Getting back into Homeschooling after the Christmas Break

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Monday 6th January: our first day back to homeschooling since we decided to break for Christmas around the start of December. I can tell you now the extended break has done us all the world of good.  I personally feel motivated to get back into routine and I have felt the children’s excitement rising as I have let “slip” some of our plans for the coming weeks.

We are relatively new to home education having only officially removed the children from school in September 2019. The break over Christmas from planning and implementing topics has given me a chance to reflect on what has been working for us as a family and I have realised a number of things; firstly, I work better when there is a plan in place, secondly the children work better when they know what is expected of them and when there are more hands on activities to take part in and thirdly we all need more time outside.

With all that in mind I have decided we will loosely follow a number of curricula / teaching units for the upcoming term to give us a plan to follow, namely Torchlight Level K, Exploring Nature with Children and Be Naturally Curious. Alongside these we will use One Third Stories in Spanish, Reading Eggs, Activity Village and the Osmo. When possible Mathematics will be incorporated seamlessly through measuring, recording, drawing and hands on interactions such as shopping and making, otherwise I will be gathering ideas from some Waldorf texts and ideas I have found online.  To help the children with what’s expected of them I have started to implement some routines with them, the first of which is the morning routine. This involves them getting up, dressed, washed and making their beds and sorting their own stuff out before coming downstairs.  To encourage us all to get outdoors more we will be organising and taking part in a local forest families event once a week and we are taking part in the 1000 hours outside challenge this year.

I did spend a lot of time researching books and activities for us starting back so that the first week would go as smoothly as possible. My main concern is always involving my toddler but at the same time allowing the girls to get on with their work. This week we will be focusing on European Russia with Torchlight Level K and the Winter Sky with Exploring Nature with Children. Here is the first day’s plan and how it worked out:

Establishing a Morning Routine: we started a new morning routine whereby the girls get up, washed, dressed and make their beds before coming downstairs for breakfast. Here is a snippet from the routine we have implemented.Morning time routine for children

To get this off to a good start I printed the girls’ routine check lists, laminated them and put them on clip boards.  I placed the clip boards beside their beds with their clean clothes for the morning. This actually went really well as it gave the girls a plan to follow and some responsibility for getting themselves sorted.

We are loosely following the torchlight curriculum which is literature based so there is a lot of reading involved.  The main concern people expressed to me over this curriculum is the price of the books, so to overcome this I simply bought only the spines (main recommended texts) and some books that sounded really interesting that I felt we would read more than once. I also only planned for the first 6 weeks of the curriculum so that if it wasn’t a good fit we were not in the situation that I had a whole year of work sitting wasted.

Work Session One: I read two books to the children while they drew at the kitchen table. The first one Anya’s Secret Society is a recommended text from the curriculum and tells the story of a young Russian girl who is left handed. In Russian society being left handed is still frowned upon and this story from the child’s point of view explains how the child had to hide and draw with her left hand in secret. This was a great for discussing how people can be treated unfairly for appearing different. Both my girls found it very strange that left handed children would be forced to use their right hand and this led us to discussing how not that long ago children in the UK were also forced to use their right hand even when they were left handed.


The second book was one I got from the library and it provides facts about Russia written in the format of a selection of short informative blog posts. The children found these interesting and each short blog post had a full color photograph accompanying it. Russia is a great country for big features such as the deepest lake and largest land area, the idea of items being the biggest in the world helped to capture my children’s interest,

To give my voice a break I then put on an audio book of the Nutcracker for the children to listen to while I prepared a snack.  I have found out two things in the last 6 months that make our days easier, firstly keep the children fed and secondly when possible utilise tools such as audio books and documentaries to your advantage to get other jobs completed while the children are engaged.

After our snack and audio book it was time to get some fresh air. Another thing I have realised since starting our homeschooling journey is that we all need regular fresh air breaks; some days I start with a walk at 8.30am as I find the children have much better levels of concentration once they have had some exercise. After a 40 minute walk/scoot outside we were ready for session two.

Work Session Two: We started this session by looking at both the globe and the world map and finding our country and Russia on each.  I then read sections related to Russia from three more recommended texts: The Smithsonian Children’s Illustrated Atlas, A Year Full of Stories and The Atlas of Animal Adventures.

The Illustrated Atlas is very informative but I found it easiest to just let each child pick one or two pieces of information to read out rather than try to read it all and I plan to go back to it another day.

The story about the Little Red Hen from the Year Full of Stories book was based on how if you are not prepared to put in any work you are not entitled to have share of the spoils.  This is a great way for imparting these important ideas to our children and mine were able to point out the fairness in the story straight away.

