Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Conversations With a Two Year Old


It's true that Lychee's speech is difficult to understand unless you know her. 'Mas-mas Eee' (Christmas tree) is a case in point. That hasn't concerned me too much, because I'm pleased that she is attempting to speak (previously she has blankly stared at you refusing to repeat anything!) and just in time too because we have an appointment with a speech and language therapist next week!

What I'm excited about is that we had probably our first conversation that didn't just involve one question with a 'yes/no' type answer today. It was a proper discussion with consequences.

Okay, I'll admit, it's not how you hope your first conversation will go, but I was still proud of her. This is kind of how parenting seems to work with my littlest one. I'm so excited to tell people she has put words together into a sentence, then I have to admit that the sentence was 'Mama - Snot on fingers!' Or when she first started copying recognisable sounds and they were the Birdo noise from Mario Kart, or 'Waluigi! Imma gonna win!' (don't judge - it's not her fault she has grown up with an older brother).

photo credit
She was looking exhausted but didn't want to nap (obviously, because over tired children never do) and so I decided to just change her diaper and see if she'd cuddle up for a quiet story. Unfortunately, she read changing diaper as 'time for bed' and started screaming and kicking trying to get away from me. Whilst wrestling her legs with one hand and wipes with the other she started to scream 'Let go of me mama! Let go of me!' (okay, you might not have heard that clearly, but I knew what she was saying).

I responded with 'I can't sweetheart because you will run away and you won't let me put your fresh nappy on'.

'I will Mama! I will! Let go of me, I will!' (sobbing through tears).

It was one of those magical moments when you realize that your child is now old enough to reason with you and you can make discipline more than just taking something away. I was so happy, despite the fact that she was having an outrageous tantrum.

Unfortunately she has also learned how to lie, so the minute I let go she scrambled to get away again, and I had to wrestle her like an octopus back into some kind of position that would allow me to get a diaper on.

Terrible Two's...

Monday, 3 December 2012

You can do it!


Cannot believe my boy is really five years old!

As he is a really big boy now, we decided to get him his very own tool kit.

Not toys, but real tools made to fit a child's hands. I found a montessori seller on eBay who sources real quality tools that are just the right size, so that little hands can wield them without too much trouble.

I have some great wood work projects for him planned. He is really into gardening at the moment, so we HAVE to make a dibber like Martha Stewart's for easy, even, seed sowing.

It's simply achieved and will involve measuring, drilling, sawing and hammering practice.

Along the gardening theme we'd also make ourselves a veggie harvesting basket like this one that I discovered on Pinterest.

And finally I intend to help him make his own Geo board, which will involve measuring, drilling and screwing. He's so excited by these big 'man' tools (tools that aren't made of plastic) and cannot wait to get started at building something exciting. I love encouraging him to feel like he can achieve, as he is so fearful of trying things he thinks he might fail at (I believe it's an ASD trait of perfectionism).

Plus, every child should own some safety specs, whether it's for DIY or chemistry fun!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Every Single Thing is a Learning Opportunity

I've heard that phrase so many times in the Home educating community, how there is a lesson in everything, and simply having your children 'do life' with you, and answering their many 'why' questions is all the education they need.

This week we all got a horrible bug. Think vomiting, temperature, and snot so bad that I had to change the little ones bed linen because she wok up with it everywhere. If I'd known it was going to be like this I would have bought shares in kleenex ultrabalm.

However, as I said, there is a learning opportunity in here somewhere. As I was burning some tissues, my son asked me why I was making fire when we were already feeling hot (I was actually feeling quite shivery, but his assumption was that if he felt hot I must be too). I explained that we didn't want the viruses in the tissues to be sat around the house.

'Viruses like streptococcus?' (his current favourite strain of bacteria - do schooled children have those?)
'Well streptococcus is a bacteria.' I explained. 'A virus is a little bit different. Remember?' We did a lap book on this quite recently.
'Oh, well what's this virus called?'

I said I wasn't sure, but that I suspected it to be influenza. I don't feel like that was too misleading. After all, it's not like we have a lab I could check our snot in and actually find out, and flu symptoms fit. Obviously, you can't just say something like that to a four year old without more questions arising though.

I pulled google up on the iPad (gosh  I love it!) and we searched for images of influenza. First we looked at actual photos, then we looked at some diagrams.

Diagram of the Flu Virus
Actually, he had some really intelligent questions, and I started explaining what each part of the virus was for (thankfully I had google open on my iphone too), what a 'lipid' is and why hemagglutinin is like the spikes on the stickle bricks.

So even a 'sick day' turns into an educational day at home, which makes it pretty hard to fill out our registers for our homeschool co-op. When would you ever use an 'Absent' or 'Illness' code?


