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

6 Ways Dr. Seuss Rocks Introductory Reading

6 ways Dr. Seuss rocks introductory reading

If you have a little who is at the age when she should be learning to read or he’s just begging you to teach him, you may be feeling a little intimidated by how to start.  But I’m betting you’ve already taught her the ABC song, so the next logical step is to teach what the letters look like.  Once he has that down, the rest is cake, especially if you enlist the help of Dr. Seuss.  There are several reasons you should consider using Dr. Seuss to help your little learn to read.
Continue reading

Homeschooling: How to Get Started

I’m often approached by people who are thinking about starting to homeschool and need some advice.  The two biggest questions are 1) Should I try to homeschool? and 2) how do I get started?

I am never going to tell someone they should not homeschool, so there’s your answer for number 1.  Of course you should homeschool. Duh.

no school like home

As for how to get started, each case is individual, but there are a few things you can do to ease yourself into it.  You know, so it feels a bit less intimidating. ( Hey, I’ve been a new homeschooler; my head spun just as much as the next mama’s.)

  1. Check your state laws.  The very first thing you should do is check the laws in your state so you know what you’re up against legally.  Here in Indiana, the laws are simple.  Your child has to attend school 180 days a year, just like a public school.  You have to keep attendance so you can prove your child has attended school.  Your child has to be up to snuff with the grade level he would attend in public school.  That’s it.  Easy peasy.  But other states have much more strident laws and/or tests that must be passed by the student each year (or each quarter). You have to know what the tests are so you can teach your littles the stuff they need to know to pass them. Also, in some states you have to register your homeschool with the state so they are aware that you are homeschooling.  If your child has been in public school previously, you have to inform the school, in writing, that you are withdrawing him to homeschool. The cool thing about starting with this step is that many state education websites also offer advice on homeschooling, so you get what you give.  Once you know what your state expects of you, you’re ready to move on.
  2. Choose your homeschooling style. There are lots of different ways to teach.  The public school model, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, child-led, unit study… the list is long and extremely interesting.  You can Google any of those styles and find a plethora of information about each on the ol’ interweb.  Personally, I went eclectic.  We pull from all of those styles and more in our homeschool, so you never know what class is going to look like at our house from day to day.
  3. Get guidance.  If you’re not sure where to start, there is a set of books by E.D. Hirsch, jr that starts with What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know and ends with What Your 6th Grader Needs to Know.  I own them all.  I haven’t cracked them open in a good, long while, but when I was starting out, they saved my ass.  I used them as a starting point for most of our lessons for the first 2 years.  They have chapters on Language and Literature, History and Geography, Math, and Science, and each one is literally full of what your little should learn for each grade year.  If you are just starting out, buy the book that applies to your little and take a breath.  You’re armed and ready for action.  If you can’t buy the book or can’t find it, seek other homeschoolers–either near home or on the interweb–and find out what they have done.  It helps to have people to lean on at first and commiserate with.  Believe me, every one of us has been where you are and we have all felt the way you feel.  We wouldn’t be human if we hadn’t.
  4. Choose your curriculum. If you’re like me, you don’t want someone else writing your curriculum for you.  But let me warn you, that entails a whole. lot. of work.  If you have the time and the inclination, it is also a Whole Lot Of Fun.  If, however, you’re happy letting someone else do the work, there are tons of curriculum to choose from.  Some of the ones I’ve heard really good things about are A Beka, Waldorf, Time4Learning, and Classical Conversations.  You can Google that stuff, too.  Do your research.  You don’t want to pick the wrong one, or the most expensive one.  And don’t be too shocked or disappointed if you end up not liking the one you choose.  I know a lot of mamas who have chosen the wrong thing and ended up using it kind of like I use the Hirsch books.  And I know quite a few who have simply ordered new curriculum from somewhere else when they realize the current one is not working.   The great thing about writing your own is that you can do it practically for free.  So if something isn’t working, you just chuck it and find another free thing to replace it.  Again.  A Lot Of Work.
  5. Trust yourself. This is, perhaps, the most difficult piece of advice for a new homeschooling mama or dada to take.  Every homeschooling parent starting out is Absolutely, 100% Certain he or she is doing it wrong.  You will be sure you’re doing it wrong.  You will not be.  You know your kids better than anybody.  You know their interests, how they will best learn, and what it takes to hold their attention.  A little math, a little reading, a bit of history and science… that’s all it takes to provide a school day.  If your littles are smiling and learning (even if it’s just a little bit at first), the rest is just details.  And as you gain experience, the details will start to take care of themselves.
  6. Keep your sense of humor.  You’re gonna need it.  In spades.  Good thing you have one.

You got this, mama.  You got this, Dada.  So go ahead and get started.  I have faith.

Love wins,


Yeah, yeah, there were affiliate links

The Joys of Guided Reading

You’ve probably noticed that I talk about reading and/or literature in almost all of my posts. I probably always will. I’m one of those crazy librarians who can’t think of a better way to learn about the world than to read a good story. (But if you’ve read more than one post here, you already know that.)

May I have your attention, please?

May I have your attention, please?

