Usborne Young Reading Series

I am a huge fan of the Usborne Beginners series.  We have a large collection of the Beginners books and I have found them to be perfect for read alouds as well as brilliant beginner readers.  My daughter used a lot of the books in this series as readers and they really suited her as she found the topics more interesting than lots of more traditional readers.  So last year when I was looking for more advanced books I thought we could try some more in the Usborne Reading series.

Usborne Reading Series the Shocking story of Electricity, The story of Castles and Pompeii

I initially ordered 2 books in the Young Reading series 2 range (The Shocking story of Electricity and the Story of Castles) and although these books are great readers and very informative they were too easy for her – photo below is from the book Story of a Castle a series 2 book.

Usborne Reading Series 2. Inside page from the book Story of a Castle

But we liked the style of writing and the way non-fiction topics were covered for young readers, we just needed a slightly harder version.  We decided to stick with the range and I ordered her a series 3 book to try – Pompeii.

The Pompeii book was a massive hit with both my kids and great reading practice for my daughter.  She was interested in the historical themed books in their range and wanted to try more so she was thrilled when Usborne sent her 6 more to try out. All Historical themes.  Perfect for us –  while she is gaining confidence, practicing her reading she is also learning about historical figures and events (plus her younger brother loves listening to the stories).

Some of the History books included in the Usborne Young Reading series. Excallent books for children.

The books are all well written.  There are a few challenging words (often the names of places and people) but she always manages the books by herself.

Queen Victoria.  One of the Usborne Young Reading Series 3 books.  Combines history with reading practice


They are books about historical events and people so they do deal with death, sickness and disasters but so far we have not found the details too graphic or upsetting (but please do bear in mind some of the text might require a parents presence for younger highly sensitive children).  Below is a page from the Florence Nightingale book.

An extract from Florence Nightingale.  One of the Usborne Young reading Series 3 books

Personally I have stayed away from certain titles at this stage as my daughter is sensitive (eg:The Holocaust and Anne Frank – I know these would be very upsetting for her and I am rather leaving this sensitive subject matter for when she is a bit older.)

And as I have come to expect in the Usborne reading series they always include brilliant illustrations and often lovely colourful photographs.

Also at the end of the books they include a one page timeline of the historical subject which is always a great recap of the order of events as mentioned within the book.  And a number of the books also include maps showing routes taken.

The Usborne Young Reader book Crusaders includs a timeline and maps showing the routes

We are ALL really enjoying this series of books and as a home-educating mom I am finding them great starting points for fascinating discussions. The kids are learning about history in a very relaxed manner (often curled up on the couch reading a book with me). They are loving the books and keep asking me for more in the series.

Reading The Story of London. A Usborne Young Reader. Stunning readers for primary aged children

I am probably going to order some of the fictional titles in this range – I am just battling to decide which ones to order – possibly The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Anne of Green Gables.

The full range of the Usborne Reading series can be found on their website here are the links – Young Reading Series 2 books and Young Reading series 3 books

And the titles that we currently have on our bookshelf are these ones.

Usborne Young Reading series books which we use as part of our home education

Series 2

The Shocking Story of Electricity (Young Reading (Series 2))

Stories of Castles (Young Reading (Series 2)) (Young Reading Series Two)

Series 3

Pompeii (Young Reading (Series 3)) (Young Reading Series Three)

The Story of London (Young Reading Series Three)

Crusaders (Usborne Young Reading: Series Three)

Queen Victoria (Young Reading Level 3) (Young Reading Series Three)

Christopher Columbus (Famous Lives)

Florence Nightingale (Usborne Famous Lives)

Leonardo Da Vinci (Young Reading (Series 3)) (Young Reading Series Three)

Usborne Young Reading Series includes lots of brilliant historical books for children to read

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Real or Nonsense Ingredients for the Cauldron

I have been looking for a fun phonic activity to do with my son (aged 6) but never really thought of the real vs nonsense word activities I have seen until I stumbled upon the witch/wizard version by Twinkl.  The idea being that the kids read the words, decide which is real and which is nonsense and then place the real words in the real cauldron.  Their pack includes cauldron pages which you can print out and the kids place the words on the cauldron sheet but I thought it would be fun to make it a bit more interactive. So I set up a potion area for my little wizard.

Potion making area all set up waiting for the Wiizards to come and decide which are real and which are nonsense ingredients

I only used goodies which we already had in the house.  For the Nonsense cauldron I used an old plastic container and the real cauldron is a play cauldron we bought a couple of years ago.  Inside the cauldrons I placed some craft pom-poms and I raided the kids toys and found some insects and creepy crawlies just to make the cauldron area a bit fun.  (Oh and old spice containers work really well in this sort of scenario).  I cut out the words and invited the local wizard to come and make a potion.

Phonic word activity from Twinkl. Only the real words get added to the Real cauldron

He thought it was a lot of fun and had a good go at sounding out the words.

Reading ingredient words to decide if they should be included in the potion.

I must admit there was a good selection of words.

