New Literature-Based Science Curriculum: Earth Party!

New Literature-Based Science Curriculum: Earth Party!

I am delighted to review a literature-based science curriculum that introduces elementary school students to life on the planet starting with single-celled organisms and expanding through the animal kingdom.B088GDFC16

Earth Party! An Early Introduction to the Linnaean System of Classification of Living Things Unit Study from Carrier Shell Curriculum uses story and visual references to enhance your child’s understanding.

Here is an overview:

It is multi-sensory:

  • Students are invited to observe first-hand life forms obtained from materials around the house
  • Video resources are listed for students to better see life move
  • Fun, whole-body lab activities are geared for kinesthetic and olfactory learners
  • Students that like to write will enjoy the Student Book1580896065

It is easy to use:

  • Answer keys make grading and discussions easy
  • Activities are geared for different learning styles and noted
  • Suggestions are made for further study including websites, movies, articles and additional books

I love how this approach teaches advanced content in an age-appropriate way.

If you enjoy literature-based learning, check out Communism Study through Literature and my review of California Out of the Box.

You may also like:

How to Jumpstart Homeschooling Your Child: Curriculum Ideas and Outlines for Each K-8 Grade Level

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

Communism Study through Literature

Fun Ways to Teach Writing Without Buying a Curriculum

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How to Jumpstart Homeschooling Your Child: Curriculum Ideas and Outlines for Each K-8 Grade Level

How to Jumpstart Homeschooling Your Child: Curriculum Ideas and Outlines for Each K-8 Grade Level

Are you considering homeschooling but don’t know where to begin? Below is a list of recommendations broken out by grade level so you can easily jump in and get started. The resources selected do not require any expertise on your part. They are either scripted for you or allow your child to work fairly independently.   Do not be intimidated.  You got this!

Kindergarten

  • ReadingTeach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is brilliant.  By spending about 15-25 minutes each day over 3-6 months, your child will be reading on a 2nd-grade level upon completion. It is entirely scripted so you have no prep at all.  My son was so advanced from this program that he had already read the first five Harry Potter books while he was in kindergarten.  This propelled us into homeschooling. For $14.99, it may be one of the best investments you’ll ever make in your child’s education.

  • MathHorizons Math is a colorful and visually-appealing workbook that spirals backs to concepts to better ensure long-term mastery.  The kindergarten year comes with a book 1 and 2. You probably only need 2 since we are in the second semester. There is no need to buy the teacher’s manual. CTC Math is an online alternative though I find pencil and paper most effective.
  • Other resources: Reading Bear, Reading Eggs
  • Enjoy time together at this sweet age. Go out in nature. Cook together. Create art. Play games. Be in the moment and soak it in. There will be enough rigorous academics later. Some European countries like education powerhouse, Finland, and Germany don’t start formal academics until 6 or 7.

First Grade

  • 1933339446GrammarFirst Language Lessons is a beautiful way to do grammar with your child. Sit down with a cup of tea or hot chocolate together and enjoy these lessons that are entirely scripted for you. No prep is required.
  • MathMath Mammoth contains both the instructions and exercises so Math Mammoth Grade 1-B Worktextthe students should be able to work fairly independently.  This curriculum helps foster a deep understanding of math. CTC Math is an online alternative though I find pencil and paper most effective. I recommend the free website, XtraMath, for practicing math facts starting with addition.
  • Writing–Have fun with writing during this time. Here is an enjoyable list of writing prompts for your child to journal each day.
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up with you and read to you from a book he likes for 15 minutes each day. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of Mr. Popper's Penguinsour family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with are Mr. Popper’s Penguins, the Poppy series, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.
  • HistoryStory of the World : Ancient Times is the first volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions, coloring pages, games, projects, and reading lists.

Second Grade

  • GrammarFirst Language Lessons: Level 2 is a beautiful way to do grammar with your child. Sit down with a cup of tea or hot chocolate together and enjoy these lessons that are entirely scripted for you. No prep is required. 1942715056
  • MathMath Mammoth 2 contains both the instructions and exercises so the students should be able to work fairly independently.  This curriculum helps foster a deep understanding of math. XtraMath is a free website for practicing math facts.  CTC Math is an online alternative to the Math Mammoth workbook, though I find pencil and paper most effective.
  • Writing–Have fun with writing during this time. Here is an enjoyable list of writing prompts for your child to journal each day.0140309578
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up in a favorite, cozy place and enjoy reading 20-30 (or more if she wants) minutes each day. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with are Mr. Popper’s Penguins, the Poppy series, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, and Pippi Longstocking. Story of the World, Vol. 1 Bundle: History for the Classical Child: Ancient Times; Text, Activity Book, and Test & Answer Key (Story of the World)
  • HistoryStory of the World: Ancient Times is the first volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions, coloring pages, games, projects, and reading lists.

