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.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

My Reluctant Writer or Empty Blocks of Time

Something I have read repeatedly in connection with homeschooling is about letting kids have empty blocks of time to allow their creative juices to flow.  I have read about kids having empty hours, days and even weeks, with little or no direction from adults and certainly as the dds have become older and more independent that has happened on a small scale basis here. It was purely by accident though that we created an empty block of time (while dh and I were DIYing) which opened up an unexpected writing opportunity for dd2.

Dd2 is not a keen writer; she is far more of a hands-on type of person, in fact there has been some considerable reluctance on her part when it comes to English lessons, so it was with great surprise that I discovered this huge (by her standards) piece of writing one day in the Easter holidays:

This was done entirely of her own volition and without any help!  Along with these 'Rules of the Road' she turned the garden into a traffic system:

and built a '30' sign (much more her kind of thing to do!)

with the help of her sister, who is a reluctant engineer, but got totally sucked into this project:

Just when I thought it was all over, I noticed this piece of writing on dd2's bedroom door:

and this morning the teddies in her room have all become teachers and she is writing (yes, writing!) surveys etc for them to do.  Okay, she hasn't got dressed yet, nor had any breakfast, but she is enjoying writing and I am going to let the first two things go for a while so she can have another empty block of time to find her own relationship with writing.  She'll come down when she's hungry!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Election Special

This is not strictly to do with homeschooling, but is something I prepared for a Guiding group I help with.  Hopefully it will be of some use to someone else reading this.  
There are 2 activities.
The first activity (which I actually plan to do second at Guides!) will be done in patrols.  I made a table, with party, leader, colour & number of MPs columns:

and I made an answer sheet, which the Guides will cut up and try to stick in the correct columns on the table: 

For the other activity I then came up with a variety of questions and gave each one 2 or more possible answers.  The Guides will write their names in the section they think is correct. Some of the questions are specific to the constituency in which we live.  Some of the answers have been simplified to make them more accessible to the age group involved.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


To be honest, I didn't think my two would be that keen on making self-portraits, but I got that completely wrong!

First we looked at 4 self-portraits of Albrecht Durer in The Art Book for Children 2,

including this one:

and then they could choose what they wanted to use to make their own self-portrait.   I gave them some basic drawing tips on the shape of the human head (more egg than circle!) and we looked at how far up/down the eyes are (half way) which they found surprising, then the bottom of the nose and the mouth.  I set them up in front of mirrors and off they went!

Their framed pictures on our 'up-the-stairs gallery':