Draft Elective Home Education (EHE) Guidance: What’s The Problem?

You may or may not be aware that the Government is currently consulting on new draft EHE guidance. We, like many other home educators across the country, strongly oppose these new guidelines because we believe them to be unnecessarily restrictive and intrusive.

Our ultimate objective is to secure the home ed status quo, support action to reduce off-rolling, highlight the good work being done by parents, and put the focus back on OFSTED to deal with schools (including unregistered ones) rather than putting the blame on home educators. We urge the Government to put the huge financial cost and resources it would take to implement the draft EHE guidance to far better use.

Please sign this national petition to help us.

It takes less than a minute to complete the process of signing it. The reason why we are asking people to do so is to show the government that people all over the country are angry about what they are proposing to do. Please take a minute to sign it.

Please also take time to respond to the consultation. You do not need to be a home educator to do so.

Fill in the online consultation by clicking here

It has been made really easy by following this guide:

Dare To Know Blog – guidance for completing EHE consultation

The most effective way is to respond to the consultation online. Alternative contact details though are as follows…

Email: HomeEducation.consultation@education.gov.uk

Write to:
Elective Home Education: Call for Evidence
Independent Education and Boarding Team
Department for Education
Bishopsgate House
Feethams
Darlington
DL1 5QE

A note about SEND children

As a parent of an SEND child, who also has a severe anxiety disorder, the guidance is particularly concerning. This is because it proposes the potential for intrusive monitoring, and invasion of personal space, that could badly trigger anxieties and be detrimental to a child’s mental health.

Many autistic children, especially those with high anxiety – as is often the case – would potentially find it distressing to have a stranger enter their home, which is their safe space in an overwhelming world, and/ or be subject to a stranger speaking to them alone, due to their social and communication difficulties. Also, there is a genuine concern that the parents themselves might incorrectly be seen as non-compliant, because some people do not understand child refusal.

Whilst many families would view such procedures as inconvenient or intrusive, autistic families could find it a whole other degree of stressful and it has the potential to dramatically affect their mental health. For some, it could be extremely distressing should this draft policy come into action.

Whilst, theoretically at least, exceptions could be made for such children, it is likely in reality that parents would have to then fight for their child’s needs – and voice – to be heard. So it would be far preferable for these rights to be protected for all children, not just those most vulnerable to its impact.

FAQs about the draft EHE guidance

What’s wrong with having a home education register?

In short, optional registration for some kind of service is entirely different to compulsory registers for the purpose of tracking and monitoring.

Registering for a service is different. E.g. registering at a dentist, a doctor, library or a school – you are registering to receive a particular service at a particular place. The registration is so that the service knows who uses its services and often so that the service gets funded. You can choose to stop using the service at any point, and be removed from the register.

The other forms of registration are mandatory, based on a particular characteristic. Not to receive a service, but so that the individuals can be tracked and monitored. Why do home educators need this? If the argument was for a compulsory register of say muslims, or LGBT, you would most likely see the issue with it!

Why are you opposed to the government offering support? Surely that is a good thing!

Support – if it is actually helpful i.e. the right kind of support for that individual/ family – can most certainly be a very good thing of course! But when ‘support’ is really a code word for interference from authority figures who do not necessarily understand the family’s needs, or the value of different educational approaches, this can actually be somewhat detrimental to say the least.

The consultation has just two questions in the support section, yet 7 in registration, and 9 about monitoring. That should probably give most people a clue about the true purpose of the guidance!

It is somewhat like suggesting that OFSTED really only comes into schools to offer support!

But if it saves just one child…

This argument comes up often! But it short-sighted. Whilst, in theory, it could save a child from abuse (although statistically, there are far less abuse cases amongst home educators than school children anyway, and I am not even going to get into all the other reasons why this argument misses the point!) in reality the number of children it could actually harm with its interference is undoubtedly far, far higher.

Children who were removed from school due to bullying, kids with fragile mental health and/ or severe anxiety, could be irreversibly damaged – or lives lost to suicide – because of a system that is supposedly intended to protect vulnerable children.

As home educators, we are looking at the bigger picture and seeing the otherside of the coin. The Government sadly appears to be dismissing such concerns.

Surely if you have nothing to hide, what is the issue?

Firstly, see all the points above.

Secondly, if a stranger demanded entry into your home and started searching through your stuff just incase you had stolen something – with no actual evidence, or even a good reason to suspect you are guilty, other than that you happen to do your shopping at a particular store – would you mind? Would that be ok with you?! No, I didn’t think so. Not ok with us either.

