The Guggenheim Mystery – with an autistic main character.

We recently read The London Eye Mystery and I was impressed with the way the author had written Ted, a character who is autistic and is portrayed in a realistic and positive manner. So when I discovered there was a second book – The Guggenheim Mystery I immediately reserved it at our library. Now I must start by stating the second book is not actually written by the same author (Siobhan Dowd) of the London Eye Mystery because she actually passed away from cancer, the second book is written by a different author (Robin Stevens) but it has the same main characters and similar plot/feeling of the first.

The Guggenheim Mystery still centers around Ted (who is autistic), his sister Kat and their family. It is set a few months after The London Eye Mystery and in this adventure they go to visit their cousin and aunt who have moved to New York. A mystery unfolds (a painting is stolen) and Ted once again has to use his unique way of thinking to solve the case as his aunt is falsely accused. No one dies in this, there are no ghastly accidents or anything gruesome, it is a detective style story where they slowly work through a list to eliminate potential suspects and work out what did actually happen.

What really caught my attention about both of these books is the fact that Ted is a main character and both authors do not shy away from talking about how his autism affects him (they keep it realistic but they do not go on about negative aspects instead they show copying mechanisms and positives). I did however find that in this story the autism was even more of a focus than the first, the writing did not seem as natural as the first. In the first story I felt like the author wove it into the story effortlessly whereas in this story I felt like it was a bit forced. But having said that I still really appreciate the fact that there is a second story out there that deals with this incredible character and his family. It is still a positive example of how a kid is coping with his autistic traits. It is honest and does not shy away from things like – when Ted gets very overwhelmed he does need to hit something or the fact that he hates change and spends his school holiday in New York wearing his school uniform because it gives him comfort to have something constant. There is also a small moment where is sister Kat confesses that it is hard being in Ted’s family because everything is about him coping and she often feels like she gets neglected as a result. Something which rang very true to me. There are so many moments throughout this story where I was nodding along going, yes that is a totally realistic reaction from an autistic kid, yes I understand why that character is doing that or saying that. When you are reading it you do get the feeling that the author understands autism and is trying very hard to explain it to the readers so that they can understand it better.

Even thought I felt it was not quite as good as the first (The London Eye Mystery) I still think this is powerful story because it deals with Ted and his family in a very real but ultimately positive manner and for me that makes it a story worth recommending.

Admin – I do 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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Ancient History Books for GCSE

One of the subjects that my daughter has chosen as a GCSE exam subject is Ancient History. It is not what I would call one of the main subjects, so you don’t tend to find many resources available for it. And that right there made me a bit nervous. I like having lots of resources to chose from, I like being able to compare and pick what I think is best but with Ancient History you really just get the two Ancient History books, there really is no other option.

So when our books arrived I was a bit apprehensive, were we going to like them, would they contain enough information, practice questions and guidance on how to answer the questions? I felt like a lot was riding on these books.

Well the answer is YES. They ticked all of my boxes. We are only starting to use them in September but I am busy doing prep work so I have been scanning through, reading sections, looking at the questions, deciding for myself if we are going to manage doing Ancient History with just these two books. And I am satisfied we are, in fact I am actually a bit excited about it, yes I did just say I am a bit excited about a GCSE subject. I think it is going to be fascinating.

At a first look the books would be what some would consider heavy on the reading, there is a lot to read, but then again if you think you are only going to be using these two books for an entire subject and you start breaking down what you actually need to cover it is not that bad. For the exam you need to study both period studies and choose one depth study. Each book contains one period study and three depth studies so once you have chosen your depth study there is quite a lot of content that you could ignore if you choose to or simple read through for interest sake. So really on closer inspection it is actually not as bad. (We find History fascinating so I have a strong suspicion that we are going to reading through the extra depth studies purely for our interest.)

Okay so when you get to a section that you are looking at what do you get?

A brief introduction followed by four chapters. Not too bad.