Reading the words to decide if it is a real or nonsense word. Phonic activity from twinkl

One of the great thing about this activity was I quickly picked up which sounds he is still mixing up (when he read words with oo or oi in them he would often mixed these up).  It definitely helped me understand which sounds he needs a bit of extra practice with.

Twinkl have a bunch of these little packs  – for our purpose we mixed a few of them together

Nonsense and Real word activity from Twinkl. Place the real word into the real cauldron

but you could just stick to one set of words –  here are the links (all are part of their Platinum package).

Halloween themed Real and Nonsense Word activity – phase 2

Halloween themed Real and Nonsense Word activity – phase 3

Halloween themed Real and Nonsense Word activity – phase 4

Halloween themed Real and Nonsense Word activity – phase 5

Hope your Wizards have as much fun as mine did.

Phonic Activity for kids. Decide which word is real and belongs in the cauldron and which words are nonsense







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Practicing shading with flower colouring pages

My daughter loves colouring in using abstract colours (eg flowers where every petal is a different colour) but lately she has been wanting to make her pictures more realistic.  We have been talking a lot about how objects are never one solid colour,  the petals on a flower are never the exact same colour all over, the leaves on a tree always have darker areas and lighter areas.  She was very eager to try some picture for herself.

I wanted to make sure that while she tried out the shading she was not distracted by trying to get her own drawings right so I thought using colouring pages would be better.  I also wanted to make sure the colouring pages where not too busy with extra details and that there was enough space for her to practice blending her colours together.  I eventually found these – Free to download Flower colouring pages from the Red Ted Art website and I think they are perfect for this type of exercise.  The flowers have a lovely realistic shape but they are not overcomplicated.

Before she started her picture we chatted about the colours and which area would probably be darker or lighter (at this stage we are not focusing on where the light source is coming from we are more working on using lighter and darker colours and how we can blend them.  The light source discussion will come once she is confident with this).  I showed her an example and explained how I slowly built the flower up with my colours.  Then she had a go with a sunflower.  She started working on the back petals first using a darker orange and brown and then different shades of orange on the front petals.

Learning how to shade pictures by building up colours using Free to download colouring pages

And her first attempt.

Sunflower colouring in picture from Red Ted Art website

I was so proud and she did not stop.  As she got more confident her colours also got stronger.

I have a strong feeling about using the colour black for shading, I personally think it is overused and can ruin pictures.  So I have purposely been showing my daughter how to use colours for shading instead of black.  With her sunflowers she used a brown to get the darker areas.

Using brown instead of black to create shade in sunflower pictures

Also Purple works surprising well for blue and red flowers.

Colouring in the Voilet colouring page free to download from the Red Ted Art website

And even the backgrounds are no longer just one colour.

Teaching my daughter how to shade by using a sunflower colouring in page from Red Ted Art

And the best part is now that she is seeing the results she wants to keep trying.  She is sitting with me searching for new colouring pages to try to colour realistically.   And I am sure that with time this new-found confidence will spill over onto her own drawings.

The colouring pencils that we use are these ones (from a sensory mom point of view we love these grips)            Faber-Castell Tin of 24 Colour GRIP 2001 pencils

Practicing shading using the Free to download flower pages from Red Ted Art

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Using Colours to build up a picture slowely to create a realistic image












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One of my home education essentials is my tablecloth

Yes you read the heading correctly.  A tablecloth.  When we first set out on this home education journey I made the rookie mistake of trying to buy a stack of educational goodies, I spent way too much, most of which we did not end up using all that much.  But what I have learnt over the 5 years we have been doing this – there are some home education essentials that are not “educational goodies” as such but they are just as important.  Making sure we all have Wellington’s through the year (including myself). There is nothing worse than being stuck indoors when it is wet and everyone needs to get out for a walk but you did not replace their wellington’s.  I have also come to realize that a good-quality wipe clean tablecloth in our house is just as important as the proper wellies.

One of our Home-ed essentials is a good quality wipe clean table cloth

We have a small four seater kitchen table that is used a lot.  We eat at the table, the kids use the table when we are baking, we do our art and crafts on the table, science experiments, messy play, anything really that requires a flat surface happens on our kitchen table.  Very early on (when my daughter was about one) I invested in a lovely wipe clean tablecloth from Next (the red with white spots in the photo above).  Seven years on and this tablecloth is still around.  It still looks good, it has not faded and there are no stains on it (and believe me the kids have tried), the only thing is some small burn marks courteously of a magnifying glass and sunlight.  But honestly 7 years and it still looks good on the table.

Last year I decided it was time to get another one (mainly because I wanted a change) but I was trying hard to save money so I bought a cheaper version from a different store.  After a few weeks I gave up and put my old trusty seven-year red tablecloth back on.  The cheaper version just did not wipe clean properly it was driving me mad as I was spend ages trying to scrub it clean.  I tried another one, again total waste of time.  Then my parents came to visit, my mom bought me one but just two weeks after she bought it for me it was stained (pasta sauce and no amount of scrubbing could get it out).  So yet again my 7-year-old tablecloth went back onto my kitchen table.  And I was by now a bit angry at myself.  Because the cost of the three cheaper tablecloths was more than me buying myself a nice new one.

