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

Make an Awesome Novel Study Guide

Speaking of letting them lead, we were supposed to round out our literature year with Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.  We were all set to read it, having finished The Story of Dr. Dolittle.  Then my Littles surprised and humbled me once more by asking, “Mama, can we read The Hobbit instead?”

index

I was raised on The Hobbit.  Tolkien was a household hero.  So for my Littles to actually request the book made me nothing short of ecstatic.  I wanted them to really get the full effect of the novel–light (good) versus dark (evil), and secret maps, lost treasures, fantastic characters and courage beyond imagining.  So this called for no ordinary study guide.

IMG_20150421_092911738It called for this.  Not just a folder or binder with some notebooking pages and worksheets thrown in, but a study guide that made them feel like part of the adventure.  So the first thing I did was Google a map of Middle Earth and Thorin’s map showing the way to the Lonely Mountain.  I printed them out and we tea-stained them to make them look old.  We also tea-stained a bunch of lined paper and some worksheets we would be using.  I got out my handy-dandy woodburner and burned the edges of the maps and of the folders (in this case, I three-hole punched manilla folders because they were already the right color), and the Littles glued their maps of Middle Earth to the front.

IMG_20150421_092923295

We glued Thorin’s map into the inside cover.  That way as the company travels to the Lonely Mountain, we can follow their path on both maps.  We used binder rings to add the notebooking paper and worksheets to the folder because I’ve found they are easier to use than brads when you’re dealing with these types of folders.

IMG_20150421_093022454

We didn’t have a lot of worksheets for this guide, but I love to have them keep a character list, especially for books with this many characters.  (I mean, the awesome thing about The Hobbit is that there are pretty much 15 main characters.  15.  Sure, some of the dwarves and even Gandalf get relegated to minor characters throughout the book, but you still have to keep them straight in your head.)  I made this simple worksheet, we tea-stained it and burned the edges… Voila–a worksheet that fits our theme.

IMG_20150421_093033634

As usual, we mostly use this folder for answering daily questions about our reading and doing fun writing exercises like making up dialogues between two characters who don’t ever really speak in the book.  The Littles enjoy it more when they know they helped create such a cool place to keep their work.  And Littlest Cannot Wait till we’re done reading so he can use his maps for play.  With only 2 weeks of school left, he doesn’t have long.

Making this kind of study guide is easy and fun and adaptable to almost any adventure story.  In fact, we did one for Robinson Crusoe two years ago that was made to look like a journal.  If I can dig one out, I’ll take a pic and post it for you later in the week.  In the meantime, keep making literature fun!

Love wins,

KT

Missing Out on Mythology

While perusing my many homeschool sources the other day, I read an article that disturbed me.  The author was listing some books she was using in her homeschool and she wrote that she had left one out (she didn’t mention the title) because it was a mythology book that wasn’t Christian-friendly.

I admit, I was a bit confused by this.  What book on mythology could possibly be Christian-friendly? was my first thought.  By definition, mythology books aren’t about Christianity.  They’re about the myths of other religions.  And at one time, the stories in them were considered as factual as we consider the Bible.  I understand completely that some parents might choose to leave certain things out of their curriculum because they are at odds with the family religion. What I don’tgreek arch understand is leaving out such a big chunk of human history because people no longer believe in it.  How is it possible to learn about Greek architecture without learning who all those statues and temples and relief sculptures represent?  How do we learn about Roman sculpture without learning about the religion that often inspired it?

Just as important, we shouldn’t keep our children from knowing these amazing stories.  The reason they have been passed down through hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years are the same as for any good story.  They touch us, they teach us about human nature and human existence, they make us remember we are not alone.  Mythology is a rich part of our past.  Without it, to what can we compare Christianity or any modern religion?  When we don’t know where we have been, our path to where we are going is harder to navigate.  I have said this many times about all types of history, and really, at this point, that’s all mythology is.  History.  It doesn’t have to have a Christian bent.  It just has to teach us something.

I hope you, my dear readers, are secure enough in your beliefs to acknowledge that mythology does indeed have something to teach your children.  Otherwise, they are going to miss out on a lot of really engaging stories that will give you a starting point to teach them so many different things.  I mean, where else will you get the opportunity to say, “This is not what we believe, and here’s why,” without sounding like your arguing Against something instead For something?

Plus, it makesgreen myth teaching about the Greeks and Romans (and even the Celts) so much more fun.  Not for you.  For your littles.  Who just might learn a lesson better from a story than in any other way.

What are your thoughts on teaching mythology in your homeschool?  If you don’t do so for religious reasons, I would love to hear your rationale.  If you do, regardless of your belief system, let me know what made you decide to include it.  Either way, I will continue to include mythology in the Lit Mama Homeschool curricula.  Remember, the world wouldn’t be the same without it.

Love wins,

KT

My Other Obsession

Have I ever told you about my complete enthrallment with binders?  For any type of paper organization, I am a binder girl.  With the help of a good three-hole punch, nothing ever gets lost.  I keep track of my blog with a binder.  I keep track of my diet with a binder.  I keep track of my bills in a binder.

