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Relocation

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Thanks for following me –  I look forward to seeing you over at Navigating By Joy!

Lula B x

Fun With Acids and Bases – How to Use Red Cabbage as an Indicator

Red cabbage acid base indicato original

Do kids want to learn about acids and bases? If they’re like my kids then probably yes in theory – but in practice, “Not right now, thanks Mummy, I’m just finishing this game on Grid Club/making this cardboard helmet/playing my guitar”.

Do kids want to play with colourful potions? Absolutely! And once you’ve ignited their curiosity, of course they’ll want to know all about it!

Bring on the red cabbage and those old faithfuls, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda…

What You Need

  • Red cabbage (we used half a head)
  • Water (the book says to used distilled water, but we used tap)
  • Saucepan
  • Stove Top / Hot Plate
  • Glass jars/glasses etc (to pour the cabbage water into)
  • Household substances to test eg vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, soap
  • Marker pen or dry wipe marker (optional) to label the jars
red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

What You Do

  1. Roughly chop the cabbage and boil it in water for about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain (and discard/eat) the cabbage, reserving the water.
  3. Pour the water into as many jars/glasses as you have substances to test, plus one as a control.
  4. Add one substance (e.g. lemon juice) to each jar of purple cabbage water. Label the jar so you don’t forget what you’ve added.
  5. Observe any colour change, comparing against the control cabbage water (to which nothing has been added).

What Happened

The water the cabbage has been boiled in is dark purple.

C and J both chose to add vinegar  to their first jar, which turned the cabbage water a pinkish colour. Then they predicted (proper science!) what would happen when they added lemon juice, and were happy to confirm their hypothesis that lemon juice also turned the water pink.

The effect of adding bicarbonate of soda was more subtle.  We had to scoop up a small amount of the liquid with a teaspoon to fully appreciate the change – the water took on a blueish hue.

Red Cabbage Acid/Base Homeschool Fun

Soap turned the water very slightly blue, and soy sauce had no noticeable effect.

What We Might Do Next Time

What we forgot to try (there’s always something!) is adding vinegar or lemon juice to our bicarbonate of soda water.  If you get the quantities right, this should turn the water back to the original (purple cabbage) water colour.

There are also lots of other substances we might test – orange juice, milk, Coca-Cola, tomato sauce…

How Does It Work?

Science Experiments Book

I’ll hand you over to the Science Experiments book here:

“An acid is a substance that produces positively charged particles made of oxygen and hydrogen, called hydronium ions, when dissolved in water…

A base is the chemical opposite of an acid.  Bases produce negatively charged particles in water, called hydroxyl ions….

Cabbage water [is an indicator, which means it shows] whether a liquid is acidic or basic. [It changes] colour because the structure of [its] molecules changes depending on the amount of hydronium or hydroxyl present.”

red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

Taking It One Step Further

For this you’ll need a pack of pH-testing litmus paper (£2.76 on Amazon).

red cabbage acid base homeschool science

I gave the children a book of litmus paper and they dipped a fresh piece in each of their cabbage water jars. They compared the colour the paper turned with the colour scale on the book, to obtain a pH value.

Red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

I explained that pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. (Bases that dissolve in water are called alkalis.) Acids have low pH’s, alkalis have higher pH’s.

red cabbage and litmus acid base indicator - homeschool science

C noticed by testing with litmus paper that our soy sauce solution was very slightly acidic.

Has anyone else tried this? Do leave a comment to let me know how it went or if you know of any other fun experiements with acids and bases!

More Hands-On Science Posts

How to Make Slime and Plastic

Fizzy Fountains

Copper-Plating a Nail

Thanks to Adventures In Mommydom for hosting Science Sunday!

Science Sunday

Weekly Wrap Up – The One With The Snow

Homeschool weekly wrap up Navigating By Joy

We had our annual snow this week, so snow fun was top of the homeschool agenda. The highlight was hitting the sledging run on Monday morning when all the other kids had gone back to school (tee hee!).

We just about managed to  fit in some other types of learning around the edges, too.:-)

History

We’ve been reading about the rise of Islam and the Islamic Empire in The Story of the World Vol 2: The Middle Ages. This has sparked some interesting questions and discussions about Christianity, Islam and other belief systems.

C and J are 9 and 7 so at the moment we’re learning history as an exciting story without much detailed examination of complex causes and motivations. But I love, love, love it when I notice them making spontaneous connections.