Before we read the section on Siberian Tigers from the Atlas of Animal Adventures I let the kids watch a Go Jetters episode on Saint Basil’s Cathedral in St Petersburg. This gave me enough time to set up a tiger habitat for the children to play in.

We read about the Siberian Tigers and how there are only 500 left in the wild. After this the children played in some fake snow with model tigers for the next hour while I prepared some food for lunch and dinner.

The taste friendly fake snow is simply corn flour (corn starch in the USA) mixed with olive oil in a 8:1 ratio. We also added cottonwool balls to represent snow balls and some pine-cones and wooden trees for the tigers to hide behind. The tiger habitat was definitely the favourite activity of the day. Good points about this “snow” was it was easy to clean up and I was not worried about the kids putting their hands in their mouths as I knew it was taste safe furthermore it kept really well and we were able to play with it all week.

Sensory bin with fake snow for tiger habitat

I had decided we would make a Russian Potato Salad called an Olivier Salad. This was simply because we had left over roast chicken, baked potatoes and boiled eggs so we used up our left overs and made a new dinner for that night – win win in my book.  By this stage however the children were not very interested in leaving their tiger world so I made most of the salad myself while they played.

Preparing an Olivier Salad

The salad contained green peppers, grated carrot, chopped cucumber, cooked potato, boiled eggs, thawed frozen peas and cooked chicken all mixed with mayo.  Traditionally this dish would be made with ham. As advised in the torchlight curriculum I made a recipe chart to record our new recipes and what we thought of them, Miss 7 rated it a 4 and Miss 5 only a 2 out of 5.  i thought it was delicious and had it for my lunch the next day too – waste not want not.

I had planned to also read another book, draw maps and measure and record the overnight rain fall in our newly made rain gauge but this was not going to happen and we had friends over to play instead. Sometimes it is best to end on a high note rather than try to complete all the activities.

I hope you have enjoyed an insight into a day in our homeschooling life, please comment to let me know if you would like to see more of these types of posts.

What Does Christmas Mean In A Secular Home

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Christmas is coming up soon and in this secular household, it will be celebrated just as much as in the most devout Christian household but why?

The True Meaning Of Christmas Christians, it is said that Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ, about peace, love, giving and family.

So what is Christmas in a secular home? For children, of course, there is the magic of Santa, decorating a Christmas tree, the mystery of presents appearing from nowhere, the excitement of Christmas Eve, lots of people, lots of sweets and candy, the holiday spirit, with well remembered favourite music, a family meal, with special desserts and perhaps the build up of opening a daily flap or box on an Advent calendar. But is that all?

The Pagan Origins Of Christmas mid winter festival celebrating the return of the sun (winter solstice), including giving gifts and decorating homes with greenery was celebrated thousands of years before Christians adopted the festival as a celebration of the birth of Christ. The pagan festival celebrated the start of the end of winter, looking forward to spring and the coming of new life and more light. Candles are part of the celebration of light and the return of the sun. So feasting, gift giving, the use of greenery and candles are all part of the mid winter festival and very traditional.

Is Santa Real? years ago, a little girl called Virginia, wrote to a New York newspaper and asked whether Santa was real, receiving a reply as an editorial in that newspaper, headed, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus“. The editorial went on to say that “… there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

The original Santa is said to have been St Nicholas, who was reputed to have given to the needy and his reputation became legendary after his death, becoming the Santa we know and love today, who could be said to be the embodiment of Christmas giving. So, part of Christmas is giving, even if as small children, we are more concerned with receiving.

A Multicultural Festival

Christmas thus has a multicultural origin, going back to the dawn of time, celebrating the turn of the seasons and has incorporated other mid winter festivals along the way, with gift giving, decorating and celebration.

So What Is The True Meaning Of Christmas go back to the original question, we have looked at how Christmas is actually a multicultural celebration that has grown over thousands of years, incorporating various elements along the way. The basic elements, though, still remain as giving, family, feasting, greenery and celebration. If we want to avoid too much commercialisation of the season and to encourage the spirit of kindness and giving, then it is possible to include these, for instance in a special advent calendar of kindnesses, such as in this Christmas Season book or this other Christmas Season book for older children or by creating and distributing small gifts anonymously to neighbours or elderly folk or those who are alone, perhaps by including the Twelve Crafts Of Christmas as part of your personal Advent Calendar.

Christmas Dinner

Locally, a community Christmas Dinner is held for anyone who wants to attend, they do not have to be necessarily old or alone. Donations are welcomed but not required and the dinner is celebrated as a community of those who wish to attend and celebrate the Christmas season with their neighbours of all kinds.