As a homeschooling mama, I utilize binders in lots of ways.  It can get expensive, but I’ve found that in this instance, garage sales are my friend.  I can usually find them for about 25 cents.  I once picked up a whole box of binders (had about 20 in it) for $2.  That’s the cost of One in the store!  I can’t tell you how I happy-danced back to the car.  Here’s why:

chemistry binder front chemistry binder inside

   We use binders to keep track of our worksheets, to do notebooking and lapbooking, to write vocabulary words and take notes, for everything from science to writing to reading to history.  It’s like having the whole class in one convenient place.

When we begin each class, the Littles just pull out their binders and turn to the next blank page or worksheet.  They don’t lose any information to the bottomless pits that can become of their book boxes.  If we have to refer back to something for some reason, we can easily find it.  If I decide to test their memories with a quiz, they know where to look to study.

twist binder front

This is a pic of our Oliver Twist study guide binder.  The book is long and there is a lot to be gleaned from it, so the study guide is over 200 pages.  It’s packed with vocab and study questions and directions for activities, such as crafts, art projects, geography studies, and even some health and social studies projects.  It’s wonderful to just be able to open it to the next chapter and have it sitting in front of them while they read the book.

little twist binderOf course, we finished Oliver Twist today (a little early; we read three chapters.  None of us could wait till next week to read the end!), so this binder will be filed away with the others we’ve filled over the years, on a shelf in their bedroom where all that knowledge is at their fingertips and in their own handwriting!  That’s my favorite part about using a binder–once you’re done, everything you’ve learned stays protected in one ‘handy-dandy notebook.’ (A Blue’s Clues reference they are still somehow young enough to appreciate! haha)

I can’t sing the praises of binders for homeschool families enough.  If you’re like me and you love the use of worksheets AND notebooking AND lapbooking, you can keep it all in one convenient place.  We hole-punch construction paper for lapbooking and just add it to the binder.  A little different from the file folders we started out in, but actually neater, too.

If you can’t afford binders, or have a class that just doesn’t require all that space, the next best thing is a 3-prong folder.

art history binder insideYou know, those folders you can get at Walmart for 15 cents during the back-to-school sales.  We’re using this one for art history this year.  As you can see, we even use lapbook elements in the middle of our notes sometimes.

It took me about a year to realize I could incorporate my binder obsession into our homeschool, and another year until it became the way I keep Everything organized.  Even my school calendars and curriculum plans.  The only thing we don’t use binders for these days is math, which we do in plain old notebooks.  I wish I would have used binders sooner.  So I’m hoping you’ll like the idea and use it as well.  Because if I can help make things easier for you, then I’m a happy binder-lady.

Do you have a tool that seems obvious but that most people might not think about implementing?  If so, share it with me.  I like my life to be made easier too!

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  If you’re wondering about the little scraps of paper on the binders in the pics, well, they’re covering up a name of course!  They come off for school work. 🙂

Bedtime Stories

I have a secret.  And fortunately my beautiful husband doesn’t read my blog, so I can tell my secret to you, my curious reader.

When all my boys were little, from the womb in fact, I read them bedtime stories.  I have very fond memories of my dad or my brother reading me stories at bedtime, and later of climbing into bed with a book I chose myself, watching those lines and squiggles on the pages become a world in my mind, taking me places and on adventures I may never get to have.  In fact, those adventures went a long way toward turning me from a city slicker to a farm girl without ever looking back.  There is still nothing cozier to me than burrowing into the covers at night with a book or my Kindle and reading until my eyes drift shut.  I do it every night.

You know that my Littles and I read a chapter aloud together every day in class, and I have mentioned (over and over again) that I think engendering a love of reading is the biggest educational gift you can give your little ones.  I haven’t written much about extracurricular reading, but I enforce it.  The boys are required to read at least one book every four weeks.  I developed a book report-starter worksheet that lays out everything I expect in a report in question format, and the Littles have to fill one out for every book, writing two full reports from those worksheets per semester.  This is to ensure they are really reading on their own.

That’s not my secret.

My husband is a firm believer in ‘bedtime is bedtime,’ and when you go to bed, you turn out the lights and go to sleep.  But when the Littles came to me one night and whispered, “Mommy, can we read our books in bed?”  I didn’t hesitate.  With a wicked grin I whispered back, “Oh, please do.”  They’ve gotten caught a couple times.  Their sweet father reminded them that if they want to read they should go to bed earlier.  Behind his back, I slowly winked and shook my head.

Read, my beautiful boys.  Whenever you want to, especially at bedtime, let those adventures and strange places and interesting characters lull you into pleasant (or even outrageous) dreams.  Read while you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re riding in the car, while you’re waiting for your brother to finish his chores.  Never, never believe anyone who says, “Now is not the time to read.”

Just don’t tell Daddy.

Love wins,

KT