Monday, 5 December 2011

Our home education day-what works for us

Cross posted from my blog.

Other home educators' days always interest me and I've picked up so many ideas from other people.

This is a list of organisational ideas that have worked for us. I haven't written in aspirational ideas, for example, that I manage to have the slow cooker on each morning. It would be good if this were the case but it isn't! We have only been home educating for two and a half years so there is plenty of room for improvement.

  • First things first-start with the Bible and prayer.
  • A set order to the day-this has helped so much. This is easy to remember, unlike a school style timetable which can be different each day. Plus, whilst a child might not like every subject they get used to that fact that it just happens at that time.
  • Front load the day with the most important work. I would prefer that English and maths were done; if we fail to do art or computer studies it matters less.
  • Spend time with the little ones at the beginning. How this works for us is that after Bible time, I set Middle Son's English. He goes off to do this and I read to the younger children.

  •  Mr Exuberance, aged 34 months, is now happy to play independently, whilst his sister has time learning to read.

  • Toddlers can be challenging. I feel a bit of a fraud writing this as my little one is nearly three and is much more able to play alone, in the same room, for a few minutes, that he was even six months ago. If I needed so much time to teach reading now, I would either use nap time, if it still existed, or teach when Middle Son was free to play with Mr Exuberance.
  • Personal reading time after lunch.  The younger ones play educational games on the computer-next target for change. I hope that soon they will listen to talking books in this time.
  • Set finishing time-good for everyone!
  • Planning-I make major curriculum decisions before the beginning of the year and a rough plan of how I would like things to work.  Each week, there is a planning session for the details with a weekly chart of what I have planned-yes, we don't always keep to it but it is invaluable on a busy morning. 
  • Trips-We've realised that the best trips are closely related to the children's work. Now we also try to tie in books for the little ones and turn down trips that don't fit in with what the children are learning. 

  • Extra-curricular activities-the ones that work best for us are close to home. Petrol costs can quickly outweigh a slightly cheaper course, ignoring the time issue and exercise walking to a local event.
Do feel free to comment with your own tips. I am always looking for ways of making the day run more efficiently.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The End of the Holiday...

Almost all our school materials have now arrived. Woohoo! The kids are all ready and eager to begin schooling, so I reckon we'll kinda get going on Thursday, and hope some creases will be ironed out before we get a good start on Monday.
We tend to stop working over school holidays - not because we have to, but because we have so many cousins in and out that it would be really difficult to carry on schooling. So our term times loosely follow local school terms.

For the Wee Guy, we are using:


Abeka for Maths and Language. He's now onto his third year of Abeka Arithmetic and Language. It works well for us, the lessons are clear and very easy to follow. 

The girls are using Abeka's DVDs for Maths.


Mystery of History for, er, History! We haven't used this curriculum before, but it's set out in such a way as to be used with all three kids. For example, after Lesson 91 has been read (and talked about), these questions follow:

Activities for Lesson 91

91A—Younger Students
Write a story about what it would be like to have a pet elephant. What would you want him to do for you? Where could he take your family? Where would he sleep, and how much would he eat?  To make your story believable, read some information about elephants in the encyclopedia and weave these facts into your story.

Dictate the story to your teacher and include it in your Student Notebook 
under “Africa: Tunisia.” (Tunisia is the modern country in Africa where Carthage used to be.)

91B—Middle Students
Pretend you are a soldier with Hannibal’s army. Write a diary page of what it is like to travel with the elephants. Although it was not a funny expedition, you could write your diary page in a humorous fashion. Use your imagination. 
File your page under “Africa: Tunisia.”

91C—Older Students
1.  Write a synopsis of each of the three Punic Wars. These wars were considered pivotal to history, and the tactics of Hannibal were ingenious. Pay attention to the name Scipio. 
h ere was more than one. File your research under “Africa: Tunisia.”

2.  Are you a war buff ? If you like battle scenes, research the details on the Battle of Zama, Scipio versus Hannibal. It was quite a showdown.

And so, there are a variety of questions suitable for the different age groups. 

One area of study I am keen that they improve on is the ability to read, understand, chew over, and regurgitate - whether in writing or orally.

For Bible as a subject, the girls are going to use The Truth that Frees as a teaching tool. 

Much of what might come under the category of Language/English/Literature will be a selection of books and materials 

- they will listen to lectures, take notes and answer a question I've set them: this question may ask for an essay, for a summary, or for a discussion on the topic.

- we will read chapters of books together and, again, I will set relevant questions for them. We plan to carry on with Ruth: Her Story for Today, which I posted about here.

- they will read and write book summaries, reviews, or they will write essays connected with the book. Again, the synopsis of some of their reading books will be in the form of discussion - of questions and answers, of thought and opinions.

Again, we will be using Pudewa's Excellence in Writing materials to help with writing style.


Katie is keen on drawing, and definitely has some talents in this area that did not come from me. She is going to use Artistic Pursuits to develop some of her artistic skills.

