Jan 232017

VCF Exploring our worldThis week’s topic for the Virtual Curriculum Fair is Exploring Our World. I’ve been looking back through old posts about some of the ways we’ve studied history and geography. One of the things that I love about the Virtual Curriculum Fair is that it encourages me to look back over old posts. There is a lot of our homeschool history on this blog. I found that my Virtual Curriculum Fair posts are some of the best.

Last year I wrote Encouraging Curiosity About the World which focused on my oldest son and our years homeschooling him. The year before I described Unschooling Science and the previous was Raising Map Nuts. I looked at these and thought, “What can I add to this?” (Don’t worry, I thought of something!)

There is one activity that has been especially helpful for learning history in our home – reading historical fiction. Both of my girls have read many historical fiction books that they have chosen themselves from the library. I’ve let them read about a variety of historical topics in no particular order. In that way, they’ve built up a basic history knowledge with essentially no effort from me. As a result, they’ve developed an interest in various historical time periods and had a desire to learn more.

Literature-Based History Curricula

While just reading historical fiction is helpful, the love of historical fiction can be built upon with literature-based history curricula. I’ve used a couple of different history curricula that utilized historical fiction and provided a more systematic and logical approach to learning history than random library checkouts. By the way, you can read how I keep track of library books, if you have trouble turning books in on time.

The first one, Truthquest, provides books arranged by topic for specific time periods. You can read my complete review of Truthquest.

The other literature-based history program that we’ve used is Tapestry of Grace. We used it for several years when my older children were younger. We’ve started back with Tapestry of Grace this school year with my 5th grader, Lizzie. Here’s my review of Tapestry of Grace. I also have all the posts on Tapestry of Grace tagged. In addition, I have compared Tapestry of Grace to two other popular literature based history curricula: Sonlight and My Father’s World.

Historical fiction is not just for the kids. I’ve found that reading historical fiction inspires me to learn and study more about particular time periods. There are a couple of  mystery series set in World War I that I have enjoyed so much that I keep looking for more books about that time period.


Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Exploring Our World this week:

Note: all links will be LIVE by Monday 1/23 at noon EST.

Notebooking Our Way through History by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Studying the Where and How by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays

The History of Our Mysterious Struggle With History by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Social Science, Science and Exploring our World – Our Path by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

History in Our Homeschool by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool

Exploring Our World Through History And Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Bringing History to Life! by Yvie @ Gypsy Road

History, Living Books and the Imagination by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Exploring our world comes in many different forms. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

Bible, History and Geography by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home

Beyond the Books – Social Studies and Science by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

Exploring the World with Living Books by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

High School History & Science without Textbooks by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Exploring the World Starting with Canada by Annette @ A Net in Time

Visit The World Through Video by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

Nature Study is Our Favorite Way to Do Science by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully

What A Wonderful World by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

The Time we got Lost in the Woods by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acres

Jun 192014

Third Grade Curriculum

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

It is hard for me to believe that my baby girl will be in the 3rd grade this fall! Lizzie is, for the most part, a cooperative student. She grasps new concepts quickly, and she doesn’t mind writing things down. She liked having her own school desk in the living room this year and did well with most of the curriculum, so we’ll be continuing on with much of the same for her third grade curriculum.

Third Grade Curriculum MathMath

She is a natural at math and enjoys it. Singapore and Miquon have been a great fit for her. She’ll be working in Singpore 3A and 3B as well as the final two Miquon books: Yellow and Purple.

Third Grade Curriculum Language Arts

Language Arts

I love All About Spelling. It’s super easy to use and works well for both the natural speller and the struggling speller. Lizzie will be using Level 3 this fall.

I have fallen in love with Memoria Press Literature guides. She worked through most of the 2nd grade ones this year and will be starting with Mr. Popper’s Penguins in the fall. Then we’ll be using Farmer Boy, The Moffat’s and Charlotte’s Web. All great books!

For handwriting, she’ll be using New American Cursive 3 also from Memoria Press. She has done amazingly well. This is the first time I’ve strayed from Handwriting without Tears. I like the appearance of New American Cursive so much better!

