Elizabethan Unit Study



Just collating all my Elizabethan Posts into one big post!

Week One: A Renaissance Queen


Week Two: Reformation and Coronation 


Week Three: Elizabethan Progresses and Elizabethan Games


Week Four: Drake and the Spanish Armada


Week Five: Spies and Spy craft

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Project Based Learning: Pirates

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Reader's theatre 1


When Worship Speaks Straight to your Heart


And this is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow


Seasons of Joy: A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That


Ribbet collageSeasons of Joy

Wibbly Wobbly Weightloss

I was so hoping this would be the week I could post my third picture showing the loss of the next ten pounds of fat. (I am posting a picture every ten pounds I lose, so I can look back).  I was convinced it would be this week, but alas I’m not quite there yet.  I am still not doing anything bar cutting out sugar, and just really trying to listen to what my body needs and very, very gradually the weight has been coming off.  It is a much slower weight loss than when I would try to ‘diet’.  I am trying really hard to keep my mindset out of the whole ‘lose ten pounds in ten days’ type mentality that one sees plastered over magazines.  Instead I am telling myself that it took a few decades to put on all this weight and it is very likely to take a good few years to reduce it enough to finally be a healthy weight.

I am surprised by the natural fluctuations in weight I have seen even though I have not fluctuated at all in my new and improved gastronomical habits.  When I look back over my dieting lifetime I can see I told myself so many untruths; I remember thinking of myself as either being ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  What an enormous amount of negative pressure I put on myself!  Well no more.  I have actual conversations with myself (yes, I too am not sure I should admit to that!), especially on those days I feel like I look rubbish.  I tell myself it is only a matter of time.  Little by little, I shall become the woman I was always meant to be.  I do not allow myself any negativity at all about how I look or my worth as a person.

It is incredible to me that something I have battled with my entire life, God is sorting out right now with such ease.  I know a lot of my readers are Christian.  Please, if there is anything you struggle with, hand it over to God and stand back and wait.  He will sort it.  And you will have victory.

Loving on my children

I was sat on my chair watching my children the other day playing on the floor.  They weren’t doing anything special but a wave of deep love came over me.  I told the children in that moment just how much I loved them, how much I enjoyed them and how proud I was of them.  I was surprised by how much it obviously meant to them.  Now I tell them all I love them multiple times daily, yet in that moment I could tell they were still chuffed.  These teens of ours need to be told how special they are.  They need to know we are proud parents.  They need to know that to us, their parents, there is nothing more special or important as they are.

I love being the mother of teens.  I have loved every age, but this is definitely my favourite.  We have an awful lot of fun together, teasing each other, joking, conversing, discussing….It is a privilege to be part of their world.  These incredible human beings, standing at the beginning of their adult life, are impassioned about the smallest thing.  There is no such thing as a vague thought or opinion about anything.  Everything matters.  Their energy is like nothing else.  Their hearts are so untroubled and still completely in tact.  Life is such a joy for them, even though they are still navigating the often tumultuous waters of adolescent; it is all one big adventure.

My son has been reading ‘Do Hard Things’ by Brett and Alex Harris.  This is an excellent book about choosing to go against the norm of teenagerdom – to instead make a decision to do hard things, to not go with peer pressure but to focus on where you are, where you want to go and how to get there.  It is about putting God first, and being willing to be used by God in amazing ways by being available.  T13 has been appalled by what the authors present as society’s view of teenagers and made a very valid point that if little is expected of them, society should not be surprised when teens deliver just that.

I am pleased that as parents we have high expectations of our teens, and whilst they may not always meet those high expectations ( :)  ), they do always try.  They know they have an important role to play in God’s world.  It is not that one day they will be important, it is that they are important right now.  I remember the surgeon asking me, as he removed the melanoma from my leg, why on earth we would want to bring five children into a world as evil as this one.  My answer was the same back then as it is now.  We bring them into the world to make a positive difference.  Every child in this world is an enormous ball of potential, who can make a difference in the world for good or for bad.  I am excited about the future.  It is such an honour to be (even a small) part of the process which grows boys into men and girls into women.

