Sharks ! a Chapter Book for Kids

My son is currently fascinated by marine animals and is wanting to learn more about sharks, whales and dolphins and although we have some of the stunning Usborne Beginner Chapter books which covered these animals and they are now too basic for him.  He really wants more detailed information about the different sharks and how they are unique.  I was given an Snake Animal Chapter book last year and it was the prefect fit for my son – a combination of a good chapter reading book and lots of information so I was thrilled when I saw that they had a Sharks version Sharks! (Animal Planet Chapter Books) and it did not disappoint.  In fact I have just ordered him the Dolphins!: Book 6 (Animal Planet Chapter Books) book.

Sharks ! Animal Planet Chapter Book. Filled of information about Sharks

Now let me start by saying this is not a glossy, coffee table type book.  It is a children’s chapter book filled with information about sharks and some stunning photos but they are not high-gloss.  My son is NOT fussed by this at all, in fact he has NOT once commented on the fact that it is not glossy.  He finds the book fascinating and has already read it cover to cover and is going back for a second read. (Yes he does had a toy Tiger shark on his shoulder listening to him read about sharks).

Reading his Shark book

Oh and someone commented that the font is slightly bigger than normal – it is, but my eight-year old actually likes this.  And I personally think a slightly larger font is great for a beginner chapter book, it makes the pages a bit more inviting for younger readers.

So what is included in this book.

Sharks. Animal Planet Chaper Book the contents page

We like the way the book is set out.  It starts with the body of a shark and goes on to talk about how sharks differ and seems to naturally build from there. I found this interesting as I always thought of sharks as fairly typical like a great white or hammerhead and never realized how there are so many smaller and some rather stranger types of sharks.

Sharks. Animal Planet Chaper Book. The Body of the Shark

In fact whenever they discuss something like what a shark eats or the life cycle of a shark it is never just general – all sharks do xxxx they always point out that different sharks will behave differently – so different types of shark prefer different prey and even the way they reproduce is different – some lay eggs some give birth.  This is why we like this book so much, it is the extra detail that my eight-year old was wanting but complied in a way that allows him to read it independently.

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We really like this book in fact I wish they had more titles in this series.  It is perfect for kids who like reading non-fiction and who find animals fascinating.  On Amazon they say the age range is 6 – 10, which is probably a good guide, my 8-year-old has managed to read it independently (I do consider him a good reader) and his 10-year-old sister even had a read and found the book interesting, as did I.

Sharks. Animal Planet Chapter Book. Social Sharks

We have also found a number of great learning activities to go along with this book but I will share those in my next post.

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 love.



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Tracing is so much more than just tracing

My son loves tracing pictures.  He will often stick a colouring page up on one of the sliding doors, stick a piece of paper over and trace the picture.  Now I know tracing is NOT the same as drawing, it is not a picture that he drew but I have always maintained that tracing a picture does “teach” him a lot.

He gets familiar with the shape of different items, the way the lines curve and join together, even how objects are bigger closer and smaller further away (yes he actually commented on that once while he was tracing a picture) and he often chats about what he is tracing – “Mom this must be a blue shark because it is ………..” or “Mom look I can  tell this is a whale because of its tail.” He has a tendency to chat away when he is happy so it is always a good indication that he is enjoying a task when he starts chatting and telling me facts.  But most importantly for me tracing an object, any object gives him confidence, confidence that the object he just traced is not that hard and that he could probably draw it himself.

This past week he asked me for Shark colouring pages that he could trace.  He wanted a whole bunch of different sharks.  I found this pack – Sharks colouring pages on Twinkl (part of their paid for subscription) and I also found an extra shark page included in their FREE to download Under the Sea colouring sheet set. And he was set.

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He ended up covering the entire sliding door with traced shark pictures (and yes he even traced over a few of them more than once and combined sharks from different colouring pages onto 1 of his own – so even though he was tracing the sharks he created his own composition)

Tracing lots of different shark pictures

And a few days later he decided it was time to draw his own.  In his first few attempts he kept making the shark’s body too straight and the fins too thin and long so he went back to his wall and took all the original colouring pages down and started drawing by looking at the pictures, sometimes even retracing the way the lines curved with his fingers.  Slowly each shark he tried improved.

drawing sharks using a colouring page as a starting point. Colouring page downloaded from Twinkl Rresources

And it still did not stop there, out came the watercolour paints and he started playing around with how he could paint the sharks and create a bit of depth with darker colours

shark picture

And once he was happy with the shark, it was the Seahorses turn

Seahorse picture created by copying a FREE to download colouring page with Twinkl Resources

So yes I know tracing over pictures might seem like the easy way out but sometimes what seems easy actually builds confidence and leads to so much more.

