Art Cabinets and Creative Resource Areas for Your Homeschool

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Three of the most beneficial additions to our home learning environment have been our art cabinet, paper shelf, and art corner. All have been utilized for over two decades and have been catalysts for creative expression and independent art exploration for all eight of our children.

In fact, for some of our learners these resources have been as important (if not more than important) as our home library.

We found having a child-size table near our art cabinet fosters interest and independence—a place where our learners can work comfortably. The cabinet is always available and ready for those ah-ha moments, those sparks of colorful enthusiasm. Having materials readily available has also provided a mode for self-governance (knowing one can choose an activity and engage with said activity while remaining in control of one’s actions). We didn’t expect this added advantage.

Our art resources were not built in one day. In fact, it was just the opposite. One day we began gathering interesting art-related items we already had and put them in a central location—simple steps with long-term positive results. We started small, with what we had.

As we moved through life together, as supplies were left over from projects, we added them to the cabinet. In addition, if a learner discovered something interesting or unique in clearance aisles of the craft store, we added those treasures, too. Our art cabinet was built over time with the things our learners wanted to add. Interest (versus me buying random items I thought might be used) played a big part in the creation.

We’ve had toddlers and preschoolers in our home for thirty years. Keeping our menagerie of construction paper on a slightly higher shelf works best for us. And, the scissors? We keep those tucked away and saved for supervised activity because small hands love to cut!

Maybe you want to start building an art cabinet or center in your home. Yay, you! Here are some of the things we had in our cabinet over the years.

  • Playdough and cookie cutters (letter cutters have been a favorite for preschoolers learning the ABCs)

  • Clay

  • Markers

  • Crayons

  • Chalk

  • Individual chalkboards

  • Watercolors

  • Tempra (in some seasons of life I have removed this from the cabinet and stored it up higher)

  • A container of various size brushes (stored bristle up)

  • Watercolor paper

  • Palettes for mixing paint

  • Sponges in various shapes for sponge painting

  • Glitter (or maybe not - smile-)

  • Sequins

  • Felt

  • Washi tape

  • Fabric pieces

  • Ribbon

  • Yarn

  • Pom-poms

  • Beads

  • Perler beads

  • Tissue paper

  • Paper plates

  • Craft feathers

  • Googly eyes

  • Craft sticks

  • Pipe cleaners

  • Stickers

  • White glue

  • Glue sticks

When our children reached the middle and high school years (and we still had toddlers in the home), we kept more advanced—supplies which needed supervision—in a different area. Those supplies included (at any given time based on interest or electives)

  • Ink for printing

  • Brayers

  • Charcoal pencils

  • Drawing pencils

  • Pastels

  • Oil pastels

  • Sketch pads

  • Watercolors (in tubes)

  • Watercolor paper

  • Acrylic paints (in tubes)

  • Oil paints

  • Canvas

  • Linoleum blocks (to carve for printing)

  • V-shaped chisel (for cutting linoleum block)

Putting together a place where the creativity of your children and teens can be fostered will be well-worth your efforts. As you journey through the process, be sure to ask your learners what they would like to add. Having a say about what goes in the cabinet or what colors of construction paper are needed provides personal buy in while also fueling artistic interests.

The first step can be taken today. Gather up the resources already available in your home.

You will be glad you began the adventure.

Elementary Art Appreciation: Collage Art

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”I am an artist and I never looked at picture books as a means for children to study and appreciate art technique.”

I had just presented my workshop Picture Books, Paper and Paint Brushes to a room of parents eager to learn how picture books could foster curiosity and creativity in children. After sharing engaging titles and practical ideas for art application—the activities I’ve watched children love—attendees were motivated to give art a try.

Picture books are inviting literary tapestry of word and art.

Perhaps you are wondering whether you can take on art appreciation or instruction in your home. YOU can! Yes, it may be messy. If that’s what’s holding you back, give yourself permission to take art outside. There are some days we do just that, especially if I want to cut down on the chances of paint in the grout and glue on cabinet handles. Whether art takes place indoors or out, over time I’ve observed children gain an appreciation for the art they see everyday in the books they love.

And, along the way, they learn they can be an artist, creative and able.

It’s the illustrations in the books they love which inspire them to try art or use it in a new way.

So, what is collage?

Collage is the assemblance of materials—paper, nature, fabric, ribbon, photographs—arranged on a surface. It’s a creative array.

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Children love to explore this art technique. In fact, as they find their creative sweet spot they will discover more items to collage.

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To begin our collage study, I pull picture books from our home library shelves or plan a trip to the local library. The goal is to find as many different examples of collage art used in illustrations as possible. If you are gathering a collection of collage-illustrated picture books, look for

Blackstone, Stella, Ship Shapes (fabric)

Carle, Eric, A House for Hermit Crab (painted tissue paper)

Ehlert, Lois, Pie in the Sky (paper)

Ehlert, Lois, Snowballs (found objects)

Flemming, Denise, Barnyard Banter (found objects)

Lionni, Leo, Swimmy (prints and paint)

Once we collect picture books, we compare illustrations. I spend some time pointing out the different items these author-illustrators utilize to create their illustrations. We talk about the differences and consider what we have around the house which might be used to create collage. We gather those supplies. Generally, I allow my children to gather what they want to use. However, when working with little learners, I may simply supply different types of paper—tissue, news, construction, wallpaper—and some glue. For children practicing cutting skills, I keep blunt-end scissors on hand to encourage their fine motor skills. For the youngest artists, I show them how to create collage with torn paper or let them watercolor on paper which I cut in squares for them to happily glue while the older learners create their masterpieces.

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Sometimes our study of an art technique lasts several days. Other times it’s a perfect rainy afternoon activity. Later at night, I read one or two of the books aloud (great for building language arts and reading skills).

Perhaps you are wanting to dig a bit deeper into the study of collage art. Here are some suggestions:


1. Study artists who use the collage method, especially children's book illustrators. Learn about Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Lois Ehlert, and Denise Fleming. One of our favorite video lessons features Eric Carle in his studio and this trailer for Picture Writer: The Art of the Picture Book.

2. Compare the mediums used by these authors. Try using the artist's techniques with found objects from the around the house. Make a book of the collage pieces created.

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3. Research the history of collage.

4. Visit an art museum. Look for examples of collage art.

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If you are looking for a helpful collage art resource with ideas, check out I Love to Collage! by Jennifer Lipsey. It’s excellent; empowering (especially for kids and parents who think they were born without creativity), and written with just the right amount of encouragement needed to fuel inspiration. The author explores a multitude of mediums—tissue paper, newspaper, painted papers, torn paper, nature findings and more—detailing twenty activities with step-by-step instructions. My girls were particularly interested in the Tasty Treats project which involved painting papers and then cutting shapes to make a yummy treat. The results were an ice cream sundae and cone. Brilliant hues and impressive images (almost good enough to eat) were the end result.

Collage is not the only art technique which deserves attention. Find out more about painting, photography, digital art, clay, print making, and drawing. Your child’s curiosity and creativity might just be the guide you are looking for.

Our Eric Carle Unit Study

(An elementary level, week-long, study with Eric Carle’s beloved picture books.)

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Eric Carle, a talented author/illustrator, inspires young readers with his bold illustrations and teachable content. Our youngest children (preschool to fifth grade) enjoyed a week-long study of Eric Carle’s works. By the end of the week, each child proudly displayed her book of Eric Carle art which was bound with a strip of fabric.

On the first day we re-read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, discussed the life cycle of a butterfly and created our own tissue paper collage caterpillar. We ordered planted plants which attract butterflies and watched a biographical video entitled Eric Carle, Picture Writer. Our children loved learning about the man and story behind the stories. 

On the second day we read The Very Busy Spider and discussed the benefits of hard work. Our preschooler made the sounds of the animals in the book and our elementary children discussed the differences between spiders and insects. We all marveled at the raised web on each page of this engaging picture book. At the suggestion of one of learners, we headed outside to look for webs and spiders. While walking, I remembered I had plastic spider counters. We made and added sets. The older learners made arrays—rows and columns (enter multiplication concept). When it came time to make our own spider art, the fifth grader remembered we had silver glitter glue in the art cabinet, which in her opinion, would make the perfect web. The younger children agreed and soon four very busy spiders were created.

On the third day we read The Grouchy Ladybug. We discussed good and bad attitudes, friendship, manners and the power of the spoken word. Our first grader had a quick review of telling time to the hour, with the help of the clock on each page of Eric Carle's book. Older children found the life cycle of the ladybug fascinating. We Googled ladybugs and watched a few informative video clips. Finally, we made our own ladybugs with wings which opened (thanks to a brass fastener) to reveal the words "thank you".  Google eyes brought life to the ladybug.

