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Book-Lovin’ Lit Mama and a New Free download

Finally, Finally, FINALLY, the Lit Mama Homeschool is hitting its stride and finding its rhythm.  This year has been an eye-opener for me–a pleasure while also (at one time) bordering on a travesty.  I had a plan.  It was So Not Working.  I ditched the plan.  I came up with some other stuff.  Somehow, it started working alongside the original plan.  Now we are having fun, pursuing many interests, and I feel like I can relax a little.  If you know me, you know that means I’m still sleeping with one eye open and eating in front of the computer while I figure out our Next Big Thing.

But at least I can eat now.

something wicked

One of the things I really did throw out

(wait for it…)

was my original ideas about literature materials for this year.  I was going to have us read books related to our Asian, African, and Australian unit studies for the year.  Instead, as autumn approached, I got in the mood for some Bradbury.  If you’ve never read Something Wicked This Way Comes, holy cow, read it now in time for Halloween.  This book is spooky and intriguing from the word go (or in this case, the word First).  It’s also told mostly from the POV of two boys who are on the verge of turning 14, so it’s a great read for young boys who like a little mystery in their October.  Or girls.  Or heck, anybody.  And Bradbury… Listen, this guy knew how to form a sentence.  Sentence after sentence that sticks to your soul like honey, sweetening the way you look at the world forever.  Like this description of the two boys taking off running:

The wind flew Jim away.

A similar kite, Will swooped to follow.

Oh. Yeah.

The Littles love this book.  We have read it before.  We have no problem reading it again.  You always get something new the second time around.  The Littles completely humbled me by picking Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for their next book.  You know the Lit Mama is all about the classics, and you know I believe no one is ever too young to be introduced to them.  Since my boys have read the unabridged Robinson Crusoe, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and several other classics, I feel they are more than ready for some spooky Stevenson.  I’m pretty excited about reading it with them.

I could read Bradbury all year long, so I’m thinking it’s time for Fahrenheit 451 after our little dive into Multiple Personality World.

And you know what?  I’m not locking us down on anything.  Sure, I’ll be writing study guides all year, but I Love writing study guides.  Besides, where would I be if I couldn’t complain to all my lovely readers about how busy I am?  (I know, being busy in some other way so I could complain about it. haha)

And since I’ve talked about reading so much in this post, here’s a new free download–October Bookmarks straight from the book-lovin’ Lit Mama to you.

october bookmarksHave a great weekend, my friends.

Love wins,

KT

Make the Coolest Solar System Model Ever

There is a secret reason I love homeschooling, and it has nothing to do with my Littles.  The truth is, I love to learn (and if you ever sneaked a peak at my various college transcripts, you would know I very nearly became a career student).  That need to Know Everything is why I enjoy planning all our classes myself.  It’s why I can’t let go of Any of the books we’ve used or might use or could possibly some day need a page out of for homeschool.  If the book isn’t at my house, how am I supposed to have quick access to its information?

You’re talking to an ex-librarian.  Do not come at me with the interweb.  Books are better.  Infinitely.

(For one thing, no one can shut them down from a whole different country. They’re Here and you’d have to fight me for them to take them from me.  I like that.)

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If you look closely, you can see that the border on our class table is an image of space. We’re nerds.

So now you know the reason I still have this amazing book 3 years after we wore it out during our astronomy class.  And I’m glad I do.  Because if you look back at the pics I posted yesterday of our newly painted desk, you will see that in the first one the solar system model we made that year is sitting in the paint bin and in the second one it has finally been re-hung on the ceiling.  And it really is the Most Awesome Solar System Model Ever.  And it was easy and fun to make.  So I’m going to tell you how we did it.

First of all we used DK’s Space: A Visual Encyclopedia to study not only each planet in our solar system, but the colors of the planets.  We wanted to get them right.  We also used this poster pulled from an old National Geographic.

posterWe ended up with this:

IMG_20150902_145031569Here’s how.

Materials needed:

1 Styrofoam Sheet (ours was approx. 12 x 18 inches, and thicker than you need, but we had it laying around from some package we had gotten in the mail. Frugality.)

