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Monday, 19 June 2017

Happy Birthday! Family traditions

Today my second son turned ten. He has spent most of the day in our paddling pool as the weather is so very hot, and apparently this has made it one of his best ever birthdays!

No book work for the children on their birthdays is one of our family traditions. It means that we can have a relaxed start to the day, and they can have time to play with any new presents and start any new books.

This makes it easier to fit in another birthday tradition - the birthday child's choice of breakfast. We often cook breakfast anyway, but the children usually choose pancakes for breakfast on their birthdays, which is a bit more time consuming.

When the children were younger, we allowed them to choose what theme or design that they would like for their birthday cake, and we would attempt to make what they asked for. As they have grown older, they have increasingly wanted to help make their own cakes, especially with the decoration.

My eldest helped quite a bit with his dalek cake last year:

Dalek Cake

My 8 year old covered his dinosaur cake in smarties:

Stegosaurus Cake

Yesterday, my now 10 year old spent hours in the kitchen creating this masterpiece, with very little help from me at all:

The finished cake...

...with a surprise in the middle!

He loves baking, and has been planning this for weeks.

When my eldest turned 10, we decided that we'd add two new "gifts" for his birthday: a new privilege, and an additional responsibility. We did the same for our second son today. He will now receive a more substantial (though still not enormous) amount of weekly pocket money, and he has some additional cleaning to do each week. It's not a massive change - he already has a fair number of regular chores - but it is a way of us indicating that we expect his responsibilities to increase as he gets older, and that the freedoms and privileges that come with age are tied to these responsibilities.

Of course, we also have presents and cards, and often a party or at least a birthday tea with friends (depending on the preferences of each child). Often, our celebrations are fairly simple, but they are remembered fondly and anticipated eagerly.



Friday, 16 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 60

We're nearly there - a week into the final half term of the year, and we are all anticipating the summer holidays eagerly. There is a mixture of wanting to push ahead to get the final pages of our work finished up, and a general tiredness which means that we need to take things a bit more slowly. Happily, we are well on track to finish on time, so there is a little bit of space for me to lighten the load if I think we need it.

I decided that we could manage well enough this week if we had an easier Monday. I scheduled nothing except history, art, and swimming lessons. We also went for a walk (including some trampolining on an abandoned mattress), and did some educational cooking at the childrens' request.

Running up the hill via a mattress.


My daughter helped make these egg-men in bread, which are supposed to represent God giving his people a home, from our bake-through-the Bible cookbook - which has been a bit neglected recently. A quiet day was a good opportunity to pick it up again.



My 9 year old asked if he could do an activity from one of the science books that has been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, which they are reading through as our home education group is one of the judging panels again this year. He chose to make a baked Alaska - which was great fun as well as a good opportunity to talk about science!

Baked Alaska

It worked! Ice cream still frozen.


It also tasted good!

We took the afternoon to complete an art lesson, drawing fish using a video from ArtAchieve.


After a more restful Monday than usual, we continued our week with our normal routine lessons. Highlights included making a sundial in the garden for science. It's perfect weather for it, and it worked really well.

My 8 year old building a sundial.

Next week will include a 10th birthday, and, according to the weather forecast, some hot days. I will adjust plans accordingly!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 59

This Friday evening, I am feeling a little bleary-eyed after a broken night following the election results. An atypical end to a week that has included a beautiful parkrun in Durham, a visit to a windmill in Brixton, and my daughter outrunning the police!

The election has been a frequent topic of conversation in our house (I've written here about engaging children in politics). The older two are fascinated, and have an increasing grasp of the nuances of politics. My 8 year old also enjoyed learning a little more about our democracy, and my 5 year old insisted on joining in our family election prediction competition although she doesn't properly understand what is going on yet. In fact, she won the competition as her haphazard guessing was more accurate than anyone else's considered prediction.

Predicting the results of the general election.

Our trip to Brixton Windmill was worthwhile. It is certainly an unexpected sight in a little London park. The children enjoyed climbing up to the top of the windmill and learning about how it worked in the past. They were also able to watch the electric mill in action, and also to try out milling by hand.

Brixton Windmill

Before we began our long journey south last Saturday, I took my daughter to the Durham parkrun, as she is so enthusiastic about running at the moment. It was fun to try a different course, and my 5 year old managed to run the whole distance again. Michael and the boys watched us and shouted encouragement. Some of the boys are keen to join us soon - but they want to build up to managing the whole 5km first.

