Handcarts list- science box

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on science and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

All levels-

  • A globe- seeing the earth as it appears as a whole, and learning to locate places on it, is an interesting and vital ability.
  • An atlas- closer study of the various places on the globe requires a copy of maps that are larger than a globe would allow.  Look for an atlas that has different maps containing geographical and political information.
  • A book of outline maps, both blank and labeled, for labeling and review.
  • Nature notebook, field guides, and pencils or watercolors (one per student)- Scientific study requires the ability to observe, focus, and think about the world around us.  A nature notebook can facilitate that skill and give you and your children a place to record thoughts, pictures, and any other information related to your science study.  Use the field guides as you go out into the world around you to record the common and Latin names of those things you sketch.  We use our nature notebooks as our science notebooks; we do not have a separate one for textbook/formal study.

Discovery level-

  • DK Publishing has multiple series of books which young children love.  Eyewitness Books, Why….?, and Look Inside are just a few.
  • Science picture books- some of our favorites include H. A. Rey’s books on the constellations, books published by Golden Book on various life science topics (Nature Around the Year, Wonders of Nature, etc.), Gail Gibbons has a series of books on a variety of science fields of study.  Ask your librarian, book store clerk, or other homeschool moms what they love.  There are so many great reads for young children in this genre!
  • Janice Van Cleave has a great series of experiment books for young children that are simple to follow, well thought out, and fun to do.
  • File folder games by CarsonDellosa- fun and effective ways to reinforce vocabulary and concepts.

Late discovery and analysis level-

  • Reader’s Digest How……..Works series- this is not a textbook series.  Each book covers a different discipline of science and is filled with pictures, basic definitions and diagrams, and experiments that reinforce the concept being studied.   These books do not contain enough detailed information to constitute a high school level text, but are an interesting and inviting introduction to the various branches of science.
  • Kids Learn America by Gordon and Snow- We used this book to teach the states and capitols.  There is a USA map to color, as well as regional maps, trivia about each state, and a little something to help you remember the capitol.
  • DK Science Encyclopedia- Written primarily in two-page spreads, this book covers most of the scientific disciplines, i.e. chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, etc.  Each spread provides information on a specific area within those disciplines.  Students gain basic information, and can learn to take notes, outline, as well as creating a framework for science study.  When used in conjunction with the Reader’s Digest series, it allows for comprehensive, in-depth study for the middle/upper grades.
  • Exploring Our World published by the National Geographic Society- This book is an encyclopedic list of geographical terms and photos, maps, and cross-referencing makes geographical studies easy and interesting.  A great reference book!

Application level-

  • High School texts by Apologia, RonJon Publishing, or another homeschool supplier can be effective and clear for high school-level study with a creationist worldview.  (I have read some reviews expressing concerns about misinformation in the science used.  If your children are headed for a traditional university, look for a text written by a more secular company.)  Use in conjunction with hands-on kits for all branches of science. (Timberdoodle is my favorite supplier for anything hands-on.)  To spend less money, or if you are looking for a scientific approach closer to the mainstream, look for second-hand books in you town or on the net.  I used the DK Science Encyclopedia/Reader’s Digest Series and was happy with the result, but I know some parents feel more comfortable with a text for high school.
  • If you choose to send your children to the local high school for science, ask their teenage friends who take classes there.  Which courses are interesting?  Is there time in the lab?  Are the teachers interesting and involved?  I have found my kids’ friends to be honest-to-a-fault and much more helpful than most parents.
Home and Family, Homeschooling

Let’s read!

Every child ought to know the pleasure of words so well chosen that they awaken sensibility, great emotions and understanding of truth.  This is the magic of words- a touch of the supernatural, communication that minister to the spirit, a true gift.                                  

                                                       Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart

Summer is almost here.  The season for gardening, outdoor activities, and (my personal favorite) time to read just for the sheer pleasure of it. As you head off to the library or book store, remember to choose literature which feeds the mind and heart of each family member.  One of my favorite Charlotte Mason quotes reads, “We owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.”  Not all available reading material is created equal. Much is inspirational, educational, and worthy of emulation; some is depressing, dark and without morals or direction.  Some uses the intricacies of the English language will skill and precision; some caters to a desire to read quickly, think minimally, and finish hurriedly.  Don’t give in to desire to feed on junk food for the mind!

Mom, be aware of those books that introduce twaddle to you and your family. Twaddle encourages the habits of limited attention to reading, small vocabulary development and a need for short sentence structure; these habits will be very difficult to supplant and precious learning time can be lost.  (Not sure what twaddle is?  If the language talks down to your children, feels more like mental drivel than food for the soul, or is just dull, it is most likely twaddle.) My eldest became hooked on twaddle as a child.  She read voraciously, and I thought she was fine as long as she was reading.  WRONG!  Weaning her off twaddle as a tween, and introducing better choices was painful!  She got there, but the transition was so hard.  Now she watches her own children like a hawk!

Allowing questionable content in the name of a child’s freedom of choice can come back to haunt you later.  As parents, we have the opportunity to teach and protect.  Sometimes that means we are the bad guy.  Look for those books which encourage belief in a higher law, individualism, logical thinking, hard work, optimism; loyalty to family, God and country; respect for life.  Books that contain relativism, negativity, false principles, or focus on dark topics are generally to be avoided.

It is also good to keep in mind no book is loved by everyone. There is no magic list of MUST reads, simply lists of good places to begin. If you are reading something as a family and no one is enjoying it, put it away.  The timing may be wrong or it may simply be a book in which your family is not going to take pleasure.  That’s alright.  There is more wonderful literature in this world than any of us could read in our lifetime.  Move on; try something else.

