• My affiliate links won't hurt you, but they might help feed my kids. See my full disclosure policy in the main menu.

Need Novel Studies for Your Homeschool or Classroom?

My friends, I have had a full week.  And not necessarily in a good way.  But a couple of hours with my bestest friend last night eased it all for me, and I am ready to face the coming days.  Isn’t it nice to have someone you can count on to just listen when you’re feeling low?  Whoever that person is for you, thank him or her today.  Because I have even more full days coming up and thanks to my Abby I can focus now and get all this work done.

What work? you may ask.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, then you know I started this thing with the goal of selling novel studies to other homeschoolers that were thorough and affordable while being high-quality.

May I have your attention, please?

May I have your attention, please?

This week I got 3 finished.  It has been a long road for me, mostly because schooling my Littles is my first priority and doing all the blog work involved in being successful–posting, networking, contacting affiliates and companies for reviews and…  if you blog, you get me–is time-consuming.  I’ve had a little trouble finding the time to get enough novel studies perfected to make me feel comfortable opening a shop.

I feel like there should be a drumroll here, but the spin cycle on the washer will have to do (I swear, it’s thumping away right now.  I should go balance that load).

I am announcing today that next Wednesday, May 25, will be the Grand Opening of my eshop, where I will sell my Lit Looking Glass Novel Studies and larger unit studies.  I will have 3 novel studies and 1 unit study available on Wednesday, and I will be adding to that number as I get more completed.  If you’re considering any of these books for summer reading or next school year, these novel studies have 3 sections for each chapter.

  1. Vocabulary–I’ve pulled words from each chapter that kids might struggle with and put them into a worksheet where littles can match them with the definition.  This can be used before the chapter, during the chapter, or after the chapter, however you wish.
  2. Study Questions–For each chapter there is a list of questions for your Little to answer.  Reading comprehension, who-what-where-when, and critical thinking questions are included.
  3. Activities–For each chapter, there are 1-3 activities to help your littles remember what they’ve read.  These can be crafts, experiments, food, writing activities… really, just about anything fun and related to the chapter

And never fear, mama, there are answer keys. 🙂

Lit Looking Glass Novel Studies are kind of like my Story Times on steroids.  I try to write them so they can be used by all ages–one of the reasons I had this idea to begin with was that I got aggravated that all of the Oliver Twist studies I could find were either waaay expensive or aimed at college students.  We read it when the Littles were in 4th & 6th ‘grades,’ and I needed a study they could relate to.  (Also, do not worry… I did write that novel study, and it will be available to you for cheap and for your littles in the near future.)

I. am. so. freaking. excited about this.  Here are the books the first few novel studies are for:

complete tales of winnie

Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

 

tuck everlasting

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

 

 

rabbit hill

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

 

china unit study pic

And don’t forget that a unit study for China will be available, too.  It includes geography, history, religion, and animal science with lots of activities to do to help your littles study that incredible country.

I hope you’re all as pumped about this as I am.  I’m so glad to finally feel like I’m at a point where I can offer them.  Spread the word, dear readers, if you will.  I promise you with all my heart my novel studies will be quality additions to any homeschool or classroom.

Celebrate with me?  And don’t forget to stop by next Wednesday and check out the shop!

Love wins,

KT

Why We Use Books More Than Tech In Our Homeschool

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

My Arthurian Legends shelves in my writing building

If you ever came to my house, the first thing you would probably notice is that it’s littered with books.  I have been an avid reader since I was 4, and I like to have all the books I’ve read on hand in case I want to revisit them.  I was a librarian for years, and books became even more important to me then.  My beautiful husband teases that we should make furniture out of the books because then at least we would be able to walk through the house.  It’s not really That Bad, but only because he is constantly building me new shelves.  Also, the boxes in the closets make a handy holding place.

Okay.  It’s That Bad.

I am not ashamed.  There is far worse clutter to be had.

Bookshelf

The shelf in that pic, from our first year of homeschooling (weren’t they adorable?  They made those Native American vests and headdresses), covered a whole wall and was that full from top to bottom.  That room now has shelves all the way around it.  Because books.  Duh.

