Monthly Archives: January 2008

You know you’re a homeschool mum when…

You are teaching Maths to the 4yr old who has borrowed his baby sister’s blocks for the occasion and you are feeding that baby sister as you teach. Meanwhile the 3yr old has been bribed to silence with a bag of grapes and you are gently interrupted by the 14yr old as she writes up the history of fingerprinting for her wall display on forensic science. You finish the Math’s lesson and as you are starting Bible story with the smalls, you find yourself in conversation with that dear 14yr old about how no, photo’s of dead bodies and the maggots that eat them (entomology) should probably not be part of a display in the dining room! You then, having got to the bit where Joshua and Caleb have news of the Promised Land, give up the story because the baby is howling her head off!

We did get some more Millie done. Ronan has mixed blue and red, red and yellow, yellow and blue and we have expanded her body accordingly. Then he and Avila painted the pig moneyboxes JulieD got them for Christmas.

Being a mum means “worry”.

Stuart of Tears of a Clown has blogged about the shootings in Nottingham. Of course many pundits and ‘experts’ in the media insist that crime isn’t so bad, but the perception of crime being bad effects people.

The fact is our perceptions are not always formed by the media; I hardly watch the news or have the radio on so I am out of the loop a lot of the time about that makes the news. But I am in the local loop and here the local events via other mums, the kids and shop keepers. I know therefore that the local parks are not safe because you can be set upon by gangs who’ll beat you up and steal your bike-because my son’s friends have been through that. I am aware of my neighbour being mugged in a road nearby, and of the children who break stuff and hit and scream at each other as they walk down my own road after school.

My milkman came to be paid this morning. He’s been off work for a month thanks to a gang of lads who beat him up, broke his arm by stamping on it and left him in hospital needing surgery.

So when Josh is out on the streets all day mapping hydrants for the fire service-I do get a bit nervous.

At least the driving rain and hail has stopped now, so he and Chris will be walking in relative dryness. Rainy 

Finding new songs to sign

Iona is the quick thinker around here. I was struggling this morning to come up with anything new for this afternoon’s Sign Language session. She suggested we try the Tweenies site on Cbeebies. They had the songs, music and words; easy. We chose ‘Two Fat Gentlemen’.

No homeschool group this morning; got the kitchen cleaned, threw food into the slow cooker. The morning shot by remarkably quickly, mainly because there’s so much to do with the biggies at the moment. The smalls played together happily and even played well with Heleyna for a while. It is nice to see her learning to join in.

Norman is at the menders. Norman is our vacuum cleaner and living with six kids means I vacuum most days. I haven’t vacuumed since Friday, so you can imagine the mess and I was getting a bit fretty about having a house full of other people’s children on my horrible floor. Iona-a thousand blessings upon her- took it upon herself to get the dustpan and brush and did a really good job of cleaning up.

Sign went well and the children enjoyed the new song. They requested the story of ‘Charlie’ about a deaf man I used to know. He was a lovely man. So the session is signing songs and then I sign a story and we finish with another signed song-then the children go off to play.

St Aidan, ice cream and Linda’s Farm

warren-mill-07-038.jpgIt’s the feast of St Aidan today. We have visited the lovely little island of Lindisfarne quite often as a family and it has some special relevance to us for private reasons. Years ago when we first visited the island Alex was very taken with the statue and announced that it was obvious that St Aidan was the patron saint of ice cream sellers. Now, you have to admit that flame in his hand does have a decidedly Mr Whippy look about it.

When we went last Summer Ronan, seeing all the sheep in the fields assumed we were visiting Linda’s Farm and was hopeful we could get to meet Linda. Somehow we just managed to miss her.

Aidan was a monk on Iona and was sent to Bamburgh at the invitation of the holy Christian king Oswald who is also a saint. Aidan didn’t speak a word of what was English back then but he travelled with the king and it was the king who acted as interpreter.The people, who had resisted a rather cross missionary from Iona previously, converted in droves under the gentle hand of Aidan and the good example of their king.

For those of you interested in the history around the saints like Aidan, Cuthbert, Oswald and the Council of Whitby, be warned; Celtic Christianity has been hijacked in many areas by anti-Catholic protestants and New Age (or should I say aging) hippies.

It seems that the monks and nuns who established the monasteries of Iona, Lindisfarne and other of the northern sites came probably from the days of St Patrick, but inherited the liturgical calender of St John and St Polycarp, rather than the Latin Calender dates the Pope used. This did not make them any less Catholic than the Eastern Rite Churches today-so be careful what you read.

Excellent Blog Award

excellent2baward_5.jpg Therese of the Aussie Coffee has kindly awarded me the Excellent blog award.

The rules:

By accepting this Excellent Blog Award, you have to award it to 10 more people whose blogs you find Excellent Award worthy. You can give it to as many people as you want-even those that have received it already, but please award at least 10 people.

I would like to award

1. Swiss Miss whose last post on her 4yr old’s ‘talking’ is worth the award all by itself!

2. Paul who is on the Side of the Angels and should be writing for the Catholic Herald I believe-at the very least  and I recommend clicking on his linked blog to read the novel he is writing.

3. Leigh at Mommy Memoir

4. Kit, By the Brook

5. Antonia who has her quiet little world. I’m not sure I can link to it. But believe me this IS an excellent blog.

6. AutumnRose who manages to make her blog look so good.

7. Annie Under Her Starry Mantle and her beautiful baby.

8. Ebeth who when she is not climbing the pillars has her Hearts at Home

9. Karen The Gem of the Ocean

1o  Mac the Mulier Fortis who has been mentioned before on this blog.

