Friday, 15 December 2017

Friday Reflections - 82

Today we met for our final home education group for the term. Our topic was magnets, and the children had fun testing various things to see if they were magnetic, as well as seeing in action magnets repelling by pushing along a small car with a magnet taped to it using another magnet.

It's fair to say that our science theme has been popular this term, and we are planning to cover new science topics after Christmas.

With Christmas fast approaching, we bought and decorated our tree this week. As is our tradition, we made gingerbread decorations.

Gingerbread Decorations

Our Tree

Last Sunday, we also had a children's carol service at church, with craft activities for all ages beforehand. My younger two managed to take the roles of Mary and Joseph yet again in our scratch nativity; my 8 year old was the only boy taking part, and none of the other girls wanted to be Mary! In addition, my 6 year old daughter volunteered to do one of the short readings, and did really well.

We also had just about enough snow for a snowball fight - which the children made the most of before we headed off to church for the carol service.

Just about enough snow for a snowball fight.

We've not had a heavy workload this last week, as the children are pretty tired. We've made it through another term, and are very much looking forward to a couple of weeks recover a bit, rest for a while, and get ready to begin again in the new year.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Friday Reflections - 81

Last Saturday, Michael and I both completed a half-marathon - and were both pleased to have made it!

Exhausted - but happy!

Michael came in under 2 hours (1:53:12), which he was pleased about, and I finished (2:06:53), which was my aim! Actually, I underestimated how much I needed to eat in advance, so my last 3 miles were pretty horrible - much worse than any of my training runs - so I will need to prepare differently for the next one.

We also moved the guinea pigs inside last weekend - and the younger two are enjoying extra cuddles.

Guinea Pig Snuggles

The rest of the week has been a bit mixed, as I and my 8 year old both went down with an unpleasant bug earlier in the week. This messed up some of our work plans, and also meant he had to miss his special theatre trip which we booked to celebrate his finishing of the Bible. His sister went in his stead as we couldn't change the tickets, and we will book some more for him.

After that, we've had a quiet week as we are all pretty tired, keeping up with the basics of our work and doing various crafts in readiness for Christmas.

My 12 year old bought some baubles to decorate in a Doctor Who theme:

Tardis Bauble

His younger brother has now purchased some for himself so that he can decorate some baubles as the planets from Star Wars. Nothing says Christmas like a "Death Star" on your tree...

Death Star Bauble

The children have also been making various gifts to share with family - mostly edible ones, so the kitchen has been in use a lot over the last couple of days.

Turkish delight, made by my 12 year old.

Our morning Bible readings as we open up our calendar have been helping us to focus on the true story of Christmas, as we trace the story of the Bible leading up to the birth of Jesus. It's a hectic time of year anyway, and this has been a week of ups and downs, but listening to God's Word together each day, remembering our Saviour present with us in every situation is a daily encouragement and blessing.

Our Advent Tree 

Friday, 1 December 2017

Friday Reflections - 80

We've had a fairly quiet week as the children have all been a bit full of cold. Not ill enough to be let off  their work - but not well enough to do quite as much as usual, or to be out and about quite so often.

Nonetheless, we did manage a few short walks to get a bit of fresh air and some gentle exercise. We've had some lovely clear, crisp, wintry days, and getting outdoors has been refreshing when we have been for our walks.

Beautiful Wintry Day

As advent had begun today, we have started the first of our Christmas traditions with our Jesse Tree. As a change from chocolate coins, Michael and I have tried to choose treats to fit the theme of the Bible story for the day. Some of the links will be tenuous, but we hope it will be fun. Today we had yellow flying saucers to reflect God creating light in the darkness.

Jesse Tree Day 1

And the treats...

We also had our home education group today, and electricity was the topic for the afternoon. My younger two enjoyed making and giving a presentation. We made simple circuits with my younger group, then all the children had a go at making "bugs" using batteries and torch bulbs. The idea is that you can use the bugs to test the conductivity of different materials. The children enjoyed it - which was good as it was a lot more fiddly to prepare than I had anticipated!

Writing Notes for the Presentation

Showing off a Battery Bug

Next week is looking very full from here; full of good things, but it will be busy! Michael and I are starting by running (or attempting, at least!) a half-marathon tomorrow morning - so hopefully we won't be too exhausted to do the other stuff in the diary!

Friday, 24 November 2017

Friday Reflections - 79

Most of the Peaches have come down with colds this week (Michael has been spared - so far) so we've been feeling a bit grotty. The children have been well enough to work most of the time, however, though sometimes wrapped up in their blankets a bit as they did so.

Snuggled Up For Reading Time

Last Saturday was a significant milestone for my 8 year old as I read him his final chapter in our reading through the Bible, which began on his 5th birthday. He was thrilled to pieces with his new Bible, and is looking forward to a celebratory trip to see The Lion King with Michael in a couple of weeks.

Happy with his New Bible

That same evening, a few other home education mums came round for tea, cake, and a chance to catch up and talk about home education together - the encouragements and the challenges. It's also an opportunity to share some of the resources we use.

Cake for Home Educating Mums

In spite of colds, we went on our nature walk this week. We had come across a new nature trail very near to home recently, so thought that we would explore it this week. Although we didn't see very much lichen (the topic of this week's nature study), we did see some great fungus, and the children enjoyed exploring a new area.

Today we had a visit to the National Gallery with our home education group. We enjoyed being shown three individual paintings by one of the education team at the gallery, and everyone was very positive about the trip. It's great to have such fantastic opportunities so close to home.