Rod & Staff English is a favorite in our house. With her literature lessons and Latin studies, she really doesn’t need the complete course. I’ll be using it as a supplement though.

Third Grade Curriculum Latin and BibleLatin

I have become a fan of Memoria Press Latin series after initially rejecting it for my oldest son. (I’m still not sure that was a bad decision. Different children learn best with different approaches.) I like the no-nonsense approach of Memoria Press. Lizzie finished Prima Latina this year and will be moving on to Latina Christiana I.


I’m trying something new this year. We’re starting Classical Academic Press’s Bible curriculum called God’s Great Covenant – Old Testament 1. We haven’t started of course, but I think Lizzie and William are going to like it.  I’ll give a more thorough opinion after use.

Now this leaves the things that I have really struggled with getting done. History and science require more time and effort from me. I really like the resources that I own and I want to give myself another chance to make it work. I am planning on making these as low key as possible, but I don’t feel like I can continue to ignore these subjects with my younger students. I hope to keep these as simple as possible.

Third Grade Curriculum History and ScienceHistory

We will be reading The Story of the World Volume 1. I own the audio version as well, so I may not actually be doing the reading. Along with that we’ll be using the activity guide for note booking exercises and I am hoping to implement a “book basket” with related resources for independent reading time.


I’m sticking with my old favorite Apologia Elementary here too. We’ll be working through 1 or more of the zoology books next year. I will have a book basket with more titles there as well.


Apr 092012


I’m going to begin this review in an unconventional way. I’m going to begin by telling you who should not use TruthQuest Homeschool History curriculum.

You should not use TruthQuest History if:

  • You want a daily schedule with exact pages to read.
  • You want a weekly plan with a list of suggested books.
  • Your student does not enjoy reading.
  • You are looking for lots of hands-on-projects.
  • You are looking for worksheets or discussion questions to accompany your reading.
  • You are easily overwhelmed by an excess of resources and feel obligated to use them all.
  • You do not wish to teach history from a Christian perspective.
Now you may be wondering what exactly you will find in Truthquest history programs.
The short answer is books.
Lots and lots of lists of books. All nicely ordered and categorized.
But it’s not just a booklist. At the beginning of each section, the author, Michelle Miller, has written a general overview of what the student will be reading about in each section. This is not just a factual summary, but looks at history through the lens of a Biblical Worldview. This overview sets the stage for what is coming up. It’s a very small part of the program if you just compare the total number of pages of commentary to pages of lists, but it’s a key component.
I warned you at the beginning of this review that this was going to be an unconventional review. Now I’m going to get really personal.
I received Age of Revolution III to review. This program is designed for students in grades 5-12 and covers the years 1865-2000. This really could not have come at a better time for us. We were just finishing up our study of the Civil War in our current history program. Truthfully, we have been limping through history for some time. I just can’t seem to make our current curriculum work for our family. My 8th grade son hates history and doesn’t want to do much reading, while my 6th grade daughter loves history and spends her free time reading historical fiction. And my other 2 students… Well, big confession. I haven’t even been doing any history with them. So my “family” history program is just not happening here. I knew I needed to look for a different option for next year, but as it turns out, I didn’t have to wait for next year.
TruthQuest History is ideal for my daughter. It gives us a thorough outline for her studies and provides book suggestions. So all I have to do it stay on top of ordering books from the library to make sure she has several books to choose from. She’s a very self-directed learner and I’m excited about the freedom from a schedule that TruthQuest provides. I’ve felt the need to move towards a more relaxed homeschool for years now, but my perfectionist tendency to push through a schedule hadn’t allowed it. TruthQuest History is helping me to relax and let my daughter enjoy her studies. It allows her time to dig deeper into some topics. We can add in projects that she wants to pursue.
Now I know I’m gushing. That’s why I started this review with the limitations of this program. I am not going to be using it with my older son. But I am really excited about the rest of this year and next year for my daughter. If this sounds like a good program for your family, take a look at their website. You can view the Table of Contents and Sample sections for any of the 11 books they offer. There are 3 American History manuals for younger children and 8 World History manuals for 5-12 grade. Prices vary depending on the size of the manual, but Age of Revolution III is $34.95 for a printed version or $29.95 for the pdf.

