Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘youtube’

A sense of perspective

This week I’ve been talking about how we work, and why it works for our family. Today I thought it would be really useful to start recording what we’re doing each day. This is really more for me than for my longsuffering audience, so please don’t feel obliged to read it if it doesn’t interest you. I promise not to be offended 😉

Today, instead of using Brainrush for French, we went back to lesson 1 of JeFrench, and watched it again. It’s really exciting to see how the girls’ accents and understanding have progressed over the course of this year.

For History, we watched the hilarious (to me, anyway) first episode of the Crash Course in History. Since we’ve already watched the entire Andrew Marr‘s History of the World series, and made some significant progress through the living books we’re reading that cover History, this was more of a review, and a contextualisation – and very useful for both.

We also watched rather a lot of Simon’s Cat (*blush*) – but since that included an overview of how Simon Tofield illustrates his series, I felt it was educational as well.

The girls read their books, and we spent some time on Khan Academy. At the moment, both of them love the money-related sums on Khan Academy, and Goldilocks is doing extremely well with area and plotting points on a graph. Red is great at multiplication word sums, though she claims to hate them.

My favourite part of the day, though, was watching this video, which really gives us a wonderful sense of perspective. I found I both had a sense of awe at the awesomeness of the universe, and a sense of the importance of conserving what we have – both the natural resources, and the relationships that make us who we are.

While I blog, my angels are making a salad, and while we eat I’ll read The Princess and Curdie to them. I haven’t decided yet if we’ll go for a walk, since we’re having friends over, and the clouds are menacing. We shall see. We may well end up making notebooks instead.

And that’s a wrap!


How we home school: keeping it really simple

Our “school” does not use a curriculum. This is because I haven’t found one yet that, a) I can easily afford AND that, b) actually suits our family. In other places on this blog I’ve discussed the various talents, challenges and learning styles that make us who we are, so I won’t go into all of that here.

Instead, what I’ve chosen to do is to distill the essence of what I believe the girls need to get from education – and their preparation for adulthood.

That “essence”, for our family, can be summarised thus:

  • I believe my children need to love learning, and have the ability to learn by themselves.
  • I believe that the ability to read is paramount. No door to knowledge is ever closed when once you’re able to read.
  • I believe that a strong foundation in Maths is key to success. Maths is everything and everywhere.
  • I believe that a sense of where we fit in time (history) and space (geography) gives us an indispensable sense of perspective, and the tools we need to make wise decisions.
  • Above all, I believe a thorough knowledge of the Bible underscores all truth, wisdom, hope, meaning and comfort.

These five simple values form the bedrock of our home school experience, and we flesh them out as follows:

Every morning, we start with a devotion. We love Keys for Kids, so the girls read the passage given (in their King James Bibles – good English starts young!), then I read the story. We discuss it, and then we pray about what we’ve read, and for the day ahead. Theoretically, we also have memory verse time, but since I’ve been sick (which is its own post), we’ve slacked a bit on learning our verses. I’m very pleased to say that they still know the fifty-odd verses we’ve learnt already this year, so that’s a start.

After Bible time, we take a brief look at the day before’s reading, and identify the parts of speech. Sometimes we do this as a game instead: “I say a noun, you say an adjective to go with it, then it’s your turn to find a noun”. Or else, identify four verbs you can see around you right now. Enchanted Learning’s Parts of Speech Wheel has been an invaluable aid in this part of our day.

Next up, we usually have French. This is just because we’re all snuggled up together on the couch anyway, so we may as well do all the “together” bits right away. We either work through the French flip cards on Brainrush, or we watch an episode of the JeFrench channel on YouTube. (After school, I listen to 20 – 30 minutes of native French speech to get my ear in, and that has been very useful).

Finally, while we’re still together, we often watch something fascinating online. recently we’ve been watching the Pale Blue Dot series, by Carl Sagan, the Crash Course in History series, or the Creature Feature on National Geographic.

All of this takes about an hour and a half. After that, I sit with the girls individually and work through 4 – 5 exercises on Khan Academy while the daughter I’m not working with reads a book (Goldilocks is working through “Breverton’s Encyclopedia of Inventions“, and “Red Riding Hood” is about a third of the way through the first “Harry Potter“. We’re also all big fans of “Information is Beautiful“).  Then we switch.

Before school, beds are made, dishes washed, and the house is cleaned and tidied, and after school, the girls help with cleaning up their school stuff and hanging out the laundry.

