Horace and Harriet – Friends, Romans, Statues

I definitely feel like we have hit the right combination of reading material with my daughter – she loves reading non-fiction as well as historical based stories, stories with a slight adventure and stories with strong women characters.  But my son seems to be very much an animal based reader – ie anything and everything about animals.  And although I am thrilled that he is reading the way that he does I really want to try to broaden his reading topics, but he is proving more of a challenge.

The one thing that I have picked up on is his need for a fictional stories to include some humour so I was intrigued when I heard about Horace and Harriet: Friends, Romans, Statues! (Horace & Harriet) – I mean a talking statue – I immediately imagine some funny incidents.  So we tried our first one and – the very first page they introduce the statue and his long-winded name includes Nincompoop – well that immediately got a chuckle from my son and the book had his interest.

He read the first half in one sitting and then the next morning processed to re-read it to us while we all ate breakfast (yes he is in his pyjamas)

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The Story is about a walking, talking statue who thinks quite highly of himself.  He follows his friends to Rome and has an adventure discovering a long-lost relative.  It is a sweet story but what got my son was the humour – he loved the section when someone labelled the statues bottom – Heavy Load and when Horace, the statue goes around Rome putting tablecloths on all the naked statues and there are a bunch of other funny incidents but that would give the whole story away.

Horace and Harriet. A story about a freindship between a little girl and a talking statue

It is a great early chapter book (115 pages) and it does include some more challenging reading words and lots of great references to places in Rome, Roman numerals and a few Italian words (some sneaky learning included here).

One of the great things was after reading the book my son wanted to learn more about Roman Numerals (he loved the chapter headings).

We have actually covered Roman Numerals (Roman Coins) before but it was 2 years ago and he really only remembered a few basics.  He did not remember the pattern that if the smaller number is in front you take it away and it if the smaller number comes after a bigger number you add it.  So I had a quick look on the internet and I discovered two lovely Roman Numeral printouts which are FREE to download from Twinkl Resources (you need to set up a free account to download their free resources).

The first are these Roman Numeral scrolls.  My son is going through a craze where he loves creating scrolls – really we have scrolls filled with times table practice, different ones with writing, some with maps drawn on them.  He Loves scrolls so I knew he would appreciate having the Roman numbers on a Scroll.

Free to download scroll pages from Twinkl Resources

And in case you are wondering they have actually been cut out and rolled into scrolls.

And I also found these Roman Numeral Matching Cards

Free to download Roman Numeral matching Cards from Twinkl Resources

And I must say the matching cards really worked well.

Roman Numeral Matching Cards. Free to download from Twinkl Resources

My son quickly picked up the pattern and was soon creating his own more complex numbers using Roman Numerals.

The Admin Bit – Oxford University Press sent us the copy Horace and Harriet so my little reader could test it out.

The links included to Twinkl Resources are correct at the time of me writing this post.  Twinkl do change their resources from time to time and they can also change what is included in each subscription package.

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.

reading Horace and Harriet. A funny early chapter books for children.

Free to download Roman Numeral Cards from Twinkl ResourcesHorace and Harriet, Friends, Romans, Statues. A funny early chapter book


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Enjoying Learning

I will never deny that I have moments when I wonder if we are doing enough learning activities.  Am I providing enough learning opportunities but still providing the kids with free time to explore and play on their own ?  Do I have a balance between written activities and hands-on learning ?  Are we spending enough time enjoying the museums and workshops ?  Are we spending enough time covering xyz – you get the idea.  It is a tough.  And I think all parents have moments when they think about this.

This past week was one of those weeks when I wondered have we done enough? (And yes I even went out and ordered a few extra books to use.)  Then we had today, Saturday.  I had a few errands I needed to run so I left the kids with their dad and charged out early to try to beat the crowds.  When I got back home my youngest opened the front door and started explaining what Marsupials are and how there are two mammals in Australia which lay eggs (The Joys of documentaries this time The Life of Mammals series).  He had so much to tell me that he even walked with me to the post office so he could keep telling me all the new facts – okay he did change into a dragon part of the way to the post office and start talking about his latest dragons (he loves creating hybrid dragons that contain some features of the dragons from the Hiccup series.)

