Monday, April 18, 2016

On the Homeschooling Front.

April has been all about family. We are preparing for exam season, my eldest daughter is writing in May and June. She suddenly hit a 'panic' after attempting her first past paper for revision. So we had to take a deep breath and decide the best way forward. So after a little googling I found a wonderful site called 'MyTutorWeb'. Why did I not know about this before! What a fantastic concept. Tutoring in any subject (GCSE's and A-levels) you need all done online in your own online classroom. You can choose your tutor after reading their bio's, create a shortlist, meet with them for free before settling on who is best for your child. Sessions are only £18-£20/ hour (depending on the level of tutoring). So, that's what we have done for eldest dd. She's a happy bunny :)

Meanwhile, after having a week of various issues in our homeschool cropping up, I suddenly realised that the curriculum we were using for dd2 was not really growing that mind, not stimulating her to question, think for herself, not feeding her with wonderful ideas and not equipping her in various skills such as writing and research. All these are skills that she will need not only out in the big world but particularly if she goes to university - which is her goal. So with all this in mind, my husband and I decided that we needed to go back to our original way of doing things. Providing a rich eclectic Charlotte Mason education but one that equips her to write the various exams and GCSE and A-levels.

We have jumped straight into Ambleside Online's House of Education Year 9 lite and my daughter is loving it. The booklist for this year is rich and I have been loving the discussions and insights that we've been having, drawing out thoughts and ideas. Already I am seeing an excitement at learning bubbling up in my daughter. She is eager to tackle her writing assignments, and doing really well. 

To help improve her writing techniques we are using the 'Institute for Excellence in Writing' course. This teaches how to take notes, summarise, avoid plagiarism, constructing papers in various forms, note taking etc. You can read more on this course HERE. The skills taught in this course will really reinforce and strengthen the skills needed to tackle both the English and the English Lit IGCSE's.

Instead of using the recommended Year 9 literature selections we will cover poems, books and plays from the IGCSE Literature syllabus - but using CM methods of course. In the run up to her exams next year we will once again use MyTutorWeb and learn some exam techniques to help her feel confident in tackling the exams.

I am grateful for all the years that we were exclusively CM, and for the resources that we had used up until we switched to A.C.E before hand - which where rich in literature and living books. This has given us a firm enough foundation to be able to pick up at a higher level without much fuss. I am grateful that despite the change in curriculum that we made two years ago that I kept up with many Charlotte Mason subjects as it has made our transition fairly seamless.

 The only thing we are a bit rusty on is narration, but after a rather bumpy start at narration in our first reading, by the time the second reading came along later on in the day there was already an improvement on the quality of the narration. Interestingly my daughter has really had to work hard at attending to these readings - it reminds me of a time that I hadn't used my bread-maker in a few months, the mechanism at the bottom of the pan was frozen and required a little twisting and turning before it started moving freely again. 

Anyhoo - I suppose my loooonng break from here (18 days!) has been because I have been trying to sort out these important things. We have seem to have crossed the wild waters of homeschooling and making our way into the more sheltered quiet waters that come with having a clear direction and plan - whew!

Let me tell you, navigating these homeschooling high school years has been tricky for me. It all seemed so much easier then they (my children) were little. I am grateful for my friends here in England and across the pond (thank you Tricia!) for being available to give me advice, encouragement and guidance :)

Now dear ones, it is time for me to get supper on the table for my family. I shall see you back here very soon, until then, God bless.


  1. Goodness - you are singing our song! I had my eldest tutor with a Brave Writer instructor for her application essays and she does done various bits of IEW Advanced Communications since then for this year (she goes to college this Autumn).

    I would love to know what you are using with your youngest (our daughters are similar in age it would seem). Are you starting with the basic TWSS or are you using a student writing intensive (c?)? I wish her great success!

    I also am not happy with DD2s curricula for next year - it seems so formulaic, even with all of it's "options" and "projects". I had been leaning (but afraid too) to go to AO and IEW as well, which is one of the reasons I am thrilled by your post! You have really inspired me to take that intuition seriously. Narration will be a bit of a leap for her - but I have faith.

    Thank you so much (and I mean that more sincerely than words in a comment box can show) for sharing this encouraging post about your journey - I hope you had a very nice supper! :)

    PS: Your comments to me about Nature Journaling next year (a few posts back) have been so helpful. We've been enjoying our warmer days and getting outside purposefully more than ever. It's so nice.

