In search of the ultimate home education resource

Is there really a golden home education resource that everyone must have?

When I first started home education I used to wish for such a resource, I would read reviews after reviews searching but now 8 years later, I don’t want one single golden, perfect resource, now I like the fact that we use multiple resources.

What I’ve come to appreciate is most resources have strengthens and some weakness and there is always a distinctive style with the way they are written and the type of questions that are asked. So when you use more than one resource you actually end up getting a broader, more accurate view of the topic.

Take my son’s Maths (Primary Maths) – we used the Understanding Maths series from Schofield & Sims, which has nice brief explanations but not a lot of practice, so we download extra examples from the TeachitPrimary and Twinkl websites (also for younger kids Activity Village have some Maths pages). And he also logs onto Khan Academy and watches some videos and does some exercises there.  But it’s that combination that works.  And the nice thing about combining the resources is he has gotten used to different formats and different styles of asking the same questions.

My daughter was recently looking at some human biology and she had a student book from Collins open, a student book from Oxford, Twinkl labelling pages and even a website open – all on the same topic, but they all looked a bit different.

For us the golden rule for our resources has actually been combining different sources, exposing the kids to the different styles and allowing them to get a broader understanding of a concept because no single resource ever covers it completely.

Now I am not saying we don’t have favourites, of course we do. I have certain go to websites that I use (The Teachit sites, Twinkl and Activity Village) and certain publishers (Schofield & Sims for primary and Oxford University Press and Oaka Books for Secondary) that I will always search first just because I have had good results with them in the past.

And that is why I often write what seems like multiple posts on the same topic.  Sometimes it may seem that I have already written about Medieval History and then a new post crops up, with a new resource.  It’s just how we like to work, we like to use the Oaka Books Topic packs, together with her Oxford Student book and some Historical Fiction books, sometimes even a BIG CAT inform book might be added or an extra non-fiction book that I found, possibly some extra pages were read, a documentary watched.  For us this is really why home education suits us – they get to use that wide range of resources, they get to see the same topic from different perspectives and different angles.

So I am sorry to say but after 8 years I no longer search for that golden home education resource instead I enjoy combining different sources together to get a more holistic view of the topic we are learning about.

educational resources for home education

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The Teachit Secondary Subject Sites

I have been using the Teachitprimary site for a few years now and it is a really useful site. It contains worksheets and pages for all the subjects covered in UK primary schools and as I have mentioned before if you set up a free account you can download all the pdf’s (I have only ever had a free account with the teachitprimary site so I cannot comment on their subscription downloads).

So last year when I was starting to research resources for my daughter to use (if she was attending traditional school she would have started year 7 in September – ie UK secondary school), I quickly set up Free accounts with all the TeachitPrimary sister sites. For Secondary years they have split the sites into the different subjects so you get – TeachitEnglish, TeachitMaths, TeachitScience, TeachitHistory and TeachitGeography.

The way I use these sites is twofold. If I know we are about to read something/ watch something I will sometimes go onto the relevant site and see if they have pages linked to that topic. And sometimes I may just read the pages myself, sometimes we discuss the pages and sometimes my daughter does them as a worksheet type activity. I find the sites are very useful in this way and I have used the History one a lot like this because my daughter likes to work through History in a chronological order so I have a good idea of what she is going to cover in the upcoming week, which means I can do a bit of research beforehand.

The other way I use these sites is more spur of the moment. If the kids have a question, find a book in the library or watch something that prompts new questions. I will often then do a quick search of the sites to see if there are follow up pages. And again I sometimes just read these pages myself and often they give me a tangent idea of something to do with the kids.

The pages on all of the sites have a very similar feel to them. They are not brightly coloured or the most eye catching, they tend to be black and white with a few colour highlights and a few coloured pictures thrown in every now and again (much easier on printer ink than high coloured pages). And they do give indication of the level by including if the pages would suit KS3, KS4 or KS5 (although we have used KS4 pages already just because they were linked to a topic we were working on).  The main thing with all these sites is you just have to search and sometimes that means typing in different search terms for the same topic.

And because I always like to see lots of examples of resources here are a few pages from each site.

TeachitEnglish

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Here the links for the pages I have included above in the photos are – collective nouns, writing prompts, vocab page and word classes.

TeachitMaths

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Here the links for the pages I have included in the photos above – Maths poster, percentage page, arithmetic challenge, percentage, decimal and fraction conversion, expanding brackets poster, algebra recap, algebra pyramids.

