Friday, 24 December 2010

Plugging the gaps day 7

Still coughing.  Still sneezing.  Still spluttering.  But we did manage to finish the cake and the girls were very surprised I let them help (not as surprised as I was!).  The walnuts come from the garden of a distant relative in Belgium!

Plugging the gaps day 6

Sneeze.  Cough.  Splutter.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Plugging the gaps day 5

Well, as the illnesses have increased, the creativity has decreased! The girls had some surprise visitors this morning and a planned visitor this afternoon so there was plenty of playmobil creativity between the rest on the sofa sessions!

Dd2 was a bit creative with this book:

and I managed to marzipan the Christmas cake - very quickly without 4 little helping hands!
I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring but between coughs and sneezes I hope we will get at least one fun creative thing done together.

Oh yes, yesterday's lego creativity:

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Plugging the gaps day 4

Still just about keeping up with my challenge ... dd1 and I decorated her birthday cake today and for some creative craft I let the girls wrap some Christmas presents - unsupervised!  They did a good job!  Both girls are still quite poorly and I'm not feeling brilliant myself so I have scaled back my cooking and crafting plans a bit, but one way or another we will have to marzipan the Christmas cake tomorrow!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Plugging the gaps day 3

Well, I'm still just about keeping up with my challenge, despite dd2 being very poorly today and dd1 still suffering from croup (they didn't make it to the party this morning but apparently they will be wearing the hats for dd1's birthday tomorow!).  For the cooking creation we made the next stage of the Christmas cake and for the crafty bit, they did some lego with dh while I was out shopping.  Perfect!  Tomorrow, our cooking creation will be dd1's birthday cake!  I'm not sure about the crafty bit yet, but something will come to me I'm sure.
Poorly on the sofa with the puppy:
 Next stage of the Christmas cake:

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Plugging the gaps day 2

Well, what I planned didn't quite happen, but I'm still keeping up with my challenge, so for some cookery we started making our Christmas cake:

And for a more crafty type creation the girls made silly hats for a party they are going to tomorrow:

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Plugging the gaps day 1

Due to the presence of Honey the labradoodle puppy in our homeschool we have had to pare back our learning to the bare essentials.  However, now that dh is home and homeschool is officially broken up, I am plugging some of the creative gaps from this term.  I have set myself the challenge of doing two creative things every day up to Christmas with the girls - one to be cooking of some kind and the other to be something like Christmas decorations.  The more fun it is the better.  For once, there are no 'rules' - the food doesn't have to be healthy and the decorations etc do not have to refer to the true meaning of Christmas.  It is actually very relaxing to let myself off the tight reins of purposeful activity and living for a brief moment as well!
Today we made some jelly and ice cream - it was a culinary disaster really, but when you are 5 and 6 years old it can also be viewed as a total success!  The jelly didn't set, probably due to one of the many things we added to it (marshmallows, coloured balls, glittery sprinkles), the custard we then tried to pour on top fell into it, but the ice cream snowballs rolled in flower shaped sprinkles weren't too bad!  We made metallic paper chains and the girls had carte-blanche to decorate the trees (one in the playroom upstairs away from the puppy and the other in their bedroom, also away from the puppy!).
Tomorrow I was hoping we would make a Christmas cake (half of us are wheat and gluten intolerant and those types of cake don't keep very well so it has to be made fairly last minute) but I have been unable to get to any shops due to the snow so instead we will be making mince pies with homemeade gluten free mincemeat kindly given to us last year by one of dh's colleagues last year (oops!).  I have just checked that it has survived a year in the fridge and all seems to be well!  I'm not sure what to do about decorations as I had planned on getting some paper doilys and making doily dolly chains - maybe we'll make our own doilys!
For those of you who aren't faint-hearted, here's the jelly!


Each year we have asked our children to create a picture for our family Christmas card/email.  This year was no different.  Below are pictures of the stages dd1 went through in making the picture this year.  She thought her first attempt was perfect and told me so but with a bit of guidance she managed to put herself in the shoes of the recipient and think about things like how much white space would be left on the paper and what the image would look like when it was reduced in size on the computer.  She was thrilled with the final result which was coloured with watercolour pencils by dd2 and painted over with water by dd2 and me.  To be honest, there were some moments of frustration on dd1's behalf during the whole process but I hope she has begun to learn that completing a task is about completing it to the best of your ability and not just getting the job done as quickly as possible!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Homeschooling with a puppy!

