Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Chai Chat....with Sarah

Nicola who blogs at The World is their Classroom has been interviewing a variety of different home educators including reasons why people home educate, what a typical day is like, socialisation, physical exercise and much more. Today, my chat with her is up.


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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

October Inspiration

We are almost a month into term and there has been plenty going on. Our home education group has been studying science and planning this has been busy, as well, as providing my children with the chance to help me practise activities. Recently, we did acids and bases at the group and used Sarah Dees' magnificent rocket activity for the older children. It worked very well but I'm sorry, teaching and running the activity took precedence over photos.

Ambleside online has produced an enormous list of Charlotte Mason resources. Many of these are relevant for those who aren't strictly Charlotte Mason followers.

Helping children learn about subjects where we are weak can be challenging. This is a helpful article about teaching music appreciation for non-musical mothers

Reformation Day is on the 31st October and this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther pinning his theses to the door of the Castle church in Wittenburg. Talking mom2mom has a free set of intricate colourings of the Five Solas which are ideal for older children. The Trinitarian Bible Society produce a rather splendid Reformation timeline.


It is easy to get dragged down by difficulties when home educating. This isn't a Christian article, and this shows in the solutions, but the list of joy suckers is pretty accurate.

Hope that your autumn is going well. Does anyone else struggle with not overloading the day but wanting to fit enough in?

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Thursday, 28 September 2017

How Home Education is different to School

I have a minor peeve about the term home school as it suggests that the only thing different about what we do is transport the classroom venue and have fewer pupils. Actually, home education is very different.

So we don't
  • have to follow the National Curriculum. 
  • have to teach from a secular worldview.
  • start and finish with school times. We usually do similar hours but we don't have to. This means that if the children have a late night, we can start later. Actual education, of course, lasts far beyond traditional working hours.
  • have to stay inside in "school time".
  • have to have a teaching qualification.
  • have to have the same holidays. 
  • have inset days-I rather regret this one.
  • have constant testing. 
We can
  • talk to the children about the Lord.
  • pray when things are difficult.
  • tutor the children individually.
  • individualise learning. 
  • let the children have major input into their learning. 
  • let the children be a part of caring for an older relative or anyone else, for that matter. Not, I hasten to add, in an arduous way but in terms of popping in and having a conversation, making a soup or picking flowers.
  • have activities that wouldn't really work in school: poetry teatime, having a picnic lunch in an autumnal park and more.
  • enjoy parks and playgrounds when they aren't overcrowded. 
  • make birthdays a holiday.
  • be around to see when the child takes a big step forward. 
  • learn rather than worry about tests when the children are young.
Home education isn't always easy. 
If your child is at home all day, you
  • don't get a break. 
  • are responsible for arranging the whole of their education. You might not teach everything  but someone has to research and arrange.
  • have to provide all their meals. This seems to involve a constant answering of the question What is for lunch?
  • have to fit other responsibilities around the children's education. I'm thinking of housework, paid employment and other caring roles. 
  • are financially responsible for your children's education. 
In my book, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Girls just like You/Boys just like Me

Jean Stapleton has written a couple of Christian children's books which we have appreciated: Read with Me and God's Special Tent. The latter is an explanation of the tabernacle, the special tent in which God's people met in the wilderness and includes instructions for making a model. So, we were pleased to learn that she has written two more children's devotional books: Girls Just like you: Bible women who trusted God and Boys like me: Bible men who trusted God.


Each of these hardback books contains fifty devotions around either men or women in the Bible. The format is a title, a suggested short Bible reading which is often only one verse, a retelling of the narrative followed by something to think and pray about.  Each book has a ribbon bookmark which seems a sensible addition. 

The characters vary from the very well known: Abraham, Mary and David to the less known Jehoiada and Jehosheba who were real heroes as well as  Shiphrah and Puah.

These books are recommended for ages 3-5 if read aloud and 6-10 for reading independently. This seems about right although I wish the publishers had not started the first paragraph of each day with a large capital which makes the first word  more difficult for young readers. 

