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.

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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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The Battle of Passchendaele – a WW1 book

One of our current background topics is World War 1. (I say background topic because the kids read a bit about it, have a break then come back and do something, have a break and so on – it seems to be a slow topic that is constantly being circled back to). And one of the books that we have found really informative and a great springboard is The Battle of Passchendaele: Band 18/Pearl (Collins Big Cat). It is one of their Big Cat readers and has been written for Key Stage 2 ages but I love these books and I still think it is an invaluable resource for my Year 7 daughter to read and reread. The Big Cat books are written in a very easy style, packed with information but not overwhelming detail. And although the book is called the battle of Passchendaele it really is a general World War 1 book which highlights that specific battle.Collins BIG CAT reader The battle of Passchendaele. WW1

It starts with a good explanation of why the world war started, life in the trenches, what a Tommy wore and no man’s land. Then it goes onto Passchendaele and why it was considered so important. While talking about the battle of Passchendaele they cover the whole issue of mud in quite good detail as well as different weapons used (including gas). It covers animals in war (my kids like learning about this), what was meant by a war of attrition and how it was not just the countries in Europe involved but their whole empires. We also really enjoyed the sections about war time medicine – my kids find the advancement of medicine during the wars fascinating.

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And then in concludes with some facts about how many died and a brilliant visual summary of key facts.

Life on the Western Front in summary pictures

So although it does highlight the battle of  Passchendaele, the book is filled with general information about World War 1. Both my kids really enjoyed reading it (aged 9 and 11) and I think it has been very well written with lots of information but nothing too grim.

After reading the book my son spent some time on the Twinkl website and found the Life in the Trenches hotspot page good (the kids click on the crosses and then a box with more information pops up).

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He also liked “The beginnings of World War 1″ booklet – a few pages the kids can print out and then create their own booklet.

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And if you do have Twinkl membership their World War 1 eBook is very handy resource. (My son really liked the way they explained the start of World War in the eBook.)

My daughter actually found some pages on Passchendaele on the Teachit History website. It is a three lesson plan set up around nursing the wounded at Passchendaele. She is still working through it but says it is very informative. – Lesson 1, lesson2, lesson3.

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.

The Battle of Passchendaele. A world war one book for kids. lot of information nothing too grim World War 1 booklet from Twinkl Resources. Perfect for primary aged kids learning about WW1

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Activate 1 – Key Stage 3 Science Resource

I have not written that much about the Science resources that we are using probably because the Biology side seems to just happen very naturally – the kids are constantly learning about animal biology (they have just looked at the way digestion systems differ in different animals) and then often end up looking for comparisons to human and plant biology – somehow that side just seems to be one of the topics that is always on the go in our house. However I am trying to be a bit more structured with Science specifically when it comes to Chemistry and Physics just because I want to make sure we are covering those. So I have a few books around the house that I am using as my springboard for ideas and also making sure my facts are totally accurate and I am not missing out on explaining certain concepts. And one of the books that I am really enjoying using is the  Activate 1 Student Book.

Oxford University Press Key Stage 3 Science Activate 1

I just like the way it has been written. The book is divided into three sections – Biology, Chemistry and Physics. And each section is well presented in a logical manner with clear graphics (we like graphics that explain concepts). I feel like it covers everything but at the same time does not over complicate things.

Oxford KS3 Science.  Activate 1 student book.  Good descriptive illustrations which highlight points

Each double page ends with 3 summary questions – which is great for making sure everyone understands what was covered (although I must stress there are NO answers in this book – so you either need to be confident that you know what the answers would be or you possibly need the teacher’s guide). And then at the end of each chapter that is a Chapter Summary, a Big Write activity and then End of chapter questions (these end of chapter questions are very much styled on what kids could expect in tests and exams).

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So what is covered in each of the three sections?


  • Cells – plant verses animal cells, specialized cells, movement and unicellular organisms
  • Structure and function of the body – Gas exchange, breathing, skeleton, joints and muscles
  • Reproduction – in humans and plants

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  • Particles – the particle model, stats of matter, melting, freezing and boiling, diffusion and gas pressure
  • Elements, Atoms and Compounds – including some chemical formulae
  • Reactions – chemicals reactions, equations, burning fuels, thermal decomposition, exothermic and endothermic
  • Acids and Alkalis – Indicators and PH, neutralisation and making salts


  • Forces – squashing and stretching, drag forces and fiction, balanced and unbalanced
  • Sound – Waves, sound transfer, loudness, detecting sound and echoes and ultrasound
  • Light – Reflection, Refraction, the eye and camera and colour
  • Space – The Night sky, the Solar system, Earth and the moon

Oxford KS3 Science.  Activate 1 student book.  covers Biology, chemistry and physics

I am finding this book is the right fit for us – the right amount of info, with good diagrams and just enough questions.  We still work on our “projects” so we do tend to use the book for a while then have a break if we are doing a project and come back to it when we have finished our project and need some new direction. The Activate range does also have workbooks which look like they go with the student books but we have not tried the workbook so I can not comment on those.

I am planning on writing an update on all the Year 7 books we have used at the end of this Academic year but for now this Science book is ticking all the right boxes for us.

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.

Key Stage 3 Science Resource from Oxford University press. Activate 1 student book

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