Christopher Columbus

One of the books that both my kids have been enjoying is their Christopher Columbus (Young Reading Level 3).

Christopher Columbus. Part of the Usborne Young Reading series. A great History book for children to read

They have found the story fascinating, lots of comments about how could people  have thought the earth was flat, how did they not know which continents existed, travelling on boats must have been the worst without any fridges to keep the food etc etc.  They found the whole story about the voyages really exciting and loved looking at our globe to see where he went (Oh and imagine thinking that the Americas was the Indies – my son).  The text of the book is at the right level for my two (my nine-year-old can easily read it herself and my six-year-old follows along in the book word for word as I read it too him).

Christopher Columbus by Minna Lacey part of the Usborne Young Reading series.

The book is well written (nothing scary) and is filled with interesting facts about his voyages as well as maps showing each trip and lots of illustrations depicting the scenes of his voyages and life.

One of the Usborne Young Reading Series books - Christopher Columbus

So when I spotted some of the new Famous people pages on Activity Village I had a quick look to see if there was anything on Christopher Columbus and there was. We love the Activity Village How to Draw pages so I immediately printed out the Christopher Columbus one and one evening while I was busy cooking both kids had a go and drawing their own Christopher Columbus.

Learn How to Draw Christopher Columbus using the How to Draw pages from Activity Village

(We are massive fans of the How to draw pages – I keep ours in a home-made drawing book and we keep it on the kids bookshelf – it is great for when one of the kids wants to try to draw something and is not sure how to get started).

We also printed out the Comprehension pages.

Christopher Columbus Comprehension from the Activity Village website

And my daughter loved the idea of the Captain’s Log.  (She is trying really hard to work on her creative writing and thought this was a fun activity to try).

Activity Village's Captain Log activity for Christopher Columbus

My son’s favourite page was the map of his voyages.  He loves using the map to help him retell (react might be the better word) the stories of the different voyages  – where they landed and what happened on each trip.

Map showing Christopher Columbus voyages from the Activity Village website

I love using the Usborne Young Reading series as a way of introducing famous people to the kids and I really like the fact that I can now link some of the books to the famous people pages on Activity Village.

Christopher Columbus. The Usborne Young Reading series book together with pages from the Famous People section of the Activity Village website




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At Home With Spelling 1 Workbook Review

I wrote a review about the At Home With Spelling 2 workbook which I am using with my son but I did not include anything about the first book as we never used it with either kid so I knew nothing about what was in the workbook.  I have since been sent a copy of the first book by Oxford University Press so I thought it might be helpful for some of you if I detailed what is included in the book.

At Home With Spelling 1 workbook by Oxford University Press. Spelling practice for key stage 1

The At Home With Spelling 1 book is written for Key stage 1 ages (UK-based year 1 / year 2).  Each page covers 1 topic.  The pages are not cluttered and they provide space for large writing.  They also stick to only black and blue text colours which means the pages are not visually overwhelming.

At Home With Spelling 1 workbook by Oxford University Press. They leave space for larger letter writing

The topics covered are

  • The alphabet (giving examples of lower case and upper case letters)
  • Vowels
  • Consonants
  • Rhymes
  • Two consonants, one sound
  • Consonant blends
  • Double consonants
  • ar
  • or
  • Syllables
  • Word sums (introducing basic compound words)
  • Plurals (when you add s to the words)

At Home With Spelling 1 Workbook by Oxford University Press includes adding s to words to create plurals

  • Verbs adding er and ed
  • Endings er and ing
  • of verses off
  • Word shapes
  • Common words
  • Hard words

At Home With Spelling 1 Workbook by Oxford Univeristy Press. Ways to remember how to spell hard words. Key stage 1 ages

  • qu
  • Code cracking
  • Word search

The book is written as a revision type workbook.  If you are home-educating parent you will probably need to reinforce the concepts explained again as there is not a lot of practice (eg they have 1 page for syllables which if you have explained syllables to the kids before is fine but if it is the first time you are talking about syllables with your children you will probably need to extend it with other activities.  Same thing with the compound words you would probably want to extend that with extra activities).

