Homeschool Mama Christmas Guide

It’s Mama’s turn! Here are a few fun ideas I put together for that special Homeschool Mama in your life that probably emailed you this list since you don’t follow my blog. J/k…kind of.  Half way through composing this I realized that this could also be titled “Homeschool Mama Book Nerd Christmas Guide” but considering how most of my friends have a built in Book budget every year, I am thinking we’ll survive the abundance of book related suggestions here.  Here we go!

 

Homeschool Mama Stocking Stuffers:

Literary Postcards
51a7pu5qRAL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

or these if she is an Essentials/Grammar loving Mama….
71MEiw0GKsL.jpg

A Book Lover’s Cup of Tea
Its a tea infuser shaped like a book (Squeak!) and a small book of favorite tea mixes and tea time recipes.

41MLkLxlCYL._SY355_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Wild + Free Ts
These sweet cozy Tshirts rock a powerful message. “Saving Childhood” is my favorite.

unnamed-1.jpg

Moisturizing Socks
Guys, I have four pairs of these socks and I love them. I know its silly and probably unnecessary, but there is just something so sweet and comforting about the fact that I can slip on moisturizing socks and feel a bit pampered in the midst of raising four boys. Especially on a day when someone leaves a trail of blood down the hallway after getting punched in the nose or when coffee has spilled on our timeline book (again) or when someone’s science project accidentally starts a small(ish) fire. Silly frivolous things, like a pair of moisturizing socks, can inexplicably save a mama’s sanity on a day like that!
51pNnSGrPHL._SL1000_.jpg

A Powerful Read-
Here are a few of my personal favorites
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
Death by Living by ND Wilson
Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
The Original Home School Series by Charlotte Mason (This set is on sale again!!!)
Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
The Life Giving Home by Sally Clarkson
Different by Sally Clarkson

51T5MT0B48L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

A subscription to a beautiful magazine!
Here are three wonderful options:
Wild + Free  I am admittedly biased here since I have been writing for them these past two years, but I will say that this is a wonderful group of homeschool mamas putting out a great deal of beauty and goodness each and every month. Subscribers receive a print magazine each month along with a large digital content bundle full of book club ideas, nature journal tutorials, stories, encouragement, craft tutorials, etc. Once you subscribe you also have access to the full archive of conference talks!
Common Place Quarterly  This brand new quarterly magazine is put together by a band of dear hearts with a desire to encourage CM educators. Each magazine will be a whopping 80 pages long! Check out the link to pre-order.
FORMA Magazine:
Another quarterly magazine with a great deal to offer! Once you subscribe you will have access to their entire digital archive and receive an additional compilation edition each year. Whenever FORMA arrives in the mail it takes up residence next to my reading chair and every afternoon for about two weeks, I sit with my cup of tea and spend time reading and rereading it. The poems in the latest edition were so beautiful, I read them every day for a week.

header_forma_2.jpg

Book Darts
81ogRnpgFkL._SL1500_.jpg

A ‘Novel’ Journal

This journal is THE BEST EVER because you can write your own story between the lines of your favorite story. Yes, you read that right. I have the Louisa May Alcott journal and Little Women is printed in an ultra fine print which act as the lines of the journal. I write about our homeschool days within those lines. Oh my heart! So sappy! So wonderful! I love it. They have Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Emma, Sherlock Holmes, The Wizard of Oz and more!

81gS4YdWbwL.jpg

CHOCOLATE
Fair Trade, Dark, Milk, filled with caramel or hazelnuts or salted, pick your poison! Just CHOCOLATE.

A Dorky Mug
Like this Shakespearean Insults Mug to sip your thrice reheated cup of coffee from whilst contemplating why thine children have chosen this day to behave as though light of brain.
81MjzgFQQkL._SL1500_.jpg

Encouragement & Love
Have the kids write some letters about their favorite things they’ve learned this year and what they appreciate about their Mama. This will probably be greater than anything you wrap.

Under The Tree

A Gift Card for a Family Photo Session
Find a local photographer and book a session for your family.
542866_657803900428_1476535806_n.jpg

A Big Box of Tea and a Weekly Time Slot
Amazon happens to sell a box of 500 organic tea bags that often goes on sale for around $20.  This would be a lovely gift to give along with a protected time slot each week that Mama can use for lesson planning, mother culture, or a nap!
71qZxdKgCaL._SY679SX453_SY679_CR,0,0,453,679_PIbundle-5,TopRight,0,0_SX453_SY679_CR,0,0,453,679_SH20_.jpg

A beautiful edition for the weary…
Hinds’ Feet on High Places
61oV1Ae16GL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