So a few weeks ago when we were in a Next store looking for some kiddie stuff I wandered up into their home section (just to have a look at some picnic goodies).  And there right in front of me was a bunch of Next wipe clean table cloths in a variety of designs.  My hubbie noticed me eyeing them out and strongly suggested that it was time I stopped buying my cheaper tablecloths and instead buy a decent one that will last.  So I bought one and it only costs me £20 (Next Teal Geo PVC Tablecloth).

A good quality wipe clean table cloth is a must have home education item

So what do I think ?  I honestly have no idea if it will last seven years like my original Next one but it is much thicker and smoother than the cheaper versions I kept buying. So far pasta sauce has wiped off perfectly (as well as a bunch of other food), we have painted and crafted on it A LOT, we have done science experiments on it and already it is lasting better than my cheaper purchases.

Doing arts and crafts at our kitchen table

Plus if I am totally honest for this home-ed mom who spends a lot of time with the kids around our kitchen table it is nice to have a change in colour and pattern on our kitchen table.  And no I have not thrown my 7-year-old original Next tablecloth away, it is packed away because I do still like the red with white dots.

This post is just my personal frustrating experience of wasting money buying cheaper tablecloths. I was not asked to write this and all items mentioned in the post were purchased by members of my family.




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Snap Cubes verses Base Ten Set

I was recently asked if I had to choose between our Snap Cubes and our Base Ten set which one would I choose.  That is a really tough question.  We use both resources a LOT in our Maths activities but I will try to break down how we use each one and what my thought are on each set.

I will start with our snap cubes.  We bought the  Learning Resources Snap Cubes (Set of 100)-the 100 cubes are broken down into 10 cubes in 10 different colours.  This was one of the first Maths Resources that I bought for my daughter and we have been using it ever since.  I used our snap cubes with both my kids as a way of helping them learn their numbers. We did lots of match the correct number of snap cubes to the correct number type activity when they were little. (The photo below includes numbered dinosaurs which are free to download from Twink here – Numbers 0-20 on Dinosaurs)

Matching the correct number of snap cubes to the correct number on the Free to download Numbered Dinosaurs from Twinkl

We also used them as a way of creating pattens and (2 red followed by 1 green then 2 red and 1 green and what comes next ? – that type of activity)

Using our Learning Resources snap cubes to create patterns

And all types of basic maths like – number bonds, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, greater than and less than.  .

In fact both my kids use them on such a regular basis that our container of snap cubes stays semi permanently on their working area so they always know where it is.

Snap Cubes in a storage container stored on the kids desks for easy access

My only regret about the snap cubes is that I did not buy the bigger set (you can get a set of 500 – Learning Resources Snap Cubes (Set of 500)).  With hindsight I think this bigger set would have been a brilliant investment.  We could then use them for numbers / sums over 100 and the bigger set would be nice for my two as they like to work on activities together.

We bought our snap cube set for about £7 over four years ago and I have definitely got my money’s worth.  I really do think the snap cube set is great for younger kids who are learning numbers / basic sums.  They like the colours and the fact they can click the subes together to build numbers.

The Base Ten Set that I bought is just the straight forward basic starter set – Learning Resources Grooved Plastic Base Ten Starter Set.  I probably bought ours about two years ago and I can see us still using it for many years to come (definitely had our money’s worth in our household already).  The Base Ten set allows you to do everything you can do with the snap cubes except for the patterns and our set is all one colour (there is more colourful option available).  In my mind the base ten set is aimed at slightly older kids than the snap cubes as it allows the kids to work on numbers and sums that go into the thousands.  For me the BIG bonus is the visual representation of numbers.  The way a one, a ten, a hundred and a thousand are visually represented.  This was a massive thing for my daughter who is a very visual learner.

Learning Resources Base 10 set is a visual representation of numbers. Great for place value, addition, subtraction and much more

She does miss the tactile input she receives from using her snap cub set (she likes clicking the cubes together) but the visual way the base 10 set helps her understand larger numbers and sums has been a game changer for her.  Working on place value and understanding certain number relationships (like 4+5 = 9 so 44+5 is just 40 more) is so much easier when the kid can see it in front of them. (Photo below includes a place value card from Twinkl which is part of their paid for package)

Using our Base 10 set to work our place value of numbers

Having the Base 10 set in the house has given my daughter more independence when she is trying to work on maths problems as she is able to visually set out the problem and then figure out the answer for herself.

I personally think if you can not invest in both then it depends of what stage of Maths your kids are at.  If it is still basic understanding numbers/ patterns then snap cubes but if they are dealing with larger numbers than Base 10. I do think long-term both my kids will still be using our base 10 set for years to come whereas the snap cubes, my daughter is already not using them as much (but then we did get the set of 100 and not the set of 500 and I do think that makes a big difference is terms of how long the kids will use them for).

Snap Cubes verses Base 10 set. Which one is best for Maths?

This post is my personal opinion.  No-one asked me to write it.  Both the snap cube set and the Base Ten set were purchased by our family as maths resources for our children to use in their home-education.

I have included 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 own, use and love.

Using snap cubes verses using a base 10 set in Maths.  Which one is better suited









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