These books are ideal for children who need an easy devotional book to read on their own or to read with a parent. They can be obtained from Christian Focus or Amazon.

Disclaimer: I was given these books by the author but was not expected to provide a review.

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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Learning Plans 2017-2018

We have just started our more formal learning again and with a new year there are a few changes. This is a list of my plans. Please note that what works for us may not work for you. Having made this disclaimer, I would add that many of my best ideas have come from other home educators' plans.

Younger Daughter is almost 11 so UK year 6 and Youngest Son is 8 which is UK year 4.

English aka Language Arts
English consists of multiple parts

-Reading. I am planning a time of individual reading, after lunch. This will be reading of the children's choice. Youngest Son will also read aloud to me daily.

-Writing. During morning time, I plan to work through the writing workshops in How to teach English at Key Stage 2 by Pie Corbett. Most  writing will be linked to topics in other subjects.

-Spelling. The plan is that one child will continue to use All about Spelling and the other will use Touch Type Read Spell.

Handwriting: Younger Daughter has been practising calligraphy over the holiday and will have some time to work on this. Youngest Son will use a handwriting workbook and copy work.


Typing: Nessy Typing and Touch Type Read Spell.

Poetry: we plan to continue to have a weekly Poetry Tea. This is much loved and has many benefits including reading aloud, enjoying and discussing poetry, reading dialogue poems with friends and writing. In additon to this, Poetry Tea helps with  planning a small snack and decorating a table.

Grammar and punctuation: we plan to use the Galore Park English books for this.

Extras: We hope to read Julius Caesar, this term, both in a simplified version and as the actual play to fit in with a Royal Shakespeare Company production of this play for schools in the late autumn.

Maths
We tend to start math with 10 questions which I write in the children's maths books the previous day. These tend to be short and cover topics which might need revision.                                                                                                                                            
Youngest Son has already started Galore Park Junior Maths book 2 and we hope to continue this.

Younger Daughter is using a different programme this year with the Schofield and Sims Understanding KS2 workbooks.

Maths games most days.

Science
Energy: its forms, changes and functions from the Elementary Physics Series.

Exploring Nature with Children: we are planning to use the new journal although work on one journal between the three of us.

Our home education group is studying science, this year and the group is also a judging panel for the Royal Society Young People's Science Book Prize.            

History  
This year we plan to study the Victorians and the First and Second World Wars.
For the Victorians, we plan to use Our Island Story as the core text and for the First and Second World Wars, The Story of Britain by RJ Unstead.
We hope to supplement with many other books, trips and activities.  This week, we have been consulting a rather old copy of Mrs Beeton to write a Victorian dinner menu.

Geography
I have planned three country afternoons during this term. In addition, we use Seterra and probably will use the geography from Valley Christian School Online.

Art
Younger Daughter is signed up for an Explore Art award and has done her first activity for this. While she is working on this Youngest Son will be working on coding using Code.org. 

Music
We plan to use Classics for Kids weekly during morning time. We sing each day and Younger Daughter has piano lessons.

Latin
We do a little Latin daily using Minimus. Younger Daughter is already familiar with book one so this is revision for her but new for Youngest Son. 

Physical education
This is mainly informal with visits to the park and time on the trampoline most days. Younger Daughter has been running with friends and has started to go to Park Run, on Saturdays. I would like to add in some longer cycle rides.



       
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Saturday, 2 September 2017

September Inspiration


I had every intention of blogging more in August but despite having a break from formal learning, this hasn't quite happened. We have had various trips out,
a photography workshop and many friends to play, plus a garden which has been wonderfully productive.

Grandma has enjoyed the general summer bustle and we have made major progress toward her being able to sit out of bed. It has been a long, long saga!

Planning for next year has happened and I hope to post about the resources we hope to use soon.

Earlier in the holiday, we popped into a temporary exhibition of Shirley Hughes' work. Shirley Hughes is famous for her books about Alfie and also Dogger. We particularly like her poetry anthology for younger children, Out and About. 


