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Archive Post: Schome and Funny Things they Say

Ten years ago, we were involved with a group called Schome, a department of the Open University who were (and undoubtedly still are) researching alternative models of education. For that reason, they were terribly interested in home educators at the time, and invited us to share how and what we were learning.

My blog, or ‘bliki’ as it was called as it was on a wiki website, is here:

http://www.schome.ac.uk/wiki/User:Lillbjorne/bliki_2006

I found a little note in my archives called “Funny things they say” which recorded my eldest’s reaction to the PDA which Schome lent us in exchange for a review:

“Well, I think it’s a marvellous piece of technology, if only we could get it to work” (Dragon-tamer)

Truly, it wasn’t terribly successful, and you may remember that I have written about technology in education before. Certainly, all my attempts to encourage my children to use educational technologies and social media were met with less than enthusiasm.

As a proponent of non-coercive education, I think this is the crucial thing: if they’re curious and they find the technology useful, they will use it and benefit from it. But if we make them use it when they have no curiosity or innate desire to make use of it, they will not get the full benefit but may find such tools burdensome and not freeing. The same, of course, is true of books and reading and indeed any subject.

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):

English:

  • 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.

Maths:

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.

Bible:

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?

 

Basic plans Autumn 2016

I thought I would share my basic plans. This is our initial timetable (the times are flexible, just a guideline, and to be honest, the lessons end up being much shorter than the hour I’ve allowed):

The first session is “Morning Time” which includes all of the subjects on the top line, a little each day, but those listed will be our “focus” subjects to make sure none get left out. The Times seem to have got cut out of the photograph, but that should be 9:00 am.

Then Maths and English every day at 10:00 am, followed by history, geography or science at around 11:00 am. Wednesday has always been our traditional science day with experiments and a nature walk, whatever the weather, and then French or art/ design which will alternate at around 12:00, and lastly an outdoor activity in the afternoon including some spaces for different options (like beach!). In between are breaks and lunch, obviously.

The timetable is sketched out in my Bullet Journal – I can’t really do pretty and creative planning, but I’m enjoying using it for notes.

Then, for my day-to-day weekly notes are in an Erin Condren teacher planner  (you may know that I am a planner addict, and Erin Condren is one of my favourites which I have used a few years in a row):

I have made a bit of a mess of this page, and I don’t use the rows per day (I might cover them up with stickers at some point), it is just a list of subjects to cover over the course of a week, and I have an insert listing the order of the day.

It may change, it may not work, but one of the advantages of home education is that you can respond very quickly and re-work your plans if needs be.

What are your plans this year? Are you a planner addict, or do you enjoy “pretty planning”? What do you use?

Happy new year!

Welcome to September! Another month, another term, another year! Somehow I seem to be starting my 18th year of home education! 

This year I’m teaching (or is it facilitating? I still haven’t worked that out!) Baba Zonee (B.Z.) who is now 13 and Pony-rider who is now 16.
Pony-rider wasn’t expecting to be at home this year – she was assured by two separate schools that she was welcome on a catch-up GCSE year leading into sixth form and A Levels, and both schools subsequently turned around and realised that the funding wouldn’t be there so neither would the places be. That has left us with a quandary – what to do?

There are other colleges, but that would mean travel in the wrong direction (or at least the opposite direction to her dad and brother – it would mean I have a 2 hour round trip every morning and afternoon, with carschooling B.Z. – certainly not my favourite option),  or we could start studying GCSEs from home and sit as external students. That is probably what we will need to do, but we weren’t expecting to have to do this. It seems that we can’t do the subjects that Pony-rider wanted to do from home, and I feel completely unprepared.

We’re also just beginning to gear up for yet another house move – our 5th (or 7th if you count the three months we lived in emergency accommodation after being flooded out of our rental property – actually the emergency place was 10 times nicer than the place we were renting but that’s an aside) and hopefully our final move!

I can’t wait to be finally settled but I have a niggling feeling that it will be too late for our home education. We have had more than 5 years of almost constant disruption, chronic ill health and stress. I’d like to be able to say that I’m now an expert at home educating through crises and chronic stress but in fact I think it’s more a case of just barely surviving by the skin of my teeth.

Next time I’ll share some of the resources we’re using, and some of the things we plan to study this year (just as soon as we’ve worked it out for ourselves). 🙂

What are you doing this year? Are you new to home education or are you a seasoned veteran?

