Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Today was the CHEDDERS Sports Day...

Chedders is 'Cheshire Home Edders'.

'Here are some snaps from the day :)


video

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

PHONICS INTERNATIONAL

Please take a look at this program; PHONICS INTERNATIONAL.

It is excellent and very thorough - right up to about Year 4/5 I'd say. It starts at the beginning and goes right through every phonic sound - even the really difficult ones and all the variations. It is fully downloadable and Unit one is FREE - (really is, no catch!) - and covers; s a t p i n (same initial sounds as Jolly Phonics).

I have become an agent so if you do decide you like the look and want to sub PLEASE use THIS LINK to earn me a little extra cash :) - Thanks.

I've added a side-box with the link in too, in case anyone wants to look for it later when this post is not so new!

Friday, July 18, 2008

6 Years and counting..!

You may not want to read this - it's a bit long!! But it's 'for the record' more than anything else J

As this next week draws to a close so does our sixth year of home educating. I can't quite believe we have been travelling this road that long and, as it is a milestone that sees my eldest leaving his primary years behind him and my number 5 just beginning them, I figure it's a good time to take stock of where we have been, the route we've taken and the road we are currently travelling on. It's been a varied and at times very tough journey thus far. I have at times felt like giving up, doubted my abilities to nurture my children toward their full-potential, doubted that my 'methods' are the best (still working on that one) and envied the way others around me seem to hold it together so well. I have added 3 children into the mix that is our family and moved house twice. I've discovered I have the ability to 'loose the plot' WAY to easily when I get over worn by the daily grind. BUT I have seen my children gradually growing into fantastic young-people, mostly assured of their faith, well balanced, socially capable, increasingly independent, confident individuals. Not only that but excelling in their academic achievements also. I have seen myself nurture my 'struggling reader' to the reading age of an average 8 year old (at only 6) and beam with happiness at the accomplishment that that is to her. I have learnt a whole tonne of things I never learnt at school and discovered the joy of new understanding afresh for myself J. Not only that, but I have learnt what loving my children can really cost at times… like when having to loose my hold on my eldest and allow him to attend regular school in order to preserve our relationship. I have learned to be thankful even for our education system when it has served my family well and for a school that has a very friendly, personal style of education that has suited my son - and at which he has done reasonably well academically - achieving an all round Level 4 in his SATS, with one 5 in reading.

So where did we start? In the beginning I started out with a 4yo who, on leaving nursery, could already read a little and was keen to learn more; a little man with a zeal for life and laughter and an unstoppableness that made him quite a handful. But he had a real determination and never gave up on something he set his mind to, which was good in its way but led to much frustration at times. He was a perfectionist who expected more of himself that even I think I knew at the time (else I might not have been so tough on him myself). But he was a 4yo with the attention span of a gnat and I did not know how to harness his energies effectively. Instead I signed up for A.C.E (TEACH) as our curriculum - and after initially enjoying it as he learnt to read, quickly got bogged down in the drudgery of it and the nightmare of making him sit at a table to complete work for hours on end when he was incapable of concentrating for anything like as long as it took. Also the slow realisation that it was simply too easy for him and he was bored out of his skull - and that was making him slower still. It became a vicious cycle of despondency on the part of both of us. I nearly gave up at the first hurdle! Instead I put away ACE - signed off and took a trip to WHSmith's! For a while this was what we did and the change was good, but I hadn't thought of a new way to do school, so while we pootled along with these books for a while, I did some resource research and happed upon Singapore Maths (plus Science & English) materials and EPS books. I bought I whole stock of these and was basically looking for things I could use over and over without too much additional cost for the younger ones to use them. JA could read well, but was reluctant to do so and writing…his writing was beautifully neat, but he HATED free-handing with a passion. I just couldn't get him to write anything at all that required him to think freely. He was almost OK if he could just fill in the blanks (which, considering that blanks and multiple-choice boxes were all that had been expected of him in his Paces, was understandable), but if he had to write an opinion, or read back to find the answer he was stumped and would get angry and frustrated. With Maths we had to start again too. He had to this point succeeded in learning lots of 'facts' and could get many answers right, but had no real understanding of why or how maths worked and I knew that sooner or later he would come unstuck with that weak foundation. He was grateful for Singapore Maths and for a while really enjoyed it. BUT then it too started to make demands on him and he simply could not complete the quantity of work I expected him to each day. To this day I do not know if I demanded too much (I suspect I did somewhat), but I was only going by what I knew other children at his level were accomplishing each day. Slowly but surely we got to a point of so much conflict over school that I had to admit defeat. I was not able at the time to be creative enough in my thinking to find a new way. I thought I was doing it right…I have learnt a lot since then!!