On the fourth day we read Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me.  We talked about the phases of the moon and were determined to watch the moon for a whole month to observe the phases. For the young ones, we discussed the difference between fiction and non-fiction. We concluded that the book was fiction because a ladder would never reach the moon. We then compared the illustrations of the books Eric Carle created designed our own fold-out ladder page for our book. Later that evening we read Mister Seahorse, discussed the sea life featured in the book and the important role parents play in the lives of their children. We marveled at the way the male seahorse cares for his young. One learner wanted to make tissue paper seahorses like the ones in the book. A great idea! We used scraps of tissue paper from the previous days to create very colorful and unique tissue paper seahorse.

On the fifth day we wrote a title on the book cover of our art masterpieces (hello copy work, spelling and an explanation of capitalization in titles) and bound our book by weaving a scrap of fabric through three paper-punched holes. The littlest learners enjoyed making paper plate jellyfish to hang from the doorway and hearing me read A House for Hermit Crab.

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Our week didn’t end there! Learning continued. After analyzing and comparing the art of Eric Carle to the work of other artists, we headed back to the library where our youngest ones selected more Eric Carle titles. Our four year old warmly stated, "Eric Carle is my favorite illustrator." Several weeks later, while on yet another visit to the library, I received another welcomed surprise. I mentioned I needed Mister Seahorse for a workshop I was presenting to moms in our homeschooling community. When the library volunteer asked, "Who is the author?" our six year old chimed in, "Eric Carle." YES!

Just what I had hoped...and more!  In addition to the academics we learned and retained, the curiosity and creativity of our four budding artists was fostered.

Our week had been productive, and FUN!

Chores in the High School Years

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This year marks another shift in household responsibilities as our fourth child finished high school, our fifth child continues to move through those years, and two young adult graduates reside at home while working and attending college. All of us are trying to figure out the new normal with new courses and work schedules.

Needless to say, this isn’t our first go-round with adjusting to the schedules of our young adult children while also reconfiguring the completion of necessary daily tasks. (In other words, our experience doesn’t always equate to “we got this”).

When our first child entered high school in the early 2000’s we were broadsided with the thought that we might have to adjust his household responsibilities to make allowance for his new, fuller schedule. Most of the families we knew or books we read added to the confusion with their “they still live there, they still contribute” or “if they are not paying rent, they should be helping” advice.

Honestly, I had to unpack these well-meaning sentiments, the application of which seemed to strain and fray our relationship.

I was pretty sure there had to be a better way, a way we could work together to process and find solutions.

Relationships matter to us.

As our oldest entered high school, his days were full based on the choices he made to weave academics, sports, and service. In the later high school years, he took on a part-time job. Managing his time wasn’t an issue. He was navigating that well, but still had a hard time carving out ten minutes here and there to unload the dishwasher or take out the trash. He was, however, trying to work on it. His heart wanted to serve, but his days were full.

The second high schooler mirrored his brother—academics, sports, and service. He also managed to spend time earning badges on the road to Eagle and mentor younger scouts. Later in high school he, too, had a part-time job. Again, there were only so many hours in the day and his heart reflected an attitude of trying to help where he could. His days were full.

Enter young adults (now graduates) three and four. Different scenarios, different circumstances, same well-intentioned hearts. Again, we are finding the process worthy of mutual care and respect as we find a balance between school, work, and life. It’s a life skill, not something to be demanded or placed upon. And, we get to walk alongside.

But there’s the advice and pressure from other parents. So hard!

I wondered if there were other families facing similar ponderings.

I wondered if our processing would help others in their walk through. On my journey, I came face-to-face with these thoughts:

  • Our high schoolers only has so much time in the day (a real truth for all of us). If I were in any of their shoes (and I have been), I would want someone to coach and process with me, not continue to place demands.

  • Our high schoolers were using time wisely (to the best of their current ability), weaving work and school responsibilities. Again, having been through similar scenarios in life, I remembered I LOVED when people offered grace and an extra hug when I made a mistake and had to try again.

  • When I find myself in a new life season (birth of a baby, health concerns, family needs) it takes me time to adjust. Why would it not be the same for my teens and young adults?

  • Our high schoolers are willing to serve when they are able and obviously high school academics, sports, and service require more time than years prior. How can I be understanding instead of adding pressure?

  • Our high schoolers are in the process of navigating a real-life scenarios - balancing work, school, and life (an important skill which doesn’t happen overnight). I have the ability to believe my high schoolers will figure this out. They need me to be a cheerleader (with my affirming words) of their efforts.

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In the meantime, I discovered

I may have to do a few extra dishes or collect a few extra trash cans. My pondering brought understanding and empathy, potential ways for me to walk alongside as teens and young adults process their shifts in responsibility and life seasons.

My support is more meaningful and helpful than my nagging. My teens and young adults are not any different than I. We face some of the same life challenges and temptations. When I face a snag in life, I’m grateful for understanding, connection and communication verses anger, discouragement, and silence. Alibet, I do appreciate if I am doing something wrong or hurtful (sinful) that someone close to me would help me see the blind spot (another life lesson).

I am still learning (even as I adjust to our fourth graduate’s and our fifth high schooler’s new schedules). I don’t always navigate this process gracefully (though it is my heart to do so) but I am getting better at it. Truthfully, It’s hard to set aside the well-meaning sentiments of “he owes it to us” or the “you don’t have time to add this back on your plate or figure out how to adjust to his new stage of life” mentalities that I hear.

Fifteen years into the process of walking new life seasons with young adult children, I am still pondering, pondering deeper thoughts, thoughts that are important to family life, thoughts I now understand better. They matter! Every. Moment. Matters.


Learning from Life: Hurricanes and Drills

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Hurricanes. Cordless drills. Pop.

This is what’s in our world this week.

This is what’s on the mind of my middle schooler.

Real and relational learning.

Connection and application.

Motivation and retention.

The past week has found our family face-to-face with Hurricane Dorian preparation. There’s been forecasts and projections. Models and movement. It’s in our world and it matters to our children (even if we intentionally keep the television off to lessen possibilities of news overload).

What matters, sticks.

Enter Pop with a bag of drills he brought over in case we needed to board up. Our middle schooler bounced to the foyer. Not only because she admires her grandpa, but because he had something of interest. Drills!

Pop sensed her curiosity (one of the things we love about him). He immediately bent down, unzipped the bag and began telling her stories. As he pulled out each drill, he told her what he appreciated about the functions of the model and mentioned a few jobs it could complete. He talked about his bits and offered explanations of why each might be useful. Oh, and he mentioned the model big brother owned.

Real-life show and tell happened in my foyer.

It was real and relational.

Drills. They’ve been on her mind from the first mention of boards going on the windows. It’s been over for over 72 hours and she’s still pondering, researching, planning. Her learning journey included opportunities to

  • navigate the internet safely to find information

  • ponder other information resources (enter two uncles—each with construction expertise—and more relational moments)

  • conduct impromptu, informal interviews with uncles and more conversations with Pop at family dinner

  • build reading comprehension, skimming, and scanning skills

  • compare costs of drills (and the value of the accessories in combination sets)

  • compare the specifications and applications for drills, hammer drills, and mixers

  • research differences in voltage

  • review and compare measurements as related to bits (1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, and 3/4)

  • build vocabulary: lumens, mortar, thinset, ratchet, lithium, warranty, stud, joist, asset and torque (great Scrabble word!)

  • spell words related to her searches (there’s been a lot of “Mom, how do you spell?”)

  • use computation skills to figure out what’s in her savings and what she spent over the past months

  • predict what she may make in the future

  • ponder ways to gain needed income

Drills. They’re in my middle schooler’s world. They’re real and relational. She’s diving in and digging deep.

Her interest matters!

What’s in the world of your children or teens?

What matters to them?

Take time to ponder, observe, and listen.

Likely there’s learning—rich meaningful, memorable learning taking place. Don’t let it go unnoticed.

Every. Moment. Matters.

Nature Study Resources to Foster Curiosity

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YOU can teach science!

When I began homeschooling twenty-six years ago, one of the topics I felt least prepared to teach was science. What if I couldn’t teach my children what they were supposed to learn? What if I missed something important?  It didn’t matter that I completed a Teaching Science to Young Children course in college and taught science to preschoolers for several years. I still didn’t feel prepared to teach science to my children.

My thinking didn’t seem to make sense. I was “an educator”. The fact is I thought myself into a circle of concerns and questions.

Then came a realization.

Children LOVE being outdoors and they LOVE to ask questions—two factors providing a great foundation from which to work.

Maybe I could teach science?

Years later, I know I can. It’s not about me coming up with great plans and fancy curriculum.

