Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Summer Homeschooling Days

"A pinch and a punch for the first of the month", that little rhyme surfaced in my thoughts this morning for some reason - it hasn't since childhood - but today it did lol. So a very happy first of July to you all!

Summer is a short season in England, but I know that it is even shorter in the Nordic countries so I feel grateful for each and every glorious summers days we have. In March I made a little 'list' book for my Midori Travellers Notebook. I wanted to have a 'summer bucket list' as well as a little place to record the fun things that we actually get to do over the summer. One of those things was to 'picnic, picnic and picnic some more' :) and with this glorious weather we are having I'm taking advantage. 

Now I don't believe that every picnic you have has to be this hugely thought out and labor intensive activity. It can, and should, sometimes be spontaneous.

I don't think you have to load up the car and travel to the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic, it can happen in your own garden, and that's what we decided to do today.

While I put together a plate of food each (yummy left-overs from last night) one of the girls laid out the picnic blanket and the other organised us each a nice cold glass of water. We sat in the shade of the magnolia tree and enjoyed watching the insects buzz about and a gentle breeze brought a bit of welcome relief from the heat.

Of course there is something about all relaxing outdoors that brings out the spontaneous need to frolic about a bit in all of us :)

We then lay back on the picnic blanket at enjoyed our read aloud time together. 

I love these summer homeschooling days :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Trip To Devon

The promised heatwave has hit England bang on time :). Today is just glorious, 28 degrees C already, set to rise a little more AND it's here for the week.

I'm really not a person who likes hot weather but so far it is comfortable and I'm loving the fact that my washing is drying so quickly!

All the double poppies are in bloom at the moment and it looks stunning! I'm savoring each day they are in bloom and not really looking forward to having to clear the bed after they are done. It always seems a bit sad to be left with bare earth after such a display.

The apples are coming along nicely, so-many-apples! I'm hoping to be able to harvest some in August before we leave. I opened our last jar of homemade chutney last week and really want to make some more before we move. BTW, this last jar of chutney is just the best! Chutney definitely needs time to mature and improve. 

Now you may have noticed that I have not been posting a huge amount over the past little while, that's because we were in Devon last week finding a house. Oh my - I have to say it was a little stressful. At one point I didn't think that we would be coming home with a home secured at all. 

We had quite a few house to see. The first one turned out to have been completely misrepresented on the photographs the second was just in an area that was too built up for us and the third, fourth and fifth houses were lovely but all in teeny tiny villages down teeny tiny country lanes that I had no idea existed any more! Honestly - that little quaint England really does still exist - just like you see in the Jacquie Lawson e-cards. It's there people - in Devon!!
Note how narrow the lane is please, enough room for ONE car. Our side mirrors were touching the hedgerows on some lanes - eeeep! Every so often there are little 'laybys' so that you can pull over and let oncoming cars pass, or vice-versa. On one lane we had to reverse for about half a mile to let an oncoming car pass. Our nerves were shot by the end of day 1!

A spacious (by comparison to some) Devon country lane
So although at least one of the houses was definitely 'our kind of house', I was really concerned about the daily commute into Plymouth for DH. More than concerned for what it would be like in the winter in icy conditions let alone if we should have a snowfall, and quite frankly with two teen daughters we need to have quick easy access to places where they can get involved in activities and meet up with friends.

So at the end of day one we were very disheartened. Day two only had one house on the list and being in low spirits we were not optimistic that this would be the one. Monday night I sought comfort in God's Word and the daily reading on my Bible Reading App was taken from Joshua. God encourages Joshua to not be discouraged because God was with him and would lead and guide him. I took great comfort in that passage of scripture and my spirits were somewhat restored.
Picture from
The house we were to see on Tuesday was in a small town called Ivybridge (only has a population of 11 000) that we had earmarked as our 'favorite place to live' on our first trip down. It has great {safe} commuter links into Plymouth (only a 15 minute drive with no traffic), fab churches with strong youth groups, lots of local community activities to get involved in and it is set right on the very edge of the Dartmoor National Park.

It has the cutest little town centre which still has an active high street.

