The Big Book Pile-Up Reading List

The Big Book Pile-Up Reading List

Big Book Pile Up large photoThe Big Book Pile-Up came from my desire to get our read-aloud time out of the rut it is in. Our book choices sometimes feel uninspired. Our enthusiasm waning, not because we don’t love reading aloud together, but because reading aloud with a toddler (and this toddler in particular) has its challenges. I am determined not to let this become an excuse. Reading aloud is too important for the intellectual and emotional development of our children to allow ourselves to become apathetic in our attempts.

With World Read Aloud Day coming up on March 4th, I decided to give our read-aloud time a kick-start, to bring it from mediocre to the joyful family time I know it can be. Together with my children, we created a list of book categories to introduce or reacquaint us (and you if you choose to join us and I really, really hope you do!) with books of all kinds. Not only will we meet great books and characters and ideas but we’ll get to know each other better through our discussions and just enjoy spending time together. The list of suggestions offers a variety of genres and topics and is meant to be a spring of inspiration. I am not sure how we will approach the list just yet. Will we start at the top? Bottom? Somewhere in the middle? Use it as more of a checklist and read a selection each day? I do know that we will try to read from a variety of sources; picture books, novels, stories from children’s literary magazines, and whatever else we can get our hands-on. We may add other genres or topics that spark our interest or skip the ones that just don’t seem to be working for us right now. The most important thing is that we’ll read together everyday!

We’ve got a trip to the library planned in the next few days and an amazon cart brimming with some books that I want to make sure we read even if we can’t find them at our local library.

Each day I’ll be sharing what we’re reading and how our adventure is going. I hope that you’ll do the same!

Here’s the reading list!

  1. Read a picture book
  2. Read non-fiction
  3. Read a Newberry award winner
  4. Read a book about a famous person
  5. Read some poetry
  6. Listen to an audio book
  7. Read a newly published book
  8. Read a book you’ve read before
  9. Read an alphabet book
  10. Read a book about food and cook together
  11. Read a classic book
  12. Read a Greek Myth
  13. Read some Shakespeare
  14. Read a fairy tale
  15. Read a version of the same fairy tale from another country
  16. Read about history
  17. Read about math
  18. Read about nature
  19. Read about friendship
  20. Read from a book by your favorite author
  21. Begin a chapter book
  22. Read a book about art
  23. Read a book about music
  24. Read a rhyming book
  25. Read a book by an author you’ve never read before
  26. Read a book about a science topic
  27. Read a fable, folktale, or tall tale
  28. Read a fantasy
  29. Read a wordless book
  30. Read a book that has won the Caldecott Medal

Happy Reading!

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The Big Book Pile-Up

The Big Book Pile-Up

Big Book Pile Up large photo

World Read Aloud Day is March 4th! My family and I have decided to use this day as an excuse (as if we need on :-)) to be more intentional and generous with our read-aloud time together. We already have a solid habit of reading at bedtime, but I have to admit that our daytime reading has been less than consistent lately. Besides that, we have a whole slew of books about a whole bunch of different topics piled up in every room. So for 30 days, beginning on March 4th, we will be choosing a different type of book to read each day. We’ve already started brainstorming a list and it is so inviting!

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing our list and linking up some of our favorite book titles. I’ll also have a few fun printables for keeping track of your books as they pile up! This will be a meaningful way to spend some time together. Discover some new books. Enjoy some old favorites, and make the most of these last days of winter.

Will you join us?

We’d love to share the adventure with you! Make sure you click on the “follow” button on the bottom left-hand side of this page so that you’ll get updates and all the lists and fun stuff! And please share this with anyone you think would enjoy reading with their family. The more, the merrier!

February Slump

February Slump

It’s February. Mid-Winter. It’s that time of year when many homeschoolers really begin to feel bogged down. The newness of the year’s studies have long worn off. The excitement of the holidays and the new year have ended. And if you live where there’s snow this time of year, you’re likely buried, stuck inside. Your house, no matter how large, doesn’t seem to be able to hold the massive amount of energy even one child brims with each day.

This is the time of year when homeschoolers start looking at the next learning cycle, the school year to start in August or September. The curriculum companies must have tuned into the February slump years ago because the beautiful catalogs full of inspirational ideas and new learning materials begin arriving almost daily. The pictures of smiling children and calm parents offer hope that if we buy the right products, the right books for math and spelling and writing, we, too, will find peace.

I am not discrediting the need to offer our children learning materials that inspire and encourage them, but what if the answer doesn’t lie in anything in a catalog, or even outside of our home. What if the answer to that peacefulness we seek is not outside the chaos but within it? What if the chaos is an invitation to be ever more present, to put aside distractions, and to enter into a closer relationship with our child? What if the chaos is a call to love? A call to take a break from the regular day-to-day and create a space of solace for our families.

