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.

What Did We Do Today?


Today there was coffee !  And some applied maths… multiple-step multiplication and addition to work out the right number of blocks to make paths in Minecraft, for both kids.  Also some discussion about different patterns and how to construct them.   In between that there was a trip to the shops, a library visit for new reading books, a letter in the post from a home ed friend of Miss Oh’s who now lives in Christchurch, a play at the park, and a spotting of multiple baby ducks.
One of the ducklings elicited a great deal of excitement in that it looked to be the same “Sqaishy” duck we had seen a couple of weeks ago.  Minecrafters will probably know which one is meant.  Apologies for the hideous quality, it was a bright day & I only had my phone on me, so it’s pretty awful with no white balance.


Added to this Miss Oh has recorded her fourth episode of Rainbow World, and we’ve noticed that she now has 9 subscribers – one away from her goal of 10 !!  Thanks to those of you who have been kind enough to sub up, as I know it’s a royal pain if you don’t have a Google account.

Interestingly, as I sat down to write this post I was thinking that there really wasn’t much going on today.  Maybe there was after all.

And that’s pretty much what we did today.  Hope your Friday has been a good one!

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.

Money Week 2014



Yes, in this part of the world it is time to reflect on things financial.

We’ve been doing things to induce some financial literacy in the Oh Waily kids for a while now, mostly around basic mathematics and learning about handling cash through pocket money.  Along with this we have amongst our board game collection a couple of useful items for understanding the use and misuse of money.  Admittedly the games are as much luck as they are strategy, but it does go some way to understanding decision making around money.  The first is one of my very old games, Pay Day.  This is a fairly simple game based around random bills that you get by landing on the Mail squares and investments you can buy or borrow money to buy when you land on Deals.

The other game, and currently Miss Oh Waily’s favourite, is Cashflow which seems to have had a bit of a spruce up into an application too.  This one is another step along in financial literacy terms as it introduces the idea of assets, liabilities and a balance sheet.  Here your goal is to get out of ‘the Rat race’.  In a nice touch the counters are little ‘rats’ and your ultimate goal is marked by a ‘wedge of cheese’ counter.  It is actually very cute.  The serious side of this is understanding that not only do you earn money and pay bills, but you can accrue assets that generate income for you to live off as well.  The goal being to earn more passive income than you have expenses – that means you get out of the rat race and can chase your dream piece of cheese.

Miss Oh often asks to play it, but because it can take quite some time to play (a couple of hours) I tend to say “no” more to that request than I say “yes”.  This week though, we set it out and played the game.  It involves quite a bit of work on my part at the moment, but I can see that with an increase in playing time and as she gets older, it will become possible for her to take more control over her own Balance Sheet.  Right now she’s pretty content to be the ‘bankster’ (banker in Miss Oh-speak) dealing with some very large numbers.

I’m now also contemplating creating a home-made passbook for their pocket money boxes that they can fill in each month as they receive their money.  I just need to put some more thought into how to do this so it’s an attractive and compelling addition to our financial literacy tools.

I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas to encourage an understanding about how money works, but I think at this age and stage we are covering all the basics plus a little bit extra.  However, I am open to more ideas, so what do you do to encourage financial literacy with your kids?

The Art of Maths

Last Thursday I popped around to our local HE group’s librarian and picked up a set of Cuisenaire rods to help me try to explain some mathematical ideas to Miss Oh Waily.  When I let her open the box the following day to take a look while I was finishing up some work of my own, she had a bit of fun with them.

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The Beehive and the Bees

The Beehive and the Bees


Zane with a flower

Zane with a flower


Miss Oh & Zane

Miss Oh & Zane


Zane and Ninjago have become firm favourites of the little Miss.  There will be more art created by her on that theme in the next few blog posts.  But he is definitely her main man.

I like the uses she put the rods to, and maybe we might even do some maths with them !


Numbers by Miss Oh

102px-123_Numbers In the Oh Waily household we pretty much do some sort of formal maths each day.  And on any days that we don’t sit down at our books, we certainly discuss and do mental sums in our real life.
Yesterday and the day before we moved on to addition within 1000 for Miss Oh Waily.  This covered both the simple addition, where none of the numbers added up to more than 9, and also the regrouping of the ones column.

Miss Oh is pretty happy with addition in general, so I thought this would be a simple continuation of the addition we’ve done to date, but I decided to take the opportunity to do a lego-maths demonstration of the regrouping anyway.  This was mostly because she has a bit more difficulty with the subtraction equivalent and I wanted to re-inforce the concept of splitting numbers before we moved back to it next week.

