April is national poetry month! To help you share some poetry with your kids, I compiled a page of poetry that you can share with your kids at the beginning of your school days, over a delightful tea, or for a literature lesson. You may use these poems for copywork, memorization and recitation practice, or as inspiration for an art project.
Poetry is a beautiful way to help kids put words to the experiences around them and the sky is the limit on how you can incorporate a poem into your day!
If you like this poetry resource, sign up for the Freely Learned newsletter using the form below. You'll get a free, printable page of poetry every month along with a short newsletter.
Technology is remarkable. On my phone, I can access a dictionary, a calculator, weather and traffic reports, the Bible, the news, what people are thinking about any given topic at this very moment, a field guide, a whole library of eBooks, and of course, if I don't know the answer to a question, I can just ask Siri to google it.
With all of that knowledge accessible from my phone, why learn anything at all?
I recently reread an article titled "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham, who is the author of a whole slew of books about how people learn and education in America. During a time when I was researching what really worked in education, I was influenced enough by the conclusions of articles like this and books like The Knowledge Deficit, by E D Hirsch to make more time in our homeschool day for literature, history, and science than I did for the three Rs.
A wide base of general knowledge is key to unlocking the doors of learning. Here are a few takeaways from "How Knowledge Helps" to support why:
Knowledge is Essential for Reading Comprehension
"The ability to read a text and make sense of it is highly correlated to background knowledge." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
When I read, there is a wide gap in my understanding of topics that I know about and topics I don't know much about at all despite the fact that my reading ability is very high. I can read a play by Shakespeare with better comprehension than a scientific article written in modern English because of the presence or lack of background knowledge.
If I were to read several recaps of sporting events, I would understand an article about baseball better than an article about football. And I would understand the football article better than the article about cricket.
Kids are no different than adults. They read with greater understanding when they already know the topic they are reading about. Is your child into dinosaurs, astronomy, or birds? She probably is a stronger reader on that topic than she is on any other scientific topic.
"People with rich general knowledge rarely have to interrupt reading in order to consciously search for connections." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
General knowledge means not having to google a fact or a definition in the middle of reading just to understand what is going on. When we can read uninterrupted, we understand more and learn more.
A Base of Knowledge Makes Future Learning Easier
"(Knowledge) makes learning easier. Knowledge is not only cumulative, it grows exponentially. Those with a rich base of factual knowledge find it easier to learn more--the rich get richer." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
The child who learned about the history of Ancient Israel in sunday school will have an easier time fitting the histories of Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, and Rome into his understanding of ancient history, because all of their histories are intertwined.
A child well acquainted with mythology through a book like D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, will have an easier time understanding many literary allusions in literature and poetry.
A child with knowledge of the natural world around her will have a much easier time when she studies biology formally that a child who does not have similar experience.
Simply knowing something about a subject makes it more likely that new knowledge will "stick."
Knowledge is a Prerequisite for Critcal Thinking
"If we want our students to think critically, they must have something to think about." --from "How Knowledge Helps" by Daniel T Willingham
In other words, if you don't know anything, you really don't have much to think about. Workbooks and activities that promote critical thinking skills are generally bunk since they are usually separated from the real building of the knowledge base for actual critical thinking.
In real life, we can't critically think about something that we know nothing about. I can't throw together a dinner with whatever-is-in-the-fridge if I don't have a basic knowledge of cooking. I can't pop the hood of my car and figure out what is making that weird sound if I have no knowledge of the inner workings of cars. I can't form a real opinion on the daily news if I don't have a knowledge of politics and history. Day to day life requires critical thinking and problem solving to make it through and without the right knowledge, we can't think or problem solve our way through life.
Application: What I do to Ensure My Kids have a Broad Base of Knowledge
I adopted Charlotte Mason style short lessons around the same time I decided that I was going to make sure that my kids had a content rich education. This ensured that I could hit every subject, every day and still be done by lunch.
Being exposed to a wide variety of books is the best way to increase a child's knowledge. We visit the library weekly, and for my younger kids I check out a variety of picture books from a variety of sections including: general picture books, folktales and fairy tales, natural science, art and hobbies, poetry, and history.
My my oldest son loves reading about imaginary worlds, funny stories about kids his age, war stories, and mythology. When I plan his reading list for the school year, I intentionally include types of books and topics he wouldn't pick up on his own such as, biographies, historical fiction, and classic children's literature.
I also cycle through eras of history and science topics with the whole family so we can build a broad base of knowledge that will be foundational to the rest of their education.
For Further Reading
ED Hirsch Jr also addresses the need for a knowledge based education in The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children
I really want to read the book When Can You Trust the Experts?: How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education, by Daniel T Willingham because I am so tired of seeing crazy educational practices that are supposedly "research based" but in real life seem to be confusing students.
Thanks for reading!
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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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In a perfect homeschooling world, we'd always have a couple of uninterrupted hours at the end of the week to gather materials and plan out the upcoming weeks, no one would get sick, December would only be a little bit chaotic, Mom would always get eight hours of sleep, and family crises would just not happen during the school year.
