Tag Archives: home schooling

The Barber Institute of Fine Art (by Cana, age 7 and three quarters)

At the barber institute of fine arts we were looking at sculptures and the first sculpture we looked at was a nude sculpture of Aphrodite. The Goddess of love and we were looking at the sculpture and the guide said to the younger children if they wore clothes and one little boy said “ I normally wear a top and trousers and a vest and pants!” and the guide said with a little laugh “ha you can tell me more about that later.” She said in a kind voice and then we moved on to the next piece of art.


Alex Gr8

The next piece of art was a painting of Alexander the great, well, I don’t think he is very great because the guide said he chopped peoples heads off which is a bit gruesome so I am not going to go through all of the chopping part. So, I think somebody would want to know about this! As you can see in this picture Alexander the great is holding his arms in an unusual way. Our left hand side but his right hand is on his hip and his left hand but to us it is his right hand is drooping on his scabbard because it’s to show that he is very clever. And he doesn’t have a beard because in war people would grab your beard and then stab you, so he of course didn’t want to be killed so of course he shaved his beard, that was the good reason and now I will tell you the bad reason he wanted everyone to see his face so he was showing off.

hercules real

This nude person is called Hercules and his story starts off sad but ends up ok. So this is the story of Hercules, Hercules’s Daddy was called Zeus and Zeus was a god but Zeus was a very naughty god in fact he was so naughty that even though he had a wife he went down to earth and fell in love with another lady and his wife who was a goddess called Hiera was very cross she thought that Zeus was her husband but went and married another lady and had a baby with her. So she was very cross and so she wanted to kill baby Hercules so in the night she crept down to earth and threw some poisonous snakes into the cot and hoped that they would eat him up. But what she didn’t know was that Hercules was very strong and baby Hercules woke up and then played with the snakes and the guide thought that in Hercules’s head he might have been thinking“ Wow a new toy to play with!” so first he swung them round and round by their tails and then he found out that their tails rattled so he rattled them a lot and then let go so they went flying across the room over to the door and the snakes fled away from Hercules and when Zeus found out that Hiera had thrown poisonous snakes into Hercules’s cot he knew that she would come back so he hid Hercules until Hercules was a grown man obviously he went to university and college and school and nursery so he only did sitting inside his hiding place most of the time. When he was a fully grown man there was a Nemean lion attacking the people.

Herc n lion

Hercules came as quickly as possible and started to fight the Nemean lion he couldn’t do anything that included weapons because a Nemean lion has very tough skin so can you guess what Hercules did to kill the Nemean lion? Well if you said no I will tell you because I know what he did. Do you remember I told you that Hercules was really strong? Well he used his strength to do it he held open the Nemean lion’s mouth and the Nemean lion couldn’t breathe so he died.


This is a sculpture did you know that? And did you know that sculptures can be made out of anything? Well they can and do you know what my Mummy said to me about this sculpture? If that was a no then I will tell you right now
she said “A toddler could make that if they knew how to use a drill!” which, in my mind, is quite true. It’s quite a silly thing to make because chairs are for sitting on not to roll off onto the floor with! And who would want that thing in their house anyway? Certainly not me I think it’s quite ugly.

miss clara

This rhino is called Miss Clara and this is quite a nice and kind story. When Miss Clara was a baby some mean men came and killed her mummy and a Dutch man came along and found Miss Clara and felt really sorry for her and said “I can’t leave this poor Rhino here by herself” So he took her home not just in his back garden actually in his house like for example in his living room! This Dutch man was very kind and did you know that you could train Rhino’s? This is a photo of the Dutch man training Miss Clara he is probably saying sit to Miss Clara I told you, you could train Rhino’s! The Dutch man even taught Miss Clara how to eat off a plate! The Dutch man invited lots of ladies to tea and when they came and saw Miss Clara eating off a plate they screamed and ran as far as they could from the Dutch man and Miss Clara! Now, Miss Clara as you would know, grew and grew and did poo’s and poo’s and the Dutch man said to his friend “I love Miss Clara but her poo is everywhere and I don’t know how to pick it up so soon my house will be flooded with Rhino poo and I know that won’t be nice!” and his friend who was very nice said “don’t worry, I am taking a ship to England and I can take you and Miss Clara with me and you can show royal people Miss Clara!” And the Dutch man said “Thank you so much!” and he went straight to Miss Clara and told her every single word that his friend told him he was so excited, he had taught her how to dance by the way! And he danced with Miss Clara till it was tea-time! When the day arrived they got on the ship but it wasn’t a very good start because Miss Clara was sea sick! So when they got to England can you guess which Royal person she met first? Well I am going to tell you anyway she met Queen Victoria! And guess what she did in front of Queen Victoria! Now this you will laugh at she did a pile of poo in front of Queen Victoria! And did a pile of poo in front of the King of France too! In fact she did most of her poo’s in front of people! And the rest of her life she was just going around in and out people so I shouldn’t tell you just all about that!

