Friday Event

I hope to be at the home educators curriculum event to be held at The Old Bath House, Wolverton, MK12 5FL from 1.45 on Friday 9th March. If anyone wants me to bring loan book boxes please could you let me know before tomorrow mid morning. I think space at this event may be limited so I will not be bringing loan boxes that have not been specifically requested.

New Loan Boxes

I have added two new boxes of books to the loan boxes. They are a box of children's annuals (box 15) and a box of girls' school stories (box 16). I'm hoping to add a boys' school story box soon. Both boxes provide plenty of what we used to call “through put” reading matter for children who can't get enough to read. Wholesome plots and a good vocabulary are the chief features of the school stories and I never worried about the “school” aspect. My daughter soon realised that the stories depicted a life that was totally unlike any real school! The annuals include a batch of (very) old Daily Mail Annuals. These have stories, a few factual articles and interesting pictures. The Look and Learn annuals also in the box are more factual and colourful but again provide plenty to read. I am hoping to be at the Curriculum Fair in Tooting on Saturday 3rd March. Details from If you are in the area and want to borrow either box let me know before hand and I'll bring it along – or any of the other available boxes, of course.



As Christians we have a unique approach to geography. At a fundamental level we know to whom the earth we study belongs. It is not “our world” but rather “God's world.” A different view of origins (creation rather than evolution) also changes how we see the geological aspects of geography.

Interestingly, Favell Lee Mortimer wrote geography books for children as well as the Peep of Day series of Bible series books included on the Mothers' Companion flashdrive. Although, unlike the Bible story books, they have dated and are not very useful now, the principles she employed are interesting and still very much worth using. Her aim was to interest young children in geography and “ show that the world which God MADE ought to be governed by the book which he WROTE.” In order to do this she combed missionary magazines for material which she then rewrote for children, testing everything out by reading it to a (very naughty!) little boy called Cecil Theodore Weld-Forester. Anything that bored Cecil was cut out of the manuscript.

The geography project The Earth is the Lord's (in volume 2 on the flashdrive) is very much in the spirit of Mrs Mortimer. It was written in the 1990s by a group of home educating mums for use at the weekly meeting of Christian Education for Deeside. Each mum contributed a couple of sessions on a particular continent of the world. The ages of the children ranged from about three to eleven so this material is very flexible and can be used with children of almost any age. It is especially suitable for use by children of different ages from the same family working together. Each continent is approached in a different way reflecting the character of the mother who researched it and led the original sessions, but common elements are missionary information, singing, cooking and quiz-style worksheets. The songs that we sang for each continent are included for you to sing (with the music too) and a vital part is the recipe section included for each continent.

Family Adventure (Volume 7) is one of my favourite projects and it includes a lot of geography. Based round the amazing missionary journey of A. N. Groves and his family to Baghdad in the 1830s, there is plenty to learn using maps and other resources provided in the study guide. Also on Volume 7 is a project on the Tundra. Linked to this is the spectacular missionary film which forms Volume 7a. Note: Some users have had difficulty viewing the film. It works best if the flashdrive is opened using the Mozilla Firefox browser but if you have any problems let me know and I will send you a copy of the film on a DVD disc free of charge. Whatever you do don't miss seeing the film!

And... when your children have eventually outgrown the Mothers' Companion don't worry. There are plenty of good free geography resources on Sandra Bird's

Historical fiction

I often come across home educating families where historical fiction plays a big rôle in the teaching of history. Indeed, some families claim to use nothing else. The books of GA Henty are so popular among home schoolers in the USA that the fact that home schoolers use them even gets a (rather negative) mention in the Wikipedia article on Henty. This popularity also ensures that they are in print which is just as well if you want to read them since they can be expensive second hand. Henty was a prolific writer who dictated his novels to his secretaries as he strode up and down and he placed his boy hero against a background researched by reading a selection of books requested from the library before beginning work on the tale.