Third GradeAbeka Language 3 Grammar & Writing Worktext, 5th Edition (2019 Revision)   -

  • GrammarAbeka Language 3 Grammar and Writing Worktext  is a delightful, colorful and visually appealing workbook. The child can work independently with minimal assistance from the parent. I don’t find it necessary to purchase the teacher manual. Note: Abeka is a Christian publisher.1481012584
  • MathMath Mammoth 3 contains both the instructions and exercises so the students should be able to work fairly independently.  This curriculum helps foster a deep understanding of math. XtraMath is a free website for practicing math facts.   CTC Math is an online alternative to the Math Mammoth workbook, though I find pencil and paper most effective.
  • Writing–Have fun with writing during this time. Here is an enjoyable, free list of writing prompts for your child to journal each day.The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up in a favorite, cozy place and enjoy reading 20-30 (or more if she wants) minutes each day. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with are The Tale of Despereaux, The Secret Garden, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, and Pippi Longstocking. Story of the World, Vol. 2: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages (Second Revised Edition) (Vol. 2) (Story of the World)
  • HistoryStory of the World: The Middle Ages is the second volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions,  games, projects, and reading lists.
  • Typing–Learn to type for free using the BBC’s Dance Mat Typing.

Fourth Grade

  • GrammarFirst Language Lessons 3 is a complete writing text that covers parts of speech, sentence diagrams, and skills in beginning writing, storytelling and narration.  Classical education concepts of memorization, dictation, copywork, and narration are part of this program.  Sit down with a cup of hot chocolate or tea together and enjoy these lessons that are entirely scripted for you. The instructor’s guide is also required. If your child is looking for more challenge and would like to diagram in much greater detail, you may opt for First Language Lessons 4 with the teacher guide.
  • Math Mammoth Grade 4 Answer KeysMathMath Mammoth 4 contains both the instructions and exercises so the students should be able to work fairly independently.  This curriculum helps foster a deep understanding of math.  The $10 answer key is suggested. XtraMath is a free website for practicing math facts.  CTC Math is an online alternative to the Math Mammoth workbook, though I find pencil and paper most effective.
  • Writing–Have fun with writing during this time. Here is an enjoyable list of writing prompts for your child to journal each day. 0440412676
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up in a favorite, cozy place and enjoy reading 20-30 (or more if she wants) minutes each day. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with are The Star of Kazan, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and Where the Red Fern Grows.Story of the World, Vol. 2 Bundle: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages; Text, Activity Book, and Test & Answer Key (Story of the World)
  • HistoryStory of the World: The Middle Ages is the second volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions, games, projects, and reading lists.
  • Typing–Learn to type for free using the BBC’s Dance Mat Typing.

Fifth Grade

  • Writing–This is an excellent and free list of narrative, persuasive, expository and creative essay writing prompts. Allow your child several days to work on each essay including both a rough draft and polished draft. You can provide editing and feedback on these fifth-grade assignments. This will also serve as his grammar assignment.
  • MathSaxon Math 6/5 Homeschool Kit has incremental step-by-step instructions so the child can work independently. The included solutions manual is excellent because it lays out the solutions in a step-by-step format. There is continual practice and review to ensure mastery.  CTC Math is an online alternative, though I find pencil and paper most effective.
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up in a favorite, 05457091641416940286cozy place and enjoy reading 20-30 (or more if she wants) minutes each day. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with are Caddie WoodlawnDeath on the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon Adventure, and Cabin on Trouble Creek, and The Great Brain series.
  • HistoryStory of the World: Early Modern Times is the third volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story and covers the period from Elizabeth I to the 49ers.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions, timelines, games, projects, and reading lists.

Sixth Grade

  • Writing–Here is a list of narrative, persuasive, expository, how-to and creative essay writing prompts. Allow your child several days to work on each essay including both a rough draft and polished draft. You can provide editing and feedback on these sixth-grade assignments. This will also serve as his grammar assignment.1591413494
  • MathSaxon Math 7/6 Homeschool Kit has incremental step-by-step instructions so the child can work independently. The included solutions manual is excellent because it lays out the solutions in a step-by-step format. There is continual practice and review to ensure mastery. CTC Math is an online alternative, though I find pencil and paper most effective.
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up in a favorite, 0545709164cozy place and enjoy reading 20-30 (or more if she wants) minutes each day. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with are Death on the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon AdventureA Little Princess, Tuck Everlasting, and Sophia’s War: A Tale of Revolution.Story of the World, Vol. 3 Bundle: History for the Classical Child: Early Modern Times; Text, Activity Book, and Test & Answer Key (Revised Edition) (Story of the World)
  • HistoryStory of the World: Early Modern Times is the third volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions, timelines, games, projects, and reading lists.