The weekend is looking fairly quiet at the moment, which is very appealing! A chance to recharge a bit together, and get ready for another week.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Friday Reflections - 78

Although we are back to work after our holiday, it felt like a week full of activities rather than normal week of work. We had friends to visit, a trip to meet up with Grandparents, and our home education group meeting to ensure that there was plenty going on.

We also went for a walk in the woods for our nature studies. This week we were looking for fungus, which was very popular with my daughter who says that she would like to study fungus full time when she grows up. My 12 year old informed me that this means she wants to be a mycologist (which google confirmed!)

Examining Fungus

She found this fungus under a log.

A couple of weeks ago, my eldest's much loved hamster died. Everyone was very sad, and Yoda was buried in our garden. This week it was time to buy a new hamster for my 12 year old:


She's been named Caramel, and is very fond of using her hamster wheel, unlike any of our other hamsters!

We went to visit the Ragged School Museum half-way through the week, meeting up with my Dad and his wife. The children loved seeing their grandparents, and particularly appreciated Nanny's knowledge of what all the items in the old fashioned kitchen were used for!

Time for School

Fun with Grandparents

One addition for the week is a fruit/ vegetable and exercise chart for the family. I'm not especially concerned about our diet or our exercise, but I am encouraging my eldest to make sure that he does enough exercise as he gets older, and we all love a chart. A decent walk, a bike ride, a run, a swimming lesson, or a stretch of gardening will all earn a tick in the exercise column. It's been positively received this week - though we'll have to see if it continues to be a useful tool.

Fruit/Veg and Exercise Chart

This afternoon we had our home education group, looking at the heart and lungs. My younger group looked at a model lung:

Model Lung

We also drew round my daughter to get the outline of a person, then the children helped me to draw in blood flow towards and away from the heart, both around the body and to and from the lungs using red and blue pens. It seemed to work quite well:

A Rough Picture of Bloodstream

Finally, we made a model of the heart and lungs out of cake - which looked even better than I hoped. I had three groups - two with a lung shaped sponge cake each to decorate, and one in charge of making the heart. Using fondant icing, and following a rough paper sketch prepared in advance, the results were very pleasing:

Heart & Lungs in Cake-Form

It's been a full week - and felt a bit hectic at times - and hasn't always felt at all like it is going well. We have finished positively, though, which helps as I begin to plan and prepare for the week to come.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Friday Reflections - 77

This Friday I am looking back over the last 2 weeks, one week of work and one of holiday.

We finished our half term by spending some time looking at the events of the Reformation 500 years ago; you can read about what we got up to here. The children were pretty tired by the end of the week, and very much ready for a break - as I was!

Reformation fun - nuns in barrels.

The last activity of our half term was our home education group, where we were looking at blood. We made a model of blood using play-dough for red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, with yellow paper for plasma.

Blood Model

The children also made models of blood in cups, this time using oil for plasma, skittles for red blood cells, marshmallows for white blood cells and sprinkles for platelets.

More Blood!

I also managed to finish the blanket I have been crocheting for my 6 year old on Friday evening - which we were both pleased about.

Another Crochet Blanket

We have spent the last week in Center Parcs, where we have enjoyed cycling and swimming, reading and walking, and bonus maths for my 8 year old each day (as a special holiday treat).

Holiday Maths

Now we are back - better rested and gearing up to get going again tomorrow. I have had a chance to think about what is working well and what needs adjusting for the rest of the term, so I am hoping to make a few small changes to my weekly timetable to hopefully help the household run more smoothly. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Reformation 500 Day

We have spent the last five days learning more about the Reformation together. Reading, talking, looking at the Bible - it's been fun, and the children have clearly learned a lot.

Each of the children completed their projects today.

My eldest has spent the last few days creating a comic strip to tell the life of Martin Luther.

Calvin has been the focus for my 10 year old. He made extensive notes before putting together a PowerPoint presentation to tell the story of Calvin's life, illustrated with pictures of Lego characters.

My 8 year old has been learning about William Tyndale, and has made a stop motion video to tell his story.

This looked like so much fun that my 6 year old daughter decided she also wanted to make one, telling the story of Katie Luther.

Over lunch today, we worked through this reformation quiz about Luther's life - which was a fun way to review what we have been learning together.

We finished today with a Reformation meal, featuring sausages (remembering Zwingli), and 95 tiny cakes (for Luther's 95 theses)!


95 Cakes

We've had fun, and it has been good to take some time out of our usual schedule to focus on the historical events of 500 years ago, and to dwell on the riches of the gospel that we have in Christ.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Friday Reflections - 76

Although it is half term for many, since we will be on holiday in a couple of weeks, we have not taken a break. Nonetheless, this week has not fallen into the usual pattern as we have spent most of the time focusing on the Reformation (broadly following the plans that I made earlier in the term).

I have spent a lot of time reading aloud to the children while they have been completing some lovely colouring pages. 

They have all enjoyed the extended reading time, and we've had some great discussions along the way.

In addition, each child has taken a different figure from the Reformation to learn about. They have each been hard at work retelling the story of their individual - in different ways. They should complete their work on these projects next week.

My 8 year old has started work on a stop motion film about William Tyndale.

Of course, my 6 year old then decided that she also wanted to make a stop motion film. She's been getting her Lego characters together for a re-telling of Katie Luther's story.

My 12 year old is working on a comic book style version of the life of Martin Luther.

John Calvin is the subject of my 10 year old's study. He's gathered extensive notes, and is planning to make some sort of presentation to tell his story.

I've been really pleased at how hard they have all worked on their projects - and how much they have learned to tell me about from their reading. Hopefully their enthusiasm will continue into next week!

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.