It happened this week when we learnt about how the Visigoths who had settled in Spain invited Tariq bin Ziyad over from North Africa to help them deal with internal conflict. I was so excited to see C’s eyes light up as she exclaimed, “That sounds like when the English invited over the Anglo-Saxons and ended up being conquered by them!”

Geography

This term I’m bringing maps in wherever I can. We use the WonderMaps software which lets you view and print maps showing as much or as little detail as you require.

The WonderMaps package also includes historical maps, so to complement our history study this week we’ve been looking at a map of the medieval Islamic Empire, side by side with a map of the area as it is today. As we learn about each important place in history the kids find it and mark it on the map.

I try to select maps that show Britain on the same map as the area we are studying.  If that’s not possible, I have to hand a separate, smaller scale map showing where we are in relation to the area. I think this helps the children (and me!) form a joined-up mental map of the world.

This week we all enjoyed learning how the name of the British colony at the south of Spain is derived from Jabal Tariq (“Tariq’s Mountain”) – the rock of Gibraltar!

Maths

We use Life of Fred as our main maths curriculum, but from time to time we supplement with other materials, to consolidate learning, practise techniques and fill gaps.

This week we’ve used Maths Made Easy workbooks and Mathletics as our supplements. C has been learning about factors and J has been practising arithmetic. Workbooks can be fun when you don’t use them all the time!

English/Language Arts

The People In Pineapple Place

C and I have been enjoying reading our current Arrow book The People in Pineapple Place and doing copywork and dictation from it. We also restarted Spelling Power which had fallen by the wayside about a year ago. We’re going to try doing it once a week, instead of daily,  to try and keep it fresh.

Luckily I don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel when it comes to J’s language arts programme, which is progressing nicely.

I’m pleased to see him choosing to write a bit more.  One evening this week he produced a “magna carta” for the family to sign.  “How sweet,” I though,  adding my signature to his charter declaring that “Mummy gets to do what ever she wants” – shooing away cynical thoughts about the location of the small print.

Five minutes later a triumphant J reappeared, revealing the rest of the “magna carta” which he had written in invisible ink before we signed – “Jasper gets to do games all the time”! (Honestly, you’d think we kept him in chains!) It’s so true that a child will write if the desire is strong enough!

Music

Appreciating classical music is so easy with You Tube! C chose our current composer, Chopin.  We’ve all enjoyed listening to the pieces she’s selected this week.  Sometimes we have the music on in the background, other times (especially if it’s a funny clip or original instruments are being played) we watch the accompanying video via Apple TV.

Science

We made an acid/base indicator with red cabbage! I’ll be writing a separate post all about the fun we had with that.

Red cabbage acid base indicato original  2

We hope you’ve had a great week too.

We’re appreciatively linking up here…

Homegrown Learners

How To Make Slime and Plastic

Home Made Slime - Homeschool Science
This week we made our own biodegradable plastic and had hands-on (literally!)  fun with sticky slime.

Slime

You have to feel this stuff to believe it.  The children had way more fun playing with it than they’d expected.  Best of all, it’s so easy – five minutes to make, a whole afternoon of fun!

Home Made Slime - Homeschool Science

What You Need

  • Cornflour (cornstarch)
  • Food colouring
  • Water
  • Cup, bowl, spoon

What You Do

  1. Put a cup of cornflour (cornstarch) into a bowl.
  2. Slowly add water, stirring all the time, until the mixture becomes a sticky paste (add up to about half a cup).
  3. Add food colouring and stir to blend.
  4. Have fun with your slime! Notice how it both flows like a liquid and sticks together like a solid.

The Science

Slime is a “non-Newtonian fluid” because it doesn’t conform to Sir Isaac Newton’s rules about how liquids behave. It’s made of polymers – long chains of simple molecules.  When the chains are stretched out the liquid flows, but if you apply pressure the chains stick together.

How to Make Slime Collage original

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

This really is so easy. The only thing we’d do differently would be to be less concerned about the exact amounts of cornflour and water. You can always add more of either (or both). Cornflour is our new favourite science ingredient!

