Our Favorite Read-Aloud Books from this School Year.

Monday, March 20, 2017

As a Charlotte Mason-inspired, book-based homeschool, we try our hardest to read lots of high quality, living books in our home.  I thought I'd share what we've read and enjoyed this year...

Novels we all loved...

Alright, I can't possibly comment on every single book photographed (well, I could but it would take way too long...).  I always try to pick a good selection of classics, award winners, historical fiction, comical, mystery, etc.

Many of these we listened to on audio.  Audio books are a life saver for me!  Books we found on audio included:  Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, Frindle, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Elijah of Buxton, Rascal, Dewey the Library Cat, The One and Only Ivan, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague,  and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler.  (Yep... tons!)

What Alex (8 years old) really loved...

I read the Ralph books by Beverly Cleary exclusively with my youngest son (he's 8).  He absolutely LOVED them and would beg me to keep reading and wanted to read each consecutive book.  I highly recommend these for fun read-alouds that will turn kids on to longer novels.  They would also just so enjoyable and light to read together.  Adventure, fantasy (seriously... a mouse who talks and rides a motorcycle), and humor make a great combo for young boys especially.

Books Audrey (9  years old, turned 10 recently) really loved:

Alright, so All of a Kind Family and Sarah, Plain and Tall are classics and we really enjoyed reading those together.  We also read the follow ups, Skylark and Caleb's Story.  I've just ordered the las two books in  the series - so, yes, we liked them!

What really got Audrey reading more independently was the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary.  I read these as a young girl too and still remember how much I loved them!  They are funny, engaging, and relatable.  Cleary writes to kids in a special way that very few authors can achieve.  

Some Moms find Ramona annoying for various reasons, but I find the books hilarious... and my kids all agree.  In fact, all the kids love this series but it was Audrey who was curling up in bed and reading through them independently!

Books Simon (11 years old) really loved:

Simon loves to read and be read to as well.  These were some of his faves - The Crispin series by AVI, anything Roald Dahl (I have mixed emotions about the weirdness of Roald Dahl but my son LOVES these books...), The Prince Warriors series by Pricilla Shirer (HIGHLY recommend this - these books captivated my son and are a mirror of the spiritual battle and the armor of God), and various others, as you can see in the photo...

Also shown:  My Side of the Mountain, Two Against the North and Curse of the Viking Grave by Farley Mowatt, The Secret Church by Vernon, The Shakespeare Stealer, The Sign of the Beaver, Indian in the Cupboard, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. 

Spines and Morning Time Reads

Alright... we read so many books this year, but these are the ones we read most often and enjoyed together as a family.

Of course, the scriptures are always part of our daily reading.

For devotional reading we really loved Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.  It is so beautifully illustrated with very quick devotional snip-its of truth to 'make your heart sing'.  

Prayers that Changed History  by Trish Goyer is a great read for Hero Study and Inspirational Reading.  It goes chronologically, high-lighting people of faith whose prayers made a difference.

The Children's Treasury of Virtues is bind-up of several classic William Bennet titles (Book of Faith,/Virtues, Book of Heroes, Book of America).  This is a top fave in our home and I really recommend it!  The Illustrations are engaging and the stories are well written and meaningful.  We also read The Book of Virtues (big one on far right of the top row) and our kids ask for that one.

The Story Bible for Older Children is an oldie but a goodie.  It is living book style narratives of the entire New Testament.

Poetry included A Child's Book of Poems by Fujikawa and several other anthologies (we own countless poetry books).

We also enjoyed Simply Charlotte Mason's Stories of America and Stories of the Nations for History.

And... then there are the books we LOVE over and over again...

The Chronicles of Narnia

 Nothing compares to Narnia for our kids.  They will read these books countless times and they are a mainstay in our home.  I highly recommend the series as family read-alouds.

Also, we have the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre dramatic presentation of the books and our kids LOVE them.  I have listened to them so many times....  I reviewed the set HERE.

Hello from the Homefront! {Updates, Homeschool planning, and upcoming posts.}

Saturday, March 18, 2017


So, I thought I'd just write a very down-to-earth post sharing what's been going on in our family for the past few months and what is whirling around in my mind as I ponder our year.

I know, it's been too long!

This year, in so many ways has been quite different.  To be honest, as I always warn, we have completed some but definitely not all of our 'plan'.  We started our walk through Modern History (using Simply Charlotte Mason's family guide) and are still only at Lesson 36 of a 176 lesson program.  *sigh*

But, that doesn't mean we haven't been learning.

I don't know if any of you do this - but we get to a certain topic and I just find way too many great books about it to just move on so quickly.  It seems many history based curriculums want to push on through SO MUCH history in one year.  To me, 1850 to present day could take 3 years to cover if you really dig in to the topics!!!