As another example, I am not carrying a concealed weapon – it doesn’t mean I am happy to walk around naked to prove it to everyone! For the comfort of everyone, let’s just assume I’m not 😉

We have a right to quiet privacy in our home and wanting to protect that right does not make anyone criminals. And the truth is, there is absolutely no logic in suggesting otherwise!

But children have rights! We need to make sure all children have a good education!

We agree! That is exactly why we are fighting to protect our freedom and rights to home educate as it stands currently!!!

The draft guidance is extremely heavy- handed and unnecessary. It invades our children’s privacy, and restricts our educational choices. Sometimes children do need a different approach to education, such as SEND children for example.

Education is not, should not and cannot, be a one-size-fits-all approach. Square pegs, round holes…

The bottom line is: whatever your opinion is on education, please support our freedom and right to choose.

Rockford’s Rock Opera Review & Giveaway Bundle

Rockford’s Rock Opera by Sweetapple is an ecological musical story about extinction, biodiversity, the value of the natural world and bringing endangered species back from the brink. It was created by a group of friends (Matthew Sweetapple and Elaine Sweetapple, husband and wife, and comedian Steve Punt) in an attic in Barnet, Hertfordshire and was first launched on the web in 2008. Rockford’s Rock Opera is enjoyed in 100,000 schools all over the world. This year it is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary and is now in the process of being turned into a feature animated film! With a production budget of $38,000,000 it will be one of the UK’s
biggest-ever independent films.

Rockford's Rock Opera

The story is unique in it’s format and delivery; combining pictures, animation, songs and dialogue. It is a truly touching story with an important ecological message. In essence, it is a musical story about a boy from Battersea called Moog and his Dog, Rockford. The underlying message is that one day we’ll discover the greatest secret of all; how every species on earth can live together in harmony. The creators, who describe it as Jungle Book meets Jurassic Park, suggest it is aimed primarily at ages 6-12 years old.

I downloaded all four of the parts on my iPhone from the App store (part 1 is free, parts 2, 3 and 4 cost £1.99 each). Each app contains extras as well as the story itself; including the music, story background and useful learning material (did you know that 99.9% of all creatures that have ever lived may now be extinct?!) as well as links to environmental organizations and charities.

Rockford's Rock Opera app

The story itself is a good combination of stills and CGI (some quite psychedelic; it took me back to the Beatles yellow submarine), supported by clear narration and varied styled music – some with singalong lyrics (one of my favorite touches). Not wishing to give too much of a spoiler, the story centers around Moog and his rescue dog Rockford from Battersea Dogs’ Home, who find themselves travelling across the sea of tranquility to an island called Infinity; home to the last creature of all extinct species. Here they encounter many fictional creatures, including a small yellow sticky creature with a green stripe called a Cocklebur Ink, a ten tentacle octopus called a Dectopus and a menacing guitar playing mantis called The Registrar, to name just a few. Moog and Rockford must race to the centre of the island against the backward flowing river to stop the extinction of all dogs and humans on earth. But, given humans were the cause of many of the islands creatures’ extinctions, not everyone wants them to succeed.

Rockford's Rock Opera Island of Infinity

All four parts run to 2.5 hours in total but is divided into chapters, making it perfect for bedtimes or car journeys. It has no in app purchasing and does not require an internet connection, so it’s 100% safe for children to use unassisted.

I have to say I fell in love with this story. It really tugs on the heartstrings and inspires empathy in such an original way. It gets the message across very clearly, and is hard hitting, yet also simultaneously approaches it in a sensitive and tactful way; it is a delicate balance that has been achieved remarkably well.

The songs range from slow, emotional songs such as ‘This Tail is True’ to really rocky tunes like ‘I Am The Registrar’. My absolute favourite though, is the incredibly catchy ‘Tale of The Cocklebur Ick’. This one has literally not left my head! I think not least of all because it carries such a strong message and is so thought- provoking. That tale in itself can lead to many hours of valuable discussion; indeed there are entire lesson plans on the website to cover just that part of the story.

The website is filled with tonnes of useful information, from detailed lesson plans to practical ideas on how to protect our environment. It also has loads of other cool fun stuff too, so do check it out! RockfordsRockOpera.com

Giveaway!

I have an awesome Rockford’s Rock Opera giveaway bundle for one reader to win! Enter via rafflecopter below. UK only. Competition ends on 8th July 2018.

