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Maths Resources We Have Tried and Use

It feels like we have used every maths resource out there. When I started out homeschooling I thought maths would be the easy one. English was the subject which scared me most. But maths has proved to be the most difficult to resource in our home. I have found curriculum that has been too easy, some that is insanely intense, others too boring, and some we just didn’t like… just us I guess! What We Have Tried Shiller Maths I did Shiller Maths with my daughter. This is a Montessori-based curriculum. Although we no longer use this curriculum I still have all the manipulative that came with it and these I have used for years, and are an invaluable part of our homeschool. I found Shiller Maths gave my daughter a very good grasp on the number system. However she probably could have done with being more challenged. My only other big problem was it is expensive, and once I added postage and customs into the UK it was just too much. But if you have a child who is struggling with the concepts, and can afford it I’d recommend it. Singapore Maths I gave this a go after Shiller. It was like going to the other extreme. My hard working daughter who was about 8 at the time, ended up doing around 2 hours of maths a day. Her mental arithmetic came on great, but even then she was not finishing the amounts expected. So we quickly gave this one up. I did not want to give he a hatred for maths. Again there are elements I liked. I now teach number bonds using the Singapore method. But for us it was a no! Math-U-See Many of my friends love Math-U-See. There are lots of great reviews, so we gave it a go. We didn’t like it at all. Everyone found it boring. I did like the videos: they were well presented, and easy to understand. My boys liked the videos. But for Math-U-See to be your entire maths experience…. no! It was totally killing the joy… some may question if there is much joy in maths ;). I tried a couple of others Heinemann and TeeJay publishing. We just didn’t like them, basically. I think it is probably a personality thing. I found them uninspiring. Also TeeJay seems to have a problem with errors in their books. Everyone I have spoken who has used them has noticed this, which put me off. I have also found better resources… What We Use Now At the moment I have...

Homeschool Activities for Christmas

The streets are glittering with Christmas lights, the advent calendars are in position, and Christmas carols are playing on the radio. Despite children looking impatiently at the unopened doors on their advent calenders, we parents know the Big Day will be here before we know it. That is why this year I have a plan to do at least one Christmas activity per week. Annually I tend to be quite good and reading Christmas books, but Christmas crafts and activities tend to be not so good. Here is a not too overwhelming (I hope) list of things to do. Crafts Christmas Tree Paper Strip We did this lovely little craft the other day. It is simple, and there is very little prep needed. 3D Paper Christmas Trees Giant Paper Snowflake We made these giant snowflakes last year. I was surprised by how simple it is, it looks like it should be very complicated. Christmas Cards This website gives lots of really nice Christmas card ideas. However, last year I set out a load of craft materials, pens, paint, glitter, sequins, etc and the children made a lovely selection of cards to send to relatives. Books There are so many beautiful Christmas stories. I love a beautifully illustrated, well crafted tale. I have a stack of books that I bring out at this time of year, and I try to add to it every Christmas. Here are three of our favourites: Holly and the Ivy by Rumer Godden This is a charming little story about the need for a loving home. It is the story of a little orphan girl and a doll wanting to find her “little girl”. Rebekah says it is a lovely story. This year Jude enthusiastically asked for a re-reading: proving there is no such thing as a “girl” book! The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski This is a beautiful story about a man consumed by the grief after the death of his wife and baby, but who finds healing and love through the lives of a widow and her son. Noah read this and told me a blow by blow account of the tale. He then sat through a re-reading as a family read aloud. This was my first reading of it, and I highly recommend it. I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge This is another beautifully written tale. A book which explores the pain, loss and healing within a family. This little book left a deep impression on my heart. I would highly recommend it. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Homeschool Ideas to Celebrate St Andrew’s Day...

As a Scottish home educating family you would think St Andrew’s Day would be an annual celebration. However this is not the case: we have read a lovely book about St George on St. George’s Day and we have even made Welsh Cakes on St. Davids’s Day, but beside the occasional colouring in of a saltire and a brief mention about it, we have done very little. So this year, as St. Andrews Day approaches here is a mini-guide to celebrate. The History of St. Andrew St Andrew was one of Jesus twelve apostles. It is believed he was crucified on a x shaped cross, called a saltire, in Greece around 60AD. Relics believed to be St. Andrews were taken across Europe by pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages. Many made their way to Scotland, and were taken to a monastery built by a Pictish King on the site of where St Andrews now is built. Andrew was offically made patron saint of Scotland 1320 at the Declaration of Arbroath, however he was revered as a saint for centuries before this time. It is said that during the reign of King Angus Scots and Picts joined forces to fight the Northumberland King at the battle of Athelstaneford in East Lothian. It was said that King Angus prayed to St Andrew asking his help in battle, as the legend goes the sky was blue apart from the shape of a saltire of clouds in the sky. Hence the Scottish flag. St Andrew has also been adopted as patron saint of many other countries, Greece and Russia for example. However in Scotland St Andrew’s day is now a celebration Scottish culture. Activities for St Andrew’s Day Recipes Personally I think haggis is the food of satan and his minions. However, I live with those who would think otherwise. So if you want to be ultra traditional go for the haggis neeps and tatties. However there are plenty of other Scottish recipes to have a try (and I would recommend you do!) here are a small selection. Stovies. Stovies is a traditional Scottish dish made with potatoes and left over meat. I make mine with sausages, many people use corn beef, but any left over meat will do. Gamekeepers Pie. This is a bit special! Cock a Leekie Soup. This is a lovely healthy soup, perfect for a cold, damp November’s day. Shortbread. Super easy and super yummy. St Andrew’s Day Crafts and activities The Activity Village website has a range of crafts for younger children. These include make a Scottie Dog mobile,...

Easy Homeschool Science Ideas

For many parents doing science in their homeschool can seem daunting. It is a subject which conjures up different preconceived ideas about expensive equipment, dangerous chemicals, or perhaps even just lots of mess. However there are many simple, yet interesting experiments that can help spark a kids interest in science. Here are a few simple experiments in the different fields of science to begin with. Biology Seed Germination Take a jar and fill it with cotton wool, place a butterbean seed down the side of the jar. Add enough water to moisten the cotton wool, but not so much that the seed is sitting in a pool of water. Leave the jar in a warm place to watch the seed germinate. This experiment can be taken further. For example, you can set up a few jars: one that is left dry, and also leave one in the fridge, but with moistened cotton wool. Doing this allows you to see the affects temperature and lack of water have on seed germination. Bird Watching Keep a journal of birds that visit your garden. To do this set up a bird feeder and record the birds that visit. Doing this will enable a child to learn the names of different birds. It will also be a practical way for a child to help local wildlife and begin to learn about conservation. The RSPB website have some excellent resources. Chemistry Density Density is the weight of an object in a given volume. A solid will sink in a liquid if it is denser, and float on a liquid if the liquid is denser. This experiment explores different liquids and solids of different densities. Take a large glass and fill it with water, vegetable oil and maple syrup in equal portions. The three liquids will separate out according to their density. The most dense will fall to the bottom and the least dense will go to the top. Next drop in a stone, a piece of cork, and a grape. These will order themselves according to density. Elephants Toothpaste This is an experiment which explores catalysts. A catalyst is a substance that seeds up a reaction, but does not take part in the reaction itself. To do this experiment you will need hydrogen peroxide, 3% concentration. This is labelled food grade and is safe to use in an experiment at home, but do not consume and supervise young children. Hydrogen Peroxide is the stuff used to dye hair “peroxide blonde”. It can be bought on Amazon or eBay. Hydrogen Peroxide slowly decomposes into water...

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...
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