User:Lillbjorne/bliki 2006

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Editor's Note

When I have a chance, I'll re-arrange everything so that it's in order and new posts will go at the top!


I am still awake at 1am this morning after foolishly drinking full-caffeine coffee (I should know better)! So, being still online, I thought I would experiment with Bliki creation! I will need assistance with editing and formatting, because I still haven't got the hang of this business yet, but I will keep on trying!

I do write blogs (which I am equally inept at doing), but they have very specific themes, so I thought I could start writing a general home-ed diary. I'm hoping that my children may also get involved, though I'm slightly concerned about child-protection issues, and how much information to give out.


PeterT 06:14, 14 November 2006 (GMT)

Glad you had too much coffee cos its great to have your input and I love the idea of a general home-ed diary/bliki (click here to find out what a bliki and for an index of other blikis within WikiWorks).

Hope you don't mind me experimenting in your Bliki - I am torn between putting comments on this page and creating a discussion thread in the schome community forum for talking about this page - not sure which is best .... What do you recon?

The whole issue of child-protection and how much info to give out is a huge one - something we are feeling our way with (and which different people have very different views about). Will be interesting to see how this pans out as your bliki evolves - for example, will your kids register in their own right (even if not in their own names!) or will they use your registration?

Lillbjorne 22:18, 19 November 2006 (GMT)

Hi Peter. I'm happy for you to comment here... but now what! Am I right to answer you here??? (Are we making it up as we go along?!) Are people aware that this pages is here, is anybody else reading our diary? Will you get this message?! Perhaps we should do both, and mention it on the Forum as well? Hey, why isn't my name in blue?!

I am trying to interest the children in getting involved here, but haven't been able to persuade them yet. Perhaps if and when the PDA appears, they will change their minds.

PeterT 06:33, 20 November 2006 (GMT)

Good questions - we're making it up as we go along .... I suspect that moving the comments to a discussion thread would be better - I'm off to set one up now ... and will come back and put a link in to it from this page and visa versa.

Done that now - 10 mins later - so shall we (a) move the comments from here to there? (b) or just leave them where they are but put all further ones in the forum?

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze 13/11/06

We are in the middle of a project on China at the moment. We are loosely following Sonlight curriculum's 5th grade programme "Eastern Hemisphere" (previously called "Non-Western Cultures") which is literature-based, and we are using a 'read-aloud' called "Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze" by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis. We are just over half-way through it, and the older children (nearly 11 and 6 1/2) are enjoying it. The two younger ones tend to either play with brio trains or run about in the garden if they don't feel like listening. We also made a giant map of China which the younger children also got involved with colouring.

(We did take a photo of this when we borrowed the PDA, but I'm still working on loading it properly).

Motor-biker started writing in the cutest workbook I've even seen (it's almost too good to use!) "Alfie Gets Ready to Write" by Shirley Hughes. It doesn't seem to be on Amazon, and it's bizarre that I couldn't find it listed on the internet at all, and... it doesn't have an isbn number. I bought it from Books for Children club.


PeterT 06:14, 14 November 2006 (GMT)

Maybe you'd like to borrow a PDA at some point - the ones we have include a camera, SAT Nav (GPS), phone, WiFi (wireless networking), bluetooth, and cut down versions of Word, Excel, etc..

Birthday Fun 15/11/06

We've been gearing up for a birthday this week, so we have managed only to get ver little formal 'schooly' work done. On Tuesday we received a CD of stories and nursery rhymes from a toddler-group we used to go to (produced and recorded by the group and the Library service), which proved to be really popular. It reminded me that we used to sit down everyday and have music-time with nursery rhymes and action songs, but we haven't done it for a long while.

On Wednesday, the birthday boy got to choose all our activities, so we ended up watching "The Blue Planet" on DVD (one of his presents) most of the morning, and in the afternoon we went for a walk in Salcey Forest with a group of friends. The children particularly enjoyed running and jumping along the tree-top walk (Mummy was slightly less enthusiastic!) and jumping in muddy puddles!

Barbary Pirates 16&17/11/06

Our read-aloud for the younger children at the moment is "Doctor Dolittle" by Hugh Lofting. It's absurdly politically incorrect, so I'm having to edit a lot as I go along, but lots of fun! The bizarre adventures seem to just appeal to young children's sense of the ridiculous! On Friday we found our living room full of car-seats as Daddy was using the car as a van for the day... Mummy was horrified, but the children quickly took stock of the situation and saw that it made a great pirate ship/ bus/ islands in the pacific etc. Hours of fun!

Woodland Adventure in the Dark 19/11/06

Sunday is a good 'going-out' day, so most of it was spent visiting rivers, lakes and ponds all around the town! In between was popping home for lunches and dinners, but the greatest adventure was getting lost in the Big Wood and the light fading to complete darkness! Thank goodness somebody remembered a torch! We did finally find our way back to the car-park, with some very muddy, sleepy, but contented children!