Our now 7 month old labradoodle, Honey, has meant some pretty drastic changes to our homeschooling routine as she cannot be left unsupervised and unentertained when she's awake!  This week she managed to eat/destroy a green scourer, a metal scourer, a pencil case, two rubbers and probably untold other items which we are yet to discover are 'missing' in just 30 minutes of unsupervised waking time!  It is probably a bit like having a new baby or toddler in the house, except Honey is way too big to be carried around! 
So, I have prioritised our homeschool to Bible, Maths, English, Grammar, Phonics and Read Alouds - anything else is a bonus right now!  We have however done a phenomenal amount of nature study on our daily dog walks and the girls have become really confident in the fields and woods as well as seeing lots of spectacular sights.  We practise our French and sing nursery rhymes and other songs while we are walking, not to mention the massive amount of exercise we are all getting!
The great thing about homeschooling is that there's always next year!
Magnificent autumn leaves

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Story of the World

After a lot of umming and ahhing through the spring I finally decided to buy The Story of the World Volume 1 and the Activity Book that goes with it.  I'm pretty sure I got these from The Book Depository.  Although these volumes are not universally liked within the Christian homeschool community I am more than happy with the books I've bought.  The Activity Book is absolutely packed with ideas and photocopiable resources which can be used with different aged children. 
Today we started making The Nile - whether the weather will allow the grass seed to grow or not I don't know, but the girls loved getting muddy and hopefully they will remember something about The Nile flooding in years to come ...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Scavenger Hunt

Yesterday afternoon we and 3 other homeschooling families went on a scavenger hunt on a local bridleway.  The children had a whale of a time searching for mini-beasts, flora and fauna!  To get the hunt going and give it a bit of a focus I created a sheet:
I used this book to help a lot with the sheet and the ideas.  It is a bit dated and not a Christian book per se - I picked up my copy from a charity shop, but there is a newer edition available now.:

and for the younger ones I used this sheet which I'd picked up from Singleton Environment Centre in Kent which is run by BTCV.

This is a great time of year for a scavenger hunt as the insects are still around, fungi can be found (but not touched of course! - unless you really know what you're doing!) and there are plenty of fallen leaves, acorns, conkers etc.  We took along a couple of magnifying glasses and a couple of bug catchers which were very popular!

Saturday, 18 September 2010


This year I wanted to introduce more music, and in particular singing, into our learning and so far it is proving quite succesful.  One of the real breakthroughs was setting up an old CD player in our conservatory where we 'homeschool' for all but the chilliest months.  We've been using it for worship songs and general background music of various styles to jolly along the workers (me included!).  I bought 3 music books which will last at least this year and no doubt will be picked up again and again over the years. 
The first book I bought is The Usborne Nursery Rhyme Songbook which has words, piano music and guitar chords.  This book is mainly for dd2 who would be in UK school year Reception, but dd1 is secretly enjoying it too.  I manage to muddle along on the piano and hopefully within a few years dd1 will be able to have a go at it too.  Most of the nursery rhymes are familiar of course, but one or two have been new to us.
The second book I bought is The National Songbook which contains all kinds of welll known songs, religious, secular, national, traditional and modern.  It has 2 CDs words, piano music, guitar chords and suggestions for actions, percussion, activities and performance.  This book is mainly for dd1 who will enjoy these slightly more 'grown-up' tunes.  I will have a go at playing these on the piano, but they are noticeably harder than the nursery rhyme book so I might end up relying on the CDs!
The last book I bought is The Welsh Children's Songbook which has a CD, words (in Welsh!), piano music, guitar chords and at the back English translations of the Welsh lyrics (hurrah!).  I bought this book because dh is Welsh and I would like the girls to have more than just their middle names and surnames connecting them to their national heritage!  This book will present the most challenges of the 3 and I'll be leaving it until later in the year when I will rely quite heavily upon the CD!
Another area we are using music in is French - we used Serge the Cheeky Monkey last year which has some songs and are using Lyric Language French (sorry, I can't find our copy on the internet anymore) this year which is entirely songs.  We've been singing the French phrases and the nursery rhymes whilst walking our puppy who listens very obligingly!

