# Week in My Life – Friday

Welcome to my final post in Week in My Life 2013. Click here for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Most Fridays at 12 PM J(8) has therapy for his Sensory Processing Disorder. This week, though, his appointment was at 9:30 AM. Combined with the hour long round trip, that took up most of our morning. I had a lovely walk while J(8) had his session.

After lunch C(9) practised her last few multiplication facts using the free booklet Nothin’ But the Facts.

One strategy the book suggests for the twelve times table is tens plus twos. So 12 x 11 is 10 x 11, plus double eleven.  C(9) also enjoys the number patterns the book leads you to discover.

I like how all the multiplication tips make you think about numbers instead of just requiring rote memorisation.

J(8), meanwhile, is enjoying working through Life of Fred: Ice Cream. He’s very pleased with himself this week for discovering that a ream of paper is 500 sheets. It’s the random things, sometimes!

After our kazoo project on Wednesday, this afternoon we watched a few videos about the science of sound. We especially liked the amazing water & sound experiment.

J(8) wants to reproduce the experiment.  Now I just have to figure out how to produce a 24hz sound wave.

In the meantime we made our own “Moaning Myrtle” – a vibrating hex nut inside a balloon. I couldn’t find any nuts in the tool box so I had to attack C(9)’s project chair with a spanner.

I was very proud of myself for remembering to screw the nut back on later.

While C(9) packed for this weekend’s Cub Camp, J(8) helped me make blueberry muffins. We used a packet mix, so for once the results were gluten-free and edible.

We enjoyed our muffins with cocoa and poetry.

At 4:15PM I dropped C(9) at her Stagecoach class and took J(8) to trampolining.

Week in My Life has been lots of fun. And next week my family are going to enjoy not feeling like they’re starring in a reality TV show. 😉

# Week in My Life 2013 – Monday

I’m joining Melissa at Adventuroo for the Week In My Life Challenge 2013.  See Melissa’s Week in My Life intro post if you want to join in the fun.

This won’t be a typical week, of course – on account of there being no such thing.

We began the day driving my husband to the fracture clinic where his broken ankle was X-rayed and he was fitted with a walking cast. He can go back to work tomorrow – hurray! {Love you, darling ;-)}

At 10 AM my homeschooling mum friend Gaynor came round to give C(9) her creative writing tutorial while I did maths (Life of Fred) with J(8). Afterwards C(9) and J(8) played with Gaynor’s kids while she and I chatted over a coffee.

It’s the National Youth Film Festival this week so this afternoon I took all the kids  to see Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters for free at our local cinema. A school group that was meant to be going cancelled at the last minute, so apart from one other home-educating family, we had the cinema to ourselves!

After the cinema, C(9) and I took the dogs to the park. I walked while C(9) sat in trees and sang Bugsy Malone songs (she’s playing Fat Sam in her Stagecoach show this term).

And now, at 8:30 PM, I’m cuddling up on the sofa with the dogs {read: trying to stop them licking my laptop} after collecting C(9) from karate.

For more Week in My Life, see TuesdayWednesdayThursday and Friday.

# 5 Ways to Homeschool Foreign Languages

Some homeschooling parents are a little overwhelmed at the idea of teaching foreign languages. But in many ways in this internet age it’s easier to homeschool foreign languages than it is to learn them at school.

## Foreign language – Goals

My goal is to expose my children to as much foreign language as possible, in a natural and enjoyable way, while they are young.

I want to ignite their curiosity and show them that languages are fun. I would love for them to choose to study a language or two more deeply when they are older, but that choice will be theirs.

## How we homeschool foreign languages

Here are some of the ways we bring foreign languages into our homeschool.  Some we learn more formally, others we playfully dabble in.

### 1. Sessions with a native speaker

The language C(9) and J(8) learn most formally is French.  We chose French because C(9) had been learning it at school and because France is the country we visit most often.

The children have weekly classes at the home of a local French teacher. Madame Celine follows a syllabus and uses workbooks, but she also plays games and cooks French food with the children. I was delighted one day when J(8) – who at the time claimed cheerfully to know “not a single word of French” spontaneously broke into fluent French song as we prepared to bake at home!

