Mad Scientists & Engineers Gift Guide

Happy Thursday friends! I’m wrapping up these guides (only two left to go!) and my own Christmas shopping.  Here are a few ideas for the budding scientists and engineers out there.


I’m not a huge fan of toys that talk or make noise, but a few of my friends have purchased this microscope for their eager little scientists (ages 3-6) and raved about it, so I thought I’d link it here.  We never purchased one since we received a Brock Magiscope as a gift and that was a good scope to grow up with and even keep for the grandkids, but I did snap one of these up for my 3 y.o. nephew along with these binoculars.



The Squishy Human Body from Smart Lab was brought in by a family in our Classical Conversations Co-op and it was such a hit! My youngest was absolutely fascinated and loved that the pieces were flexible instead of hard plastic. (At time of posting it’s nearly 50% off!)


This organ apron is crazy cool and perfect for a little one interested in health and the  human body.


This frog dissection kit has received a lot of love in our home and has held up extremely well!



A subscription to MEL Science for kids 10+. We’ve been getting these Chemistry sets for over a year now and love them!


Every year the boys ask for beautiful science books. This was one of our favorites.

A nice supply of owl pellets
-membership to the science museum


For the Engineers:

We have loved using Snap Circuits for many years. They are currently on sale at time of posting but they usually have a good deal on these a few times leading up to Christmas. Snap Circuits is a wonderful stepping stone to more advanced kinds of kit.

Magformers have been our go to for many years. (I’ve linked one kit, but be sure to check out the others!) The larger kits are pricey but every holiday season they go on sale, often up to 40% off. Its a good one to keep an eye on.  We have a large basket of these in the classroom just for play during study hours. They’ve been a great tool for us and very helpful during geometry lessons too.

My boys love LEGO. My favorite LEGO lines is the Lego Technic series. With kits starting at $15, these sets are all about engineering gears and mechanical pieces. The boys are always thrilled to build their little working machines. The Power Functions Motor Kit is a wonderful option for kids that want to tinker and create their own machines.


The Keva brand is another excellent option for creative building. This set is designed for building all sorts of contraptions and lends itself easily to free play.


-Their own toolsunnamed-2

-A trip to Home Depot for PVC Pipes or wood or whatever it is they need to create things.  Let them make a big mess in your backyard. If you’re blessed with a Grandpa, ask him to come over and build a trebuchet or a trellis with your child. Let them get their hands dirty and full of blisters and cuts. Those with tinkering minds need time and room to fiddle and practice.





Storytellers & Bookworms Christmas Guide


Near and dear to my heart!! Here is a list for the storytellers and bookworms out there…

For the blossoming storyteller…


Blank Hardback Books


A colorful collection of journals

A simple voice recorder for kids with dysgraphia, dyslexia, other writing difficulties or kids that simply want a place to quickly record ideas.


Blank Comic Books are always a hit here in our home! Oh, the possibilities!

Story Cubes


This fantastic storytelling game


A corkboard to use as a story board for laying out the direction of a story.


And now for the Bookworms…

This rechargeableLED booklight (with eye care light setting) gives us 60 hours of reading per charge.


My boys inhaled the fabulous Wilderking series by Jonathan Rogers. I’m planning on posting more about them soon. For now, I’ll simply say that they read through these books in just a couple of weeks. Then they listened to the audible recordings (perfomed by the author) and were absolutely enthralled. These stories sparked hours of outdoor play, adventure, drawings, reenactments, weapon making and reasearch on animal tracks, bogs and swamps.


Here are a few other books and series I’m heartily recommending….


Now you might be tempted to think of these shorter books by SD Smith as just something to tide kids over till the next installment of the Green Ember series releases, but make no mistake, the adventures of Jo Shanks are highly anticipated stories here in our home and receive just as much fanfare as the central stories produce. A few weeks ago at co-op, I overheard my boys and their friends in heated discussion about The First Fowler and Ember’s End (releasing in 2020) and the anticipation is high for both stories! First Fowler releases on the 16th of December and we are counting down the days!


For kids that love stories like Homer Price or Andrew Henry’s Meadow, check out the delightful Mad Scientists Club series by Bertrand Brinley (brought back into print by Purple House Press). Oh, how much laughter these stories have brought into our home. Its ushered in some pretty rascally ideas too!