On a completely unrelated note, Cosmo swam five metres on his back in his swimming lesson today! exciting times!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

IPad Education

I'm in awe of people who managed to homeschool before the internet. How on earth anyone got through lesson planning without Pinterest is completely beyond me.

I've said before how disenchanted I am with our public library. It's really big, and I know we are much more fortunate than many who live in small villages. The story time group is fantastic, but the books available to children, particularly early readers, is devastatingly lacking. Anything that would even vaguely challenge his reading ability seems to be about vampires, or witches, or completely inappropriate relationships (he recently brought home a book about a kid with a crush on his teacher. We didn't get past the first chapter).

With this in mind I'm so excited to be ordering some books from Lamplighter publishing to add to our home collection, (in no small part thanks to their current offer of buying a $100 certificate and getting a second one free!) but the reality is although my children love books, right now the iPad is where it's at.

I've only had it for a month, so maybe it's a novelty thing, but I feel like my homeschool life just got a whole lot easier.

So this post is, for the most part, dedicated to how we use it - although some of these uses worked fine on my iPhone too, it's all so much easier on the pad ;0)

1. Record Keeping 
There are tonnes of free apps, but my personal favourite is Evernote. We used it long before we got the iPad, and there is a desktop download, web based page and phone app that you could use instead (as I did for the last two years).
The most useful thing about it is storing examples of work. I take two seconds to snap some photos for the worksheets the children have just completed, tag them (subject, child) and they are automatically stored by date. Very useful when it comes to looking back through for end of term reports!

There is also a recording facility, so I've recorded the children doing things like reciting a new memory verse (which will be totally cute to listen to in years to come).
I also use the note taking facility to jot down any developmental leaps (walking, reading, swam 5m etc...) and once again Evernote auto tags the date and, if you like, location. Fab.

2. BrainPop
Brainpop is brilliant, we are using the free version of brain pop jr without an account currently. It's brilliant and there is a new video every week. The videos are cute, subtitled and have two quizzes on the content at the end (easy and hard) as well a joke and a relevant comic strip. The best part (according to Cosmo) is that there's a little leaderboard so you can try and beat your score on the quizzes by taking them again, and/or compete against a sibling.

3. Montessori geography
We LOVE the Montessori geography apps. There are some free ones (the UK for example) but we have chosen to pay for the European one. Cosmo is happy able to work on this alone and is learning to identify all the countries in Europe, not only by name and location, but also by shape. I'm learning as he does!
Eventually we'll upgrade to the other continents, but right now this one has plenty of content to keep us busy.
The Montessori pre-language opposites app is also brilliant for lychee.

4. Starfall ABCs
It's no secret that we are massive fans of the starfall website and subscribe to more starfall too. The app isn't free, and it also doesn't have all the content of the full site, but it's perfect for little ones who can't use a mouse yet to explore limited content. Lychee happily spent 30 minutes playing on it whilst I had a church meeting last week. For £1.99 it's been totally worth it.

5. Little writer
Lychee needs some serious help with this app, but she loves it.
I would have thought it was beneath Cosmo, but he seems to really enjoy it too, and it's encouraging him to form letters and numbers correctly (instead of two circles for an eight, for example) so I'm not complaining.

6. FlashCardlet
A great little app that allows you to create sets of flash cards for memory work. Easy to set up and easy for the kids to use. Cosmo loves flipping through his memory verses from Plant's Grown Up.

So those are my current favourites, obviously I'm sure we'll discover more as we go, but that's it for now.

Do you have an iPad/iPhone other electronic device you use for homeschooling? What apps do you recommend?

This post is linked up at noordinarybloghop

Monday, 5 November 2012

Half term


So we've just had half-term, but with this being a homeschool the learning never stops!!

This holidays we signed Cosmo up for his first ever holiday-club with Wilstead evangelical church and he had a fantastic time. It was for two hours every morning and he came home having learned new songs and games, as well as a memory verse.

There were some competitions, including boat building, for homework and he worked so hard to create a boat that actually floated - experimenting with gluing coins and pebbles to counter weight his beautiful sail (those are ants that he drew on it), and covering the whole base in cling film to make sure no water would get in it.

There were also homework sheets, with word searches and crosswords and he won gold medals for completing those too.

At the end of the week there was a medal ceremony and he was presented with a certificate and a sticker book which he is very proud of.

He did miss two days of holiday club as we went to stay at my mothers to spend a little time with my sister who is about to emigrate half-way around the world :o(

We had a great time and celebrated a cousins birthday with a family trip to gulliver's land which was obviously a huge hit.

My aunt also stopped by on the second day with a box load of Math resources and games for us and we've been excitedly sorting through them, looking at which ones we'd like to play now and which ones to put in our 'soon' shelf in the school room.

