Welcome to The Contemporary Homeschooler

FeaturedWelcome to The Contemporary Homeschooler

Welcome to The Contemporary Homeschooler! Academic excellence, lots of experiential learning and high-quality books are hallmarks of our household. With a good structure in place, homeschoolers are able to complete their academic work in around half the time of a typical conventional school day. We like to use that extra time to engage with the world and follow our passions.  I don’t box our family into following a particular homeschool philosophy. Rather, I  see myself as an entrepreneur for my family: nimble and adaptive to our needs and learning opportunities.

I  see myself as an entrepreneur for my family: nimble and adaptive to our needs and learning opportunities.

As a homeschool family, you have the freedom to put your children on the cutting edge of education. You can customize and personalize their academics. There is a huge selection of curriculum, both web-based and paper-based, available to homeschool families. You can incorporate abundant experiential learning opportunities into your schedule. I will not squander my time away with my kids as a slave to excessive busy work or  dawdle around the house all day. We finish our work and get out into the world. Now, more than ever, there are wonderful opportunities for homeschoolers! Carpe diem!!!!

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Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read

Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read

I am a homeschool mom and taught each of my kids to read. Being part of this process has been one of my greatest joys as a mother. I want to share with you what worked for our family in developing advanced readers who love books!

Spending just $13 on Amazon and using a library card, your child can become a book-devouring bibliophile! 

I taught my oldest to read before he entered public kindergarten. His early reading ability propelled us into homeschooling. He was reading at a 5th-grade level and had already read five Harry Potter novels while most of his kindergarten peers were learning very remedial reading skills. The school did not offer adequate challenge or rigor so I pulled him out March of that year. I’m so grateful we made the decision to homeschool.

Different kids are developmentally ready to learn to read at different ages. Some kids are ready to learn at 3-years old while others are not developmentally ready until several years later. One of my kids was ready to learn at the age of three, another at 4 and the other at 5. In education superpower, Finland, kids don’t begin formal schooling until the age of 7.

  1. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons–This book was the best $13 I have ever spent on my children’s education. Additionally, I feel so strongly about its effectiveness that it is the only Amazon review I have ever written. The publisher says: “Is your child halfway through first grade and still unable to read? Is your preschooler bored with coloring and ready for reading?” 0671631985
    • It is entirely scripted and requires no prep on your part.
    • When your child finishes, s/he will be reading on a 1st-2nd-grade level.
    • You may consider using an incentive like a chocolate chip for each lesson completed or a prize after every 25 lessons.
    • After completing this book, we never did another phonics lesson again but went straight to reading books. We also never studied sight words.
    • Anyone I know who has stuck with this book has a very advanced reader who also loves books.
    • I feel so strongly about this effectiveness of this book. My recommendation is to start with this book and see if it is a good fit. If not, try another method. Several more are outlined below.
  2. Explode the Code–While Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was the most 0838814603brilliant book for my older 2 kids, it was not a good fit for my youngest. Additionally, she was not developmentally ready to start learning to read until age 5. One of the beauties of homeschooling is one size does not fit all, and we can customize to each child.  Explode the Code was a better fit for her. The phonics-based workbooks offer a lot of practice and a nice variety of exercises.
    • No prep required on your part.
    • An online version is available. It has received mixed reviews. I liked the workbooks.
  3. BOB Books–These book box sets for are helpful for early and emergent readers. Each 0439845009book is small so builds confidence. “With little books, come big success.” I used these as a supplement for my youngest with Explode the Code. Some families use BOB Books as a stand-alone reading curriculum.
    • No prep required on your part.
    • Even as a beginner reader, kids are made to feel they CAN read a book.
  4. Dr. Seuss Beginner Books–We love these books! They are so whimsical and fun to 0394800257read. The illustrations are engaging. These are absolutely perfect after you complete Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons or made progress with Explode the Code or Bob Books. There are so many wonderful titles in this series of Beginner Books. We enjoy them all! Some of our favorites include Robert the Rose Horse,  Wacky WednesdayGo, Dog Go, and Put Me in the Zoo.
  5. Sound Box Books–This is another effective and enjoyable series at about the same reading level as Dr. Seuss Beginner Books.  Dr. Seuss Beginner Books and Sound Box Books are wonderful examples of early reader books, and your library may carry them or other series you find useful. I listed these two because I have found them to be the best.
  6. Read Aloud–One hallmark of our family is the precious time we spend together as I 014312160Xread aloud to my kids. For several years, I have been reading to them while they have their meals and snacks (except when Daddy or guests join us). Jim Trelease wrote a wonderful book about the many benefits of reading aloud.  I believe the investment of time I have spent in reading aloud high-quality books on a wide variety of topics has been one of the most important parts of my children’s education and our family bonding. Here is a list of some of our most beloved read-aloud books.
  7. Book strewing–Strew appealing books throughout your house making it easy for your kids to pick them up and peruse or read them!
  8. Frequent Library Visits–We typically visit 2-3 different libraries per week. Each kid
    books-011
    My van full of library books after a visit to the library.