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It’s about me fostering the curiosity and providing engaging resources; being available to listen to ideas and help process information.

The same is true today as I embark on another year with a handful of learners, preschool through high school.  

Perhaps you face the same doubts and similar questions.  

You are not alone.

Your learners may be at different ages and stages. You may live in the city.

Again, you are not alone.

YOU can teach science!

Starting Points

  • Find out what your children want to learn, what interests them. Start there.

  • If there are no hints, start with animals. Most children love animals, of some type.

  • Add real experiences.  Many can be found around your home or community.

  • Provide a field guide or two for found treasures.

  • Gather a pile of inviting non-fiction and picture books.

Need a few leads? Here are some of our favorites.

Non-Fiction Books

Blooms and Plants

From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons

How a Seed Grows, Helene J. Jordan

Planting a Rainbow, Lois Ehlert

Stems and Roots, David M. Schwartz

The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss

The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle

Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens

Insects and Crawlies

About Arachnids: A Guide for Children, Cathyrn Sill

About Insects: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Ant Cities, Arthur Dorros

Are You A Grasshopper? Judy Allen

Bugs Are Insects, Anne Rockwell

The Ant and the Grasshopper, Amy Lowry Poole

The Honey Makers, Gail Gibbons

Tadpoles and Frogs

About Amphibians: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Frogs, Gail Gibbons

Frogs and Polliwogs, Dorothy Childs Hogner

From Tadpole to Frog, Wendy Pfeffer

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Beaches

About Crustaceans: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

A House for Hermit Crab, Eric Carle

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls, Gail Gibbons

Sea Shells, Crabs, and Sea Stars, Christiane Kump Tibbitts

What Lives in A Shell?, Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Fins

About Fish: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Feathered Friends

All About Birds, Cathryn Sill

About Hummingbirds: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Counting is for the Birds, Frank Mazzola, Jr.

Furry Critters

All About Mammals, Cathryn Sill

 

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Blog Posts

Blog post: Vintage Science Books for the WIN!

Use what is available in the backyard, at the park or beach front, on the porch or pond’s edge—wherever you happen to be.

Porch Science  https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2017/5/31/porch-science

Citizen Science https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2017/10/22/citizen-science-get-real-with-learning

Puddle Fun https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2016/10/4/children-learn-from-puddles

Field Guides and Resources

A Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Botsford Comstock

Florida’s Fabulous Series

                Florida’s Fabulous Waterbirds: Their Stories, Winston Williams

                Florida’s Fabulous Land Birds: Their Stories, Winston Williams

Florida’s Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians: Snakes, Lizards, Alligators, Frogs and Turtles, Winston Williams

Take-Along Guides

                Caterpillars, Bugs, and Butterflies, Mel Boring

                Birds, Nests, and Eggs, Mel Boring

                Trees, Leaves, and Bark, Diane Burns

Peterson Field Guides  http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/peterson/

Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition, Powell, Conant, and Collins

Nature-Related Picture Books

A Nest is Noisy, Dianna Hutts Aston

Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney

One Morning in Maine, Robert McCloskey

Owl Moon, Jane Yolen

Roxaboxen, Alice McLerran

Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin

The Raft, Jim LaMarche

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Nature-Related Drawing Books for Sketchers and Creatives

Draw 50 Birds: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Chickadees, Peacocks, Toucans, Mallards, and Many More of Our Feathered Friends, Lee J. Ames

Draw 50 Flowers, Trees, and Other Plants: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Orchids, Weeping Willows, Prickly Pears, Pineapples, and Many More..., Lee J. Ames

How to Draw Flowers (Dover How to Draw), Barbara Soloff Levy

Supplies and Materials

Brock Magiscope https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2016/4/22/owl-pellets-and-a-magiscope-simple-discovery-science

Carolina Biological Supply Company  https://www.carolina.com/ (owl pellets)

Educational Innovators https://www.teachersource.com/ (dolomite samples and owl pellets)

 Nature Gift Store https://www.nature-gifts.com/  (ant farms and live ants, butterflies)

 

We live in a suburban area. Though we have a backyard and a neighborhood to explore, we have to plan and be intentional about visiting state parks, ponds and streams, or the beach. When we travel we look for opportunities which are not typical or available in our area.

We’ve enjoyed

  • Bird sanctuaries

  • Rainforest exhibits

  • Arboretums

  • Nature preserves

  • State and national parks

  • Factories and manufacturing plants

  • Museums and displays

  • State and county fairs

 

YOU can teach science!

And, in doing so, you will not only keep your child’s natural curiosity alive, but you will open doors for other discipline areas like math and writing.

There could have a WHOLE podcast on nature-related study. In fact, there is! Check out this conversation I had with Jenni and Jody over at From Cradle to Calling.




Planning 9th Grade with YOUR Freshman in Mind

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Four home graduates. One current high schooler.

Five unique ninth grade years.

As I finished adding the grades for the ninth-grade year of the transcript for our fifth high schooler, the proverbial light bulb illuminated my thinking.

I double-checked, looked over each transcript of our five learners.

Indeed, EACH of our high schoolers had a unique and individualized ninth grade year—distinctive of their gifts and strengths. I knew each of our children were different, yet I hadn’t set out their transcripts side-by-side to compare the courses they had completed in the freshman year. Yes, some had earned credit in the same course, but even the content of those courses varied according to the bents and interests of the learner. Same title, different content. Each learner had individualized educational paths, courses tweaked by interests and strengths, goals and aspirations.

As it should be with homeschooling.

Every learner—gifted—different.

None better than the other.

What were the ninth grade courses on our five high schooler’s transcripts?

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One of our learners dug into a variety of interests, from academics to sports to music. This learner also extroverted high schooler wanted to take Spanish earlier in the high school plan so that it could be completed with an older sibling. Further observation lead me to realize this learner was the only one who completed two years of foreign language by the end of ninth grade—making time for other studies; a big WIN as far as she was concerned. These ninth grade course choices were right for this learner and provided distinctive advantages in regards to having time for opportunities which were still to come in the later high school years.

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One of our other learners enrolled in high school level courses prior to ninth grade, hence completing Algebra 1 and moving to Algebra 2 in ninth. The same was true for science which paved the way for chemistry to be the logical next step for the freshman year. No other learner took Algebra 2 or chemistry in the freshman year.

This learner was also the only one who completed world history in ninth grade due in most part from having studied history independently—and passionately with much depth—in previous years. We didn’t want freshman year to be a repeat of past content so we allowed this student to continue to study history through travel, historical documents, biographies and other non-fiction resources. This high schooler was also the only sibling who completed economics in the freshman year—again due to personal interest and independent study. This course provided additional fuel business-minded young adult.

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This learner was a mover, a kinesthetic.Learning was experiential and hands-on, even through high school. Athletics played a major role in this learner’s life, hence all the PE credits in the freshman year (as well as years to follow). For this learner we chose to split American history into two years—Early American (up to the Civil War) and Modern American (after Civil War) allowing time to add experiential learning to a text and provide extended time to other subjects of interest.

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This introverted learner loved people—understanding how they thought and were motivated—and was eager to have people live their best lives—hence the bent toward sign language. Interestingly, this young adult’s ninth grade year was also the year our sweet great-grandmother was very ill and in and out of facilities (which the learner requested to tour and research because of the love for Grammy). This learner asked to be a part of the process and dialogued (summarization, recall, and interpersonal communication) with me (and her grandmother) about what was being learned through this heartbreaking journey. This high schooler was also an entrepreneur and a creative—owned a small business—hence the business and creative arts electives. Different learner. Different interests. Different courses.

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Another introverted creative, this learner set up a work studio where endless handmade cards were made with numerous types of media and by various techniques. Hours were spent learning technique, researching skills, and experimenting creatively. Hence, this high schooler earned credit in courses not considered by our others—Foundations in Interior Design, Stamp and Stationary Art Design, and Survey of American Musicals. This learner, like several siblings, earned credit for personal fitness, yet her content was very different from the content of athletes who spent hours on the field or in the weight room. This high schooler chose her own relaxing, peaceful blend of aerobics, stretching, and strengthening—using personally-selected workout videos.

Five freshman years each with unique content and character—personalized to the interests of the learner earning the credit.

Personalization doesn’t have to end in ninth grade! In fact, it can continue throughout the high school years in order to help our young adults learn who they are, what they were created for, and how they can bring value to the community in their spheres of influence—at home, across the nation, and throughout the world.

Need guidance in the journey to make high school matter beyond the turning of the tassel?