Project Based Learning: Pirates



For the past five weeks the children have been beavering away at their chosen projects on the topic of pirates.  I have not helped them at all.  For once I have backed off entirely.  I didn’t check on their work, I didn’t make sure they were on the right path, I left them completely to their own devices.  And I am so pleased I did!  I am so impressed by what they have produced and the learning they have done completely independently.

T13’s Project: A Minecraft Pirate Game

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T13 had decided to make a board game, and mid first week, asked if he could change it to a Mine craft Pirate game, pirate ships included.  He thought he would make it a challenge type game, where you choose which famous pirate you wanted to play as.  The goal is to traverse the first pirate ship seeking for clues and collecting items you might need in the future, such as weapons.  These clues would lead to the next location and so on, until the final challenge has been completed and you become the proud owner of some fabulous treasure!  In order to show his knowledge he left signs around the ship as well as clues which labeled certain parts of the ship as well as naming weapons pirates would have used.  He included a plank to jump from for a bit of fun!

Here is the first round, aboard the first pirate ship.  I’m afraid my photos don’t do the conceptual part of the project justice but it gives you an idea of all he achieved.  The first picture shows the beginning of the game, the captain’s table and the sleeping quarters:

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T was surprised to find one of his chickens had got free and roamed into the sleeping quarters and he collected food and weapons:

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The chicken was beginning to bug him so he found an axe in some treasure chest and decided to kill it.  It immediately became a de-feathered, trussed and tied up version of itself and was stored with all his food!

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Once everything had been collected aboard the first ship the clues took the pirate to ‘Volcano Island’ which was constantly erupting, yet one could get into the interior if one needed to.  Here he collected his instructions on how to win the treasure and a map for him to follow:

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He had a tiny sail boat to sail to the island and then away to the second boat.  This is his view back onto the first pirate ship:

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I had been keeping up fairly well until this point.  The second ship was docked in a ship station and from here on out I became a little confused.  It seemed to make perfect sense to his sisters, with even his six year old sister understanding, but alas, I think I would maybe have lost the game at this point:

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He did a great job marking everything, up the mast:

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Here is the second pirate ship’s kitchen, sleeping quarters, captain’s quarters and the huge skull and cross bones flag:

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Finally he found the ship’s rudder and axed it preventing any future journeys.  This apparently was the purpose of the whole game and he then got his hands on some lovely treasure.

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I was incredibly impressed by the amount of thought which had gone in to this project.  He had displayed his knowledge for all things pirate, had designed a game which had clear rules and goals with a clear prize at the end.  And he had done it completely by himself.

L12’s Project: A Pirate Memorabilia Pack

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Project based learning has always suited L down to the ground.  Creative by nature she just loves dreaming things up in her mind and seeing them brought to life by her very own hands.  Every project she has done has been a success and this was no exception.  She had chosen to make a Pirate Memorabilia pack based on the World war Memorabilia packs you can buy.  Here she is with her designed pack layed out on her very own treasure chest we keep in the back garden for occasions such as these (!):

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As you can see, she made a book, a newspaper, gold coins and jewels, a full dress up set, a treasure map and sword:

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She took great delight in presenting all of her work and her siblings took great delight in reading it all:

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She designed and filled her own pirate newspaper which she called ‘Ahoy’.  She also made a pirate’s handbook which contained all sorts of information for the budding pirate, including the pirate rules which all pirates were supposed to live by:

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I know she worked incredibly hard on this project and was disappointed to run out of time, not having completed all the work she had thought she would.  I still felt what she did produce was ample and was very well thought out and had a huge amount of pirate information in, far more than her brother and sister.  I think she did an amazing job!

C12 Project: Reader’s Theatre Original Play

C loves to write and really is a very imaginative writer but she has been slow to warm to PBL, with her first project requiring much more than she had first thought.  Her next project she also struggled to finish, but her last one which was creating a Chaucer themed newspaper was a huge success.  It used her strength of writing and she managed to finish it with ease and produced some great quality work.  At last she had found success.  She decided to stick to what she knew and did well and wrote a lovely play about pirates (click if you would like to down load a copy of it).  She did run out of time and so the ending is rushed and she struggled a little bit with tenses but everyone thoroughly enjoyed reading through it, and acting as they read.

