Thursday, 18 November 2010

Making a Pinata

So it's nearly time for Cosmo's birthday and I figure as he's going to be three, he is definitely old enough to enjoy smashing up a pinata. More importantly, it could be a fun craft project for us!

Stage one was designing a dinosaur. We used balloons, egg cartons, toilet rolls, cereal boxes and a tupperware. After chatting about different types of dinosaur Cosmo wanted it to have three horns like a triceratops and spikes like a stegosaurus. I did point out that this makes it look a lot like a baby dragon, but he wasn't caring so much about authenticity.

Next it was time to cover it in paper mache. We used newspaper and white PVA glue 1:1 with water. Cosmo helped me measure it out and mix it together. I know the usual recipe is 2:1, but I was being a little tight.

Problem was that meant the glue was VERY wet, so our tape didn't stick well and we lost a couple of legs...

No problem though, we only needed one leg to fill it from. When it was dry we burst the balloons, filled it with candy (and I mean really filled it!), sealed up the whole with paper mache, and added new legs.

Today we started painting it with left over emulsion paint from my mums kitchen. Apparently you need to do this layer first to i) hide the news print and ii) make your artistic design stay on the glue (sometimes it repels some paints).

So there you have it, the beginnings of a dinosaur pinata. We'll update you with photos of the finished product when it's done.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Lesson

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and

gathering them around him, he taught them saying:

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathering them around him, he taught them saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the meek, Blessed are they who mourn.

Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are they who thirst for justice.

Blessed are you when persecuted. Blessed are you when you suffer.

Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great.

Then Simon Peter said “Do we have to write this down?”

and Andrew said “Do we have to turn it in?”

and James said “Does spelling count?”

Philip said “Will this be on the test?”

and Bartholomew said “What if we don’t know it?”

and John said “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this!”

and Matthew said “When do we get out of here?”

and Judas said “What does this have to do with real life?”

and the other disciples likewise.

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan and inquired of Jesus His terminal objectives in the cognitive domain.

And Jesus wept.

Sometimes it's too easy to get caught up in keeping records and trying to achieve goals or finish a curriculum. My prayer this week is to keep the main goal in focus. I'm discipling God's children.

Today I removed Cosmo from his gymnastics class before it had finished for poor behaviour. This meant he missed out on receiving a badge which he had been working towards because he hadn't finished displaying all the disciplines. I'm not really sure what happened if I'm honest, the whole class were out of control and the coach was not able to command their attention. Cosmo was by no means behaving any worse than the other children, but I hold him accountable to a higher standard. I was torn because he was receiving assessment and I was so tempted by imaginings of his proud little face when he would bring his badge home to show daddy. But in the end his character is more important to me than any qualification and his behaviour today was not acceptable.

Hopefully he will treat the coach with a bit more respect next week :-(

Monday, 11 October 2010

Five days a week

I just loved this quote and wanted to share it with you:

"Too many parents who would never send their children to a church on Sunday that taught doctrines they believed to be wrong, have had no problem placing them in state schools five days a week where they are taught conflicting doctrines and ideas."

- Cal Thomas

This is why we home school. This is why I choose not to take advantage of the free babysitting service offered by the state. I choose to disciple my own children (Deut 6:6,7). To teach them morals and values that are acceptable to us, not the morals and values that are exhibited by most of society. My children are called for something greater. We have a purpose and a destiny - to be salt and light (Matt 5:13). Society may not appreciate why my children are home schooled, but we will be a blessing to them none-the-less.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Cosmo's first song

Cosmo made up his first song today (well, the first one that wasn't just random syllables thrown together!)

I was really excited, but he was really embarrassed that I'd overheard him singing :o(

It went like this:

King of Glory

King of Glory

Have some Glory

King of Glory

You died for me

Tell the story

about the glory

King of Glory

Monday, 4 October 2010

Letters and Sounds

Just a quickie today as we have had some friends over who have turned the house into a disaster zone! I only have an hour to clean up before the children wake up and I can't find the carpet shampoo (and yes, I do need it!)

I do love it when Cosmo has people over to play though, he is exhausted after a hard morning running around and I got to catch up with a new friend, which was a lot of fun.

Anyhow, back on topic!