At Home With Spelling 1 Workbook by Oxford Press introduces word sums or basic compound words for key stage 1 ages

The workbook sells for £3.99  – I have seen it in some bookstores and it is also available on amazon – At Home With Spelling 1

If I had not already covered most of what is included in this workbook I would have been happy to buy it to use with my son (I will be using the pages for the endings ed and er with him a bit later on).





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Jack and the Beanstalk Colouring Story

One of the reasons I love home educating the kids is the ability to adjust our schedule to suit the family needs.  We don’t stick to school holidays, rather we take breaks as we think the kids need it and then often work through the traditional half-terms / holidays.  It means that when their sensory systems need a break we can allow them time to unwind and it means that if they are exhausted or emotional we can take a few days off to recover.

This past weekend was a bit of an emotional one for the kids (their dad hurt himself and we ended up at the A&E late at night).  Normally Monday mornings are a good learning session for us which typically involves Maths and English activities.  But this morning my youngest was still exhausted and a bit tearful so we put aside our normal learning activities and I asked if there was something he would like to do.  He loves the Mindfulness Animals (free to download) and Mindfulness Transport (platinum classic) pages from Twinkl

One of the Twinkl Transport Mindfulness colouring pages

and asked if there was something similar that the three of us to work on (his sister, me and him together – his dad is home with us but not able to bend his one leg and can not sit comfortably at a table to join in).  We had a look and choose the Jack and the Beanstalk Mindfulness colouring story. (platinum classic)

Jack and the Beanstalk by Twinkl Resources. And example of a page. A short paragraph with a stunning detailed picture

It is a stunning little pack.

Jack and the Beanstalk colouring story book created by Twinkl Resources

He liked the idea that we could work on some pages and then put them all together to make up our own copy of the book.

Jack and the Beanstalk colouring story pages from Twinkl Resources

On each page there is a short paragraph from the story and a stunning detailed picture to colour in.

Jack and the Beanstalk colouring story by Twinkl Resources. This version Jack has multicoloured hair

And one of the great things about a colouring story, as the kids coloured in they read the story and we chatted about the different characters.

Jack and the Beanstalk colouring story by Twinkl. The giant

The kids have decided that we are going to complete the story and then show it to their dad.  We made a good start today and I think it is going to be a great little project for them to work on together.

Jack and the Beanstalk colouring story by Twinkl Resources. A stunning story book activity for children






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K’Nex everywhere

Building animals and vechiles with K'Nex. A fantastic STEM toy for children

A few months ago we were sent two Educational K’Nex sets.  They are great sets but little did I realise that those two K’Nex sets were going to set off a chain reaction of K’Nex everywhere.  It appears like those two set have just multiplied (okay after seeing how much my kids loved the K’Nex I did buy some K’Nex boxes).  But honestly some days it feels like we are just living in a K’Nex world – possibly largely due to the fact that my lounge floor is now a K’Nex zone.

K'Nex has taken over our home

The builds can vary from easier ones like this fish

Building K'nex creation like this fish

too much harder ones like the helicopter.

K'Nex helicopter. K'Nex is an amazing STEM resource for kids to play with

And there are so many instructions for the kids.  Each box comes with a booklet with instructions for lots of different builds and you can also log onto their website and input your box number and you will find LOTS more build instructions to download  – the link for the extra K’Nex instructions is here – K’Nex instructions.

My kids also love using their own imaginations to create their own variations of the builds.  I have been so impressed to see how after following build instructions the kids are able to start applying some of the ideas to their own creations – doors that swing open, figuring out how to balance a plane so that it stands on the wheels, creating a butterfly with extra wings all of which are able to flap, spinning wheels I could go on and on.  But really I have seen so much learning happening while they are playing with their K’nex sets.  They have figured out some concepts which have totally surprised me and it is because they are involved, using their hands, building, sometimes making mistakes and then having to take the build apart and redo it but all the time they are learning.