C(9) is much more interested in languages than her brother, but I don’t think J(8) could manage a class on his own, so the joint session works well. Our solution was for C(9) to start going to class fifteen minutes early for one-to-one French conversation practice, while J(8) at the very least gets to spend an hour listening to spoken French!

If teaching costs are an issue and you live near a town with overseas students,  you could find someone willing to do a conversation-exchange for free or a reduced fee. When I lived in Spain, I did this sort of “intercambio” with several families.

### 2. Apps and Software

I’ve always wanted to learn German, and I found the perfect way to do so when Julie of Highhill Education posted about Duolingo. This is a fantastic free app for learning French, German, Spanish or Portuguese.

When I told C(9) about Duolingo – thinking she might use it to practise her French – she got very excited and decided to learn German too, because her best friend is half German and speaks German at home (great!).

One of the reasons we love Duolingo is because, being an app, it’s so easy to grab the iPad and do a daily lesson without having to gather together a bunch of books or log onto the computer.

Memrise is a useful app for learning vocabulary in a huge number of different languages. Do be sure to preview courses for younger children though – my Norwegian course contained a few rather colourful phrases I couldn’t imagine needing!

For more free resources, check out the free BBC languages website or search for a YouTube course.

For fast exposure to a wide variety of languages, check out the Earworms apps. An “earworm” is one of those catchy tunes that gets stuck in your head. The app utilises the science behind that phenomenon to help languages stick. I’ve used it to brush up my French before a trip to France and we all learned a little basic Italian before visiting Florence.

### 3. Classical languages

I was lucky enough to learn Latin at school. Latin was a huge help with French, Spanish and Italian, and has also enriched my appreciation of English.

Some homeschoolers worry about teaching Latin pronunciation, but unless your child is going to be singing or reciting in public, it really doesn’t matter how you pronounce it – that’s one of the many benefits of learning classical languages!

C(9) is learning Latin with Minimus: Starting Out in Latin. When she’s ready for something a bit more sophisticated, I’ll suggest the Cambridge Latin Course.  Ecce Romani is another possibility – I enjoyed using this series all through school.

Last winter I decided to try my hand at a bit of Ancient Greek. I used Learn Ancient Greek, a deceptively slim paperback which is densely packed with Greek grammar and wonderfully dry humour in equal measure. I’d recommend it for teens up.

### 4. History and geography unit studies

Ever since I saw how much the children enjoyed reading and writing hieroglyphics when we studied Ancient Egypt, we’ve brought language into our history and geography studies whenever possible.

I find this a particularly useful way of introducing C(9) and J(8) to unfamiliar alphabets. They love deciphering codes, writing their names and making up secret messages for eachother.

So far we’ve taken this approach with Ancient Greek, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Russian. (I’m not sure how we missed out Arabic. Must come back to that one.)

### 5. Travel opportunities

Living in Europe, we are lucky enough to be a short plane ride away from many different non-English-speaking countries. Wherever we go, we learn at least a smidgeon of the language.

I’m writing this on the plane home from Turkey.  Before we left England, we used a course I found on YouTube –  Turkish 101 – to learn how to say “hello”, “goodbye”, and three ways of saying “thank you”.

It’s amazing how far just those basics can go! Even though we were staying in a tourist city where most people we met spoke at least some English, everyone appreciated our Turkish greetings and thanks.

Before we visited Norway last July, we used Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day and flashcard website Memrise to learn a few Norwegian basics. The book came with a fun CD Rom we all enjoyed, and as well as some useful ones, the Memrise course contained some hilariously random phrases. Our favourite was, “Harald died. He was skinny, and broke in two.” (Funnily enough we didn’t use that one on our cruise.)

The children listened to the Italian Earworms app with me before we visited Italy last year and the year before.

And C(9) enjoyed practising her French with a French girl in her ski class one year, though this year was slightly more of a challenge when she found herself the only English girl in the class!

I’d love for my kids to become as passionate about languages as I am. Whatever path they choose, though, I hope what we’re doing now will give them the confidence to learn any language they might need in the future.

And I like to think our approach helps them understand and appreciate a little of other cultures, as well as enriching their experience of travelling abroad.