A teacher friend emailed me this website letters and sounds for Cosmo to have a play with. There are loads of interactive games and teaching ideas on there for phonics. At first I thought it was too simplistic, then I realised there was more than one level (duh!) and although it's not particularly challenging for him, he does enjoy playing with it and I think it's good to practise even the easier stuff.

Anyhow, I may use it with Lychee before she gets to the reading fluently stage.

So I've posted it here in case anyone wants to try it out. I think it would be a great tool for slightly older (e.g. computer literate) children who were struggling with reading. Cosmo is the other way round though (doesn't have the dexterity to use a mouse) so it's not so helpful. I end up selecting all the choices whilst he just reads out the words.

In summary: Good for some, fun for us :-)

Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Mystery of History

The Mystery of History Part One - Creation to Resurrection has arrived!

I'm so excited. I've been flicking through and it looks like we are going to have a LOT of fun with this. I will warn you though, that it comes ready for a 3 ring binder. I have yet to find anywhere that sells these in the UK :-(

Still, it's not so hard to punch new holes in the pages.

We read through the introduction to this quarter this morning, and although I'm sure Cosmo didn't absorb all of it, he enjoyed being read to and the conversational style of the text. It asks question like 'Are you curious about how the world started?' which he loves answering 'yes!' to. I also think it's great that he is becoming familiar with new words. Every time a word popped up that he hadn't heard before (such as 'Cuneiform' or 'Kushite') he asked me to stop and point to the word in the text for him.

This afternoon we are going to make flash cards of all these new words and add them to a new file I am starting. When we re-read through this next (I'll start the curriculum again when I feel that he is old enough to be following the content better) he will already know these words and should make the absorption of information easier for him.

To be honest, I'm flying through it myself whilst he is napping. It's so exciting to me, having never studied history, to be able to see where different events and people around the world fit into the time line of biblical history. To be honest, I've never heard of most of them. I obviously didn't listen much in school, but it's fascinating me now.

So far this curriculum gets five stars. I'll let you know if we encounter any problems as we go along.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A Spring in our steps...

Today Cosmo had his first ever session at gymnastics club! Some Home educating families near by invited us along to MK Springers with them where he was the youngest (by quite a long way!) but the coaches were brilliant at keeping his attention and keeping him involved.

Towards the end of the session he got a little tired (it's an hour long) but I was impressed. Not only was he exerting a lot of energy physically, but he was being mentally challenged and attempting to co-ordinate his body in ways that were completely new to him. He learnt forward rolls, backward rolls, balancing on a beam and several positions on the bars.

I'm sure he is going to benefit massively from this activity.

There is another gymnastics club which is on at a more appropriate time, and is aimed at children his age, which is located on the other side of town. It's slightly more expensive (50p a session) but I'm not sure yet if I'll make the switch. The other mums at MK Springers are really nice, but it really is a bit to close to nap time. I think we'll keep going for the four weeks that we have paid in advance for and see what happens. If it turns out he is exhausted every week then we will try the other group.

My concern there is that the other group is not specifically for HE'd kids, so when they hit school age he will be the only one left :-(

Monday, 27 September 2010


It's taken me a while to get around to writing this, but I thought I'd best share in case anyone else is going through it too.

I recently approached a school to talk about flexi-learning. For those who don't know what this is, it's kind of like part-time school. My motives for this are a) keep other people off my back - if the school can see he is doing well I won't get loads of hassle about home schooling and b) I think it would be nice for him to spend some time experiencing 'school' without it being so many hours that he become peer dependant or starts to have his character formed more by their culture than our own.

You'd think this was a great option for the school, as they receive full time funding from the government for having him there, yet only require half the resources.

They were, however, incredibly negative towards the idea. I thought they might be keen if they met Cosmo and saw that he was fairly advanced for his age. They were indeed very impressed, and made it clear that they would like to have him at their school (despite us 'technically' being out of catchment) but that he would have to go to school full time. When I brought up the fact that he would be too far ahead of his peers and become bored in class (possibly making him quite disruptive. We all know what bored little boys are like!) they agreed. The solution?

Move him up two years so that he is studying with intellectual peers rather than his own age group.

I'm not being funny, but this is basically the exact opposite of what I want from school! Part of wanting to homeschool is about protecting him from todays culture, not exposing him to everything two years early!! Can you imagine a 9 year old moving up to secondary school??

