This week was pretty unremarkable because I just wanted to have a typical week for a 7th and 1st grader with a tag along preschooler in the mix...so I'd know what a good school week looks like before we throw in all of our extracurricular activities.
I have also been organizing our school area, which is a wall in our dining room, and purging clutter. I have resolved to reduce clutter this year byeliminating throwaway projects and managing my workbook purchasing and organization a little better. (Click the links to read about my plans for a clutter free school year!)
So I think that this week, I'll highlight a few things that get me through a typical week.
Favorite Cookbook: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond
The right person to write a cookbook for families is a busy parent who loves food, and that person is Ree Drummond. Her latest cookbook, Dinnertime, is my newest go to cookbook. I love the recipes in this cookbook because they are quick and good! So far, every recipe I have tried has become a new family favorite. I like that she doesn't feel the need to show off by using expensive or hard to find ingredients. When I teach my oldest to cook, I will be giving him this book to use since it has pictures for each step of the cooking process. I already have her upcoming cookbook on my Christmas list! Hopefully, I don't buy it for myself before that.
Favorite Stress Relief: An Evening Walk
I am going to be so sad when daylight savings ends and the sun sets earlier because I love an end of the day walk around our neighborhood. It's so nice to end the day with fresh air, the sunset, and a podcast.
Favorite Everyday Sandals: OluKai
I recently bought a pair of OluKai sandals and Oh My Gosh, they feel so good on my feet! And they are cute, too! I have long narrow feet with high arches, and by the end of summer, my feet are hurting because no sandal really works. But not this summer. I have tried many types of expensive sandals, but these are the ones that have finally worked. My feet feel great!
If You Missed It
This week I wrote two posts on keeping clutter out of my homeschool year. You can read them here:
The first real day of school for us happened to coincide with the Great American Solar Eclipse, which made for a very wild first day of school.
We didn't have the special eclipse viewing glasses by choice so we had fun experimenting with various eclipse viewers.
We used NASA's instructions for a cereal box viewer and it worked surprisingly well.
Using a colander as a viewer was also very cool.
We also noticed these cool eclipse shadows in our backyard.
We weren't lucky enough to live in the path of the full eclipse, but we still experienced the eerie light of a partial eclipse and noticed that the birds were silent during most of it and our cat was nowhere to be seen. My kids however were bouncing off the walls and wild with excitement.
I didn't write this week but I'm working on a series for a nearly clutter free homeschool. Stay tuned. Last week I reviewed some of the activity books that I use for studying the middle ages. There's some fun books for all ages if you want to check them out/
During my last two weeks of vacation, I read three books. I usually try to have a more challenging read in the mix, but since I'm trying to attentively read through Leviticus in the morning, I decided to keep my afternoon and evening readings a little lighter to compensate.
Dear Mr. Knightley: I picked this one up because I find that sub-sub-genre about people who love Jane Austen fascinating. However, I did not realize that it would also fall into the sub genre of Christian chick lit, which I usually find a little corny. This book was original and quite good , and I would recommend it.
The Circle: This book totally reinforces the creepy feelings that I get when I think about social media.
Gilead: I read Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping for my women's lit class in college, but I think the wisdom of the book went over my 19-year-old, overloaded-on-lit-classes head. I'm really enjoying Gilead because it gives me plenty to think about and is making me look at the world with fresh eyes.
Books links are Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for reading.
Schools out for summer! Can I get a hooray! I don't know how you spend summer, but we do swim lessons and VBS, go camping, spend tons of time outside, and read.
Arent those flowers lovely? They are Mexican Evening Primrose and they thrive on little water and self seed themselves year after year. Could there be a more perfect flower to have in your garden?
Of course, school's out for summer, but learning never stops. I am teaching my son to cook his favorite meals so that he can take over dinner duties once a week. If you are wondering, the meals that he chose to learn how to make this summer are: homemade pizza, sloppy joes, and pesto paninis. He is loving every minute, which makes teaching a joy.
My daughter has been begging me to teach her how to sew, and even though I'm not a seamstress, I relented and my attempts to teach her to sew (while not knowing how to sew myself) been wildly successful because of this book. Her first four projects are shown below, but we have made many more things together.
