Sunday, 2 December 2012

December? Already?

I can't believe that Christmas is nearly here. Today is the 2nd of December and we have been flat out busy with bugs and studies!

L is progressing through her IGCSEs that she is working on and M is making progress in her writing skills.

She has finished a lapbook on Madeline which is a cute story of 12 girls who live in house covered with vines and do everything in two straight lines. The story takes place in Paris and involves an emergency trip to the hospital. We will start Christmas themed unit studies now as we are into December.

L is in two plays this month and has lots of lines to memorise. We are also going through practice papers for her exams as taking exams is a skill that needs to be learned. We are working our way through various levels of exams so that she can do the higher tier exams confidently and competently.

Today has been a very busy day on our social calendar and whoever thinks that children who don't attend school don't have a social life needs some correction of their faulty perspective.

Next time I might have some photos of some Christmas crafts to put up here, so as they say "Watch this space!"

Monday, 29 October 2012

At Least I Can Cook

One of the challenges with home education is working through my own weaknesses in order to give my children a well rounded education.

There are many ways of doing this, I can either send them to school where they will have teacher who specialised in the subject, I can hire a private tutor to come to our home, or I can try and do the Marge Simpson approach which is to be one lesson ahead of them.

It is when I come to my weak points that I realise how difficult education is. Obviously for M it is quite easy because she is the little sponge and the subject matter for her is quite easy, she is after all only six years old. At her level my own weaknesses are not barriers to her learning.

When I get to L's level that's when my weaknesses come to light and I really think that she should probably go to school because I might be ruining her chances in life for further and higher education. Then something wonderful happens, I like to call it Divine Providence. Someone is put in my path who can help me over that hump and can contribute to our education experience. There is really only one subject that she is taking an exam in that I absolutely cannot do, but I have a solution for that, someone else will teach her.

Today was a highly frustrating day for me. I spent three hours trying to figure out how to use my sewing machine. I've had it for over two years but have only used it once and L used it more than I did. It has been in its box now for just over two years. To cut a long story short, two broken needles and a lot of frustration later the sewing machine went back into its box while I decide whether to give it away, sell it or keep it. The item I wanted to mend is still in need of mending. A friend of mine will come and do the sewing for me.

I was forced to take sewing in school when I was 12. We had to make a garment to wear in the school fashion show. Everyone who took sewing that school year had to participate. Sewing was mandatory for girls in the seventh grade and so I had to take it. I also had to take cooking that year. I would go each lesson to the sewing room and didn't make much progress on my item. That is probably because I chose to make knickerbockers which are not really easy to make; I should have made a skirt!

Needless to say I did not finish it during class time. The fashion show was looming and I was really panicked. I took the sewing project home and I honestly thought I was going to get help. Instead it was so hopeless trying to help me, my parents finished my sewing project for me! Dad helped Mom work out how to put the zipper in them. I wore them in the fashion show and learned a very valuable lesson, sewing machines and I are not friends. That lesson is one I keep forgetting but then each time I try and use a sewing machine I am very soon reminded of it.

The next year I did not have to take sewing and so I didn't. I took woodworking instead. I find the machinery in woodworking a lot less dangerous than sewing machines and much easier to use, or at least that's how I remember it with my rose coloured glasses.

At least I can cook...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Back in the Swing of Things

Today we got back into the swing of things and our extended break is over. Last week we eased back into some structure by taking advantage of the National Schools Film Week and we saw three films. This was thanks to H who is another home educator in our town. She and her daughter invited us to come along to the films.

Today we got up and M did a whole lot of Maths she did a worksheet and some pages in a workbook. We will start back with the Ray's Arithmetic or Jones Brothers Arithmetic soon enough, but it's a bit of fun to use the worksheets as a nice change. She uses an abacus to figure out her answers. Today she had to figure out if the answer given was correct or incorrect and mark it accordingly.

L continued to work on her Cold War unit study and did some work in her English textbook.

While the girls were doing their work, we were also doing composer study and listening to Debussy who is our composer we are listening to this term.