TeachitScience

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Here the links for the pages I have included in the photos above – human organs, cells, forces petal book and gravity.

TeachitHistory

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Here the links for the pages I have included in the photos above – how did the church influence crime, change and continuity after Norman invasion, 1066 succession and how did the Normans take control.

TeachitGeography

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Here the links for the pages I have included in the photos above – rocks, plant adaptation, weathering cloze and Freeze-Thaw card sort.

I think all of these sites are very useful and it is worth spending some time seeing what is on them.

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The Sea Book – a library gem

On a recent trip to our local library my son spotted this book The Sea Book and he immediately loved it. And when he showed me the book I have to admit I was impressed with everything about this little gem.

DK The Sea Book written by Charlotte Milner.  A stunning marine creature, marine habitat book for ages 5 to 9

Let me start by saying this book is aimed at ages 5 – 9 and is possibly a bit young for my son (he actually already knew all the facts included in the book) but he just loved the style and the layout.  I really wish we had this book 3 years ago. It would have been perfect and would have been one of the most frequently read books on my son’s bookshelf. So even though I consider it slightly young for my son I am so impressed with this book that I really wanted to share some photos and details about it.

We really like the whole feel about this book.  They layout is just appealing and you find yourself wanting to read on.  I was really amazed by how much they covered in the 48 pages, it ticks so many educational topics – the layers of the ocean, different marine creatures, marine habitats and the problems that are faced today. And they have also included some nice extra details – like some of the interesting types of sharks, the cartilage in sharks bodies, baleen plates and the life cycle of the sea turtle.

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I feel like it sits between the traditional picture books (because it contains more information than normal picture books) and the older non-fiction books (it just seems more story like than older typical non-fiction books).  It is a nice way of transitioning the kids from picture books into something slightly more complex.  I really think the author has done an amazing job with this book. 

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For those of you want more detail – each double page covers the following

  • Our blue planet
  • what the bottom of the sea looks like
  • why is the sea important
  • what lives beneath the waves
  • plenty of fish
  • what is the biggest fish in the sea
  • scaly swimmers
  • meet the mammals
  • other curious creatures
  • there’s no place like home
  • a life on the ice
  • coral reef city
  • underwater forests
  • the big blue
  • dark and deep
  • what’s the catch
  • too many boats, too few fish
  • changing seas
  • plastic problems
  • how can we help?
  • make your own shopping bag
  • a wave of change

My son and I Highly recommend it for ages 5 -9.

Admin Note – we found this book at our local library and just really LOVED it.  This is in NO way a sponspored post in any shape or form.

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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Learning with your arm in a cast

Over the weekend my daughter ended up fracturing her right elbow (well, we think it is fracture we have to wait until the swelling goes down for more x-rays). But it means her right arm has been placed in a cast and she cannot use it for anything. Which as you can imagine, has meant that a lot of her typical learning activities are no longer possible. So we have had to do a bit of a rethink this week.

Our biggest challenge has been Maths, my daughter likes to write out her maths and work answers out on pieces of paper. We have been using Khan Academy, which is good, but I can see she is missing being able to work out answers with pencil and paper. So this past week we have stuck to mostly revision Maths. But after our appointment next week, once I get a better timeline we may need to rethink the Maths a bit.

The biggest win this past week has been our educational board games (so I am thinking I possibly need to search for some Maths board games for her). We have four of the Oaka Books board games and we have been playing one every day. And yes I have mentioned these games before and we liked them before but when you have a kid who cannot use her dominate arm and one who finds too much screen time overwhelming having a stash of good educational board games has been a game changer for us. (For anyone who may be interested the Oaka Books board games -we have these ones – On the Map, Predators and Producers, Space Race, What’s the Matter?)

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She is not a massive screen person but we do use screens in moderation and this past week we have managed to include a bit more screen time, just staggered with other activities. We have been studying the medieval period in quite a bit of detail and as luck would have it I had recorded some really good medieval documentaries so we have been watching those.

