Friday 4 December 2020

How to Homeschool Multiple Age Groups

Making the decision to homeschool is not always easy. One thing that people often have to consider is whether they will be able to homeschool children of different ages at the same time. When you are homeschooling one child, it is all about them. However, if you have more than one child you will have to think about how you can meet all of their different needs.

Monday 5 October 2020

Meet the Artists Curriculum Review

I am a very creative person so I love to do arts and crafts with my children but one thing that was missing from my own education was an appreciation and knowledge of great works of art. I know of a few artists, but not many, and I don't know much about their lives and inspiration. Because of my lack of knowledge, I wasn't sure how to start teaching my own children about this subject. Therefore, I was delighted to be sent a copy of this brand new art curriculum, Meet the Artists, to review.


Friday 11 September 2020

The Importance of Play

The start of a new homeschool year normally causes me to reflect. I reflect on the last year and I also reflect on the year to come, thinking about how I want it to be. I ponder our homeschool environment and what I want learning to look like. One thing I always come back to is play. I am truly grateful that homeschooling allows my children to play, both indoor and out, and learn as they go. Play is such an important part of early childhood that Sue Palmer, states in her latest book, 'Upstart', "Love and play are the greatest gifts any generation can hand on to the next". Furthermore, she claims that there is no doubt that play is a vital factor in childhood health and wellbeing, but why is that?

Thursday 27 August 2020

A Liturgy of Love Morning Time Curriculum Review

Morning Time is a concept developed by homeschool mum of 9, Cindy Rollins over the last 30 years. It is a time for the family to come together and connect while reading, singing, learning and worshipping. It is the gentle way to start the day before moving on to more structured lessons or learning activities.


Monday 17 August 2020

Is Screen Time the Biggest Cause of Speech and Language Delay?

Early language skills are so important and research studies have shown how language ability at two years of age predicts later life outcomes. You may wonder how this is possible but we know that the first two years of a child's life is extremely important. Over the course of the first two years, the brain grows rapidly, more rapidly than at any other stage of life. In the first year it doubles in size and by the age of two, it is 85% of adult size. During this time, a child's brain is building structural and functional connections, wiring up the neural networks as the child experiences new things and gains new skills and abilities. Screens can impact on this early development, often in a negative way. In this article I describe the ways screen time can affect speech and language development.


Monday 3 August 2020

How Husbands Can Support Breastfeeding

Multicultural motherhood

I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding. I breastfed all four of my babies; the eldest for about a year and the other three for about 2 years. I loved it. I loved the bond it created between my babies and I, I loved how convenient it was and I loved how it gave my babies the best nutrition that was just right for them at each stage of their early development. According to WHO, "Breastfeeding provides every child with the best possible start in life. It delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both children and mothers. And it forms part of a sustainable food system. But while breastfeeding is a natural process, it is not always easy. Mothers need support – both to get started and to sustain breastfeeding." Now that isn't to say that it will be right for every family. I know that it is not possible for every baby to be breastfed, but if you are able to, it is wonderful.


Wednesday 22 July 2020

Top 50+ Hajj Activities For Kids

Today was the start of Dhul al-Hijjah, the twelfth and final month of the Islamic year. It is a special time of year for Muslims and is marked by the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. This pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam so every Muslim must aim to go on Hajj at least once in their lifetime, if they are able to. 

Saturday 2 May 2020

Homeschooling Tips and Resources for EAL Families

School closures mean that everyone is now temporarily homeschooling and many parents are anxious about this. It is perhaps even more worrying for families who have English as an additional language. Parents may be feeling overwhelmed with the workload being sent to their children and with the thought that they may have to help their children complete it in English.


Monday 6 April 2020

Which Language Should I Homeschool in?

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many countries to go into lockdown and this means that schools have closed. Because of this, a lot of families are finding themselves homeschooling for the first time. This raises a dilemma for multilingual families: which language should they homeschool in?


Tuesday 17 March 2020

Why You Don't Need to Replicate School at Home During the Coronavirus Crisis

We are living in uncertain times due to the coronavirus pandemic. The world is going into lockdown to try to prevent the spread of the virus. Schools are closing and that means that many parents are having to think about homeschooling their children for the first time.

I look on social media and I see many parents panicking about how to teach their children at home. They worry that they will not be able to teach their children and that their children will be missing out on their education. Well, as a homeschooling mother, let me reassure you that you do NOT have to replicate school at home. Here’s why:

Tuesday 3 March 2020

We're Going on a Bear Hunt Sensory Story Time

World Book Day 2020 is just around the corner so we have been spending lots of time reading books and doing activities related to our favourites. One of our favourite children's books is 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' by Michael Rosen. This is a story that has enchanted children for generations. I was read it by my parents when I was small and now I read it to my own children, in Turkish as well as English! The book has been translated into many languages and it can be really fun to learn the vocabulary, especially the sound words (swishy, squelch, hoo woo etc.) in another language!