Durham Parkrun

When I took the children running during the week, my 5 year old ran so far ahead of me on our 2 mile run (2 laps of the park) that some policemen thought she was unaccompanied and tried to catch up with her - but couldn't keep up! I know this because another police officer caught up with her on his bike and told me about it. To be fair, I was not far behind, and she was running to my friend who was waiting for her in the playground - but she has been told not to go so far ahead next time nonetheless...

She was unaware of all this until the end of her two mile run, is completely unfazed by it all - just thrilled that she outran everyone - and she was fast! More running tomorrow as she has been counting down the days until her next parkrun.

As often on a Friday, we had our home education group. We were looking at Ecuador, and the children completed crafts about the rainforest layers. We also had our book groups where, in addition to our usual activities, we distributed the science books which have been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, for which our home education group is a judging panel. It was great fun last year, and there is already a lot of excitement about this year's books. My children are already asking if we can microwave marshmallows - and I'm sure that many more activities will be inspired by these excellent looking books.

Rainforest Picture


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Committed Reader Books (10 Year Old's Choices)

The Christian reading challenge that we embarked upon at the beginning of the year is still going well, and my 10 year old is ready to begin the Committed level. Here are the books that he has chosen:

1) A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with: Monks and Mystics by Mindy & Brandon Withrow
2) A book about Christian living:  Commanded by L. H. Martin
3) A book about apologetics: Your Verdict on the Empty Tomb by Val Grieve
4) A book of your choice: The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson
5) A humorous book: Captain Underpants & The Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers by Dav Pilkey
6) A book based on a true story: The Man Who Never Was by Ewen Montagu
7) A book about prayer: Enjoy your Prayer Life by Michael Reeve
8) A book of poetry: The Mighty Slide by Allan Ahlberg
9) A book with a one-word title: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
10) A book by Sinclair Ferguson: The Magnificent Amazing Time Machine: A Journey Back to the Cross by Sinclair Ferguson
11) A novel by an author you have never read before: The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
12) A book about Christian living: A Young Person’s Guide to Knowing God by Patricia St. John
13) A memoir or autobiography:  Children of the Storm by Natasha Vins
14) A play by William Shakespeare: Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
15) A book of your choice: The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
16) A book written by an author with initials in their name: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
17) A book by a female author: Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken
18) A book about theology: Courage and Conviction by Mindy & Brandon Withrow
19) A book published by Crossway: Reformation ABCs by Stephen J. Nichols
20) A self-improvement book: Learning to be Happy by Jeremiah Burroughs
21) A graphic novel: Tintin and the Broken Ear by Herge
22) A book you own but have never read: Millions: The Not-So-Great Train Robbery by Frank Cottrell Boyce
23) A book targeted at the other gender: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
24) A book about Christian living: The Radical Book for Kids by Champ Thornton
25) A book of your choice: Ink Heart by Cornelia Funke
26) A book about race or racial issues: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Friday, 2 June 2017

Friday Reflections - 58

We have spent this last week in the north east of England, having house-swapped with some friends. A complete change of scene and of pace of life has been restorative, and we have filled our week with a variety of activities that we can't normally enjoy.

We began at a bird reserve, where we caught sight of various birds that we don't usually see, including a spoohbill that a member of staff showed to us through a telescope.

Gleeful Girl 

Spot the Difference (They Insisted on Identical Coats!)
One visit was to Beamish, an outdoor museum where in various sections different aspects of life in the past are reconstructed. The children particularly appreciated the Pit Village and the Town, both of which depict life in the 1900s. They even got to go to school!

The mine visit was popular.

Practising handwriting, maths, and Latin - voluntarily!

Glorious sunshine meant a trip to the beach was in order. Splashing in the water, playing catch, digging sandcastles, eating ice creams, and, inevitably, reading all featured.

Sunny Day by the Sea

Reading on the Beach

Yesterday we headed off to visit Housesteads Roman Fort and Hadrian's Wall. I'm sure the children took in some history as we wandered round, but most of all they decided that it was a great place for exploring and playing hide-and-seek. Plus, I came home with a Latin crossword book from the gift shop - so we were all happy.

Housesteads Roman Fort

Exploring the Fort

Hadrian's Wall

Hiding in a Hypocaust 

Amidst all this, we have managed some quiet mornings and evenings, involving reading and resting and some running. I hope that we will go back sufficiently energised to face our final half term and finish our academic year well.