Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Reading the THE WHOLE Bible with Children

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17

These verses are a great encouragement to keep on reading the Bible with our children. They remind us that God's Word is a great blessing to each of us - making us wise for salvation, teaching us God's ways and training us in righteousness. In addition, we read that Timothy has known the Bible from infancy. As an adult wishing to serve God, he is not called to move on from what he learned as a child, but to continue in it.

We have read various children's Bibles to our children since they were tiny babies, but we wanted to make sure we moved on from that. We were concerned that we give our children as broad a grounding in Scripture as we could. If we stick to children's Bibles, we feel that we are giving our children far less than we ought to. They can be great tools for introducing our children to some Bible stories, or themes, but all children's Bibles are incomplete or inaccurate in places. Obviously, some are far better than others, but we were keen to get our children into the Bible properly as soon as we could.

We were also keen to make sure that we looked at the whole Bible with our children, not just focusing in on more popular stories. I have used various children's teaching materials for Sunday School, and we also buy Bible reading notes for our children, and we have found that most of them focus in on a few well known stories. If I want my children to read Job as well as Luke, we can't rely on these resources (although many of them are excellent and have been very useful to us!).

So, we decided that we would attempt to read the whole Bible with each of our children while they were still young.  How did we go about it?

1) We started with our eldest on his 5th birthday, and have continued this pattern with the younger children. Getting a Bible book chart is now an expected part of a 5th birthday in our household.

2) We read one chapter a day, every day. We begin by reading narrative books since these are easier to follow for younger children. When a book is completed, the child puts a sticker on their chart beside that book.

3) We have small family rewards every time a child finishes a book. This will probably involve a bag of sweets to be shared, or occasionally a trip out for a meal as a family. We do family prizes as we didn't want reading the Bible to be a competition, and because we wanted us to celebrate together as a child listened to the Bible being read to them.

It takes about 3 and a half years to finish the Bible at this rate. Our eldest reached the end a while ago, and his next brother will have completed the challenge around Christmas time.

A completed chart!

Has it been worth it? Yes!

We have been amazed at their questions, their ability to follow the stories, and their insights.

We have seen them grow in understanding, and get to grips with complex ideas.

In particular, we have loved seeing them get genuinely excited about how the whole Bible is about Jesus.

My eldest, once we had finished reading to him, decided of his own accord that he wanted to read through the whole Bible for himself, but this time starting from Genesis and working through in order. He's halfway through Psalms, and keeping going.

We pray that they, like Timothy, will continue in what they have learned.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

History Fun

We have been enjoying restarting the Story of the World again this term. I have four children from 4 to nearly 10 all doing this together, and it is working surprisingly well.

We have had an archaeology dig:

Making a model of the Nile and flooding the river over the grass seed we planted was fun (and it worked!):

We have also made cave paintings, drawn hieroglyphics and written cuneiform in play dough:



Today the highlight was making mini pyramids out of sugar cubes and PVA glue:

All these ideas are from The Story of the World Activity Book - essential for someone like me who isn't particularly creative! Of course, there are written narrations and maps to colour as well, but the activities have made it even more fun, and will hopefully help the children to remember what we have learned.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Reading the Bible with Babies

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
When our eldest was a tiny baby, I remember having a conversation with some other new mothers about another family in the church who had a quiet time with each of their children every day. The general feeling was one of surprise, and a consensus that this was a high standard that we wouldn't expect to manage.

Now, however, I am surprised that we were surprised!

I've written elsewhere about why we make teaching the Bible a priority, and about out aims in parenting young children. This post is about the practicalities of making reading the Bible with young children a fundamental part of the day.

So - how does it work in practice? I've broken it down into babies as one group, and toddlers/pre-schoolers as another. The reality is that every child is different and as parents we need to be wise as to how we teach them, but hopefully this will give you a rough idea of what we have done.

Babies (up to about 18months/2 years old):
So, if I had a tiny baby again, what would I say to myself about how to start reading the Bible with my baby?

I'd say start now. If you want to get into the habit of reading the Bible with your children, it is never too young to start. (It is also never too late; new habits can be adopted into a family at any time!)
There are lots of age appropriate, quality resources that we can use with our children. If your child is at the stage of listening to/chewing board books, then use some baby Bible board books.

Repetition is good! At this age, a child will usually be happy to have the same story every day. That's just fine. They will be learning, bit by bit, truth about God. They are also learning the habit of listening to the Bible each day. As they get bigger, you can add a new story, or rotate through a few.
Resources for babies:

This is just a few of the many books available, but ones we have used and particularly like:

Always Near Me by Susie Poole (A version of Psalm 139)
God has Power, God Never Changes and God is Kind (and others!) by Carine Mackenzie
The Beginner's Bible

Once they are ready, I'd move on to a variety of children's Bibles. We have always used a number, rotating through them. We do this because no children's Bible can really reflect the real Bible. All of them have weaknesses, such as neglecting whole genres of the Bible (the prophets usually only get a page or two, and wisdom literature rarely gets any time!). If we mix it up, we can mitigate this a little by using Bibles with different strengths.

