Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Book Review: Graphic Biographies

"Graphic Biographies" is a set of 5 books produced by RIC Publications.

These have been on my wish list for quite a while and recently I was given a fantastic opportunity to review these books and some others (future reviews) for RIC Publications. 

* I would like to say that while materials have been supplied to me, my opinions on the products are all my own, good or bad so this is not a biased review. * 

There are 5 titles in the series: 
Marie Curie
Thomas Edison
Alexander Graham Bell 
The Beatles 

These are, by the very name of the series, Graphic Biographies. Comic Book style according to my 10 year old son.  Well laid out, not too busy, easy to read and full of information. 

When I received the books my plan was to put them aside and use them as part of unit studies, especially for the Scientists/Inventors, that I had planned for later in the term. However my son had other ideas and we ended up reading them ALL that night and the following day.  This style of book really gets the kids interested and it is not a chore at all to get them to read and learn. Just what a homeschooling mother wants! 

I am really impressed with the quality and content of the books. 
They are paperbacks, 25 pages per book and full colour with great illustration work. 

Would I recommend these?
They are great just as readers, or for part of unit studies (for Scientists/Inventors etc), they are great for exploring text types in English and also for the child who likes to learn via special interests.  

While I don't like to promote something based on gender stereotypes, I will say that this is a GREAT pack for boys. Often as a homeschool mum, I have struggled to find educational reading books that boys really love. I feel that not only the layout and format appeals to boys (who often love comic books) but the content appealed as well.  Topics like The Beatles and Houdini are not ones you come across in reading books and my son loved them.

The books can be purchased from RIC Publications by visiting their website: 

One thing to note (that I LOVE!!!!) about the RIC Publications website, is that you can view all their books before you purchase them. So don't just take my word for it, head over to their website and view the books (I also show my son) and see what's on offer. 

I love being able to share great products so hope you liked my review. 
Thanks for reading!  

Monday, 27 April 2015

May the 4th (be with you) is International Star Wars Day!

Here are some fun things to do as part of International Star Wars Day: 

  1. Learn about the Solar System (Science)
  2. Design your own planet or space ship (Geography, Technology, Art)
  3. Play Star Wars themed Scrabble (Spelling)
  4. Make Wookiee Cookies (Cooking, Mathematics & Reading) 

    (Hint: Google Wookie Cookie Images and check out all the VERY cool options for decorating as there are so many and some look amazing!)
  5. Write an alternate ending to one of the movies (English)

  6. Make Origami Star Wars Craft (Art)
  7. Read a Star Wars book! There are plenty, our current favourites are the Jedi Academy series. (Reading)
  8. Learn about Force! (Science)
  9. Jedi training: Make pool noodles into oversized light sabers and practice your moves! (Physical Education)
  10. and lastly .... Watch the Movies!  Film appreciation / Film Study. (Drama)

    So what are your plans for May the 4th? Make Wookie Cookies maybe? I like mine Chewy hehehe

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Learning with Board Games!

The Board Game is often the forgotten item amongst toys, video games, books and education materials.  It can however be one of the best tools for teaching and can put some fun back into learning.

Do you use Board Games in your home? 

We have quite a lot and my only issues is finding time to play them all (and finding room to store them all!)

Here are 10 great board games that you could use as part of your curriculum

  1. Scrabble:  Good Old Scabble! Fantastic at practising spelling, sight words & reading. Also great to play what we like to call Theme Scrabble, where the words you create have to be part of the theme like Geography or Science or from a Story or Movie. Theme Scrabble is great for unit studies and furthering topics. 

  2. Risk:  This is a favourite here although it can get rather competitive LOL.  This one can help with everything from Geography, Wars, World Trading, to Poverty.  A recent game had my son wanting to accumulate the third world countries to help them and eradicate poverty and hunger. The conversations and learning opportunities with games is endless! 
  3. The Great Australian Road Trip: This is one I have wanted for years and I recently bought. I was very excited to play it but my son needs to be a little older as many of the questions were too hard and with an ASD child that means a lot of frustration and refusal. However for a child/teen 12 years and over, this is a fantastic game! Covers geography, history, culture and even fun TV facts LOL. 
  4. Trivial Pursuit:  A classic and lots of options as the game is sold in many themes. junior versions as well as the original version. If you have a child that LOVES learning random facts, they will love this one. 
  5. Pictionary:  This one is also a great game to play no matter the artistic ability.  Can help a child with their drawing skills as well as their communication skills while learning more on a topic. 
  6. Monopoly:  This one is great for helping with Mathematics! Counting out money, working out how much to pay in rents or whether to buy houses or hotels to increase revenue. So lots of financial planning and forward thinking, budgeting etc. 
  7. The Game of Life: This one has a bit of everything really. Learning about life and talking to your kids about the future is a great thing and gets them thinking about what they might want to do in a non threatening game environment. Many kids don't think about the future too much so this is a great way to connect with your kids and bring up topics about life your might have trouble bringing up otherwise. 
  8. Scotland Yard: Fantastic for Map reading! Practice some mapping skills while also working on detective and problem solving skills! 
  9. UNO Stacko (Combination of Jenga and Uno):  Two great games combined in UNO Stacko. This is good for mathematics, problem solving, risk taking and as my son put it "Engineering and Structural Stability" LOL.  
  10. Chess : Chess and games like Chinese Checkers and Backgammon help a child with their executive functioning skills, their motor planning skills and problem solving skills.  