(For those of you interested this is the Shark page and the Seahorse page that is included in the FREE to download Under the Sea set – my son actually thinks this is the best shark picture because it looks so fierce)

Free to download Under the Sea colouring pages from Twinkl Resources include this shark page and the Seahorse page


Free to download Under the Sea colouring pages from Twinkl ResourcesTracing over colouring pictures builds confidence and leads to more art

I have been given been given a Twinkl Resources subscription so that we can use them in our home learning and share the pages we like.  The Sharks pages were selected by my son as part of his current Shark interest


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Sister Queens

My daughter is enjoying her current History Theme – The Kings and Queens of Britain.  She is creating a rather LARGE poster showing the lineage / timeline / key facts etc but she has also been going off on tangents learning about different Kings and Queens that interest her.

One of the smaller projects that she is doing alongside her Poster is filling out her own summary booklets for the Kings and Queens that she finds particularly interesting.  She loves these little booklets, and was even thinking she might try to attach them onto her main Poster but we will see, she is still deciding on what her final draft of the Poster is going to look like and include. (The 3 booklets in the picture below are these ones from Activity Village – Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.)

British Monarchy Booklets downloaded from the Activity Village website. Perfect to summarize key facts

The three above have really intrigued her.  The fact that they were all half-siblings from the different wives of Henry the VIII and that even though they had the same father they were raised in different religions and did not seem to like each other.  She found the mistrust between the half-siblings fascinating and the plotting  – oh this family set-up has really amazed her.

Luckily for us we already owned a very useful book about the siblings – Sister Queens: The Lives and Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth: Band 15/Emerald (Collins Big Cat).  It is a BIG CAT reader and is aimed at primary ages so it does not go into extensive detail but it really does cover a lot of the important facts and key events.

Collins BIG CAT reader Sister Queen The Lives and Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth

Sister Queens starts by explaining Henry VIII descendants and how he married multiple time in order to get the sons that he desired.  It talks about Edward’s rule and the nine-day Queen before Mary I came to power.  The book talks briefly about how the different children of Henry VIII followed different religions resulting in changes every time a new descendant come to power. It explains why Mary was called Bloody Mary and why Elizabeth was Good Queen Bess (but no gruesome detail).

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After Mary came Elizabeth and because her reign was for longer and seen as more succesful the book does include more information about Elizabeth than Mary.

In fact the she used thee Sister Queen reader as her source when she created her summary Booklets of both Mary I and Elizabeth I.

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With Elizabeth she actually used 2 of the Booklets as even though she was summarizing the facts there really was a lot more that she felt she needed to include.

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I must admit from my point of view this has been a great exercise in Summarising facts.  Something which she has struggled to do successfully in the past as she tends to always want to include detail.  But reading the Sister Queen book and then trying to include just key facts in her booklet really made her think about what was a key fact and what was extra detail.

And just to mention something that she also found useful and it is in the pictures above was the  Six Wives of Henry VIII booklet also from the Activity Village site.  It really is helpful when you are looking at Henry VIII’s children.

Activity Village the Six Wives of Henry VIII booklet

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.

British History for kids.  Sister Queens, Queen mary I and Queen Elizabeth I.  A book to read and booklets to write in

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Learning from your Siblings projects

This past week has been a very relaxed learning week (I really needed a small break) but one thing that I realized was how much the kids were actually learning from the each other’s projects.  What do I mean ?

My daughter is working on multiple History projects, all self-initiated, she loves it, she is creating timelines, writing stories, researching Kings and Queens and really it seems to be her whole learning world at the moment.  Her brother is not interested in his sister’s History project and I have not pushed it as I honestly feel for an eight-year-old he is actually learning quite a lot of History in his own way (we have been using short Historical readers with him) and I have instead left him to read about the animals that he loves.  After reading a few books he somehow started on a shark / whale theme – not entirely sure how he got there but anyway he did.  His way of learning is also different to his sisters, he likes to draw pictures about the topics that he is learning and then labels them and creates games about the animals and their habitats.

So 2 very different learning projects and 2 very different learning styles.  But the kids tend to do their projects in close proximity of each other.  They have 2 desks that face each other and they often work away and chat to each other while they are writing or drawing OR they sit at our kitchen table and again they work and chat. (Sorry not the best picture but I don’t have that many as I tend to take close-up photos of what they are doing).

working together at the kitchen table

So although they are working on very different topics they are aware of what the other one is doing.  And they do join in for quick bursts, if they hear something that interests them – but really it is just a few minutes of a quick read or a quick question and then they go back to their own project.

reading up about the Kings and Queens of England

But this past week I realized that although they are working on very separate projects they really are sponging off each other.

