Tuesday, 21 January 2020

A new favourite author of ours - Elizabeth George Speare

We decided on a Charlotte Mason approach to home education when we embarked on this journey, and draw heavily on the Ambleside Online curriculum. We've done years 1-5 with our eldest, and what's been an interesting by-product has been the discovery of some hitherto unknown (to us) authors.

As I've been reflecting on this, I think the simple reason is that been compiled in America and reflects cherished American children's literature - some of which is well known on this side of the Atlantic, but some of it isn't.

One author we discovered for ourselves in Year 4 was Elizabeth George Speare, who started to publish historical children's books in America from the 1950s. She won two Newbery Medals for her work and so far we've read three of her books.

Calico Captive was the book that got us hooked. It's based on the true story of an English pioneer family in 1754 who get captured by Native Americans and traded to the French in New France.

This was a historical period I was less familiar with (over 100 years before the Little House series), and as a result I was inspired to read for myself some (short) histories of Canada and America to understand the context better.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond was the next title we enjoyed, set a century earlier in a puritan Connecticut settlement in 1687. The heroine, Kit, encounters small-mindedness and prejudice in this small community and sets out to make a positive difference. Despite the title this is not a spooky book!

Our third title of hers is The Bronze Bow, based around the struggle for Jewish independence from the Romans around the time of Jesus. It's fitted in well with our Roman studies, especially the perspective of an occupied people.

Trying to sum up what it is about Elizabeth George Speare's books that really grabbed us, a few things stand out:
  • Interesting historical periods
  • Great writing and plots
  • Female lead characters (esp. in Calico Captive and the Witch of Blackbird Pond)
  • Clever comparison between cultures and belief systems
Eden (10) says:
"Elizabeth George Speare is a very good writer because she writes good stories with  strong female leads. Her stories are historically accurate and fun at the same time."
We didn't find the stories all resolved as we might have quite expected, which was a good discussion point! Either way, they have lingered with us more so than other books we've read, which is why we wanted to highlight them to you. We're looking forward to reading The Sign of the Beaver together later this year too.


We'd love to hear your experience of "discovering" new authors as you've home educated your tribe and what books have most resonated in your families. Please drop us a note in the comments below or on any of our platforms!

#charlottemason #ambleside #CalicoCaptive #BronzeBow #WitchofBlackbirdPond

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Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed our post. Some small print on our recommendations is in this post.

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Monday, 20 January 2020

Season 6, Episode 12

In this episode we're on location with the chicken breeder where we plan to get our chickens from, we do some chicken impressions and then share what we're excited about for our upcoming trip to Florida.

Please listen in, and if you have a moment to leave a nice review and rating of the show (wherever you listen) we would really appreciate it! 

Resources we mentioned include the 13 Storey Treehouse series

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Subscription links are all at the side, alternatively you can listen directly below.


Please enjoy and we'd love to hear from you! You can email us at homeedmatters@gmail.com or message/comment below or on any of our platforms.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Season 6, Episode 11

As we embark on a new decade, on a wet and windy January day we talk about the new channels we've launched and connections we've made with listeners, as well as our usual activities, read-alouds and learning since the start of the year.

Please listen in, and if you have a moment to leave a nice review and rating of the show (wherever you listen) we would really appreciate it! 

Resources we mentioned include:
Eagle's Honour by Rosmary Sutcliffe
Our Universe - Russell Stannard
Quark Chronicles - Botany, by Ernest De Vore
13 Storey Treehouse series

Please follow us on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Subscription links are all at the side, we're also on Spotify, alternatively you can listen directly below.


Please enjoy and we'd love to hear from you! You can email us at homeedmatters@gmail.com or message/comment below or on any of our platforms.


Saturday, 4 January 2020

Our love of read-alouds

A selection of books we've studied...
Read-alouds are a big part of our Charlotte Mason approach. Each term we have a number of books we work our way through (often from the Ambleside book list, although we substitute/supplement a fair few these days to tailor to our own context - ie slightly less US history). (Can you spot any books you know in the picture?)


Especially with a range of ages in our household, the read-alouds are a really effective way our kids to connect with the stories and concepts we're looking at, and doing a chapter a day is a good pace too. Our older two narrate back their understanding of what's happened, which helps them stay engaged when they're listening and also to practice being able to articulate the flow of the story in their own words.

How we track progress each term
We also have a list of free-reads each year for our kids to read (again, mainly the older ones), and some of the more ambitious ones I (Luke) will read to them at bedtime. Although I have some flexibility in my working pattern, and get to take "home ed" days every few weeks, the vast majority of the time I miss all the learning fun in the day. As a result, bedtimes are my priority time to connect with each of our kids in turn and read to them.

There are so many benefits to reading aloud to children that I won't even attempt to cover them all here, as Jim Trelease's  Read Aloud Handbook articulates them so brilliantly. This is a must-read book in my opinion!

One book which isn't a read-aloud but is related is Alice Ozma's The Reading Promise, which tells the (true life) story of a father and daughter's relationship through the lens of the stories he reads to her every night for many many years. I especially liked this book becuase I value the relational time I spend with my daughters (and son!!) each night, but also becuase our podcast has also ended up being framed around a father-daughter conversation.

We'd love to hear your experience of read-alouds and what stories have most resonated in your families. Please drop us a note in the comments below or on any of our platforms!

#charlottemason #ambleside #readaloud #readingpromise

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Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed our post. Some small print on our recommendations is in this post.

If you want to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes then follow this link, to listen on Stitcher go here or if you want the direct RSS feed it's here! (There's lots of platforms to listen - but if you can't find us on your usual podcast app please let us know and we'll look into it). We're also on Spotify somewhere!