The Read Aloud Revival has had an interview with another favourite childhood author and illustrator, Helen Oxenham. Helen is the illustrator of Going on a Bear Hunt and it turns out that she is married to John Burningham of Mr Gumby fame.

Nothing to do with education but, at long last, I have found a yeasted banana bread recipe.
Yummy! I have tried increasing the number of bananas for extra flavour but this didn't make much difference to the taste and adversely affected the consistency. If any is left, this loaf is great toasted.

Some time ago, I reviewed Hazel Stapleton's book Looking back with ME. This was orginally privately published but has now been attractively republished by Day One Publications.  

Not infrequently, I am asked about starting home education and resources. Now, into our ninth year, we use a mixture to suit the children's needs and interests. I hope to post about the resources for this coming year very soon. However, there hasn't been a UK Christian curriculum divided by key stages and looking toward UK exams. Just recently, I found out about Valley Christian School Online which plans to fill this gap. I haven't used the resources as yet but am in the process of signing up to use some of the Key Stage 2 materials. It is looking very promising and if all goes well, I plan to update about this.

Farmhouse Schoolhouse is a US blog and Instagram feed and one of my favourites. There is a new post about resources on the blog. I like the disclaimer that the post is to give ideas rather than something to copy. The part about not buying cheap crayons resonated. We have found that, here in the UK, Straedtler pencils and Berol felt tip pens last far longer than cheaper alternatives. 

We are looking forward to the start of the new learning year and hope to be having a not back to school picnic with our home education group to celebrate! Do you have plans to mark this time of year?

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Friday, 25 August 2017

The Girl who thought in Pictures

It isn't always easy to help children to understand people who appear different. Background knowledge is  needed to help them befriend people who may behave in different ways. The Girl who thought in Pictures: The story of Dr Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca, is a successful attempt at explaining about how life felt for one autistic young girl.

Temple Grandin is a professor in agriculture and has autism. This book about her is a picture book with rhyming text.
The illustrations, by Daniel Reiley, are clear and make such sense in a book where the major character thinks in pictures.
I particularly liked the front and back pages. 

Temple was an unusual baby and found loud noises
and some sensations difficult to manage, in addition, she was a late talker. These difficulties made school a challenge and adding bullying into the equation meant that Temple snapped and was expelled. Temple had a supportive mother who sent her off to stay with an aunt who kept a ranch. Temple was in her element with the animals and this led to a high flying career in agriculture as well as in  advocacy for autism.

A lovely book which shows how people with apparent disabilities can succeed with the right encouragement. The unsung heroes of this book are Temple's relations who helped her find her strengths.

The last few pages contain fun facts, a time line and a potted, more formal biography.

Recommended particularly for children from about 5 to 8.

The Girl who thought in Pictures is published by the Innovation Press and is available from Amazon in the US. In the UK it is available to preorder from Amazon.co.uk. It is releasing on 29th August. It is currently available from the Book Depository and Wordery. In the US, The Girl who thought in Pictures is sold in Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: This book was supplied to me for review. I was not required to write a positive review


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Monday, 14 August 2017

New Nature Journal

Lynn Seddon's Exploring Nature with Children is the best resource I know for learning about nature with a family. As part of this, Lynn suggests making a nature journal and now, to help with this she has produced a guided nature journal to help you and your children keep a record of what you have learned and seen. The journal is set up by seasons with a section for each week and includes
  •  a page for a picture about the nature walk. This page has a box to record the weather
  • a poem to copy
  • an art study page
  • pages for extension activities
  • a place to record nature books read 
  • a calendar of firsts
The journal comes as a pdf and is available in printing and cursive versions. 

I am looking forward to using the journal with my family and creating a record of our year. 

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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Sources of Home Education Inspiration: History

This is the fourth in a series about resources in home education. 
Part 1: Sources of home education inspiration.
Part 2:English
Part 3: Science
This post focuses on history. There are plenty of materials around so I have concentrated on those which we have used.

