Thursday, 18 September 2014

UK Home Education Resources- Updated

This post was originally posted in January 2013. It needed some updating. I have checked all the links and added in some more. It is also one of the tabs at the top of the page, for reference.

I've pulled together a list of my favourite UK home educating resources. This is not exhaustive.

Please feel free to add your recommendations in the comments.
This particular list does not include individual blogs. I have a separate post about these.
In addition, I have purposely omitted individual books in the interest of brevity!

This only includes UK sites. There are many, many useful sites across the Pond and like many other home educators here, I go on the forums and occasionally, pluck up courage to pay lots of postage! However, there is plenty of help here including some people who conveniently import from the US.

Many but not all of the sites are Christian. Whist these are sites that I have used, I do not claim any responsibility for the contents of any of these sites.

Home education groups

  • The Deut6v7 yahoo group is one of the most helpful resources. This is a specifically Christian, UK home educating group. 

  • Most areas have Google or Yahoo groups for local home educators. Most of these will have people of very mixed philosophies but can be a useful resource about local events.

  • Facebook has many home education groups but the Christian Home Educators UK group is very active. 
Home education organisations and sites

  • Paula Rothermel has researched UK Home Education. Her work is a decade old but is some of the precious little research on the subject.

  • Fiona Nicholson campaigns for UK home educators. Her site includes the latest on government thinking.


  • Conquest Books are a family based business who sell home education materials and other books. They sell Apologia, Five in a Row and Artistic Pursuits amongs others. Their delivery tends to be fast.

  • Ichthus Resources sells a wide range of home education materials including Singapore maths and science. 

  • Galore Park sells curriculum mainly designed for private schools. They are home education friendly and are used by many UK home educators. We particularly like their maths books.

  • The technology shop is based at a London Primary school but sells a rather eclectic range of items from pulleys and propellers to googly eyes and small kits.

  • The Book People have discount books. We have done particularly well with books around art.

  • Schofield and Sims sell workbooks and posters. We use them for mental maths. Our almost four year old world map came from them. The posters are printed on heavy paper and need to be attached to walls with velcro pads.

  • Cambridge Latin Course supplies the Latin course that we use but also has extensive cultural background material and as well as vocabulary and grammar quizzes on the website.

  • Skoldo produces primary French and Spanish resources including song downloads.

  • Northstar Worldwide is a UK based Christian secondary age on-line learning site. They have courses for GCSEs and IGCSEs as well as catering for younger secondary age pupils.

  • Civitas have produced a Core Knowledge curriculum which has an interesting table showing the curriculum by year from year 1 to 6.

  • Rainbow books sell the Maxwell family books. I've used Managers of their Homes which is a helpful and detailed introduction to scheduling. 

  • Branch Out World is run by a UK home educator who produces picture book studies of books easily obtainable, think Dogger and Katie Morag, in the UK. 

This section is generic not related to any particular part of the UK.
  • Kids in Museums advocates for younger visitors to museums. They have a manifesto and a list of those organisations that have signed up to this. This organisation is also worth approaching should you, perish the thought, discover a museum that is not child friendly.

  • National Trust manages historic homes and gardens. They offer reduced membership to home educating families although unless you never want to visit during school holidays, bank holidays or weekends, it is probably better to consider family membership.

  • The Woodland Trust has maps of woodland open to the public. Don't miss their Nature Detective site which has many free activities for children. Most of these activities don't require a trip further than the garden or the local park.

Educational Sites
  • Home Educators don't need to follow the National Curriculum but it can be useful to have an eye on this.

  • Woodlands Resources is a site covering various aspects of the National Curriculum (mainly KS1 and KS2) and more besides.

  • The BBC Schools site has some resources. I prefer the primary part of the site. My younger children enjoy the language area.

  • School physics has explanations aimed at different age groups and in different degrees of depth. 

  • Royal Institution's RI Channel has science videos including of its famous Christmas lectures.

  • Nrich is a maths site with challenges and fun maths for ages from Lower Primary to Upper Secondary. They aim to "enrich the experience of the maths curriculum for all learners".

  • IXL is an international organisation but with a UK specific maths practice site.

  • The National STEM Centre has a website with 

Added value

  • Booktime distributes a book bag with a couple of books to reception age children each year. Home educators can apply using this form.