Disclosure: I received a pdf copy of Age of Revolution III in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Mar 182012

I’ve always loved to read, but the study of literature has never been easy for me. I think a lot of that is because I was never really taught how to analyze literature in school. I remember studying the basics like characters and plot, but finding the theme is still a difficult task for me.

That puts me in a somewhat unusual position as a homeschool mom. I do not fear teaching advanced math and science to my children, but literature and other liberal arts studies frighten me! Thankfully, I do not have to design a literature program myself. Nor do I have to determine what questions to ask my students. There are people who do understand literature and how to teach it who have written curricula for parents just like me. Two of those people are Michael and Rebecca Gilleland, the founders of Progeny Press. The Gillelands began homeschooling in the early 1990’s and immediately discovered the lack of quality literature studies available to homeschoolers. So they decided to write them. The rest, as they say, is history, or in this case literature.

Today Progeny Press offers over 100 literature guides for students in elementary through high school. Each of these guides includes not only the basic nuts and bolts literature questions, but goes further, challenging the student to think deeply. They also emphasize Christian principles throughout the studies.

Their company mission statement provides an excellent description of how the tenets of the Christian faith are intertwined in these studies of great literature.

Our purpose is not to bring you only “safe” fiction, but to teach literature that is well-written and that will help students develop and refine how they deal with man’s philosophies in relation to God’s word. Progeny Press examines literary terminology and technique in good, cultural literature to equip students for understanding the craft of writing and to enhance their joy of reading. With these things in mind, we promise to bring you good literature, provide good literary analysis, and measure it by the light of scripture.

I recently received an interactive pdf copy of the study guide for Across Five Aprils to review. This guide is designed for students in 5th-9th grades. I have had my 6th grade daughter working through the guide. She absolutely loves historical fiction, and I felt that she would be a great tester for this product.

She has very much enjoyed this study guide. She has not completed all the writing assignments that are included in the guide because she had other writing that she was working on, but the questions have helped her to understand the book much better. They have made her read more carefully and critically. There have been very few that she was unable to answer, but thankfully the guide does come with a key. You can view sample pages here.

Ideally, I would read the book too and go through the guide with her. But I just don’t have time in this season of my life to do that. Flexibility is one of the benefits of homeschooling. I love that there are companies like Progeny Press that produce high quality curricula that students can use independently if necessary, or with as much parental involvement as desired. I will definitely consider purchasing more of the Progeny Press guides.

The study guides are available in several formats. I received the e-mail attachment pdf, but they can also be purchased as a booklet, a CD, or both. The e-mail attachment is the least expensive option at $16.99 for the study guide I received.

Visit their website to see their entire selection of literature guides.

Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Nov 012011

As a classical educator (sort of), I value the study of classic literature. I want my children (and myself) to have an understanding of the themes and messages found in classic books.

I have a problem though. I do not really “get” a lot of literature myself. While other homeschoolers quake at the thought of teaching advanced math and science courses, my biggest fear is literature. In my “former life”, I was an engineer. And engineers don’t have to take a lot of English courses in college. So I had 1 semester of freshman English. I had a reasonably decent high school education, but it always took the class discussions for me to see the themes and draw conclusions from my reading.

My 13 year old son is a very literal kid. So just asking leading questions about a book isn’t going to be enough. Plus, I don’t know what kind of leading questions to even ask. Studying literature with him is not going to be easy. I fear that it’s going to be a painful experience. Yet, we do want him to have at least had the experience of reading the books and making some attempt of analyzing them.

Excellence in LiteratureI admit I didn’t have a plan. It was one of those things that I worried about in my spare time. But I think I have found what we need. It’s a literature program called Excellence in Literature. I received Introduction to Literature by Janice Campbell to review. Excellence in Literature is published by Everyday Education. This initial course is divided into 9 units. Each unit covers one book with the exception of the first unit, which teaches several short stories. The books include classics such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Animal Farm, and Gulliver’s Travels. In each unit are links to background information about the time period, biographical information about the author, and other works by the author. There are specific writing assignments included, as well as instructions to the student and teacher about what should be included in each type of writing. The program is written to the student and puts the responsibility for scheduling on the student. However, it does require parental involvement (or someone else knowledgeable to read the student’s assignments.)

