KS3 English Anthology – Detectives

Our latest KS3 English Anthology that we have started using is the Detective one. My kids are I are really enjoying the books in the series so when I wanted to get an extra English book it just made sense to stick with the series we are loving and get another one.

But the one thing I have noticed is that some books are slightly easier and some are more challenging and I must admit when I started using this series I just went with the topic that I wanted and did not pay that much attention to which book was recommended for which year. The first book we used was the Myths and Legends book and I felt like I could use it with both my kids (at the time my son would have been year 5 and my daughter Year 8). I felt like he could join in with some of the easier questions (mainly the look closer questions) and she did all the questions. Then we got the War Anthology and it was a definite step up in terms of harder questions. I felt like it was a brilliant book for my daughter (I liked that it was a bit more challenging and we loved that it linked in with our History) but I did feel like it was a bit too much of a stretch for my youngest.

Hodder Education do state on their website that the skills are built up as you work through the series and that the books do increase in difficulty. And they do actually have a Anthologies at a glance breakdown where they show you which Anthologies they would recommend for each year (Myths and Legends was for Year 7 and War was for Year 8 and comparing the two we have used, there is a definite increase in the degree of difficulty of questions.)

For our new Anthology book I wanted something that would work with my youngest. He really enjoyed the Myths and Legends activities that he did and that is unusual for him, he normally just grits his teeth and completes his English activities as quickly as he can. So I was tempted to get another Anthology just to use with him even if it was too easy for my oldest. But I have also been spending quite a bit of time thinking about English Literature for my oldest and making sure we cover all angles. My daughter reads a LOT (and I really do mean a LOT) but she actually does not read Detective books, she likes 19th Century stories and War stories, so I started thinking it might actually be good for her to work through a few detective pages just to get the feeling for the detective genre (and who knows she might even be inspired to read one of the books covered in the Detective book). So our third Anthology is the Detective one (I am still thinking of getting the 19th Century and Gothic one – and just doing a few activities out of those with my oldest as I know they will be good for her to try).

At a first glance I do agree with the suggested years. The Detective Anthology is definitely more along the lines of the Myths and Legends in terms of degree of difficulty of the questions. Also they have included lots of works that are familiar – Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew and Poirot which is always great (my kids love it when they have heard of something or someone before) and they have included a number of works that I would like my kids (well hope) to eventually read.

The format is the same as the other books in the series (although I have been told the Shakespeare Anthology format is different). It is split into three sections – Fiction, Non Fiction and Poetry. And under each of those sections there are eight different extracts that are covered. And for each extract covered you get a wide range of questions (this wide range of questions is one of the reasons we enjoy these books as much as we do. It keeps it interesting and it keeps the kids engaged.)

The questions are split into three broad categories

Look Closer – this tend to be the “slightly easier questions”, shorter answers and tend to be more comprehension type questions.

Now Try This – these are the longer questions. They include lots of different writing activities – create an advert, write a letter, write a newspaper article, diary entry all kinds of writing activities. I really like these longer writing activities.

Practice Questions – these range from fairly short pick the correct statement to longer write three paragraphs type questions.

There are no answers in the book but if you log onto the Hodder Education website you can download all the sample answers for all of the English Anthology books for FREE (I really appreciate that they have added this to the site).

We have only just started using this Anthology but I already like it. I like that I can use it with my youngest to extend his Year 6 English activities and I like that I can use it as a way of going over the detective writing genre with my oldest. I also really like the varied questions, they are interesting and engaging and honestly this is one of the most enjoyable English series that we have found.

My oldest has always enjoyed English but my youngest is not that keen on working on English activities however he does enjoy the activities that I chose from the Anthology series. And really after 9 years of home educating if you can get the kids interested, engaged and even enjoying their work they really do take it in, learn more, remember more and as a home educator that just makes my life a LOT easier.

We have received all of our English Anthology books from Hodder – here are the links to the books on their website. (A quick note – on the Hodder website they also have Boost eBooks which are the digital version of these books, it is exactly the same content but instead of getting a paper book you get online access for a year.)

