Family moments

We’ve had some very hot weather this week. It amuses me how the British can’t seem to deal with heatwaves or snow; anything other than rain is outside of our comfort zone.

On Monday we packed up a picnic lunch and headed for the public paddling pool in a nearby town. I dipped my legs in and felt very envious of the children playing in the nice cool water!

DSC_4148-2

DSC_4153-2

DSC_4162-2

I’ve been searching for a better way of carting around supplies for a day out whilst babywearing and discovered that granny trolleys are perfect! There’s plenty of room for baby gear, picnic stuff and swimming things, and I can also use it for carrying shopping back home.

DSC_4168-2

My mum invited us to stay for lunch after piano lessons on Tuesday so that the children could play in the paddling pool in her garden.

DSC_4225-2

DSC_4206-2

Tabitha took this photo on Wednesday after we got back from karate. It was Colin’s day off so he drove us there. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that he passed his driving test last week! He has had a few lessons but mostly just lots and lots of practice with me over the last year or so. It’s great having another driver as he can now do things like nip out to the shops or even just fetch the car from the car park.

DSC_4242-2

It rained most of the day on Thursday. Tabitha re-discovered her Wii dancing game and even Aaron joined in. He is a fantastic dancer but refuses to take lessons!

DSC_4259-2

Esther was appointed the judge, a job which she clearly took very seriously.

DSC_4264-2

While I was pregnant I cleared out one of our lofts, and today I decided to make a start on the second. I found a crinkly fabric baby book which Esther will enjoy now that she is starting to tolerate spending time on her tummy. I have to be careful where I put her down now as she shuffles quite a distance on her back!

DSC_4268-2

We nipped out to Lidl as we had run out of bin bags and I spotted a pull-the-tab phonics book which I thought Tabitha would enjoy. Aaron very sweetly helped her to read it while I was busy making lunch. Her blending is coming along well and she can now read lots of cvc words with a bit of prompting.

DSC_4309-2

I leave you with big sis and little sis playing together.

DSC_4290-2

DSC_4297-2

Aaron’s journey to reading

P1200614v2

As a child I was an avid reader. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by books; we lived in a big three storey townhouse with bookshelves in almost every room and more boxes of books in the attic. By the time I left primary school, I had finished almost all of the books in the children’s section of our local library and had moved on to the adult section. My secondary school English teacher gave me an exemption from having to keep a reading log because I would often read several long books per day!

Reading was really important to me and therefore I just assumed that my children would be early readers. When I first started considering home education, I was very much focused on the academic side of things. I even dabbled with the Doman method for a while, wanting my children to be smart and advanced. Over the years my perspective has changed and I’ve come to realise that early academics are not necessary or important. I still believe that Doman was right when he said that babies and toddlers can learn to read, because the human brain is an incredible thing, but academic skills are just a tiny part of holistic child development.

Of course, learning to read at a certain age is important in the school system because otherwise children get left behind. I remember chatting to a worried parent of a just-turned-4 year old whose reception teacher said he was behind with his reading! But there is no critical age for learning to read. In other countries children don’t even start school until they are 7 and have caught up or overtaken their British counterparts in just a couple of years. Amongst unschoolers, you will often hear of children who learnt to read much later than the norm but became proficient very quickly. There’s an interesting article here about how children can teach themselves to read.

My experience with Aaron has been somewhere between the two extremes. When Aaron was three, he learned the entire alphabet (names, sounds, upper and lower case) in less than a week from a video on his Leappad. By the time he was four and a half he could read some simple CVC words, mostly thanks to playing Reading Eggs on the computer. When he was six I bought him the Biff, Chip and Kipper reading scheme. He liked the stories and gradually worked his way through the six levels over about a year (that’s the equivalent of less than one book per week). It wasn’t until he was seven that he seemed to grasp the purpose of reading and actually want to read. This realisation came about because of road signs, shop signs and a computer game called Scribblenauts, which requires reading in order to solve problems. The leaps in Aaron’s learning have always happened when he is motivated by something that is interesting and meaningful to him.

Over the years I have read him picture books and chapter books, used Montessori materials, played I spy, sounded out words together and done many more educational activities. But in terms of regular, systematic instruction in reading, we’ve really done very little. There have been times when I’ve tried a slightly more structured approach and encouraged Aaron to do some reading every day, but whenever he became resistant I let it go. I never pushed him because I figured that being put off reading would be far worse than learning to read a bit later!