1 Bag Various Sizes Styrofoam balls  – 2 1 in, 2 1 1/2 -in, 3 2-in, 2 4-in, 1 6-in (I couldn’t find the bigger (4 inch) balls in a pack.  I had to purchase them separate. Now AC/DC will be stuck in my head all day)

9 Kabob Sticks (We use in them in place of small dowel rods for Everything.  So much cheaper!)

Craft Paints in:

Light blue    Dark Blue

Green       Orange

Yellow      Red

Maroon   Tan

Grey    Black

White

White Yarn (optional)

1 Sheet Cardstock

A Couple of Toothpicks

1 Miniature White Pom Pom

White Glue and/or Glue Gun

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Directions:

  1. First, prepare your space background.  Paint the styrofoam sheet black.  Don’t forget the edges.  Once it’s dry, your littles can dab little white paint stars all over it if they want to.  I used white yarn to denote the paths of each planet (and a guide to tell me where to place them), but you don’t have to do that.
  2. Paint your kabob sticks black.  That way they aren’t so obvious when you’re looking at your finished product.  You can dab stars on these, too, but we didn’t.
  3. Paint your planets.  We started with the sun (a 6-in ball), using a base coat of yellow, then swirling reds and oranges over top it to represent flares and variations in heat.  Next, we painted Mercury (a 1-in ball) a steel grey color, then lightly dabbed on some black to represent craters and other impact basins.  Venus (a 2-in ball), of course, is orange with red and yellow swirls to represent is thick blanket of carbon dioxide gas and heat.  Earth (a 2-in ball), our very own neck of the woods, is light blue with green landforms and a little white to represent our cloud cover.  Mars (a 1 1/2-in ball) is the red planet.  We added some maroon swirls to give it a little atmosphere.  Jupiter and Saturn are both 4-in balls.  For Jupiter, we painted the base tan then swirled some maroon through it to represent the equatorial belts.  We also painted in the Giant Red Spot, or hydrogen storm, that has been blowing nonstop since at least 1664, when the planet was discovered.  For Saturn, we mixed tan and yellow together for the base then used maroon for the huge, hurricane-like storms that blow over the planet.  The blue swirl on the bottom is the outstanding aurora on Saturn’s south pole.  Uranus (a 2-in ball) is a light blue planet with very light green swirls.  Neptune (a 1 1/2-in ball) is also light blue, but it has more prominent green on it, and a white band to represent the ice clouds near the equator.  The Littles insisted on including Pluto, because their hearts were broken when it was demoted, so we whittled a 1-inch ball down, painted it gold, and gave it some black atmosphere.  To this day, it is their favorite part of this model.
  4. Make Saturn’s rings.   We cut a 6-inch circle from cardstock, then cut out the center, leaving a ring of about 1 inch.  Then we painted it tan, yellow, and maroon (from the inside out) in rings to represent the ice and rocks of which they are made.  We glued 3 toothpicks to the undersides of the rings at intervals (if you look closely at the pic above, you can see them) with the long ends pointing toward the center.  Then we stuck the toothpicks into the styrofoam Saturn.  A little hot glue to make sure it’ll stay and boom.  Permanent rings.
  5. Attach Earth’s Moon. This what the little pom pom is for.  You can use several if you want to put moons on all the planets, but I guess we are planet-ist.  We just wanted to depict our own moon.  Glue the pom pom onto one end of a toothpick.  We painted our toothpick black first.  You don’t have to.  Stick the other end of the toothpick into Earth.  You’re done.
  6. Place your planets into space.  If you want to be able to hang your solar system from the ceiling and have it last like ours has, you’re going to have to use a glue gun here.  We took our painted kabob sticks, stuck them into the north ends of our planets, then pulled them back out and put a dab of hot glue in the hole.  Then we stuck the sticks back in.  Once all of your planets have a stick, get out your book, poster, website, acronym–whatever helps you remember their order.  Starting at a far corner of your sheet, attach the other end of the sun’s kabob stick to the styrofoam sheet the same way you attached it to the ball.  Then just ‘My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas’ away, ending with Pluto at the far opposite corner.

I would give you advice for hanging this thing, but I have done it so many different ways over the years that I have none.  We attached floral wire to the back first and tacked it to the ceiling with that.  This time?  Do Not laugh at me.  I hot-glued it to the ceiling.  It’s my classroom, I’ll hot glue if I want to.

IMG_20150902_145046032Love wins,

KT

This is How Books Remind Me

IMG_20150731_141220558Let me tell you about this book.

A couple of years ago, the school district of my hometown decided to close the doors of my elementary school for good.  If you’ve ever experienced anything like this, you know how surprisingly hard it can hit you.  I was a pretty sad girl when I heard the news.

I grew up in a town an hour away from here, not the rural paradise I live in now.  So when a kindly woman came to my small-town library with boxes and boxes of books to donate from ‘an old elementary school,’ you could have knocked me over with a breath when I saw that the books were from my old alma mater (can you call your elementary school your alma mater?).

