Friday, 9 April 2021

What's so special about April 23rd?

If you follow my page on Facebook, or make use of the Every Day Matters learning calendar, you'll see that some days have more than one reason that they are special. April 23rd, however, seems to have more reasons than most.  

By Angel Lahoz from Fuenlabrada, Spain - Georgia Tiflis Tbilisi, CC BY-SA 2.0,

April 23rd is St George's Day. He is the patron saint of England, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Portugal and Brazil. In Spain, he is the patron saint of Catalonia and Aragon. In Russia, he is the patron saint of Moscow. Listen to the legend of George and the Dragon at Storynory
Can you find these places on a globe or world map?  

 April 23rd is also Shakespeare Day, being the anniversary of his death in 1616 and, possibly, the date of his birth in 1564. He was a prolific writer whose work is still popular more than 400 years after his death. 
Why not watch an abridged, animated version of one of his plays or read one of his sonnets? 

UNESCO has declared April 23rd to be World Book and Copyright Day (this is celebrated at the beginning of March in the UK).  It's a day to celebrate the importance of reading. Every year, a different city is nominated to be the World Book capital, to carry on the work of World Book Day for the next 12 months. In 2021, this honour has been given to Tbilisi in Georgia. 
Why not read aloud a picture book set in another country to celebrate the global importance of books? Do you have a favourite? I'd love to know, please do leave a comment below or drop me a message on Facebook :) 

 As if these three observances weren't enough, the UN has also declared April 23rd to be both English Language Day and Spanish Language Day. Can you learn three new English words today to broaden your vocabulary? You can use a dictionary or thesaurus to help. 
Can you learn a few words of Spanish today? You could maybe chose ones that tie in with the other reasons to celebrate April 23rd, like book, play, saint, country or celebrate. 

You can get a free monthly copy of the Every Day Matters learning calendar in the Picture Book Explorers Facebook group, or get it sent direct to your inbox by subscribing to the newsletter below.


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Friday, 2 October 2020

How To...


...involve your older kids in Picture Book Explorers activities.
I'll let you into a secret, my kids were still enjoying testing Picture Book Explorers packs for me when they were 12 and 13. Compared to the more serious textbook work they were embarking on, Picture Book Explorers were their 'light' learning activities. Don't get me wrong, they were still learning and benefitting from the packs, they were just having a lot of fun while they were doing it :) 
Yorkshire Robin Cake

Many of the activities are open-ended enough for older kids to join in with the rest of the family and work at their own level. They can be challenged with extra research tasks - learn more about the locations or an event on the timeline...

They could create a travel itinerary for a visit to the county or location, paying attention to actual distances and travelling times.

Instead of using the mini-book templates, they can come up with their own methods of presentation, a power-point or video, perhaps...

Creative writing topics can be extended - can they retell the story from one of the character's point of view? Write a book review? Rewrite the blurb on the back of the book? Come up with a marketing campaign? Turn the story into a play?

Can they redesign the cover? Write and illustrate a sequel? What sound effects would they add to the pictures?

They can go more in depth with the science activities - write up the experiment fully or learn more about the anatomy of plants and animals...

They can work more independently on crafts and cooking, use the maths concepts for revision and find a place to visit as a family that ties in with what your family has been learning.

These are just a few ideas. I'd love to hear if you have anymore. Please email me, pop in to the Picture Book Explorers Facebook group, drop me a line through the contact form on the website  or leave a comment below :)

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Ten Tips For New Home Educators

September is a new month, a new season and the beginning of a new academic year. This year, more than any other,  more and more people are turning to home education. For some this is a long-term prospect, but for many it's a temporary measure due to the current pandemic. Either way, all home schoolers are welcome here :) 