The Littles and I share a love of both reading and learning.  We look forward to our school sessions and during breaks we genuinely miss school.  Sometimes we pick a book to read together just for the sheer fun of it, even when school is not in session.  Now let me explain our favorite class: Guided Reading. When I say guided reading, I mean reading aloud together, going over vocabulary from the book, answering questions out of study guides I create for each book, and doing some sort of hands-on activity that helps us keep that day’s chapter in our minds. For me, it’s the most important class we do. For one thing, look at the English language practice we get. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, the chance to discuss grammatical twists and turns, and practice understanding how the language works. The boys take turns reading every other page, and we usually do a chapter a day. If they have questions, we can all stop for the answers before moving on. There’s no confusion or passing over a chance for knowledge because their psyches can’t assimilate the lesson. This helps tremendously when we read books from other centuries like Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist (you knew I was going to throw Dickens in there, didn’t you?). Then when we’re done we answer both ‘what happened’ questions and critical thinking questions, because there’s no point in reading a book about the plight of the poor if they don’t know what a plight is or don’t understand just how devastating poverty was in Dickens’ time and is today. Sometimes these books give us the opportunity to explore current events. For instance, has the poverty problem been solved in our world?  And what can we do to help?

Beyond the English language practice, the activities we do might be an art project or a science experiment or anything in between. It’s an opportunity to learn more than just history and language. We can incorporate any subject into these activities, even geography and math. And it’s fun! Guided reading is our very favorite time of the school day.


Right now we’re reading Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.  If you’ve never heard of this gem, let me tell you, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite chapter books for children.  You know how some authors plant you in that slow, lazy childhood summer place so deeply you feel it wrap you up and spirit you away?  This book has the stuff.  It was first published in 1957, so it has that innocence about it that only mid-20th century children’s books have.  To be honest, the reason I chose it for guided reading right now is I’ve been pushing this book at those boys for a couple of years, practically begging them to read it on their own or for book reports, and they kept passing it over for ‘more exciting’ stories.  I was so afraid they were going to miss out on this beautiful, amazing  story because it didn’t have zombies or Greek gods in it.  Solution?  Make it a class.

And you know what?  They Love This Book.  We’ve laughed together over how much they like it after all that stubborn refusal to read it.  And hopefully I’ve convinced them to try a new genre.  Hopefully, as they grow, they will be like me and want to know All The Stories in the world, regardless of genre or age level.  Well, maybe not, since it’s impossible to achieve and it leaves you with this wistful longing to be reading even when you’re having the time of your life.  And wondering every time you pass a house, a field, or another person, what the story is there if you can find it in a book.  Hmm.

Nah, let them be wistful.  So long as they are readers.

Guided reading is an amazing way to dig in deep with your littles, introduce them to books they may not otherwise read, and supplement your learning experience with a lot of fun.  There are novel studies and lesson plans all over the interweb and soon I’ll be opening my own shop to offer you some affordable novel studies so you don’t have to do the work all by yourself!  Pick a book, find some questions and activities to go along with it, and guide your littles through the glorious pages.  And check back here in a few weeks.  I should have several Lit Looking Glass Novel Studies up and ready for you.

Shamelessly plugging.

Love wins,



YA Book Review: The Maypop Kidnapping (And Winner of Cogling Giveaway!!)


Sometimes you just want to read something a little lighter.  Don’t you?  After the created worlds of Ivanovich’s War of Princes and Elizabeth’s Cogling, it was nice to go to Maiden Rock, Maine, and solve a simple mystery with a 13-year-old girl.  I just love sinking into a good middle grade book.  It reminds me of being 12 myself–that age where you’re still a child and you still kind of feel like a child but you also feel so very grown up and ready to make your own decisions.  Such a pivotal point in the human life.  I don’t think we ever forget what it feels like, and fortunately for us, C. M. Surrisi remembers it very well and writes about it even better.

In The Maypop Kidnapping, Quinnie Boyd is (awesomely) a homeschooler, tutored by an amazing woman named Ms. Stillford.  This year, Quinnie’s very best friend, schoolmate, and next-door neighbor, Zoe, has gone to Scotland with her family and a new family is staying in Zoe’s house.  The father is a crime novelist and the daughter is Quinnie’s age, so she will be tutoring with Ms. Stillford alongside Quinnie.  The first day of school comes… and goes.  No Ms. Stillford.  Quinnie is worried but her mom, who is the sheriff, isn’t nearly as concerned.  Quinnie decides to launch her own investigation, intent on finding and rescuing Ms. Stillford.  She enlists the help of her friend and crush, Ben, and the new girl, Mariella–even though she’s pretty sure Ben likes Mariella, which is The Worst.  As the suspects mount up, Quinnie and her friends face danger after danger… and the loss of a lot of cell phones.

This book could have sucked and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, mostly because I Was Had within the first couple of pages.  Specifically by this line: I consider then reject that our new novelist neighbor will look anything like Benedict Cumberbatch or even be as Maine-cool as Stephen King.

Oh. Yeah.  Worship King with me and it’s like you had me at hello.

But this book did not suck.  The voice is perfect–just old enough to hold the interest of your teen and just young enough to engage your tween or younger readers.  What I loved was that while sometimes the danger was quite palpable, no one really got hurt.  And even those crimes that were committed weren’t as serious as may have been supposed.  If you have a little who loves a good mystery, this book is excellent for all ages.  Even us grown ups.

And now on to the exciting news… The Winner of the Cogling e-book giveaway.

Cogling Giveaway

(Drumroll, please.)

The winner is

Hilary L.

Hilary, I’ll be shooting you an email to find out what type of file you prefer.  Congratulations!!  I hope you enjoy Cogling as much as I did.

Love wins,


This post is linked to Literary Musings Monday blog hop

And yes, there were affiliate links.