Half Term catch-up

I don’t usually stop and start in line with school terms, but since I have one child in school now, it made sense to take a break while Motorbiker was at home, and also since we moved house!
We made a really good start to the year, and got into a pretty good groove, but moving house is a big, unsettling business and I haven’t even decided where we will do our studies in the new house yet. I hope we can get settled quickly and start again.

Last term, we made a great deal of use of memory work (which I hadn’t planned, particularly, it just evolved as we went along).

I used a Happy Planner teacher planner that I wasn’t making use of, so I took the weekly calender pages out and punched the papers we’re using and slotted them into the current month. At the end of the month, anything we’ve successfully learned gets left behind the old month and new stuff, or things we’re still learning is put in the new month. That way it becomes a record of accomplishment as well. You could just as easily use a ring binder, but I quite like the disc bound system.

In case anybody is interested, I thought I would start to share what we’ve been learning and what we’ve been memorising so far (I had originally planned to do this all in one post but it got way too long and dense and, dare I say, a little bit boring! So I will break it up into several posts):


  • General language arts and grammar: We finished Galore Park’s So You Want to Learn Junior English Book 2 and started Book 3
  • Spelling: This was one of the things that led us into memory work, as dyslexia was making learning spellings, even of the simplest words, just not happen. We have used various spelling lists (and I think when I get my books out of storage, I’ve got a good one on spelling patterns) but the lists are less important than the method – one list of ten words per week, and they’re written in Baba Zonee’s Memory Book. On day 1, BZ traces over the words, and we speak the words aloud, paying attention to phonics (consonant blends and particularly phonics blends). Day 2: repeat Day 1 and add copying out the words. Day 3: repeat Days 1 and 2 and add writing them out from dictation. Depending on how well the words are written from dictation, we may repeat on Days 4 and 5 but usually, we’re getting good results on Day 3. That’s a vast improvement on the results we had previously with reading, covering and writing dictated spellings as per the Jolly Phonics/ Jolly Grammar books. (The word lists are useful though.)
  • Other Copywork and Dictation: we’re using the selections in the back of Heart of Dakota’s ‘Bigger’ program – short sentences with basic words. We noticed that we got far better results spelling-wise if he wrote the dictation on the same day as the copywork. With even a day between (and looking/ reading at the passages first) the spellings were all over the place.
  • Poetry: also using the Heart of Dakota ‘Bigger’ poetry selections. Just reading and enjoying the poems – not requiring any analysis or any other associated work, just purely for pleasure.
  • Shakespeare: We read and/ listened to story versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, including Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, and then I discovered the wonderful book ‘How to Teach your Children Shakespeare‘ by Ken Ludwig, and so we decided to start learning short passages as recommended in the book. The passages are on the website in written and audio form, but don’t skip the book, it’s lovely.
  • Reading: BZ is reading Usborne’s ‘Starting Point science: Earth and Space‘ (which I originally read to him as part of Sonlight curriculum grade 2/C) and there’s a pile more in that same series for him to read next.


We are using Parragon’s Gold Start Maths 7-9 as revision for Key Stage 1 and to make sure we didn’t miss anything (we used Singapore Maths primarily and, although I think it’s generally a rather good curriculum, it doesn’t follow the same scheme as the UK National Curriculum, so I’m just covering all the bases.) We have all sorts of resources for Maths, but I’m not sure what we will use once we have finished Parragon.


We have been listening to David Suchet reading the NIV via Bible Gateway, and listening to Daily Morning Prayer with The Trinity Mission, although in the end we decided it was too much Bible readings and I changed to reading the prayers minus the readings. That means that we’re not following the set liturgical readings, but it happened to be going through Job which I felt was a bit too dour and not terribly helpful or conducive to JOY which is a priority! (That might sound shallow, but I just don’t think BZ is ready for Job!) We may go back to Trinity Mission prayers when they move on from Job.

