What’s the Matter? Board Game for KS2 Science

My son is very much someone who remembers things that HE finds interesting or amusing but if it is not something he is interested it he seems to forget it very quickly.

He loves animals so biology has always been a key subject for him. Which is why the very first Oaka Book board game that we ever tried was the Predators and Producers game – big hit! After that we went on and tried two other games – On the Map and Space Race – both of which have been popular. So when I was raking my brain trying to figure out how I was going to get him to remember things about changing states and materials – which he is really NOT interested in – I thought the Oaka Books materials game (What’s the Matter?) might work with him.

KS2 Science Materials. Board game by Oaka Books

Now I must be honest, this is really NOT an area that he is interested in so to begin with we actually played the first 2 games with only the Lower KS2 question cards. If you have not played these games before the question cards are split into two groups – which you can distinguish based on the colour of the cards – the first 113 cards are for Lower KS2 years (so UK school year 3 and 4) and the second set of 113 cards are for Upper KS2 years (so UK school years 5 and 6). With the other games we have never stuck to this split, we have always mixed up the cards, but my son would be year 4 if he was in school and because I was trying to get some of these facts to stick and get him to enjoy himself without being frustrated I thought we would stick with the age range suggested.

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And it worked really well. He enjoyed the game, had a few laughs and I started to notice some of the concepts were sticking.

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So gradually we started including some the Upper KS2 questions. And again it worked, he was remembering things.

If you have not heard about the Oaka Books Board games this is what it is – think snakes and ladder concept. In this case if you land on a solid you go up and if you land on a liquid you go down. When you land on a square with a question mark you get to answer a question and if you get it right you get some point cards.

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A straight forward board game, with easy to follow rules but what it does do is it makes learning/ revision fun and a LOT more interesting than worksheets.

We have been big fans of the Oaka Books board games and this is no exception. The kids and I recommend the What’s The Matter? game for Science fun.

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WW1 fiction for kids

We like finding historical fiction books and since we have been reading quite a bit about the First World War I thought I would share two WW1 fictional stories that the kids have recently read and enjoyed.

The first is the classic The 39 Steps: Band 18/Pearl (Collins Big Cat). I happened to spot this story while I was searching the Collins Big Cat reading series for History readers (my son likes using their readers for his History learning). I must admit I have never actually read The 39 Steps, but I had heard it was a good story so I thought it might be worth trying and it was, my son really enjoyed the story. (We actually started reading the book together but he could not wait for me to finish the story with him the next day so he finished it by himself.)

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The story is set around the beginning of the First World War.  So it does not cover life during the war or trench life but it does give the kids a good idea of the lifestyle lived by people in the UK just before the outbreak. My kids found it interesting that the newspapers were still such an important way of communicating information back then (when the story ran in the newspaper showing the photo of Richard Hannay most people seemed to have read it). And the fact that most people seemed to rely on trains and not that many people had their own cars.

We also found the story opened up ideas like – what would happen if the side you were fighting against got hold of your battle plans?  Did countries really send spies into other countries to try and gain intelligence and how did they do that? And the fact that the imposter had to deliver the information in person (no email back then).  And the big one could the First World War been avoided?

This version of  The 39 Steps is a condensed version of the original story.  We have read a few of these condensed stories with the kids and we have actually found that once the kids have read the condensed versions they often seek out the originals and either read the original themselves or ask to read it as family book. (I have found it works especially well with highly sensitive kids because they already know the basic plot of the story so they don’t tend to stop reading the originals when it gets a bit scary).

The Second book we have read is The Silver Hand (Flashbacks). I got this one last year, not really knowing that much about it but we have read a number of the books in the flashback series and enjoyed them.

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This story is based around a village on the front line so you get a very real understanding of what life must have been like for those people living through the war and the soldiers fighting on both sides.  Both my kids immediately picked up on the flu that was killing lots of the German soldiers, it was a great talking point – how soldiers already weak would be more susceptible to falling sick and how medicine was not that advance. (War time medicine is actually a great topic to look at with the kids because during wars there always ends up being a lot of medical advancement.)

