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Wild Places for Wild Boys I do think that every family ought to have at least one wild boy… We have the Jedi Boy. These are the boys who can’t sit still, who are always wanting to conquer. I spend a lot of time thinking and trying to manage the heightened testosterone of my boy. All to often we want to put these boys down, try have dampen their energy, their fight. It feels like a balancing act, sometimes we get it right other...
Teaching Multiplication: Free Number Grid 1 to 100... Times Tables, I remember with dread the tests we had to do at school! But one thing I did find interesting when at school was the patterns multiplication tables make when marked out on the number grid. When teaching the times tables make a new grid for each one. Go through the times table up to 10 or 12, then colour the numbers on the number grid. When the child sees the pattern emerge she can then colour the...
Reflections on Death- End-of-Life Stories... I wake in the morning and the first thing that hits me is sadness. All I hear is silence. Not a delightful silence, but the deafening kind. Since Baby John died I have been struck by how quiet it is without him. This tiny boy, who hardly made any noise so filled the house with life; and without his little babbles, oh how quiet it is without him. Sadness, and quiet. Yet in the sadness I am grateful for...
Preschool Cutting Activity: Free Worksheet... Young Children LOVE cutting things- my three year old will sit for ages cutting up bits of paper. As soon as they are able to use scissors that’s them! A great idea, for a young child, whilst you are teaching older children is to give them old magazines to cut up. I’ve also made an easy sheet to help a nursery age child’s fine motor skills. The child cuts along the lines. This has a few benefits: It strengthens...
What Difference Meal Planning Has Made to Us... I’ve friends who meal plan, I have friends who having monthly meal plans. I always liked the idea of it. But for years I told myself that I would miss out on the deals if I planned our meals. My thinking was, that I would see what was on offer as I went round the shops and decide what we’d have for dinner that coming week based on that. The reality was I’d leave the shop with a trolly...
These are a Few Of My Favourite Things... The other day I was sitting eating a pack of Tyrells Apple Crisps (as you do). On the back they had compiled an alternative 5-a-day list- like the 5 pieces of fruit or veg a day but more fun. So I thought what are the real 5-a-day: those 5 things I really really couldn’t live without… those things that really do make it possible to live life full and healthy. Cuddles from the children. Not to sound overly sentimental,...

Teaching Spelling in a Meaningful Way

The last two periods of Monday afternoons in Second Year at High School were English. Part of this class was weekly library time, but not for me. I went to Learning Support, I couldn’t spell well. I remember the embarrassment, trying to hide my spelling book, and trying to slip into the Learning Support room unseen. My 20 spelling words were written out 4 times, and now I had my spelling test. I am still not convinced how effective this was. Then, whilst at University I had a holiday job doing secretarial work. On my first day, my first email, I misspelled the word “tried”, the shame of not being able to spell such a common word! I have never spelt it T-R-Y-E-D since. As a result of these experiences in my own life, and the subsequent reading about dyslexia, have made me reluctant to teach spelling in the conventional way. Therefore I have been looking for a method which is more effective. Phonics Training Phonics is an obvious place to begin. To have a systematic rigorous foundation in phonics makes the teaching of spelling much easier. I have used Jolly Phonics with my boys. This has helped me with my own spelling and understanding of the English language, as well as my boys. For example the long vowel sound-i can be created using ie, igh, y, or i_e having this list of possible ways to create the long vowel sound-i is a start makes it easier to decode how to spell words with this sound in them. However, how do we know which one to use? And even with a comprehensive list of different digraphs there are still the tricky words to deal with. In addition to Jolly Phonics I have used the book Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-Sense Approach to Reading, Spelling and Literacy. This book also gives lists of spelling rules, which open up the reasons why we spell words the way we do. For example, most English words do not end with c, that is why words with the /k/ sound almost always end -ck. Or the rules for the soft g, and soft c sounds in words. I have found that by using these rules to explain difficult words to spell, slowly begin to enforce how to spell these words. Tricky Words However there are still the tricky words. I have a list of the most common sight words. This list is used as the foundation of a weekly spelling lesson to teach these difficult words. I write the word on a...