A Membership

Here is something truly special to bless a homeschool Mother’s socks off. I have spent the past few days soaking up Sally Clarkson’s “Life With Sally” site enjoying podcasts, bible studies, recipes, resources, reviews, articles, author studies, artist studies, the list goes on and on. This place is jam packed with goodness and underscored by a heart for mentoring.
clws+banner+1920+x+1080.jpg

A Weekend Away They’ll Never Forget!
The upcoming Wild+Free Conference in Frisco Texas is shaping up to be an incredible weekend! I am excited to be speaking again but I am even MORE excited to listen to Susan Wise Bauer, Leah Boden, Sally Clarkson, Julie Bogart, Jodi Mockabee, Jennifer Pepito and many more, share their hearts with us all. This is definitely #notyourmamashomeschoolconference! I am so excited to hang out with my friends, listen to great bands, dance like no one is watching and fill my heart with inspiration in the DEAD OF FEBRUARY which is historically one of the most difficult months of homeschooling because tanks start running LOW.
ebfa3ba793f74bfcaa74e8ad9a3beea2-pitch2.jpg

Carrot Top Paper Shop Swag
Pretty much ANYTHING from the world’s cutest shop

il_570xN.1655991785_7zv5.jpg

Speaking of adorable Etsy shops… I drool over this shop, SWEET SEQUELS, all the time. I am eyeing their 21 Baker Street Shirt and this Narnia Map T.
il_570xN.1464748916_ecq5.jpg

A Laminator
Chances are she already has one, but just in case…get thee laminated. We always say its “for the kids” but kids typically don’t care if something is laminated.
61U7WnACqnL._SL1500_.jpg

TICKETS OUT
For the Mama with a heart for Mother Culture, get some tickets to help feed her soul.
A Shakespeare play, a night with the symphony, tickets to an art gallery or poetry reading.

cso_class2015_1200x440.jpg

Homeschool Uniform
I LOVE ME some JCrew PJS. Make sure you check back often for sales and to peek over at JCrewFactory for even bigger discounts.
H4364_BL7133.jpg

THE GREATEST BOARD GAME OF ALL TIME. DELUXE!
Ok, so this might just be on MY wish list but good golly, that rotating scrabble game. Be still my heart!

91TWhlO80oL._SL1500_.jpg

A Bath Caddy

Just file this under, things we would gush over if we found them in a hotel but would probably never think to purchase for ourselves.

719loxZLMiL._SL1495_.jpg

Merry Christmas Mamas!

 

Small Business Christmas Guide

unnamed

Christmas is a wonderful time to support those small business families around us. Here is a list of our favorites! It is our JOY to support them and cheer on in their good work!

  1.  You’ve heard me go on and on about them a thousand times, but just in case you are one of our new readers, check out The Green Ember series by SD Smith. Not only are these books a childhood favorite for my boys, but in reading them they feel like they are part of a bigger movement of kids being inspired to create and make and remember. SD Smith and his whole crew work hard to publish these books and ship them out to families. They were just working in the warehouse this week, packing up the latest book “The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner” for families across the country.IMG_4988
  2.  Treasures from Jennifer
    I first met Jennifer on a small facebook group years ago that sold Montessori Materials. I remember saving up for months to buy her old set of wooden geometry cards for my boys ( It was right around the time I first started this blog!) Since then we have invested in her work over and over again! Every piece I have ever purchased from Jennifer and her family has held up beautifully and is used by my children and children that come to visit our home. Her tracing boards, geometry boards, maps, shape boards, calendar, early writing boards, multiplication boards, etc are such a big part of our classroom set up that there is not a single day that goes by where we don’t use SOMETHING from Jennifer and her family. Purchasing from this wonderful family business also helped me buy way less in general for our classroom. I bypassed buying dozens of flimsy or cheaper materials throughout the year and saved my money so I could buy just ONE long lasting tool from them. Its been wonderful to have less clutter and tools that don’t need replacing at the end of every year.

IMG_6448

3. Raddish Kids
These monthly culinary kits have brought so much growth and learning and self sufficiency to our home. We have enjoyed learning new recipes from around the world, connecting with families across the country and letting our kids take over certain meals during the week. Their cooking skills have greatly increased and their appreciation for the things I  make has also increased! We love the Sam, the wonderful woman behind Raddish cooking and her mission.
20882773_10100127090059178_8711394999518120649_n

4. Twig and Moth and Tanglewood Hollow
Everyone always asks where we get our cards and posters for our science table and nature table. Well, these are the two talented artists we choose to support! Both of these lovely ladies have poured their hearts out into making beautiful, practical, affordable and educational aids accessible in our homes. Their little touches have added so much beauty to our learning! We love Alice Cantrell’s lovely lichen series and plant series. We love Allyson’s exquisite anatomy charts and life of a snowflake series. Check out their shops!