My NEW BOOK, More than Credits: Life Skills High Schoolers Need for Life, offers frameworks (think practical skill acquisition from real-life, project-based learning, experiential opportunities, related literature and writing assignments, and meaningful decision topics and questions) for FIVE elective courses:

  • Nutrition and Wellness

  • Personal Fitness

  • Personal Awareness and Career Exploration

  • Philosophy, and

  • Personal Finance

The contents of each class are not just boxes to check, but ideas meant to be tweaked and adjusted for each learner based on what they may already be doing.

Earn credit for what matters…not just today, but beyond.







Parenting Will Be Inconvenient

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Parents will be inconvenienced.

Paint will be requested at inopportune times.

Questions will be asked in uncomfortable moments.

Hearts will ache when you wished they were happy.

What will be remembered is that a parent paused, stopped, paid attention.

At the end of April, my oldest son married the Bride we prayed for for many years. Feeling sentimental, I made time to sit and reflect (truth be told I was on a return trip from the airport, stuck at stoplights, alone in my van). I remembered his bow ties and knickers (yes, they were once the fashion statement), frequent requests for more books (when I thought I had just bought a stack), hours in midday sun at the ballfield, and expensive first base gloves. In the later years, I treasured our long talks about whatever had him thinking. Those talks, some over midnight nachos were savored, tucked in my heart (I still remember how tired I was and how hard I worked to keep my eyelids open). Talk about inconvenience; I gained the infamous freshman fifteen, not him. Grateful for the time we shared, moments which were integral to our relationship, I smiled thinking about the mother-son dance just a few days prior and I voice-recorded my thoughts at the stoplights so I wouldn’t forget.

I wanted to stay in the moment, remember and savor.

Six days later, my second son—married—walked across a stage to be hooded and awarded his Doctorate of Physical Therapy. I remembered his requests to be outside (even when it was hot), to hang upside down on the swings (I thought we’d end up in the emergency room, for sure), and to dig holes in the backyard with this brother. I remembered mess, dirt and endless activity. There were red clay-covered uniforms (grateful for Fels-naptha soap) and mountains of sand in my grout (I became friends with my grout brush). But I also thought back to our late conversations, his concerns about the many years of school ahead and the young lady he loved. I pondered and voice-recorded my thoughts at the stoplights. I didn’t want to forget.

I wanted to stay in the moment, remember and savor.

Two days later as I rushed around the house in preparation to take the last wedding/graduation guest to the airport, I heard a loud request…

“Mom can I paint?”

I don’t have time for THAT! I thought.

There were several large rehearsal dinner tablecloths still waiting to be washed, wilting wedding flowers needing to be purged, and freshly laundered wedding attire hanging and waiting to be delivered to closets. Not to mention highly trafficked bathrooms to be cleaned. And, our guest needed to get to the airport….ON TIME!

Almost immediately, I thought about the reflections I made over the past week—the books, the dirt, the mess, the talks. I really didn’t want to entertain my little’s inquiry to paint before heading out to the airport and entertain the thought of the extra color which may be added to the kitchen floor—paint to clean up, too! It didn’t seem like there would be time for ALL THAT!

Her idea was inconvenient to the nice and orderly I was trying to create before running out the door. And, to be honest, I was tired.

The request wasn’t bad or wrong, the timing wasn’t mine, Her idea wasn’t convenient.

Then I remembered.

A tear ran down my cheek. This moment matters, I heard in my mind.

My just-married son once made inconvenient requests which when affirmed and granted fueled his curious mind and passion to learn. Today, he’s a creative strategist.

Our new DPT’s requests for dirt, movement, and the outdoors—pitching tents in the backyard—provided a foundation from which to lead younger scouts and encourage teammates.

Allowing my boys to do what they needed mattered. Their activities contributed to the men they are today—their walks down the aisle and across the stage.

I smiled; wiped that grateful tear. I dug for the paints in the art cabinet, looked into her eyes and smiled with affirmation.

I decided my daughter’s request to paint would matter.

Inconvenient? Yes.

Valuable? Absolutely.

And, years from now when she’s grown, I will know just how valuable.

And, I will be thankful I allowed myself to be interrupted and inconvenienced.

Until then, my refrigerator and walls will be adorned with her watercolor masterpieces.

Every. Moment. Matters.

Read Aloud Time: To Schedule or Not to Schedule

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A woman walked toward my booth with an inquisitive look on her face. I knew she had a question.

“I just heard I should schedule read-aloud time. Is that how you’ve done it?”

In some seasons, yes. One particular year of our homeschooling journey, starting our morning with a good picture book fueled our day. The kids could consistently count on me gathering the troops in the living room right after breakfast before the oldest learners sat with me for math. Scheduling read-aloud together time was perfect for that season. It brought us together and grew us closer in a time when we could have been disjointed.

In another part of our educational adventure, when littles had tired eyes and pouty faces (like after lunch when tummies were full and bodies needed rest) I knew scheduling a quiet time of hearing my voice read a favorite story (or a new library treasure) would be just the right remedy. And so, I scheduled.

In other parts of our years together, I didn’t schedule reading aloud. Instead, we read when needed, you know those moments when attitudes flare and tears flow for no apparent reason. That’s when gathering on the couch invited calm. To those times, one little may bring a valued comfort read, perhaps Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton while another learner would contribute a non-fiction book of interest. No schedule meant the most freedom for our family while also allowing us to learn about one another’s needs.

Seasons vary from one family to another. Given such, the answer to the if-and-when question of scheduling read-aloud time isn’t a pat answer. Each family can decide which works best for its members.

Should your family schedule time to gather for a stack of good reads?

Only YOU can determine the answer to that question. If you are not sure, try starting with reading consistently during one part of the day, maybe right after dinner or after teeth are brushed for the evening. See how it goes. If it’s not working, try another time. And, if you are one of those parents keeping a pulse of the home environment, read when you feel the need. We parents have the ability to determine the best times for reading aloud to our families.

Remember, you and I are on a learning adventure, each path unique, each path full of possibilities.

Experiential Learning in High School : The Motivation

Motivation Matters

When a young adult is involved in contributing to content—a vested determination to learn—greater retention and true understanding follow.

Young adults thrive when there’s purpose. If something matters to them, they become invested and personally motivated. When parents give their children freedom where responsibility is evident, growth potential flourishes. The more young people become responsible, the more confidence they gain. It’s a perpetual cycle, much like the ebb and flow adults face.

Our sons were passionate about baseball. Both were pitchers, one a righty and the other a lefty. Improvement in skill and arm strength required discipline, daily workouts, and throwing. What fueled their passion? Motivation to be the best pitcher he could be as well as knowledge of what was needed to meet the goal. It wasn’t me. I hadn’t any idea how to build arm strength or design a workout. Instead, the boys listened to coaches, consulted with trainers, and implemented or tweaked their plans. I encouraged them, served as their cheerleader, drove them to practice, and figured out how to incorporate and communicate all they were doing into credits. Many of the activities they integrated into their days are listed in this resource.

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The content suggestions listed in these five personal development electives aren’t meant to be objectives to be checked off, tested, and graded. They are chunks of knowledge which can be gleaned from life, fully understood in the context of life experiences. Will resources—print, digital and personal contacts—be needed? Likely, yes! And, the lists I provide aren’t meant to be exhaustive. They can’t possibly be because each high schooler—and their circumstances—is unique. Their courses will be as well.

Many of the ideas or projects listed in this book stem from real-life scenarios or situations our children—or the hundreds of high schoolers we’ve worked with—faced or were curious about. You will notice much of the content will be learned from naturally-occurring conversations, often because of a young adult’s interest, personal need, or life circumstances. These discussions were often catalysts for deeper study, additional conversations, or visits to the library…and our high schoolers earned credit!

Later in the chapter….

For learners who have an inkling of what their post-high-school paths will be, they will move forward in that direction. Along the way, they will need help to process and question. They will seek out people who are willing to listen. Likely that person may be you! Embrace it. The conversations may feel constant and never-ending. However, the reality is that the time will be very short. As you help process your high schooler’s ideas, keep an open perspective. Be ready for change. An interest one semester may transform into a niche the following semester. It really can be a beautiful personalized journey.

Let’s say your high school learner is interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. Talking with her, you believe the next right step would be to talk with professionals in the field. As move through the brainstorming process, you and your daughter make a list of venues which could be possibilities for volunteering or job-shadowing experiences: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the county animal shelter. As you discuss how to prepare for possible conversations with professionals, you list questions which could be asked in an interview situation. They may include

  • What universities are considered optimal for preparation of a career in this profession?

  • What are the potential degree and career paths available?

  • What classes or experiences were most helpful to you in the education process? 

  • What are the specialty areas in this profession?

  • What areas, in any, do you recommend or foresee might be most helpful five years from now?