Signs of autumn nature walks

Our nature walks still take place on Fridays (I think this is the third year of them now), although to be honest they are the same walk as we do every day of the week with our growing puppy.  Friday is however the day when we concentrate on looking out for something in particular and where possible collect it, bring it home, find out more about it and draw it.  For our current 6 week block we are looking for signs of autumn, which seems to have come particularly early this year. 
Yesterday I started to pack away some coloured pencils when dd2 (pictured above) asked me not to as they are her 'colours of autumn'!  We even found a Fly Agaric fungus in the woods this week which we didn't bring home but copied from a book!
If you would like to start nature walks but don't know where to begin I really recommend checking out a blog called Handbook of Nature Study.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Homeschool Fun Sports Day

A week ago our small homeschooling group (5 families, 18 children) held our first Fun Sports Day.  Due to the age range of children the games were more co-operative than competitive and for anyone interested in running one here are the basics of what we did:
We chose a public park where the ground was reasonably level and which was mainly unused during school hours.  We had a picnic first (allowing me time to start setting the games up!).  We played 8 games, taking a break after the 6th game for the children to have a drink and for me to set up the last two games.  I ordered some 'prizes' from crafts4christians who I have found very reliable, and I made some basic certificates on Word.


Atom game (no equipment needed)
Children run around, leader calls out a number e.g. 2, 4 and children have to get into groups of that number.

Through the hoop (1 or 2 hula hoops)
Children hold hands in a circle. Leader introduces a hula hopp over the hands of two children and then each child has to climb through hoop with co-operation of others.  Use a further hula hoop between two other children if the circle is sufficiently large.  Adults may neeed to hold the hula hoops still to help the children.

Keep out of the water! Birthday order (2 ropes or a bench or suitable log per team)
Children stand randomly in a line between two parallel ropes/on bench/on suitable log. Children have to re-arrange themselves into order of birthdays, Jan-Dec without stepping outside ropes (and into the pretend water!).

Keep out of the water! Alphabetical order (2 ropes or a bench or suitable log per team)
Children stand randomly in a line between two parallel ropes/on bench/on suitable log. Children have to re-arrange themselves into alphabetical order of first names, A-Z without stepping outside ropes (and into the pretend water!).

Hula hoop shoes (1 hula hoop per team)
Children stand one behind the other and behind a line/mark on the ground. One at a time each child runs to the hula hoop and takes off one shoe, then hops back. Next child repeats. When all children have taken off one shoe they repeat to collect shoe.

Over/under ball pass (1 football sized ball per team)
Children stand in a line one behind the other and pass the ball overhead backwards from front to back, when it reaches the back that child comes to the front. Repeat until back in original order and then start again passing backwards between legs.

Obstacle race (1 ropes, 1 hula hoops, 3 beanbags, 1 buckets, enough balls for one per child, 1 hat - all per team)
One at a time children zigzag alongside a rope, climb though a hula hoop, throw 3 beanbags into a bucket, collect a hat  (first person in team only) and a ball and return to next child who must wear hat whilst completing the course and bring it back for next child to collect (like a baton) etc.

Water chain (Water, 2 buckets, 3 cups - all per team)
Children stand in a line, spaced out to a little more than arm’s length. A bucket of water is at one end and an empty bucket is at the other end. Children have 3 beakers to pass the water from the full to the empty bucket, passing from hand to hand and remaining in order.

More sacrifices ...

9 days ago we bought a 10 week old labradoodle puppy and named her Honey and she immediately changed not only our family life but our homeschooling life.  Her presence has already meant a lot of sacrifices for us all and although Dh and I can bear this with a modicum of grace, the children are a bit more forthright and vocal about the changes they don't like!  They were both desperate to get a puppy and now they are in for some serious character training in sacrifice and selflessness!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Making Maths More Fun Part 7 June 30th 2010

My ongoing quest to make Maths more fun hit the right note today with a small game of Solitaire.  I was surprised how much both dds liked it, maybe its simplicity - of rules and appearance, maybe that it doesn't take too long when you're waiting for a turn, maybe that they could both do as well as me!  A great game for developing strategical skills.
I bought this one from this shop.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Holiday Diaries June 15th 2010

It doesn't matter how hard I try, there is never a break from homeschooling; children are always learning! 
We recently had a fantastic week in a caravan in Llangorse in the Brecon Beacons in South Wales and for the first time I decided that we would keep a shared diary, in a child-friendly format and finish it off with photos when we got back home.  The drawings, comments and writing are a family effort.  We also stuck in tickets, postcards etc.  Right now I am really pleased with the results but I think it will really come into its own when we look through it in years to come.  It was also a good activity for calming down, being a bit quieter and filling time while we waited for food to cook.  Here are a few pages:

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Making Maths More Fun Part 6 9th June 2010

Dd1 has been using New Primary Maths  activity books amongst other things this year for Maths and has really enjoyed them.  This week we are learning about capacity and today we have the perfect weather for some wet and messy experiments - outside!