By this time JI was working with us, he was reading and writing and doing really well. He was more able to concentrate than his brother and I could not help but compare the two boys. JI was happy to conform to the table routine and finished his work in good time most days. Some days I tried to do stuff together, and sometimes this went well, other times the boys would fight, argue, and make it all very unpleasant. I felt I had to let No.1 go for the sake of No.2 and the other little ones in our home. It wasn't an easy decision as I loved him dearly and I did not want him to feel different or unwanted, but it had to be done. To this day, I know it was the right choice and one that has worked out really well for us all in the end, but it still saddens me because I think if I had done things differently… Yet, on the other hand I am still not sure what would have worked best for him, as well as for the rest of our family.

By the time A (no.3) joined us my shelves were well stocked with books and resources. I keep looking (even now) at various other options, but do not know if I can face the thought of NOT using what I already have. A was enthusiastic right from the start and has remained so. She was a little slow to start reading but picked up quickly - and at 7 has the reading age of 11 (according to the Schonell test we did the other day). She writes well and creatively - and hardly ever complains about doing her work.

P joined us two years ago and having got off to a very slow start she has essentially learnt to read this year and her writing is making progress. She is not so keen and she finds everything hard, but she co-operates. She is however much more like No.1 and I have found that short sharp bursts of school work well for her, so that is what I try to give her.

E (no.5) joins us next year and No.1 comes back for his secondary years.

Style wise our school has shifted a little, but in reality I think I would like to see it shift more, however that would take a good deal of courage and conviction on my part. I increasingly like the idea of a more book-centred education (less workbooks), but in reality I don't really like reading anything challenging and even less like analysing what I read. I still like the idea of an all-in curriculum that tells you exactly what you are supposed to achieve each year and what to do on any given day - but on the other hand I don't like being told what to do and I enjoy 'shopping' around. I like the idea of a curriculum that addresses the child as the one responsible for their learning, but I do not want to become obsolete! I want science to be investigative, not read-it remember-it. I want English to be literature inspired, and 'free', but also rigorous in teaching good grammar and composition skills. I want maths to challenge and stretch their little minds, but also be investigative and fun for them (as much as is possible). I like the idea of online education for the boys (because I think they would like it) but on the other hand am concerned about hours of SAS time on top of what they already have for leisure reasons. I love lapbooking and would like to do more of that. I would like to encourage the children to create their own projects, but I was hopeless at that as a kid myself and when I try to help them (maybe that's where I do wrong!!) I am too thorough to the point of boring them. My expectations remain too high at times I fear, and yet I want to see my children become all that they can be. I am not an artist at all, but I want to inspire a love of art into my children and my eldest shows talent, so I want to foster that too. Music - I wish we could afford to do more here, but we are not doing too badly just allowing the children to discover what instruments they enjoy and helping them into those.

