Tuesday, 29 January 2013

12 series for avid 9 year old readers

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about books for an avid 9 year old reader. It is a fair few years since we had to find a new children's book each evening for Eldest Daughter. Anyway, here are 10 series. Some of these are long and so useful for rapid readers.

  • Heidi series. The first book is by Johanna Spyri and the latter two books by Charles Tritton, who was Johanna Spyri's translator. There are a few differences between the authors-something to look for in reading.

  • Katie books by Susan Coolridge starting with What Katie did.

  • Trailblazers published by Christian Focus are biographies of famous Christians. I haven't read every book in the series, and there are one or two that I might not have chosen for such a series, but generally worth reading.

  • Jungle Doctor, by Paul White, is a series about an Australian missionary doctor in Tanzania back in the 1920s. I find them fascinating to read now, from a medical history point of view, but they are lapped up by children.

  • The Abbey series by Elsie Oxenham is a long series (38 books). Many of the books are out of print although a couple have been republished by Girls gone by. Some of the out of print books are fairly easily obtainable although prices seem to have risen in the last few years.

  • Animal Ark by Lucy Daniels is another long series. Appreciated by young animal lovers although I would hate to have to read one aloud!

  • Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. The most avid readers will probably have read these by age 9 but worth looking at if they haven't. The great benefit of the Enid Blyton mysteries is that children increase their reading speed dramatically on these. We have not had problems with children getting stuck on Blyton and not wanting to go onto anything else.

  • Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingals Wilder. I have one or two reservations about these books-they are written from the view point of a Christianised but not necessarily Christian society. This means that the Lord's Day, in particular, is represented in a negative light. They are worth reading and discussing.

  • The Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer are numerous and again, many only obtainable second hand. Some are very reasonably priced second hand.

  • The Ivan books by Myra Grant are the fictional adventures of a boy in Soviet Russia. Useful introduction to this period of recent history and very rapid reads!
Eldest Daughter recommends the Australian Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce. These are still on my "to be read" list and last, are the Malcolm Saville Lone Pine mysteries from my childhood. These seem to be back in print.

Happy reading and please add to these, in the comments!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Home educating in the UK

No one really knows how many children are home educated in the UK. Estimates suggest around 60000. Home education is chosen for many reasons: faith, disaffection with the State system, bullying, difficulty finding suitable schools... 

I'm writing over at The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog today about home educating in the United Kingdom. Pop over there to read the rest of the article and about home education in other countries.

Welcome to visitors from the Old Schoolhouse Review blog. There is more about home education in the UK in these posts:

UK Home education resources

Perhaps the best museum

1066 Battle of Hastings

Bodiam Castle

Monday, 21 January 2013

UK Home education resources

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

Please feel free to add your recommendations in the comments.

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.

I haven't included blogs although that might be a topic for a future post.

As a Christian home educator, 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.

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.

  • School Surplus sell a selection of discount educational resources. Of course, the limitation is what is in stock but they have plenty of exercise books and it is worth looking at the art supplies.

  • 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.

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 Junior is a primary school with an extensive and useful website covering various aspects of the National Curriculum 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.

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 Mathletics. This year, these are held from 5th to 7th March. Unless anything has changed, these are free although obviously, Mathletics does get publicity from this.

  • 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. 

Over to you, what are your favourite resources?

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow in London

Today we had snow. London shuts down in the snow and we had the big outside almost to ourselves. There was just enough snow to enjoy although a promise of more to come.

Just a sprinkling on trees
 and people

 Enough for snow angels but not really for snowmen.

The ducks waddled on ice so thin that it was broken by  little snow balls.

Just the right amount of snow for me although the children would like more!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Many people remember Johanna Spyri's book Heidi from childhood. I was given a copy as a little girl, by one of my aunts, and still treasure this rather battered book. I have been looking forward to reading it to Youngest Daughter for some time and this January, decided the time had come.

Heidi is a little Swiss orphan to is taken to live with her reclusive grandfather high on a mountain. She has a happy life until she is forceably taken, by an aunt, to Frankfurt as a companion for an invalid girl, Clara. Heidi's time in Frankfurt is bitterly marred by homesickness. After dramatic events, she is returned to the mountains and her grandfather. Grandfather is able to seek peace with God and man. Heidi, and her visitors and friends, thrive in the beautiful Alps and Heidi is able to look back on her difficult time in Frankfurt and realise that she learnt important lessons there.

I wanted to link the book into some activities so we have

  • found Switzerland and Frankfurt, in Germany on the map.

  • heard the story of William Tell and listened to the William Tell overture by Rossini. We didn't try to act out William Tell!