Monday 24 February 2020

Raising Bilingual Kids When OPOL Doesn't Work

The one parent, one language approach is one of the most widely used language strategies for bilingual families. I have previously written about different bilingual language strategies and how it is best to speak to your child in the language you are most proficient in. This may not necessarily be your first language, or mother tongue. For example, you may have stopped speaking your first language once you started school and not picked it back up again. You may have moved to another country and started speaking a different language and now you feel more comfortable speaking, and are more proficient in, this new language. There may be other reasons for it too. You may be equally proficient in more than one language and, therefore, you can choose which language you would like to speak to your child. 


Tuesday 11 February 2020

The Trouble With Phonics

In 2006, British schools were told to teach children to read using a method known as systematic synthetic phonics. Prior to this, phonics was not used across the board and other methods, such as the whole word method, were used too.

If you have been following me on social media for some time, you will know about my dislike of systematic synthetic phonics as a method for teaching young children to read and write English. Let me tell you why.

I first became aware of the trouble with phonics when my eldest child learnt to read through this method at school. Despite us homeschooling for the first year, she entered school a year late at the age of 5 and a half. I had not taught her to read and because of this she was behind the rest of her year group when she began school. Her teacher decided she would sit in with the year below for the first 15 minutes every morning for their phonics lessons. Within a couple of months she was reading at the same level as her peers, which just goes to show that starting school a year later does not disadvantage the child, however, I noticed some annoying features of her early reading skills. Firstly, she would sound out every single letter before blending it together. This is a strategy she kept up for some time, a lot longer than my second child who did not learn to read using phonics. Secondly, she would say many words incorrectly because she would always say them phonemically and, as we know, English is not a phonemic language. Therefore, 'was' was always pronounced with a short 'a' sound (as in 'cat'), 'here' was pronounced with an 'e' at the end, and you can imagine how words such as 'thought' and 'enough' were pronounced.

It was this experience with my daughter, as well as my knowledge as a linguist, that led me to question the phonics system and I became determined to find a better way for my younger children to learn to read. A way that teaches children the correct pronunciation and spelling right from the start because, in my opinion, it is better to learn properly once than to try to correct ingrained errors. I have thoroughly researched this subject and, as a linguist, I have my own thoughts on this subject too. I will share my findings and realisations with you now.

The point of writing is NOT to record sounds

One of the main problems with phonics is that it presumes that the whole point of the written word is to note down the sounds of language.  This is simply not the case. The point of writing is not to record sounds but to convey meaning. Communication is the reason for language and written language is no different. By writing our messages down we are communicating in a different mode but for the same reason; to convey meaning. 

Phonics does NOT work for all children

Not all children can learn to read using the phonics approach. In 2014, Compton et al. estimated that 10-15% of children struggle with phonics. On top of this there is a high number of children starting secondary school with a low level of literacy and this is unacceptable. Something is clearly not right with the system and children are being failed. Children who find it different to distinguish between speech sounds - often those with speech sound difficulties - and children who have difficulty learning letter-sound correspondence will have difficulties learning to read with the phonics approach.

English spelling is NOT phonemic

Bowers and Bowers (2017) state that, "English spelling is a morphophonemic system in which spellings have evolved to represent sound (phonemes), meaning (morphemes), and history (etymology) in an orderly way." The fact that English spelling is not purely phonemic makes the phonics approach problematic for teaching children to read. In fact, the well-known English linguist David Crystal estimated that almost half of all English words have unpredictable spellings from the phonics point of view. When you think about this, phonics seems like a terrible way to teach children to read.

A lot of people may think that the English spelling system is awful because it is not phonemic but that it not the case. In fact, another well-known linguist Noam Chomsky said the English spelling system is near optimal from a morphological point of view. If you are not familiar with the word, morphology is related to the meaning of the language. Having a spelling system related to morphology makes a lot of sense because, as I said before, written language, and language in general, is about communicating meaning.

So, if you take the word 'sign' and think of related words, you may come up with 'signing', 'design' and 'signature'. Is the 'sign' part of these words the same? Well, 'signature' is pronounced differently to the others, therefore, phonemically they are different but morphologically they are the same because their meanings are interlinked.

