Home education reflection

My husband and I took yesterday off – what I mean by that was neither of us worked and we just had a family day with the kids. It was lovely. During that day we also flipped through some old photos of the kids and chatted a bit about when they were younger which got me thinking about the decisions we have made. Probably the biggest one (after deciding to have kids) was to home educate them. At the time we said we would reassess each year where we are and decide if it is still the correct path for our family. Well that was 10 years ago and we are still going.

I can honestly say I am glad we chose this. Home education. I know it has been the right choice for our kids and it is allowed them to thrive. No doubt at all about it being the right decision.

But I am also going to admit it has not always been a smooth path. Most people don’t understand and say things that really they have no idea about. So I have had to learn that outside opinion does not matter. Really it does not. I am not going to please the masses but I am going to do what is right for my kids and my family. And if you stop for a few seconds and just think about that logically – every family is different, every family needs are unqiue, what works for one family is NOT going to work for another, what is right for one kid is NOT going to be right for another.

I have made mistakes, LOTS of them. But I have also learnt from the mistakes. And I have admitted when one way is not working and we have needed to either completely leave it or adjust it. Just because a certain book or a certain way of learning works for someone does not mean it is going to be the right learning tool for your kids. And likewise as the kids grow up what worked 2 year ago may no longer work now. Home education means you can tailor the learning resources and learning style for your kid so don’t get stuck in that hole of “everyone uses x so me have to do it that way”

I have also learnt to lean into what is working and maximise it. Let the kids go wild in the areas they are interested in, give them time to really explore it and you are allowing them time to develop a love of learning and research skills which will come in handy later on.

I don’t know everything. My kids know I don’t know everything, they know that there are times when I need to read up about something but they also know that when I say “I will get back to you” about something, I mean that and I do.

They know that they are times when I get irritated and frustrated, they know that it is part of human relationships. They can get irritated that me (and they do) and I can get irritated with them. But it never lasts long and it is normally because one of us is trying to concentrate on something and the other person is not allowing them that space and time to focus on it (or because someone is sickly or tired). Our relationships are not prefect, but we do love each other and we are all good about talking about why something went wrong or why someone got upset.

The past 10 years have not been smooth and easy but I would not change our decision to home educate for anything. I know the next few years are going to be challenging – helping my daughter with her GCSE/ IGCSE subjects. I know it is going to be a huge commitment on my part and very time intensive but she is my daughter, I chose to have her and I will do what is right for her. And for my daughter I know that this path is the right one.

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Children of Winter a story about the plague with a time slip.

I am not sure how I heard about this book – I think it was on someone’s book list and I saw it was a story about the plague so I thought why not, we have not read any stories on living through the plague and it our local library had a copy.

It is a story about the plague, about the desperation of people living in the time of the plague and it does talk about things like being in the same room or touching something and then catching the plague which I think does emphasis how hard it was to live during that time. It also enforces how “simpler but harder” things where in 1660, how if you did get sick there was no proper medicine to help you get better, no heating to help with the cold, no lights or even running water. Which I think is always good for the kids to read in a story. It is good for them to read about life in the past and how everyday tasks took longer.

The story starts in Yorkshire in modern day life and it starts with a family out on a hike. The weather turns and the three kids end up taking shelter in a barn, separated from their parents. While they are in the barn the oldest child Catherine starts feeling strange, like she has been there before and suggests to her siblings that they play a game pretending that they are living in the past. As the game starts so the reader is transported back into time to 1660 where three siblings are being taken up to the same barn to isolated from the village, where people are dying from the plague (their parents do not stay with them in the barn as they are concerned they may have the plague). The author helps to distinguish between the different time periods by the way in which the children speak when they are in 1660 there is a lot of “tis and thy” which is very effective.

The story follows the three siblings as they try to survive the winter on their own, isolated in their barn. It is not an action packed story but it is more an emotional journey story. You read how the kids cope with life on their own and how even though at times it feels hopeless they persevere and never give up. I do think that as much as it is a story about the plague it is also a story about determination and hope. My daughter and I were both drawn to Catherine how she just keeps slogging on, no matter how desperate is feels she never gives up. I felt like the author developed the character of Catherine beautifully and you really go on a journey of discovery with her.