I have no idea how Aaron’s reading level would compare to that of his school peers; I suspect he would be behind some but ahead of others. There are still lots of longer words that he can’t read (but also lots that he can) and he hasn’t yet started reading chapter books by himself (although he probably could), but he does now read fluently and well. A while ago he was very much into jokes, so I bought him a joke book and he spent the entire day wandering around the house, joke book in hand, reading to us. A few weeks ago he offered to read me an entire chapter from the Bible while I was washing up. When we sing one of his favourite choruses at Sunday School, he eagerly puts his hand up to read out the first few lines.

I can honestly say that I’m not in the slightest bit worried about Aaron’s reading, or about Tabitha learning to read. They will both get there eventually in their own time. I’m really looking forward to Aaron enjoying some of the wonderful books that I loved as a child, but there’s no rush. He has plenty of years of reading ahead of him and in the meantime I will carry on reading to him!

Curriculum and resources 2014/15

P1160255 (1)

I can’t believe it’s November already, this post has been in my drafts folder since August! I always enjoy reading about what resources other home educators are using, so I thought I would share some of our curriculum for this year.

Bible

We begin our morning by reading a lesson from Leading Little Ones to God. Each lesson includes a Bible story, questions to talk about, memory verse, suggested Bible reading, hymn and prayer. We are also using the free character lessons from Kids of Integrity.

Handwriting

We are still working through Scholastic Literacy Skills: Handwriting Reception-Year 2.  Tabitha loves writing her name and other words, so my focus for her will be learning the correct letter formations, whilst Aaron is showing an interest in joined up writing and needs to focus on neatness. Other handwriting resources include sandpaper letters, wipe-clean workbooks, pegboards and tablet apps.

P1160883 (1)

P1160893 (1)

P1160947 (1)3

Reading

Aaron reads aloud to me either from Biff, Chip and Kipper books or from his Minecraft handbooks. He also uses an app to practise high frequency words. Tabitha knows most of her letter names and sounds, as I discovered a while ago at a visit to the optician. She is also starting to decode some CVC words, so we are using the level one Biff, Chip and Kipper books and Montessori pink series materials alongside other resources. I may resubscribe to Reading Eggs at some point, although I wish they did monthly subscriptions as the children tend to lose interest after a while.

P1160391 (1)

P1160857 (1)

P1160861 (1)

Maths

As usual, a lot of our maths learning is what I like to call “conversational maths”. We discuss mathematical concepts and problems as we come across them in everyday, real life situations. We also use the materials from our maths shelves for various activities, challenges and games. Aaron uses Komodo on the computer or tablet to practise mental arithmetic. Tabitha hasn’t done much formal maths yet but has a good grasp of numbers, so I have introduced some of the Montessori maths activities to her. She also enjoys doing maths workbooks. We will continue using Miquon Math with our Cuisenaire rods, although we haven’t done any for a while as our printer is playing up and I can’t print out the lab sheets. Aaron has lost interest in the orange book lab sheets, so I have decided to leave it and skip straight onto the red book which will hopefully be more challenging for him.

P1140753

P1150304

P1160526 (1)

Science

Until now, we haven’t done much formal science. Plenty of time outside in nature and lots of inquisitive questions have allowed us to cover the basics informally. However, last week I decided to try out AIG’s God’s Design for Science curriculum, starting with The World of Plants, The World of Animals and The Human Body. We will be able to combine many of the lessons with nature study and additional hands-on activities.

P1160956 (1)

P1160912 (1)

P1160928 (1)

Other subjects

Colin usually has Fridays off, so we do a four day week and keep Fridays and Saturdays free for days out. Bible, handwriting, reading, maths and science doesn’t take much more than an hour or so each day, as many of our activities are only 5-10 minutes long. That leaves the rest of the day free for play, outings or other subjects such as art, music, French, geography and history. I have no formal plan for other subjects and we tend to cover them in blocks depending on what else is going on. For example, at the moment we are learning about Paris because my parents are on holiday there and the First World War because Remembrance Day is coming up.

P1160917 (1)

P1160842 (2)