Friday, 20 October 2017

Sources of Home Education Inspiration: Maths

This is the fifth part of my series on resources for inspiring home education. The first four parts are

This post is about maths. The links are either resources we have used or seriously considered using. 

Early Years
We used plenty of learning from life: counting stairs, number of people eating at a meal, recipes and so on.
Games have also played a major role. Favourites have been various Orchard Games including Pop to the Shops, Ten Green Bottles and the Spotty Dog Game.


Sum Swamp has been helpful towards the end of this time, and for the next few years, and has been played over and over again. This game helps with simple addition and subtraction as well as the concepts of plus/minus and odd/even.

There are a few books which have been useful for introducing mathematical concepts.
I would particularly recommend, Less than Zero which is a fun introduction to negative numbers. 

Infant (KS1 about age 5-7)
I'm not entirely sure that I would use this again but we used Mousematics which comes as part of a Mother's Companion. This is a Welsh printable curriculum. We modified it, for example, the parts about weighing and volume we used as hands on activities rather than using the printable workbooks. In retrospect, it isn't particularly challenging and could do with more hands on work. We ended up supplementing with games and maths from life. 
Other curricula that I would consider are

  • MEP (Maths Enhancement Programme from the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching. This is a free programme although it is easier, and probably cheaper, to buy the workbooks. I did use this for a while and really regret that it didn't work for us as it is a rigorous programme, scripted and easy to use except for one thing. The problem that we had with this is that it takes about 45 minutes per day of teaching. This probably works well with a class but my children aren't in the same year and at the time which we used this also needed one to one phonics teaching. I couldn't teach phonics and maths at the same time. Sadly, the topics for each year aren't in the same week so I couldn't teach the two together. Highly recommended if you have one child or children who don't need other one to one teaching at the same time.
  • Singapore maths probably using the UK version. The working from manipulatives to visual to paper (Concrete/Pictorial/Abstract) makes such sense and is a principle that we have tried to use with whichever programme we are using.


Junior (KS2 about age 7-11)
This is the reason why I have been so long in posting this.
We have used/use Galore Park maths successfully for two of our three home educated children. These books start at year 3 and are designed for private schools. We use the older edition where they have two sets: the Junior books which cover years 3-5 and the So you want to learn set which covers years 6-8 so going up to the Common Entrance exam. I note that the newer edition seems to be arranged by school year.
Points to know about these books

  • After we finished the year 8 book, I found some year 9 work for Middle Son before starting GCSE work but I wish that I hadn't done this. The end of the Galore Park books would have been a great place to start GSCE maths and he really coasted for that year.
  • The series has textbooks but no workbooks for anything other than tests. We have not used the test workbooks. We have found that writing out problems can be majorly time consuming and slow progress for younger children. I have often written out the questions when they are younger and gradually move to getting the children to write them out.
  • The books progress in a spiral manner. If a child has forgotten a topic or finds it difficult then it is worth going back to the previous year's book.
  • Buy the answers! I spent several years working out all the answers because of a mistaken belief that this was the only way to be sure that I understood and could explain clearly. What it actually meant was that I was working out maths at midnight so the marking could be done. It is worth checking that you can do the first and last questions but not really necessary to do everything between!
Galore Park has worked less well for one of the children. We spent some time working on one particular topic using the concrete/pictorial/abstract approach then using one of the Schofield and Sims Understanding Maths books. This worked well so we are currently using other books in the same series. This series has a clean lay out. It is not necessary to write out the whole problem although sometimes, supplemental squared paper is necessary. 
Please note that home educators are able to use the tutor discount which makes a substantial saving.

One cheap and cheerful item that we use every day is 10 questions. I write 10 questions in the children's maths exercise books each day which they answer at the start of maths time. The questions cover topics that need revision and are individualised for each child.

We quite often finish maths time with a game. Games that we use frequently are equivalence dominoes, fraction bingo, Brainbox fractions and tables and Trilemma.


I have written about learning tables before.

Senior (Key Stage 3 about 11-14)
We used the Galore Park maths books to the end of year 8 (age 13) then changed to Conquer Maths and a year 9 text. KS3 Conquer Maths was well organised but as I stated above, changing to GCSE work would have been better.
At this point, we also occasionally used Khan Academy as a backup for further explanation of some topics.
I am not going to comment above KS3 as we used a tutor of GCSE maths.

Extras
This is a post about sites which we have used for adding to the maths curriculum. 
Squeebles is an app occasionally used for tables practice. 

Please feel free to recommend maths resources which your family have enjoyed.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Chai Chat....with Sarah

Nicola who blogs at The World is their Classroom has been interviewing a variety of different home educators including reasons why people home educate, what a typical day is like, socialisation, physical exercise and much more. Today, my chat with her is up.