Rockford's Rock Opera giveaway bundle

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I was given free access to the apps for the purpose of review and was compensated for my time. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Kelly Allen – Home Education Guest Post Series

You may remember last year I ran a guest post series for fellow home educators. Well, incase you missed it, here is another one! This Q&A guest post is written by Kelly, who has home educated her two children for the past 2.5 years…

Home education guest post series

Introduction

My name is Kelly, I’m married to Warren and we have two home educating children called George and Molly. We live in Cardiff and we enjoy going on long dog walks, movies, arts and crafts.

How long have you home educated for and why did you decide to do it?

2 and a half years. My children were really unhappy, medical reasons and a lack of faith in the school system.

Briefly describe your home ed style. Do you have a ‘typical’ week and what does it include if so?

We’re probably semi structured, with days out and groups as well as little projects at home focused on their passions.

What was your highlight of home ed last week?

Having the realisation that they’ve suddenly grown up, and being able to spend those precious long days with them that will soon be memories of childhood. I’m glad I can be there during it all.

What is your favourite thing about home edding your child/ren?

Freedom without the influence of school life or the pressure to pass standardised exams during childhood.

What do you find most difficult and why?

Other people’s opinions and the infamous socialisation question. I just find it incredibly judgemental and exhausting to answer time and time again.

What advice would you give to other home educators?

Reach out to the community, whether online or at groups. They’ll be your network of support and you’ll probably need it.

You can find Kelly Allen over at her blog and social media channels…

www.kellyallenwriter.com www.facebook.com/kallenwriter www.twitter.com/kallenwriter www.instagram.com/kallenwriter

Educational Resources For The Family Home

Whether you home educate or not, educational resources are an important part of every family home. From books and writing equipment, to art supplies and games, here are some of our top essentials…

Educational Resources for the Family Home

Reading Material

The number one must-have for all ages! Whilst this may seem like a given, I couldn’t write a blog post about essentials and not include it! And remember, it is not just all about fiction books; non- fiction material, magazines, catalogues, recipes, or anything else that is appropriate for the child’s level of development and that captures their interest also matters just as much too!

Squiggle reading Change It Cho by Clever Tykes

Writing Equipment

For older children, pens or pencils, and for younger children, a variety of markers, plus a good selection of paper, is of course a necessity for every child. Tablets/ computers etc.. are another form of writing that definitely should not be overlooked in this digital age, especially as those with SEND might find this form of writing easier. For a child-friendly email account to practise writing and communication, we use Tocomail.

Screenshot of a tocomail email with attachment sent by Squiggle

White boards and chalk boards are also another great way to practice writing. As Boo, Roo and Tigger Too explains: ‘Whiteboards are great for all sorts of activities. From drawing and counting, to practicing handwriting.”

Teacherboards sell a range of whiteboards and chalk boards, including larger versions for the wall and also individual, portable workboards too. Both are really useful to have in the home! They also have a lovely corkboard/ whiteboard combo that I just love, it would be perfect for keeping the family organised!

Cork and whiteboard combo from TeacherBoards

Creative Supplies

Whilst many parents understandably cringe at the idea of getting the paints out, particularly with younger kids, they are a vital resource! As are colouring pens, chalks, crayons, charcoal and other art supplies. Plus different items for collages. And don’t forget fabrics for textile projects too!

Squiggle drawing with art supplies

Musical Instruments

A small selection of percussion instruments for young children is on my essentials list. For older children, a chosen instrument to learn to play and practise is beneficial.

Kitchen Supplies

Measuring jugs, mixing bowls and a range of ingredients to carry out kitchen experiments are excellent for all ages! Perfect for maths and science.

Squiggle doing a science experiment using kitchen supplies

Messy Play/ Sensory Activities

For young children and SEND children, opportunities for messy play (such as cornflour, coloured rice, porridge oats, slime, sand and water for example) and sensory resources such as playdough, light ups, tactile objects, bubbles, and fidget toys are on my must-have list.

Nature/ Gardening/ Growing

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can have a go at growing your own food, such as herbs for example, indoors. Nature is without a doubt an essential resource!

A selection of gardening supplies for indoors and outdoors

Sports and Physical Games

Bats and balls, skipping ropes, hula hoops, and any other equipment that helps to encourage physical activity is of benefit. Most would consider a bike an essential, or things like scooters and skateboards too. Trampolines and climbing equipment is an asset but not all families have the space or finances for these of course.

Family Games

There are lots of educational games available. Orchard Toys is a popular brand, especially for younger children. Learning Resources also stock brilliant games, suitable for a range of ages. And don’t forget the classics like Connect 4, Dominoes, Scrabble and Uno for example; all of these are educational, as well as fun!