I think myself that relying entirely on a Henty view of the world would be unwise for a Christian home educator but certainly historical fiction can enrich the understanding of history greatly – so long as you are clear that it is fiction. Writers of historical fiction are accused of bias and incomplete knowledge but of course these problems also afflict writers of history books. Elsewhere on this website you will find a box of historical fiction titles that can be borrowed. As well as some Henty books, there are stories by outstanding children's authors such as Henry Treese, Geoffrey Trease, Cynthia Harnett and Rosemary Sutcliffe – all of whom do a better job (in my opinion) than Henty when it comes to story-line, historical accuracy and believability. The box also contains one classic, John Halifax Gentleman, a story every child should know and the most famous tale of excitement, romance and rescue in all historical fiction – the Scarlet Pimpernel. If you find you enjoy it there are a number of sequels you can follow up. Almost all the books in the box are excellent for reading aloud. Sometimes a really exciting story will prompt a reluctant reader to finish reading a book himself if you start off by reading it aloud and then just leave it lying around. This box is available at the moment so if you feel inspired to get your teeth into some books in this genre do get in touch.

Historical fiction was also a staple of children's magazines and annuals. There is a selection of shorter stories culled from these sources on Volume 6 of the Mothers' Companion and information on where they fit it with The Story of God's Dealings with our Nation so that you can fit them in with more formal history teaching if you wish.

Last but not least, if you want to enjoy an extended look at 17th century Europe through historical fiction, Trasna na Dtonnta or A Tale of Three Cities is now available as a paperback or ebook just scroll down here.

Happy reading!

Pilgrim's Progress Report

Of all the extended projects on the Mothers' Companion Flashdrive my favourite is the one that covers Pilgrim's Progress on Volume 4. This book is part of every child's heritage and a child brought up in an environment where he daily hears the Bible read should have less difficulty understanding its language than other children. When we did this project ourselves I found that, as with many good educational experiences, the “teacher” learnt as much as the “pupil.”

The project consists of five elements:

the “how to use” file,

the book,

the picture-map and associated figures,



The “how to use” file goes through the project step by step guiding you through the other materials with detailed hints and suggestions for each session. This is the first place to look if you are thinking of working through the project. It will also enable you to estimate how much time you want to devote to doing the project each week and how long you want to spend doing it over all.

The book is simply the complete Pilgrim's Progress in very large print divided up into forty-four portions each the right size for an individual lesson. The only editing I have done is to the sections where the book is set out in dialogue form. Here I have retained the “play-script” structure and placed the “he said,” “said she,” etc. in square brackets so they can be easily omitted if the dialogue is read by children and “teacher” taking the various characters' parts. I was amazed at how easy it was for a young child to read the part of one of the characters from the script set out in this way. Most of the speeches are shortish and the sense of achievement at the end of each lesson was very encouraging.

The map is the key to the whole project. It consists of nine A4 sheets which are designed to be put together to form a poster. This is the creative part of the project and you can use as much imagination as you like here. The various incidents and the background to them can be depicted on the map however you wish, using any materials that seem suitable. We used water colour paint, felt tip pens, felt, paper, flattened straws, wall paper, pictures cut of calendars, coloured foil, pencil, tissue paper and even (for Vanity Fair) images cut out of an Argos catalogue! The results were eye-catching. They worked very well as a simple method of impressing the incidents of the story on the memory and when we came to the end we had an enduring piece of artwork. Every family does the picture differently and over the years I have seen some truly delightful results which are now treasured possessions of their creators.

As you go along you can add the figures reproduced from old Victorian editions of Pilgrim’s Progress supplied on the flashdrive. These can be put on with blu-tac so that they can be moved along as required by the story-line. Many of them are designed to be double-sided so that they can be turned to face either to the left or to the right as the journey meanders across the map from right to left, turns and crosses higher up left to right then turns again to cross still higher right to left and so on.