Now, my Littles know their way around a computer, a tablet, and even a smartphone.  They are Children of the Tech Age, so of course they do.  But when we are learning, be it history, language, math, or science (or any of the other weirdy things I throw in there for fun), I want them to have a Learning Experience.  I want them to be able to put their hands on the words, to feel pages beneath their fingers, to be able to use an index and a table of contents.  I love when we can open a book to a page and leave it laying there while we do the experiment or project on the page.  It’s okay if we spill flour on the book while making salt dough.  It’s fine if a beaker gets knocked over and a few drops land on the book.  We don’t have to be careful not to ruin something that will cost a couple hundred to replace.  We can have fun and be free and learn without stressing over messes.  In fact, if I find something fun to do on one of the wonderful blogs I follow, I print it out so we can just read the directions off paper.  Because no way am I putting my Kindle or my phone or my beloved laptop in the line of fire.

Sometimes we use their tablets for reading, but I don’t like it.  I want them to know the joy of turning the page.

It seems to me that while technology is a necessity in this era, it is also capable of being fleeting.  Its continued use depends on so many things.  Energy resources.  Affordability.  I mean, if the lights go out, you can still use a book, but once the battery dies, a tablet is worthless.

My main issue, though, is that a good book published by a respectable publishing house is always going to be well-researched.  When you read what’s in it, you’re going to be getting pretty close to the actual facts.  Not so the ol’ interweb.  As much as we may love it, Anybody can put Anything on the interweb.  It doesn’t make it true.  Think about that Facebook rumor that’s been going around again–the one where they’re going to start charging users.  I had 3 people come to me saying, “OMG, Is This True?!”  Um, no, no it isn’t.  What a dumb move that would be on FB’s part.  Because I don’t know about you, but I could totally live without FB, and I wouldn’t hesitate to cancel my account.

My point is that if you search China’s history on the web, you get thousands of hits and if you read through just 2-3 websites you get 2-3 different sets of dates and facts.  Which one is right?  Well, how would you know unless you spend hours doing your own research and getting it narrowed down?  I’m a homeschooler, a SAHM, a farmer, and a blogger.  I don’t have those kinds of extra hours.  But there are authors out there whose job it is to get it right and publishers who have fact checkers to make sure their authors are getting it right.  So when my kids learned about Asia this year, we took our info from these:

asia books

Okay, so we didn’t get to Australia, but that’s a whole other can of worms.  My point is that these books are pretty reliable.  Plus, they give my Littles the opportunity to get their hands on the info.  Because learning is not all visual and, let’s face it, technology is more visual than anything.  I know, you could argue that books are, too, but tech doesn’t have the same tactile effect that poring over a good book has.

Plus, books don’t make that annoying whirring sound or emit weirdy waves that interfere with your brain.  There’s a reason everything tech warns not to use it for too long or risk doing  damage to yourself.  Epileptic seizures because we played an online game for math?  Not my thing.

So I limit the tech we use in school and I limit the tech they use outside of school.  When they are grown, I want them to know how to use a freaking book.

Kind of like I don’t want cursive to be a foreign language.

Love wins,

KT

5 Tips for a Happy Homeschooling Day

Sometimes it’s hard.  Isn’t it?  Making sure your littles are entertained enough learn, interested enough to pay attention.  Part of the reason we homeschool is to make sure our kids are getting the one on one attention they need to really succeed.

schedule

But then there are Those Days.  You know the ones.  When the kids are distracted or tired and it feels like nothing you do can pull them in and get them interested in how Stalin affected the world or how to find the lowest common denominator.  They’re fighting.  They can’t find their supplies.  You are at your wit’s end.

I don’t know how to make all of those days go away, but there are things you can do to make them few and far between.  It’s as simple as having a plan in place every day and following a few principles.

hysterical kid

1.  Don’t expect perfection.

We’re all guilty of it, though.  We can’t help it.  When we envisioned this homeschool thing, we saw perfect lessons which taught our littles scads of knowledge.  They were engaged and begging for more.  We mamas or dadas were sitting back, enjoying the fruits of our labors, benign smiles on our faces as our little ones became geniuses.  The day was always sunny and love-filled.  Patience-filled.  But after just a couple weeks of homeschooling we realized that was just a dream.  Homeschooling is Hard.  It is Almost Never perfect.