13669108_923695177178_6113562561518678494_n

5. Read Aloud Revival 
I’m sure you just did a double take on that one. Small business? Yes! I know Read Aloud Revival has grown tremendously over the years but this is definitely still a family business! Membership over at Read Aloud Revival has been a great gift to us over the years. Its always on my personal Christmas list. We love the work Sarah Mackenzie is doing and we believe that it is important both in our home and in the world. A membership to RAR is a gift you can enjoy all year long through Author Access Events, master classes, drawing classes and so much more.
images.jpg

6.  Letters From Afar
One of the biggest days of the month over on our farm is the day the mailman drops off a letter from our friend Isabelle. “ANOTHER LETTER FROM AFAR!” someone shouts and everyone comes running to the library so we can read it together. Then we pull out our map and find where she is and we listen as someone reads it aloud. Inevitably we hear about something that catches our imagination and the boys are off opening books and looking into another atlas and asking questions. I’m amazed at how much they have learned from Isabelle this year. I love all the curiosity these letters have stirred.  $6 a month and a portion of the proceeds go to Pencils of Promise. When we finish with a letter we pin it on the wall so we can keep enjoying the beautiful illustrations.

IMG_5984

7. Hortus Wild
We’ve been using a few pieces from the Hortus Wild Shop this past year. We have tried natural bean bags from a few different makers and they inevitably fall apart within the space of a month. (My sensory seeks is pretty rough with bean bags!) The beautiful plant dyed  bean bags from Hortus Wild have held up all year. They are beautifully soft and he loves holding these while he works, when he sleeps and when we go on car trips. We’ve also really enjoyed their leather tangram pieces! My second born has one of their journals and it has become very special to him. He always calls it “my grown up journal” and he loves to write stories in it.  Justine, your work is just lovely!

unnamed.jpg

8. Story Weaver Mercantile
Read her story here. Read her partner stories here.  Shop all the beauty and goodness here. She says it so well, there is little left for me to say other than thank you, Calli! We love you and the great work you are doing. Readers, one of my all time favorite purchases is this shopping bag from Bangladesh. We take it everywhere!
IMG_6242_1024x1024.jpg

9. Mirus Toys
Suba has been working hard this year making maps, life cycle models, and other wooden science materials. One piece we have used constantly in the last few months is her fractions and music notes board, what beautiful bridge between music theory study and mathematics. We love it!  The boys are currently learning how to use the Bohr Atomic Model.  Keep an eye on her shop for new maps posting soon. The workmanship is lovely!

il_570xN.1456463023_breb.jpg

10.  YOUR LOCAL BUSINESSES AT HOME!
Friends, drive out to your local farms, craft fairs, markets, ma and pa shops, family restaurants, etc. and show them some love and support!

Merry Christmas!

Wild Explorers Christmas Guide

This post turned out differently than I expected. Our favorite adventure store JM Cremps is no longer selling online. If you live anywhere near Mall of America, congratulations! JM Cremps will still be there for you. You should probably just visit that store and support them instead of purchasing anything off this list. For the rest of us JM Crempsless souls, here is our list of favorite gift for Wild Explorers + Mad Scientists.

1. Stocking Stuffers for Wild Explorers

Our Uno set is about 30 cards short so its time to get a new one. This Wilderness set is a perfect stocking stuffer!
91gUu911USL._SL1500_.jpg
This camping logbook for the whole family to use!
A18CvuDNL+L.jpg

Individual water proof  field notebooks. These have survived the washer dryer cycles at our house and come out the other side like champions!
91FLtXPTK+L._SL1500_.jpg

2) National Parks Goodness
First and foremost, BECOME a Junior Ranger! You can sign your kiddo up and get together a few of the badge activities off the website and box them up for your explorer on Christmas Day!

National Parks Monopoly

91OBZXWZpAL._SL1500_.jpg

 

3) Camping Books

One of our favorite Camp books. All the kids adore it.
61wBc4jZZGL._SX445_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

3) A sturdy backpack
I always thought these were over hyped and way too pricey, but after tossing out 4th cheap back pack at the end of another year, I decided it might be wiser to just invest in backpacks they can use for years and years to come. These beauties are used for hikes, road trips, airplane rides, co-op days, and random backyard adventures. They’ve held spilled liquids, squashed bugs, old sandwich crusts, bloody kleenex, sticky clementine residue and an assortment of crumbs, bits of string,  random pieces, odds and ends that children always seem to gather, and they are a snap to clean and still look wonderful and function beautifully. These backpacks have a surprising amount of resilience and fortitude to the abuses of the average male child. I am a fan. I even bought one for myself.  They come in a hundred different colors and styles.
714iMyw945L._SL1500_.jpg