It can be very daunting

My main tips would be:
1. Try to contact local home educators for real life support, meet ups and information about dealing with the local LA
2. Don't buy anything yet
3. Don't panic. It's natural to be nervous at the beginning of the journey....and at the end ;)
4. In the UK, you have to provide an education from day one, BUT it doesn't have to look anything like school
5. In the UK, you don't have to follow the NC, or any curriculum for that matter. You can be totally child-led, if that's what suits your family best
6. Read up on the different HE philosophies
7. Prepare to be flexible, what works this month might not work next.
8. Spend some time deschooling by doing hands-on learning activities together - read aloud, bake, play board games, take walks, do art projects, make things, read aloud, watch documentaries, do some gardening, read aloud, have some days out, listen to your children and read aloud some more :)
9. Keep a diary of all the learning that has been taking place, not just the academic stuff, but the hands-on stuff, the hobby stuff, the life skills stuff and the fun stuff
10. Be prepared to learn alongside your kids. It's going to be a great adventure :)

Please pop on over to the Picture Book Explorers Facebook group to get ideas and support. I'm always happy to answer any questions about home ed, after all, it's my favourite topic of conversation ;) 

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Thursday, 30 April 2020

Anniversaries in May

How's everyone doing in lockdown? 
We've taken to doing daily Yoga With Adriene and playing Just Dance together as our main form of family exercise. We do go for the occasional walk. Living in a rural area is a real blessing at the minute, being able to walk up high, steep hills really helps to change perspective.

One of the things I've noticed recently is that there seems to be an awful lot of people comparing this current crisis to World War II. While separation from loved ones, shortages on shelves and long queues outside shops bring home a little of what day-to-day life on the home front must've been like, we enjoy the benefit of modern technology to communicate in a way that people in the 40s never could. Of course, it may just be that the war is in everyone's minds because this month sees the 75th anniversary of VE Day on the 8th as well as the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk starting on the 26th. Then, there's the remarkable story of Captain Tom, raising £29million for the NHS, reminding us all that the past and the present are inextricably linked.

If you are thinking about studying World War II currently, the British Legion have put together some free resources to use at home especially for VE Day. Pawprint Badges have a free VE Day Challenge pack. We've enjoyed using a couple of their packs already at our local home ed group and we were planning on using this one at our May session. I will be looking at using it at home instead. If you've not come across Pawprint Badges before, they're definitely worth investigating. So far, we have completed the STEM challenge and the Pirate badge :) 

To remember the evacuation of Dunkirk, have look at Picture Book Explorers ~ The Little Ships.  The pack accompanies the beautifully illustrated picture book which tells the story from the point of view of a girl, disguised as a boy, who helps on a boat that carries soldiers from France to England. As well covering Operation Dynamo, the pack will help you to learn about buoyancy, boats, verbs, Kent, Dunkirk and more. In the pack you'll find, maps, flags, a timeline, notebooking pages for different abilities, 8 minibooks, a puzzle, 4 fact sheets and full instructions for a range of hands-on activities including STEM, art and cooking. 

No matter how you spend your time in May, no matter what you study or don't study, please stay safe and well.

Happy Exploring!

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Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Gardening, Indoors and Out

At times of stress and difficulty, being in touch with nature becomes even more important than usual for all our well-being. The government are well aware of this, which is why we are all encouraged to get some fresh air and take daily exercise in this challenging time of lockdown.

I am lucky enough to have a garden, but even if you don't, you can encourage your children to grow things indoors.

You can use empty egg shells to make cress heads.
Draw a funny, happy face on the outside of the empty eggshell, maybe add googly eyes :)
Put some kitchen towel of cotton wool in the bottom of the egg shell, sprinkle on some cress seed and add water, enough to cover the seeds.

Within a few days, you will have green cress 'hair' growing from the top of your eggshell. It's always exciting for little ones (and big ones) to be able to harvest and eat food they have grown themselves!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Grow the tops of carrots by placing them in a saucer of water. Don't forget to change the water every day or so. You can eat the leaves in the same way as cress - add them to salads or sandwiches. The same goes for parsnip and swede tops too :)

If you have books featuring gardens, you may want to have  go at building your own unit study around it.
If you do have access to a garden or balcony right now, you may enjoy learning about seeds, growing seasons and more with The Linked Lapbook ~ Sowing & Planting You'll find science experiments, growing instructions and links to activitie sto keep you busy all through the growing season :)

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Monday, 3 February 2020

February Love

I ❤ February. The days are starting to get a little longer, the promise of spring is in the air and the garden. Bulbs are sending up green shoots, like fingers tentatively checking that it's safe to come out before displaying their glorious colours to a waiting world.