 

Seventh Grade

  • Writing–Use the outstanding and free Both Sides of the Issue video series from Stossel in the Classroom for your child to exercise critical thinking, research and persuasive writing skills.  Two opposing viewpoints are presented in short videos on each topic to encourage open discussion and critical thinking resulting in a balanced lesson.  Each video is about 5 minutes. Some examples of topics include What Should we Do About Student Debt, Should We Tax the Rich More, The Climate Debate, and Should We Have Single-Payer Healthcare. You child can watch both videos on a topic and write a persuasive essay about why she supports one of the sides. Further research can be required, if you choose, with sources and data to 1591413508support her viewpoint.
  • MathSaxon Math 8/7 with Pre-Algebra Homeschool Kit has incremental step-by-step instructions so the child can work independently. The included solutions manual is excellent because it lays out the solutions in a step-by-step format. There is continual practice and review to ensure mastery. CTC Math is an online alternative, though I find pencil and paper most effective. 0439669960
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up in a favorite, cozy place and enjoy reading 30 (or more if she wants) minutes each day. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with are The Giver, A Night Divided, Angel on the Square series, and Survivors: True Stories of Children of the Holocaust. 1945841753
  • HistoryStory of the World: The Modern Age is the fourth volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story. It covers Victoria’s Empire to the end of the USSR.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions, timelines, games, projects, and reading lists.

Eighth Grade

  • Writing–Use the outstanding and free Both Sides of the Issue video series from Stossel in the Classroom for your child to exercise critical thinking, research and The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens: Updated for the Digital Agepersuasive writing skills.  Two opposing viewpoints are presented in short videos on each topic to encourage open discussion and critical thinking resulting in a balanced lesson.  Each video is about 5 minutes. Some examples of topics include What Should we Do About Student Debt, Should We Tax the Rich More, The Climate Debate, and Should We Have Single-Payer Healthcare. You child can watch both videos on a topic and write a persuasive essay about why she supports one of the sides. Further research can be required, if you choose, with 0064462080sources and data to support her viewpoint.
  • MathMr. D’s Algebra I includes 12 chapters of video-based instruction, coursework for each section of each chapter, 12 chapter tests, 2 semester exams and a comprehensive solutions manual. Also included is an online grading book and email access to the Mr. D teaching staff. Note: I have not used this program because my 13-year-old son attends an in-person algebra class each week. However, I have heard many great things about this program.
  • Reading–Your child can snuggle up in a favorite, cozy place and enjoy reading 30 B017WQDIBW(or more if she wants) minutes each day. I suggest he reads The Six Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey. Also, read aloud with your child as much as you can. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite read-alouds.  Some great ones to start with include The War That Saved My Life, Red Scarf Girl, The Cay, and  The Scourge.B01LP3J9N4
  • HistoryStory of the World: The Modern Age is the fourth volume of four in a very exciting narrative series that reads like a story. It covers Victoria’s Empire to the end of the USSR.  If you opt for the audiobook, the narrator is extremely gifted and our whole family enjoys it. There is an optional activity book with mapping activities, review questions, timelines, games, projects, and reading lists.

Note: We have always done science at our co-op. The reading and workbooks are done at home while experiments are done with their friends in class. Furthermore, we have significantly augmented our science learning out in the world. Musuems and nature centers, for instance, offer incredible classes for hands-on learning. Additionally, science comes to life on nature walks, tidepooling excursions, zoo visits and more!

Here are some other resources:

  • No Red Ink is an internet-based writing and grammar program that provides free curriculum, adaptive exercises and  actionable data.
  • Khan Academy is a free website offering a wide variety of classes for learners.
  • Learn to type for free on the BBC’s Dance Mat Typing. The animation is delightful.
  • Prodigy Math is a free, Pokemon-style math game kids can play online.
  • DuoLingo is a gamified way to learn six different foreign languages. It is fun and free!
  • Many public library systems offer free access to Rosetta Stone Online with a library account.
  • Scholastic is offering free online resources during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Audible is offering a free Audible Stories for website for children of all ages.
  • Get a work out with Kidz Bop Dance videos.
  • A list of science YouTube channels for kids
  • Common Sense Media shared a list of recommended documentaries to watch with kids.

