Saturday, 14 April 2018

Our Easter Break

We've had two weeks break from our usual routine over the Easter period. We've used the time to catch up on household jobs, to rest, and to have fun.

My 12 year old has spent quite a bit of time reading, but also decided to buy a Captain America action figure, and freeze it in a block of ice (which makes sense to fans of Marvel films).

My 10 year old has spent some time cooking (as well as reading quite a bit), including making a huge Easter nest cake for our Easter Sunday lunch at church.

I've also decorated a bit of hallway outside his bedroom to make a study area for him to put his desk in, which he is enjoying.

My 8 year old particularly enjoyed a trip down to a different section of the Thames foreshore with his archaeology group. He seemed to pick up quite a few pieces of Tudor pottery, which he was very pleased with.

He also received a desk of his own. He knew that he would get his own desk once he turned 9, but we gave it to him early in order to catch him with a surprise. He is very pleased with it!

The highlight of the break for my 6 year old was five days of swimming lessons. She's been unable to get into any regular lessons as there is a long waiting list, so she really enjoyed herself.

She's also had fun getting out and about, either going for walks, or heading off to parkrun on Saturday mornings.

I've been painting, gardening (under supervision - I have no idea what I'm doing), cleaning, sorting, running, and planning for the coming term. As well as all the usual activities of the term, the marathon I have signed up for is just over 3 weeks away, and I have been focused on preparing for that too. I just hope I manage to finish it in one piece...

Friday, 30 March 2018

Friday Reflections - 94

Well, we've made it through the term and reached the Easter holidays - just about in one piece! It's fair to say that everyone has been quite tired this week as we wound down to our break, and we are all looking forward to a chance to recoup a little.

I suspect the fact that I am training for a marathon at the moment is significantly increasing my levels of tiredness. It is very satisfying - even if the last couple of miles of my 20 mile run felt like a real slog.

Last Saturday, I took my 8 year old along to an archaeology session on the Thames foreshore. He was chuffed with his little hoard of pottery, and is looking forward to the next session which is in just a few days.

We have been remembering the events of Easter in our morning Bible times using our set of resurrection eggs.

Since it is Good Friday today, we also spent the morning at church, focusing on Jesus' death for us.

Now we are busy preparing for Easter Sunday. I am in charge of the church lunch, and have delegated desserts to the children (under my supervision!). My 10 year old is already beginning the baking for an ambitious chocolate nest cake as I write. I'm also leading Young Church - so I will need to be very organised to make sure that lunch happens on time!

Friday, 23 March 2018

Friday Reflections - 93

I've had a special day out today with my younger three children, learning about the life cycle of frogs. We met with a number of other families for a talk about frogs, a craft activity, and a chance to prepare a tank so that we could take some frogspawn home to watch it develop into frogs over the coming weeks.

Collecting Shingle for the Tank

My 6 Year Old with her Craft

Our Tank at Home

There was also the opportunity to cuddle some baby chicks, which was very popular!

Holding a Chick

Earlier in the week, my eldest continued with his chemistry. Doing practical science at home is working well, and anything which involves heating stuff in a test tube will always be popular. He was distilling various solutions to extract water this week.

Time for Science

My 10 year old is continuing to enjoy his cooking, and made patatas bravas with a friend for the Spanish recipe category in his cooking challenge.

Time for Cooking

My marathon training is happening in real earnest now - so I seem to be tired and hungry all the time! After a very cold parkrun with the children in the snow last Saturday, I have been covering plenty of miles this week. It's tiring, but very satisfying, and certainly a good opportunity for me to get out of the house and have a bit of a rest from all the busyness of home life for a bit.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Friday Reflections - 92

After a few days away at a conference last week, I have used this week to make sure that we try to have a full run of fairly ordinary work days. All the children are pretty diligent most of time, so we have managed to get quite a bit done. It's been particularly encouraging to notice where they are making progress. My daughter's reading has really taken off recently, and although I am teaching her it still takes me by surprise when I hear her reading aloud.

We are still working on our periodic table together, and learning the elements.

