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Prepping for College Lit in Your Homeschool

Get ready for college and earn early college credit by taking the CLEP exams. Find out how @studydotcom can help your kids prepare

My boys are now old enough that instead of dreaming about college one day, we’re starting to think about it seriously.

We’ve had a literature-rich curriculum throughout their schooling, and I’ve always been pretty sure they’re prepared to handle any lit courses they have to take at whichever college they choose.  But even I can’t think of everything.

As we’ve been reading great works like The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, and Animal Farm this year, we’ve also been considering how to better prepare them for entering college.  And I’ve found something brilliant that I just have to share with you.

Plus, I’m giving away FREE 6-MONTH SUBSCRIPTIONS to 3 lucky readers!
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25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 7 Winter

omvcxIt’s sweltering outside.  But at least it’s not raining, right?  Nevertheless, I’m doing that weird human thing where in the midst of the season I was praying for in January I am looking forward to the cool-off.  Why can’t we just be happy with what we have?  Well, I don’t know.  Sometimes it’s too hot and sometimes it’s too cold and sometimes it’s too wet and sometimes it’s too dry… We don’t live on a perfect planet.  And that’s okay.  Because it gives us something to look forward to.  In honor of that, today’s book recommendations are going to be good additions to a winter study.  The season, ice, snow, snowflakes, hibernation and other animal habits–all of those things make great science studies.  So how about a little literature to go along with it?


The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

My favorite thing about winter is the very first snowfall.  I don’t care if it happens in the daytime or the dark of night, I always go for a walk in it and listen to the hush of it, the silence of the earth as it welcomes the flakes, the stillness that happens at no other time, ever.  I always take these walks by myself.  Later, after the snow has really accumulated, that’s the time for Littles.  The Snowy Day is about that littles’ time.   It’s about a little boy’s day in the snow, and the wonder he encounters in a totally transformed city.  You’ve probably read it.  Read it again.  It’s a great celebration of the winter season.


The Mitten by Jan Brett

I’m totally smitten with The Mitten.   (Like how I did that?)  This story is not only a good winter tale, it’s a wonderful reminder to share and be good to others. As all the animals pile one after another into a single mitten, your little will giggle and wonder how they all fit.  And when a sneeze tumbles them all out into the snow, you’re sure to get an outright laugh.  Brett’s wonderful illustrations are heartwarming, helping to keep the chill off of this wintry tale.


A Bird in Winter by Stepanie Girel and Helene Kerillis

This book combines two of my favorite things–Literature and great art.  It’s based on Pieter Breugel’s painting The Hunters in the Snow.  The premise is that of a young girl who nurses an injured bird back to health.  It is also a good introduction to the Renaissance and to Breugel’s artwork.  If you don’t know Breugel, he was a Renaissance painter from the Netherlands who was known for his landscapes, especially peasant scenes.  I have long been fascinated with his work because it is so simple and true.  The book contains a reproduction of the original, a picture of which I’m posting below.  Because it’s amazing.

hunters in the snow

Frost (Book 1 of the Frost Chronicles) by Kate Avery Ellison

Frost is the first book in a superb YA series set in a world that is entirely immersed in winter.  Monsters lurk in the wintry woods, and Lia, the protagonist, has to discover their secrets in order to protect her younger sister and her crippled brother.  When her sister discovers a fascinating stranger who needs their help, Lia is forced to go against everything she has ever been taught to keep them all out of danger.  Listen, there are 5 books in this series, and every single one of them is worth the read.  Each book has its own twists and turns and the overall story is well-planned.  Full of action, romance, and mystery, I think it will suck in any teen you gift it to.  Oh, and it’s about winter.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Well.  I had to include Dickens.  You’re not really surprised, are you?  (And The Shining by Stephen King .might not really be appropriate here.)  I know, I know, there are about 10 million films out there based on it, including a Muppet version, and you’ve seen them all.  It. Is. Not. The. Same.  Even the Littles agreed that reading it exceeded watching it on film a million times over.  Since it is set at Christmastime, every scene is in winter. And it’s Dickens.  So you can’t beat it.  Read it.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Set in Russia, Tolstoy’s epic novel of love gone wrong (and right) is a long read, but well worth it.  It’s at the top of my list of all-time faves because of its close look at Russian classes and life and the numerous story lines that tie together and unravel so beguilingly.  Believe me, in the end Anna isn’t even the star of the story, though she is, perhaps, the most tragic part.

