Homeschooling, Parenting

Books for working with exceptional children

My library is growing again!  As more of our grandchildren, and the children of those who ask for my help, are diagnosed with syndromes, disorders, and other challenges, the books I have acquired to give me the tools to be successful are increasing in number!  Some are specific to a given situation, but many are invaluable for anyone working with small children. I’m starting with my current fave.


The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder

by Carol Kranowitz

This book is definitely at the top of my list, and my copy has been loaned to so many people, I find myself borrowing my daughter’s.  The explanatory section is clear and readable, and the exercises are grouped so that you can focus on specific areas that need growth.  The exercises are simple to do, use common household items, and require a minimum amount of preparation time.  We have giggled our way through a number of them!

The companion volume,

Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow

By Carol Kranowitz, and Joye Newman

is written for every child, challenged or not.  It goes through activities and exercises you can do with your child in just a few minutes a day to encourage physical, emotional, and overall success.
Today’s children don’t get the same level of activity children did a generation ago.  These books help all of us relearn how to use our whole body, and play using basic items.  Love these books!
Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling

Is it really Thanksgiving next week?

I realize that I am behind in most aspects of my life (in a pretty massive way), but how on earth did it get to be the 19th of November without me noticing?!  I love this time of year, and our whole family works to savor each day and the feelings that come as the holidays approach.  Somehow, this year I’ve missed it.  Between the flu, my father-in-law’s death, the government shut-down, a bit of quick travel, and such, I lost focus.  I am reclaiming it.

Time to begin to savor.  I love Thanksgiving!  I love the weather this time of year.  I love the colors.  I love looking in the food room and knowing that my family is provided for as canning and case lot season comes to a close.  I absolutely love that the calendar gives me an annual reminder to count my blessings, and work on developing a grateful heart!

So here a list of the books I enjoy reading with my children and grandchildren at this time of year so that we can all focus on how blessed we are, and what the real meaning of”Turkey Day” is:

  • It’s Time for Thanksgiving by Elizabeth Hough Sechrist and Janette Woolsey
  • The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern
  • Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation my Diane Stanley
  • Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters
  • Eating the plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner
  • If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern
  • The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daughtery
  • Stranded at Plimoth Plantation 1626 by Gary Bowen
  • any scriptures dealing with gratitude, miracles, and a change of heart

We also sing hymns around the piano, and keep a daily list of our blessings.  The fact that Thanksgiving comes just before Christmas is a great opportunity for me to recognize how blessed I am as I begin to plan to celebrate the the birth of our King!

I hope you and yours has a blessed and happy November, and that your preparations for the coming days are filled with love, good food, and the peaceful spirit only the Lord can send.

Time to go buy a turkey.







Treasure hunting

While I taught a workshop last Saturday, I was asked a question that has had me thinking ever since.  We were discussing curriculum, and they were looking over a few books I had pulled off my shelves, and writing down titles.  Then they asked if I preferred to order books online or purchase at second-hand stores.  Really made me think!  The answer: second-hand stores.  Why?  While they are generally cheaper, that is not the main reason.  I often find such treasures I didn’t know existed that it is worth my time to sort through the piles.  It is easy to order titles with which you are familiar from an online source (and I do from time to time), but there are books I have found while looking for something else which I now love and yet would never have known to purchase before I held them in my hand!

Here are a few of my discoveries:

  • Exploring Your World: the Adventure of Geography published by National Geographic Society.  This encyclopedic volume of geographical terms and pictures is beautiful and easy-to-use.  A must for geography study.
  • Mommy, It’s a Renoir published by Parent Child Press.  This paperback is full of ideas and activities to enhance your family’s art study- ways to study the Masters, and activities to help you appreciate what they accomplished.
  • If You’re Trying to Teach Kids to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank.  While this book was definitely written for use by a traditional classroom teacher, the hints, ideas, and other great information helped me approach the writing process from an entirely different angle!  Need help thinking outside the box?  This book does that!
  • We Had Everything But Money published by Reminisce Books.  This collection of stories and pictures from the Great Depression in America speaks to the greatness and resiliency of the American spirit.  While the Depression was a difficult and trying time, it allowed people to come together, work with what they had, and still manage to often build a happy life.
  • Milestones to American Liberty: the Foundations of the Republic by Milton Meltzer.  This volume contains beautiful artwork, copies of original documents, and the stories behind some of the most important writings in our nation’s history dealing with equality and freedom.
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.  I love the study of grammar and syntax; words are captivating for me, so this little book makes me smile every time I see the title on my shelf!  Truss picks apart the history and usage of punctuation for the English language.  While published initially in Britain, she has added information that applies to American punctuation as well. (Yes, they differ.)  Quite tongue-in-cheek, quoting classic and more contemporary pieces of the written word, and with obvious affection for the nuances of punctuation, this book is fun to read and always makes me think!