And that’s okay.  Have Great Expectations for what you will achieve, but accept that sometimes it will be a struggle.  When you expect it will be life–messy, fun, interesting, and conflict all rolled together–you know it won’t be perfect and you won’t be letting yourself down.  It really will makes things easier on you.

school spot

2. Start with a schedule

It doesn’t have to be strict.  Especially if you’re unschooling or following a child-led program, a strict schedule may not work.  But children need direction. In fact, they crave it.  So having some sort of schedule in place will be beneficial to both of you.   Making sure they know when to expect to be in school is the biggest part of this.  If you are morning people, have school for a few hours in the morning.  If you struggle to wake up and need a gallon of coffee while your little zones out for an hour before she can form a cognizant sentence, save school for afternoon.  But make sure she knows at what time of the day she is expected to be learning.

Another thing you can do is set aside a spot in your house where you have school every day.  That sameness will put your little in the mood to get started.  It doesn’t matter if you move to the kitchen for a science experiment, the couch for reading aloud, and outside for nature study.  Always start in that same spot so your little gets in the habit of focusing when he’s there.

monday plans

3. Allow for rabbit trails

You might have a strict schedule.  I pretty much do.  But I don’t stress if talking about Stalin leads us to Donald Trump (which it did yesterday.  And speaks volumes about Trump) which leads us to the American voting system and immigration laws.  If you spend half an hour on a rabbit trail, allow for an extra half hour to finish the rest of your plan.  Or be flexible enough to continue with the plan tomorrow.

I’m not going to lie to you, I used to have major issues with this.  I had a Very Strict schedule, and I freaked straight out if we didn’t finish everything in a day.  I had it all mapped out in my planner, and we had to stick to it or I kind of went out of my mind.  Last year, I scheduled in extra days for catch-up and it helped.  This year I’m so much more relaxed it’s almost scary.  I know what my littles have accomplished and will accomplish, and I have had to let go of that strictness.

Because I love rabbit trails.  Sometimes I feel like we learn more from them than anything I could possibly plan.

english politics

4. Schedule something fun

Every day.  I always have a science experiment, craft, or art project that goes along with our lessons.  My Littles look forward to those so much it helps them stay focused on the drier stuff.  Sometimes we do several fun things during our day, just to break up the notebooking and reading and writing necessary for some subjects.  Geography has become the thing I work on hardest.  Since we made our U.S. scrapbooks for geography, I have realized that when it’s fun, they remember where places are.  Simply memorizing sites on a map didn’t do it for me, and it doesn’t work for my littles.  So we made the towers of St. Basil’s Cathedral while studying Russia, colored Vishnu while studying Southeast Asia, made egg carton dragons for China.

Littles, even bigger littles, need a break from the ho-hum.  If you use fun activities to break up your homeschool day, you are giving them a chance to recharge and feel ready to tackle 4-digit multiplication.

book collection

5. Read Aloud

You knew it was coming, now didn’t you?  Even when we’ve rabbit trailed ourselves into a double-length school day, Littlest will say, “Are we going to read today?”  Like his mama, he adores a good story.  When you choose a chapter book and read it aloud to your littles during the school day, it gives them a chance to relax and enjoy their time.  They can feel like they’re turning off their brains and rebooting.

Don’t worry.  They Are Not turning off their brains.  They’re honing their imaginative powers, their speaking skills, their writing skills, and their vocabulary.  If you’ve chosen a historical novel, they are learning history.  If you’ve chosen an adventure novel, they are learning courage and survival skills.  If you’ve chosen a mystery, they’re learning critical thinking.

And they don’t even realize it.

Um, win.