Once they are ready, we begin to use a real Bible with our children. With our eldest, we began when we realised he could understand the short Bible verses in our advent calendar! Short verses or short sections of narrative work well, depending on your child.

Resources for toddlers/pre-schoolers:

Again, there are many Bibles available, but we particularly like these:

The Beginner's Bible A good first toddler Bible.
Beginning With God by Jo Boddam Whetham and Alison Mitchell. These are booklets which accompany The Beginner's Bible. Each page has suggested activities and discussion questions suitable for very young children, plus a sticker.
The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm and Gail Schoonmaker. I LOVE this Bible; it traces the story of the Bible as one big story. It is particularly clear on how the Bible points to Jesus. The illustrations also help to reinforce this.
My First Bible - which is from Marks and Spencer, and is surprisingly good! It is good at giving more detailed versions of the stories, which is helpful.
The International Children's Bible - a clear children's translation. This is the first proper translation we have used with our children.

Now we are that family! We take a few minutes each day to read the Bible with each of our children.

I'm convinced that this is a vital part of bringing our children up to know the Lord. Also, in reality it doesn't take all that long, and once a routine is established it happens very naturally. Bible reading is a normal part of the day for our children.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Joyful Moments in a Long Day

Another long day, another day where anti-procrastination strategies are in full force.

Then, just at the end of the day, I had 4 children peacefully colouring their history pictures. The eldest was kindly helping the others and explaining the picture (he's been reading Roger Lancelyn Green's Tales of Ancient Egypt). There are kind words and generous sharing of pencils.

A moment to remember the good things that happened today:

A fun walk in the rain, watching my children run and play together.

Snuggles on the sofa with my younger two.

Listening to my 6 year old read clearly words that he couldn't even say properly a month ago.

Helping my 8 year old do his first translation of English into Latin.

My 4 year old looking at her brothers with big eyes and asking if she could be "a runaway boulder" in their game.

The boys cheerfully agreeing.

Actually getting through a lot of work - though slowly at times.

Helping my 8 year old with his Victorian baked apples in batter.

Going to the shops on my own to buy eggs while my husband cooked tea!

There are many lovely times, even in the midst of a slightly fraught day. Home education can be very intense, and sometimes frustrating. It is good to step back and remember the joyful moments too.

A happy time doing history together.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Anti-Procrastination Strategies

One of THE most frustrating things about home education is procrastinating children. I hear that this can also be a problem for schooled children who have homework!

I have carefully planned their work. There are days when I misjudge it, but most of the time each child is given an amount of work which they could reasonably complete in the morning, or with maybe 1 or 2 assignments left for the afternoon. So WHY do they faff around rather than get on with it???!

This year, at least, I am confident that it will get better after the first couple of weeks, since it usually has before. So, how should do I deal with procrastination? I say should because there are plenty of times when I just get cross (which is, largely, completely ineffective).

1) Stay calm! Easier said than done, but it really does help.

2) Don't stand over a child (assuming they know what to do). The aim is for them to be able to work independently, which won't happen if they can only work if you stand there telling them to pick up a pen every 10 seconds. Set a timer, or make a cup of tea and catch up on e-mails for a few minutes before going to check how your child is getting on.

3) Natural consequences. If a child doesn't finish in the morning, they have to continue into the afternoon, or into the next day. They will, eventually, be motivated to get on with their work!

4) Remind your child about why you want them to work hard: It honours the Lord; it is more fun if you are engaged in what you are studying; it is easier to do if you focus; you will make fewer errors. 

5) Don't skip breaks. We have a short break and a snack every morning regardless of how far on they are. This can break the cycle of procrastination, and also guard against total despair! We also go for a walk for an hour at midday, every day, whatever else has been happening. The children look forward to it, it is good for them, and, again, they often work better later in the day.

6) Be wise. If you think you have set an unreasonable amount, or work which is far too hard, it is fine to stop and make changes.

7) Start afresh each day. A bad day doesn't need to be followed by a bad day; forgive one another and start again.

8) Shake up the order you do different subjects. How you do this will depend on your child. If there is a subject which a child just doesn't enjoy, it may be that getting it out of the way before breakfast helps them. Another child might be better helped by doing something which they are usually less keen on last; the thought that if they get on with it quickly they will be finished soon can be a great motivator for some children.

