Thursday, 14 September 2017

Educating K | Which Books Are We Using? | Core Subjects

So here's the post that so many of you have been requesting.  Which books are you using?  This is a question that I get asked a lot and I'm always happy to share whatever I can with you.  I've had to split it up into 3 parts otherwise this post would have been just too long!


When I first started homeschooling, I asked a lot of questions.  The more I asked, the more I learnt.  And when it came to books, it was so overwhelming especially with the amount of information out there for every single subject, I got so confused.  I would often search online for books and try to find any that I could see a preview of and if I wasn't doing that then I'd be visiting any bookshop I could find in search of more books.

I didn't want the usual books you can get from WHSmiths to teach English, Maths and Science because they were an extension of what you already learnt at school.  I needed books to teach K like they do at school, you know, proper books with information and questions.  With real work.

Although, in the beginning, I bought the Collins English and Maths books, which I didn't feel really challenged K much.  They were the first books I used whilst we were waiting to hear back from the council.  But I found the Schofield and Sims books to be excellent.  They covered everything and they were perfect for K during Year 3.  We used their Spelling book and Maths books which had just enough explanations and examples and the right amount of work for her to complete too.


Moving on to Year 4, the more I looked at all the books the more confused I became.  In the end because I couldn't make my mind up I bought all the books I thought I needed.  I checked the websites to make sure they had a returns policy because I knew I might not be keeping them all.  It gave me a chance to see which ones I liked and I thought were right for K and returned the ones I didn't need.  It felt like such a relief when I finally got a chance to look through all the books in my own time.

I also checked a lot of school websites and the TES forum to find out which books teachers were using or recommending.  They were so helpful and I also watched Youtube videos on Sarah Javed's channel as well as Our Muslim Homeschool and spoke to Mara on Instagram and of course my SIL sent me lots of information when I first started.  Their advice and help is something I will be forever grateful for.  I learnt so much and came across books and websites which were working for them and having done my own research I found that they were going to be perfect for us too.  They really did help us get through our first Year and plan out our Year 4 too.

So here's the answer to the big question.  Which books are we using?

English

As I mentioned in my previous post, planning this subject was most definitely not a walk in the park.  It was proving to be too much and although I had planned it all out 2-3 times, I still wasn't happy.  Maybe it's because I'm such a perfectionist but I just didn't feel content with my plan.  I found it difficult when it came to marking because let's be honest, with all the new things being introduced since I went to school, which was a very long time ago, I felt a bit lost.  I had just got my head round prepositions, connectives, adverbials and all these new grammatical terms when I remembered I had to teach poetry, creative writing and so much more.  With English there was so much going on we decided to take the weight off and enrol K with Wolsey Hall Oxford.


I no longer have to plan any of her work, nor do I have to mark it.  What I do have to do is follow the lesson plan and teach K.  All the lesson plans have been sent to me as well as the books we will need and we can work at our own pace, no pressure.  They even send her an assessment which will show us how she is doing.  We also have access to Education City, which I'm aware a lot of schools in the UK use to teach SPaG in a fun an engaging way.  We can call or message her tutor, who is lovely by the way, anytime we like.  We have regular Skype calls so if we need any extra help, it's always available.  Once K completes the work, we scan and email it back to her tutor, who then marks it and gives K enough feedback to help her and understand how she is doing.  


Wolsey Hall Oxford is an online school where some famous names have also studied with them.  Nelson Mandela studied for his University Law Degree and the President of Singapore, SR Nathan too.  I did a lot of research and found plenty of great reviews.  So far we're enjoying our lessons with them and pleased with our decision.

If you're looking to plan your own lessons then do take a look at Twinkl as they have plenty of lesson plans for each year group as well as the Hamilton Trust website.  This website has all the lessons planned for each year group and is split up into terms.  There's a fee of £28 if you'd like to download all the lessons but there are a few free samples for you to try before you buy.   There's a variety of lessons to choose from, however the lesson plans are a lot more wordy than the Twinkl plans.  If you can get past that, and they also meet the National Curriculum requirements.  To make the most of the plans you'll have to pay subscription fee but I would say that Twinkl is definitely worth it since we've used it for almost everything, including a few games and activities for my 3 year old to keep him occupied too.

Maths

I bought a book called Target Your Maths by Stephen Pearce which follows the National Curriculum so is perfect for teaching Maths.  Each criteria has 3 parts, Part A which recaps the previous years work, Part B which teaches Year 4 work and Part C which are extension questions to further strengthen what has just been learnt.  I found out about this book from the TES forums and actually quite like it but I also came across Conquer Maths through Sarah Javed.



Conquer Maths is an online course so all the lessons are to be completed online.  It's used by some schools here in the UK as well as homeschool students, so I knew it wasn't a gimmick.  It also follows the National Curriculum but what really drew me to this program is that each lesson is taught to the students via a video which explains the lesson in a very simple and easy way.  The video can be viewed as many times as your child needs in order to understand the lesson and then there are questions related to what's been taught.  You can set a target for your child to reach in order to pass so that they can move onto the next lesson.  There's also no waiting around for answers because it's marked instantly and you can print out your results at the end too.

I was planning on using the book and Conquer Maths side by side but for now we're going to continue with just Conquer Maths and then maybe use Target Your Maths as an extension.  At the moment, K is really enjoying the video lessons and again with every lesson already planned we will be working through Year 4 accordingly.  It has made my life so much easier too and leaves me with some time to prepare other lessons, work on Love Hijab or any other tasks.

BTW there's a 40% off discount when you use code 'homeed' with Conquer Maths.

Science

This is a subject you'd think was impossible to teach at home but in actual fact it's not.  I started off with Twinkl and have also tried the Hamilton Trust lesson plan.  In my opinion, although I like the Hamilton Trust plans, I found that they were best suited to a classroom environment.  I would have to tailor the lesson to suit us and our homeschool.  So, we decided to stick to the lesson plans on Twinkl.


This year, I downloaded all the Science topics and lesson plans for Year 4 from the Twinkl website and printed everything out.  Although it took me a day to do, everything is now organised into folders and it's ready to use.  Each lesson comes with all the worksheets and activities as well as a powerpoint presentation to teach the lesson too.  The answers are also included with each worksheet so you can mark the work easily.  Along with the lesson plans, there are also homework activities which you can use if you like and additional resources for classroom displays, like posters, labels etc.


At the end of each unit,  you'll also find that there's an assessment to test their knowledge on what they've just learnt.  As a child I remember the most exciting part of our science lessons were the experiments and the Twinkl plans have some very interesting and easy to follow experiments that you can easily do at home.  There's no need for any special equipment so it's perfect for your homeschool.


I have come across so many Science teaching packs, however some are just too expensive for our homeschool.  I will be leaving a list of resources at the end of this series where I will also leave links to some books I've found for teaching Science especially if you're not a teacher.

Although I hadn't planned to use the Science lesson plans from Twinkl for Year 4, after looking at everything else I found, I decided they were the best plans for us and were manageable too.  I also bought a book from Galore Park which covers everything you need to teach Science and has a lot of detail and great explanations about each topic.



We'll be using this book alongside our Twinkl plans to add a little extra information on each Science topic we cover.

So that's what we're doing for our core subjects.  In my next post I'll be talking about the resources we use for the rest of the subject such as Geography, History, Computing, Islamic Studies and Art.





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