We camped at the gold rushes for weeks!  The Klondike Goldrush here in Canada and the California Gold Rush.  The kids were fascinated by it and loved the two books we read - Gold Rush Fever and By the Great Horn Spoon.

We've still been slowly crawling through Stories of the Nations and Stories of America Volumes 2, which the kids love and I reviewed here.

But, the kids do need a change of pace and the nice thing about the Charlotte Mason guides is they are only about $10.  So... if you don't finish the whole year, it's OKAY to move on if you feel the kids need a shake up int he homeschool.  Which we definitely do.

Clockwise from top left: the Gold Rush books we loved, a pile of new books for our launch of Sonlight Core B+C, a snapshot of the workbooks our kids were doing (see below), and a pile of books I'm sorting through right now...

Snapshots of (some) of the books we've really enjoyed this year: 

When I look at how many books we actually were able to read this past year, I am amazed and reminded that we are doing tons.  Even when it feels like we aren't doing a lot of 'written' work, we are taking in so many wonderful living books all the time.

I will put up a post showing many of the books we loved from this year on Monday's Charlotte Mason Monday post.

So, Workbooks got us through a busy season...

When the baby (we're currently fostering to adopt a beautiful baby boy!) came to us in December, we picked up a few workbooks at a local educational store to get the kids through the first few months of having a new family member.

The kids NEEDED to keep doing some homeschooling and my two youngest actually very much enjoyed the ease of the open-and-go books.

I would not consider most workbooks to be a source of a living education but let me tell you what doing 'workbooks' for 2 months DID do for my kids.  Workbooks opened up the world of working independently... which, surprisingly, they hadn't truly experienced before.

My eldest (he's 11, almost 12) is very bright.  Workbooks drive him nuts because he feels they are very watered down and 'cheesy'.  I've struggled with homeschooling him the past several months (years?) as he is super smart but reluctant to almost... well... everything.  *sigh*  Except reading.  Thank goodness, he enjoys reading great books.

Having said all this... having a beautiful baby in our home who we are caring for and fostering to adopt had been the most life-changing and wonderful experience for us and our children.  There is no 'education' more powerful than nurturing empathy and love and a sense of selfless servanthood.  Workbooks or no workbooks - it didn't REALLY matter.  The true learning was happening in all our hearts and it was a very precious season none of us will ever forget.

For any who are ever wondering if God truly hears your prayers... He does.  And in His time (HIS time!!!), He will answer you... in the most miraculous, mind-boggling way!!!

Here is something I shared on Facebook, and I think it is worth sharing again here... this is a photo of Audrey feeding our little guy.

"Homeschooling. I've had many people ask how we are possibly going to keep up with homeschooling now that we have a newborn in our family. I'd like to send them all this photo and ask them what education means to them. 

To me, loving and caring for a person in need is the most important thing that we could ever *teach* our kids and ourselves. Academics have their place, and sure... 

That stuff will get done eventually. But this... This photo encapsulates the very depth of why homeschooling is so powerfully beautiful for family culture. Never underestimate the power of nurture and the role it plays it bringing up a child in the way he or she should go. 

A baby is not an interruption to real education.... They are the most powerful display of God's grace, and our role as lovers of others and servants in His name. 

Learning how to embrace and cherish these precious family moments and build strong bonds with each other, to learn to set aside our own desires for the sake of another, to sit in awe of how the Lord weaves and works... Now thats the kind of education I desire for my kids."


Thinking and Planning:

So, even with baby - there is still some serious planning that must take place.

I don't know about all you (fellow homeschoolers!) but every year, in about February or March, I start to freak out.  I lose my cool and start stressing that we aren't learning enough, aren't doing enough, that the kids are behind... you know all the typical homeschool fear-based stuff.  Sometimes it is warranted, sometimes it isn't.   Always, it is pointless.  I mean, the worrying.  It gets me nowhere, as you all know.

Sometimes we are tempted to plunge into something totally new without really thinking and praying about it. The temptation is SO strong.  All those shiny websites and pretty catalogs promising the world...  All those new books all coming in a great big cardboard box delivered by our friendly and tired mail carrier (Ha, he recently came INTO MY KITCHEN and rested while dropping off parcels).

But I know as well as you do that no one 'curriculum' can give us the world and make homeschooling perfect. It just doesn't happen that way.  If you purchase believing it, you will always be disappointed.

However, there are definitely seasons when purchasing a great homeschool curriculum will really add wonderfully to your homeschool and relieve you of much stress. 