Big Tam, Angelic doctor-Dumb Ox

aquinas1.jpgIt’s the feast day of St Thomas Aquinas today; affectionately known as ‘Big Tam’ he was a man of genius intelligence and great holiness. I was told by a Dominican priest that the saint spent hours before the Tabernacle and would beg God to help him in his writing as he strove to find answers to questions raised about the Faith. It was Aquinas who lead the way in the philosophical understanding of faith and reason.

He loved Our Lord in the Eucharist very much and it was St Thomas who gave us the word ‘transubstantiation’ to explain the Presence that had been taught from the time of the apostles, through the Church Fathers and so on. When the new feast of Corpus Christie was added to the Calender in1264 it was St Thomas who wrote the liturgy for it.

He wrote a great deal-the most famous being the Summa Theologica which I was told was actually written for High School aged children; 14-17yrs old!  I love the Summa, but it could hardly be considered easy reading. It is very clearly set out though.

He was seen speaking with Christ in the crucifix in Church once, where Christ praised him for his writing and asked what he would like in return. “Only You Lord” Thomas replied.

There is a good children’s resource on St Thomas HERE at Domestic Church. As it says there just before he died St Thomas received a vision of heaven. Seeing the fullness of Truth there he said “All I have written is as straw” for no one can fully capture the reality of heaven and the wholeness of God.  Sadly I have seen these words misused by those who wish to attack the Catholic Faith. There is an irony there-the closer this simple Dominican got to God-and he got very close-the more he realised he didn’t know or understand; and yet his critics believe they know so much more than him and can twist his words to mean something they never did.

As a quiet youngster many people had assumed that Thomas was stupid and he had been taunted with the name ‘Dumb Ox’ but his professor in Paris  Albert the Great said of him “This dumb ox will fill the earth with his bellowing.”

At some point I would like to read THE DUMB OX by G.K.Chesterton  and of course I recommend you read it too, but if you happen to be a homeschooling mum with more than enough stuff you are supposed to be reading already, HERE’s a much shorter essay by the wonder Mr. Chesterton. I love the fact that Our Lady appeared to the good saint and reassured him that he would never become a bishop. LOL!

St Thomas Aquinas is our homeschool patron and therefore one of the family saints in our Litany.

Further reading: for those with older children I recommend Peter Kreeft’s Summa of the Summa

In Divine Office today the terce reading for his feast was:

“Brethren, be joyful. Try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor 13:11)

Burn’s Night Supper

robtburns.jpgDespite yesterday being a ‘non-day’ we managed to do a bit about Robert Burns and had a good luck at the poem Ode To A Haggis. Iona and I put a small display up on the wall which included Scott tartans.

We checked out the proper way to do a Burn’s Supper-and promptly ignored nearly all of it.Sr Kath arrived and we welcomed our guest without whiskey. She can proudly claim that the bard is buried in her home town of Dumfries.Thanks to the way the last couple of days had one, we had completely forgotten to  make the trifle! However Iona got Alex to give her his special flapjack recipe and she set about making that instead.

FLAPJACKs8oz soft brown sugar8oz butter

2tbsp of golden syrup or clear honey

12oz Scottish jumbo oats

4 or 5 pieces of stem ginger in syrup-chopped.

Grease an 8″ X 12″ tin or something of a similar size. Chop the ginger and DON’T eat any-it’s a discipline thing.

Put the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan and heat gently until the mixture melts- stir it a little to bring it together. Remove it from the heat and pour in the oats and add ginger. Stir it all together and then pour it into the prepared tin and flatten it out.

It goes in the oven at Gas mark 2/3 (about 150C) for 35/40mins.

Get it out and let it cool a little before cutting and then wait for it to be cold before separating the pieces.

This is a great recipe and not too sweet. Alex has added coconut and/or chocolate at times and Iona has used it as a topping for apple crumble- really lovely.

7762-mmmm-haggis-0_full.jpgHaggis, Neeps and tatties

I boiled the haggis-3 of them to feed 9 of us although the last 3 count as one slightly greedy person.

Peel a pile of spuds and chop them-add them to very lightly salted water and boil.

Chop and peel one and a half turnips and boil.

When the neeps and tatties are cooked, drain and mash them with a bit of butter.

Remove Haggis one at a time from boiling water and place on a plate before a husband (if no husband is available improvise). The husband takes the traditional ceremonial dirk-okay so he takes the kitchen knife- and plunges it into the beastie. At this point someone is supposed to be reciting the Ode to a Haggis, but no one was. Earlier that day Alex had recited the poem in the voice of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets-but the less said about that the better.

Make gravy and serve.

The children love this meal -and it’s easy baby food.

After the ‘supper’ we went and sat around the fire with a cuppa and Sr Kath and a good time was had by all. We didn’t end the evening with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ but Sr Kath was treated to Ronan reading her a story (one of his ORT books) and had the wonders of LazyTown extolled to her.

It was a good night.

Not NICE sex-ed

I’ve been meaning to post about the new book out about the mess Govts have made of the National Curriculum by politicing and dumbing it down. One of the commentators on this blog said he thought this Govt would try and make homeschooling illegal. He’s probably right, but those of us in the UK committed to it will keep going until the last minute.

It was Hitler who made homeschooling illegal in Germany and yet this is a law the present German Govt has not only chosen to keep, but use some pretty scary orwellian tactics to enforce, including putting children in psychiatric institutions if they catch them being homeschooled.