    has his own sturdy bag to fill up. When they were younger, we brought in a beach cart and filled it up.  We get almost all of our books at the library. We are such ravenous readers that it is impractical to purchase books. We do not have enough space in our house to retain them all.

  9. Online Learning–While online programs like Reading Eggs and ABC Mouse are popular with many families, I never felt them nearly as effective as sitting down one-on-one using the methods described above. I am not opposed to web-based learning. I tried both of these web-based reading programs and did not find them very beneficial. Reading Bear is a free, phonics-based program you may want to check out.
  10. Read, read, read!–The best way to foster a love for reading and develop a competent reader is to read, read, read! Read aloud to your kids. Have them read to you often during the early years. Create opportunities for them to read quietly. Ensure you have an enticing selection of books. Discuss your books.

Continue reading “Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read”

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Homeschooled Teddy Roosevelt Never Sat in a Classroom Until Harvard

Homeschooled Teddy Roosevelt Never Sat in a Classroom Until Harvard

President Teddy Roosevelt is one of many distinguished Americans who was homeschooled. As we look back on his childhood, we can marvel at how the extra time and freedom that comes with homeschooling created his unique character and intellect. For example, he had the latitude and space to:

  • Spend ample time  reading
  • Explore and pursue his passion for natural science
  • Travel abroad extensively

Reading

Young Teddy had tutors and copious amounts of time to read. His parents “offered him a wide choice of reading material and did not force him to study any particular books.”  In fact, he was such a fervent reader, “never without a book to settle down with or pick up in a spare minute.” Kids laughed at the way he read standing up balanced on one leg and the other foot raised like a stork.

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Pursuit of His Passions

All the free time Teddy gained from homeschooling also allowed him to explore and pursue his passion of the natural world. A visit to a to a taxidermist’s shop, where he learned how to skin, stuff and mount animals, was an important event in his life. He hunted, collected, and labeled so many specimens that he was given the attic for his own Museum of Natural History at his family’s home in New York.Image result for free image teddy roosevelt

 

Travel Without Constraints of a School Schedule

Though sheltered in many ways, Teddy and his siblings saw more of the world than most American children. Twice his family journeyed on yearlong trips abroad. This included a year-long excursion to Europe and also living on a houseboat in Egypt. In Egypt, he was able to observe and catalog many exotic new birds.

When Teddy entered Harvard, he had never been in a class with others before. Teddy participated in a variety of activities and was elected vice-president of the Natural History Society.

Teddy Roosevelt went on to become the 26th President of the United States and was called the “Father of Conservation” for his tremendous work protecting the environment.

A reflection of his education mirrors what so many homeschool families value today: 1) Personalized and customized academics; 2) Experiential and hands-on learning; 3) Travel; 4) Pursuit of passions; 5) Love of books; 6) Time with family.