Not to mention give you peace of mind and allow you to actually implement some great learning with very limited planning time.  I have experienced this many times.  We have enjoyed many so-called 'boxed' curriculums in the past and for the most part, as long as I've prayed and thought it through - it does tend to work well.  So long as it is the right fit for our family.

We have LOVED Sonlight in the past as well as Heart of Dakota, both 'boxed' Charlotte Mason-friendly programs.

We also completed most of  Five in a Row (all 4 volumes) and that would be considered a type of 'curriculum', I suppose.  I am actually counting the years until I can do it all again with our newest little man!  Haha... LOVE Five in a Row!

So, all of January and February, I really took time to pray and to think (REALLY THINK) about our plans for this coming year.  I kept asking how I could, in this crazy busy (and to be honest, a little emotionally exhausting) season of life, still offer a wonderful 'feast' of inspiration and learning to my big kids.  (They will be 12, 10, and 9 this coming school year!!!)

I felt pretty quickly that putting together my own plan and implementing it just wasn't going to work in this season of life.  It takes a huge amount of time and energy to do this well, as I'm sure many of you know.

We prayed for YEARS for a baby and... well... I want to have as much time as humanly possible to just savor this time.  Not spend every waking moment (and every middle-of-the-night moment) printing, planning, creating, and so on.

So, I started revisiting ideas for a more planned out curriculum we could purchase.  I've done so many reviews and so much research over the past 10 years that it really doesn't take long to figure out because I already know there are only a few boxed curriculums I would ever actually purchase.

So, the plan for this Spring and Beyond -

We are implementing Heart of Dakota's Preparing Hearts for His Glory combined with Sonlight's Core B+C with extensions for my eldest son.

I'm so, so excited, guys!

Sure, it cost a bunch of money to buy the programs and get all the books to go along with them - but it is worth every penny to have peace of mind and a state of rest.

Just so you know, I purchased the Heart of Dakota program new but I did not purchase Sonlight new.

I had most of the books already and purchased a used guide from a friend for $20.  But Preparing Hearts for His Glory and Core B+C use the same spine (Children's History of the World) and follow almost the same course of history so we are combining much of the learning and many of the books.

I know (REALLY know) that we have a very solid year ahead of us.  These programs are so wonderfully rich and it is all laid out for me.  So, I follow the plan (with a few rabbit trails, I'm sure) and I will be sure to have given my children a real 'feast' of an education.  *breathe out*

The best part is the load off my tired shoulders.  We have a plan.  It is spelled out for us.  And the kids will like it.  I know this because I know what my kiddos love and this plan includes tons of reading of wonderful books and some notebooking and some hands-on activities.

I'm excited to share our homeschool 'plan', including the choices for our kids' language arts and math in its entirety next week.

We start Monday!!!

Oh... and in light of my new little bundle, hooray... I can enjoy babywearing again!!! SO, naturally, I started a new Pinterest Board.  Baby Wearing is seriously one of the most wonderful, beautiful, heart-warming things in the world.  *smile*

Blessings and huge hugs and kisses from our very snuggly and happy home.


Posts on the way:

Nature Studies for Spring Time with NaturExplorers {it's that time again!}

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Spring is on the way... and its time to start thinking about Spring Nature Studies!  Right?  I think so!

What is included in the NaturExplorer Units?

There is SO much in these amazing unit studies!

These are very Charlotte Mason-friendly. Cindy has packed the pages full of incredible ideas and inspirations to jump start all kinds of nature study as well as notebooking and nature journaling.  The guides are easy to use and very well laid out.   They are also good for quite the age range, with ideas to carry you from preschool to even high school depending on how you use the information and how you direct your student.

Some of the elements include:

Getting Started - Literature Launch gives a list of recommended children's literature to inspire and introduce the concepts of the study (love this so much!), Inspiration Point and A Bit of Background offer the 'teacher' a chance to gain quick and easy basic understanding of the motivation behind the study and some background knowledge before heading into nature study both in and out of doors.

Getting Outside - Nature Walks and Outside Activities (the core of the curriculum) is the section where Cindy has written so many great topic-related ideas for getting outside!  This is exactly what I was looking for since the simple, "Hey let's go for a walk," doesn't always captivate my kids anymore.  

Branching Out - This section goes more in depth and, well, branches out on the topic of study.  There are many ideas for hands-on science experiments and activities, vocabulary and scientific concepts (this one includes a look at Allen's Rule, Bergmann's Rule, The Egg Rule, and Gloger's rule, along with discussions and activities for the concepts of adaptation, camouflage, how to make your yard animal and bird friends, and much more.)

In the Branching Out section, you will also find a ton (really!) of ideas for research, study and creative writing.  The ideas are so many and so varied that I mentioned to my husband that I would surely keep these units for years to come and pull them out during the applicable seasons to use as a launching pad for Nature Study over and over again.  Cindy gives hundreds of ideas that could serve as a very engaging springboard for all ages.