And finally I've spent some time with Lychee on the new iPad (yes! I've finally got one!) and been working on the Montessori pre-language opposites app and starfall ABCs. Both are excellent and I highly recommend them, although it can make it hard to limit screen time as the children get really into the 'work' they are doing.

So that's been our half-term. Did you do anything exciting? 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Weapons training

It's not as bad as it sounds, honest!!!

It's half term, and whilst the school we live in is closed for two weeks, my husband has some family commitments and a school trip to morocco which mean we only have a couple of days together :0(

Still, there's enough time to do a few fun things, including some planting and building a bow and arrows to play with.

Cosmo has been so proud of the bow and arrow he and daddy built and they've had great fun shooting it.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


A few of you have already commented on my facebook photos of the new posters in our 'school room', asking me where I bought them. 

Well lucky for you guys, they are actually a free downloadable resource on a website I've been asked to review called Twinkl

Photo: New posters for the school room: 'Homophones' courtesy of Twinkl October 07, 2012 at 03:39PM

Twinkl have a ridiculous amount of free resources available for both classroom environments and parents at home to help with everything you could ever want for your preschool,  KS1 and KS2 children. 
You can buy the resources printed up nicely, or if like me you invested in a laser printer and ink is not a premium commodity you can print them yourself for FREE. How generous is that?

The posters in the picture above is from the literacy section explaining homophones. Highly useful with an extremely verbal ASD child who tends to take everything said very literally. Knowing that hole and whole are two different words is more important than you'd imagine...

In fact, in the parent's section there is a whole load of SEN (special educational needs) resources including pictorial timetables (which were a massive help to reducing stress levels and allowing my son to cope in sunday school) and simple chore charts. 

The cutting worksheets are also proving a massive hit with Cosmo (he feels so grown up with his own scissors) and there is just a tonne of resources for things like bonfire night and thanksgiving. There's book lists and recommendations, classroom display ideas... this website is honestly a home educators dream!   

I'm pretty new to the site (I only discovered it about a week ago) but you can expect to be seeing and hearing lots more about it on here as I work my way through the whole thing. There's just so much to see! It's basically my new Starfall (and you know how evangelical I was about starfall...).

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Nearly five...


Having turned two lychee is really enjoying being in Cosmo's swimming lesson and works really hard at keeping up and doing everything the teacher asks of her. I'm so proud of her!!

This term Cosmo will be turning five, which means that he is now eligible to join the sports classes that are run by the co-operative we're in. He had his first session yesterday and was so nervous and excited.

He did brilliantly and the coach was really great at giving him specific instructions that allowed him to join in with minimal stress.

Winning two games of 'rob the nest' and learning to dribble with his hockey stick were highlights of the day, and I was surprised by his dexterity.

We also made 'iced tea' yesterday, which was the perfect opportunity to talk about particles and diffusion. I'm pretty sure that he had no idea what I was talking about, but you never know... He had great fun crushing all the herbs we'd dried anyway, and brewing the tea required plenty of stirring which is always enjoyable.
In fact, having spent so much time in the kitchen, he asked if he could make dinner. Unfortunately I had already made dinner and it was going to come straight from the slow cooker. He wasted no time in reminding me that one day he was going to be a daddy and that if I didn't let him take responsibility and help out with chores how would he ever look after his own children? He is nearly five after all...

It's incredible hearing your child repeat back things that you have taught them and attitudes and expectations that you have for them. I was so pleased to hear him genuinely concerned about learning how to take on responsibility around the household. 

He had one more opportunity yesterday to show me how much he'd been learning too. Lychee was being a little impatient and pushing to get past him. He disappeared off, found our Plants Grown Up book (from DoorPosts), looked up a scripture on patience and copied it out onto a card for her to keep as a memory verse!! Not only had he chosen a gentle way to reprimand her, but he took the time to write the verse out in his best writing too. 
Times like that remind me why we take the time to be intentional with our discipline, and it's worth every effort!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Feast of Tabernacles

Looking for meaningful ways to celebrate the feast of tabernacles with your kids?

Here's what we'll be doing: Living in a Sukkah

For a more 'grown up' version of finding Jesus in the feast of tabernacles, you can read a great article here.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What's in the Bible discount

In case I haven't made it clear enough in the past, we LOVE 'What's in the Bible?' DVDs from JellyTelly.

JellyTelly actually have a tonne of free videos that you can watch, including some episodes of 'Adventures in Odyssey' and, my children's personal favourites, 'Clive and Ian's Wonderblimp of Knowledge' (how do they come up with this stuff?). My personal favourite's are Dr Von Schniffenhausen's science lessons.

Anyway, as much fun as the freebies are, the 'What's in The Bible?' DVDs are out of this world great. They bring together short, funny clips on a theme and introduce children to concepts such as 'salvation' and early church history in easy, manageable ways. My children have learnt loads and we've really enjoyed it too.