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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

October Inspiration

We are almost a month into term and there has been plenty going on. Our home education group has been studying science and planning this has been busy, as well, as providing my children with the chance to help me practise activities. Recently, we did acids and bases at the group and used Sarah Dees' magnificent rocket activity for the older children. It worked very well but I'm sorry, teaching and running the activity took precedence over photos.

Ambleside online has produced an enormous list of Charlotte Mason resources. Many of these are relevant for those who aren't strictly Charlotte Mason followers.

Helping children learn about subjects where we are weak can be challenging. This is a helpful article about teaching music appreciation for non-musical mothers

Reformation Day is on the 31st October and this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther pinning his theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenburg. Talking mom2mom has a free set of intricate colourings of the Five Solas which are ideal for older children. The Trinitarian Bible Society produce a rather splendid Reformation timeline.


It is easy to get dragged down by difficulties when home educating. This isn't a Christian article, and this shows in the solutions, but the list of joy suckers is pretty accurate.

Hope that your autumn is going well. Does anyone else struggle with not overloading the day but wanting to fit enough in?

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Thursday, 28 September 2017

How Home Education is different to School

I have a minor peeve about the term home school as it suggests that the only thing different about what we do is transport the classroom venue and have fewer pupils. Actually, home education is very different.

So we don't
  • have to follow the National Curriculum. 
  • have to teach from a secular worldview.
  • start and finish with school times. We usually do similar hours but we don't have to. This means that if the children have a late night, we can start later. Actual education, of course, lasts far beyond traditional working hours.
  • have to stay inside in "school time".
  • have to have a teaching qualification.
  • have to have the same holidays. 
  • have inset days-I rather regret this one.
  • have constant testing. 
We can
  • talk to the children about the Lord.
  • pray when things are difficult.
  • tutor the children individually.
  • individualise learning. 
  • let the children have major input into their learning. 
  • let the children be a part of caring for an older relative or anyone else, for that matter. Not, I hasten to add, in an arduous way but in terms of popping in and having a conversation, making a soup or picking flowers.
  • have activities that wouldn't really work in school: poetry teatime, having a picnic lunch in an autumnal park and more.
  • enjoy parks and playgrounds when they aren't overcrowded. 
  • make birthdays a holiday.
  • be around to see when the child takes a big step forward. 
  • learn rather than worry about tests when the children are young.
Home education isn't always easy. 
If your child is at home all day, you
  • don't get a break. 
  • are responsible for arranging the whole of their education. You might not teach everything  but someone has to research and arrange.
  • have to provide all their meals. This seems to involve a constant answering of the question What is for lunch?
  • have to fit other responsibilities around the children's education. I'm thinking of housework, paid employment and other caring roles. 
  • are financially responsible for your children's education. 
In my book, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Girls just like You/Boys just like Me

Jean Stapleton has written a couple of Christian children's books which we have appreciated: Read with Me and God's Special Tent. The latter is an explanation of the tabernacle, the special tent in which God's people met in the wilderness and includes instructions for making a model. So, we were pleased to learn that she has written two more children's devotional books: Girls Just like you: Bible women who trusted God and Boys like me: Bible men who trusted God.


Each of these hardback books contains fifty devotions around either men or women in the Bible. The format is a title, a suggested short Bible reading which is often only one verse, a retelling of the narrative followed by something to think and pray about.  Each book has a ribbon bookmark which seems a sensible addition. 

The characters vary from the very well known: Abraham, Mary and David to the less known Jehoiada and Jehosheba who were real heroes as well as  Shiphrah and Puah.

These books are recommended for ages 3-5 if read aloud and 6-10 for reading independently. This seems about right although I wish the publishers had not started the first paragraph of each day with a large capital which makes the first word  more difficult for young readers. 

These books are ideal for children who need an easy devotional book to read on their own or to read with a parent. They can be obtained from Christian Focus or Amazon.

Disclaimer: I was given these books by the author but was not expected to provide a review.

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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Learning Plans 2017-2018

We have just started our more formal learning again and with a new year there are a few changes. This is a list of my plans. Please note that what works for us may not work for you. Having made this disclaimer, I would add that many of my best ideas have come from other home educators' plans.

Younger Daughter is almost 11 so UK year 6 and Youngest Son is 8 which is UK year 4.

English aka Language Arts
English consists of multiple parts

-Reading. I am planning a time of individual reading, after lunch. This will be reading of the children's choice. Youngest Son will also read aloud to me daily.

-Writing. During morning time, I plan to work through the writing workshops in How to teach English at Key Stage 2 by Pie Corbett. Most  writing will be linked to topics in other subjects.

