2019’s Books and More

I posted earlier this month about what our homeschool core curricula were going to be for 2019.
Today I will share the full list of different books we will be using in our two core language based curricula – Build Your Library and Bravewriter. To make it helpful for you I’ve split them in to their different learning areas, and provided a key for the tags at the end of each title.

BYL GRADE 4 – The Modern World

Build Your Library Website

A – Audible
K – Kindle
L – Library


  • The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4: The Modern Age
  • Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun (K)
  • Fields of Fury: The American Civil War
  • Where Poppies Grow: A World War I Companion
  • Gandhi
  • Escape from Saigon: How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy (K)


These are books that I will be reading aloud to the kids.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Twenty-One Balloons
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (A)
  • Nory Ryan’s Song
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • The Singing Tree
  • Angel on the Square
  • When My Name Was Keoko
  • Redwall  (A)
  • Because of Winn-Dixie (L)
  • Shooting Kabul


These are the books that the kids will be reading.  Master Oh may skip some of these, we will see how his year progresses.

  • The Capture (Guardians of Ga’hoole, Book 1) (L)
  • James and the Giant Peach (L)
  • Bull Run
  • Rodzina
  • Stuart Little (L)
  • The Toothpaste Millionaire
  • Maggie’s Door
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Water Horse (L)
  • Number the Stars (L)
  • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes 
  • The Borrowers (L)
  • Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • The School Story
  • Journey to Jo’burg: A South African Story


  • Knock at a Star: A Child’s Introduction to Poetry


  • The New Way Things Work (L)
  • 10 Inventors Who Changed the World (L)
  • The Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encyclopedia


  • Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters
  • The Usborne Introduction to Art


Bravewriter Website

As you can see there is A LOT of crossover between the books studied here and those we will be or have just read as part of our BYL curriculum.  We will marry up the Arrow to the time of year when we are reading the book as part of BYL.   I can’t tell you how happy I am that they are this well aligned.  The amount of reading it saves!

  • Aug: Penderwicks at Last
  • Sep: Redwall
  • Oct: Mary Poppins
  • Nov: Journey to Jo’burg
  • Dec: Because of Winn Dixie
  • Jan: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
  • Feb: Freedom Train
  • Mar: Harriet the Spy
  • Apr: By the Great Horn Spoon
  • May: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Money

For the full range of curricula, for two kids we are looking at ~NZ$500.

This splits down into:

Book Depository:  $296 – $15 affiliate rebate = $281
Kindle: $29
Pandia Press: ~$60 for Earth and Space; $23 for The Stargazer’s Notebook.
My Pals Are Here! Maths – 3A & B: $54
My Pals Are Here! Maths – 5A & B: $48

This could have been reduced if I had spent the time to hunt for secondhand books, but frankly my time trying to find them would probably outweigh the savings.

I hope you found that interesting.


2019 Homeschool Curricula

What does 2019 hold in store for us here at the Patch?

As we have done over the past two years, we will be having a mix and match of curricula so that we touch on all of the core basic learning areas with the kids and that’s what I’ll detail for you today.  We may add in extras throughout the year, depending on how we’re doing with the workload of this central core.  As most of the work can be accomplished during the morning, that leaves the afternoons for the kids’ own interests or general play / downtime.

Note: rather than do one level of learning for each child we go for the middle ground, with the exception of maths, and we adjust expectations for each child based on their skill set.

The Curricula

Build Your Library (BYL) : Grade 4 – The Modern World
It covers history, literature, poetry, science and art.

Bravewriter: Arrow
We are currently mid-stream with this.  It’s an annual subscription that runs with the US school year.  It covers the mechanics of writing as studied from good works of children’s literature.  There’s A LOT of crossover between the books used in the 2019 Bravewriter Arrow and those recommended in BYL.

Your Pals Are Here! Maths
This is a Singaporean maths series.  It is supposedly used in many of their schools and I’ve found it to be pretty solid and not excessive in the amount of work required of the kids.  This year they will be doing 3A & B, and 5A & B.

RSO Earth & Space – Level 1
This is a secular* science curriculum out of the US.  It covers the earth sciences and astronomy.  We may add in “The Stargazers Notebook”, which is a year long study of the sky.  It depends on how our time and energy goes.


We may also look at doing “Bravewriter Jot It Down” for creative writing since  I’d really like to encourage Master Oh’s creativity to come out in some form of writing and this may be the best way to get him moving on it.

