Writing for Fun

I remember about 3 years ago I was constantly worried that my daughter was not interested in writing.  AT ALL.  Yes she would write as part of an activity that we did but if I suggested just writing a paragraph, or putting one of her story ideas down onto paper she was just not interested.  I really worried about this and then I made a decision to stop always pointing out every error that I spotted.  It did not need to be perfect but I wanted her to start enjoying writing.

I eased up a lot and it seemed to work, she started writing more and more and I did not point out the errors but I listened to the stories and we spoke about what she had written.  And the pages started turning into whole exercise books filled with her writing.  I was thrilled.

So I applied the same logic with my younger son.  But still he did not seem to want to write, partly because he struggles more with writing (the joints is his hand overextend so pencil grip is an issue for him) and partly because he battled to find things to write about.  He is a very factual kid – he likes learning facts about animals or planets but then finds them a bit dry to write about.

So to get him started we turned to two of his favourite stories.  The first one being The Day The Crayons Quit.  He always loved this story so I dug it out again and we re-read it and without me even suggesting anything he started writing his own little notes from the crayons (The book is basically about some letters that the box of crayons write to the little boy complaining about how he uses them).  And yes there were lots of mistakes in the letters but I did not correct him, we laughed about the crayons and he continued writing more notes, this time from the angle of the little boy answering the crayons original letters.  He thought it was brilliant and he kept racing over to read them out to me.

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So we tried the same thing but this time using the animal diaries that he loves as inspiration.  He started with really a book of pictures that he drew of the animals and then just a few sentences about the animals.  But he filled an entire exercise book.  Again he made mistake and we did not make a big deal about them (a few of the mistakes he actually realized later and came and pointed them out to me).

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But the exciting thing was that he was enjoying it, he really was enjoying the writing and I did not have to ask him to write he did it himself without prompts.

And the writing got longer and yes his spelling and grammar improved.

Now I must point out that for us this idea of not obsessing about the errors in their writing works well for a few reasons.  My kids are both home educated so we don’t have the pressure of school tests, we can learn slower in certain areas we deem necessary and in other areas we can go ahead of the school curriculum.  For me, I personally wanted the kids to enjoy reading and writing.  That was important, something I wanted to focus on.  Taking the pressure off by not having their writing corrected made a huge difference in their own enjoyment level which meant they now write a LOT (and bonus for me I never have to nag about writing).  But we still work on spelling and grammar.  It’s just we do that separate from their fun writing.

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Plural words

Someone spotted part of a plural spelling rules page that I had handwritten and stuck up in our kitchen for my son. He has been learning the plural spelling rules and needed a visual reminder to help him. It really was something super quick that I made for him.

home-made adding s spelling rules

But that person asked to see the full page because she was busy doing plural spellings with her kid. So I quickly typed up my handwritten notes to make it look a bit better for her. And since I typed up the page for her I thought I would share the document here as well (really nothing fancy but if it helps one of you).

Free plural spelling rule summary

download – Plural spelling rules created by ofamily learning together

While we were practicing the plural spelling rules I made some word cards for my son to use.  The idea was he would group the cards into piles of words that applied to each rule.  And after that we also used them as spelling cards.  I would give him a few cards and he would have to write out the correct plural spelling.  Again it is really a straight forward print out, just word cards but since someone else might find them useful so I am attaching the document here.

word cards to use when the kids practice using the plural spelling rules

download – plural spelling word cards created by ofamily learning together

 

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Everest Book Review

Last month I was searching for some new interesting books for my son, I wanted something with a bit of an adventure, an expedition of sorts but a real-life story for him (He likes books written about fascinating real-life expeditions). While I was searching for options I came across – Everest. The Remarkable story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and I was immediately interested so I requested a review copy and we have not been disappointed.