You may also like:

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The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

Do Parents Need More Patience for Public School or Homeschool?

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The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

The state of California offers me, a homeschooling parent, $2600/year in educational funds for each of my kids. I, along with so many other homeschooling families in California, have crafted a customized and well-rounded education that reflects our family’s interests, priorities, learning styles, and values.

Thanks in large part to our educational funds, I believe homeschoolers in Southern California are at the forefront of 21st-century learning. We are empowered with financial resources to truly customize our children’s education. The network of homeschool vendors is huge because homeschoolers have those financial resources to pay for their educational offerings.  Most families would only be able to afford a fraction of these learning opportunities without the funds.

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have promised to usher in an era of educational choice. Perhaps one outcome will be that homeschoolers across the country will be given the CHOICE to receive educational funds similar to how we currently do in California? Homeschool families in my state still have the CHOICE to remain independent.

The ecosystem of classes, programs and enrichment opportunities for homeschool families in Southern California is enormous, and I credit much of that to the educational funds. With such tremendous infrastructure in place, it makes for a thriving and dynamic place to receive a 21st-century education and explore one’s passions.  Personalized learning is all the rage amongst education circles these days. Homeschoolers have been doing this for years. With educational funds, it makes it even easier to facilitate a top-of-the-line education for our kids.

I’d like to share with you how educational funds work in California for homeschool families. This may be something similar to what we can expect from Secretary DeVos for homeschoolers nationwide.

  • Educational Funds–Charter schools for homeschoolers offer educational funds. There are multiple charter schools and each competes to attract and retain students. The charter school I selected spends, on each student’s behalf, $2600/year to use with vendors to provide for a well-rounded education. The parents direct what they want to spend their funds on and the choices are colossal. Funds can’t be spent on religious curriculum or classes. I don’t know any two families who spend their funds in the same way. Our options are vast. Here is how we are spending our funds this year:

    • Piano, flute and saxophone lessons
    • Flute and saxophone rental fees
    • Basketball clinics and gymnastics lessons
    • Weekly field trips
    • Weekly project-based learning classes that correspond with our field trips
    • Weekly sailing lessons
    • Technology classes
    • School and office supplies–For instance, we have ordered computer paper and ink as well as notebooks, pencils, and pens.
    • Curriculum–Amazon and Rainbow Resources are two examples of curriculum vendors. The options and combinations seem almost endless allowing for a wonderfully customized curriculum.
  • One-hundred Percent Personalized Curriculum–We can use any method or program of our family’s choosing.
    • I select the mix of curriculum that fits each of my kids’ needs and am free to change it up as needed without permission from anyone. Here is what we do for math.
    • Faith-based materials can’t be purchased with state funds.
    • Unschooling is fine.
    • Some people use funds for core classes like math, language arts, etc. The parents can choose the teacher and program that best fits their kids’ learning styles. I  prefer to use our funds on experiences and activities. I expect as my kids move into middle or high school that I will begin to use some of the funds for writing and math classes. For now, however, my children are thriving academically, emotionally, and socially. My 10-year old son’s blog and my 9-year old daughter’s blog offer a glimpse of our incredible homeschooling lifestyle and educational opportunities in SoCal.
    • If a child or family is fascinated by a subject, then it is our option to linger in it and dive deep without making sure we are hitting all the quick and shallow standards of public school.  This creates passion and love of learning.
    • There is no state-mandated curriculum.
    • One of the benefits of homeschooling is instruction is individualized. If a child learns quickly then s/he can jump ahead. For example, my oldest two kids are above grade level in virtually every academic subject freeing them up to move at an accelerated pace. This is not usually an option in conventional school. Additionally, kids that do not learn as quickly are able to slow down until they understand it without being made to feel dumb. One nice thing about homeschooling is most of the kids have no idea at which rate their friends learn math, read books, etc. Instead, they are learning together joyfully on hikes, field trips, in science classes, etc.
    • We are also part of a weekly homeschool co-op with about 60 families. Parents volunteer their gifts and passions to teach classes so we only pay for supplies. We do not use funds, and about half the families file independently and not with a charter school. I teach Blogging and 21st-Century Skills. My kids take art, science and other classes here with other wonderful homeschool families.