-Spelling. The plan is that one child will continue to use All about Spelling and the other will use Touch Type Read Spell.

Handwriting: Younger Daughter has been practising calligraphy over the holiday and will have some time to work on this. Youngest Son will use a handwriting workbook and copy work.


Typing: Nessy Typing and Touch Type Read Spell.

Poetry: we plan to continue to have a weekly Poetry Tea. This is much loved and has many benefits including reading aloud, enjoying and discussing poetry, reading dialogue poems with friends and writing. In additon to this, Poetry Tea helps with  planning a small snack and decorating a table.

Grammar and punctuation: we plan to use the Galore Park English books for this.

Extras: We hope to read Julius Caesar, this term, both in a simplified version and as the actual play to fit in with a Royal Shakespeare Company production of this play for schools in the late autumn.

Maths
We tend to start math with 10 questions which I write in the children's maths books the previous day. These tend to be short and cover topics which might need revision.                                                                                                                                            
Youngest Son has already started Galore Park Junior Maths book 2 and we hope to continue this.

Younger Daughter is using a different programme this year with the Schofield and Sims Understanding KS2 workbooks.

Maths games most days.

Science
Energy: its forms, changes and functions from the Elementary Physics Series.

Exploring Nature with Children: we are planning to use the new journal although work on one journal between the three of us.

Our home education group is studying science, this year and the group is also a judging panel for the Royal Society Young People's Science Book Prize.            

History  
This year we plan to study the Victorians and the First and Second World Wars.
For the Victorians, we plan to use Our Island Story as the core text and for the First and Second World Wars, The Story of Britain by RJ Unstead.
We hope to supplement with many other books, trips and activities.  This week, we have been consulting a rather old copy of Mrs Beeton to write a Victorian dinner menu.

Geography
I have planned three country afternoons during this term. In addition, we use Seterra and probably will use the geography from Valley Christian School Online.

Art
Younger Daughter is signed up for an Explore Art award and has done her first activity for this. While she is working on this Youngest Son will be working on coding using Code.org. 

Music
We plan to use Classics for Kids weekly during morning time. We sing each day and Younger Daughter has piano lessons.

Latin
We do a little Latin daily using Minimus. Younger Daughter is already familiar with book one so this is revision for her but new for Youngest Son. 

Physical education
This is mainly informal with visits to the park and time on the trampoline most days. Younger Daughter has been running with friends and has started to go to Park Run, on Saturdays. I would like to add in some longer cycle rides.



       
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Saturday, 2 September 2017

September Inspiration


I had every intention of blogging more in August but despite having a break from formal learning, this hasn't quite happened. We have had various trips out,
a photography workshop and many friends to play, plus a garden which has been wonderfully productive.

Grandma has enjoyed the general summer bustle and we have made major progress toward her being able to sit out of bed. It has been a long, long saga!

Planning for next year has happened and I hope to post about the resources we hope to use soon.

Earlier in the holiday, we popped into a temporary exhibition of Shirley Hughes' work. Shirley Hughes is famous for her books about Alfie and also Dogger. We particularly like her poetry anthology for younger children, Out and About. 


The Read Aloud Revival has had an interview with another favourite childhood author and illustrator, Helen Oxenham. Helen is the illustrator of Going on a Bear Hunt and it turns out that she is married to John Burningham of Mr Gumby fame.

Nothing to do with education but, at long last, I have found a yeasted banana bread recipe.
Yummy! I have tried increasing the number of bananas for extra flavour but this didn't make much difference to the taste and adversely affected the consistency. If any is left, this loaf is great toasted.

Some time ago, I reviewed Hazel Stapleton's book Looking back with ME. This was orginally privately published but has now been attractively republished by Day One Publications.  

Not infrequently, I am asked about starting home education and resources. Now, into our ninth year, we use a mixture to suit the children's needs and interests. I hope to post about the resources for this coming year very soon. However, there hasn't been a UK Christian curriculum divided by key stages and looking toward UK exams. Just recently, I found out about Valley Christian School Online which plans to fill this gap. I haven't used the resources as yet but am in the process of signing up to use some of the Key Stage 2 materials. It is looking very promising and if all goes well, I plan to update about this.

Farmhouse Schoolhouse is a US blog and Instagram feed and one of my favourites. There is a new post about resources on the blog. I like the disclaimer that the post is to give ideas rather than something to copy. The part about not buying cheap crayons resonated. We have found that, here in the UK, Straedtler pencils and Berol felt tip pens last far longer than cheaper alternatives. 

We are looking forward to the start of the new learning year and hope to be having a not back to school picnic with our home education group to celebrate! Do you have plans to mark this time of year?

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