She will do Art with the Wee Guy too.


The girls will use Abeka DVDs for Science. 

The Wee Guy is using Abeka's science curriculum for his age group.

Here's a selection of some of the books we'll be using this coming year.

And now, it's 'hop to it'... there's work to be done!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Over the summer

I sometimes get asked if we "do school" over the summer. The short answer is "yes". I find that it is not helpful to have children at home/round the house with "nothing to do" for too long, so we do have a structure to the summer "holidays".

Every year is different, but this year our schedule is something like this. We get up late (compared to during term time) and everyone has more free time. And we go to bed later.

The younger six do reading and writing until lunchtime; then they all go outside for an hour. After that, they are free to do whatever they want (within reason) until we start to get ready for supper in the evening.

Every week we have at least one outing or event to attend - we try to do things that we don't do during term time.  We also try to meet up with friends, and we still have our regular swimming and gymnastics lessons. (French, sailing and football lessons stop for the summer.)

The younger six children are competing in the Reading Challenge run by our local library (conveniently next door) so we are focussing on reading. One of the older children helps me by reading to or with the two youngest for an hour+ a day.  I also try to make sure that they do some writing each day, even if it is simply copy-work. Each child keeps a list of the books they have read, and I've promised them a monetary incentive depending on how many they get through. I vet their book choices, they may not read below their level simply to get through more books more quickly, nor are they allowed to choose books they've already read, or seen as movies (these are my rules, not the library's!)

The library has a good range of children's classics as well as children's versions of adult classics.  And it also has all the newer, trendy, "fantasy" type fiction books as well.  They had a popular children's author come to talk to the children about his work the other day, we really enjoyed listening to him, and it was interesting for the children to meet a real author.

Another older child is also helping me by typing up lists of who has done what over the year, which will be the basis of my annual education report. This helps me to pinpoint areas of weakness, and the children will sometimes work on a topic that has been neglected over the year, or practise something which they found difficult. For example, Annabelle (10) has to spend time each day working on  spelling, and couple of the others have workbooks that they hadn't finished.

As the children get older, I find I don't need to organise them so much (well, that does depend on the child, to be honest!), but instead need to discuss goals with them and let them find their own ways to get there. With younger children I find that organisation is *so* important if I am going to achieve anything.

So, over this summer we've had a loose sort of schedule involving mostly reading and writing, some catching up in other areas and outings we wouldn't otherwise do. And I take time reviewing what has been learned (or not) and planning for the coming year.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Two Neat Sites, and a Question

I just came across links to these two educational websites.

This one helps you comprehend the size of an atom.  Quite fascinating!
Cell Size and Scale

And this one has a short educational video for each element on the periodic table.
The Periodic Table of Videos

These are both interesting and useful websites that I would like to use as supplements when it comes time to study biology and chemistry with my children.  But there are many, many interesting educational websites like these that I would like to use in the future.  I'm not really sure how to keep track of them all!

So here's a question for other homeschooling parents.  How do you keep track of educational websites that you would like to use in the future?  There are so many fantastic resources online, how do you organize them all?  Any thoughts about the internet as an educational resource would be appreciated. :)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Thoughts at the end of a home education year

I initially wrote a post about what has and hasn't worked in our home educating this year. But the detail is probably only relevant to us and the overview can be encapsulated more simply.

When we have tried to keep to our principles things have gone well and when we haven't there have been problems.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Deuteronomy 6 verses 5-7.

Our aim is to have God centred education with a Biblical world view. This doesn't preclude good academics-certainly not. Failing to aim for excellence would not be God honouring nor loving our neighbour as ourself. It doesn't mean that we don't study any books except for the Bible or books about the Bible but everything is held or should be held to that standard.

Is this easy? Of course not. Not because it is hard to keep up with the latest in National Curriculum standards nor because it is hard to keep up with trends in education but because I serve a perfect God who hates wrong doing. He is perfectly patient but sees my impatience. He is perfectly loving but sees my selfishness. But there is forgiveness with Him that He may be feared.

Be with me, Lord, where'er I go;
Teach me what Thou wouldst have me do;
Govern whate'er I think or say;
Direct me in the narrow way.

Work in me, lest I harbour pride,
Lest I in my own strength confide;
Show me my weakness, let me see
I have my power, my all, from Thee.

Assist and teach me how to pray;
Incline my nature to obey;
What Thou abhorrest let me flee,
And only love what pleases Thee.

John Cennick

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Most of the time, I don't do formal Geography lessons with our Wee Guy, but for the past couple of weeks, the Wee Guy and I have been doing some map work as well as learning some fascinating facts, by living vicariously through OMSH's family holiday.

Okay, their vacation.

Almost every leg of the amazing family holiday they're having has been chronicled on the OMSH blog (or, on PW's site). 