February is the month of Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate love and matters of the heart. Legend has it that St Valentine was a bishop in Rome who disobeyed the Emperor's law prohibiting marriage. Emperor Claudius II had this bright idea that men would make better soldiers if they weren't distracted by wife and family. Anyway, Valentine continued to perform marriages in secret but was eventually caught and thrown in prison. There, he cured the prison guard's blind daughter, Julia, and they subsequently fell in love. On the night before his execution on February 14th 270AD, he sent her a final letter signed "From Your Valentine".

Since the Middle Ages the feast day has been traditionally associated with romantic love, but nowadays, you can now find lots of activities online that celebrate familial and spiritual love too. In fact, I've collected some ideas together on a Valentine's Day Pinterest board for you to explore with your children ❤

This woven heart-shaped craft from First Palette is one of my favourites. I tried it with my Sunday school class and it proved a little tricky for younger children, so they simply wove the strips under and over each other to make a flat heart-shaped decoration instead. We glued the ends of the strips together to stop the heart from falling apart.
If you have older kids who have mastered the instructions, maybe you could set them the challenge of making baskets of different sizes so that they have to work out how to make the template for themselves ❤

February is also National Heart Month here in the UK. The perfect opportunity to learn about the science of the heart. You'll find lots of hands-on ideas, videos and printables on the Circulatory System section of my Human Body Pinterest board. There's something for all ages, so please pop over and have a look ❤

This February, we've got Pancake Day to look forward to as well. I can't wait :) Ooh, and don't forget that it's a leap year. I'll be taking the opportunity to tell my teenage children some leap year traditions. I think they may be a bit too big to play leap frog now - our own tradition when they were little 🐸 

What's your favourite thing about February? 

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Sunday, 29 December 2019

Big Bird Watch

The last weekend in January (25th to 27th) is the Big Garden Birdwatch run every year by the RSPB. If you visit the RSPB website, you'll find lots of free downloadable educational resources on the schools page including survey sheets for different abilities, bird feeder recipes, crafts, games and printables. All well worth a look at, especially if you have primary age children. You'll find different information on the Big Garden Birdwatch page itself. 🐦

I love national surveys that anyone can take part in. They're such a great way for families to engage with nature in a meaningful way, regardless of age and ability. In fact, I've found that working together as a family often means that my children are more keen to get involved, at least during the primary years. I'm afraid teenagers can be a little more difficult to convince, at least in my house. Although, I tend to find that if I start doing activities like this by myself, Boykin will at least pop along and lend a hand, even if only for few minutes and he's usually interested in the results. 😊

We're quite lucky in that we get a variety of birds in our garden throughout the year, although at the minute, I only ever seem to see the robin. In the summer, we've had woodpeckers, collared doves, magpies, jays, various tits and finches, magpies, blackbirds and once, I even saw a peregrine falcon.

The RSPB has a lot of useful information on their website about bird watching and what kit you need.There are pages for identifying birds that even have sound clips of birdsong and maps of

There are bird related activities in the following Picture Book Explorers, if you want to take your studies a little further:
Granny Sarah & the Last Red Kite - learn about red kites;
Katie Morag & the New Pier - learn about sea ducks;
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck - learn about ducks;
Black Dog - learn about garden birds.

Of course, each of these packs has a lot more to learn about than just birds and Black Dog is particularly good for this time of year, being set on a snowy day.

My favourite non-fiction books about birds include:

What are your favourite books about birds? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? I'd love to know. Please drop me a line or pop along to the Facebook group to join in the conversation

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