There will also be the ongoing tutoring to assist with Master Oh’s probable dyslexia.  Perhaps some use of Nessy and other apps that can reinforce the learning we will be working through.
And for variety we will probably dip in and out of Khan Academy as we need a break from our regular programme.
There may be extracurricular items as well, but they will probably come later in the year and I’ll post about any changes as we go.

As always, we try to be flexible and adapt to changing needs.  What seems like a good idea today may turn out to be a horrible idea in a month or two.  Watch this space for any updates.

I will be writing another post with a full listing of the books we will be using this year, along with an approximate cost for all of the year’s core curricula and resources.

Here’s to a fantastic range of learning happening in 2019 !

* I note this as secular as it’s a bit of an issue when you use curricula out of the USA.

As I’ve learned from their online secular community, a lot of the curricula available are considered “neutral” so they can be sold to people whose faith does not agree with the concept of evolution. So they skirt the subject, ignore the subject or explain it as “one theory” while giving a faith based “theory” the same platform.  That, obviously, wouldn’t suit us.

Sick and tired already?


Welcome to the first day of The Pukeko Patch’s NaBloPoMo posts.

It is a highly inauspicious start, following the contraction of some random cold and cough by Master Oh Waily on Sunday, and the subsequent contraction of it by Miss Oh Waily yesterday.  As the senior Oh Waily at home right now, I am dutifully awaiting my turn for the miserable sniffles and scratchy throat to arrive.  My best guess is either tomorrow evening or Thursday morning.

In the meantime I am very grateful that we can be flexible around our home educating when such things happen; and happen this past six months they most certainly have.  I cannot remember a year where we have continuously cycled from well, to ill, to well again, only to have a few weeks respite before repeating the process all over again.

We are all heartily sick and tired of it – both literally and figuratively.

In the meantime, what are we to do when we have the weak, feeble, tired bodies, scratchy throats and sniffy noses?
We read.

Well.  I read.  They listen.

Today we managed to breeze through our week’s worth of history readings and have arrived in Rome.  I did our week’s art readings too and the kids drew their version of Romulus, Remus and the Wolf.  I’ll post photographs later in the week, if I’m not laid low as I suspect may be the case.

We watched the first part of a German documentary about Alexander the Great, which we picked up from Curiosity Stream, and will probably watch the second part tomorrow.  It fitted in quite well with the end of our time in Greece.


tlotrgwOur literature reading for this week is more of The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards, which we have been doing as a bit of bedtime reading over the past week to create some spare time during the day to spend on other things.  The kids seem to be enjoying it, but it hasn’t been as gripping as some of the earlier books.  To be fair, though, we have only just finished the first part and the real adventure is yet to begin.

I will see if I can get a review out of the kids once we have finished it in a couple of weeks.

In addition to this, we also read a number of poems involving wind which led to discussions about the different sorts of imagery the poets chose.  It was really good to see them thinking about and recognising the connections.

And that ends a pretty run-of-the-mill day around The Patch.  The only thing missing today was our regular swimming lessons, which fell victim to the colds as well.

Tomorrow will probably follow a similar pattern, depending on what sort of grip the cold gets on the Oh Waily kids (and if it starts in on me).
See you then.


Ancients and Art

This is what we are going through this year in History.  I’ve chosen to hit the middle ground between the kids so that I can do one set of readings with them.  It’s about a year ahead of the young lad and a year lower for the young miss.  But, like all things home ed, it can be tailored to suit as you go along.

As I mentioned before, we are trialling Build Your Library this year and so far it seems to be working a treat.  We cover literature, history, art, language arts, mythology and we will be adding in the science component shortly.  Maths we already do through our My Pals Are Here! curriculum from Singapore.

What I’m enjoying about BYL is that many of those different curriculum areas are nicely tied together.  The art activities tie in with the period or culture being read about in the history section and this also applies to the mythology.  With the language arts and literature, they tie together with the book being read.

I obviously need to supplement this with ‘specific to the kid’ extras.  For instance, Miss Oh gets a bit of spelling practice while Master Oh gets some more reading practice.  But I can say categorically that we have more flow to our days now and I think some of that can be put down to using BYL.

So today, I thought I’d show you a bit of their art which tied in with their history lessons around archaeology.  Specifically, cave painting.  Here are how Miss Oh Waily and Master Oh Waily represented cave art à la Lascaux.  It helped that we already had crumpled paper from our moving that could replicate the texture of a cave wall.