My son was intrigued by the friendship between the French girl and the German boy.  And I must admit I really liked this element of the story.  I want the kids to see the human side to the wars, that there are people are both sides who get hurt and people on both sides who try to do good.  I especially liked that the German boy was at the front line wanting to help the soldiers get better (it helps to emphasise that not all Germans are bad). I think this friendship helps the kids to start thinking about ideas like that. 

I know that having spies in stories makes it exciting but it also shows the kids that side of war, that there were everyday people doing dangerous tasks trying to help the soldiers. My daughter especially loved that it was her mom (female character) who was part of the spies network. 

There were a few moments when my son came to me and said I hope the two friends are going to survive, but they do and although there are moments when they were in danger it was not terrifying or gruesome. 

WW1 fictional stories for kids to read

We think book of these stories are great for kids learning about WW1.  They are both exciting and informative but not too scary.  The kids and I recommend these two stories.

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Home education is a job

I must admit I have not thought of home education as a job before but I recently read a post – homeschooling like it’s my job and some comments my daughter made recently made me think that possibly it would be helpful if I started saying it was my job, at least, to the outside world. There is a part of me that does not want to label it a job because I enjoy this journey of discovery that we are one and I am really enjoying all the learning that I get to do along with the kids (and I never wanted my kids to think it’s a job). But it is time consuming. And I have come to realize that people who are not actually home educating don’t always realize how time consuming it can be. So maybe if I started talking about it as my job they might start understanding that it is full time, that it is not just an hour here and an hour there.

I have struggled with this outside view of home education for a long time. Around 4 years ago I had a neighbour that assumed I was just the local day care centre and would send her kid over if she needed to do chores with no regard to what our plans were or what we might be in the middle of. I found this incredibly frustrating. But then I must also admit I have not been that good at saying No to people, I tend to try and accommodate which often means people just take more and more advantage of the situation.

If I start saying I am working then possibly there will be an understanding that I cannot drop whatever I am doing to suit others.

It is a tough one because what we as home educators are seen doing during the day and what our kids are seen doing does not always look like tradition learning.

This past weekend my husband and I watched two documentary series to assess if I could use them for History.  I am glad we did because there were sections that I did not like but there were also very informative sections.  So we had a chance to decide if we show those sections and then talk about them or if we just skip those sections.  For me that is part of my home education research.  I was spending my weekend figuring out which resources were right for the kids, but it was very time consuming.

I have a friend who unschools.  And I love going to visit them because her kids always have something new and fascinating to tell me (okay I also love just having some tea and a chat with her).  But if you were an outsider looking in you probably would not see all the learning that is happening.  You might think the one child is playing around on a screen, but actually he is recreating a business, with income and expenditure and figuring out how to run his business (totally blew me away). When we were speaking he understood concepts like income and profit and used them in the correct way.  That might not fit into a typical school model, but if someone interrupted him to tell him to go and read or do maths (both of which he was already doing as part of this activity) they would be interrupting an incredible learning session.

So why is it asumed that his style of learning is less significant than what happens in school?

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My daughter gets very upset when people suggest we stop home educating or when they imply that her home education is not as important or as good as tradition school. She recently told me -“I have no intention of going to school, there is no point.  Home education means I get to focus on the areas that I find fascinating and go into a lot more detail that they ever would at school. I think being a home educator is the most significant job in the world and anyone who does it should be proud and appreciated.  I would be honoured to home educate my own children one day, it is the best JOB in the world.”

So I think I am going to follow my daughter’s suggestion and start telling people I do have a job, it is home educating my kids and yes it does include a LOT of overtime but hey what could be more important than investing my time in giving them this gift.

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War School For Dogs

With the reading we have been doing about the First World War the kids have picked up on an interesting theme – how animals were used during war time. The first example that really caught their attention were the pigeons that were carried inside the tanks and then used as messengers and from there they started investigating other animals including the roles dogs and horses played (they loved the stories about using dogs to catch the rats in the trenches).

And then last week we were fortunate enough to receive a lovely book from Collins called War School for Dogs: Band 16/Sapphire (Collins Big Cat) (it is part of their Big Cat series aimed at Key Stage 2 ages). Both my kids and I found this a fascinating read and it is perfect if the kids are learning about the First World War.