By this time, it’s usually about 09:30, and Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood are more than ready to go and play. They’re allowed to play computer games between the end of school and 1PM, and often that includes self-taight (and very good) graphic design, spreadsheet manipulation, and updating their blogs. I catch up on work until 11:30, when we all make salad together. While we eat, I read stories. Three days a week, I read a history story (we’re busy with An Island Story right now). On the other three days we read what the girls call a “STORY story”. At the moment, we’re reading “The Princess and Curdie“, “The Swiss Family Robinson“, and “The Blue Fairy Book“.

Every afternoon (since the doctor told me to), we go for a walk. On the way, we talk about everything. We discuss philosophy, religion and morals. We talk about driving and walking and cycling and sustainable transport. We discuss the plant life we see, and keep a sharp eye out for animals and birds. (This week we were lucky to have a decomposing blue snake to walk past a couple of times, and watching the process was fascinating). Often, we stop halfway and the girls will draw or dance or chat – or all three. We talk about which way we’re walking and from which direction the wind is blowing. We discuss the seasons, the weather, the sun, moon and stars. Then we go home.

Most afternoons include a playdate with friends, and that is when I get most of my work done. Red Riding Hood loves to design and build dams and irrigation systems at the moment, so she’s often completely brown by the end of an afternoon. Goldilocks is more interested in architecture and inventions, and a lot of her free time is spent on those subjects. Theoretically, the girls help with supper and the dishes, though often I let them have a relaxing bath while I cook. While we eat, we talk about health and food and friendship and work and school and faith and anything else that comes up. Officially, we encourage questions, but in our house that simply means “being in the same room”. Questions are never far when the girls are around. Sometimes during dinner we’ll watch a movie (usually something rollicking and full of moral gravitas and adventurous fun), or we’ll play a board game. After supper it’s story time, and then they’re off to sleep.

Reading it like this makes it sound like a lot, but it really and truly isn’t. The bulk of the more “formal schooling” is done before 10AM, we do a bit around lunch time, a splash in the middle of the afternoon, and some evening stuff, which I am sure is what every family does. We certainly always did the evening stuff we do now before we started home school.

How do you home school? Do you follow a set curriculum, or do you work around a set of core values? If you use a curriculum, which one do you use? And do you prefer any specific philosophy of education, or is yours (like ours) more of a “Philosophy Stew”, mixing the best of a number of views in proportions that suit your families tastes and needs best? I’d love to hear from you, so drop me a line in the comments below.

Read about the benefits to this approach in tomorrow’s post.

Date night on a shoestring

Even Google wished me happy birthday!

Even Google wished me happy birthday!

Today is my birthday! Huzzah! Birthdays are supposed to be fun. It’s a day all to yourself, on which you get gifts and people spoil you and your husband take you out to dinner. When times are tight, however, it can be tempting to find the celebrations less than fun. It’s not hard to feel, sometimes, as though stuff = happiness, and if we can’t afford the stuff, we can’t buy happiness.

That is half true: you can’t buy happiness. You have to find it, and you need to invest time in doing so. All the marriage experts advise us to “date our mates“, but sometimes it’s difficult to imagine how to go on a date when you have kids, and very little else ;).   So, here are my

Top 10 Tips for a FABULOUS Date Night

– no matter how tight your budget is.

  1. Sleep overs rock

    First things first: tonight is about you and him. Whether you’re staying in or going out, having a reliable, trustworthy person watching your angels will make the night a lot more fun for you. If you choose your babysitter well, the kids will be so excited to go, they’ll think it’s all about them! Everyone wins. We often call on my loving sister, who adores the girls and also gives them a night of fun and laughter while we’re out.

  2. Eat in

    You’re making supper anyway, right? Add a couple of candles, some flowers and a little music, and it’s a date. Turn off the TV (and put away the computers), and spend some time reconnecting with your spouse.

  3. Take out

    We always eat less when we get take-aways than we do when we sit down in a restaurant. In fact, my very favourite way to spend Date Night is to split a Chetty’s Chicken Curry with my man – at home.

  4. Coffee shop it

    If you can run to it, it really is fun to get a little dressed up and go somewhere nice. Coffee shops often have a lovely ambience, and for some reason bought coffee always tastes nicer, no matter how good my at-home brand may be. There’s no need to order a bang up meal with cake and lots to drink. A cup or two of coffee (find a pace that does bottomless!) provides a sense of luxurious leisure, and a stress-free zone to catch up with your man.