Home-Made Plastic

What You Need

  • Starch (eg cornflour/cornstarch, potato flour)
  • Glycerine
  • Vinegar
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Aluminium foil
  • Wooden spoon/spatula
  • Old saucepan

How to make plastic - homeschool science

What You Do

  1. Mix together 1 tbsp starch and 4 tbsp water in a saucepan.
  2. Add 1 tsp glycerine and 1 tsp vinegar.
  3. Stir until blended.
  4. Put the saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Observe the mixture change from a cloudy liquid to a clear gel.
  6. When the mixture is completely transparent and starts to bubble*, use the wooden spoon to spread it out on a sheet of foil.
  7. Wait a day for your plastic to set.
How to make plastic - homeschool science

What Happened

Watching the mixture turn into a gel was very cool. *Ours never became completely transparent or visibly bubbled (we made three batches) but the plastic turned out fine. (For our purposes! We weren’t planning any industrial applications.)

how to make plastic - homeschool science

I forgot to do step 6 for our first batch   (I’m not great at reading instructions) so our red plastic came out in globules that would do nicely as fake jam!

Then we made green plastic in the same saucepan, without washing it, which resulted in a gross concoction that might be given away with the Beano (I’ll spare you the photo). I had to make some nice fresh-looking blue in a clean pan after that experience. (The kids were out playing in the snow by this point but – hey – I was having fun.)

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

  • We might make some uncoloured plastic, to see if it turns transparent in the way the book describes.
  • We might experiment with different quantities of glycerine, which changes the rigidity of the plastic.
  • I wouldn’t use an ancient non-stick saucepan – bits of the non-stick coating came off in our plastic. The pan came completely clean after a soak so I’d use a regular, uncoated sort. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a dedicated science pan.:-)
homemade_plastic_original (1) 2

The Science

Like slime, plastics are made from polymers. Their chain-like structure makes them flexible enough to mould while soft, then strong when set.

What Does Each of the Ingredients Do?

Starch contains polymers. Vinegar makes the chains stronger, and glycerine makes them more flexible.

The Book

Both these experiments come from Science Experiments: Loads of Explosively Fun Experiments You Can Do. We’re very much enjoying our journey through the book. A few of the experiments call for materials that are tricky or expensive to source (dry ice, powdered alum) – we’ll skip those for now – but most are inexpensive household items. I love the way the materials and instructions are clearly laid out with plenty of pictures.

More Hands-On Science

Fizzy Fountains – Diet Coke Geysers and Home-Made Lava Lamps

Copper-Plating a Nail

Science Sunday

We’re linking up with AdventuresInMommydom’s Science Sunday – thanks Ticia for hosting!

2 Fizzy Fountains

Fizzy fountains

Homeschool science is so much fun.  This week we made two very different fizzy fountains. On Monday we let off a diet coke and mentos geyser, and on Friday we created our own “lava lamp”.

Diet Coke and Mentos Geyser

I bought the supplies for this back in June 2012, when we were doing our rocket project, but the instructions for making a diet coke and mentos rocket were evidently too daunting for me to get around to doing it. So when the children recently asked if we could make a diet coke fountain, I was all ready to go.

What You Need

  • large bottle of soda (coloured, diet soda like Diet Coke is best – so you can see the spray, and the spray doesn’t make too much of a sticky mess)
  • pack of Mentos
  • paper/card or Geyser Tube
  • a large outdoor space

What You Do

The experiment couldn’t be simpler to explain. Dump a whole packet of Mentos into a bottle of soda, then stand well back.

The tricky bit is trying to get all the Mentos in at once. Cordie and Jasper experimented with various techniques using an empty bottle. What seemed to work best was loading the Mentos into a piece of paper which had been rolled into a loose cone, while holding a piece of card at the thin end of the cone to keep the Mentos from falling through. The card can then be slid away when you’re ready to set off the geyser.

How Did It Go?

Our Mentos-loading technique worked perfectly the first time. However, our geyser was only about a foot high. Maybe because the diet coke I’d bought for our rocket experiments was four months past its use-by date?!

coke and mentos geyser - homeschool science at navigatingbyjoy

But …we still had a tube of mentos left, so we tried again, this time with a bottle of caffeine-free diet coke I’d been saving to enjoy with a shot of rum at the weekend (I am so selfless in the cause of science). Unfortunately this time our Mentos-loading technique didn’t work so well.  No quick-fire round of mints exploding the surface tension of the coke – instead, the last 8 were hastily shoved in one by one before I scarpered to a safe distance.

The resulting geyser was double the height of our first attempt, but there was no danger of getting our hair wet, let alone the roof. (I felt a bit wistful as I removed my sou’ wester hat.)  But the kids – who hadn’t known what to expect – were impressed.

How Does It Work?