Orchard Toys game boxes

Electronics

Whilst we personally don’t have a strong emphasis on screens ourselves, mainly due to Squiggle’s specific needs and her own choosing, there are certainly plenty of educational websites, apps and games available to choose from. We personally liked Reading Eggs and Maths Seeds when Squiggle was younger and we found the Cbeebies website useful too. Soph Obsessed says Phonics Play has helped her son with alot his phonics.

Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs also recommends the LeapPad. She says ‘It has all kinds of games, songs, videos and apps that are both fun and educational.’

For older children, there are far too many excellent choices to name, but we did particularly like Smartick Method. Coding games such as Play Osmo are very popular at the moment. Minecraft is also a huge hit with many and has alot of educational value. Of course, the internet itself is beneficial for research purposes – and to develop actually research skills – too.

Squiggle using a smart phone microscope

Puzzles and Jigsaws

Puzzles are educational for several reasons. As well as fine motor skills, spatial awareness, problem solving and observation skills, as Big Family Organised Chaos pointed out, many also have educational things on them. Her children, like Squiggle, discovered alot about where countries are just from a world map puzzle for example.

For older children, larger complex jigsaws are a brilliant educational resource. Even adults enjoy doing these too!

Construction

Lego! So useful for counting, building and sorting! ~ The Mum Diaries

We use Magformers every day, for all kinds of learning for every age. Colours and shapes for the youngest, maths and engineering for the older ones, moving onto physics and more complicated experiments for the oldest. And all whilst they think they are playing. SO Great! ~ Inspire Create Do

What are your educational essentials? Do you have any favourite resources? I would love to read about them in the comments section!

Thank you to the following bloggers for contributing to this post, in addition to the others already mentioned:

Ankle Biters Adventures

Freddies Mummy UK

Joanna Victoria

Household Money Saving

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

The 3 Biggest Myths Around Home Education Dispelled

Home Education (sometimes also known as homeschooling) isn’t for everybody, and there are many reasons why a parent might prefer a traditional educational establishment. When both parents work full-time, for example, an education at home may seem unachievable. Or for other reasons it may be, or at least feel, out of the question. And of course, many children do enjoy school.

However, there are misunderstandings about home education that put people off the idea. It works for us, but there are those myths that always seem to circulate about home education that need to be dispelled to give any doubters an informed choice. We have listed some of them below, so if you have been sitting on the proverbial fence about whether to home ed your child or not, we may be able to set the record straight on a few things…

The 3 Biggest Myths Around Home Education Dispelled title with faded background image of apple on a pile of books

Kids miss out on the social aspect of school

Home educated kids don’t spend time in a school with hundreds of children, but to say they don’t have the opportunity to socialise isn’t true at all. It can rely somewhat on the parent, but with a little bit of proactivity, their children can be out socialising with people their own age (and indeed a wide mix of ages!) within the home ed community, and in extra-curricular activities that take place outside of a school environment too. Many home educating parents work with each other as well, organising field trips, groups, activities etc… where their children can learn and mingle together. And besides, not all children fare well socially at school, especially those who are shy and awkward, have SEND, or who struggle to fit in with the varied cliques on the school playground.

Home educated children miss out on college or university

This isn’t true, and there are many colleges who will take home educated children, with or without recognised qualifications. You can normally find this out by checking the college website or by giving them a quick phone call. It’s also possible to study for the relevant GCSE and A-level courses at home and sit exams at a centre. Some study through correspondence courses, or with a private tutor, if that suits them better or the parent doesn’t feel able to cover every subject thoroughly. In some cases, parents home educate their children for a period and then children attend mainstream schooling to study for the relevant exams. So there are options available, meaning those who are home educated won’t miss out on qualifications or further education.

It’s also possible to study for the relevant GCSE and A-level courses at home and sit exams at a centre. Some study through correspondence courses, or with a private tutor, if that suits them better or the parent doesn’t feel able to cover every subject thoroughly. In some cases, parents home educate their children for a period and then children attend mainstream schooling to study for the relevant exams. So there are options available, meaning those who are home educated won’t miss out on qualifications or further education.

Children perform better at a mainstream school

While there are some brilliant schools out there – check out the Leicester High School for Girls with all their fabulous accreditations, for example – there are also schools who struggle under Ofsted’s scrutiny. Still, there are many factors that come into play regards a child’s performance, regardless of where they study. Home education actually offers benefits which could enhance a child’s performance, including customisable learning according to the child’s needs, and one-to-one attention. Mainstream schooling is great, but these two points are hard to achieve, due to their large class sizes and a strict adherence to the National Curriculum. There are pros and cons to any form of education, but to say a child’s performance is affected by home education is a misnomer.