We found a combination of these strategies has really helped to create an environment where the children work efficiently most of the time. We hope that these habits, as well as what they learn, will help them to work in a God-honouring way as they grow up.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

Saturday, 12 September 2015

First Week Back Reflections

Well, we've had our first week - and survived!

Inevitably, there will be a few adjustments to make before our second week, though overall I'm happy with what I had planned.


My lovely 4 year old says that maths was what she enjoyed most this week.

Science with the older two boys was very popular. We've started volume 2 of the Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, beginning with Brownian Motion and diffusion - so proper science (I've written about our science curriculum here). Until now, I've not set written work for science, but this year they have begun science notebooks. This was much more popular than I expected, and they both drew some lovely diagrams.

Page 1 of a science notebook

My 8 year old has just started Latin, and is very keen at the moment. I have also started teaching a Latin class at one home education group that we attend, and was relieved that it went well.

Writing With Ease is a new addition to our curriculum, and so far I am impressed with it. I hope it will have good results for their writing in the long term.

Our local home education group, which I help to run, was also very much enjoyed. We have started a new series where we will focus on a new country each week. This term our focus is Asia. The cookie dough map of Asia we made was particularly successful. My older two boys joined in the book club run by a fellow home educator, and were very enthusiastic about this too.

Cookie Dough Map of Asia

My home education planner that we made worked well. It was much easier to have a list of everything I had planned for that day all in one place so I could see at a glance what we had left to do.


I planned too much to do! We did manage it, but I should have scheduled less for the first week.

Linked to this, we had less time outside than I'd like. We went for a walk each day, but I'd like a bit more time in the park or in the woods. Partly, we had two home education groups in one week, which is unusual.

One of our walks this week.

I had planned for my 6 year old to tag along with his older brothers for science. When we looked more closely at this year's science curriculum, it was clear that it would be too advanced for him to really benefit. Instead, we will start the younger two children off on volume 1 of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding.

I didn't go to bed early enough. There's always more to do, but if I sleep more it is better for everyone!

Overall, we had a good week. The children have done well and adjusted to work again (with a few inevitable tears at times). They have worked hard, and also had fun.

However, I am exhausted - and I know I really need to pace myself if I am to get through the next few weeks. Not just home education responsibilities, but also church commitments have stepped up again. These are all good things - which I enjoy, not just feel that I have to do - but it does tend to make me more tired.

There are many demands on my time and energy, and I want to be able to do the really important things with my children, as well as get through all that I have planned.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Summer Reading Challenge - Update

At the beginning of the summer, I set up a reading challenge for our family.

Each of us had an individual challenge to complete.

How did we get on? Well, the children did brilliantly. They were highly motivated for the most part, and seeing one another reach the bronze, silver and gold milestones spurred them on. At one point, my elder two were offering to read to their sister so that she could make progress. My eldest even helped my six year old by listening to him read (though I supervised fairly closely!).

The two older boys enjoyed a wide variety of books, though Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mystery series featured heavily in my 8 year old's choices. Encouraged to try new books, my eldest was surprised by how much he enjoyed a children's biography of Augustine, which led to him reading a few Christian biographies by choice.

As for the parents - we found the challenge a little more challenging. Each of us finished our last books today (the deadline). However, we are both pleased to have read eight books we would not otherwise have read this summer. I have finally read, and thoroughly enjoyed, War and Peace. This choice probably explains why I cut it so fine to meet the deadline! In particular, I have been hugely encouraged by the two books by Michael Reeves I have read, Christ Our Life and The Good God.

Will we do it again? I think so! It has kept the children productively occupied and helped them to discover books they may not have chosen otherwise. For myself, it was the little push I needed to be a bit more intentional about my reading. We have all benefitted, and hope to keep on reading throughout the year.

The Plan For Reception

Finally it has happened - I have 4 school aged children!

This means I now have a formal plan for what my daughter will do this year. In practice, there won't be a huge amount of difference to what she was doing last year when she tagged along with a lot of what her elder brother was doing. Also, she is only just 4 years old, so the amount she will be doing will be appropriate for her age.

This is what I have planned for her:


The Big Book of Questions and Answers by Sinclair B Ferguson

We all join in our morning devotions led by Michael. We also read from a children's Bible every night with our daughter (we have a few that we work through, one after the other).


All About Reading Level 1 (at a much slower pace than her brother)
Practising a little writing (family names etc.)
Reading aloud stories
I plan to add in All About Spelling Level 1 when she is ready, as well as more handwriting.


Singapore Maths Kindergarten A


The Story of the World: Ancients


She will join in whatever art or craft projects we do.