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Unfortunately for the masses, these books were too old for use in my library.  Fortunately for an avid book collector, they were old enough to be verrrrry interesting.  Myself being the book collector, of course.  So I went through them.  And I found a couple of keepers. The main one being this gorgeous book, The Little Wooden Doll by Margery Williams Bianco.  1) It’s a children’s book.  2) It is about a doll who has been in an attic for a while and is lonely.  Kind of like Pooh Bear or Raggedy Ann, this doll is alive. 3) You can see the threads from the cloth binding if you look back at the pic of the cover.  In. Love. With that.  4) The doll talks to mice and other toys and animals.  5) Happy ending.  6) It’s in Really Good condition.  7) If you look closely at the next pic, you’ll see the copyright is dated 1925.  It’s a little blurry.  But it’s there.

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So I did quite the happy dance over this little find.  I brought it home, placed it in my antique books cabinet and admired it there behind the glass for a few weeks.  Then one night all my boys were gone somewhere.  I don’t remember where, which is weird since that happens almost never, but all four of my princes were out of the house.  And since I was treating myself to all kinds of Lit Mama alone time, I took this treasure book out of the cabinet and snuggled in to read it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet, fantastical story.  Then I came to the end.  And you will not believe what I found at the back of the book.

IMG_20150731_141440546Sure, You can’t read my maiden name on the top line of this lending card, but I can.  You can see the K, for sure.  And the F3 at the end?  My teacher’s initial and grade.  So right there, 30 or so years later, was proof that I had read this book in the 3rd grade.  This exact copy of this 1925 edition.  It was an antique when I read it the first time!  I swear, when I saw that card, I lost all my breath.  I couldn’t believe it.  I know my 3rd grade teacher had a name that started with F and I even recognized my own childish handwriting, but I still couldn’t believe it.  Talk about getting goosebumps.  I felt like I was talking to myself across the years.

Do you think some small part of me remembered having read this book when I chose it from the boxes that were donated to the library?  I can tell you this, at no time since have I remembered reading this book when I was young.  But I have the proof.  How bizarre is it that a book I checked out of the school library came back to me 3 decades later and ended up part of my personal library?  I mean, yeah, if I still lived in that town and purposely went to a book sale to find books I had checked out… Well, the circumstances would have had to have been very specific, wouldn’t they?  But by accident?  Really?

Things like that really happen in real life.  Because magic is Everywhere.  Especially when books are involved.

Amazingly enough, you can still buy this book new if you want to enjoy the truly wonderful story.

But it will still be light years away from being as cool as my copy.  🙂

Love wins,

KT

Why Your Littles Should Love Lit

Just in case you didn't believe I have over 100 books about King Arthur...

Just in case you didn’t believe I have over 100 books about King Arthur…

It is a breathtaking, sunny morning here.  The meadow is lit up golden, the birds are singing a symphony, the morning light is reflecting on the pond.  A sense of quiet calm drapes the countryside.  It’s got me doing a little reflecting myself.

I’m always telling you that you should engender a lifelong love of learning in your littles and giving you tips on how to go about doing that.  But maybe you should explain to your littles Why it is So Important for them to read.  And maybe you can’t articulate it so well.  It is a fact and you just know it, and putting the reasons into words eludes you. If so, let me try to do it for you. Maybe you don’t really understand why or maybe you’re one of those people who feels books aren’t really that important. If so, let me try to change your mind.

My crush on books started long before I could read.  My brother (who is almost 3 years my senior), my mother, and my father were all readers.  They set an example that I appreciate now more than I can put into words.  When I was 4, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked my brother to teach me to read.  The rest of this lifelong marriage is history.  I can still remember the first time I picked up a Raggedy Ann and Andy book in the library.  The second grade when I met Nancy Drew.  The very first book I read about the Arthurian legends in 6th grade. (In fact, I purchased that book–and the rest of the trilogy–when I reached adulthood and have read it many times since.  It is a magical tale called Guinevere by Sharan Newman.)  Ah… finding a dusty, cloth-bound copy of The Count of Monte Cristo in the middle school library.  My first Dickens (if you’ve been visiting this site long, you already know it was Great Expectations).

fairy and waterfall book

So I’ll give you your first reason for teaching a love of literature to your littles.  Clearly, judging by the paragraph above, books have lifelong impacts on us.  When I first started reading, it was the stories.  I was very young, with no experience in the world outside the walls of my own home.  Hearing and reading stories taught me what was going on Out There.  They taught me the possibilities of what Could Be going on Out There, and that I might see them if I squint my eyes and avert my gaze in just the right way.  I learned of fairies, elves, dolls that come to life, elephants, bears, squirrels, lions… You get it.  If you have any fond memories of a book you read as a child–or of hundreds like I do–then you know what that impact can do for a person.

