Mentions resources we use

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I just checked my comments and authorised and answered them. Erk.

Also, this morning I went out and bought box files and file boxes and little ring binder things for index cards, and this evening I organised the HELL out of a lot of the formal educational supplies.

We have something like eight inches of shelfspace of workbooks, mainly literacy and numeracy type things, and almost all presents for the children from relations. They do bits of them occasionally, but in general the sheer quantity available overwhelms them. So I sorted them into a box by owner and subject, and chose a very few for a separate box of Stuff We Might Use, along with the FIAR manuals. (L8 fell on the History workout I bought her AGES ago with cries of glee and couldn’t speak for the next 20 minutes except to tell me I was wrong about Henry VIII being the kind of guy who liked fast cars and BBQ pool parties).

I went through a big stack of old newspaper pullouts we were given by a friend a few years ago – wallcharts about Clouds and Fungi and Invertebrates from the Guardian, and a lot of things about birds from the Independent – and clearly labelled each one, ready to find without unfolding them all, and then in a stroke of mad organisational genius I got a sharpie and wrote the inventory on the outside of the plastic envelope they’re stored in.

I went through the Five in a Row books and manuals and started making an index card for each one we have, and a list of the books we don’t have, with the manual page number; later I will add go-along books and summaries of suggested activities to the cards. Index cards are the right size for that, the manuals are huge floppy A4 things. Now when a child chooses a book I can flick through and get a bunch of information about what we might do with it, even if I’m tired or busy, and go from there.

In my index card file I also made up some lists of our core subjects; the children and I sort of brainstormed these on Friday, and I made a big A1 poster of them, but a smaller list is handy.

I need to create a section for “practical activities and experiments for doing with adult guidance” too, I keep remembering things I did as a child which I need to do with them.

I really was fairly heftily home-educated myself, when I think about it.

E (age 6) and I are doing Five in a Row again. I’m tired, so it’s an easier way to manage, just like when Astrid was new. We started this week with The Story of Ferdinand and so far we’ve been doing the topics through conversation, which is working fine for her. She’s a very switched-on, thoughtful, articulate child, really. The selfish little horror. I think she’s got about the perfect balance for Being Six Years Old. She’s a delight.

As long as you don’t try to read her reading books while she’s using them to teach herself to read. If you do it FOR her you are HINDERING her ability to LEARN how to do it FOR HERSELF. YOU HAS BEEN WARNED.

I got L (age 8) the Beyond Five in a Row set and she has read almost the whole curriculum manual already – in three days – and most of The Boxcar Children and she and E made a Lego boxcar today and acted out the book very carefully – L read the book, said to E “And now you say ‘must be five blueberries’” and E said “Must be five blueberries,” and L said “‘Or even ten’” and E said “Or even ten,” all very obediently. Never works for me.

A hasn’t been in hospital or seen by paramedics for over a week. Her last one was mild concussion from jumping on the bed. She likes jumping.

For ages twelve and up. This is our second attempt, since Emer is not quite six. It finished over an hour after bedtime.



A sense of scale


We played a game of Settlers of Catan today, with the seven-year-old, me, and the five-year-old teamed up with her daddy. The children grasped it pretty quickly and enjoyed it quite a lot. It took a long time, because we hadn’t played it in about eight years and the children had never played it before, but it went well and we want to do it again.

We also did some spellings with Bananagrams tiles, which worked much better than doing them with handwriting; handwriting is complicated enough for the seven-year-old that it’s no fun to add another thing to the mix.

The five-year-old read to me from the Reading Eggs books we got in a package, and tackled one she wasn’t totally confident with and got it all right. She won’t usually tackle reading she’s not sure she knows.

And it turns out that the seven-year-old can quickly, in her head, work out fractions of an hour. I had no idea and it will be really useful.

And the 21-month-old can breathe, which is brilliant, and count to two, and recite to five sometimes.

It has been a satisfying day.

Not a lot happens, in home education. We live our lives. We got a new toy – Fraction Cubes – and Linnea is learning to add fractions with more accuracy than she had before. We have been drawing plans of the upstairs of our house, so that we are ready for the Great Bedroom Shift, when we rearrange so that what was planned as a two-adult bedroom arrangement is turned into a two-adults-and-three-children arrangement, rather than a series of bodge jobs, as it has been.

Managing change creatively is one of my biggest challenges. Linnea resists change, hard, and is upset and alarmed by it, pretty often. Emer is learning this from her, though it’s not as serious, it’s just mimicry. So things like getting them to help draw up the plans on A2 paper with oil pastels can make a huge difference. As can doing the change gradually and where they can see every stage of it.

We started today, by getting rid of things to make space. It went ok.

I just discovered Khan Academy. Given that the seven-year-old spent today wandering around saying stuff like “I want to do number bonds!” and has been craving what I think of as tedious repetition in maths, this is brilliant. One grows tired of setting these things oneself and for some reason long sheets with dozens of exercises on a page don’t appeal to her, she wants dozens of exercises but no more than three to a page, if you see what I mean.

Emer found it dull, though. Emer, in fact, has been wondering whether she might like to start school. We Shall See. Now that Linnea is getting actual sleep almost every night, instead of having prolonged anxiety attacks, or attacks of anxiety, rather, we have far more options available to us.

Emer’s big thing of the day was reading to me. She read me almost all of a Big Bear, Little Bear book – she has it almost word-perfect, which makes me think she’s genuinely reading some of the words as memory-joggers. I hassled and harassed her big sister into performing “reading” for me, and it’s lovely to see it happening naturally for Emer, now that I’ve learned to leave well alone.

And Astrid can take one step, and says “Up” and “Ush” (push) and all our names and everything.

Aha! My eldest reads like crazy, though we are now beginning to keep up with her intake ok, but the middle child didn’t much want to until lately. It turns out that in spite of not wanting to she can read the names of almost all the characters in the “Floppy books” (Oxford Reading Tree) and a few things like “a,” “the,” “and,” etc.

I have bought a bunch of Key Stage materials so that I have some idea of what other people will expect them to know. Looks like they know pretty much most of it and I can see about filling in the gaps if that looks appropriate. We Shall See.

There’s nothing in there about their areas of special interest, though, because I got the stuff in WHS. Human Anatomy, Sewing, Growing Food, and Cooking aren’t part of the under-sevens tested standards, it seems – literacy and numeracy are the big ones.

Ah well. I’ve never been very big anyway.