 

 

4) A REAL Compass. 6126NSRnlSL._SL1000_.jpg

5)  The Acme Thunderer
We never ever hike without this whistle. We usually take two. It can be heard up to a mile away. We wear it on a lanyard. One for me and one for my child who tends to stray.
11af5bbb-6379-46d7-a019-9a8146d6cc7f_1.fe03e8d22dc7bbdac702189e288fa947.jpg

6 A membership to your local Nature Center or Science Museum. The gift that keeps on giving!|

 

7. A set of travel watercolors for the Wild Explorer that loves to sit out in nature and capture what they see.
51BlL03gLdL._SL1000_.jpg

8.  A new water bottle 
61JfEe1VBZL._SL1500_.jpg

9.  A Sturdy Pocket Knife  and keep it safe in a belt pouch.
61HNZwOYAaL._SL1200_.jpg

10.  STILL one of my favorite gifts for kids. These Emergency Paracord Bracelets are wonderful!

916vqj2N0-L._SL1500_.jpg

 

 

Tinkerers & Crafters Christmas Guide Volume 2

13346998_909906654488_951417145024876609_n.jpg

This one goes out to all the Tinkerers & Crafters!

Let’s start with the Tinkerers…..

1. Electronic Playground
Hands down, the favorite gift of the year last year! This one packs an incredible amount of experiments and the hours of learning and play are rich! We also love Snap Circuits.

A14ET9aO8WL._SL1500_.jpg

2. Electronics for Kids

91PKOuYPu4L.jpg

3. MAGFORMERS
We love magnetic blacks. Magformers, magnatiles, we love them all. These basic sets go a long way. The big boxes are pricey but if you are limiting toys in your home and only want to buy one great toy, these are a great set to own. This is the main toy my little guy plays with when I am teaching his older brothers!
613XujaxcPL._SL1000_.jpg

4. Lego Technic RC Racer
This was another gift we received from grandparents last year and it was a huge hit. A step up from regular Legos, the technic sets (which you can find for as cheap as $15 or upwards of $200) give the kids a chance to build with more moving parts.
71eVmMVSAqL._SL1000_.jpg

5. K’Nex Rollercoaster
This will be our first year delving into these bigger K’Nex projects!

91sh+p90lWL._SL1500_.jpg

6. The Way Things Work NOW by Dave MacCaulay
We love the classic “The Way Things Work” and this updated edition is fascinating! We love seeing the new pages on touch screens and digital cameras and much more.

51np6LAzbXL.jpg

7. Kuman Uno Smart Robot Car Kit
We are jumping up to some bigger building sets for my Tinkerer this year.
91Pz4uxJOLL._SL1500_.jpg

8. Mousetrap
91zpYBwMRVL._SL1500_.jpg

9. Hape Quadrilles
Any of the Hape Quadrille marble runs are so engaging and well made. We had a plastic one that broke very quickly. This one is still going strong!
71JqIR6h2mL._SL1500_.jpg

10. Erector 25 in 1 Building Sets
These sets are wonderful! I love that they can choose from so many options and build and rebuild several times.
81dTl128b7L._SL1500_.jpg

 

And now for the crafters!

1. Candle Making Kits
Amazon says that these yield 10 candles, but we divide the sheets and make 20 nice sturdy tapers.
71YLnaVejtL._SL1500_.jpg
2. Chapstick Tubes
This one might sound crazy at first, but making your own chapstick is so much fun (and incredibly economic!) These are a great gift to give an entrepreneurial kid that loves to sell homemade items at craft fairs. Here is our favorite recipe.
71HwEjZrx7L._SL1500_.jpg

3. Handicrafts Made Simple
These wonderful DVDs are from Simply Charlotte Mason. They taight my boys and I how to crochet, knit, hand sew and more. We love them and highly recommend them!

Handicrafts-Crochet-DVD-case.jpg

4. A Crochet Kit
This is the one my boys each start out with!
71JSoWVEG1L._SL1200_.jpg

5. Needle Felting Kit 
81yEI1oLRTL._SL1500_.jpg
I also love these simple kits….
71g7KUSiTUL._SL1200_.jpg

6. Sewing Patterns from Clemetine Patterns
We are finishing up our first projects and they’ve been such a delight!

il_fullxfull.1621995353_4css.jpg

7. Craft Boards From Jennifer
These beautiful crafts boards are sturdy and easy to clean. I’m picking up a few for Christmas this year to save my dining room table from further abuse!
il_fullxfull.1257350606_tq38.jpg

8. Weaving Loom
81G8KNsNiNL._SL1500_.jpg

9. Personalized Stamps
Perfect for a little someone who churns out a lot of creative work and wants to put their stamp on it! 🙂
il_fullxfull.869692708_ano7.jpg

10. Space of their own!

Even if its just a small space
71WUZ9djlhL._SL1500_.jpg

Or a bigger space for older kids….
81VUE4CqWpL._SL1500_.jpg

Its great to give them a gift that acknowledges their gifts and provides them a stepping stone for the next step!