But I digress. This post is about sex-ed. I received an email from my friend Amanda (a fellow homeschooler) with this report:

The National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided
to include home educated children in the scope of guidance being prepared on
behalf of the Department of Health regarding the teaching of PSHE. (The full
title is: ‘School, college and community-based personal, social and health
education focusing on sex and relationships and alcohol education’.)
In its draft scope, issued on 14 September 2007, NICE stated that ‘children
and young people who are educated at home’ would NOT be covered by the
guidance. However, in response to submissions from several bodies (see
below), the final scope now states that children in ‘education other than at
school, including home education and pupil referral units’ WILL be included
in the scope of the guidance – (para 4.1.1).The guidance will be sent to local authorities who will then mediate it to
maintained schools and home educators in their area. (Independent schools
are not covered.) While the guidance will not be statutory and not have the
force of law, it is not difficult to envisage some local authorities using
it to put pressure on home educating parents to deliver a type of sex
education they are not comfortable with, or to insist that all home educated
children attend sessions arranged by the local authority. (It is not unheard
of for local authorities to try to insist on giving ‘puberty talks’ to home
educated children and I fear that this guidance could be used to legitimise
this kind of intrusive approach in some areas.)

There will be further consultation during 2008 and 2009, with the final
guidance due to be issued in September 2009.

For further information and to request registration as a stakeholder,
contact the project co-ordinator, Brian Travis, at<>
Or to register your concerns with NICE, give them a ring on 020 7067 5800
and ask to speak to the person responsible for the guidance on PSHE. It may
be worth pressing the point that neither independent schools nor those
educating their children ‘otherwise’ than at school are bound by the
National Curriculum, yet NICE are proposing to include home educators within
the scope of the guidance. When I mentioned this to the lead official for
the guidance at NICE, she argued that independent schools were at liberty to
download the guidance from the NICE website if they wished. Hardly an
answer, since home educating parents could also download it if they wanted
to do so! The difference is that home educators are included in the
document, while independent schools are not.
Groups who asked for home educated children to be included in the scope of
the guidance were:

British Association for Sexual Health and HIV: ‘The needs of those educated
at home should be considered. The assumption may be that they are not a high
risk group, but this is not known. Can resources be provided for those

Central Lancashire PCT: ‘Why will this not affect children and young people
educated at home?’

East Sussex County Council: ‘The omission of home-educated children is a
concern; this cohort includes some very vulnerable children and young
people. Perhaps guidance could address LEA supervisory/advisory duties for
this cohort, and liaison with home educators’ associations e.g. ‘Education
Otherwise’ could be useful.’

Healthcare Commission: ‘CYP not educated at home may not be covered under
the elements of the guidance which is delivered but perhaps (hopefully) they
will have access to provision through youth, voluntary and community
services. Information for home educators could still be provided through
voluntary networks. Could explain provision for 0-4 is through other
channels and cite (perhaps that’s for the guidance when published!)’

Jo’s Trust: ‘Children and young people educated at home should be covered by
any guidance.’

Sex Education Forum: ‘”Groups not covered”. It is unclear why this document
would not be relevant to children educated at home.’

Perhaps the reason this stuff is irrelevant to homeschooling parents is we take care of our own thanks. We don’t see the need to impose a programme of sex ed on our children that has been used for some considerable time in schools with the result that young people are getting STD’s and unplanned pregnancies at one of the highest rates in Europe. Perhaps when the ‘experts’ can provide some evidence that any of what they push on our children actually does any good- we might consider it.


Having a non-day home ed wise. Ronan has a hospital appt this morning which went really well. His good eye vision remains good. They wont see him now for 9mths and if he continues with good vision in his remaining eye they will discharge him.

Avila is still unwell so she hasn’t gone to nursery today and with all the messing about going on I decided we could have a non-day. So we did a bit about Robert Burns and planned our Burn’s Night Supper and then the little ones were allowed to watch ‘Lady and the Tramp’.

Difficult day

Some days are just difficult. And today was one of those days. My little sunshine girl Heleyna seems to be teething quite badly and getting very LOUD and cross about it. Poor Avila is having a very bad day. Unfortunately when she feels unwell her behaviour becomes quite difficult. She gets irritable, moody, whingy and cries a lot. Now I know this is down to how she is feeling, but I can’t simply let it go at that or she would get into the habit of being pretty horrible to everyone, so she has spent a lot of time on the naughty step and in her room today. She’s had no chocolate biscuit after lunch either.drray.jpg.  Dr Ray would be proud of me eh? LOL!

There are a lot of childhood illnesses and conditions that effect kids behaviour. My friend Val has some behaviours with one of her children she’s finding hard to deal with; he appears to have aspbergers. We have discussed our discipline strategies and agree the temptation to  let them off because they ‘can’t help it’ must be avoided. It does make me feel mean at times when I am telling Avila off, when I know she feels rough, bit she needs to learn to find other ways of coping with how grotty she feels rather than being horrible to those around her.

She gets extra mum-clingy as well, which can make things difficult when I need to feed or otherwise deal with Heleyna; but again, I am quite strict about that.

Despite everything I manged to get some Maths done with Roni, followed by some reading and then he and Avila sat together for their Bible story. We repeated the story of the Quails and Manna in the desert at Roni’s request before going on to tell the story of Moses receiving the 10 Commandments.

Iona got on with her Maths and then we did some more film editing. That went well today. I think we’ve got the hang of it.

Did some more work on the business plan and then I even had chance to read to Iona before she went off to do her personal reading.

Nigel is here now and she is having her math’s lesson.

I’ve dished out loads of Calpol…

Wednesday…real homeschool day.

This winter term has been fairly straight forward, getting both Ronan and Iona back to learning and helping Alex get over some college hurdles. Nothing too painful.

