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. 

 

 

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.

Childhood of Famous Americans: Living Books for Young Learners

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Over twenty years ago, a veteran home educator suggested I read titles from the Childhood of Famous Americans series to my children.  Doing so would bring history—real problems solved by real people—alive, she claimed.

I purchased our first COFA and the children and I curled up on the couch to read. The book fueled questions, fostered wonder, and begged my children to read more. What a find!

That mom was right!

The Childhood of Famous Americans (COFA) series, praised by parents, teachers, and librarians for over sixty-five years, was first introduced to the public in the 1940s and continued to be printed into the 1960s by Bobbs-Merrill. Originally printed in hardback form, these fictionalized biographies (suitable for independent readers third grade and up or to be read aloud to any age) became instant favorites and were reintroduced in an infamous red, white and blue paperback form in the 1980s.

These books have engaged my children since the early 1990's.

Our family prefers the original hardcover books. Their large font invited emergent readers to read and allows younger eyes to comfortably read the text. Sadly, the hardcovers are now out of print. However, they can be found in online sales or in used bookstores.  If we cannot get our eyes and hands on these hard-bound treasures, we look for the well-known red, white and blue covers.

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Over the years, whenever we began new unit of study or a learner developed a new interested, we tried to find a COFA title to personalize learning. These books have allowed our young learners to learn history through real people, real problems, and real solutions. When we study a specific era, I use this list. With over 170 COFAs to choose from, there is sure to be one to be woven into any study.

Recently, the COFA flame was recently rekindled as one of my youngest children wanted to read about “real baseball players”.  I immediately looked through the stacks of COFAs on our shelves. Indeed, we had a paperback cover copy of Roberto Clemente: Young Baseball Player and a hard cover copy of Knute Rockne: Young Athlete.  I pulled those from our collection.

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I am thankful for that experienced mom’s recommendation to begin reading books from the COFA series. Since that day, we’ve been eagerly reading about the childhood lives of famous Americans, learning some very interesting lesser-known facts about people we have come to admire.

More about the Childhood of Famous Americans series:

  • The books are fictionalized, though based on information about the childhoods of these famous Americans.
  • Children find the books inviting because of their focus on the childhood life of people they know only as adults.
  • Each book is packed with noteworthy experiences, personality traits, and adventures from the growing up years of famous inventors, scientists, statesmen, and explorers.
  • Children gain understanding of how a person’s experiences and personal gifts contribute to and impact the lives of other people.  
  • By the end of each book, the reader is left with the desire to find out what happened next, a perfect lead to further study.


In recent years, several publishers are working to bring the once-out-of-print-titles back to life. A great endeavor, however in the process some of the books have undergone editing and rewording. One publisher, Patria Press, began reprinting the stories in 2002, renaming the series Young Patriots. 

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Want to learn more about the heroes and heroines who shaped our country?

Find a COFA title and relax on a comfy couch. You and your children will discover inspiring details from the lives of the men and women whom we often know only through their adult accomplishments.

Teaching High School American History and American Literature with Living Books

I am often asked how we teach American History and American Literature in high school. 

Actually, we have used different means and methods with each of our high school learners, dependent on their interests, learning styles, and in some cases, learning challenges. 

This blog post addresses one of those methods; the method we used with our reader who LOVED history. 

With our son's interest in reading and history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present) so we could allow time for him to dig deeper. After extensive research (based on my love for education as well as the fear I was doing enough--yes, I have been there!), I developed literature lists for American, British, and World Literature courses. These lists provided my son with reading suggestions to get him started, a springboard of sorts. His desire to learn history prompted him to seek out additional titles. My motto became, 

"You read it, I will give you credit."

For readers interested in the list of works from which we used toward either American History or Survey of American Literature, our reading list (remember it was a springboard from which he could jump in for more) is below. The American, British, and World literature lists are included in my book, Celebrate High School

Please keep in mind as you read through this list, our son was a self-motivated reader with an interest in the subject. Not all young adults will share this interest or learning preference. In addition to his independent reading, we used a textbook as a spine of topics. Though he started the year reading some of the text, by the end of the year he was reading more primary source documents, living history selections, and biographical pieces than text. He also had amazing opportunities to tour many of the Civil War battlefields and visited Washington, D. C., Boston, Plymouth, Philadelphia, and New York City. God provided for his love of history through many experiential opportunities. We realize not all learners will have these experiences but trust there will be other provisions for your family. 