So what do we do just now? Well a mix of hard graft in the mornings with Mental Maths, Singapore/Miquon Maths, English, Spellings, Handwriting, Bible-Study etc… Then more relaxed stuff in the afternoons - Geography, Science, History. Then we have one non-book day a week for Music, Art, IT, games, etc… And one non-book/project week a month for anything else they'd like to do. Admittedly they do find Science a grind at times even though it's an afternoon subject, but that depends on the topic that is being covered at that point. I do try to allow them a balance of written work with computer time. Education City being a big feature in our school life, as is Smartkiddies and Starfall. The little ones like to play on Poisson Rouge a fair bit too. Somewhere in amongst all that we fit in reading, but sadly most of the reading that I do to them happens at bedtimes and on non-book weeks (Non-book means non-textbook, non-workbook). I would love to find more time for reading with them, but somehow it just never happens. A & JI are avid readers for themselves and A has just embarked on Shadow the Sheepdog, which I read when I was eight. P is getting more eager by the day. But somehow, I feel they are missing some of the richness that comes from hearing texts read aloud beyond your own ability to read them - iykwim?.

In regards to Curriculum, I have often looked at Calvert as an option. I think it looks like a nice balance between Sonlight (too much reading for me) and AOP (too much like Paces), but for some reason I have never taken the plunge - maybe the cost has something to do with it, but that's not the main reason I don't think. I think the reason is the thought of being committed to one thing, one style for a whole year regardless - and the fact that it is rather American in the higher grades. I like the look of FIAR as well, and may invest in it for E this year (4 1/2) as I don't think she is quite ready for formal table-work to any great extent yet. That is one thing I have learnt over the years - not to demand too much too soon, but to begin when they are ready and to do as little or as much as they feel they can at the start - allowing them to decided when they have had enough more often results in them returning to the table on and off all day and achieving more in the long run than they would by one solid stint. Meanwhile - tread water and wait - is my ethos these days! FIAR might be the water I tread with E as she loves books, but money might be an issue because of also having a secondary 'kit' to buy over the summer. This could be an expensive year!! Then sometimes I think it would be great to spend a year lapbooking - whatever the children chose, doing anything and everything. In reality though, from hanging around enough home-edders over the years, even those who set out to un-school/free-style (whatever you want to call it) most often end up adding in book work at some point. Somehow it seems almost unavoidable in the end. So maybe what we have set up here is in reality a good balance, even if my 9 yos (no.2) kicks off about it almost every day. I have decided in the light of hindsight that kicking off and digging heals in over work is a 9 thing (well in boys anyway, not got there with the girls yet, so I reserve judgement). Maybe because the work begins to stretch and challenge them and require more independence from them…whatever the reason, it's a definite sticking point!

My on going challenge then, is to give my children a quality education that will equip them for the lives that lie ahead of them (whatever they may hold) and also maintain that natural eagerness to learn that little ones have. For some reason I find that as formal education takes hold, some of their natural creativity takes flight and they rein it in even without being asked to. I would like to find a way of keeping them flying with that innocence whilst at the same time honing them and getting the schooly stuff into them - after all they are ones who have to prove themselves one day to someone - for college, Uni' or the workplace. I do, however, need to have some structure in my home otherwise with 7 children under 12 it all becomes too much like mayhem and not much learning happens other than learning how to fight argue, get over arguments etc…Whilst I acknowledge that there are some important social skills to learn in all that, they are not the be all and end all of an education - and hardly what constitute a 'full-time education' in anyone's imagination! ;-)

And so the journey continues - and the numbers in my classroom rise this year from 3 children to 5, as JA comes back home again - and I'm sure the road will change its course yet again as we explore the possibilities that having Secondary and Primary in the same classroom brings to us. I am excited and nervous in the same breath. I have spent so long thinking that secondary was a long way off and now, suddenly it seems, it is here on my doorstep and I have a rising teenager in my home. Exam years loom not too far away (not that we are planning on taking any!!) and the bar is raised in terms of what is expected of me. I hope I can rise to the challenge. I know one thing - the lad I sent to school two and a half years ago is not the same lad joining us again this year. He is helpful (mostly), thoughtful, funny and kind these days - and he can do a bit of work when he's asked to J The 9yo who never went to school is a constant challenge to me atm, but I now know there is light at the end of the tunnel J

The next year also holds a move away from all things familiar, so no doubt that will add a different feel to our lives. I hope it will be a good thing, although I envisage it being pretty tough for us all to begin with. Even Granny will cease to be a regular visitor (having been here almost every weekend for the last 5 years!) as she retires next year and will head back down to Portsmouth. I'm guessing then we will only see her when she can afford to make the journey to us - or us to her L The future holds a stash of excitement and fear for me. I guess maybe the children are feeling much the same, even if they are not so aware of it as I am.