(Editors note: After the tour of the Art gallery we took part in a workshop where we made our own rhino sculptures)


This is Jude my brother who made this Model Rhino and he is only 6 so I think it is quite good for his age don’t you think so?


Now can you see the big photo of a girl with a model rhino well she is my sister and she is only 3 and she partly made that all by herself! Can you believe it!


Now this other photo of a girl is me the one who told you all these stories about Aphrodite and, Alexander the great and, Hercules and a kind of story of the chair with wheels on the seat and, Miss Clara and now I had just shown you the photos of my brother and sister and now I have come round to me now I will introduce myself my name is Cana and my sister is called Mae and my brother if you didn’t know is called Jude and I am 7 and everyone there made their own model rhino and it was actually quite fun making models!


Writing is fun! (even when you’re only 4)

Jude is now four and a half so has been doing handwriting practise every day since Easter when I finished work and started home-schooling full time. Being a teacher I feel strongly about something I mentioned in an earlier post on writing – how important it is that children are taught correct letter formation from the outset. Cana, at six, has been writing in joined handwriting for some time and Jude began to learn joins as soon as he knew how to form each letter of the alphabet. Cana, as a perfectionist, enjoyed learning ‘grown-up’ writing and would take her time making it just right. She liked writing in her ‘Big Girl,’ lined book so that was an incentive for her.

Jude is learning to spell the first 45 high-frequency words. Each one takes him about a week to learn and he practises writing it in joined handwriting most days. Because he is not a perfectionist, and does not want to be grown up (I am fairly sure he would still have me dressing him and feeding him if he could) , I have to think of ways to make handwriting practise fun. He only has to write his spelling for the day three times so does this in various ways: he has a ‘Big Boy’ book; he writes on the whiteboard with pen; he uses chalks on the black board; he writes in shaving foam and he writes on the Aquadraw.

writing on the whiteboard

writing on the Aquadraw

writing in shaving foam

Jude is gaining in confidence with his writing and has started writing letters to various people during his play time. We had a bit of a discussion about the role of the post-man as Jude had somehow deified him into some sort of God-like being who showered us with gifts. He thought, as the postman brought us so many presents (due to my internet shopping habits), that he could write a letter with his requests for toys in it and posting the letter would ensure that he would get it. He is extremely argumentative at the moment so I’m still not sure he fully believed my explanation that I order the presents we get and it’s the postman’s job to just bring it. When I thought about it, I am given to saying things like, “Oh, look what the postman’s brought us!” Anyway, here is a sample of his most recent ’emergent writing’ It is a party invitation and it says: Please come to my party and my party is in Africa will you come to my party Nadia and Kaelen.

Party invitation, independent writing

Writing at home with 4 and 5 year olds.

As we’ve just had the Easter holidays for two weeks,  I have given the children a holiday from their usual routine. Cana (age 5) usually does a specific writing task once a week and this is always for a reason. Usually it is a letter to someone as she has 3 penpals now and plenty of family to write to. Whoever directs this, me or my husband, gives her a few pointers and then leave her to it. We don’t correct her spelling unless it’s a word that we know she has learnt already.

What she does everyday however, is handwriting practise and spellings. Because she can form all her letters correctly, she just has to copy something, often a short nursery rhyme, not more than 4 lines long. This is just to help her improve her speed and neatness and usually takes her no more than fifteen minutes. She has two spellings a day until she learns them and then she gets two more and we have worked through the first 25 high frequency words, then the first 100 and now we’re on the next 200. When she finishes each stage she can choose some sort of reward, which is usually chocolate related in her case (her mother’s daughter!).