  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

(Excerpted from More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life)

Perhaps your high schooler is motivated to learn more. You may not feel you have the expertise or the knowledge necessary to help your young adult move forward. Guess what? You are not alone. And, you don’t need to know the answers. There are people in your high schooler’s field of interest who do, people who work in the profession. Seek them out.

Wondering what types of questions you and your learner could brainstorm together? I offer ideas in this post. This is a sampling in what you will find in More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life.

High school is more than credits. It’s being future-ready.

Preparing High School Learners to Interview Professionals

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We can’t know everything.

No one can. But, we do have the ability to know how and where to get our questions answered. Our learners should be empowered to do the same.

Let’s say your high schooler is interested in veterinary medicine. Your majored in business and finance.

How do you help your young adult learn more about this career field?

Find a trusted professional who is willing to share his or her passion, and then ask. Most people wait eagerly for an opportunity to talk about what they love. In the process, your young adult is afforded a chance to learn about the education requirements, niche areas of the profession, and perhaps even what the career might look like in the future (at the time when you learner is trying to land a job) from a person in the know. In addition, should an ongoing mentoring relationship form, there may be a potential connection made for later employment.

Identifying a person who could be interviewed is the first step. The second step, preparation, is key. Intentionality often reaps the greatest reward (another one of those life lessons our high schoolers learn from experiential learning).

Preparing for interviewing is an important skill. Afterall, if someone carves out time in a schedule to meet with a high schooler, being prepared for the meeting not only allows the learner to glean the most helpful information possible, but also shows respect for the professional’s time. Some high schoolers decide they need help brainstorming to make a list of questions and practice asking those questions through a role play scenario. Other young adults prefer to work more independently to create their list and then seek input or additions from someone they know will provide feedback. This process is another step in discovering how one learns best is a unique benefit of experiential opportunities.

When our high schoolers showed interest in an area and wanted to talk to professionals in the field, we developed a list of questions. I offer a full list in the appendices of More than Credits, but these examples will jump start the thinking process for your high school learner.

  • How did your high school experiences benefit your career?

  • Where did you attend college?

  • How or why did you decide to choose this college?

  • How did your post-secondary studies influence your career?

  • Which post-secondary courses were particularly beneficial in your career preparation?

  • Is there something you feel would have been helpful—maybe even a different major—than what you pursued?

  • How do you see your career field changing in the next five years?

When preparing to interview someone in a trade or technical field, we adjusted our list of questions to address trade-specific aspects of a field. The complete list is also included in the book, but again, these should provide a place to start as you and your learner develop a list of questions.

  • Did you earn industry certifications and if so, which were helpful to you?

  • What should I consider as I research post-secondary education options?

  • What skills do you use every day?

  • What types of writing do you do in your field?

The high school journey is more than taking tests and finishing study guides. Those do have a place in education, but it is important to remember these aspects of learning should not overshadow and crowd out some of the most beneficial ways our young adults gain knowledge—through experiential learning opportunities like interviewing professionals.

Available through Amazon.

Experiential Learning in High School: Why It Matters

I find it ironic that homeschooling parents encourage young children and elementary-age learners to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune often changes.

When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings—and often real-life learning—aside. Often those life experiences offer learners the lessons and skills most needed for their future.

There is another advantage of pursuing electives of interest. Not only do high schoolers receive credit, but these pursuits also help reduce the stress of typically tougher core courses.

By their very nature, electives provide avenues for personal growth, renewal, and skill acquisition.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the middle and high school years provided the same real-life educational opportunities found in the younger learning years? Homeschooling makes that possibility a reality.

Interest leads to higher-quality content and greater retention in both core and elective classes. With this knowledge in one hand, grab a cup of coffee or a thick creamy milkshake with the other and invite your high schooler to brainstorm with you. In the course of the conversation, listen to what he or she would like to study and how those interests could be enhanced or accomplished with real-life experiences. Experiential learning in high school is just as valuable as it was in the elementary and middle school years.

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More than Credits: High School Philosophy, Morals, and Ethics

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The high school years offer a season to celebrate the people our young adults are becoming. Part of that transformation is coming to understand how thoughts influence words and behavior as well as how to productively evaluate thoughts and the thought process.

Along that journey, there will be moments of confidence, clarity, and productivity, but there will also be times of disagreement,miscommunication, and debate. Our high schoolers are learning how to think and then communicate those thoughts while expanding their problem solving abilities and processing their mistakes, all in the light of what they believe to be true.


In this season, young people continue to learn details about who they are and what value they bring to their spheres of influence.


It’s philosophy; discovering a clearer picture of what one believes when compared to other’s thoughts and how those beliefs affect actions and words. It’s the wrestling with and expressing of morals, values, and ethics. It matters, and it can count for high school credit.

As you embark on the adventure, one of the first questions you may encounter is what content to include in a philosophy-type course. You aren’t the only one asking this question. In fact, many parents face this question, and usually haven’t had any idea where to start.

I’ve been in that place, too.

In fact, it’s why I decided to offer suggestions and a framework for a philosophy-based course in More than Credits! The content will empower and encourage you, offering selections for

  • high-interest reading materials,

  • suggestions for writing assignments, and

  • practical hands-on experiences which will impact the young adult as well as the lives of others.

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Intentional.Real. Relational.

More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Ethics, the moral principles which undergird the standards by which individuals respond to important life questions, develop as we face life circumstances and choices. In those moments, we decide what we believe, why it matters, and where we will place our time and attention. Our high schoolers are no different. They face daily decisions amid a myriad of worldviews and philosophies.


What they believe about God, themselves, and the situations in the world, matters. Home can provide a safe place to investigate truths, dialogue thoughts, and ponder choices.


A course which involves the development of philosophy, morals, and ethics gives high school learners opportunities to earn credit for wrestling with their thoughts, discovering what their faith means to them, and applying those thoughts to their life choices and their relationship with God.
— Cheryl Bastian, More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Most importantly, a young adult’s moral and ethical thoughts influence the decisions they make. Essentially, the content cultivates the “why” behind what an individual believes as well as why certain things are valued over certain other things. All of this encompasses an individual’s belief system and influences his or her spiritual growth and personal development beyond simply mimicking, borrowing, or living out the faith of his or her parents.

One of our learners grew to love C. S. Lewis. He had read the Narnia series earlier in his homeschooling years, but as a high schooler selected A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works (HarperCollins Publishers, 2003) from our home library shelves. I had no idea he had such an appreciation for the author. I marveled how the devotional motivated him to read a handful of other classic Lewis writings. Amazingly, content developed because of his newly discovered curiosity for C. S. Lewis’s thoughts and the course began to take form without any planning on my part. I simply (albeit battling fear he would learn enough!) fostered his vested interest. Realizing the impact of self-selected reading, not just philosophical material but other resources as well, we adopted a motto in our home:

“Read the book and I will award credit for your accomplishment.”

Ultimately, one book led to an independent study, which we combined with other activities and great conversations! Seeing our son’s continued interest Lewis and then other great thinkers, Mike and I decided to read the books he was reading. Mike asked if he wanted to spend time each week talking about what we were learning, all of us. Without much direction about where our discussions might lead, we began to meet, ponder, and converse. Hearing each person express his or her opinions or interpretations about what was read and how those thoughts could be applied to current circumstances provided a venue to process viewpoints—the Socratic method, family-style.

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We couldn’t possibly comprehend the fullness or richness of our first steps. Our dialogue through one book fueled more reading and before we knew it a weekly forum took shape. Best of all, something greater resulted: our relationships with one another deepened. We gained respect for one another and realized we could learn together. We weren’t just teaching our son. He taught us!

A few years into meeting consistently, our son commented, “I wish everyone had the opportunity to be in a community like this.” Years later, when we talked about the depth of our conversations, he commented, “Those years are the main reasons why I lead a small group at church today, so others can have the same opportunity I did!”

Wow! That’s philosophy credit with future implications.

Philosophy courses continue to fade from high school curriculum guides. Thankfully, our homeschooling freedoms allow for this essential course to remain a feasible choice for young adults. In fact, conversational group setting provides one of the most beneficial venues to process and ponder the philosophical thought which undergird and permeate life. Consider gathering your family or your young adult and his or her friends to ponder life together.

Conversations, heart connections with our young adults, provided some of the most meaningful experiences of our family’s high school years. Some of the most treasured, thought-provoking discussions happened over half-price milkshakes pondering a life-truth or a plate of nachos after losing a baseball game.

When we paused our days, looked one another in the eyes, and listened, family members knew their ideas and thoughts mattered.

And, philosophical, moral, and ethical thoughts and beliefs formed all the while.

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Ride the West with Living Books

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I didn’t see it coming.