I don't know about you, but I love summer because I finally have time to read! There's nothing better than sitting by the pool with a book. I have to be there anyway, so reading is guilt free! So far I've read Station Eleven (Fascinating!), Brideshead Revisited (Beautiful!), and the first few books of The Iliad (Because I feel like I should read it once in my life. This version is surprisingly readable!)
Last month, I only had time to read three books, so I'm excited to have two books under my belt already.
What I'm Writing
This week I wrote about teaching my daughter to sew and a few months ago I listed every classic eBook that I could find for free! I am returning to that list so I can load my Kindle up for summer. Free reading...yes, please!
I'm working on reading a book a week for this year and last month, I only read three, so I came up a bit short. Thankfully, summer is around the corner and summer is for catching up on book goals.
Be forewarned, this post contains affiliate links.
The Great Divorce by CS Lewis
I started The Great Divorce because I didn't have anything on hand to read one evening and it was a part of a CS Lewis collection that I owned. Since I hadn't heard much about The Great Divorce, I didn't really know what to expect. Boy was I floored, because it was a fascinating book about heaven and hell and the choices that we make that lead us to one final destination or the other. If you've ever heard the reference to CS Lewis stating that souls that go to hell, choose to go there...this is the book it was probably from.
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
I first read The Hobbit over 20 years ago because a friend recommended it and I had been meaning to pick it up again for quite a while because the plot of the movies seemed a bit disjointed in certain parts. Oh, eagles just happened to come along and save our heroes from the trolls. Since, I didn't remember events happening quite so randomly in the book, so I went back to read it and everything in the movies made much more sense. Not to mention that the Hobbit is a delightful read and I have a greater appreciation for the symbolism, wisdom, and humor more now than I remember having 20 years ago. I will be reading the Lord of the Rings series next. Even though I didn't appreciate LOTR as well as many people do on my first read through, I think it's the kind of book that gets better with a reread .
I think I may encourage my oldest son to read The Hobbit this summer in exchange for letting him watch the movie version on his own some lazy week this summer..
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
I have only been recently introduced to Wendell Berry's work. So far I've read some of his essays and poetry. I've also read Nathan Coulter, Remembering, and Hannah Coulter. This month I read Jayber Crow, and so far Jayber Crow has been my favorite of Berry's novels. Wendell Berry writes poignantly about the transition from traditional lifestyles to modern lifestyles. His heroes and heroines learn the hard way that progress really isn't all that it's cracked up to be and they have to fight back against modernity to find that balance of life where they can be truly human.
I appreciated the medieval references in Jayber Crow: his life's journey was compared to Dante's Divine Comedy and he had a love for a married woman that was pure and chaste, much like the courtly love of knights for the queens, princesses, and ladies they served.
What books have you read recently? Do you have any book recommendations for me for next month?
A few weeks ago, I wrote about why knowledge matters. Today, I am following up that post with a few thoughts on how we can build our understanding in any subject. You won't believe how incredibly simple it is to build expertise!
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How to Build Knowledge in ANY Subject, Drum Roll Please...
You can build knowledge on any topic by reading more than one book about it.
What that's it! You say. You don't need to write a blog post on that!
Yes, I know, but how often do we set out to actually learn something new in our fast paced society? If we get in a fix, we can always just Google it, right? If you read to the end, you will see how having knowledge on any topic is actually really helpful in navigating our quickly changing society. But for now, think about how reading a few books can grow your knowledge base:
If you read three Jane Austen novels, you will be able to have a smart conversation with any Jane Austen aficionado.
If you read a book on both sides of a scientific debate debate, you will be able to see the weakness and strengths of both sides of the argument. Then when an expert makes an expert comment, you will actually be able to judge the validity of what he says instead of going with the theory that you've heard the most or uncomfortably accepting whatever the experts tells you.
Read three books on any history topic and you'll probably be the only expert on that topic in the room at the next social gathering you go to.