I feel particularly strongly that writing should be seen as something positive, not “work” and it is interesting that although Cana hasn’t been following her homeschooling routine for a fortnight she had been very busy writing. Yesterday she sat at the table and made another book, this time Mary Poppins, which she has seen a few times, the most recent being last week at her Godmother’s house. This was completely independent with no prompting from an adult at all. She loves to draw so I thought she was just drawing pictures until she came to show me what she was doing. The only help she had was when she turned to me and said, “Michael has a silent H doesn’t it?” and I said “yes”. She uses exclamation marks, dashes,  brackets and question marks, none of which we have taught her formally other than to point them out when she is reading. In fact she calls question marks, “those rainbow signs” which I think is rather cute. Obviously we have taught her full-stops and capital letters and she has learnt some use of apostrophes in her spellings. Check out the final picture too, it’s Jane and Michael looking through the banisters!

When it comes to formally teaching writing I am very much of the opinion that they will copy what they are exposed to. These days we have to specifically teach different writing genres to children from Year 1 up  (lists, instructions, letters, poetry, playscripts etc) which, as a lover of words, I find rather repulsive. In fact, I would rather not teach writing at all. I am fortunate as a homeschooler to have an educational background so I am confident enough to follow my gut instinct and so far, Cana is proving me right. She is learning to love words through reading and this is showing in her writing.

As a word lover, I have written poetry for years but have not read much to Cana, apart from nursery rhymes of course, and the odd A.A. Milne poem. She hasn’t shown much interest to be honest so I thought I’d wait until she was older. I don’t like much of the poetry written specifically for children so wanted to introduce her to real poetry from the start. The other day, I was astonished when she brought me a poem she had written by herself. It turned out that a blind friend of ours had read her some of my poems. I had written them out in braille for my friend years ago and she read a few to Cana when she was visiting one day with daddy. I am so proud of Cana’s poem, unsentimental though I am (filing most of my children’s paintings in paper recycling) I will keep it for ever!  If you’re not sure, where she’s written “futer”, she means “future”.

I wanted to put some of Jude’s writing in because, well firstly, he’s finally writing, at 4 years and 4 months. Secondly, Cana is a bit of a child prodigy but Jude, though delightfully unique to us,  is just your bulk standard little boy, academically speaking. He likes to play trains and pirates, and fighting. He has been at nursery 3 mornings a week so I have not done much formal work with him. We just read every night and do some flash cards but writing has been limited to him practising how to form some of his letters on the whiteboard with Daddy. He has now got to the stage where he knows how to form all of his letters correctly but he usually can’t be bothered anyway. I am quite strict about this as it’s making work for yourself if they get into bad habits with their letter formation. Anyway, he’s started to write random letters quite regularly on his pictures and today he wrote in a card for his cousin’s birthday. I sat next to him but did not nag him about his letters because I wanted to see if he could actually write a sentence and I think he did very well. The first photo shows the front of the card which started out as being a monster but changed into “a chocolate factory” which he tried to write I think.

Ok, what it says is: doi (dear) Ruq (Rupert) i (I) h (hope) Y (you) wiiw (will) h (have) a (a) gud (good) deYy (day) Luv (love) Jude. Not bad eh, for his first sentence. As he has just finished nursery, the next stage is introducing handwriting practise every day so that he consolidates his letter formation properly. You can see it’s rather erratic at present. But this will be 5/10 minutes a day maximum, as he has a very short attention span and we want him to learn to love writing. He was so proud of his birthday card writing as well.

In summary, when teaching writing: the key is short and sweet, keep it regular but meaningful and read, read, read.

Reading and Writing – leaving it to chance?

Been meaning to write about this for a while because I have quite strong opinions about it and because I’m so delighted with Cana’s progress in this area. She gave me a note this morning that said “dear Mummy soory I all ways say meen words to you when your in the shoere love Cana”. Burst out laughing as she is banned from coming in the bathroom when I’m in the shower now due to her uncomplimentary comments such as “why is your bottom so HUGE?”, “when I was in your tummy were your legs all fat at the top like they are now” and “I don’t want to look like you when I’m grown up”. When your post-baby body confidence is at a low these are not things you want to hear!

