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.

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2016 !


I hope that you and your family have had a nice holiday season.

Now that it is almost back to normal routine, I thought I’d share a few snippets that have caught my eye over the break.  The first is a wonderful quote from Jamie Martin from Simple Homeschool.  As home educating parents it’s very easy to slip into a sort of personal martyrdom over getting enough time for ourselves as people.  I know I fall in to this trap each year, and putting in place a plan to avoid it is one of my personal 2016 resolutions.

Math time will not be more important than Mommy time–each will have their proper place, and I will not sacrifice the essence of who I am on a self-made altar of perfectionism.

No longer will I take a back seat to the home educating of my kids.  We will be equal partners in this process where they will get a much better role model, and a much more resilient and relaxed Mum.  If you are an introvert who home educates, you might like the blog post this quote came from, 15 new year’s resolutions for the introverted homeschool mom.

My other parenting / educating resolutions come from a single blog post by Dr Laura Markham of Aha Parenting.  You might have noticed me posting about her writings before.  Well, this blog post on Preventative Maintenance is going to be a cornerstone for me this year.  I have been hit and miss with this in the past year and I think I’ve stored up quite a bit of work for myself as a result.

In essence my 2016 Parenting Goals are:

  1. Look after Myself
  2. Daily roughhousing
  3. Daily special time
  4. Empathic limit setting

Interestingly, the order I have chosen to write those in is probably the priority they need to take.  If I let myself get run down there is no mental or physical bounce that will allow me to roughhouse or be fully participative in our special time.  And without the stress-release of roughhousing and special time, the likelihood is a greater need for limit setting.  Without a rested Mum, the limit setting is unlikely to be empathic, so here we are… full circle.

In a very loving and kind way – 2016 is going to be about ME.

What’s 2016 going to be about for you?  I’d love to hear.

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.


Integrated Learning

I am about a third of the way through creating our first exemption application and it has been going well.  That is to say, it is going well now that I have managed to overcome a rather large dose of writer’s block.
Part of the issue is how to explain that, from our perspective, most of our learning is done in an integrated way.  Certainly we use single focus resources like Reading Eggs or My Pals Are Here! for learning to read and for guidance on age-appropriate maths skills, but for the most part opportunities for learning do not come pre-packaged in a ‘subject-specific’ way.  Take for example our walk yesterday.

We walked along a part of the Hutt River Trail.  On this part we walked from a little inlet by the river, along the stopbank, through a golf club and almost right to the river mouth.  In this two hour walk (we stopped for fluffies at the halfway point) and play we were able to learn and do a whole bunch of stuff.

Physical education
– the kids got a decent walk and a run in the playground.

– talking about the different aspects of golf including terminology used in the game and the environment it is played in.  (Also chatting to a couple of golfers.)

– I pre-prepared a checklist of things to find or look for on the walk.
(Miss Oh Waily has discovered a liking for the tick mark.)

Nature (Science)
– we saw a total of seven different sorts of non-garden birds including mallards, white-faced herons, little shag, yellowhammer, chaffinch, southern black backed gulls (adults & juveniles), and canada geese.

Technology (and Research skills)
– to ensure that we identified the different birds correctly we used an online encyclopaedia of New Zealand birds to help us.  We used the photographs that I took while we walked to do so.  When Miss Oh is a little older I may *gasp* even let her use my new camera when we walk, since she asks to do so regularly.
For the record, the site we used is New Zealand Birds Online.

So as you can see a good chunk of our learning experiences are integrated.  How can you possibly timetable that out, which is one of the apparent* pushes for more information from applicants?  We walked for two hours, how much of that do I apportion to the various aspects of our learning experience?  It is a puzzle.

Anyway, I shall continue on with the exemption writing.  I’m hoping to have the first draft all wrapped up this weekend, quiet time and kids willing.  But today I shall leave you with some images of our native fauna from yesterday’s walk.
Click through for bigger images – the small birds will need you to since they don’t like it when we get too close.



White-faced herons

Duck Squad

On the Stopbank II

On the Stopbank

* please note:  I have had no contact with the local MoE office, so this is simply what I am hearing of other people’s experiences and may not be a complete reflection of the situation.

Reading Eggs deal

Just a quick note for those who may be interested.

Today’s Living Social deal for Wellington is a very well priced annual subscription to Reading Eggs.   We use Reading Eggs for Miss Oh Waily, but I couldn’t justify another subscription for Master Oh Waily – until today.  The littlest member of the family will now become the proud owner of his own login to Reading Eggs for a whopping $39 for the year.  Hopefully his letter learning will take a nice leap forward from this.

It can join his iPad Eggy apps and instead of watching his sister sit learning, he can get his hands on it too.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


More Books

In all the excitement about the maths books and then the unexpected journey yesterday, I completely forgot to mention that we also picked up our November set of books from the Scholastic catalogue.

This month we chose the Usborne Phonics Readers set of twelve titles in paperback.  We’ve had a few of these out of the library in the past, so they make good reading to (and now, by) the little people.