The medieval documentaries actually fitted in really well and while we have been watching them I have acting as her scribe adding some extra notes to her medieval time line that she created (I added the notes in pencil so when she is able to write again she can decide if she is happy with everything or if she wants to change the notes we added).

watching medieval documentaries

We also broke up the documentaries with some medieval reading.  She insisted on sticking with her Invasion, Plague and Murder History book so we read the pages that linked to the documentaries and then she and I discussed the answers to the questions.  (When we get to end of the chapters we will leave those longer paragraph type questions for when she can write again just because I think they are really good at building writing skills so I want her to complete them in written format).  And we linked in some of our Medieval Topic Packs  from Oaka Books.  We stuck with the Topic Booklets and the learning maps and left the Write Your own notes book (I actually think we can come back to the Write Your Own Notes booklet as a revision activity later).

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So quite a History intensive few days, but then History is her favourite subject and I think she found being able to dive into the Medieval topic the way we did a bit comforting.

The other resource that she has used this past week is Twinkl Go – we found some labelling activities that she can do one the site and she seems to be managing using the mouse with her left hand so she has completed quite a few of those.

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I am really not sure how long her right arm is going to be out of action but we will just keep adapting our learning style as she needs it. And yes I have already been searching for new potential documentaries (I found a few on volcanoes that I think we might try next week)

Admin note – This is not sponsored in anyway. This is just me writing about a few of the resources we have been using this past week.

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What’s the Matter? Board Game for KS2 Science

My son is very much someone who remembers things that HE finds interesting or amusing but if it is not something he is interested it he seems to forget it very quickly.

He loves animals so biology has always been a key subject for him. Which is why the very first Oaka Book board game that we ever tried was the Predators and Producers game – big hit! After that we went on and tried two other games – On the Map and Space Race – both of which have been popular. So when I was raking my brain trying to figure out how I was going to get him to remember things about changing states and materials – which he is really NOT interested in – I thought the Oaka Books materials game (What’s the Matter?) might work with him.

KS2 Science Materials. Board game by Oaka Books

Now I must be honest, this is really NOT an area that he is interested in so to begin with we actually played the first 2 games with only the Lower KS2 question cards. If you have not played these games before the question cards are split into two groups – which you can distinguish based on the colour of the cards – the first 113 cards are for Lower KS2 years (so UK school year 3 and 4) and the second set of 113 cards are for Upper KS2 years (so UK school years 5 and 6). With the other games we have never stuck to this split, we have always mixed up the cards, but my son would be year 4 if he was in school and because I was trying to get some of these facts to stick and get him to enjoy himself without being frustrated I thought we would stick with the age range suggested.

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And it worked really well. He enjoyed the game, had a few laughs and I started to notice some of the concepts were sticking.

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So gradually we started including some the Upper KS2 questions. And again it worked, he was remembering things.

If you have not heard about the Oaka Books Board games this is what it is – think snakes and ladder concept. In this case if you land on a solid you go up and if you land on a liquid you go down. When you land on a square with a question mark you get to answer a question and if you get it right you get some point cards.

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A straight forward board game, with easy to follow rules but what it does do is it makes learning/ revision fun and a LOT more interesting than worksheets.

We have been big fans of the Oaka Books board games and this is no exception. The kids and I recommend the What’s The Matter? game for Science fun.

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WW1 fiction for kids

We like finding historical fiction books and since we have been reading quite a bit about the First World War I thought I would share two WW1 fictional stories that the kids have recently read and enjoyed.

The first is the classic The 39 Steps: Band 18/Pearl (Collins Big Cat). I happened to spot this story while I was searching the Collins Big Cat reading series for History readers (my son likes using their readers for his History learning). I must admit I have never actually read The 39 Steps, but I had heard it was a good story so I thought it might be worth trying and it was, my son really enjoyed the story. (We actually started reading the book together but he could not wait for me to finish the story with him the next day so he finished it by himself.)

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The story is set around the beginning of the First World War.  So it does not cover life during the war or trench life but it does give the kids a good idea of the lifestyle lived by people in the UK just before the outbreak. My kids found it interesting that the newspapers were still such an important way of communicating information back then (when the story ran in the newspaper showing the photo of Richard Hannay most people seemed to have read it). And the fact that most people seemed to rely on trains and not that many people had their own cars.

We also found the story opened up ideas like – what would happen if the side you were fighting against got hold of your battle plans?  Did countries really send spies into other countries to try and gain intelligence and how did they do that? And the fact that the imposter had to deliver the information in person (no email back then).  And the big one could the First World War been avoided?