An image of a child sat at a table holding a pencil, writing and drawing

Final word

As we said, home education is not for every parent, and it may not be for every child, either. On the flipside, this might be the preferred choice for both parties depending on the circumstances. Is it right for you? We can’t answer that, but we do hope we have dispelled some of the common myths around the situation.

*This is a collaborative post.

Learning Success System: Help Your Child To Thrive! (Review and Giveaway)

Have you heard of the The Learning Success System before? It is an educational programme that helps children develop the key skills they need for learning. Whilst this is especially beneficial to those with SEND, the activities are actually useful for any child. It is available at the discounted reader price of $197 for a 12 month subscription, with a 90 day guarantee. You can purchase it here.*

How Does It Work?

In Brief…

It uses various approaches to overcoming learning difficulties, using new findings in neuroscience, as well as tried and tested techniques developed by experts in the field. New exercises are delivered daily via email, and there is also a support forum too.

The More Technical Details…

The first principle of the Learning Success System is small steps. In Japanese culture, it’s called Kaizen. It comes from the idea that crash learning doesn’t work, at least not long-term; continuous improvement over time is more effective. Therefore the tasks are only brief but to work well, the programme should be carried out regularly, although the exact amount in terms of length of time and frequency are flexible. Tasks can be approached in the way that works best for your child/ family.

In summary, the programme works on the following strategies for better learning:

Build up micro-skills

Trigger neuroplasticity

Build confidence

Brain integration

Build grit

The exercises focus on developing different skills such as working memory, auditory discrimination, cross- lateral coordination and other skills that help across many areas of learning. Find out more info here.

The Learning Success blog, The Learning Success System, SEND, learning skills, educational resources, home education, homeschool, online education programme, learning difficulties, discount

The Verdict

The exercises are quick and simple, but also fun and engaging. They are all very much active learning techniques, not passive teaching. (This is a good thing!) If you do find the activities are starting to get abit dry after a while, you can easily be creative and adapt them to make them more interesting. As an ex teacher and SENCo, I have experienced the benefits of using exercises such as these in the classroom too and feel they do help alot of children.

I have also been told about some of the upcoming new features. I can’t share that information with you yet, as it is top secret still at the moment… but I will tell you they sound very exciting and I am looking forward to checking them out!

Further Information

There is a huge wealth of information over on The Learning Success Blog.

They also have an online dyslexia test with detailed report, which some people might find useful.

Giveaway!

One lucky reader can win a 12 month subscription to The Learning Success System. Enter via rafflecopter below. Competition closes 27th March 2018. Open worldwide. Other T&Cs apply.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Post contains affiliate links. This means I get a fee for each person that signs up, this does not cost the buyer anything extra. Thank you for supporting me in this way!

Disclosure: I was given a free subscription for the purpose of this review and giveaway.

Qualifications That Can Lead To A Job

When you are choosing a degree to study, you might want to pick one that has the highest possibility of getting you a job as soon as you graduate. With that in mind, here are three degree qualifications that can lead directly to a job…

Qualifications That Can Lead To A Job title on faded background image of graduation robes.

Medicine

Medicine degrees have the highest possibility of getting you a job straight out of University. This is partly because of the time you have committed to learning about medicine and training in one of its professions in that you know exactly what your career goals are. A qualification in medicine has a much clearer goal and destination that other degrees such as ones in English or other subjects. As you study medicine, you get a very specific set of skills that are in high demand for positions like doctors and nurses. These jobs are sought after due to the time it takes to become qualified and learn all of the necessary skills and techniques. This makes medicine one of the best degrees to study if you want a job as soon as you graduate. However, it does take far longer to graduate than other degrees.

Business

You don’t need a business degree to get a business related job. However, it will make it far easier as you will have a lot of knowledge from your degree to fall back on. If you have a degree in marketing, for example, and want to get a job in PR, then having this knowledge and the skills from your degree are going to surpass those from people with history degrees. Certain other business related positions require specific qualification. Accounting is a good example of this. In order to be an accountant, you need to have an accountancy qualification. This might be baked into your actual degree or something that you study for once you have graduated. Either way, having a business related degree such as a business management masters degree is going to give you a head start and make you a better candidate in job applications. For this reason, you want to have a business related career then you should get a business related degree.