Today I had to do real organised time for homeschool group and Sign Language. Ouch. Felt like I would much rather be hibernating or becoming a hermit somewhere far, far away. Iona rolled her eyes at me and went off to do Maths in her ‘cupboard’. I set about getting everything ready and when Iona had finished her maths for the morning she came and helped me finish off the slow cooker. We called a taxi and as it came quite quickly we got to homeschool group in good time. Sally and Nicki were there with their children and we began a game. The hall was supposed to be decorated over the hols but it is not finished and to be honest…ahem…I am not convinced they have done very much at all. The heating was off so it was pretty cold in there and I couldn’t work out how to work the heating thingy on the wall. Fortunately Julie arrived and she worked it out-so we had heat!

Ruth and Shariska arrived later on. Shariska is suffering a good deal with her pregnancy – not long to go. I am taking over the emailing of the group; now I am not good at this sort of thing-I never remember to send emails, so I’ll have to get organised; Karen and Val don’t have email so I’ll phone them: might remember to do that. I have also said I will update the Teamworks blog on a more regular basis.

Sign Languagethis afternoon: we signed some songs, the weather song from Something Special, ‘It’s Raining it’s Pouring’, ‘The Alphabet Song’ and ‘I can sing a rainbow’. I made up some words to that song for family signs. I am wondering about doing some short films that can be loaded via YouTube to show the signs we are doing if it would help other homeschoolers. Of course this is British Sign Language so it would really only be of use in the UK.

Iona and Alex are getting ready for Scouts tonight.

I’m tired. Good night Tired 

Doctors, Dyslexia and life

I asked the smalls to tidy their room this morning. It looked like a tornado had hit it…hard. They set about the task without help and I have to say they have done a good job. They get the CD player out first and put on some music and then singing and dancing (well Avila dances) they get it all done.

DOCTORS: Called a taxi and took Avila off to the doctors, leaving Heleyna and Ronan with Iona and Josh-Alex had gone to college.

At the docs we went through some of the problems we are having with Avila’s meds and her health and the whole constipation-illness-weight gain etc problems. She has made a new referral to the Paediatric team at the Children’s. I was given a form to phone them with and the appointment is already made for the 20th Feb. I’m quite impressed with how efficient that all was.  It is a general Paediatrician Avila will be seeing to begin with as the doc didn’t think it was right to just refer her to the gastro team straight away.  While I am not particularly looking forward to all that hospt appt backwards and forwards stuff-I am hoping we get some answers for Avila.

DYSLEXIA  Alex gave me the full copy of his Dyslexia assessment today. I am in the process of booking Iona’s IGCSE Maths exam for the Summer and the organisers have kindly offered to see what they can do about Alex’s English results. He got a D and was really disappointed – especially as he worked so hard for it; but as he didn’t get the Dyslexia assessment in time for the exam he did not get the extra time or consideration he needed. I am to send his assessment off and see if anything can be done to help now.

The Assessment is quite thourough; Alex has an IQ of 128 with a verbal IQ 114 and visual of 136. He’s bright! But the assessment also shows he is dyslexic.

Apparently, my teacher friend Julie informs me, dyslexia has been added to the DDA so people can get proper support in the workplace.

Homeschool Monday

f_899113_1.jpgAvila didn’t go to nursery today so we adjusted the day a bit. I have made a doctor’s appt for her for tomorrow. I was hoping I could get her in today, but they are full; Tuesdays are such busy days I was hoping to avoid it-but hey!

Ronan and Avila played upstairs and I left them to it until well after 9am and then decided I just had to do something with Ronan. He did some Maths and Avila sat with us too. They had Bible time together and then Ronan read and Avila sat with us for that too as Ronan read to her. It worked well-better than I had expected. Heleyna was mooching around and was not desruptive either!

Roni wrote some of the key words up on the whiteboard, spelling them himself. He couldn’t write ‘said’ without help because it isn’t phonetic and he couldn’t remember it. We are using a mixed approach to his reading and writing. I can’t use all phonics because a lot of words simply are not phonetic so I am using repetitive and contextual cues for remembering.

Then I took them both to do some colour mixing with the paints. We read Millie the Millipede and then I made a big Millie head which is on the wall. Ronan and Avila were given RED, YELLOW and BLUE only and were able to mix different colours with them. We have made the first bits of Millie’s body-red, yellow and blue and then we will make the mixed colours bits.

Avila was quite enthusiastic with her colours and made a lot of brown!

I’m going to add Spring as part of the display as we go along.

Iona has been busy with Maths and science this morning and then ‘animal husbandary’ or cleaning out Basil the Guinea Pig. She then began her display work for her forensic science project and is now reading. It’s a bit late, but I will read to her later if I get a chance.

Alex has been in and out with his college buddies because they are filming and it seems they need to keep doing it here!!! AAAARRRGH!

Josh has been at work and came home just now to drip all over the house-yes, it’s raining again.

Time to feed Heleyna and watch Peppa Pig with the smalls-well you’ve got to haven’t you Smile 

Children’s Behaviour at Mass

Sr Mary Martha (whom you just gotta love) has written a couple of posts on how to suffer the little children at Mass. It’s a subject that seems to come quite a bit and even the Catholic Herald carried an article on it last week, with letters of response this week.

One of the tips in the Herald was that children do not need entertainment during Mass and don’t sit at the back-sit near the front where they can see what it is happening. Having spent an inordinate amount of time in ‘foyer land’ with the older three when they were young, I have to concur with this advice.

Having said that this Sunday was a bit heavy going. Avila was restless and clingy because she isn’t that well and Ronan was trying to use his new missal and wanting help. When we got home and Alistair said something about Father’s homily I realised I hadn’t heard a word of it!

With the younger three, sitting where they can see has been a great help and their ‘Church bag’ consists of some drawing stuff, a bible and a children’s missal. Now that Avila is 3 and Ronan is nearly 5 we rarely take the drawing stuff-just the bible and missal. They have hardly ever been taken to ‘foyer land’ and I think a lot is because they can see what’s happening and it’s quite interesting.