High Culture… closed for the winter 20/11/06

We started the day with Latin: Dragon-tamer orally going through the noun tables and verb paradigms we have learnt so far, and reviewing vocabulary, and finally doing a simple translation exercise that involved placing the correct words in sentences. He did quite well considering we only do it occasionally. Pony-rider listens in too.

We all listened to a children’s classical CD (Bernstein Favourites: Children’s Classics), and Dragon-Tamer dictated a couple of reviews which I typed up and posted on to our local home-ed reading group website.

We thought that, in the afternoon, we would just ‘pop in’ to the local museum, or gallery, but when I checked their opening hours, I discovered that both are closed: the Gallery for two weeks while they change exhibits, and the Museum for the whole winter (except for education groups of 20 or more children… so possible to organise for a later date but no good for today).

Disappointed, we discussed other alternatives for the afternoon, but nobody could agree, and since Motor-biker was poorly with a slight temperature, we opted for a quiet afternoon in, watching nature programmes and schools maths programmes recorded earlier.

Jip, the Cleverest Dog in the World 21/11/06

Some of the children experimented with painting this morning (mostly finger painting with white paint on black paper), and making pop-up cards based on ideas on Robert Sabuda’s website (author of “Prehistorica: Dinosaurs” and “Prehistorica: Sharks & Sea Monsters” with Matthew Reinhart).

We finished reading Dr. Dolittle today which was bitter-sweet: the children enjoyed the book and the ending was good, but sad because it had come to an end. Pony-rider drew a picture of Jip being presented a golden collar by the Mayor of the small town, which read “Jip, the Cleverest Dog in the World” from the story in chapter 20. We have a pile of new books to choose from next, but I may not start another until we’ve finished “Young Fu”.

In the afternoon, we listened to CDs, and Pony-rider & Tipper-trucker danced (…became trucks… then a pushme-pullyou…) to the music, while Dragon-Tamer experimented with the scanner/ photocopier… and when it wouldn’t do what he wanted, went on to reading (mostly “The Art Book” published by Phaedon which introduces a wide range of artistic styles.

Motor-biker is still poorly and subdued so the walk I had planned is postponed. Dragon-Tamer decided to read to the younger children, and “Ursula Bear” by Shiela Lavelle was selected. They’ve been having a fair amount of trouble getting on recently, so it was a real joy to see them all huddled up together happily on the sofa. :-)

Phonics Phun

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 ot 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…


I've added a comment to your topic in the forum

When Home-ed Mum is Sick 12/12/06

We have spent the last couple of weeks feeling collectively poorly and miserable. We have had a string of bugs and viruses to fight off: having a larger-than-average family often means that we don’t seem to go very long between one of us being ill, especially at this time of year, and if one of us catches something that we all catch in turn, the period of illness can be quite prolonged!

I suppose that for parents of children in school, when mum is ill there is the advantage that it’s ‘just’ a question of summoning up enough strength to get the children to school and then the day is potentially free and easy to stay in the sick bed (assuming sick-leave from paid employment is an option)…. But to be honest I don’t know how ‘working mothers’ manage it.

I have seldom thought of home educating as an easy option (for many reasons!) and yet, as sorry as I have been tempted to feel for myself during my bout of ‘flu, I actually think that in this case I do have the easier time of it: apart from the postman delivering packages, there’s no real reason why I need to drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn (doubtless though, he thinks I’m a shocking layabout!) and, when things are really bad, there’s no reason for anyone to get out of their pyjamas before midday.

As to what our home education has looked like during these weeks, it’s certainly unlikely that we would be mistaken for a ‘home-school’. But has it been educational? It has been less formal even than this ‘un-schooler’ would have liked but, on balance, I think I can say ‘yes’. We haven’t missed a single day.

We can almost always manage some read-alouds: we’re currently enjoying L. Frank Baum’s original “The Wizard of Oz” and Robert McCloskey’s “Blueberries for Sal”. When Mummy has been at her worst and incapable of doing anything much more than lying on the sofa, croaking instructions (“shut that fridge door!”) the little ones have had fun learning to make their own breakfasts, and sandwiches at lunch (while I looked on, shaking my head about all the mess to clean up later!). Hours of imaginative play, and lego construction and so on – that I might normally veto or at least curtail in favour of more academic pursuits – were enjoyed at length. Not to mention all the running about that healthy Mummy would never normally allow!

I must admit as well that the TV (schools programmes and at least nominally educational videos mostly) got much more use than normal. During these few ‘sick’ weeks we became autonomous educators by default!