They make an excellent addition to any christian home, and right now JellyTelly are offering 20% off through a referral scheme. You get 20% off, I get a $10 gift certificate. Win, Win.

And just to whet your appetites, here's a clip of one of my favourite songs from one of the DVDs. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Lamplighter Publishing Offer!


Great news from Lamplighter Publishing!!

Recently a coupon code for their audio books accidentally got released. It was only supposed to go to 100 people who had attended a seminar, but somebody put it on facebook and... well they got enough downloads to crash the server.

I was so impressed with the way lamplighter handled this. I personally paid to download without realising the code was supposed to be exclusive, so they sent me a polite email, letting me know that they would be honouring my purchase, but requesting that I don't share the code with others.

I was so excited to have received the audio books (me and my children are enjoying them so much) but disappointed to not be able to share the offer with my friends.

Well, we are in luck! Lamplighter are doing another phenomenal deal, and this time we are allowed to share!
photo credit
There are several packages which have each been discounted to $7 (£4.30) each. That means that for £8.60 you could get all of the audio books that we have. I'm also spending the same amount again, this time to download the ebooks for some of the same stories and several new ones that weren't dramatized. My son will love reading through the books that he now knows the stories to - we had to listen to 'the hedge of thorns' four times through before he let me put on the next one - but I'm eager to read some of the new books to him as well, particularly titles like 'boys of grit who became men of honour' and 'The Giant killer'.
photo credit
This is genuinely a fantastic deal and I can't recommend it highly enough, but it's only for the next 24 hours. Once you have purchased you will have plenty of time to download, but you must make the purchase today.

Monday, 24 September 2012


We're coming to the end of Rosh Hashanah and it's nearly time for Yom Kippur. If you haven't already seen it there is a brilliant video called 'soul bigger' which we have been enjoying with the kids this year, as well as Cosmo getting the chance to wake everyone up with his trumpet that we made last year (in lieu of a shofar - you can find the instructions here)

Although Yom Kippur is not my children's favourite holiday (they love the feast of tabernacles), I try to stress that for the Jewish people this is probably the holiest and most important of days. We don't actually fast (I think my children are too young, but when they are older we may try it, just to get the full experience) but I do prepare very plain foods so that we can enjoy a celebration feast in the evening.

It's a great opportunity to talk about how sin  had separated from God so that even His chosen people were not allowed to enter His holy place except after ceremony on this one day of the year. Then we talk about how Jesus has atoned for our sins (this festival is also called the day of atonement) and we can come into His presence whenever we like, and that His spirit actually dwells inside of us all the time.

Although it should have been done during Rosh Hashanah, we are going to go to be throwing stones into the river on Yom Kippur and learning the memory verse from Micah 7:18,19:

Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Freebie: Daily Learning Notebook

I just had to share with you Confessions of a Homeschooler's Preschool Daily Learning Notebook. I think it's awesome and we will totally be printing this out for Cosmo to use this term. Here's why I love it:

  1. It follows the same format every day. My boy loves routine, and so do I. All round winner.
  2. Because it follows the same format, he can work on it independently and take responsibility for getting it done. Great skills to practice.
  3. It has handwriting in it, getting him to write is like pulling teeth, but this has a small, finite amount for him to practice everyday.
  4. It's short. Because it doesn't take too long, we can easily fit it in everyday, even when we have other plans (like pirate day or a  trip to london).

Go get yourself a copy , you won't regret it!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Pirate Day!



Today was Pirate day for our Homeschool Group which involved everyone meeting up at the Priory Marina for a day packed full of activities.

The first challenge was a team work challenge, that involved moving treasure chests. The puzzle goes something like this:

There are five 'treasure chests' labelled 1 - 5 and three 'boats'. You have to get all of the chests from one boat to either of the others, but you can only move one at a time and cannot put a chest with a larger number on top of one with a smaller number.

Ironically, Cosmo actually knows how to do this puzzle, having completed it before at our church 'olympics challenge' day (although the puzzle was worded differently, because pirate themed olympics would be weird), however once the other children started having idea he ended up in tears and having to be taken to one side to calm down. He was overwhelmed with the number of people talking and the other children not giving him clear enough instructions (eg. 'put that there' with a pointed finger doesn't work. He needs you to say 'put box one in the yellow hoop').

The other children completed the challenge in a fairly good time though, and he was happy to watch from a distance.

The second challenge was like a giant team game of snakes and ladders. The children had to roll the dice, then choose who was the most appropriate person to move, with the end goal of getting everyone to finish. Along the way there were sharks (move back 3 spaces), the black pearl (go back to the start) and Jack Sparrow (your whole team goes back to the start); as well as ropes (climb up a level) and a desert island (the whole team can move to the finish). It took the children quite a long time to understand that this was a team game and that just because they rolled the dice didn't necessarily make them the best person to move forward. 