I am sure there are dozens more titles on my shelf that could be added to my list.  Maybe I will later!  But this sampling helps me recognize how much I gain when I take the time to explore the possibilities around me.

Happy hunting!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

The Children’s Story

During my third grade year (when the dinosaurs roamed the earth), I had a wonderful teacher.  Class was held downstairs next to the boiler room in the old elementary school just a few blocks from my home.  The ceiling was low; there were odd noises; we could smell lunch before anyone else in the building.  I loved that class.  Mrs. Suehr was amazing.  In a day when tolerance was not generally considered a necessary virtue, she taught us how to work together with those who were different.  In our class were children of different colors, religions, economic status, and abilities.  We sat in groups of six desks which rotated regularly.  I was not best friends with everyone in my class, but we all learned to get along and appreciate one another.  She was also doggedly determined that no one would leave her class without the ability to read, write, and understand math appropriate to grade level.  (It was years before I realized how much time she spent with each of us.)  She taught us to think critically, and encouraged us to express opinions.  She encouraged those who were struggling, and cheered on those who were advanced and needed enrichment activities to keep moving.  I loved this woman!

My memories of third grade are many, and most are quite delightful.  One, though, has almost haunted me into adulthood.  We had returned to our classroom after lunch and the desks had been shifted to make room for the other third grade class to join us.  That generally signaled to us that we would be watching a film strip or television clip, but no tv or projector was in sight, so we all sat down on the rug and wondered what was happening.  She read a book whose name I would not learn for 25 years, but whose story has stayed with me from that day forward.

Fast forward 25 years.  I am attending a home school convention class on government, and the presenter takes 15 minutes to read a small volume to the attendees.  Within a few sentences I recognized the story and had a difficult time containing my excitement.  It was the same book read to us that long ago day in third grade.  This time I was able to better understand the story and its implications.  And I was able to speak with the presenter afterward to get the title and author.  The book is The Children’s Story…but not just for children by James Clavell.

Best known for his novels Gai-Jin and Shogun, Clavell wrote The Children’s Story as a response to an experience he had with his young daughter when she returned home from school one day.  It is effectively written, and has a message every adult who values freedom needs to hear.  Just be prepared to be slightly disturbed, and have someone to speak with afterward.  Sometimes truth resonates with agitating clarity.  While I would not read it to a seven or eight-year-old child, adolescents need to hear its message as well.  I read it to my teenagers each year as part of our “beginning of the school year” routine.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, you may find a copy in your local library.  It can also be purchased online for just a few dollars.   (It was also made into a film that can be watched online, but I would read the book first.  The written version is slightly different, and I prefer it.)

Sometimes life comes full-circle.  It certainly did for me with this book.  Looking back, it is apparent that the message of this story affected actions I took and some I didn’t.  It definitely had an effect on the things I felt it was vital to teach my children when they were young.

If you find a copy, let me know what you think.


Patriotism. It is the week of the 4th of July, after all.

In our home, the 4th of July is a big deal.  A really big deal.  It falls just behind Christmas and Thanksgiving on the spectrum of important holidays.  Just like the other two, it spills over and takes a week or two of focus and fun for us. Here are some of the things on which we spend time during our patriotic studies.  Many things listed here are studied at other times of the year as well.  In order to cover everything on this list, we do one year of patriotic study when the kids are young, and then add things to our curriculum plan to cover the items for older learners.

