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  • Sharon Tootill 1:31 pm on July 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , phonics, Reading   

    Phonics Fun 


    Dragon-tamer caught the reading bug early. After learning the alphabet with a little help from the Alphabats books, all I had to do really was read a lot to him, help him learn a few sight words with Ladybird Key Words, and by book 4a he was off into the brave new world of easy-readers.

    Pony-rider, on the other hand, has been a little bit more complicated to teach. In addition to trying the Ladybird Key Words reading scheme, we’ve used Alphabats, Letterland, Jolly Phonics (lots of Jolly Phonics, in fact: Board books, to introduce the letter sounds, the Phonics Handbook, and the Jolly Phonics ‘Read and See’ series – two packs of books with 12 titles in each: quite cute, but not enough to tempt her…). We tried Sonlight’s “I Can Read It” (what was I thinking of? Thorough, certainly, but nowhere near high-interest enough, at least as far as illustrations are concerned!). I even looked into Ruth Miskin books and Debbie Hepplethwaite’s “Synthetic Phonics” (current favourite of the UK National Curriculum people) but it didn’t seem to offer anything new. Finally, and reluctantly, after many recommendations, I thought I would try “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.

    Not only does this US scheme use small print in so many colours it makes me feel dizzy, it infuriatingly tells me exactly what I must say to the child. I can’t stand it! Neither can Pony-rider, although Motor-biker who is almost 2 years behind her absolutely loves it! The ‘say-it-fast’ concept really appeals to him, and he has no trouble now with the idea of blending letters together into a word.

    Hmm. Now we have a problem: Pony-rider’s self-esteem has taken a blow, and although I have always tried to avoid making learning to read a big issue, the fact that Motor-biker is fast over-taking her is not popular! So I’ve been on the lookout again for something new. What I’ve found is My World’s “Now I’m Reading” by Nora Gaydos and illustrated by BB Sams. (Another US programme, so watch out for different spellings, not to mention alternative words: ‘Rooster’ for ‘Cockerel’, and ‘fox kit’ instead of ‘fox cub’.) We have the ‘pre-reader’ set, aimed at ages 3-6, which comes in a cute case with 10 books and a set of 40 stickers.

    Presumably, this ‘pre-reader’ set is designed for the parent to read to the child rather than for the child to read, but Pony-rider is absolutely smitten! She read right through the whole set the first day I showed it to her, totally without my prompting! The other sets are as follows: level 1: short-vowel sounds, basic consonant sounds; level 2: long vowel sounds, reinforcement of set 1; level 3: consonant blends, double consonants; level 4: multi-syllable words & compound words and finally, Independent: high interest topics, using previous skills. The blurb on the back says: “the greatest success comes from a balance of phonics and literature-based reading: Now I’m Reading! ™ successfully combines both to build confident, independent readers”. Well, I’m amazed, but I have to concur! I’m not sure that we’ll bother with the other sets though…


    This post was originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog, and while this is a good few years old and we encountered more hurdles and pitfalls on the road to reading, this is a good reminder that each child is different, and home education affords the possibility of tailoring your approach and resources to their individual needs and styles of learning.

    • notewords 8:16 pm on July 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Everyone is different. My grandmother taught me to read before I went to school. With my son we were threatened with dire consequences for starting them ‘too early’ and, like a fool, I listened. My son was never an enthusiastic reader until age 14 when he decided – on his own – that there might be something in this reading thing and started on adult books!


  • Sharon Tootill 1:34 pm on January 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Belgariad, , , David Eddings, , , , Reading   

    Pawn of Prophecy 


    The ME/cfs Book club challenged us to read a book we already read, so I just read this again after 20-ish years, and it’s still good! I love David Eddings’ style and the way he weaves all the strands together. But I’m surprised I didn’t go on to read the rest of the series, as it feels as though it ends with a lot of story yet to be told. So I’ll be hunting down the next one and the rest of the Belgariad series, and maybe all of the David Eddings collection.

    Garion is the central character in this first book of the series, with no real idea of who or what he is, and his journey from quiet, inconsequential farm boy to consorting with kings and nobles is really a journey of coming-of-age.