I’ve been homeschooling my kids who are now in 8th, 6th and 3rd grades for the past 7 years. They take the same standardized tests in the spring that all public students in California do and score very well.  Many of these resources shared above have served us well.  Education is not a one-size-fits-all. While much of the curriculum above will work for many children, it won’t be the best fit for all kids. There is a tremendous amount of curriculum to choose from. You can spend hours researching it. I put this list together for you with quality picks that require little prep work on your part and are laid out very well for ease of use.

If you are consideing homeschooling as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, please know that being cooped up in the house is not what homeschooling looks like or feels like at all.  In my experience, it is exciting and dynamic and the socialization is outstanding. Most homeschoolers are out learning in the world. My family, for instance, is quite busy with sports, on-campus classes 2 days/week, field trips, volunteer work, hanging out with friends, and more.

We are thankful for this flexible lifestyle that has allowed us to customize our children’s education and have more time for pursuing our hobbies and interests. Because schoolwork can be completed much more efficiently than in a large classroom setting, there is quite a bit more time for pursuing passions, play and brain breaks.

You have a big support system in the homeschool community. Homeschoolers are extremely generous in sharing knowledge and wisdom. We appreciate that no two families homeschool the same way and aren’t in competition with one another. When one is successful, our collective homeschool community applauds and shines.

Best wishes to you as you start this journey with your children!

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Is it Time for you to Consider Homeschooling?

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Fun Ways to Teach Writing Without Buying a Curriculum

Six Reasons We Homeschool Year-Round

If You are New to Homeschooling or Thinking About It….

Do Parents Need More Patience for Public School or Homeschool?

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

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

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Communism Study through Literature

Communism Study through Literature

Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”  Communism is the bloodiest form of government in the history of the world with more than 100 million people killed under Communist regimes. 

churchill learn from history

This past year we did a fairly extensive study on Communism.  I hope by sharing this post I have done a small part in helping you to educate your family about Communism and totalitarianism. Seeing the impact Communism has had on our own history in the United States and, to a greater degree, many unfortunate places in the world, I found it vitally important to spend a substantial amount of time immersed in this topic as we covered 20th and 21st-century history.

Soviet Union

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace  0375867821Fleming is an absolutely gripping narrative of Russia’s last royal family.  My kids especially enjoyed learning about the Romanov children and Rasputin. This non-fiction work is anything but dull. We started here because we wanted to better understand the events that led to the Communist Revolution.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin is a simple yet powerful story of a 10-year-old 1250034108boy who has always been devoted to Communism, the Communist Party and Comrade Stalin. His world is shaken after his faithful father is arrested. This compact novel also features dramatic black-and-white pictures.

Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan is the first in a quartet series of  0064408795Communist Russia. It shows both sides of the Russian Revolution opening in 1913 when this aristocratic girl goes to live with the Romanov family because her widowed mother is lady-in-waiting to Empress Alexandra. We get to know the Romanovs in a warm and personal way and see what a doting father Nicholas II is to his children. However, she also witnesses the exploitation of workers in the cities and the terrible living conditions of peasants. Meanwhile, war is spreading throughout Europe and Russia is collapsing. We give this fast-paced and absorbing book our highest review possible. This book is a must!

The Impossible Journey by Gloria Whelan is the second in the quartet series of Communist 0066238110Russia. This book, which opens in 1934 in Leningrad, a generation after the Communist Revolution,  is every bit as engaging as the first. The children of the heroine and hero in Angel on the Square are alone and desperate after their father is arrested and mother is exiled to Siberia. They are determined to find their mom and embark on a 1,000-mile journey in hopes of reunification. Filled with adventure and suspense, the children encounter many obstacles and confrontations and even a beautiful experience with the Samoyed tribe in the Siberian wilderness.

East Germany

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen is an engaging, fast-paced book about the Berlin Wall from the perspective of twelve-year-old, Gerta. When the Wall was erected, her father and brother were on the other side looking for work in West Berlin. This left the family divided. We encounter Gerta’s struggles along with her other brother, mother and others surviving in East Berlin as well as their persecution in this Communist city controlled by the Soviets.  One day she spots her father on a viewing platform giving her clues to tunnel beneath the wall. This is risky because, if they are caught, the consequences are death. We loved this book. If you only are able to read one book on entire this list, I suggest you choose this one.

