Library Books January 2022

We have always used our local library but at our old house going to the library meant a car trip. Since we moved a trip to our library is now just a 10 minute walk. So as I am sure you can imagine the fact that our local library is now just a short walk away means we are using it a LOT more than we did before. We often just pop in to see if we can pick up the odd book which means we always tend to have quite a wide selection of library books out at any given time. So I thought I would just give a quick look at some of the library books we currently have, why we have them (for some it is a very specific reason) and what we think of them.

I will start with my son (he has just turned 11 so would be year 6 at school) he is currently going through a massive David Williams phase. MASSIVE. As soon as he finds a new one he just devours it and then he goes back and re-reads sections from the old ones (so at the moment he has read all 4 of these but he is re-reading and quoting sections to us). He loves the humor and I must admit when he is reading one of them he always has questions about vocab or situations so I actually feel like they are great for widening his knowledge (never thought I would say that but he really does ask lots of questions based on the books and we have had some really interesting discussions just from these books).

My daughter, I have to state that she reads 3 or 4 books at the same time. I honestly don’t know how she does that, but she does and she never gets the different books mixed up. Okay so she likes books with a bit of a historical background and at the moment she is very much in the World War theme (I say World War as she is interested in books from both the first and the second World Wars). She is slowly working her way through the Flambard series (not pictured here) and has read the first 2 but we are having to wait for the third. She liked the the first 2 books in the series and enjoyed the characters but I am not sure it griped her like some of the other books have. She has also just finished Hero, which she really enjoyed and I am hoping my son might give it a try (she actually suggested I should read it so it must be good). Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo is a book that was recommended and we are MASSIVE fans of his books so I think my daughter will really enjoy it but she has not started it yet.

The Nancy Drew book, this is the first Nancy Drew book she has ever read (she is almost finished) and we selected it because the Detective Anthology that we are using mentions Nancy Drew quite a bit and she has never read one before so we thought it might be good just to cover one so she gets the main concept behind these books. It has been what I would term an easy and quick read for her but she has also really enjoyed it. Anne of the Island is a book that she has already read but she enjoyed the whole Anne of Green Gables series so she got it out to re-read. (When she finds books that she REALLY enjoys she often takes them out again and just re-reads certain sections again).

Now the Wuthering Heights and Sherlock Holmes books were selected because we are working through a Heritage English unit which introduces key authors and key books. We have just finished the sessions on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and since our library had some Sherlock Holmes books we thought it would be good to read one just to get a better idea of the characters and how the stories normally develop. (Confession – I have never read a Sherlock Holmes book before so I am also going to read these). Then as part of this English Heritage Unit she had to select an author to research and she selected Emily Bronte, hence Wuthering Heights is now on the reading list.

Okay and the Divergent series. I am actually pre-reading these. I wanted to find a series that we could use as an example of Dystopian Fiction. This series was recommended to us by a friend and I have to admit I have finished the first book (there are 4 books in the series) and so far I am really loving it. My plan is to first read the whole series myself and then potentially, if the other books are as good as the first one we will keep them and read them when we cover Dystopian Fiction. We may only cover it sometime after Easter but it just so happens these were in on the shelf at our library so I grabbed them and started them now.

I hope that might give someone one or two ideas for potential books.

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Year 8 Maths Books

I started using this series (KS3 Mastering Mathematics) with my daughter in at the start of her Year 9 and I have been so impressed with it that I asked the Hodder Education if I could get a copy of their Year 8 book so I could share what is included in Year 8. The reason that we like this series is because it helps the person who is the facilitator (i.e. me – it has made my life a lot easier) and it helps the student by explaining everything really clearly and it provides lots of practice. It really is ticking all the boxes for us and the only extra Maths that I have printed out for my daughter since starting this series are some Maths puzzles / Maths Murder Mystery pages which she enjoys working through.

To start with let me explain the difference between the different books. The textbook is your main book – it contains explanations for every topic covered and with every explanation they ALWAYS include worked examples (which we really appreciate).

The textbook always includes examples for the kids to work through. They are grouped into different bands (there are three bands with band 1 being the easier questions and Band 3 being the Extend questions).

Also at the end of each topic there are Review exercises and they have included Progress Review activities every few chapters. The progress reviews are included at roughly every half term (if you are working through the book in order of the chapter and linked up to school terms). We tend to use these Progress Reviews as mini-tests (we are trying to get into the habit of writing tests as a way of preparing for exams). And ALL answers are on the Hodder Education website and are FREE to download.

