Tuesday, 31 December 2013

How do you school multiple ages at the same time?

This is something I am emailed about a lot.

To be honest it mostly comes down to planning (hence our set school times) and making sure that each child gets some one on one time for the topic they are struggling with. For example - I might be working one on one with Rose on her letter and phonetic reading while the older two (Lilly and Sunflower) are researching and writing up some history work and Tulip is doing copy work. Or while Lilly is working on a new math topic, Sunflower and Tulip will be working on their geography maps while Rose does letter tracing.

I also rely on the girls teaching each other - this is a good way for the older girls to prove they understand a topic by sharing their knowledge with one of their sisters (and a nice way of freeing me up for some one on one time where needed)

The other lifesaver for me is joint lessons - where possible I use joint lessons so all the girls will sit together to discuss, read and narrate then be sent off to do some individual work/research based on what we've just learnt - science, history, geography and even math all lend themselves to this format in our house.

Science is a easy example - when I did the life cycle of stars presentation we all sat together,
did the activity together, discussed it together, then they split off to do some individual work on it which consisted of the older girls writing (in their own words) in their science journals and the younger ones working with the 3 part cards, stamps and star crafts.

Or when we did the human body, after the activity Lilly and Sunflower drew and labelled diagrams while Tulip did a body system puzzle.

History usually involves reading about it together, individual narration (they either tell me in their own words what we've just read or answer questions on what we studied) and then, depending on age, write it up or do a craft/draw a picture.

Geography also works well as a joint lesson - we study the country together then they split with the older girls doing some more research about life in that country while the younger ones trace a map of the country or draw the flag etc.

Math is a great example - when we studied square numbers together the oldest 3 each drew diagrams or suck square stickers to represent them while Rose went off to the kitchen and used Shreddies (a square shaped breakfast cereal) to match the square numbers.

The joy of joint lessons for me is the way they all grasp the knowledge better when working together - Rose was 3 1/2 when we did the life cycle of a star lesson but she wanted to know more about it than her bigger sisters did and we ended up reading star and space books to her for weeks.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Learning over the holidays

Christmas is a time for us to slow down and that is reflected in the girls workload over the holidays.

We stop our more structured work and switch to read alouds. We pick history books that cover topics they are interested in,  history stories and science books.
These are some of the books we are reading at the moment 

We don't ditch math work over the holidays - we just change how we do it. I love living maths and we have a number of favourite books

we also love math games so area war, 

200 down
and dot to dots have all featured heavily over the last couple of weeks.

My favourite math activity over the last couple of weeks has been bedtime math - I got the free app and each day they have a new math question for the girls to solve and as it comes with questions for big kids as well as little kids and wee ones, they all get a turn to answer : )

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Why I'm thankful for Homeschooling

With Thanksgiving fast approaching it gave me pause to stop and think about what I'm grateful for in my life and right near the top of that list is homeschooling.

So here is a list of what I am thankful for in our homeschool

  • That I live in a country with the freedom to home educate my children and my prayers go out to those who live where there is no choice.
  • That my husband supports my decision (even on the tough days where the housework has slid into oblivion 'cause we were stuck doing decimals).
  • The chance to watch my children discover and explore the world around them.
  • To experience their joy of discovery and watch their faces light up when it finally clicks. 
  • That my children get a chance to be kids and are not forced to grow up too fast.
  • That I learn something new every day (even if it's just that the average chocolate bar has 8 insect legs in or that a chickens bottom is called a fluff)
  • For the friendships between my girls - I think if they weren't together every day then they wouldn't be as close as they are.
  • That they have time to explore areas of interest to them (hence why Lilly has spent the last month reading loads of Greek and Roman myths).
  • That they are willing to question (and even correct me when I'm wrong).
  • For the like minded friends they have and the support they give us.
  • The flexibility it gives us to personalise work to their individual learning style, level and needs.
  • For the extra time we get to spend with them.
feel free to share why you love homeschooling too :)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Science of Fireworks Activity Day

We had a great activity day last week all about the science behind fireworks.

We made sparklers,

explored the colours produced by different chemicals when they burn,

made paper rockets and catherine wheels,

made fireworks in a jar,

talked about the science involved in making bonfire toffee/honeycomb

and turned safety matches into strike anywhere matches

Thursday, 14 November 2013

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole - TOS Book Review


DH has always accused me of being a closet farmer (usually when I'm trudging out in my wellies to give the chickens some extra warm water in the winter snows) so I was happy to be offered the chance to review 'At home in Dogwood Mudhole'  volume 1: Nothing That Eats, by Franklin Sanders.

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole is a series of three books (two currently available), comprised of a collection of letters that he wrote chronicling their life from 1995 through 2002. These cover the family moving from the city out to a small farm and their experiences including the how they adapted to farming, family life, strange animals, his faith and great (or quirky) businesses they've met along the way.