    Now there are many more games out there and this is by no means a 'BEST' list of games, these are just the ones we love to use.  I have many many more on my wish list like Catan (so many versions!), Timeline, Cranium, Geo Dice, Travel Australia Game, Passport to Culture, World Safari, Civilisation ... the list goes on.
My aim with this post was to mention the games we use and why we use them.  As I mentioned at the start, board games get overlooked and thought of as just for fun and for spare time and rainy days.  Just remember they can be very helpful with boosting learning time, consolidating facts and helping with overall functioning and processing. 

So if you have curriculum fog, days where you (both child and teacher) are over it and needing to switch gears, try a board game! 

Friday, 24 April 2015

ANZAC Day - More to read!

Yes, I bought more books.  

But books are wonderful! 

These are all my recent additions to our ANZAC Day bookshelf that we have been reading through this week.  You will find all my other ANZAC Day themed books here

The above is a resource pack which is full of great stuff despite being a little old ;) 

This book has been hijacked by Warrior Kids father as it is so great! 

The boys brought these home from the Army "Fly-in' Day last weekend. 

This one completes my set as we already have the book on The First World War. 

This is a great find and lots of information!! 

My last purchase is another to add to the series of 'My Story" books.  We currently already have a few (listed in my first ANZAC Day post here

This week we have watched:
The Water Diviner
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
and are recording: 
War Horse

I love to see what books people have on different subjects, gives me starting points when searching for things so I also love sharing what we have found to help others :) 

Weekly Wrap-Up 24/4/15 - Blog Hop

It's Weekly Wrap-Up Time thanks to Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers :) 

This week was week 1 of Term 2 for us :)  Autumn weather finally arrived and we have been busy and tired. 

It's also been one of those weeks where I had grand plans to do a lot of socialising and it just hasn't been able to happen. I've felt awful having to keep messaging the lovely mum organising everything to yet again cancel, but it's just not been our week LOL.  As much as I've tried.  Hopefully I am not alone and you all have weeks like that too? 

So what have we done? 

The weekend was a busy one.  Sunday father and son ventured out for a day trip to the Army Base at Oakey (about 2.5 hours drive from us) where they had a "Fly-in" and the boys got to check out a Catalina, had a tour, met up with a friend and soldier from interstate and got a personal guided look at things. Of course they came home with more to add to the library (book, poster, etc) so after they got home rather tired they had to sit and read the book LOL.  

First up Monday morning was our first session with Ben from The Music Bus! It was brilliant and my son loved it :)  He played the keyboard and the drums, learning a lot and surprising us with how much he was able to do so quickly including being able to read music for the first time! Check out my blog on that here

Then we were due to head into the city to the Museum with friends but after so much excitement from our music session, my boy found himself too excited and overwhelmed and hyper thanks to his ASD issues so it became a home afternoon.  That sounds calming and peaceful but not the case in situations like this unfortunately. 

Tuesday was a new literature unit and book: The Wind in the Willows. 
We started the book. Had both read aloud time from me, and reading time for Warrior Kid to practice.  We got the first 10 chapters done and watched one of our DVD's up to that same point. We looked at a children's picture book version and discussed what was the same and the differences and reasons for different types of books and content for the target age audiences.  

Wednesday was Horse Riding day at Riding for Disabled. This is our third year going riding and it's been fantastic for my boy.  That mornings lesson was really good but with some new/different equipment and set up.  Getting used to a different saddle and stirrup length (as he has grown) meant he was uncomfortable and due to his joint and muscular issues it meant he got very fatigued and very sore.  While he rode brilliantly and the instructors were very impressed (which makes him happy), it was a hard morning. So much so that my 10 year old fell asleep in the car on the way home and then after having some lunch at home, went and slept on the couch for over an hour. 

Thursday was yet another Podiatrist appointment for adjusting Warrior Kids orthotics. All is going well which is great but means another few weeks of getting used to them again. We managed to get some more school work done and some more reading of The Wind in the Willows. 