Recently, I was reminded that some of the best learning “units” we’ve enjoyed were unplanned and unexpected. They were birthed by questions raised from learning a new word, being involved in an intriguing moment, or engaging in a fascinating event. One of our most recent learning tangents evolved after reading a few chapters of The Pony Express by Samuel Hopkins Adams (Random House, 1950) to my middle schooler. In the process, the elementary learner wondered what the excitement was about and she, too, was hooked. Before we knew it we were all riding the routes of the Pony Express (Mom included after realizing she didn’t know as much as she wished she did), racing through mountain passes, stopping at rest stations, and outwitting bandits.

I remembered we had a few more books about riders on our home library shelf—as well as books about the period of history. I invited my youngest to join me at the bookshelf to find other resources she might enjoy. She was intrigued by the cover of one in particular, Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr (HarperCollins,1995). Upon opening the book and fanning through the pages—seeing the larger font—she was even more excited. Large font. Easy, enjoyable reading. Unintimidating. We began reading and she immediately recognized some of the rider’s names and station stops from listening to me read to her sister. Learning about the Pony Express just got a bit more personal for her.

Three weeks later, looking back, the “unit” was more than I could have imagined, mostly because of the level of engagement. There was interest and they fully “owned” what they were learning, because they were interested. The more we read, the more involved my learners became. When they had questions, we did our best to find answers. This paved the way to practice research skills.


Language arts. Study skills. History.


I know my girls remember a large percentage of what they learned. That makes my heart smile. But, there was something else that grew along with their knowledge…a relationship. They had something in common, a mutual interest, something they could talk and wonder about. They shared what they learned; got excited together.

I could never have manufactured or orchestrated that aspect of the process.

Even after 26 years of homeschooling, I didn’t see a “unit” growing from this book.

But, it did!!

And, I am grateful.

Today, because of that deeper care for one another, they are outside reading in the fort. That’s another story for another day.

Related resources for riding and exploring the west:

Buffalo Bill, Augusta Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Buffalo Bill: Wild West Showman, Mary R. Davidson (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

The California Gold Rush, May McNeer (Landmark series)

Annie Oakley: The Shooting Star, Charles P. Graves (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Jim Bridger: Man of the Mountains, Willard and Celia Luce (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Kit Carson: Pathfinder of the West, Nardi Reeder Campion (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness, John Mason Brown (Landmark series)

Daniel Boone: Young Hunter, Augusta Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)

The Story of Daniel Boone, William O’Steele (Signature series)









Degrees, Foreign Languages, and Life Lessons

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I love learning new information. And, I am intentional about sharing that information with parents so they can be empowered and help their learners move closer toward the best, well-informed decisions about their future.

Yesterday I called a college in the State of Florida to get some answers. In the process of talking with an advisor in the Bachelor's Degree office, I learned some new tidbits about degrees and foreign language. The information below relates to all students, unless specifically mentioned as pertaining to homeschooled graduates. 

1. The AS degree is considered a terminal degree. The goal is to provide the graduate with enough career specific content and skills to enter the workforce without continued education.

2. The State of Florida requires 36 General Education semester hours for the AA and BA, but not for the AS. If the student obtains an AS degree and then decides to transfer to another college to earn a BA or BS degree, additional General Education hours may have to be taken in addition to the degree requirements. 

3. The General Education credits required for the AS are reduced in order to make room for career specific content. For example, the AS degree our family is researching requires only one semester of English (as opposed to two) and no foreign language coursework. In addition, College Algebra is not required for the AS of our interest (check the AS of interest as this may vary per career field). 

4. Foreign language is required for AA and Bachelor's degrees in Florida. However, we were personally told by the Office for Students with Disabilities at Valencia this requirement may be waived by an appeal process IF the student with documented disabilities enrolls in a course, demonstrates disability, and successfully wins an appeal for course substitution. When I asked the representative at the college I contacted yesterday about whether an AA appeal would stand should the AA graduate then transfer to a four-year university to continue post-secondary study toward a BS or BA, the advisor said the decision would rest with the institution conferring the bachelor's. At her college, the student would be required to take the foreign language before being awarded the BS or BA.  In other words, the foreign language though waived for the AA, would have to be taken later at the college or university granting the BS or BA. For students with diagnosed learning differences, this question would need to be posed to the Office of Student Disabilities at the college or university granting the BS or BA. This is one of those decisions which could be college specific. (Updated 11-3-2018: Read Florida State University’s policy here).

5. While I had the advisor on the phone, I asked questions about foreign language as this is always a debated topic in homeschooling circles and I want to stay current. How universities handle foreign language varies per institution and policies can change. Therefore, I specifically asked if they accepted high school foreign language credit to waive the college language requirement for the AA. She hesitated and responded, "It depends." I then specifically asked whether two years of foreign language with FLVS would be used to satisfy the college requirement and she said yes without hesitation (which has been our experience with two other home ed grads). All other methods of learning foreign language would be evaluated by the institution. Once transferring with the AA to the institution granting the BS or BA, the high school transcript would re-evaluated, specifically determining where the foreign language was taken. If this could not be validated to their satisfaction, the student would have to take the foreign language before earning the BS or BA, even though the student earned the AA. We personally experienced this with one of our learners. Valencia verified the language was taken in high school (we used FLVS) for the AA requirement and when our son transferred to UCF to move toward the BA, they contacted us and verified our two years of FLVS.  

At the end of the phone conversation, I had several takeaways. The most important takeaway reinforced what I knew: 


High school foreign language decisions follow our learners through the college years. 


Seems weighty. It does to me anyway (and I've graduated three with another two close behind; they are all different). However, this statement doesn't have to keep me fearful that we (parent and young adult) will make wrong decisions. Instead, the information can empower us. With what we know information can be discuss, options can be considered, questions can be asked, and we can weigh future implications to make the best decisions we can at any given time, for each learner. This statement also reminds us that in our temporary inconveniences (not liking an instructor or a delivery method) we must consider long-term consequences (not completing a course may affect us later). 

That's a life lesson which reaches beyond degrees and foreign languages.

It's real-life learning! 

Looking for more information about foreign languages? Consider these blog posts. 

Foreign Language: Questions You Need to Ask

Foreign Language: What Homeschoolers Need to Know

Foreign Language: Which Language

Dual Enrollment? Not So Fast

College Admission Requirements for Home Educated Students

As stated in this post, information changes—sometimes rapidly. Here are some links to updates you may find helpful (updated 11-3-2018).

Florida State University’s 2018-2019 Foreign Language Policy for their College of Arts and Sciences

University of Central Florida Foreign Language Proficiency Requirement (Bachelor of Arts Degree)

University of North Florida’s 2018-2019 Foreign Language Requirement for Bachelor of Arts Degree

University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduation Requirements and CLAS Foreign Language Requirement

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Living Books: Margaret Davidson Biographies

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Middle elementary readers love Margaret Davidson biographies. 

These engaging, short chapter books enable young readers to devour a book in a day (or a few), offering a sense of accomplishment and the personal satisfaction of "I did it!" 

Margaret Davidson pens the stories of world changers; real people (and in some cases animals) solving real problems. As a child, Margaret was an eager reader. Her love for story shines through her work. Her biographies include:

Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Davidson and Robert Shore 

Balto: The Dog Who Saved Nome, Margaret Davidson and Cathie Bleck 

Frederick Douglass Fights for Freedom, Margaret Davidson

Helen Keller, Margaret Davidson and Wendy Watson 

Helen Keller's Teacher, Margaret Davidson and Wayne Blickenstaff 

I Have A Dream: The Story of Martin Luther King, Margaret Davidson

Louis Braille: The Boy Who Invented Books for the Blind, Margaret Davidson and Janet Compere 

My Lords Richard, Margaret Davidson

The Adventures of George Washington, Margaret Davidson

The Story of Alexander Graham Bell: Inventor of the Telephone, Margaret Davidson and Stephen Marchesi (Illustrator)

The Story of Benjamin Franklin: Amazing American, Margaret Davidson and John Speirs (Illustrator)

The Story of Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Davidson

The Golda Meir Story, Margaret Davidson

The Story of Jackie Robinson: Bravest Man in Baseball, Margaret Davidson

The Story of Thomas Alva Edison, Inventor: The Wizard of Menlo Park, Margaret Davidson

Unlike many older biographies, some libraries are keeping Margaret Davidson treasures on the shelves, making them readily available--at least for now! Check out your library. Maybe you will find one of these gems living on the shelves. If so, borrow it!

And, perhaps your family will be like ours. We've had several learners move quickly through these reads. They're well loved. Hence, this is one series we keep collecting for our home library. If your learners grow to love her work, consider adding them to the bucket list for your home library--the library that grows with your children.