History Curriculum

  • Veritas self paced. We used this curriculum for a couple of years doing the Greeks,Romans and New Testament year followed by the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation. These are all on the computer and require a daily slot to get through the sessions over a year. In addition, to the computer programme, history cards are needed. There are optional literature selections which I highly recommend. This programme was very popular with my history loving daughter. Both she, and I, learned so much. In addition, to the actual teaching there are map activities, a history song, revision games and more. Highly recommended. Sadly, the latter years tend to focus on US history which is our only reason for leaving Veritas self paced. If they had a parallel world history unit then we would be very interested!
  • Story of the World. We have used this curriculum in a couple of ways. First, to add to parts of history which we had learned out with Veritas. This worked well and second, as a history curriculum over the past year along with the activity book. Sadly, this has worked less well for us. This has been for several reasons: there are many topics but no built in revision so it has been difficult to hold the information and also because the activity book has been overwhelming. There are too many book choices, very few of which are available in the UK. We haven't used the first volume much but please note that some of the Bible sections are not Biblically accurate.
  • Story of God's Dealings with our Nation by Christina Eastwood. This is a Christian, UK history. We did find its format a little dry and worksheet based but I plan to use it again, alongside other books.
Books

There are so many books which can be used. These books are most relevant for primary aged children.
  • People in History and other titles by RG Unstead. These books have been around for years. I remember reading Unstead's histories when I was in school. Unstead was actually a primary school head teacher after the Second World War and wrote easy histories for his pupils. The older editions also tend to have large font.
  • Our Island Story by HE Marshall is the history of the UK. It is available as a book or as an audio book. The pluses of this book are that it is very readable and that it has more detail about the Middle Ages than many similar books but the downside is that it stops at the end of Victoria's reign. 
  • The Great History of Britain by Anne and Paul Fryer is suitable for children from about six and is another book with large font making it ideal for early readers.
  • Ladybird history books are generally out of print but cheap second hand. They have a picture on each page.
  • Usborne and DK have many illustrated history books which we often add to learning about any particular time period.
  • Simonetta Carr's Christian biographies for Young Readers are beautifully produced books around characters in church history. Each book includes maps and timelines.

Fiction

We have found historical fiction an amazing way to raise interest in history. This list could be enormous so I will limit this to the books which have had most influence here.
  • Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence. These have been read by both older and younger children. One of my younger children is a real enthusiast about these books and Roman times. Reading the Roman Mysteries has piqued an interest in all things Roman.
  • Veritas historical literature lists. We used these when we used the Veritas self paced curriculum.
  • My blog post on chapter books contains many more suggestions.
Other
  • Timeline. We have sometimes used timelines and tend to make our own using wall paper lining paper which is cheap and cheerful.The Trinitarian Bible Society have produced a rather more beautiful timeline of the Reformation.
  • Visits. Adding visits to museums and historical sites is easy. English Heritage allows free educational visits although these do have to be booked in advance. Many museums are free.
  • Book of Centuries is really another way of keeping a timeline. This link explains. We haven't made a Book of Centuries yet.
  • History file. This is an idea from a friend which I hope to start in the autumn. This involves keeping a file of history work, pictures and leaflets, perhaps from somewhere which you visit, in chronological order. It sounds an easy way of keeping everything in order, both physically and intellectually. 
  • Young Archaeologists club. This is a fantastic resource. There are branches all over the country. Our club meets once a month and also has trips to exhibitions as well as talks which usually include some sort of activity and often the chance to handle archaeological artefacts.
  • Themed meals. For the last couple of years, we have had a meal themed to the history which we have been studying. The first year was a Medieval banquet and the second a Thanksgiving dinner to remember the Pilgrim Fathers. Both involved dressing up and relevant cooking as well as investigating music and wall decorations.  This has been an amazing learning experience.
Please share your favourite history resources. I'm always looking for more!

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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Exploring Nature with Children: Exciting News

Nature walks form part of our week. Over the last couple of years, we have used Lynn Seddon's book Exploring Nature with Children for weekly inspiration and guidance. I have written about Exploring Nature with Children before. 