Please like our Facebook page and join our community there, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

We love hearing from you and you can email us at homeedmatters@gmail.com

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Giving Duplo a new lease of life with Hubelino marble run kits

I love seeing our kids grow up, but for every transition there's a little sadness. Over the years we've amassed a whole chest of Duplo which has brought much joy to our three children, however as they've got older they're more interested in Lego and the Duplo chest has seen less and less action.

That all changed recently when we discovered the Hubelino marble run attachments which has brought our Duplo hoard back into use, especially for our older two.

We've had the regular cylindrical marble runs over the years, however no two sets ever seem to be compatible, they get really wobbly when you try to build them to any height, and there never seem to be enough spacer pieces to really do anything spectacular.

That's where we've been so impressed with the Hubelino sets - we've got enough Duplo to be able to do ambitious builds, it's all far more stable, and the range of marble run pieces themselves are really versatile.

We've not come across Hubelino previously (and this isn't a sponsored post - we're just impressed with the kit) but looking them up, we like their mission statement and intention to promote spatial intelligence and understanding of physical principles through play.

All three of ours have enjoyed it, but for our 7 and 10 year olds in particular it's been challenging and engaging as they've iterated their designs and added more and more complexity and height.

If you've got a large amount of Duplo lying around then all you need is the elements kit (we got the big 128 piece one). The main construction kits come with the regular Duplo style blocks so they're worth getting if you're likely to need more blocks. We also got the twister expansion set which has added another layer of interest, and I've got my eye on the catapult expansion in future!

We're really glad we invested in some Hubelino sets, it's been a great way to extend the life of our Duplo, hopefully for a good few years to come as we feel we're only starting to scratch the surface of what's possible in terms of complexity of run designs.

What ways have you found to give toys a new lease of life? We'd love to hear them - either comment below, email us (homeedmatters@gmail.com) or message us on Twitter or Facebook.


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Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed our post. Some small print on our recommendations is in this post.

If you want to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes then follow this link, to listen on Stitcher go here or if you want the direct RSS feed it's here! (There's lots of platforms to listen - but if you can't find us on your usual podcast app please let us know and we'll look into it). We're also on Spotify.


Please like our Facebook page and join our community there, or follow us on Twitter.

We love hearing from you and you can email us at homeedmatters@gmail.com



Season 6, Episode 10

As we come to the end of the year (and decade), in this bumper episode Luke and Eden reflect on their highlights of 2019, including favourite books, trips, artists, composers and crafts.

Please listen in, and if you have a moment to leave a nice review and rating of the show (wherever you listen) we would really appreciate it!

Resources we mention in this episode include:

Calico Captive
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Bronze Bow
Chasing Vermeer
The Ocean of Truth - The Story of Sir Isaac Newton
Abigail Adams - Witness to a Revolution
Moonfleet

As a result of reading Calico Captive, Luke also read this history of Canada and this history of America!

Please like our Facebook page and join our community there, or follow us on Twitter.

If you want to subscribe on iTunes then follow this link, to listen on Stitcher go here or if you want the direct RSS feed it's here!

We're also on Spotify, alternatively you can listen directly below.


Please enjoy and we'd love to hear from you! You can email us at homeedmatters@gmail.com or message/comment below or on any of our platforms.


Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Keeping kids focused on the real meaning of Christmas - an Advent reading resource

We're huge fans of the Christmas season in our family, and we enjoy many of the modern Western cultural traditions that go along with it - in fact we often adjust the pace of our regular learning during December to make more space to enjoy the build-up to Christmas.

However, like any family we also battle with "hearts and minds" with our kids (and ourselves!) around becoming too focused on "getting" and the whole commercialisation of the festive season.

This year we added a reading routine which really helped us be more balanced as a family in the lead up to Christmas Day, and it's a tradition we plan to keep up in future years.

Every evening during December we read a chapter of a book called Bartholomew's Passage, by Arnold Ytreeide. It's a well crafted and engaging story that runs in parallel with the Biblical narrative, and each chapter has a short reflection on the real "reason for the season" in language that's aimed at and accessible to children.

"The best part of it was when he met Jotham" (Asher, 7)

As dad, reading to our three kids individually at bedtime is often a highlight of my day and an important time for relational connection (and we can recommend The Read Aloud Handbook for why it's so important!). For reading Bartholomew's Passage we mixed things up a bit, and I read to all three kids together, by the light of our advent candle. They loved turning all the lights off, snuggling in their pyjamas under blankets and listening to the story, and they were all engaged (from age 3 -10), although it's fair to say that older kids will get more out of it.


It did genuinely feel like we'd been on a journey together with the characters over the month, and I was impressed with the quality of the narrative and the shock-factor of some of the moments. The last chapter was particularly poignant and moving - up there with other tear-shedding moments in literature like the death of Thorin in the Hobbit and when the dog Jack dies in the Little House series.

"It's a great heartfelt story with a nice ending and it really helps find the true meaning of advent". (Eden, 10)

The good news is that the author has written a number of these Advent "journey" books, and we're definitely planning to read another next year.



If you're looking for ways to pop (or at least deflate) the selfish consumerist bubble that surrounds Christmas these days, and get closer to the heart of the story, we'd definitely recommend Bartholomew's Passage or the other books in the series. (And no, this hasn't been a sponsored post, just a genuine recommendation of a book we've enjoyed).

Do you have any reading traditions over Christmas? We'd love to hear them - either comment below, email us (homeedmatters@gmail.com) or message us on Twitter or Facebook.


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Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed our post. Some small print on our recommendations is in this post.

If you want to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes then follow this link, to listen on Stitcher go here or if you want the direct RSS feed it's here! (There's lots of platforms to listen - but if you can't find us on your usual podcast app please let us know and we'll look into it)

Please like our Facebook page and join our community there.

We love hearing from you and you can email us at homeedmatters@gmail.com