The Avion My Uncle Flew

avion

‘The Avion My Uncle Flew’ by Cyrus Fisher, 1946

I have been meaning to review this book for ages, as it was definitely a family favourite, and probably our top literature choice of 2015.

The book was recommended to us by a friend as a super way to introduce the French language at the same time as studying the post-war period through children’s historical fiction.

The story is written in such a clever way – the main character is sent to his uncle’s village in France to convalesce and recover after breaking his leg back home in America, and strikes a deal with his parents that, if he manages to be walking again and if he has learned to speak French by the end of the summer, they will get him a fancy new bicycle.

Johnny stays with his uncle in a boarding house in the village because their home had been destroyed in the war, but the uncle is working on making an aeroplane of his own design, to reverse their fortunes, and so he does what he can to help as his leg improves.

So as we follow the story of his recovery, we also follow his learning the language. We start off by learning the odd single word in a sentence, and by the end of the book there are whole pages in French.

In addition, the story is interwoven with a spy mystery and adventure as Johnny discovers that not all is as it seems in the sleepy French village in the mountains.

“Seldom do we find so happy a combination of charm of
Style, local color, humor and thumping good adventure as is set forth in this tale.” – School Library Journal

Lots of fun! Highly recommended as a read-aloud.

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Stuff we’re using

1teddyrow

October isn’t over but since I never know when I will have enough energy to get on the laptop, I thought I would write an update now.

There are lots of things we’re struggling with at the moment, lots of things we would like to do but haven’t been able. So instead of dwelling on the negative, I’ll let you know what we have done, and what we are currently enjoying.

In English, we’re currently going through Galore Park’s “So You Want to Learn Junior English” Book 2. We don’t bother with writing as it slows the boys down, we just go through it orally. Sometimes, when there’s a point of grammar that they need to see, I’ll write it up on the whiteboard. We’re also using Jolly Grammar books 1 and 2 for spelling (the grammar worksheets are variable. I like that they’re photocopiable, but we only bother copying the good ones.)

For literature, we’ve been listening to The Railway Children by E. Nesbit and read by Virginia Leishman, which we downloaded from Audible. I decided to join as a member and pay monthly as it works out quite a good deal. This particular book would have cost quite a bit more as an individual purchase.

For History, we have been enjoying the Librivox reading of Our Island Story. I have already read this book twice to the children over the years, and it is a family favourite. Having somebody else read it aloud is obviously really helpful in our situation. We finished the Middle Ages with another film, just for fun: “Les Visiteurs” which is a French comedy about a noble and his servant who are mistakenly thrown forwards in time by a wizard. Very silly but lots of fun. At the moment we’re going through the reign of Elizabeth I.

For Geography, all we are managing at the moment is a daily page from “You Too Can Change the World”  by Spragget and Johnstone which is a children’s version of Operation World (there is also another version for older children, Window on the World). Each page gives a basic introduction to a country or ethnic group and lists points for prayer. One country that has captured the children’s imagination is North Korea, so we may look more deeply at some point. I do also have an old KS3 Geography series by Collins educational consisting of 3 books (United Kingdom, Europe and The World) but haven’t started that yet. When we do, I’ll let you know if it’s any good.

We went out once with the new HE Teens group to the cinema to see the Martian. I’m not sure to what extent that can be counted as educational! (Again, when I’m more well we might follow it up with some real science!) But everyone enjoyed it and I’m hoping that eventually the group will become a bit more active. Being so isolated makes it difficult to connect with other teens.

We have dabbled a bit with Shakespeare over the last year – usually I read the story in one of the story books for younger children, then again in something more complex like Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and then rather than struggling through the text, we find a good film version before going any more deeply, and then only if it’s enjoyable – the last thing I want to do is put them off. So this term we are looking at Henry V and we watched Kenneth Brannagh’s version with a star-studded cast including a very young Christian Bale!

For Science, we’re still going through Apologia’s Botany, minus most of the experiments. We may go through the experiments another time when I’m more well, as a fun way of revision.

That’s pretty much it. Field trips at the moment are reduced to one trip to the library every week plus their evening activities which, at the moment, consist of Drama, Scouts, Bellringing and Local Radio.

Over to You:

What are you doing this month? How do you manage illness and disability with home education?

