Our week: 8-14 September

Our outside activities resumed this week


Edward has been working steadily through Jolly Grammar 2, one page per day.







Project activities

One of the things I’ve been reflecting on over the summer is that the ‘fun stuff’ so easily gets squeezed out of the day by the more pressing subjects such as maths and reading. This year I want that to change!  We are blessed to have so many wonderful books and there are some great book-related project ideas out there, so I’m aiming to do a mini-project as often as we can.  We started this week with ‘There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly’.  There are many versions of this rhyme: my favourite is by Simms Taback.

We read the book, of course – several times!  At first, sweet little Lydia was upset that the lady died and didn’t want to read it again.  Edward and Isaac, on the other hand, thought the whole book was hilarious!

Then each of the older three made their own books.  Isaac and Lydia made a book in the style of ‘There was an Old Lady’ entitled  .  Edward did his own thing and wrote a lovely little book called  .

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Our week: 1-7 September (week 1) & Curriculum choices

So, we’re at the end of our first week.  Most of our outside activities don’t start until next week so we spent most of our time at home, which was good as the children struggled with the return to work after our long summer break.  The weather has also been glorious so we’ve had lots of time to enjoy the garden.  On the downside, we’ve had a lot of character issues this week, which has dominated family life 😦

I haven’t written about our curriculum choices yet this year so I’ll integrate that into this post.


Edward is halfway through Jolly Grammar book 2.  This week, we did a page each day plus two spelling tests.  I’ve never worried too much about Edward’s spelling – he seems to be a natural speller – but I’ve seen some mistakes creep in over the summer break (eg ‘nihgt’ for ‘night’).  Still, he never gets less than 8/10 for his spelling tests, so he’s doing very well.  We’ve started working more on building his reading stamina.  While he often has his head in a book, in typical boy-fashion, it tends to be a non-fiction book.  He has acquired a fantastic general knowledge this way!  However, our experience of taking part in a reading scheme over the summer when Edward read five books (perhaps I was a bit mean in that I was only counting beginner chapter books 😉 but this was a lot less than I’d hoped!) has made me think that he needs a set time during the day to read chapter books.  We’re starting with short Dick King Smith and Magic Treehouse books.  He enjoys them when he does read them (at my prompting!) but fiction just hasn’t gripped him yet.

Isaac has just started Jolly Phonics book 2.  He knows all of the phonemes, although still struggles with some of the vowel diphthongs (the Jolly Phonics programme is great for him, though – I do the action associated with each phoneme and he immediately remembers it).  Most days this week, he read a BOB book to me (we’re on the Advancing Beginners set now) and we worked through two pages of the Jolly Phonics book.  Book 2 introduces dictation and writing is still slow for Isaac (as a left-hander, he often reverses letters) so we’ve just done a little each day.  I’m keen to maintain his enthusiasm and am more interested in progressing with his reading than his writing at the moment.


Maths is definitely the focus with Edward this year.  It’s his least favourite subject, partly I think because he doesn’t find it as easy as reading but partly because I haven’t found a way to spark his interest in it.  We’re continuing with Right Start B because I think the approach is excellent but I made a determined effort this week to make sure we did it every day.  I’m hoping that regularity will increase his proficiency and that once he experiences some success, he’ll feel more positive towards maths.

Each week, I also plan to do some ‘living maths’ by using a book to do some maths work, using ideas from the excellent Maths and Literature series.  I have the K-1 and 2-3 books and will alternate between the two so that Isaac (and possibly Lydia) can join in too.

We started this week with Centipede’s 100 Shoes.  I’ll put the details in another post.

Finally, with Edward, I plan to integrate ‘maths moments’ (if that doesn’t sound too cheesy!) throughout the week – I’m writing this because we have some wonderful resources (games, fascinating and quirky books) but haven’t often used them.  I realise that I need to be intentional about doing this or it won’t get done!  One of the main books we’ll keep working through is the excellent Life of Fred series.  We’re near the end of Butterflies (book 2) so will start on Cats soon.

I made a start with Right Start A with Isaac this week.  I plan to work through it slowly with him.  We only managed one lesson this week and I hope to increase that to three per week, alongside the living maths activities.


I’ve had Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding on my shelf for several years and this is the year we’re going to use it!  Science is one of the areas where I want to work with all the children together and the approach of this book seems flexible enough to do that.  We did the first lesson about categorisation this week.  As the weather was so glorious, we did the lesson in the sandpit 🙂  I explained about categorisation and why it’s necessary then asked the children how they would categorise the toys in their sandpit.  Edward decided that one category could be building tools but ended up with every toy in that category until Isaac said that some of the tools were actually for scraping, so we had two categories.  They’d got the idea by this point so we had further subdivisions into moulding toys and smoothing toys.  I then said I was going to categorise the same tools in a completely different way and asked them to guess what the categories were: it was Lydia who first guessed that I was categorising the tools by colour.  Clever girl!


Foreign languages is still a huge area of interest for Edward.  This week he said he would like to learn Latin!  However, three languages is enough for now I think!  We’re pretty much continuing as we did last year.  Speekee is working wonderfully for Spanish.