Languages

Languages are an incredibly sought after skill. If you are fluent in a language and have a qualification confirming this, then there is very little limit to the type of job that you can do. You can work as a translator, work in another country doing whatever job you want or anything like that. This is because, in order to become fluent in a language it takes years of training, practice and dedication. It isn’t something that you can learn on the job as the whole job is knowing a language. This means that you will be highly sought after by employers across the world. Certain languages are more useful than others. Unfortunately, if you studied Welsh, then you won’t have the same opportunities as someone who learns French or Russian. However, knowing a language is always a good thing, and it will definitely open doors for you.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Educational Gifts For Children (Gift Guide) 

Are you looking for childrens gifts that provide educational value as well as fun? This educational kids gift guide will give you some great gift ideas!

As home educators, we often look for gifts that inspire learning and provide educational value. There is no reason why presents can’t be both fun and useful! So I have compiled this gift guide full of fab educational ideas…

A collage of the items featured in the gift guide. 'A Gift Guide...' written at top. Title 'Educational Gift Ideas for Children' in middle.

Whotchilli Games

Whotchilli games by PLYT are competitive, fun and mentally stimulating number games, suitable for families of all ages and abilities to enjoy together. They are perfect to play at home or take on your travels so are a very handy addition to any family. PLYT games are also endorsed by National Numeracy and leading maths consultants, so these really are effective from an educational viewpoint too.

There are several different games to play with the Whotchilli set, and more games will continue to be added too. This helps to keep things fresh and fun, which makes this longlasting and great value for money! The games available so far are:

Lookin’ hot – This game is about reading the minds of your opponents to work out whotchilli they’re playing whilst using cunning and skill to bluff and double bluff each other. The hottest player wins the game leaving everyone else feelin’ chilli. A fast, fun game for 3 to 6 players

Salsa – A game of logic for 2 to 3 players as you try to work out whotchillis are in your opponent’s Salsa recipe.  Build your rating and try to be the first to unlock the recipe.

Chilly Chilli – A game for 2 to 6 players where you try to stay cool by remembering whotchillis have moved where.  The coolest hand wins the game.

Scorchio – The aim of this game is to build the hottest score by correctly predicting the number of tricks you will win. 

The rules for these and future games will be available on the PLYT website and they will also send them via email.

RRP £9.99

A photo of the Whotchilli game boxed.

Azoomee Premium

Azoomee is an amazing edutainment app aimed at children aged 5 to 9, which provides a safe and secure space for them to watch, listen, play, learn, make, do and share. Learn and have fun with 1000s of the best videos, games, tutorials, learning content and audiobooks along with a packed creative tool box for this age group, all carefully selected by children’s media experts, teachers and parents. With a huge library of content including favourite kids shows such as Charlie & Lola and Horrible Histories, there’s something for every child!

There are no in-app purchases and no adverts to worry about, making this super child- friendly. An online safety curriculum – Smart Safe KindOnline – is threaded through the app: a programme of short films, games and activities, unique to Azoomee, which shows how to be independent, safe and responsible online.

They’ve also launched a fantastic coding game called Run Marco which teaches young minds the concept of coding to not only stimulate their learning but stretch their imagination with creative and challenging ideas. No wonder they’re BAFTA nominated! It is even supported by NSPCC too.

The app is available on Google Play, the App Store and Amazon Appstore.

Buy an annual pass to Azoomee and give a child 12 months of unlimited safe entertainment on any mobile device. The gift card will be posted to any address in the UK on a beautiful coloured Oomee postcard. The perfect gift for any child.

1 Year Gift Pass to Azoomee £44.99

Readers can get 50% off monthly subscription for 12 months by using the code FAMILY.

An image of Azoomee saying the safe entertainment for kids. App logos. Photo of a tablet on a wooden floor with a few toys around. Azoomee app is open on the screen.

Wise(ish) Words – Book of Everyone

Wise(ish) Words is latest book by The Book of Everyone. This is a wonderful way to inspire children and offer words of wisdom and advice. The books are totally personalised so you can choose the style and content that will best match the child, from jokey to heartfelt sentiments. £1 from every book sold will be donated to WellChild, which is a brilliant national charity for children living with serious illness or exceptional health needs in the UK, and gives them the chance to thrive at home with their families.

In conjunction with the launch of the book, a photo series has been created in collaboration with WellChild with the aim to raise money for sick children this Christmas. The series, ‘3 Wise Words for Kids’ is a collection of portraits taken by award-winning photographer David Boni of inspirational people who all work with children, displaying their 3 wise words for kids this Christmas. You can join in by uploading a selfie holding up your own ‘3 Wise Words for Kids’ on social media using the hashtag #3WiseWords.

