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4 (Great) Ways to Add Lit to Your Homeschool

Sometimes it seems impossible to achieve all the many things we want to accomplish in our children’s educations.  It’s a daunting process–ensuring you are teaching them the best way, the best topics, the best preparation for the real world.  One way you can’t go wrong is by making literature an important part of your homeschool.  As far as I’m concerned, any kind of literature, from the classics to the modern, the literary to the comedy.  Classics and literary books teach language and grammar, history and creativity.  Modern books can help your littles learn to navigate the complex world we live in (even funny books can do that).  Whatever they’re reading, just be sure they’re reading.  It may seem like one more task to heap on your already full plate, but here are 4 easy ways to fit it in every single day.



If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, reading aloud together benefits your kids at all ages.  You can read aloud to them, which lets them relax and really put their imaginations to work.  You can have them read to you, which helps them learn to pronounce words correctly, sound out unfamiliar words, and get comfortable with some aspects of pubic speaking.  You can do both.  It’s completely up to you.  We read a chapter a day aloud together here at Lit Mama, and we kind of mix it up.  Some days the boys take turns reading alternating pages, some days I read to them, and some days all three of us alternate.  I don’t intend to take reading aloud out of our curriculum until they’ve graduated.  It is a time during our school day that is almost outside everything else.  We are transported to another world, have discussions that don’t feel like learning, and get to focus on being together.  Some days we read aloud in our classroom, some days we cuddle up on the couch for reading.  It’s probably our favorite time of the homeschool day.


Another way I make sure they get plenty of reading in is to assign them extracurricular books each year.  They have a specified time in which to read them, then they have to give me a book report.  Then it’s on to the next book.  This has worked so well that they have both begun to read novels well beyond their ‘grade level’ (whatever that is) on their own.  On top of their assigned books and the book we are reading aloud in class.  Makes me one proud mama!


You can end your school day with half an hour of required reading.  Or 15 minutes.  Or an hour.  You know your kids best, you know how long they’ll be able to sit still.  Always add five minutes to that number.  It teaches patience.  This will not only keep them reading, it might give you the time to finish the dishes.  Or check your email.  Or close your eyes and breathe.  The Littles are allowed to read their assigned books whenever they want, so long as they finish them within the allotted time.  You can bet your boots I had this idea on standby, though, in case they blew it off.


Living books are simply books that teach in a more conversational way than texts.  They often come across more like stories than factual material, but they are, indeed, full of facts about the subject.  You can go over to Simply Charlotte Mason for a list of hundreds of living books separated by topic, or you can troll your own library for books that are both fictional and factual.  I hate to harp on Charles Dickens again (okay, no I don’t), but A Tale of Two Cities is a great resource for the French Revolution.  You might be surprised at how many novels are also teachers.  Watership Down is full of real information about rabbits.  The Wind in the Willows teaches about river wildlife.  Catching on?  Yeah, that’s the stuff.  That is definitely the good stuff.


There are several ways you can do this.  Have them keep a simple reading log.  Have them write book reports, like I do.  The Littles have to write them in essay form now, but I made up a book report form that they had to fill out in past years.  It’s available as a free download on my Freebies page (scroll to the bottom; I swear, it’s there!).  You could also use a blank notebooking template and have them notebook their books as they read.  Any of these suggestions will not only show you that they’re reading, but help them more fully comprehend what they’re reading about.

Here’s the thing.  You know I crush on literature more than anything else in the world.  That is because I fully believe that no matter how educated I am through schools, nothing I learned in college or anywhere else compares to what I’ve learned from being a lifelong reader.  Engender that in your littles, and you will have given them the greatest gift imaginable–the ability to think intelligently and speak with knowledge.

Now That is the stuff.

Love wins,


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Homeschool Is for the Birds

I don’t know about you, but one of our favorite pastimes in winter is bird watching.  We have feeders in the garden and we keep them full so the cardinasl, snowbirds (dark-eyed juncos), woodpeckers, and titmice have plenty to eat.  Plus, every once in a great while, and at least a couple times per winter, something rare shows up.  That’s the stuff.