The Practice Books. There are two practice books linked to every textbook. Develop and Secure is the slightly easier practice book (if your kids are working more at Band 1 and Band 2 level this is the one for them) and then the Extend Practice Book (if the kids are working more at a Band 3 level). All the questions in the Practice books are different from the questions in the student book so it really is EXTRA practice and all answers are FREE to download from the Hodder Education website.

Okay so what Topics are covered in the Year 8 books.

  • Sequences
  • Graphs (straight line and real life graphs)
  • Angles
  • Constructions
  • Calculations (a review of the four operations including multiplying decimals and dividing with decimals)
  • Negative Numbers
  • Fractions (including multiplying and dividing fractions)
  • Expressions and Formulas (expanding brackets, factorising expression, rearranging formulas – we actually did these questions as revision as part of my daughter’s Year 9)
  • Working with 2D shapes
  • Properties of 3D shapes
  • Percentages
  • Multiplicative Reasoning (I might try and squeeze this in as revision as well I really like this)
  • Working with data
  • Circles
  • Pythagoras’ Theorem (like the way this set-out).

There is a lot included but based on how we are progressing with her Year 9 books you can manage a textbook and practice book and fit it all in.

Why do we like this series so much? Honestly it is making Maths A LOT easier. The explanations and worked examples really do all the explaining for you and then the questions get gradually harder so the kids build up. I am no longer spending ages looking for resources or good explanations because everything I need is in these books. And I actually feel that since we started using these books my daughter’s Maths confidence has increased

My youngest is currently Year 6 and I can already say we are going to be using this series with him for his KS3 Maths, it really does just make doing home education Maths that much easier and less stressful.

You can buy the Mastering Mathematics Book 2 directly from Hodder – Text book, Practice book Develop and Secure and Practice Book Extend.

Or you can buy them from Amazon Key Stage 3 Mastering Mathematics Book 2, Key Stage 3 Mastering Mathematics Develop and Secure Practice Book 2, Key Stage 3 Mastering Mathematics Extend Practice Book 2

I have not spotted them in any of my local bookstores (Waterstones or WH Smith).

Admin Bit – As I mentioned above after using the Year 9 books with my daughter and really liking them I contacted Hodder Education and asked for a Year 8 text book so I could write this post. This is NOT a paid for post this is written purely because I like this series.

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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Skeleton and Muscles

Over the next few months we are going to be focusing on Biology as our Science (with just a little bit of Physics). I have found it easier to focus on a block of topics all related to one Science – so either Physics, Biology or Chemistry at a time. And it’s Biology’s turn. To get us going we have kick started our Biology series with the Oaka Books Topic Pack Movement: Skeleton and Muscles. Now I have covered this section with my daughter before so for her this is revision but for my youngest (he is actually Year 6) this is new learning. Which is one of the reasons why I choose to get us started with an Oaka Topic Pack – it works well as a revision activity and it works well as a way of introducing main concepts and ideas about a topic.

It follows the Oaka Books tried and tested method of Topic Booklet (which are your summarized notes in nice clear, concise sentences, with good clear diagrams), The Write Your own Notes (where the kids get to complete sentences on what they have just read in the Topic Booklet) and the Active Learning Game (a fun board game which asks questions on the topic- great for revising at the end of the topic and perfect for coming back to at a later date).

We really like the way they write their notes in the Topic Booklet. Short points, no long flowery detail, in blocks, with colourful images. And they keep the images consistent – they use the same images in the Topic Booklet and the Write Your Own Notes and they use the same images across different resources. I have found this small detail very useful with my daughter because she remembers the images and they naturally remind her of what we had learnt in a different topic booklet. (We found this incredibly useful when we were working through the Biology pair game).

With this pack we split it over three days (I find it works best not to try and do it all in one go). We split the Topic Booklet into three sections, the kids would read one section a day and after they had read the section in the Topic Booklet they would go and complete the corresponding section in the Write Your Own Notes. Then on the afternoon of the third day we played the game. (We did also include some extra reading on the Topic mainly because I felt like my son needed a bit of background on a few of the points mentioned in the Booklet.)

We are big fans of the Oaka Style of learning, it suits visual learners and I find they are brilliant at summarizing the facts. But I am not sure if we have ever used one of their packs as a way of getting us back into our learning again after having a break. It works. It was a great way of easing us back into our structured learning, a way of getting our brains ticking over again but without having to face boring worksheets or long paragraphs that seem to go on and on forever.

Once again the Oaka Topic Pack ticked all the boxes.

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Fiction Writing Unit from Twinkl

As part of my daughter’s KS3 English we have selected a few different English units from the Twinkl website which we are / have been working through. Before Christmas we worked through the Fiction Writing Unit which we both thought was useful and interesting so I thought I would share a bit about it.