The Story of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

Bonfire night, or Guy Fawkes Night, on 5 November each year, is celebrated in England, Scotland and Wales but not in Northern Ireland, so children in Northern Ireland may not know what Bonfire Night is about.

On the evening of 5th November each year, bonfires are lit and fireworks set off. Very often a “guy”, a stuffed dummy, is burnt on the bonfire. It’s a great celebration and children look forward to it for days beforehand. The bonfires may be lit by individual families in their gardens and there may also be organised celebrations in many areas, with firework displays. These are much safer, as every year, people are injured and sometimes even killed by fireworks. Bonfires can also be dangerous and have set houses on fire. The Fire Brigade and hospitals are always on alert on Bonfire Night.

Bonfire night celebrates the foiling of a plot to blow up Parliament with barrels of gunpowder  in England in 1605. The “guy” or stuffed dummy that is burnt on the bonfire is named after Guy Fawkes, who was the man caught below Parliament with the barrels of gunpowder and a match, ready to light the fuse.

The video below, gives a good explanation of what happened in 1605, over 400 years ago.
A poem was also written about it and there are several versions. Only the first verse is given here:
Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!


Mixing Colours

We are doing a unit on colours today, using home made play dough, coloured with food colouring.


Recipe For Home Made Playdough

  • 2 cups of plain flour.
  • 3/4 cup salt.
  • 4 teaspoons cream of tartar.
  • 2 cups lukewarm water.
  • 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (coconut oil works too)
  • Food colouring, optional

Primary Colours

I made the playdough last night and added the food colouring this morning, to make three large balls of play dough, one each of red, blue and yellow that I shared out between the girls. These are the primary colours.

Secondary Colours

They then mixed the playdough to create the secondary colours, orange, green and purple.

Colour Wheel

This is a video about the primary and secondary colours and creating a colour wheel:


I downloaded a free book on colours. You can get this free, printable colour theory book for kids by visiting this Pinterest link and clicking on the picture. This will take you to a site, where you enter your name and address and get a free download of a colour theory book. The picture below shows the secondary colours made, along with a copy of the downloadable book that we used.

We also watched some useful videos on colour.


A song about mixing colours and the new colours that are made.

A video song about the colours of the rainbow.

Writing Work

Our writing work was “My Favourite Colour”.

Harvest Moon

A ceremony about harvest time in Africa.


Not all films about harvest time are factual, occasionally there is a spoof film. This is a classic April Fool’s Joke by the BBC, showing the spaghetti harvest on the borders of Italy and Switzerland.



The moon looks large at times, especially when rising or when there is a supermoon but what if the other planets in the Solar System were in the sky instead of the moon? What would our sky look like then? Watch this video to find out

This next video is music-only, with captions showing the sizes of our moon and planets. It then goes out into the rest of the cosmos to see even bigger planets and stars to show that our moon is really tiny and then even further out to see the Milky Way Galaxy and then the known universe. The end of the video shows how far light travels in a day, a week, a year.


The final video is a factual narrated presentation of the moon and its craters by NASA and shows the marks left by the last space ship to land there and marks left by the astronauts.



Wolves are carnivores. They eat meat. In order to eat meat, they must catch it. Sometimes, they find it hard to get enough food to feed the pack when they live in the far North. Sometimes, all they can catch is a hare.


When wolves are chasing large animals, they have to hunt together as a pack in order to get a meal. Sometimes, they get lucky.


Wolves are wild animals, they won’t let you forget it and they can and will bite if they are nervous. They can communicate over long distances by howling.


Migrations: Big Animal Trips

Many animals migrate from one area of the world to another, as the seasons change and as food becomes scarcer or the environment more inhospitable. They then come back again as the seasons change once more.

The first video is an introduction to animal migration, covering land, air and water migration.

Geese Migrating From Western France To Greenland

A short video with no words, flying among the geese as they migrate North in the Spring.


Swallows in Deadly Oasis In The Sahara Desert

Swallows migrate from the UK in Autumn and travel to Africa for the winter. It is warmer there with plenty of insects to eat. But there are also deadly dangers when looking for water.



This is an American cartoon, so you may not know all the animals shown. It covers hibernation and a little on Aestivation (summer hibernation).

Winter hibernation – Winter’s Tale – BBC

A very short video about a few animals that hibernate in winter in the UK.


Getting Ready For Hibernation

An introductory video to animal hibernation, including feeding up in the autumn and resting away in a safe place until spring.

Hibernating Tortoise Unboxing

Tortoises do not hibernate when they are in their usual habitat which is warm all year round. But in countries where the winters are cold, tortoises hibernate, go to sleep and wake again in the spring. This video looks at a tortoise coming out of its hibernation.