Phonics decoding teaches incorrect spelling

There is nothing that annoys me more than reading scheme books filled with incorrect spellings. Their defence for this mistake is that they are teaching children to decode words and, in this way, they are wrongly assuming, as I mentioned above, that the point of writing is to record the sounds of a language. They claim that getting children to learn grapheme-phoneme (letter-sound) correspondence is the most important thing, even if it encourages children to spell incorrectly. I have no problem getting a child to decode a nonsense word, even though it is a waste of time, but I have a big problem with a proper word spelt incorrectly next to a picture of the word's meaning. For example, in the 'Jolly Stories' book by Sara Wernham which focuses on the Jolly Phonics method, 'heiv' is written underneath a picture of a beehive, 'hil' is written underneath a picture of a hill and 

Phonics instruction begins too early

In the UK, children normally start learning to read at the age of three when they attend preschool. They begin to learn phonics, perhaps one letter a week, and then when they get to the first year of primary school, at age four, phonics instruction really ramps up. By the end of their first year at school they should be meeting certain literacy targets and the following year they are assessed using the phonics screening test. This test assesses a child's knowledge of the phonic sounds and their ability to segment a word into sounds and blend sounds to form a word. The phonics screening test consists of 20 real words and 20 non-words. Testing a child on nonsense words is completely pointless because they will never come across those words in any text so it doesn't help them learn to read. I suggest it would be better to focus on learning real words that a child will actually need to read and write.

Most children acround the world do not start any formal education until the age of six or seven and, therefore, do not begin to learn to read and write until then. Despite this, it has been found that by the age if eleven, there is no difference in reading ability between those who started at the age of three and those who started at the age of seven. Moreover, those children who started later often have more positive thoughts and feelings associated with reading. So, why the rush?

Lack of evidence base

Despite systematic synthetic phonics being prescribed by the Rose report of 2006, there actually isn't very much evidence to support this reading scheme in the report itself. In the report Rose states that 'despite uncertainties in findings' phonics is the best approach for the vast majority of children. The Rose report's main evidence for this came from research carried out by Johnson and Watson in Scotland, in 2005. Interestingly, despite this research, systematic synthetic phonics is not compulsory teaching in Scotland.

Since the Rose Report there has been more research carried out into the advantages of learning to read through phonics and results have been favourable. However, when you truly look into a lot of the research papers you can see problems in how the results come about. They do not seem to put systematic phonics against one particular approach but a mixture of different approaches and unless you distinguish between approaches you surely cannot work out which one is best. Jeffery Bowers, an academic at the University of Bristol, stated in a blog post in 2019, "There really is little or no empirical evidence to support the conclusion that systematic phonics is best practice. The fact that this claim is repeated 1000s of times in the literature does not make it so. But it is somewhat of a scandal that the research is so consistently misrepresented in the literature."

Major studies conclude that phonics is important but not sufficient for teaching children to read. Of course it is necessary to teach children grapheme-phoneme correspondence for an alphabetic writing system but this needs to be taught within the wider context of a rich literacy environment that takes morphology into account as well as comprehension and enjoyment.

There are better methods out there

I cannot disagree that aspects of phonics, such as grapheme-phoneme correspondence, are necessary for teaching children to read but there are other approaches that teach this skill among other things and they may be better than systematic synthetic phonics. There are too many approaches to mention here but in my new course, 'Emergent Literacy and Beyond', I will summarise the other main approaches. 

In conclusion, the English writing system's lack of phonemic consistency is not a flawed system. As the linguist Venezky wrote in 1999, "English orthography is not a failed phonetic transcription system, invented out of madness or perversity. Instead it is a more complex system that preserves bits of history (i.e. etymology), facilitates understanding, and also translates into sound." There is nothing wrong with English spellings, it's just that phonics may not be the best approach for helping young children to acquire this writing system.

Additional articles of interest


Friday 31 January 2020

Barnes Brothers Book Reveiws

I am thrilled to be taking part in Multicultural Children's Book Day for the third year running! Multicultural Children's Book Day is a great initiative that aims to promote and celebrate diverse children's books as well as get more of these books into libraries and schools.


Sunday 26 January 2020

10 Outdoor Activities For Kids in Winter


Getting out and about in winter can definitely be a challenge. When we look out of the window and see the bleak, winter sky or frost on the grass, it can seem easier to stay indoors in the warm. However, bad weather always looks worse through the window and once you get out in it it really won't be so bad!

Saturday 25 January 2020

Creating a Phenology Wheel

A phenology wheel is a lovely way to record your nature observations each month. It is a perfect, visual memoir to look back on the seasonal changes that occured in your local area over the last year and a wonderful activity to add to your nature study.


Monday 13 January 2020

Goals for 2020

At the start of the year I like to do what most people do and set myself some goals for the year. These are things that I would like to work on and improve over the coming year or something new that I would like to do. Sometimes I stick to the goals and my life feels better for it. Other times I fail miserably and that's ok. The point is to try your best and see how it goes, remembering not to be too hard on yourself if what you planned to do doesn't materialise.


Monday 6 January 2020

Best of Multicultural Motherhood Blog 2019


At the end of each year I like to do a round up of my most popular blog posts of the year. In the last year I did not blog nearly as much as I did in the previous year and this was mainly due to the amount of time I spent creating and running my brand new parenting courses. However, I did write some very popular blog posts and here they are; the best of Multicultural Motherhood 2019!

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