This method worked for our oldest son. I tweak the process for each young adult, asking for their input. Please, don't use what is written here as a comparison for what your student should or shouldn't be doing. Learners are unique and high school is not a one-size-fits-all experience. 

Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent, neither of which are valuable.

Our examples are only intended as encouragement, to give an idea of what worked for us and what you might be able to create (or adjust) for your high schooler. Our young adult was (and still is) a reader, but your young adult may have an opportunity to intern with a local historical site or job shadow a museum curator. Use what God provides for your learner and pray about how he is preparing your young adult for the future plans He has, not for the ones we best intention.

Our American Literature list:

Alcott, Louisa May, Little Men

Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women

Barton, David, Bulletproof George Washington

Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz

Bierce, Ambrose, Civil War Stories

Cather, Willa, My Antonia*

Cather, Willa, O Pioneers!*

Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans*

Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage*    

de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America*

Dewey, John, Democracy and Education*

Douglass, Frederick, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass*

Edwards, Jonathan, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God*

Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury*

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby*

Franklin, Benjamin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin*

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter

Hemingway, Ernest, A Farewell to Arms*

Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls*

Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea*

Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises*

Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God*

Irving, Washington, The Legend of Rip Van Winkle

Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life*

Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird

McCullough, David, 1776

McCullough, David, John Adams

McCullough, David, The Wright Brothers

Melville, Herman, Moby Dick

Miller, Arthur, The Crucible

Miller, Arthur, The Death of a Salesman

Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling

O.Henry, The Gift of the Magi

Steinbeck, John, Of Mice and Men*

Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath*

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin*

Thoreau, Henry David, Civil Disobedience*

Thoreau, Henry David, Walden*

Thurber, James, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Twain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi

Washington, Booker T., Up From Slavery

Wilder, Thornton, Our Town*

Williams, Tennessee, The Glass Menagerie*

In addition to this literature list, we use primary source documents including speeches and journals.

Here are some examples. There are plenty of resources available on the internet (which could be a great catalyst for a discussion on reliable sources.

50 Core Documents, Teaching AmericanHistory.org

Primary Source Documents in American History

National Archives

Journals of Lewis and Clark

The Story of A Common Soldier- Kindle ebook

The Journal of James Audubon

Orville Wright's journal entry

This post is based on the experience of our oldest son. It is not intended as legal advice and is written with the knowledge that parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children. 

 

Discovery Biographies: Living Books for Young Readers

I enjoy talking with my adult children about what they appreciate about having been homeschooled. Now in their mid- and late-twenties, I glean much from their insight. And, having littles and middles (and a few high schoolers) still at home, the feedback is especially helpful as I daily evaluate the whys, hows, and whats of homeschooling.

What really mattered!

Unanimously, our adult children agree that having a plethora of books to choose from--books for all interests, learning styles and levels--has been one of the things for which they are most grateful. They usually follow up with a comment on how thankful they are that they had time to read; time to read what they found engaging, what would help them in their next steps of life and learning. 

Reading--aloud and independently--has greatly impacted the lives of our children. 

Having reading materials available to budding readers is important. It spurs them on, encourages them. These are books that invite the emerging reader--even challenge them--to jump in; kind of like a "you can do this" pat on the back. Garrard Publishing Company's Discovery biographies have been some of our favorite reads, fostering independent reading in newly fluent readers. These books are often our learner's next choice after Step-Up books, also biographies.

Discovery biographies are historical adventures written for learners at the early- to mid-elementary level. The cover copy on one book states,


"Discovery Books have been tested by the Spache Readability Formula and edited so they can be read by children in grades two through 4".

We found our later elementary learners also enjoy these books due to the engaging content--the adventure and real-life problems solved by real people--and find much satisfaction in finishing a book in one day.

The books offer full-page, three-color illustrations accompanied by a larger font size. Garrard states,


"All facts are authentic for they have been carefully checked by leading sources for historical accuracy".

One of our learners couldn't put these books down! In fact, I had to keep hunting and hunting to find titles. As you hunt, this listing may be helpful. 