Pretty simple things to do, but I’ve found that implementing all these principles makes Those Days a rarity.  When the Littles stop listening to an explanation in order to fight over an eraser, I take a deep breath, remind myself why I’m doing this, and pull out the craft card!

friday_meme

Love wins (also, you’re welcome),

KT

I Heart Homeschooling

I know I’ve raved about homeschool on this blog since day one.  I’ve told you why I love it, how I love it, and why I think it’s what’s best for my kids.  I’ve told you my reasons for pulling my littles from public school, and that it never occurred to me that I could do so with Big, though I ardently wish it had.  Well, this week has given me the proof I needed to validate all that raving, and it’s all because of trivial pursuit.

Trivialpursuit_Token

We love board games in this house, as you may have figured out by now.  We are huge proponents of family game night, and it can pop up any day of the week, usually several times.  We are fortunate that every one of us truly likes every one of the other family members, and we spend more time together than any other family I know.  Playing, laughing, cooking together, rambling around the farm… We’d rather be with each other than anybody.

Board games are great fun, but they are also great learning tools.  My personal favorites are those that involve truly using your brain–brain skill–like Scrabble, Cranium, and trivia games.  I kid you not, I have six different versions of trivial pursuit on our board game shelf, 2 versions of Cranium, and several other trivia games to boot.  Even so, I never thought about how trivia games could show me just how much my littles are learning in homeschool until my beautiful husband picked up a video game this week that has several board games on it–Scrabble, Monopoly, Risk, and Trivial Pursuit.

Now I don’t usually play video games.  But this is Trivial Pursuit!

Our family game table

Our family game table

 

So we sat down two nights in a row to play.  Here’s what I learned:

  1. My littles are Wicked Smart.
  2. Littlest knows just as much about the world as Middle and Big.
  3. It’s starting to really be a challenge to beat them.
  4. I am super-competitive when it comes to showing off my brain skill. (Okay, so that was the one bad thing.)

Playing a hardcore game of Trivial Pursuit with them was not only fun, it gave me a chance to see what they know outside the classroom setting.  It was like giving them a test.  And they aced it, with flying colors.

more family games

See, one of the reasons I am unhappy with the current public school system is the constant cramming of facts for test prep that leaves kids so full they can’t possibly remember it all long-term.  There is a lack of substance in the current system that wasn’t there when I was in school 640 years ago.  So I approach homeschool from that angle.  You may remember that I had planned this year to be a series of geography unit studies about Asia and Africa.  Because I didn’t want my littles to just memorize a bunch of maps.  I wanted them to learn about each country as they learned its place in the world so they would have more of a point of reference than just boundary lines on paper.  I want them to remember this stuff, not forget it in 3 years.  You may also remember that I almost chucked the whole thing because the planning process (coupled with my crazed perfectionism) was arduous at best.  Then we studied China according to the plan, and the Littles loved it so much I decided to keep going.  Well, here we are a couple of weeks into the new semester and we’re still studying Asia.  I had begun to panic, trying to figure out when in the hell we were going to be able to move on to Africa.

Then it hit me.

We so do not have to do Africa this year.  I can relax and enjoy Teaching Them Everything about Asia, because we will still be homeschooling next year, and that will be the time for Africa.  So I can relax and Teach Them Everything about that, too.  It was an epiphany.  I hate to admit it, but I was kind of trying to cram.  I learned this week why I have to stop myself from doing that.

Out-of-the-box schooling (and a shot of color to chase those winter blues)

Out-of-the-box schooling (and a shot of color to chase those winter blues)

Those games of Trivial Pursuit showed me that my Littles are truly learning from me.   They are retaining information from as far back their first year of homeschool, and I mean information their dad and oldest brother didn’t even know.  They were kicking ass and taking names at Trivial Pursuit–in every topic.

It. Rocked.

I was one proud mama.

Here’s the thing.  Homeschooling gives us a chance to use literature, projects, field trips, and other out-of-the-box teaching tools to help our littles Truly Learn every subject they take on.  It gives us a chance to teach them at a higher level than public school would, or to slow down and make sure they have really grasped a concept before moving on.  My crush on this experience gets stronger every day, but never so much as when I see the proof of its benefits.

And I don’t even have to give them a test.

What about you?  What evidence have you seen that homeschooling is working well for your kids?  I’d love to hear all about it.

Love wins,

KT