Homeschooling on holiday: our camping trip

We recently took our first family camping trip to one of our favourite places – the New Forest. I had been looking forward to this trip as an opportunity to enjoy some unique learning and bonding with the kids. I envisioned rustic evenings and adventure-filled days.

Yeah, I’m an idealist.

As it happened, hay fever and a terribly uncomfortable gravel tent pitch meant we didn’t embrace the fullness of my camping vision, and had to leave for home a couple of days early. However, we had some fantastic fun with some very special friends (who, very sensibly, ‘camped’ in a nearby cottage). We made the best use of our time that we could, and overall enjoyed learning, laughing and loving despite the set backs.

Day One:  After setting up camp, we spent our first day picnicking, walking and playing in the forest. The kids had tons of fun just ‘being’ in the natural woodland. The educational benefits of being outside are often overlooked and under-supplied, but this day was a feast of connecting with nature.Day one

Day Two:  Having just signed up for membership with the National Trust, we took advantage of unlimited free visits and went to Kingston Lacy twice. This day was our first visit, where we enjoyed relaxing on the lawn, exploring the hidden bamboo garden, and reading poetry in the shade. After a lovely lunch in the cafe, we then went to Studland beach, another National Trust owned area, where we licked ice-creams and paddled in the sea. I highly recommend National Trust membership to homeschooling families. There are properties all over the country, and they offer opportunities to enjoy beautiful gardens as well as historical houses.IMG_2033

Day Three:  Salisbury cathedral is one of Hubby’s favourite buildings, so this day was dedicated to enjoying the architecture with our friends. We were blessed to be there while the boys’ choir was rehearsing, and all our musical drama kids got to watch as the boys treated us to some high quality singing. The kids followed an activity trail here and learnt a bit about the history of the place, as well as appreciating the craftsmanship of the building itself.IMG_2184

Day Four:  We went back to Kingston Lacy to explored the house this time. We got to see beautiful marble staircases, real cannon balls from the destruction of Corfe Castle, the cutest turtle footstool ever, and Prince’s favourite – an extensive Egyptian artifacts collection. The kids completed an activity trail here too, and collected badges at the end. We followed up this morning with a little walk around Christchurch castle ruins and another beach trip. Then we headed home to our oh-so-comfy beds.Day two

Although we didn’t get to do all the things we had planned, our few days away were full of blessings. They gave us a chance to spend more time together as a family. They offered new and exciting learning opportunities. And they created memories which we will hold close for years to come.

But I am never camping on gravel again.

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Defining Moments

When I think back over my childhood, there are certain moments, conversations and events which stand out in my memory. Usually they were nothing special at the time – just a passing comment or a one-off situation – but as I grew older they stayed with me. And now, when I contemplate them, I see that each one has played a part in who I am now.

It occurs to me that the people who said and did those things in my childhood had no idea they were forming such a big part of my character. I’m sure they didn’t know that their words would stay with me for the rest of my life. In all likeliness, they don’t remember the situation themselves now. But I do – clear as day. I can hear the words and recall the feelings from years ago.

If that is the case with me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, then it is also probably going to be the case for my children. And for your children. Every moment we spend with them, every word we speak, might be the one to stay with them forever. We have no idea if it will be the careless cross word we threw out in frustration; the tender hug and kiss after a disciplinary issue has been resolved; the word of spiritual encouragement and inspiration.

How careful we must be. If the memories I want my children to live with are ones of love and joy, then I must intentionally create many opportunities to foster those experiences. Some of the memories that stay with me are positive – I remember one particularly encouraging comment made to me, that I still strive to live up to today. Some, however, are negative. There is one memory that still hurts to recall, as the unfairness is as clear to me now as it was when I was a child.

The defining moments in our children’s lives could come at any time. Are you and I armed and prepared with positive experiences for our children? We are not perfect, and we cannot guarantee that our children won’t have any unhappy memories. But if we can increase the odds. Let us stay aware of the influence each moment can have in the lives of our children, and strive to make as many of them as good as possible.

 

Remember the Easter story

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘Easter’? Hopefully you said something like ‘Jesus’ or ‘sacrifice’ or other words related to the reason behind the season. Hopefully you didn’t say ‘chocolate’. But the truth is, most of us have a very strong association between Easter and chocolate. Whilst I’m not against buying Easter goodies (I confess to being rather a chocoholic…), I do think it’s very sad that eggs, chicks and bunnies have taken precedence over Jesus at this time of year.

Taking the first question a step deeper, ask yourself (or even better, your kids) – What is the first thing your children think of when they hear the word ‘Easter’? If they are only little, you may be inclined to be more understanding if they answered ‘chocolate’, but I think this is just more sad. They have had less time exposed to the commercialism of the world, and are more influenced by us. What are we teaching our kids? Are we actively and intentionally teaching them about Jesus’ gift to the world, or are we letting them grow up to think of Easter simply as a time to buy chocolate?