Surrounds to die for...

and the most gorgeous garden centre just out of the town (like 4 minutes away) that I am going to spend ALOT of time at :)

Anyhoo, back to the house ... it is more suburban than what we have now and the grounds mercifully are way WAY smaller. It has a beautiful, well maintained and established garden with raised beds for my veggies!! 4 Bedrooms, more compact which is fine as we will save on heating bills, and no conservatory :( BUT... it has a stunning little summerhouse :). And if things just couldn't get any better, the house happens to be across the road from the Dartmoor National Park so plenty of scope for our nature walks.

Now here's the cherry on the cake - I love when God does things like this - the owner of the house, who we met and got on with like a house on fire, is a Methodist minister and is moving to her new parish in Cornwall, hence the reason for them letting it out. There's no way you can say that God does not have His hand in every little detail of our lives - love it!

Only downside is that Devon apparently does not get as much snow as we do further north except in 'Big Freeze' conditions. So I guess I'd better start praying for a few of those over the next few years lol.

Well that about wraps up today's post. Hope you are all having a lovely summery day - see you back here very soon.

PS - don't forget to Like my blogs page for extra tidbits and updates.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Shaking Up our Homeschool

Today I closed my 2014/2015 homeschool planner for the last time. Every single page has been filled up with lesson plans, activities and notes on what we have covered over the past year. 

Goodbye Old Planner
We have not quite finished with our learning yet, in fact we still have about three weeks to go. But this planner only runs until June. Next week I open my new planner for the next school year. There is something in finishing with one planner and starting a new that causes me to reflect and then look forward. 

In reflecting over this past academic year I realise that although we have forged ahead on the academics and book work, a certain joy seems to have left our learning. It breaks my heart because we have never been 'all about the books'. Yet this year we have slipped into that rather monotonous routine and it is something that I have to change. 
Hello New Planner
After much reflection, prayer, discussions with DH and quizzing my girls on how they are enjoying their learning, I know that we need to continue with our curriculum as it does give the girls that school leavers certificate. But - I'm shaking things up from September. I have one year left with DD1 before she graduates homeschool and only 3 left with DD2 so I want to make every precious minute count.

So, the 'Shaking-it-up' plans are:

1) Reinstate our Nature Studies

This precious memory-making part of our homeschooling has fallen by the wayside. It is so SO easy to let these less academic (but in my opinion equally important) subjects slip. We have been sporadic at best in this area. Nature observation still happens but not with the purpose that we once had. Just taking a weekly walk together, chatting along the way, was great for relationships and good for the soul and body to be outdoors in all weather.

I have created a few forms to customise my new homeschool planner, one of those is a detailed nature planning sheet, one for each month of the year. I think that we may follow the Ambleside Online nature schedule for the 2015/2016 school year.

2) Fun Friday

Friday's have traditionally been reserved for nature study, art etc in our home. We have maintained the art every 2nd week as up to now we have gone across to Manchester for art lessons with a tutor with some dear friends of ours. The alternate Friday's have unfortunately been all about the books. With our move down to Devon happening over the summer our art lessons have now come to an end, so I have decided to re-dedicate each and every Friday as a 'Fun Friday'

Friday's will still start with our Bible devotion time followed by English and Maths. We will then do our nature walk and study followed by spending a bit of time working in our nature journals. After we have finished that we will work on an activity together that will fall into the Life Skills and Enrichment area. As you can see from the picture above I have stuck in a yearly planning overview sheet of seasonal activities etc that I want to cover. This is still very much in the planning stage and I have only jotted down a few ideas for October so far.

So we might cover home economics practicals on this day, work on a science project together, go on a field trip such as visiting an art gallery, museum or NT property. There are so many options. I plan on visiting a Pick-Your-Own farm in October so that we can pick out a pumpkin or two. We can then spend the following Friday in the kitchen making a few autumnal pumpkin inspired dishes. That's the kind of thing I had in mind.

3) Learning Together

By using the A.C.E curriculum in our home, it does mean that there is no together learning at all. The girls work at their independent levels at their own pace. I have very little input unless they get stuck and need help. I do mark all the work so that I know what is going on but  really - I have been missing our learning together. This was one of the things that I knew had to change without us having to ditch the whole curriculum.

I've had a good look at how we can include more together learning within this rather structured framework and have surprisingly found quite a few ways to tweak the curriculum to suit our home learning.

Both girls have chosen to do Home Economics as an elective, so I thought that this would be a great subject to do together rather than individually. We will  have a time each day that is set aside for this subject. We will follow the course and do our discussions, projects and practicals together.