The Alvin Fernald series is in a similar vein and quite delightful. (Check out Alvin and the Secret Code if you have a child partial to mystery stories!)


One of our favorite graphic novel series is the exceptional Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. The 9th book in the series was released on December 3rd and all four of my boys are hoping to unwrap it on December 25th. (We also love Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes and Asterix the Gaul).



Lastly, one of our favorite stories from earlier this spring, Sir Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton. My boys connected with the wildly imaginative Henry and were thrilled by all the shout outs to other greta books in the story.

This post contains affiliate links

Chefs, Gardeners & Artists Christmas Guide

Time for our next Christmas Guide— Chefs, Gardeners & Artists



***Please remember that I do not buy all of these things for my children. Nope. Not even close.***



Opinel Kids Set: we’ve had these tools for several years and they have held up beautifully. Most of the boys have graduated to bigger knives now when they cook, but the younger ones still use and love these (ages 7 & 9). If you want an extra layer of safety, these cut resistant gloves work well!



Raddish kids: We have greatly enjoyed this cooking subscription kit for the last three years. They’re running a Black Friday Subscription deal right now that looks wonderful!


-Books about cooking and/or foraging. One of my boys will find this one under the tree this year since he’s been asking for more foraging recipe books. We’re hoping to get him plugged in with a local forager that can help provide guidance, further instruction, and help us forage safely. One of our favorite cookbooks for kids is Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen

-A gift card to your local grocery store for ingredients!

614gxcc7FWL._SL1500_.jpgApple Peeler– This little tool is useful, fun to use and fascinating to watch!


  • Gummy Bear molds– If you make your own elderberry syrup at home you can use a recipe to make elderberry gummies! These also make adorable chocolate toppings to put on ice cream.




Real gardening tools go a long way in fostering a love of gardening. The plastic sets never last long, are cumbersome to use, and often make the work even more difficult. Check into finding a set of real tools that are child size and easy to wield.



Gardening gloves that fit well! We love leather ones like this pair. Make sure to pay attention to sizing.


Sturdy hand tools. At the time of posting, these were 56% off.


A beautiful Garden Journal from my friend, Alice Cantrell over at Twig and Moth.


A lovely book for families who garden together.



An art easel. Find an option that really works for your space and your child’s age. Always consider storage!



A super pack of canvases! or if water colors are there medium of choice, consider getting a pack of water color paper instead of a spiral bound notebook since you get a bit more bang for the buck when its loose leaf!


There are so many kits out there with quick drying clay! We love using this medium for projects.



A desk that fits and can grow with them. (this one has all sort of adjustments that can be made to get the most optimal position for your child to work.



Nice water colors in travel kit form for nature days.


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Nature Nerds & Wild Explorers Christmas Guide

Its about that time of year again!!! We’re kicking off our annual Christmas Guides with one for the Nature Nerds & Wild Explorers out there.

***Please remember that I do not buy all of these things for my children. Nope. Not even close.***


1.  KANKEN: We are big fans of these Kanken backpacks. Each of the boys has one and they have survived numerous road trips, plane trips and nature hikes. They’ve been fully submerged in ocean water, caught in torrential downpours and hoisted up trees and probably even a few rooftops. These little packs are scrappy and easy to clean. We haven’t had to buy new backpacks since investing in these.

If you go for the nature pack, here are some useful items to place inside…


– Rite in the Rain: These little waterproof notebooks are the best. Yes, they really are waterproof. I’ve accidentally sent them through the laundry a time or two and they came out looking perfect! The boys have used them for a few years now and they come in handy on nature hikes. They also use them for all their rascally boy plans and carry them on all out outings.




– A compact knot tying kit. 
-A Swiss Army Knife
Specimen cases (this size has met the majority of our needs)
Survival bracelet or even a kit (Survival Kit)
-A small microfiber travel towel (always hands on water exploration days!)


-a little inspirational reading material
-a bush craft guide
slingshot and a bag of dried beans for practice.
-the best and loudest whistle out there (it saved our bacon once or twice!)
-a life straw
Bug Loupe
a hammock

This may sound terribly obvious, but just in case….

You can also gift them climate appropriate adventure gear for your area. We bought wet suits this year and the boys loved getting to snorkel in the colder channels near the mangroves in early spring. Rain boots or jackets, thicker coats, wet suits, breathable shirts, wherever you life, consider getting one solid set of adventure gear for the kids.