Someone else casually made a comment about Bloody Mary which was incorrect they actually meant Mary, Queen of Scots.  And it was my son who actually picked up the error and then explained the two different characters and where they fitted in on a timeline.  And he got it 100% correct.  The child who is NOT doing the history project had actually picked up and retained information from his siblings project.  I was really surprised so later on I asked him a few detailed questions and he kept answering me correctly.  He then summarized it like this “When I get to sit and work on my animal drawings I am happy so I listen to what you and my sister are talking about in a happy mood and what I hear sticks.”

And just to prove his point the following day his sister explained the differences in types of sharks to me  – The History girl had in fact picked up the Shark Facts that her brother was learning.

Now I must admit I did not expect this.  In the past we have always worked on projects together and I liked it that way.  I liked to be able to say both kids have covered x topic and then move on.  But the kids are getting older and their areas of interest are getting more and more defined.  It has been something that I was feeling unsure of, as I want to encourage them in the areas that they find fascinating but I also want them to have a good wide base of knowledge.

But after this past week we are going to continue with our seperate projects.  We will still work close together because, well – space is limited and we just have to, so I am hoping that the sponging off each other’s interests will continue.

Note – the British Monarch printouts in the photos are above are from Twinkl Resources it is the British Monarchs Timeline set


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Born Free Books

Earlier this week my son discovered our 3 Born Free books and he adores them.  I came downstairs one morning to find him totally mesmerized by the story.  And he did not want to do anything except for read the book until it’s very end – he was desperate to know what was going to become of the 2 lions – Bella and Simba.

reading the Born Free story Bella and Simba

And he did, he read and read, really only taking bathroom and food breaks.  Now my son enjoys reading but he is normally the kind of child who will read a chapter then put the book down go and play and possibly come back and read some more in the evening or the next day.  So this was unlike his normal pattern. And I must admit watching him read a book cover to cover in 1 day made me curious, so after he finished I also read the Lion book and then the Dolphin book and I was about to start the Elephant one when my daughter nicked it away to read. They are stunning books.

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Why do we (kids and mom) like our 3 Born Free books?  Well my kids are fascinated by animals and they both would love to have a job where they work with animals so these books were the perfect subject matter for them.  They are true stories written about wild animals that were in captivity and then rescued by the Born Free Foundation.  The books are aimed at children but at the same time they don’t gloss over real facts about the animals wellbeing, they explain how the dolphins held in small swimming pools suffer and how lions kept for circus entertainment must feel.  The stories also show how rescuing an animal and then rehabilitating it is not a quick process but really takes a long time sometimes with some low moments but that in all stories the rescuers never gave up.

My son commented that he liked the Factfile included in the front of each book as it gave a perfect quick summary of each animal

Born Free Bella and Simba Factfile

and we both liked that fact that each book includes lots of animal facts.

Some of the animal facts included in the Born Free books

I personally liked these books for a number of reasons – the animal facts, the language used extends the kids vocabulary, the emphasis on wild animals belonging in the wild, the multiple examples of people trying incredibly hard to help these animals – people who make excellent role models for kids.

My son (he is eight), loves these stories and I am thrilled to see that there are more available. So far we have these three Dolphin Rescue: A True Story (Born Free Book 7), Lion Rescue: A True Story (Born Free), Elephant Rescue: True-Life Stories (Born Free) – all three we personally recommend. (Just to mention I bought our copies a few years agao and are older versions so the newer copies do have different covers)

Born Free Books - Tom & Misha, Bella & Simba, Nina & Pinkie

And if you search online there are a number of other Born Free books which appear to be in the same format so far I have spotted a Chimp Rescue, Cheetah rescue, Bear rescue, Tiger Rescue –  we are definitely going to give ALL of them a try.

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.


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Tough Days

I actually stopped and rewrote this post a few times for the simple reason that whenever I admit I have had a tough few days I normally get the response – “So just stick them in school ” – which is NOT happening so honestly is it NOT a helpful comment.  But the result is I am very careful about what I say to anyone except for a handful of other home educators.

Let me start by saying my husband and I are committed to this home education journey we believe it creates the best learning environment for our sensory kids and we have been doing it long enough that we can see the incredible benefits and we KNOW the kids are learning amazing things and thriving.  That is not up for debate.

But there are days when I struggle.  I never imagined I would be a full-time-stay- at -home-educator.  NEVER !!!!  It was not planned.  But then I never thought I would have 2 incredible kids you happen to have SPD, kids who don’t fit the school model.  When we first decided to do this we agreed to do it for 1 year and then we would reassess.  But honestly after I found my feet and got into it I knew it was the best fit for the kids.  No Question. (We are now going on 7 years)  But knowing that does not mean that there are not days when I get frustrated, days when I just want a break, days when I don’t feel like working on Maths or reading about some new animal.  Some days I just need a break.  I do.

