Friday, February 10, 2012

Pulling Together An Education On The Road

Ok, admittedly, we are not on the road but after so many weeks of being unsettled and travelling up and down the north and south of England, it is a luxury to be staying put for even four weeks. Four weeks is a long time.....enough time for some routine, enough to make plans for work, as such I am grabbing the opportunity with both hands and we're making every effort to get back into our work routine.

So what are we doing? Not having any of my usual curriculum, books and supplies has meant that I have had to improvise. This is the part in which I could wax lyrical about  the beauty of internet access! 

Below is a look at how we are doing school:


We are carrying on with our daily devotions and I am using the character studies from Confessions of a Homeschooler as the basis of our short morning devotions. It has been very helpful for all of us. These last two weeks, we have focused on Arguing (dealing with it rather than actually arguing!) and Peacemaking. We  have all found it very helpful and I have to say that I have noticed a calmer atmosphere at home which is a blessing!  Last week we memorised:

1 Peter 3:8 " Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, live as brothers, be compassionate and humble."

(I made up some silly actions to go with it as it helps my four year old remember it better and I have to say it works a treat!)

Some of my personal favourite verses were from Proverbs:

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 

"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop a matter before a dispute breaks out." Proverbs 17:14

So the week was spent declaring to each other whenever an argument threatened to break out - " Don't breach the dam!" and "Be a Peacemaker!" And it worked (mostly) LOL.


I was using a combination of MEP math and Singapore Math before we moved but I don't have my workbooks with me and while MEP is available online - I didn't fancy  printing out the materials again and to be honest, it was too time-intensive during our period of family crisis. 

I discovered ConquerMath after joining some UK homeschooling forums. It is a programme that follows the British system right up to the GCSEs and you can buy the CD or subscribe for online access - no books to cart about. It works brilliantly for us as each subject starts with a video of a short 5-10 minute tutorial which is clear and concise afterwhich the kids go on to do a series of exercises online - all independently. Records are kept of their progress and they can go back anytime and do more exercises. This is such a help as it frees me up and they have someone else other than slow-at-math-mum teaching them.


As my girls are at different grades - I am focusing on different things for them.

My elder daughter signed up to do two literary analysis courses with Brave Writer (The Hobbit and Anne Of Green Gables) over the last 4 months. I've said it before and I'll say it again - we love Brave Writer classes. She learnt a lot and enjoyed the classes immensely. She has really come along in terms of thinking about and analysing a text. She is now doing some work towards preparing for the IGCSEs with a UK based tutor called Catherine Mooney. She offers exam support, tutoring and marking of assignments. While I have no immediate plans for my 12 year old to take the IGCSEs just yet - she is certainly ready for the work. So we are using Catherine's course as a way to work through the concepts she will need to know for her understanding. It is written in an engaging and interesting way, so my daughter has been enjoying it so far. I am also thinking about using Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Skill to work on her writing skills - I've downloaded some sample chapters for her to work through and we will see if it works out well. We are also continuing with copywork using Brave Writer's Arrows and Boomerang programmes as well as quotes I am pulling off the internet and books we are reading.

My younger daughter is working on building up fluency with her reading, writing and spelling. A friend recommended Units of Sound ( a programme designed to help dyslexic kids build a firm foundation in spelling, reading, memory and dictation). While my younger daughter is not diagnosed as dyslexic - she does have some issues. So in the period where I haven't had time to sit with her for spelling and copywork - I decided to give the programme a try. She says it is helpful especially the dictation and memory sections. We are also throwing in handwriting practice and more recently, we have started copywork again using our Arrows monthly publication.(I bought a number of different back issues at 50% off during an offer with the Homeschool Buyers Co-op - very happy about that!). She has recently started Catherine Mooney's Word Weavers course which should help her with establishing her grammar and writing skills. It comes with an audio CD which is an extra help. I also purchased in downloadable PDF format Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease Level 3 as I think she could do with building up her narration and comprehension skills and with that book I don't have to think - I just print it out and go.

Outsourcing help and using online programmes or computer software has been the key to keeping homeschooling on the road during our time of uncertainty.


As we are in the UK and all our Tapestry of Grace books and curriculum are in storage - I had to pull together a plan for our history studies. Being in England - studying British History seemed to make the most sense. 

As the spine of our lessons, I am using The Story of Britain by Patrick Dillon which I stumbled across in the bookshops. It is an engaging and well-written overview of the stories of british history written in chronological order for children - a little like a modern version of An Island Story by H.M. Marshall (also in storage!) I started reading this aloud and I also purchased from Audible the audio book of An Island Story. Both books give a helpful introduction into Britain's history. We have been reading it through but these few weeks we have gone back to the beginning to solidfy their understanding with more in-depth work.

I did a quick review of early British history including the Celts, Roman invasion, invasions of the Vikings (Danes), the Angles and the Saxons - ending with the death of Edward the Confessor. The girls made a notebooking page on an introduction to Ancient Britain. Click here for the Early British History notebooking page

Then we took up our story with the Battle of Hastings and conquest by Duke William of Normandy in 1066 - a crucial turning point for British History.