I was just expecting a farming story so was pleasantly surprised to discover this is a bit of a history book as well - I've learnt loads about southern traditions, the American Civil War and re-enactments. 
Because this book is a series of letters, rather than a 'story', it makes for an easy read - you can sit, grab a quick 5 mins and just read a chapter or dedicate an evening to getting hooked and seeing if their chickens can survive their dogs.

The writing is candid, humorous and engaging, almost too engaging - I often lost track of time when reading this. There are certainly parts of the book that really speak to you (like deciding how much a pet is worth in vet bills or to quote the book 'the $30 dog that becomes a $1000 dog') and parts that make you laugh out loud (the horse squaring off with the dogs over the dog food or the suicidal guinea pigs)

What I've enjoyed MOST about At Home in Dogwood Hole is the authenticity. It's all about real people - their learning curve, celebrations and all the joys and sorrows that come with family life. I'm pleased to say it's made me laugh, gasp and even shed a tear or two.
This book would be a great read for anyone interested in a down-to-earth lifestyle - I'd happily recommend it for adults and teens.

You can purchase At Home in Dogwood Mudhole for $22.95 in paperback or $16.95 for Kindle/PDF copy.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

7 Wonders of the Ancient World - actions for the cc song

The girls have made up some actions for the Classical Conversations song about the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Friday, 8 November 2013

IXL Math - TOS Review

IXL is an on-line practice site that we have been reviewing over the last few weeks.

IXL are an international company - we have been using the UK site which covers math from reception to yr 12 (yr 13 is to come). The US site has math and language arts and I believe they are working on language arts for the UK.

We tested years 4 & 7 - each year is divided into topics in line with the National Curriculum and they list all topics a child needs to know to be in line with the UK curriculum. Logging in was simple and we first chose an avatar for each child as well as setting up individual passwords for them. Once logged in they had access to the whole range of age work but they just used the age appropriate section. Sunflower did find her year a bit easy so was able to do some work from the year above which was a great benefit.

Each section is divided into a number of subsections. In each subsection, the child works on questions with scores up to 100 (only a couple actually had 100 questions but I think that was more because she kept getting them wrong). The less mistakes the child makes the quicker they move through that section. There are virtual awards that the children win after completing a certain number of questions correctly or spending a set amount of time on the programme. They also emailed certificates to the girls which they liked.

There is a parents page which show progress reports and how long a child has spent working, correct scores and more. They sent a quick email report weekly to update me on time spent, topics covered etc.

I found IXL to be a great reinforcer and a great practise tool and they do live up to their motto 'Practice that feels like play'. The girls had great fun comparing their virtual stickers.
The girls were able to use this independently and even managed to work on some topics we hadn't covered because when an answer is incorrect they offer a really good explanation and show how to work it correctly. There is no space for your working out and workings are not marked (Lilly often had a notepad alongside her for her 'scribblings') so it would be nice to see a separate space/window for this.
IXL is available either as a monthly plan or as an annual fee. A monthly plan is £7.99 and an annual fee £59. If you opt for the annual fee, each additional child is £20 per year. 

You can see what my crewmates thought over at the TOS Blog

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Speed Trials

Tulip has been struggling with some of her sight words - she can read them but she tends to try and sound them out phonetically rather than just read them.

We hit upon a great game to encourage her to read them quickly. On Monday I give her some new sight words and use the stopwatch to time how long it takes to read and take a photo - this is repeated each day and we compare her time to the previous day. By Friday
she is usually down to 17 seconds to read 20 words : )

As you can see by the smile she loves the competitive aspect of this and really tries hard to get better each day.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Away we go Media - TOS Review

We have been reviewing some books from the 'If you were me...' series from Away We Go Media by Carol Roman. These books are specially designed for young children as a way of introducing them to life and culture in other countries. 

Carol Roman is a former teacher and an award winning author specialising in writing for younger children. Her work includes a fiction series (tackling issues like dyslexia, compromise and leadership) a fun, non fiction yoga book for kids and the 'If you were me and lived in ...' series.

We received four books from the 'If you were me...' series, along with some flag pencils, bouncy ball, passport and stickers. The books were
If you were me and lived in Mexico
If you were me and lived in France
If you were me and lived in South Korea
If you were me and lived in Norway

These books are approx 25 pages and each page consists of a few lines of text (the font is large enough for young readers) and a vibrant illustration. 

They start by covering where the country is located and its capital city, typical names for boys and girls,what the currency is, words for father and mother, a tourist site, typical foods, sport and toys, a special holiday, the name for school and more.

At the end of each book there is a pronunciation guide  - very useful for learning how to correctly pronounce the words used in the book. 

At the bottom of each text page and found just above the page number is a small drawing depicting something typical for the country. At first I thought these were a little flicker drawings but they are the same on each page.

I used these books as part of our read aloud time and both Tulip and Rose really enjoyed them. It was really nice to see them trying to locate the countries on a globe. I even caught them pouring over the pictures and 'reading' them to each other : ) 

These books are a fantastic addition to our continent boxes and have provided an enjoyable way to introduce different cultures as they add life and personality to our geography studies. I really hope the series continues.