Detective Anthology

Myths and Legends Anthology

War Anthology

You can also buy them directly from Amazon

Key Stage 3 English Anthology: Detectives

Key Stage 3 English Anthology: Myths and Legends

Key Stage 3 English Anthology: War

Admin – Hodder Education kindly sent us a copy of the Detective Anthology book after I asked if we could review it. I have not been paid for this post and all opinions / words written are mine.

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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Year 9 Maths Practice Books

This year we are working through the third stage of the KS3 Mastering Mathematics series from Hodder Education, which includes using a text book and a practice book. It is the first time we have used this range and I have already written about it in the Starting Year 9 Maths resource post and the Maths Books Year 9 Update post but I wanted to write another post just about the two practice books.

The first one is called Develop and Secure and the second one is Extend. And if you are anything like me you might be wondering which one to get? Do they contain the same questions? Do you get both or is it even worth getting a practice book? So this is my opinion on the practice books (I will give an update at the end of the year once we have worked all the way through everything).

To begin with I want to state – the questions in the text books are different to the questions in the practice books and the text book and practice books really do go well together. The text book has the detailed explanation on the topics and is followed by a number of questions split into 3 bands. The practice book has extra questions (I am stressing the word extra as the questions in the practice books are different from the text book so you are NOT wasting your money buying both). Also to make it clear the practice book is not a “write in” book – you kids will need to do the questions on paper (I actually really like this because I intend to use the books with both of my kids).

We started Year 9 with the Develop and Secure Practice Book 3 and we started by working through the first 3 chapters – Powers and Indices, Fractions and Accuracy. My daughter would go through the explanations in the text book, then do the band 1 and 2 questions in the text book, she would then flip to the questions in the practice book and then go back and do the band 3 questions in the text book. Which is a LOT of questions, but we have a “Maths needs to be practiced” approach. With these first 3 chapters I felt like she needed more challenging questions. She was cruising through the practice book and I want her to have some Maths questions that make her think, that she actually gets wrong the first time and we need to work through them. So we opted to buy the Extend Practice Book (it does only cost £6.99 and you get 73 pages of Maths questions and all answers are free to download from the site – which for me is a reasonable price.)

First impression of the Extend Practice Book – the questions in the Extend Practice book were more challenging and there were lots of problem solving type questions. Also the Develop and Secure Practice book has some summary reminders to help the student whereas the Extend Practice book has very few summary reminders.

How do I think the practice books link in with the text books? The text books questions are set out in Bands. Hodder Education explains the Bands as follows.

Band 1 – Working Towards

Band 2 – Working At

Band 3 – Exceeding

My impression of the practice books is if your child is more comfortable doing the Band 1 and Band 2 questions then go for the Develop and Secure Practice Book. But if you child seems to find Band 1 easy and is working more at the Band 2 and Band 3 level than the extend practice book would be better. But I do feel like some people (like myself) may actually like having both practice books. My daughter is at a Band 2 and a bit of Band 3 Maths level. But the Extend practice book, by itself, in some areas would just not give her the breath of questions that I would like. I feel like we need a mix of questions from both the practice books. And it also depends on which Maths topic we are covering. For example I know my daughter finds fractions easy so we focused on the harder questions, but I know Ratio and Proportion is not something she is as comfortable with so we are going to first go through the easier questions, make sure we are happy and then tackle the harder ones. Also there are some topic where we will NOT do all the questions because in the past we have covered it in A LOT detail but there are other topics that we will do most of the questions. It is a bit of a tricky answer, I know, but I do feel like lots of kids may benefit from a combination of both practice books where you decide on the questions based on the Maths topic covered.