After that it was finally time to get into some sailing, and the kids had a great time learning how to turn the boat and using just the wind to get all the way around the lake, including zig-zagging back to get to shore when the wind is against you.


After lunch it was time for some orienteering around the park and then into the katakanu's for a paddle around the lake.

The final activity of the day was to tie a couple of katakanu's together and let the children have a tug of war. Exhausting, but so much fun!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Developmental updates...

Well Lychee made some serious leaps in the last fortnight and is now putting together two words on a fairly regular basis (eg 'Nice teddy' or 'eggs hot!'), has learnt to say her brothers name (he'd previously just been known as 'brother'), can ride a scooter (slowly) and recognises, points to and reads the words for several shapes (circle, square, heart, diamond, oval and star - still struggling with rectangle and triangle).

Cosmo has also been doing well and his bike riding is getting better and better.

We watched a documentary on autism (well, I did - he walked in for ten minutes at the end) and he asked a few questions, most pointedly 'do I have autism?' and I answered him, 'yes'.

We had a chat and I explained that he didn't have it as severely as the little boy in the program, to which he responded that he probably did because he felt like doing all those things, but didn't because I would tell him off.

I pointed out that the little boy in the show was getting told off but he didn't mind because he couldn't help behaving that way. He's not convinced, but at least we can talk about it now. I'm not sure why I hadn't told him about the diagnosis before, but he seems to be okay with it, so I probably could have said something sooner.

He also did an amazing job with his memory verse today and taught it to the whole family at dinner time. I'm so proud of him!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Exercise for Brain Power

Check it out! My baby can ride a bike!!

One of the great things about home education is being able to spend plenty of time doing stuff away from a desk. The kids get way more exercise because we spend a large portion of the day walking to and from shops, the library, the park - not to mention swimming and active play at those places.

I believe at this age school is very active too, with lots of playing and discovering in the classroom, and not too much sitting at desks, but I really value the fact that as my children get older, their activity levels don't have to drop. They won't lose afternoon recess, or be confined to 1.5 hours of sports timetabled in a week (that's what we had when I was at school).

Before you think I'm sports mad (I'm not - ask anyone. I managed to escape PE since 4th form by volunteering for  extra music lessons) there is a good reason I encourage my children to get plenty of exercise - it increases brain power and productivity.

This week I was sent this great infographic by a woman named Alison from Online Courses, which puts it so much more succinctly than I ever could.

If you want to see more from Online Courses you can click on the link below the picture. They are a great resource for further education and even have links to lots of free programs, such as the open courses at Yale, which are high quality educational materials made available through download. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Cosmo general update


Since we've been doing the GAPS diet we've seen massive improvements in Cosmo's behavior, temperament and ability to express emotion. It's sometimes a little heartbreaking, 'I will feel very lonely and sad if I play by myself', but not manipulative - he is just getting genuinely better at expressing what he is feeling, labelling emotions and telling us about them before they explode into rage. 

Last week we were on holiday up in Cumbria, and some friends had some lego that they got out for him to play with. Lego a few months back was a massive source of frustration for him. He just could not get the parts to click together and very quickly ended up in tears. 
However, thanks to improvements in his fine motor skill he was happily making all kinds of models, including police cars carrying flags - for the Olympic parade apparently (he went with his daddy to watch a few events and loved it. In fact we ended up hosting our own re-enactment of the medals ceremony several times back home).

I was super impressed with the development in his fine motor, but I hadn't realised the extent of it until we got home. My husband decided to work on an Octonauts magazine with him, and although he was mostly using stickers, he coloured in a picture of a 'crafty cuttlefish' so neatly that I nearly accused his daddy of doing it for him! Six months ago he couldn't hold a pen properly, now he writes, colours in the lines and colour specific details (like each leg a different colour - because he knows that cuttelfish can change colours to camouflage).

This may not sound like much to those of you with children who have been scribbling on everything since before they could talk, but for us it's a huge breakthrough; I'm just so excited for him. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Synonyms and the Book of Centuries

As with most homeschooling blogs we've been a little slow over the summer. One of the joys of home educating is being able to enjoy the sunshine whenever you like and not having to stick to a schedule.

With that in mind, we don't actually break for the whole summer like some other families do. Although we don't formally hand in registers to our co-op, we continue with a relaxed pace - nothing to strenuous, but a little now and then to ensure that we don't get completely out of the habit of learning.

One of the games we've been playing is called synonyms. I made it up, but it's really fun and Cosmo loves it. We basically wrote lots of words on lolly sticks (actually they're waxing spatula's from my old beauty business, but lolly sticks would work just as well) in categories. For example, ten of the sticks have words that are synonyms for 'big', such as huge, gigantic, enormous, massive etc... and ten have words for 'small', ten have words that mean 'delicious', ten have words that mean 'brave'...etc...

