Sunday, 31 January 2016

Homeschooling older children

My eldest daughter would have started secondary school last September if she weren't being taught at home.  In the UK this is a major educational transition and I had wondered for a long time how it would look for us at home.  I asked lots of people and mostly got the reply that nothing much changed for them.  To be honest, I wasn't entirely convinced.  For a start I knew that a lot of the resources we use ended at the end of Y6 so there would have to be some change as we began different books, and also dd1 is quite academic and book-ish and really wanted to take on more challenging books and subjects.
We are into our second term now and things are definitely different.  Dd1 is working more independently and has a longer list of subjects to work through.  We do less work with both girls together.  This is a little sad, but I think I would be holding dd1 back to do it otherwise.
So what exactly does this new stage look like?  Much harder textbooks - many from Galore Park (Maths, English, Geography, History, some Science), some books by Letts and Collins (some Science and a bit of extra English), using futurelearn (free online courses - I'm very choosy about which ones dd1 can do - partly to make sure that the content is 12yo appropriate and partly to make sure she doesn't take on too much) but I have steadfastly hung on to some of the Charlotte Mason ideas which give what we do a bit of balance.  We still have read alouds and poetry most days, we get outside quite a bit on our daily dog walks and observe nature.  The girls study French, Art, ICT and Music together, they do different handicrafts and learn Latin.  It feels like a lot of work suddenly, but this may be compounded by the cold weather and water-logged ground meaning we can't go out too far.
We continue to be opportunists - grabbing occasions to meet with friends, go to groups, watch someone changing a car tyre, host a teacher training student doing an alternative learning placement.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chinese New Year

Note:  I prepared the vast majority of this post last year but didn't get it finished and posted before Chinese New Year, so thought I'd finish it off and post it at a more appropriate time of year this year - I hope it provides a little inspiration for you.

Chinese New Year is not something I knew much about as a child, but the dds have always been very keen to mark the occasion, most probably because it involves food!  Many years, Chinese New Year has fallen in half term, as it does this year, so we have had a Chinese meal as a family (dh is a school teacher so school holidays and term times are still important dates for us, even though we are a homeschooling family as well!), but sometimes it has fallen during term time and we have met up with homeschooled friends for some cultural enrichment.  This year the dds were keen to meet up with friends, so we have celebrated a week early with them.

I prepared two craft activities and a little challenge, we brought out Yahtzee and a friend brought Chinese Chequers.

Chopstick Challenge

I mixed up some different sized dried beans and peas and put them into the base of a cardboard egg box:

I collected up chopsticks and some small containers: 

I made a small chart to make the challenge a little more challenging!:

Chinese Lanterns

Now, these I do remember making as a child!  We used A4 sized sugar paper, but other sizes and types will work too.  I marked off a strip at the short end of the piece of paper:

I cut off the strip, which will later be used as the handle:

Then I folded the larger piece in half, from the bottom up:

Next I drew some lines from the fold upwards, but not all the way to the top

If you want to decorate your lantern you can do it at this stage (above) or after cutting the strips (below):

I opened out the folded paper and put glue along one of the edge strips and wrapped it round to the strip at the other end of the paper and pressed together:

Then I put some glue at each end of the small strip which was cut off at the beginning:

The strip is added onto the top as the handle:

This is the equipment I collected up for the activity:

Chinese dragons

By sifting through fairly random craft type things which I'd stashed away over the years, I worked out that we could make some Chinese dragons - ish!