My eldest did some more chemistry too: heating a salt solution until the water had evaporated and the salt remained.

My 10 year old also volunteered to cook for our home group meal. The food needed to be vegan, and he made some delicious lentil and tomato soup, and also some vegan flapjacks. He needed some supervision, and occasional advice or help, but he did a great job.

Friday afternoon meant more science as our home education group met again. We were looking at the topic of eyes. My group looked at a model eye, and talked about colour blindness among other activities. It was our last ordinary meeting of the term (we have a trip out next week). We will need to start planning for the summer term soon!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Friday Reflections - 91

I spent most of the week away on a conference for the wives of those in ministry, which was enormously refreshing and encouraging. We had the chance to hear the Bible taught to us, with sessions on some of the Psalms, and also on some passages from Mark's gospel. It was very challenging in many ways, and also a wonderful chance to look to the Lord, and his character and his works.

Michael did a fantastic job of looking after the children at home (he takes some time off each year to enable me to go away). As well as keeping the normal work ticking over, he also took the children to the Science and Natural History Museums for the day.

Happy Children with a Stegasaurus

One of our morning books at the moment is a book about the elements of the periodic table. Just for fun, the children are trying to learn all the elements, with the help of this song. It's been great fun! They are also making their own periodic table:

Our Periodic Table (So Far)

They've added relevant pictures, and sometime stuck either the element itself, or something containing that element or one of its compounds. We'll need to arrange the elements properly once we have made some more cards, but it's a good start.

There are always various projects happening in the house. A couple of the children are making comic books in their spare time at the moment, and last weekend the younger two children spent a lot of time making puppet guinea pigs and putting on a show for us.

Guinea Pig Puppets

My marathon training is now underway in earnest. So far it seems to be going well, though the increasingly long runs that are coming up over the next few weeks are a little daunting. It is, however, a real privilege to be able to get out and run a few times a week, and I appreciate having the time and space to do this - although it means some early starts. 

Friday, 2 March 2018

Friday Reflections - 90

Snow has turned my fairly ordinary plans for the week upside down, and we have made the most of the best sledging opportunities we have had for a few years. I still have the sledge that our next-door neighbour made for me and my siblings when we were children.

Ready to go!

It's quite heavy, and doesn't easily go in a straight line, but with a bit of practice we managed to get up quite a bit of speed. It's been lovely to get outdoors so much, and to see the children enjoying themselves.

My 8 year old in the snowy woods.

My 6 year old wobbling on the snow.

My 12 year old enjoying the whole experience.

And my 10 year old, who has loved sledging this week.

In view of the weather, we have done a little less work than we would usually aim to do - but I didn't want to waste the opportunity to enjoy the snow when it happens so rarely for us now we live in London.

The beginning of the week was rather different, as Michael and I were actually away without the children for a couple of nights to mark our 15th wedding anniversary, thanks to the kind help from two sets of grandparents. It's been a few years since we have been away on our own, and, much as we love family life most of the time, a rest for a couple of days was much appreciated.

We visited some friends, learned a new board game, and ran a half marathon around a reservoir in beautiful Derbyshire! It was a bit cold when we started, but it was a clear, sunny day, and almost perfect conditions for our run - and the scenery was just stunning.

At the end of our half marathon.

I have been half-planning to sign up for a marathon this year, and after we came back from Derbyshire I went ahead and did so. It's not until May, but I will need to undertake some serious training; so, much as I've enjoyed the snow, I'd quite like it to disappear enough for me to go for a run tomorrow.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Friday Reflections - 89

We've taken a break for half term this week, so life has happened at a slower pace than usual most of the week.

There has been a lot of baking:

My daughter made chocolate cupcakes:

My 10 year old has baked some delicious sandwich biscuits:

Tonight he also finished baking a huge chocolate brownie cake:

My 12 year old bought himself a Doctor Who cook book, and made a Zygon Pie:

A couple of the children have been a bit under the weather the last couple of days, so we haven't been out and about as much as we might have been. We did have a long rainy walk earlier in the week, though, which was fun in spite of the weather.