But it really is me, not home-education as such.  I am bad at switching off.  I am always reading up about something, planning something, organising something.  And I don’t take time to just Stop and step away,  have a break.  I don’t do that.

I also worry a LOT, I worry about the work we are doing, the work we are NOT doing, I worry if we are getting the written work to outing ratio correct, I worry if we are spending too much time on History or Reading too much (yes I worry about that), are we doing enough practical activities, I worry that I have not taught either kids an instrument yet (I play 2), I worry about which 3rd language we should learn, oh I could go on and on.

There is honestly only so many hours in each day and there is just so much we could do.  The options are endless and there is no way we can fit it all in.  Never going to happen.

But the more I do this the more I am changing my approach to what home education means.  Yes I want my kids to be able to read and write, do Maths, understand the past and how it impacts us, know physics, know about the different countries etc etc etc.

But what I want more than anything is that they become Life-long learners.  I want them to enjoy learning, I want them to find a topic they are interested in and then totally sink their teeth into it.  I want them to understand that no-one will ever know everything but you can always learn what you don’t know.

So on those days when I feel like it is all getting too much for me I have started a new policy – we STOP.  Just STOP.  I breath, switch off social media and go back and look at old photos to remind myself of how far we have come.  And the only thing the kids are expected to do is read something that day.  Just read something they enjoy.

We did just that recently and guess what – I felt better.  I reminded myself how much these 2 incredible kids have already learnt and how they are making amazing progress with some of their sensory challenges.  Sometimes I need to do that, just remind myself of the progress, that we are getting there.  It might not be in the straight line that I had originally mapped out but one thing I have realized about our scenic learning routes is – in the end the kids actually learn a lot more that I had orginally planned.  I just need to keep reminding myself of this.

And the other amazing thing I also realized is I already have Two Kids who LOVE to learn.  They have areas that they find fascinating and boy when I step back they are actually really good at directing their own learning.  When I take a day’s break they still continue without anyone asking them to.  They both read about topics they were interested in.  My youngest drew a bunch of pictures based on what he had read and my oldest wrote a story about it.

Winter walk. ofamily learning together





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Why I prefer printing colouring pages to colouring books

When we first had kids I fell into that mindset of buying colouring books and they were never used and then I would see another one in the store and think “Wow this is the one!” and buy that and guess what 1 picture coloured in and that was that.  That was when I started searching on-line for pictures and it  is still what I use 90% of the time.

Using websites to download and print colouring pictures means the kids can choose pictures / topics that they are interested in and when we find a set that they really love we can print them out multiples times and the kids can do as many different versions as they want.  When the kids were younger they both loved this animal pack of colouring pages from Twinkl Resources (Free to download), I printed certain pages from that pack sooooooo many times – they would colour them in over and over again, paint them or use them for collages.

Animal collage craft,a peacock, easy for young kids to do at home and you can use art supplies that you have

And that is the beauty of being able to print the colouring pages out, the kids are not restricted by how often they try something new on a page.  They know they can retry the same picture over and over again until the get the result that they want so they can get a bit creative and have some fun.  Like my son’s blue elephant in a sandstorm

Blue elephant in a Sandstorm. Elephant template from Activity Village

I printed out multiple copies of the Elephant colouring page from Activity Village for him and he created all different kinds of elephants and different backgrounds and then combined them together.  He knew he was not restricted to just one copy so he had some fun and experimented.

And my daughter’s felt tip pen and water picture.  I don’t think she would have been so brave as to try “painting over the felt-tip pens with water” unless she knew I could reprint another copy of the picture if it went horribly wrong (when we first tried adding water to her felt-tip pen pictures she was very uncertain they would work).  The picture below is part of the Peter Rabbit set from Twinkl Resources.

Picture from the Peter Rabbit pack from Twinkl using felt tip pens and water

And of course there are so many other uses from colouring pages.  We used a peacock colouring page to create a times table poster , butterfly colouring page to introduce doubling and halving and they are perfect for window art / suncatchers.

Using butterfly colouring pages to create window art

Personally I like the freedom that downloading colouring pages gives us, we can print them as often as we want, we can print them onto card for crafts or even used them in maths lessons.  And really importantly for me it gives the kids that extra courage to know that they can try a page more than once.  If they don’t get the picture exactly how the want, we just reprint and have another go, for me that is important because I want the kids to experiment with art and colour and not be scared of making mistakes.

Mrs Mactivity Spring Flower Wreath with daffodils. Great spring, easter activity for kids

The stunning flower wreath above is from the Mrs Mactivity site – MrsMactivity Spring fun. 



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