China

Red Scarf Girl, a memoir by Ji Li Liang, takes the reader to the destructive turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 0064462080 led by Chairman Mao in Communist China.  Twelve-year-old Ji Li is an accomplished student and athlete and joins her classmates in frenetically denouncing The Four Olds:  Old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits.  She witnesses relatives, teachers, neighbors and friends publicly humiliated and tortured but still remains fervent in her Communist ideology. Her family eventually becomes reviled due to their wealthy family background including her grandfather being a landlord. Friends and neighbors turn on them, and they are constantly afraid of being arrested. After her father’s imprisonment, Ji Li is forced with a big decision. This autobiography received multiple awards including Publishers Weekly Best Book. ALA Best Book for Young Adults and ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice.

Mao’s Last Dancer (Young Reader’s Edition) by Li Cunxin is the riveting 0802797792autobiography of a peasant boy born into extreme poverty in 1961 just before the Cultural Revolution. Despite his poverty and witnessing the brutality of the Mao regime, he revered Chairman Mao and Communism. He details life in school that is focused more on Communist indoctrination and Mao worship than the basic educational tenets of reading, writing and arithmetic. At the age of 11, Li was selected from his village by delegates of Madame Mao’s art program to study ballet at the Beijing Dance Academy. The opportunity opens many unimaginable doors including a cultural exchange in Houston with the Houston Ballet in 1979. While in Texas, he begins to realize much of what he was told about the USA was a lie. He loves his taste of freedom in America and is in awe of such abundance and modernity.  The story is of his defection, the climax of the book, is nail-biting!

Cambodia

The Clay Marble by Minfong Ho, set in war-ravaged Cambodia after the fall of the 0374412294Communist Khmer Rouge in the early 1980s, tells the story of twelve-year-old Dara. When the story opens, Dara along with her mother and brother are making their way to a refugee camp along the Thai border. As with most Cambodians at the time, many of their family members had been murdered by the Communists.  They are greatly relieved when they arrive at the camp to find plenty of rice, rice seed and tools. However, fighting erupts and Dara is separated from everyone she loves. The author is someone who actually worked at refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border and shows great respect for what these determined people overcame.

George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is the perfect conclusion to your communism study.  The classic allegorical fable at first seems to be  a fairy tale for children with talking barnyard animals. However, the informed reader will see it a satire of the communist rule of Joseph Stalin and completely annhilates the viability of commusim through scathingly exposing its flaws. The book concerns a group of barnyard animals who overthrow and chase off their exploitative human masters and set up an egalitarian society of their own. Eventually the animals’ intelligent and power-loving leaders, the pigs, subvert the revolution. Concluding that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”, the pigs form a dictatorship even more oppressive and heartless than that of their former human masters. All three of my kids very much enjoyed this book and followed the allegory due to the previous books we had read about communism.

Continue reading “Communism Study through Literature”

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. Please note I update this post whenever we read a book we absolutely love.

“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.