G's Cave Art

Miss Oh’s art depicts a bull being hunted with a spear, and you can note her normal motif of small baby and mother included to the right of the action.  And yes, the ‘boy bits’ were intentional.

M's Cave Art

In Master Oh’s work we see a bit of a mixed theme.  And true to his style, this piece of visual art was accompanied by a lengthy explanation of what is going on.  For brevity I will shorten it here.
You are witnessing a bull being hunted.  The two figures at top and on the right are holding torches, while the figure on the left has a spear ready.  The golden spear-like object in the bull’s bottom (or “butt-arks” as Master Oh likes to call it) is supposedly a copper spear.  So a discussion regarding when technological advances was had regarding that particular aspect of the drawing.  There was more to the story, but I think that gives you the gist of it.

If you or your kids are interested in the amazing cave art of Lascaux, I can’t recommend this link more.  The interactive experience of gliding through the caves looking at the drawings is most excellent.

Happy Home Edding!

Tuneful Tuesday: The 1970s

Welcome to this week’s instalment of Tuneful Tuesday.

Today I’ve chosen to take the Oh Waily kids down Memory Lane into the ‘way out’ 1970s.
Disco, glam rock, heavy metal, progressive rock, soul, jazz, punk, R & B, new wave… oh so many genre choices!

I narrowed it down to a few of my favourites, and added in a couple of extras courtesy of some feedback one of our lovely ‘followers’ over at our Facebook page suggested.  I can see that this time period is going to need to be revisited at some point to cover those great songs, singers and bands that we’ve missed this time around.

You can find the full play list here on YouTube.  Enjoy!

And here’s what the Oh Waily Kids thought of it all:

On seeing “YMCA” from The Village People:

“Hey, the minions dressed up like them.”

This didn’t stop Master Oh bouncing around to the song and saying, ‘That was quite good wasn’t it Mum?’, and Miss Oh calling it “the Gru song”.

Miss Oh wanted to share a pun with me too… apparently we should call it “Gru-vy music!”

All-in-all the Oh Waily kids weren’t really taken with this decade.  Master Oh did dance a little bit to other songs, but perhaps they just felt like doing other things today instead of dancing.  After all, one of their all-time favourites was in this list… ‘Hot Legs’, and they didn’t even turn their heads from what they were doing when it came on.

Based on that I’m not giving up hope that they will come to like one or two other songs. There’s still the remainder of the week with this as our background music so something might click for them.  If things develop further I’ll come back with an update.

In the meantime I need to head over to iTunes and see if I can find “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” since that doesn’t appear to be going out of fashion any time soon.  (Seriously, you should go listen to it with your kids… it’s ridiculously catchy.)

Minecraft History: The King’s Chamber

After a bit of a bump at about the halfway mark, the Oh Waily kids have managed to persevere and complete the King’s Chamber in their History World pyramid.
To be fair, I designed the stairways as they found it pretty tough translating the cross-section diagram of Khufu’s tomb in to a Minecraft world, but it’s something we can work on as they get more practiced at the planning side of things.

Once again, however, the great bulk of this creation is their own.
Master Oh Waily created the actual space while Miss Oh Waily did most of the outfitting.  She even designed the contents of the boat chest to look like the profile of Egyptian boats she had seen in our readings.

We hope you enjoy.

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJdJbuA-TEs” maxwidth=700 ]


Pukeko Patch History World

Well who knew that I’d have to learn how to edit videos in order to home educate my kids?

I swear that having them learning at home is as much about my continuous learning as it is about theirs!  Anyway, the upshot is a very wobbly first attempt at a Minecraft video.  Please excuse any technical issues – they’re all mine.  Hopefully we will all get better at this as the kids keep working on their History World.

So, without further ado here is our first History World walkthrough.  If you would leave a comment over at YouTube, I’m sure the kids would get a real buzz over that.  Thanks.


Minecraft makes an appearance

minecraft-logo_0And so it is that the Oh Waily family have tumbled down in to the Minecraft world.  We are still falling, all askew, down in to that dark pit of digital lego.  Our fall should be stopped, abruptly, roughly 24 blocks down… if my maths and memory are any good.

I have resisted allowing access to computer games for a while, mostly because I am keenly aware of how easy it is to become all-obsessed with them.  Finally, however, I thought I would relent and see what the much talked about Minecraft was all about.

Hmm, yes.