Reader's theatre 1

Reader’s theatre is basically acting without purposeful props, costumes or sets.  The players read and act as they read.  It is huge fun, more so if you throw yourself into it with gusto…..and you know us…..

Bully, the father pirate, (Gary) has just spotted Pirate Thomas (played by T13) on his ship the Black Death.  His daughter, who seems to have somewhat of a crush on him, spots him also:

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Father and daughter row about Thomas, and Bully gets very angry and pumps his fist!

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The next morning his younger daughter, Charlotte (played by A6) wakes him to tell him her older sister is missing.  Bully spots his daughter Anne (played by L12) mounting Thomas’ boat.  He and his wife, Mary, (played by C12) argue over who abandoned who when Anne was little and decide to track Anne down:

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Meanwhile in a peculiar turn of events, Anne manages to capture Thomas’ ship and holds him prisoner, threatening to take over as captain!

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Bully and Mary climb aboard the ship with their younger daughter and a princess (?).  Anne proceeds to rip her father to pieces claiming he abandoned her when she was three.  L12 enjoyed this a little too much! Reader's theatre7

The play ends as it is revealed Thomas is actually Bully’s son and therefore Anne’s brother (which was why he was so against them in the first place).  Mother and son are reunited.  Thomas then recognised the princess (played by B4) and asks her to also become a member of the family:

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Apart from the princess ending (where on earth did she come from??), I was so pleased by C12’s first attempt at play writing.  It flowed well and was interesting and worked really well as a reader’s theatre play.  I was pleased to see this worked for the whole family as we will be doing lots of these sorts of activities with Shakespeare next term.

All in all, a successful foray into project work :)

Ancient China Unit Study


ancient china

Week One: Resources

Books we used for our last visit to Ancient China.  These will all be required rereads

Week Two: The Geography of China and Xia Dynasty

Marco Polo and his route to Cathay

Week Three: Shang Dynasty and Writing Systems


Week Four: Zhou Dynasty and Chinese Religions

C10 trying her hand at chain stitch

Week Five: Qinn Dynasty and the Chinese Currency

Our Ancient Chinese, standardised currency

Week Six: Han Dynasty and the Invention of Paper

Our hairy paper took the ink with no real problems, although I'm certain it could not have been painted on, the paper would have fallen to bits

Week Seven: Han Dynasty and a Picture Study (Five Han Nobles)

Our final replication of the original tomb painting.  Not bad T11, L10 and C10!

Week Eight: Tang Dynasty and the invention of Printing

And then used it to print a lovely picture.  We were really pleased with the outcome.

Week Nine: The Song Dynasty and Silk Screen Printing

C10 proudly showing of her silk print

Week Ten: Looking Back – Studying Ancient China when my older children were little



Incr-Edible Science: Popcorn Lab



All of the information in this post comes from this popcorn lesson, absolutely none of it came from me!  I am simply recording what we did.

Gathering Information

First I read out the goals and aims of the day.  We had one whole day to carry out the four to five 45 minute lessons given in the plan.

The children watched the following video as an introduction to pop corn:

Then they read the following article which I photocopied so each child had their own copy.

I managed to find the recommended ‘Good Eats’ video called Pop Culture on Youtube.  It wouldn’t let me embed it but you can find it here.

The following video is about the science and history of pop corn and is needed to be able to do the final assignment:

And finally a quick ‘How popcorn is made?’ clip.

Understanding the Information

The lesson includes a pdf file of questions related to the main article the children read.  I really appreciated this because I always try to find some way of checking the children have read and understood the information I give them.

