Friday, 29 April 2016

Friday Reflections - 1

It is Friday afternoon, and time for a cup of tea and a chance to look back at the week.

Michael has been away for most of the week at a preaching conference, so the days have been a bit busier without adult company at mealtimes, but the evenings have been quieter without as many evening meetings in our home! He has had a good conference and returned to us encouraged, and we are all glad to have him home again.

Meanwhile, we have been continuing with our normal routine most of the week. This has been mainly going well, though my eldest was making fairly easy mistakes in his Latin today, which was unusual for him so I think he may be tired - and I may need to take some time to go over some grammar again.

In addition, we fitted in another trip to the zoo on Wednesday when everyone finished their work unexpectedly early. This was probably due to the two older boys deciding to do their Latin before breakfast.

Zoo Fun

We have had very varied weather here, from sunshine to hail to lightning. The children are particularly enamoured of exciting precipitation, so I let them out in the garden to enjoy the hail earlier today!

It was hailing, though you can't see that in the picture!

We haven't done an art project recently, so this week we used oil pastels and ink to make these reflection pictures:

Art Project

The idea was from this book, which I use a lot for art projects:

In their spare time, the older two boys have been reading The Lord of the Rings. This was one of my favourite books as a teenager, so it is lovely to enjoy them enjoying it. My 10 year old  has read this book before, so we are trying hard not to spoil the story for my 8 year old! They have been building the Lego sets that my 10 year old bought a couple of years ago after he first read the book, and having lots of fun together.

Orcs - drawn by my 10 year old.

We have also had a set of caterpillars arrive this week. My 4 year old has named some of them - Climby, Jammy and Hoppy. We are looking forward to watching them grow and become butterflies if all goes well.


All the children have decided to build lots of Hama beads this week. My eldest has been building a set of Star Wars characters.

Star Wars Hama Beads

One of the highlights for me has been watching my almost 7 year old really grow in his reading ability. He has had such significant problems with his speech, and has had to work so hard at his reading, that it brings me real joy to see him read. This week he has been working through his Bible notes on his own, including reading all the Bible passages. Not only is he able to read, but he loves it - which feels amazing given all his difficulties with his speech over the last few years.

My 6 year old working through his Bible notes.

I have managed to crochet a bit, read a bit, and survive another busy week. As the summer term is under way, now is the time that I begin to mentally plan for next year. I am beginning the process of evaluating where each child is at, where they need to be stretched or where they need extra help. Lots of thinking and planning still to go over the next few months.

We finished up this afternoon in the park with some friends. We had lightning, thunder, hail and sunshine - but they (and I!)  had a lovely time at the end of a fairly packed week.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A "Normal" Day

Quite frequently, I am asked what a "normal day" looks like in the Peach household. I guess that there is a natural curiosity about what a home educating household is like.

Of course every single home educating family is unique; I have never met another family who do exactly what we do - which is, of course, why we choose to home educate. Our curriculum choices, our structure (or lack thereof), our activities are chosen to suit our children, our situations, and our own particular gifts and preferences. A "normal" day for us probably looks very different from many other home educating families' routines.

Furthermore, I imagine that this question is really a question about how the children's education is structured. Again, this isn't straightforward as there isn't a strict divide between formal education and family activities. A maths lesson clearly falls into the education category, but making a model of an iron-age village in the park or listening to The Magician's Nephew at bedtime are both educational activities, although neither feature on my work-plan for the week.

Having said all this, here is a basic outline of a normal home ed. day in the Peach household (timings are approximate!):

8 am - Breakfast: This includes family devotions, followed by reading aloud to the children. At the moment, we are using The Big Picture Family Devotional by David R. Helm for our Bible time, and I am reading The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski, an Usborne collection of Greek Myths, and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. See here for more about our breakfasts.

9 am - 10:30 am - Core Subjects: The children all start the day with Bible, maths and English. Depending on age, this includes reading, spelling and grammar, mental maths sheets and working though our maths curriculum. Bible will mean using Bible notes (the older 3), or reading through a children's Bible (with my 4 and 6 year olds).

10:30am - Break: Time to play and grab a piece of fruit to eat before we get going again.

11 am - 12 noon - Core Subjects Plus: At this point, the children will probably have some English or maths still to do, and will also start work on other subjects such as Latin, touch typing or piano (amongst others).

12 noon - Walk: This is a high point for the children. We head out for an hour before lunch, usually to a local park for a run round.

1pm - Lunch: We eat lunch...I am really ready for...

1:30 pm - Rest Time: All children have to find something to do quietly on their own for half an hour. The older two have set reading to do first. After half an hour, they are allowed to play together quietly for a bit too.

2:30pm: This slot is more varied. We often do history, science or art. Once a week, we write letters to friends and family. Sometimes we meet up with friends, or go out for a walk in the local woods. Some days we have fixed activities, such as our home education group. Also, any work that hasn't been completed in the morning has to be finished up. I find that this happens much more early in the school year when the children are less focussed and more prone to procrastinating (for how I deal with this, see here!).

So - there it is - a normal day. Of course, we are usually running late, and we often fit other stuff in - but this is the basic structure we work to. It works for us - for now, and most of the time.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Zoo Trip

Yesterday, we went to the zoo. I have just bought a family membership of London zoo for myself and the children, mostly funded by a generous gift from a family member who wanted to contribute towards something educational for the children. We are still, happily, at the stage where all four of them really enjoy doing the same activities a lot of the time, so this seemed like a good year to have zoo membership.