We’ll be back in a few days with more guides!

 

Bird Nerds + Book Worms Christmas Guide Volume 2

15401172_961237217628_8128133256405076778_n

Its that time of year again! We’re sharing our favorite picks for Christmas in our Christmas Guide series. (You can find Volume 1 of the Bird Nerds + Book Worms Guide HERE) This will be the first of five lists coming out during the course of the next few weeks.  Enjoy!

Bird Nerds

  1. BESPIN Bird Map
    They had me at tear resistant and water proof. This is a two sided guide that features 583 birds. You can display it or fold it up and take it with you on the trail or to co-op. 
    91kzKcT1YgL._SL1500_.jpg
    2. Bird Calls 

    I know there are all kinds of fancy on the go bird call gadgets, but we love this one. Its beautiful and it never needs batteries. 
    51ms-uElEUL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

3. The BEST Bird Feeder
When my youngest was 3 we stopped seeing birds up close on our nature walks. This was because he was constantly hollering and everything within a 200 yard radius would take flight before we could get a good look.  This window bird feeder was a game changer! We had so many lovely feathered friends visit our school room window that year,  it made a bird nerd of him for life!
81Cl6dKM4hL._SL1500_.jpg

 

4. The Sibley Birder’s Life List and Field Diary 
This is a journal to keep for life! Room for field notes and a check list of all bird species so that you can keep track of what you have seen and what you have yet to see.

719SEx1GBML.jpg

 

5. BIRD BINGO 
One of our favorite games and a beautiful gift for children.

51COXO0DRrL.jpg

 

6. Bird Puzzle 

I heard about this little puzzle from a fellow bird lover. She recommended it just in time for Christmas last year and it ended up being my youngest son’s favorite puzzle this year! At only 35 pieces, its perfect for the youngest bird lover

61YLhkKGtVL.jpg

For older kids, this 1000 piece puzzle is beautiful and so much fun to put together!
616W0TM1EBL.jpg

7.  Binoculars
Upgrade to a nicer pair that won’t break the bank but that give your bird nerd a better view of their finds. These are light weight and water proof!
61ndbuCaLnL._SL1000_.jpg

8. The SWEETEST Song Bird Tea Set
I’d consider this a splurge. Full disclosure: Never seen it in person, never used it, just about DIED when I saw it online. Eeep.

731484-HSSP17-AF1736-2.jpg

BOOKWORMS

Last year’s list had a great book list of ideas! Rather than repeat all the same books, I’ll just let you visit last year’s list. You can find two other great book lists here and here. This year I’ll be adding a two new books to the list, plus a few extra items that make me smile!

1. Sir Henry and the Chalk Dragon
Quite possibly our favorite new book of the last few months. I cannot fully express just how much my kids enjoyed this story. I won’t give any of it away but I will say that this is a story that constantly tips its hat to other great stories and it was so much fun to hear my kids belly laughing and calling out references to other stories they love. I can’t recommend it enough!

51uPcMQYbvL._SX378_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

2. The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner 
The boys know I read this book last month and they are dying for it to release so they can read it too. I’m just as eager as they are. Its a wonderful story and I am so thrilled that it will be out in time for Christmas!

41AgL0OyudL._SX299_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

3. A Weighted Lap Pad
We bought this small weighted lap blanket for my youngest son to use while at co-op. I didn’t foresee him using it much at home but it turns out that he LOVES to use it while reading. The other kids love it too. It comes in a variety of colors and styles and its washable. HOORAY! This would be a great gift for anyone on the spectrum that loves to read!
91-MCum3xlL._SL1500_.jpg

4.  Library Socks
There are so many different pairs! I love the Count of Monte Cristo Socks and the Mo Willem’s Pigeon socks best.
51OaPGnWmUL._AC_US200_.jpg

5. Book Light
Our favorite LED (RECHARGEABLE!) book light for the kids. It has three light settings including orange light which is so helpful in making sure they can rest once the lights are off!
51g1KRvT3XL._SL1280_.jpg

 

6. An ACTUAL BOOK WORM!

41drX2RdmAL.jpg

5 Questions About The Green Ember Series by SD Smith

If you are a die hard Green Ember fan then you have probably heard by now that SD Smith’s new book, The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner is now available for pre-order. If you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about or if you’re in the group of people that messaged me asking all kinds of questions about this series, or if you just really really dig the Green Ember, then this post is just for you! I’m answering 5 of the most common questions sent in to us about this series.