This formal work will take up very little of her time, leaving plenty of opportunities for playing, drawing and pottering in the garden. 

Adding in another child's work always takes a little bit adjustment for me, and no doubt I will have to work out exactly how to do things so that everyone can have my attention when they need it. However,    I am much more relaxed about my fourth child starting out than I was about my first. I know that just a little work each day is enough to make great progress at this stage. I am confident that if she struggles at first, there is no harm in pausing until she is ready.

For her part, she is counting down the days until she can start maths. I hope it lives up to her expectations!

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Plan For Year 2

My third son is 6 years old, and would be in Year 2 this term.

Since my son has had fairly significant speech problems, he has been a little late beginning to read. However, over the last few months he has made huge progress, and his reading is coming along brilliantly. A year ago, I did a little phonics with him; although he tried hard, there were so many things he couldn't say yet that it was just not working. Now, however, the reading work I am doing is actually helping his speech, and he is making advances in both areas. This is why we are still working on All About Reading Level 1.

Here's the plan:


The Big Book of Questions and Answers by Sinclair B. Ferguson

In addition, we will have family devotions led by Michael over breakfast. We are also reading the Bible aloud to him, 1 chapter at a time (not from beginning to end, but picking different Bible books to work through).


All About Reading Level 1
Handwriting Practice 1 (Schofield and Sims)
Various books (read aloud to him)
Speech therapy exercises
I also plan to begin All About Spelling Level 1 with him later in the year.


Singapore Maths 2A
Mental Maths
Maths Whizz (an online maths programme which he enjoys)


The Story of the World: Ancient Times


An art project once a week (sometimes as part of our history programme)


Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Vol. 2

Even more than for any of my other children, the freedom to adapt to his needs has really helped my 6 year old. He has not fallen behind in areas where he has shown aptitude (such as maths) even though learning to speak has been such hard work for him.

He's really keen to get back to his maths, and excited about the progress he is making with his reading.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Plan For Year 4

The plan for Year 4 is similar to the plan for Year 5. Some things the two older boys will do together, and for others they will work at their own level.

One of the joys of home education is being able to work at a level appropriate for your child. This isn't a general "Plan for Year 4", but a specific plan for my year 4 child. He is actually nearly 2 years younger than his brother, and this is reflected in some of the choices I have made. He is 2 years behind his brother in most of the English curricula I have chosen, but only 1 year behind him for maths.

So, here's the plan:


XTB Bible notes.

Bible Time; I produce my own questions as we work through the Bible in chunks. We are about to start the book of Esther.

In addition, we will have family devotions led by Michael over breakfast. We are also reading the Bible aloud to him, 1 chapter at a time (not from beginning to end, but picking different Bible books to work through).


Spelling Workout D
Rod & Staff Building Christian English 4, Building With Diligence
Writing with Ease 2
Set Reading


Singapore Maths 4A
Mental Maths
Maths Whizz (an online maths programme which he enjoys)


The Story of the World: Ancient Times


Latin Prep Book 1


Programming (Scratch)
Touch typing


An art project once a week (sometimes as part of our history programme)


Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Vol. 2



We are looking forward to beginning on Monday.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Plan For Year 5

The summer has meant gathering resources, tidying away completed folders of work and planning, planning, planning.

In case it is helpful for others, over the next few days I will post lists of what I have planned for each child this year. I will start with my eldest, who would be beginning Year 5 if he were at school.

Some of our Year 5 Resources

Planning for Year 5 work has been relatively straightforward, as most of what we are doing will be a continuation of what we did last year. Here's the list:


XTB Bible notes.

Bible Time; I produce my own questions as we work through the Bible in chunks. We are about to start the book of Esther.

In addition, we will have family devotions led by Michael over breakfast. My eldest is also reading through the Bible on his own, 1 chapter a night (he's up to Psalms).


Spelling Workout G
Rod & Staff Building Christian English 6, Progressing With Courage
Writing with Ease 4
Set Reading


Singapore Maths 5A
Mental Maths


The Story of the World: Ancient Times


Latin Prep Book 2


Programming (Scratch)
Touch typing


An art project once a week (sometimes as part of our history programme)


Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Vol. 2



Of course, this is only part of his education. We will have museum trips, library visits and nature walks. My eldest is a huge reader, and learns an enormous amount in his free time. He has swimming lessons, and belongs to an archaeology club.

We also attend two home education groups; in one he will do history and music, and in the other we are beginning a series where each week is based on a different country.

The beginning of a new academic year is always both exciting and slightly daunting. Planning, though time consuming, is far easier than implementing! No doubt there will be challenges, both expected and unforeseen. I need to keep on praying as well as planning, and remember that growth in faith and growth in character are more important than making it through our curriculum for the year.