Apart from the fact that both sections were a bit longer than usual Miss Oh got on as expected – no issues and no corrections that weren’t simply a case of briefly misplaced attention.  But over the dinner table, after we had finished eating, I decided to update Mr Oh Waily on her progress.  He did a great job of *wowing* and *awesomeing* her.  I could just see her puffing up as he spoke.
As part of the conversation I mentioned that she was not keen to do the workings on some of the equations, preferring to leave them horizontal and working from her memory rather than creating a column equation.  I had explained to her why it was useful to do this as the numbers became larger, but my Miss can be stubborn about things when she wants to be.
Mr Oh Waily took that as a bit of a challenge and decided to show her why it’s a good idea by giving her a much larger equation to do.  Naturally she struggled when she tried to do it horizontally – losing track of what she was doing – but as you can see from my rather scruffy photograph below when it was re-written in a column-style it proved to be no problem at all.


While I knew she was comfortable using the mechanism of adding I thought, perhaps, the size of the numbers might be a bit of a mental put off.  To be honest, seeing her do this blew both her Dad and I away a little.  (Remember she’s not 7 until August.)
So after we stopped going *wow* at her, she chose to write up some of her own 4 digit addition equations and proceeded to do those.  And the fact that she did pretty well with those inspired Mr Oh Waily to go the whole hog and he wrote out a really silly equation for her to do.  And she did it, even with a bit of self-correction mid-way through.


It is so wonderful seeing that a concept has been grasped and is able to be applied in unexpected situations – the biggest numbers we were doing yesterday and the day before were 3 digit long!  We will continue with our work on this, since My Pals Are Here! work in cycles so that concepts are repeated in sections but with increasing difficulty (or number size) so it will be helpful for Miss Oh to identify place values and so on.

It was rather a remarkable night.

Testing progress

I have the great fortune of knowing a number of lovely ladies who are willing to help me out on occasion when I want to make sure that we are learning “as well as” Miss Oh’s contemporaries at school.

Usually all I have to do is ask a simple question and I get a great series of replies and conversations about how things work at various schools around the country.  It’s a great insight that I would otherwise be missing out on.  And I’m very grateful for it.

Just to be clear… we’re not trying to replicate school at home.  We’re trying to integrate learning into our daily life instead.
We are also very aware that we chose to homeschool in order to allow our children to learn at their own pace, whatever that happens to be.  However, it is an ingrained characteristic that both Mr and Ms Oh Waily like to have empirical evidence of progress.  Informal testing helps us ensure that concepts have been learned, and give us a reference point for future learning opportunities.  After all, there’s nothing worse than boring your children with things that are too easy or frustrating them with things that are too difficult.

Lately I have been lucky enough to borrow some reading books that give me an indication of the difficulty level of each ‘colour segment’ on the New Zealand curriculum’s reading wheel.  It turns out that Miss Oh is probably reading independently somewhere around the green level.  I now have an idea of the complexity of the sentence structure and the difficulty of the words introduced.  And judging by the sorts of books she’s able to read, we’re doing just fine.

Then this morning I asked her to sit a short maths test just to see how she would go using a test administered in a school that was kindly shared with me.  I was pleasantly surprised by her results.  I was slightly concerned that she would struggle to keep her focus for the full eight minutes, but she proved my concerns to be unfounded.   Now I have another baseline test to help me gauge how well she is doing with mental addition and subtraction.  This just adds an objective empirical measure to my arsenal of assessment tools.  The main one being observation.  I knew she would be able to do the entire first set of problems, but was not sure if she could get through them all in the timeframe of the test.  I was wrong.  She completed the entire first section (including a short break to run and get her hanky – it’s the start of a cold in the Oh Waily household today) with only one error.   I now have my objective evidence backing up my observations.

We have the best of both worlds – daily observations and occasional baseline testing to ensure we are on track.


Mathematics Update

102px-123_NumbersIt has been a while since I last posted any sort of update on the mathematics progression of either of the Oh Waily children, so here it is. Finally.

Miss Oh Waily is making her way through the My Pals Are Here! text and workbooks.  We’ve covered the first five sections, which are the Numbers 1 to 10, Number bonds, Addition within 10, Subtraction within 10, and Shapes & Patterns.  The latter was quite fun as we cut out paper shapes and made different pictures using them.

We are starting on the ordinal numbers chapter today.  We’ve previously worked on these with our home made Disney Fairy maths sheets, so I imagine we will breeze through the two sections of this in short order.  About the only issue the little Miss has is remembering to put the “th” at the end of the answer.  Hopefully another foray into this section, with a bit more writing and repetition will get this to stick.  The concept is already there and well understood, it’s just the method of showing the position that needs attention.