Comparing Popcorn

The three types of popcorn we compared were microwavable popcorn (sweet and salty varieties), packet bought (both salty and sweet) and home made variety (where we added salt to one batch and sugar to another).  We, therefore, had six different types of popcorn to compare:


I let the children make their own popcorn, following this recipe:


Handily, again, the lesson contains pdf printable comparison charts, as well as questions which help the children dig a bit deeper.  I lay out the popcorn in a sweet set and a salty set and the girls tasted and compared them all:


The children had charts to fill in comparing price, taste, time taken to prepare, nutrition and taste.  Together we made bar graphs to show diagrammatically the differences between the popcorn types:


It was unanimous.  Everyone enjoyed the home made popcorn the most.  But what really surprised me was the price difference.  The bought ready made popcorn was almost 7 times the cost of the home made and the microwavable popcorn was almost 3 times the cost.  This meant that the home made was better in terms of taste and far, far cheaper than the other two options.  Win, win!

The final thing the girls needed to do was to write a report for a magazine outlining 20 facts about popcorn.  The lesson provided a really clear rubric for the girls to know what was expected from them and also for me to use for marking as well as giving an example of a similar article.  I set this as homework for all four girls, to be handed in the next Friday.

This lesson was one of the most comprehensive and well planned lessons I have ever done and is really worth checking out!

Seasons of Joy: Embracing your Inner Awesomeness!


Ribbet collageSeasons of Joy

L12 was sharing with C12 that she felt different from others, saying that all her friends had Ipods, Ipads, mobile phones, were allowed to stay out, had new fashionable clothes from trendy shops and so on.  C12, bless her little cotton socks, went up to her, gave her a quick hug and encouraged her not to compare herself to others but instead to embrace her inner awesomeness.


I couldn’t have put it better myself!  In fact, I doubt I would have found those words at all but it was the perfect response.  She did not belittle her sister’s feelings, telling her she was wrong to feel that way; likewise she didn’t allow her to dwell on them either.  She knew that in life there will always be people better off than her and also people who are less well off than her.  Comparison is a wasted exercise.  Instead one should simply embrace their inner awesomeness.


C12 has learnt that lesson all by herself.  Being born part of a sibling group of three, with a twin sister and a brother who is only 9 months and three weeks older than her, comparison has been a part of her life.  Gary and I do our utmost not to compare but it is inevitable that each child can see the strengths and weaknesses of their similar aged siblings.  For C12 it was more pronounced.  She has been slower to mature than her older siblings and this has always bothered her.  We have always told her that God gives us all an internal clock and maturation will happen according to this, and that she is totally special in a unique way to her.  T13 matured waaaay before most boys his age.  I think there are times he is more mature than his mother (ahem), and my lovely L12 was the quieter of the two girls and has always had a sensible head on her shoulders.  C12 is my gorgeous and quirky-as-can-be twin.  She always puts smiles on our faces with her particular brand of humour.  She is giggly, outspoken and incredibly loving.  She also has a head made of fluff, rarely listens to instruction long enough to take it on board and permanently wanders around with her head either stuck in a book or in the clouds.  Either way, she is often not present in the immediate moment.

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A couple of years ago she was very aware and sad that she was not like her brother and sister.  She wanted to be like them.  We have a policy that freedoms come when a child has shown us they can handle the freedom by being responsible.  C12 forgets to be responsible sometimes and she felt like she was being left behind, and had less freedoms, which she did.  I could see she was becoming more unhappy with the situation and Gary and I, along with friends and family have focused on her strengths, pointing them out to her, giving her responsibility in those areas (for example, she is incredible with her little sisters).  She also started taking singing lessons and helping out with the littles’ choir.  Lately (the last year or so) I have seen her grow into herself.  She has embraced her inner awesomeness.  Nothing has changed except her attitude towards herself.  She loves herself exactly as she is.  She still has less freedoms, she still has her head permanently in the clouds, but free of comparison and embracing all that she is, she has become a girl who is deeply grounded, deeply and firmly sure of who she is and who she wants to be.

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She knows the truth of ol’ Dr Seuss when he states:

Today you are you!  That is truer than true!  There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

There is only ONE C12 and there is only ONE L12.  And that will be true for the whole of Time. From the beginning of the Universe, to the end of Time.  Only one.

C taught me so much in that moment.


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