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KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

Littles’ Lit for 20th Century History

Yesterday I posted about some of the novels we’ve read to supplement our history lessons.  In response, my fellow awesome blogger, Anna Marie, asked what I would recommend for studies from WWI on.  So since I have been dreaming about tackling the 20th century for 2 years, I have plenty to recommend.

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope FarmerCharlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer

This absolutely amazing book tells the story of Charlotte, who goes to a new boarding school one night and wakes up the next day in the time of the first world war.  I read it a few years ago just for fun and immediately added it to my list of things for the Littles to read when we study WWI.  It’s wonderful for those everyday details about how life really happened during that time period.  I also recommend Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley, which provides a window into how the war affected immigrants in America, what patriotism meant, and even teaches about women’s suffrage.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon over ManifestLove. This. Book.  A brilliantly written novel that shows littles how the Great Depression broke families up with a tie-in to WWI.  You can’t really ask for a better novel to put your littles smack dab in the middle of the early 20th century.  I would also recommend Children of the Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley.  It’s not fiction, but it is an interesting account of the school at Weedpatch Camp, a place in California to which Oklahomans migrated during this difficult period.  It is Filled with photographs of the time period and largely told in the words of the migrants.  Finally, of course, the Lit Mama recommends John Steinbeck’s awesome, incomparable The Grapes of Wrath.  A must-read when studying the Depression.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Oh.  This book.  I know it is also set during the depression, but it broaches a subject near and dear to my heart, the Worst Human Flaw Ever, prejudice.  And Scout has been my hero since I was a little girl, and Dill was my boyfriend, and my real-life brother was so like Jem it almost hurt.  Needless to say, it is on my list of top 5 favorite books Ever.  There is, of course, the delicate matter of the rape, but if you are uncomfortable, skip the descriptive sections.  I read this to the Littles 4 years ago for summer reading, and had many people look at me aghast.  Well, there are ways to get around the sketchy parts and still make the story enjoyable for kids.  All in all, the experience made me glad my parents never censored my reading choices!

Do Not Skip This One. 🙂

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck A Year Down Yonder

Get out of the Depression, KT! I can’t.  Too many excellent books set in the time period.  This one the Littles and I have read together three times.  Three.  All of us.  Because this is just a peak into life in the 1930s and how normal people kept on living through the tragedy of separated families and hard, hard times.  But it is an adventurous peek full of lovable characters and a million little things that make us laugh and cringe and wish we knew Grandma Dowdel because she is Awesome.

Number the Stars by Lowis Lowry

I became a Lowry fan with The Giver and she didn’t disappoint with this haunting tale of WWII Nazi occupation in Denmark.  It’s a great way for kids to see the emotions and dangers children faced during this horrific time.  Of course, The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read about WWII, but I also highly recommend The Shadow Children by Steven Schnur, a story about the ghosts of the children involved in the tragedy at Mont Brulant haunting a young boy.  It’s a short book and a little dark by definition, but provides good insight into the horrors of the war.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963  by Christopher Paul Curtis

This is a seriously cool book about the racial tensions in the south in the 1960s.  It’s really funny and at the same time it’s an insightful look into how the civil rights movement affected families, especially African-Americans.  A super important read for all kids.  Also look at Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood (is that her real name?  What a cool name!).  It is a lyrical coming-of-age novel that focuses on the segregation of public swimming pools and the racial tensions of 1964.

I think I could go on with books about the 1960s like I did with books about the 1930s, but seriously, I am running out of time.  I hope this list inspires you to share wonderful fiction with your children as they learn history and that the reading instigates a million discussions about a million different things.   That is, after all, the best part.

Love wins,

KT

Love Wins

Somebody asked me over the weekend why I always sign my blog posts “Love wins.”  I thought it was pretty self-explanatory, but I guess it maybe isn’t.  It was not enough to explain to my friend that I wanted to end things, always, on a positive note.

“But what does it Mean?”

It means lots of things, and all of them are important.  Mostly, it is quite likely my biggest belief in life, quite possibly learned from my mother’s example of “Be sure your children know you love them and everything else will work out.”  Possibly it stems from my love of the common fairy tale, in which, every time, love wins.  Perhaps it is derived from my own life story, in which finding Martin and having a family with him has shown me the true power of love.

But what does that mean to me, love wins?  Some people believe good always wins.  Some people believe evil always wins.  Some people think there might be some kind of give and take, sometimes good triumphs and sometimes, unfortunately, it’s the other way around.  Some people believe it is light, or dark, or kindness, or cruelty that tends to win.  Even within different religions, these beliefs are held forth.  In my experience of watching the world–the universe–and how it works, I’ve come to a conclusion that I fully believe.  Love wins.  Every time.  Maybe not in the ways we hope it will, but it always wins.  It lifts us up, it makes us strive to be better, it softens blows, it carries us.  It generates kindness, compassion, empathy, understanding.  It is truly the most powerful force we have at our disposal.  There’s a reason the Bible tells us to love our neighbor and Confucius tells us, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”  When we love each other, we give everything we have to treating each other right.  We make sacrifices to see each other smile, however fleetingly.  What, I ask you, is more powerful than a smile?

High Quality Love Blank Meme Template

Well, love is. haha

“But what,” my friend asked, “does that have to do with homeschool?!”

Everything.

See, as I said in Friday’s post, none of the moms or dads I know who homeschool come at it from anywhere but a place of love.  I homeschool because my job on this planet–since I chose to have children–is to love them fiercely, raise them up to be productive, gentle, loving men, and make sure that while they are under my charge they are shown a world blown wide open with possibilities.  I don’t want them placed in a box where they have to live up to expectations or a reputation which might stymie their dreams and abilities.  When Martin and I decided to homeschool, we did so with all the love we carry in our souls.