    1. Hello Penny :)

      We are using the Student Writing Intensive C. It's going really well so far. Fortunately up until we switched curriculum two years ago we had consistently used Llatl which has given her an excellent grounding in good literature, grammar and some writing practice. She is coping really well with this course so far and I am blown away by how quickly she has grasped the concepts and actually is LOVING writing.

      We are struggling a bit with narration for sure - but, I was watching a video on Youtube by Ambleside Schools and was really inspired and better informed on how to implement it. I can see from the teachers example that there are things that I have not being doing right - namely interrupting and adding to a narration! I have to learn to hold my tongue LOL. I admit to feeling a little disheartened at some of our subsequent narrations BUT I know that if we persevere the my daughters powers of attending to her readings and of telling back will improve. I think I might actually do a post on this actually. Coming to narration later in home ed means that I cannot expect my daughter to be at the level of a child who has been doing narration since 1st grade. I am actually only expecting verbal narrations at the moment, written will come a few months down the line once her mind has been exercised enough in the art. So - start gently when you do and persevere. When I do my post I will include the video's that really helped me.

      Thanks for you lovely comment - I really enjoyed reading it and now 'chatting' to you a little more on our similar situations - plus you have given me a great spark for another post ;)

  2. I am hopeful about SWI-C. My daughter is in a similar good place with her grammar skills and the enjoyment of good literature, so hopefully she will have a similar joyful reaction to writing...

    Very good advice about narration - start slow with verbal - even at this "advanced" age. I can't wait to read your thoughts and look forward to the videos.

    Enjoy your day - I hope it's lovely in every way! :)

  3. So glad you found something that works for you. A couple of years ago (not sure if you remember) I contacted you about KONOS and we have used it for some time. Now we have a few years of AO under the belt. Funny how we made similar curriculum choices.

    1. Yes I do remember Helena :). It is funny how we have made similar curriculum choices, I guess we both have the same heart and ideas in educating our children.

  4. Can I ask one more thing? I am sorry to be a pest. I was wondering if you yourself had gone through TWSS prior to implementing SWI-C. I have not, and used SWI-C with daughter the elder,, which went ok but not great (not really her style, but she did very well with the tutor). I am wondering if I sit down and commit to doing the teacher training, which is no small thing, for sure. If you have experience, I'd love to hear it - feel free to email me separately and not post this or answer here if you'd prefer. And THANK YOU!

    Also, baked scones this morning - thought of you :)

  5. Please ignore my last comment :) I was being too nosy and I don't want you to think I'm a stalker. :) I know I just need to really think it through, and then I know I will know what to do about IEW. Thanks for all your help though, it's appreciated! I look forward to your narration post, for sure!

    1. LOL, Penny you make me laugh ☺ , I don't think you are a stalker at all. Loving your comments and questions and am more than happy to answer - which I will do, just been mulling over whether to do a post which answers your questions or email. But I don't have your email address. You can pop me an email first if you want.

  6. Hi Shirley, I was doing some research on A.C.E. and noticed your blog posts on it, giving it good reviews. Have you found out, as indicated in this post, that A.C.E. "was not really growing that mind, not stimulating her to question, think for herself, not feeding her with wonderful ideas and not equipping her in various skills such as writing and research." I like what appears to be, the ease of A.C.E. but am concerned that it might not be so good after all. Could you please clarify on that?

  7. Hi Diane,

    Our homeschooling 'history' prior to A.C.E was first KONOS (unit studies) and then Charlotte Mason. We switched to A.C.E in our high school years in order to get a school leavers certificate. My girls really enjoyed the order of it and they really enjoyed the science in particular. It covers everything in a systematic and ordered way however I feel it certainly lacked living books which feed the mind. So although we still needed to work through the PACE's in order to obtain a school leavers certificate at the end of their education I decided to add the Charlotte Mason aspects to what we had to do in order to address what I felt were shortfalls. The PACE's tend to be a bit dry in that you read the lesson then fill in the blanks. It is contrary to CM in just about every way. However, I think it is important to note that although I, as the homeschooling {idealistic} mother did not particularly like A.C.E, my daughters who were the ones using it actually preferred it. They were very happy to know what was expected from them each day and they enjoyed seeing their scores. This is something I really had to grapple with... my ideals vs what my daughters actually preferred. The compromise like I said was to use A.C.E and then I added Nature Study, Composure Study, Artist Study which we did on a Friday. I always included good read aloud time together too.

    I hope my answer helps you come to a decision :)


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