We have also been memorising: the Books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, the names of the Disciples (which we finished in September), and Psalm 34. My plan is to start learning Psalm 23 when we get back to it.

What did you do this past term/ half-term? What memory passages have you enjoyed learning?



Ohana Home Education Yahoo Group

When I started home educating, the internet was fairly new, and so at the time (1999) the main source of networking between home educators was ‘e-groups’ which eventually got taken over by Yahoo groups.

I know that almost everybody now has migrated over to Facebook, but although I am obviously there (and Ohana Home Education has a presence there), I’m not a big fan and don’t particularly like entrusting photos or files to them, and so while lots of yahoo groups now stand empty or quiet, I have decided to revive one of my groups as a handy place to store files and links that may be of use to home educators.


The group is, surprisingly enough, is called Ohana Home Education and you can find it here: https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/OhanaHE/info

There are already lots of files and links there. Mainly they are related to lapbooking, unit studies, home economics and some religious topics (mainly relating to Messianic Judaism, celebrating the festivals, cooking etc.), but I hope in future to add resources and worksheets on all other topics, and anybody is free to contribute.

It is not particularly meant to be a discussion/ support group, although if it does get used that way it would also be OK. But there are of course lots of other places online (especially, inevitably, on Facebook) for that sort of thing. One of these days I will get round to making a list of the most helpful groups.

So please do go on over and take a look, and if you would like to join to contribute/ make use of what is there, please do make sure to confirm when you apply that you are a home educator. Feel free to suggest as well the topics that you would like to see there.

I know that, when I was first home educating, I very much appreciated the resources that other home educators had made available for free, so it is all good to make sure that there are free resources still available for a new generation of home educators.

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!


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.


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).


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?

Resources This Year


I thought I would share an overview of the main books and resources we’re using this year. I haven’t included languages, as I still haven’t decided which ones we’ll tackle this year. We have previously dipped into several different ones, and I now have requests for more, so that will need to be a separate post.

We are working through “Singapore Math” workbooks. All of the children have struggled with maths, and so the levels they are currently working on are very behind where they ‘should’ be. I try not to worry too much, we just plod on and try to do a few pages every day. But I did notice that last year we didn’t even finish one workbook, so I’m trying to encourage one complete exercise every day.

English: spelling, copywork and dictation
We are using a mixture of “Sonlight” language arts and Jolly Grammar books 1 and 2 (for spelling and dictation rather than grammar). We also occasionally do copywork and spelling from a series called “Heart of Dakota”. HoD is an American curriculum that we tried, so I’ll get round to a review at some point.

English: grammar & comprehension
Our main resource for English grammar and comprehension is “Galore Park”. GP is widely used by independent schools, and it is very good. Each book covers one year’s worth of lessons.

English: literature
We are planning to make use of Kathryn Faulkner’s excellent Sonlight-style plan for British history, starting at the middle ages. That is, we are starting at the middle ages. The plan starts with the Celts/ pre-history.

We are starting with the picture story book “A Medieval Feast” by Aliki, and G.A. Henty’s Wulf the Saxon.
For more details, the plan is available at both the Sonlight UK yahoo group and the Sonlight UK facebook group.

Shakespeare: I decided I need to make a concerted effort this year to introduce my younger children to Shakespeare. I had tried “Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare” a year or two ago, and it wasn’t well received, so this time I am trying Usborne’s “Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare” and we’re starting with “The Tempest”.

We like to read a poem every day, usually in the morning.
We are starting this year with a collection by Rudyard Kipling. *I can’t find it right now, so I don’t have the title, but I’ll add it to my goodreads account at some point.