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The book gives an interesting look at how dogs were first introduced into the world war, the initial reluctance to use them, the training they did and how things progressed once the military realized how useful they were.  We were all amazed that at the beginning of the First World Germany had 6,000 trained military dogs yet Britain only had 1.  That fact really surprised us. It was really interesting to read about Colonel Richardson’s determination that dogs could be useful in war time, how he stuck with it and trained them even after initial rejection. (After reading this book we watched a documentary and a picture of Richardson appeared and my son immediately recognised him as the World War 1 dog man – I love it when things like that happen.)

My kids were surprised to read that many families volunteered their pet dogs even though they could be injured or killed.  It gave rise to an interesting discussion on how would families manage to look after their pets when they were living on rations.  We also spoke about what it must have been like when some of those pets were returned after the war, did the kids think those dogs would behave differently after experiencing the war?

Although the book talks a lot about the First Wold War and how using dogs developed during the First World War it does also go on to talk about dogs in the Second Wold War and Military dogs today.  It also mentions the PDSA Dickin Medal, which has been awarded to some military animals – we loved learning about this.

War School for Dogs. Medals for the dogs in battle

I REALLY like this book, it was perfect for my nine year old.  He loved learning about these dogs and how they helped in war time. And for a child who loves learning about all kinds of animals this was an interesting war theme to explore. Finding angles like this means he ends up learning about History from an angle that he finds interesting which means he ends up doing even more reading and research on his own.

And as luck would have it I actually bought my son a book for Christmas called Heroes: Incredible true stories of courageous animals. As soon as he finished the War Schools for Dogs he dived into this and has been reading all kinds of different stories about amazing animals that have helped people. The Heroes Book is a general book about animal heroes but it does contain quite a few stories about animals in war time situations and even includes stories about some of the animals mentioned by name in the War School for Dogs book.

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And we discovered we this clip on the BBC Bitesize site – Britain’s use of military dogs.

Other Books we have used about the First World War – The Battle of Passchendaele, The Story of the First World War

Admin – We were given the War School for Dogs book.

I do sometimes include Affiliate links. If you follow an affiliate link and go on to purchase that product, I will be paid a very small commission, however your cost will remain the same. I only include affiliate links for products that we use and love.

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Oaka Topic Packs are great for Home education projects

I have mentioned a few times that my kids are visual learners and that they like working on projects / topics and will often get themselves totally lost in whatever topic they are learning about. I am finding more and more that their preferred way of learning is topics / project based which does not always tie in with tradition school books. Often a school book will cover a topic over 2 pages and then the next year’s book will add more detail. Or the text book will be geared at KS2 ages so they don’t go into detail and even though my youngest is 9 and still technically in Year 4 (part of KS2) he finds that frustrating. If we are learning about a topic he likes to LEARN about it and not be restricted by KS2 verses KS3 detail.

Just recently we covered Rivers and he did all the detail on Rivers that would be covered in the KS3 years in fact I actually printed off a few pages from an educational website that were marked KS4 – they were matching definitions to pictures type pages. But the point is he wanted to learn about Rivers and all of it’s details. And I understanding that he is 9 so although he is learning the theory he is not writing elaborate detailed essay type answers. (The photo below is my nine-year old playing the River Topic pack game which is a KS3 topic pack, he loved the game)

playing the learning game included in the Rivers, Processes and Flooding pack

One of the resources that we find adapts well for our topic/ project style learning are the Oaka Topic Packs. They give us a good foundation for a topic – the kids pick up key definitions and wording without getting lost in long paragraphs.

Now we don’t ONLY use the topic packs, when we do a topic we tend to use a number of resources. We will watch documentaries, look for clips on education sites and find books to read (sometimes even fictional books that are woven around our topic). But the Topic Packs have become a good starting base for us. They set us on the right track, make sure we pick up key points and normally end up being reread as a summary at the end to help tie it together.

For me the topic packs work across the ages, so if my nine year old is learning about the Spanish Armanda we will use the Spanish Armanda Topic pack even though it is considered a KS3 section.