Even if you’re just craving a cool-off right now, all of these books are excellent for bringing winter into your mind so that you can almost feel it.

Now if you can excuse me, I’m going to go get in the pool. And pretend I’m a polar bear.  In the Arctic.

Love wins,


Day One: Donkeys             Day Two: Summer            Day Three: Water

Day Four: Insects              Day Five: Owls                 Day Six: Bears

25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 5 Owls

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This post contains affiliate links

So elusive that even if you live in the country mostly all you get is a ghostly hoo-hooo in the very late evenings or very early mornings, owls are amazing creatures.  The sheer size of the great horned owl is awe-inducing.  Here on the farm, we become aware of their presence when a chicken or rabbit mysteriously disappears overnight.  I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but we only cage our rabbits when they are pregnant.  We release mama and babies into the yard when the babies are about half grown.  I love rabbits.  I can’t stand to see them in cages.  So we have a large fenced area by the barn where they are able to dig burrows and nibble grass and really live.  Mostly without fear of predators.  But the downside of all that freedom is that owls can swoop into the yard at night and snatch them up.  It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.  And don’t even talk to me about raccoons.

Owls make for a great study.  There are so many books about them, so many characters based on them… you can even purchase owl pellets to examine in your homeschool.  If you don’t know what those are, they’re the clump of bones and fur an owl spits back out after it eats an animal whole, keeping only the good stuff to digest.  There are so many amazing things to do when studying owls.  So here are a few really good books to include in your owl study.  You know, to make them seem less like rabbit thieves and more like the majestic creatures they really are.


Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is one of my favorite authors.  She writes so man different things for children, she can’t be put into a genre.  Owl moon is about a father who takes his child ‘owling.’ That is, looking for owls under the moonlight on a clear winter night.  One of the things I love about this book is that it is told from the child’s point of view in the first person, and it never reveals the gender of the child.  So whether you have a boy or a girl, he or she can relate to the child as his or her own gender.  A cool touch to a truly lovely book.  The story is told in free verse, and the imagery is there even without the simple, haunting illustrations by John Schoenherr.  Just don’t be surprised if your little asks you to go owling.   So dress warm.


Owl and Moon by Heather Swick

This cute book, told in rhyme, has perhaps the most expressive owl I’ve ever seen.  The grumpy guy hates being the only person up at night.  He wants a friend.  But the is moon only other thing awake all night like he is.  Thing is, he’s stuck down here, and the moon is stuck up there.  What’s an owl to do?  I think your littles will enjoy looking at illustrations as much as they will enjoy the story, and this book definitely reminds them how different life is for nocturnal animals.


The Owl Who Became the Moon by Jonathan London

This beautiful book is one of our favorites.  The Littles made me read it to them over and over for years.  Not that I minded.  It is a slow-paced, sparsely worded poem set against a backdrop of gorgeous illustrations.  It’s actually a great bedtime story because of its pace, but don’t doubt that it will engage your littles any time of the day.  It makes the owl even more mysterious than we already think it, and a little mystique is a good thing.


Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien

The owl in this tale is mean and frightening (but he would be from the eyes of a mouse.  Mouse is a delicacy for owls.) but he also Has The Answers, as any good owl would do.  I don’t know why owls became a symbol of wisdom in our culture, but it makes for some interesting characters.  Like the Tootsie Roll Pop owl.  Who is very cool.  This book could spark discussions about owl diet and habitat, and maybe even get your littles interested in researching the folklore about owls.  Not too shabby for a story about a bunch of rats.


The Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky

This is the first book in a series of 15.  We read it several years ago, and were fascinated by all the information we picked up from it about owls.  It actually sparked our first owl pellet dissection, and we were just reading it for fun.  It’s about Soren, a young owlet who gets pushed out of the nest by his greedy older brother (my doves do this, so there’s really a basis in reality).  Rather than getting mauled by a predator, Soren gets picked up by mysterious owls who take him to St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, and there his adventures begin.  When he realizes there is something very wrong in the school, Soren and his friend have to fight against the teachings and discover what is going on.  Lots of owl science here, as well as a look at human nature and politics.


Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

This amazing environmetally-charged book is about Roy, who moves to Florida and discovers a mysterious running boy.  He follows the boy, curious as to where he’s always running.  What follows is an adventure in anti-development.  Roy and the running boy team up to stop developers from destroying the habitat of burrowing owls.   This is great for discussions about being kind to the environment and protecting habitats and species that sometimes get pushed aside in the name of progress.  Plus, it’s big fun, and your littles will enjoy the antics of the boys as they try to stop the construction of a new pancake house.

I could probably go on about owl books all day.  I mean, I didn’t even mention my favorite owl, Owl.  But if you don’t know how much I love the Pooh books, then you need to subscribe and keep reading.  (It’ll probably get annoying, even. haha)

Love wins,


25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool: Day 4 Insects


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Insects are fascinating to littles.  Bugs lead such different lives than ours, and there are so many different kinds.  Planning an insect study is one of the easiest things to do.  All you need is your backyard and a magnifying glass, maybe a bug catcher if you’re so inclined.  There are tons of nonfiction books out there to teach your littles the basics of the insect world.  There is a plethora of information and free notebooking pages, worksheets, and unit studies on the interweb.  Today I’m going to tell you about some fiction books you can add to your study to help give life to the nonfiction.  And remember, bees are too heavy to be able to fly.  They fly anyway.  So might we.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

No collection of insect books would be complete without Eric Carle.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is my favorite, but he has many to choose from.   The bold, bright illustrations are without peer, and they lend themselves incredibly well to easy crafting.  If you’re studying bugs other than caterpillars, visit Carle’s website for a full list of his insect books.



Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

This book’s simple illustrations put all the focus on its inchworm star. “I am useful,” he says, “I measure things.”  The inchworm happily and proudly measures all manner of things until a nightingale threatens to eat him unless he can measure her song.  “I’ll try,” says the inchworm.  As the nightingale sings, the inchworm measures, inch by inch, until he he inches out of sight.  So cute, and great introduction for littles to these tiny bugs.



Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

In this adventure-filled story, two ants decide to stay in a sugar bowl and eat rather than return to their ant hole.  Their kitchen escapades include being poured into a cup of coffee, a short, heated stay in a toaster, and being stunned by an electrical outlet.  If your littles are curious as to how the ants survive all these exploits, think about that time your kitchen got raided by the tiny insects.  Killing them seems Impossible.  Ants are pretty vigorous dudes.  The tale ends when the ant troop comes back to the kitchen and the two bad ants gratefully return home.  The large illustrations of magnified objects will fascinate your littles.


The Summer of the Mourning Cloak by Kathleen Nelson

The Mourning Cloak is a butterfly also known as the Camberwell Beauty.  In this lovely tale, 11-year-old Hyslop and her mother go to England to visit her mother’s old friend for the summer.  A crotchety old man who lives on the property is an avid butterfly collector, and he grudgingly takes Hyslop under his wing, teaching her about butterflies and asking for her help in finding a Mourning Cloak for his collection.  There is a lot of information about butterflies in this book, which makes it one of those that teaches without littles realizing they’re being taught.  There is also a tale about relationships, about surviving in difficult circumstances, and about finding hope.  Hyslop is a lovable little girl who is doing her best to navigate a troublesome world.


How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

My Littles love this book.  Sure, it doesn’t really teach a lot about worms, but worms are in it, and Billy’s adventures in worm-eating are great for belly laughs.  And cringes.  He has to eat 15 of the slimy buggers in 15 days.  Fear Factor for littles!  The different ways the boys come up with to dress up the taste and texture of worms… Classic.  This one will definitely have your littles laughing and engaged.  It’s a great read even if you aren’t studying worms.


In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus

This fascinating fantasy is about Henri Bell, who is sent to America from England to live with his great-aunt.  An accidental conversation with a fly on a boring day reveals Henri’s ability to speak with insects.  What follows is rollicking adventure including a flea circus, a  beetle army, and–of course–the search for the Goliathus Hercules, which takes Henri to British Malaysia.  It’s filled with wonderful illustrations and lots of entomological information, and would make a fantastic addition to any insect study.

There are so many more stories about insects out there, but these are a few of our faves.  Nothing is more fun than imagining what a butterfly is really thinking or picturing having a conversation with an ant.  Oh, and eating… worms?

Love wins,


Day One: Donkeys

Day Two: Summer

Day Three: Water