map-pics-002

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!
  24. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, a Newbery Honor book, by beloved  children’s author, Avi, is a fast-paced, suspenseful novel that you don’t want to put down.  This exciting seafaring adventure takes place in the summer of 1832 when thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle is excited to return home from her school in England to her family in Rhode Island. “Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial and found guilty.”
  25. Pippi Longstocking, originally written in Swedish by Astrid Lindgren and later translated into more than 70 languages, has also been turned into several movies and TV series. The tales of Pippi, the girl with upside-down braids and no parents to tell her what to do, and her friends, Annika and Tommy, will bring a smile to your family’s faces. If you are new to reading aloud, this is a great book to get started. Even your youngest children should delight in Pippi’s adventures.
  26. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson is a suspenseful story set in Austria and Germany in the early 20th century about a child, Annika, who was left as a baby just days old in a church.  At 12-years old, Annika inherits a trunk of costume jewelry. A woman claiming to be her aristocratic mother arrives and takes her to live in a run-down mansion in Germany. Once you get into the meat of this story, your kids will not want you to put this book down.
  27. Death on the River of Doubt by Samantha Sieple is great for history lovers and those fascinated with the Amazon rainforest. Did you know that in 1913 former president Teddy Roosevelt led a perilous expedition deep into the Amazon rainforest to chart an unmapped river?  This book, which is an account of their adventure, was thrilling and exhilarating for our family to read together. Furthermore, I have learned more about the character and leadership of Roosevelt and have even greater admiration for him now. The wilderness doesn’t care if you are a former president or king. All are at risk of injury and death on such a harrowing journey with danger lurking almost everywhere.
  28. Secrets of Dripping Fang series by Dan Greenburg is another one of those series that015205457X my kids love so much that they chant for me to read it to them. It is fast-paced and hilarious. Many days I intend to read only one chapter but end up reading 3 or 4 because we all want to find out what happens next. While it is not as sophisticated as some other books we read, it is extremely entertaining and enjoyable. This is also a good series to hook your reluctant readers. I read the first 3 in the series aloud, and the kids polished off the remainder of the series reading alone.
  29. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is one of those great classics that is a fulfilling read. This story about a boy and his two hunting hounds will probably have you in tears but in a good way. The values and lessons conveyed in this story are so rich.
  30. Number the Stars by Lowis Lowry is a historical fiction novel set in Nazi-occupied B00HS8O7B0Denmark as the German soldiers began their campaign to “relocate” Jews.  The story centers around Anne Marie and her family as they hide her best friend, Ellen, and work to save others Jews. The story is an excellent tribute to the the brave people of Denmark who smuggled out most of the Jewish people to Sweden during this terrorizing time.
  31. The classic novel, The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley is an exciting tale about a young boy and his wild stallion. 0439669960
  32. Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust from Scholastic is one of the most important books I have read with my kids. Gripping stories from 9 Jewish boys and girls are described in this book. While there is so much evil, I felt it an appropriate ready for my 7, 10 and 11-year-old children. They hung on intently to every word.
  33. The Giver, by Lois Lowry, earned the 1994 Newbery Medal.  Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a dystopian world of no crime, hunger, sickness, unemployment or choice. He is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. This exciting and fast-paced novel gives you much to ponder about free will, freedom and society. All my kids loved this book–even my 7-year-old.
  34. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia 0375867821by Candace Fleming is an absolutely gripping narrative of Russia’s last royal family.  My kids especially enjoyed learning about the Romanov children and Rasputin. Insightfully, my son pondered if Nicholas had selected another wife than Alexandra if the 20th-century Russian history and, ultimately, world history would have been altered due to her bad judgment and influence on her inept husband. This non-fiction work is anything but dull. We plan to dive into the study of Communism and wanted to better understand the events that led to the Communist Revolution.
  35. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall is the first delightful book in a 4-part series about the Penderwick girls who go on vacation at a beautiful estate in Massachusetts.  They make fast friend with the estate owner’s son. However, his mother is less than thrilled with the Penderwick girls. We found this book a delightful read aloud for both boys and girls. 0142400580
  36. The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald is one of our favorite of all times. Set in Adenville, Utah at the turn of the 19th century, these enjoyable books focus on the narrator’s brother who has a great brain and uses it for all kinds of mischief and money-making schemes. My kids liked it so much that they read the entire series themselves and then clamored for me to read the whole thing aloud. This is also a nice complement to your history studies of this same time period. I’d say this a delightful and engaging read for all ages!
  37. Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan is the first in a quartet series of  0064408795Communist Russia. It shows both sides of the Russian Revolution opening in 1913 when this aristocratic girl goes to live with the Romanov family because her widowed mother is lady-in-waiting to Empress Alexandra. We get to know the Romanovs in a warm and personal way and see what a doting father Nicholas II is to his children. However, she also witnesses the exploitation of workers in the cities and the terrible living conditions of peasants. Meanwhile, war is spreading throughout Europe and Russia is crumbling. We give this fast-paced and absorbing book our highest review possible.