Thanks to educational funds for homeschoolers, a tremendous infrastructure of classes, programs, and opportunities have emerged allowing kids to learn and thrive in such diverse ways that best fit their needs and passions. The funds have created a competitive market that has dramatically amplified opportunities. 

  • Standardized Testing–Since we accept funds, homeschool charters prefer that we take the same standardized test in the spring that public school kids take beginning in third grade. I have no problem with that. I do not spend any time teaching to that test, and the charter school does not put any pressure on us to do so. Last year, my son took the test and received the highest scores in both math and language arts. I found this interesting considering how much time public schools spend teaching to the test, and we spent none. Also, the math section took about 80 minutes and the language arts about 90 minutes.
    • I am not pressured to teach to the teach to the test at all.
    • There is no reward or repercussion for test results.
    • My son received the highest scores in both math and language arts without me teaching to the test for even one minute. I simply focus on a well-rounded education and the results spoke for themselves. I expect my middle child, who will take the test for the first time this year, to also score at high levels because she is advanced in her academics. However, if she just scores in the middle then I am fine with that. I know how much she is learning and experiencing that is not measured on the test.
    • I tell my kids to do the best they can and advise them they will probably see some unfamiliar language and terminology. We do not follow a Common Core curriculum or use classroom lingo. If they don’t know an answer, they can use process of elimination.
    • The tests took about 3 hours total and was divided into two days. Our wonderful teacher surprised them with lollipops with encouraging notes attached for their hard work after test completion. We also went to her house a few days later to watch her ducklings hatching. We witnessed a duckling peck its way out of its shell. She is an example of the many caring teachers who support homeschool families.
    • You simply get the results in the mail. It is your choice to open it up and look at the results. Some parents choose to not look at the results because they do not believe in standardized tests for their kids.
    • Most people will need to take tests throughout their lives. I see this as good preparation and a partial barometer of how we are doing. However, I don’t believe those tests account for many important successful life skills or for the uniqueness in each of our children. Many brilliant kids don’t test well.
  • Monthly Meeting With Your Assigned Credentialed Teacher–We are required to meet with our assigned teacher approximately once per month.
    • Samples are required. At my current charter school, we are required to submit one sample of math, social studies, language arts and science per semester. For math, for instance, this may be a multiplication worksheet or a page from Singapore Math. For language arts, it could be an essay, book report, etc. Only secular samples are accepted.
    • I have always worked with supportive teachers who have trusted me with my children’s education. They are simply there as a facilitator and to offer guidance for those families who need it. I have occasionally heard of some demanding teachers. In that case, a family simply switches teachers or changes to another charter school. It is the free market in action.
  • Educational Vendors–We have thousands of products and vendors from which we can choose from to use our homeschool funds. One thing I love about homeschooling is that my kids are out experiencing the world in a variety of settings and learning from different instructors who are so passionate about their field. Families are empowered to ask their favorite provider of services or products to become a vendor. Here are just a few of the vendors in Southern California offering programs for homeschool kids:

Amazon and Rainbow Resources are my two favorite vendors for curriculum. The prices and selection are great, and shipping with Amazon is fast.  We can create thousands of combinations customized to our children’s learning styles and abilities.