And we do adapt the way we use them with different subjects and different kids. Take my daughter’s History – last year she discovered the Oxford History KS3 books and LOVES them, so she decided to work through them page by page, slowly and very deliberately making sure she does not miss out anything. And then when she gets to a topic that she wants to investigate further, she normally digs out one of the topic packs and starts creating her own extra activities.  She loves History and really enjoys spending extra time reading multiple sources and then creating her own booklets / timelines based on the different sources she has read. And she had found that the Oxford History book works really nicely with the Oaka Books topic packs.  Although both sources are covering the same subject they do it in very different ways.  So she is finding the combination works well, and her the topic pack reinforces what she has just learnt and sometimes includes some extra detail (plus she finds the pictures included in the topic packs help her remember – the ones below are from The Battle of Hastings pack).

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For my son’s history he prefers smaller more bite-size history, he could not work through each page of the Oxford Book the way his sister does, he is just not as fascinated by the subject as she is.  So he sticks to his topics/ projects for history and finds the summarized nature of the topic books perfect (his other favourite History resources are actually the History readers in the BIG CAT reading series).

reading up about the Battle of Hastings with an Oaka Books topic pack and the Tudors with the Tudor and Stuarts Usborne Book

Both of my kids seem to do well with this more in-depth topic style learning and although we do adapt it as we go I think it is something that we are going continue doing.


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Your sensory kid will eat when they are hungry

The number of times I have been told that and it has never happened. If my sensory kid is struggling, eating is just an extra struggle so they don’t. Simple as that. And yes they are hungry I can hear they are hungry and sometimes they go days, but if they are struggling in their sensory world eating is just not one of the things that helps to calm them, it can stress them out even further.

So for me that phrase bites and because of that I don’t normally talk about this side of things, except to a few close friends, because it is tough on our family and then having other people just negate how hard it is by saying casually “when they are hungry they will eat” feels like a slap in the face.

The only thing that actually helps is listening to the kid who is struggling. We hibernate, give them the space away from the outside world and all that stimulation. It is tough going because most people don’t get it. Most people still don’t understanding how challenging it can be for sensory families and how what seems like something so irrelevant to them can be something massive for a sensory kid. Most people also don’t get that sometimes there is a delayed response time, so a challenging event may happen but it takes the kids some time to process it and so often the effect is delayed.

Last week was rough, this weekend has still been challenging. It often feels like 1 step forward and then 3 steps backwards (but I know it’s not). We have been here before and I know we will be here again but still it is hard not to doubt what we know, in the noise of the outside world trying to tell you stuff that you know does not work for your sensory kids it is still hard to shut it out.

If you doubt it I can say 11 years on without a shadow of a doubt – when my sensory kid is struggling she does not eat.  She will be hungry but until she manages to unwind, process what is causing the overload she will not eat.  Trying to force her to eat does not work – she will just bring it up.  Going to dieticians does not work, they don’t get the sensory side.  Occupational therapy helps (we have done it for years).  Giving them time in a safe calm environment helps.  It is still one of those sensory challenges that hits hardest for us.

ofamily learning together

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Twinkl Go – keeping busy

This past week has been a rough one. Just as the kids were getting over flu my oldest started with a crazy high fever and stopped eating any food. Which means my son and I have been home most of the week with her (I managed to take him for a quick swim on Tuesday as their dad was home watching her, but that really has been it). She seems to be over the worse, her temperature has dropped and we are slowly trying to get food into her. But most of the “academic” work has fallen away. My son has read A LOT, drawn some new sea life pictures, watched a few documentaries but that was about it until I remembered we had access to Twinkl go again. (We have not had access for about 8 months so I sometimes forget to go and look there).

I logged on and left him to select whatever he wanted. That for me is one of the reasons I like Twinkl Go – there is nothing inappropriate, no strange adverts pop up, he can honestly look at anything on there and it is fine. Some of the items he may select will be too easy, some may be a topics we have not covered, but nothing is inappropriate.

And he found a few quizzes

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some word searches

Twinkl Go includes a number of different word searches

and even some times table games that he happily played for quite a while.

Twinkl Go includes some interactive educational games

And he even informed me that he has found some interesting looking comprehensions on Twinkl Go and suggested that I include some of them in next week’s “work” (I love it when they suggest I add some extra activities to their learning). 

It kept him busy when I really needed it too and I am hoping the extra times table practice that he has had over the past 2 days may help him (he is not that keen on his times tables).

One tip – when you sign the kids in make sure the correct age range is selected at the top – I did not check this and he initially struggled to find the right content, but we quickly realized, corrected it and then just like that he had much better options pop up.


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