chance to be in charge of the bar code scanners one week!

Peach Volunteers

Over the months, my eldest has come along to watch us run most weeks, but hasn't quite decided to join in (though I think he has sort of wanted to for a while). Last week he came along and ran one lap, and this week he managed his first full parkrun. He's really pleased with himself - and I hope he continues to enjoy it as much as the rest of us!

This is the final week of the 7th Virtual Homeschool Fair. Our topic is:  Enriching Our Learning.

Note: All posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 29th.
Celebrating 7 Years of Homeschool Support & Encouragement by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
All of the Extras by Christy Schaefer @ Unexpected Homeschool
How To Explore Special Interests In Your Homeschool by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Learning outside of the box by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Putting the Heart Back into our Homeschool by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Adding in the Fun by Michele @Family, Faith and Fridays
The Electives We Use in Our Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
The Fun Parts of Homeschooling by Annette @ A Net in Time
How we add in the fun stuff. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Running - for fitness & fun by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
Adding in the Extras by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
What About the Fun Stuff? by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
And the Learning Goes On, And On, And On by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Let's See What's Out There! (Electives and Extras) by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Friday, 26 January 2018

Friday Reflections - 86

A dear friend, a member of our congregation, went to be with the Lord this week. Our days have been marked with sadness as we have lost a sister in Christ unexpectedly. We rejoice that she knew and loved Christ, and is with him now. 

As my six year old said: "It is really sad, but she is safe. She is in Christ."

We have continued with many of our normal activities with the children, keeping up with their work and trying to get out and about.

My 10 year old is attempting a cooking challenge this year. His friend came up with the idea, and wrote a list of challenges, and he has joined in too (you can see the list here - his friend is the daughter of Sarah@DeliveringGrace). They often bake together.

This week he cooked a delicious roast dinner for us:


My eldest also had fun getting started on some chemistry using some new equipment. He was only boiling water in a test tube for now, but he enjoyed it.

We also had our home education group this afternoon, where we were looking at Earthquakes & Volcanoes.

My group attempted to make earthquake safe structures using cocktail sticks and marshmallows, and then testing them on a dish of jelly. 

We also made a model of the structure of a volcano out of cake:

It's been a hard week in many ways, but we have been driven back to the gospel, and back to the Lord. 

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Choices, choices - how to choose your curriculum wisely

This year I am taking part in the 2018 Virtual Homeschool Fair, which is hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. This is the third week, and the topic is Our Homeschool Curriculum.

When you begin to home educate, or when a new stage of home education begins (such as the start of senior school), then the choice of curricula available can be a little overwhelming. The freedom to pick what suits your family best, and each individual child, is one of the huge benefits of home education, but it is also a serious undertaking, and can become a burden.

So, how to choose? Here are some principles that I have loosely followed, and which have helped me decide the way forward at different times.

1) Go Slow

Take one or two subjects at a time, and invest whatever hours you need to in order to make a good decision. If possible, I start researching a number of months ahead, but when this isn't possible, I will wait to start a new subject rather than rush the research stage.

2) Do your Research

My first port of call will usually be The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. I like the classical approach, and reading through the curricula suggestions by subject and stage of education is usually a helpful starting point for me. A high proportion of my choices, especially early on, were from this book.

I will talk to other home educating parents about what they are using. When I was starting out, friends letting me have a look at the resources they had was very helpful. In case it's helpful, here is a list of the key resources we've used for my primary aged children.

I also regularly ask for ideas on various home education forums on facebook, which will also yield many options to choose from. If I am looking for something fairly specific e.g. a reading curriculum suitable for a child with speech delay, this is particularly helpful.

Once I have narrowed the choices down, if I am at the nearly-certain stage, I will look for samples online, and maybe get the child I am looking at it for to have a glance at any sample pages with me so I can gauge whether or not it will be a good fit.

Some of my 8 year old's books this year.