When you, dear reader, decided to homeschool, you did so with all the love you carry in your soul.  So love won.  Again.  Always.  When I spend hours trying to winnow the complex history of China into a doable lesson that touches all the relevant points, I am loving my children so hard they ought to pass out from it. (haha)  When I, who am not a math genius, come up with games to help Littlest get his multiplication memorized in a way that is fun, love is Winning in this house.  When you are trying to decide which curriculum to use, how to afford a field trip that will cement a lesson, whether to join a co-op, you are showing your children that love wins for them because they are the most important thing in your world.

In so many ways, we homeschool parents ensure that love wins on a daily basis.  That is not to say that other parents don’t, because I know some awesome parents whose children attend public or private schools, but this post is about homeschooling.  We don’t get paid for this job.  We rarely even get Praised for this job.  We slog along, letting love lead us, Because We Love.  We are paying so far forward by doing this thing that our great-grandchildrens’ acquaintances might feel the ripples.  We are casting such love into the universe that it is expanding, in part, because of us.  Our children are expanding.  Because. Of. Us.

So again, what does “love wins” have to do with homeschool?

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Everything.

Love wins,

KT

Interesting China Facts

In prepping to teach the Littles all things China next year, I have been learning a lot myself.  Today my favorite thing about homeschooling is that so often while planning what to teach them I find myself learning things I didn’t know or re-learning things I forgot.  In the case of China, I’m having trouble remembering if I learned more about it in school than where it is, that it is a communist country, and that it is shrouded in mysticism.

In my desire to teach the Littles ever so much more than that, I have found some seriously interesting facts about China that I wanted to share.  If you already know them, forgive my ignorance.  If you don’t, I hope you are as awed by them as I am.

1. China has been a cohesive nation for nearly 4,000 years.  That makes the United States look like a baby, no?  Imagine having a culture that dates back 4,000 years.  Here in the melting pot, we have to reach out to our ancestors to find that, and often we don’t find any real connection to it.  No wonder so many Chinese people honor tradition the way they do.

2. China spans five time zones, but the entire third-largest-country-in-the-world now runs on a single time zone (UTC+06:00).  This is so completely fascinating to me.  Talk about being cohesive.  Imagine if was 7:51 right now on both the east and the west coast, not just here in the middle of the U.S.  It would have gotten light way too early in Bangor, Maine, and wouldn’t get light until way late in L.A.  But we would all know when to call each other without having to think about it!

3. We think of the Himalayas when we think of China, but nearly 1/3 of the country is covered in mountains. That’s a lot of mountains.  Considering China’s size, that means about 1.235 million square miles of mountains.  You read that right.  Million.  Whoa.

4. China’s topography ranges from rainforests in the south to deserts in the north.  North?  That’s close to Russia, right?  And all that Siberia stuff?  And there are deserts there?!

5.  Not only that, but the Gobi Desert is the 5th largest desert in the world.  That might not sound impressive until you realize that two of the larger deserts are polar deserts and so don’t really count.  (Just kidding, but really, how often do we think of Polar Deserts when we think of deserts?)  So the Sahara and the Arabian are the only two hot deserts that are bigger than the Gobi.  In the same country that has 1.235 million square miles of mountains And rainforests.  Impressive.

6. The Grand Canal, which connects the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, is the longest man-made river in the world.  Even more impressive?  Parts of it date back to the 5th Century B.C.  B.C!  Whaaaa?  That’s what happens when you have a millenia-long history.  Your stuff sticks around and you keep using it.

I have always been fascinated by China.  Now I am amazed by it.  And I haven’t even started putting together the history portion of our program.  Stay tuned… I bet this gets Really Interesting.

Love wins,

KT

Top Ten Favorite Homeschool Blogs

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As promised, today I’m going to tell you about my top 10 favorite homeschool blogs.  Once more, these aren’t the only blogs I follow and they are in no particular order.  This is just a list of the ones I use most frequently.

1. A Homeschool Mom Cristina’s blog is full of encouragement and ideas for homeschooling mamas.  It is well-written and -organized.  There is a great series on the blog called ‘Homeschooling 101’ that offers great advice to new homeschool parents.

2. Stories of Our Boys April’s blog is amusing and upbeat, even when she is writing about issues that aren’t so happy.  She offers info on homeschooling, childhood epilepsy, photography, recipes…. Just check it out; you’ll love her sunshine-y approach to life.

confession3. Confessions of a Homeschooler Erica is the author of a book called Homeschooling 101.  She does us other mamas the favor of blogging about her curricula every year along with her schedule so we can get ideas from this homeschooling genius. Other points of interest include crafts and free printables.  Eric also has a store from which she sells science, geography, literature and other unit studies.

4. Bloke School  I just found this one recently, and I’m already hooked.  David gives us mamas a fresh look at homeschooling–from Dad’s point of view.  He’s based in Australia, so some of the laws and financial stuff doesn’t apply here in America, but the site is super well-written and full of posts that really make me think, as a teacher, about how I can make the lessons deeper for my Littles.  And since I only have boys, advice from a man is invaluable.

Penelope Trunk5. Penelope Trunk Penelope’s blog about homeschooling always makes me think.  She posts about things like how to make sure your unschooled child is really learning, how video games can be beneficial, continuing to homeschool if you go back to work… Lots of encouragement and sound advice.  My favorite quote: “I homeschool because it seemed to me that it was like breastfeeding: Of course it’s the best thing to do for the kids, it’s just difficult.”   She also offers curriculum advice.

YRHHeader6. Year Round Homeschooling  This is a place where many homeschool moms blog about a variety of homeschool subjects.  I spend a lot of time on this blog, because I can anything from encouragement to unit studies to freebies and there is such a variety of authors that I never get bored.  They also provide a daily list of free ebooks.