Both my son and myself find Everest fascinating but to be honest we don’t know much about the first ever successful climb, the people involved, what needed to happen for the climb to occur or what happened afterwards. And this book covers all of that. Really it covers A LOT more than I expected.

reading Everest the remarkable story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

It starts by introducing the two climbers and talks about their childhood, which blew my son away. He could not get over the fact that these were two very ordinary people who had normal childhoods (“nothing fancy happened to them to make them climbers” – his words). I really liked that this is included because it shows the kids that your background, your childhood does not define what you have to become. Just one of a few powerful messages wrapped up in this story.

It goes onto how they both started to climb and how there were many failed attempts to climb the mountain before them. Again. Really appreciate that this in included, it shows it was not a quick event, it took years and many attempts to get up Everest for the first time.

Scattered through the book they also include lots of facts about the mountain and climbing. We really liked the Everest Survival Guide which highlighted some of the dangers and the double page which showed the journey up the mountain, broken down into where the camps where situated and where Khumbu Icefall is (there is also a separate page just about Khumbu Icefall).

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Of course the actual expedition and the climb itself is covered really well. Two things my son found fascinating was the realization of how many people and how much equipment was involved in the climb – that made a huge impact on him and that once they got to the top of the mountain Tenzing did not take a photo of Hillary because he did not know how to use a camera – something which really stuck in his mind, someone who did not know about things like cameras could still achieve so much.

Everest The remarkable story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The pyramid of Human effort needed to achieve the climb

After the climb the book goes onto cover the events that unfolded – how they both became famous and the lives the lead afterwards. My son loved the story about how Hillary even though he was famous always had his telephone number listed and how one day a child phoned him up and just spoke to him about his adventures. He thought that was cool, that Hillary took time to speak to that child and did not think he was “too high and mighty”.

Everest The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. A brilliant childnre's book all about the first people to climb mount Everest

Both my son and I think this is a great story for kids, fill of fun facts but also lots of messages about not giving up, not being defined by your childhood and not letting your success get to you.

You can buy this book from Amazon here – Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

As I mentioned above this book was given to us after I asked for a review copy.

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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Yes we watch Documentaries

Yes we do use documentaries as a form of learning.  And please before I go further it is ONE of many forms of learning.  If you read the blog you will know we LOVE our books and I think have quite a BOOK RICH learning style with the kids.  But documentaries can also be a powerful tool.

I have never banned TV or screens, I always had a motto of everything in moderation (well most things).  And we realized quite early on that screens actually ended up overwhelming our sensory kids so we have always monitored it and these days my oldest actually limits her screen time herself because she can tell when she has had enough.

When my daughter was younger I read an article (sorry can’t remember who wrote it) that basically urged parents to treat screen time like you would reading time – in other words, sit with the kids on the couch, watch together, talk about what you are watching, have a cuddle.  And this really made sense to me.  Of course there have been times when I have been so sleep deprived or sick that I put something on for the kids to watch so I could have a break – it happens and I have done that.  But I tried not to make that the norm and now when we watch documentaries for learning topics we do the same.  We sit together, watch together, chat about it, often pause part way through to check everyone understands or look-up something that was mentioned.  It works for our family because if I join in with the kid we all end up talking about whatever we have watched and it normally ends up extending into extra reading or even a new topic.

Animal Documentaries have always been popular with our family and lately we are moving onto more specific animal ones – like hunting patterns of sharks – but for the most part we find animal documentaries safe.  Although my kids are highly sensitive about a lot of issues, animals hunting each other and animals eating other animals have never been an issue.

watching a Shark documentary

We have moved onto Historical documentaries lately but these can be tricky so either my husband or I always watch them first (I have taped a few which I thought were going to be brilliant and ended up being very gruesome to the point of nightmare potential so they were deleted).  But we are finding with our daughter adding appropriate documentaries to go along with all the history books she has been reading is working really well and if anything actually ends up encouraging her to read even more.