Presidents

Ulysses S. Grant: Horseman and Fighter, Colonel Red Reeder

Abraham Lincoln: For the People, Anne Colver and Polly Anne Graff

Andrew Jackson: Pioneer and President, John Parlin

Thomas Jefferson: Author of Independence, Anne Colver and Polly Anne Graff

John F. Kennedy: New Frontiersman, Charles P. Graves

Franklin D. Roosevelt: Four Times President, Wyatt Blassingame

Theodore Roosevelt: Man of Action, James C. Beach

Harry S. Truman: People's President, David Collins

George Washington: Father of Freedom, Steward Graff

First Ladies

Abigail Adams: Dear Partner, Helen Stone Peterson

Mary Todd Lincoln: President's Wife, LaVere Anderson

Dolly Madison: Famous First Lady, Mary Richmond Davidson

Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World, Charles P. Graves

Martha Washington: First Lady of the Land, LaVere Anderson

Explorers, Navigators, Aviators, and Adventurers

Amelia Earhart: Pioneer in the Sky, John Parlin

Henry Hudson: Captain of the Ice Bound Seas, Carl Carmer

Charles Lindbergh: Hero Pilot, David R. Collins

Men and Women of the Frontier

Buffalo Bill: Wild West Showman, Mary Richardson Davidson

Daniel Boone: Taming the Wilds, Katherine E. Wilkie

George Rogers Clark: Frontier Fighter, Adele deLeeuw

Davy Crockett: Hero of the Wild Frontier, Elizabeth Robards Mosely

Annie Oakley: The Shooting Star, Charles P. Graves

Jeb Smith: Trailblazer and Trapper, Frank Brown Latham

Inventors, Scientists, and Medical Pioneers

Clara Barton: Soldier of Mercy, Mary Catherine Rose

Elizabeth Blackwell: Pioneer Woman Doctor, Jean Lee Latham

Alexander Graham Bell: Man of Sound, Elizabeth Rider Montgomery

George Washington Carver: Negro Scientist, Samuel and Beryl Epstein

Dorothea L. Dix: Hospital Founder, Mary Malone

Benjamin Franklin: Man of Ideas, Charles P. Graves

George W. Goethals: Panama Canal Engineer, Jean Lee Latham

Florence Nightingale: War Nurse, Anne Colver and Polly Anne Graff

Eli Whitney: Great Inventor, Jean Lee Latham

Statesmen, Political Figures, Revolutionaries, and War Heroes

Jane Addams: Pioneer of the Hull House, Helen Stone Peterson

Henry Clay: Leader in Congress, Helen Stone Peterson

Fredrick Douglass: Freedom Fighter, Lillie Patterson

David Glasgow Farragut: Our First Admiral, Jean Lee Latham

Francis Marion: Swamp Fox of the Carolinas, Elizabeth and Carl Carmer

Booker T. Washington: Leader of His People, Lillie Patterson

Authors, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

Helen Keller: Toward the Light, Stewart and Polly Anne Graff

Francis Scott Key: Poet and Patriot, Lillie Patterson

Ernest Thompson Seton: Scout and Naturalist, Wyatt Blassingame

Booker T. Washington: Leader of His People, Lillie Patterson

 

This series has definitely invited our budding readers into the amazing lives of people who made a difference...and into another reading level of living books!



Note the varied covers. I appreciate having a visual picture of what I am looking for when shopping a used bookstore or garage sale.

Living Books in High School

When we started our homeschooling high school journey in 2003, I was determined not to leave the learning power of Living Books behind in the elementary and middle school years. 

Living Books belong in high school!

While preparing a workshop I will present at the 2017 FPEA Convention, May 25-27, I decided to give Celebrate Simple readers some quick ideas we used as we incorporated Living Books into high school course content. Our high school learners were greatly impacted by the Living Books they chose. In fact, several titles greatly impacted career choices and life goals.

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When we began our high school journey, the first content area in which we incorporated Living Books was history. This seemed a natural choice since we had been using Living Books--biographies, autobiographies, and historical fiction--to accent our history studies in the elementary and middle school years. 

Adding Living Books to our science studies was also a natural fit, especially for learners who had interest in specialty areas or who wanted to dig deeper to learn more about scientists and inventors. As our young adults advanced through the high school years, we branched out into adult and college level materials. 

Reaching our creatives with written materials was a challenge at times, unless the reading was related their artistic gifting or interest. If you find yourself in that quandary, know that you are not alone and that your efforts are worth the time spent trying to find them great, applicable reads.