How Does Hibernation Work

This is a more advanced video on hibernation that asks if what we learn from hibernating animals could be applied to humans travelling through space for many years. It contains many interesting items on hibernation.


Is Human Hibernation Possible

This video looks at whether the sci fi idea of hibernating humans is possible. A more advanced video that could stimulate thoughts and ideas.


How to make a home for a hedgehog to hibernate in

A short simple video on building a hibernation station for a hedgehog.


You can buy a hedgehog hibernation station here if you don’t want to build one.

Hibernation Station

An illustrated, spoken trailer for the book, “Hibernation Station” with a poem about the different animals starting to hibernate for the winter.

You can buy the book “Hibernation Station” and other books on hibernation below.

School vs Homeschool: Which Student Does Better?

This video is partly an advertisement however, the advert comes only at the end and the information on homeschooling is detailed and interesting.

A TV Interview with two American mothers who are homeschooling. One mother has 5 children and is homeschooling one of them because he did not get on well in school. Her younger child joins in with this child’s schooling and is progressing rapidly. The other mother has 7 children and homeschools all of them. Good tip on doing maths, adding and subtracting using dice.

Benefits Of Homeschooling Your Kids

Day In The Life Of A Mom With 4 Kids | Homeschool Routine SAHM

What a homeschool day is like if you have 4 kids. Two of the kids are too young for school, so she has a babysitter. The other two are different ages, so the lessons have to be suitable for their different age groups. She also gives them tests to see how they are progressing. And I am glad to see that her house is as messy as mine!


Seed Dispersal – Exploding

One way in which plants spread their seeds, ready to grow a new plant at a distance from the parent is by exploding the seed pod. Watch the “touch-me-not” seed pods exploding here.


An illustrated talk by an academic, showing three different kinds of seed dispersal – wind, animal and fire.


Watch the seed pods of Himalayan Balsam explode and send seeds travelling at 95Km/hr for a distance of up to 6 metres.


Seed Germination

When a seed starts to grow into a plant, it is called “germination”. This video shows how germination happens.


This is a very quickly spoken video on germination. The process, the pictures and the spoken word are accurate but the text captions in the video are hilariously wrong at times.


This is a time lapse video of lima bean seeds germinating. Sometimes germination can seem very slow but with time lapse, you can see 6 days of growth take place in a few minutes.


The Tiny Seed

Two video stories about seeds.

The first is an Eric Carle story about a tiny seed. The story is about a wind dispersed seed and its journey to a new home where it grows and produces new seed that is then dispersed by the wind.


The second story is about Sid, a seed who wants to stay in his warm cosy hole underground, with his friends Pip the spider and Kim the caterpillar. But Pip and Kim have to grow and move on and Sid realises he must grow and change too. This is not a realistic seed germination film, more  a tale about trying new things.


Homeschooling Ideas And Lessons

Home School Or Not

www.barefootblissandbooks.comMany people have home schooled their children over the years. There is a LOT of knowledge, innovation, creativity and real fun learning out there that we can plug into whether you home school your children or not. After all, children are home with you each evening and all weekends and being able to play along with them, giving them fun things to do that are also educational is a great way to bond with your children, as well as keep them occupied.

Why Homeschool

This lady home schooled her four children because they were not making progress in school and the school had not even let her know. She was able to improve her children’s understanding and learning by focusing on areas of weakness and making learning fun and relevant. She also points out that children who are being bullied in school may benefit from home schooling and that they do not need to suffer from lack of social interactivity. Read her take on home schooling here.

Making An Exploding Mini Book

This is a great tutorial not only for home schooled children but for anyone who likes crafts, including journalling. It shows you how to make a mini folding book that folds flat enough to be placed inside another book, such as a diary or journal. The folds create a number of small areas or boxes in which you can write or draw something. Examples of mini books that others have created are shown. You can visit the tutorial for the exploding mini book here. The same author also has articles on making an Ancient Egypt lapbook, a salt dough map and a shoe box diorama. So lots of projects here. She has also included many links to other resources. Here is another of her pages, showing lots of different kinds of mini books and one showing how to make wheel books and another on making matchbooks.

Making The Simplest Lap Book

This tutorial shows how to make a hot dog lap book and many others and how to add them into the simplest lap book. It has videos and other resources.

Lesson Plans

Telling The Time

Teaching children to tell the time can be hard work. This article shows how a mother with two children with Down Syndrome taught them to tell the time. The principles would work for any child.

Sense Of Touch

Great ideas here for showing children the sense of touch.