The nature walks don't have to be anywhere special or difficult to get at: the back garden or local park are ideal venues. The book provides so much more than just ideas for nature walks. It includes a poem and picture suggestion for each week as well as titles of books for additional reading. There are also many ideas for additional activities which cover art, science,writing and more. 



Lynn is now about to bring out another volume called Exploring Nature with Children: a Guided Journal. The aim of this book is to take a child through a year of nature journaling. I am excited about this new book and will let you know about it as soon as possible. 

Exploring Nature with Children can be started at any time of year although it begins from September. This is an ideal addition to a home educator's week but could also be used with schooled children after school, at weekends and holidays.

Disclaimer: These are affiliate links but this is a resource which we have used and enjoyed.

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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

August Inspiration



August is here. A month of planning, being outside and trying to make sure the children don't get bored!
In July, we've had a fair few days out as well as our lovely holiday in Wales. 

Brogdale, near Faversham, has national fruit collections and has amazing tours where it is possible to sample the fruit. We ate lots!



The Jewish Museum was fascinating and fitted well with a read aloud from earlier in the year, the Family with two Front Doors.

We haven't been to the brand new Postal Museum yet but this article has information and pictures about the old postal railway under London.


The National Gallery have a scheme for schools called Take One Picture. Schools study and do cross-curricular work around one picture. Apart from the teacher training, I can't see any reason why home educators can't benefit from this resource. Various pictures have been used in the past and the notes on the picture and ideas for activities are on the website. The picture for 2017-2018 is Joseph Wright's An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump but pictures from previous years could also be used.

Morning time is an important part of our day and I have written about what we do here. I have recently come across a post about how another family have arranged their morning time.This post has links to a couple of books about morning time. I haven't read either so this is more of a comment than recommendation!

Kate from Kate's homeschool math has produced an excellent post about the nitty gritty of how to actually teach a home education maths lesson.

Hope that you are having a happy summer!

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Friday, 21 July 2017

The Singing Tree


Over the next year, one of our history topics will be the First World War so I have been looking for some child friendly historical fiction about this time.

Earlier in the year, the book club read The Good Master which is set in Hungary in the years preceding the First World War. Most conveniently, there is a sequel, The Singing Tree which is set in the First World War.
The book starts with arrangements for a wedding in traditional Hungarian style, however, the wedding takes place on 28th June 1914 and as the villagers go home, the men hear the news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Of course, over the next few weeks, war starts. No one, on the Hungarian plain really knows why they are fighting but the men gradually disappear to war. The farm work is increasingly left to the old and young men and the women. In particular, thirteen year old Jancsi has to run a large farm, as the Little Master. 

As time passes, Jancsi's uncle becomes a prisoner of war in Russia and his father is missing. The farm acquires Russian prisoners of war as farm hands and then hungry German children as evacuees. 

The book has themes

  • the pointlessness of war
  • ordinary people on both sides are much the same
  • people are worthy of respect regardless of race.
  • the psychological effects of war
An interesting motif, in view of what happened latter, is the important role of the Jewish shop keeper in the village. There are points when there is some foreshadowing both of Jewish persecution and of communist sentiment. 

This is a fascinating and sensitive book which should cause some thought. Ideal for children aged 8 to 12. There are no vivid descriptions of fighting in the book although some minor characters die and a major character is in a military hospital.

Highly recommended.

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Monday, 17 July 2017

July Inspiration

I've been missing in action. Our school year has now finished. This year hasn't been a stellar year. In many ways, it has been hard work, particularly, trying to balance the needs of the children and of a frail elderly person. At one point, I decided that what would really help would be a butler to answer the door to the carers, nurses, therapists, deliveries and more that seem to arrive daily. Sadly, I'm not sure that a butler is going to happen.

Last week, we had a week away. It was complicated to arrange but it was so refreshing to have a break in one of our favourite places, the Welsh borders. If you haven't been to this area, I highly recommend it: countryside, not over crowded, reasonably accessible and beautiful.