RRP £23.95 for paperback (other versions available)

An image of the front cover of Wise-ish Words by Book of Everyone and double page inside the book.

Katie’s Classroom

Katie’s Classroom is a fab online teaching resource and she also sells revision cards too. Katie’s Classroom delivers outstanding online video tutorials, with further examples of the practical applications in a lesson summary whiteboard-style tutorial, then there are also worksheets to complete for the final part of the lesson. This is currently only available for Year 4 Maths (which covers all National Curriculum lesson objectives and topics) but Years 3 – 6 in both Maths and English will be available soon.

Subscription is £10 per month or £99 per year.

Revision cards £10.50 per set.

Squiggle sitting in bed looking at year 4 revision maths cards.

Musical Instruments

Musical instruments of any kind make a fantastic gift for all ages. Music teaches many skills and brings out creativity. It can also support emotional development and mental health, plus builds confidence. From perscussion instruments for general musical enjoyment to keyboards, drums or guitars etc… to learn at home or through lessons, there is a huge choice to suit any budget.

A photo of Squiggle playing a Yamaha keyboard.

*Disclosure: I was sent some of these items to review/ for inclusion in this gift guide. The post also contains affiliate links.

#EveryMomentCounts Photo Challenge with Families Online

Families Online set us a photo challenge to capture a special moment every day for a week, on a different theme each day. This is the compilation post of our #EveryMomentCounts challenge.

Families Online have set selected bloggers an #EveryMomentCounts photo challenge to capture a special moment daily over this past week, with each day having a different set theme. The aim of this campaign is to remember that even the seemingly ‘little’ family moments throughout each day are precious and actually do matter. Every moment really does count! The themes for the challenge are as follows…

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I don’t think these are ‘official’ rules of the challenge whatsoever, but I also set myself the additional challenge of picking just one single photo for each day. Each ‘moment’ captured was on the actual day of the challenge too – no throwbacks – because for me personally, I felt the point was to focus on being ‘in the moment’ and embrace those special little moments as they actually happen. That was just how I chose to interpret the challenge though, and also I felt this is how I would get the most out of doing it as well. 

So here are my moments throughout the week…

Day 1 – Together

Monday was a tough day. But for days like that, it is even more important to capture and remember the special moments.

We don’t often spend time at home all playing together (it is usually either one or the other of us with Squiggle when we are at home, not both) so it was lovely to grab a few minutes together. I particularly love this photo because I captured Squiggle affectionately stroking her daddy’s stubble too.

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Day 2 – Tradition

I struggled to imagine how I might find much tradition in a regular Tuesday in September to be honest. But I decided to just get on with our day regardless, and see how it all worked out. After all, I feel that the whole point of the challenge is to just be in the moment, enjoying family time, and making every moment count!

As it turned out, we found ourselves outside embracing the beautiful signs of Autumn, collecting acorns and leaves. Of course this is a tradition! We do it every year, ever since she was tiny. I remember spending many afternoons during my childhood doing the same with my parents, as no doubt they did with theirs, and one day maybe Squiggle with her own children too.

However, I chose this particular photo, which is taken in the same spot we collected our autumn treasures just minutes later, because it is my favourite moment of the day. Squiggle had the biggest smile as she carefully jumped on and off the moving roundabout. And look at that lovely traditional style play area! They had those same rocking horses that you can just see in the background when I was her age, they were one of my favourites infact. Fun times!

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Day 3 – Laughter

On this morning I could hear lots of giggling from my bed, as Squiggle played with her daddy whilst I caught up on some rest. It is lovely to hear her enjoying precious moments, even if they weren’t mine to share with her! But ‘the moment’ I chose for Wednesday was when Squiggle was delighted to discover that the paddling pools are STILL open at one of our local parks (brrr lol!) and ran through them, giggling and laughing happily. This photo really captures that. Love it!

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Day 4 – Three Things

Continuing on with our Autumn exploration from earlier in the week, on Thursday we visited a beautiful local park that we hadn’t actually been to before, for a lovely nature walk and Autumn hunt. We found these 3 little treasures which we collected from different trees (obviously!) within a few metres of each other. We paused under a gorgeous horse chesnut (conker) tree with huge fabulous branches to take this photo of our little collection.

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Day 5 – Colourful

We had a day at home on Friday and we actually used the theme as inspiration for one of our activities. Squiggle and I went into the garden with the challenge of getting as many beautiful natural autumn colours into one photo as possible.

I adore this photo because of the vibrant red and orange berries on bold green leaves against the bright blue sky with gorgeous yellow and brown leaves in the background. So much colour at this time of year!