 

  • Charter School Options–Charter schools compete to attract and retain students. Each year, the choices, funding and options seem to get better. Here are just a few examples:

I know some people vehemently opposed to accepting educational funds from the government. In California, you have the option to stay independent instead of receiving charter school funds. However, sometimes they give out false information and say you can’t teach what you want if you accept funds. This simply is NOT TRUE. I customize my kids’ education every bit as much as a family who does not join a charter school. I find their misinformation confuses new homeschool families. If I ever felt dissatisfied with the charter school, I have the freedom and choice to file independently again. I have multiple friends who were fiercely independent and resisted joining the charters. However, when some amazing opportunities opened up two years ago for students in my charter, they signed up. They are enjoying their activities and extra funds and have not looked back. crown-group-shot-end

In summary, the educational funds have played a tremendous role in creating a huge infrastructure for homeschool families. I am in charge of what and how my kids learn.  If I ever believed it impacted my ability to teach what I wanted, then I would simply go independent. I am so excited and hopeful that homeschooling families across America will also have the opportunity to receive educational funds, if they desire, and see an even greater expansion of the homeschool infrastructure in your area!

I would love for Secretary DeVos to come to Southern California to see what has been built for homeschool families–in part due to educational funds. It is learning for the 21st-century at its finest!

 

You may also be interested in:

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

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Note: I have updated this post to answer readers’ questions and provide deeper explanations for you.

Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?

Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?

Are you looking for some fresh math ideas or simply a how-to for your K-6 homeschooled student? In this post, you will find a wide variety of math resources that I love including some that are FREE! We use curriculum but also sprinkle in living books, free web-based programs and more.

A wise teacher once told me that you should select math programs from a few different sources. This way the student will see math from different angles. So, that is the way I have built the math component of our homeschool.

My 10-year old son took a standardized test last spring as a gauge to how he is performing against his peers from public schools around the country. He attained the highest level of math performance on those tests.  I was proud of this because I did not spend one second teaching to that test. I just provided him what I believe to be a well-rounded math education. I also have 9 and 6-year-old daughters (who have not taken any standardized test yet).

Here is our program:

  • Horizons Math–This visually-appealing spiral math program is our core curriculum. We have almost completed three years of Horizons Math. It offers ample practice and repetition but is done in much smaller bites than some of the more tedious math programs I’ve used and seen. There is a lot of variety in the lessons as well as games and puzzles. I also like it because the kids can teach themselves with the tutorials provided in the workbook. While I don’t present any formal lessons, I do use the teacher’s manual to grade their work. Horizons Math 5 Student Books 1 & 2   - Overall, this is the most pleasant and well-rounded of any of the curriculum we have used. My only complaint is that when you start a new year the first 25-45 lessons are too easy. I assume this is because many people take off the summer and the kids need to review. We are year-round schoolers and don’t need that review time. So, I just have my kids double up on lessons until they become more challenging. Typically, they do one lesson per day.
  • Singapore Math–Singapore Math refers to the teaching method and curriculum used in Singapore. This nation consistently ranks at the top of international assessments of student achievement in math. The framework emphasizes mastery of concepts through dynamic problem solving.  We use the workbooks but not the textbooks.B003AY7NH6The textbooks are where your students will find the teaching. My kids can pretty much figure out what needs to be done without the textbook. They have seen some of the concepts already in Horizons but Singapore presents it in a different way. However, I have the teacher manual to grade their work and help them with any questions they have. Once we complete their current workbooks, they will work through 70 Must-Know Word Problems by Singapore Math. It is not a spiral-based math program. It is for this reason that I also use Horizons. I feel the practice and repetition of prior concepts are important. Typically, my kids do one page per day.
  • Khan Academy— Khan Academy is FREE and offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace. Typically, my kids’ target is a 3% increase to their achievement level per day.1425808077
  • 180 Days of Math–This standards-based resource takes only about 5 minutes daily. Each day/page contains 10-12 problems and is in the same format. My kids grade their own results with the key at the back of the book. I usually ask them what they scored, and if they missed something to explain to me why they missed it.
  • XtraMath— XtraMath is FREE and teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. While it is not flashy or particularly fun, the focus is on speed and accuracy. No parental involvement is required.  In my opinion, mastering math facts is so important, and I would not even attempt long division without being completely fluent in all the math facts. You can slow down the speed of the quizzing if it is too difficult for your child at first. We cycle through XtraMath every 3-5 months to ensure my kids can quickly recall the math facts freeing up mental resources for higher level operations. This takes about ten minutes each session.