Plans for September

After going to and fro in my mind over what to do – follow the national curriculum more closely with a view to doing GCSEs? Concede defeat over the severe dyslexia and put them all in school (it was a serious consideration, but none of us want to go that route), or go back to our Sonlight-style, literature-based lifestyle.

I wondered seriously about starting GCSEs at home, but again, nobody really wants that. We have found two possible options for maths and English post-16, both of which are free, so I think there’s no rush for that. Heck, I’m doing GCSE maths myself next year, and I’m 44! 🙂

I decided to go back to the literature-based lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle, because when we were doing Sonlight, we weren’t cooped up at home or in the classroom the way we have been recently, trying to squeeze ourselves into the National Curriculum boxes (although now I look back, I wonder why?! It has been miserable for all of us, and really, worse than unproductive, it turned them off learning).

On the contrary, the books we found were always portable, it meant that we could be out and about everyday – at the woods, at the beach, visiting with other home educators, whatever really, and we could still get the ‘work’ done, and it didn’t really feel like work (except on my throat which was known to need a constant supply of hot tea!)

Despite eldest’s difficulties with the system (possible Asperger’s without a firm diagnosis or Statement), his knowledge base was much larger than my own when I left school, so I’m confident that Sonlight gave him a good all-round education. The skills will come, but they have come frustratingly slowly.

My kids are just bright, late starters 🙂

The next question was, do we go on with Sonlight itself or another literature-based curriculum I have used in between, Heart of Dakota.

I actually decided to do both: I will be doing two levels anyway – we’re going to finally go back and finish the Sonlight read-alouds from core C over the summer, and then go on to start core D. We never did cores D and E first time round because they’re based on American history, but we always felt we had missed out on all those fantastic books!

coreD

So, as always, we will do a hotch potch – we’ll intersperse the American history with some British history and geography. But we’ll be moving away from the textbooks and back to the literature. They recall it so much more fully that way.

heart-of-dakota-world-geography

For my daughter, I decided to do Heart of Dakota’s World Geography year. The titles look really interesting, and I’ve been wanting to do it for a while.

I rather enjoyed HoD’s early grades, which I used (mainly for language arts) for my two youngest alongside Sonlight’s early grades, although we didn’t do all the books (HoD are much more Amero-centric than Sonlight, and more religious! But I like it because it has a much more Charlotte Mason style) but I skipped the first three higher levels in the ‘Hearts for Him Through High School’ series (although I have the guides if I want to go back to them).

300

And, because I am a book addict, I also ordered Sonlight’s core 300 (20th Century World History for high school) instructor’s guide, but not the books. I thought I would get the books gradually as we need them. And I’ll read these myself even if my daughter’s not interested. (I had been toying with doing their Church History core for myself but we hadn’t done the 20th Century in any great depth so I thought we should do this first) I rather think she will be interested anyway, and I know my eldest will love them.

So there will be a whole lot of reading going on in this house, and out of this house next year, all being well!

But as ever, the strict following of guides and manuals, ticking off every box, and doing every assignment, probably won’t happen.

We’ve tried that, and it sucks the joy out of it all, and it kind of defeats the whole purpose of home educating in the first place, which is freedom to enjoy learning.

For science, we’ll carry on with Apologia but I think we may set aside some more time for hands-on experiments. That’s one think I may go back to the National Curriculum for, but as I said many years ago, I will use it (as I’ll use the HoD manuals and the Sonlight instructor’s guides) more as a curriculum bank of ideas, a tool rather than a master. We won’t allow ourselves to be straight-jacketed by curriculum.

When things start to arrive, I’ll post again with details about the individual books and resources.

So I’m excited right now! We haven’t had a ‘Box Day’ for a few years now! How about you? What are you planning? What resources will you be using? What would you like to learn this year?

Starting the Summer Term

A little update on the beginning of our ‘summer term’ – things haven’t quite gone according to plan yet, and we haven’t quite managed to get back into a good routine that everybody’s happy with again yet.

That’s normal, it takes a while.

One of the things we’ve been struggling to get our heads around is the different layout of our new house.

In the old house, we had a separate dining room which we used for a schoolroom for a long time, but then decided to move the table into the living room, so we could move seemlessly from table work to the more relaxed reading time for literature and so on. That wasn’t ideal either because it meant bringing dinner into the living room through the dining room!