Investing Time in Things that Are Good

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 This is one of my favourite passages in scripture. It has shaped my parenting and our homeschool in profound ways. I use this scripture as a litmus test as to what resources I use, which books I read, the places we visit, and the things we watch. I do this to make the end goal more achievable: to think on these things. We cannot think on things that are not permeating our being. We cannot be expected to dwell on the noble, if we have no notion of nobility. In modern culture how can we expect a child to recognise virtue, and value it, unless there is a model of virtue to aspire to. I believe this is true for moral virtues, but also the ascetic. A soul gazing on beauty will be richer for it. If we are exposed to the awe-inspiring richness of creation we are more inclined to worship the awesome God of creation. How to Invest in Good on a Tight Budget? It is all very well and good having lofty thoughts and great ideals, but such aspirations can be expensive. To take a large family to classical concert, a ballet or art exhibition can be very expensive. How to feast on the best affordably? Nature I choose wisely where to spend the budget. I want to take the children to places of outstanding natural beauty, therefore I invest in the diesel to take us there. So when we go on one of our adventures in the wild I pack a picnic so we do not need to stop and buy food, and I make sure we have enough snacks and drinks for the journey home. It also means I choose not to spend money on more expensive family pastimes. These times of exploring natural beauty store up a treasure of beautiful memories. It reminds me of William Wordsworth’s famous poem The Daffodils: For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. By intentionally filling our mind with natural wonder we can draw on these memories at other times. Art and Literature Art galleries are often free to visit, although special...

Online Resources That We Use

We use a few online resources in our homeschool. Over the years we’ve tried some that haven’t worked for us, and other that are now firm favourites. English My favourite site that we use is Reading Eggs. This has helped my boys a lot with their reading. The lessons are fun, and in depth. They compliment our Jolly Phonics/Grammar really well. This is not a free resource, but I have had my money’s worth from it. And renewed our subscription last year. It is also a British site, which is also helpful when teaching phonics. Computer Programming To get my lot started in computer programming we have used Scratch. We have used it both online, and I have downloaded the program onto the computer also. This is a free resource, and is fun to use. We have just started to use Tynker. I have been looking for better resources to move onto after scratch. This is free, but also has a subscription option. Currently we are looking into whether this would be worth doing. Science The Mystery Science site has been one of my favourite finds of this year. These engaging lessons have been fantastic for my younger two boys. They have captured their imaginations. And the activities have been simple and achievable as well. French My daughter has used DuoLingo for a few years now and I have been really impressed by it. It is not only French you can learn from this site, but various modern languages. This is also a free site. Maths This year we have used XtraMath. This is not a flashy site, but it is a good free resource to improve mental arithmetic skills. A few minutes a day for each child is all it takes. We have also started to use Nessy Maths. Again this is not a free resource, but it is inexpensive for a year’s subscription. Nessy maths focuses on multiplication skills and telling the time. We have used it for a couple of months now and I am seeing the improvement in multiplication skills. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Easy Mild Chicken Curry Recipe