Continue reading “Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?”

This Homeschool Mom is Checking Out

This Homeschool Mom is Checking Out

Yep! I’m done. Time for this mom to take a respite.

If you are anything like me, homeschooling is always somewhere in your mind. Even when I’m not doing curriculum, I am often thinking about how I can turn something into a learning opportunity.  It can be, at times, quite consuming. With all the work of running a household and being the primary facilitator of my children’s education, I am happy to take off my homeschool mom hat starting today for a couple of weeks to enjoy the holidays.

Taking a break is sometimes just what the doctor ordered to help us refocus on the privilege of homeschooling and why we are doing it.

For all of you homeschool parents who are so devoted and hard-working, I hope each of you takes this time to fully unplug and soak in the season. This is so important to avoid the burnout trap! Immerse yourselves in the children, family, and friends who you love so dearly. Look around at how beautiful Christmastime is with all the decorations, songs, and smiling people.

I applaud you for your discipline, perseverance, innovation and love. You have earned a break, Mom and Dad! Take it!

In January, I hope you will put back on your homeschool parent hat feeling recharged, inspired and excited to continue your family’s amazing homeschool journey! What a privilege and gift we have with our freedom in homeschooling. Taking a break is sometimes just what the doctor ordered to help us refocus on this privilege and why we are doing it.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Seasons Greetings!

You may also enjoy:

Top Read-Aloud Picks

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Do Parents Need More Patience for Public School or Homeschool?

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

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Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

Are you looking for some great read-aloud books? Below is a list of my family’s best-loved books. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is having ample time to read aloud to my kids. 

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” — C.S. Lewis

“If it’s a good book, anyone will read it. I’m totally unashamed about still reading things I loved in my childhood.”–J.K. Rowling

There are several indicators that reveal to me if my kids love a book:

  • They ask me to stop reading or to read loudly when they have to go to the bathroom.
  • They put the book they love on top of the stack of books I am planning to read aloud or clamor for me to read that book above all others.
  • They talk about it as we go about our day.

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My kids are ages 10, 9 and 6. I have been reading these type of books for the past 2 1/2 – 3 years. So, my youngest began listening to them when she was about 3 1/2 years old. I read during snack and  meal times so they are somewhat of a captive audience. I do not read to them when Dad or guests are at the table with us.

If I don’t find the book interesting myself as I read it aloud a time or two, then I will just ditch it. If the kid don’t ask for it all, then it is confirmed for me that we should move on. After all, there are so many great books to waste time on ones we don’t love!

Here are our absolute favorite read-alouds. While we love some of the classics, we have also found some gems published more recently. Additionally, we do most of our history and geography studies through living books.You will find some of those living history books in the list below.whangdoodle