This is not an easy course. It will require thought and a lot of time to complete the assignments. And that is just for the regular assignments. The author gives extra selections to read to increase the difficulty to an honors course. (I frankly can’t imagine that our local high school students are getting anything remotely like this course in a regular English class. But my goal is not to mimic the public high school anyway!) Excellence in Literature is not a fill-in-the-blank literature course. It is too advanced for my 8th grader, who is extremely smart, just not in this area, to complete at the pace that the course is designed to be completed. I am planning on holding onto the course for next year. Before then, I’d like to obtain a copy of Teaching the Classics which the author recommends if you need help with literary analysis. (which we do!)

If you’re looking for a challenging course for high school literature, I recommend that you look at Excellence in Literature. You can download an overview of the entire program and the complete book list on the Everyday Education website. Each course is available in print for $29 plus shipping, or as an e-book for $27.

Please visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read other reviews of this and other products for your homeschool!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.




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Jun 102011


Everyone knows that dinosaurs lived millions of years before humans, right?

If humans and dinosaurs had lived at the same time there should be some evidence and there isn’t…or is there?

What exactly are dragons?

Are they a mythical creature that never really existed? Or could they be (or have been) real?

Dragons – Legends & Lore of Dinosaurs published by Master Books, seeks to answer these questions. This book describes various dragon legends from around the world and historical eyewitness accounts. It also shows where dragons are mentioned in the Bible as well as in several Biblical commentaries.

From that description alone, I would be interested in reading this book, but I haven’t mentioned the best part.

The sturdy, over-sized book is filled with flaps to open, envelopes containing removable documents, and miniature books. It is completely irresistible for a child! (I highly recommend keeping it out of young children’s reach for that reason. You’re not going to want this book damaged.) The illustrations are beautiful, and the text is full of interesting facts about both dragons and dinosaurs.  My photo doesn’t do it justice, but does at least show some of the features of the inside of the book. The left flap is opened in the picture. In the upper right corner is a miniature book labeled Eyewitness Accounts and Encounters.

It is a fantastic resource and I highly recommend purchasing it for your home library. It is available for purchase from New Leaf Publishing Group, from on-line retailers like ChristianBook.com, or your local Christian book store. The retail price is $17.99.


Disclosure: I received a copy of Dragons – Legends & Lore of Dinosaurs to review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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May 032010

Recently I posted a list of which of 100 Top Children’s Novels I had read. It had a great response, so when I saw a list of 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know posted by the New York Public Library, I knew I was going to have to see how many of these I’d read. I have marked the ones I’ve read to at least one of my children in bold.