I really loved this moment of our day because it’s a great reminder that not only is it important to savour precious moments, but that sometimes we need to take the time and effort to actually create those special moments too!

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Day 6 – Love

Of course this picture would include Squiggle, whom I love more than anything! And this particular photo captures us outdoors in nature, which is one of our biggest loves.

But beyond that, this moment also captures us watching some charity fundraisers and volunteers at the park – an act that no doubt comes from a place of love. And even though these people were random strangers, we felt grateful that we were able to witness this for a few moments too.

So lots of love in this moment from Saturday, in various different forms.

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Day 7 – Reflection

For the last day of this photo challenge, how better to end it than with a moment of reflection. I stood on this bridge, looking out at the water, and took just a moment to myself to reflect on the wonderful moments we shared as a family throughout the week.

As a busy parent, taking a moment to myself is sometimes just as important as those precious family moments, hence why I chose this particular photo. I am grateful for the rare moments alone, as well as the many I share with those I love!

(By the way, we spent lovely quality time together as a family, right before and after this particular moment for myself, going for a wonderful walk in the warm sunshine. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday!)

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I really enjoyed taking part in this challenge; I loved how much it helped me to really be in the moment and focus on, and celebrate, those ‘little things’ each day. It amazed me how I noticed things so much more than I usually would, depending on the theme for the day, and generally too. I practice mindfulness anyway, but I am still genuinely surprised by how much difference taking part in this challenge made!

Thank you to Families Online for inviting me to take part in #EveryMomentCounts 

Smartick Method: Online Maths Program – Review and Giveaway

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Smartick prior to doing this review, but I am glad they got in touch as it is well worth knowing about! In brief summary, Smartick is an online maths program for children ages 4 to 14 years old. It is rather cleverly designed to be based on ability and progress with the child at their own pace, using latest Artificial Intelligence technology. This means it is not restrictive and challenges the individual child to go as far as they are capable.

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As an ex- teacher and home educator, I really like this program. I feel it teaches methods and skills clearly in a simple but effective way. It is quite focused and maximises learning, but it does have visual aids and some basic gaming elements that aim to help keep children engaged and improve concentration levels. I think the way it adapts itself to the individual to personalise their learning is really impressive!

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Each session lasts 15 minutes per day, set for maximum concentration and motivation. This is great as it is just a short, manageable burst of learning and isn’t ‘too much’. Smartick recommends that children do a session at least 5 days a week to truly experience the benefits of the program. This is fine for most children, but I knew we might find that challenging personally because if Squiggle perceives it as a demand, her anxiety goes up and she avoids it. As predicted, this happened very quickly!

We also weren’t able to make best use of the program because it is intended for the child to work on independently. Squiggle was not able to do this though because she felt that she needed me to explain it to her, which then added more time, so her speed and other data were inaccurate. Obviously this affects the function of the AI. I should point out though that this was not a reflection on Smartick; it is very clear and I think the majority of children would have no problem using it independently whatsoever. It was simply down to her anxiety and the high level of support she needs.

However, I totally admit that I knew from the outset that the structured approach might not really suit the nature of Squiggle’s particularly complex SEND needs, but I decided to trial it anyway because I was curious if we could make it work for her, and I was also interested in reviewing it generally for others too. So regarding the above comments, we are a very tough crowd to be fair! And we did find it very beneficial in our own way. Whilst we weren’t able to take full advantage of some of the best features of Smartick, it still motivated and inspired her, and provided an excellent springboard for maths practice off- screen. This is really valuable, and was totally worth it just for that!

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Anyway, I feel that I am digressing a little now as this is probably not relevant to most families! Back to the review…

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Parents receive an email as soon as their child completes the daily lesson with a summary of performance. This is really useful! Plus there is a parent dashboard, so you can log in and see study plans, questions and units that the child has answered, data about performance and other things. Also, there is a team of educators behind the scenes to answer any questions that parents or children have, via phone or email. I found the lady I emailed with was absolutely lovely and very helpful.

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Overall, I do recommend Smartick – it is a great tool for learning maths. If you would like further information, or to subscribe, see their website: www.smartick.com

To be in with a chance to win a 3 month subscription to Smartick, enter my rafflecopter giveaway below!

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Last but not least, there is also a referral program whereby parents can benefit from a £20 discount if they recommend a friend, and the new friend that subscribes will receive 25% off the first subscription they buy. So do feel free to mention me for a discount!

*Disclosure: I was given a free subscription to Smartick for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.