We have our teamwork tasks to do and that is our day finished!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

National Schools Film Week and Dyson

This week the girls and I have been going to our local Cineworld to see some free films that were arranged by a charity called Film Education and here is a link to their site: National Schools Film Week. It is a fantastic opportunity for children who are educated at school or at home to see a film in the cinema.

We went to three different screenings this week, we saw Brave, A Monster in Paris, and Hugo. L really wanted to see Hugo and she got to see the whole film. M made it through about 30 minutes of it and she and I left. What I saw of it, I really enjoyed and I actually want to watch the whole thing.

On the website, Film Education has some resources to use for films and so we are going to do Brave and A Monster in Paris. I notice that they have resources for many of M's favourite films so I think we will be doing a lot of film studies. They have ideas for many curriculum subjects which I think is nice because it means that we can look at the different topics and subjects that are presented.

I made a request in passing to a staff member about turning down the volume and they honoured my request. She could only promise that they would try and could not make any guarantees but it was a much more pleasant volume. I have sent a thank you in writing to them so that they know I appreciated it.

Last week I applied to James Dyson Foundation for a physical loan of their engineering box which contains a vacuum cleaner that students have the opportunity to build. It sounds like fun and I have taken vacuum cleaners apart before so I thought it would be a fun thing for us to do as an extra activity. I got an email today from them telling me that we will be getting our box in January 2013. I think the girls' Dad will be very impressed. When I mentioned to him that Dyson does this he thought it was a fantastic opportunity.

I have a lot to look forward to, I think!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Apples and Films and Museums Oh My!

We have been carrying on with our studies and decided to take a couple of weeks off for a bit of a break. We started while the summer holidays were still on and so felt that after eight weeks back to the grindstone, we earned a well deserved rest.

Last week we went on a day trip to London because some friends of mine were visiting the UK and we had not seen each other in 14 years! We took the train down and wandered around the Museum of London with them and then came back home again.

Last week was a busy week for me even though the girls had a break from their studies. This week we are taking advantage of the National Schools Film Week and are going to see some films with another local home educating family. They invited us along for the films.

I can't remember which films I agreed to go and see but I think that makes it more interesting, it's a surprise all around; they are aimed at primary school children, I remember that much. If M doesn't like it, I will take her out of the cinema and wait.

Today L finished up a unit study she was doing on the Cold War and M did a lapbook on apples. Did you know the study of the growth of apples is called pomology? I am sure you will sleep better just for knowing that!

L will start working from the IGCSE textbooks on the Cold War, I thought that the unit study was great to give an overview of it as it is for high school level. We have another one that we will do on the Great Depression and then we need to probably make our own up on the Roaring Twenties and Race Relations in America. I find it interesting that she has chosen all the American topics to work on where she had the the choice out of 12 different topics. The Cold War is compulsory and covers four topics of the seven in the exam.

In home ed drama L is working on a Shakespeare play for the end of the term. M is enjoying her usual social activities which are basically play dates and tends to prefer one to one with other children.

I still need to take our visiting flat traveller to the Hat Museum and then I can send him back to Cornwall. He went with us to London and met my friends and went around Museum of London with us. A museum in London that L really wants to go to is the British History Museum and one of these days I will get us there but next time by slow bus just for something different. We will see more of the country travelling for five hours on a bus.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Not Back To School

We have been busily working on various educational things these past few weeks, but yesterday we took advantage of a day away. We went by train to Huddersfield which is not too far from where we live.

The home educators there were having a 'Not Back To School Picnic' at Greenhead Park so we went and had a great social time. I met a couple of my 'Facebook Friends' in person and that was very nice. I also met new families who were just starting out with home educating their children.

It was a lovely train ride, a lovely day out and about and it was also a day of fantastic company. I really like Huddersfield and think I may go back there again and explore. Greenhead Park is beautiful and I like the character of Huddersfield, well, the bit of it that I saw anyway :-)

Next week L will be starting back to her drama group and I will be taking M out and exploring the environs rather than staying. Some weeks we will stay and chat with the other mums but right now it is warm-ish so we can go and wander around outside.