IMG_2230

Q1: How did you find Green Ember and did you like it right away?

A couple of years ago my boys were getting hungrier and hungrier for a story they could really sink their teeth into. We had been reading aloud since they were tiny and they had developed a taste for a book they couldn’t quite name. Based off the explanation of their book craving, I narrowed it down to a book that called forth courage and creativity.

I looked through a few different books people had sent me, reading the first few pages of each to try and find something that would fit the bill. I noticed a book with rabbits on the cover, a gift from a friend, and I reached for it.

The very first page of The Green Ember grabbed my heart and never let go. There was something in it that I both recognized and yearned for at once. I put the other books back on the shelf and called the kids over for read aloud time.

We didn’t stop for two hours.

How could we? We were running away from wolves and being chased by raptors and standing in the middle of a beautiful guild hall with our eyes wide open and our hearts singing and our minds thinking, this is a picture of what we’ve been longing for in this life.

The boys were finally sent to bed after page 205 and I snuck the book back to my bed and finished reading it by myself in the early morning hours. C.S. Lewis has a famous quote about how a children’s story, only enjoyed by children, is not a good children’s story. I thought about that quote the moment I finished the last page and woke my husband to say, “THAT was a GREAT book.”

The next morning we skipped all our lessons so we could read together and by the end of the book my children were teary and cheering and so was I. This scene has played out with each and every book released in the series.

IMG_8600

Q2:  Were your kids ever scared of any of the The Green Ember books?

I have observed that my children crave danger and even darkness in their literature. They crave it because they know its real and they want someone to beat it.  Whenever I open a book they always ask “Is there a bad guy? Who gets to fight him?” They want a story with a clear division between good and evil. They like to know who to root for.  I love stories like that too. In fact, I go out of my way to find books willing to deal with darkness by brandishing truth, beauty and goodness in the face of evil. These books scare them well in the sense that they see something worth fighting, something definitely evil, and they are eager to imagine themselves in the battle against it.

My eldest shared, “This book gives me a craving to be a hero. Something about it makes me imagine that I can fight for good things and protect good things and make good things, even though I am just a kid right now. When bad stuff happens I can still do good things.”

Another son echoed, “Yeah, bad stuff happens in real life and it happens to kids. Parents dying and fires in houses and bad grown ups trying to ruin things outside before you have a chance to grow up. I like that this book talked about that and not in a little kid way.”

In other words, this is a book that treats children with respect. SD Smith delivers words with an honesty that is reassuring to children. Yes, evil is real. Yes, it is out there. Yes, it can be beaten.

It is this light in the midst of terrible darkness that draws children in and reminds them they have the power to penetrate the darkness with their own light.

18814336_10100107023956808_6490077948430204915_n
Q3: As a mom, what are your favorite things about The Green Ember series?

I’ll share two things.
1) The good guys have flaws. This is important because it keeps the book from being boring and because the boys get to see a flesh and blood character they love and admire struggle the way they themselves do. My son gave me permission to share the following story to illustrate what I mean.

During the time of our first read through of The Green Ember, one of our boys was really struggling with anger. As we read aloud his heart was pierced so deeply that he broke down and wept. This story connected his imagination to the true meaning of anger and its effects. It brought a deep understanding none of our many conversations ever had. He felt anger, but he never understood what it really meant until his imagination saw it.
He connected with a character outside of himself and that is where he found words to define his own situation. He felt personally convicted and longed for the restoration everyone else in the book wanted for the character he identified with. This was one of the most powerful moments of his childhood and he speaks of it often.

2) No one is preaching.
One of the reasons my son was able to feel this remorse so keenly was because it was self realized. He was never told to feel bad by the author. My boys can sniff a “preachy book,” as they call it, pretty quickly. It is their least favorite kind of book and I don’t blame them one bit. The Green Ember is an adventure story bursting with virtue and wisdom, while being completely devoid of anything preachy, which is a dream come true for a young boy with skinned knees, a wooden sword and a wild imagination.

This past weekend I was speaking at the Wild + Free Franklin Conference about Family Culture in the home,  I shared that, “Before I consider the spine of a book, I consider the spines of my children.” In other words, I look for books that build upon the men my boys are becoming. Reading the Green Ember is like pouring liquid courage down your child’s spine and igniting a fire for truth, goodness and beauty in their hearts. It is a magical expansion of the moral imagination. Its the kind of book I roll the welcome mat out for because it is exactly the sort of book I want at the table while we actively and intentionally build our family culture.