    The idea of being a ‘pawn of prophecy’, having a plan and purpose that you know nothing of, and having everything happen around you, with the powers that be moving him around the ‘board’ of life, but at the same time not wanting to believe that such things are true or possible, makes Garion easy to identify with, so I’m interested to know what will become of him (although there are plenty of clues, I won’t give it away – the reader knows really, but Garion still hasn’t quite figured it out).

    I’m also hoping that, in the next book, Pol will soften a bit and let in some romance with the trusty Durnik who obviously dotes on her. I hope that’s not too spoily. 🙂

    Nice, gentle escapism with a wholly believable otherworld of gods, sorcery and deception, although I did find it hard to keep all the characters, gods and nations straight in my mind – who was who and which nation they came from (especially when they started introducing new names!), who was married to whom etc. But David Eddings’ skillful writing had me so immersed, that I felt I was in the places and journeying alongside the characters. One of those books that I’m really sad to finish!

  • Sharon Tootill 1:02 pm on February 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Reading   


    We have sick little people this morning (and I feel as though I might be going down with it too!), so any routine I might have managed usually has gone out of the window. We’ve moved downstairs after stripping the beds and cleaning up, but nobody has much energy for ‘lessons’ or any of the activities we normally do. So we’ve watched some TV (with less educational value than I would normally aim for) and now we’re just going to settle down with some library books that we took out last week.

    I have been trying all morning to load the Goodreads website (and playing about with my blog format with a view to loading my books into a wordpress app directly into the blog) without success. I’m not sure if it’s down or whether it just doesn’t like me (I do often seem to have that effect on gadgets and technology). So if that won’t work I’ll need to find an alternative way to list or display our #300PB books. There are no obvious wordpress apps for Shelfari or Library Thing, but maybe somebody knows a way round that?


    We’ve read a few already: Small by Jessica Meserve, Rough by Jane Hissey (part of the Old Bear and Friends series), and a few others before we started the challenge (shall I list them?) The children themselves are absolutely loving an interactive adventure comic book called ‘Meanwhile‘ by Jason Shiga, subtitled ‘Pick any path, 3,856 story possibilities’. This is an old favourite that we have had out from the library a few times, and I think I will end up having to buy our own copy as it is so beloved!

    We would normally go to the library on a Monday (or try the mobile library that comes fortnightly) but high temperatures will keep us at home today.

    What do you do when you have ‘sick’ homeschool days?

  • Sharon Tootill 9:08 pm on February 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Reading   

    Picture Book Reading Challenge 

    I’ve just heard about this lovely challenge: to read 300 picture books to your children, in a year.

    Since we are starting in February, our allocation is reduced to 275.

    It’s only ’11 books per fortnight’, so that seems fairly manageable.


    I used to have pages on Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing (back when we had internet 3 years ago!) So I will check them out again when I have a chance.

    Of course, since my children are older, I may have to include books other than picture books. I have been aiming for one book weekly, but life has just been whizzing by too fast to actually manage to fit that much reading in.

    We keep trying though! (We’re currently still reading “The Avion My Uncle Flew”)

    I think perhaps a trip to the library is in order! 🙂

  • Sharon Tootill 7:09 pm on February 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Reading, ,   

    Salvationist Reading List 

    I stumbled on this article listing books that every Salvationist should read. Actually some of them perhaps every Christian should read. I thought I would share the list as I will be adding at least some of these titles to my long-term ‘to read’ list.


  • Sharon Tootill 8:50 pm on January 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Reading,   

    Read52 Week4: Army on Its Knees 

    Another quick read this week, as I’m so busy at the moment:


    “Army on Its Knees” by Janet Munn and Stephen Court.

    This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, by any means, but I do like the metaphor (unlike Napolean’s Army which marched on its stomach, The Salvation Army ‘marches’ on its knees in prayer).

    The book’s essential purpose seems to be to motivate Salvationists, by means of explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of prayer, without providing anything very much in the way of practical structures or guidelines, which is a little bit disappointing, but the chapter on fasting was very good.