The best way to learn a language well is to be immersed in it – I found that out when I had two Spanish flatmates during my year working in Spain.

When C(9) and J(8) are older I’d love for us to spend a few months having language lessons in another country. And I’d certainly encourage them to spend a year working in a foreign country at some point.

Finally – in case I’ve mistakenly given the impression that I’m some kind of super-polyglot, I should make it clear that I’ve only ever come close to being fluent in one other language (now very rusty!). But I do enjoy – and highly recommend – my hobby of dabbling in languages alongside the kids!

To see how the other Homeschool Help ladies teach foreign languages, visit:

Highhill Education – Our Foreign Language Philosophy

Every Bed of Roses – Seeking to Learn a New Language

One Magnificent Obsession – Fun With Foreign Language

Hammock Tracks – In Regard to Teaching a Foreign Language

Barefoot Hippie Girl – Parlez-Vous Francais

{This post contains affiliate Amazon links}

Collage Friday – Homegrown Learners

Weekly Wrap-Up – Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Hip Homeschool Hop

# Hands-On Hydraulics – Science Fun for Kids

This hands-on hydraulics experiment is a fun way to investigate the power of liquids.

We used hydraulic power to create a simple machine which our Lego mini figs – and all the family – had fun playing with.

Our hydraulic theme-park even inspired a movie!

A liquid under pressure can apply a lot of force and this can be used by machinery to do work. Using liquids like this is a branch of engineering called hydraulics.

Science Experiments for Kids

## Hydraulic Lifter Experiment

### What You Need

• short length of tubing
• balloon
• empty can
• tape
• empty plastic bottle
• funnel
• heavy book
• water
• scissors

### What you do

{I’ve added a steps 1 and 2 to the instructions given in Science Experiments for Kids, to give you the benefit of our mistakes.}

1. Stretch the balloon by blowing it up and letting the air out again.

2. Attach the tubing to the empty balloon and seal the join with tape. Check the join is water-tight by attaching the funnel to the other end of the tube and filling with water. Remove the funnel and drain out the water.

3. Cut the empty bottle so that it is just a little taller than the can. (We should have cut a bit more off ours.) Use a pencil to make a small hole near the bottom of the bottle.

4. Feed the free end of the pipe through the hole in the bottle, leaving the balloon inside.

5. Put the heavy book on top of the bottle.

6. Attach the funnel to the pipe and fill with water. (Hold the funnel up high to quickly release any air bubbles.)

### What happens

The water-filled balloon lifts the can, which in turn lifts the book.

The balloon feels very firm.

### The scientific explanation

The weight of the water in the funnel creates enough pressure to force water into the balloon. This force is in turn transmitted through the balloon to lift the book.

Fluids transmit forces more effectively than gases because they can’t be compressed, even under pressure.

## Hands-on hydraulics fun

We wanted to apply what we’d learned to create something like this very cool hydraulic elevator.

Unfortunately we couldn’t get our syringes and pipes sealed tightly enough to make it work.

Instead, C(9) had the idea of using hydraulic pressure to create a fun ride for Lego mini figures.

### Real life hydraulics

Liquids are used in many kinds of machines to carry force through pipes.

Most of us rely on hydraulic machines every day, for example when we apply the brakes in our cars or fill them with petrol, and even when we run the dishwasher.

Hydraulics is used to design piping systems, pumps, propellers, water turbines, hydraulic presses, and flow-measuring devices.

Britannica Online for Kids

We enjoyed dipping our toes into hydraulic principles.

There are lots more hydraulics experiments I hope we’ll do in the future. They’re a great hands-on way to learn about the laws of physics, such as Pascal’s Principle.

For more pressure science, see our air pressure experiments.

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Science Sunday

Entertaining and Educational

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal

Hip Homeschool Hop

# Audiobooks for All Our Family

In my last post I listed some of the audiobooks C(9), J(8) and I listen to together. Today I’ll share some of the books we’ve been listening to individually, plus some non-fiction audiobooks we’ve enjoyed together.

I also go off on a little tangent about reading and empathy. And I consider the impact of audiobooks on reading.