Other Nature Nerd Gifts…


2. Catch and Release Aquarium has been a faithful companion on all our greatest beach adventures.



3. Window Bird Feeders. Oh the joy!


4. Tell the kids you’ll be studying nature all year long! Thats a gift on so many levels.

5. Nature Books

6. Already in a nature group? Consider making a Shutterfly book or other scrapbook for your children, filled with photos of all your adventures. Decorate with stickers or have the group sign each other’s books. Children love these kinds of mementos.

7. Nature themed Board Games
-Bug Bingo  (or Bird Bingo)

-Match a Pair of Birds


Butterfly Wings Matching Game


8. A little adventure in your own backyard…



9. Family Memberships to a zoo, botanical garden, science museum etc.

10. Plan a special road trip to a nearby national park! (Did you know that 4th graders have a special offer from National Parks? Check it out!)

Last but not least….

Subscribe to Wild Explorers! My boys loved going through the Wild Explorers adventure club program, earning badges and completing assignments. The monthly magazine is still a highlight each month!



** Affiliate Links are used in this guide**

A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Quarter 3

Yes, we use affiliate links!

We are weeks away from the midpoint of our Cycle 2 study. The boys have worked hard and we are all hungry for rest. The last few months our homeschool life has been turned upside down with the introduction of multiple therapies, intakes, etc. Some weeks we find ourselves sitting in waiting rooms dreaming of this….

and grappling with the reality of this…


But the flexibility of homeschooling has been a gift to us and we certainly made the most of it this year. The boys learned what kind of work to pack while their little brother has his appointments. They trained themselves to get the base work done so that when we return home we can get cozy and read or have conversations or do the other things that just can’t be done in a waiting room.  I recently wrote an article for Wild + Free called “Wild + Free in the Waiting Room.” You can find it in their newly released HAVEN bundle.


I’m getting a little misty-eyed realizing that this boy has a mere two quarters left in Foundations and Essentials. He’ll be off to Challenge A next year. I’ll be sharing a post soon about how we are preparing ourselves (and prepping our toolbox of Dyslexia tools) for next year. But first, we need to tackle quarter 3 of Cycle 2! I usually don’t plan for this quarter until the first week of January, but I could use a little book list cheer right about now, so here we go!

ART (WEEKS 13-18)
Rembrandt by Mike Venezia
Rembrandt’s Life of Christ
What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt? by Richard Muhlberger
Thomas Gainsborough cards
Bijou, Bonbon and Beau: The Kittens Who Danced for Degas by Joan Sweeney
Degas and the Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt
Edgar Degas by Mike Venezia
Dancing with Degas by Julie Merberg (Board book!)
What Makes a Degas a Degas? by Richard Muhlberger
I dreamed I was a ballerina by Anna Pavlova
Edgar Degas: Dance Like a Butterfly by Angela Wenzel
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork
Monet Paints a Day by Julie Danneberg
A Picnic with Monet  by Julie Merberg (Board book!)
Claude Monet by Mike Venezia
The Magical Garden of Clause Monet by Laurence Anholt
Van Gogh by Mike Venezia
Van Gogh and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt
Vincent’s Colors



Week 13

Moonshot by Brian Flocca
Team Moon: How 400,00 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
If you decide to go to the Moon by Faith McNulty
Daring Dozen by Suzanne Slade
A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanne Slade
Hidden Figures by Margaret Shetterly
Mercury 6 Mission by Helen Zelon

Pastry School in Paris by Cindy Nueschwander
Room for Ripley by Stuart Murphy
For Good Measure by Ken Robbins
Millions to Measure by David Schwartz
Me and the Measure of Things by Joan Sweeney
Capacity by Henry Pluckrose

Crossing on Time by David Macaulay
Steam, Smoke and Steel by Patrick O’Brien
All About Famous Inventors and Their Inventions by Fletcher Pratt
Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop
Kids at Work by Russell Freedman
Prince Henry the Navigator by Leonard Everrett Fischer
Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz
A Book of Discovery by MB Synge
The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz
Henry the Navigator by Charnan Simon
The Kidnapped Prince: The Story of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano
African Beginnings by James Haskins
Fine Print by Joann Burch
Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press by Bruce
Ink on His Fingers by Louise A Vernon
The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster
The Royal Diaries: Isabel: Jewel of Castilla by Carolyn Meyer
Blood Secret by Kathryn Lansky