Like many others, I struggle to find clothes for my preteen daughter. Recently, we found Purple Parcel and have been delighted with the skirt that we ordered.

Summer is time for the Big Butterfly Count.

Shelly has published the most enormous list of unit study resources.

Some children are busier than others. Amy has a post about occupying high energy preschoolers. I could have done with this post a few years ago!

Something completely different, these are really old colour photos.

How about this for building a library?

I'm hoping for a few slower weeks and time to plan for next year.  Two years ago, I put in a couple of items which have worked well and I would love to add to these. These added extras are a longer morning time and poetry tea. If you have any components/parts of the day which work particularly well, please leave a comment.

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

English Heritage Visit

Today, we visited Apsley House, otherwise known as One London, which was the home of the Duke of Wellington.
Like many other properties, this belongs to English Heritage and we were able to have a free self guided educational visit. This is the first time that we have organised one of these visits for ourselves. Today, I didn't organise a group beyond children as I wanted to see how the system works.

The most daunting part of the visit was filling in the booking form with our educational objectives. My children had been learning about the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars in history so in many ways, this wasn't difficult. I was a bit concerned about how much detail was needed but it seemed to pass muster!

Having booked the visit, I was entitled to a free visit as the educational leader and had the opportunity to pick up a classroom kit

which was aptly stored in Wellington boot shaped bags.


Prior to going, I was a bit concerned about the trip. One of the children doesn't always enjoy historic houses but thanks to a great audio-visual guide and helpful room guides, the trip was a success. The children were keen to do everything on the guide and didn't want to leave a room until all was complete.

More information about English Heritage education visits can be found here.

Disclaimer: These views are my own and those of my children. I was not asked to blog about my experiences. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Reading Challenge: Half Way Point

This year, I am taking part in the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge. So far, I have changed my mind about books and which part of the challenge I am working towards! My current aim is to try the whole 104 book challenge although I doubt that I will manage them all. At this point, I have read 47 on the list so lagging! The list is here with a list of the categories for the reading challenge underneath the actual list.

Anyway, my thoughts on the challenge

  • It is a push to make me read different genres and one that has been enjoyable.
  • Some books won't fit into the challenge. There are a fair number of a book of your choice slots but I have already filled them. My personal books that are unlikely to fit into the challenge are children's books, educational books and books about dementia. 
  • There are categories which could have been added. For example, a book about ageing.
  • One or two categories have annoyed me, particularly, those where a book from a specific publisher has to be read. 
Anyway, so far the best books are as follows (category in brackets)

  • The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford (Christian living). Book of short quotes from letters by Samuel Rutherford. This has made me want to read more of Rutherford's letters. I wish that people wrote letters or emails like this now. 

  • The Bronski House by Philip Marsden (recommended by a family member-thank you to my cousin). This is a book about how two generations of one family had to leave the family home due to war in Poland, in fact a part of Poland that is now Belarus. The style is like poetry and this, and several other books that I have read for the challenge, have allowed me to put a toe into the complexity of Polish recent history. 

  • The English Puritans by John Brown (church history). Lucid explanation of the rise and fall of the English Puritan movement. 

  • Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr (less than 100 pages). Simonetta Carr's books are aimed at children but I always learn from these well presented books.

  • Man Overboard by Sinclair Ferguson (book by Sinclair Ferguson). This book has been on my shelves for more years than I like to remember. In fact, I had read it before when I was a student but have enjoyed the crisp writing and insights. I particularly, found the comments on Jonah finding a ship going to Spain useful. 

  • People with Dementia Speak out  editor Lucy Whitman (book of your choice). I recently gave a seminar at a Pilgrim Friends Conference. Someone in the audience kindly sent me this book which includes a chapter written by his wife. This book contains chapters written by people with dementia about life with dementia and reminding us that they are there and communicating. This is written from a secular perspective and includes people from many different backgrounds but is worth reading by anyone who knows people with dementia.
I would be delighted to have more recommendations! What have you enjoyed reading recently?

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