I’ve fiddled around with many curry recipes over the years. I go through phases where I have a favourite. This one is my current favourite. Although I mainly use chicken other meat can be used. I sometimes add chick peas to bulk it out. I often make this to use up leftover meat, and just put whatever amount I have. My children are not great spice fans, the boys hear the word spice and immediately decide they don’t like it! But this is very mild, but very tasty. I also really enjoy using the mortar and pestle to grind the spices, I find it therapeutic, I love the smell of the freshly ground spices filling the kitchen- especially the cardamon. I serve this with rice, I also really enjoy having naan bread or roti to go along with it. I recently discovered the website Global Table Adventure and would love to make this Eritrean bread to go with this (this bread tastes amazing!) Ingredients 300g of chicken thighs or breasts. This can be altered to suit family size, with leftovers it is whatever amount I have left over. 1 onion, chopped 1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated 2 fat cloves of garlic minced 1 large tablespoon of coconut oil (if you don’t have this use vegetable oil) 2 teaspoons cumin seeds 1 teaspoon garam marsala seeds of 5 cardamon pods a pinch of cayenne pepper 250 ml chicken stock 1 tablespoon tomato puree 75g ground almonds 2 tablespoons mango chutney 150ml single cream 4 large tablespoons natural yogurt Begin by grinding the cumin seed and the cardamon seeds together. Fry off the onion, garlic, and ginger in the coconut oil until softened, make sure not to burn the onion. Add the chicken and the spices. Stir in the stock, the tomato puree and the mango chutney. Cook until the meat is tender. Stir in the ground almonds, this will thicken the sauce. Finish by adding the cream and the yogurt. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

In Praise for the Average

A good few years ago I read the book “Blessings of a Skinned Knee” by Wendy Mogel. In the opening chapter of her book the clinic psychologist described a new phenomena, in which parents were welcoming the news their children had a “diagnosis”. When parents were told the “good news” that their child was normal she was met with disappointment. “If nothing was wrong, if there was no diagnosis, no disorder, then there was nothing that could be fixed.” Mogel writes. Re-defining Special The problem was that we have created a culture in which everyone is special, and this creates a problem, because not everyone is special. Let me explain: my children are special, they are very special- because they are my children. Do I have a family of geniuses? Are the child prodigies? No on both counts, they are in fact normal kids, and thus they are no more special than the next child. By making everyone special negates the fact that most people are not. Most children are not maths geniuses, or reading fluently by age 3. So when we see our child struggling or just plain failing in an area we need a reason. And averageness is not a worthy reason. We not only want a reason, as parents we feel like we have failed them. That there is something wrong. What’s Wrong with Average? At what point did average become as sin? When did not racing geniuses make us failures? I’ve been meditating on these things lately and by coincidence I read a quote in Ann Voksamp’s latest blog post, by D.L, Moody “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in this world who have great talents.” There are very few Einstein’s in the world. An yet God has called us to affect the world- whether that is telling the multitudes, or being faithful in the small circle He has placed you. God doesn’t judge value or success in size and numbers. He isn’t going to use that extraordinary person in the pew next to us, because he’s not that extraordinary. He’s going to use all of us ordinary people. In the homeschooling world we do see the families who have children graduating with degrees aged 13. But these are the exception. Most of us have our average children, who struggle with their times tables, still don’t get the difference between their and there, and think pumping jokes are the height of...

Book List for Boys

Although the list has boys in mind, my daughter would also say these are pretty good reads. When choosing books to read to my children I like to find ones which are well written- no twaddle as Charlotte Mason would put it. I also like to choose books which encourage honour and noble character. A lot of modern fiction reflects the dishonour and lack of respect so common in society today. This list has many books we have read as family read alouds as well as books the children have read themselves. A book list with boys in mind (that girls will love too) The Crown and Covenant trilogy by Douglas Bond The trilogy: Duncan’s War, Kings’s Arrow and Rebels’s Keep. These books follow the M’Kethe family through the period in Scotland’s history where Christian covenanters were persecuted mercilessly. The books are wonderfully written, with lots of adventure. The godly, devout family have to navigate commitment to Christ, and respecting authority- when that authority is wicked. Bond teaches through these books that the Christian life is not black and white, that following Christ can have a high price. I particularly enjoyed the characterisation, and the honour that the children had for their godly parents. Noah frequently would ask for “one more chapter”, and would be visibly excited by the action in the books. I would warn however, Bond is graphic in how he describes the torture and violence of these times. In the second of the books the main character has to save his “sister’s virtue” against raping pillaging highlanders. Noah did not understand what this meant, and I explained that the bad men were wanting to attacked the girl, and she couldn’t defend herself against them. The final book also has some bad language, I edited this as I read aloud. However, it is one of the best series we have read. We are just beginning a second trilogy by Bond, this time set in pre-revolutionary America. The Narnia Books by C.S. Lewis This is such an obvious choice. They really are so good. All the children love these stories. We have been reading through the series of them this year. Little House on the Prarie By Laura Inglis Wilder These stories may not at first glance be “boy” books, by the life of the Inglis’ family is not some pretty, easy happy-go-lucking one. Their life was hard. Pa is a great role model for boys. When I started to read these to the boys, at first they were not keen, thinking they were girl’s books. But very...