Week 14
What is the World Made Of by Kathleen Zoehfield
A Drop of Water by Walter Wick


Measuring Penny by Loreen Leady
How Long or How Wide by Brian Cleary
Inch by Inch by Leo Leoni
How Tall, How Short, How Far Away? by David Adler

Where Poppies Grow: A World War 1 Companion by Linda Granfield
In Flanders Field by Linda Granfield
Rags, Hero Dog of World War 1 by Margot Raven
Christmas Truce by Aaron Shepherd
Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood: A World War 1 Tale (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales) by Nathan Hale

Columbus by D’Aulaire
Courage and Conviction by Mindy and Brandon Withrow
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
-Chp 19-26 The Reformation
Peter the Great by Diane Stanley
The World of William Penn by Genevieve Foster (Absolute Monarchs)
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
Johann Sebastian Bach by Mike Venezia
Sebastian Bach by Opal Wheeler
Becoming Bach by Tom Leonard



Week 15

Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Bradley
Forces Make Things Move by Kimberly Bradley

Think Metric! by Franklyn Branley

Where Poppies Grow: A World War 1 Companion by Linda Granfield
In Flanders Field by Linda Granfield
Rags, Hero Dog of World War 1 by Margot Raven
Christmas Truce by Aaron Shepherd
Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood: A World War 1 Tale (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales) by Nathan Hale

The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster
Jamestown, New World Adventure by James E Knight
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Sara Morton’s Day by Kate Waters
Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
-Chp 31 Jonathan Edwards
-Chp 32 George Whitfield
-Chp 33 John Wesley
-Chp 34 John Newton
Adventures from the Bay by Clifford Wilson
Hearts and Minds: Chronicles of the Awakening Church by  Mindy and Brandon Withrow
The Arts by Hendrick Van loon


Week 16
Isaac Newton: Physics for Kids by Kerrie Hoolihan
Newton and Me by Lynne Mayor
Isaac Newton and the Laws of Motion by Andrea Gianopolus
Isaac Newton by John Hudson Tiner

Squares, Rectangles and other Quadrilaterals by David Adler

** I have included books that directly correlate to the history sentence and several living books that are set during World War 2. (*) denotes a book that would work well for younger students.
Victory in the Pacific by Albert Marrin
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
All Those Secrets of the World by Jane Yolen (*)
Hannah’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx (*)
The Little Ships by Louise Borden
The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
The Greatest Skating Race by Louise Borden
The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum
Hiroshima by Laurence Yep
Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy
House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert De Jong
The Avion my Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Unbreakable Code by Sara Hunter
Twenty and Ten by Claire Bishop

George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster
Story of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 14 James Cook
George Washington by Cheryl Harness
George Washington’s Breakfast by Jean Fritz
The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory
Stories of America Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
–Chp 16-22 Revolutionary War
–Chp 23 Voyage of Our Ship of State (Constitution)
–Chp 25 America Grows (Lewis and Clark)


Week 17
Sam’s Sneaker Squares by Nat Gabriel
Perimeter, Area and Volume by David Adler
Square by Mac Barnett

Isaac Newton: Physics for Kids by Kerrie Hoolihan
Newton and Me by Lynne Mayor
Isaac Newton and the Laws of Motion by Andrea Gianopolus
Isaac Newton by John Hudson Tiner

A Boy Named FDR by Kathleen Krull
Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Janet Benge (Plenty of information on Hitler’s rise to power)
Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill by Stephen Mansfield
Franklin and Winston A Christmas that Changed the World by Douglas Wood


The Story of Napoleon by HE Marshall
The Year of the Horseless Carriage by Genevieve Foster
Story of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 16-19 Napoleon
-Chp 20 Bolivar the Liberator
Stories of America Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 27 How the English and the Americans Fought Again
The Town that Fooled the British by Lisa Papp


Week 18
Triangle by Marc Barnett
The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
Triangles by David Adler

The United Nations Website
Declaration of the Rights of the Child
History of the United Nations
Stories of the Nations Volume 1 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 25 Commodore Perry Opens the Door to Japan
Stories of America Volume 2 by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 1 Heading West on the Oregon Trail
-Chp 3 The Sad Story of Slavery
Soft Rain by Cornelia Cornelian
Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac
Charles Darwin by Jennifer Thermes
Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shoguns by Rhoda Blumberg

