Gill Lewis Books

About a year ago a book called Sky Hawk was recommended to us. We read it and we loved it. And I really do mean loved it. All three of us (yes I am including myself) were captivated by the story of the Osprey and the story of friendship and hope that the author managed to weave effortlessly together. There were some sad moments (I may have had a tear in my eye at one stage) but there were also moments of happiness at reading how everything unfolded.

It was such a massive hit with both of my kids that I started searching for more books by this author and luckily there are quite a few out there. So far I have read 3 of her books but my kids are racing ahead and have read a LOT. When I started searching for other books by the author, Gill Lewis, everyone seemed to say she was an animal story writer but I disagree yes there is a wildlife/ conservation message in all the books we have read but I actually think her books are about different people’s journeys, journey’s of self-discovery. And often there are hardships, sad moments but the journeys always include a powerful message of friendship, hope and the fact that most people are ultimate good underneath all their own pain and sadness. I think the fact that she weaves in the animal theme enhances the human journey because they often mirror each other.

Based on what I have read I would say the books are generally aimed at the 10+age group. And I have never felt that anything inappropriate has been included but they do deal with real issues, like a child coping with the death of her mother, another child in foster care, kids living harder lives, this is not, everything is wonderful type stories, there is a real life element to these stories. I think it makes the stories powerful and moving but I am aware some highly sensitive kids may find them upsetting.

All three of us highly recommend the author Gill Lewis. In fact my daughter recently created a list of her favourite authors and books and her top three authors were – Jane Austen, Gill Lewis and Lucy Worsley.

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Our Top Year 8 Resources

My daughter has just finished her Year 8 so I thought I would write a summary post about our Top Year 8 resources. The educational resources that were both a massive hit with my daughter and with me. So here they are..

Pride and Prejudice. I have to include this book because this past academic year has really been the Pride and Prejudice year, it seemed to just take over our whole house for months and every member in our house got involved in the discussions and debates.

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. An excellent read for kids
  • Reading Pride and Prejudice
  • reading Pride and Prejudice

It is normally covered as part of GCSE and the fact that they normally do it later on meant I did initially wonder if we should attempt it in her year 8 but oh boy I am so glad that we did. It was such a massive success and my daughter really dove into the story and the characters. I know it was a more challenging read than the other books we did this year but sometimes it is when you challenge the kids that they really rise up and show you what they are capable of.

We read Pride and Prejudice together, we worked through a number of activities, we watched the mini-series and the movie and then we compared the book to them and had an amazing time talking about how we would create our own miniseries and what we would keep the same and what we would change. Oh, it really was one of the highlights and we still talk about it, she often draws comparisons between the characters in Pride and Prejudice and characters in other books. It has become one of the books that she know measures others against.

So if you are considering reading Pride and Prejudice I say dive in, enjoy the ride and give way to letting your household become Jane Austen obsessed.

As much as Pride and Prejudice was the book of the year I have to mention the Rollercoaster books and resources. This was the first year that I used them and I love them as English Literature resources. You just need to get the book to read with the kids and then you can download a Teacher’s resource pack free from their site (How did I not know about this earlier?). I am really glad that we discovered this (for those of you who may now know about these books and resources look here – Shy Hawk, The Last Wolf, White Dolphin and Lightning Strike).

Sticking with English resources a new one that we discovered this year was the Myths and Legends book. It is part of an English Anthology series by Hodder Education (a series which I honestly stumbled upon but one which we now LOVE). They have really managed to make the activities engaging and enjoyable and all three of us (my youngest included) has enjoyed using this new book. This is probably new favourite surprise book of the year (by surprise book I mean a book I was not planning on using, stumbled onto it, loved it and now want to use more in the series).

KS3 Myths and Legends. Part of the English Anthology series by Hodder Education

History is always a big topic in our house because my daughter loves sinking into the different time periods and reading up about them. In her Year 8 we stuck with the Aaron Wilkes series that we used in her Year 7 (and we are sticking with it for Year 9). She loves this series, she just finds the way they present History to be engaging and I must admit as a home educator I am a massive fan of the longer, writing questions that they include at the end of each chapter and they way they help the kids structure their answers. So yes for kids you are considering doing a History Exam I really do recommend this book because it does lay down a solid foundation for further studying.

Revolution, Industry and Empire. KS3 History book by Aaron Wilkes

On the History side of thing we also read more of Lucy Worsley’s books this year (The Austen Girls and Eliza Rose). They are brilliant. She weaves a fictional story into detailed Historical periods. My daughter is a massive fan of these books and highly recommends them to other kids her age who also enjoy History.