Hopefully there won't be any liquid sunshine, as they call it in Leek, on those days.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Back From Travels And The Journey Begins

We went away for a short time in July and came back in early August. We had a lovely holiday and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Now we are back to working on our formal lessons as L is working at taking an exam in January. She is also going to be taking a series of exams for one subject in May or June. This means we have to get back into a formal study routine and schedule, which we have started.


M is going to continue working on her unit studies, which will usually result in a lapbook being completed. Time is a wonderful teacher, and I realised that I was doing it all wrong before and being legalistic. The description said that the lapbook we were doing could be completed in one session and so that's what we did. I don't think either one of us got anything out of it, so now we will spend two to three days working on each lapbook topic. I also have unit studies that I will do with her that are designed to be completed over the course of five, seven or ten days. Obviously this depends on the topic and the complexity of it. Unit studies and lapbooks tend to be cross curricular which means that they cover multiple subjects of a curriculum.


I have found Currclick to be a wealth of e-curriculum resources. They offer many things for free and if it's not free, it's quite reasonably priced, 32p or 50 cents, or 64p or $1.00. There are other more pricey documents/studies/topics on there but I have a few favourite publishers that I purchase from regularly. I just have to make headway through all the curriculum that I have now and get it finished. The advantage of the PDF files of course is that I buy it once, and I can print it twice. L has done some of the high school level science curriculum and when M is of that level I can print the same studies off for her to do, provided she's still at home for her learning. The curriculum also makes a good supplement for school based learning if they need a bit of extra help with something.


A great resource for free lapbooks is Homeschoolshare. They have a lot of free printable lapbook resources for multiple ages at primary school. I have used many of their free things for M to do when she was younger because they have lapbooks for toddlers and preschoolers.


I have made a lot of adjustments to my own routine and it has had a positive impact on those around me. We are all thriving with this particular routine in place. In our case, L does her studies first thing, and then we split any household jobs between the three of us. M likes to do her learning work in the evening just before her Papa gets home. So he sees one of his girls working on lessons when he leaves and the other one working on lessons when he gets home. He must think we do nothing but lessons all day! On the days that there are outside home educator activities, the routine will be different again. I have taken all of that into account and allocated the household jobs to days where we don't have outside activities. I have also cut back on my own personal commitments outside of the home, and I feel much better for it. I am curious to know how others do things who aren't as routine oriented as we are in this household. Please feel free to share about your experiences of routine, whether you have one or whether you don't. It would be nice to know how others do things.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Time For Change

I decided to rename my blog because the name I gave it was not an accurate representation of what my blog is about. My blog was called 'We Love to Learn' but I have now renamed it 'Tales of Education at Home' as that is really what the blog is about. I also changed the URL name so that it is the same as my title. There always seemed to be something funny about homeeducationsuestyle and We Love to Learn, now it all matches.

I also learned how to edit my Learning Under the Trees webring details today. It took some work finding how to get in to edit it all so that it worked, but I managed to do it!

We have been relaxing and waiting for various activities to come to an end and then we will officially be on holiday. I am already in holiday mode despite that I am so very busy with my musical activities. I play in a brass band, and then I sing in a choir. I enjoy it a lot. Yesterday was a fun day in a nearby town and I went marching in the band. Marching and playing a musical instrument is a lot harder than it looks. It was a fun day and I am already looking forward to next year's festivities.

This week the plan is to take our visiting Flat Traveller to the Hat Museum and then send him home to Arkansas. I will update our Flat Traveller blog with things when I go looking through the pictures I have taken.

Enjoy the sunshine wherever you are, and carpe lux solis (seize the sunshine).


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

This weekend we did what any self-respecting ex pats do, we celebrated our own country's national holiday!

I made a cake with the flag on it and took lots of pictures. We are now gearing up for and have entered summer holidays. This means no 'formal' lessons but of course educational stuff is still happening.

L is going away in 36 hours time and she will be taking her IGCSE textbooks with her 'in case she's bored'. How can that be? As I don't want to dissuade her enthusiasm for studying, I told her just to take two textbooks and not all ten of them!

We had our list trip to drama on Friday, on Monday I organised bowling and that was it. Now I can relax away from the busy-ness of home education activities and have a much needed break from things.

I have also been working on a MAJOR project and on Friday night I stayed up the entire night to finish it. That didn't happen but I did finally manage to finish it Saturday evening.