Each session is covered by a simple worksheet that has words to be filled in and sometimes colouring pictures. The worksheets reinforce the topics covered in very simple language and are handy when you need to give the child some work to do while you concentrate on something (or someone) else.

The songs are a bonus which came in surprisingly useful. There are several little poems in the book and I went to some trouble to find tunes in a style I think Bunyan would have recognised to fit them. The flashdrive has scores, words and audio to help you learn the songs. Having learned some of the songs, and also Who would True Valour See we personally decide we would make use of this at the a local Christian Home Education group concert. We used a child’s Welsh hat and removed the white lace to make a Puritan-style hat. I made a cloak out of some old brown velvet curtains and we bound some brown cotton tape criss-cross round the legs over black trousers to look like leg-thongs. Footwear was a problem so we went for bare feet. A staff and a roll were easy to provide. The little pilgrim was able to march up to the front, remove his hat and sing three songs, “cribs” for which were written on the roll. Grandparents or other family members might enjoy seeing some dressing-up like this or you could be more ambitious, given the dialogue style of much of the book, and act out one or two scenes.

I hope you enjoy the project and when you've finished I'd love to see a photo of what you've created.



I thought I'd kick off these posts with one about Maths (not my favourite topic) and then I will not have to do it again – at least for a while!

The great thing about maths – and even I can grasp this – is that the unchanging nature of the fundamentals reflects the unchanging nature of God himself. As you introduce topics and talk about maths with your children this is something to savour. Every day one plus one is always two – and always will be. How do we know it always will be? Because of the unchanging character of God.

The very earliest maths topics are covered on the Mothers' Companion through Mousematics. Mousematics was originally developed in North Wales by a group of LEAs to provide an infants' maths scheme in both English and Welsh. It was originally recommended to me by a lady who was in the same church as Mr Harry Roberts, one of the authors of Mousematics. When approached about putting Mousematic on the flashdrive, Mr Roberts was delighted to find his work was still being used and gladly gave permission.

You will probably have had enough of Mousematics before you finish it as the later booklets are not as useful as the earlier ones. We found that question of the “5 plus ? Makes 7” type were too hard. This is really algebra and we decided to leave it until later. Towards the end there are addition and subtraction sums which in my opinion should be set out as in Two Grade Arithmetic before the short cut methods of doing them are attempted. Mousematics does this short cut first – probably to avoid the slog of doing pages of practice sums as in Two Grade Arithmetic. At this point just switch to Two Grade Arithmetic, the first book of which appears on Volume 3 of the Mothers' Companion.

The subsequent books of Two Grade Arithmetic appear on volumes 4, 5, and 6 of the Mothers' Companion with notes on how we personally used the books appearing in the Diary sections on the various volumes. A supporter kindly gave me an answer key to books 1, 3, and 4 and these also have additional exercises. If anyone has a copy of Book Two with answers I'll scan that in too! I had no answer keys when I used the books myself and would double check with a calculator if in doubt.

The way that Two Grade Arithmetic is set out helps you to home in on what your particular child finds difficult. After you have explained a new topic (see below), there are two levels at which you can work. You can do a few sums at the simpler level first. Then if it all seems fine move straight on to the harder level. If on the other hand the child is finding the topic difficult there are plenty of examples for you to continue with on the easier level.

On Volume 2 of the Mothers' Companion is that valuable resource, a good junior maths dictionary. I used this extensively when teaching my children maths. The clear articles enable the non maths specialists among us to keep one step ahead of the children! As each new topic comes up, get to the dictionary and check the explanation.

One of the resources I really loved is on volume 8 of the Mothers' Companion: Take Two! by Frank Tapson. This consists of 32 board games for two players which are great fun and also get you thinking about some mathematical concepts. I'm very grateful to Mrs Valerie Tapson for permission to include this unusual book. There is craft potential here too as the print outs could be mounted on a piece of cardboard for continuous use and decorated or even redrawn completely in your own style.

Don't be afraid of maths (I was!) and do get in touch if you have any comments – I love hearing from you all.