Thursday, August 16, 2018

Hop back to it - homeschooling that is!

While some of us wait until after Labor Day to begin a new school year, many families have already begun a new year of home education. To cheer you on, and give you some great ideas, the Homeschool Review Crew is having a Back to School blog hop starting on Monday, August 20th.

I've been spending most of the month at our state fair, but I'll have a few posts ready for you for next week. Please come back bright and early on Monday morning and join in the fun. Bring your tea or coffee and do a little reading during breakfast.

See you then!

While you are waiting, this post about Homeschool School Supply lists from two years ago is still one of our most read posts. If you're wondering what to get while the school supply are still on sale - check it out! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Paddington Bear - Unit Study ~ a Crew review

lit-based unit studies, Michael Bond, Paddington, marmalade

In our house we have always loved Paddington Bear from the picture book by Michael Bond, so even though my youngest recently turned 18, we were excited to check out the Paddington Bear unit study from Branch Out World, a UK based company that encourages families to learn together.

This Paddington Bear unit study is from Branch Out World’s Picture Book Explorers series and is geared for ages 5-9. I definitely think you can push that upper limit up to 11 or 12 with out any major problems. You will spend five days (or more) reading the picture book together and doing activities that help your child learn more about: setting, words, pictures, science, and math + crafts. Because it was originally written for the UK, you will find British English spellings like maths and colours, which add to the charm of reading Paddington.

While you may find the various activities a bit above the understanding of your five year old, I think from ages 6 and up would really enjoy doing the extra activities. This makes it an easy open-and-go unit study to use with a variety of ages. Your youngest children can simply enjoy hearing you read Paddington while the older ones can dig deeper.

This downloadable PDF begins with instructions for the parents to help you prepare ahead of time (trust me, it’s not a lot, mostly things you will already have at home) so you can dive right in. It also contains a word of caution to try to work on this for five days straight, or as close together as you can, before your children loose interest in the subject. While that might happen with some books, I think it is more likely that your children will fall in love with Paddington and want to do EVERY suggested activity. Why do I say that? The Paddington in our pictures here belongs to our 20 year old who has loved Paddington since we first read it probably 15 years ago. That was also the first time I ever tried marmalade… and I still keep a jar in the fridge today. :)

Day 1 focuses on setting and this is where you will look at (and colour) maps of the UK and Peru. In case you have not yet read Paddington, he comes from Darkest Peru. There are other suggested activities for your older children that talk about immigration, travel, and flags.

Day 2 is focused on words and covers things like themes, inspiration for books, subject-verb agreement, and explains narration and how your child can learn to use it. We highly recommend teaching your children how to use narration. It is a basic tenant on Charlotte Mason’s style of education, and one we have used for all of our 16 years of home education.

lit-based unit studies, Michael Bond, Paddington, marmalade

Day 3 focuses your study on pictures. Here you will learn more about the illustrator, look at the pictures and how they emphasize various points in the story, and give your child a chance to do some drawing themselves. Throughout this unit study there are a variety of activities for each day, of which you can choose one or many.There are also mini-books you can print off to help your child work through some of these topics.

Day 4 is about science and may be one of my favorites as far as activities. Here you learn about what kind of bear Paddington is (besides the adorable kind!) You also have suggestions for Nature Study (another key component in a Charlotte Mason education,) and several science experiments with soap and shaving cream. These would probably best be done outside on your porch. :)

Day 5 has several awesome activities that focus on math, crafts to try, and recipes to make together.

lit-based unit studies, Michael Bond, Paddington, marmalade

Overall, I think this is a stellar way to take a well-loved picture book and expand upon it and the learning opportunities it provides. For those of you stateside, we found that the picture book version recommended in this unit study is illustrated by R.W. Alley who illustrated the Paddington Treasury that we purchased at our local Costco store last summer.

Our girls have always loved Paddington, especially our now 20 year old daughter Emily. A couple of years ago her younger sister Arlene saw that a local store had stuffed Paddington bears for sale and bought Emily one for Christmas. Then Arlene begged me to find a way to keep Emily from going to that store for two months so it would not ruin her surprise.

As I was borrowing Paddington to finish up the pictures for this review, one of Emily's friends saw me with Paddington and he said “Oh! Where did you get a Paddington? My favorite book was always Paddington in the Kitchen where he bakes a cake.”

A well-loved bear, and a wonderful unit study. What a great combination!