Watch this blog..!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Dancing

A snippit of the most recent of Jake's dance groups performances. That's him in the front, on the stage - in the white and black sleeveless hoody. :)

video

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday School

No - we don't do school on Saturdays - well not officially, but this is what our house looked like at one point today (click each pic to see bigger);

This is a neat little FREE program called Tux Paint - best used with a graphics pad. Mine all love it!

Couple that with A. reading a history book about Victorian school rooms for about 40 minutes (almost cover to cover), going weekly food shopping with Dad and do ballet exam-prep lesson early this morning.

I wouldn't say our Saturdays are totally unproductive!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mega Menus



Today's first activity was to create Mega Menus (thanks Peggy Kaye -they all loved this one). Joel made a menu for an alien, Abs one for a selection of pets, myself Santa and Co. and this was Phoebe's.
I just loved it. Bear in mind she is only 6 1/2 and I was not helping with spelling at all - I wanted them to simply not worry about it too much for this activity. I hope you can read it. Jake managed to work out what everything was - and of course - it's for a princess! She did make some great suggestions for Joel's aswell, so maybe one day I will get her to create a gruesome one too :)

After that we played word-by-word from Peggy's book too - which was not such a hit, but did go well. We played it in a round, so it was a little hard. Maybe next time we will do it in two's and that should work better.

And to end with we made a picture map with little picture people and created walk through stories - that was great fun and inspired all the girls to go off and create their own versions afterwards, which they then played with for at least 2 hours!!

So Peggy Kaye is a big hit here - I wish I had this book years ago now! It will be just the ticket with Els I think in a few months time :).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It Must be Ballet Season!

Tonight was out girls' first ever ballet show. It was a lovely show. Their teacher is fantastic and you could just see how much fun the kids have J. Sadly my videos are not too easy to decipher (we were at the back), so I'll get the DVD and then snip a bit for you all to see - if I can!

Boo has ballet again tomorrow - exam practice now for her primary exam in a couple of weeks time! I will probably give P the night off unless she pleads with me to go - she is exhausted, bless her!

It's been a good week, made extra challenging by the addition of two additional children on Monday. Their mum (my friend) is in hospital atm and their Dad had some work he needed to do. So P (9) & J (6) joined us for the day. They are also home-educated, but not quite like I do it. However, they were happy enough to join in and work at the table on and off, with the rest of mine and we had a successful enough day. Fortunately I have my Mum around this week, so she was able to do a little assisting with the 'listening to reading' and that sort of thing which was great, as these boys are not fluent readers and needed a listener.

I was planning on doing some science activities in the afternoon, but their Dad collected them beforehand. Never mind though - there had been some happy learning and some major playing so that was fine J

Not much else to tell atm… same old, same old… just finishing up stuff really although I cannot foresee everything getting done in the next two weeks, so Greeks are likely to hang over into the first term of next year and a couple of other things too, but it's no major deal… we don't have anyone else's song to sing to but our own J

Jake had a nice enough school report (nothing in it that we didn't already know about him!) and it's parent's evening tomorrow.


 

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Blog as You go!

Let's try this as a way of keeping my blog up to date… Open a word doc at the start of the day and publish to blog at the end, writing on it whenever I get chance through the day. I'll try to leave the boring stuff out! The great thing about Word '07 is that it has a built in blog facility - and it works. J

So far today - Kids have done PBS Bible study and P has read her Beginners Bible and put some stickers in her 'My Bible Activity Book'.

Now they are all dancing to 'Luv Esther' in the lounge (having done their 5 minutes exercise) and trying to act out the show that we all saw last weekend. Joel is being King - of course. Not sure, but I think both girls are Esther!!