It's been good to slow down a bit for a few days, and have a bit more time to rest.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Half term fun - in gloomy February

Although we are now enjoying a little more daylight, February is still a bit of a gloomy time of year - and this half term break can sometimes feel a bit miserable. Moreover, since we are slightly spoilt as home educators with being able to visit places such as museums or parks when they are quiet, we tend to avoid them during the holidays a bit.

However, the children have managed to find some fun things to do with their time during our break, and here are some of the activities that they have enjoyed this week:

1) Cooking. Always a favourite, but half term is a good opportunity to take some time over some more lengthy projects.

My 6 year old baking cupcakes.

"Zygon Pie" made by my 12 year old.

2) Stop-motion films. We use the Lego movie maker app on my ipad, which is very easy to use for hours of fun.

3) Lego set-ups. Lego is always popular, but the holidays are a good time for a collective, big project which covers half a room.

4) Reading. Again, it's hardly unusual to see children with books all over the house, but the time to read a book a day (my eldest has set himself this aim), or to spend half the morning snuggled up with a good book is fun.

5) Rainy walks. If you go to the playground in the rain, then you will probably have it to yourselves. Plus, scooting through puddles is fun too.

Scooting in the rain.

6) Sunny walks. If the weather is good, we usually avoid playgrounds, and walk in the woods or other nearby green spaces.

Being statues in the sunshine.

6) Board games. We all like a good game, and the younger two had time to play Dinopoly (Monopoly with a dinosaur theme) this afternoon, as well as for baking cakes and reading quite a bit.

7) Craft/Drawing. Actually, they have done less of this than usual this half term, but this is usually a staple activity. Using kits or coming up with their own ideas, there are plenty of options for creativity.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Friday Reflections - 88

Our home education group met today, and we were studying the topic of water. It's a broad subject, so it was a bit difficult to know where to focus for my group of 7-9 year olds. In the end, we learned about the water cycle together, and the children made a simple craft to illustrate this concept. We also had a go at making a cloud in a jar (warm water in a jar, ice in a lid on top for a few seconds, remove the lid and add a little hairspray before replacing the ice) :

Cloud in a Jar

It was slightly easier to see once we took the lid off and released our "cloud".

Escaping Cloud

We also made a filter in a plastic bottle, and used it to clean up some muddy water that I brought along with me. We put filter paper over the end of the bottle, then the children took turns to add layers: cotton wool, sand, small stones, and larger stones.

Muddy Water

The water looked pretty clear once it came through (though I wouldn't let the children drink it when they asked!):

Clean Water!

Otherwise, the week has been full of our usual learning activities. My eldest is still particularly enjoying chemistry, especially when he has to heat anything in a test tube (frequently!), so that's fun. My 8 year old has been really enjoying his maths this week ("sorry, Mummy, I got a bit carried away with Beast Academy..."), while my 10 year old probably rates baking sessions as the best bits of the week. My daughter is loving to read more and more, and has had fun times with her friends too.

My younger two decided to make a reading nest one day.

I'm finding it a bit of a slog at the moment, so it's good to look back over the week and see the good bits (of which there are plenty!). I feel pretty busy, and that I have lots of different things to keep organised too, but I am managing to keep up my running. I ran a long run last Monday, and even though I was a bit jittery about the 14 miles I had planned, it was a beautiful morning, with crisp clear skies, and a tiny fluttering of snow - well worth getting out for.

I'm still doing a bit of crochet too, and some reading (part two of a biography of Margaret Thatcher at the moment).

My current crochet blanket project.

It would be easy to decide I don't have time for these things, but it makes a big difference to me if I can keep up a few things other than just surviving another hectic week of home education and housework.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Friday Reflections - 87

Last weekend I was able to go to a day conference for the wives of church ministers. The theme was contentment. It's one of those topics that I have looked at before, but yet was so helpful to consider at again. We were looking at Philippians, and Paul's contentment and joy in Christ.

Finding contentment in Christ in the midst of sadness, or struggles, or failure, or the repetitive tasks of life at home can be hard; it is so easy to be dissatisfied with the circumstances that God has given rather than to look to Christ and all we have in him. I was challenged, and encouraged.