And one final comment – on the Hodder Education website they have Boost eBooks available – I emailed someone at Hodder and inquired about these and apparently they are just the digital format of the text book and practice books (so the questions in the Boost eBooks are the same as the normal paper Books that you buy)

You can get the Mastering Mathematics Practice Books directly from Hodder Education

Develop and Secure Book 3

Extend Practice Book 3

Or you can buy them from amazon

Key Stage 3 Mastering Mathematics Develop and Secure Practice Book 3

Key Stage 3 Mastering Mathematics Extend Practice Book 3

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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Our Favourite Primary Non-Fiction Books

One of the questions I am always asked is – “what are your must have books?” And in all honesty I am wary of that question for the simple reason that there are just so many amazing books out there and everyone home educates in a slightly different manner. So what works for us might not work for you. The projects we do in primary might not be the projects you choose to do. There are lots of variables, lots, but I have been persuaded to go through our book case and pull out our favourite non fiction books just as a way of giving some ideas. So these are our Primary aged Non-Fiction Books (History and Science) which I could not have survived without.

So starting with Ancient History.

Now, in total honesty my son has LOTS of Dinosaur books, he loves learning about Dinosaurs and he has some real gems but if I had to choose just one (which is actually quite hard to do) I think it would be the What’s Where on Earth Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Life: The amazing history of earth’s most incredible animals. He just finds this one fascinating and more than two years after buying it he is still coming back and rereading it on a regular basis. He really likes that it shows maps of where the different creatures where found, has clear pictures and contains lots of information about how each creature was built and they highlight the unique features while often linking the features back to current animals. It is a visual book (lots of big, incredible pictures) but they have also managed to include lots of interesting facts. This book is one of my sons favourites.

Linking to that theme of dinosaurs and fossils we found this book Archaeologists Dig for Clues: Stage 2 (Let’s Read-And-Find Out Science. Stage 2) brilliant. It just brought in a few facts about how we discovered and uncoved all those ancient treasures. Great for younger kids.

Now one which I really wished I had bought a lot earlier and which I think is Brilliant is Story of the World, Vol. 1: History for the Classical Child: Ancient Times: 0. I have been so impressed with the writing style in this book, it is such an easy read yet it manages to organize world events in a logical fashion and it somehow includes lots of facts. I highly recommend this book as a starting point for Ancient History.

The Story of the World. Volume 1 Ancient Times

And then a topic which we spent a lot of time on was Pompeii and this book was excellent – Pompeii (Young Reading (Series 3)): 1 (Young Reading Series 3, 9). Again it is written in an easy story like fashion, perfect for primary aged kids. We used this book when we learnt about the Ancient Romans, we then used it as a reader and we turned to it again when we covered Volcanoes. It was well worth the few pounds I paid for it.

  • Usborne Young Reader Pompeii. Great for history and volcano topics
  • Usborne Young Reader Pompeii shows a Roman market

More history. Firstly my daughter’s favourite, we first got this book as a library book and after renewing it 5 times I just had to buy her a copy – Kings and Queens (History of Britain): 1. She has read this book cover to cover multiple time and she loves it. We have used it for multiple History projects and topics but really it is just a great book for placing everyone in order and explaining a bit about them and their impact on British history.

Then the World Wars. Now I like the idea of introducing the World Wars to younger kids (primary ages) but I also think certain parts need to be dealt with in a gently fashion (it can be an emotional, hard topic for younger kids), The two books that I found that ticked all my boxes for World War facts suitable for this age are The Story of the First World War for Children (1914-1918): In association with the Imperial War Museum and The Story of the Second World War For Children: 1939-1945.

Onto Science topics. I have to start with my amazing life cycle book – Life Cycles: Everything from Start to Finish. This book is one incredible book. It is a visual feast of ALL life cycles – it covers a wide range of different animals, plants and other interesting “earth” cycles like that of a rock, a volcano, iceberg even the life cycle of a star and moon. It really is everything you will need on life cycles and so much more than you could even have imagined. And included in the life cycles they also talk about things like hibernation, predators, habitats and animal classification.

  • DK Life Cycles. Everything from Start to Finish
  • DK Life Cycles. Everything from Start to Finish
  • DK Life Cycles. Everything from Start to Finish
  • DK Life Cycles. Everything from Start to Finish
  • DK Life Cycles. Everything from Start to Finish

And then two other science books. Our food chain book, which is just brilliant – Staying Alive: The Story of a Food Chain (Science Works) and our Rock book – The Rock Factory: A Story About Rocks and Stones (Science Works). Both cover important concepts and do it in a very easy to digest manner.