  1. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards is my family’s ALL-TIME FAVORITE BOOK!!! We adored Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. This story is of the same caliber. Her imagination is genius!
  2. Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett are some of the finest children’s books ever written. They are excellent for character training because they show children who are pure, good and kind. These books created much discussion in our family as we grappled with the choices the protagonists in the stories would make. People of all ages will find wisdom and delight reading Burnett’s masterpieces.  Both my son and daughters loved all three of these books!cabin-on-trouble-creek
  3. Cabin on Trouble Creek by Jean Van Leeuwen is a based on the true story of two brothers, ages 11 and 9, who head out to the Ohio wilderness with their pa to clear some land to build a cabin and farm for their family. Pa heads back to retrieve Ma and their younger siblings but is delayed months. This is a survival tale of these two boys in the wilderness and is masterfully told. My kids chanted each day “Trouble Creek, Trouble Creek” to read this book before any others.
  4. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater will keep your family in stitches. If you are new to reading aloud or your kids are just old enough to begin enjoying novels, this is an excellent one to start with. Be prepared to laugh a lot! wiz-of-oz
  5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  by L. Frank Baum chronicles the adventures of Dorothy through the Land of Oz. The classic children’s movie, The Wizard of Oz, was based on this fantastical novel. You will find many differences between the movie and Baum’s book. It is fun to compare and contrast the two.
  6. Sophia’s War: A Tale of Revolution by Avi is a fast-paced and gripping tale set during the American Revolution. In the opening scene, Sophia watches as Nathan Hale is hanged as a spy. Later, she is recruited as a spy and serves as a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of British forces in America. Sophia’s War is a great example of why I prefer to learn history with living books instead of dry textbooks. This is an excellent read and is especially perfect when studying the American Revolution.my-brother-sam
  7. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier is another fantastic book to read when studying the American Revolution. It will give you a lot to discuss with your kids. We loved it!
  8. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by  Betty Macdonald is the first in a series about a wise woman who lives in a neighborhood inhabited by children with bad habits. When the parents are at a loss how to break these bad habits, they turn to Mrs. Piggle- Wiggle. This light-hearted read will add plenty of laughter to your day.the-city-of-ember-image-book-cover
  9. The City of Ember series by Jeanne Duprau is electrifying and  fast-paced. I consider these books modern-day classics.  My kids always put these books on the top of my read-aloud pile. These are the kind of books that really cause you to think deeply. After reading the first one, you will see why The City of Ember has received many awards and honors.
  10. Gentle Ben by Walt Morey is a beautifully written tale about a large bear named Ben and a boy named Mark. It is set in the Alaskan wilderness and illustrates the special bond between humans and animals.
  11. Mr. Tucket by Gary Paulsen is the first in the Tucket Adventure series and is a perfect complement to American westward expansion studies. It starts off with Francis Tucket, a 14-year-old boy, who strays from his family’s wagon train headed to Oregon and is captured by Pawnee Indians. This book is fast-pace and adventure at its finest while learning history at the same time!tale-of-desper
  12. The Tale of Despereaux is by far our favorite book from popular children’s author, Kate DiCamillo. This Newbery Award winner is centered around a mouse named Despereaux who does not fit in with the other mice. He is in love with music, stories and a princess named Pea. A wonderful adventure awaits you, reader!
  13. Poppy  was the first novel published in the Tales from Dimwood Forest series by gifted children’s writer, Avi. These books chronicle the adventures of Poppy, a mouse, and the other animals of Dimwood Forest. Our absolute favorite character was the cantankerous but lovable porcupine, Ereth. blood-on-the-river
  14. Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone is a stellar way to learn more about the colony of Jamestown in 1607. Through the eyes of 12-year-old Samuel Collier, this engrossing book brings to life what it must have been like to live in Jamestown at that time. This book is a must!
  15. Matilda by the incomparable British writer, Roald Dahl, is another must read! It is about a brilliant 6-year old girl who is poorly treated and neglected by her idiotic and self-centered parents. Her sweet teacher, Miss Honey, quickly realizes Matilda is a child prodigy. However, the headmistress and villain, Mrs. Trunchbull, pays no heed to this. Oodles of laughter will exude from your kids as you read this book together.journey-to-river-sea
  16. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson is about a young orphan, Maia, in 1910 sent off to live with distant family who own a rubber plantation on the Amazon River. She is excited to explore the banks of the Amazon and view exotic wildlife. However, upon arrival she discovers her relatives are rotten people and they also hate nature. A wonderful story and mystery await you in this enchanting book.
  17. Streams to the River, River to the Sea is a book by celebrated author, Scott O’Dell, (who also wrote Island of the Blue Dolphin) about Sacagawea, interpreter and guide for Lewis and Clark. This is unique from other accounts of Lewis and Clark because it is told from Sacagawea’s point of view.  This absorbing and suspenseful book will shed new light on the true-life adventure.
  18. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1972. We loved this tale of courage, morality,and heroism. Some people think it starts off slowly, but we did not find that to be the case.georges-secret-key
  19. George’s Secret Key to the Universe  by  famed physicist Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, is a fast-paced and funny adventure that explains our universe in quite an intriguing yet simple way. The book is fairly long, but my kids enjoyed every minute. Furthermore, we all learned a lot. Three additional books follow this one.
  20. Pinnochio  by Carlo Collodi is a wonderful book about making good choices and the consequences of making poor ones. This particular book I have linked to is especially beautiful because it shows different illustrations from around the world throughout the book. Collodi’s tale is quite different from the Disney version. I think all parents should read this aloud to their kids and discuss its many lessons. It is fun to read the dialogue with an Italian accent.
  21. The Twits by Roald Dahl is a hilarious, light-hearted and quick read. If you are new to reading aloud, The Twits is a nice way to kick it off!
  22. The Hungry Clothes by Penninah Schram is a great example of folk and fairy tales from around the world we have read.  These are an entertaining way to learn and discuss moral lessons. Furthermore, these tales teach us more about culture and history from around the globe. Many libraries have an excellent selection of international folk and fairy tales.
  23. Caddie Woodlawn, recipient of the Newbery Medal in 1936, by Carol Ryrie Brink is a tale of tomboy Caddie and her family’s adventures in the woods of Wisconsin in the mid-1800s.  The stories are based on the real life of the author’s grandmother. All three of my kids, including my 10-year old son, adored Caddie and this book. For those studying American frontier life and the Civil War era, this is a great addition. However, it is a great story to read at any time!