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}

Monday, August 13, 2018

Books With Bean ~ The Wild Book

book reviews by teens, Juan Villoro, The Wild Book

Title: The Wild Book

Author: Juan Villoro

Published: 2008 (original edition in Spanish), 
November, 4th 2017 (English edition)

Genre: Children's 

Summary: Juan's life is turned upside-down when he learns his father is leaving to work in Paris and his parents are separating. Suddenly a summer break from school has gone from looking like fun days with his friends to living with his strange uncle Tito in his uncle’s strange house full of books. Upon arriving Juan learns that his summer is about to be anything but boring. He is a special sort of reader and His uncle’s books have personalities of their own. 

Juan and his new friend Catalina, who helps at her family’s pharmacy across the street, soon begin to share the books from uncle Tito’s house. Reading the adventures of the Heart Shaped River they learn more about how the books work to find just the right readers for themselves. Soon they are on the hunt for the most elusive book of them all The Wild Book which has never been read and only held a few times. 

What I liked about it: This book was an amazing and beautiful book! I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves books and loves to read and go on adventures (real or in print). Juan, Catalina, Uncle Tito and all the other characters were fun and each was interesting in their own way. The way the book talks about books and their readers really resonated with me. The story was unique and I loved it a lot. It was also really interesting because it was not originally written in English and yet in the translation from Spanish there was never a time where it sounded weird or choppy. 

Language: None

Romance: As soon as Juan meets Catalina he falls in love with her. However the characters are young (13ish) and it never gets inappropriate. Juan kisses her on the cheek once and Catalina does so back a little later. It does say at the end of the book that several years later they got married but it is obvious that it is not immediate. 

Violence: None

Magic: The books move on their own. They have a way of appearing before those that they think would like to read them. It is never quite explained how this all works however. 

Recommended Age: Juan is 13 and I think that 12-13 would be a good age to read this book for the first time. However if you are older I still think you would like it a lot.

book reviews by teens, Juan Villoro, The Wild Book

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Indiana State Fair

It has been busy couple of weeks around here,  as we've spent a lot of time at the Indiana State Fair. As I scroll through social media and see first day of school pictures from our friends, I am reminded once again how freeing it is to choose to homeschool and set your own school schedule. In case you're wondering, we always start the Tuesday after Labor Day and finish before Memorial Day. 

Local schools give excused absence to the kids who are showing their 4-H animals or otherwise competing at the state fair. I am really glad of that because it is a truly educational experience, and a whole lot of fun!

When I think about our State Fair, I wonder if it is sort of like when our grandparents' and great-grandparents' generations attended the World's Fairs. So many new things, so many shows to see and experiences to explore. I haven't ridden anything on the midway yet, that's not really my thing, but I have seen a whole host of animal competitions, talent shows, dance routines, and I'm looking forward to attending the big top circus show. 

I'm working on some feature articles for our local newspaper about some of the 4-H kids from our county who are showing animals at the fair. I've learned a lot, and met some really awesome kids!

You really should consider taking a road trip and visiting the Indiana State Fair, and if you live too far away to get here before the fair end on August 19th, then figure out a state fair that is closer to your home and go there this fall. There is a good reason why the fair's hashtag is #greatest17daysofsummer !

Whether you're coming to our state fair, or attending your own, check out our post from Sunday afternoon about tips for attending the fair!

Stay tuned for more updates :)

Monday, August 6, 2018

Books With Bean ~ Hocus Pocus Hotel

books with bean, book reviews by teens, Roald Dahl book review

Title: Hocus Pocus Hotel

Author: Michael Dahl

Published: 2012

Genre: Middle Grade, adventure, mystery 

Summary: When Charlie Hitchcock gets a note from the toughest kid in school he is scared because Tyler is not known for being nice. When Charlie meets Tyler after school that day, he learns that sometimes even tough kids needs some help when it comes to big problems. It goes like this: Tyler works at the mysterious Abracadabra hotel, better known by the local kids as the Hocus Pocus Hotel, a hotel built by the famous magician Abracadabra as a place for other magicians to live and practice their talents. One day Mr. Madagascar, one of the magicians, goes missing and so Tyler asks Charlie for help since Charlie is known as one of the smartest kids in their school. Tyler knows that the hotel isn’t normal as the magicians built it to be one giant show. But after what he and Charlie go through to find the missing magician neither of them feel like they ever really know what is going on. 