Cheryl will be presenting Growing a Home Library on Saturday, December 1 from 10am to Noon.  The morning will be packed with practical helps and lots of book suggestions. Save the date on your calendar and watch the Celebrate Simple Facebook page for more details, coming soon! 

Looking for more posts about Living Books? Younger readers may appreciate   Discovery   biographies (WIN-WIN for combining language arts and history) while older children may want to dig into   an independent study  . Parents home educating in the high school years may find   this   post helpful. 

Looking for more posts about Living Books? Younger readers may appreciate Discovery biographies (WIN-WIN for combining language arts and history) while older children may want to dig into an independent study. Parents home educating in the high school years may find this post helpful. 

 

 

Homeschooling Resources for Every Season of Learning

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Some of the questions I field most frequently involve inquiries about homeschooling and educational resources--the go-tos for the how-tos and what-ifs. Resources can be helpful as we all need boosts of encouragement and fresh ideas for the home education journey.  

When asked, I recommend the resources I've found most beneficial to us in the shifting seasons of our 25 years of homeschooling. Walking alongside a family, I try to offer recommendations which most closely address that family's unique questions and circumstances. Who has time to read through material which isn't applicable? We don't! We are a community of families with full days and many blessings.  

To that end, I compiled this blog of resources into categories. As you read through the list, you'll notice many of the selections incorporate multiple ages or facets of home education. Therefore, recommendations which are broad or could incorporate many seasons are listed in each potentially applicable stage. I hope you find this format beneficial. If you have additional questions, ask in the comments or connect with me via email. 

New to Homeschooling

Homeschooling for Excellence: How to Take Charge of Your Child's Education and Why You Absolutely Must, David and Micki Colfax (Warner, 1988) - one of the first books I read about the possibility and potential of homeschooling; helped me to see education outside the box

Home School Heroes: The Struggle and Triumph of Home Schooling in America, Christopher Klicka (B&H, 2006) historical account (with data) of homeschooling in America

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6; one of the resources I most recommend at evaluations when parents ask for this type of guidance

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie (Classical Academic Press, 2015)

The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight: Managing Your Days through the Homeschool Years, Heidi St. John (Real Life Press, 2012)

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith (Scribner, 2015) - philosophy of education and testing; opened my eyes to the myths I believed

Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling, Diana Waring (Emerald Books, 1996) 

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; fits nicely in a diaper bag for quick reads; highly recommend

Preschool Homeschooling

Spiritual Parenting, Michelle Anthony (David C. Cook, 2010) - parenting with implications for home education; reading this book was confirmation of what Mike and I always believed about parenting and learning

The Three R's: Grades K-3, Ruth Beechick (Mott Media, 2006) - a definite TREASURE in our home

The Five Love Languages of Children, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell (Moody, 1997) - love languages with parenting, learning, and teaching applications

Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home, Raymond and Dorothy Moore (Hewitt Research Foundation, 1981) - one of my all-time FAVORITES; read and reread many times over

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend 

Elementary Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell (Apologia Press, 2009)

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (2012, Jossey-Bass) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend

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Middle School Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey (Franklin Covey Co., 1988) - our teens appreciated this book, too 

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted FAV of ours; highly recommend

High School Homeschooling

Celebrate High School, Cheryl Bastian (Zoe Learning Essentials, 2015)

Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (Gallop, 2001)

And What about College? : How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions at the Best Colleges and Universities, Cafi Cohen (Holt Associates, 2000) one of the first workshops I attended about high school and one of the first resources I read

Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition, Cafi Cohen (Three Rivers Press, 2000) - another one of my first high school reads

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another all-time FAV of ours; highly recommend

Learning Differences 

When the Brain Can't Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder, Terri Bellis (Atria, 2003) - this resource became invaluable in my parent education

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Picture and Living Book Guides

Who Should We Then Read?, Jan Bloom (Jan Bloom, 2000) - volume 1 and 2 are two of my FAVORITE go-to's for Living Books; LOVE author and series information provided in this one-of-a-kind resource

Read for the Heart, Sarah Clarkson (Apologia Educational Ministries, 2009) - annotated and helpful for selecting just the right read

Honey for a Child's Heart, Gladys Hunt (Zondervan, 2002) - one of the first books I read about reading

Give Your Child the World, Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan, 2016) - listed by geographical location with helpful info about the content of each book

Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best in Children's Literature (Revised Edition), Elizabeth Wilson (Crossway, 2002)

Do you have a resource you recommend? Share in the comments so others can be encouraged!

 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part I

What about elective credits?

Mike and I field this question often. 

The short response?  

There are endless possibilities to potential elective credits. 

If your high school student is enrolled in a public or private school, be sure to check the school's offerings. Choices vary for each school. 

If you are home educating the high school journey, know your state statute and graduation requirements as well as how they apply to home educated students. Find out if your state allows parents the freedom and responsibility to create core or elective courses. This is important because some states require home educated students to take only courses offered in the state. Other states give parents the ability to oversee the child's education, hence the creation and oversight of classes, should the family choose that path. Your state statute requirements will provide what is required of the parent and student and therefore shed light upon the possibilities available to the family.

For those who are home educating and have the ability to choose elective credits, consider:

The life-goals (if known) of your learner. For some high schoolers, they will have a clear understanding and direction for what they will pursue after high school graduation. Other young adults will be exploring their interests and therefore, getting a better idea of what they might do after they turn the tassel. The good news is there is no right time for a learner to decide next steps after graduation.

If there isn't a clear path, prepare for the broadest possibilities.  Be careful not to short change the young adult. 

For learners who have an inkling of what they want to do post high school, they will move forward in that direction. As you help process their ideas, keep an open perspective. Be ready for change. An interest one semester may transform into a niche the following semester.  

One of our high school learners became interested in veterinarian medicine. She even considered this as a possible career path for a few months. We felt our next right step was talking with professionals in the field and preparing for a job shadowing experience or volunteer opportunity should either become available to her. In our brainstorming process, we considered several venues: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the county animal shelter. As part of our conversations, we came up with what questions which would be helpful should an opportunity to talk with a veterinarian present itself. Our questions included:

  • What universities are considered optimal for this profession?
  • What are the potential degree and career paths for this profession?
  • What classes or experiences were most helpful in the education process? 
  • What are the specialty ares of this field of study?
  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

While present at on-site opportunities—job shadowing, volunteering, or internships—our high schoolers are encouraged to be mindful and open to how they can bring value to the host while present. This might include offering to fold clean towels or empty trash cans. We also encourage our young adults to observe office etiquette and practices (real-life learning at its best). Along these lines, we suggest visiting several venues within the same niche as well as any which are closely related or dependent upon the specialty. In the case of veterinary medicine, specialties may include veterinary oncology or ophthalmology. From the varied experiences, the learner is able to compare office practices and evaluate care from a broader perspective. Ultimately, these experiences may allow the learner to narrow his or her potential field of study while earning high school electives.

Experiential learning in high school is as valuable as in the elementary and middle school years. 

When thinking about elective credits, parents and learners can take into account the acquisition of life skills while also considering the academic admission requirements of the learner’s top choice universities. This consideration is—from our experience—extremely important and often overlooked. Colleges of interest frequently get deleted from the list of potentials for many reasons. Sometimes it’s the test scores which make the choice seem out of reach. Other times it’s the foreign language requirement. There are a plethora of other reasons, too. However, perhaps the most common reason parents tell us they eliminated a university from the list of possibilities is the belief that the cost of the education is beyond the financial reach of the family. Mike and I encourage parents and young adults to keep every potential school on the list of consideration, even if attendance seems out of reach for some reason. In doing so, students will be prepared academically for admission to all their choice colleges come application season. We know learners who desired to attend private, out-of-state schools who eventually were awarded full room and board for four years based on academic merit, community service, or in one situation, a drawing at a college fair! 

The interests of your learner. I find it ironic that elementary-aged children are often encouraged to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune changes. When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings to the side. Yet, often those strengths and giftings are the very elements which learners need to be successful adults--not to mention reduce the stress of some tougher core courses. Wouldn't it be wonderful if--during the middle and high school years--students, parents, and teachers could find ways for learners to complete required courses while also engaging in and exploring interests and strengths? 

As home education evaluators and consultants, Mike and I have seen AMAZING outcomes for young adults who have had opportunities to complete required core courses (and therefore be eligible for college admission at schools of their choice) while also delving into areas of interest.

While studying algebra, history, and biology, our third high schooler continued to build the business she started in middle school. In doing so, she was able to complete core courses while also learning important small business skills: purchasing and crafting inventory, budgeting and filing taxes, investigating advertising, setting up a website, and showcasing inventory at craft shows and expos. Her income allowed her to purchase her own clothing, save money, and tithe to church. To manage her income and expenses, she created a spreadsheet where she recorded her finances. Personal Finance found its way on the transcript that year, right under the algebra, American history, and biology.