  1. ABUELA  by Arthur Dorros,
  4. ANDY AND THE LION  by James Daugherty
  5. BARK, GEORGE by Jules Feiffer
  6. THE BOSSY GALLITO: A TRADITIONAL CUBAN FOLK TALE retold by Lucia M.Gonzalez; illustrated by Lulu Delacre
  7. BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES by Russell Hoban; illustrated by Lillian Hoban
  8. BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? by Bill Martin, Jr.; illustrated by Eric Carle
  9. BRUNO MUNARI’S ABC by Bruno Munari
  10. BUZ by Richard Egielski
  12. THE CARROT SEED by Ruth Krauss; illustrated by Crockett Johnson
  13. A CHAIR FOR MY MOTHER by Vera B. Williams
  14. CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault; illustrated by Lois Ehlert
  15. CLICK, CLACK, MOO : COWS THAT TYPE / by Doreen Cronin
  16. COME ALONG, DAISY! by Jane Simmons
  17. CORDUROY by Don Freeman
  18. CURIOUS GEORGE by H. A. Rey
  19. DINOSAUR ROAR! by Paul Stickland and Henrietta
  21. DUCK ON A BIKE by David Shannon
  22. FIRE TRUCK  by Peter Sís
  23. FREIGHT TRAIN by Donald Crews
  24. FROGGY GETS DRESSED by Jonathan London
  25. THE GARDENER by Sarah Stewart
  26. GEORGE AND MARTHA by James Marshall
  27. GO AWAY, BIG GREEN MONSTER! by Ed Emberley
  28. GOIN’ SOMEPLACE SPECIAL by Patricia McKissack
  29. GOOD NIGHT, GORILLA by Peggy Rathmann
  30. GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret W. Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd
  31. GOSSIE  by Dunrea Olivier
  33. HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON by Crockett Johnson
  34. HARRY THE DIRTY DOG by Gene Zion ; illustrated by Margaret Graham
  35. HENRY HIKES TO FITCHBURG by D. B. (Donald B.) Johnson
  38. I KISSED THE BABY! by Mary Murphy
  39. IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura J. Numeroff
  40. IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE: A YIDDISH FOLKTALE retold and illustrated by Margot Zemach
  41. JOHN HENRY by Julius Lester; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
  42. JULIUS by Angela Johnson ; illustrated by Dav Pilkey
  43. KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON by Kevin Henkes
  45. THE LINE-UP BOOK by Russo Marisabina
  46. THE LITTLE RED HEN: AN OLD STORY by Margot Zemach
  48. LYLE, LYLE, CROCODILE by Bernard Waber
  49. MABELA THE CLEVER by Margaret Read MacDonald
  50. MACHINES AT WORK by Byron Barton
  51. MADELINE by Ludwig Bemelmans
  52. MAISY GOES SWIMMING by Lucy Cousins
  53. MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS by Robert McCloskey
  54. MAMA CAT HAS THREE KITTENS by Denise Fleming
  56. MARTHA SPEAKS by Susan Meddaugh
  58. MILLIONS OF CATS by Wanda Gág
  59. MISS NELSON IS MISSING! by Harry Allard and James Marshall
  60. MR. GUMPY’S OUTING by John Birmingham
  61. MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS: AN AFRICAN TALE retold and illustrated by John Steptoe
  62. MUNCHA! MUNCHA! MUNCHA! by Candace Fleming
  63. MY FRIEND RABBIT by Eric Rohmann
  64. THE NAPPING HOUSE by Audrey Wood
  65. NO, DAVID! by David Shannon
  66. OFF TO SCHOOL, BABY DUCK! by Amy Hest
  67. OLD BLACK FLY by Jim Aylesworth
  68. OLIVIA by Ian Falconer
  69. OWEN by Kevin Henkes
  71. PIERRE: A CAUTIONARY TALE by Maurice Sendak
  72. THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg
  73. PUSS IN BOOTS by Charles Perrault
  75. ROUND TRIP by Ann Jonas
  76. RUMPELSTILTSKIN by Paul O. Zelinsky
  77. THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats
  79. THE STORY OF FERDINAND by Munro Leaf
  80. THE STRAY DOG Marc, Simont
  81. STREGA NONA by Tomie De Paola
  82. SWIMMY by Leo Lionni
  84. THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT by Beatrix Potter
  85. TAR BEACH by Faith Ringgold
  86. TEN, NINE, EIGHT by Molly Bang
  88. THE THREE BEARS by Paul Galdone
  89. TRASHY TOWN by Andrea Griffing Zimmerman
  91. TUESDAY by David Wiesner
  92. UPTOWN by Collier Bryan
  94. THE WHEELS ON THE BUS adapted and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
  95. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak
  96. WHERE’S SPOT? by Eric Hill
  97. WHISTLE FOR WILLIE by Ezra Jack Keats
  98. THE WOLF’S CHICKEN STEW by Keiko Kasza
  99. YOKO by Rosemary Wells
  100. ZOMO THE RABBIT: A TRICKSTER TALE FROM WEST AFRICA retold and illustrated by Gerald McDermott

I count 41 of the top 100. There are a few I’m not counting that I know we’ve read some version of, like Mother Goose, but I’m not sure if it’s the one listed. It looks like I’ve got a lot more to go. Lucky for me, I’ve still got a little girl who loves a good picture book. (I’ve also got some older kids who pretend that they aren’t listening!)

If you like book lists, my favorite list is the 1000 Good Books List.

So, how many have you read?