Sky Hawk

Sky Hawk was one of the books we chose to read together this year. It was chosen for two reasons, it is a story about an animal (always a big winner with my kids) and they have a Free set of Teacher’s notes and worksheets on the OUP site for this book. I have been wanting to try one of these Free resource packs for the Rollercoaster books and I thought Sky Hawk would be a good option. But I was not expecting this story, both my kids and I  loved it and I mean really LOVED this story. Honestly I thought it would be a popular story with the Osprey angle but I totally underestimated the other aspects of the story, the  friendship storyline was heart tugging, it really ended up sending us on a journey. We started off angry with some mean boys, then glad Callum was being nice to Iona, upset when she died, then hopeful but nervous that Jeneba would be okay and finally at the end both sad and happy. What a journey and that is not even taking into account the Osprey angle, that was excitement, then concern, excitement more concern, relief, concern, fearful and at the end so happy. Wow. I really feel like the writing invited us into the story and that we were there with the characters going on their journeys.

Sky Hawk a stunning book written by Gill Lewis

If you are just looking for a good book for your kids to read I would recommend Sky Hawk, even if you have no desire to look at the Teacher’s Notes or use it as a learning tool this is still a brilliant story for kids to read.

But if you do want a book to read and study this book just comes alive. There are so many elements that you can look at with the kids but I think what stood out most for us was the writing style. We loved the way the author sculptured her words and described events and scenes. And it inspired some brilliant pieces of creative writing by both my kids.

Sky Hawk Book and lesson printouts

This book includes lots of topics that you can delve into further. You can talk about conservation, look at Google Earth, how it can be used as a tool, migration patterns, differences between communities living in Scotland and Gambia, the differences in climate between Scotland and Gambia – there are lots of possibilities.

And this is where the Free to download Teacher’s Guide really cames in handy. It broke the book down into 12 possible lessons. And for each lesson it gives you some suggestions on learning activities that you can do with the kids – compare writing emails to writing letters, writing in the third person as opposed to writing in the first person, write a newspaper article or a book review.

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It is the first time I have used one of these Rollercoaster Teacher’s Guides and I must confess I really liked it. I liked the way they broke the book down into sections (we did not always stick to their suggested pages, sometimes we could not help ourselves and we had to read ahead – but it is a nice guide). I also liked the suggested activities, the way they guide you and give you ideas. Using the Teacher’s Guide meant we covered a lot of good English activities in a fun way linked to a story that the kids were enjoying. So the kids were a lot more engaged than if I just started randomly talking about writing in the third person or how emails differ to letters. And for me as the educator I found having the Teacher’s Guide available meant I spent a lot less time having to think and plan out our next English session.

We have absolutely loved this story. Really Loved it (there were a few tears at the end). And I found the Free teacher’s Guide an incredibly useful resource. We have already selected our next book and yes it is another Rollercoaster story and yes it also has a Free to Download Teacher’s Guide (don’t be surprised if we work through all of Oxford’s Rollercoasters Free to download teacher’s guides).

Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis

Admin Bit – we got our Sky Hawk book directly from xford University Press but you can also buy the book from Amazon – Sky Hawk

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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Super Simple Biology. A KS3 and KS4 Science book

As my daughter is getting older I am constantly on the lookout for engaging educational books that we can use to supplement our learning activities. It seems like there is a much wider range of interesting educational books for younger kids so I get really excited when I spot something for the older kids (I am talking Secondary school ages or as they would say in the UK KS3 or Ks4 ages).

When I was doing one of my regular searches for books to use I spotted this one Super Simple Biology from DK and I was immediately impressed with the images and the layout, so I contacted DK and asked if they could send me a press copy. They did and my first impression on opening it was just “wow.” This book covers a LOT, the images are stunning and the layout is brilliant – not too wordy with amazing, detailed images which explain the concepts. Perfect for my visual learner.

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Okay so when I say this book covers a lot I am not exaggerating (excluding the contents and glossary at the back there are 263 actual pages of biology). This is what it covers.

  • Working Scientifically
  • What is Life?
  • Cells
  • Transport and cells
  • Respiration
  • Enzymes
  • Nutrition in plants
  • Nutrition in humans
  • Transport in plants
  • Transport in humans
  • Nervous System
  • Hormones
  • Reproduction
  • Genetics and Biotechnology
  • Evolution
  • Ecology
  • Humans and the environment
  • Health

That is a lot covered in one powerhouse of a book.