The commercialised world we live in puts an unthinkable amount of money and resources into strengthening our association between Easter and buying chocolate – and baskets, and stickers, and cards, and fluffy chicks, and stuffed bunnies and anything else it can think of. But nice as these things can be, they have nothing on the awesome events that we are actually celebrating this Easter. How can chocolate compare to salvation?! As parents, we should be passionate about teaching our children the real, eternal significance of the events that took place on the first Easter.

But how can we do this? Teaching our kids to think of Jesus before chocolate isn’t always easy! I think the answer is twofold:

  • Firstly, we need to emphasis the Easter story to our kids. Tell it to them over and over. Write it down, make crafts about it, draw pictures of it, sing songs about it, watch movies on it, play games about it. Get it into their heads and hearts every way we can think of.
  • Second, we can make use of commercialised products, and teach our children to associate them back to Jesus. We must help our kids to see Easter eggs, chicks and bunnies, and immediately think of ‘new life’ and what that means to us as followers of Christ.

At our house this year we had an ‘Easter Story Treasure Hunt’. I wrote down a simple version of the Easter story, and along side each section I put a clue, helping them to find the next part of the story. At the end of the story was a prize.  Below are the story and clues I put together, which you are free to copy and edit for your own use, and some pictures of my kiddies enjoying the hunt!

About two thousand years ago something amazing happened. God came to earth in the form of a baby boy – Jesus. As Jesus grew up, He became wise. God was pleased with Him.

The next clue is somewhere that Princess goes every morning when she gets dressed.

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When Jesus was a man He taught people about God’s love, and His plan to save them. After a few years, Jesus knew it was nearly time for Him to die.  He went to a garden one night to pray.

The next clue is in hiding with some sweet food.

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Jesus was very sad, but He told God that He would do whatever God knew was best.  Soldiers came and took Jesus away.  Lots of people told lies, saying Jesus had done bad things.  They decided to kill Jesus.

The next clue is with your Word friends.

———————————————————————————

After Jesus had been beaten, He was nailed to a cross where He died.  But this is not the end of the story!  After three days Jesus came back to life again!

The next clue is somewhere cold.

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Today Jesus is still alive.  He left us the Holy Spirit and the Bible so that we can learn about Him, and about how we can have a new life after we die, too.

You will find your prize somewhere warm and snugly.

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Fun on our Easter story hunt 2012.

May we all remember to delight in the joy of the Easter story, and pass it on faithfully to our children.

Story time = special times

One of the joys of parenting is reading to your children! As a child I was an avid reader, and it’s something I hope my kids will enjoy for the rest of their lives too. From a homeschooling perspective reading is a great activity, being useful for learning all kinds of skills. Reading to your child helps them appreciate literature and begin to learn to read themselves, as well as introduces new ideas, develops creativity and improves attention span. As your child begins to read alone the benefits continue, incorporating spelling, grammar, plot and thought development, rhythm, rhyme, confidence, speech, vocabulary, and much more!

Prince reading a library book to Princess.

I haven’t always read with my kids as much as I wish I had, but we are making up for it now! The library is a very short walk down the road for us, which is such a blessing. We regularly go and read there, as well as bring a bag full of books back home. Prince is becoming quite a capable reader, and will often sit and look at the books alone. Princess, who admires her big brother no end, loves to sit with him and listen to him read. This is one of my favourite thing to watch!

Last week we started our first chapter book together – Charlotte’s Web. Princess finds it harder to sit for long, but Prince easily enjoys listening to me read two chapters each day. I love the quality of the language and the depth of the plot – it’s just right for their hungry intellect to soak up and learn from. It’s also a special time for us to be doing something together – almost like going on an adventure! The time we spend snuggled on the couch reading will be precious memories for me, and, I hope, for them.

As well as reading many children’s books written in rhyme, I like to include some classic poetry in our reading. We really enjoy A. A. Milne’s poems: When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. These have always had a special place in my heart, and have captured Prince’s interest from early on too. Some of our favourites from these are ‘Forgiven’, ‘Lines and Squares’, and ‘Sneezles’.

Prince’s illustrated ‘Lines and Squares’ print out.

A great place to go if you are looking for ideas for books to read to your children is Ambleside’s book lists. There is a whole curriculum on this website, but I like to use it as a place to find ideas. They usually recommend good quality products, so I don’t have to waste time reading through things myself first.

If you’re looking for a good resource to help your child learn to read I recommend the Jolly Phonics products. There are workbooks, reading books, teacher guides, activity guides, DVDs, games and more. You don’t have to follow it a specific way (although you can), but rather you can pick the bits you like best and mix them with your own ideas, and your child’s own needs, strengths and weaknesses.

Do you read to your children? They say it’s never too early to start, and they are right – I wish I had started earlier. But it’s also never too late! Find a lovely book, cuddle up with your kids and start reading 🙂

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