Not decided what to do next yet, maybe some reading TO them.

The post today brought me some Galore Park books that I bought second-hand off someone on the Deut list. Look good. I think the Science Prep 1 (for Jake) might not be experimental enough to hold his interest, but it will provide good background knowledge and some good written exercises. The Junior English (Yr5) is brilliant and should be perfect for Joel next year. It is more stretching than average Yr5 books and as he is ahead (theoretically) this should be about right. It has lots of variety in, which is good: a good mix of reading, writing, comprehension, grammar and punctuation - which if just great. It might even mean that some of my other resources get 'shelved' but we'll see how it goes. We might use them for added variety/supplement at times.

I also received some CGP Design Technology books - which are for Jake too - I thought that they might give him a 'taster' in case he did want to think about architecture as a career. It might inspire him or put him off, but either way, I figured it would be a nice resource to have around - a bit different to the 'normal' boring stuff!

OK - how long should I let them dance for… until they start arguing like they have now then!! (11am) - Snack Time!!

Read a couple of chapters of The Arctic Tern (it's such a well written book - quite gripping J) and then went to fetch smalls from playgroup. Only one tumbling child on the way home today… ;)

Back from playgroup run - more Luv Esther on the stereo!! - a friend who is unwell popped in to ask me to have her boys on Friday and Monday (she has to go into hospital again for the third time this month - poor love) - Lunch Time!

Decided to do tagliatelle with olives and bacon bits, but while, for an instant, my back was turned Nat grabbed my big, beautiful glass mixing bowl and brought it smashing to the ground. It had been briefly on the stool while I was cooking and he, when I had last looked, was in the middle of the garden. He is like the wind!! So quickly swept that up and dished up lunch.

After lunch N & C went for a sleep, E went to play with the dolls house and the older children decided that they wanted to do some activities from Socially Speaking (a book I had actually forgotten I owned!!). Ignore the fact that it is designed for children with learning difficulties - it is great! Sometimes, I find, kids just need social etiquette spelled out to them and this book does so in a fun way. J

So, first of all we had to describe someone we know without saying anything that they 'do' - more what they look like, or what they behave like - brown hair, arty, kind, etc… This was more challenging than it sounds and the children easily slipped into 'lives in…', 'likes to…', etc…

The next exercise was to play with some random objects and say how they were the same and how they were different - this was fun and likewise fairly challenging (depending on which objects I chose). So when I chose a green crayon and a red felt-tip it was difficult to see a similarity (which was of course that they are both things that you can colour with) because it wasn't visually obvious. They tended to look at the 'outside' instead of thinking what an object might be used for. A great illustration of the fact that sometimes when people look different to us, they are often very similar in that they 'work' the same way, and also that we don't all have to be the same to all be useful & valuable! It was a lesson in 'uniqueness' and I think the message got across pretty well. We even discussed finger-prints and identical twins being unique despite looking almost the same as each other.

Last activity was a listening exercise - we played 'Simon Says' !! What is it with that game - even I enjoyed it? And for some of the above Els joined in to, which was nice. J

When we had all had enough of Simon I read another story from the James Herriot book and then they all went off to read a little while by themselves. P read to me. I am SO impressed now with how her reading is coming on J.

The girls then decided they would like their finger and toe nails painted, so the next 45 minutes was spent so doing, while Joel ranted on about not being able to find his memory card for the PS2!

Girls beautified and now the bigs are all at club - for a little while. E & C are watching Parent Trap (one of E's favourite films) quietly together in the front room. N is still asleep (he sleeps ages in the afternoons if he hasn't napped in the morning) and will likely stay that way for a little while longer - probably wake him for tea. Then he stays up a bit after the others, but is never difficult to put to bed. He loves his sleep J - like mother like son!! Only he spends more time in his bed than I do in mine these days.