I told the headmaster I thought it was a horrendous idea and he told me that homeschooling was a horrendous idea.

I'm now more determined than ever!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Living in a Sukkah

When Cosmo was still fairly small I heard someone say that a Jews catechism is his calendar. My ears pricked up, because I was starting to think about ways to introduce the gospel to him. Sure I sang songs to him and we had a children's bible we read from, but I knew that I wanted to teach him the bigger picture in a way that he would understand.

The Jewish calendar of festivals is great for this. If you haven't tried it, I thoroughly recommend you do. It can seem a little heavy at first (particularly if you already celebrate Easter, Christmas, thanksgiving etc...),  so maybe try introducing one new festival a year and build up the traditions slowly. If you are going to do that, I recommend starting with the feast of tabernacles, or Sukkoth as it is sometimes known.

So many people jump in with passover because it sounds familiar to us as christians, and it should be. It's mirrored so perfectly in the Easter story, but this can be pretty heavy for small children. Sukkoth, on the other hand, is enjoyable for children of all ages.

We start buy building a tent or shelter (the Sukkah) which we are supposed to live in for 8 days. Now, I'm going to cheat a little (because I'm no longer bound by the law and I can!) so we built our 'sukkah' out of sheets in the spare bedroom. We tented pretty much the entire room and covered the floor with a mattress and pillows to make it cosy.

This temporary shelter is to remind us that we are only temporarily here. Jesus has returned to His Father's house to prepare a place for us. Our permanent residence is not here.

Next, we decorate the Sukkah. It's fun to put up bunting or any other autumnal decorations you have, kids can draw pictures etc... We incorporated pictures of some specific tree branches in ours. Traditionally the Jews would have processed with these four branches to collect water for the tabernacle.  Here is the symbolism:

Water - Jesus is our living water. It was on the seventh day of sukkoth that he announced this in John 7:37-38

Myrtle,  Willow, Palm and Citrus - one has no fragrance no fruit, one fragrance but no fruit, one fruit but no fragrance and one both fruit and fragrance. The Jews would say that the fruit represents knowledge of the Torah and the fragrance represents acting out the Torah.  If your kids are slightly older you can parallel these with the four types of soil found in one of the kingdom parables (Matt 13).

We made our tree branches scented by putting orange oil on the citrus branch and jasmine oil on the myrtle (I have no idea what myrtle smells like, and luckily neither does Cosmo!). Cosmo loves sniffing them all to double check that they have 'fragrance'.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="720" caption="Preparing our Sukkah for our first evening meal."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="720" caption="Cosmo explaining the four branches over breakfast"][/caption]

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Pros and Cons of learning to read...

Some of you may know that I started teaching Cosmo to read very young. I did this because I whole-heartedly believe that if you enjoy reading, no subject is closed to you. I'm also dyslexic, as are several members of my family, and I thought 'if he is going to struggle with reading, I want to give him a head start'.

I needn't have worried, because as it turned out he recognised his first words at around 10 months old.

By two years old he was beginning to sound out words and at 2.5 he is now reading sentences and paragraphs competently and even enjoying his very own toddler bible.

You would think this was only a good thing, and it should be. Sadly though, we live in a town where people don't seem to have very much respect for public property. I love to take Cosmo to the park where he can run and jump and climb and generally go wild and have a great time. Unfortunately the park is heavily graffiti-ed even inside the toddler area. So when Cosmo comes out asking me what f*** means or innocently announcing 'Mummy, that word is c***' I am forced to explain to him that those are naughty words and we shouldn't say them. The reality is that they are naughty words and he shouldn't have to read them in a children's play area either.

On the bright side though, this week we discovered where our town library is. Cosmo is taking great pleasure in selecting books to bring home and is, for the first time, enjoying reading by himself. His new bedtime routine now includes the light being left on for 30 minutes so that he can read some of his new books before he goes to sleep. It's a great way for him to unwind and he never complains about going to bed anymore, because he is excited to read a new story. Equally, by the time we go back up to turn the lights out, he has wound down and is ready for a kiss and to go to sleep.

I'm so glad we have been able to bless him with the ability to read so early on. It really does have such a calming effect, and seeing him so excited about going to the library is just too precious. I really can't praise the YBCR system enough.