Phonics Fun

alphabats

Dragon-tamer caught the reading bug early. After learning the alphabet with a little help from the Alphabats books, all I had to do really was read a lot to him, help him learn a few sight words with Ladybird Key Words, and by book 4a he was off into the brave new world of easy-readers.

Pony-rider, on the other hand, has been a little bit more complicated to teach. In addition to trying the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme, we’ve used Alphabats, Letterland, Jolly Phonics (lots of Jolly Phonics, in fact: Board books, to introduce the letter sounds, the Phonics Handbook, and the Jolly Phonics ‘Read and See’ series – two packs of books with 12 titles in each: quite cute, but not enough to tempt her…). We tried Sonlight’s “I Can Read It” (what was I thinking of? Thorough, certainly, but nowhere near high-interest enough, at least as far as illustrations are concerned!). I even looked into Ruth Miskin books and Debbie Hepplethwaite’s “Synthetic Phonics” (current favourite of the UK National Curriculum people) but it didn’t seem to offer anything new. Finally, and reluctantly, after many recommendations, I thought I would try “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.

Not only does this US scheme use small print in so many colours it makes me feel dizzy, it infuriatingly tells me exactly what I must say to the child. I can’t stand it! Neither can Pony-rider, although Motor-biker who is almost 2 years behind her absolutely loves it! The ‘say-it-fast’ concept really appeals to him, and he has no trouble now with the idea of blending letters together into a word.

Hmm. Now we have a problem: Pony-rider’s self-esteem has taken a blow, and although I have always tried to avoid making learning to read a big issue, the fact that Motor-biker is fast over-taking her is not popular! So I’ve been on the lookout again for something new. What I’ve found is My World’s “Now I’m Reading” by Nora Gaydos and illustrated by BB Sams. (Another US programme, so watch out for different spellings, not to mention alternative words: ‘Rooster’ for ‘Cockerel’, and ‘fox kit’ instead of ‘fox cub’.) We have the ‘pre-reader’ set, aimed at ages 3-6, which comes in a cute case with 10 books and a set of 40 stickers.

Presumably, this ‘pre-reader’ set is designed for the parent to read to the child rather than for the child to read, but Pony-rider is absolutely smitten! She read right through the whole set the first day I showed it to her, totally without my prompting! The other sets are as follows: level 1: short-vowel sounds, basic consonant sounds; level 2: long vowel sounds, reinforcement of set 1; level 3: consonant blends, double consonants; level 4: multi-syllable words & compound words and finally, Independent: high interest topics, using previous skills. The blurb on the back says: “the greatest success comes from a balance of phonics and literature-based reading: Now I’m Reading! ™ successfully combines both to build confident, independent readers”. Well, I’m amazed, but I have to concur! I’m not sure that we’ll bother with the other sets though…

 

This post was originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, and while this is a good few years old and we encountered more hurdles and pitfalls on the road to reading, this is a good reminder that each child is different, and home education affords the possibility of tailoring your approach and resources to their individual needs and styles of learning.

Balancing Curriculum with Interests

unschool bus

In our more than 15 years of home education, we have moved through various seasons of more and less formal learning. We never quite qualified as bona fide unschoolers (although I was quite attracted to radical unschooling as a philosophy) but nor did we fully qualify as traditional homeschoolers, since we often had very relaxed periods and largely went with the flow depending on the children’s interests, but with formal book-learning available as a foundation.

This post, originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, details the ebb and flow of projects-based learning in this flexible framework.

“If anyone asks, we use Sonlight curriculum, which is an American, literature-based curriculum. Originally designed for American ex-pats and missionaries, with a ‘big world’ focus. In practice, we often go off at tangents to study areas of interest which capture the children’s imagination, or to cover UK history, or (more often than not) because I’ve been snared by other literature selections (Ambleside Online, Tanglewood, Winter Promise, to name but a few) and can’t resist adding to our library.

Sonlight grade 5 which I’m using with Dragon-tamer is entitled “Eastern Hemisphere” or “Non-Western Cultures”, and as part of our Sonlight studies, we’ve looked at the Pacific Islands, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, North and South Korea and China.

The way I deal with this cross-curricular study which,, being aimed at grade 5 and designed to be suitable primarily for ages 11 or so+, is to break it up into areas of study (easy with Sonlight 5 as it is already neatly divided into countries, but I’ve done it with the lower grades too) and do projects, themes or ‘unit studies’ so that all the children can get involved to whatever degree they’re interested. In addition to reading Sonlight’s literature selections, we take out additional books from the library, we make maps, sometimes 3D models, dress up in national costumes, cook and eat traditional foods, sometimes write little books or make lapbooks and other incidental activities.