Dark-eyed juncos--we call them snow birds

Dark-eyed juncos–we call them snow birds

Because it’s an activity we enjoy so much, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance our experience.  Enter Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s  Project FeederWatch.  This is a winter-long survey FeederWatchKitthat can be joined at any time by people of any age and experience range.  This year, the cut-off date is April 8, so you have plenty of time.  Now, to sign up and get all the goods, there is a price.  I’m not trying to pretty this up.  But it’s only $18, and if you have multiple children, you can all work from one registration.  When you sign up, you’ll receive a FeederWatch Research Kit, which includes a welcome letter, the FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions (which contains bird feeding information and complete project instructions), a full color poster of common feeder birds with paintings by Larry McQueen, a subscription to their quarterly magazine, BirdScope, and a calendar to track your FeederWatch count days.  You’ll also get the year-end report, Winter Bird Highlights.  So it is definitely worth signing up.

But if you’re just interested in the learning experience and can do without the year-end report, there are lots of free resources on the site, as well.  For instance, there are mini pdf versions of the of poster of common feeder birds And a mini hummingbird poster.  And the handbook and instructions booklet.  You can’t enter your data to be counted by Cornell or get Winter Bird Highlights, but you have quite a bit of information to do your own bird watching project at home amongst yourselves.

The site also has an interactive list of 100 common feeder birds.  I mean, you could do a full-on bird lesson just with this website.  It is freaking awesome.  There’s even a section called Educational and Homeschool Resources that has  The Homeschooler’s Guide to Project FeederWatch as a free download.  The pdf has all kinds of cool stuff in it, like a bird diagram, ideas for researching birds, keeping nature journals, and graphing your bird count, types of bird feeders, and ideas for feeders your littles can make.

Rock much?

Why yes, yes it does.

Here’s the thing.  Bird watching is a great way to get in your nature study in the winter.  Registering for Project FeederWatch (go ahead, $18 isn’t much, is it?) means your littles are truly contributing to science and that may spark them more than anything else.  Plus, it really is important to help with the data.  For the birds.  Because we haven’t given up trying to right our wrongs and save our planet, have we?

pine cone bird feeder

In the meantime, make a pine cone bird feeder to get you started.  Easy peasy–just find a large pine cone, slather it in peanut butter, then roll it in birdseed.  Tie a string to the top to hang it and swing it from the nearest tree.  Your littles will get to see more birds and the birds will truly appreciate you.  We make them every year, because it’s a fun way to spend a winter morning, and we love feeding the birds.

Have fun!

Love wins,



Story Time: A Pocket Full of Kisses

Celebrate Valentine's Day and learn all about raccoons with free printables, crafts, and snack recipes from Story Time: A Pocket Full of Kisses.

Valentine’s Day is not far away, and many of us homeschoolers are looking forward to some easy peasy lessons to go along with it.  If you’re expecting red and pink here, get over it. I think Valentine’s Day should be about All Kinds of love, so we’re going to look at Audrey Penn’s beautiful book, A Pocket Full of Kisses.  It’s blue.  And it’s about the best kind of love there is.
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Seek Help When You’re At the End of Your Rope

Play games to learn fractions with this incredible book: Fabulous Fractions

Can I tell you how excited I am about this new math tool we’ve been using?  Here’s a shocker–it’s a book.

See, I’ve always known my Littlest is a hands-on learner.  Like his beautiful father, he has to get his hands dirty for the concept to stick.  And once it sticks, he owns it.  So going through his Saxon math book and learning concepts through words just wasn’t working the way I wanted.  I have adapted every other subject to include a bit of dirty work for my little man, and I even made some games for him to play to learn multiplication and division, but when we moved on to fractions he foundered again.  So I sought help.  On Amazon, of course.
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