Science. Not her favourite subject. I liked using the Activate 2 range this year because it gave me the confidence that we were covering what we needed to. I also really like the fact that you can get a workbook to use alongside the student book.

KS3 Science. Activate 2 student book and Activate 2 workbook

My daughter’s favourite Science and Geography resources are the Oaka Books Topic Packs. She loves these packs. We always use them with our other resources but however we mix them in, she always enjoys using them and often requests them. We both agree that even though we like the History topic packs, the Topic packs are most powerful as a learning tool for the subjects that she does not feel comfortable with (It is a bit of an inverse relationship – the more she dislikes a topic or just feels uncertain about it the more she actually likes using that Topic Pack.)

  • Oaka Books population Topic Pack. KS3 Geography resource
  • Oaka Books population Topic Pack. KS3 Geography resource
  • Plants and Photosynthesis Topic Game from Oaka Books
  • REvising with the Forces Active Learning Game

And on a Art note – she actually just recently completed a Paint by Numbers painting (again something I was not sure about) but she really enjoyed it and she worked hard to complete her picture. So I am including it here as her favourite Arty type activity that we did this year.

So that is Year 8 done. I have started our planning our Year 9 and will be writing some Resource posts in the coming weeks

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Painting Fun for older kids

We have been having a lot of fun lately with an art project that I really stumbled upon, was not sure if I should do it, worried it might be too easy but then just went for it. And it really turned out to be a great Art activity, so I thought I would write about it……….

I had been struggling to find art activities for my oldest, she just seemed to have lost that love of art that she once had so about a month ago while I was searching online I stumbled upon some Paint by Number canvases. And spur of the moment, I called her over and asked if she would like to try one. As soon as she spotted the Tiger images she was interested. I really had no idea what to expect but I knew I wanted to find an art activity that she would enjoy so I thought – why not? I ordered her the iCoostor Paint By Numbers DIY Acrylic Painting Kit For Kids & Adults Beginner – 16” x 20” Colorful Tiger Pattern and I ordered my son the ifymei Paint By Numbers Kits , DIY Acrylic oil Painting for Kids & Adults & Beginner , Colorful Dinosaurs 16 x 20 inch Canvas – Without Frame (oh just to mention I did read up a bit before I placed the order and most people suggest ordering the ones that are already on the frames even though they are slightly more expensive. The ones that are not on the frames often get crease marks in them and then you have to get the finished product stretched onto a frame. And I must admit I am really glad we did just get the ones already on the frame just from ease of painting and storing them, it is much easier if they are already on a frame).

They arrived in a nice little box and straight away I can tell you that you get everything that you need. The picture is printed on the canvas, there are paints, brushes and a small finished picture of what the end result will look like. So apart from some water to wash your brushes in you are all set.

Well both my kids were keen so they started immediately.

They loved it. And I mean really LOVED it. My daughter told me it was relaxing and fun. She actually asked if she could paint (which from a kid who has lost that interest in ART was Huge). And it did take them quite some time to finish them (this is NOT a quick art project). But they were both determined and stuck with it and they never lost their interest or enjoyment.

The other thing I must say is they are actually a bit more challenging than I thought. My initial thought was Paint by numbers, that’s too easy, what will they learn? But the truth is without the pressure of wondering what colours to paint where, both my kids focused on brush strokes, on painting carefully and trying to get some of the really small details in. It was actually a really great brush stroke / brush control activity and one that I am really glad that we did.

And after they had finished what did my kids think? They LOVED it. Both are planning on hanging their picture up in their new bedrooms and both are thrilled with the end results.

Admittedly I did this as a way of just finding something that my oldest would enjoy but after watching her spend hours working on it and really loving it. I actually really think it was a Fantastic art project.

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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Explore RE a Religious Education Book for KS3

I recently wrote about the Myths and Legends book that we discovered from Hodder Education. Total honesty, in all my years of home educating I have actually not used the Hodder Education resources before but daughter really enjoyed the Myths and Legends book so I was keen to try some of their other resources. I found a few that looked really interesting and one of them was this one – Explore RE which is their student book for Religious Education.

Now we have actually used a few RE books before but they were dry and boring and definitely not worth writing about. But this book appeals to us (my daughter has already read sections out of it just because it looked interesting). The pages are just more inviting, they are colourful without being overbearing, they use blocks and smaller paragraphs so it is concise. We really like the layout.

Our plan is it use it next year (our academic year starting in September) so I thought I would share a bit about the book now (for those of you currently looking for books) and once we have used it I will write an update post.

The book is written for the whole of Key Stage 3 – there is one book and it is up to you how you split it over the KS3 years (I like this approach as we don’t stick to what the schools do in each year so it means just one book and we can chose the chapters in the order we want).