Today I practised flute and will practise again tomorrow. I also need to practise the trombone for band practice. We have a gig on the 14th in a town not too far away from me.

M and I will do some fun things over the next few weeks and one of the things we will do is a trip to our local museum. She likes to go there and have tea with Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland. We will take photos and then get ready to send our current visiting flat traveller back to Arkansas and then I won't do any flat traveller exchanges until September. I have to update that blog too.

My name's not Kirk but I'm going to sign off with Kirk over and out.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Back to Basics

Recently I decided that we needed to go back to basics and it was well timed because I have read that the current Government, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to make Mathematics more rigorous in primary schools. They are going to hopefully go back to more traditional methods to accomplish this!

Here is the article I am referring to: tougher Maths in primary school. The problem is that they have used ridiculous methods in the school system that have complicated things. Instead of teaching the children the basic principles, they seem to be teaching them the shortcuts. This means that they don't learn to make the shortcuts on their own terms. For example, I was taught to workout 15+33 by putting one number on top of the other and drawing a line under it and adding it together to get 48. Children today are taught to take the 10 from 15 add it to 33 to get 43 and then add the 5 on to get 48. I can do that too, but the difference is that I figured out how to do it after mastering the basics of addition. I didn't need to be taught that method. They are ONLY taught that method and not everyone's brains work that way. Then I found out that it depends on what school you attend as to the method you are taught and then it can depend on the teacher.

I wanted to be a partner in L's education when she was at school and Math homework was a nightmare! I would try and help her, not realising that she had been taught a completely different method. She would get upset and couldn't explain her method to me. I would go to the teacher for an explanation and the teacher WOULDN'T explain it to me and sent me on some wild goose chase on the internet. Finally, a couple of years later I had a teacher sit down and demonstrate ALL the methods they use in school. This now makes me realise that the other teacher didn't understand what she was having to teach. She knew it was ridiculous but she was duty bound to teach it.

I eventually took L out of school because all the school seemed to be interested in was getting her ready for major tests that are nothing to do with the child but 100% to do with how the school is teaching and performing. We had to start from scratch and so we sat and I showed her my way, and then she showed me hers. The answers came out the same but her method was more complicated than my old fashioned method.

I am a firm believer in mastering a concept thoroughly and completely before moving onto the next concept. From what I have seen in the school system today, it seems to be more about ticking boxes than ensuring mastery of concepts.

I prefer old fashioned methods with old fashioned books, like Ray's Arithmetic which do just that. You go through a series of questions to practise the skills you need to learn the concept. I think this enables one to learn to a higher standard.

I am working through the Primary Arithmetic book with M and in one question she learned three operations, addition, subtraction and multiplication. I had an abacus and the first question was 'how many counters have we here?' So I moved one bead across and she said, "One!". The next question was How many are 1 and 1? One taken away from 2 leaves how many? How many ones in 2? How many are two times 1?. We worked through a series of questions like that using the beads on the abacus so that she could see how the numbers all work together. These questions carried on with two, three, four and five. Then we stopped. That was the end of that lesson.

The next time we tackle this, we will go over some of those questions before moving on to cover other numbers. These books were written in the 1870s and were used in schools in America. They were used in one room school houses where you had everyone in one room.

I am also using another old fashioned tool for reading, the books I use are called McGuffey's Readers and again they were used in American schools. The Primer starts off with a cat, a rat, and ends with Shakespeare! The illustrations are beautiful. Take a look here: McGuffey's Eclectic Primer. This is obviously for M and not L. L is reading other books and text books because next year she is due to take two or three exams that are normally done when people are 16.

So how did we go back to basics this week? We started doing reading, writing and arithmetic and we are working on building up a routine. I also like structure and routine and feel that both are vital components to learn in order to be successful. Not everyone will share my belief system but they don't have to live in my shoes. Today after reading, writing and arithmetic were completed, we did artist study, Sandro Botticelli's painting Primavera. We also listened to music by two composers, Mozart and Bela Bartok and discussed them. We will add more on to our day as we get going but for now, we are mastering the idea of getting into a routine. This is important for M as she has never been to school and so she doesn't understand how the school day runs. Now I have to go and get my own work done now that I have seen to their work.