Little did I know what a giant can o’worms I was going to be opening with this one.

At first we were mystified by the square trees, the hammering things with our fingers and hands, and all the nasties that came to kill us on our first nights.  Then we discovered ‘peaceful’ mode, the oh-so-necessary wikis of information on how to actually make things in this world and how to craft things to survive.   From there we moved on to the world of YouTube videos, and the apparent stars of Minecraft videos – Stampy and Ballistic Squid.   There may be others of note online, but the Oh Waily kids are fully hooked, obsessed and in love with the antics of two British lads, their orange cat avatar and oddly disturbing squid-headed avatar.   Not to mention the silent (at least while building with Stampy) L for Leeeeee and his cakes.  Oh yes, this Mum has come to know who is who in this world.  Whether I really wanted to or not.

Swimming against the tide of opinion, and in the face of kids who wish to end up with a sign in Stampy’s Love Garden some day, I am opening my arms to the world of Minecraft and all of the things it can, has and will be able to teach my small people.

Today I posted a quick screenshot to our Instagram feed.

It follows our history lesson, where we were learning some of the finer points of pyramids and mummies, during which the Oh Waily kids generated idea after idea for creations in our newly minted Pukeko Patch History World on Minecraft.  A creative mode world, it’s purpose is for re-creations of various ancient civilisations, as the kids see fit.  We found the perfect (for us) seed world and set to it.  I have a small (and I really mean small) hand in starting & helping out with the construction.

The pyramid pictured is about 30 blocks tall so you can just imagine how big that becomes at the base.
They built it from smooth sandstone blocks and chose snow to mimic the limestone coating.  Current thought is to leave it as it is, which mimics the worn state of Khufu’s pyramid at Giza.  The one nod to the way it would have been when first complete, is the glowstone capping block, as replacement for the gold top.

I’m pretty proud of their efforts.  It’s not a small task they undertook, and they’ve done a great job so far.  I believe there will be more work to be done.  I’m hoping for a network of rooms, tunnels and traps.  Perhaps the odd treasure or two, and most definitely some sort of sarcophagus.  But that’s down to them, so we’ll have to see how far their enthusiasm for it goes.

I will be sure to share snapshots of progress and, should I ever learn how, a walkthrough guided tour of The Pukeko Patch History World via video.  Perhaps one day we will learn the skills to upload our very own YouTube videos.

What do we do all day?

knowledge aheadThat was the topic of a recent update over at the NCHENZ website.  It seems that even if you are currently home educating, your curiosity about how other people do things is still alive and well.
The short answer is – there are as many ‘typical’ days as there are families following this educational path.

In our family we identify as eclectic home educators.  What that means around here is that we do what works for the kids and try to marry up our own slightly opposing views that kids learn best when engaged in the things they love and our desire to cover all the basics in a logical way.  In practice that means we do a small amount of formal work, a lot of trips, the odd class or two, watch a whole bunch of interesting documentaries and allow for a whole heap of play time.

We do try to follow a similar routine each day.  We start slowly and gently in the morning as we’re not in a rush unless we’re going out somewhere.  The start of the day centres around a bunch of regular everyday life skills like making their breakfasts, tidying their rooms, getting dressed and doing whatever household task they have for the week.  We’re no different from most households in that I still have to chivvy them to move along, but the general routine is understood and they know that their free time is delayed by as long as it takes them to get it all done.

Once the ‘life skills’ and PE* is done for the day we move on to the more formal learning section of our day.  At the moment this takes in history, science and maths.  Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we are giving Pandia Press a run in the History section at the moment.  It’s not intensive stuff.  A bit of reading, a bit of writing, some art and crafts thrown in, and when I find appropriate short videos – they get to see them too.  But just you ask what the Sumerians invented and you may just regret asking.  Or laugh, depending on your level of sensitivity to toilet humour.
The mathematics I’ve spoken about before.  Miss Oh is working through the My Pals Are Here series from Singapore and is blasting her way along.  It seems to pretty much be at a level that is just challenging enough but not off-putting, which is exactly what we aim for.  Currently we’re working through fractions, learning to compare them and beginning to add them.  This is fairly new – the adding bit anyway – and we’ll probably hang around here for a while until I’m comfortable that she’s got an understanding of the basic ideas.
Master Oh is showing interest in numbers at the moment, so we’re doing a lot of the basic stuff I did with the Miss previously.  The 100s Board on the iPad, skip counting on the iPad and a lot of real life number identification and use.
Finally we ‘do’ some science.  At the moment the choice that they want is to catch really old episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy on Netflix.  So that’s what they get to do.  Sometimes it’s only an episode, sometimes they gorge and watch multiple ones.  I have a couple of Pandia Press science curricula waiting for me to get organised, but as they can cover 3 grade levels I’m not in a rush to introduce them all at once.