Your Baby Can Read

As-Seen-On-TV! Babies Reading Using
Our Proven Learning System

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


I love the idea of notebooking. Building your own custom exercise books makes your children's work so much easier to look through and they look super cute! I love the idea of having their work all laid out neatly, and the best part is you can download notebook pages for different subjects, or create your own.

For example, your science pages might include spaces for their prediction, hypothesis, method and results. Your bible study pages might have spaces for memory verse, chapter, what you learnt and prayer notes.

Cindy Rushton produced the following blog about notebooking for history:

''Yes! Notebooking for History Studies! Notebooking for our History Timelines!

What great literature does to feed the mind, Notebooking does to deepen the studies, teach research skills, and record the real education that your children are receiving. Old path? Yep! But not a path that has been overgrown.

Notebooking goes as far back as eternity.

In Scripture, we find that the kings were trained and prepared for leadership by copying the law and keeping it in a book (isn’t that too cute??).

Want to know something even better? We find that EVEN God has a Book of Remembrance that He is keeping until that day that we join Him in heaven for that “Heavenly read aloud time” we will enjoy some day soon. Oh. Don’t worry! We will ENJOY this time. His Book of Remembrance does not contain a list of sins and transgressions that we have committed that He wants to be sure not to forget. Instead, it is filled to overflowing with precious quotes of praises that His servants speak to one another (My PERSONAL goal is for Him to have PLENTY to quote from my life!).

Up until about a hundred years ago, Notebooking was used in the education of every child. But, something called textbooks and “progressive” education eliminated them from the education of children today. With that elimination, we find the need for more and more artificial methods of education. Well, until we find this old path.

My friend, of all the ideas I could share with you as you homeschool your children, this one is certain to change the atmosphere of your home while equipping your children to learn more deeply now AND more voraciously for the rest of their lives.

Although I cannot begin to do justice explaining Notebooking in one simple article, I have to tell you a few perks (if you want more help in this area, take a look at my book Notebooking! YES! You Can Be A Binder Queen Too!). You have to know that this is a WONDERFUL way to teach more than just the historical facts that we want for our children to learn. There are LOTS of perks!

First of all, Notebooking encourages deeper research on topics of study. As my children have found a “place” to keep their special “finds” along the way, they have had more interest in hunting for more information on every topic they run across. They may think of this as a treasure hunt, but while they are having a blast finding great ideas, facts, and heirlooms, they are learning the skills of researching that will serve them all of their life. That is not all! While our children are building notebooks on topics as they study, they are also learning how to record what they are really learning. Besides relieving mom of the pressure of keeping records of every minute of their day, this teaches them the skill of record keeping and keeps a more accurate account of what is being done each and every day. Oh, and need I mention, Notebooking also teaches our children Language Arts skills and techniques the EASY WAY!

So, how do you use this old path as you teach History the easy way?

First, find great resources that can be used for building notebooks.

I am constantly on the lookout for great resources with neat Copywork. My children began using Copywork when they were very little and STILL use Copywork for building their notebooks in High School. There are many, many great resources. The very first thing we used was a large print edition of the Bible. It was easier for my young readers/writers to copy from. I also look for books with poems, quotes, narratives, songs, speeches, etc. As we travel, my children also look for special mementos to add to their notebooks. Anything from art prints to recipes to maps to pictures of the people and events from History are game for their notebooks. The key is in having a “place” to keep the information that contributes to each and every study. That place is our notebooks!

Second, encourage your children to USE those notebooks every day.

It is so easy to put projects on the shelf only to collect dust. It is also easy for us to let the children do work that we pile away in a box to put away later for them. Notebooking is NOT another thing for YOU TO DO! Well, unless you are going to keep a notebook for your own studies.

My dear friend, the greatest benefits come from our children doing the work for themselves. Sure, you may have gone to every local Scrapbooking crop in your city and state. But, this is not a contest for the most creative memory book. It is a discipline that we can pass on to our children so they can learn the skills of writing, researching, recording their own education, and collecting information in a logical and understandable way. Simply find some great resources for them to copy from…buy just ONE NOTEBOOK (3-ring binder) and sheet protectors (to keep their work stored nicely in each day)…and turn them loose! The fruit you gather along this old path is simply too good to miss!