I’ve titled this post “Audiobooks for All Our Family.”  This is not because I think all the books I mention are suitable for all ages (some are most definitely not). It’s just a selection of the audiobooks my children and I have enjoyed.

### Books C(9) has recently listened to on her own

Little Women

Black Beauty

{Notice I lead with the uncontroversial classics 😉 }

My Family and Other Animals (repeat of a family-listen)

The Hunger Games  – We first listened to this sci-fi trilogy together.

Since then, C(9) has listened almost every night. She’s repeated the cycle what must be about thirty times by now. I am reminded of a card from my Unschooling Toolbox:

Your child is getting something important from the 57th viewing of that video. It isn’t important to understand what that is. It is important to understand that it’s important to your child.

Joyce Fetterol

Of course that doesn’t stop me speculating what C(9) could be getting from her thirtieth listen to The Hunger Games. One of the skills C(9) knows she has to work on consciously is empathy. So I was intrigued by this post about how reading builds the capacity for empathy:

Reading fiction – especially when the setting is another culture, another time – has to be the best means of building empathic sensibilities. How do you understand prejudice if you are not of a group subject to discrimination? … How does it feel to be hungry, orphaned, or terrified when you’ve always lived a middle-class life? Harnessing the detail, drama, emotion, and immediacy of “the story,” fiction informs the heart as well as the mind.

Doug Johnson

Whatever she’s getting out of Katniss’s struggles through The Hunger Games’ dystopia, it’s evidently important to C(9)!

### Books J(8) listens to on his own

J(8) is working his way through The 39 Clues series.

I love how as he listens he shares interesting snippets about historical figures. These have included Ben Franklin, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (“the greatest warrior of all time”) and Marie-Antoinette of France.

Check out The 39 Clues Educator Network for an idea of what kids can learn from these books.

J(8) also listens to The Hobbit and he’s dipped into The Lord of the Rings.

His repeat bedtime listen is The Inheritance Cycle. (We listened to Eragon together.)

### Books C(9) and I listen to together

When it’s just C(9) and I in the car we listen to the Anne of Green Gables series. It’s so special sharing these delightful books with my daughter. We’re up to Anne’s House of Dreams.

I’ve bought the kindle versions of most of the books; I like to linger over the rich language. I sometimes write out  quotes from the Anne books when I join my children for copywork.

### Non-fiction books I listen to and my children overhear

I usually have a non-fiction audiobook on the go which the kids sometimes overhear. I make sure they don’t hear anything inappropriate by discreet use of the pause button.

They enjoyed large parts of Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography. I listened to parts detailing Jobs’ personal life on my own.

C(9) learned heaps about astrophysics from Parallel Worlds: The Science of Alternative Universes and Our Future in the Cosmos.

And at the moment we’re all enjoying From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet. This audiobook a fascinating listen. It’s  filling in gaps in my knowledge while baffling my children with the inconceivable notion of life without the internet. Empathy can evidently only stretch so far.

### My recent favourite fiction books I listen to on my own

I read so much non-fiction, I used not to have time for fiction. Then two things happened: I joined a book group, and we got a dog.

This got me into a habit I now enjoy immensely of listening to fiction audiobooks on my own, at times when I couldn’t read a book. I listen while preparing food, cleaning my teeth, doing housework…I’m sure all you book lovers can relate.

A couple of books I have loved recently are:

The Rosie Project – If you like Doc Martin or The Big Bang Theory you will love this book. The extremely likeable narrator has (undiagnosed) Asperger’s Syndrome. The story is about his quest to find a wife. On his journey he learns – and teaches us – a thing or two about the value of seeing the world differently from the average person.

As a quirky mother of two quirky kids, this was a life-affirming, uplifting read. I laughed out loud all the way through. My husband James – who never usually listens to audiobooks – got hooked in and loved it too.

Where D’You Go, Bernadette? – Another hilarious, laugh-out-loud book about being different.

From time to time James and I ponder the effect of audiobooks on our children. We discuss  in particular whether more listening means less reading.

C(9) learned to read early and reads quickly. She read the entire Harry Potter series in a couple of weeks when she was seven. C(9) may read slightly less fiction than she would if we didn’t have audiobooks, but the quality of the books she is exposed to is probably higher overall.