Now, if only they'd do something about the horrible standard of grammar and spelling that the teachers use! The Government has said that anyone who takes exams from 2013 or 2014 will have their grammar and spelling marked in the exam, that's a peculiar thing, because when I went to school, spelling, grammar and punctuation were counted in your mark. It wasn't just the content you were marked on! It's about time the education system gets back to basics and starts helping children to learn to do these things properly. I'm afraid though that a lot of teachers will have to retrain in other professions because they can't do basic spelling or arithmetic.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Celebration Fit For a Queen

Our journey with education has taken lots of twists and turns. The plans we had set out to do have all been scrapped and we are now on a completely different path.

This path is not without its moments of worry that we are doing the right thing, and then those moments quickly pass and we move on confident and assured that everything is fine.

All of the plans that I had spent months making were thrown out the window with the mention of five letters - IGCSE - L is working on those at the moment. They are to a similar standard of the old O Levels and slightly higher than GCSEs. They can be an ideal qualification for home educators to pursue because there is no controlled assessment or coursework component to them. Obviously you have to do coursework but your coursework is not subject to monitoring or moderation by an exam centre (school) or exam board.

She will turn up at an exam centre, sit her exams and then I will collect her from the school. We have found an exam centre reasonably local to us who will take her and it will not be cheap, but I think that one exam is cheaper than school uniform, so I will bite the bullet and make my arrangements.

M is doing other things and is reading really well. She is continuing to do her lapbooks and we started studying the human body and animals and their babies. We have lots we can do on that and we will keep plugging along with it.

We have had visiting flat travellers and we have been taking lots of photos of the travellers and our activities. We had lots of fun celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this past week and we made a Jubilee cake, we had a picnic and followed the festivities on the television. This event is another one of those events that mark your life. I remember so many of the Royal Family's life events, such as Prince Charles and Lady Diana getting married, their two sons' birth announcements, Prince Andrew marrying Sarah Ferguson and their two daughters' birth announcements, their separations and divorces, Charles marrying Camilla, William marrying Catherine and now the Diamond Jubilee.

I also remember what I was doing when I heard the news of Diana's, Princess of Wales, death. I think that Diana, John Lennon and a few others are my JFK moments, of course there was JFK Junior's death too.

To this day if you ask someone where they were on that November day in 1963 they can tell you everything they did. When you ask them how they can remember it, they will tell you that it was the day that JFK was shot. Historical events mark generations and the memories that they hold from their personal lives.

What are your historical moments that you can remember? What events have shaped your life's memories? I hope that the Diamond Jubilee celebrations will be something positive that will shape my daughters' memories. We view them as something positive and I know there are those who don't view the celebrations as something positive and they are against the Monarchy but do you have to spoil it for those of us who enjoy a nice party?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

LUTT Blog Ring

I am now part of a home education blog ring and the ring is called Learning Under The Trees. I had to learn how to put the code on my blog in order for other people to follow the ring and read other members' blogs.

Welcome to any new readers who come here via the ring! This is exciting and now means I will need to be blogging more regularly :-)

We've been taking advantage of the gorgeous weather and hanging around outside, under the trees and it's been wonderful.

The girls have enjoyed it and so have I.

We have our flat travellers here from Hawaii, and my visiting flat travellers have their own blog and you can find them here. We have been learning a lot about the United States because we have been swapping flat travellers with people in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma and now Hawaii. It's been a lot of fun.

L is going to be starting a GCSE in History within the next couple of weeks and we will be enjoying that. That will obviously take priority because there is a deadline of an exam at the end of it all.

M is reading so well, this morning she came down wearing her dirndl and had a book in her hand. She said she was Gretel and had the story of Hansel and Gretel and proceeded to read me the story. It had a lot of complex words for a five year old that you can't just sound out by using phonics.

Thought and though, enough and rough, Slough (a place in Berkshire, England pronounced to rhyme with the word for a female pig [sow for those without a farming background]).