Unfortunately, life is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Giving our kids a good education means that sometimes we have to flip on the autopilot switch and homeschool the best we can in the middle of our crazy lives. Here are a few thing that I've found help me educate my kids well during the busiest times of the year.
Have a Routine to Fall Back On
Having a routine means that even when I fall short of sleep because I'm up most of the night with a sick kid or because I'm a bad sleeper, I can fall into the pattern of breakfast, get kids ready for the day, read aloud time, math lessons, then supervise the kids' independent work. A routine saves our homeschool day more often than I care to admit.
My kids have their routines that they fall into, too. My oldest son is so in the habit of narrating what he read in his history and literature readers that even if I am in the middle of cleaning up a big spill, he will be telling me about the Panama Canal while getting me another towel. He knows that he can't check history off his list and move on to the next subject until that part of the lesson is done. Believe me, he doesn't like to be doing a lot of work after lunch, so he is motivated to move forward.
My daughter (age 5) is still learning her schedule but she knows that she has to write something, read something, and do a math activity before she is free to do drag out her art supplies to make yet another messy mixed media collage/drawing/painting/masterpiece. So she will ask to do her math before she asks to do art.
Always Be in the Middle of a Few Longer Books
For a while, a few subjects in our homeschool week were solely dependent on shorter books from the library. This meant that if I didn't reserve my books or couldn't go to the library, we didn't have anything to do for history, art, or science.
While I still depend on the library to round out our curriculum and to add richness to our homeschool day, I am careful to have a few longer books that we are reading aloud at all times.Genevieve Foster's books and the D'Aulaires books are great read for reading aloud to a wide range of ages and they are long enough to last several weeks. My kids all time favorite science book was Birds do the Strangest Things. We would read about one bird a day over the course of a few weeks and they still talk about the crazy birds we read about. Often, I will take a book from theLets-Read-And-Find-Out series, divide it into quarters, and read it over the course of a week.
Currently, during our morning read aloud time, we are always working through a book of the Bible, a history book, a poetry book, and a science book. Even on the craziest days, if I just continue to read a chapter or section of each of those and add in math, give the kids free reading time, and ask each child to write in their journal, we've still covered seven subjects in our homeschool. That's what we call a minimum day!
Map Out Subjects So It's Easy to "Do the Next Thing"
While with some curriculum may be easy to open the book and do the next section, some subjects are a little more difficult to do without a little planning. A math book may need change for a lesson on money or a compass for a geometry lesson. A history lesson may require a trip to the library for a research project. Science labs always require materials. A writing curriculum may have some lessons that take less than 20 minutes while others take close to an hour.
There are many ways to plan ahead, without investing a lot of time. Spending a little time periodically to look ahead to make note of which shorter lessons could be combined and which longer lessons will require extra days is a great practice. Jotting down a list of materials that will be needed for each unit on post it notes at the beginning of the year and sticking them in the book is super helpful.
Technology as a Substitute Teacher
When I was a substitute teacher, I usually had to take students to the computer lab or pop in a movie. When I was a teacher, I usually kept a few VHS tapes in my top right hand drawer for emergencies. As a homeschool teacher, why should I feel guilty about occasionally relying on technology to fill in the gaps in my kids education?
There are enough great documentaries, movie adaptations of literature, websites, and apps out there that in a pinch I can call in a technological substitute teacher to help me through a pinch. ABCya, Duolingo, Xtra Math, Starfall, and Typing.com are a few websites I can count on to fill in the gaps on rough days. As a matter of fact, most of those websites show up on our homeschool on a rotating basis anyway! We just spend more time on them when Mom or the baby is sick. As for apps, we have Stack the States (geography), Zeus vs the Monsters (mythology and math), Moose Math, and Starfall (reading and phonics). I try to record documentaries on Animal Planet for rainy days. I can also pull up an episode of Salsa Spanish for the little ones.
How About You?
How do you homeschool on autopilot?
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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
I thought I'd share a few of the winter themed picture books that we have read the past few weeks and especially enjoyed. This is not a comprehensive list of every good winter picture book out there, just the ones my 3 year old, 5 year old, and myself have enjoyed reading together.
We just checked out this version of the classic folktale The Mitten and everyone in our family loved it! The expressions on the animals' faces were so expressive and often very funny. A book hasn't caused so many belly laughs in our house in quite a while!
Don't You Feel Well Sam is a sweet book to read with kids who have a little cold. Sam is sick but his wise momma kindly and patiently takes care of him. There is a gentle surprise for Sam and his mom as they finally settle down at the end the story.
Katy and the Big Snow is a classic story of a hard working snowplow that doesn't stop working until she clears all of the roads in Geoppolis. My kids love watching the town cars follow her paths in the snow.
When we read The Missing Mitten Mystery, my kids enjoyed how Annie retraced her footsteps at the end of a winter day looking for her lost mitten and I enjoyed her imaginative nature.