Sometimes, only the first few books in a series are available as audiobooks. In this case C(9) won’t think twice about reading the rest of the series.

C(9) also reads a ton of non-fiction I strew or she finds on our shelves. She tends to choose modern tween fiction (like The Cupcake Diaries series) when we visit the library.

J(8), meanwhile, has mild dyslexia. His reading comprehension was assessed last year as five years ahead (thanks to computer games). But he doesn’t enjoy reading long texts. Audiobooks have made a huge difference to him. As he listens he is exposed to  language and literature he almost certainly couldn’t yet read for himself.

I make sure J(8) has plenty of real books available. He loves reading joke books, graphic novels like Stinky, and comics like the Beano.  He also whipped through – and rereads – the Wimpy Kid, Big Nate and Captain Underpants series.

J(8) enjoys books,  appreciates quality literature, and knows how to read. That’ll do for my dyslexic eight-year-old for now!

So do audiobooks have a detrimental effect on “real” reading? Not at all. In our house, the two formats happily compliment each other, in much the same way as reading aloud supports children becoming avid readers.

Do you use audiobooks in your homeschool?

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Hip Homeschool Hop – 9/10/13

Collage Friday

Homeschool Mother’s Journal

# Living Maths Curriculum 2013-14

We started last year using a combination of workbooks and Life of Fred, and we ended it with a full-time living maths experiment inspired by Denise Gaskins’ Let’s Play Math. I’m pleased to say that the experiment has been a huge success and we plan to continue with it next year.

### Why I judged our living maths experiment a success

* both C(9) and J(8) eagerly agree to do maths

* I’ve noticed big improvements in their problem-solving abilities

* they’re more confident tackling challenging maths problems

* because our maths sessions include a lot of conversation, they’re more articulate in using mathematical language and talking through problems logically

* this has extended to their spontaneous use of mathematical charts and diagrams to help solve problems

### Our living maths routine

I prefer routines to structured schedules so our plans are loose. Some days J(8) likes more structure – on these days he asks to use Life of Fred which we read together.

I try to balance the kind of activities we do over a week, and tailor the day’s activity to our mood. If we get caught up in a long project like discovering pi I don’t worry about fitting in anything else.

I usually do maths with each child separately, though often the other will join in when they see us playing a game or swapping story-problems.

#### Problems and Puzzles

We grab a few puzzles or problems, settle ourselves comfortably on the sofa with a whiteboard and dry-wipe marker each (and usually the dog. He likes living maths) and get to work (play).

Sometimes we make up the problems, other times we get them from books or websites. Recently we’ve been enjoying puzzles from Mindbenders and Brainteasers and Primary Grade Challenge Math.

Next year I’m planning to add in the Murderous Maths series and a few other Rob Eastaway books, and I’m sure many more will make their way onto our shelves.

#### Stories

This term we’ve learned about circles and measuring angles with the Sir Cumference series. I have several more of these on our shelves, which we’ll use as a springboard for more geometry play next year.

We’ll no doubt review and extend our investigation of Fibonacci, perhaps using Wild Fibonacci.

And I’m very excited about doing a project using The Librarian Who Measured the Earth, which tells the story of how Ancient Greek mathematician Erastosthenes measured the circumference of the Earth. (Modern scientific estimates differ by less than 2%!)

#### Games

At least once a week we’ll play maths or logic games.  Some of our favourites this year have been

Blokkus

Mastermind

Yahtzee

We’ll also continue to try out games we find online, like Contig Jr and make up our own games using a hundred chart.

#### Manipulatives

Maths is very hands-on round here. Some days we get out our tangrams, pattern blocks, Lego, metre ruler, compasses, measuring cups or weighing scales and just play.

### Preparation

This summer I’m preparing by reading books like Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics and taking Jo Boaler’s free Stanford University How To Learn Math course. (I highly recommend Boaler’s highly readable and eye-opening The Elephant In The Classroom – titled What’s Math Got To Do With It? in the US.)

I’m looking forward to sharing more of our living maths adventures over the next year.  What maths fun do you have planned?