Nature Study Book & Supply List


When I first sat down to compile this list it was quite dark outside. The crickets were still busy with their evening symphonies and the bravest birds were just beginning to rouse. My favorite part of the day. The small stretch of minutes when night and day mingle a bit. I sit at my desk and look out the window at the large bougainvillea, elephant ear palms and gorgeous patch of ripening beauty berry just in front of me. Within an hour of the sun’s rising I have been visited by several small cuban tree frogs, roused from their amphibious dreams by a frolicking dog,  and a wide array of birds. Our resident Mockingbird came bouncing past at a quarter before 7, trilling as loudly and obnoxiously as possible. A pair of cardinals came to check on the ripening beauty berry and brought a smile to my face when I beheld their mischievous flirtations and listened to their calls, which have always reminded me of a car alarm.  The ibis will soon fly by over the water and within minutes the dragonflies will all appear as if from nowhere and begin their day long hovering over the farm in search of mosquitos. Now everything within the window frame is tipped in that radiant morning gold and there is an abundance of noises in the form of chirps, calls, buzzings, croaks, and the tell tale rustling of leaves from the black racers darting out to find a patch of warm sunshine. Nature study, even just by peering out the window, has such a miraculous power to refresh and restore, simply by being itself and pointing to the Creator.


Sometimes we venture out doors and enjoy the incredibly rich and varied nature study opportunities here in South Florida. Some days (mostly unbearably hot summer days), we open a book and enjoy nature in other part of the world that way.



These are some of the books, mostly non fiction, that we have enjoyed during our Nature Study time over the years. I know this list is quite large and it may seem alarming that I said “some.” Keep in mind, you don’t need all these books. Remember: 1) I rescue books and have a large collection of out of print books from the golden age of children’s literature. I have not included out of print books in this list. (See ** at the end of the post) 2) I have a child that is passionate about nature study and has procured quite an extensive collection of his own over the last half decade of birthdays, Christmas and end of year gifts.


Books to help inspire Mamas towards more Nature Study:
The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (Thank you Terri for recommending this one!)
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Core Resources:
Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.
Lynn Seddon’s Exploring Nature with Children (I had mine printed and bound at OfficeDepot and will be using it for many, many years)
Lynn Seddon also has journals available here and here.
Phrenology Wheels


References We’ve used and loved:
The Naturalist’s Notebook: Observation and Five Year Journal by Nathaniel Wheelwright
Keeping a Nature Journal by Claire Walker Leslie
The Curious Nature Guide by Claire Walker Leslie
The Nature Connection by Claire Walker Leslie”
Julia Rothman Collection


The Laws Guide to Drawing and Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws
The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws
Watercolor with Me in the Forest by Dana Fox
(Watercolor with Me in the Ocean by Dana Fox -releasing November 12, 2019!!)

Nature Journals to love and imitate:
Drawn to Nature: Through the Journals of Claire Walker Leslie by Claire Walker Leslie

Nature Journals for the little kids:
Nature Journal by Alice Cantrell


Guides for more sophisticated Venturing Out:
The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley


Take Along Guides:
Tracks, Scats and Signs by Leslie Dendy
Trees, Leaves and Bark by Diane Burns
Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring
Caterpillars, Bugs and Butterflies by Mel Boring
Fun With Nature by Mel Boring
Wildflowers Blooms and Blossoms by Diane Burns
Berries, Nuts and Seeds by Diane Burns

Frogs, Toads and Turtles by Diane Burns
Snakes, Salamanders and Lizards by Diane Burns
Rabbits, Squirrels and Chipmunks by Mel Boring
Seashells Crabs and Sea Stars by Christine Tibbetts
Rocks, Fossils and Arrowheads by Laura Evert

One Small Square Series by Donald Silver
Cactus Desert
Night Sky
Tropical Rain Forest 
Arctic Tundra
Coral Reef
African Savana 


What is a Biome? by Bobbie Kalman
A Walk in the Deciduous Rain Forest by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Tundra by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Desert by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Prairie by Rebecca L johnson
A Walk in the Rain Forest by Rebecca L Johnson
A Walk in the Boreal Forest by Rebecca L Johnson


