Saturday, 30 July 2016

Friday Reflections - 14

We left for Keswick very early this morning, and spent the evening playing in Derwent Water with the friends that we go to the convention with each year. We all enjoy the complete change of environment, and the beautiful surroundings of the Lakes.

Our summer weeks at home are a mixture of jobs, trips out, seeing friends, and activities - spontaneous and planned - at home.

We have visited the zoo again, and this time we saw the Galapagos tortoises, which are very impressive creatures.

One project left from last term was making our lapbooks for Oceania and Antarctica, so we had a pleasant afternoon of cutting and sticking.

I have begun working through my lengthy lists of tasks by organising some of my home education shelves. I've swapped out the books for last year and replaced them with material that I already have for the coming year. I have also ordered lots of curriculum for next year. In addition, I have managed to sell some materials that we no longer need, which has been very satisfying.

Reading has continued. They are all already about half way through their whole reading challenge, though I think our holiday may slow them down a bit. I've given my eldest a couple more challenging Victorian novels (ones I thought he'd enjoy) to slow him down too, though I made it clear that if he didn't like them or found them too hard, he should give up and wait til he's older. I don't want him to plough through books he's not ready for yet. However, he's taken Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone in his stride, and is currently halfway through Dickens' David Copperfield and enjoying it.

Thursday meant packing for holiday, which went fairly smoothly, and taking delivery of a new washing after our old one finally gave up earlier in the week. I am glad that we won't be arriving home from holiday without a washing machine at home!

I am still enjoying crochet, and have begun a new blanket for my next son. Again, he has chosen the pattern and the colours.

My eldest brought his blanket on holiday for snuggling, so I'm glad he likes it (unless he's humouring me!).

Friday, 22 July 2016

Friday Reflections - 13

A week of sunshine, our first week of the summer break has meant the children gradually relaxing with more time to play and read and create. Although I have plenty of chores, we still have lots of time for rest and fun together.

At home, everyone has been reading. The three boys all now read for pleasure of their own volition (my 4 year old isn't quite up to reading to herself yet), but the summer reading challenge definitely spurs them on. My eldest has already read 12 books out of the 30 that I have set him, including more challenging works such as Sophie's World and Robinson Crusoe. Obviously, I love having book-loving children - but I am going to struggle to keep up with the need for new reading material. I have completed just one book, but I have started two more. 

We had a pleasant family walk along the Thames last Saturday, followed by ice cream (always a hit).

A View on our Walk

Plenty to See

We have still had time for plenty of playing. Many board games have been played already.

Setting Up Labyrinth
On request, I got out the paints and our easel. 

Happy Painting

A Productive Morning!

My eldest built a model city in our spare room out of a variety of toys.

A Mini-Museum
We have also had our paddling pool out. It is now quite old, and full of holes; our garden is also on a slope. This meant that the pool didn't stay inflated and full of water for long, but lots of fun was had anyway. We had friends round to join us one day too, which added to the excitement.

Paddling Pool

I also taught my last Latin class of this academic year to some friends who have been coming once a fortnight this year for a Latin lesson. They have done well, and it is encouraging to see the progress they have made over the year.

As an end of term treat, I took the children to see a special exhibition about dinosaurs at the Horniman Museum, which is a few minutes walk from our house. It isn't a huge exhibition, but there are some interesting things to see (mainly dinosaur eggs), and some enjoyable activities. There are a number of exhibits that can be touched, which the children were pleased about.

Digging for Dinosaurs

I also managed a trip to the British Museum with my 10 year old. We went with good friends, and visited the Sunken Cities -Egypt's Lost Worlds exhibition, which was an excellent way to spend an afternoon. We had a picnic tea in the park before heading home, tired but happy.

Museum Fun

Finally, I finished my crochet blanket after we arrived home. Very satisfying!

A Finished Blanket

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Summer Break?

We have reached the summer break - a huge relief for all of us. We've worked hard, and looking back I can see that all the children have made progress over the last year. There have been plenty of hard days along the way, and I know God has sustained me through it all.

And now, the day to day, week by week planning, teaching and general chivying through work is over for this year. Furthermore, the church evening groups that meet in our home are pausing over the summer. For me, the summer period is by far the quietest season of the year, and a chance to rest a little, and get some jobs done around the house.

So, what will the summer break mean for me, a home educating parent?

1) Children. Although I'm not setting them work, they still need to be fed, watered, and generally supervised. We'll still have trips out and visits from friends; there will be games to play and craft projects to assist with; they will still need to be read to and encouraged and disciplined.