This summer read something you always meant to get around to reading.  Or read a favorite piece again and joy in the pleasure of familiar language and images.  Introduce your children to those “friends” you loved as a child.  Go find some new ones.  See you at the library!

Home and Family

Memorial Day

Today America celebrates Memorial Day.   American’s generally think of today as a day for barbeques, camping, and many consider it the unofficial beginning of summer.  While it may be all of those things, it is so much more.  This holiday gives us a wonderful opportunity to remember those who have given the “last full measure of devotion” so that we can enjoy living in a free land.  In our home, we also express gratitude for those who still serve.

Not sure where to start?  Here are some ideas:

  • Fly the flag.
  • Memorize the National Anthem.
  • Learn the anthems for the various branches of the military.
  • Listen to marches composed by John Philip Sousa.  If possible, attend a performance where military pieces are being played.
  • Locate a local memorial for those who have served and take flowers or a wreath to place beside it.
  • Attend a parade.
  • Know a veteran or someone currently serving in the military?  Make them cookies, a nice meal, or thank you card.
  • Some municipalities have programs in the morning or at sunset to mark Memorial Day or to retire old flags.  Attend as a family.
  • Read some poems or stories about those who have served.  The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, O Captain, My Captain, or Nathan Hale are just a few examples.

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day and enjoy time together as a family!


Handcart list- math box

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on mathematics and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • a good math course with objects to use as manipulatives  (we love Math U See for visual and kinesthetic learners if you have the money).
  • Saxon Math is also good, and can often be found second-hand.
  • Manipulatives- young learners need to learn that “5” is the symbol for a group of five things.  One… two… three… four… five.  Teaching math in the abstract is not only not helpful, it can create a host of challenges when math becomes more difficult and they need to understand how the “real world” relates to their math assignment.
  • Family Math and Family Math for Young Children published by the Lawrence Hall of Science.  These books contain learning games and activities which encourage mathematical thinking and exploration.  We loved to take one day a week of our studies for non-traditional math time.  These books provide LOTS of ideas!
  • Picture books- many authors including Cindy Neuschwander and David M Schwartz have written entertaining books which explore and play with a whole host of mathematical concepts.  Illustrators Stephen Kellogg and Phyllis Hornung are also names for which to look.  There are also great picture books which introduce mathematicians and math history such as The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kevin Hawkes.

Analysis and Application level-

  • A good math course-Even if your students are not planning on a career where math is heavily involved, the discipline and logic required for algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is beneficial.
  • How Math Works  published by Reader’s Digest- This book deals with topics not often covered in standard math books including statistics, measurement, shapes, and some logic.  (Could be used for an advanced late discovery learner who loves math.)
  • A tutor (barter is often a good option for this if money is tight), or enrolling your youth in a math class at the local school is recommended if you are not fully comfortable with upper level math.  Do not allow the subject matter to be so intimidating (to Mom) that your youth fail to continue in their studies!  (And yes, you could benefit from learning it too, but you have a family to raise, a house to keep, and other things that require your attention.  If you have time– great.  If not, that’s okay.)
Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling

Pinterest. Who knew?

I’m fairly new to the whole social media scene.  (I’m on Facebook, but mainly to keep up with family and friends we don’t see often.  I don’t have hundreds of friends;  that’s not why I have a page.)  I’ve heard about Pinterest here and there but never decided to check it out until everyone in our Classical Education group started talking about the resources and ideas they were finding.  So I checked it out. I think I’m hooked.  Really hooked.

(To those of you already on Pinterest, none of this will be a revelation.)  I have found great ideas for my home, emergency preparedness, and some yummy-looking recipes!  There are boards for thrift, organization, parenting, gardening, humor- and the list goes on!  Then I started a search for homeschooling ideas and information.  Oh my.  I could get lost in there for days!

There are inspirational quotes for copy work and penmanship.  Free file folder games, coloring pages, and ideas for games to make for a myriad of academic subjects.  I found new resources for both Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches- the two I use the most.   You could plan a great unit study utilizing ideas and resources listed.  All-in-all, there is information, encouragement, and a bit of fun available.

If I seem to disappear for a few days, feel free to join me.  I’ll be lost somewhere on Pinterest!

Home and Family

Life’s little surprises

Last evening we had a bread baking class in our home.  Our new neighbor and her teen-aged daughter came over and we made bread, meal-in-one wraps, and cinnamon rolls together.  (Recipes for basic breads posted on 2/21/2013.)   Then we ate results of our labors in a shared meal.  While the cooking was fun and the food was seriously tasty,  my favorite bits were the unexpected moments.  Having a young woman really talk to me about life, school, and goals is something which hasn’t happened since my children grew up and left home.  Watching her mother’s face as she realized how much money she can save as she cooks from scratch was such fun; seeing how much her father enjoyed the food was even better.  (We’ll be cooking more together as school gets out for the summer.  I’m looking forward to that!)

Other unexpected events included our three-year-old grandson playing with their son, and keeping him busy.  Our five-year-old grandson who struggles with focus spending 40 minutes on a book of word finds;  I was blown away.  Even the 16 month-old twins were enjoying the meal and visiting.  It was surprisingly relaxing and we have a new family on the block who will be a tremendous boon to the neighborhood.  Who knows?  We may have just gained a baby-sitter, and willing hands for the garden.

The entire experience reminded me why we live in communities.  We are here to serve, share, and find joy in each other!  While I am not an extrovert by nature, I still feel gratitude when a sweet experience like this one happens.

May you have a great day filled with a pleasant surprise or two!