Speekee Scheme of Work

We start each morning with an episode of Speekee.  All of the children love it, even little Carys!  We usually follow the episode by reading a Spanish word book together or practising some simple phrases.  As they are all so enthusiastic (mainly thanks to the little purple puppet, I think!) I plan to continue with Spanish with all of the children this year.

Edward is also learning French, mainly following the Skoldo curriculum.

Over the summer, I started to read a wonderful book with Edward, which has taken us on a detour from Skoldo.  Entitled The Avion My Uncle Flew, it tells the story of an American boy who stays with his uncle in France for several months.  The beauty of the book is not in the story, though, but in the way that the author introduces French words throughout the text.  At the end of the book is a short chapter entirely in French.  We’re at that point now and Edward can translate most of it himself.  It’s a fantastic approach to language-learning and I wish that the author, Cyrus Fisher, had written more in a similar vein.

I asked Isaac this week if he was interested in learning French and the answer was a resounding “no!” so I’ll continue with Edward alone.

Our third language is Koine Greek.  Andrew has been the driving force in starting this, as he really wants the children to be able to read the New Testament in the original language when they’re older.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the resources available for young learners of Koine Greek, so I’m also glad that we’re starting this venture young (well, the children have the advantage of youth – I’m learning it too without that benefit!).  Edward and I have started slowly with the Greek Alphabet Code Cracker from Classical Academic Press, which is a fantastic resource.

Greek Alphabet Code Cracker  -     
        By: Dr. Christopher Perrin

As Edward and I haven’t progressed very far through the book, I plan to recap for the first weeks of this term and to include Isaac in what we are doing.


We’re still plodding on with Around the World Through Books.  I say ‘plodding’, not because the children aren’t enjoying it but because I’ve taken them too slowly through it.  Looking back on last year, I think this programme was the victim of my ‘paralysis by perfectionism’ (that phrase has just popped into my head but it does encapsulate the problems I can get myself into when instead of just doing what I can on a theme then moving on, I just can’t move on until I’ve done every single tiny thing that I’d planned to do – and eventually it gets painful :-O).  Anyway, my resolution this year is to get on with Around the World Through Books and to – gasp – finish it by the end of the (academic) year!  We all enjoy it, have read some wonderful books and it’s been a great avenue for tying in some learning about different composers and artists.

This week, we travelled to a new country – Germany.  More about that in another post…!


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New school year, new start!

We started back at (home)school yesterday so being in the season of things new, I thought I would write a post on my poor, neglected little blog.  I am, after all, trying to keep a record of our home education journey and up to now, it really gives the impression that we don’t do very much at all!  Although I suppose that my lack of posting could signify that we’re doing sooo much that I just don’t get chance to tear myself away from the fun to post anything.  I hope the children remember it as the latter option anyway!

I didn’t really intend to follow school holidays but we ended up taking a break from our normal routine over the summer.  And a rather lovely break it was too!  We had the best holiday ever in early July – two weeks on the Lizard in Cornwall, coinciding with a heatwave.  It was like being in the Mediterranean without having to travel there!  We spent long days on the beach and walking on clifftops, just enjoying being there and being together.  We seem to have spent the rest of the summer in the garden or at various school holiday activities.  The boys tried trampolining and went on a week-long swimming course.  I ran a sports day and an art camp with the MEACHE group, both of which were wonderful times with our home ed friends.  We went almost every week to Angelsey Abbey’s Wild Wednesday sessions to do wild art, den-building, learn about birds and make things with sticks.  We planted and tended a pretty impressive (for my amateur standard!) vegetable garden with potatoes, onions, leeks, squashes, courgettes, gooseberries, blackcurrants, strawberries (small amounts of each one!) and to my great excitement, tomatoes!  I’ve tried for three years to grow tomatoes and this year, it has finally worked – in that we actually have some chance of eating the tomatoes.  The four bushes are laden with green tomatoes that are definitely ripening!

But, back to schooling.  This year, I want to redress the balance between planning and doing.  I know that my weakness is actually doing what I spend so long planning to do!  There are lessons I’ve learned from previous years that I hope – with God’s help – to implement this year.  First, that I need to get to sleep earlier.  I’m an owl but I have to start the day earlier to get things done – this is definitely where I lose time in the day, time when the children are at their freshest and most able to concentrate.  Second, that lots of subjects can be covered quickly; in fact a little every day is the best way to learn some things.  For instance, Edward is learning three languages (Spanish, French, Koine Greek), which can seem insurmountable when planning how to fit everything in but we only need to do 10 minutes per day of each one.  Third, that there are lots of subjects that we can all do together: in Charlotte Mason-style, a feast can be laid before them and each child can take from it what they are able to.  We’ve always done this with Spanish and it’s been lovely to see how much Lydia enjoys it – even at 3 – and spontaneously uses Spanish words during the day.  There are, of course, subjects that need to be done separately but I would like to limit this as much as possible and try to include the little ones, even if they are only sitting with us and playing while I read to the older ones.


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Our week 25th February – 15th March

After the round of birthdays and parties over the past few weeks, life has quietened down!