  • talked about mountains having names and the names of the highest peaks in the United Kingdom.

  • made towers to represent the different heights of Ben Nevis and the Jungfrau. Jungfrau on the left Ben Nevis on the right.

  • In the story, Heidi wants the Grandmother to have white rolls. We made some and also some rye bread. The children, like the Grandmother in the story, prefer the white rolls. I prefer the rye bread. We also ate some goats cheese. Youngest Daughter didn't agree with Heidi about the merits of this.
Heavy rye dough
Much lighter white bread dough
The finished product-I forgot to take a picture until most of the white rolls had been consumed.
Goat's cheese
  • Like Heidi's Grandfather, my Grandfather also made household items out of wood. We found a round bowl he had made and wondered whether the drinking bowl made for Heidi was similar.
  • We collected some of the other items he had made and looked at these. Great Grandfather died before Youngest Daughter was born and she hadn't appreciated before that he had made all these items.

  • Youngest Daughter drew a picture of Heidi, Goat Peter and the Doctor and wrote about this.

  • We talked about the parable of the Prodigal Son which features in Grandfather's role in the story.
We've haven't quite finished Heidi yet. Youngest Daughter has appreciated this read aloud. I hope that she, like me, will have happy childhood memories of this book.

This is linked to Monday Kid CornerThe children's bookshelf, History and Geography at All things beautiful and Living Life Intentionally.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Home education in January

This was our first week back after the New Year. Not quite true, as Younger Daughter decided that she really wanted to start last week and had been doing a little each day. The younger two have never been to school and don't really get the concept of terms. Long may it last! 

There is a bit of sadness here, too, as Older Son prepares to go back to university. Part of growing up but we miss him.

Younger Daughter had an exciting trip with my husband to the Tower of London. She loves history so this was eagerly awaited. It is exciting that there are so many great sites to see in London. 

She and Youngest Son also decided that they wanted to draw trees  on a very cold day! It is good to be out even on the coldest of days.
 Drawing led to discussions about rough/smooth bark.

In our home school, I'm doing so much reading aloud. Picture books, Heidi to Younger Daughter and The Sprig of Broom officially to Middle Son but Younger Daughter was keen to get in on this after all it is set in Tudor times! The Sprig of Broom is part of the Mantlemass chronicles by Barbara Willard which are historical fiction set in Sussex. I read some of these books as a child but this is the first that I have read as an adult. A fascinating read and well crafted book; now to find the rest of the series.

Our home education group, this week, looked at the Tudors. The children were given parts as Henry VIII, his wives and children. This was much appreciated although Younger Daughter wasn't quite sure about being Anne of Cleves-I thought she got off lightly!

I'm working on geography books for Middle Son. This seems difficult- we've done a fair number of unit studies of countries, tried some rather uninspired UK curriculum books and now I'm looking for something that will stretch him a bit more than my unit studies. Perhaps, learning to to develop better unit studies although I'm also looking at some books. I'm not at all sure-any thoughts are very gratefully received.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Bone model from recycled materials

This week, I was teaching at our home education group about bones. We use the Apologia Exploring Creation with Human anatomy and physiology book. We had finished the skeletal system chapter and I wanted to pull some of the learning together with a model.

I had found a model on Pinterest but didn't possess any pipe insulation nor any suitable pipes. So I decided to create my own model from items around the house.

A roll of play dough made good red bone marrow although yellow would have done equally well for yellow marrow. Our playdough did have some glitter in it hence the slightly flecked appearance.

Red wool represented blood vessels.

This was covered with bubble wrap to represent spongy bone

 and then cardboard tubing for compact (cortical) bone.

I glued some muslin onto the outside of the cortical bone for periosteum.
The red wool on the outside is the blood supply to the periosteum.

Simple and made from items from around the house.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew are blogging about How to... . Pop over for inspiration.


Monday, 7 January 2013


This month there seem to be several posts around reading.

You might have guessed that I have a weakness for reading lists so I've particularly enjoyed Crystal at Money Saving Mom's Books I plan to read aloud to my kids in 2013.

This Reading Mama had a really useful post about  reluctant readers with links to many, many resources.

This next post isn't new but a systematic post on how to create unit studies.

This term, I'm hoping to try some of the Latin games on Ellen McHenry's site.

In the New Year, a linky to frugal posts in welcome. There is a new link-up at Ben and Me called Frugal Family 2013.

Finally, Five in a Row has a thoughtful post about whether we are shortchanging our children today.