  • World maths, literacy and  science day are hosted each year by World Education Games. These are free to enter although Matheletics runs the games and obviously gets publicity.

  • Grow your own potatoes is designed for primary schools but home educators, with children in the relevant age group, are able to register and enter the competition for heaviest potatoes. 

  • The Royal British Legion produces a free learning pack for educators. This includes DVDs and a poster. The DVDs have sections on both the First and Second World Wars and there is a guide as to suitability for different age groups.

  • The James Dyson Foundation produce Challenge cards which contain 52 science, technology and maths challenges. These are free to educators and use materials found around the house. They also have engineering and ideas boxes out on loan. We haven't tried the boxes yet!
Over to you. I love to find new educational resources. What would you add?

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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The 7 Minute Life-a review

If, like me, you constantly struggle with time management then there is a great attraction in having a new planner to help.  The 7 Minute Life's aim is to prioritize, organize and simplify your life.
7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
 In order to achieve this, a 90 day planner is used-The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner.
The planner is a spiral bound book protected by transparent protective covers measuring 7.3" by 8.5" (about 19cm x 22.5cm).
The Company helpfully produced a video which explains more about using the planner. This video takes about 12 minutes but there are shorter videos explaining about individual components of the planner. 

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is designed for adults trying to organise life at work and at home. 

Before using the Planner on a daily basis, I worked on some of the tasks at the start of the book. Please note that this part of using the Planner takes more than 7 minutes. Once the Planner is up and running, planning for a new day only takes around 7 minutes but the initial work does take a little longer. I discovered that the more effort that I put into this, the better the Planner worked for me. These tasks included 
  • prioritisng aspects of life such as faith, relationships, tradition, success and a whole long list of other parts of life.
  •  writing down a purpose in life.
  •  a page about what is loved about work, strengths and "high value activities."
  • mental clutter list-those things that never get done or cause clutter and stress.
  • 90 day goals including breaking these down into actions.
  • life goals
  • lists for unfinished work and home tasks
  • 7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
  • home repair contact list
  • grocery list
  • address book pages
  • annual, 90 and monthly calendar.
  • meeting planner.
It is important to at least start to fill these in before going onto the daily planner. I found the 90 day goal list and pages of lists of unfinished tasks particularly useful whereas the life goals page was a bit overwhelming. I don't know exactly what God wants me to do for the rest of my life so it felt difficult to fill in this section.

The daily progress report is a double page spread for each day. The picture below is of the left hand side.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
The right hand side has space for
  • appointments
  • thank you notes
  • voice mail and notes
The aim is to spend 7 minutes a day planning the next day and, in particular, five things that will be done before 11am in order to further aims.

How did this work for me?
  • It was helpful to make a list of things that had been nagging me or I had put off doing.
  • Thinking through my purpose in life and 90 goals was helpful. I think that I have been more organised about winter wardrobes and it has lead to me planning an educational trip which might otherwise not have happened.
  • The unfinished tasks list was usually sadly full but pulling five out did mean that I tackled some otherwise neglected jobs.
  • This planner seems to have been primarily designed for the business world and not for home educating mothers. I have virtually no voice mails but many emails. I didn't write these into the voice mail column as dealing with them direct seemed more efficient. Again, I didn't list my daily contacts: I didn't quite see the point as a home educating mother. Perhaps, I could have put them down as a prayer list. 
  • Working through five tasks before 11am worked reasonably well during the holidays but once we started back with our home education timetable, this became difficult. Either, I put items on the list which tend to happen anyway: make the children's breakfast, start home educating for the day (a bit before 11am-I hope!), open the door for the carer, make Grandma's breakfast, put the washing on etc. Not really much point writing these, however, if I wrote in items that I really wanted to sort out, there just wasn't time in these hours. Five before 11pm might work better while we are home educating.
  • It was helpful to have a reminder to write thank you notes.
  • I used the space for notes on a fair few days. It was helpful to have this space to start planning out ideas and saved mislaid sheets of paper.
Overall, I found that having to work through aims and goals was helpful but the planner would be even more useful if it could be customised for home educators.

The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner costs $24.95 ( which currently is about £15.33).
7 Minute Life is on various social media. 
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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

September Inspiration

We have now started back into our home education routine. Having a not back to school week away was fun though and even educational.