Phonics and Reading

Edward continues to spend most of his free time with his head in a book so I’m not worrying too much about his reading.  He loves reading his WOW Visual Encyclopedia and tends to read non-fiction more than fiction at the moment.  We’re not doing any formal phonics at the moment, as we’re waiting for Jolly Grammar book 2 to be published (any day now!).

Isaac is still making great progress with his reading.  We’re continuing to work through Jolly Phonics book 1, alternating that with reading one of the BOB books, depending on what he feels like doing.  He’s doing so well with sounding out words and reading the BOB books.  With writing, he often reverses his letters and sometimes writes his name from right to left but I’m sure that will change with age (Isaac, of course, has all the benefits of being the second child with a much more relaxed mummy!).

Edward, Isaac and Lydia all enjoy their time on the Jolly Phonics CD-Rom, although we haven’t been doing it as often these past few weeks (for no reason other than the Speekee DVD is usually in my computer and as they often do the CD-Rom while I’m busy getting Carys dressed, it’s easier for me just to give them something else to do ;-O).


We’re still not getting to this every day but Edward is making steady progress through RightStart B.  We’re periodically reading Life of Fred: Butterflies, which he enjoys much more than RightStart!  He’s spending about 20 minutes several times per week on Mathletics.


Spanish is going brilliantly since starting the Speekee programme.  Edward, Isaac and Lydia all ask for the DVD every morning and even better, they are often using (simple) Spanish words and phrases during the day.  I’ve signed up for e-mails so get sent a mail with simple additional activities to do each week.  We use our Three Little Pigs puppets to act out some of the scenes (mainly ‘Hola soy…’ at the moment), although this quickly deteriorates into the big bad wolf eating the pigs ;-S

Things I’m working on…

My favourite thing this week…

I’m grateful for…

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Art and colour

Art in our house has become both prolific and spasmodic.  Prolific in that the children, especially Edward, independently produce multiple drawings per day, Isaac is going through a papercraft phase (daily making paper creations of his own design) and we frequently get out the watercolours, particularly at Lydia’s request (using a watercolour set has been a revelation – an easy way of letting the children paint without having to pour out pots of poster paint, don aprons and create lots of mess!).  However, it is spasmodic in that ‘prepared sessions’ where we follow a lesson from one of our books, are currently few and far between.  Perhaps it doesn’t really matter when they are producing so much imaginative and creative work on their own?  Anyway, I digress!  Last week, we got this book out again – I do love this book but our progress through it is very slow!

Teaching Art with Books Kids Love: Art Elements, Appreciation, and Design with Award-Winning Books

This session was about the use of colour and was centred around this book, which is based on the fable of the blind men trying to identify an elephant.

Each of the mice is a different colour on a plain, black background.  The artwork is done using textured, cut paper and the text is brief , both of which enhance the jewel-like colours.  After reading it, we went to the kitchen table and I gave the children poster paints in blue, red and yellow, explaining that they are the primary colours. They then painted whatever they chose using those three colours.

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Edward painted a flower and some ants.

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Isaac painted a house (while wearing his dragon mask!).

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Lydia painted an aeroplane.

To extend the colour theme further, we experimented with secondary colours.  First, I added some red to the yellow – the children mixed it and shouted out when they guessed the colour it was making.

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Then we tried blue and yellow and blue and red (which ended up looking more like dark red than purple, so I don’t think I got the ratios quite right with that one!).

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Once we had the secondary colours, the children made another painting using them.

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Cambridge Science Saturday

On Saturday 16th, we went to the Cambridge Science Festival.  The festival runs for a few weeks but they have a huge number of family-friendly activities concentrated on ‘Science Saturday’.  Our children are still too young for many of the talks, but looking through the programme beforehand, there was an array of hands-on activities on topics such as bugs, animals and the human body.  It was a miserable, rainy day so after eating our sandwiches huddled in one of the festival tents, we quickly went indoors again to the Zoology museum, where they had a ‘Make your own museum’ stand.  The children could make their own zoological museum specimen using the craft materials available.

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Edward made a snake

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Isaac made a worm

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Lydia made a snake (with wings!)

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While all of this crafting was going on, Carys enjoyed wandering about among the animal skeletons with Daddy trying to keep up with her!

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In another section of the museum, there was an insect display.  The children each coloured and cut out a section of a giant millipede

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Then we had the chance to handle leaf and stick insects.  The leaf insects were particularly interesting to see – exactly like a leaf!

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Andrew had never been to the Zoology museum and it’s a long while since the children and I have, so we had a brief look around before leaving.  There were a few specimens out that we could touch

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and many others to wonder at (while, of course, this was all ticking all my OCD boxes about just how nicely this all tied in with the animal study we’re doing at the moment ;-D)

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After Zoology, we went over to the Guildhall where the children made another beeline for the craft activities – this time, making cardboard glasses and masks (there seemed to be a general theme of vision and eye experiments around the hall – not that we got around to seeing any of the more scientific stuff!).  Edward, Isaac and Lydia really enjoyed this, especially Isaac, who with his current passion for making all things paper, had been wanting some cardboard glasses for a while.

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Lydia was particularly pleased to have heart-shaped, sparkly pink glasses (she wore them to church the next day!)

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