And, I had to let go of my more rigid definition of what a Living Book was in order to be open to the plethora of possibilities I would  have otherwise discounted.

The power of the story--not my definition of Living Book--impacted the life of the reader. 

What about an athlete who loves to read? How can Living Books be interwoven in a personal fitness or weight training course? And, what about an athlete who would rather play ball than read?

Living Books have the power to pull in even the most reluctant reader! 

Living Books can give life to any subject, if we allow them the opportunity to do so. Recently, one daughter began to lean toward personal growth and leadership materials, while another continued on her pursuit of all things medical. Why not include Living Books in that area, too!

If you are in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend, I would love for you to join me in my workshop, Keeping High School Alive with Living Books, at the FPEA Convention. This workshop will offer insight as to how Living Books bring high school studies to life and influence choices learners make beyond the tassel turning. The workshop will be packed with specific ideas in regards course content, book titles, and life-learning experiences. Hope to see you there! 

 

 

The Inauguration: Watching and Learning Together

I have been asked if our family will watch the inauguration.

Yes.

Wait! Before you decide to click off this post thinking I am about to get political, I encourage you to read on.

This post is about relationships.


My brother and I waited in anticipation as Grammy turned the knob on the television. One click, fuzzy white. Another click, more fuzz. One more click and there it was, the Inauguration. People lined streets, flags waving. Bands were playing. The date was January 20, 1973.

This was the day we waited for; the day we would spend at Grammy’s watching the inauguration of Richard Nixon.

We didn’t really understand the scope of the meaning behind an inauguration.

What we did know was we loved spending time with Grammy.

Leading up to the day, she talked about my Grandfather’s service in the military. We walked the memorial park near her house. She put a flag out on her porch. We could tell from our discussions and her actions that Inauguration day was important. Grammy made us curious. And, we loved our time with her.

As for any celebration, Grammy purchased snacks, snacks we could eat while watching the event. Having not seen an inauguration before, my brother and I had lots of questions. There was security in knowing Grammy would be seating next to us in the living room—knitting needles clicking away—eager to answer any questions. She was so patient.

It would be a day together, watching and learning.


Tomorrow at the Bastian home, we will watch the Inauguration day events. Not because we agree with everything that has been said or everything that has happened. But because we are an American family who is grateful for our nation and the process by which we elect leaders. Tomorrow, we will be watching and learning together.

There will be questions; likely lots of questions since we have littles who have never witnessed an Inauguration. I will know some answers, others we will have to research together. We will learn tidbits of trivia, nuggets of history, and have discussions. Some of the children and young adults will likely share thoughts, ideas they are processing. 

And, we will have snacks.

It will be a day of learning together, watching and listening.

Helpful resources and places to find answers

 

 

 

Most Popular Posts of 2016

2016 is marked as significant.

Why? Because every moment of our days mattered--the triumphs and the trials. We lived and learned together being intentional about using what was real and relational--from cradle to shingle--toddler to adult. Thank you for walking that journey alongside us! We are grateful for you, our readers! 

As a recap of our year together, I compiled our top 15 posts of 2016. ENJOY! 

 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by Real-Life for High School Credit: Care and Concerns for the Elderly.


Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by "Let Me Do It!" Helping Little Learners Become Independent


5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Legacy: Learning Alongside


The Possibilities of Elective Credits - Part II

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work.

If the information in this post was helpful, you might want to continue on and read Part III.


32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational 

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

If you are being intentional about keeping learning real and relational, you might also be encouraged by the practical life lessons (and history!) in this post-- Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life


8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Rainy days are natural wonders which intrique little learners. If rain is falling at your house and you are waiting for a safe pause in weather, try this indoor art activity--Torn Paper Rainbows


Grades...In High School

"How do I give grades in high school?"

If designing a transcript is your next step, this post may be helpful--Transcript Matters


Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

If you have middle school learners and are wondering how you can help them manage time, organize belongings, and pursue interests, this post--Magnificent, Make-A-Difference Middle School--might be helpful. 


Preschooling, Intentionally

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

If you are seeking ways to help your little learners do what they can, 3 Things They Can DO on Their Own, might be helpful. 


Living Books and Independent Studies

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

Science--especially animal science--is particularly interesting to little learners. If you have little learners with a zest for all things living, check out the book list in Vintage Science Readers for the WIN! 


Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse into Part of Our Day

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

Looking for a way to learn math outdoors, in nature, where children crave? Check out Math Adventures!


Using Living Books in High School for Credit

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Interested in earning credit for writing college essays? This post--High School Made Simple: College Essays for Credit--might offer some insight. 


SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

Keeping early learning active and fun!

Picture books can encourage learning. Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills lists some of our favorite math picture books. 


Intentional Cursive Handwriting

Oh yes, there is good reason to teach cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.

Interested in hands-on, real-life, spelling activities? This post--What About Spelling?--has lots of practical ideas. 


Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

If this post made you curious about interest-based learning, The Benefits of Interests: Motivating Learners, may answer a few more questions. 

Want to know more about how your days can be intentional, real, and relational? Click below to sign up for the Celebrate Simple Newsletter. 

Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life

We--family and friends--sat around tables at my grandmother's 90th birthday. Most were enjoying cake, punch, and conversation. One woman, sitting alone, attracted our attention. My children and I carried our cake plates over and sat alongside her. She was delighted. 

We introduced ourselves. She told us how she knew Grams. Then I asked, 

"Tell us something about your life."

And she did. 

"I was an Olympic runner with Wilma Rudolph." 

I wasn't too sure I believed her--you know, memory care and all. However, after talking, the story became clear and I was convinced. The kids marveled and asked questions--all the important whys, wheres, whens, whats, and hows. After our new friend finished her cake, she insisted we wait at the table while she went to her apartment. 

She had something to show us. 

Fifteen minutes later, she walked in the room with a photo album and an Olympic torch! No kidding! She sat back down at the table, opened up the album and pointed to a yellowed newspaper clipping of her standing alongside Wilma. 

We asked more questions, just like we had in our conversations with Grammy.

These women were living history--memoirs--testimonies of real-life, real moments in time. 


My grandmother celebrated 95 birthdays in her life. In our times together, she shared memories of her childhood, her family, her hobbies, and of times in history she experienced first-hand. She lived through the Great Depression, WWII, the Kennedy Era, the invention of many modern conveniences. She remembers events well, better than most of us on any given day.

She holds within her, a living history, of our world and of our family.

Several years ago, my then seven-year-old daughter questioned the age of her great-grandmother and made an insightful comment as we studied the Great Depression.

“We must ask Grammy about her experiences during the Great Depression. She might be the only person left alive that we can talk to about living during that time.”

Ah, yes child, you understand the importance of passing down stories.

Every person has stories and each of us can be story tellers, story bearers, regardless of our age. Stories connect generations; the stories we long to hear, the stories our hearts need to hear.

When you have opportunity to visit with someone, particularly someone with age and experience, consider the stories they might share. They will likely be eager to share and you may learn something no one else could share. 

Questions to ask:

  • Where and when were you born?
  • Did you have brothers and sisters? Were they younger or older than you?
  • Tell me about the house in which you grew up.
  • What activities did you enjoy as a child?
  • What do you remember about your parents or grandparents?
  • Did you go to church? Tell me about the church you attended.
  • Did you have a favorite book? Who read to you?
  • Tell me about your school.
  • What was your favorite subject in school?
  • Did you have any pets?
  • Did you play a musical instrument?
  • What was your favorite type of music? What were some of your favorite songs?
  • What did you enjoy doing? Did you have any hobbies?
  • Who were your friends? What did you enjoy doing together?
  • What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • What was your favorite food? 
  • How much did a hamburger and fries cost?
  • Did you have a job? At which age did you start working?
  • Tell me about your first car.
  • How much did your first car cost?
  • Did you marry?
  • If so, how did you meet your spouse? What did you enjoy doing together? 
  • Tell me about the proposal.
  • Did you have children? How many? What were their names?
  • Did you travel? Where did you visit?
  • Did you serve in the military? Where and when did you serve? What do you remember about your service?
  • What inventions do you remember and how did they impact your life?
  • Have you ever been to a World's Fair? Which one? What was it like?
  • What historical events do you remember? 
  • Did you belong to any organizations or clubs?
  • Was there someone who strongly impacted or changed your life?

How does what I experienced with that dear Olympic runner, my grandmother, and others impact me and my family? Today, I will purpose to tell at least one personal story to my children, one with which they might better understand their heritage and their world.