By the time we got home my daughter had converted the “play area” into her office and she was busy sorting and ordering all the stories she has been writing recently into a new folder she had found.  And then she started writing a new story.  Not because it was a learning activity I had set for her but because SHE WANTED to write a story.  She had some words that she could not spell so she dug out a dictionary and found the spellings herself.  She wrote and wrote and when I thought she has about to stop she went back to writing.  It was hours of her sitting and happily working away writing multiple stories.

writing stories for fun

And while she wrote her brother was designing town centres with his toys and then drawing maps of the town centres.  Again not because I had set the task (it was something we did during the week) but he was doing it because HE WANTED to create some of his own maps.

And that sums up what I want.  That sums up all the agonising I have done and I am sure will still do.  That sums up my entire learning objective – For the Kids to enjoy learning, to have a desire to want to learn.

I want them to become lifelong learners.  I never thought about this concept until we started on our home education journey.  But the more we home educate the more I acknowledge that I am just the facilitator, I guide, help and encourage.  But ultimately the kids need to want to learn and hopefully enjoy it.



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DIY Electro Dough Kit

I have been wanting to look at electric circuits with the kids for some time and I recently spotted this Electro Dough Kit and thought it would be a great starter set.  And it is.

This set comes with the following:

  • 1 battery holder (the black square thing in the photos)
  • 1 buzzer
  • 10 green LED’s and 10 red LED’s
  • 6 crocodile clips
  • 10 jumper wires
  • 2 tilt switches
  • 3 plastic play dough cutters

DIY Electro Dough Set unpacked

As soon as we opened the set the kids got stuck in (you do need 4 AA batteries and some play dough).  To start with we tried some store-bought play dough and it worked well with the buzzer and the LED’s did light up. But the lights were not working as I wanted when they were set up in parallel and in series.  I really wanted the kids to clearly see the difference between the two options and the with the store-bought dough the lights looked the same.

So we decided to try the conductive dough recipe that they include on the box.  It really is so easy to make but you do need to give it time to cool, so make it in advance.

Make Your Own Conductive Dough to go with your Electro Dough Kit

And what a difference.  As soon as we started using the conductive dough the kids could see the differences and they where hooked.  They kept changing and adding items, creating different circuits and then changing one thing in the circuit to see the difference.

working on creating his own circuits

My seven-year old would create a circuit that worked and then he would try to add something extra and tell me – if I add this loop those two LED’s are going to stop working or if I add this loop this extra LED will light up but that one will stop.

creating circuits and then changing them to get certain lights to light up

They really learnt a lot about circuits just by playing.

Creating circuits with his DIY Electro Dough Kit

And playing.

Buidling more complicated circuits with his DIY Electro Dough Kit

I Love this set.  And I especially love the inclusion of the play dough as it really encourages the kids to play around, explore and have fun with the whole idea of creating a fun circuit. Both of mine have always been very fussy about which play dough we use (sensory side of things) and they both really liked the feeling of the conductive dough, my son asked if we could make extra just for fun play (I am keeping the conductive dough that we made wrapped up with the set so we can keep reusing it).

Playing with the conductive dough

My kids and I highly recommend this set but we really recommend that you take the time and make your own conductive dough – it really does make a big difference.  Also if you have kids with sensory processing disorder the buzzer may need to be managed – my daughter liked using the buzzer but the noise did get to her so we did have to manage how often we used the buzzer in our circuits.

Technology Will Save Us. DIY Electro Dough Kit

We bought our set from Amazon – Tech Will Save Us, Electro Dough Kit | Educational STEM Toy, Ages 4 and Up

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.

Introducing Electric Circuits with the DIY Electro Dough Kit.  Perfect for home education

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Who Owns These Bones

One of the unexpected topics that my kids are totally fascinated by are skeletons.  I must be honest I never found them that interesting but both of mine love examining different skeletons and seeing how they are similar and how they are different.   A while ago my daughter was searching through our book selection looking for animal skeletons to copy and I realized we did not have that many so I started looking for skeleton books and I found this one – Who Owns These Bones?

Who Owns These Bones by Henri Cap, Raphael Martin, Renaud Vigourt

As soon as the book arrived my son was paging through it looking at the skeletons and guessing which animal they belonged to.  He loved lifting all all the flaps to discover if he had guessed the correct animal.