No-one knows for sure! The most popular theory is that the Mentos break the surface tension of the soda, releasing loads of carbon dioxide bubbles at once. These bubbles push all of the liquid out of the bottle in a fantastic explosion.  Steve Spangler Science has a more detailed explanation and some cool videos.

What Might We Do Differently Next Time?

  • use a Steve Spangler Geyser Tube (£4.45 at Amazon) to load the Mentos
  • try using store-brand diet cola (Tesco does 2 litre bottles for 17p)

We will spray our trees with coke yet!

Oil and Water Fizzy Fountain

We found this in Science Experiments: Loads of Explosively Fun Experiments You Can Do.

What You Need

  • plastic bottle
  • vegetable oil
  • water
  • food colouring
  • two effervescent tablets (containing citric acid and bicarbonate of soda)

fizzy fountains homeschool science fun

What You Dopouring water onto oil - homeschool science

  1. Fill a plastic bottle three quarters full with vegetable oil.
  2. Top up with water. (Observe how the water sinks to the bottom because it is denser than the oil.)
  3. Add a few drops of food colouring. (Wait a moment for the colour to sink through the oil, then appreciate the pretty effects as it mixes with the water.)
  4. Break two effervescent tablets in half and drop them into the bottle.
  5. Loosely screw on the bottle top. (Watch your fizzy fountain start to work.)

How Does it Work?

When the tablets dissolve in the water, they give off carbon dioxide. Bubbles of this gas float up through the bottle. When the bubbles attach themselves to blobs of water, the blobs and the bubbles together are less dense than the oil, so they rise up to the surface. There the bubbles pop, and the blobs of water sink back down through the water again.

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

effervescent oil and water fountain

This was a fun experiment – we would do it again. I might make a few changes though:

  • use a smaller bottle (less oil – cheaper!)
  • use less food colouring. We used red, blue and green which together turned the water dark brown.
  • use indigestion tablets instead of (orange) vitamin C tablets (another reason why the water turned brown?)
  • shine a lamp through the bottle
  • add glitter to the fountain
  • experiment with different kinds of oil e.g. olive oil

Bonus Fun

We hunted out Big J’s lava lamp and enjoyed watching the pretty patterns as warmed wax floated up to the top and then sank again as it cooled.

What Next?

Next week we’re going to investigate polymers, making slime and plastic. Sounds fun!

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum – Grade 3

Homeschool language arts grade 3 at navigatingbyjoy

Our Grade 3 (UK Year 4) language arts programme is centred around Brave Writer’s The Arrow.

We love how The Arrow exposes us to new literature and inspires us to use language in new and exciting ways.  I say “us” because part of the Brave Writer philosophy is that parents learn alongside their kids – I probably get as much out of The Arrow as Cordie does!

Goals

Our language arts goals are for Cordie (9):

  • to enjoy using language to express herself
  • to improve her written communication skills so as to enhance her self-expression
  • to appreciate great literature, and
  • to learn in a fun way how to spell accurately and use good grammar

Curriculum

The Arrow

Books

This term we looked at the “hero’s journey” plot structure as we read the fantasy story Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  We also enjoyed Frindle, a funny and thought-provoking story about a ten year old boy who makes up a word.

Copywork and Dictation

Each Arrow contains four passages from the month’s book to be used for copywork and dictation. These simple practices help teach punctuation, grammar and spelling and  and introduce concepts like paragraph indentation and how to write dialogue.

Grammar

In my heart I know that The Arrow probably provides all the grammar practice Cordie needs. But sometimes I get to wondering why, then, do schools and most homeschool curricula spend so long teaching the mechanics of grammar? My compromise was to look for a grammar book that Cordie would enjoy using independently.

Nelson Grammar is an old school book that was donated by emigrating friends. Cordie loves it.  Each unit is nicely set out over a double page spread. Cordie’s using Pupil Book 4 which is apparently for Year 6 (Grade 5) students. You can preview the inside of each book at Google Books if you’re not sure which level would best suit your child.

Nelson Grammar

Spelling

Our shelves also contain a number of spelling books collected over the years. We selected CGP  KS2 Spelling (Book 3) because Cordie can work through it independently and the wordlists were pitched at about the right level.

Each list of 23 words is designed to be read, copied, then covered and written again, and finally clues are given for each word so that the student can test herself.

In theory Cordie learns one wordlist a week; in practice she doesn’t do it that often. I don’t insist – I’m not convinced spelling programmes are the best way to learn to spell.  But I like knowing that one is available to Cordie should the mood take her!