Throughout the chapters you get little blocks on the side of the pages which highlight key places and people, ideas on how to explore further and some study questions. Then at the end of each chapter they have a quick timespan review and practice questions on that chapter. Now I must point out that as far as I can see there are no answers for the study questions or the practice questions, these are intended to be more discussion type questions where you should be able to find the answers for yourself in the text (when I write our more detailed review after using them for a few months I will give our thoughts on this).

Also I must add that they have include quite a few pictures and diagrams where they can, which does help to break the text up.

Then at the end of each section you get a few pages called “what to expect in the exam”. This includes general explanations about the exam, what they are testing, and then some actual examples of exam questions together with suggestions on how to answer them. If you look at these “what to expect in the exam” pages and read them carefully you pick up a lot of good advice and tips on how to structure your answers. I think these pages are going to be key for us.

It does look like a lot when you are faced with these two books and you could panic a bit but before you do think it through – what sections do you need to cover? Look and see how much that really is. Then read through the “what to expect in exam” pages carefully and I think the panicking will ease up and you will realise, just like I did that this is totally manageable and actually if you have a kid you finds history fascinating this is going to be an interesting and even fun subject to work through.

We were given our Ancient History books directly from Bloomsbury – Component 1 Greece and Persia and Component 2 Rome.

You can also buy them from Amazon – Component 1 Greece and Persia and Component 2 Rome.

Admin – We were give our copies of the Ancient History Books. All opinions expressed are mine. I do 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.

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I am a home educator and I am not a teacher

That seems to be a misconception out there – I am a home educator and NO I have never been a teacher and quite frankly I would NOT make a good teacher. How teacher’s manage to educate a group of 30 kids is beyond me. That is impressive. Dealing with 30 kids, kids with different abilities, trying to get such a large group to focus on a task, trying to explain a concept to a large group. Yip, that is not my cup of tea. I would not make a good teacher.

But I don’t deal with 30 kids, I deal with two. Two. That for me is one of the biggest differences. I have to help just Two kids learn, two kids who I can “teach” on a one-to-one or a two-to-one basis. That is a massive difference. Two kids, who are my own kids, so two kids who I know really well and understand how they learn, I understand (well sometimes I do get it wrong) what interests them, what their strengths are and what we need to work on. That is home education, it is education in the home, in our family setting so we get to change it up to what suits us. 30 kids – wow that would blow my mind, trying to explain something to 30 kids.

I am NOT a qualified teacher, I am a Chartered Accountant, but that does not matter either. What I am in a parent who is prepared to do lots of reading and research. Who will spend ages looking for resources and finding out about topics so we can cover them. I am also someone who is not afraid to say “I don’t know, lets find that out together” or “I need to read up about that and get back to you”. I have said those phrases and I am not ashamed that I have said those phrases, because that is real, it is real not to know everything but the key is being open to admit it and to learn about it.

I am NOT a teacher, I do NOT deal with a huge class of kids, I am a home educator and I deal with two kids. I spend a LOT of time reading up and researching but then I also get to spend a lot of time with my two kids.

family photo ofamily learning together

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Out of the Rubble – picking up the pieces after Blitz

We have read a number of what I term World War stories, stories about fighting and living through the World Wars but I am not sure how many dealt with the consequences, what happens after, how you pick up the pieces and what a World War does to an ordinary person just trying to survive it. A topic which I think is just as important for our kids to read about and this is what Out of the Rubble addresses and does so beautifully in a way which draws any younger reader in.

The story is based around a young girl Judy who is returning to London after being away (she was one of the children sent to the countryside to escape the bombing) for five and a half years. Judy and her mom now have the task of rebuilding their relationship in a world where their house has been bombed, they now live in a trailer in her uncles back yard, where her dad is still away, school is yet to return and her mom is working at a shelter. It’s a strange and uneasy world for Judy and in that mix is the fact that her mom was in the house when it was bombed and is now dealing with nightmares and the after effects. It is a story which I imagine a lot of families in England had to live, a story which would ring true of the after effects of lots of wars.