A great many resources here for teaching art, using the artist Monet.

Science Notebooks

How to keep science notebooks that are interesting and show what you have learned.


Great article here about the Old Black Fly with lots of ideas and information. There is also a great video with no words. It is funny and allows children to make up their own story and write it down.


There are a great many ideas, lessons and hints available for creating lessons that suit your child’s needs. The above links are just a few of what is available online.




Want To School Your Kids At Home? Keep Reading!

You’ve tried all of the options available and your kids still aren’t learning anything. Does this sound familiar? If so, then you may need to try a different learning approach, like homeschooling. Homeschooling can be a good way for your kids to learn, and you can use it with the help of the following tips.

Think carefully about the place in your home where you will carry out homeschooling. You need to make this a place where your children can concentrate on their studies. It should be spacious enough to facilitate skits and building projects, while also having tables and chairs. Kids should also be in a centrally located area where you can easily monitor them.

Treat homeschooling like a job. You’re a teacher now, and that means you also have to seek out more education. Professional teachers take “PA” days to attend conferences and training, so you should, too! Find homeschooling events near you or even attend one as a vacation. You’ll find they teach you not only specific topics you might not know a lot about, but also how to be a better teacher and how to plan out homeschooling lessons like a pro.

Always do your research if you’re considering homeschooling. You’ll find a ton of information on the Internet to help you make your decision. Always make sure that you have enough energy, time, and finances to ensure that your kids get a quality education.

Find a homeschooling support group. While homeschooling might be very appealing, it can also be very lonely for both you and your child. Check community bulletin boards or the internet to find other families in your area that are homeschooling. Parents can get together to discuss methods that are successful and offer each other support. Children will benefit from group activities such as local field trips or projects.

Wednesdays can be hard as they’re stuck in the middle of the week, so why not make them a special event? Include fun hands-on activities on this day or excursions around town. Make it something they look forward to and your kids will have an easier time making it through the week.

Make contact with your area’s Homeschool Association to gain a good grasp of the specific laws, regulations and practices that they want you to follow. Regulations vary in different areas: some require formal registration, while others just require certain testing procedures. Make sure you know about local truancy laws and how to avoid charges.

Remember to spend time with your family outside of the classroom. You might believe that all the time you spend together in the classroom is enough, but it really is not. Family nights are an opportunity for the family to get together without the pressures of the classroom, and bring you all closer together.

Don’t fret if you can’t think of any other way for your kids to get an education. Remember, you have homeschooling as an option if you need it. Homeschooling can be one of the best ways to teach children if used correctly. Just use the tips given in the above article and your kids reap all of the benefits of homeschooling.

Homeschooling Tips That Every Parent Can Use

When you choose to homeschool, you’re seeking a better education for your children. You want them to learn as much as they can without the negative distractions of public school. This article has all the tips, tricks and advice you need to meet your goals for their educational needs.

If you home school your children, it is important that they still get play time. Just because they are getting schooled at home does not mean they need to be inside all of the time. Once they are done with their daily schooling and work, allow them to go outside and play for a little while.

Find a homeschooling support group. While homeschooling might be very appealing, it can also be very lonely for both you and your child. Check community bulletin boards or the internet to find other families in your area that are homeschooling. Parents can get together to discuss methods that are successful and offer each other support. Children will benefit from group activities such as local field trips or projects.

Keep a journal of your activities. You can track the techniques that you have used. You can then look back to find the techniques that had worked well for your children and what did not. It will help you come up with a homeschooling regimen that works well for your family without trying the same things over and over.

When you go on vacation, take your lesson plan with you. Include your vacation in your home classroom so that your kids can truly enjoy their schooling. Have them keep a scrapbook of the event, or take a video which they turn into an amazing family adventure later. Take them to cultural locations and teach them about the area, then have them reenact wars or important historical situations. There is so much to learn around the world, don’t let it pass them by!

As you teach the kids, get them involved with hands-on experiences. For example, cook a meal with them that reflects the culture of the countries you teach them about. If you are learning about WWII you can make German or Japanese foods. These activities will be fun and help your child understand different cultures and how cultures adapt to the resources available to them.

Don’t forget the ‘social’ side of school. A child gains much more from school than simply academics. Make sure that your child is involved in activities that a school offers such as sports and music. This can be achieved by meeting other homeschool parents and organizing extra curricular activities at the end of the school day or the weekend.

So many parents would love to homeschool, but are too afraid to begin. With what you’ve read here, you should have enough knowledge to overcome this fear and instead move forward with bettering your child’s education. With a little bravery and drive, you’ll become a homeschooling master in no time!