What are some of your favorite read-aloud books? Please share with us in the comments below.

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Where Do Your Homeschooled Kids Learn?

Where Do Your Homeschooled Kids Learn?

After a beautiful day looking for marine fossils led by our favorite naturalist, I came home to these words in a book I am reading:

“To keep students in school and engaged as productive learners through to graduation, schools must provide many experiences in which all students do some of their learning outside school.”

“Most young people find school hard to use. Indeed, many young people find school a negative learning environment. Not only do schools fail to help students become competent in important life skills, they provide a warped image of learning as something that takes place only in schools, segregated from the real world, organized by disciplines and school bells, and assessed by multiple-choice, paper-and-pencil tests. Schools have scores of written and unwritten rules that stifle young people’s innate drive for learning and restrict their choices about at what they want to excel, when to practice, from whom to learn, and how to learn. It is no wonder that so many creative and entrepreneurial youth disengage from productive learning.”–Charles Mojkowski in Living to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates

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I am thrilled, as homeschoolers, we have so many different opportunities to learn in such a wide variety of environments. My favorite learning takes place in the great outdoors! Additionally,  as educational facilitators, we can pick the best teachers for our kids. They are not confined to one teacher in the same classroom for an entire year. With our naturalist, for instance, we have one of the premier teachers available to learn about nature and ecological responsibility.  I love the tremendous diversity in learning opportunities we engage in together with our friends.

Homeschoolers, let’s make sure we are not squandering our wonderful freedoms and benefits in homeschooling to simply stay at home all day recreating school. Yes, do your math, reading, writing or whatever academic subjects you feel are critical.

Ditch what “school work” does not seem to add value in exchange for real edification out in the world. Learn from people who are passionate and want to share that with your kids! By giving your children such tremendous exposure, they will have a greater ability to understand what they are passionate about in addition to a fine education. In my experience, we are a much more joyful family when we are out learning together and not sitting at home all day doing school work.

Enjoy your journey and carpe diem!

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You may also be interested in:

Do Parents Need More Patience for Public School or Homeschool?

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Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!