3) Keep Clear Aims

It's worth being clear about what your looking for.

For example, when researching Latin options, I knew that I wanted a British curriculum (we learn the noun cases in a different order - and I am too old to change!), and a strong emphasis on grammar. This immediately ruled out lots of options, and made the process easier.

When I was looking for supplementary maths for one of my sons, I was pretty certain that I wanted something in a book rather than online; again, this narrowed my choices helpfully and meant that my research was focused.

4) Know your Strengths

I have a degree in Classics (Latin and Greek), so I'm pretty confident that I can deliver any Latin curriculum. Art, however, is something at which I am weak - so I need something much more step-by-step to help me and my children.

5) Know your Children

If you have a 7 year old boy who hates writing, then using a history programme that requires extensive written composition is going to suck the joy out of your studies. Conversely, choosing a maths curriculum that is overly repetitive for a very able student may be frustrating (or they may find it fun - you will know your children!).

A history activity from The Story of the World.

6) Spend Cautiously

Often, the less expensive options are very good, and there is no point in blowing your home education budget when a cheaper option is available. Especially early on, while I was growing in confidence and knowledge, I relied on cheaper materials, most of which I could buy easily in the U.K.

7) Spend Wisely

Nonetheless, there will be times when a more expensive option is quite obviously better. If you have the freedom to choose to buy what you want, or can manage your resources in order to be able to do so, sometimes it is worth investing in something more expensive.

For example, I invested in All About Reading and All About Spelling for my younger two children, largely to help my son with thorough phonics instruction as he had a pretty severe speech delay. They have been outstanding (I've written about them here), and well worth the investment. Plus, they are fairly easy to sell second hand so I am trying to keep them in good condition so I can recoup some of the investment later.

I often spend my early summer break selling books and resources we no longer need, in part to fund purchasing some of my more expensive choices.

8) Don't Compare

It is so easy to look at what someone else is using with great success, and wonder if you should switch you current programme. You may be right - I've pinched plenty of ideas from other people; however, don't change in a panic. If something is working for you, then keep going. Every family, and every child, is different. There are lots of "right" options.

Exploring Nature with Children was a curriculum I chose when I saw a friend using it.

Also, it will be the case that other families have different emphases and strengths. If this is an inspiration, it can be a real help. However, if you are constantly chopping and changing what you do whenever you see something that looks appealing, it probably won't yield great results for your children. If I see something that looks good, I may spend a few weeks (or months) trying to realistically consider if it will work for us or not before adding something new.

9) You WILL make wrong decisions.

With all the research and planning in the world, we all pick something that just doesn't work - for a myriad of reasons. It's not a disaster, and dropping something can be the right decision. I usually try to give something a good go before we give up (and it's only happened a few times), but it is worth having the confidence to backtrack if something isn't doing the job it's supposed to.

Looking for more curriculum ideas? Visit my fellow homeschool bloggers! 

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 22nd.
Our Homeschool Plan for 3rd, 6th, 8th, & 12th Grades by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Our 10th Grade Plans by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Planning Out Our Unschooling Studies by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
The Details of Curriculum by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Reflections of a Curriculum Junkie by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Freedom through nature journaling. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
How I pull together a homeschool curriculum without packaged curriculum by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Our Favorite Curriculum and Resources - An Annotated Bibliography by Sabrina @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
Our 2018 Homeschool Curriculum Choices by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Top Home Educating Resources by Sarah @ DeliveringGrace
Homeschooling Curriculum We Are Using This Year by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Use the Force and Complete the Course by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Choices, choices - how to choose your curriculum wisely by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
Our Curriculum Needs - grade seven by Annette @ A Net in Time
The Heart of Our School by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Curriculum We Have Loved Using - Virtual Homeschool Fair -Week 3 by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
How to Avoid Gaps in Education by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
Tricky Subjects and Starting the Decision Making Process by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
High School Syllabus by TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy @ GoldenGrasses