The story itself is a lovely tale but what really struck me was the way in which the author structured the tale. I thought using a time slip was very interesting and it was a great example of how it can be done effectively to create an interesting account of a historical event. After reading this story my daughter and I actually discussed the difference between a flashback and a time slip so it ended up creating a great learning moment (for those of you wondering a flashback is when you go back in time in the characters memory whereas a time slip could be going back in time beyond the characters memory).

I would say this story suits kids aged 10+ just because I think younger kids might not get the full depth of the story. My thirteen year old read it and really enjoyed it. For her it was what I would call a quick read (192 pages) and I think she read it in two days but quick reads can be just as good as longer reads if there is something interesting about the way the author structures the story or the events included in the story. And this one ticked both of those for us, it covered an interesting event (the plague) and it had an interesting story structure (the time slip) and if that was not enough the author also created some intriguing characters with interesting character arcs.

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Free Kings and Queens of England cards

I made these cards a while ago for my oldest and then forgot about them until my son started asking for the Kings and Queens of England cards. So I dug them out and then thought I would post the free downloads for anyone else looking for something like this to use in their home education.

The cards list the Kings and Queens of England starting with William the Conqueror and going on until Elizabeth II. I have also included two extra blank cards in the set just in case you want to add in someone (some of you may want to include Lady Jane Grey or Harold Godwinson). And I have also created three different versions.

Version 1 – has the Kings and Queens names and the dates they ruled.

Version 2 – has the Kings and Queen names, dates and the dynasty they came from (eg Norman). This is the one we used the most, just because I like having the extra bit about the different houses that the Kings and Queens came from.

Version 3 – has only the Kings and Queen names. If your kids wanted to test themselves to see if they could remember the order this would be the set to use.

We made these cards so the kids could use them to remind themselves of the order of the Kings and Queens of England. Please feel free to download and use the cards with your own kids but they were made by us so please do not repost the documents on your site claiming they are yours, you are welcome to share the link for this post. Okay so here are the files

They are not fancy but I hope someone else finds them useful and enjoys using them with their kids.

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Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar workbook for Year 9

We have been using the Get It Right Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar series for part of my daughter’s KS3 English. There are three different workbooks so we split them over the three years and we have been using Workbook 3 for my daughter’s Year 9 (we used Workbook 1 in Year 7 and workbook 2 in Year 8). As a home educator I really liked this series, I felt like it included some good revision and also some extension type questions. And my daughter (the kiddo using it) has commented that it is helpful and that they have used some interesting passages for the activities. This post is going to focus on Workbook 3.

So what is included? The workbook is broken down into four main sections – Grammar, Style, Punctuation and Spelling. Instead of listing out everything covered under each category I have just included a photo so you can see the breakdown for yourself.

The layout is one that we like, it is not overwhelming, there is not too much crammed onto a page. It is easy to read they have included enough writing space for the activities included.

Most of the pages are double pages with a brief explanation followed by three activities.

Most of these explanation-type double pages are more revision pages, which we are totally happy with because I think it is vital to revise this points. But after some of the explanation pages you also get their “in context” pages. Now full confession I LOVE these. LOVE them. They take the concept from the previous page and show how you might apply it when you are looking at a text. For me these pages are vital building blocks for Year 10 and Year 11. (I am determined that we are going to do well with the English Language IGCSE so I have been making sure that in her Year 9 we start working on some basics.)

As someone who is NOT an English teacher I felt like explaining/teaching Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar was fine. I had no problem with those concepts but when it came to writing style I was not as confident but I also knew that it was something that was important because the kids need to be able to anaylse a piece of writing and the writers style, comes into that. So I was relieved when they started covering Style in Workbook 2 and then developed it further in Workbook 3. It was just a starting point for us to develop further but I felt like it is a good base from which we can work and expand. I really do appreciate the fact that this Style category was included and I do think it included some valuable activities for us to work through.

I do also want to state that although the workbooks are stand alone workbooks but I do feel like there is progression and I am glad we worked through all three in order.