And the big surprise for me was how my son has reacted to the History documentaries, he often complains about “more history” – because his sister is so history obsessed he can find it a bit much.  But he got so involve in our latest history documentary – 1066 A Year to Conquer England – that he actually asked to watch it again and has been talking about the mistakes made during the different battles, something which really took me by surprise. But I am realizing with my son if we are watching documentaries which include re-enacting scenes, or discussion about battle plans he really enjoys them and gets really involved in the events.

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So Yes, we do watch documentaries as part of our home education and Yes, I do think they can be a powerful learning tool but No, they aren’t our only learning tool.

 

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Dolphins! Animal Chapter book for Kids

Earlier this year my son read and thoroughly enjoyed the Sharks animal chapter book so I bought him the dolphin one as well. This is now our fourth animal planet chapter book and we have enjoyed every one and are actually feeling a bit sad that there are not more of them (just a horse one that my son is not interested in). I think they are brilliant early chapter book for kids who prefer reading non-fiction books.

reading the animal planet chapter book Dolphins. A good early chapter non-fiction book

The book has 11 chapters and is 107 pages long but it has lots of photographs and the font is a bit bigger than normal so we thought it ended up being an easy length.

It starts with a labelled photograph of the body of a dolphin.

Then it goes onto what makes a dolphin a dolphin – i.e. warm blooded, lungs which means it come to the surface to breath, the melons on their forehead that they use for echolocation etc.

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Onto Pod life and their family bonds and their hunting habits – we found this chapter very interesting as it linked into some of the documentaries we have been watching lately.

After that it was moving about, dolphin superpowers and brainpower – all of which was very informative and I liked that they explained how they use their different fins for different reasons.

Dolphin animal planet chapter book. Dolphins super senses

Ocean buddies (really where dolphins are found) and river rovers – all about River dolphins which are probably the least well-known – we liked that they pointed out how the river dolphins have adapted and are different to the sea-living dolphins.

Extreme dolphins – always interesting to read about the more unusual cousins and probably one of my son’s favourite chapters – Orca’s and others. Yes Orcas are actually classified as a dolphin. He really liked the comparison between toothed whales and baleen whales that was included.

Dolphin Animal Planet chapter book includes this comparison between a toothed whale and a baleen whale

And then the last three chapters are dolphin do-gooders (when dolphins have helped people), ancient mariners (dolphins included in mythology) and saving dolphins (really what threatens dolphins and how we can help).

I feel like they have managed to include a lot of information into this little book and although it is brimming with informative facts it is written in an easy style with lots of pictures that really does make it perfect for animal-mad kids who are progressing onto chapter books.

I bought our Dolphin Animal planet chapter book from Amazon  – Dolphins! (Animal Planet Chapter Books)

The other animal planet chapter books that we have are these ones – sharks and snakes

And if your kids like these books they may also like the Born Free books

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

Animal Planet Chapter Books Dolphins. A great early chapter non-fiction book

 

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Understanding Maths Series. Fraction Workbook

I have already written a few posts about the Understanding maths series by Schofield & Sims. It is a set of workbooks that I started using with my oldest just over a year ago and am now using the whole set with for my youngest (well planning on we are still working through them). They are Key Stage 2 books (so that is the UK school years of 3, 4, 5 and 6).

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I like the way these books are set out – each page has a quick explanation followed by examples (we have found the explanations really well worded and set out). They are not busy pages – we don’t like workbooks where too much is crammed onto 1 page.

Schofield & Sims Understanding Maths Fraction workbook. An example of the explanations included at the top of each page

But I must say they don’t have pages and pages of practice examples. You get 1 page of examples so I do give him extra examples to practice – and honestly this is often just a case of me writing out more examples onto a piece of paper so he can practice some more. This series does also come with a practice book (Understanding Maths: Practice). And the practice book is very useful but it is 1 book, which contains 72 pages of extra examples for all the books in the series – so it covers all 8 topics in 1 book. So yes we find the practice book handy but in total honesty I am someone who believes Maths practice = Maths confident kids so I am happy to write out extra examples for the kids to practice on.

So for those of you looking for a fraction workbook here is what is included.