During our Morning Time meetings, we are using excerpts from “Daily Prayer: Common Worship” (the Church of England’s modern book of common prayer) and “Celtic Daily Prayer” from the Northumbria community.
We’re reading Bible stories from the “Lion Children’s Bible in 365 Stories”, as well as a daily prayer and proverbs from “The Devotional Daily Bible”. We may add Sonlight 2’s Bible reading schedule in later, together with their memory verse selection.
In addition, I’m planning to learn a bit of catechism (The Westminster Shorter Catechism) using the “Book of Family Worship”. I also have a devotional with commentary on the catechism, “Training Hearts, Teaching Minds”, but I think my children are too old to need it.
I would also like to start a bit of church history, so we’ll read short biographies from the book “Trial and Triumph”, maybe one per week, and I will try to make it fit with the period of history we’re studying.

We’re using Curriculum Bank teacher’s books for Biology, Chemistry and Physics. These are great because, although they’re old and possibly a bit out of date now, they have photocopiable worksheets for every unit. But they are KS2 and we really want to be moving on to KS3 so we probably won’t do every experiment now (unless they want to – if they’re fun, that’s always a good thing). Sadly out-of-print but sometimes available used.

Science read-alouds:
We read a section (a few pages) from a chapter of one of the junior Apologia science books in the afternoon. We are currently reading “Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures”.
Obviously from the title, these are written from a religious perspective. However, the religious content is easy to skip over (we mostly skip it) and the content otherwise is excellent, and the creationist perspective does not in any way impact negatively on the content. As I may have mentioned before, although I am religious, husband isn’t so I have to be even-handed about creation and history & science as far as I am able to be.

Science: nature study:
There isn’t one specific book for nature study, but the plan is to include nature study at least once a week. That has always been the plan and mostly it doesn’t happen so I think I am going to have to schedule in some specific times for nature walks etc.

History: I have a big pile of great resources for history, but the main textbook we’re using is: “The Kingfisher Children’s Encyclopedia of British History.”
I will add the big pile to the list of resources for History.

History read-alouds:
An old favourite which is great for learning a chronological sweep of British history (but no dates) is “Our Island Story”. It also begins with myth and is told in a rather romantic, Victorian style. But it’s still a favourite 🙂
In addition, we’re reading the Greenleaf Press version of “Famous Men of the Middle Ages”

We started “A Child’s Geography” volume 2 “Explore the Holy Land” before we moved house, and the children really enjoyed looking at Turkey and learnt a lot from it and so I thought that, since we will be looking at the Crusades, it would be a good idea to carry on with looking at countries in the middle east.

Geography read-aloud:
We like to read one page everyday from “You Can Change the World” which gives an outline of a country and its prayer needs. We usually start with this for our ‘Afternoon Meeting’ after lunch.

I did wonder about creating Amazon affiliate links for all these books but I don’t have the energy sadly. But when I can, I will try and add them to my Amazon shop. The aim of having the shop is obviously to earn some extra income, which hasn’t so far amounted to anything at all, so please shop generously! 😀

One last point; this list is subject to change – inevitably as we try some things, not all of them suit as well as I expect, or sometimes we find something better. So I’ll let you know if we have any major course corrections or find any great new resources.

Book Review: Dyslexia-friendly Teacher’s Toolkit

I had picked up the “The Dyslexia-Friendly Teacher’s Toolkit: Strategies for Teaching Students 3-18” once or twice and skimmed through it in the bookshop and had concluded from that brief look that there wouldn’t be much relevent for home educators and that most of the strategies are classroom-based.

That is true, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only are some of the strategies adaptable to a home-based setting, but home educators are addressed specifically (I think it may have been on the chapter on maths).

The book spends a lot of time at the beginning talking about what constitutes dyslexia and identifying the different strains of difficulties (not just reading and phonics and spelling, but also memory, audio processing, and other language difficulties).

It’s not a book I would want to buy myself necessarily, but it did have a lot of useful links and recommendations for other books (my interest is relating to helping older children, so a lot of the early identification tips and strategies are not relevant for me).

Another slight disppointment was that it was billed as containing photocopiable dyslexia-friendly worksheets, but there were about 2 in the whole book – it wouldn’t have taken a lot of thought or effort to include some more useful sheets.

All in all, definitely worth a read if you can find it in the library, but I’ll keep on looking for better recommendations.