Every concept is summarised onto 1 page and they include a Key Points box and an illustrated diagram which helps to explain the concept. 

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So how are we using this book? My daughter likes reading good non-fiction books so as soon as she saw the book and saw how inviting the pages were she immediately started paging through looking for interesting sections and straight away read a bunch of pages in one go. And we are also using it with out learning activities. Once we have covered a section in Biology we find the pages in this book that talk about the topic and we read them together. My daughter likes reading and rereading about a topic that she is learning, she likes seeing different ways of explaining it and different diagrams.  And boy the diagrams included in this book are amazing.  Really stunning.

We have had this book for about a month now and we think it is an excellent addition to our older learning resource collection.  It is easy to find the topics that you want, they are explained in a concise manner and the diagrams are perfect for visual learners.

KS3 and KS4 Science Book. Super Simple Biology from DK

We highly recommend Super Simple Biology: The Ultimate Bitesize Study Guide as a great companion for anyone doing Biology in KS3 (my daughter is not yet in KS4 but I am sure we will still be referring back to it when she gets to KS4).

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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Why we choose to Home Educate

I wrote a short post 6 years ago about why we chose to home educate but I have been thinking a lot about it lately and since we have now started our ninth year of home educating I thought I would expand on the original post and add in some extra thoughts.

We always thought our kids would attend schools but after my first one was born we ended up spending ages in and out of medical rooms, having tests done, arguing with medical people, trying to figure out what was wrong with her. It was a tough start but a start that changed the kind of parent I thought I would be. I stopped caring about what everyone expected and was focused on what was best for our daughter. So when it came time for us to put her into school, I didn’t. I listened to my gut which told me she would not thrive and we started our home education journey. And then when it came time for my youngest to start he was adamant that he was not going to miss out on home education so he joined us (although in all fairness he was already joining in).

Our reason for saying our kids would not thrive in the school system is not to do with individual schools or teachers. I know there are lots of good schools out there and lots of dedicated teachers. I know that. Both our kids were diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and are on the Spectrum. When they were both younger their SPD was intense, really intense. They needed long bounce back periods (bounce back is what we call the time they needed to decompress after an outing or sensory input). They needed time to calm down and we felt we needed time to focus on the SPD and help them cope with it (SPD is not something that is cured and it is not something that kids outgrow but with help the kids do start to manage it better). So we felt the school environment was just not the right fit for us.

Now years later I 100% think we did the right thing. Both the kids have never attended school and both kids are doing exceptionally well.

Those first few years of home education were the hardest. I had moments when I really struggled and had massive doubts about what we had done. But looking back most of the hard times were down to the sensory side of our lives and even though we had some really tough moments to get through, the kids were in their home, surrounded by love.

I have never been one to say “we follow the Waldorf approach or Charlotte Mason etc etc”.  We just did what was right for our kids and over the years the way we have educated them as evolved and changed as they themselves have grown up and changed.  We probably have always have a semi-structured approach.  But having said that for the first few years I did not stick to school curriculum.  We did phonics but we did phonics at our pace and we were always behind the schools, our reading and writing was slow to begin with, mainly because I did not rush them and we made a conscious decision to spend time working on the sensory side of their lives.  So for the first 2 years we would have been behind the schools and there were moments of panic (natural to worry) but my gut kept telling me the kids are processing at their speed and rushing them is just going to cause problems later.  And then everything clicked and both of them become amazing readers and just flew ahead of their age range.  I still strongly support the idea that we should not rush the kids through the basics.  Let them take their time, every child develops at their right speed.

My oldest has now started Year 8 and is doing a lot of structured work, she is already thinking about which GCSE’s she wants to write.  She is still adamant she wants to home educate and as a result she actually works really hard, without any complaints.

My youngest has just started Year 5 and we are more semi-structured with him with lots of interest driven projects.

Now to answer a few questions.

Would I do this all over again?  Yes 100% yes.

Do you need to be qualified to home educate? The only qualification is your kids.  I have a degree and honours from University, my husband has 3 degrees but they do not help us educate the kids.  We learn with the kids.  We read and research topics together and we both often utter the words “I have no idea, let’s find out together.” And I want to stress just because you know a topic/subject well does not mean you can explain it well.

Would I recommend home education? I think it depends upon the family.  There needs to be a desire to learn and the parents who are facilitating it need to have the right attitude. They need to understand that they are going to have to learn just as much as the kids.  I really do mean this.  If you are happy to go on a learning journey with your kids than YES go for it, you will love it.