Bird Study for Littles
Mama built a Nest by Jennifer Ward
Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring
Feathers, Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart
What Makes a Bird a Bird? by Mary Garelick
A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz Jenkins
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sills
The Bird Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta
Feathers for Lunch by Lois Elhert
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W Burgess
Beaks! by Sneed B. Colard III
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston
Birdsong by Audrey Wood
Our Yard is Full of Birds by Anne Rockwell
Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell

Ocean Study
Picture Book List: Beaches and Oceans


I know I’ve blogged before about what we keep in our nature packs and even made a Christmas Guide for outfitting an Explorer pack, but these are a few Nature Study basics we keep in our packs to help us study things we find.
Small plastic Container Boxes for keeping nature finds intact. (Those cicada moldings will crumble to bits without these! ha!)
Plastic gloves for handling bones
Plastic bags for storing said bones
Rite in the Rain Journals (Small field journals for quick note taking, totally water proof!)

Footprints: Boy and Ibis

***There are many fantastic living nature books out there that are sadly out of print. You might be able to find a few in the $30-$40 but most have shot much higher in the last few years. If you are yearning to find some great living books from that golden age of children’s literature, check here to see if you have a living library near you.



A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Quarter 2

Here is our booklist for Quarter 2 of Cycle 2! Full disclosure: This is one cycle where we definitely go at our own pace. We do not make every subject match where we are in the CC schedule, especially with History! We are taking our time and going slowly through the Middle Ages. If you are looking for a CM friendly curriculum that goes through the Middle Ages for younger kiddos, check out The King Kingdom from Peaceful Press.


To give you an idea of where we are right now, the boys and I have enjoyed a rich summer of study together that began with a close look at the Fall of Rome back in May. We are currently on week 2 of CC and at home we have just wrapped up our study of the Crusades. We are keeping apace with CC’s science schedule and are choosing one or two items from the Timeline to highlight each week during Morning Time. The rest we use as memory work review during Morning Time. I pull from the list below depending on what we need that particular week. There is no way we would read all of these books every week. There is a difference between feasting and gorging. 🙂 We hope this list is useful to you and your family.

Week 7
Martin Luther by Paul Maier
Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr
John Calvin by Simonetta Carr
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Courage and Conviction by Brandon Withrow
95 Theses by Martin Luther

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

What a Waste by Jess French
One Plastic Bag: The Recycling Women of Gambia by Miranda Paul
One Well by Rochelle Strauss
Buried Sunlight by Molly Bangs

Week 8

Magellan’s World by Stuart Waldman
Around the World in a 100 years by Jean Fritz
The Forgotten Explorer: Amerigo Vespucci by Lorene Lambert
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
To the Edge of the World by Michelle Torrey

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

Pond by Donald Silver
By Pond and River by Arabella Buckley
Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner
Pond by Jim LaMarche
The Raft by Jim LaMarche
Swamp by Donald Silver
Journey into an Estuary by Rebecca Johnson
Journey into a Lake by Rebecca Johnson
Journey into a River by Rebecca Johnson
Journey into a Wetland by Rebecca Johnson
For more Ocean Study books click HERE.


Week 9

Peter the Great by Diane Stanley
The King’s Day by Aliki

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

The Sun, Our Nearest Star by Dr Franklyn Branley
The Sun by Seymour Simon
Sun Up, Sun Down by Gail Gibbons
What Makes Day and Night by Dr Franklyn Branley
Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Pearson (Not a science book, but a beautifully illustrated prayer by St Francis Assisi (circa 1200AD)

Week 10


History (We’ll be looking at books on Russian Culture & Russian History)
Eyewitness Russia by Kathleen Murrel
Catherine the Great by Kristiana Gregory
Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Falk
The Littlest Matryoshka by Corine Bliss


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)

The Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky by Dr Jason Lisle (Creation perspective)
The Planets  by Gail Gibbons
Our Solar System by Seymour Simon

Week 11

In the Reign of Terror by GA Henty (This Audio Production is FANTASTIC!)
Huguenot Garden by Douglas Jones (A Reader recommended this book a few weeks ago. I have not yet read it but its on our list!)
Moi and Marie Antoinette by Lynn Cullen
In Search of Honor by Donna Hess
Royal Diaries: Marie Antionette by Kathryn Lasky
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)

The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
The Moon Seems to Change by Dr Franklyn Branley
What the Moon is Like by Dr Franklyn Branley
If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith Mcnulty
Moon Cake by Frank Asch


Week 12

The Story of Napoleon by HE Marshall
The Heroic Symphony by Anna Celenza
My Napoleon by Catherine Brighton
Napoleon: The Story of the Little Corporal by Robert Burleigh
I, Crocodile by Fred Marcellino

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 
The White Stag by Kate Seredy

Comets, Meteors and Asteroids by Seymour Simon

Summer Book List- From the Youngest on Up.