Language Arts Websites

There’s lots of practice available on subscription websites like Grid Club, Education City and Study Ladder, and free websites like BBC Bitesize. These sites make learning good English so much fun – incomparable with the mind-numbing reading comprehensions I endured at primary school!

Poetry Teatime

Last term we celebrated poetry tea every Monday afternoon with local homeschooling friends. Sadly our friends have now moved to the other end of the country, but the poetry tea habit is firmly in place and we have several other friends keen to join us.  We even held poetry tea with Daddy over the Christmas break!

poetry tea

Other Writing

I never set Cordie writing assignments other than those we work on together using The Arrow, but she writes spontaneously and often – comic strips, a diary, recipes, stories, songs, letters and poems and posters (usually aimed at her brother).

She also from time to time writes “mini essays” (her description) about aspects of her project work, like this one about electrons.

electrons mini essay

When we have time, Cordie creates history notebook pages. I like the way notebooking helps organise thoughts on a topic.  It also develops planning and organisational skills which will be increasingly used later on.

Writing Mentor

Finally, Cordie is going to be having a few creative writing sessions with a home-educating mum friend who is also a homeschool tutor, an arrangement which came out of a casual conversation between us. Cordie loves the idea.

I think it will be a great opportunity for her to have the benefit of someone else’s perspective and will add some positive accountability to inspire her to write.

Reading

Of course, no language arts curriculum would be complete without a mention of reading.  Luckily, this requires very little planning in Cordie’s case as she reads (or listens to) everything book can find. (I have to warn her off certain books in our shared Audible account.  I’m not sure she’s quite ready for Stephen Fry’s autobiography!)

Recent family car-listens have been The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Gerald Durrell’s wonderful My Family and Other Animals (part of his Corfu trilogy). We’re just starting on the Narnia series which Jasper (7) hasn’t read – Cordie made me read them to her back-to-back a few years ago, but we’re both more than happy to re-experience C.S. Lewis’s magical fantasies.

Other Posts You Might Like

Grade 2 Language Arts: Brave Writer’s The Arrow

Our Homeschool Curriculum: English (Language Arts) – Grade 2

Grammar Land: A Living Book about the Parts of Speech

Shakespeare for Younger Children in 3 Easy Steps

End of Term Homeschool Curriculum Review – English (Language Arts) Grade 1

Poetry Tea

Homeschool Language Arts for the Dyslexic and Dysgraphic Child

Homeschool Language Arts for the Dyslexic and Dysgraphic Child

handiwriter - homeschooling dyslexia & dysgraphia at navigating by joy

Our homeschool language arts curriculum has changed a little since we discovered that Jasper (7) has mild dyslexia, dysgraphia and fine motor delays. We’ve always had a fairly relaxed homeschooling style, but knowing more about how Jasper’s brain works has allowed us to use the most appropriate tools to bring out his best.

Assessment and Diagnosis

Jasper rarely reads books for pleasure or writes voluntarily. I’ve never been too concerned – he’s only seven, and I know enough about the development of boys’ brains to trust that this will change with time.  In the meantime, I knew he was busy developing other other skills.

Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

We took Jasper to see an educational psychologist because we wanted to know how best to leverage the small amount of time we spend doing structured homeschooling with him. The psychologist gave us useful insights into his relative strengths and weaknesses. (I see these as a snapshot of his current development, not set in stone.  The brain is more like plastic.) She assessed Jasper as having “mild dyslexic and possibly dysgraphic markers”, and recommended a number of resources specifically tailored to his learning needs.

Sensory Processing Disorder

I had suspected for a few months that Jasper had Sensory Processing Disorder, and this was confirmed in September by an assessment with a paediatric occupational therapist.  Sensory Processing Disorder has many manifestations – the biggest challenge Jasper faces is emotional self-regulation. But SPD also tends to bring with it with motor delays – mostly, in Jasper’s case, fine motor delays.

General Approach

The psychologist and occupational therapist recommended a little-and-often approach to help improve Jasper’s reading and writing. He is having occupational therapy (daily, at home, and weekly with a therapist) to help with his sensory integration and motor function. Because these skills act as a foundation to all higher level functioning, including academic learning, it makes sense for now to focus most of our efforts here.