She has discovered Zoodles which are free games that children can play and there are the characters from Sesame Street on there. I also took out a membership with Grid Club those are games that she needs me to sit with her for as they are beyond her level but I teach her as we go along and so she's learning skills that are for an older child (in the school system that is).

I have had to completely re-think my ideas on what education is and I have now successfully deschooled myself! We continued to do structured and curriculum based work during that process but now we are doing things very differently and I don't actively separate things into subjects (except the History because we have to as it's a course with an exam at the end) and we are now working on themes and doing unit studies. Unit Studies are something that you do which uses skills and knowledge from various 'subjects' across a curriculum.

For instance, if you were enamoured with the Victorians, you would study that period of history, you would be studying more than just 'History', it would include Geography (how big the Empire was then and what it looks like now and all the country names then and now), reading literature written by Victorian authors (that's your English Lit and discussion), looking at technology that was available back then and how it compares now (many of the systems that we have in place in England today are from the Victorian era) and that would be Design Technology and more than likely would include some element of Science. Listening to music that was popular back then along with new music composed in that time period incorporates another 'subject'. Looking at paintings from the era adds another component and school subject to your experience. We even tried our hand at learning handwriting the way a Victorian child would have learned in school and it is very elegant I have to say!

We have been doing things differently again to that, and L has been studying a lot of science-based things such as Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Caves, Quicksand and the Periodic Table of Elements to name a few subjects. M has been studying the various days like St Patrick's Day, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and we've studied food and farming, plants and their needs and animals and their needs. We also do a bit on the seasons and have learned about clouds (a unit study not just standing outside and gazing up). Obviously L is older than M and so her themes and units are more complex.

Once again, welcome to any new readers from the blog ring and I look forward to reading your blogs as well. Now would anyone like a cuppa?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

March; In Like Lamb

I sure hope that our expressions about March aren't going to be true! Today was March the first and it was a glorious day. It was practically warm enough to go out without a jacket on.

It was also World Book Day and so in honour of that, I did what any self-respecting home educating parent would do and went to a book store and bought my daughters some books.

M got Little Miss Twins and L got something that 13 year olds are into and then we went to the health shop to get a few bits and pieces and then to the stationer's to buy some bits and pieces from there, like cardstock (which the British call card, I found out) and then home again.

Before we did all of that though, we went swimming for 10:30 in the morning and we spent an hour and a half in the pool. It was fantastic and we walked to and from. Then we came home and ate our lunch and then L got ready for her violin lesson. I am fortunate enough to have found a violin teacher and a piano teacher who both come to my home to teach the lessons, which suits me down to the ground, then I don't have to drag two children out to a lesson and entertain one while the other has a lesson.

M is now working on learning about animals and we learned that the only animals that don't lay eggs are mammals and all other animals are born through hatching and laying eggs. She thought I was making it up when I told her that fish lay eggs (because all she could think of are the ones that we see from chickens and she knew there was no possible way a fish could make something *that* big!). L is working through the periodic table and starting to learn about DNA. We are also going to start an American history course. M will get the story form of British history called 'Our Island Story' by H E Marshall.

Today we got Toto, our flat traveller, ready and he flew through cyberspace to Hawaii today and we are so excited about that. Hawaii is a place I'd love to visit! So Toto will get to do the rounds while we host his family's travellers, a rabbit and a sea turtle :-) and yes, Toto is the dog from The Wizard of Oz :-)

Usually when M colours him, she colours a yellow line coming from his tummy ("he's peeing", she'll tell me) but this time she didn't [she must be maturing] and the other thing she always does is to colour him to look like a dalmatian. In any case, he's in Hawaii now, the mom from the other family told me that, so I am really looking forward to all the adventures he will have there!

Well, originally I said something about the weather, where I come from we say that March is in like a lamb and out like a lion, which means if you have good weather on the first day of March, you can count on the last day of March being a blinding snowstorm or something! Thankfully where we live, we don't get much snow, although there are exceptions to that.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

So much for once a week...

I had intended to blog once a week about our adventures in home education or home schooling but that didn't happen. I've had a few other priorities and blogging went to the bottom of my list.

What have we done? We've done lapbooks (M does lapbooks) and unit studies on the periodic table, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, read two books for book group (a book a month and then prepped for discussion at the group), and now we are moving along into different studies.