  38. The Impossible Journey by Gloria Whelan is the second in a quartet series of Communist 0066238110Russia. This book, which opens in 1934 in Leningrad a generation after the Communist Revolution,  is every bit as engaging as the first. The children of the heroine and hero of Angel on the Square are alone and desperate after their father is arrested and mother is exiled to Siberia. They are determined to find their mother and embark on a 1,000-mile journey in hopes of reunification. Filled with adventure and suspense, the children encounter many obstacles and confrontations and even a beautiful experience with the Samoyed tribe in the Siberian wilderness.
  39. A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen is an engaging, fast-paced book about the Berlin Wall from the perspective of twelve-year-old, Gerta. When the Wall was erected, her father and brother were on the other side looking for work in West Berlin. This left the family divided. We encounter Gerta’s struggles along with her other brother, mother and others surviving in East Berlin as well as their persecution in this Communist city controlled by the Soviets.  One day she spots her father on a viewing platform giving her clues to tunnel beneath the wall. This is risky because, if they are caught, the consequences are death. We loved this book. It is highly recommended at any time but especially if you are studying the 1960s and Communism.
  40. Red Scarf Girl, a memoir by Ji Li Liang, takes the reader to the destructive turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 0064462080 led by Chairman Mao in Communist China.  Twelve-year-old Ji Li is an accomplished student and athlete and joins her classmates in frenetically denouncing The Four Olds:  Old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits.  She witnesses relatives, teachers, neighbors and friends publicly humiliated and tortured but still remains fervent in her Communist ideology. Her family eventually becomes reviled due to their wealthy family background. Friends and neighbors turn on them, and they are constantly afraid of being arrested. After her father’s imprisonment, Ji Li is forced with a big decision. This autobiography received multiple awards including Publishers Weekly Best Book. ALA Best Book for Young Adults and ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice.
  41. Mao’s Last Dancer (Young Reader’s Edition) by Li Cunxin is the riveting 0802797792autobiography of a peasant boy born into extreme poverty in 1961 just before the Cultural Revolution. Despite his poverty and witnessing the brutality of the Mao regime, he revered Chairman Mao and Communism. He details life in school that is focused more on Communist indoctrination than the basic educational tenets of reading, writing and arithmetic. At the age of 11, Li was selected from his village by delegates of Madame Mao’s art program to study ballet at the Beijing Dance Academy. The opportunity opens many unimaginable doors including a cultural exchange in Houston with the Houston Ballet in 1979. While in Texas, he begins to realize much of what he was told about the USA was a lie. He loves his taste of freedom in America and is in awe of such abundance and modernity.  The story is of his defection and climax of the book is nail-biting!
  42. The Cay by Theodore Taylor is a beautiful book that opens with 11-year old Phillip in Curacao during World B017WQDIBWWar II after the Germans invaded his tiny Caribbean island. When a freighter he and his mother are taking back to the United States is torpedoed, he finds himself on a lifeboat floating in the sea with an elderly West Indian man, Timothy.  He recalls what his mom says about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.” Phillip displays racial prejudice toward Timothy.  Eventually, the head injury he sustained from the torpedoing causes blindness and causes him to be dependent on Timothy. They develop a strong friendship. While this book takes you on an exciting adventure of survival on a deserted island, the message about love, loyalty and color-blindness is valuable for people of all ages to read. The novel was published in 1969 and dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.–the year following his death.
  43. The classic tale by Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting, has the reader consider whether eternal life on earth is a blessing or curse. After Winnie Foster discovers a spring that grants immortality, she must decide if she will tell the secret and of the family she has come to know and love who accidentally drank from that spring.
  44. Set amidst a backdrop of World War II and Hitler’s bombings of 0147510481England, The War that Saved my Live by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is about a 10-year-old girl who never left her one-room apartment because her cruel mother is embarrassed about her clubfoot. When children are sent to another part of England to escape the war including her younger brother, Ada sneaks out to join him.  We really love this story and are ecstatic to find out there is a sequel. The War that Saved My Life has been lauded with many awards and honors and was a#1 New York Times bestseller.
  45. As a lethal plague sweeps through the lands, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor’s wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive and she is sent to Attic Island–a quarantine colony for ill. I give The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen the highest recommendation. This book is super fast-paced and exciting!!!!
  46. I am Malala is the story of a bold and courageous family living in a remote valley in Northern Pakistan firmly committed to girls’ education. Malala was shot in the head at just 15-years-old because she refused to be silenced on the matter. In addition to learning about Malala and her family’s story, you will receive an education on global terrorism and U.S. foreign policy in the Islamic world from a  Pakistani viewpoint. Malala and her father are inspiration to us all. A young reader’s edition is also available.