Curricula

Reading

Despite his mild dyslexia, Jasper’s reading comprehension age was assessed at more than three years ahead of his chronological age (thank you, Dennis the Menace and Zelda!). This type of dyslexia is sometimes described as “stealth dyslexia” because it so often goes undiagnosed in bright kids.


Toe by Toe - homeschooling dyslexia at navigating by joyToe by Toe
 describes itself as a “highly structured multi-sensory reading manual”. It requires no preparation, you just sit down together and follow the format each day. The pages are black and white, clear, and un-busy, and as it’s designed for all ages (including adults) it doesn’t patronise. As a visual-spatial learner with a good memory, Jasper has always relied on sight-word reading. I knew from hearing him read aloud at poetry teas that he lacked the skills to decode more complex new words, but he’d always strongly resisted any phonics coaching. That is, until we found Toe by Toe.

Phonics rules are introduced and thoroughly practised, and each word has to earn three ticks over three consecutive sessions before it is considered mastered. Phonics concepts are practised using both real and nonsense words – it’s the latter that seem really to cement the learning.

homeschooling dyslexic child - navigating by joy

Toe by Toe suggests sessions of up to 20 minutes a day. We do six minutes. I might increase this as Jasper gets older, but we’ve been using the programme for just a few months and are already a quarter through so that may not be necessary.

The other day I snapped this picture of him not only reading a book, but doing so on a car journey next to a bag of electronic games devices!

Handwriting

Thanks to several years of Handwriting Without Tears, Jasper’s handwriting is neat and legible.  The problem is, outside of his handwriting sessions, he never writes! The process is just too effortful for him. The occupational therapist told us that because of his sensory processing issues and fine motor delays, he’s having to use big, tiring muscles to write, whereas those of us who’ve developed what’s known as automaticity in writing use smaller muscles.

One of the ways we’re addressing this is by using a handiwriter to encourage Jasper to hold his pencil in the correct position. Although I had shown him how to do this many times, I had come to wonder if maybe there was no “correct” grip and that children should be left to hold a pencil however they please.  But if working on a new grip is going to make writing easier for Jasper, I’ll do what it takes to encourage him.

Write from the Start - Homeschooling the Dyslexic and Dysgraphic ChildThe educational psychologist we saw recommended Write from the Start, “a unique programme to develop the fine motor and perceptual skills necessary for effective handwriting”. The books are full of simple exercises like drawing the spines on a dragon’s back, which Jasper does with enthusiasm. Write from the Start leads onto cursive handwriting so we’ve skipped ahead to Handwriting Without Tears – Cursive Handwriting.  Jasper happily does a page a day, after Write From the Start.

Typing

The psychologist emphasised the importance of Jasper learning to type well and recommended Nessy Fingers, an inexpensive programme designed for dyslexic students. Cordie (9), (who does not have dyslexia) also enjoys using Nessy more than the other typing programmes we’ve tried (Type to Learn 4 and the free BBC Dance Mat Typing).

Creative Writing and Other Subjects

Of course, there’s more to language arts than reading and writing.  One of the many advantages of homeschooling is that delays in reading and writing don’t have to hold a child back in other subjects or from having fun with language.

Jasper can dictate stories, poems and emails to me, and ask me to write down or spell search terms. I don’t put pressure on him to write or spell for himself outside our dedicated sessions. I want him to feel the joy of expressing himself, of seeing his words recorded, unhampered by the fact that other skills haven’t fully developed yet.

I act as Jasper’s scribe when he writes history or science notebooking pages. His French teacher (who has two dyslexic sons) lets him to play or draw in their lessons while his sister writes. He learns the parts of speech playing Mad Libs.  He relishes participating in poetry tea, a superb natural opportunity for reading aloud to an audience. He grabs pencil and paper to writes plans, treasure maps and notes to himself, uninhibited by worries about what other people will think. His favourite game is Consequences; it didn’t bother any of us that for years every character he invented was called “poo”😀 . He’s listened to many, many audiobooks, including the complete Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games trilogy, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. He’s enjoying language; the skills will come.

How has a Dyslexia Diagnosis Changed Our Homeschooling?

Having Jasper assessed and diagnosed with mild dyslexia and sensory processing disorder hasn’t much changed how we homeschool. When you spend every day with your child, you understand him better than anyone. I’ve always known it was important to trust Jasper to develop at his own pace.

Each of us comes as a unique package.  The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain offers an incredible insight into what the dyslexic mind is capable of (I can’t recommend it highly enough).  We don’t try to make babies to sit, crawl or walk before they’re ready.  We trust that they are born with everything they need to develop at the exact right pace for them. Let’s trust our older children to do the same.