Happy Homeschooling…the easy way''

If you do want some notebooking resources I thoroughly recommend the notebookingpages site. There are loads of free and very cheap notebooking templates you can download for you or your students.

I'm an affiliate, so if you do end up purchasing, please make sure you have clicked through from here so that I can get some commission :-)

Thanks. Happy notebooking!!

Monday, 13 September 2010

It's been a while...

As you may be aware it's been a while, but I have been super busy - with the arrival of our new baby girl!!

Lychee was born on the 25th of July and we are so pleased to welcome her into our little family. Between night feeds and pure exhaustion I barely have time to entertain Cosmo during the day, let alone get online, so posts are going to be a little fewer for a while, but I will try to keep up ;-)

Cosmo's latest achievement is that he has finally accepted we read from left to right (hooray!!!) which means we can progress to reading sentences and even paragraphs. In celebration of this, his daddy bought him the 'Beginners Bible' from our local christian book store. He absolutely loves it, and is doing really well at reading us a chapter from it each evening before bed. Okay, so it's not a full bible, but at the rate he is going he will have finished it by the end of the year and should therefore at least be familiar with the stories and how they fit together, with a basic understanding of the overarching themes.

He is also loving Sesame Street podcasts at the moment. I love it when he tries to use his new vocabulary in every day life. He told me that the breakfast I'd made him was 'exquisite' the other day. He also says that Lychee smells 'luxurious'. Soooooo cute!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Cosmo's first picture!!!

I've been particularly interested in watching my nieces drawing recently. They colour away with abandon and tell me great stories about what they are going to draw for me and the wonderful letters they are writing me.

Cosmo on the other hand seems to be incredibly aware of his limitations regarding hand eye co-ordination. He can hold a crayon, and is willing to colour in something you have drawn, but if you ask him to draw something specific, he says 'no, I can only draw one and seven'. Which is partly true. Most of his drawings are lines, some of them with a kink, which can then be rotated until it becomes a seven.  He will usually at this point pass me the crayon and ask me to write a word or draw a picture for him.

I do think it's sad though that he is unwilling to try and draw anything else, so I was extremely excited when he came bounding into the kitchen to tell me that he had drawn a helicopter!! I'll be honest, my first thought was 'what have you drawn it on...?' but I was overjoyed to find it in chalk, on the chalk board. He just wanted me to come and write the word helicopter next to it so that we could show daddy what it was.

He was incredibly proud of himself, and I was pretty pleased to.

So here it is... Cosmo's Masterpiece!! (age 2 years 5 months)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="604" caption="Cosmo's first recognisable drawing!!"][/caption]

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Children's Catechism

I used to think 'what's the point?' and considered children's catechism a form of brainwashing. More and more though, I'm realising that someone else is brainwashing our children. Even the small children's section in our library consistently puts forward the idea that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and that we evolved from monkeys.

The fact is, that if I don't give my son a biblical account of creation, Cbeebies will ensure he gets a non-biblical one. How do I ensure that my son grows up with a basic idea of God the creator? Catechism.

Children learn through repetition, and I apply this to everything else (reading/flashcards/numbers), so why am I afraid to apply it to our faith? Because I know that judgemental atheists will slate me for it. So the question becomes 'do I care more about what they think of me than my sons relationship with his creator'? Even voicing the question makes me feel ridiculous for worrying about it. I know what I need to do.

That said I came across this website which has a basic catechism for little ones. I think we will break down the lessons to be a little shorter (Cosmo is only 2 after all!) but I look forward to working through them with him. As he gets older, hopefully he will ask more questions and we will be able to explain more fully the theology and apologetics behind them. But we have to start somewhere, and a 2 year old really doesn't need advanced scientific explanations.

When he is a bit older I will probably introduce Kids 4 truth ( which I believe caters for 4 year olds through until 6th grade.

It's so hard as an adult to initially get your head around the fact that your teachers were not infallible, and that some of what they taught you might not be completely true. I hope that I can instil in my children the ability to question what is being taught to them by adults and the media, and come to their own conclusions regarding their beliefs. I hope this will include questioning me, but I want them to have heard both sides of the argument in a fair and balanced way, rather just having atheism and evolution drip fed with no alternatives offered.

Nursery & Cortisol Levels

There was an article yesterday in the Guardian about the stress levels of children who are placed in daycare compared with those who were cared for at home (article reproduced below).