The other requirement that the girls need to meet is to complete a science project and submit a report on the process and their findings to the examination board. The project that has peaked their interest is one on birds, so we will do this together. They will be completely responsible for deciding how they are going to set up the experiment, who will be responsible for what, how they will track the data etc and then they will each have to put together a report to submit. I will be there to oversee and offer guidance if they get stuck. I'm personally quite excited about this project and have pencilled it in over the winter when birds are hungry and reliant on our feeders.

I will scan through what each child is covering in Science, Social studies and Literature during the year and plan in field trips that support their academics.

Seasonal Learning - I naturally weave this into our home but this year I want to be more purposeful in this and include the girls in planning some fun seasonal things to do. I will also bring in seasonal poetry and art works to appreciate throughout the year. I'm thinking that we could have a weekly afternoon cream tea where our music and art appreciation and poetry lessons can happen. It sounds so genteel - I think it could be a hit. 

Homeschooling really is a journey. Every-Single-Year I re-evaluate, change things, panic a bit, pray allot, change a few more things, talk about it, journal about it - you get the picture - until I finally have a clear idea of the way forward. This year is no different, just to get to this place of having a plan to move forward with has been emotional and at times filled with angst. But - as always - I have come through it with a 'road map' of the next year.

Now for the fun part. I get to fill in my year-at-a-glance Fun Friday sheets. I get to think and ponder on what areas I want to cover in our nature studies. Which artists and musicians will be visiting us this next year. Which galleries, museums and historical buildings are we going to visit. Finding out if there are any local Devon customs and festivals, events etc that go on. Like I said - all the fun planning :)

Well, that's about it from me today. I hope you all have a super weekend and I shall see you back here next week :) 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beautiful June

Hmmmm, this year I have not touched a thing in the garden - apart from the weeds and transplanting a few strawberry plants into pots, and what do you suppose is happening? 

Well, the garden is thriving! Honestly I think this could be a lesson in not to be over zealous in pruning. My apple trees branches are absolutely laden with young fruit...

The rose bushes are the same... please excuse the one dead-head - must go and snip it off after I've finished this post :)

my strawberries have got a nice bunch of berries developing...

and the poppy seeds that I casually shook over the beds last autumn are prolific and should bloom in the next two weeks or so.

Already the ones along the front of the house are splitting their safe little green nests :)

I just LOVE this month. The garden really seems to come into it's own at this time. Someone else is loving the warmer days too...


Is that a bird I hear? Yummmm

Better first check to see if anyone is watching...

Yip! Better not try it!!

A few blooms from the garden...

I'm loving my Irises at the mo.

Yellow and Pink - so pretty together.


and poppies...

... of all kinds.

I love this Victorian Cross poppy (I think that's what they were called) that was brought out last year for the WW1 centenary

I'm loving this little bed just below my bedroom window. It's so pretty. Those little white flowers become masses of orange berries in the autumn. The blackbirds love them and I often see and hear them gathering the fruit in the fall. 
**SIGH** I do love this month! Don't you?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Yarn Along

Joining Ginny for this weeks Yarn Along

Off The Needles: My Hermione's Everyday socks are finally finished! I'm really quite pleased that I finished the pair in good time and that second-sock syndrome did not strike! I really love the feel of this Cascade Heritage sock yarn. I am definitely going to buy some more and get some more socks knitted for winter.

On The Needles: Another pair of socks :). I'm using Cascade yarns again but one of their Heritage Prints range. I love how the yarn self stripes. I've called these socks, 'Remembering Sunny Days Socks'. In the cooler days of autumn and darker days of winter, they will be a cheery reminder of the summer. I'm using the Hermione's Everyday Sock pattern again but this time I'm knitting it in plain stockinette stitch.

Reading: I've pulled out my copy of 1001 Natural Remedies. I'm feeling the need to give our lives a bit of a detox. This book covers many areas of health and home cleaning, but I'm also on the look out for books that embrace whole-food, clean-food eating. Although our diet is quite good (we eat whole foods and cook from scratch) there is always room for improvement. I'm wanting to cut meat out more and include more veggie meals. This process always requires a good bit of research and almost learning new ways of cooking or approaching food. It's so easy to just do what we always do, but to embrace something different takes a bit of self-education :)