  5. Desserts: stressed spelled backwards for a good reason!

    Perhaps you could just go out for a piece of cake (if you’re not gluten intolerant 😉 ) or some fruit salad. Frozen yoghurt or smoothies or good, old-fashioned ice cream. “Date” doesn’t have to mean “dinner”. And let’s be honest, aren’t desserts the whole point, after all?

  6. Movies at home (or YouTube)

    Movies are loads of fun. Papa Bear and I love a rollicking action flick or a side-splitting comedy. We often play something light in the background while we work at night. Date night is an opportunity to engage in the movie (and each other) a little more, without the distractions of work and kids and technology. If you have the bandwidth, look up comedians on YouTube and explore new territory. Enjoy laughing together, holding hands and just being together.

  7. Picnics and outings

    A picnic costs nothing. Well, nothing more than lunch, which you were going to have anyway. There’s little in the world to compare to the happy ease of sitting outside, enjoying the gorgeous weather and just being.

  8. Board games

    Scrabble. Cranium. 30 Seconds. The art of combat is ignited, battles are fought and won (by me!) and in the process we laugh and chat and reconnect.

  9. Volunteer

    Is there something you both feel passionate about? Why not take a couple of hours to make a difference in your community, and at the same time get closer to one another? It’ll be fun!

  10. Date your mateEvery night could be date night

    We’ve found that any night that sees the kids in bed and us together – maybe on the couch sharing a cup of cocoa, or sitting at the desk together while we both work, with comedy on in the background, can be “Date Night” if you choose to see it that way. Quality time is a love language because it really is a way to express love – even if not a word is spoken.

The real key to having successful dates on a regular basis is to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. View the challenges as part of the adventure. View the easy patches as a welcome (and deserved) reprieve. Above all, laugh together, and enjoy one another.

And don’t forget to DATE YOUR MATE as often as you can.

Lots of love,



Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing enough as far as home schooling goes. It seems to take enough time to get through everything we try to accomplish each day, but just because it takes long, does that mean it’s enough? And how much of it really sticks?

One of the things I like about Konos is the timeline. Every time we learn about a new subject, there’s bound to be a person involved somewhere along the way, and that person goes onto the timeline as a permanent visual reminder of what we’ve been learning about. Very cool.

The massive lever arch files that make up the three volumes of Konos are thorough but not detailed. One page may contain 20 activities, and you select the ones you’d like to do with your kids, then do them. I usually tick them off so that I can remember what I’ve covered already. But here’s where I fall down: the course work will say something like, “Learn about woodwind instruments.” The resources page lists useful books on each subject, but since we started using Konos in November, I haven’t been able to find a single one. We can often improvise, but since I never really know what I’m looking for (having not found a single one as a reference), it feels a lot like guesswork.

What I have found is that the internet is a veritable wealth of information. From biographies to worksheets to videos and sound clips, I have yet to be disappointed. (And watch this space: I’ll let you know if the Great Google lets me down).

This week we’ve been “studying” music. We found a great book at the library: The Usborne Book of Music. Every day we work though a few pages, and then I go online to demonstrate what we’ve learnt. On Monday we saw a guy making toy guitars from foamcor and elastic bands. (Then he plugged it into an amp and it went from cute to awesome). We also had a look at the inner workings of a piano while someone played a concerto – amazing! Much better than I could have done at home, especially not having an actual piano.

On Tuesday we learned about the violin. We read the biography of Paganini and Stradivarius, then watched and listened to Vanessa Mae and another awesome violinist whose name escapes me playing Paganini compositions on YouTube. After that I downloaded and printed worksheets on the violin: a colouring in sheet for DD2 and a “name-the-parts” sheet for DD1 (with the answers on a separate sheet for me!)

Wednesday saw baroque music and wind instruments. I played Beethoven’s moonlight Sonata, Prokfiev’s Peter and the Wolf (sadly not Ustinov – it wouldn’t play!), and someone playing a piccolo. What a great way to demonstrate what a piccolo is! They were enchanted and want to act out their own Peter and the Wolf (when Daddy fixes the sound on the Peter Ustinov version!).

In the afternoon DH played a DVD of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the Ballet) for the girls, and again, they were enchanted. Now they want to dance (as they have for a long time), but also to play the violin, flute, recorder and piccolo. So perhaps something is going in after all. It’s not the kind of in-depth studying we did in High School but, after all, that’s a number of years away.

I like worksheets because they provide a visual record of what’s been studied, as well as giving an opportunity to work on writing and spelling skills. Wednesday’s worksheets can be found on these great sites:

I also really love the enchanted learning website and would love to subscribe to it, since it offers a lot of what I need.

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