What I want to know is, when does this kind of group care become less stressful?
Do these results still occur in children who start school at 4/5 years old?
Is this why classroom management is getting harder and harder as more of our teenagers were sent to daycare as babies?

Oliver James
The Guardian, Saturday 8 May 2010

I am acutely aware that those readers who have placed their under-threes in daycare (group care in nurseries) will not find this column easy reading, so let me make two important provisos. Nothing you are about to read is in any way critical of working mothers. I am strongly in favour of those who wish to, as long as the substitute care is adequate. It should never be forgotten that all the problems I am about to describe are just as common among children raised at home by depressed mothers: so long as the substitute care is good, it's much better for her child that a mother works than gets depressed at home.

Second, as far as we know, most children in daycare do not suffer ill-effects. So just because it has been your chosen method does not mean it has created problems.

The story starts with cortisol, the hormone we secrete when faced with threat, leading to "fight or flight". Its levels were measured in 70 15-month-old children at home before they had ever been to daycare. Compared with this, the levels had doubled within an hour of the mother leaving them in daycare on the first, fifth and ninth days. Measured again five months later, while no longer double, they were still significantly elevated compared with the home baseline.

When at home, under-threes' cortisol levels usually drop during the course of the day, but in daycare, nine studies show that they rise. While high-quality daycare does moderate this, they still do rise even under those conditions, and the fact is that the vast majority of daycare provision is low or medium quality – in America, only 9% is high quality; something similar is true here.

The effect appears to be lasting. When cortisol is measured at age 15, the longer a child was in daycare when small, the higher its levels. As high cortisol has been shown many times to be a correlate of all manner of problems, this is bad news.

In particular, it may help to explain why children who were in daycare when under three are so much more likely to be aggressive and disobedient. The definitive study of the subject showed that this was true of only 6% of children largely raised at home, rising steadily as the number of hours per week in non-maternal care increased, to 25% of children spending more than 45 hours a week away from mother.

In America, where daycare is widespread, it looks possible that it is increasing classroom problems. A study of 3,440 children from 282 primary schools showed that children who were home-reared were significantly worse behaved the greater the proportion of their classmates who had been in daycare: they seemed to be led to misbehave by the greater misbehaviour of their daycared peers. Other studies also suggest that daycare increases the risk of insecurity in relationships.

On the positive side, daycare can benefit the academic performance of children from low-income homes and, when combined with parent-infant therapy, can even improve such children's emotional wellbeing. But it is a myth that toddlers or babies need stimulation, education or friends. They need close supervision by a familiar, responsive adult.

Overall, there is just no reason to use daycare if you can possibly find an alternative. The evidence shows unmistakably that most parents would prefer a relative, and that it is indeed best if the substitute is one-on-one for an under-three, providing care at home. If that is unaffordable, a minder, preferably caring for only one other child who is older than your under-three, is best.

Doubled cortisol on being left in daycare: Ahnert, L et al, 2004, Child Development, 75, 639-50 ... For a fuller account of this evidence, contact Oliver James at It is also available on pp274-99 in Oliver James's How Not to F*** Them Up, out in June

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Making Butter

As we are using the preparatory curriculum to give us topics/ideas, we are looking at cows this week. Cosmo thinks this is great, but the most exciting part for him is that he had no idea butter, yoghurt and cheese were made out of milk.
Wierd isn't it?
I felt sure that the fact that cows make milk would be revolutionary, but he wasn't in the slightest bit bothered. The idea that milk can turn into other thinks has fascinated him. He made me watch a video on how to make butter four times today already!
This afternoon we are going to the local farm shop to buy some cream so we can have a go at making some. Not sure if I'm brave enough to make cheese with a toddler, but butter is pretty easy.
If you want to have a go, there are some simple directions here:

Friday, 26 February 2010

Memorizing Scripture


2 Timothy 3:15 says
'...that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work'.

Obviously I want Cosmo to grow up adequate and equipped for every good work, but the truth is, I have never memorized scripture.
I grew up in a fairly traditional catholic church, and memorized tons of prayers and responses, some even in Latin, but no-one ever taught me the value of memorising scripture.

Psalm 12:6 says
'The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.'