It is not easy.  So you need to want to do it.

What tips do I have? Get out the house, you need to get out the house. Make sure everyone owns wellies and rain jackets.

Pick your battles.  You will get people telling you what they think, some good and some bad.  You don’t always need to argue with every person you meet about the merits of home education.  It can get exhausting, so pick those arguments. 

Find someone who also home educates, someone you can talk to.  The conversations you have with other home educating families are very different to the ones you have with school going families.  It helps to have people to talk to who are in the same boat.

Am I going to home educate other kids (I have had this quite a bit)? NO. I have two kids and I will home educate those two kids.  If other kids had to come here it would NOT be home education it would be tutoring and I do not want to be a tutor.

What do I think about countries outlawing home education? I think that is very sad.  There are lots of kids like mine who will really benefit from home education and trying to fit everyone into the same box never works.  My husband and I are so convinced that it is the right fit that we would relocate if it was outlawed in the country that we reside in. 

What are our plans? At this stage neither of our kids are interested in school.  Both will write GCSE’s and yes my daughter has already said she wants to do the prep work for the exams from home. 

I hope that answers a few questions.

family photo ofamily learning together

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Activate 2 Workbooks. Year 8 Science

I wrote a post yesterday about the Activate 2 Student Book and mentioned we were using it with the Activate 2 Workbook for our Year 8 Science. This post is about the workbooks (there are 2 different versions). But to start with I want to clarify something just in case you did not read the Student Book post – The Student Book is the colourful explanation book – it explains the concepts and does have a few questions. The Workbooks are black and white question books. The workbooks do not contain explanations. They are question books. I just want to make that clear before I start explaining what is in the workbook and how the 2 workbooks differ.

Activate 2 Workbooks. Foundation and Higher. Year 8 Science

The Workbooks are written to go with the Student Book. So the workbooks cover the exact topics in the exact order as the Student Book. They do work really well together. The general layout of the workbooks is – they are split into the same 3 categories same as the student book – Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Those 3 categories are then split into chapters and each chapter is split into topics. Each topic has 1 page of questions and at the end of each chapter there is a Pinchpoint Question which highlights a difficult concept (I think these Pinchpoint questions are really good at making the kids think). Then at the end of each Category there are Revision questions and a Checklist. It works out to be just over 100 pages of Science questions (I think 100 pages of Science questions for £4.99 is a very good price). And at the back of the book they have all the answers. (Again I want to clarify the workbooks contain the answers for the questions in the workbook and NOT the answers for the questions in the student book.) And both workbooks follow the same layout.

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Now there are 2 different workbooks.  The two workbooks are Activate 2 Intervention Workbook (Foundation) (Chandlergrevatt) and Activate 2 Intervention Workbook (Higher) (Chandlergrevatt). The foundation workbook does have easier questions and each page in the foundation workbook contains a block at the bottom called “What You Need to Remember”. Which is a good summary. The questions in the Foundation workbook tend to be more – circle the right answer, draw a line matching the definition, put in correct order type questions.  There are not a lot of sentence writing questions in the foundation book. The Higher workbook does have a few of the shorter type questions but they contain a lot of sentence, explanation questions. I am including a slideshow below showing the same pages in the Foundation book verses the Higher workbook to show you the difference.

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I always think pictures show the differences better so I hope that helps.

I actually have both workbooks and I had two reasons why I wanted both workbooks. Firstly my kids are different ages, my oldest is Year 8 whereas my youngest is actually Year 5 but he likes to work through the Science with his sister.  So I thought my oldest could work through the questions in the Higher workbook and I could give some of the pages out of the Foundation to my youngest (he is 3 academic years below his sister so I don’t expect him to work at her stage but at the same time I like him to have some questions to answer). The other reason was the flexibility to use both books with my oldest (especially on topics my daughter is not confident in – she is not that keen on chemistry). I thought for some areas we could first do the page in the Foundation book and then try the page in the Higher book.  Most of the pages have different questions so it is not too repetitive if you do this (I have just seen a few label the diagram type questions that are the same in the Higher and Foundation books). So far we are using a mix of both ideas and it is working really well, I am enjoying the fact that I have both of the workbooks.

The reason why I ended up buying the Activate 1 Workbook last year was time management.  We were working through the student book and then I was looking for questions to print out for my daughter online.  And it really was just a time consuming process.  For the cost of £4.99 for a workbook which contains answers I definitely saved myself a lot of time so this year there was no doubt that I wanted the workbook and the student book.