IMG_4988

Q4 What do your kids love about The Green Ember series?

When I asked them this morning they listed many, many things, but this was one response from one boy that I could not resist sharing:

“I like The Green Ember books because SD Smith is not dead.”

After a burst of horrified laughter from me and many clarifying questions from his brothers, this is the summary of what he (and his brothers) said:

The boys love SD Smith’s writing because it makes them feel welcome. They understand his words. They understand the world he made. They feel like they can play there. It feels real and alive and good and scary in the best ways possible. They wait for months and months with building anticipation for new stories to be released and while they wait, they play out magnificent stories in the backyard with their swords and capes, imagining what they think will happen next.

Not only are they enjoying SD Smith’s writing and actively playing in the world he has created, but SD Smith himself has become a hero in their eyes. Because he is indeed, “not dead,” they are watching him actively bring stories right to their hearts. They can attend his talks at conferences and listen to podcasts and watch his Facebook videos. They see clips of his workshop, “The Forge” and know that this is the place where he goes to make stories. They are watching SD Smith’s courage to create meaning in this present world. He is living out, to the best of his ability, what the rabbits in his stories are looking for. My boys are cheering him on in this endeavor and because they feel that they belong in SD’s world, it feels like they are cheering themselves on too. SD Smith is the real life rabbit with a sword.

WRWM-Cover-small_large

Q5: “MOM!!!! HAVE YOU READ THE WRECK AND RISE OF WHITSON MARINER!?!”

Yes, that was thrown at me in ALL CAPS at the breakfast table this morning. YES! I read it. Much to the horror of my children when they found out. “You read it?! Without us?!

I am a traitor, a very happy traitor. I read it three times and I can not wait to read it aloud to my boys.

This is exactly the kind of creative work I want my boys engaging with to make meaning of the world around them.  This is a book that will sharpen their minds, further define their appetites, add to their chests, expand their moral imaginations and leave them looking for chances to bring something good to the world.

I wish I was the sort of person who could wait till Christmas and leave this wonderful new book wrapped and waiting under the tree but the truth is, we’ll probably read the whole thing the day it comes in. I won’t do laundry and I won’t cook dinner. We’ll order pizza and read and read and read together. I’m ok with that. It’ll just be one more beautiful gift the world of SD Smith has brought us.

 

 

A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Quarter 2

Its here! Our Quarter 2 book list!
IMG_5984

Please remember that this is not a list of everything I will be reading to my children. This is a curated list of potential (mostly in print living) books to read. Depending on our schedule, time, health, current interests, etc. I look through this list a few weeks ahead of time and decide which books we’ll be reading. I do not read all of these books aloud! I repeat, I DO NOT read ALL of these books aloud. I have to say this because every time I post a book list I always get a handful of comments and several emails from weary, upset Mamas. I am of the opinion that the feast should be a feast and not an all you can eat buffet for us to gorge ourselves on or force feed our children from. Please don’t try to read your five year old every book on this list this quarter. 🙂

IMG_3951

Morning Time:

You can see a list of our current morning time schedule here. We are keeping the same framework in the fall but have now added a few books and switched a few things around. We are still using our Morning Time Menus and loving them.  I keep our creed, poetry selections, memory work, Art Study, etc in there and I love having everything tidy and free of juice and jam stains.

Our Daily Collective~
Prayer
Creed
Meditation (Currently its a few verses in Philippians)
Hymn
Indescribable
Catechism
Thinking Tool Box
Laying Down the Rails

New Additions to our Day to Day Selections~
Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Julius Caesar (Plutarch’s Lives)
Hinds Feet in High Places

IMG_78581 (1)

Everything else remains the same in terms of history spine, Math, nature study, Latin, Picture Book study, kindergarten work, and geography study. You can find all that information in the Cycle 1 Quarter 1 post.

Towards the end of the summer I was wrestling between science curriculums and I ended up choosing neither. I ultimately went with The First Book of Plants and its beautiful simplicity has been a breath of fresh air. We read one small section every day which the boys turn into a small written narration and then we illustrate it.