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My daughter liked the way it shows you animals which are similar but have distinctive differences, she liked the extra detail like how the Rhinos feet have three toes, the hippo has four and a horse basically has one.  And how the bats wings are essentially elongated phalanges with skin between them.  Details like that really impressed her.

Who Owns These Bones. A book wich shows the different skeleton structure of many different animals

This book is better than what I expected.  It has stunning skeleton drawings of different animals but it is more than that. I have been so impressed by the explanations included in the book and how it shows how different skeletons have adapted for different purposes.  They do not shy away from using the proper words, but they still manage to do it in a way that makes it easy reading – the paragraphs are informative without being too wordy.  I was really impressed with this as I belive in introducing the kids to the proper words so they are familiar with them but I am also aware that it can be tricky to find that balance of using the correct words but still making sure if is understandable by the kids (this book is aimed at 8+ ages)

Although the book deals with skeletons, it is informative, there is nothing spooky or scary about the way it is written.  There are no gruesome pictures.  They are accurate drawings of animals and their skeletons.

reading Who Owns These Bones

And yes both of the kids have tried copying skeletons out of the book and they have also used the skeleton drawings and ideas of how skeletons have adapted to create their own skeletons for animals that they have created.

Drawing Skeletons from the Who Owns These Bones book

This book is a fascinating way of  extending the kids knowledge about animals and how they adapt for different functions.  Both my kids think this book is brilliant and I agree 100%.

Who Owns These Bones. A stunning childnre's book which shows skeletons and explains how they have adapted

Disclosure : I was looking for a skeleton book for the kids and when I found the one I liked it happened to be from a publishing house I have worked with before so I requested a copy for review purposes.  I would have happily purchased this book for my kids to use.


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Chalk Pastel Autumn Leaves

A while ago my daughter was given some chalk pastel pencils.  I immediately loved them but my daughter initially struggled a bit as they smudge and she has a tendency to drag her hands over her pictures while she is working.  But from the very beginning she commented that they were brilliant for blending colours together and she liked the feeling of using them.

Then over the weekend we decided to try to create some autumn leaves.  To begin with she tried using her oil pastels.  But she did not get the result that she wanted (I think I might need to get her a better quality set).

Oak leaf created using oil pastels

So I suggested another go at her chalk pastels (STABILO CarbOthello Metal Box of 24 colours – Chalk-pastel coloured pencil).  We first spoke about how she could use them, the colours, where the darker shades should go and then she went for it.

Using her chalk pastels to create some Autumn leaves

She was a lot better at keeping her hands lifted and not letting them drag over the picture and she also rotated her pictures as she coloured in.  The more she practiced the more she managed to blend her colours together.

working on her autumn leaf pictures using her chalk pastels

She did picture after picture.

Autumn Leaves created using STABILO chalk pastels

chalk pastel pictures created using Activity Village stencils and STABILO chalk pastels

So the practical side of the pictures – we used coloured paper and card (found the coloured card was better than the paper) and she used templates to create the pictures.

Drawing a leaf picture using templates from Activity Village

The templates are these ones (all from Activity Village) – Acorns, Oak leaf, leaf template.

I love these chalk pastels, I really do and my ten-year old is now enjoying using them and experimenting with the different effects she can get but I would say they are better suited for a slightly older child or a more confident arty kid.

STABILO Carbothello pencils. Chalk pastel pencils

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 use and love.

Autumn Leaves the perfect blending colour art activity for children

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Book sets from the Bookpeople

I mentioned in a post about 2 months ago that I like buying the kids a new book set as a Birthday and Christmas present and that I buy the book sets from the Bookpeople.  Since that post I have had a few people email and message me to ask which book sets were big hits with the kids. So I thought I would share our favourites and also mention which ones I am thinking about buying them for this year. (This is just me writing about the books we like it is not linked to the Bookpeople).

Younger Kids.

Everyone always think Julia Donaldson and we did buy the book collection and the audio collection and both were LOVED by the kids.  But just as popular were the Percy the Park Keeper Books.  In fact when mine were starting to read they both re-read the Percy books themselves.  They are lovely stories that feature some very cute woodland animals.

Two other Book series that I bought the kids when they were younger and that were both worth every penny was the Lighthouse Keeper series (it does not look like the Bookpeople still have the series of books but they now sell them individually) and the Ark Adventure collection.  Both series were recommended in an education book that I use and both ended up being really good as both story books and readers.