How I wish someone had taken the time to explain to me the importance of these precious words!
I really want to try to memorise scripture, and encourage Cosmo to do so as well. At two, there are not many things memorised in his little head, but if he can learn to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then I'm sure he can learn scripture too.
A brief search through the bible tells us that God definitely values the memorisation of scripture:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:7-8

Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Col 3:16

So, our curriculum will now involve us reciting and learning scripture, and singing songs to the Lord on a regular basis.
Hopefully it will educate me as much as Cosmo!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010



I think we need to come up with some sort of curriculum.
As much as I love the freedom of making my own decision each morning about what we are going to learn today, it probably doesn't make for a very well-rounded or thorough education.
Yesterday I decided to teach Cosmo about different types of dinosaurs. It was great. He can now read the words 'Stegosaurus', 'Tyrannosaurus Rex', 'Triceratops', 'Pterodactyl' and 'Brachiosaurus'. He can also recognise each of these dinosaurs and make relevant dinosaur noises (screeching for the Pterodactyl is a lot of fun, as is roaring like a T-rex).
The thing is, I can see Cosmo growing up knowing about all the things I love (biblical history, dinosaurs, human biology - yes, I know I'm a geek) and actually knowing nothing about the regular every day stuff you are supposed to learn.
So I've been googling around and I've found which has a great free curriculum for various age groups. The toddler one is a bit too simplistic, but I think the 2-4year old curriculum is going to be great fun.
I particularly like the idea of having a learning poster and theme for the week that Cosmo can add his work to and we can file it to look back on. Kind of like building his own 'tree of knowledge' folders (anybody remember them?)

Monday, 22 February 2010

Plan the work, work the plan

I hear being a homeschooling mommy requires lots of organisation and keeping on top of things. That is my biggest concern/fear of the whole process.
I'm not naturally a very organised person, but I do find to-do lists incredibly helpful. I find that if I spend all morning doing household chores, it still looks like I have achieved nothing. However, if I spend 10-15 minutes writing out a to-do list before I start, everything magically seems to get done a lot faster than I imagined it would, so that cup of tea and a sit down before lunch doesn't seem so slatternly.
It could, of course, be purely in my mind. Checking off each little box makes me feel like I've achieved something and I can look back at my list and say 'yes, I have done something today'. Yet somehow there seems to be some magic in the to-do list that makes me so much more productive.
There are loads of ways to do project management (I should know, it was one of my modules at university!) but I'm a sucker for a gadget.
I'm sure it's completely unreasonable as a housewife to even own an iPhone, let alone get all your emails sent to it as though you are some kind of executive, but my husband indulges me because... ...well because he is nice. So I recently downloaded 'Things' from the app store. I think it's amazing!
Okay, so my two year old's curriculum doesn't require too much planning/marking right now, but it will, and having a system in place will surely give me a head start on it.
To be honest I'm finding it incredibly helpful just to get my plans in order for the big relocation in june. Keeping track of mortgage details, houses, estate agents, solicitors and removal quotes is so much easier with this little tool, it makes me wonder how my mother managed without it.
That's a silly question of course, because my mother didn't even use a computer last time she moved house. We have been helping her switch her dining room and office around, discovering scraps of paper from 15 years ago with 'important' phone numbers and information regarding everything and anything. My mother has been a housewife for years, and yet she has two giant filing cabinets (the kind you see in doctors office) full of paperwork - that's two more than my dad (CEO of a large insurance firm) has. He has a drawer in a desk.
So thank God for my iPhone, it saves us from needing to buy a house with an extra bedroom to store all my paperwork. The way I see it, that's worth about £50,000, so my gadget is saving us an inordinate amount of money. That's my line and I'm sticking to it!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The benefits of classical music??