And I am sure I have forgotten something, I can almost guarantee that in a few days time I will think Oh boy I should have included x or y. But hopefully this might give someone one or two ideas.

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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CGP Year 6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Workbook

We tried one of the CGP Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling workbooks for the first time last year and I must admit both my son and I found it suited us. So this year I bought him another one to use – KS2 English Targeted Question Book: Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling – Year 6: perfect for catching up at home (CGP KS2 English)

It is a straight forward workbook. But we like it for a few reasons – we like the layout of the pages – with the explanation at the top, followed by a few exercises. We like that the explanations are concise and clear and I really can hand the book to him and he reads it and completes it by himself – I like this as it is a step in the more independent style learning. Plus they have included all the answers at the back of the book.

The workbook is 100 pages long and is split into the three main sections – Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation. The pages are separate, stand alone pages so you can dip in and out and complete the pages in any order. Under each of the three sections they cover the following.

  1. Grammar
  • Word Types – nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, synonyms and antonyms and pronouns.
  • Clauses and Phrases
  • Linking Ideas – conjunction, linking paragraphs with adverbials and repetition and ellipses.
  • Tenses – present, past, past progressive and perfect form
  • Sentence Structure
  • Writing Style – formal and informal and writing for your audience.

2. Punctuation

  • Sentence Punctuation – capital letters, full stops, question marks, exclamation marks.
  • Commas – in lists, after subordinate clauses, after introductions, for extra information and to avoid ambiguity.
  • Brackets and Dashes
  • Apostrophes – for missing letters, for possession, its and it’s.
  • Inverted Commas
  • Colons and Semi-colons
  • Paragraphs and Layout

3. Spelling

  • Prefixes – trans, bi, tri, semi, aero, micro, tele, photo, circum
  • Word endings and Suffixes – shus, shul, ant, ent, ence, ancy, ence, ency, able, ible, ably, ibly, fer
  • Confusing words – ei vs ie, words with ough, silent letters, homophones.

We do not use this book in isolation. In other words these are not the only English pages he is working through. I will often link a page out of this workbook with another activity – possibly something like a Twinkl worksheet, a lesson from The Night Zookeeper website or an English Lit activity. As a home educator I don’t think there is enough in this one workbook for you to use it by itself for the entire Year 6 English. But as a home educator it is a useful book, a guide that you can work through to make sure you have covered everything and it may possibly highlight areas that you need to work on. We recommend this workbook.

We bought our CGP Year 6 book from Amazon – KS2 English Targeted Question Book: Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling – Year 6: perfect for catching up at home (CGP KS2 English) but I have also seen them in our local bookstores.

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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Horrible Geography Books are a Win

I really did not know what to expect when I ordered these books. I had never seen one of them before but I took a chance based on the fact that my son has really enjoyed reading the Horrible History books (and I mean REALLY ENJOYED them).

Book sets from the Books2Door website

Well, they have been a Big HIT. My son is loving them.

First of all, I am all for any book which encourages kids to read, because reading is just good for them and I want them to enjoy books and enjoy reading. So straight away the fact that he just saw the books, had a look at the covers and started reading without me even suggesting it is a win. Then the fact that after he read the first one he picked up another and another again without me saying anything is another win.

And these books are covering Geography topics (which I do at time find a bit challenging to make interesting) is another Massive win. I mean any book that makes Geography interesting and engaging and that teaches the kids facts without it being a lesson-based session is a HUGE win for me. In fact I was going through some Year 9 Geography with my daughter and he chirped up with a whole lot of relevant facts that I did not know – and it was all because he had just read the Monster Lakes book.

I have to admit my son is very good about remembering facts IF he is interested in what he is reading. If he finds something boring he will not remember one little thing but if he is chuckling, engaging with the book, wanting to read extracts to me then I know he is going to remember what he has read.

My son Highly Recommend these Books and I must confess as a home educator who sometimes struggles a bit with Geography I am LOVING these books

Just to mention my son is 10 years old (he would be in year 6 if he attended school), my oldest who is thirteen has not read these books, she has a massive pile of other books that she is currently reading so I cannot give feedback from her point of view.

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