I really do think the workbooks work well with the student book and I hope I have helped to show you the differences between the two workbooks.

You can get both workbooks directly from the Oxford University Press Website – Foundation or Higher

and you can also buy them from Amazon Activate 2 Intervention Workbook (Higher) (Chandlergrevatt) or Activate 2 Intervention Workbook (Foundation) (Chandlergrevatt).

Admin bit – 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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Activate 2 Student Book. Year 8 Science

This year we are sticking with the Activate Science range from Oxford University Press. We used their Activate 1 student book last year and at the end of the year added their Activate 1 workbook. We were very happy with both of those books so we are sticking with what worked last year. I am going to write two posts about these books. This one is going to be about the Student Book and the next one will be about their workbooks (they have 2 different workbooks). The Student Book and the Workbook go hand in hand together. The Student book is essentially the book that explains the concepts, it has colourful pictures, diagrams and graphs as well as a few questions. The workbooks are black and white question books.

Activate 2 Student Book Year 8 Science resource

The layout of the Student Book. The book is split into 3 categories – Biology, Chemistry and Physics. You could work through the book from page 1 to the end, you could mix up the order of the categories and decide to start with Physics first or you could even jump into a page in the middle of a section. Last year we did a bit of everything. We would start working through a category but when one of the kids had a question about something different we would jump to that page and cover it (eg while we were working through cells last year the kids wanted to jump to plant reproduction and seed dispersal – which we did – and it worked perfectly. The pages can be read as standalone pages when you want to).

Okay so each major category is subdivided into three chapters (Oops – Chemistry has 4 chapters). And those 3 chapters are split into topics. A topic is covered over a double page and at the end of each double page there are normally 3 questions (now I must stress all the answers for the questions in the student book are not included in this book. Apparently the answers are included in the Teacher’s Book which we do not have so I cannot comment on the Teacher’s Book.)

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At the end of each chapter there is a Summary of the key points as well as something called the Big Write and End of Chapter Questions. The Big Write is a longer task – think along the lines of design a leaflet, design a presentation or design a homepage of a website that type thing. I think these Big Writes make for some interesting projects (just a thought).

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The End of the Chapter Questions vary for each chapter but they tend to cover all the key points and they are in varying degrees of difficulty – they show this by the number of test tubes next to each question. 1 test tube is the easiest and 3 is the hardest.

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This layout really worked for us last year and we have started with the Biology section in Activate 2 and are finding it perfect yet again.  We tend to go through a double page (sometimes 2 double pages) in one sitting, we read it together, chat about what it says and then my daughter answers the questions at the end of the pages verbally so we can chat about her answers.  After that she goes and works through the corresponding page in her workbook. 

With regard to time allocation.  Can you cover this book in 1 year? Yes.  Do we split our time evenly between each page? No. There are some sections in this book that we have already covered in detail so those sections we tend to fly through and there are some sections that I am guessing we are going to take a bit longer because they are new concepts and my daughter likes to cover new ideas in detail.  She likes to read and reread different sources. But it is totally manageable and you don’t need to use extra resources with this book, it covers what you need for Year 8 Science but if you are like my daughter and enjoy extending topics you can still do that.

Okay so what exactly is covered in Activate 2?


  • Health and Lifestyle (so food, nutrients, digestive system, drugs, alcohol and smoking)
  • Ecosystem Processes (photosynthesis, leaves, plant minerals and respiration, food chains and food webs)
  • Adaptation and Inheritance (adapting to change, inheritance, natural selection, extinction).


  • Periodic Table (metals and non-metals, groups and periods)
  • Separation Techniques (solutions, solubility, filtration, evaporation and chromatography)
  • Metals and Acids (metals and water, metals and oxygen, extracting metals, ceramics, polymers, composites)
  • The Earth (sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks, the rock cycle, the carbon cycle)


  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Energy (energy transfer, energy resources)
  • Motion and Pressure (speed, motion graphs, pressure in gases, pressure in liquids and pressure in solids).

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So far we have been working through the Biology section and it is just as good as the Activate 1 student book.  We recommend this resource for Year 8 Science.
You can get the Activate 2 range directly from the Oxford University Press website or from Amazon – Activate 2 Student Book
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.
KS3 Science. Activate 2 Student Book. Perfect for Year 8 science. Home educating resource for science


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