2013 picture courtesy of Younger Daughter.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A year in chapter books

Last year, I read 26 chapter books to Younger Daughter who is now 6. We didn't aim at a book a fortnight that is just what happened.

There were a few books that we started and didn't finish. I haven't included these. 

For 2013, I have a fairly short list of books to read aloud but will probably look out more books as time goes on to fit with her interests. 

This is last year's list with comments:

The otter who wanted to know- Jill Tomlinson
The hen who wanted to  know- Jill Tomlinson.

 These books are ideal early chapter books with gentle, amusing but non-threatening plots. They are in our local library.

Flat Stanley-Jeff Brown. 

This is another book that we found in the library and ended up hosting Flat Stanley.

Stone Fox-Reynolds Gardiner.

 I hadn't heard of this book until we read it with our home education group book club. We loved this book but be warned, it is sad.

The invention of Hugo Cabret-Selznick. 

This was another home ed book club choice and I was worried that it would be too long. The size is partly due to the large number of illustrations. Middle Son read the book himself and I read it to Younger Daughter but strangely it really appealed to our youngest aged 3. There were illustrations that he wanted to go back to again and again. Having read this, we watched the film Hugo also a success. We have a constant debate about whether film versions are better than the original book. You can guess which side I'm on!

Charlie and the great glass elevator-Roald Dahl. 
I'm not a great Dahl fan but we had read Charlie and the chocolate factory and this was a logical extension.
James and the giant peach-Roald Dahl. 
Again,this was a book club choice.

Titanic: the Ship of Dreams- Robert Plant.

 This was a book that has links to London so we set off to investigate. Eight months later the children still talk about this book.

The Partisans-Piet Prins.

 This was the only book that I read aloud to Middle Son, last year. I'm planning that we read a few books together this year.

Sophie in the Saddle- Dick King-Smith
Sophie is seven-Dick King-Smith
Sophie's Lucky- Dick King-Smith.

 This series was appreciated. Combination of a little girl and animals. Sophie's attitude does call for some discussion.

Ambulance!-Beckles Wilson.

 A quick read designed as an early reader.

More stories of Patsy-Anne-Ralph.

This was a book of mine from childhood and  now out of print.

How to be a Bible princess- Catherine Mackenzie.

A look at Bible princesses.

Susan and the Wendy house-Courtney. 

This is another book from my childhood.

Storytime with the Millers-Mildred Martin. 

Individual stories with a Scriptural application from a Mennonite background.

Milly Molly Mandy Stories-Lankester Brisley
More of Milly Molly Mandy-Lankester Brisley
Milly Molly Mandy again-Lankester Brisley
Further doings of Milly Molly Mandy-Lankester Brisley

Milly Molly Mandy and Co-Lankester Brisley-October 2012
Milly Molly Mandy and Billy Blunt- Lankester Brisley. 
The Milly Molly Mandy books have definitely been the most popular read alouds of the year. The first four books on the list are in print. Younger Daughter loved these books so much that she was delighted to receive second hand, old library copies of the latter two volumes as birthday and Christmas gifts. I'm not sure why the latter books are out of print. Probably the funniest story in the series is in Milly Molly Mandy and Co. 

Back in March we did some activities related to the books.

Squanto-friend of the Pilgrims-Bulla. 

This book wasn't such a success. It might have been better if we had done some background work first.

Ned-Barbara Coyle.

A book that I had been looking forward to reading aloud again and wrote about here.

Tom's sausage lion-Michael Morpurgo.

 I picked up this book at a second hand sale. Interesting rather anti-adult undertones.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Happy New Year from a muddy London.

This is a very well known New Year hymn but it the second and third verses really struck me, yesterday. New Year can seem a daunting time but if we trust in the Lord God then we have resources for the days to come.

Standing at the portal
Of the opening year,
Words of comfort meet us,
Hushing every fear;
Spoken through the silence 
By our Saviour's voice,
Tender, strong and faithful,
Making us rejoice.

Onward then and fear not,
Children of the day!
For His Word shall never,
Never pass away!

"I, the Lord, am with thee,
Be thou not afraid,
I will help and strengthen,
Be thou not dismayed!
Yea, I will uphold thee
With my own right hand,
Thou art called and chosen
In my sight to stand."

For the year before us,
O what rich supplies!
For the poor and needy
Living streams shall rise;
For the sad and sinful
Shall His grace abound;
For the faint and feeble
Perfect strength be found.

He will never fail us,
He will not forsake;
His eternal covenant
He will never break.
Resting on His promise,
What have we to fear?
God is all-sufficient
For the coming year.

Frances Ridley Havergal

I pray that my readers may know the Saviour and His blessing in this New Year.