Crying babies get ‘plugged in’. I breastfeed for silence! Works every time LOL.

Not entertaining the children during Mass has also been a great help, as well as not being so stressed about what they might do. Part of the lack of stress is the way fellow parishioners are about having families at Mass; they are quite chilled and welcoming of children. Partly it’s because I’ve done all this before and learned what works and (the hard way!) what doesn’t.

Some do’s:

Expect good behaviour and encourage an older child to do what everyone else is doing, standing, sitting kneeling, singing etc. Mass is great because there are things to do.

Allow children to see the statues and paintings- these are the tools for explaining the Mass after all.

Make sure they can see what is happening.

Have quiet things for younger ones-books that should be Christ focused not secular, and possibly colouring.

GO to Mass every week. Children like and need routine and they get used to going and taking part.

Teach children some of the basic prayers. Being able to join in with the Hail Mary and Our Father helps and I am starting (at Mass) with Ronan to show him the Kyrie as it’s simple.

Take them out if you need to and discipline as you see fit.


Expect bad behaviour and spend all of Mass trying to tackle it when it hasn’t begun; I used to be a wreck after doing that!

Take loads of entertainment to Mass and certainly don’t take noisy toys.

Skip Mass because you’re afraid of what might happen.

be too concerned about the tutting and sighing from those who ought to offer to help as you grapple with the twin babies and manhandle the toddler who was eating the hymn book while the 4yr old is singing Old MacDonald on top of his voice. Occasionally these things just happen.

take them out to ‘foyer land’ or some churches have a crying room and let them have fun playing loudly while you gossip with the others in the same predicament. I’ve done this in the past and it simply reinforces bad behaviour in Church because they know they’ll get taken out to play.

One thing I do recommend is daily Mass. I find the short and very quiet Masses are great training ground for the children as they learn to be still in Mass.

I think it can be hard on parents these days because so many adults are so loud and silly before and after Mass. In the weekday people are praying before Mass and so it’s less of a distraction for the little ones.

After Mass Ronan and Avila rush off to the vestry to meet up with Josh and Alex and they get to help clear up. It is a treat they love and something I can deny them if their behaviour is bad.

Business Plan: Sweet Shop

avilas-birthday-n-others-029.jpgAs one of the major components of her  portfolio Iona and I are putting together a business plan for an old fashioned sweet shop. The photo shows the intricate work Iona put into a chocolate village she made for Christmas. She is a good cook and we had a go at tablet and fudge as well as making chocolate truffles as gifts. A sweet shop would be just the thing for us.

So today we began the brainstorming session on how we would set out the business plan. I think it is actually going to be quite a challenging project-but it should look very good in her portfolio.

And who knows, maybe we will open an old fashioned sweet shop some day.

Learning patience…honestly I am.

   Sewing Machine I bought Iona a sewing machine for Christmas.   After all you are not a proper homeschool family until there is a sewing machine. Teethy
As there is no homeschool group until the end of the month we had yesterday morning free to get the machine set up and let Iona have a practice. TWO HOURS later I was sill struggling to get the bobbin thread to be picked up!Pulling My Hair OutWe had to put the bloomin’ thing away then and get sorted for lunch and for the kids arriving to do Sign Language.

Sign Language The group mix is very broad with the younger ones being 3yrs old and the older ones 9yrs old. We are not doing baby sign, but I think I might do some basics as the babies get a bit older.

In order to make a lesson suit all the age groups I have decided to stick to songs for the time being. This means the children can pick up basic vocab. They are not learning BSL grammar as yet, but I might do that by separating the children into different groups later on; the older ones or those who have really picked up the vocab can then learn some real BSL.

Meanwhile we are learning songs; Old MacDonalds-which covers animal signs; The Weather’s Always Changing and I Can See A Rainbow; the alphabet song and so on.

Then I tell a short story and sign at the same time; this is SSE (Signed Supported English) rather than BSL but it is still a good way to familiarise the children with the language.

Val and Karen left then; Val has kids in school to collect and Karen had a piano lesson to get her children to.

Ruth stayed and the kids played.

Plans: Karen has kindly offered the chance to take the children horse riding again as the weather improves. She also has the equipment to let the children go bug hunting around her meadow lands. Iona and Karen’s children are also keen on camping once summer gets going.

I have invited everyone to the theatre to see Josh in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. It is on from the 8th to the 12th April.

I still can’t drive-another way in which I am learning patience- so some of these plans could prove difficult. Hopefully the DVLA will agree to me having a licence for the car soon. (It’s a long and tedious story about being a crip) Or perhaps Josh will be able to drive by then and I can employ him as the family chauffeur LOL!

This morning while Iona was working and I had done an hour or so with Ronan I went back to the sewing machine and STILL that bobbin defeated me! Our neighbour Eileen popped over with bits of material for Iona to practice with and when she came back later this afternoon I asked if she could have a go. She sat down at two minutes later the bobbin was in and the thread was pulled up!!!

How a day goes.

Avila loves the pink nuns because they wear pink. I noticed they have provided a schedule that starts at 5:15am! Ours doesn’t-but here’s a typical kind of day:

7ish Heleyna wakes for a feed. Al is up and getting ready for work and he brings me a coffee. He is indeed aKnight .

7:40am – Alex, Iona, Ronan and Avila join Heleyna and me on the bed and we say a decade of the rosary a short litany of saints and have a quick overview of the day. Then everyone gets moving.

8-9am I am doing house hold tasks; kitchen, washing etc while the biggies are getting dressed and having breakfast. Iona helps Heleyna have breakfast and I help Avila get dressed. Iona starts Maths around 8:30 and I get Heleyna dressed unless one of the boys is around to do that for me.