Case Study: How My Knowledge About WWII Exploded
Lately, I've become much more knowledgeable about World War II without intending to study the topic at all. In fact most of my life, I've avoided any books or movies about World War II because I knew enough about the war and myself to know that I wasn't ready to look that kind of evil in the eye.
But then I read The Book Thief and even though it was fiction, I was touched by the heroism of the Germans who quietly defied the Nazi party despite the incredible hardship of living in Germany during WWII. I learned about the day to day life of the typical German family, the the cloud of fear they lived under, and the little acts of defiance they did that kept them from being swept away with the dehumanizing evil of the Nazi regime.
After that I picked up Monuments Men from the library because I saw the movie and from the book I learned about a side of the war that I knew nothing about. I had no idea that Hitler was systematically looting the art treasures of the nations for his own super museum, nor did I know he planned to destroy them all if he lost.
Another novel that I read on vacation gave insight into the role of journalists during the war a life in the army camps and yet another book taught me about a heroic band of rustic shepherds and peasants from Crete who held off a highly trained and heavily armed Nazi invasion. I also read part of a biography where I learned about the years before World War II in my home state of California and a bit of the war with Japan. I unfortunately didn't finish the book because it was giving me nightmares, but I was intrigued to learn that some of the toxic philosophies about race that fueled the Nazis worst crimes, were also influential in the United States. When I read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about World War II, I was standing on familiar ground.
And all of a sudden I realized that my understanding of World War II stretched far beyond Anne Frank and whatever cold, hard facts my high school history teacher taught us. I was more well rounded an an area of knowledge where previously there had only been a few threads of understanding holding together a loose collection of facts. And surprisingly, I didn't have to read a bunch of dry, academic works. All of these books were living books. Books with soul.
Why Does Knowing About World War II Even Matter?
How does this thread of knowledge and understanding help me now, 70 years after the close of World War II?
First of all, some things should never be forgotten.
Secondly, walking through another time period and seeing it through a variety of other people's eyes keeps me from being nearsighted about my own life and time.
Finally, knowing about the past helps me see the present with discerning eyes. Here are a few instances of how knowing about World War II helps me evaluate our present culture:
Learning about Nazi propaganda teaches me that well crafted images and words can sway a public that is taught to be literate, but not taught how to think and discern. Slick advertising images, social media, and hashtags are huge influences. Unfortunately, anyone can make an infographic that looks legit or a meme that misquotes Einstein. We all know how to check sources and do our own research, but how many of us do?
Reading about how the pre-World War II Germans trained a generation of schoolchildren and then turned them into willing soldiers and executioners makes me wary of our public school system. The teachers weren't evil, they were just training kids in the philosophy of the day and doing what they thought was best based on what they knew. Since the curriculum was determined by state departments and not communities, kids were coming of age with values very different from the values of their parents. The values and behavior of the nation changed and it led to a moral break with devastating consequences.
Reading about the philosophical influences and social movements that lead up to the rise of the Third Reich makes me wary about the influences on my society. Whether a philosophy is far left or far right politically, it isn't safe taken to its fullest extreme. This worries me because America doesn't seem to practice moderation lately.
Finally, it is scary how the German people slowly were backed into a corner that they couldn't get out of without devastating effects. They wanted to live their lives and not cause trouble, so as their government slowly pushed pushed boundaries and took power. In short, they acted how I would act. I would have minded my own business and tried to manage my own home well. I would have sighed and hoped the evil I saw before me would pass or that someone would fight my battles for me. But when many people backed in a corner start defying the system in small ways, the system weakens.
That is an important lesson to know.
For Further Reading
One of the biggest challenges in studying ancient civilizations is the difficulty in finding interesting ways to make those time periods come alive. Unless of course, you are just studying Egypt, Greece, and Rome, because there are plenty of activities and books for those civilizations.
While being able to read straight from the Bible is such a great way to study the history of Ancient Israel, I also pulled together a handful of other resources to help spark my kid's imagination.
This post contains affiliate links.
Old Testament Days is a well written and well thought out activity book for students of all ages. The activities and readings in this book helped us to understand the life and culture of Old Testament times. Most of the activities were interesting and easy for me to pull off.