  • How fractions are written / unit fractions of shapes (so the start of fractions but there is not a lot of this so if you are just introducing basic fractions to a child in Year 1 this is probably not the book for you)
  • Mixed Fractions
  • Equivalent Fractions
  • Fractions of a Number

Key Stage 2 Fractions with the Schofield & Sims Understanding maths series

  • Tenths
  • Adding and Subtracting Fractions
  • Ordering Fractions
  • Hundredths
  • Simplifying Fractions
  • Fractions on a number line
  • Common denominators
  • Multiplying fractions by a whole number
  • Thousandths
  • Simplest Form
  • Adding and subtracting mixed numbers
  • Dividing fractions by a whole number
  • Multiplying pairs of fractions

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Scattered throughout the book they have 5 progress tests – which is basically revision of what has been covered. Also all answers are included at the book of the book.

We also think these workbooks make excellent revision books. My daughter has just worked through the entire fraction book by herself as a revision activity and it went really well. It highlighted a fraction activity that she did not fully understand, so did the job of a good revision tool.

I bought our workbooks directly from Amazon Understanding Maths: Fractions

Understanding Maths series by Schofield & Sims. The Key stage 2 Fraction workbook

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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Tara Binns – STEM jobs for young girls

The Tara Binns books are a new series by Collins (part of their BIG CAT reading series) and when they asked if we would like to review them I immediately said yes.  These books have a female character learning about interesting careers (STEM careers) and over the years this has become something that my daughter has constantly been asking me for. Books with female leads and NOT princess stuff.  No, my daughter is NOT a princess book type kid, she wants female characters who are strong and clever, female characters who are doing the same jobs, tasks as the male characters. So even though the books were an easy reading level for my daughter I jumped at the chance to review them because I wanted to spread the word about these positive books.

Plus I knew that my daughter would still read them, appreciate the fact there was a female character, enjoy the case studies and end up chatting about the careers (all of which she did). Her exact words after reading the engineer book – “about time someone wrote this.”

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We have read three of the books and they all start with Tara opening up an old costume box and then being whisked away into an imaginary world where she gets to be a doctor, pilot or engineer for the day. In each story she learns a bit about what the job involves and then normally something happens which means she needs to implement what she has learnt (they all have happy endings).

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I personally love the fact that Tara is depicted in a slightly quirky way – love the curly hair that stands out a bit – for me that enforces the message to young girls that is about using your brains and NOT how you look, or what you wear. Something which I feel very strongly about.

Collins have also created case studies of real women who are currently working in these fields (you can download them FREE from the website – Tara Binns resources). I really appreciate these case studies. Exactly the kind of thing that I wanted for my daughter to read. These right here are the role models we NEED for young girls.  And they have also created some lesson plans which you can download from the Collins website.

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And I know these books are written for young girls to read but I also liked giving them to my son to read for the simple reason it models the fact that girls and boys can do the same careers. And I think that is also something we need to make sure our sons learn.

My daughter and I LOVE the entire concept behind these books.  We think the case studies are brilliant and we hope Collins continues this series so more young girls can be inspired.

Tara Binns Big Ideas Engineer Book by Collins

Admin Bit – as I mentioned I was given 3 of the Tara Binns books to review. However I want to STRESS that my belief that these books are positive for younger girls has nothing to do with the fact I was given these books. I really believe more books like this should be written and our young girls should be actively encouraged to dream about ALL kinds of careers.

You can order the books directly from Collins or from Amazon (these are the three that we have)  Tara Binns: Big Idea Engineer: Band 14/Ruby (Collins Big Cat)

Tara Binns: Double-Quick Doctor: Band 13/Topaz (Collins Big Cat)

Tara Binns: High-Flying Pilot: Band 12/Copper (Collins Big Cat)

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.

Tara Binns Books by Collins.  Books which show female characters in STEM jobs

Tara Binns readers part of the Collins BIG CAT reading series. All about STEM jobs with a female lead character

 

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