But how can we do this when the days just keep racing forward and our hopes for the year seem to be buried in the snow? The answer is simple: nourish. Nourish ourselves and our families. Our hearts and minds and bodies. Take a break from the regular day, even when anxiety of what is left unfinished begins to creep in. Take time to create. Paint. Draw. Cook and bake. Dance. Laugh. Listen to music. Make some of your own.

And read. Read a lot. Read to each other. Listen to books read by professional readers. Let the beauty of language well-written soak into you. Snuggle close. Allow this to be a time of togetherness. Talk together. And listen. Allow the slowness of February to bless you rather than burden you. Let go of expectations and just be, even if just for an hour. Use this time to reaffirm your intentions, the ones that can’t be bought in a catalog. When we honor the stillness, we teach our children to do the same, and that lesson is greater than any that they would learn if we just keep rushing through.

Trust the Child

Trust the Child

I was going to share the various educational philosophies on the continuum of homeschooling in somewhat of an order, starting with the most teacher-directed and moving toward the most child-directed. But this post is begging to be written. These words want to be heard, even if only by my own heart.

You see, we began our homeschooling journey in a very teacher/parent-directed fashion. Over the years, we have dabbled and immersed ourselves in so many styles of homeschooling that I can confidently say we are completely eclectic in our approach. It varies based on the child and the season of our lives together. But today, I need to share about our homeschooling journey with our oldest. He is, after all, the one who has had to endure our trial and error more than any of the others.

Over the last week, this boy has spent between 6-8 hours a day intensely focused on learning. If you had told me last year or even last month that I would witness this passion and intensity with this child right now, I would not have believed you. In many ways, he has been the most challenging to parent and teach. He has high expectations and does not settle. He has never been one to do something just because I told him he needed to. He has to see value and purpose or he’s not going to give it his time or his best effort. Most people would say, “Well sometimes you just have to do what you have to do whether you like it or not.” And that is true. Sometimes. There are many times when he puts away all of the dishes or folds three loads of laundry or cleans the bathroom. Not because he particularly wants to, but because he sees the value in it but even more importantly, he respects that we, his parents, really appreciate his help. His willingness to help has come in the past year as he has grown and matured. I believe it has come because we have allowed him more freedom and space to be himself.

From the beginning, this boy has had a mind of his own and in the beginning we saw this as a hindrance and not as the gift that it is. So it only makes sense that the homeschooling we did in his early years did not meet his needs. Even though we took his interests into consideration, I heavily directed his learning. Over the years and in and out of educational philosophies, we would find things that worked and many things that didn’t. Reading real, living books, like Charlotte Mason suggested, works. Giving a narration summarizing what we read, doesn’t. Using art as a medium to expression works, but not if it’s required.

What has always worked is giving him time and space to learn on his own terms. This doesn’t mean he’s left alone to figure it all out.. We offer guidance and resources for the projects he has chosen. Right now his day involves computer programming, learning about electronics through on-line science videos, taking pictures and videos and writing about his projects, and doing some traditional math and spelling work because he knows he’ll need it for his future projects, and playing the violin and drums. His days are very full and he’s happy. Our relationship is at its best. This child, with a mind of his own, is honoring his true nature. I like to reframe his education and his approach to life as ‘self-directed’ because that is what he is. He is motivated and immersed in meaningful ,self-directed, self-selected learning.

Our journey has allowed us to trust in ourselves so that we, in turn, could trust in our child. There were days when I felt my confidence in our relaxed approach flicker, but thankfully my trust in my child was greater than my fears. Otherwise I never would have had the privilege of witnessing the beauty of this boy in his element. It took time and patience and many, many ups and downs, and all of these will be put to the test in the years to come, but I will continue to trust.

Less is More?!

Less is More?!

For those of you who don’t know us in real life, there are eight of us. And we live in a cozy 2 bedroom house, that is made even more cozy by the fact that there are eight of us sharing 1400 square feet! When we bought our home, we had four children ages six and under. Within three and a half years of moving in, our family increased by two. Somehow our stuff seemed to increase by a million. Every nook and cranny of our living space was full of toys and books, crayons and clothes, and all sorts of other things that I didn’t even know we had.

Don’t get me wrong, our home was still livable. We definitely weren’t the next story on Hoarders, but we were sick and tired of all the clutter and chaos that we felt every day. Since we homeschool, we are home a lot! We can’t just close our eyes and pretend like the stuff isn’t taking over. We have to deal with it or push it aside and keep hoping it will magically disappear.