What I liked about it: I liked the characters a lot. Tyler was Cool and Charlie was fun. Brace the elevator operator is quirky and fascinating. The plot was a lot of fun because the hotel is all one giant magic show/fun house and so trying to solve the riddles and puzzles along with the boys was a lot of fun!

Language: None

Romance: None

Violence: None

Magic: My good gracious there is a ton of magic. Magic everywhere! However it is not spells and curses, it is slight of hand like you might see at a kids party, only on a bigger scale since the hotel was built to baffle the minds of those not in on its secrets. I loved the way the magic was because it made a lot of puzzles that were fun to try and solve. There were even a few parts where it showed kids how to do basic slight of hand. 

Recommended Age: This book is fun and clean. I think that as early as 8-9 is fine as it is not overly complicated while still being fun. That being said though, I would say there is no upper age as it is fun each time I read it, even when I know the end. 

books with bean, book reviews by teens, Roald Dahl book review

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Indiana State Fair Tips

Everyone loves attending the Indiana State Fair. There are animals, midway rides, talent shows, 4-H projects, and of course - fair food! To help make your trip the most fun with the least amount of headaches, I stopped by one of the Indiana State Police info booths and asked them for their top tips for fairgoers.

The men and women of the Indiana State Police force work long hours to ensure all the 900,000 expected Indiana State Fair attendees can enjoy their visits safely. They get asked the same questions over and over. These four agreed that the number one question is: Where is the nearest bathroom? The answer: in any of the permanent (brick or concrete) buildings on the fairgrounds. More FAQ's can be found on the Indiana State Fair website.

While at the fair, you can stop at either of the Indiana State Police info booths, or the State Fair Safety Office, to ask them your questions. They also want to remind fairgoers that there are numerous officers on patrol by foot and in golf carts all over the Indiana State Fairgrounds that are ready and willing to help you. 

Here are their top tips, in no particular order, for enjoying the Indiana State Fair safely with your family.

Brief your kids before you arrive 

Set up a rally point where you will reconnect with your teenagers if you get separated. Make sure everyone knows where and when to meet. Pick a specific part of a well-recognized building to meet and set a time before you leave the car.

Wear comfortable shoes

There is a lot of walking at the Indiana State Fair. Loose fitting sandals or flip-flops can cause a lot of blisters and sore feet. Choose comfortable shoes for everyone.

Take a picture of where you parked

With an expected attendance of over 50,000 people each of the 17 days of the Indiana State Fair, there are a lot of cars. Once you have parked your car, stand at the front of it and take a picture facing a large fairground landmark, such as the coliseum, or the Big Top Circus tent. Then take a second picture of what is behind your car, so you can check those pictures on your phone to help locate your car when it is time to go home.

Make sure your children know Dad + Mom's name and phone number

For small children, the Indiana State Police offers free info cards at their booths. Fill it out and tie it to your child's shoelace, or put it in a buttoned pocket. An alternative is placing your business card with your cell phone number circled in their pocket.

If you get separated, ask for help quickly

The Indiana State Police officers know that parents and kids get separated sometimes. If you cannot locate your child, do a quick (they emphasize quick) search of the immediate area, and then ask for help. Look in a circle around you, you should be able to spot an officer. If not, find the nearest Indiana State Fair worker (you will recognize their blue shirts with the fair logo) and ask them to help you locate an officer. Most children are reunited with their parents in just a few minutes, but as a parent, I know those can be scary minutes, so ask for help right away.

As a parent who has taken their children to the Indiana State Fair for the past 19 years, I have one more to add...

Take a picture of your children when you first get out of the car. 

Every year our girls groaned at having to stop for a picture before we had enjoyed anything yet at the fair. But every year I felt better knowing I had a recent picture of their faces, and a reminder of what they were wearing that day, right at my fingertips! 

When you see those officers around the fairgrounds, give them a smile, they're working hard to keep you and your family safe at the fair.

Enjoy your trip to the Great Indiana State Fair!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The End of Homeschooling ~ Part 2

life changes, graduation, homeschooling, future plans

Planning for the end of homeschooling

Back in Part 1 of this series, we talked about what happens when you realize this is the end of homeschooling as you know it. There are many reasons why it might be the end for you, but if the ends because your last child is getting ready to graduate this year, then you had better start planning for it!

I’ve written before about planning for a graduation open house, how to order a diploma, and how to make a transcript. Those are the three biggest “to-do’s” when looking at a homeschool graduation, but something needs to come before that in your planning. You need to sit down with your spouse, and then your teen, and evaluate if they are really ready to graduate yet or not. God did not hand us little robots to watch over for 18 or so years, he gave us children - really unique little children - each with a special set of talents and weaknesses. 