It was definitely a relief to finally get out of the house properly this week (playing in the garden just isn’t enough). I did wonder whether, given the choice, the children would prefer their home-ed experience with healthy mummy or sick mummy, but for my part, I’m so glad it’s over! (roll on summer…)

PDA Fun #1 Funny Things They Say - December 06

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

Hook Was an Old Eton Man - April 2007

I could hardly believe when I checked that a third of a year had gone by since I last posted! Time flies by when you're having fun!

We've had lots of adventures and shenanigans (sp?) and when I get a minute I'll come back and tell some stories around the camp-fire, but I just wanted to mention our latest very popular read-aloud. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie and abridged by er... well actually I can't check because I think Pony-rider has gone to sleep with it under her pillow. I suspect that any version will do - the adventure is so much fun whichever way it's expressed.

The funniest / most disturbing (?) thing is the way I've noticed the story coming out in their play-times: Dragon-tamer isn't too affected - he views the whole story quite philosophically ("it is quite an odd tale", he told me before I read it), Pony-rider has been spotted rooting through sock drawers for shadows, and generally loitering around windows in the vain hope that Peter will visit, but Motor-biker has been caught curling his forefinger into a hook on several occassions! If he had a pipe, I'm sure he'd smoke it...

I did worry that J. M. Barrie's axe-grinding over growing up was affecting Dragon-tamer when he remarked "I hope I won't get to 12 too soon", but it became clear that this was prompted by a big sign at the play-ground which read "No children over 12 may go on the equipment, by order of the Management".

The Very Hungry Princess - April 2007

Birthday week

We made the fatal error of saying to Pony-rider “what would you like to do for your birthday – you can do anything you like!” Now that I think about it, I realise that we got off lightly. She could have asked for a trip in the Virgin Space Shuttle! Instead, she asked for: 1 trip to Grandma’s, 1 trip to a Farm, 1 trip to Toys ‘r’ Us, 1 Swimming Lesson, 1 Party, 1 slice of Swiss Cheese 1 Ice-cream Cone and 1 Slice of Salami (just checking to see you’re actually paying attention).

So instead of a birth-day, we ended up having a treat every single day for an entire week: Monday was a trip to a farm and a swimming lesson. (More about the Farm later). Tuesday was a trip to Grandma’s (actually we had to go Monday evening because she particularly wanted to wake up at Grandma’s on her birthday – we obliged.) Wednesday was a trip to a favourite local place which provides an outdoor play-area positioned conveniently close to picnic tables where mums can chat over coffee (a treat for me too!); Thursday was playgroup, followed by the girliest girly birthday-party imaginable (it was so great – maybe more about the Party later too!). Friday was play at an indoor play-centre (while the mums had coffee) followed by lunch at the unspeakable McD’s, and in the evening a surprise visit from some friends from out of town who took us to Pizza Hut! And finally, on Saturday we shared the birthday cake with her best friend (who couldn’t make the party due to not actually being a girl).

On Sunday, I laid in bed with a headache, neck-ache, back-ache, leg-ache, etc., the result, I think, of party-stress and way too much icing, coffee, chocolate, cake, McD and Pizza Hut. I did eat one nice green leaf, and after that I felt much better. ;-)

Balancing Curriculum with Interests - May 2007

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 Pacific Islands, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, North and South Korea and China.

The way I deal with this study which, being aimed at grade 5 is suitable 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 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 think)! 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 my Froggy 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…

Scheduling Unschool - May 07

When we started home educating um, almost 9 years ago (that can't be right, can it? Dragon-tamer was 3. He'll be 12 this year. Oh! That makes me even older than I thought.. :-(( .) we were doing it pretty formally. Okay, it was literature-based rather than schooly textbook-formal, and we only had Dragon-tamer to contend with, but over the years we have leaned more and more towards unschooling. I think I've kind of got the philosophy more-or-less straightish in my head in theory... but in practice, I just can't de-school myself.

Dragon-tamer, if left to his own devices, would choose play-station all day every day (and it takes a good lot of it to make him sick of it, unfortunately). After play-station, he would read - all day, non-stop, during meals, through the night until he falls asleep on the book. Pony-rider at the moment is going through a really girly phase and her pastimes of choice include bathing Barbies in the sink, mummies and babies and BabaZonee (our little's one's new self-chosen pseudonym) gets to be the baby whether he likes it or not, play-ironing, play-cooking and dolls'-house. Motor-biker's choices are: sandpit, disney videos (especially Oliver, which I hate) and being Spiderman (up, up and oy vey! )

I am sure in my heart that all of this is good and fun and educational, and life-learning, and I shouldn't worry, but party of me still thinks they should still sit down quietly and conform to a timetable that I (or a sensible adult or a teacher, for example) set for them. I know that the best learning takes place when the children are motivated and select it themselves, but I'm not convinced that even 12 year olds are going to make the best choices for themselves.