Apps to Help a Right-Brained Mum Get Organized

apps to get a right brained mum organized

I am not a naturally organised person. I have great ideas, a huge zest for life, and an insatiable love of learning, but the trade-off for my out-there right-hemisphere-dominant brain is that it’s not always  easy for me to stay focused on the day-to-day jobs involved in running a household.

When my mum takes my children somewhere, I’m in awe at how it takes her at most a quarter of the time it takes me to pack a bag, load the car and get going.  Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that on the way out the door I’ll pause as I pass the printer, to scan a few pieces of my daughter’s artwork; or have to run upstairs three times for a jacket (the first two times coming down empty handed after turning off the bathroom light, putting away a pile of socks, or plucking a few stray eyebrows); or feel the need to hunt for a couple of the books I’m in the middle of (you never know which you might want to read in the five minutes waiting to see the doctor); or reaching for the landline phone in an effort to locate my mobile phone (in my handbag).

People like me shouldn’t try to multi-task – but try telling that to my wandering mind.

Luckily, I’ve always been fascinated by tools that help compensate for scatter-brain tendencies.  I got straight A’s at school thanks to Tony Buzan’s memory systems.  My vacation packing-list procedure is incredibly sophisticated (excessively so, but that helps engage me).  And now – oh glory – there’s an app for everything!

Clear

When my friend Sarah told me about the list app Clear, it just sounded too simple to be useful. But once I had figured out the multi-touch swipe gesture system and entered a few lists, I was hooked.  Here’s why Clear is a life-saver for someone like me:

Multiple Lists in One Place

I’ve long since seen the value of lists for recording an idea the moment it pops into my head (before something else pops in and replaces it, three seconds later).  But if I put everything on one list, it soon becomes too long and boring to check, and multiple paper lists quickly get lost.

Being able to have multiple named lists in one place (and on my phone which is always with me) means I always have the appropriate list to hand.

Clear - apps to help a right brained mother get organized

For example, we spend a large part of Tuesdays and Thursdays out of the house doing homeschool activities that require various pieces of clothing, books, food and other supplies. So I have my Tuesday list (“Take to Home Ed Centre” and my Thursday list (“Take to French”). When a puppy joined our family a few months ago, I was easily able to add the unfamiliar dog items onto my lists so that Harvey’s needs were also met during his days out with us.

The lists are great for travel. Most spring and summer weekends we visit our house at the coast, which I love, but keeping track of what food, clothes and toiletries were in which house used to be a challenge.  Now I have “Take to Coast” and “Leaving Coast” lists, plus “Packing up Coast” to remind me to lock the balcony doors, clean the loo, and set the dishwasher before heading inland for the week.

Clear - apps to get a right brained mother organizedOther lists I have right now include; “November birthdays”; “Project supplies” (all those bizarre things you need for homeschooling, like red cabbage, electrical tape and popsicle sticks); “Errands” (for when I’m in town); “Home Ed Ideas”; “Ikea wish list” (to focus me during my occasional visits to the Ikea marketplace and stop me coming home with a dozen more picture frames I won’t use); “House Quick Wins” (5 minute decluttering jobs); and “Boring Stuff” (my Christmas presents list – shhh!).

Crossing Off and Reinstating List Items

One of the reasons Clear works so well for lists you use regularly is because when you swipe an item as completed it remains, greyed out, at the bottom of the list, ready to be reswiped into play the next time you need to refer to the list. Which means I don’t need to start from scratch remembering what I have to take out with us every Tuesday. Meanwhile one-off items can be permanently deleted by swiping in the other direction.

Other Useful Functions

The ability to have multiple lists in one place and to delete and reinstate items are the two most important features of Clear for me, but there are other little touches that make the app a pleasure to use. Lists and list items can be re-ordered, renamed and colour-coded, for example.

User Fallibility

Of course, I still have to remember to check my lists – right up until the last item is swiped off. And while I remembered to take dishwasher tablets, teabags and the kids’ travel clocks to Center Parcs a few weeks ago – I forgot to pack my coat. “I’m surprised you made it to the car without your coat!” remarked my husband (who knows my lack of tolerance for English November weather).  “I thought my coat was in the car!” I replied. (It’s okay, there’ll soon be an app for that.)

I’m loving the new right-brain friendly world order!