Phoned the estate agents to arrange a viewing to see THIS house on Tuesday - well Paul anyway, as he has a meeting up in Windermere in the evening. It is a bit in the sticks (like that's going to bother me!) and not really in the heart of Windermere as we'd like, but WOW! - does it have what we need and within budget (just). AND it is on a bus route to Kendal - well, sort of - bus goes past the end of the road which about 3/4 of a mile away! I'm hopeful it might be right for us, the landlords like us (i.e. don't mind us getting a bit of help with the rent - what is the issue with that anyway?) and that I can learn to drive (yeah right!) and we can make it home for a while - or longer ;). The only really ambitious thing on that list is the 'me learning to drive' bit - we don't have the money and I don't have the desire in reality! Perhaps the weather in the Lakes might be the final push, otherwise I'd far rather walk, and/or catch a bus!

I need to go and put away the shopping which Paul brought home and do a spot of washing up. He says he will cook tonight - chicken curry - YUM! OK - that's done - time to chill…for a few minutes anyway! Now Puzzle Pirates or read a book (education related) …hmmm

Well apart from the mundane routine of tea and bedtime, that's my day done with.

Oops - they didn't learn their spellings..might have to slot that into tomorrow! J


Other Stuff!

This week in the FrogAcademy...

It's non-book week, so it's been pretty chilled around here, but stuff has been happening all the same;

MONDAY:
Joel finished of Maths & Science YR4 of Ed'City * then did Test A on the maths and got 84% - well done that boy :)

Abbie worked on the rest of YR2 maths on Ed'City
Phoebe worked on understanding of sentences with me, playing Silly Sentences and talking about capital letters, full-stops, what a sentence has to have and be; has to 'make sense' and have a subject & a verb. Then we looked at the object, noun, & preposition, as well as the who, what, where, when, etc...
Everyone did Bible study and handwriting - same old
All kids played Kadoo together in the afternoon (while I sorted out some financial stuff).
J,P & A read independently and then I read to them all from an on-going book that we only ever seem to read together on these more relaxed weeks. - NOTE TO SELF - make more time to read to the children - they do actually enjoy it!!

TUESDAY:
Bible and H'writing

5 minutes of exercises - we forgot yesterday!
J took Test B and got 74% - I was pleased, but he wasn't!
A carried on with Yr2 maths (trying to get that finished off now)
P did some work on Ed'City too - finishing off the vowel-blends on Letter & Sounds - stuff she knows now, but worth reviewing.
All read and were read to :)

TODAY:
Bible & H'writing

Exercises
J retook Test A and this time got 91% - that'll do!!
A - nearly finished Yr2 now!!
P - completed the Letters and Sounds and I put her up to Year 1 Literacy. So now, at the end of her official Yr1 she is just starting out on Ed'City Yr1 all round. She'll catch up though next year, I'm sure of it :)
All played Vocabulon together (only ours is in English - we got it cheap in Home Bargain!) & then Globe Trotting. Then they read independently for a while.
Ballet today so we ran out of time for me to read too :( I'll put in a long session tommorrow :)

TOMMORROW:
Bible (no h'writing)

Exercises!
J - retake Test B and hopefully ace it - and that'll be Yr4 done with on Ed'city. He is already through Yr5 Literacy (completed) and on the Science for Yr5. So when I put him up he will be part Yr5, part Yr6!!
A - hopefully finish the maths and then she will be fully in Yr3 Ed City
P - have a play with Yr1 literacy and see how she does :)
MAYBE do some cooking (I actually prefer cooking one-on-one, it's tough as a group thing, but they have asked, so we'll see...)
READ more of The Artic Tern and James Herriot (the books we've been reading)
HEAR them read to me in turn.
LEARN spellings ready for Monday next week.
CHILL or play a game together :)

And then back to the grindstone finishing off book-work stuff for the next three weeks!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Funny Moment in our Day :)

Turn the volume down quite low before you hit play!!

video

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

MERCYME TV LINK

At the bottom of my right hand column I have added a MercyMe TV box. Its a bit of a big box, but looks OK down there. I LOVE this group. The words of their songs are awesome and have really spoken to me these last few months. Enjoy :)