9am Ronan will either do Maths or piano.

9:30 Avila goes to nursery on Mon, Tues, Fri

Ronan has lessons; reading, Latin, Bible story and so on. Each lesson is quite short; 15mins at most as Charlotte Mason recommends. He is learning to concentrate as time goes on and picks up information quickly.

Ronan then has time to play or work while I work with Iona on English, history, science etc. depending on her timetable. She can then work independantly so I can go back to Ronan.

12.00 Avila is collected from nursery-usually by one of the boys while Iona and I get lunch sorted.

1.00 The afternoon is for craft, cooking, reading etc.  There is also discussion time where we plan future ideas or go over things I think she needs to know. At the moment we are using it to look at the Dorothy Sayers book The Mind of the Maker and for the prelims of the business project we will be doing on how to set up a sweet shop.

2.15ish pm I read to Iona

3pm; school is officially finished. Tidy up time and phone calls etc time.

4pm the little ones get TV time if they want it. I do household stuff and the biggies are up to whatever they like

5pm start cooking andkitchen stuff. Now I know some of you will think why does it take so long to cook the tea? But remember Heleyna is not taking care of herself -she is little miss interrupter.

6:10 ish Al gets home and we have tea as a family; discuss the day etc.This is an important part of what I see as the home ed ‘atmosphere’ that Charlotte talks about. The children learn table manners, turn taking and how everyone is allowed to speak and is worth listening to. Heleyna tries to take a turn too Baby Smiley sometimes quite loudly!

7pm story time with the little ‘uns. It’s usually with me but sometimes they will ask one of the biggies to read to them.

7:30pm Dad takes the little ones to bed and does prayers with them. I stay down with the biggies and we get time to chill and chat. Sometimes we watch TV or a DVD or Alex might be playing some kind vid game with Josh.

When Al comes down we have family time and then it’s bed time.

Not quite pink nuns kinda life-but we love it.


seasons and colours

51sj2tiwitl__aa240_.jpgAuntie Sheena sent Millie the Millipede as a lovely Christmas pressie for the little ones. It’s a great way to learn about colour mixing. As we have taken down the Jesse Tree and other Christmas stuff from the wall now I thought the next display work Ronan could do-and something Avila could join in with-would be seasons and colours. He has learned the basics of seasons with me and this would be a fun activity fitting colours to seasons and making a big colour mix millipede for the middle of the display.

We will use the primary colours; red, yellow, blue with black and white. Millie the Millipede has a circle on each of her segments that allows colour to show through so we can make the segments and stick them together as we go along and as the children learn to mix colours.

Science resources

I’ve added Cosmos4kids into the science section on my side bar. It’s one of a group of resources covering chemistry, biology, physics, earth sciences and now even maths. Scroll down to the bottom and you can click on any of these areas. I used chem4kids quite a bit with Iona when we first started science.

Help me understand…why do you homeschool?

Leigh asks on her Mommy Memoir for help in understanding what makes a Catholic mum homeschool her children. Please read her full post on the link, but here’s a short quote:

“So, I’m asking you blogging, Catholic SAHMs to provide me with insight as to what you perceive to be the benefits/downsides of homeschooling your children. And I guess the burning question is why you are not supportive of traditional, parish-based Catholic schooling? After all, Catholic education is still considered by many to be the gold standard. Why has it seemed to lose it’s appeal with so many of you?”

Homeschooling was never something I wanted to do. In fact even when I started doing it I didn’t really want to. Let me explain:

My older three children went to the local Catholic primary school. We moved house and I moved the two remaining in primary to the new local Catholic primary school. The new school was ten times better than the old one with a wonderful headmaster and committed good Catholic teachers. Meanwhile my oldest son Josh had started at a Catholic comprehensive school nearby that had a good reputation. He stayed there despite the many problems we faced with the school until he finished his A’levels (I think that’s the equivalent of High School Certs yrs 12/13). It was incredibly wearing having to correct a lot of what he was learning and by the end the standards were so poor we had to get a friend to help tutor him through his A’levels.

Meanwhile Alex my second child who has dyslexia had started the same school. The standard of education he received was simply appalling. It was made worse by the constant and serious bullying that the school seemed completely incapable of dealing with. In the end I was forced to pull him out of school and homeschool him.

The decision took me a long time.

I had met a couple of Catholic families who home educated their children and had done so right from the start. They were strong advocates of the process and from them I borrowed books or simply talked with them. I also met another homeschooling family near by who had pulled their older children from school; they were a disaster and NOT an advert for home education at all.

I read books; Laura Berquist, Kimberley Hahn and a whole load of other stuff before finally pulling Alex out of school. NOTHING I had read prepared me for what I faced. My 14 yr old son could barely read. He was bitter, angry and closed to learning. I spent the next two years undoing the damage. The books I had read, quite frankly, were no help, but fellow homeschoolers were. I was fortunate to join an excellent homeschool group and although most had younger children, many had been burned by the dreadful standards of education here in the UK-and we shared ideas and resources (and still do).

Alex has done well. He is now in college and has a job. He reads to a high standard appropriate for his age and has overcome the difficulties being dyslexic has put on him. In less than two years he went from reluctantly reading Spiderman comics (at 14) to reading Lord of the Rings, The Scarlet Pimpernel and sitting the International-GCSE in English. He has a full portfolio of work with references from tutors and the Local Authority inspector. (As a side note the main instigator of the bullying stabbed the caretaker and ended in a YOI.)

I decided to pull Iona out of school when things started to go wrong right from the moment she went to secondary school. To be honest I couldn’t face the fights, the letters, the meetings. Then a teacher pulled her out and made her write words on the board in front of everyone to mock her for her spelling and that was it. I had her home. She is more dyslexic than Alex and I did not want her put off learning the way he was. It was the right decision. She loves learning and has many interests and skills. She will sit her Maths IGCSE this summer; 2yrs early and I am ensuring she reads a lot-something not done in school.