And Friday - here we are.  Today is dedicated to more study of ANZAC day for us.  We have some more books to read and DVD's to watch and some ANZAC biscuits to make so will be a busy home day with an early nights sleep - we are going to brave going to a Dawn Service ... 5am at our local Veteran's Club to pay our respect to all the Australian and New Zealand soldiers past and present. Let's hope we can go this year as in the past it's not been possible with Warrior Kid's ASD issues and other health issues.  Fingers crossed this is our year. The centenary of Gallipoli. I really want to make it this year. 

Then the plan is to come home and watch the big parades on TV like I've done every year since I was a young child.  Sad to say there is less and less of those men left marching each year.  The change from the huge marches when I was a child to now is quite drastic and sad that our kids won't really ever understand just how many fought and died, survived and marched in years gone by. 

So that's us for the week. See you all next week! 

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Music Bus Rocks!

Today was Warrior Kids first session with Ben from the The Music Bus. 

It was brilliant! 

Let me tell you why :) 

  1. Ben from the Music Bus is awesome.  My son has Aspergers amongst many other challenges, and Ben totally 'got it' and was so great at working out what angel to take and what challenges to give and how to instruct and be positive.  The huge anxiety that my son normally has with new things was not there today with Ben which was just so fantastic to see.
  2. The Bus is great!  Decked out with all the gear (instruments and technology), lots of space, great quality too. It was also very safe! Back doors open to let in fresh air and light but a screen is in place to keep children from falling out or running off.
  3. It's mobile!  The Music Bus comes to you!  We booked for private sessions so the Bus comes straight to our home. For groups the Bus goes to Schools, community halls etc.  VERY convenient.
  4. Support.  The Music Bus Franchisees are supported by a main office so there are printed materials like Music Books, there is a website and social media pages for information etc as well.
  5. It was easy (from a Mum perspective) as I didn't have to worry about travel, or cleaning my house or setting aside an area. I didn't have to supply anything. I didn't have to clean anything up afterwards. EASY!
  6. The biggest and best reason - MY SON LOVED IT !!!  Honestly that reason alone is enough to say it was brilliant LOL.  Our sessions are first thing on a Monday morning and a great way to start our homeschooling week. My son is in his happy zone since today's session. 

So would I recommend The Music Bus to other parents? YES, YES and a huge YES! 

From a Homeschooling Mum perspective there are some added benefits to lessons with The Music Bus.  
  • It covers MUSIC for those who are either not musically inclined, who might love music but don't know how to teach it
  • It provides instruments for those who don't have them or the other equipment (or the room for these things) for their children to use to learn to play. 
  • It comes with materials for the children who do have equipment/instruments at home to be able to practice. 
  • They have levels so you are able to keep tabs on their progress for if you need to report to your state board or distance education provider. 
* Please note: This is my own personal opinion and review and I have not been paid for this or given free incentives. 

  To wrap up, we had a very positive experience with The Music Bus and are looking forward to our next session and to having a great term learning music with Ben! 

To contact The Music Bus, check out their website and their Facebook pages:

Website - http://www.themusicbus.com.au/

QLD Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/themusicbusqld?fref=ts

Big Ben and The Music Bus Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/bigbenandthemusicbus?sk=reviews

NSW Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/The.Music.Bus?fref=ts

Friday, 17 April 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up Blog Hop - 17/04/15

Taking part in the Weekly Wrap-Up Blog Hop from Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers this week! 

It's been the last week of the Easter School Holidays here so we haven't been doing much school work, although every day is full of education via life anyway! 

I have been in a bit of a flat headspace and wrote this blog post about being flat and having time out for us mothers. 

I decided to try and deal with my overflowing bookshelves and am on a mission to find a good cataloguing program to use. So all those great bargain finds don't get left on the shelf and forgotten when we are covering topics. Which led to this blog post on having too much stuff LOL. 

My son has been spending his days playing with all the things he got recently for his birthday and that's meant Skylanders marathons, Lego days and to my delight .... reading!!!!  The book series of choice at the moment is "Time Hunters" (look out for a future review of those!). Oh and movies, lots of movies and DVD's.

This weekend I will be getting some child free time as father and son are heading to an Army Base "Fly-in" Day/weekend.  Will be great preparation and history lesson for our upcoming ANZAC Day here in Australia. Plus the boys are excited to see a Catalina up close! 

Speaking of ANZAC Day (25th April) we have been collecting our commemorative coins every day, we've been and bought official ANZAC medallions with sand from Gallipoli, the Two-Up game (ready for Grandad) and done a lot of reading ready for the day (see blog post). While it is always a very important day, being the centenary of Gallipoli is very significant this year. 