If everyone stays vaguely focused this is all done and dusted well before lunchtime.

Life skills time kicks in at snack time and lunchtime with the kids organising their own food, and occasionally doing it for each other too.  After lunch, depending on the day, it’s free time and they can do as they please or we have outings or regular classes to attend.  This is the variable in our days… what we do with our afternoons.

And of course, this ‘typical’ day isn’t taking into account the myriad random conversations that pop up during the day or all the learning that happens in the extra-curricular activities.   But you get the general idea.

As they get older and their capabilities grow, then this routine will alter and grow with them.  I think the main thing for us is finding a gentle routine to follow and then keeping to it.  Rhythm is a great thing, but the flexibility we have to alter this when needed, cannot be underestimated.  When everyone is sick, or tired, or run down for any reason… we rest. We don’t force ourselves to get through it.  We don’t have to.  We have plenty of time to catch up on anything we might have done.

But please don’t get the impression that life goes smoothly and easily all of the time.
We have hard days.  Days when everyone decides to go on strike.  Thankfully they are not as frequent as they once were and I put that down to the Teacher relaxing in to her job and not being inclined to get quite as tense about cramming in screeds of work well beyond the interest and/or capability of the children.  When you start seeing the knowledge settling in and being used by your kids, that tense ‘need to teach everything known to man’ sensation starts to wear off.  You realise that force-feeding makes for misery – yours and theirs – and that there are plenty of other ways to skin a cat.

So there you have it… a rough sketch of ‘What we do all day.’

I hope that satisfies any curiosity you might have on what home education ‘can’ look like.
If not, feel free to leave a question in the comments, and I’ll be glad to answer you.

Happy learning!

  • this is our walks around the block, or in their case scootering, and is currently weather dependent.

History here we come

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.17.24 pmStarting tomorrow we are giving a new history curriculum a run-through.

We did try out a Classical option earlier but found that it wasn’t a really good fit for us. Between the age that the kids were when we tried it and my completely unrealistic expectations of what and how home education would work for us, it turned out to be the first thing to drop from our lives.

Now, however, I have finally figured out that the best way to get ‘learning’ in to my children is to sneak it in, in small doses and with as much fun as I can manage to cram in.  And to be completely relaxed about the whole process as well.

This time around I am giving a secular Charlotte Mason curriculum it’s opportunity.  Hopefully I’m also more aware of what is a reasonable expectation from my kids and their ages, so we are slightly less likely to founder on the rocks so quickly. I already had the two main books that form the spine of the curriculum, so even better from the planning & purchasing point of view.

For this round of learning about the ‘Ancients’ we will be doing lots of colouring in, listening to information and if I can find something on YouTube or Netflix, watching documentaries too.  I’ve also learned to not put pressure on the kids or myself.  I will happily do all of the reading and writing, rather than impose my expectation on them to do that (or parts of that for Master Oh).  Flowing with their interest and skill level is going to be key to following a full curriculum like this, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to introduce history on an ongoing basis.

I’ve printed out the first lesson’s worth of pictures and text and will be reading sections to go with that.  The kids can colour in the pictures while I’m reading.  I’ve even made the pockets out of A3 paper I had on hand and there’s even some washi tape getting in on the act.  (Only because Miss Oh hates staples after she opened a birthday present that stabbed her mercilessly.  Ah the trials of being young! )

For the record, the curriculum we’re going to use is History Odyssey – Ancients Level One from Pandia Press.  I really liked the fact that the owner seems to have a sense of humour (read their explanations of eBook over printed and the cost of the curriculum soapbox explanation) and that they were willing to let me (and you) have access to a decent chunk of the lessons to help decide if it looked right for us.  If we find that this works well for us, then I may consider their science curriculum too, but that’s a decision for later as we have basic science stuff that will see us through a few more months.

So… do you follow a curriculum?  If so, what and why?

As an eclectic home educator I’m really interested in the choices people make and why.  On a personal level, I love to research and look in to the different options I can present to my kids to keep their minds open and growing, so feel free to go to town with your comments if you have something you love.