The current life season of your family. When my grandmother was terminally ill, we spent four months visiting and researching facilities--navigating pros and cons of each--as Gram's needs changed. In addition, we visited Grammy three times a week, caring for her and connecting with her "friends" in each facility. We talked with care workers about what they did and how they obtained their education and professional licensing. As evaluation time rolled around, I couldn't even begin to remember all we did. But, my high schooler did! In fact, she asked whether all she had taken part in and learned could be used for credit. GREAT question! And after discussing all she learned and researching high school and college course equivalent to what she completed, I titled the course Cares and Concerns of the Elderly. Definitely an eye-catcher on her transcript. You can read more about how this course came about in this blog post. 

What situations are upon your family? How can those normal, every day opportunities become credit? For example, if you're painting your house, your learners are learning how to calculate the amount of paint needed, research paint types, buy good tools (good quality tools make the job go well), use and care for tools properly, run a pressure washer, trim paint small areas, roll on paint, clean rollers and brushes, and store tools so they can be in good condition for the next project. The list is endless. As we tackle painting the outside of our home this week, I stepped up our ladder thinking, this is real-life home economics (though in the past I titled the course home maintenance and repair). If you need to tackle a home project and don't know where to begin, model for your children how to find an expert in the field (read more about this here) or search for an online tutorial. These are important research skills your learners will need in life. 

What are the elective possibilities for your young adult? Begin observing what the learner is already doing? Where are the areas to which he or she gravitates? Are there real-life activities and opportunities in which he or she is participating? Considering interests, strengths, and aspirations as well as the admission requirements of the high schooler’s top college choices will return great rewards as the high school years come to a close.

A last note for consideration...

What about excessive credits? 

As Mike and I have worked with families over the past twenty-three years, there have been a few cases in which a student has earned excessive credits--more than 35 credits! In other words, the reader of the transcript would wonder if the learner ever slept. However, this has been only a few scenarios. In those situations, parents were able to include content from one course into another already existing course without being accused of credit inflation. It is possible for homeschooled students to earn more credits than the average student. This is acceptable if indeed the credit is not inflated. 

For more information on documenting elective course work, check out part 3.

Needing ideas for elective course titles? Click on over to Part 2. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

This refreshed post was originally published December 2016.

What is a Picture Book?

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A picture book is a work which combines literary eloquence with artistic merit--words and illustrations--working together to tell a story. Generally, picture books are written with 200-800 words (depending on the age of the targeted audience) on 28-32 pages. Historically, picture books have been written to the preschool through mid-elementary audience, yet these masterfully crafted gems speak to the hearts of readers of all ages. 

Wordless picture books. A wordless picture book is just that, a book without words. The illustrations alone tell the story, unless, of course, the person holding the book chooses to imagine and craft the text. One of the Bastian's favorite wordless picture books is Jerry Pinkney's extraordinary The Lion and the Mouse, a retelling of Aesop's classic tale. This treasure won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for its illustrative excellence. 

If your younger readers enjoy visual storytelling or prefer to create their own storylines based on provided illustrations, these wordless picture books may add some spark to your morning read-aloud time. 

  • Briggs, Raymond, The Snowman
  • Spier, Peter, Noah's Ark
  • Spier, Peter, Rain

Concept picture books. Little learners devour information, especially if content is presented with a twist of fun or catchy repetitive phrases and rhythmic rhyme. With this engaging, low-stress presentation, picture books can teach age-appropriate concepts (colors, numbers, opposites, and letters) to eager, curious littles. 

Children ages 2-8 enjoy learning concepts through topics of interest, for example, cowboys, insects, or construction vehicles. Concept picture books make this possible and do so through relaxing moments with resources which foster both early learning and literacy.

  • Alakija, Polly, Counting Chickens

  • Carle, Eric, 10 Rubber Ducks

  • Demarest, Chris, The Cowboy ABC

  • Demarest, Chris, Firefighter A to Z

  • Emberley, Barbara, Drummer Hoff

  • Krull, Kathleen, M is for Music

  • Laroche, Giles, If You Lived Here: Houses of the World

  • McMillan, Bruce, Jelly Beans for Sale

  • Pallotta, Jerry, The Icky Bug Alphabet Book

  • Schnur, Steven, Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic

  • Wadsworth, Olive A., Over in the Meadow: A Counting Rhyme

Traditional picture books. I remember the librarian reading Blueberries for Sal as I sat imagining the smell of fresh muffins cooling in the kitchen. Through the unfolding plot of the the book, I could feel the fear Sal felt as she wandered off in the field and could no longer see her mom. Sal became my friend. I hoped she would find her mom, cheered her on as she met a mama bear. This is just one of the classics I associate with read-aloud time and school library visits. As a young mom, I couldn't wait to introduce my children to my literary pal, Sal.

Traditional picture books invite readers into the story, into the lives of the characters. While reading, listeners develop empathy and understanding of others' feelings and circumstances, almost without knowing the transformation is taking place. For this reason, picture books become a child's first experience with the power of story. Together as a family, we've jumped into the plots of Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, and Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.

Should you be a time and life season where you are building your home library, here are some must-have picture books to brighten up your shelves. 

  • Ackerman, Karen, Song and Dance Man

  • Brett, Jan, Town Mouse and Country Mouse

  • Brown, Marcia, Stone Soup

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, Katy and the Big Snow

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, The Little House

  • Cooney, Barbara, Miss Rumphius

  • Estes, Eleanor, The Hundred Dresses

  • Galdone, Paul, The Gingerbread Boy

  • Gramatky, Hardie, Little Toot

  • Hoban, Russell and Lillian, Bread and Jam for Frances

  • Keats, Ezra Jack, The Snowy Day

  • Keats, Ezra Jack, Whistle for Willie

  • Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed

  • LaMarche, Jim, The Raft

  • McCloskey, Robert, Lentil

  • Newberry, Clare Turlay, Barkis

  • Swift, Hildegarde, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

  • Ward, Helen, Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop’s Fables

  • Ward, Lynd, The Biggest Bear

  • Yolan, Jane, Owl Moon

Biographical picture books. Our older picture book readers (which includes mom!) enjoy reading about real people who solve real problems. With biographical picture books, young readers don't have to wait until they can read chapter books to read about and meet some of the world's most significant history changers. Our favorites have included

  • Dooling, Michael, Young Thomas Edison

  • Moses, Will, Mary and Her Little Lamb

  • Martin, Jacqueline Briggs, Snowflake Bentley

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Every child ought to know the pleasure of words so well chosen that they awaken sensibility, great emotions, and understanding of truth.
— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart, Zondervan, 2002, p. 18

What is a picture book?

A picture book invites readers into learning and into the stories of others, gently, peacefully, and purposefully. There will be pondering. There will be wonder. There will heart-changing impact, sometimes so subtly it will go unnoticed for a bit of time. 

Some of our most treasured family read-aloud moments and discussions have come from the pages we've turned together. With each book selected, read, placed on our shelves, and the read again, a legacy formed. That legacy is sweet, precious, unique to our family, as it will be yours. That story legacy is a gift, a gift which will continue to span generations. It is just one benefit of keeping learning real and relational. 

Every. Moment. Matters. 

I recently presented Picture Book Treasures at the 2018 FPEA Convention. If you would like more information on picture books and building a home library, the MP3 can be purchased in the FPEA store

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When Curriculum Looks Different

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People often ask what we use for curriculum.

The short answer? We use anything which will help our children learn what it is they are trying to learn. And, if it involves real life, even better.

Sometimes our curriculum looks traditional, like a math textbook.

Other times our curriculum is a stack of Living Books.

A few months ago, my middle schooler initiated a flower bed renovation project. She wanted a flower garden to call her own, a place she could eventually grow cut flowers. A few visits to the clearance section of the local garden shop and she had rescued several very nice—but wilting—flowers (aka curriculum). With a little research in a field guide and a how-to online tutorial (more curriculum), the plants were thriving.

Today we added a few more resources to the curriculum—a collection of solar garden lights. Before placing them in the bed, we experimented with them in a dark room. So fun! The littlest learners were enthralled!

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“Flashlights without batteries!” one shouted.

Curriculum incorporates all that a learner uses to learn the content of a specific subject. Though we are often tempted to stay within the means of what we know or have experienced as curriculum, in real-life the definition of curriculum broadens to include any materials used to foster a student’s understanding.

The possibilities are endless.

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Consider broadening your sense of what curriculum includes. Maybe it’s

When learning is real, relational and intentional it's remembered! 

Every. Moment. Matters.