Ancient Israelites and their Neighbors is geared to a slightly older audience than Old Testament Days, and also includes activities for the Phoenicians and the Philistines. In addition to activities it also has short readings about the cultures, which was especially helpful in learning about the neighbors, because there isn't that much information readily available for kids about the Phoenicians and Philistines.
We also read the Jesus Storybook Bible as a read aloud during our study of Israel because it does such a great job tying the themes of the whole Bible together.
I used the illustrations from The Family Time Bible as I read the relevant chapters from our Bible because my younger kids like having a picture to look at.
While there are plenty of picture books about Noah's Ark and the Christmas story, I have a few favorites. My favorite Noah's Ark book is this award winning book from Peter Spier and my favorite nativity book is this beautifully illustrated one. The Story of Hanukkah tells the history behind the Maccabean revolt.
Throughout our study of ancient civilizations we have been going to our library to check out relevant videos from the series Ancient Civilizations for Children. Each video teaches how we learn about a specific civilization through archaeology. The Ancient Mesopotamia video covers the Israelites and the Ancient Egypt video also covers the Hebrews time in Egypt.
We also watched Prince of Egypt and Joseph Man of Dreams for fun when we finished reading about Joseph's life and later the Exodus.
Hands On Learning
Apparently you can buy toys for almost any story from the Bible, including the stories of David and Goliath, Noah's Ark, and the Calling of the 12 Disciples. A Bible Trivia Game would be a great review game.
For Further Reading
I can't believe we are almost to Easter Break! That means that we will be on the home stretch of this homeschool year in just a few days!
One of the fun parts is this time of year is that I have a little funding left in my account to spend on fun learning books for the end of the year and summer. (We use a charter school.) Last year I was able to buy Lego Chain Reactions for my son. This year, I'm thinking is a child's sewing book and sweet drawing book for my daughter, who is six. For my son, perhaps I'll get him Lego Crazy Contraptions and maybe a chemistry kit.
After Easter, I like to switch up how we homeschool. As we finish up our skill subjects, it is nice to let my kids dwell on what they love to learn.
I also like to add in new challenges. This year, I'm adding in a Shakespeare play for the first time with my oldest:
I'm especially excited because this is a play that I haven't read before! My girl wants to study butterflies, so I'm looking for resources for that topic.
Piles of Books
Our house needs more bookshelves! But doesn't every homeschooler say that? My latest book pile is so color coordinated that I'm thinking of adding open shelving to our living room so I can decorate with some of our nicer books. But if I do that, I may end up buying too many collectors editions with nice spines.
Books pictured: Of Other Worlds, CS Lewis.Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare. The Complete Stories, Flannery O'Connor. Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall.
This Week in Writing
This week I wrote about low-tech tools for dysgraphia. Most of what I needed to help my dysgraphic son was laying around the house.
My baby boy turned four this week. I feel like I can think of a three year old as my baby, but a four year old, I have to think of as my little boy.
He wanted to do just what his big brother did for his last birthday so we played laser tag. Since he's not big enough to carry all of the laser tag gear himself, my husband and I took turns carrying his pack while he carried the laser. Of course, that was followed by dinner and cake and presents and the usual birthday joy.
We spent a lot of time outside this week with the extra daylight time. Am I the only one who likes daylight savings? One of my boy's favorite presents was the Y Glider scooter we bought him. Our daughter had the same scooter, but in pink. We like it for young kids because it's easy for kids to learn to ride, hard for them to fall off of, and fast enough to be fun!
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We have been studying the same topics and using the same books that we did in February, but the sun is out this month and everyone is so much happier and productive.
Our favorite read aloud right now is Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick.
We have had some laugh out loud moments as we learn about the fascinating life of one of the greatest minds of all time and his contributions to science. This book has sparked more conversation than any other read aloud we have used this year. The science is so well explained, too, which I appreciate as a non-sciencey person.
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I have several books going at once. I am finding that I read more often if I have a few to choose from. These are the titles I have on my bedstand and kindle app:
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
The Scartett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (this one's a freebie for Kindle)
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
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This week, I wrote abouthow I am helping my very dysgraphic son write somewhat legibly in notebooks and I also wrote about taking a little time everyday for myself for real rest (the Sabbath/Schole type of rest we need.)