My younger three will all be homeschooled. There are a number of reasons for this.

The standard of education in this country is poor and not getting any better. Unfortunately our Catholic schools are tied into Govt funding and are therefore obliged to teach the badly written national curriculum. Increasingly they are also obliged to provide sex education that is both unsuitable and lacking in modesty or even sense. They are NOT taught the sanctity of marriage nor even the Catholic faith properly.

My 4yr old did start school briefly. It was awful. What is the point in it when I can teach him at home at his pace and have him grow up as part of a supportive community of fellow home educated children? Our homeschool group is made up a mixture of families; Catholic, Anglican, other Christians, Muslim and occasionally secular families have joined us.

Downside: I think the biggest downside is other people’s attitude to be honest. Few people are like Leigh and ask with a real intent to find out why we home ed. They simply judge-and with NO knowledge or information judge negatively. It is not mainstream so it must be wrong. When we homeschooling mums sit together it’s the BIGGEST problem we face. Mind you many of those who were rude and/or negative towards us a couple of years ago have changed their minds-including the maths tutor who constantly talks about ways to pull his step kids out of school. Happy 

The other big problem with homeschooling is that is such hard work, and it’s a huge responsibility. None of us could do it without a great deal of prayer; I really don’t know how non-believers do it at all.

Despite what Kimberley Hahn wrote in her book, homeschooling is not as cheap as all that; especially not here in the UK. Paying for tutors, exams and resources is very difficult at times and does limit what we can offer the children.

Upside My older children have blossomed at home and had the opportunity to learn things and do things school simply doesn’t allow for. They have been allowed to spend time on areas of history, science or art that truly interest them. Alex has learned to use Photoshop so well that one of his tutors at college has noticed him and offered to give him extra tuition on the side for his artwork. They are learning Latin and Sign Language (schools don’t provide this) and have time to read good books; why schools don’t do this is beyond me.

They have spent a  lot of time with a good mixture of people of all ages and this includes children with various learning disabilities including aspbergers. This increases their social skills and emotional maturity in a way being stuck with 30 kids the same age could never do. They are not stuck in a classroom all day, but get to out for walks and we even take the lessons out to the park with a picnic in the summer. Okay, winter tends to be more a home thing, but there is still family trips out and homeschool group.

My children can learn what is good. I will not have spend time correcting erroneous history, science and worse still RE statements made by teachers who seem not to know or care about the subject they are teaching.

Each child can learn at their own pace; which means Ronan who is very bright can get on with things, while Iona who struggles with her writing and spelling is not crushed by a ‘system’ that does not allow for that.

Time is something Iona talks about. She has time compared to her friends. She never misses Scouts because she has too much homework. Her evenings are for family time not sitting in her room at a desk like her friends. Weekends are for family trips out or seeing friends etc. not catching up on homework.

Finally-I think I’ve gone on long enough- I have realised from the research and experience I now have that home educated children do better both in social skills, faith and academia. Some children probably do very well in school and parents have a “right and duty” to decided what is best for their children. For my children home education is best and they are doing very well with it. As schools in the UK fail our children more and more-and universities have set up basic skills courses for undergraduates because the academic standard of students is so low, more and more parents are choosing to homeschool. There was a time when education here was way ahead of anything offered in the USA; those days are long gone.

Leigh-there’s loads more I could say on this subject, which is close to my heart Smile but I’ll end there. Please feel free to ask more questions and God bless.


Survived the first week of homeschooling this year

I’ve had quite a few phone conversations over the last couple of weeks with the other mums in our homeschool group-about new ideas, curriculum, books, tutors…you name it, we’ve discussed it.

I’ve organised the thank you letter writing and making. This time Ronan has wanted to have a go and with a little help has written two short letters.

My ‘brain book’ for 2008 is an A4 desk diary page per day. All the lesson notes, my jobs and important info is in here. It will be useful for when the Local Authority man comes over. He is a lovely (though very talkative) man who fully supports home education as a viable choice. He has a deep knowledge of schools you see.

Ronan has continued with the Linney’s Latin and I am trying a similar approach in teaching him Spanish. Just a phrase or a couple of words a day. This seems to be working and he is retaining his interest.

He is reading well with the Oxford Reading using phonetic cues and using the Magic Key website to add to this including his understanding of sentence structure. His letter formation is improving quite quickly. I am keeping ‘formal’ lessons short and there is still plenty of story time and play time.

Music:I have not done any piano at all with Roni this week, but we have read a lovely children’s story about Mozart. Now that Alex is at college and work such a lot we don’t seem to have Classic FM on all the time-so I think I need to either reintroduce that or get Roni to listen to some good CDs on his personal CD player. He uses it for some stories.

21q05c369vl__aa115_.jpgScripture and Catechism. I am using the Hamlyn Children’s Bible with Ronan either his dad’s or mine (which being the Catholic version has Maccabees). The language is a little harder than modern children’s Bible’s but at least I don’t worry about  weird interpretations and twaddle in the re-write. I also use the Children’s Picture Bible for those shorter story times or when Avila is joining in. Both are well illustrated-the Hamlyn higher quality but a Danish looking Jesus which is a bit irritating, while the smaller one has illustrations that actually give attention to historical detail.

I have started the Baltimore Catechism with Roni because he asked me “Why did God make me?”  Too Funny .

Iona has her own Ignatius Bible (RSV-CE) and I have the whole set of the Navarre Bibles (RSV-CE). We are studying the Gospel of Luke as it is Yr C. Ronan joins in for this.