The book is split into 9 Units which are as follows –

  • Unit 1 – Comparative Religion
  • Unit 2 – Christianity
  • Unit 3 – Islam
  • Unit 4 – Judaism
  • Unit 5 – Buddhism
  • Unit 6 – Hinduism
  • Unit 7 – Sikhism
  • Unit 8 – Ethics
  • Unit 9 – Philosophy.

So it really covers quite a lot (the book itself is 280 pages long). Each Unit is independent so you really can do them in any order you want, and if you want you could just select a few to focus on, it really is up to you (I am stressing this point as I know other home educators will like the fact that the units are independent).

Each chapter starts with a nice introduction page which highlights a few key points.

After the introduction page the other double pages have a very similar format. At the top of the page who get the Learning Objectives followed by the Big Question – which is what that double page is going to talk about. Then there tends to be blocks of information (we like this as it just is easier to digest the information in the block format) and they include a number of pictures. Key terms are highlighted and who can look up their meaning in the glossary at the back of the book. And lastly there are a few activities – which are question linked to what you have just read. Our intention is to do this activities verbally, together more as a discussion once we have read the pages.

I think this book would make an excellent KS3 resource if your kids were considering doing Religious Education as a GCSE subject BUT I also think it is just a great book to work through even if they do not want to do RE as an exam subject. By working through this book you would give your kids a valuable foundation in the basics of different religions which is a valuable tool to have.

We got our book directly from Hodder Education but you can also buy their resources from Amazon – Explore RE for Key Stage 3.

Admin Bit – I was given a press copy of this book after I mentioned we would be interested in using it. All opinions expressed are my own (or that of my daughter).

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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Lightning Strike – a must read Victorian story

We read a lot, but this book is one of those that has blown us away. And I can honestly say that this story is going to stay with both of my kids for a long time. If you have a kiddo in the 10+ age range that is learning about the Industrial Revolution / factory life in Victorian England then this is a story for them to read. It is a fictional story but it is based on the living conditions of many factory workers and it gives insights into why there were strikes and protests.

Lightning Strike centers around a young girl, Eliza, who lives with her family and works in the local match factory. She is angry about her life, about how they are treated and how they can never improve anything. Through a chance meeting with a woman who wants to write about their living conditions, Eliza and her sister end up in a tough situation and she walks out of her job which results in everyone leaving the factory and the start of a strike. It is a well-written story with a strong female lead (Eliza, the character develops beautifully in the story), some emotional moments and you end up routing for the match girls. The story itself would stand on its own just because of the structure and the characters but what really kicks it up into one of our “not going to be forgotten” stories is how it paints a realistic scene of Victorian life. It makes it all so real for the kids that they are not going to forget, the beetles scurrying around the houses, eating your food with phosphorus on it, how the staff where fined for ridiculous reasons, how the two older girls in the family had to work so that there family were able to pay the rent and yet they still sometimes went hungry. There really are too many things in this book to mention, but by just reading the story, getting involved in Eliza’s life both of my kids have absorbed these facts and now really do have a grip on this whole side of Victorian life. I really do think it is one of the best resources you could use with your kids if you are looking at this time period.

And because the story is part of the new Super-Readable Rollercoaster series there is a Free to download teacher’s pack which goes with it. We used the pack and I found it really useful (when I use these packs I never do every activity mentioned, I read the ideas included and pull out the ones we want to use). There is a overview of the scheme of work – it is broken down into 10 possible lesson. For each lesson there is a one page lesson guide which breaks down what that lesson is covering suggested activities and points you to included resources. The lessons are written for teacher’s but home educators can easily use them as well. And the resources are varied, which we like. Also they have included suggested answers for the different activities at the end of the pack.

Why would I recommend 10+ and not younger? There are a few things in there that I think younger kids may not fully understand, they talk about the main character (Eliza’s) father who has mistresses, they also talk about the dockworkers drinking a lot and coming home and hitting the wives. It is just mentioned, but it is there. Also it deals with things like a a young girl going bald, having all her teeth pulled out (something which mine found emotional), workers dying of Phossy Jaw, the potential of starving. So that is why I would say for 10+ because it does deal with this very real side of Victorian life but a side that I think younger kids may struggle with.

I really do think this an incredible book because it brought this whole period and the struggles of the factory workers to life. I highly recommend this for anyone learning about the Victorian period.

We got our copy from OUP – Lightning Strike but you can also get it from Amazon Lightning Strike (Super-readable Rollercoasters)

Admin Bit – We were sent a few of the Super-Readable Rollercoaster books to read. This had not impact on highly I think of this story.

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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