Then I flipped them over, shuffled them and continued to do the same with more categories.

The game is then to shout a word, such as 'small' and then everyone has to try and snatch as many sticks that contain a synonym for that word. The winner is the person with the most sticks. They then get to chose the next category.

I'm trying to introduce games that a) broaden Cosmo's vocabulary and b) make use of grammatical terms. Being an avid reader, he has already grasped many grammatical rules (such as where speech marks should go, that a capital letter should start a sentence etc...) but you can't absorb the vocabulary to diagram sentences from just reading. Someone has to explain to you the difference between a noun, adjective and a verb for you to understand what those words mean.

I've been reading a bit more about the Charlotte Mason method of teaching, and I've fallen in love with the idea of a Book of Centuries. It's the perfect accompaniment to the Mystery of History curriculum that we already use.

A Book of Centuries is basically a timeline in a notebook. You have a double page spread for each century, and as your child finds out about a person or an event, they can write about it, draw pictures, or create a lapbook in that double page spread. It's a fun way to record what they are learning, and keeps it accessible to flick through and revise. Everything is in order, so it helps the child to get an idea of what happened when.

I know that since we started our timeline in our hallway, I have a much better understanding of how different cultures evolved world wide, and how the pieces of history fit together. I'm obviously a visual learner, but this stuff has never sunk in for me before.

As great as our timeline is though, there is not a lot of space for information, just a small picture to remind us of an event. I think the book of centuries is a great accompaniment to go with it.

If you'd like to start your own book of centuries, you can find a template for it on Simply Charlotte Mason and the best part is that it's free to download. There's actually some other really great resources on that site so I'd encourage you have a look around whilst you are there.

I suspect we are going to have to do a section on the olympics soon as Cosmo and Daddy have and such a great time attending some of the events. I'll blog about that soon, but in the meantime you can see a couple of the photos on our travel blog.

Photo: 'olyimpics' medal ceremony. Complete with national anthem. August 06, 2012 at 02:13PM

Thursday, 19 July 2012

'Cooking' with toddlers

My son has suddenly developed an interest in baking - how helpful seeing as we have just started the  GAPS diet and we can't eat conventional cookies/brownies/cupcakes anymore. :0(

All is not lost though! It turns out GAPS 'cooking' with a dehydrator is not only easy, but toddler safe as there is no oven used! Even a four year old is capable of turning a dial to the correct temperature and placing the front on this mildly warm 'oven' without burning themselves.

We picked up a really good deal on some peppers at the local market, so today we are making 'no cheese crackers' but here are some other great toddler (and GAPS) friendly recipes you could try making together.

Friday, 6 July 2012

St John's Ambulance

So we had a horrible scare with my nephew this week, and it's made me so grateful for my minimum wage lifeguards job. It was years ago, but worth every chlorine soaked minute.

It's also made me realise what a simple, but under taught, life skill CPR and first aid are in general. It's something I feel should be an important part of our children's education.

I've done a little research and St John's ambulance take children from the age of five years old (which is William in January) and run something similar to scouts, but based around first aid and survival skills. It's mixed sex so both my children will be able to attend (once Lila is old enough) and when they are ten years old they can move up to cadets, where they actually get paired with adults to provide first aid at various community events.
Make first aid a part of your children's curriculum, even if you can't get to a St John's Ambulance group. There are plenty of courses you can do, and even watching a video online is better than nothing. Knowing what to do in an emergency could save a life, and most likely it will be someone you loves. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Readeez discount

We LOVE readeez - and you will too!

You should totally take advantage of the 33% discount they have going on for the next 24 hours only!

July 3rd ONLY: Save 33% at the Readeez Store. Use the code SEVEN3 at checkout.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Midnight to Midnight, Eastern Time (U.S.)
The Readeez Store

Friday, 29 June 2012

Free Resources

We have been plodding along with various things this term, and whilst I enjoy following whatever subject Cosmo is interested in at the time, I feel like we could probably start introducing a small amount more structure next term.

Although he thrives on being able to follow his own ideas of what he wants to study, poor Lychee rarely gets a say in what we are doing and I feel like until she is verbal enough to ask questions or make it clear what she wants, it would be nice to follow something that progresses - rather than changing topic on a whim.

I found this amazing FREE resource today called Lesson Pathways and I think it is going to be so useful to us.

Okay, so the video is a little annoying, but I genuinely love the resources they've put together. It's great to be able to jump in when you have some free time with the children and not be worrying about what to do next - just click on the next lesson and you are good to go. 