Our new house has a kitchen-diner instead, so all our meals are there, but the living room is upstairs! (It’s a ‘town house’ over three floors) we have tried doing everything upstairs in the living room, but it just doesn’t work, we need table and upright chairs for work that requires writing or drawing.

Next week we’re going to move our ‘table-work’ back down to the kitchen table, and then we’ll retire upstairs when the table work is done.

I also need to revise our timetable, as my daughter is doing a sports coaching course now which takes up two whole days a week, a situation that I’m not entirely overjoyed about, but it seems to be something that she is enjoying and it will give her another ‘string’ to her potential career ‘bow’ for later on.

She is of an age now where we need to be thinking seriously about which subjects to continue and which to drop.

When I was at school, in addition to Maths and English, we were required to choose 5 options, 1 of which to be a science, 1 a humanity, and we were encouraged to choose a language as well but the rest were free choices.

So far these are daughter’s choices:

– Biology
– History
– Geography
– Art

And as for language, she is very keen to start learning Japanese seriously, so that is something I will need to investigate. (At the same age, eldest son chose to try Icelandic, as he loved the sound of it, but he dropped it quite quickly when he discovered how like Latin the grammar is!)

So I will need to think about how to re-arrange our days to fit everything in.

I’ll let you know when I’ve sussed it! 🙂

Ruins

We went earlier this week to see the ruins of a Penhallam, a Cornish manor house.

I expected the remains of walls at least, but instead there were grassed over mounds where the walls were. It was a beautiful location, but it was a long walk with a disappointing conclusion.

It was a lovely walk though, through woods and by a stream, which ended in a moat around the grounds of the manor house, giving an idea of how magnificent it must once have been.

Since there was not a great deal left to look at, the site was dotted with information plaques. Amusingly, ‘English’ had been scratched out from all mentions of ‘English Heritage’. Quite right too. 🙂

Reading the plaques, it was quite eye-opening to realise that the manor, which at one time had been a great estate, had been given to a Norman noble who only used it as a country house to visit occasionally, actually living elsewhere, and when in the 1300s there was no male heir, the house was eventually abandoned and was allowed to go to ruin.

Today we were watching the BBC series ‘Tudor House Monastery’ and it was interesting to compare the rooms from the Cornish Manor House’s siteplan with the way the rooms were used in the Tudor Monastery Farm.

But I have to confess to a little bit of disappointment not to be transported, Time Team style, back to the early Middle Ages when the house would have been at the height of its use. 🙂

P.s. I have more photos, but I can’t get them to load 😦

Review of the Week

Just a quick review of the week, because we still haven’t quite got in a new routine in our new house in this new year yet!

We’ve been to the library a couple of times, and taken out more books than we can carry. Ds12 said half-jokingly that he though we already have more books than our tiny local library, and if we had another house next to our house, we could open our own library! 😀

Library book topics this week include: birds and insects, and Denmark. (I know, odd collection!) This weekend we’ll take part in the RSPB Big Garden Watch Survey, counting the birds in our garden, and I’m aiming on starting regular Nature Walks again.

We’ve visited with some other home educating families, and played with their chickens and rabbits and the children have started back at their weekly after-school and evening activities (at the moment, we’ve got climbing, swimming, dancing, drama, choir, scouts and a little church group between the 4 children) and we’ve been to beach a couple of times.

We haven’t done a whole lot of academic work yet. A bit of reading (me to them and them to me) – literature, a bit of science etc. but no formal lessons yet.

Our book of the week is “The Avion My Uncle Flew” which is a lovely story of an American boy who ends up living in France with his Oncle and the clever way in which he learns to speak French. By the end of the book there is a section entirely in French. We’re not quite halfway through yet, so we’ll carry on with this one next week too.

Then to finish the week, we’re watching “War Horse” to kick off this year’s centenary of the First World War. I’ll be gathering resources over the next little while to do a study project – recommendations would be welcome.

Ancient Greeks Project

Take a look at this lovely Ancient Greeks project by Helen – brings back memories of doing arty-crafty history projects with my older two, and wondering if the younger two would enjoy it again.

http://www.helenforhisglory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/ancient-greeks-project.html?m=1