Lighthouse Keeper's books by Ronda and David Armitage

Recent Books

The How to Train Your Dragon Collection.  Possibly the best book series that I have ever bought the kids.  And yes I know I have gone on and on about this set of books this year but it has just been such an amazing series.  The kids love the stories and I must admit I have enjoyed reading them too.  The descriptive language is brilliant and the way the stories have inspired both kids has been amazing – writing their own short stories, creating dragons, creating characters.  Just brilliant.

How to Train Your Dragon set of Books written by Cressida Cowell

Sets I am thinking of buying this year.

The Roald Dahl Collection.  We have recently borrowed a few Roald Dahl books from our local library and the kids loved them so much that we kept renewing them until we could no longer renew them anymore and then both kids asked repeatedly if we could not get our own home copies.  And I am really considering it, for the simple reason that his books are just such great books for kids to read and if my two are going to read and re-read books over and over again then I like them to be good quality books, books that use creative language and inspire creative writing.  And really his books do just that.

Michael Morpurgo Collection.  We love his stories and yes some are a bit sad but my daughter has really enjoyed reading a few of the books that we have borrowed from the library so I am really considering this set for her and also thinking of buying the audio books to go with

My daughter is also loving history books right now and so I am also considering something along the lines of Explore History Collection or the Brilliant Women Collection.

This year I am finding it much easier to come up with book options for my daughter and my son is proving more of a struggle.  I think it is largely because the How to Train your Dragon series has just been such a massive hit with him and I really want to find something that will inspire him again.  So I will keep searching and when I find something I will share it with you.

reading one of the How to Train Your Dragon books

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Winter shoes with Sensory Kids

Shoe shopping has never been a fun activity for us.  From a young ages both kids actually did not want to have the uncomfortable feeling of shoes and would take them off as soon as they could.  Which, with my son is a bit problematic as he needs orthotics and actually needs the support of wearing the correct shoes or he ends up with very sore ankles and knees.

My daughter has never worn “cute or “trendy” shoes.  She has had a few ballerina type shoes that look pretty but honestly they last about 10 minutes on her feet before she starts fidgeting and getting irritated with the feeling.  So we tend to stick to takkies and takkies, oh and some trusty wellies.  But 2 year ago she asked if she could get a pair of long leather boots, similar to what I spend most of winter wearing.  I must admit I was at first a bit hesitant, worried she would not wear them but the grandparents were here and they treated her to her first pair of Clarks boots.  She LOVED them.  Really LOVED them.  Wore them the whole winter and right up until it was just too hot and I had to tell her to pack her boots away.  And she would wear them for days out, days in London where she would spend the whole day walking and never once did she fidget, or complain about her boots.  Luckily this year we found an almost identical pair

Comfy girls boots from Clarks. Our winter solution for a sensory kid

The Navy boots are from last year, still in good condition and the Tan boots are the new ones

Being a sensory mum I spent sometime thinking about why her boots were such a hit when other shoes fail miserable.  I think the long boots work well because they allow her to wear them over leggings or jeggings (her new favourite) so she has the soft feeling directly against her skin. And there is nothing tight / itchy / irritating around her heal.  That seems to be a big sensory issue with shoes for her.  And we always stick to leather so the more she wears them the softer they get.

For my son however we have the added complication of needing to fit his orthotics inside his shoes and we need to have shoes that are higher up around his ankles.  This often leads to countless shopping trips.  But we seem to have finally found an ankle type boot that works for him – his orthotics fit in nicely and there is the extra support for his ankles which means he is able to walk further distances before his feet start hurting him (he also says they are soft).

boys shoes from Clarks that work weel with orthotics

I never realized how shoes shopping with sensory kids could be such a big deal.  It has taken us ages to find what works for our two – lots of failed purchases, lots of frustrating shopping trips (and don’t get me started on shops that like to play loud music) but fingers crossed we have found two winter solutions that work for us.

Winter shoe shopping for sensory kids

Now I just been to hope and pray like mad that Clarks keep creating the same shoes every year until my two are older.

This is NOT a sponsored post in any shape or form.  It is just a mom rambling on about shoe shopping.  I have included links to the Clarks website to show the shoes that we have bought – it is just for other moms who may need a suggestion, it is not an affiliate link or a paid link in any form

Winter shoe shopping at Clarks

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