M has started an animal theme. We did Animals and Their Needs, next we will do Animals and Their Offspring and from there we will move onto covering Baby Animals and who knows where that will lead? Bears? Moose? Owls? Tigers? Oh my! We will also do some Astronomy, and have already done the Moon and its phases.

L is learning the violin now! So we are juggling two instruments and the practising that goes along with it.

L will be moving on to cover DNA and Forensic Science. It seems that our year is heavily a science year so here's to scientific discovery!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

I Blinked and Missed This Week

This week, we took things rather easily because L wasn't feeling well, and neither was I. M had a touch of something too.

L had a piano lesson this week, and we went to a synagogue for a visit and that was a very interesting time.

The Rabbi was so good and the children were hanging off of his every word. This man had a great connection with them and the other thing that I thought was great was that he was a much older man, like close to retirement age and he got in with them. He treated the questions like a quiz show and if they got the answer wrong, he said 'beep, wrong answer, thanks for playing!' He had the parents in stitches too.

We went into the Ark (not Noah's but the place where the Torah is kept), and he talked about the festivals of the year and kosher food and what it means.

She also went to dance lessons and then came home exhausted and fell asleep very quickly after coming in. She did too much.

We had a birthday party for a Bärli who is M's bear and she told me that he turned two and that he needed a cake with two candles on it. So I obliged and baked a cake.

We went swimming today as well and had a social time with another home ed family who came over for lunch. It was a fun afternoon.

I have decided to take out a gym membership at my local gym because with it I can use the pool whenever I want and try out all sorts of fitness classes. I need to do that. If I take out the membership, the girls and I will swim each week because then I only have to pay for their sessions which to be honest is still cheaper than lessons :-) L has a fitness goal with swimming so I want to encourage that.

For having had some ill(ish) people we did a lot of stuff this week!

Off I dash now, to get ready to dash out tonight , I have band practice.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

It's All Go Today!

This week M has been doing a lot of lesson work. She's been practising her handwriting (printing) and has been so good about it. She's been learning the logic and method for sorting things alphabetically. I wrote the alphabet down for her and she said 'Well done you!'

We've been reading Paddle-to-the-Sea each day and it will be interesting to follow the travels of this little wooden canoe and its occupant. We read The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader and the illustrations are simply gorgeous. It is a story of how animals prepare for winter, some hibernate, some adapt, some migrate and there is a couple who feed the animals who stayed behind.

I was looking at the book and its illustrations and showed it to TBG (The Big Guy) and he agreed that they are beautiful drawings. Then I looked at when the book was published, 1948, and realised why they were so beautiful. The animals looked realistic and not drawn to look like something unrecognisable. For some reason now everything can't look like what it really would in the real world, perhaps it's for copyright or licensing reasons so we end up with unrealistic looking cr*p that doesn't show how something really looks in nature.

Look at the toys children have today, there is a pet shop that is really popular in our house and the skunk doesn't look like a skunk and the cat doesn't look like a cat and the dog, well, you get the idea. I want a skunk to look realistic because in the wild skunks are not purple with a yellow stripe down their back and big heads and small bodies. I nearly tripped over one and came face to face with another one (or maybe face to bottom with one if he had decided to spray). I hoped and prayed that neither skunk sprayed me. I was negotiating with them, 'Please don't spray, please don't spray.' I slowly backed away and quietly walked to the other door of the house (yes, it was on my doorstep!). Breathed a huge sigh of relief when I was safely inside the house. Skunks spray if they are frightened, it is their defence mechanism, so I was hoping to not frighten the two skunks on my path that night! Their odour is so strong that it permeates walls. Another time a skunk decided to make its bed in a chair on our doorstep. We had to keep the dog inside the house for the day and the skunk smell lingered even after we humanely trapped it and then took it elsewhere and let it go free. The skunk didn't spray either, that's just their natural scent!

OK I digressed off topic but I couldn't help myself. Back to educational stuff, L has been teaching herself Japanese and today she was reviewing everything and then she went on to read about William the Conqueror (obviously written in English) and now we are about to read Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury.