This article is about a family who are taking a year off to explore the UK. The children are going to have a year of road schooling. I don't think that we are ever likely to do this and at £20000 for the year with no income coming in, it isn't cheap! The family have a website, Do Try this at Home, with a blog and outside ideas including frugal meals for eating outside. 

I'm not a great speller. I still remember getting the lowest mark in the spelling test that my English teacher in form III(2) sprung on us with no warning. Sadly, some of my children have inherited my spelling ability so I was interested to see a post on spelling tests by This Reading Mama. In addition, to explaining why she doesn't give spelling tests, there is a really helpful section on teaching spelling.

In the midst of the First World War commemorations, I wanted to read some poetry to the children and came across a poem of Raymond Briggs called Aunties. I heard it read by Michael Morpurgo but it is written in this preview of a book that I haven't read. This poem is definitely worth reading and something that I have shared with my children. I still remember my parents' unmarried aunts, with affection; they would have been similar age to Raymond Brigg's aunties.

Over the next few weeks,planned posts include First World War educational resources and reading aloud plus reviews of Middlebury Interactive Languages and The Great History of Britain.

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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Not back to school: On the Welsh borders

While Facebook has been full of pictures of children going back to school, we have been away on the Welsh borders. Yes, I'm going to pay for this on Monday when there is over a week's worth of washing, starting back to our more formal home education and doubtless a few other things as well.

Still the Welsh borders are worth a day of hard work.

Sunsets and night walks. We saw bats and heard owls.

There were castles.

Stokesay Castle

The older Ludlow Castle with is turrets and winding stairs. Youngest Son kept finding new passages and stairs.

and a priory at Much Wenlock. This is a gem and a place that I hadn't seen before. It must have been magnificent in its Medieval completeness.

Of course, there was plenty of outside time:

walking in streams and on Offa's Dyke.

We had evenings of games, eating outside or sitting around the woodburning stove. I  am thankful for a break and for the beauties of creation and beginning to feel energised for the start of the new term. A worthwhile, not back to school week!

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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Archie's War Scrapbook

Finding books about the First World War for younger children hasn't been easy. I would like my five and seven year olds to know about the War but I don't want to traumatise them. There also seem to be fewer children's books about the First World War than the Second World War. 

Archie's War Scrapbook: The First World War 1914-1918 by Marcia Williams is one of the few books about the First World War for younger children. I am grateful to Sherry at Semicolon blog for this recommendation.

This book is written as a scrapbook by the fictional Alfie who was conveniently given the scrapbook for his tenth birthday in April 1914. It is filled in in scrapbook style with cartoons, copies of pieces from newspapers and letters. The letters are sometimes in envelopes and are made to look authentic: one even has a "grease" stain from bully beef. 

Alfie lives in the East End of London and whilst the book mainly covers what happens at home, in England, the happenings abroad are covered with details in cartoon form at the bottom of each page, in newspaper cuttings and letters. Using this format an amazing amount is covered including changing attitudes to the war, recruitment, conscription, war deaths, war injuries including "shell shock", women going to work, attitude to Germans, life in the country, rationing and food shortages, Zepplins, bombing and the end of the War.

Overall, this is a helpful book which deals with the realities of war in a way that is interesting for younger children but unlikely to cause nightmares. I am planning to use this with my children, and have already read it aloud to them. However, I do have a few caveats: there is one lavatorial reference-to urinating out of the window at night due to fear of the Germans (I can imagine a 10 year old boy writing this!), occasional language that I would prefer my children not to use, for example, the reference to German spies in this caption and a reference to Archie's dog as a ghost dog on the back cover. 

I am hoping to post about other First World War resources that we are planning to use, in the next few weeks. Do let me know about any books about the First World War for children. I do have a short list but would love to add to this.

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Essential Skills Advantage-a review

In this house, there are two early readers who need to practice reading skills so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review Essential Skills Advantage.
Essential Skills Advantage Review
Essential Skills Advantage is an on-line reading curriculum
Essential Skills Advantage Review
for children from year one to year seven (K to 6 for those in the US).
Basic requirements are a computer with internet access, Java script enabled and flash player 10 or higher. Speakers need to be on and turned up. At present, it is not possible to use iPad or android tablets.
To access the programme, I was sent a user name and password both for myself and each of the children using Essential Skills Advantage (ESA). There was also a quick access student URL so that they could access the site quickly and not via the parent portal. 