Out of the Rubble is part of a series of books called Super-Readable Rollercoasters aimed at encouraging struggling KS3 readers to get to grips with a good book. We have now read three books in this series (Lightning Strike, and Edgar and Adolf) and they have all been written in a easy to read yet engaging manner. My daughter, who is an avid reader really enjoyed this book, she loved the story and was captivated by the thought of what it must have been like to try and put your life back together after World War Two. For her it was a quick read but an enjoyable, thought provoking read. I also read it and I do think the writer has written it in a manner which would engage struggling readers.

Like all of the Super-Readable Rollercoasters this book comes with a Free to download Resource Pack. We have used a number of the Resource pack for different Rollercoaster books and I have to admit I really enjoy the resource pack’s that they have created for these Super-Readable books.

The packs start with a brief introduction to the book and an overview of the scheme of work (so number of lessons and what is covered in the lessons). This book has been split into 10 lessons which I think is really manageable and would work well if you split them over anything from a 2 week to a month period. Each lesson comes with a lesson plan and resources, plus with this pack have they included suggested answers.

One of the reasons I like these Rollercoaster Resources is the activities which they include are always varied. We have worked through quite a few of these Rollercoaster packs and the activities included are always different and always relevant to the story (I never feel like they have just slotted a worksheet in to tick some box, it always links into the story). For example in this pack the activities included were writing a play script, using metaphors and powerful adjectives in a poem, nightmare settings, timelines and different types of homes and a lovely jigsaw activity. All of the activities really did suit the story, the themes in the story and just seemed liked a natural progression of what the kids were reading.

My kids and I are huge fans of the Rollercoaster stories and I love having access to these Free to download resource packs. Out of the Rubble is yet another excellent addition to this series and one both my daughter and I would recommend.

Admin – Out of the Rubble was given to us along with a few other English books by Oxford University Press. Which books we choose to use and choose to write posts about was entirely up to us. We were not paid for this post.

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KS2 Ancient Greece Study book and Activity Book

One of the topics we choose to cover this year was Ancient Greece. And one of the resources (well actually two but they work as a set together) that we have used is this Study Book and Activity book from CGP.

We have used this range before and it worked well (Europe and UK set). In the past I have always read through the study book with the kids and then they have attempted the activity book but this year because my son is older and I was wanting him to do more independent work he actually did the entire thing by himself (he read it, completed the activities and then I just looked at his answers). And it worked really well. The Study book is written in such an easy to read manner that it really can be used as an independent learning resources for older KS2 kids.

The Study book gives the kids a complete overview of the Ancient Greece topic, but there may be instances where you want to take it further – I like to think of it as a solid foundation and we then go and investigate certain things in more detail. The Activity book really is linked to the Study book and you can’t really use it (the activity book) unless you have the study book to refer to. The basic set up is a double page in the Study book equates a double page in the Activity book. They cover the exact same material, follow the order and really do work hand in hand together. (In the pictures below the colour pages are from the study book and the black and white pages are from the activity book)

Okay so what is covered?

That really does cover everything that they need to know about the Ancient Greeks.

I find the study book concise and easy to read, they cover all the main points and use lots of interesting photographs and illustrations to support their points. I consider it a kid-friendly resource. It is engaging and includes lots of facts without getting bogged down in too much detail.

I like using the Activity Book with the Study Book because it just helps to enforces what the kids have just read and the simple act of writing a few points helps them to remember it. My son really enjoys these activity book because there is not too much writing and the writing tends to be in shorter bursts – he is not the kind of kid who would want to sit down and write a page detailing all the facts he has just read, he would rather have shorter, quicker written activities.

I think these book are perfect for home educators and we have enjoyed this Ancient Greeks set.

We bought ours directly from Amazon – Study Book and Activity Book

Admin – I do 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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