Very Briefly Twinkl have split there KS3 English into three major categories – Reading, Writing and Speaking and Listening. Now I must confess when I first started using their KS3 English section I found these categories a bit confusing as I would often end up looking in the wrong area for certain resources. But after a bit of time I figured out where everything was. Most of what we have used is under the Reading section in the subsection English Literature (this really is a gold mine and well worth going through). But we have also downloaded a few of the writing units – we really enjoyed the Sunflower poetry unit and we are planning on working through the Woddunit Writing unit after half term (we are starting the English Literary Heritage Unit of Work in in a few days).

Okay so the Fictional Writing Unit. We chose this because we hoped it would extend some of our current writing knowledge and give us ideas on how to improve our creative stories (which I do feel like it did). The whole unit is split into 10 lessons – you can choose to do every lesson or you could just select the lessons you feel are relevant. We chose to try every lesson and we did them one at a time over roughly 4 weeks which actually work out quite well in terms of time management (I think trying to do more than 1 lesson at a time would have been a bit much).

The lessons are split into the following

  • Openings
  • Characters
  • Character Types
  • Settings
  • Story Structure
  • Language Structure
  • Inspiration
  • Adding Detail
  • Conclusions
  • Assessment

For each lesson they include a lesson plan (think of it as a guide), some activities and where relevant model answers.

One of the things I really liked about this unit is they often gave examples using well-know classic literature – I loved this. In all of the lessons I thought the activities included were well structured and well-thought out. It was not a case of completing a page and then you wonder – how does this link in? (I get very frustrated when that happens).

I liked the ideas they included in the openings, writing about characters, describing your settings, the structure, the fact that they suggest taking your inspiration from real-life, the detail, the wrapping up. I actually think I liked something from each and every lesson and felt like there was something extra that my daughter gained from every lesson.

I do think working through this unit has helped to improve her writing and has actually reinvigorated my approach to creative writing (I keep saying things like – “think of all your senses, or how many character types have you included, are you staying in the setting”).

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Our home education.

There have been a number of new people viewing the site so I thought I should reintroduce myself and the troops.

  • ofamily learning together
  • playing Monopoly. ofamily learning together
  • starting home education
  • THe Night Zookeeper website
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. An excellent read for kids

I am mom to two incredible kids who we home educate. My kids have never been to school. We (my hubbie and I) decided to home educate our oldest because we thought she would not thrive in a busy classroom environment due to her having sensory processing disorder (and our youngest joined the home ed routine when he was older because he also has SPD). When we first decided to home educate her we said we would take it year by year. Now we are in our tenth year and both kids are adamant that they want to continue home educating and we still think it is the right environment for them so we are continuing.

It is not always easy, I make mistakes and at times I get exhausted but I am very fortunate in that my husband is completely on board and he gets involved as much as he can (he works full time to pay all the bills). My kids are also amazing, they understand that mom makes mistakes and that there are lots of things that I don’t know and we have to sometimes learn it together (I actually think they like that). And no I am NOT a teacher, I don’t think I could ever manage teaching a class, two kids are enough for me. I am actually an Accountant and the original plan was I would go back to work once the kids were in school but well, things change……..

We do sort of follow the curriculum in a broad sense, but we do also follow the kids interests. My daughter loves History and English Literature so we do spend a lot of time on those subjects (more than she ever would at school) and my son is a bit of a project person, he finds something he likes and then he dives in and reads everything he can about it, learns how to draw pictures on it and even writes about it. Both kids will be sitting their GCSE (well probably the IGCSE) exams when they are ready and we are starting to narrow down possible subjects for my oldest and I am busy doing a lot of “prep” work towards that (I will probably be writing more about that over the next 2 years).

Okay so the blog. I am a home educator who blogs and not a blogger who home educates. What I mean by that is the home education of my two kids is ALWAYS going to the priority and if that means I don’t write a post because we are busy or something happens than so be it. It also means I only write about books and resources that we are using or have used. Yes I sometimes get free books but 99% of the time it is me spending time researching, finding what I want to use and then contacting the publishing company to ask for a review copy. I do not write about random books that we are not using for the simple reason that I just don’t have the time and energy to read something or spend the time learning about something unless it is part of our home ed (home educating is very time consuming and full on for me and extra time is something that I really do not have).

Even though it is our tenth year, I am still learning and we are still changing. As the kids get older we have to adapt to what works for them, so something that worked well 3 years ago may no longer work well today. It is a journey, a journey that is ever evolving but one that I am still 100% certain is the correct journey for our two kids. I honestly never planned on this journey but I did plan on doing the best we could for our kids, to help them thrive and for us that looks like this.

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