What are some of your favorite read-alouds? Please share in the comments below.

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Homeschooling is an Excellent Choice for Making Neuron Connections

While reading aloud today, I came across the  passage below in our  book. After uttering the words, I told the kids that is exactly how we are homeschooling. Experiential-based learning with lots of reading is such a huge part of their education, and I know it is for so many of you. Such a blessing to homeschool where there are abundant opportunities to experience so many different things!

“Though you haven’t gained many neurons since you were born, the connections between the neurons you have continue to form all your life. The more you read and learn and experience, the more connections you’ll have, and the smarter you’ll be!”–Apologia Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology by Jeanne Fulbright and Brook Ryan

Teaching Geography with Living Books and Wall Maps

One of my favorite ways to teach geography is during read aloud time. I read aloud during snack and meal times (when we don’t have guests and Daddy is not eating with us). I keep a world map and U.S. map on the wall behind me. It is a great way to make the study of geography more interesting as we are enthralled in the action of a book. Additionally, as we engage in conversation throughout the day we can easily walk to the maps to see where a place is located.

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If you do not have a good wall space for maps then another suggestion is to put a map on your dining table and cover it with plexiglass. The kids can look at it every time they are eating even when you are not reading.

I like dry erase maps so we can write on them.

What are some other fun ways you like to teach geography?

Here are the two dry erase  maps we keep on our wall. One is a United Sates map and the other is a world map.

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Fantastic Whole-Hearted Book List

This is a fantastic list of whole-hearted books. If you are new to homeschooling, a list like this is a great example of how little you actually have to spend on homeschooling. You can get most of these books at the library. With great literature, including historical fiction, as a centerpiece of your homeschool, your kids will grow so much.

100 Whole-Hearted Books To Fight Back The Culture

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I read to my kids during meals and snacks. We keep a world and US maps on the wall to enhance our geographical knowledge.

My 8 and 9 year olds’ music teacher was telling me today how advanced my kids are and that they are able to grasp concepts even adults can’t. I asked if he meant with music and he said no–about things in general. I was pretty flattered considering he is a grandfather and has been teaching music for decades. He said their ability to make connections is rare.

 

Immediately, two things came to my head. First, we read together and discuss many high-quality books and the bible. I can’t tell you important I think that has been to their education and character training. These characters have to make a lot of tough choices and undergo difficulty. Furthermore, it has created a great bond with us as we discuss the books and their characters as we go about our day.Second, they are with an adult a lot–me. We talk about so many topics that they probably would not be exposed to with such regularity if they were only with kids their age for 6 1/2 hours per day.

First, we read together and discuss many high-quality books and the bible. I can’t tell you important I think that has been to their education and character training.

Even though my older two kids are ravenous readers, they still love me to read to them. I hope this continues until they leave the house because it brings us all such joy and also helps us to grow in wisdom while also expanding our education and vocabularies. I read to my kids during our meal and snack times (unless we have guests or Daddy is joining us).

If you are looking to start a tradition of reading aloud, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a hilarious book with which to start! One book that did not make the list which is our family’s all-time favorite is The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards.

 

Journeying with Books

“Books are the answer to our wanderlust. From the moment we crack open the cover, a book transports us to worlds exotic and unknown. We breathe in the glory of different colors, landscapes, and cultural mores. Books are like passports–but so much cheaper to use!”–From the foreword of Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin

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Abraham Lincoln: Self-Educated with Quality Books

Abraham Lincoln: Self-Educated with Quality Books

How important do you think reading quality books and articles is to your child’s education, character, and critical thinking skills? As I study some of the greatest minds in history, a recurring theme seems to be they were voracious readers.

Here is an excerpt about Abraham Lincoln who had very little formal childhood education. It amounted to about one year of schooling.0395518482

“Abe received most of his education from the books he read. As he grew up, he became fascinated with books. He loved to read every minute of his spare time. When he went out to plow a field, he put a book under his shirt and read at the end of rows when the horses were resting.

His best friend, Dennis Hanks, said, “I never saw Abe after he was 12, that he didn’t have a book in his hand or in his pocket. It just didn’t seem natural to see a guy read like that.”

Books were scarce in the backwoods, and each book he got was precious. The Lincolns did not have any books and Abe was forced to borrow. He was willing to walk miles to get a book that he might read over and over.

Abe read everything he could get his hands on and once told his family, “My best friend is the man who will give me a book I haven’t read.”

He read the Bible several times and other books such as Pilgrim’s Progress and Aesop’s Fables. His favorite book had a very long title: The Life of George Washington, With Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honorable To Himself and Exemplary To His Young Countrymen. He tucked the book into a corner of the loft. During one night, rain from a big storm stained the cover of the book. To pay for the damage, Abe spent three days harvesting corn for the farmer from whom he borrowed it. George Washington later became one of Lincoln’s heroes. One time, Abe walked twenty miles to borrow a book about the United States. In fact, he loved reading so much, he even read a spelling book. He used school books such as Murray’s English Reader and Pike’s Arithmetic.”

As much of the world is schooling at home through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to realize that education doesn’t have to be complicated. Many of history’s greatest minds positively impacted the world because of what they learned through their voracious appetite for books. I encourage you to keep a steady diet of books available for your kids. Read aloud to them–even those in their pre-teens and teens. Give them quiet time to soak into books.

We really enjoyed the Newbery-medal winning biography, Lincoln: A Photobiography, by Russell Freeman. 0147514479

A fun Lincoln book about his early years is Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln by Judith St. George.

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