So not a super eventful week for us, a little deep and meaningful from me with my posts, lots of planning and lots to do in the coming weeks!  

Choose you own Adventure Books - History & Maths Quest!

This type of book is my son's favourite. They present a challenge for him and for a child with very high anxiety they can sometimes prove to be very frustrating and upsetting trying to 'pick' the right path - but over all, they are his favourite.

I just got my delivery of Scholastic (Australia) Book Club catalogues and two sets that we have and love here are in there and on sale so I wanted to spread the word for other parents who might have children that love this format of books too. 


The History Quest 4 pack contains: 
Tomb of Terror
Medieval Mayhem
Minotaur's Maze 
Race Through Rome
These are history (obviously) books that teach while being fun! Each book is very colourful, 48 pages, has a glossary in the back and also a page titled "Taking it Further" with additional ways to continue their learning.  It is also very easy for the child to use as opposed to chapter style 'Choose your own path' books.  If the child has chosen the wrong path (by answering the question wrong) they are told and given a 'do over' option. Fantastic for children like mine who have high anxiety as they know there is a safety net option. 


The Math's Quest 4 pack contains:
The Cavern of Clues
The Mansion of Mazes
The Museum of Mysteries 
The Planet of Puzzles
These are obviously Mathematics based books. Again, colourful and fun! Rather than answering a history question to pick the path, they need to use their Mathematics skills to problem solve and find their way. Again there are terminology sections at the back of each book and a 'Notes for Parents' page. 

Both sets are fantastic quality. Although they have different authors, they both have the same publisher QED Publishing. 

My tip if you don't have someone you know that has access to Book Club with Scholastic, is to call them and see if you can set up your own account (they will for Homeschoolers but you need to provide a certificate of homeschool registration) or ask around in Homeschool groups.  These days Scholastic have a program called LOOP which allows families to order and pay online, AND have them delivered to your home for a small shipping fee ($4.99).  You may be able to find these on other online book stores too! Try Booko.com.au as this searches many book sales sites and is great for comparing prices. 

I love sharing with friends when I find great books and these are some of our favourites. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Too Much Stuff?

Do you ever get to that point where you forget what is on your bookshelf because you have so much stuff? 

I do. 

Self confessed bookaholic here. 

I don't buy things we won't use, they are on topics we will cover (now or in 5 years!) and they are all great resources - there is just a LOT of them.

So I have a plan. 

A plan so that "no book is forgotten or left behind on the shelf".

I am entering the world of cataloguing. Am I insane? Yes of course but it seems my growing library needs organising and it's time to put my Librarians badge on! 

I want to be able to start a topic or theme, unit study etc and be able to get all those amazing books I have hunted for and use them all. I find myself putting a new book in the room and find one sitting next to it and think "Oh I forgot I had that one!".

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as I share the process with you (and in case I am buried in a book-o-lanch and you don't hear from me, call for help LOL) and work out how my little cataloguing system is going to take shape. 

In the meantime, tell me, do you catalogue things in your home? 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Feeling Flat

As a mother who deals with my own anxiety, stress, emotional baggage and issues with the world and many people in it, I find that while I love homeschooling and the positives it brings to our lives, I do find myself going through periods of feeling flat and also feeling completely overwhelmed. 

I used to get very down about it and question everything I was doing.

I posted a while ago about it being very much ok to stay at home and not do much in the way of interacting with the community, but I will go one step further and add that it is also ok to have down time, mental holiday breaks and time out.

In fact I think it's essential.

For both you and your child.

Many do this by getting themselves a hobby or having child free time to follow passions or simply catch up with friends or take time out to read a book. It recharges your batteries and makes for a happy mum.

Many like myself struggle to do that though.  A hobby adds many things to my life I don't want or need - which is often more stuff and clutter, more pressure to fit things in, more expectations of ourselves and often financially are not do able. Many of us cannot get child free time as are either single mothers with no support, have special needs children who need them all the time (me) or who simply don't have access to time for themselves.  Many like myself have health problems too, which adds more issues and makes time out harder. I've struggled with the me time aspect. I really have. I know I need it but I have made myself feel so guilty about having days where all I wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep while my son played or watched movies. But it happens. 

So instead I give myself permission to have periods through our homeschool year where I back right off. My son can enjoy childhood and play while I recuperate and rest. I give myself mental health days (sometimes a few in a row!), time out and try not to stress about not sitting at a desk teaching my son. That's my 'me' time. I take off my homeschool hat and be me for a while, just at home, with my son, just unwinding. 

I might even have the time to make myself a cup of tea, with the good china, just because I am worth it. 

I feel that's ok to do, I feel it's essential for me to do and I needed to say it for all the mothers like me who find it hard to cope sometimes.