We definitely did the latter more than the former for a long while. But at some point something shifted. Over the past year, I began reading some books and blogs about minimalism. I laugh even as I write this because the very idea of minimalism with a large family sounds like an oxymoron. At first I wanted to throw everything out and jump into the 100 Thing Challenge. Fortunately for my family, I was still too sleep-deprived from nursing an infant all night long to have the energy to haul everything out. Even though I was inspired, I didn’t have the energy to follow through.

In my search for more inspiration (and to prove to my husband that I was not crazy), I came across Nourishing Minimalism, a great blog about a family of 8! Yes, 8! And they follow a minimalist approach to many aspects of their life. So, I immediately subscribed to this blog and poked around the archives looking for the secret of how I could make this happen for my family.

What I found was that I didn’t really want to be a minimalist in the strictest sense of the word, mostly because it would mean giving up my extensive book collection, and that, well….that is just wrong! J I did realize, though, that what I wanted was peace. I wanted the space to think clearly, to spend time with my children and my husband, for my home to be a place of comfort, not discontent.

I had long held the notion that less is more, yet my home did not reflect that. I felt perplexed as to how to move my family beyond the comfort of their stuff, and into the joy of owning less.

Then came the challenge, 2015 in 2015! Get rid of 2015 items in the year 2015! The timing was perfect. My motives were sincere. I was acting out of love for my family and not out of frustration. I was ready to do the slow and steady work of clearing out the excess from our lives.

We printed the blank chart with all of its 2015 blank boxes. We talked with the children. Explained what we proposed to do. Set some goals as a family. At 500 items we would go out for ice cream. At 1000 items, ice skating together. 1500 items meant a campout in the living room with movies and popcorn. 2015 items, a baseball game. All of the goals set as a family with a focus of spending more time together, the whole purpose for undertaking this challenge in the first place.

So far, we have gotten rid of 946 items. Some were garbage hidden under the beds of little boys. Some were clothes that had been outgrown. Some were toys and books that were no longer being enjoyed. Many, many items were donated. A few were sold. The crazy thing is, we’ve only worked our way through about half of the house, but we’ve done it in five weeks finding an hour here or there. Already our home is easier to maintain. The piles of clutter are disappearing and that sense of peace that we craved is emerging. By clearing out our stuff, we’ve made space for what we really value, and what we can never buy, time for each other.

Classical Education Simplified

Classical Education Simplified

Classical Education. Sounds kind of fancy, doesn’t it? After all, we usually associate the word classical with music that was written and performed by some of the most gifted composers and musicians in history. But what is classical education?

Without going into the whole history of it (there are entire websites devoted to that), classical education is based upon educational values of Western Culture during the Middle Ages and Classical Period. The structure of Classical Education is found in the trivium, of which the three stages are grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Within the trivium, classical education focuses on the seven liberal arts of literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, history, art, and languages. Are you with me so far? I’ll break it down further so that you get a feel for what it looks like.

The grammar stage is the foundation, the first years of schooling, in which the student’s goal is to memorize facts. The rationale is that in the early years, the child is like a sponge, soaking up information, often without even trying. . Lines of poetry, phonics rules, math facts, foreign languages, the stories of history, facts from the world of science and many other things are committed to memory during the grammar stage. It may sound tedious or boring to some, but the young child’s mind is open and ready to receive information.

The second stage of classical education is the logic stage. Within this philosophy of education, sometime around the age of 9 or 10, maybe even 11, depending on the child, memorizing for the sake of it no longer appeals to the child. Now she wants to know ‘why’? It is no longer enough to learn that snow falls in winter. Now she wants to know why. What causes the seasons? How is the snow made?

The child in this stage looks for relationships between ideas, cause and effect, and seeks to find the logic behind concepts and phenomenon. The scientific method takes the place of simply exploring science. While still using hands-on activities, the child is able to work methodically to prove or disprove a hypothesis. All the facts that were memorized in the grammar stage are called upon within the logic stage and serve as tools as the child deepens his understanding of the world.

So far, in the first two stages of classical education, we have seen that the child learns the what, why and how of the concepts and ideas that have been presented to him. In the third stage, the rhetoric stage, the high-schooler/young adult draws upon the knowledge and experience gained in the grammar and logic stages. He now learns to articulate his conclusions and opinions with clarity and in his own unique style. Having a wealth of exposure to a variety of subject areas and disciplines throughout the classical education, the young adult begins to focus more closely on the subjects that she finds most interesting. With the foundation offered through classical education, the student is ready to move forward in the area she chooses.

Within the homeschool world, the most well-known authorities on classical homeschooling are Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Their book, The Well-Trained Mind, contains a wealth of information and an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about this philosophy. Some may find it overwhelming, but as with any resource, it should be used as a tool and not seen as an absolute. Always keep in mind the child in front of you. Use what works, toss the rest!