This version of  The 39 Steps is a condensed version of the original story.  We have read a few of these condensed stories with the kids and we have actually found that once the kids have read the condensed versions they often seek out the originals and either read the original themselves or ask to read it as family book. (I have found it works especially well with highly sensitive kids because they already know the basic plot of the story so they don’t tend to stop reading the originals when it gets a bit scary).

The Second book we have read is The Silver Hand (Flashbacks). I got this one last year, not really knowing that much about it but we have read a number of the books in the flashback series and enjoyed them.

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This story is based around a village on the front line so you get a very real understanding of what life must have been like for those people living through the war and the soldiers fighting on both sides.  Both my kids immediately picked up on the flu that was killing lots of the German soldiers, it was a great talking point – how soldiers already weak would be more susceptible to falling sick and how medicine was not that advance. (War time medicine is actually a great topic to look at with the kids because during wars there always ends up being a lot of medical advancement.)

My son was intrigued by the friendship between the French girl and the German boy.  And I must admit I really liked this element of the story.  I want the kids to see the human side to the wars, that there are people are both sides who get hurt and people on both sides who try to do good.  I especially liked that the German boy was at the front line wanting to help the soldiers get better (it helps to emphasise that not all Germans are bad). I think this friendship helps the kids to start thinking about ideas like that. 

I know that having spies in stories makes it exciting but it also shows the kids that side of war, that there were everyday people doing dangerous tasks trying to help the soldiers. My daughter especially loved that it was her mom (female character) who was part of the spies network. 

There were a few moments when my son came to me and said I hope the two friends are going to survive, but they do and although there are moments when they were in danger it was not terrifying or gruesome. 

WW1 fictional stories for kids to read

We think book of these stories are great for kids learning about WW1.  They are both exciting and informative but not too scary.  The kids and I recommend these two stories.

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Home education is a job

I must admit I have not thought of home education as a job before but I recently read a post – homeschooling like it’s my job and some comments my daughter made recently made me think that possibly it would be helpful if I started saying it was my job, at least, to the outside world. There is a part of me that does not want to label it a job because I enjoy this journey of discovery that we are one and I am really enjoying all the learning that I get to do along with the kids (and I never wanted my kids to think it’s a job). But it is time consuming. And I have come to realize that people who are not actually home educating don’t always realize how time consuming it can be. So maybe if I started talking about it as my job they might start understanding that it is full time, that it is not just an hour here and an hour there.

I have struggled with this outside view of home education for a long time. Around 4 years ago I had a neighbour that assumed I was just the local day care centre and would send her kid over if she needed to do chores with no regard to what our plans were or what we might be in the middle of. I found this incredibly frustrating. But then I must also admit I have not been that good at saying No to people, I tend to try and accommodate which often means people just take more and more advantage of the situation.

If I start saying I am working then possibly there will be an understanding that I cannot drop whatever I am doing to suit others.

It is a tough one because what we as home educators are seen doing during the day and what our kids are seen doing does not always look like tradition learning.

This past weekend my husband and I watched two documentary series to assess if I could use them for History.  I am glad we did because there were sections that I did not like but there were also very informative sections.  So we had a chance to decide if we show those sections and then talk about them or if we just skip those sections.  For me that is part of my home education research.  I was spending my weekend figuring out which resources were right for the kids, but it was very time consuming.

I have a friend who unschools.  And I love going to visit them because her kids always have something new and fascinating to tell me (okay I also love just having some tea and a chat with her).  But if you were an outsider looking in you probably would not see all the learning that is happening.  You might think the one child is playing around on a screen, but actually he is recreating a business, with income and expenditure and figuring out how to run his business (totally blew me away). When we were speaking he understood concepts like income and profit and used them in the correct way.  That might not fit into a typical school model, but if someone interrupted him to tell him to go and read or do maths (both of which he was already doing as part of this activity) they would be interrupting an incredible learning session.

So why is it asumed that his style of learning is less significant than what happens in school?

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My daughter gets very upset when people suggest we stop home educating or when they imply that her home education is not as important or as good as tradition school. She recently told me -“I have no intention of going to school, there is no point.  Home education means I get to focus on the areas that I find fascinating and go into a lot more detail that they ever would at school. I think being a home educator is the most significant job in the world and anyone who does it should be proud and appreciated.  I would be honoured to home educate my own children one day, it is the best JOB in the world.”

So I think I am going to follow my daughter’s suggestion and start telling people I do have a job, it is home educating my kids and yes it does include a LOT of overtime but hey what could be more important than investing my time in giving them this gift.

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