History can be intentional, real, and relational. 

Living Books and Independent Studies

"Mom, do we have any nurse books?"

That question. 

An interest.

I started with what I knew. My knowledge of nursing minimal at best. 

A Florence Nightingale biography; I knew we had one in our biography section. I  eagerly motioned her over to the shelves. 

A week. She read; late into the evenings. I could tell she was engaged. She had accepted the author's invitation to walk hospital ward halls where Florence served, cared. My daughter experienced the Crimean War, through the pages of that biography.

The final evening, sprawled across the recliner, she closed the book and pulled it close to her chest. A sigh. I inquired. 

"I love that book! I know Florence. She persevered. She solved problems to help others. I know Florence."

My daughter had been invited into a life, into a life that mattered.  

"Do we have any other nurse books?"

That question.

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

I knew it would happen. I just didn't know exactly when or with which book. 

Stories have a way about beckoning us to places, meeting people we would never otherwise meet. While my daughter read the The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton, I heard a whisper, a quiet voice which suggested I build; build resources, other books related to nursing. In answering the call, I searched book lists. Bought used and asked knowledgeable people for ideas. All for a purpose. 

I found books. They were delivered to our door. My daughter read.

About three books into her reading, she started to recognize connections between these often heroic women. At dinner I heard about her ah-ha moments. My daughter commented, sharing stories of how one nurse inspired, trained, or mentored another. 

I was astounded by the understanding she was gaining, truly amazed!

My daughter's independent study began with one Living Book, a book about a real person who recognized a need, saw a problem and then found solutions. That one book led to an independent study, a study I didn't plan. My role was to foster her interest by finding resources--in this case books--and to be willing to listen--to process. There were many discussions, many summaries voluntarily shared because the learning intrigued and mattered. My daughter analyzed, compared, inferred, questioned.

Surprisingly, her independent study began with one book; an invitation into the life of one nurse.

One Living Book. One real story. An independent study.


What were the books?

In addition to The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton (a Signature series biography) the book which started the study, my daughter also enjoyed:

Great Women of Medicine by Ruth Fox Hume, a collective biography

Nurse Around the World: Alice Fitzgerald by Iris Noble, a Messner biography

The Story of Edith Cavell by Iris Vinton. a Signature series biography

First Woman Ambulance Surgeon: Emily Barringer by Iris Noble, borrowed from a friend who knew of my daughter's interest, also a Messner biography

Frontier Nurse: Mary Breckinridge by Katherine E. Wilkie

America's First Trained Nurse: Linda Richards by Rachel Baker, a Messner biography

Remember, some of these books are intended for older learners. My daughter was entering high school when she read these books. What one family deems appropriate may not be considered acceptable for another family. Parents should consider their family's guidelines for reading material, as well as the maturity of their reader, when offering titles for learning. 

 

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. 

Using Living Books in High School for Credit

I am often asked how I design classes for our high school young adults.

Actually, I don't design all their classes, only ones where there is a special interest, an intrinsically motivated independent study, a travel experience which sparks learning, or in a case where we can't find a traditional curriculum fitting our learning goals.

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Our oldest son had a great interest and gift for learning history. This was, by my understanding, his favorite subject in school. He read constantly, checking out books at the library and spending saved monies at museum and historical landmark book shops. He outsourced his dad, a public school history teacher, very early. By the time he reached high school, there really wasn't a curriculum available to challenge him. I had to research accelerated reading lists, college course syllabi, and talk with historians to find resources for him. It was a challenge, but a privilege to help him grow yet further in his learning.

With his interest in history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present), and World History into Ancient (to the Reformation) and Modern (from the Reformation to present) so we could allow time for him to dig deeper into his interest. I developed literature selection lists for each course, providing him reading suggestions to get him started. His desire to learn history prompted him to seek out additional titles. My motto became, 

"You read it, I will give you credit."

For readers interested in the detail of what we constituted Ancient World History/Survey of Ancient Literature, our reading list (remember it was a springboard from which he could jump in for more) is below.

Please keep in mind as you read through the list, he was a self-motivated reader with an interest in the subject. Not all young adults will share this interest or learning preference. In addition to his independent reading, we used a textbook as a spine of topics. Though he started the year reading some of the text, by the end of the year he was reading more primary source documents, living history selections, and biographical pieces than text. He also had the amazing opportunity to travel to Rome, including tours of several sites inside the ancient city wall. 