And we also picked up the Acorn Space set which features simple books for the kids to read.  The titles being Earth, The Moon, Planets, Stars, The Sun and Astronauts.  They will do nicely when I set up the month of activities around Space and the Universe.

What are your kids reading?

Books and reading

What are we currently reading here at the Patch?
Well, depending on the child we have a bit on the go.

Miss Oh Waily is currently being read Charlotte’s Web, one of my lovely “children’s classics” purchased from the  Book Depository a little while back.  This, in my dotage, is also my first time around with Charlotte and Wilbur, although it is quite possible that I read this as a youngster and simply don’t recall doing so.
It is, so far, a superior tale to that of Stuart Little which I found to be wholly unsatisfactory as a story and could not in good conscience recommend.

Master Oh Waily is being read a variety of picture books including A Gold Star for Zog by my favourite duo – Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and the very odd (and child chosen) Pot-san’s Tabletop Tales by Satoshi Kitamura.

Miss Oh Waily, is in her turn, reading books to us.  She is making her way through the Splat the Cat books I brought home from the library, the first of which is Splat the Cat Sings Flat, which he most certainly does, to the amusement of two small Oh Wailys.  We have two other “Splats” on the shelf at the moment and they have each taken their place in our evening reading.   Miss Oh has been using the online Reading Eggs programme as well as my original teaching of the letter sounds, so she is progressing quite well.   There are a few gaps, but she is certainly making her way along the path to reading for herself.

I’m now planning to use The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading to review what Miss Oh knows and to start the process off with Master Oh too.  He’s not all that fussed right now, but he loves to look at books quietly on occasion so I am getting myself all prepared to start from scratch with him.  My delightful daughter has, so far, been patient enough to allow me to practice the basic lessons on her.  Little does she know that I’m doing it to make sure that the very simplest things are actually understood in her mind too.

As for me, I’m rather enjoying my latest 1001 Book choice – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré.  I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to hit this classic work of spy fiction.  I think Mr le Carré may have a new fan.

As for our jaunt into the world of the audio book, Miss Oh was keen to listen to stories on our car journeys but Master Oh caused a scene after the first couple of times and made listening impossible.  Little ratbag.   So audiobooks are on hold for a little while and we’ll try that again.

What are you reading with your kids?


Do you read your children poetry?

I remember being very ambivalent about poetry at school.  I don’t ever really recall understanding meter and how to structure a poem.  I could probably barely tell you the difference between a haiku and an epigram.

I finally enjoyed reading poetry when we studied the War Poets, and Wilfred Owen in particular.  I’m still shaky on the technical aspects, but I am now willing to learn.  My little people are clearly not of an age where understanding the differences between poetic styles and the technical aspects of poetry construction are necessary.  However, I am keen for them to learn rhythm and word play through poetry.  So I have been trying to make sure we always have at least one book of poems for reading when we bring a bag of books back from the library.

The latest book is from the “I Can Read!” series and it is called Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems.
So far we have a couple of hits from this volume.  Admittedly, the cute dinosaur cartoons are helping my cause.  Here is the current favourite:

School Rules
by Sarah Hansen

No chomping
No romping
No treading on tails
No clawing
No climbing
No gnawing your nails
No roaring
No soaring
No sharpening teeth
No stamping
No stalking
Small friends to eat

These are rules
All dinos must follow
They keep school safe –
So no one gets swallowed!

I am convinced that this is a great favourite, not only because of the rhyming and rhythm, but because it is accompanied by a picture of a small, very toothy dinosaur about to bite the tail of a larger, clearly the teacher, dinosaur.

So, what are your children’s favourite poems?

Sharing a Shell – Julia Donaldson

This week we brought home this little gem from the library in our book bag.
The Oh Wailys already own quite a few books by Julia Donaldson.  More than I care to confess to here today, but naturally involve the Gruffalo and it’s child as well as the three books in The Tales from Acorn Wood.

Sharing a Shell is currently the favourite reading material for Master Oh Waily, and Miss Oh Waily will happily tag along too when it is being read.

Compared to other verse work by Ms Donaldson, I find that this one does not have her usual easy reading flow.  Even after multiple readings I am failing to find a good rhythm.  And although I generally rate a book by how easy and flowing the language is, even slightly more so than the illustrations, in this case I can forgive the slightly lumpy reading it provides.

I forgive it the flaws in flow because the illustrations are absolutely adorable and better yet, they have made the book a sensory experience for the children as well.  There are raised areas that highlight things like waves, rain, fish scales, Blob the Anemone’s crown, parts of the Crab, the shared shell and Brush the bristleworm.  So it manages to bring interaction to the reading process and we can talk about, amongst other things, just how fish scales might feel.  The story itself allows an introduction, albeit at pre-schooler level, of how each of the sea creatures contributes to the improved lifestyle for the trio as a whole.

In short it is a charming story about a trio of sea creatures and their symbiotic relationship, made attractive by very nice illustrations and adding the sensory experience on top.   If the language was just a touch better I would be adding it to our family wishlist for birthdays or Christmas.  Still, it is a very good option if picked up from the library especially for children with an interest in nature.