K'Nex the dragonfly with wings that move

I always knew that K’Nex was a good building activity for the kids but until we bought our own and watched the kids explore I never realized just how much they would learn by playing and having fun with K’Nex.

And honestly if my lounge stays a K’Nex area I am totally fine with it.

We are still relatively new to the whole K’Nex world but we have bought the kids the K’NEX Imagine 52 Model Building Set for Ages 7+, Engineering Education Toy, 618 Pieces – my kids love it as they can build lots of animals and vehicles with this set.  And I also bought them a different set – K’NEX Imagine 35 Model Building Set for Ages 7+, Construction Education Toy, 480 Pieces.  At the time of buying the second one I did not realise that the pieces were smaller (see pic below)

K'Nex pieces the different sizes

but it does come with little connector pieces which allow you to combine the smaller pieces with the bigger pieces and honestly my kids love BOTH.  But I would suggest if you have never tried K’Nex before to maybe try the normal size pieces first before moving onto the smaller ones.

This Jet was built by my six-year old using the smaller pieces from the second set I mentioned.

K'Nex Jet built with the K'Nex 35 model ultimate building set





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Understanding Science Series – Animals & Plants Workbook

My daughter recently asked for some Science workbooks so I contacted Schofield & Sims and asked if they would be interested in us reviewing their Understanding Science series (the series had been recommended to us by another Home Educating family).  They kindly sent us all 6 workbooks in the series – Our Bodies, Animals & Plants, Using Materials, Changing Materials, Forces & Electricity and Light, Sound & Space.

As both my kids have a natural interest in learning about animals and plants we have already covered quite a bit in the workbook in our less formal learning manner (reading lots of books, youtube clips, growing our own plants, nature walks and chats while we out exploring) so I thought it would be a good workbook to start with as it would ease us into the series.

Schofield & Sims Understanding Science the Animal and Plant workbook the food chain page

The workbook is 43 pages long and does includes answers for all the questions at the end of the workbook as well as a glossary of terms used.  Following the typical Schofield & Sims workbook format they cover one idea over a double page, they stick to just black and green text which means the pages are not visually cluttered or overwhelming (this is one of the reasons why we use the Schofield & Sims workbooks so much as we have found other workbooks cram too much in on a page and go overboard with bright colours which does not suit us).

Schofield & Sims Understanding Science the Animal & Plant workbook for key stage 2

The workbook covers

  • Plant parts
  • plant life cycle
  • investigating growing
  • flowers and fertilisation
  • seed dispersal
  • germination
  • asexual reproduction
  • water transport
  • more on growing
  • grouping living things
  • groups and keys
  • animal life cycles
  • more on groups
  • habitats
  • investigating habitats
  • changing habitats
  • food chains
  • adaptations
  • fossils
  • fossils and changes
  • evolution and inheritance

The pages do have a combination of explanations and then questions for the kids to answers.  But we found the writing required was not excessive.  My youngest loves learning about animals so he actually asked to do some of the pages with me and we did them as a verbal discussion – we read the explanation together and then we discussed the answers.

Schofield & Sims Understanding Science range Aniamls and Plants includes grouping different animals together

We really liked the workbook.  I think it is well set-out.  I think if animals and plants are not a topic which you have naturally covered it is a very useful resource.  And I also think even if you have covered animals and plants in detail like we have it can be a great confidence boost for the kids.  My daughter loved the fact that she could answer all the questions without having any doubts about her answers.  She was beaming from ear to ear so it definitely gave her a massive confidence boost realizing she could do the workbook by herself and she is already talking about the other workbooks in the series.

Understanding Science by Shofield & Sims Working through the Animal & Plants workbook

If you are based in the UK you can buy these workbooks from local bookstores (price £4.95) or you can also get them from Amazon – Understanding Science: Animals & Plants






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