The Workbook itself costs £6.99 and the answer book is £12.50 (slightly cheaper on Amazon). I really like the fact that you can buy an answer book and it is not ridiculously priced. And I must admit I have found having model answers really useful for the “in context” questions.

I am glad we used this series with my daughter and I am going to use it with my son when he starts Year 7 in September.

You can buy the Workbook and the answer book directly from Amazon here are the links – workbook 3 and Answer Book 3 (I have not spotted them in my local book stores)

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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A Macbeth book perfect for home learning

We started working through Macbeth and the book (the text) that we are using is the RSC School Shakespeare version of Macbeth. It is actually the third play in this series that we have read and I must admit – I think this format is one of the reasons why Shakespeare is such a hit in our house, something that is not feared but actually something that the kids want to read and discover. In fact even though we have only just finished the first Act my daughter is already asking me which one of Shakespeare’s plays we are going to do next and suggesting that I need to buy the next one so it is ready and waiting for us to read.

So why do we like this format so much. Simply put it is all the extras that they have included which seem to weave a magical spell over the words and make them understandable and the entire play really entertaining and enjoyable.

They start by introducing Macbeth, which includes a really great 4 page summary (we highly recommend reading this first as it just helps the kids to understand the detail later on if they know the basics first).

Then you have the play itself followed by 13 pages called William Shakespeare and his world and then a glossary. This section called William Shakespeare and his world is a must read as it gives the kids context and explains a lot of the themes of the play. To really understand Shakespeare you need to understand the time period in which he lived and the current events which helped to form the characters and events in his plays. So both my daughter and I really appreciate the fact that they have included these pages and we actually think it helps to read these before you get involved in the detail of the play itself (or at the least if you a home educator I would suggest that the adult working through the play should read this section first).

Okay now the play itself. The play is set out in double pages where only one page is the actual text and the other page contains the extras. So yes this does mean that the book is thicker and it does take longer to read but it is these extras that we find help us to understand the words and actually bring his words to life.

On every double page they always include a photo of the scene being acted out. This is magic for us, pure magic. The vibrant photos of actors performing these words help the reader to visualise the play on stage and because you get this image in your head some of the confusing words or phrases just seem to make sense. I remember reading a version of Macbeth without the photographs and it really was not the same, I did not visualise the characters and events like we are doing with this version. I absolutely believe theses photographs are one of the key reasons why my daughter is so engaged in the play (and why she is really understanding it).

Okay so apart from the brilliant photographs each page of extra information will always contain a brief 2 or 3 line summary at the top of the page, a glossary and some activity ideas. The quick summary is written in modern English at the top of the page is a game changer for us (such a simple idea but the fact that they include it on each double page means you are constantly checking that you are still on track with your understanding) and the glossary is our other game changer. Yes there is a glossary at the end of the play but by including a glossary next to the text you are reading means you just check the words as you read and you are not constantly having to flip to the back of the book, which may sound lazy but for kids reading it does make a massive difference. In fact with us, I often read the text and as I am reading out loud my daughter quietly checks any words she is not sure of while I am reading so it still flows naturally.

The extras also include activity ideas – which you don’t need to do and sometimes just reading the activity idea and having a quick think about it helps to just cement what you have read. But they are there for ideas which is really helpful.

Then on some pages you also get other extras – things like explaining a key term, talking about something from the time period or even a bit about how actors would perform it. These can include some really important pieces of information like talking about Iambic Pentameter.

We really do enjoy this format, and I truly do believe it is one of the main reasons why Shakespeare has become such a popular writer in our house – because not only do the kids end up understanding his words but they actually engage with the play and start to really understand the characters.

You can get a copy of this Macbeth directly from the OUP website – Macbeth, from Amazon (RSC Macbeth) and I have also seen copies at our local WH Smith store.

If you are interested in further Shakespeare plays you may be interested to read about Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Admin – Oxford University Press allowed me to chose some Free English resources for review purposes. I chose this Macbeth book because we had already used the Romeo and Juliet version and I knew we enjoyed the format. All opinions expressed are that of my daughter and myself.

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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