Will playing classical music to Cosmo really affect his intelligence?
I'm not sure where this rumour comes from, but it seems to be fairly prevalent amongst toy manufacturers (baby einstein et al) and is often applauded as one of their (only) unique selling points. But where is the evidence that any of this will help Cosmo in the long run?
I can see that playing gentle background music whilst we play encourages a peaceful atmosphere, possibly allowing for slightly less frustration when those blasted puzzle pieces won't quite slot together in his desperate clutches, but really, is it any more than that?
Classical music is also valuable in that whilst we are listening to it, we are less likely to have the TV on, or the radio, filling his little mind with advertising and negative images/messages. It also covers such a broad genre of music that there is something for all occasions; a little Brahms or Chopin before bed is incredibly calming whilst Debussy's cakewalk is fun and playful. Would anyone be willing to risk playing some Wagner during a temper tantrum?
We have also taken to belting out some good old fashioned gospel tunes recently. Cosmo loves the repetitive words and recurrent tunes. He can even join in by the end of each verse.
So, if anyone genuinely knows any reason why classical music would improve my children's intelligence then please, do share. I wouldn't want to be stunting my sons intellectual abilities with Andrae Crouche ;)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Breakfast, starfall and the numberjacks

YBCR comes with a book to teach you child about shapes, that when we first looked at I nearly cried laughing. It seemed completely ridiculous to expect my baby to recognize 'special quadrilaterals' and 'irregular polygons', let alone the difference between a rhombus and a trapezoid.

We decided that an easier way to teach shapes would be to cut his toast into simple shapes (square, triangle, rectangle) and explain it to him that way.

How wrong was I.

Within a week Cosmo was asking me if his toast could be a hexagon or an oval. In fact he even knew that my 'diamond' shape offering was a trapezoid. Turns out kids are much more capable than I have previously given them credit for.

This was proven to me again when we introduced the 'starfall' website to our playtime ( Cosmo very quickly picked up not only the names of the letters and whether they were 'big' letters or 'small' letters, as well as the sound they make. Starfall is a fun interactive website that I can't recommend highly enough if you haven't tried it. My neices love it too.

The numberjacks is also a fun and educational program. We don't let Cosmo watch much TV, but he loves the numberjacks. The Numberjacks
It can be watched free on the cbeebies website. It explains things in such a simple and fun way. After watching one episode Cosmo understood simple fractions (halves, thirds and quarters) and asks for his toast to be cut in this way. Amazing.

By the way, if you want to go down the toast cutting route, scissors are the way forward. There is no way you can accurately cut shapes with a knife, no matter how sharp it is. Believe me I've tried. Cosmo's look of disgust at the mangled toast was really enough to make me get the scissors out next time.

Monday, 8 February 2010

From the beginning...

I initially started teaching Cosmo to read using the 'Your Baby Can Read' program that Dr Titzer produces (YBCR). In actual fact we bought it because as a first time mom I had no idea how to interact with my own child. I had been convinced it would be so natural and so intuitive, but when dealing with a post natal illness, this was just not the case.

We used the program fairly loosely, certainly not as often as they recommended, but by about 10 months old he was recognizing words and able to do relevant actions. Once he could speak his vocabulary quickly broadened and it became apparent that he could read many of the flash cards we had been showing him, but was unsure of how to respond without being able to speak yet.

By age two we introduced the alphabet and numbers (which he loves) but we are still fairly relaxed about it all. To be honest I hadn't really expected him to be able to read before school age, I was just looking for ways to interact with him.

We are now in what Dr Titzer calls the 'fast mapping' stage, which means he only needs to see a word once or twice to remember it next time he sees it (as opposed to seeing it 40-50 times like he did when he was first learning). It's pretty exciting, and he loves doing it. I certainly wouldn't hesitate to teach our next child in the same way.

There is no need to buy fancy flash cards and DVDs either. Cosmo responds equally well to hand written cards, or just bold type on a computer screen. The DVDs are really useful if you want to sit them in front of something whilst you make dinner or get some chores done, but are totally non-essential. That said, if you can find someone who has the set, the instructional DVD and booklet for parents is interesting, informative and incredibly helpful.  It's definitely worth borrowing if you can. Dr Titzer's YBCR System

I don't want to put the YBCR system down, it has been amazing, and if you can afford it you should buy it from them. They are really committed to educating your child in a healthy and fun way, I just don't want people to think that if they can't get hold of it their child is missing out. You can do all this stuff yourself with a little bit of effort.

Finally, we started memory verses recently. I was told that your child doesn't have to be able to repeat back for you to move on. At this age it's about getting them familiar with scripture, rather than memorizing it, and hopefully bits of it will come back to them when they need it. We are mostly working through proverbs at the moment. There's no signs that Cosmo remembers anything yet, but he is enjoying it and asks me to recite the weeks verse to him, so I think it's a positive start. I'll let you know how it goes.