This post is contains affiliate links:
Linked to Weekly Wrap Up
When it comes to finding supplements for history lessons, my best friend is the library and my second best friend is Amazon. Of course, the reason for that is that reading a book is far easier, less expensive, and less messy than doing a hands on project. Here are some of my favorite picture books for learning Greek History with my kiddos.
Short quotes from Socrates are interwoven thoroughout his life story in the picture book, Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates by MD Usher. For older students, historical information is included in side "scrolls."
Young Pythagoras is always working out the problems he sees in the world around him sith math in What's Your Angle Pythagoras and Pythagoras and the Ratios by Julie Ellis.
The Librarian who Measured the Earth tells the story of Eratosthenes his life of curiosity and his great accomplishment of figuring out the circumference of the Earth.
A gorgeously illustrated work to introduce children to Homer's most famous work is The Odyssey adapted by Rosemary Sutcliff, illustrated by Alan Lee (originally called The Wanderings of Odysseus)
Also check out the gorgeously illustrated The Illiad by Rosemary Sutcliff, illustrated by Alan Lee (also called Black Ships Before Troy)
The Trojan Horse is a simplified version of the Illiad for independent readers.
I admire all works by Demi and Alexander the Great is no exception. It is a well written and well illustrated book.
Pegasus is a lovely retelling of the Greek myth.
Atlanta's Race by Shirley Climo is another enjoyable tale for listeners of all ages.
"Is this a story or poetry?" my daughter asked when I first began reading D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. If you buy one book from this list for your library, choose this one.
I saved the best for last! The Hero and the Minotaur is a fabulously illustrated retelling of the legend of Theseus. I probably had more fun reading it than my kids had listening to it!
How about you?
What are your favorite illustrated books about ancient Greek history?
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I'll be the first to admit that I prefer a read book in my hands over an eBook. That being said, I also take advantage of the many, many free classic eBooks that are available. I like having a couple of books loaded on my phone and tablet at all times, and here is how I use them:
This list of Free classics contains a whole range of titles and genres. While many of the titles are for middle school and up, some are appropriate for young students, too.
Disclaimer: All books were free at the time of publication. Post contains affiliate links.
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
The Complete Works of Jane Austen
Of Plymouth Plantation William Bradford
The Wonderful Wizard of OZ L Frank Baum
The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
50 Famous People James Baldwin
Old Greek Stories James Baldwin
50 Famous Stories Retold James Baldwin
Six Centuries of English Poetry Tenneyson to Chaucer James Baldwin
Poems of William Blake
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carrol
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
The Count of Monte Cristo Alexander Dumas
The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Great Expectations Charles Dickens
Poems of Emily Dickinson
This Side of Paradise F Scott Fitzgerald
The Diamond as Big as the Ritz F Scott Fitzgerald
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button F Scott Fitzgerald
The Beautiful and the Damned F Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
Dead Souls Nikolai Gogol
Tales of a Traveler Washington Irving
Ulysses James Joyce
The Jungle Book Rudyard Kipling
The Call of the Wild Jack London
The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe
The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault
Common Sense Thomas Paine
The Republic Plato
Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Includes all 38 plays and and a collection of sonnets)
Walden Henry David Thoreau
Civil Disobedience Henry David Thoreau
War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
Pudd'nhead Wilson Mark Twain
The Complete Works of Mark Twain (13 Classic Works)
The Recollections of Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America Vol 1 and Vol 2 Alexis de Tocqueville
The Suppressed Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Early Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson
Journey to the Center of the Earth Jules Verne
The War of the Worlds HG Wells
The Sleeper Awakes HG Wells
A Modern Utopia HG Wells
The Time Machine HG Wells
The Picture of Dorain Gray Oscar Wilde
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman
How do you use eBooks in your homeschool? What are some of your favorite free eBooks?
Linked to: Inspire Me Mondays, Mommy Monday, Literacy Musings, Wise Woman Link-Up, Finishing Strong