2) Cleaning. Boring, but necessary. I have a list of jobs that will only realistically be tackled during this quiet spot of the year. Top of the list is cleaning the oven.

Lots of Lists

3) Decorating. This is the first house we've lived in that we are able to decorate ourselves, so this is novel, and quite fun. We've decided to aim for about one room a year. Last summer, we decorated our bedroom, this year we are painting the boys' room.

This was last year's project:


...and after.
I also gained a chair and a table, so I have somewhere to sit and read, or to work in peace, during the day. The fantastic view is an added blessing.

4) Home Ed. Planning. This has been in my head for weeks already, but I'm now beginning the process of serious planning for next year. Then I will purchase any curriculum we need, and make sure that we are ready to go again in September. The planning for the group that I co-lead has already begun too, and will require quite a bit of thought over the next few weeks.

5) Home Ed. Supplies. I will make sure that we have pens that work, and sufficient pencils and art materials and exercise books for the year ahead. My craft cupboard needs to be tidied thoroughly too.

6) Summer Reading. We have a reading challenge for the whole family. I usually have a book or two on the go, but aiming to read 8 books over the summer brings a bit of focus. I'm not feeling that enthused at the moment - and I usually love to read - so I think I am tired. It has taken me a week to get a sticker on my chart, and my eldest has already read 10 books!

7) Holiday Club. This will be our third holiday club that we have run here, and the last two have been encouraging. My husband will be running it, but I will help in the preparations and be leading a group of children during the sessions.

8) Keswick Convention. We have been attending this with our children for a number of years now, and we are very much looking forward to going again a week tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a week in God's Word, time with friends, paddling in the lake, and (hopefully) a chance to climb another mountain with the children.

A change of pace and a change of focus for a few weeks is very much needed, and appreciated. I still have plenty to keep me productively occupied, but it is a welcome break from the more relentless busyness of term time.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Friday Reflections -12

Our last week of term has been a quiet one in terms of work - we'd finished much of our curriculum earlier. Now we have almost nothing left to do except a few grammar lessons which the older two will finish at their own pace next week. 

A little more free time has meant that the children have had more time to get out the Lego. My eldest has been turning various Lego sets into dragons.

Millennium Falcon Dragon

Various Lego Dragons

We have also had a chance to try out some new art lessons, which I read about on another home education blog, angelicscalliwags, here. This curriculum, ArtAchieve, has a number of lessons at various levels. We have tried a couple of free lessons to see what we thought, and the children enjoyed them, so I think I will be using some of these lessons next year.

Drawing Lines

Drawing a Cat

Finished Cats

We also had a lovely day meeting up with some good friends, and we also discovered a new park when looking for a mutually convenient place to meet for a walk and a picnic, Chiswick House and Gardens. The gardens are free, and very pleasant to wander around for a few hours.


Today we had our final home education group meeting, a picnic in the park. The children are relieved to know that we will still be seeing our friends over the summer!

Today is the first day of our summer reading challenge. The reading has already begun this evening. I need to get started soon if I am going to have a chance to finish my challenge.

I am also hoping to finish my current crochet blanket soon. I've not quite mastered the art of reading and crocheting at the same time, however, so I will need to be organised to make sure I have time for both over the summer.

Crochet Blanket - Almost Finished

Summer Reading Challenge 2016

Last year we had our first summer reading challenge. It was a success, and our children have been eagerly anticipating this year's challenge.

This year, my eldest has to read 30 new books to complete his challenge (up 5 from last year), and my 9 year old has a target of 20 new books (also up 5 books).

I'm delighted that my 7 year old will be able to participate fully this year, with a target of 12 books. Some of these will be Usborne readers, which are reasonably long but manageable, but he will have a few chapter books too. Last summer, we were still working through reading lessons in All About Reading Level 1, so this is a step up for him.

My daughter, who is 4, will have 25 new picture books as her target, which I will read to her.

The Children's Charts

The Adult's Chart

As last year, my husband and I will have a target of 8 books each. A while ago, I purchased The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer, with the hope of working my way through some more stretching reading. The first book is Don Quixote, which I haven't started yet, so I may attempt this. Last year, I read War and Peace as one of my books, so I feel like I should attempt something equally challenging this year. We'll see!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Friday Reflections - 11

My 2 oldest boys and my daughter have finished their maths books, one child has completed their Latin for the year, and 2 have finished their spelling books. Our history has nearly reached its conclusion (Rome will come to its end next week), and we are hoping that we will wind down almost everything before the week finishes.

Otherwise, this has been a quiet week for the most part; plugging on through the remaining work, pottering in the garden, playing, and making shoe box houses for their toy animals.