That means we’re still in Textbook 1A with three more chapters after the ordinal numbers to go, but one of those is learning the numbers to 20.  Since she already knows them to 100 I’m guessing that this will be a quick run through and reminder session only.  But who knows?  Sometimes we take a couple of steps back before heading forward again.  Anyone who thinks kids learn in a linear fashion are deluded!  In our household we definitely have ‘aha’ moments following on from apparently grasping and then losing the concepts & execution of skills.

As for Master Oh, he’s coming along as well.  He hasn’t shown the same interest in numbers as his sister did, but he is almost completely right with his counting to 20.  He tends to skip fifteen, but so did his sister when she was little too.
We’ve pulled out the old number game from Montessori Print Shop and have started identifying the number of dots (counting them out) and matching them with their number symbol.  I must remember to take some photographs the next time we do it.

And talking about the old number game has reminded me that it’s time to get out some of the other number games we have too.  I see lemons and leaves in his future.   I’ll definitely take photographs of him doing those when they hit our shelves.

So what do you do to encourage numeracy with your kids?

Art Detectives

Today’s Thursday Adventure Club* outing was to Te Papa Tongarewa, known simply as Te Papa.

I had let my fingers do the walking and found an interesting link on their site, at the bottom of the What’s on for kids page.  The Family Trails.
I mean, who could pass up he chance of becoming an Art Detective?  Not us.

So this rather soggy Wellington morning saw us in town bright and early.  We headed to the Information Desk and were kitted out with our Art Detective bag and gear.  What did we get?

  • a deerstalker hat (what self-respecting detective goes without one?)
  • a matching cape
  • a pair of Harry Potter-style spectacles
  • a magnifying glass
  • some pipe cleaners
  • a foldable box
  • pencils
  • the Art Detective guide

Once we were all dressed for the occasion, Detective G and Detective M and their guide (me) headed off to Level 5 to work our way through the different galleries and the tasks set out in the AD guide book.

Do they look cute, or do they look cute?

Detective GDetective M

The amount of double takes and smiles the costumes generated was worth it alone.  But, in the process of following the art trail they were exposed to a range of artists and artistic styles.

We started off in the Artist In Focus gallery where they did a bit of counting, writing and creating with their pipe cleaners.  Then we moved through to the Arts Studio, which we will try to visit again when there isn’t a school class in the galleries, where I helped them make their own small cardboard waka huia to store their treasures in.  Then in the same area they had to find and then work out how to use a mystery box to help them with one of the following clues.
Then it was off to the Maori & Pacific Encounters gallery to look at and answer questions about a painting done by John Webber 200 years ago while sailing with James Cook.

Next we headed to the Framing the  View gallery where we used the descriptions noted from the Mystery Box to find an art work.  We did some more counting here and also a bit of geometry.   Miss Oh Waily took over the writing duties from here on.  She also drew the geometrical shapes that were used in the art work.
We stayed here and using a set of three clues supplied in our detective bag we had to work out which painting they represented.  And Miss Oh then had to make up a story to go with that particular piece of art.  I was her secretary here or we would have struggled for space and time.

From here we headed into the gallery Emblems of Identity where we got to see a number of Rita Angus portraits including Rutu which was the subject of this section of the trail.  We learned about symbols in art – in this case a white lotus – and made one of our own for our waka huia.  Then we did several word clues to identify the next artworks including McCahon’s The Valley of Dry Bones and then the kids got to draw their version of some Angus portraits and added speech bubbles to them.  Then we moved on to the Being Modern gallery into the Modern Maori Art gallery where there was more writing and drawing to be done.

Finally we made our way through the Art & Change and Contemporary galleries.  This latter one was a bit of a toughie.  It houses a couple of interesting works by Ralph Hotere which were the subject of another project in the book.  But by this stage they were getting to the end of their attention span (almost an hour and a half of detecting by this time) and the glossy attractions of Michael Parekowhai’s amazing piano was proving a bit much for Detective G.  Clearly she is a tactile person (and curious with it) so I had a bit of trouble keeping her hands off it.

We whizzed through the remaining gallery and we were done.  A fluffy and biscuit were their rewards for being so good at detecting and keeping on the trail for almost the entire time.  They did fabulously well.  And I am most definitely going to keep an eye on the Family Trails section for any new options elsewhere in the museum.  It’s a great way to make kids this little stop and actually look at art in galleries.  It makes it interactive and fun, but not laborious.

A complete Pukeko Patch thumbs up for this activity.

But be aware that they only had four or five detective bags at the information desk.  I’d suggest going early on a weekday in order to ensure your little detectives are able to enjoy themselves.  Oh, and you do have to be interactive throughout the process (not just reading the guide book) so that they get the most out of it.  But well worth it in my opinion.

* My arbitrary name for our family field trips.  Makes it sound flashy for the small ones.