I thought it might be fund to share what our family has been reading this summer. From the youngest on up.

Picture Books for the youngest (though an awful lot of older people always trail in with these):

Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn (This book is on repeat right now. A daily read. This is a fantastic book for middle children or for children that are always building, inventing, searching for adventure).
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
Kamishibai Man by Allan Say


Pond by Jim LaMarche
Hello, Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
Come on, Rain by Karen Hesse
Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle
Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
Fireflies by Julia Brinkloe

The Raft by Jim LaMarche
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Waiting by Kevin Henkes
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
Let’s Go Home by Cynthia Rylant
Building Our House by Jonathan Bean
All the Places to Love by Patricia Maclachlan
The Listening Walk by Paul Showers
Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

Chapter Books the Older Children:
The Mistmantle Series (how I wish these were still in print!)
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Brenton Stewart
The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Glaser
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
The Moffats by Elanor Estes
Five Children and It by E Nesbit
The King of Golden River by John Ruskin


Mama Bear’s Reads: (A good portion of these were audiobooks while I cleaned out closets and folded laundry!)

The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery (Left me smiling for days!)
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter (I heard audio by Mary Starkey)
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Read along with the Close Reads Podcast series with Circe Institute with guest Karen Swallow Prior. It was delightful!)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers
Carry on, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
My Man Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (its nearly 60% off right now!)
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell


Amazon affiliate links included. Remember to check your local library first before you buy something! 🙂

Once a Homegrown Preschooler, always a Homegrown Preschooler


“You’re like a cicada nymph molting into an adult.”

I hold out a months old pair of outgrown shoes in front of me. My eldest shrugs and says, “at least you get to put my other brothers feet into whatever I’m molting. Cicada mothers have it worse. One molt per kid.”


Everyone is growing taller around here except the parents. Shoes and pants grow tight and short. Conversations have shifted. Bedtimes are changing. Responsibilities are increasing. A couple of children are suddenly within reach of a great pivot point in some unseen life cycle poster. We are on the brink of molts and pupas.

Last week we jumped back into study with an in depth look at the Byzantine Empire. The history of Constantinople, the Bosporous Strait, the Golden Horn, the Hagia Sofia and a whole host of stories about art, war, language, politics, religious freedom, geography, trade, architecture and education.  Days ago we were seated at the dining room table, painting maps and conversing about the importance of Byzantium/Constantinople/Instanbul.  One of the boys chimed in with: “let’s just get to the old compare and contrast so we can know what’s what. We can even write it up and cut it out and put it into categories like we used to for the animal habitats. You know if our hands are moving and building it out we’ll remember it more.” This made me laugh at first, then I stopped to think about our morning so far.


The early morning nature walk to beat the 106 degree heat index told quite the story. We used our favorite nature curriculum, Exploring Nature with Children. It’s certainly grown our understanding of nature, but the little habits we formed in those early days with The Homegrown Preschooler were clearly there, a solid foundation we’ve placed so many bricks on its nearly obscured from sight. We were studying blossoms and the boys reached into their bags and pulled out their old eye loupes (recommended by Kathy and Lesli back in the day!). Then came their 5 common topics discussion about various blooms in the backyard which eventually brought us back to the house where we sat at the table and began drawing and recording what we had found. Half way through one boy said, “I’ll be back in ten mintutes.” When he returned he reported that he revisited his flower and sat still in the shade to see what sorts of pollinators would come along while he waited. He scrawled out a small list while his brothers carefully dissected a few blossoms in search of pistils and stamens. When they finished, my boys pulled those petals apart and started making little mosaics on the table while I read our poetry selection for the day. That early start in finding beauty, embracing wonder and researching through play has stayed with them and grown them into ravenous explorers with an appetite for truth, beauty and goodness.