Here are some additional books, on top of those mentioned in that C1Q1 post, that we will consider including in our study:

Week 7

History
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
-p.258-264 Hinduism
-p.267-272 Buddha
Buddha by Demi
Amy Charmichael by Janet Benge
Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land by Kancha Ilaiah (A children’s book about the brutal realities of the caste system)

Timeline
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Spear
Beric the Briton by GA Henty
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hanula
—Polycarp
—Balinda
—Constantine
Step Back into Ancient India by Daud Ali
For the Temple by GA Henty

Science
From Egg to Chick by Millicent Selsam (eggs)
Where do Chicks Come From? by Amy Sklanskey (eggs)
Chickens Aren’t The Only Ones by Ruth Heller ((eggs)
Animals Born Alive and Well by Ruth Heller (live birth)
Starfish by Edith Hurd (fragmentation + budding)
Coral Reefs by Gail Gibbons (Fragmentation + Budding)

Geography:
The Library of Alexandria by Kelly Trumble
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Lynn Curlee
Asterix the Gaul (Just for fun!)
The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
p.137 The Druids (Gaul + Germania)
The Young Carthaginian by GA Henty

Week 8

History
Gandhi: The Young Protestor Who Founded a Nation
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi (I have yet to read this one. It is written by his grandson)
Gandhi by Amy Pastan
The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky

Timeline
A Castle with Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 1– The Long Fall (Visigoths sack Rome)
Trial and Triumph
Chp 6 Monica and Augustine
Peril and Peace by Mindy Withrow
Chp 10 Early Creeds and Councils
Chp 17 Jerome

Science:
The Reason for a Flower by Ruth Heller
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
Plants that Never Ever Bloom by Ruth Heller
Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
How a Seed Grows by Helene Jordan
One Bean by Anne Rockwell (wonderful correlation with Week 1 Science Experiment!)
The Dandelion Seed by Joseph P Anthony
The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Seeds and More Seeds by Millicent Selsam

Geography:
Joseph Hooker: Botanical Trailblazer (Correlates travels to Himalayas with this week’s Science!)
The Pearl Diver by Julia Johnson

Week 9

History
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
-p. 246-257 Lao-Tzu & Confucius
The Silk Route: 7,000 years of History
The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warrior 
The Year of the Tiger by Allison Lloyd

Timeline
A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 2 Justinian the Great
Chp 4 The Monastery
Chp 6 Making a Nation (Franks)
Chp 7 The Scroll and the Stone (Muhammed founds Islam)
Chp 8 Charles the Hammer (Battle of Tours)
Chp 10 The Rushing North Wind (Vikings Raid)

Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 6 Islam
Peril and Peace by Mindy Withrow
Chp 19 Benedict
The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway
Viking Tales by Jennie Hall
Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla

Science:
A Tree is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla
Plants Stems and Roots by David Schwartz
Roots by Kathleen Kudlinski

Geography:
The Story of Ping by Marjorie Flack
Anno’s China
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

Week 10

History & Geography
Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shoguns
The Big Wave by Pearl S Buck
Shipwrecked by Rhoda Blumberg
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima

Timeline
A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 3 The Earliest Explorers (Erik the Red)
Chp 9 Charlemagne
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Chp 11 Alfred the Great
Lief the Lucky by Ingrid D’Aulaire
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 5 Charlamagne Crowned by God
Chp 8 Vladimir
Chp 9 A Divided Church (East West Schism)

Science:
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
Botanicum by Katie Scott
Why do Leaves Change Color by Betsy Maestro

 

Week 11

History & Geography
A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 2 Justinian the Great
Stories of the Nations Vol 1 Lorene Lambert
Ch 2 The Ottomans

Timeline
A Castle with Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 13 The Battle of Hastings (Norman Conquest)
Chp 14 Feudalism
Chp 16 The Cross Upon the Shield
Chp 17 Lionheart and Robin Hood
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Chp 15 Francis of Assisi
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 11 Crusades
Chp 13 Francis of Assisi
Chp 15 Aquinas
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster p. 239-242 (Incas)
Machu Picchu by Elizabeth Mann (Incas)
The Sad Night by Sally Matthew (Aztecs)
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali  by David Wisnieski
Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali by PJ Oliver
Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisnieski 
Ancient Japan by Fiona MacDonald (Shoguns)

Science:
Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Flowers by Gail Gibbons
The Flower Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta

Week 12

History & Geography
A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 7 The Scroll and the Stone (Muhammed founds Islam)
Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta
Mosque by David MacCaulay
Saladin by Flora Geyer (Muslim POV of the Crusades)
The Arabs in the Golden Age by Mokhtar Moktefi
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
-Chp 6 Islam

Timeline
A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 19 The Great Charter (Magna Carta)
Chp 20 The Mongols
Chp 21 The Travels of Marco Polo
Chp 25 The Black Prince, The Black Death and the White Knight of Orleans (100 years war + Black Death)
Chp 29 Rebirth (Renaissance)
Chp 28 Conquest of Constantinople
Stories of the Nations Vol 1 Lorene Lambert
Ch 2 The Ottomans
Chp 9 Kangxi, Emporer of China (Ming and Qing Dynasties)
The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo
Khubla Khan by Kathleen Krull
Masters of the Renaissance by Jim Weiss
The Magna Carta by James Daugherty
Genghis Khan by Demi