Reading also provides us an escape from reality when things are tough.  And it doesn’t harm us by giving us that escape.  When things are going wrong and you know you can stop thinking about them for a while just by grabbing a good book and reading, you’re not destroying brain cells or inviting epilepsy.  It may sound odd, but reading can keep your littles from becoming screen addicts or worse.  In my humble opinion, who needs mind-altering drugs or alcohol when it’s so much more fun to read a book?  Maybe, just maybe, if you teach them to love reading, you are teaching them a truly healthy form of escapism.  And maybe they’ll never need anything to take its place.  So reading might just save their lives.  A stretch?  Hmm.  I don’t really think so.

Grimm fairy tales cutout book

Reading teaches us about places we might never get to see.  When the Littles and I read Oliver Twist last year, they learned so much about 19th century British politics, the geography of London, the history of Britain.  They may never get to see Britain, but reading books about it can help them not feel like they’re missing it.  If you encourage your littles to read books about other lands or written by authors from those lands, you are encouraging geography.  You’re making the world smaller for them in a way the interweb really can’t.  You’re putting it at their fingertips and in their minds.  Literature touches our brains differently than images do.  So send them to foreign countries.  Often.  Through the eyes of all different kinds of characters.  They will appreciate you for it all their lives.

My love of books has grown with me.  As I said, it began with the stories, then it became an escape, then I realized how much I was learning by reading… But I’ve discovered something new recently.  (Just like any good marriage, I’m constantly discovering new things to love.)  As we grow older, this love of books comes with us.  And you know, admit it, the more years there are behind us, the less we notice things.  We’ve seen them before.  A Lot.  Think of how often you pay attention to the landscape when you’re driving to work or to the same grocery store, department store, post office.  Life kind of gets like that too, doesn’t it?  It might be a beautiful morning, but you’ve seen them before and you’re pretty sure you’ll see one again, and you’re just too busy to really stop and appreciate it.  Right?  It happens.

ballet cutout bookBut books–they remind me to pay attention.  Ever notice how a really good description puts a picture in your mind?  You can see it, smell it, taste it, even if all the author has given you is a visual.  Well, when that happens, I want to experience that place again in real life, or something as close to it as I can get.  So I start to pay attention.  Simply put, if an author describes a country lane to me in full detail–the periwinkle of the roadside flowers, the heat of the asphalt, the shade of the overhanging trees–the next time I leave my driveway, I’m going to look at my country lane as I drive down it, not think about the dozens of things I have to accomplish that day.  Books bring me back to my senses, literally.

I am reminded to look at the fields, the flowers, the sunlight, the gloaming and its fireflies.  I’m reminded to breathe in the scent of fresh-mown hay, the honeysuckle, the sharp scent of snow, the dew-covered grass.  I remember to appreciate the feel of cool water against my skin, the precious brush of a loving hand, the grass under my feet, and even the stinging slap of an Arctic wind.  Books make me listen.   They remind me how much I love the sound of cicadas, birds singing, spring peepers, airplanes, and the voices of my loved ones.  Especially fantasy novels with a good quest remind me to appreciate the flavor a good stew, roasted meat, tender vegetables.  Just as importantly, books remind me to understand other people’s motivations, to find my empathy.  To remember that every story is told from multiple points of view and every character I meet in real life is seeing that story in a different way.  Think of the differences between The Wizard of Oz and Wicked.  Of course the wicked witch had her own side of the story.  Everyone does.  Books remind us of that.  And  that is a Very Important Thing.

Reading also helps combat the whole ‘instant gratification’ problem that technology is causing.  It helps kids learn to appreciate anticipation.  You can’t cheat your way through a book or you’ll miss something.  In fact, in this era, that may be the most important reason to read.  It teaches patience.  You can’t get from this page to that page without reading every paragraph.  Kinda rocks, doesn’t it?  They can get instant gratification later.  For now, let them slow down.

So if your little ever whines about reading time and asks, “Mom (or Dad), why is this so important?  It’s boring,” you now have some decent answers to give.  They may not be very scientific, but they are real.  Teach them to love it and that love will get them through the next 80 years or so.  You know it will, because

Love wins,

KT