Morning time ushered in an hour of food and laughter and companionship built on years of “saying yes” to things like play and fun and character training. All those hundreds of days working on “say please” and “say thank you” and “pick up your dishes and sweep under your chair” float around us like dandelion wishes while we talk and argue and laugh and tell stories. I ask the eldest to wipe down the table and he readily agrees. Not because he’s perfect, not because he never complains, but because for years he has lived with the knowledge that after he lends a hand we will be spending time together. Yes, it is habit, but it is also love. He does it for the sake of the relationship. More often than not he says “Yes!”  to requests for help with the dishes or sweeping because I spent years saying “yes!” to chocolate chip cookies with tea and chalk comics on the sidewalk and dinosaurs in the bathtub for ten more minutes. By now we both know that we are on the same team. All the bonding and relationship built through play in those early years have built something quite beautiful.

I think back to that first weekend when I heard Lesli Richards speak at FPEA and cried in her arms an hour later. Her words of encouragement washed over me. She pulled out A Year of Playing Skillfully  and leafed through it with me. Instead of launching curriculum talking points at my head, she built me up with her words and told me I was a good mother and that if I was focusing on the relationship, I was on the right track already. What a gift that was! I am deeply thankful for Lesli and Kathy and their hearts for young families.


My older boys were never “officially” homegrown preschoolers–they were already in 2nd grade by the time we purchased AYOPS. But they were drawn to it! I remember how eagerly they would finish their work so they could rush over and join in our activities. AYOPS didn’t stay in its schedule block. It followed us like glitter- all over the house. It never felt like a curriculum, it felt like time with my children.


People always ask if I received this curriculum in exchange for my review, the answer is no. We saved up for ours and officially used it for four years, and it has ingrained itself so deeply in our family culture that we will always “use it.” It was and still is, a gift to us all. We learned to play skillfully together and became homegrown preschoolers for life.

Once a homegrown preschooler, always a homegrown preschooler.


This weekend HGP is running a 4th of July sale on their curriculum: $20 off A YEAR OF PLAYING SKILLFULLY or $30 off the PLAN AND PLAY Bundle.

I am also giving away a copy of A Year of Playing Skillfully to one winner! Check the facebook post for entry details!

Affiliate links included in this post.

Picture Book List: Beaches and Oceans

Hello friends!
Most of you know that this past year I promised my children we would go to the beach every week. It was a wonderful addition over the winter and spring months and I am trying to stay positive now that our heat index is spiking to 110 degrees.  Because we’ve been spending so much time in the water, the boys have naturally been pulling ocean themed books from our shelves and seeking out similar books when we go to the library. I thought I’d share some of our favorites here with you, whether or not you are going to the beach this summer.



Ocean-Theme books
How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures by Ruth Heller
What’s it like to be a fish? by Wendy Pfeffer
An Octopus is Amazing by Patricia Lauber
Starfish by Edith Herd
Who Eats Who? by Patricia Lauber
Fish Do the Strangest Things by Leonora Hornblow
Ocean: a photicular book by Dan Kainen
Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins
Crinkleroot 25 Fish Every Child Should Know by Jim Arnosky

Coral Reefs
Coral Reefs by Gail Gibbons
Life in a Coral Reef by Wendy Pfieffer
Coral Reef by Donald Silver
The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding Coral Reefs by Kate Messner


Beach Days
One White Wishing Stone: A Beach Day Counting Book by Doris Gayzagian
The Beachcomber’s Companion by Anna Burgard
What Lives in a Shell? by Kathleen Zoehfield
The Seaside Switch by Kathleen Kudlinkski
The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow
Horseshoe Crabs and Shore birds by Victoria Crenson
Hello Ocean by Pam Ryan
A House For Hermit Crab by Eric Carle
Beachcombing by Jim Arnosky
Magic Beach by Allison Lester
Seashore by Donald Silver
Seashells, Crabs and Sea Stars by Cristianne Tibbits


Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh
Shark Lady by Jess Keating
Manfish by Jennifer Berne


Ocean Adventures
Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz
Flotsam by David Weisner
Pagoo by Holling C Holling
Night of the Moon Jellies by Mark Shasha
A Day in the Salt Marsh by Kevin Kurtz
A Day in the Deep by Kevin Kurtz
The Sea, the Storm and the Mangrove Tangle by Lynn Cherry
Gamma’s Walk. by Anna Hines


I hope you have a lovely summer!

Amazon affiliate links included. Please check your local library first!