So actually, we're only part-time unschoolers. Every now and then I insist that for short periods they do sit down (quietly is a challenge) and "do school" (actually, I hate that - it makes education sound distinct from life, which it really shouldn't be).

I found an interesting suggestion for a timetable online tonight on the website of a blog I occassionally read (another UK home educator) which is basically separating the subjects out over different days, rather than trying to cram it all in on the same day, which I often try to and inevitably fail.

I think I'm going to try this approach. Yep. But not tomorrow, because I'm still up and it's ten to 3 in the morning, and I still can't sleep, so in the morning I will be a blubbering lump of jelly-mommy and I'll just have to let them read / play dollies / sandpit / be baby.

Nature Study at Very Close Quarters - May 07

We have been watching tadpoles in a lake in the centre of pasture land not far from home. We decided to go and check up on them today. It was a beautiful day: the sun was shining, the air was balmy, as we walked over the bridge above the main road a tractor roared past and waved at the children which really made their day! We went armed with our nature sketch-books and penciles, and when we got to the field, there were sheep grazing which had been newly shorn. We saw a pair of moorhens with 9 young. We looked at the reeds and noticed that the fluffy top is seeds like on a dandelion clock. We spotted our tadpoles, and they have got really big! It was absolutely a country idyll. Until Pony-rider fell in.

Well, actually, firstly BabaZonni had a go. There are stepping stones, which were obviously designed for use by big burly six-foot farmers whose legs are so long their steps stretch wide. Far too wide apart for a 3-year old. I very nearly followed him in, but managed somehow to right myself and pull him back with just a slightly wet trouser-leg. But the older children went very confidently back and forth on these stepping stones through the centre of the lake.

When Pony-rider went in, the whole mood changed immediately. The scene went from calm country nature-lovers enjoying our afternoon to full-blown panic mode. Of course at this point it started to rain. It all happened so fast it frightened me. Pony-rider was shocked but she managed to get out quickly (thank goodness she can swim!). Motor-biker was terrified, and couldn't stop crying.

We managed to get Pony-rider home wrapped up in my jacket, and we pampered her with a warm drink of cocoa, a warm bath and new clothes, (Dragon-tamer was a real star) followed by the experimental cooking session which did cheer her up in the end. But the pungent aroma of pondweed may take a little longer to subside.

Recipe: Make-it-up-as-you-go-along Chocolate Muesli Cookies - May 07

We had great fun today making cookies to cheer Pony-rider up. We really did just make this up as we went along, but it came out really yummy and chewy and it went really quickly!

1 cup of Muesli (we like Alpen best)

1 cup of demerara (raw cane) sugar

1 cup of margerine

1/4 cup of cocoa

a big shake of ground cinnamon

1 egg

1 cup of self-raising flour

We doubled this up, mixing the alpen, cocoa, butter and sugar together, then the egg(s) and then the flour. We added the cinnamon last but really it should have gone in at the beginning when the ingredients were still dry.

We greased a baking tray and baked at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes. It came out looking like brownies. I cut it into squares and it came out of the tray easily :-)

In case you don't dare to do experimental cooking with the kids, here's a recipe for chocolate brownies from the bbc:

Planning a Unit Study: South America Project - May 07

I am just looking into how we might do a project on south America. These are the fruits of my initial search:

Unit Study Plans

Some useful links to unit studies, some to buy, some free on the internet: (free if you subscribe to a free 3-day trial) carries 4 e-book unit study guides:

- South America - a hands-on unit study (this is a Christian unit study) $13.99

- South America - History unit study $3.50

- South America - Culture and Geography unit study $3.50, and

- Adventures in Writing: A Sensory Journey of South America - $5.95

Of course, I would prefer to spend as little money as possible (there is always the risk with unschooling children of having to stop in the middle of a study if they go off the idea!) and I'm not really a fan of e-books, but the history and culture & geography studies look good value. All of these are basically idea-books, and any literature would need to be obtained separately. My search also picked up studies on cougars, anacondas and Spanish language.

When I get my act together I'll post my plan with a booklist.


Some things I would like to know include:

- Food: what is South American cuisine like - is it similar to Mexican? What about native South American cuisine?

- Literature: Can anyone recommend any novels suitable as read-alouds and / or easy-readers, set in south America (Isabel Allende looks interesting, including "Zorro" and "Ines of My Soul" about Doña Inés Suárez of Chile, but these would be for me to read, not to the children!)

- Music: can someone point me in the right direction of south American music - both Latin-American and native south-American folk music (does such a thing as that exist on CD?) (We'll be looking in the World section at the library, but fear this might be a little bit too exotic!)

- Art: same question really. Who is who in south American art?

Hi Lillbjorne. How about Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera? Fox

- Film: what would be good family films set in south America, available on dvd or video? (We have ordered 2 BBC nature dvds "Wild South America")