I especially like the language arts section for Cosmo. Although he is very good at reading fluently, his comprehension could use some work, and I'm not sure he understands grammar. Having the groundwork done for me makes a huge difference. 

Speaking of having the groundwork done for  you, I've also been using a lot recently. It turns out Cosmo LOVES lapbooking, especially as you can choose just about any topic and there is a unit study for it. Volcanoes and Tsunami's are his topic of choice right now, and whilst the resources are in an easy to use format and even a four year old can understand them, his vocabulary and knowledge in that subject area now rivals his daddy's GCSE classes.  

The best part about lapbooking for me is that there is a LOT of cutting and gluing, and laying out on the page, involved. Although I do the vast majority of the cutting, he does practice with his plastic scissors, he uses the hole punch, and (although he often finds it frustrating) he is getting better at using the pritt stick. Art is something I've struggled to get him excited about, but combining some of these skills with topics he's interested in (rather than just art for arts sake) has led to much more successful mastery of these skills.  

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Number surprise


Due to speech delays (which weren't actually delays if I talk to other parents, but seemed very delayed to someone who parented Cosmo) it's been difficult to tell just how much Lychee actually understands. At 22 months we know she has been able to sound out her alphabet and a few words for a while (apart from saying 'snake' instead of 'ssss' for 'S') but today she completely astounded me.

I was sitting with Cosmo, working through some of the free section on Clever Dragons, when he decided it was too hard and he wanted to do the kindergarten area. I allowed it - he was very tired and it usually doesn't help to frustrate him - but to my surprise Lychee started shouting out the numbers before he'd had a chance to move the mouse to click on them!

We were a little late for a children's group, so I waited until we got there, then grabbed a crayon and some paper to start drawing numbers for her. Turns out she can recognise and say all of them except seven and one (seven is 'shhhh' and one just gets me the evil eye). She's also enjoying me writing words and asking her to point to which one corresponds to the toy she is holding (e.g. she was holding an elephant so I wrote down 'pig elephant' and asked her to touch the word for ^point at elephant^). She still can't say elephant, but she knows what one looks like and can read it.

I think she might be coming up to fast mapping stage, so I need to get the pen and paper ready.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


Today, recognising that it was a tuesday, Cosmo pointed out to me that we needed to tidy up for our cleaner. Unfortunately she is ill this week, so I told him that she wouldn't be coming today.

'But who will clean our house for us?'
'We will.'
'I don't think you know how...'


Epic parenting fail.

When he was younger Cosmo did all the chores with me, but since we've employed a cleaner to help keep on top of things, I've relegated all the chores I still do to early mornings, nap times and bed times, or to when he is quietly working on something else, so that when we are together I can be doing something 'constructive' or 'academic' or just having plain old fun.

The reality is, that unless my children see me doing these chores on a regular basis they assume that they are done magically and that I have nothing to do with it.

With that in mind I started some domestication with Cosmo today. He helped me take apart the dishwasher and clean it with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. He was impressed with the smell, and didn't want to touch any of it (in his defense I was wearing rubber gloves) but he did watch me do it and knows that we have to do it to keep our dishwasher in good working order.

Similarly I've made him help me with sorting laundry.

We invested in a cleaner because we thought I would be able to dedicate more time to schooling, but the reality is that I've lost the importance of why we are home schooling. I want my children to see real life and understand how it works. I shouldn't be shielding them from the day to day stuff in order to teach them how volcanoes work or what vaccinations are. Those things are important, but not more so than how to run a house. The reality is they will definitely run a house, but the chances of becoming a geologist or a medical research assistant are much slimmer.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Bubble hunting

I love that pretty much anything counts as educational when you home school. Today we are mostly working hand eye co-ordination by bubble hunting.
Cosmo had a question he wanted answered yesterday; what happens if you shoot a bubble with your water gun? Does it get bigger, become lots of small bubbles, or disappear?

Obviously I wanted to conduct a scientific experiment (plus it was sunny and sounded like fun) so we invented bubble hunting.

I make bubbles, Cosmo shoots them.
Actually it's surprising how quickly his accuracy improved. He can now hit a bubble from a fair distance.

Lychee is chasing them down too, although she is just smacking them with her gun.

Mostly she is just playing on the slide though.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The World Peace Games


The World Peace Games looks like such an incredible learning tool. Matt plays something similar (although less detailed) called 'the trading games' with his geography students. I'd love to find a way to get enough homeschooled children together that we could take a few days and play this out properly.

The rules state that you can't win the game unless all 50 global problems are solved (issues like global warming, racial inequality, famines etc...) and all of the countries increase their assets (naturally the poor get poorer unless there is some form of coalition/intervention which the children have to come up with by themselves).

The website is here if you want to know more, I personally cannot wait until my children are old enough to take part in something like this. This kind of learning is why we home educate.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


As I've posted before, we LOVE Readeez.