    I’d like to switch to fiction for next week, but I’ll also be starting the Bible in 90 Days on top of all my studies, so it may need to be another slim volume until I’ve got into the swing of all the extra reading 🙂

  • Sharon Tootill 8:18 pm on January 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , copywork, Enid Blighton, nature notes, , Reading,   

    January Nature Notes 

    One of my favourite resources is a very old cloth-bound book, “Enid Blighton’s Book of the Year“. My revised edition is dated 1950 and is a classic that really ought to be reprinted. Enid Blighton fell out of favour, of course, and many of her stories would be considered inappropriate nowadays; but she was very knowledgeable and her writings on nature are very Charlotte-Mason-esque, so I’m rather fond of her, on balance.

    enid-blytons-book-of-the-year-1Each month has its own chapter, which includes a motto for the month, stories, puzzles, plays and songs and – the reason I love it so – nature notes on weather, birds, trees, flowers, animals and insects.

    We started our week by filling out our RSPB Big Garden Survey form (which we’ll post rather than register online, as we’re old-fashioned like that).

    And I thought I would share with you today’s poem, from Enid Blighton’s book:

    “The Blackbird is Singing”

    Here’s the new year – now what will it bring?
    Apples in Autumn, bluebells in spring,
    Pussy-palm soft as a grey kitten’s fur,
    Poppies-a-dancing when summer winds stir,
    Yellow-clad fields where the butter-cups gleam,
    New little ducks on the chattering stream,
    Eggs in the hedgerows, lambs skipping by,
    Woods full of primroses, little and shy.
    Yellow bees droning in summery heat,
    Early nuts ripening, blackberries sweet;
    All these and more the New Year is bringing –
    Really, no wonder the blackbird is singing!

    We are invited to write out the poem and then underline the first letter of each line: “Read them downwards, and you will find there is a message for you from the blackbird.” 🙂

    • The Garners 9:43 pm on January 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! I love the cover art! Very retro! We are reading an entry from Circle of Seasons by Edwin Way Teale each day. He’s another from the 50’s and probably more appropriate for older children, but the writing is quite evocative.


  • Sharon Tootill 12:51 am on January 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ancient Greeks, , Crafts, , Reading   

    Ancient Greeks Project 

    Take a look at this lovely Ancient Greeks project by Helen – brings back memories of doing arty-crafty history projects with my older two, and wondering if the younger two would enjoy it again.


  • Sharon Tootill 11:38 pm on January 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Biography, , , Reading, , , UCL   

    Read52 Week1 


    This week’s book for my first official read of Read52, courtesy of a charity shop in Plymouth, is “The Kindness of Strangers” by Kate Adie.

    It is considerably thicker than it looks in he photo, and I worked out that would need to read just over two long chapters a day to finish it within the week. I have struggled to complete each day’s reading but I plan to read all day Saturday 🙂

    I don’t often read biographies (I’d struggle to think of another off the top of my head), but I have always been interested in Kate Adie because she did the same degree as I did… or so I thought!

    When I was at UCL, the Scandinavian Studies Department (and especially the Swedish section) trumpeted Kate Adie as their brightest and best, but not only have I now discovered that she actually studied at another university (Newcastle), but I now know that her degree included German as an integral and compulsory component, which the UCL course did not. That rather changes the flavour of the degree, I feel. (Not sure that German would have made international journalists out of us all, but anyway!) 🙂

    One interesting aside relating to Scandinavian Studies is that Kate confides that she managed to slip in to the course by the back door, despite not necessarily having the requisite A Level results. When I was at UCL, Scandinavian Studies had become a booby-prize course, occupied mainly by students who couldn’t get into the course they really wanted, which is a shame really, as it is a fascinating subject in its own right.

    The majority of the story is of course related to Kate’s journalistic adventures, and she regales with witty, self-deprecating stories of the vagaries of BBC life and the oddities of foreign customs and governments. So far it has been thoroughly enjoyable, funny, interesting and educational. I’m quite pleased with my first pick.

  • Sharon Tootill 9:13 am on May 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , play, Reading   

    Easy Like Sunday Morning 

    I just wanted to give you a snapshot of a perfect Sunday morning: DS#1, “Dragon-Tamer” is researching a maths problem on the internet beside me, DD, “Pony-rider” is sitting on my knee on the sofa, looking through books. DS#2 “Motor-biker” and DS#3 “Baba Zonee” are playing a pretend game on the floor with their wooden castle. We are listening to a CD compilation of mellow folk, jazz, reggae and more from Israel. The back door is open to the early summer and we can hear birds singing. It’s unadulterated loveliness! Daddy just came in and the two little boys have rushed to him to explain their game. This is as much a part of our home education as Monday through Friday. 🙂

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