What Difference Meal Planning Has Made to Us

I’ve friends who meal plan, I have friends who having monthly meal plans. I always liked the idea of it. But for years I told myself that I would miss out on the deals if I planned our meals. My thinking was, that I would see what was on offer as I went round the shops and decide what we’d have for dinner that coming week based on that. The reality was I’d leave the shop with a trolly load and each night wonder what to have for dinner, then come up with something and realise I didn’t have the ingredients and needed to go to the shops. These frequent top up shop add up. Now I plan our meals these top up shops have come to an end. I usually spend the same amount on the main weekly shop as before, sometimes less, but with the top ups now under control we are making significant savings each week. I think what had stopped me for years was highly impressive meal charts written out for weeks ahead. The effort to do that put me off. Stress Free Meal Planning How I do my meal planning: I note in my diary what we will have each night. I then look at what ingredients we will need, and what other essentials we are due to run out of. I make a note of these in my diary, so I remember when going round the shop. It’s simple, and it takes 5 minutes before I go shopping. I can look through cookery books for some inspiration as I do it. If I see a great deal at the shops it is easy to swap something in the meal plan, but honestly this doesn’t happen often. Doing this has also reduced the amount of waste food we through away. I’m less likely to have vegetables that have gone bad in the fridge, because I’m only buying what we will need that week. I might one day sit down and type up a monthly plan, but then again I might not! Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Preparing for Christmas: Reading List

Over the years we have discovered many charming Christmas stories, and we try to add to our collection each year. Part of my preparations for Advent is compiling a list of books to share together over the coming nights. Here is a selection that we have come to love, and a couple we are to discover this year together. I have a range that is suitable for children of various ages. Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift We have used this Advent devotional for a couple of years now. Ann’s writing sparkles, and her style invokes a strong sense of Christmas. This devotional leads us through the Old Testament, and points the way to Bethlehem. I also use her adult devotional as well for my own quiet time. On that Christmas Night by Mary Joslin I love this retelling of the Christmas story. The illustrations are beautiful, and complement the text. Ituku’s Christmas Journey by Elena Pasquali We have had this story since Rebekah was a toddler. It tells the Christmas story through the eyes of a little eskimo boy journeying to see the new born baby Jesus. It follows in the tradition of Christmas stories like Babushka. Truly a delightful tale. Alfie’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes My boys love the Alfie books. And this tale of a traditional family Christmas is pure heart-warming joy. The Wee Christmas Cabin of Carn-na-ween by Ruth Sawyer This sad Christmas fairy tale set at the time of the Irish potato famine is unlike the other books listed. It follows the life of a poor abandoned orphan and how the little “gentle people” reward her, as her life of kindness and hardship, comes to an end. Starlight in Tourrone by Suzanne Butler This is a story we have yet to read, so I cannot make any comment on it so far 🙂 I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge I loved this story last year. It is a sheer joy. The text is wonderful. The story is one of hope and healing. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden I have not read this but Rebekah enjoyed it. It is the tale of an orphan girl, and old woman, and a doll. I have been told that the boys will really enjoy it. The Bakers Dozen by Aaron Shepard This is another story we have been reading for a few Christmases now. It is a story of St Nicholas set in a Dutch colonial town in America. The illustrations in this story are also beautiful. The Gift of the Magi by...
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