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Writing Prompts: With an Animal Theme... We have been doing a project on animals the last couple of weeks. This affords many different avenues for writing, both imaginative as well as factual. It also allows the child the opportunity to develop research skills. We have used the internet as well as books: we may have the internet at our finger tips, but a trip to the local library is still very beneficial! Animal Themed Writing Prompts 1. Write about your favourite animal. Find out about...
Nature for the Soul When the deciduous or broadleaf woodlands are alive with the color of Spring and Summer, and wonderfully noisy the symphony of bird song, there is no finer place to be. As the colors of Summer pass and the days cool the woodland is wonderfully mellow, as well as breathtakingly beautiful. Even during the grey Winter months, when the ground is frozen hard and everything appears lifeless, even in these barren months the forests retain a certain beauty. As many...
Christmas Star Template Star Crafts and Christmas are a match made in the twinkly heavens!! We used this template to cut out a star shape from the middle of a piece of card, and then glue tissue paper on the back. This makes a lovely decoration to stick on a glass door, as the light shines though. But a star template is very versatile… always handy to know where to find one! star template Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...
Giving Your Child a Head-Start with Reading... The ability to read is the most valuable skill for a person to have. In educational terms, when a child is confident in reading it enhances every other area of their education. For dyslexic children, being unable to read confidently holds them back in other areas, thus pulling them further back- if this continues a child who had a high IQ to begin with sees their IQ drop. I struggled with reading at school- I found it so frustrating,...
Free Biography Writing Template... Creative Writing Prompt: Biography of a Historical Figure. When drawing up out timetable, I love being able to create lessons with multiple uses. Creative writing can be used not only as a language tool, but adapted for social studies. Reading a biography, use the information to re-write the story of the person’s life. This develops vital skills of reading comprehension, being able to pull key pieces of information from a text, as well as how to present information in...
Advent Bible Study for the Whole Family... Christmas is coming! Children have growing levels of excitement! Advent is a wonderful time not to only teach the “Christmas Story” but to delve deeper into why Jesus came. It is a time where you can go back to the beginning and explore the Word, to take a journey from Genesis to the manger in Bethlehem. We often do some sort of Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is a French tradition which his growing in popularity within the modern...

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...

What Our Homeschool Looks Like this Year

This year we have taken on a Charlotte Mason flavour to our home school. I have always looked on with admiration at the method, but never knew quite how to go about the method with children of multiple ages. One friend who I look up to as a Charlotte Mason devote told me that they introduced things bit by bit over the years, not trying to do everything at once. With this knowledge I have moved in that direction. We do not rigorously follow a Charlotte Mason curriculum but have taken little steps in that direction. Introducing Charlotte Mason for the boys I have used the book list found on Linda Fay’s excellent website Charlotte Mason help. I find her curriculum less daunting than the one found on Ambleside Online, although this is still an excellent resource and I use it frequently. For the boys I am starting them all, regardless of age, on the history books listed for Year 1. The reading list here, even for my nearly 10 year old has something for each boy to take something away from. We read the material and then do dictation based on the material read. This is adapted for the different boys. The younger boys use the year 1 material for general literature reading and poetry. Whereas for Noah I have used some of the material from the year 3 schedule. This seemed a good place for him to begin, however I do not use the history books for him here. He is also doing Apologia Science this year, he chose to study Astronomy, and he is enjoying it. The boys also do copy work year day, Noah from the Bible, and Jude from a free printable booklet off of Simply Charlotte Mason. For maths the two older boys are using Galore Park maths books, and Thomas who is just starting this year is doing the Maths Enhancement Program, this is a free curriculum devised by the University of Plymouth. I still do a little text book work for the boys. Thomas is doing the Jolly Phonics program, and Jude Jolly Grammar. Noah is using Galore Park Junior English books- I have not been brave enough to leave the text books totally behind. The younger boys are also doing Mystery Science, a free online science program. Starting Secondary “School” Rebekah who is now of an age for secondary school, has started using Omnibus books. These are a very comprehensive series of books which teach history and literature from source texts. The books are written from a classical perspective. She...

Treating Children as “Persons”

My big boy approached, head down, shoulders slumped, face downcast. What has happened? Has he fallen out with someone? Did he get himself in trouble? These questions run through my head. As he approaches I ask how his morning has been. “They treated me like a baby!” came the sullen reply. Oh! He had spent the morning taking part in the children’s ministry at a conference. I try to sooth the offence, pointing out that there are younger children there too. As the day goes on he expounds on what it means to be “treated like a baby”. The verb that best encapsulates this is “to patronise”. And it is all to common when we look at the things on offer for children. Language is dumbed down, those working with children are unnaturally excitable, praise is offered for the least little thing- it’s all so false. We live in a culture where there is an attitude that things have to be dumbed down to make them palatable to children. So many books in the kids section of the library or book store are filled with inane drivel. Children see through this. When we treat children as persons they rise to the challenge. Talking to children normally i.e. as people, listening to them with intent. Reading books that make them think. A good rule of thumb when picking a book: if you can’t stand reading it, don’t expect them to enjoy having it read to them. When I was lately reading more about Charlotte Mason’s educational ideas, one of her basic principals is that children are born persons. This idea resonated with me. It is something that I have come over the years to find true with all my children. Young children ask profound questions, they may not frame them in the sophisticated language of an adult, but they are truly profound. Their questions deal with very things of life, questions of eternity. Their questions clothe their hopes and fears. And we do well to treat them as precious. Lately I heard a prophet prophecy over a group of children, they were aged from babies right up. As this man of God spoke into these young lives it struck me that God knew the deepest thought of these children. He knew the fears of the youngest child, and to God these were precious and as relevant as any adults fears. God cares about children’s questions, hopes and fears. God does not regard them as less important, or as inferior because they do not come from the mind of a “grown-up”....

Having a Fun Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Even if you are not going on holiday, creating a summer holiday that will leave great memories and happy children can, quickly, become expensive. A trip to the cinema, an outing to the zoo, a day out at a theme park- these cost a lot of money. But, a great summer does not have to cost the earth to create. One outlay I have made was to purchase Historic Scotland membership. This gives us all free entry into all the Historic Scotland sites. And since many of them are within an easy drive we can have lots of days out, at a fraction of the cost that it would be to pay entry into each one individually. There are other organisations that have membership schemes that provide free entry into their properties. The National Trust is another favourite with many families. Family membership is also something relatives could give as a family Christmas present. Obvious places to go for outings is the beach, forests, botanical gardens, hillwalking and parks. These can be the sources of many adventures. Consider building a camp fire, toasting marshmallows and having an evening picnic. By inviting friends to join you, then their is the perfect recipe for fun and great memories. It goes without saying that you first make sure you light any fires in a place where they are permitted, and do so safely, especially if it has been very dry. Or what about a disposable BBQ on the beach? For wet days many museums and art galleries are free. You can also have a movie day, or a baking day. Also look out for special summer holiday deals on swimming pools. More and more local authorities are offering free child swimming over the holidays. Local councils often have free sports activities as well, it is worth phoning a few leisure centres to see if there is anything on offer. Many churches also offer holiday clubs for a week of the school holidays. All my children (besides Thomas, who has not yet been old enough) have loved attending a local church club. Throughout the years our family have had some wonderful happy days through the summer. The days which have left the best memories have been the free days. My children still talk about building a camp fire in a wood with friends; playing in a burn (small stream) in the hills, on a very hot day (yes, they do sometimes happen in Scotland); and an unplanned trip to a beach. We also save money by doing lots of picnics. Each child has...
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