Their trip began in Texas, where they live, and so far, they've travelled through Oklahoma, 



and visited a snowy Yellowstone National Park inWyoming. They crossed into Montana, 

and visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona and New Mexico.

The fact they're in New Mexico tells me they're coming close to the end of their trip. They are almost home.

(In real life, they are actually at home now, but we're working some days behind them)

When we took our (almost) four week holiday to the US two years ago, we visited none of the places the OMSH family have seen, and yet, reading of their trip is bringing back some wonderful memories for me: 

the excitement of visiting places, previously only seen online or in photos; 

the enjoyment of each other's company, with the feeling of freedom that being on holiday brings; 

the joy of meeting friends - some of whom we'd never met before; others we had been missing for some time, and longed to see again;

and the (possibly unexpected) enjoyment of long trip together in the car.

I've loved 'travelling' with the OMSH family, and following an actual trip like this brings map reading to life for the Wee Guy.

Okay, and for his Mum!

As well as the Wee Guy finding individual towns, roads and parks in an Atlas (as seen below), we have also been sticking dots onto a map of the whole of the USA to give some perspective of the journey.

On the individual atlas pages, we place tape giving a rough idea of the roads they travelled. This is Wyoming, on Day 7 of their holiday. They travelled to the Yellowstone National Park and (I think) drove into Montana for a short time. (Did they do this just for the fun of having another state to add to their holiday? I don't know, but I do know that we did this on our trip!)

You can head over to the OMSH site to read more of their trip. Over the next week, we will finish their journey at our kitchen table, and I'll show you their final leg when we're done.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Homeschooling and a Whole Lot More

I posted this on my own blog, and am cross-posting here.

Homeschooling is still very rare here in Scotland, and so when I tell someone who's just asked me about my kids' schooling that I homeschool, a variety of reactions come my way.

We have the:

'What! You have your kids around you all day' 

... kind of reaction. When I smile and say with genuine enthusiasm, 'Yep, I have them with me all day. It's great!', the reaction normally translates into some version of, 
'You need your head seen to'.

Then we have the 

'Homeschooling? What's that?' 

...ones. They have truly never heard of such a thing, and can't quite get their heads around it.

Then we have the

'Er, are you really allowed to do that?' 

...ones. When I point out that these kids are my kids, and that legally, the responsibility for a child's education actually rests on the parents (though most parents choose to deligate the day-to-day education to a schoolteacher), they normally react with an, 
'Ahh... I suppose you're right. I never thought of it like that'.

And then there are some who react with:

'What? You teach them at home? Aww man, that's fantastic. Oh, I'd love to do that', 

'Oh I wish I'd known about that when my kids were school age'.

When we first began homeschooling, I had no idea the whole concept would grip me like it has done. I had no idea I would grow to love it like I have done. I had no idea that I would genuinely come to the place I'm at where I can imagine no other life but that of homeschooling my kids.

Is it hard work? Yes.

Are there days I would love to put my feet up and have silence in which to read a good book? You betcha.

Would I swap it for any other way of life in the world? No, I wouldn't. Not for anything in the world.

To anyone who has ever considered homeschooling but has real doubts as to whether they could do it, I say: Try it.

Try it. If it genuinely doesn't work for your family, then it's not the end of the world - the kids can go back to school.

But, if it does work, you will never be more glad of anything you've done as a family than this. 

Homeschooling is so much more than simply 'doing school at home'. It's a whole way of life which does, of course, include formal education. That part can be fun at times, or tedious at times, or mundane, or exciting. Some days, the kids will be enthused with what they're learning, and other days, they reckon pulling teeth would be preferable to the work they're having to do. Hey, that's life, and a lesson worth learning in itself. Whether a duty is fun, or horrendously boring.... there are times when it's just gotta be done. 

But it's all the rest of what homeschooling means that makes this life, for me, more than I could ever have hoped for. Here are just some of the aspects of my day to day life which I love:

I love that we can linger around the breakfast table and noone is rushing for a bus;

I love that when we sit for our morning devotions, we have as much time as we want. I love that any questions can be discussed, and that the Bible has something to say about pretty much anything and everything that life has to offer.

I love that our kids are part of each others' lives every day. I love that the Wee Guy knows his brother, who is ten years older than him, as well as he does. This level of intimacy would be difficult with this age gap if they were at school or college.

I love that in the middle of a Maths lesson, I can be told that I'm loved, or that Genghis Khan was amazing, or that Big Brother's sheep are going to be moved that afternoon and so schoolwork has to be done quickly, because - as you all know - Big Brother can't do anything with his sheep without a certain Wee Fella helping. 

I love knowing that at any given time, I can have any of my kids wander into the room and say Hi. 

I am constantly amazed that God brought this homeschooling life to me. I am one of the least likely candidates you can imagine. I am what is not suited to being a homeschooling Mum in a thousand different ways, and yet God saw fit to gift me in this way. I am humbled. I am grateful. I am blessed beyond words.