We used old sweet wrappers:

Fluorescent card in the shape of stars:

arranged, the sweet wrappers behind the card star:

and glued them onto the back:

then we got some old foil pie cases:

put another sweet wrapper inside it to be the 'tongue':

got some split pins:

pushed the split pin through the tongue, the foil, the card and the wrappers and opened it up:

so it looked like this:

then we reshaped the foil tin to make it look more like a mouth:

and added some eyes:

then for the body we took an empty toilet roll:

and some tissue paper:

put glue onto the toilet roll and wrapped the tissue paper around it:

so it looked like this:

then we put some sticky tape onto one end:

and stuck it onto the back of the face, where all the sweet wrappers are:

like so:

we got some strips of tissue paper:

taped them up at one end:

put another piece of tape across the sealed end:

and stuck it inside the other end of the toilet roll:

so it looked like this:

and this:

Between the 3 families we brought together various Chinese types of food to share a small meal together and there was also plenty of playing Yahtzee and even some playing in the garden despite the weather.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Making an early start

For the first time ever, our homeschool year has begun in August not September.  Admittedly, it was the last day of August, but it was still a bit of a strange feeling, especially as it was also a Bank Holiday.  

As usual we started the school year with an easy week, just getting back into the swing of things with a few subjects and still plenty of unplanned time.  On Monday we spent part of the day at the village fete - sadly very wet, but an important part of our year all the same and one homeschool book on fractions was acquired.  On Thursday afternoon I ran (with some wonderful help from a friend) our 5th Home School Fun Games Day (like a school sports day but with very little competition, a lot of silliness and no races).  Sadly I was too busy to take any photos, but here is one from last year.  On Friday we took a trip to our local town to go to the library, run some errands and trawl the charity shops for Famous Five books which is a series dd2 is really enjoying at the moment.

My quest to get dd2 to learn her tables continues.  We used beanbags this week, with limited success on the beanbag front - rather more on the mathematical front thankfully.

Using beanbags in Maths didn't go entirely as planned!

Trying to think up yet more novel ways of learning tables I remembered our snakes and ladders board while lying in bed one night and realised it might liven things up a bit - for a while, anyway.  Dd1 made this board a very long time ago - you can read about it here - and it has bleached a bit in the sunlight and got a bit dog-eared around the corners, but was still perfectly good for our purposes.

Spending time with an old friend.
Every time someone landed on a ladder (top or bottom) or snake (head or tail) they had to try and answer the next times tables question from our pile of cards:

Times table questions and ...

the answers are on the back.

Tidied up and ready for the next game.
If you got the answer right you went up where possible, and if you got the answer wrong you went down where possible.  Once we got to number 100 we turned around and went back to 1.  It was surprisingly fun and we played it on several days by request.

Although our charity shop trawl did not bring forth any Famous Five books, I managed to pick up these history books at rock bottom prices.  I had considered the SYRWTL History books for dd1 for this year but having looked at samples online I thought she would find them too dull and the periods of history too narrow so we worked out a homemade history plan for this year for both dds to follow.  However, these books were too cheap to overlook and dd1 was absolutely over the moon with them.  She then asked if she would be able to work through the exercises in them, so that has been agreed and she will work on them early in the morning (she's an early bird, whilst dd2 is a night owl) as an extra whilst still joining in with our set of 9 x 4-week history projects when we study history together.

Blessings from charity shops.

This one is book 4 of a set of 4 (I believe) and we have already read book 1 together.  I will probably let dd1 read it as a free reader.  She is really history-mad.  I'm also going to let her read V M Hillyer's A Child's History of the World which we started working on together this year but neither dd could get along with it in that setting.

More charity shop treasure.

I know I've said this before, and no doubt I will say it again, but there really is no moment when homeschool ends and 'something else' begins - life is one big lesson for all of us, not just children. This weekend we needed to put together a flat-pack chest of drawers for dd1's room.  It also needed to have its legs cut down by about 1cm to get it to fit under her desk.  This type of work is heaven for dd2 but doesn't come so naturally to dd1, and it is tempting to let her curl up and read whilst dh and dd2 do the building, but ultimately this isn't helping her towards the goal of being an independent adult, so she was the helper today:

Photo bombed.

2 drawers built

Holding it still is more demanding than it looks!

Really getting somewhere now.

So, it's been a good week, beginning to get back into routines - next week the challenge will move up a gear as I add in the rest of the subjects we study, plus 'after-school' activities and my own commitments - hopefully there will be some more smiley photos like above.