Some of these projects have been really popular, especially with the younger children; notably, Australia and New Zealand. Dragon-Tamer was particularly interested in Japan (and scared me for a while talking about wanting to learn Japanese!) Others I have really struggled to get any interest going. Hence, I realise, Sonlight 5 (designed as a one-year curriculum) has now taken us 2 years, and we are only on week 18 (out of 36 – a US school year)! I have been talking for months about finishing up on our China project and moving on to the next projects, but for some reason we’ve all really dragged our feet. We still haven’t finished all the Sonlight books on China (though at the beginning we took extra books out from the library). Right now we’re reading a biography of Eric Liddell – Olympic champion and missionary to China. All the books have been fine and good and we’ve enjoyed them, but somehow I don’t think I can face another book about China! Should we skip the rest, save them for later, or take a(nother) break from Sonlight?

When a friend suggested doing a project on Rivers (which, actually I had wanted to do for years but for some reason had never got round to) I jumped at the chance! I have spent most of my free moments over the last weekend brainstorming and planning how we might cover a Rivers Project. We have one of England’s longest rivers running close by, my maps are prepared, and I’m keen for any plan of study that will take us on a trip to the sea! Ah, but now Pony-rider has announced that she actually wants to do a project on South America, please, so it looks as though the river we’ll be looking at is the Amazon. Okay, back to the drawing board…”

And so we proceeded to develop a new project of our own on South America that created memories that still resonate with us all even today.

It is possible to purchase a pre-packaged, prepared unit study that has joined all the dots and made all the connections between the subjects for you. But we found that this kind of fluid way of learning suited us well, and when you see the ‘dots’ and make the ‘connections’ for yourself, the information is that much more deeply learned and remembered.

john holt quote

Studying Health and Nutrition the Fun Way, and Swedish Välling

We are on a bit of a ‘health-kick’ here right now – we’ve invested in a juicer, a manual grain-mill, and we are sprouting seeds, making coconut yoghurt and kefir, brewing kombucha, and having all sorts of fun! My 12yos is even growing wheatgrass to juice (they love the whole process! Though I am the only one who is willing to drink the stuff!)

I discovered that grain is easier to store for longer than flour, and there are advantages to milling your own grain in that the nutrients present in the flour begin to dissipate following the first 48 hours after milling. I’m reading a book called “Nourishing Traditions” which talks about the necessity of soaking grains the old-fashioned way, so we’ll try that some time too.

nourishing

This got me to thinking about Välling – the staple drink for babies in Sweden. I assumed it was something you had to buy ready-made, like rusks (does anybody remember having Farley’s rusks for breakfast?!) But then I found a really simple recipe:

Skrädmjölsvälling 1port

Ingredienser

Skrädmjöl 2-4 tsk
Vatten 2 dl
Salt

Gör så här

Koka upp tillsammans under omrörning och söta gärna med honung eller fruktsaft. Önskad mängd vatten kan naturligtvis bytas ut mot mjölk.

Basically, what you do is boil 2-4 teaspoons of flour, it can be wheat, whole wheat, rye, or oats, with 2dl water or milk. Stir constantly. Add salt and sugar (honey) if you want to and think the taste requires it.

Basically, I don’t recommend it – paediatricians in the UK and the US (and, I suspect, the World Health Organisation) don’t recommend wheat for babies under 8 months old, and don’t recommend putting any cereal, no matter how thin, in a baby’s bottle due to the risk of choking. Not to mention, don’t ever give babies salt! (And no honey before 8 months either.)

Another interesting fact that I discovered when my brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease is that it is a disease commonly found in Swedish people among others, and the suggestion at least on the Swedish side is too early introduction of wheat – before a baby’s digestive system is mature enough to stop the wheat particles from entering into the bloodstream.

Nevertheless, Välling is something so homely and comforting I can’t imagine Swedish people giving it up any time soon!

If you’re in the US, you can try and buy Välling at http://www.scandiafood.com/ (Just don’t give it to your kids) 😉

 

[Originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog]

p.s. Although I do love the book Nourishing Traditions, and I’m completely sold on the idea of the necessity of raw fermented foods in our diets, NT also advocates the ‘old fashioned’ eating of meat. I accept that there’s a valid health argument in the book for questioning our modern diets (the chapter on fats makes really interesting reading), but I reject its conclusions on ethical grounds.  So if you’re vegan/ vegetarian, you might want to be aware of that before thinking about purchasing the book.

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