This method works for us. I tweak the process with each young adult. Please, don't use what is written here as a comparison for what your student should or shouldn't be doing.

Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent, neither of which are valuable.

Our examples are only intended as encouragement, to give an idea of what worked for us, and what you might be able to create (or adjust) for your high schooler. Our young adult was (and still is) a reader, but your young adult may have an opportunity to intern with a local businessman or a museum curator. Use what God provides for you and pray about how he is preparing your young adult for the future plans He has, not for the ones we best intention.

Our ancient world history/ancient literature list:

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Oedipus Rex, Sophocles

Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles

Antigone, Sophocles

Mysteries of Ancient China, Rawson

Mythology, Hamilton

The Roman Way, Hamilton

The Greek Way, Hamilton

The Death of Socrates, Plato

Ben Hur, Lew Wallace

For the Temple, Henty

The Young Cathaginan, Henty

The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone, Giblin

In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, Wood

The Republic, Plato

The Histories by Herodotus

The Eagle of the Ninth, Sutcliff

Anna of Byzantium, Barrett

The City of God, Augustine

I, Claudius, Graves

Claudius the God, Graves

Don Quixote, Cervantes

Julius Caesar, Shakespeare

Sign up for our Celebrate High School newsletter and get a free printable Ancient Literature check-off list.

I am so excited about a NEW  workshop I've added to my conference speaking topics--Keeping High School ALIVE with Living Books. Can't wait to share how Living Books can continue to impact learning all the way through high school.

Check out my speaking topics page. 

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education.

 

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. 

Benjamin West Mini Study

Celebrate the simple in learning from an intriguing read.

 

It's been a few years and a few children ago that we read Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry (yes, the author who wrote the beloved Misty of Chincoteague, another classic worthy of the read). The book introduced us to the Father of American Painting, an artist of whom we were unfamiliar.

Recently, the youngers were introduced to Benjamin and the olders were reacquainted while reading Benjamin West: Gifted Young Painter by Dorothea J. Snow, a biography from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. We were all intrigued, just as we were years ago at our first introduction.

Little known facts we learned:

  • Benjamin wrestled with how his God-given talent could possibly be woven with his Quaker faith, giving his family and his church a new perspective to consider.
  • Benjamin was creative and industrious, making the best of what he had, from colored clay (insert science study here) to using his cat's fur to make paintbrushes (there is a character lesson of truth telling here but I won't spoil the story).
  • Benjamin was a court painter for King George III.
  • Benjamin taught famous painters Gilbert Stuart (think famous portrait painter of George Washington) and John Trumbull (think Declaration of Independence)

Interesting new vocabulary we learned from our reading journey through Benjamin West: Gifted Young Painter .

  • Satchel
  • Provost
  • Ramshackle
  • Aghast
  • Daub
  • Folly
  • Hautboy
  • Chortled
  • Nape
  • Comely

We finished the COFA biography today. As I read the last word of the book, a little perked up, interested:

"We have to find out more!"

Yes, we can. And so can you!

Look up these painters in your favorite set of encyclopedia (yes, they still exist), explore Google images, and watch a few You Tube videos.

We:

A good story sparks an interest.

"Mommy, Benjamin influenced many artists. May we find out more about those artists?"

  • Charles Willson Peale
  • Gilbert Stuart
  • John Trumbull
  • Thomas Sully
  • Samuel F. B. Morse

A spark ignites an interest, lights a new fire.

More to do:

  • Differentiate between portrait and self-portrait. Paint or draw your self-portrait.
  • Create a time line of the American history occurring at the time Benjamin West and the other painters were painting. What events were taking place? Did the painters have anything in common?
  • Talk about other events in American history happening about the same time.
  • If you had the opportunity to meet Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart or John Turnbull, what questions would you ask them about their work or the time in which they lived?
  • Learn about the Quaker faith and how it is similar or different from the faith of your family.
  • Read Barbara Brenner's The Boy Who Loved to Draw, biography of Benjamin West. If reading more than one book about Benjamin West, discuss how the books are similar or different. Compare facts in each work.

A spark ignites an interest,lights a new fire.

That's the ever giving blessing of cultivating a love of learning.