Early Elementary Years

Learn about our nation’s holidays

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
  • President’s Day
  • George Washington’s Birthday
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Patriot Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving

Learn patriotic songs and their stories

  • “America, the Beautiful”
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee)”
  • “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”
  • “Hymn of Thanksgiving”
  • “God Bless America”
  • “The Marine’s Hymn””Anchors Aweigh”
  • “You’re a Grand Old Flag”
  • “The Army Song”
  • “Hail to the Chief”

Learn American folk songs and their stories

  • “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”
  • “This Land Is Your Land”
  • “Yankee Doodle”
  • “Home On the Range”
  • “Turkey in the Straw”
  • “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny”
  • “Casey Jones”
  • “John Henry”
  • “Shenandoah”
  • “Clementine”
  • “The Erie Canal”
  • “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”
  • “Yellow Rose of Texas”
  • “Hymn of Thanksgiving”
  • any song from the slave/freedom movement

Read patriotic poetry

Learn about those who helped create the United States of America (Ensure material is age-appropriate.  Save more disturbing details/stories for older age groups.)

  • pilgrims
  • Native Americans
  • Squanto
  • Sacagawea
  • Pocahontas
  • Sequoyah
  • pioneers/explorers
  • Christopher Columbus
  • William Penn
  • Lewis and Clark
  • pioneers of the Oregon Trail
  • Mormon Pioneers
  • founding fathers and other great Americans
  • George Washington
  • John and Abigail Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Patrick Henry
  • Betsy Ross
  • Paul Revere
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James and Dolly Madison
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Daniel Webster
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Davy Crockett
  • Daniel Boone
  • Robert E Lee
  • Wilbur and Orville Wright
  • family members of the past

Learn about the symbols of America

  • flag
  • symbolism of start and stripes
  • flag etiquette
  • attend a parade-practice proper flag ettiquette
  • uniforms of the military
  • bald eagle
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Liberty Bell
  • Create an alphabet book of America
  • geography
  • people
  • Memorize “The Pledge of Allegiance”

Favorite resources

  • “Take Your Hat Off When The Flag Goes By” cd  (Brite Music)
  • “America Rock”
  • “I Love America” (Julie Kimber)

Favorite authors

  • Jean Fritz
  • Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
  • Alice Dalgliesh
  • Lynne Cheney
  • Ann McGovern
  • William J. Bennett
  • Steven Kellogg-illustrator (re-tellings of folk tales)

Favorite series

  • Childhood of Famous Americans
  • If You Were There….
  • Meet…..
  • Picture Book of….
  • Little House on the Prairie

Later elementary years

Learn American folk songs and their stories

read about famous American composers

  • Stephen Foster
  • John Philip Sousa
  • Aaron Copeland
  • George Gershwin
  • Read patriotic poems
  • Rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance in today’s vernacular
  • Create patriotic works of art
  • murals
  • dioramas
  • works by famous American artists

Learn about the symbols of America

  • The Great Seal of the United States
  • Uncle Sam
  • The Liberty Bell
  • The White House

Learn about the basics of American Government

  • three branches of government
  • being a loyal citizen-rights and responsibilities
  • electoral system
  • Learn/memorize the Presidents of the United States

Create a time line for American history-add to it as you learn

Learn about those who helped create the United States of America

  • militia
  • current military
  • inventors

Learn about the documents of America

  • Mayflower Compact
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Constitution
  • Bill of Rights

Favorite authors/series

  • Jean Fritz
  • Genevieve Foster
  • Landmark Books
  • Childhood of Famous Americans
  • Eyewitness Books
  • Cornerstones of Freedom

Watch “A More Perfect Union: America Becomes A Nation”

Art project ideas

  • recreate a pilgrim or pioneer village from a shoe or cereal box
  • make a flag
  • use papier-mache to create a cornucopia, puppets, geographic location. or bust of a famous American
  • use clay to make a model of an important site
  • create a poster or mural on an American theme-as a family or individual

Secondary school years

  • Read patriotic poems
  • Write essays on topics of freedom, government, or the Constitution
  • Learn about the documents of America
  • The Mayflower Compact
  • The Articles of Confederation
  • The Bill of Rights
  • Gettysburg Address
  • Work through “The Making of America” (by Cleon Skousen) and workbook 1

Study the immigration of various ethnic groups

  • When did they come?
  • From where did they come?
  • What did they bring with them that we all now claim?
  • How can we show respect/acceptance for all?