Once on the site there are a range of choices divided into 
  • Complete reading for grades K to 3 (equivalent to years 1 to 4).
  • Fun with Spelling 1-3
  • Reading comprehension 4-6
  • Vocabulary builder 4-6
  • Spell Master grades 4-6
  • Grammar grades 3-5
  • Spelling stumpers 1-5 and 5-9

My children concentrated on Complete Reading for grade 1 (Youngest Son) and Complete Reading for Grade 2 (Younger Daughter). The Complete Reading sections come with an Activity guide for parents. The Complete Reading starts with practice on phonics. This work is around games, for example in grade 1 there is a section about the short vowel sounds with 84 games.

There are also sections for long vowel sounds, blends
 and digraphs. There are three other major sections in Complete Reading
  • sight words
  • grammar
  • reading
The sections are not of equal length. The grammar section for grade one is short and around capitalisation, ending sentences and commas in dates and lists. Younger Daughter did some work on capitalisation in the grammar section for grade 2. 
 The reading section has 75 short stories with questions. 

The parent portal has a "My students" section where marks can be seen as well as the date and time the activity was completed.

What did we think?
Youngest Son was enthusiastic about ESA. He enjoyed the activities and only needed minor help. We both struggled with accent when mat and man sounded similar but this was an isolated occurrence. It also took us both a while to understand the game Word Families. Were we meant to click on all the letters or just the first letter? 
Younger Daughter has reached the phase where she has had so much phonics practice that it is difficult to be full of enthusiasm. However, she was able to work on the grade two section independently.  
I found the programme easy to use. There is background noise of birds' tweeting which I found rather irritating. It wasn't really possible to turn this off as the sound is needed for the activities. Apart from this, it was useful for the children to re-enforce their skills. The programme is large and seems complete in terms of being able to practice many aspects of reading but it is for practice not initial teaching. That was fine for me and I like the idea of having something that can provide re-enforcement. 

I reviewed Premium Membership. This costs $9.99 ( at present about £6.03) per student per month. However, ESA are giving a generous discount of 50% to readers who subscribe until 1st October. To obtain the discount use the code TOS50. The 50% discount applies as long as anyone using this code remains a member.
Free membership is also available. This is sponsored so there are adverts visible and does not have the full range of features. In particular, it doesn't have individual child log in or the features which allow parents to track progress. To see a chart with the differences between the two types of membership, please go to this page.

 ESA is a large programme which provides helpful reading practice: recommended.

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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

City Hall in the rain

City Hall is the building from which London is governed by the Mayor and Assemby and home to the Greater London Authority. We were able to visit, with a group of other home educators, on a very rainy day. In fact, it was so wet that it rained inside and outside City Hall which did, sadly, mean that we couldn't see the upper levels.

City Hall is close to Tower Bridge. Being true Londoners, we went on the bus. Thanks to Middle Son and Google, we arrived much earlier than I expected, in the pouring rain. Just an aside, but I have found that Google is much better for route planning than the Transport for London website.

City Hall from Tower Bridge.

We stumbled upon some Book Benches.
 Clarice Bean

Through the Looking Glass

How to train your Dragon

Dr Seuss

Maybe me, maybe the rain but the only one of these books for which I can find any enthusiasm is War Horse. Younger Daughter has just listened to War Horse, as an audio book, so this was a particularly happy find.

On to City Hall, I was delighted to find that Youngest Son was allowed into the trip. I had thought that he was too young which wouldn't have been a problem except for the deluge. My backstop plan, given the weather, was to go to HMS Belfast but we are saving that for another time!

Our guide to City Hall was obviously a London enthusiast and full of fascinating facts.

We were able to see the Assembly Chamber. The tables where the Mayor and Assembly members sit had been removed due to the rain (inside as well as out). 
Floor of the Chamber

Looking up from the Assembly Chamber. Sadly we weren't able to go up the walkway due to the rain. 

While we were in the Assembly Chamber, Tower Bridge opened.

City Hall is opposite the Gerkin which was also designed by Norman Foster. Compare the windows with those in City Hall.  The Gerkin is the torpedo shaped building on the left.

Downstairs, there is a large scale map of London.

Just in case anyone else would like to visit, City Hall is due to be open on Saturday 20th September as part of the London Open House Event.

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