It all started out neat and organised (and dry!):

One of the great things about homeschooling is that when the cat won't help:

your sister will!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Visit to Dover Castle 25th May 2010

Two days ago, we and 4 other homeschooling families took a trip to Dover Castle.  In total we were 5 adults (4 mums and 1 grandma who valliantly stood in at the last moment after the poor mum fell ill overnight) and 15 children (aged 8 months to 14).  We booked the trip in advance through English Heritage and after making sure we all had suitable ID cards (TEACH/EO/HS) and submitted our educational plans we were granted free entry!  Well done English Heritage for recognising homeschoolers as educational groups!
Although it was a very windy day, especially on the top of that hill, there were lots of people there, including many school/educational groups.  I think that if I organise another trip I will do it in the Autumn or Spring terms when there are less school trips, so more space, even if the weather isn't so 'good'!

Remains of the pharos (lighthouse)

Model of the Keep

Friday, 21 May 2010

Bugs and Butterflies 21st May 2010

I try to do different things on Fridays; things that are more nature/art/music based rather than maths and English!  Inevitably with a pre-schooler and a Y1 pretty much everything involves maths and English, but it's not the focus on Fridays when we try to be a bit more creative.
Both last Friday and today we have had glorious weather here in Kent.  The garden is getting smaller as the trees and shrubs get bigger, but this just means more insects, so that is what we looked at last week when we went for a bug hunt.  We tried to identify things along the way and afterwards, counted legs, looked through pots with magnified glass (plastic!) lids at the amazing bodies of bugs and then drew what we had found:

and here is a type of cardinal beatle that we found:
Now, I know this is neither a bug nor a butterfly, but I thought it was too amazing to keep to myself:

Today we looked at butterflies, although we didn't actually try and catch any, especially after reading how delicate their wings are!  We used a very old copy of this book, kindly given to us by my sister-in-law.  We did some 'pencil and paper' work at different levels from Enchanted Learning which is an American subscription site I have recently joined, and then watched some BBC video clips by simply putting 'butterfly' into the keywords search.  We finished off with some butterfly and caterpillar paintings whilst listening to Madame Butterfly by Puccini.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Good Shepherd Song April 27th 2010

Just in case this is of any use to anyone either in their homeschooling endeavours or as part of a church service, here are some lyrics I made up for a pre-school song to go with our service on John 10:1-15 this Sunday.  It is to be sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and the sheet music can be printed for free at this brilliant website.

Jesus loves his little sheep,
Keeps them safe when they’re asleep,
In the darkness gives them light,
Loves them if they’re black or white,
Watches over them by day,
Gently leads them on their way.

If time permits I will make some cut-out sheep on lollipop sticks, one side white and one side black for the children to use to do actions with while we sing the song this Sunday at church.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Weaving wonders! April 20th 2010

I have tried to do some handicrafts with the girls every week since last October, but some weeks passed us by, so it has taken a while to finish this first project!  We did some paper weaving and lollipop stick/wool weaving last school year so it wasn't too much of a jump to weaving with a card loom and wool.  I have tried repeatedly in the past to cut the card myself but never got it right so bought a pack of 10 pre-cut cards very cheaply from a county supplier which is open to home educators as well as schools.  I have to admit these pre-cut cards have helped a lot!
It also took me a while to get the needles right ... first we used needles I made from pipe cleaners - not brilliant, then we used metal needles for wool - okay, but kept slipping off the wool so I was re-threading them a lot, and finally we used plastic needles - perfect!
This activity turned out to be really useful for when one child was waiting during another's lesson e.g. swimming.
And now we have rugs for the dolls' house!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Making 'The Easter Story' book. March 30th 2010

For our homeschool social today we made books telling the Easter story. 


1 sheet A3 sugar paper, folded in half twice and then cut the shorter fold and assemble as A5 size booklet totalling 8 usuable sides.
Stitch along fold at top to hold the booklet together.
Colour/decorate/paint text for front of book.
Cut out and stick in green hill and draw 3 crosses - add the text which Pontius Pilate put on the cross to one of the crosses.  Add the text from Jn 19:18.
Cut out and stick in grey/brown rock and draw a big stone.  Add the text from Mk 15:46.
Cut out and stick in another rock but with an arch type hole where the big stone was.  Draw on the big stone moved to the side.  Add the text from Jn 21:1.
As colourfully as possible write 'Jesus is alive.' or similar e.g. 'He has risen.'  Add text from Mk 16:15.

The pictures below will probably make more sense!

There is definitely scope for making this all a lot more fancy.  The pictures are a combination of dd2's book and my (rather hurriedly produced) demo book! 

If you would like the Word documents for the texts used then please email me and I'll gladly forward them to you.

Happy Easter everyone!