RE. For the rest of Iona’s religious ed we have started “The Mind of the Maker” by Dorothy Sayers and with some of the great programmes with Dr Alice von Hildebrand we have discussed natural law.

Science Iona is using her Aplogia modules-(although she was stuck for today’s experiment because I have no red cabbage) and continuing her poisonous plants work as well as the forensic project which is to be this terms big wall project. Yesterday we had a look at forensic entomology and learned some fascinating but utterly gross facts. The people who do this work are to be admired for their ability to solve crime with blow fly maggots and other critters, but I have said NO PHOTOs on the wall display!

I’ll leave it at that for now.

Pro-Life Witness

26th January 08

at 3pm

The John Radcliffe Hospital, outside

St Anthony of Paduababythumb.jpg Church Oxford

Please come and meet at Headley Way Headington for a peacful witness for the unborn children. There is refreshment in the hall afterwards.

For those who cannot attend please add your prayers for those who are there, and for the babies killed and their parents.

Amanda Lewin, a friend and fellow homeschooling mum does a great deal to coordinate this. Thank God for her and all who join her.


This is Heleyna Miriam at 12 weeks.

Also may I invite you to a weekly Eucharisitc Adoration at SS Joseph and Helen Station Rd Kings Norton Birmingham at 7pm to pray for the pro-life cause and all those who are so hurt by the abortion industry.

Narration and a rabbit trial: Iona

n238380.jpgNarration is at the core of Charlotte Mason’s approach to education. The child reads and is able to talk about what he has read. When working with a child who is as dyslexic as my daughter narration shows they have read and understood what is said. Sometimes, this can prove difficult.

However this morning Iona, having spent some time reading on her own came to tell me all about the book she is reading. For her birthday I bought her ‘Airman’ by Eion Colfer-at her request. She has decided to put Poldark aside to read this and then go back to the Poldark books to which I have added ‘Bella’ the last of the series which Graham wrote not long before he died.

Iona explained the story and how she saw similarities between it and the ‘Count of Monte Christo’. She talked about the history in the book and the boy Conor’s understanding of flight. She explained about his friendship with princess Isabella and how there is a plot against her father. Although she could see the historical research that had gone into the book it was difficult to place it properly-so Iona went off to the computer and began to look things up! Now that is a homeschool moment!

She discovered that the Saltees had been a place for pirates at one time-something she has studied in depth and that they did indeed have a ‘prince’. A man called Michael O’Neil had bought the big island in 1943 and had himself crowned ‘prince of the Saltees’. Don’t think it went down too well with the locals.

Colfer mentions that the Saltees had been handed over the ‘royal family’ by Henry II of England and it is indeed true that Henry handed the county of Wexford to Strongbow in 1147.

You can read a review of the book HERE which also picks up on the Monte Christo aspects-but I think this is Colfer playing on the history of Wexford and the Saltees and the name of Hervey de Montemorency.

I feel this was a Charlotte moment as Iona went off on a little rabbit trail looking for the background to her book.

Key words for Iona

Iona is dyslexic. It has been an uphill struggle getting her reading and writing to any standard, but she is now doing quite well-except for her appalling spelling. Now, like many homeschooling mums I am tackling her word recognition and spelling by getting her to read more and more. But her inability to spell key words is a problem and one that even the excellent SEN at her primary school was unable to sort out.

My plan for her future is that she will either get her dyslexia assessment in college as Alex has done or we will have to find the money to pay for one earlier. In the meantime I still have to come up with ways to help her. There are the online games I mentioned before which teach spelling-and I do want her to do 10mins a day on that, but I have also decided she can teach Ronan to read.

The Oxford Reading Tree builds up key words for children as they go along. If she is helping him read then she gets a repetitive exposure to those words; at least that’s my theory. If she is teaching Ronan to read then she could help herself with the spelling. Well, it’s worth a try and she is good with him-so let’s see what happens.

Term starts…

We started term yesterday and it’s proving a bit challenging. Pulling My Hair Out I had hoped for a gentle and smooth beginning, but yesterday was a day of howling Heleyna-who is cutting 4 teeth in one go. The media session with Iona in which we were trying to edit her homeschool film seemed to be much more complicated and difficult than I had envisioned -and I am sure she didn’t get nearly as much work done as I would have liked. When it came to reading time we were constantly interrupted; frankly it was beginning to look like school around here (but no one got sworn at or had their head flushed down the toilet….yet!)

Ronan is getting back into the swing of things quite easily. He has a Maths book with stars he can earn.

51p0-q9pebl__aa240_.jpgThis is the book. There is a whole series of them we can gradually buy taking him up to the end of KS3. I am still using the Rainforest website to assist him as well.

We are working our way through the children’s Bible doing a short story each day, and he is doing some penmanship each day-and I can already see an improvement in his letter formation.

Linney’s Latin is also going well. He can already tell his dad in the evening’s that he is a sailor and a farmer. The lessons are interspersed with famous Latin sayings; ‘cogito ergo sum’ was yesterday’s and we added Josh’s favourite phrase (he has a dark sense of humour) ‘cogito ergo doleo’ -I think therefore I am depressed.

I’m continuing the Charlotte Mason geography book with him.

Iona is getting on with her IGCSE maths work and I introduced the first of the Plutarch’s lives I wanted to do with her today. We looked at Lycurgus the Lawgiver. I gave her a notebooking page to write her thoughts on-but it didn’t go very well. I think I am going to have to work quite hard to get her to understand the reason we are doing this. I am thinking she needs to put as much thought and effort into those areas of work she is not quite as interested in as the ones she is. I have an eye to her portfolio.

Her science work is looking good, and her history and storywork is excellent; but I would like to see that standard across the board.