Well Lychee may not be reading fluently yet, but she is definitely making progress, and today, thanks to Readeez, she sang her first recognisable song without just joining in 'laa-ing' over what someone else was singing. 

The chosen song was... a Readee!! One of our absolute favourites that Cosmo has been singing for weeks. I was just walking past the school room when I heard as clear as a bell the bridge from JET PACK.  

'I got my J E T P A C K (not very clear, but recognisable tune, followed by  a perfect 'With me, with me, with me'. 

So proud.

Here's the song if you want to here it:

Monday, 23 April 2012

Child led learning

At some point, I suppose, I'm going to have to start teaching my children something that is dictated by a syllabus, rather than their whims, if they are ever going to pass exams.

That said, my children are very small, and it's a long way off, so I might just bury my head in the sand a little longer and allow them to lead the educational way.

It's easy enough to do when you have a four year old who loves to read by himself, enjoys problem solving games and wants you to explain how a volcano works. It's harder to do when you have a willful 18 month old who is determined to use a potty.

Cosmo wasn't potty trained until he was nearly four, but one day he just decided he was ready, we had no accidents and that was that. He never looked back. The problem is, Lychee saw this and now thinks she'd like to have a go to. In fact she has been keen to have a go since february, but I made her wait until half term. I felt like having my husband home (he's a teacher) for three and a bit weeks would give me time to stay at home and get her trained, whilst we took turns to go out for things like groceries.

The theory was good, the problem is that despite wanting to use a potty, Lychee isn't really verbal enough to tell us when she wants to use a potty. The result is that whilst we are at home, with no pants on, she will wander around occasionally pottering over to use the potty, give herself a clap, then get on with her day. All well and good, but we can't leave the house.

Once she puts pants on, she can't get them off and can't find a way to communicate to us that she wants them off. The result is usually that she will sit on the potty to wet her pants, but at a friends house (despite the potty being in the middle of the room) she felt like it was okay to sit down and pee anywhere - thankfully with five children of their own, they were very understanding friends!

In situations like this I want to give up. It's stupid. She can't even talk or pull her pants down. She is too young to potty train. But she really wants to.

That's when I have to remember 'baby steps'.

When I wanted to organise my life I took on FLYlady's mantra of 'baby steps', meaning that bit by bit I would get organised, without beating myself up over what isn't done, but just regularly introducing new habits until everything was done.

Instead of being frustrated that I have to put Lychee back in a nappy to go to the shops, I should be grateful that we now use about 70% less diapers than we used to (that's a huge financial saving right there), and that she is learning to use the potty and preferring that to feeling wet. It's a small step towards potty training, that may still be several months away, but we are closer than we were.

She might not be trained over night, and I'm sure we'll have more accidents than we did with Cosmo, but she'll definitely be trained earlier (I've got two more years to make that target) which will in the end save us a lot of money, but more importantly it isn't a battle. This isn't something I have to fight her on. She wants to do it.

In fact, I even caught her trying to empty the potty herself today. She spilled it on the tiles (thank goodness not the carpet!) and by the time I went to get a nappy to clean it with she was already there with a tea towel trying to pat it dry.

They grow up so fast!

Monday, 2 April 2012

GAPS friendly Easter Cookies

Courtney over at Women Living Well has a tradition of making Easter Cookies with her children. Personally I would call them meringues, but semantics aside, these are a great way to teach your children about the Easter story. 

Unfortunately we are on the GAPS diet and these cookies contain a whole cup of sugar. 

So I set to work and I have created the GAPS friendly version. The recipe is almost identical, but you have to be a little more careful with things like ensuring the egg whites are at room temperature (they will not whip up properly with honey if they are cold). 

So here it is:

1 cup whole pecans
1 tsp. white/ distilled vinegar
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
2/3 cup honey
Preheat oven to 180c (don't forget this step!!)
Place pecans inside a sandwich bag and let children smash them up with a rolling pin. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Romans soldiersRead John 19:1-3.

Let each child taste a small amount of the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.
Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.
Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
let the children taste a little honey and then add 2/3 cup to the mixing bowl. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16.
Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. This works really well with my version of the recipe, as initially the mixture will be brown (due to the honey) but will eventually turn white when it's ready. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isa. 1:18 and John 3:1-3.
Fold in broken nuts and then dollop blobs of it onto a lined baking sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laidRead Matt. 27:57-60.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealedRead Matt. 27:65-66.
GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the Oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealedRead John 16:20 and 22.
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt. 28:1-9.
Well, Courtney says to do this over night and on Easter morning, and I think I probably will next year. This year I wanted to do it prior to Easter to check it works. It did. It worked brilliantly. I will definitely be adding this to our family traditions to do at this time of year. 

The photos are from her blog, because they are much prettier than mine.