I found some excellent resources and made some notebook pages:

I used this powerpoint entitled "Who Should Be King?" from this useful website to introduce the different claimants for the throne upon the death of Edward the Confessor. We then made a notebook page on Who Should Rule England?
The Battle of Hastings - I used this excellent website to tell the story of the battle using the Bayeux tapestry and this helpful powerpoint on The Battle of Hastings to go through the events of the battle. The BBC have produced wonderful hands-on resources on the Normans - using their lesson ideas,  I told the girls to pretend to be news journalists in the midst of the battle - one was reporting for the Normans and the other for the Anglo-Saxons. They had notes and then made short reports on the battle as it progressed. It was great fun role-playing newscasters and it really helped solidify their knowledge of the actual events of the battle. Finally, they finished off the lesson by making a newspaper front page on the battle. They used this template . It was definitely one of their favourite things to do.

Other resources:

Perfect for Co-ops - a Battle of Hastings game (the ultimate in hands-on learning) 

We shall be continuing a more in-depth look at British history as we go on and I will post more on the resources we use.

I have to mention our favourite show - CBBC's Horrible Histories which is available on Youtube. We all love it. It is very silly and funny (british humour) but it is amazing the little facts that stick through all the silliness. The girls have learnt the sequence of the Kings and Queens of England from this skit. Even my 4 year old is singing it! We love love love the Horrible Histories TV show. Go on Youtube and watch it - I guarantee you'll find it impossible to tear your kids or yourself away from watching.

The Kings and Queens of England Video

Another video on the War of The Roses (just for fun!)

And one more, just because I love it! About the Domesday book. Enjoy!


Science was hard for me to do consistently without my books.We read a variety science books picked up from the bookstore and started using a borrowed Apologia General Science book - however, I needed something they could work on independently and provided some hands-on work and experiments for them to do. I heard about Exploration Education's Physical Science programme from a friend's blog and liked the sound of it. It allows them to learn independently through interactive text on the computer and it comes with box of experiments and hands-on learning. The programme takes them step by step through a variety of projects such as building a car, a circuit board and a motor and using those things to carry out experiments. The experiments come in organised, well-labelled bags and it practically has everything you need. They managed 3 lessons to date and then got stalled because we didn't have a glue gun! That has now been ordered and we are looking forward to getting on with it! The girls like it and enjoy putting together the projects. We are also reading through The Story Book Of Science by Jean Henri Fabre which is a lovely read-aloud book that centres on the conversations between three children and their very knowledgeable uncle who takes them on journeys of discovery through story about nature and the world in general from ants milking "cows", spiders building suspension bridges, how we make cloth from wool, flax, hemp and cotton, volcanoes and earthquakes.

 Art Appreciation:

We are using The Story of the World's Greatest Paintings by Charlie Ayres which I picked up from the bookstore. It is an easy no-fuss way to accomplish art studies at the moment. It works well as a jumping off point for learning more about the artist and his work. I also use the SmartHistory videos for a more in-depth analysis of an artwork or artist. 

Poetry and memorisation:

I am trying to get back to encouraging the kids to memorise bible verses and poems. So we have a bible verse to learn each week and I am printing out poems for them to read and memorise once a week. I am also trying to incorporate poetry reading during our tea-times. Winter is a lovely time for hot chocolate, muffins and poetry!

Music Appreciation:

Another no-fuss solution to incorporating music appreciation in our week for now - I found this book My First Classical Music Book  which comes with a CD and an introduction to instruments and an orchestra. Although it is aimed more at my four-year old - we spend 15 minutes going through a chapter a day and listening (and dancing!) to the music. It is a nice way to keep up with some music appreciation without too much effort.  

Nature Studies:

You may have read in an earlier post that we do not enjoy the climate of the tropics at all and while we were living in Singapore - nature studies always had to be deliberately planned. It is so much more fun in temperate climates - you just want to be outdoors (admittedly less so in the winter). Nature studies have just happened naturally as the girls have taken an interest in the world outside. They have really got into birdwatching after we put a feeder in their grandparent's garden - they are taking pictures, using the field guides to identify the birds and checking out their tracks in the snow. Their experience was further enhanced when I bought this DVD - Beginning Watercolor Journalling. I bought it after reading about it in this inspiring post at Pondered in my heart. It has paid off and the girls have been completely inspired  by what they've watched and started to journal and paint more regularly. These are some early efforts. 


I found a lovely lady who comes twice a week to teach all three kids. She does a great job engaging them using stories and fun games. I have asked her to start the girls on more serious grammar as they have progressed quite nicely. She recommended languages online as a good website for practice.

My Rosetta Stone software is in storage so I'm not getting much use out of that at the moment although I suspect that they are going to be able to progress much quicker with it after these lessons. I've heard about Galore Park French and have been looking into using this - possibly since we may not be in our current accomodation for long and will move to another part of the UK and lose our lovely french teacher!


Being active is a total challenge in winter and not being in a place for more than a month or two makes it hard to join any organised activities. So I am literally trying to make sure we get off our bottoms for 20 minutes each day at least to exercise . It's too cold to go outside for too long so I've devised indoor games (like an active Simon Says) or exercises like circuit training. We might start off with some stretches and then on some days, I'll have them pick 5 exercises from a pile of cards - it might say something like 10 sit ups, run up and down the stairs 2 times, 20 jumping jacks etc. On On other days I will lead the exercises myself. I'd love to play more silly run around games (we used to play dodge ball with a soft squishy ball and have obstacle course races in our old home) but there just isn't enough kid-friendly space for that kind of play indoors.

So that's us at the moment, for the next few weeks at least - who knows what the next month will bring for us but I'll take what we can get.

1 comment:

Pam Barnhill said...

Popped over from the carnival. How exciting to be studying British History while IN Britain. Hope you enjoy!


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