Halloween Rock Monsters

Halloween Pebble Monsters - navigating by joy homeschool blog

Cute Halloween Rock Monsters

It’s UK half term holiday this week so we’ve been seeing friends, doing sports courses (the children), decluttering and child-free shopping (me :-)), and tomorrow we’re off to spend Halloween with family in Wales.  And then we’re taking an extra week off next week to go to Center Parcs with friends – yay – I love homeschooling!

Yesterday we found time to make these cute Halloween Rock Monsters – inspired by Coastal Inspired Creations.

Here’s how to make your own cute rock monsters:

1. Paint your pebble with acrylic paint (we enjoyed mixing up colours).

2. Add a mouth and teeth with a black sharpie (marker pen).

cute halloween pebble monsters at navigating by joy homeschool blog

3. Colour your monster’s teeth.  We used a white correction fluid pen, but you could use white paint if you have a good steady hand.

4. Add googly eyes.  We used the self-adhesive kind which meant no messing around with glue (just fiddling around trying to remove the backing paper!).

5. Admire your monsters (and give them names, decide who’s married to whom, and make up life stories and monster scenes :-)).

Happy Halloween!

What we’re Doing for Grade 2 and 3 Maths

arithmemouse_grade 2 and 3 homeschool math curriculum

Multiplication Practice with Arithmemouse

I last wrote about how we found our perfect math curriculum back in March, so I thought it might be time for an update…

Jasper (7, Yr3/Gr2)

Life of Fred

Life of Fred Farming - grade 2 and 3 homeschool math curriculumMaths is still Jasper’s favourite subject, thanks to Life of Fred.  This term we finished Life of Fred (Edgewood) and began Life of Fred (Farming).  I love the way the Fred series mixes up basic fundamentals (such as subtraction with borrowing) with more sophisticated concepts (like union of sets, median averages and simple algebraic equations) in a way that introduces young children to advanced mathematical vocabulary in a very natural way. And, of course, we all love “Fred’s” delightfully quirky story and offbeat humour.

Games

Because we’re not doing a traditional curriculum, I make sure Jasper gets plenty of extra opportunities to learn his maths facts. Luckily he loves games, which are a great way of getting the job done.  Recently we’ve played Yahtzee  and War . (My favourite maths website, Let’s Play Math has lots of ideas for maths games. I’ve just noticed Contig, which looks great – we’ll be playing Contig Jr next week!)  We also play games like Tug Team Addition  at Math Playground, and Jasper practises multiplication using Arithmemouse and Timez Attack.

One benefit of working with a child one-to-one is that you get instant feedback on how easy or challenging he finds each concept.  So in Life of Fred (Edgewood) I noticed Jasper was a bit confused about the differences between rhombuses, trapeziums and parallelograms, so I set him some exercises on Study Ladder.  He loves working online, especially on specific exercises (rather than working his way through an online curriculum in a linear way – for example, Maths Whizz didn’t work so well for us for any length of time) so this is win/win.

Cordie (8, Yr4/Gr3)

math mammoth division 1 - grade 2 and 3 homeschool math curriculumCordie recently decided to take a break from Life of Fred (she was on “Farming”) to explore some other resources.  She did a few exercises from a Schofield & Sims KS2 workbook we had on the shelves and asked me to set her some “surprise” Study Ladder exercises.  One day she asked me to make her a page of clocks so she could brush up on telling the time, and another day she wanted a page of multi-digit subtraction sums.  She played around on Khan Academy for a while, watching videos on decimal place values and then setting herself some problems to solve. And she dipped into Math Mammoth’s Division 1 (filling in the answers on the iPad using the Notability app).

Following her explorations, Cordie says she’s ready to go back to more of a maths routine with Life of Fred.  Before that, though, we’re doing some times tables practice using Maria Miller’s structured drill system from Math Mammoth Multiplication 1.

I’ve looked ahead at all the Life of Fred elementary level books (up to “Jellybeans”) and they seem to cover everything on the English KS2 curriculum. As with Jasper, if Cordie needs or wants extra practice on a particular topic as we go along, there are plenty of other resources we can dip into.

Writing this post has also reminded me how much we all like Primary Grade Challenge Math which teaches mathematical thinking and problem-solving in a fun way.  We haven’t used Challenge Math in a while but I’d like to get back to using it regularly, perhaps once a week.

Isn’t it great how many fabulous homeschool maths resources are out there? There really is something to suit everyone, at every age and in every mood!

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