I loved the illustrations, they are amazing and really appeal to children. I would love to see the little drawings above the page numbers turned into flicker drawings. 

The only other point of note is they are written for US market so a number of US terms do pop up in the writing (like mommy).

The books are designed for children 4 - 8 and are available for $8.99 for the paperback or $.99 for the Kindle edition. 

You can see what my crew mates thought of these over at the TOS Blog

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Greek Roman gods - CC1 History Song

We have incorporated Classical Conversations into our lessons this year and so far the girls have really enjoyed it.

Their favourite aspect of the memorisation work has been the songs - they have made up actions to a couple of the songs and wanted to share them.

Zeus - holding a lighting bolt
Hera - hands fan out like a peacock tail (her sacred animal)
Ares - fists fighting (god of war)
Aphrodite - tapping heart (love)
Artemis - shooting a bow and arrow (goddess of the hunt and maidens)
Hermes - winged shoes

They also made up a second verse with actions to the Greek Roman Gods.

Hades - stab to the heart (god of the underworld/death)
Poseidon - wave action (god of the sea)
Helios - big circle (sun god)
Hephaestus - hammering action (god of blacksmith, metalwork and fire)
Athena - opening a book (goddess of wisdom)
Selene - crescent moon shape (goddess of the moon)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Honey Harvest

We had an exciting evening yesterday - we harvested our first batch of honey : )

They girls were very excited to learn all about how the bees store honey but even more excited to taste the harvest.

Monday, 21 October 2013

History of Fashion activity day

Our local Home Ed group recently ran a 'history of fashion day' where we explored fabric and fashions from history.

We got to look at clothes from various ages and had a dress up table (this had to be their favourite activity)

 Renisance reinactment costume, princess and Victorian maid
 a dress from the 30's with a real fur collar 

There was a world fashion table - full of clothes from different countries.

They made a fabric timeline where they got to look at when fabrics were invented

and we finished the day off with a historical fashion show.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Cell Studies

We've detoured slightly this week and looked at cells because  the Linnaeus classification system works by looking at the differences on a cellular level.

I wanted to really emphasise the difference between plant and animal cells so following our discussion about cells and cell organelles (the parts of a cell and their jobs - I found a great free printable here) I decided to get them to build models.

They started with the animal cell - here I cut a round shape out of a plastic bag for the cell membrane and got them to make the different organelles.

Next they did the plant cell - I found a clear plastic box for the cell wall and used a plastic bag inside for the cell membrane and again asked them to make the organelles.

This seemed to work well to cement the fact that plant cells have a cell wall. They also remembered the extra organelles that a plant cell has but their favourite had to be the fluffy green chloroplasts : )

Thursday, 10 October 2013

YWAM George Washington a true Patriot - TOS Review

We adore reading here, so having a book to review is wonderful : )

YWAM are one of the largest Christian charitable organisations in the world . YWAM Publishing are a division of this charity and offer a large selection of books and music. In case you are wondering YWAM stands for 'Youth With A Mission'.

We chose the book 'George Washington - True Patriot' part of their Hero's of History collection, this is a series of biographies that bring history to life - sharing stories of the people who changed the course of history.

We opted for a pdf version which came with a downloadable Unit Study Curriculum Guide .

I chose to print and bind the book (all 224 pages!) so that the girls could use it easily. I decided against the ebook as the girls prefer paper books.

I also printed out the study guide - this comes in two parts, there is a four page download with a fact sheet, outline maps and a time line, and 64 page unit study guide jam packed full of activities. These include:
  • Chapter questions - these work well for testing retention and getting them to narrate back what they have read. These also include vocabulary. 
  • Quotes for copy work and/or memorisation. 
  • Social Studies - ideas and activities covering places, vocab, geography, mapping, time line and conceptual questions 
  • Display ideas - these weren't suitable for us but would be great for a bigger group setting. 
  • Student Explorations - this included the creative writing exercises as well as hands on projects and was the girls favourite section. 
  • Community Links - field trips and guest speaker ideas. 
  • Related themes to explore including some math, history, politics, law and some science. 
  • Culminating Event - lists a number of fun activities for when you have finished the study. 
  • Appendix - this lists a whole host of additional books and other resources. It also contains suggested answers to the chapter questions. 
This guide is designed to bring the book to life and is defiantly value for money and is one of the more complete unit studies I've seen.

Lilly and Sunflower are 11 and almost 9 and we haven't had any issues with comprehending the book although there is the odd word they had to look up. They love living history books so have really lapped up the stories of his life as a young boy and the life he led before he became famous.

The girls didn't enjoy the unit study as much as I did but they did enjoy the creative writing (especially creating the poem) and making beeswax candles. I really like the chapter questions - I have always loved using narration as part of our learning so this section was right up my street, the added bonus is it comes with the answers.
I think their favourite activity had to be the Manners Tea Party as the culminating event : )

George Washington a True Patriot is available for $6.99, the Unit Study Guide is $7.49 and is aimed at age 10+

You can see what my crew mates thought of this and their Christian Heroes series over at the TOS Blog

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