Anyway, when you tell people in England you’re homeschooling, especially your work colleagues when you’re a teacher, they mainly look at you like you are confessing to child abuse. Or you are too lazy to take them to school or something. Not as if you were an intelligent, educated person who has researched the topic and found out that homeschooling, done properly, is actually better for your child than institutionalised learning. Your child is getting quality, one-on-one teaching from someone they love and they are being taught to find things out for themselves. In other words, self-manage their learning, in the same way that we, as adults, do.

However, that said, I do not advocate letting children do whatever they want, whenever they want. For a start, one day they will have to have a job and a boss. Secondly, children do not know what is best for them. And thirdly, although left to themselves I’m sure they will learn to read and write eventually I don’t want to leave such a crucial skill to chance. Apart from anything else, if they don’t learn to read till they’re ten then they miss out on 5 years of reading and I was reading Pride and Prejudice by the time I was ten. What a lot of pleasure they’ll miss out on.

So I always resolved to start mine on reading by the time they were 5, but in reality it started much younger because Cana started asking what things said when she was 3 and simply gobbled up the alphabet and blended C-A-T perfectly the first time I showed it to her. I know she’s exceptional because I’m a teacher, a practising teacher, so I work with children who aren’t that quick every day. Jude is showing much more normal progress. He’s 3 and three quarters and has learnt all his alphabet (largely due to some Thomas the Tank Engine flash cards I  made him – A is for Annie, B is for Ben, C is for Clarabel etc.) but is still working on CVCs (consonant, vowel, consonant)  and has been for a few weeks. My method is simply little and often. Just a few minutes a day and no more than 6 letters at a time. When they were learning their alphabets I would have a set of whatever letters they were learning in  the car and whip them out a few times a day. It only takes 30 seconds to run through 6 letters with them.

Writing is on our curriculum once a week, and by that I mean writing with a pen on paper. Cana does ICT every day which often means writing and she also has spelling to learn everyday. I’m not a mean mummy, only two a day, and sometimes these take her a few days. She’s working through the first 200 high frequency words in the English language. These two spelling are linked to handwriting so she practises them in joined up. And although she wrote her note to me this morning in print, more often than not she is choosing to write in joined up now.

I have a bit of a thing about joined up because the first school I worked at taught it,successfully, in Year 1, basically as soon as they could form all their letters correctly; so when I went to other schools where it’s taught much higher up the school I couldn’t understand it. I have always taught it in Year 1 and the children have always really enjoyed learning it and quickly took to using it all the time. I now teach Year 6 children who can join their letters in handwriting lessons but don’t do it the rest of the time. They have consolidated writing in print. There’s always smart alec ones who say “Miss, why do we even need to learn, it’s only 3 points in the SATs?” and I point out that it will help them write faster and it looks more grown-up.  I know doctors have notoriously bad handwriting but we’d all be pretty unimpressed if we got a prescription and they’d printed their name.

So Cana spends 5-10 minutes a day practising her joined up, and Jude will start on letter formation pretty soon. And if there’s any advice I can give to homeschoolers it would be: make sure they form their letters correctly. The first time Cana wrote her name we were pretty impressed but I quickly stopped praising her if she hadn’t formed her letters properly. The way I see it, in a year she’ll be fluent so it’s worth investing the time in being pernickety now. Oh and make writing real, for real reasons. Cana writes cards and letters to people, she texts Daddy and Nana (obviously using proper, unabrieviated words) and she blogs. She just got her first proper pen-pal too, one of my old uni friends has a little girl of a similar age up in Scotland so they are going to send real letters in the post to each other. Jude is already beginning to play at sending letters to people , he drew his Auntie Rachel and very good blue pig the other day!

So we are NOT leaving it to chance and in fact it’s loads of fun watching these little children develop into literate people. I leave notes in their lunchboxes when they go to nursery and now I text Cana (on Daddy’s phone) from the bus on my way to work. Reading and writing is a big part of our adult lives and it’s brilliant introducing them to it.

I’m going to finish my rant by adding a photo of a story Cana wrote a week or so ago. I told her to do some writing as it was her writing day, and she decided she would write a story. She spent so long doing it she had to break to have her tea and then she asked if she could continue while I took the other two to bed. Most importantly I did not have to nag her once, she just sat there quietly for about an hour writing away.  It’s not the most interesting story in the world and she had to explain bits as she missed a few words out but considering it’s her first ever attempt we were pretty impressed!