I allowed my two eldest to stay up to watch Wales play football on Wednesday. We don't really follow much sport in our household (except cricket in Michael's case), but the boys were interested. They both brought books with them too - though they did watch quite a bit of football.

Watching Football Peach-Style
We had some excitement one morning when the certificate and regalia for my husband's Masters in Theology turned up. This certificate is far more impressive than anything he has received before - and the children thought his gown very funny. Although this caused some amusement, I know that it has been a lot of work over the last 5 years for Michael to achieve his degree, and his commitment to keep to learning and studying has been a great example for our children.

A Huge Certificate!
Today we visited the Summer Science Exhibition run by the Royal Society. This is our third year visiting this exhibition (I wrote about this last year), and it did not disappoint. If anything, I found that those running the exhibits were even more ready to engage with our children than in previous years.

There were bubbles.


We enjoyed looking at the models demonstrating how plastic is used in the human body in various ways.

Plastic Inside Us Display

The exhibit about space junk, and possible ways to deal with the problem, was popular.

Space Junk Exhibit

The children also learned about spider silk, and how spiders produce different types of silk for different purposes.

Spiders Ready to Race

Spider race, to demonstrate different types of spider silk.

We learned about the thermal conductivity of diamond, and the electrical conductivity of diamond doped with boron.

Testing the thermal conductivity of various materials by pressing them into ice.

The children also played a game which helped them learn about how robins survive the winter and look after their eggs.

Bird Game

Along the way, we saw a display of the shortlisted books for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, which the older boys are helping to judge as part of one the young people's judging panels.

Shortlisted Books

There were other displays that we visited and enjoyed too, but these were highlights.

We finished with ice creams in the park. All in all, a good day.

Ice Cream!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Ology by Marty Machowski

We have just finished reading The Ology as part of our breakfast reading. It has been an excellent, and enjoyable, addition to our collection of children's Christian books.

The Ology

The Ology is a systematic theology for children, and is a perfect supplement to the children's Bibles that we already use.

There are a number of sections covering different aspects of theology, including: Sin, the Church, Christ, the Holy Spirit and the End Times. Each topic has a number of sub-topics so that each area is covered in helpful, but not overwhelming, detail. For example, The Ology of the Church includes topics such as Worship, the Lord's Supper, Baptism, and the Persecution of the Saints.

We love the illustrations.

My husband has been reading a chapter a day to the children, and we have both been impressed with the content. These are not easy topics, but they are presented accurately and clearly. In addition, there are Bible verses to read for each chapter, and a number of additional references for further study. We plan to look at these in more detail next time we read it.

We have all appreciated the beautiful and memorable illustrations. Our youngest, in particular, has found these a helpful hook to get her interested in the chapter.

The Ology has been a helpful resource for us as a family already, and I hope that using it as a basis for further study will be of great benefit to us.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Friday Reflections - 10

The summer holidays are approaching. We have had a couple of weeks where we have pushed ahead quite hard in order to make sure that we finish everything on time. We are just beginning to finish up some of our curriculum, and we will finish more next week. We are all tired and ready for the long break; except for my 4 year old, who, I think, is now ready for a bit more work next year.

Last Saturday I took my older two boys and a friend along to Archaeology Club. This session was on the Thames foreshore at Greenwich, where they were looking for animal bones, discarded from animals eaten in the royal palaces that were once there. I joined them for this particular session.

Collecting Bones

Most of the time, the children were collecting animal bones, of which there were a great many. They put them together in the rough shape of an animal, trying to get the right bones in the right places.

An Animal Shape Made of Bones

We were also shown a piece of masonry which was apparently from Henry VIII's palace.

Masonry from Henry VIII's Palace

Most of the week has been spent on our usual curriculum, with some children fitting in extra lessons in order to finish early. We are nearly at the end of our history book, and my eldest rejected the colouring page provided on the grounds that Boudicca's chariot was inaccurate! They studied Boudicca at Archaeology Club recently, so the boys were better informed than me.

Boudicca's Chariot

This Friday, we had our home education group meeting again. We were focusing on Australia for a second time, and decided to have a barbecue. The children made s'mores (biscuits, chocolate and marshmallows) and cooked bananas (also cooked with chocolate and marshmallows). The rain just about held off, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

In addition, the children's book group have begun the process of judging the children's science books for the Royal Society's Young People's Book Prize, which my co-leader has organised. They are one of the judging panels for the prize, and my two eldest boys are looking forward to reading the first book.

The week is just about over, and a number of tired Peaches are looking forward to a relatively quiet Saturday, and anticipating with even greater eagerness the summer break.