Take a U. S. citizenship test.  How did you do?  What do you need to study in order to fill gaps?  How do you feel about your own citizenship?

Learn about the Abolition and Civil Rights Movements

Study the various types of government/judicial systems throughout history

Become involved in the political process

watch debates

learn about the election process

find ways to support a candidate or cause

visit local or national centers of government

Favorite authors/series

  • Albert Marin
  • Clarence B. Carson
  • Landmark books

Watch “April Morning”


  • Read “The Children’s Story” by James Clavell.  If you have older children, read it aloud to them, then talk about it.  We began the school year with this book once my children were all 9ish and above.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Constitution and other important documents
  • Have a flag in your home

Handcart list- odds and ends

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 items not listed anywhere else which I used as part of the backbone of my children’s studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-282013.)

Discovery level-

  • One Smart Cookie and Cookies:Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer.  These books are wonderful introductions to terms and ideas for character education discussion.  We would read 2-4 pages at a time and then talk about the traits listed, how to develop them, and situations where they are used.  Cute illustrations.  Great read!
  • Manners books by Munro Leaf-  This series of 5 books originally printed in the 1950’s uses simple text, quirky illustrations, and straight-forward language to teach the rules of civility to children.  Another book to read in snippets and discuss.

Analysis level-

  • Vocabulary From Classical Roots by Nancy Flowers and Norma Fifer- I used this series to teach Greek and Latin roots to my children.  We would work through a lesson or two, make a 3×5 card for each root taught, and then drill the cards before moving on to the next lesson.  (As you create cards, add them to the pile you have already learned; drill all of them.)  The card pile got taller and my children learned became more and more comfortable with each root and its meaning.   As you complete the series, you will have learned hundreds of root words.  Great for vocabulary development and comprehension.

I am sure this list will be ever-expanding as I discover new resources.  I am always on the look-out for quality, user-friendly curriculum.  Sometimes what I find helps me love what I already have even more; sometimes I fall in love with something I had never seen before.  Who knows what wonderful things I will find next.


Handcart list- fine arts

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 fine arts 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-

  • Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh- tell the stories in this book as you listen to the music of each of the twenty composers about whom Kavanaugh writes.   The history of each is written in a style that makes a great read-aloud book.  No need to research, and compile.  He has done it for you.
  • Recordings of a variety of musical genres.  One good starting point can be Beethoven’s Wig volumes 1,2, and 3.  Beethoven’s Wig is a fun, easy introduction to classical music.  Each composition is on the cds twice, once with silly lyrics and once as it was meant to be played.  Love them!
  • Copies of visual art pieces.  Find calendars or other inexpensive resources for prints with the work of famous artists.  Dover Publishing has prints in 3×5 card form for art study.  The book Mommy, It’s A Renoir!  has activities to teach art appreciation to young people.
  • An art anthology (or two) with pieces of classic and religious art- You can study time periods, or individual artists; but make art study part of the exposure you give your children.   Lift their sights as they see the vast array of art created by gifted, inspired individuals.  (Classic art study is a good introduction to the ideas of celebrating the beauty of the  human form vs. form for arousal’s sake.  There is a difference.)
  • Various art media for experimentation-crayons, chalk, clay, pencils, paints.  There are so many great, messy ways to experience creating your own masterpiece.  Let them get in there and try a variety of methods.  They may well surprise you!  Try your hand at it too.  Make it family experience.

Analysis and Application levels-

  • Experience with playing a musical instrument- This can help with brain development, self-image, focus, and self-discipline.  Don’t set things in concrete for them.  Let them dabble a bit if they need.  Piano, strings, brass, whatever calls to them.  Give it a year or two.  Some will continue.  Some won’t.  That’s okay too.  The experience may teach them that serious musical study isn’t for them, or it may begin a love that lasts through their lifetime.
  • Continue with experience through various art media.  Sculpting, whittling, and other forms which require the use of sharp implements are better suited for these stages.  If your child is interested, consider art classes through Community Education or the local school.
  • Attend community events which focus on the fine arts.  Museums, concerts, and other venues can allow for and expanded appreciation for the creative process.