Four "lions" ready for transport! 

Since this was a slightly damp weekday, there weren't many visitors there. This is definitely one of the best perks of home education - visiting museums or zoos or other attractions when they are much quieter!

We saw penguins and meerkats.



We enjoyed the butterflies. The butterfly tent was also a good place to warm up a bit on a slightly chilly day.


Identifying Butterflies


Another Butterfly

The giraffes were very popular.


There were models of a giraffes skull and a vertebra to handle, as well as various antlers which the zoo staff encouraged my boys to try on!


We also went to one of the zoo talks, where we saw various impressive birds as well as some other creatures showing off what they could do.

Animal Antics Show

Ready to watch the show; more people did arrive, though it was fairly quiet.

The children all really like going to the talks, so we plan to try to get to most or all of them over the year. We are also planning to go to Whipsnade zoo at least once, since that is also included in our membership, and we would all like to see elephants!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Friday Fun - Home Ed. Group

For a couple of years, I have been co-running a home education group with a friend (who also blogs here). We felt that it would be good to run something local which would enable families in the same situation as us to meet together. Our hope was that it would provide something of educational value to our children, and that it would give them an opportunity to socialise together in a semi-formal setting.

Our group meets once a fortnight for two hours. We took a little while to settle on a format that worked, but we have gradually honed our sessions as we have gone along to make them better for the children that we have attending. One of the issues is making something work for a variety of ages. We have children from 4 to 12 (and sometimes a little older) attending, and we want them all to benefit.

At the moment, we are working round the world one continent per term, focussing on one country each week. Our activities are based on this country, and a normal session looks like this:

1. Maps and flags to colour in are available as people arrive.

2. A picture book, or sometimes a number of picture books, are read. My friend has found some great books for us to listen to together. Although picture books are of particular benefit to the younger children, even the older ones still really enjoy them. Sometimes this is followed by a discussion, or by looking at items or pictures from the country we are studying that week.

3. Activities. This is my job to organise. Usually I have two activities, though yesterday I had three, and I think that was better. I try to find something that the younger ones can definitely manage and something that the older children may find more satisfying. Some activities work well for all ages, such as making fondant penguins like we did yesterday.

Giant snowflakes were popular with older children yesterday.

Fondant penguins were popular with everyone!

A Maasai shield from last term.

Cookie dough map of Africa - a group activity.

4. Snack time. This has been haphazard in the past, but we are trialling having snacks that fit at least loosely with our themes. Yesterday we had little biscuits and dried fruit as a reminder of how the early explorers of Antarctica survived without getting scurvy!

5. Book group. My friend organises this for the older children - about 8 years old and up. They work through two books a term, and discuss together each week what they have been reading. Again, the books they read will be about the continent we are focussing on that term. In addition, they each bring a book along to recommend to the rest of the group. This has been a highlight for my older two.

6. Games/Outdoors. Meanwhile, the younger children enjoy table football during the winter, or when the weather is inclement, and run round outdoors during the summer when the weather is dry.

It doesn't always work perfectly, but generally we all have a good time, and my children really look forward to it. It supplements well what we work on the rest of the time too, and they have made lapbooks to keep a record of what we have learned each term.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Stop Motion Films - Gladiator!

Today we finished our Story of the World chapter which describes gladiators in ancient Rome, so it seemed like a good opportunity to make a stop motion film of a gladiator battle.

The children made their first mini-film using a Lego figures a while ago. They jotted down a basic outline of what was going to happen, gathered their characters and drew their scenery, and created a little video. For this video, they used the Lego movie maker app on my ipad, which is very simple to use.

This was the result:

Today, the plan was to make a short video of a number of gladiator fights. The children built an arena out of bricks, then added a Lego mini-figure crowd (including white figures for Roman senators!). They gathered the characters for a number of battles, and we were ready to go.

Carefully moving the figures for each shot.

My ipad wasn't functioning properly, so I set up a camera on a tripod for them to use, and we downloaded the photos and used Windows Movie Maker to put together the finished film. They added a sound track, which made me laugh out loud!

Here it is:

Lots of fun, and a memorable afternoon.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Easter Holidays

We've been back to work for two days already. We're planning to take two weeks off in June, so we're back to the books a bit earlier than usual.

Nonetheless, it was good to have a break, although the two older boys managed to be ill for quite a bit of the time!

We have been doing activities based on Africa at our home education group last term, so we have made lapbooks to keep a record of some of the activities we did.

Africa Lapbooks

We have managed a couple of trips out, including a trip to the British Museum with some friends, and a trip to race ducks (not real ducks!) with another family.

The children enjoyed our Easter activities, especially making our Easter cake this year.

Easter Cake

I always welcome a break, and had fun making hot cross buns. I usually have help, but children being unwell meant I made them myself this year.

Hot Cross Buns

I have been trying to learn to crochet (using YouTube), and have begun a blanket. Hopefully I will be able to carry on now that term has begun; it turns out that crochet can be combined quite well with listening to a child read.

Beginnings of a Blanket

By the end of the week, my two boys were much better, and went to their archaeology club, and returned home with some impressive shields!

A Shield!

It didn't work out as I planned - we missed some walks and I had to stay at home with a sick child during our Good Friday service; however, we still had a good break and are feeling refreshed as we get back to work again.