Go to Sleep Groundhog is a fun winter book. Groundhog keeps waking up for each of the late fall and winter holidays. I like that I can read it all winter and it's not out of place. That way, when I can't find it on Groundhog Day, I don't feel so bad.
What are your favorite winter picture books to read with your kids?
Linked to: Weekend Blog Party, Hip Homeschool Moms
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One of my goals in homeschooling is to help my kids make meaningful connections with all of the knowledge that they are receiving. When it comes to Biblical knowledge, there is just so much to synthesize that even adults need help connecting the dots between what we learn about God in Genesis and Revelations and every book in between.
I came across The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New, and it seemed like a fun introduction to the overarching themes of the bible for my age range of kids, so I added it to my cart with a few other books I was purchasing for our homeschool.
How The Ology is Set Up
The Ology has a total of 71 chapters divided into 11 sections that teach about God and his relationship to us. The eleven major sections are:
Each chapter is four pages long. Two pages contain a short, yet example-rich explanation of a truth from the Bible with several verses included in the margins. The other two pages have simple illustrations that are symbolic of some part of the text. The illustrations also have verses that further support the text and can be looked up by the parent or older students.
At the back of the book, there is a glossary for the theological terms that are used in the book. Each term is explained with a kid friendly definition. There is also a section titled "Think Theology, Talk Theology" which has discussion questions for each of the chapters.
How We are Using The Ology as a Family
At the beginning of the book is a parent guide on how to use The Ology with different age groups: Early Elementary (ages 6-9), Upper Elementary (ages 10-12) and Teens and Adults. Since the recommendation for both Early and Upper Elementary is to read the book straight through to get an overview, that is what we are doing.
As we read each chapter, I remind my kids about what the prior chapter was about. Then I ask my youngest (3 years old) about the illustration for the current chapter. Next. I read the first page of text and ask my daughter (5 years old) why she thinks they picked the first picture for that chapter. Then I read the verse that is alongside of the main text and ask my oldest son (12 years old) if he can tell me how the verse relates to what the chapter was about. We then turn the page and repeat with the second half of the chapter.
There is more that we could do with The Ology. We could memorize the verses each week, spend more time with the questions in the back, or we could look up all of the verses from the pictures, but in this season of life, what we are doing is working just right for our family.
Our readings from The Ology are a part of our morning family devotions, which also include prayers and readings from the Bible.
It is easy to teach who's who in the Bible and to memorize a few verses, but as our culture moves more and more into secularism, it is important that our children know the truths of the Bible and how they are connected. I believe that The Ology is a good tool towards that end.
Before reading The Ology to my kids, I read them The Jesus Storybook Bible since it is a good introduction to how everything in the Bible points to Jesus. After reading The Ology, I will probably get my oldest son Big Truths for Young Hearts to read on his own while rereading The Jesus Storybook Bible to my youngest two before moving on to The Ology again.
Disclaimer: I purchased The Ology with my own money to use within my own family. All opinions in this article are my own. Links in this article are affiliate links.
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I find that my biggest challenge in choosing book to read aloud to my kids is accomodating the wide age range. This winter my kids are 12, 5, and 3 but with upcoming birthdays, they will soon be 12, 6, and 4.
It would make sense, with the gaps in my kid's ages, to read separately to my son and then to the younger two, but they all like starting the day out together with a little bit of family learning before they go their own ways in their independent subjects. The burden falls on me to find books that won't be ridiculously easy for my oldest or too far over the heads of my youngest two.
The selection of books that I came up with center around my oldest son's history unit (Ancient Greece), my daughter's science interests, and poetry selections for all ages.
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We are currently reading the Book of Daniel for our daily Bible reading. When we are finished with Daniel, we will read the Gospel of Mark. Also, we are reading a chapter a week from The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New to help us understand the overarching themes of the Bible.
I am planning on spending a big chunk of time studying Greek history and culture this winter. Some of the read alouds I plan to use include:
I will be reading short selections from Dorothy Mill's The Book of the Ancient Greeks at time and at times having my son read from it on his own so that we can get through the book in a reasonable amount of time. It is hard for the younger kids to sit through history readings even though they really want to share in their older brother's lessons, so I just read aloud very short sections to everyone while assigning the rest to my son to read independently.
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths is a hit with both of my kids. My daughter asked me if it was "poetry or a story" and my oldest son asked to bring it to his room to look at it during his break.
After we finish D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, I plan on reading Archimedes and the Door of Science, I will also be requesting picture book copies of Aesop's Fables from the library to appeal to my youngest boy.
Most of our science selections are picture books that come from the library. Learning about the natural world appeals to all of my kids, so this winter I am looking for books about animals that live in snowy climates, changing weather, and the solar system.
When my little ones start to lose interest, I read a nursery rhyme or a poem. Our nursery rhyme book is the Tall Book of Mother Goose and the poetry book I am using is the Random House Book of Poetry.
Those are just our school read alouds. Of course, it would be unreasonable to read every book every day, so each morning, I pick a few books and read a few pages from each. I really only spend about 20 minutes a day reading aloud at the beginning of our day. It's amazing how much ground we cover in such a small amount of time.