Sunday morning meant more of God's Word from Philippians. After a member of our congregation went to be with the Lord the week before, Michael was preaching on Philippians 1:21: For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Once again, a challenge to a Jesus centred perspective when facing death, and when looking at how to live now.

It would be wonderful if I could say that I have lived up to these truths in the last week, but I haven't. Nonetheless, the grace of God, the knowledge that Christ's death has covered my sins, has strengthened me each day - in each failure.

It's felt like an up and down week, but actually there have been some really lovely times to thank God for. We went for our nature walk on Tuesday; just an ordinary walk, but the children were happy and chatty, and my youngest was delighted with finding lots of fungus!

A Fungus Find

Walking and Chatting

I've also been encouraged to see that the children actually are making some progress. It can seem so slow at times, but this week I noticed just how much my 6 year old can now read and understand, and how much more my 12 year old can manage than last year. Sometimes it feels like we're getting nowhere - but it just happens in tiny steps!

My 6 year old reading.

Reading aloud to the children is always a highlight of the day for all of us. At the moment, the fourth book in the Wingfeather Saga, The Warden and the Wolf King is particularly popular. The children all have various activities that they can do when I read. My daughter is keen on her tapestry sewing at the moment, my 8 year old will either do his giant dot-to-dot book or also work on his tapestry, my 10 year old usually colours in his grown-up colouring book, while my 12 year old is choosing to decorated tiles in a Doctor Who theme at the moment.

My Daughter Sewing

Doctor Who Tiles
Tomorrow we are looking forward to parkrun and a fairly quiet day, though the older two boys are planning to do some cooking together. Hopefully we will all be able to rest over the weekend a little, and be ready to face another week.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Running - for fitness & fun

This year I am taking part in the 2018 Virtual Homeschool Fair, which is hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. This is the fourth week, and the topic is Enriching Our Learning.

Last spring, one of my children decided that he would like to start running. I had taken running up a few months earlier, and he wanted to give it a go. Since one of his friends also wanted to try running, we decided to meet up in a local park so that I could take the two of them together.

Once he started, my daughter (then only 5 years old) joined in, and later one of my other boys. I told them that if they could make it up to three laps round the park (5K, or just over 3 miles), I'd take them along to parkrun with me on Saturday morning. Parkrun is a free, timed 5K run, manned by volunteers.

Celebrating my daughter's first parkrun with an ice lolly.

In the end, my daughter was the first to manage the distance, but my two younger boys and their friend soon completed their 3 laps and started coming along to our local parkrun too.

We're now regulars at parkrun, aiming to be there every week when possible.  We even ran on Christmas Day - and made it back in time for church! It's good for their fitness, and a good way to be part of a local community. Michael and I take turns to run with the children or to run at a faster pace.

We've also volunteered to help a couple of times, and will do so more in the future. The children really enjoyed this - particularly when they got a chance to be in charge of the bar code scanners one week!

Peach Volunteers

Over the months, my eldest has come along to watch us run most weeks, but hasn't quite decided to join in (though I think he has sort of wanted to for a while). Last week he came along and ran one lap, and this week he managed his first full parkrun. He's really pleased with himself - and I hope he continues to enjoy it as much as the rest of us!

This is the final week of the 7th Virtual Homeschool Fair. Our topic is:  Enriching Our Learning.

Note: All posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 29th.
Celebrating 7 Years of Homeschool Support & Encouragement by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
All of the Extras by Christy Schaefer @ Unexpected Homeschool
How To Explore Special Interests In Your Homeschool by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Learning outside of the box by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Putting the Heart Back into our Homeschool by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Adding in the Fun by Michele @Family, Faith and Fridays
The Electives We Use in Our Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
The Fun Parts of Homeschooling by Annette @ A Net in Time
How we add in the fun stuff. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Running - for fitness & fun by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
Adding in the Extras by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
What About the Fun Stuff? by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
And the Learning Goes On, And On, And On by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Let's See What's Out There! (Electives and Extras) by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break