I needed a break from reading aloud because I read Paddle-to-the-Sea and The Big Snow to M and my voice is a bit tired. We will be doing a nice lapbook on The Big Snow (available through Hands of a Child) and so this book is our winter project because it will take us a long time to work through it.

Later on today we will read a chapter from the story Our Island Story written by H E Marshall. It gives a fantastic overview of the history the British Isles but it is written specifically for children. She says in her introduction that it's meant to be a story.

Then, when you find out how much has been left untold in this little book, do not be cross, but remember that, when you were very small, you would not have been able to understand things that seem quite simple and very interesting to you as you grow older. Remember, too, I was not trying to teach you, but only to tell a story. H.E. Marshall, Melbourne 1905

Holling Clancy Holling is also another great children's author, and after we finish Paddle-to-the-Sea, we will start on Seabird and then move on to Pagoo. I also like James Herriott and will start reading his stories to M. I used to read them as a child/teen because my grandmother kept giving them to me. Again, the illustrations in these books are simply gorgeous. We are going to look at some paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard today as well. Here is a nice one for your enjoyment The Grand Cascade at Tivoli.

What are you up to today?

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year New Direction New.....

Today is the second day of 2012. I am again looking at how I will change the way things are done. Last year around this time and into February, I looked at my curriculum/syllabus and decided what we were going to do for the period of September 2011 to July 2012. Everything then went in its own direction, so now I am not planning a year in advance, I have discovered that to be a big waste of my time and an even bigger waste of money in some cases because I bought books to use which we aren't even using now. I will keep them because we might use them at another time.

L studies independently and does her own thing for the most part. She is teaching herself Japanese, learning the periodic table, and studying about Tsunamis and Earthquakes. She also goes to a book group and has discussions about books that are actually beyond the level of what her schooled peers are doing. The only thing I can see that is missing is writing, both penmanship and creative writing, so I will encourage her along those lines. For history, we are revising what her schooled peers would be doing at the Key Stage 3 level and GCSE level (she has already done the entire British Time Line last year with a group). She can also look into whatever period is interesting to her. For Geography, she is interested in Japan, so she has a project that she will do on that country. We are also reading Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? which is an Uncle Eric book. He explains economics in very simple terms and it is very interesting. The author has written a few other books which we will read as well.

M has started back to lessons already, actually she started back yesterday and we are really working mostly on her handwriting practice and we finished off a unit study on Christmas. Her last task was to follow written directions on how to colour a snowman and then the next activity was drawing a snowman again following written instructions like draw three circles (small, medium and large etc). I found a really good site with some materials on it for her age (kindergarten) and ability and obviously some of the tasks were written tasks and she really needs the practice with writing. We will be working through those tasks, along with reading stories. Today I read to M a story about Paddle-to-the-Sea. This is the story of a boy who whittled a little canoe with an 'Indian' (sorry not the correct word the correct term is either 'First Nations Person' or 'Aboriginal Canadian') sitting/kneeling in it holding a paddle. The boy places the canoe on a hilltop and waits for the sun to melt the snow and the canoe sets off on a journey from Nipigon to the Big Salt Water (travelling through the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence River). There are 27 chapters (actually mini chapters as they are two pages - one for story and one for the illustration). Obviously this book is to teach a bit of Canadian Geography. The book was written by Holling Clancy Holling and it is a great book! We are also doing mental arithmetic. We did a lot today while everyone else was off doing their own things. We also have a world map and she loves to look at the map and read the country names.

I do a lot of 'theme' work or unit studies with her and the best thing for this is lapbooks because she is able to read all of the information in her lapbook, she finds writing too much at the moment. She is still learning and we have something tangible that she can look back on when she's older.

We are going to be doing lapbooks on the various systems and organs in the body and she already knows the names of the internal organs in two languages (English and German). L will probably join in on these little projects but probably to help her sister assemble the lapbooks. This teaches M about teamwork.

L and M have weekly activities that they go to, such as drama, brigade, dancing and music lessons and then I host a small playgroup for M and a couple of her friends twice a week because most of the activities are L's activities and M goes along for the ride.

Happy New Year and here's hoping I actually blog on a weekly or fortnightly basis :-)

Sue