Now is the time to evaluate. 

Do you think you have a year left until graduation? Great, then actually write down on a piece of paper what you hope for your student to accomplish in that year: courses to complete, life skills to learn, character traits to work on. As you’re looking at that list, is there something you can cross off because they’ve already learned it? Maybe they did so much volunteer work at the local theatre that you don’t really need a curriculum for their acting credit. Or maybe, they’ve had their own yard service business for four years and you can convert that experience into a business course credit. 

Seriously look again at your state’s graduation requirements. 

Have they met them, or will they by the end of the year? If not, give serious consideration to adding another semester, or even another year to their home education. It is much better to delay their graduation date than to send them out unprepared for their immediate future. Our oldest daughter spent 9 semesters in high school. Our younger daughter will as well. She will graduate sometime in December of this year,  if, and only if, she completes what is still on her coursework list to graduate. This girl has never had a problem completing electives, but because of her dysgraphia, advanced math takes her a long time. We want her to be prepared, and to have sufficiently covered what she needs to before graduation.

Now, look at life skills. 

Keep the same mindset, of if they could thrive, not just survive, on their own. Just because your high school senior may never write an actual check, this does in no way exclude them from learning how to balance a checkbook! Your young adult needs to understand what kind of tools they have at their disposal for managing their money, and they need to know there is a finite amount. Dad and Mom are not an ATM, and the real ATM will not give them any cash if they are overdrawn. Take time to make sure they understand how to budget, how to pay bills, how to read a bank statement, how to apply for and accept financial aid of they are going to college, and make sure they know that you love them! It is good to have the opportunity to succeed or fail with money while still at home, when they won’t have the electricity turned off if they make a mistake, and where you’ll still feed them if they run out of “their food” two days before payday.

You also need to look at life skills like basic cooking, bathroom cleaning, vacuuming, and laundry. If your children have been helping you with these things for years, it is an easy check to make sure they can do them independently. If not, there is no time like today to get started! Do they get up with their own alarm, or do you have to go remind them? Do they actually brush their teeth every night? Simple things make a huge difference when Mom and Dad are not looking over their shoulders!

For your last thought, what should you have known when you moved out on your own? 

Did you struggle with putting air in your car tires? Knowing when the chocolate chip cookies were baked but not burnt, or how to write a resume? Decide if any of those things need to get added to the list.

Now, you’ve got a plan. 

Remember to adjust as needed. Your children will not and cannot know everything before they graduate, but they still have time to learn the necessities. They’re wonderfully bright, loving, almost adults. Give them extra room to grow, and extra grace to find their way.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

BOGO sale at SchoolhouseTeachers ~ and sharks!

How many of your kids love sharks? Books about sharks, tv shows about sharks, going to the aquarium to see sharks? Ours too! That's why I'm so happy to tell you about this super BOGO sale at ~ because there is a ton of shark stuff on just waiting for your family to explore!

In May, our family had the awesome opportunity to visit the new World of Wonders National Aquarium in Springfield, MO. It was fabulous! I'm still working on editing the pictures we took, and we will have a regular Road Trip feature on it here soon, but in the meantime, you might want to check out my guest post today over on the Homeschooling with Heart blog. This aquarium was a truly immersive experience, and one we highly recommend if you're going to be anywhere near it (like less than 8 hours!) 

Our girls have always liked watching fish, sharks, and rays at the various aquariums we have visited. If your kids like all the "fishies" too, then take a look at the various course offered on and find one that educates and entertains your family - and then go see some aquatic wildlife up close on your next field trip! The details of the sale are below - don't miss this awesome opportunity to get prepared for the next TWO school years at this great sale price.

Now the BOGO details...

Why are those sharks at the aquarium always moving? Which shark can reach a swimming speed of 50 mph? Find the answers to these and many other questions in the “A World of Animals” course, just one of almost 400 classes available at With core and elective courses for all ages (even parents!), there is something for everyone, and during the month of August, you can join for $139/yr and receive a second full year for FREE! You will also receive a 2018 Summer Print issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, a free tote, access to 10 full libraries of World Book Online, recordkeeping tools, and so much more! Best of all, you lock in a $139/yr renewal rate (reg. $179/yr) for as long as you remain a member! No hidden fees or textbooks to purchase. Valid for new members only. Don’t miss this great BOGO sale, only available through August 31, 2018!