Bible, Poetry, Artist and Picture Study, and Composer and Music Study:

I love the Bible Lessons from His Creation section.  This highlights multiple verses and chunks of scripture that relate to the topic of study.  We used Matthew 6:28-30 as our copywork in our Nature Journals.

Poetry Place includes several titles of theme-related poems and suggested books of poetry.  For this unit, we printed off all the poems and read them aloud.  We used Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field as a nature journal page and learned more about the Canada Geese from Handbook of Nature Study. when we used Coping with the Cold this winter.

I was so excited to discover the Artist and Picture Study References included as well.  What a wonderful addition to any Nature Study!  Cindy gives great suggestions for kid-friendly picture study with artists and artwork related to the topic.  We really gravitated towards studying works by Robert Bateman for our Coping with the Cold unit and it was wonderful.  

Composer and Music References offers some lovely ideas for music study related to the specific theme of the given Nature Study unit.

There are also many notebooking pages to use within your home and homeschool for each unit - so many I couldn't list them all!  Each page pairs easily with the content within the unit study and can be printed off as needed!

Seriously, amazing resources!

My suggestions for Spring Nature Studies -

Remember, there are easily downloadable samples of all the NaturExplorer Units on the site!

First, I want to share with you the NaturExplorers Bundles.  These are a really inexpensive way to load up on tons of wonderful Nature Study resources that will last you way longer than one season (trust me on this one!).  Many of the units work great in many seasons.  I love that Cindy has made bundles so that we can get the best bang for our buck (so to speak) and grab 3 studies at once.  Both the Early Spring Bundle and the Late Spring Bundle have awesome Nature Studies that will work through Spring, Summer, and into Autumn as well, actually!

Early Spring Bundle

The Early Spring Bundle includes three great individual NaturExplorer units: A Fungus Among Us, Animal Signs, and Remarkable Rain.

Late Spring Bundle

The Late Spring Bundle includes: Wonderful WildflowersEverchanging ErosionBeautiful Birds.

Early Summer Bundle

The Early Summer Bundle includes:  Flying Creatures of the NightFrogs and Toads, and Peaceful Ponds.

Some more Ideas for Nature Study this Spring:

This Spring, we are diving into Everchanging Erosion, and over the Summer, I plan to do a bunch of  Hard as a Rock.  I'm sitting here flipping through the guides, so I thought I'd share some of the great ideas and resources in these two units.  They both look fantastic!

Everchanging Erosion

Some of the ideas in the Getting Outside section include:

  • Go on an Erosion and Scavenger Hunt (and use the notebooking page to go along)
  • Draw an Erosion site that you visit and/or draw a small area map 
  • Find examples of wind erosion
  • Look specifically for signs of erosion along a creek with a focus on bends in the creek bed (use the notebooking page that goes along with this)
  • After a heavy rain, observe a body of moving water for signs of erosion happening quickly because of the fast moving water, use the After the Rain notebooking page
  • At the beach, build a sand castle near the low tide - observe stages of the castle's erosion
There are also tons of ideas in the Branching Out section, including: experiments to show how water expands when it freezes, simulating ice, water, and wind erosion on a mound of dirt, a Lifesaver rock experiment, observing how sediment settles, a simulation showing how a cave is formed using sugar cubes, a landslide experiment, a water weight experiment, make clay models of various landforms, and many more.

On top of all this there are also suggestions for writing and research projects, poetry, music study, art and picture study, lots of notebooking pages, and ideas for including very young children as well as teens.  Love it!

Hard as a Rock

This study introduces us to types of rocks, the rock cycle, and various topics related to rocks and rock types.  Activities include:  keep records of interesting rocks you find and start a collection, compare and contrast different rocks you find, go on a fossil hunt, go on a rock scavenger hunt using a specific notebooking page, walk a dry stream bed in search of interesting rocks and pebbles.

Branching Out activities include: find the absorbency and volume of rocks, make sedimentary/metamorphic/igneous rocks to eat, create your own fossils from plaster, grow rock candy, build a rock wall around a flower bed, and many, many more ideas for looking under rocks as well.
As with all the NaturExplorers units, on top of all this there are also suggestions for writing and research projects, poetry, music study, art and picture study, lots of notebooking pages, and ideas for including very young children as well as teens.  

A couple more that would be great for Spring - 

I think Captivating Clouds could truly be done at any time of the year.  I think we might launch into this in late Winter this year.

Here are just some of the ideas from Captivating Clouds: learn to identify different types of clouds, observe and journal clouds on a nature walk using an identification chart, keep a log of the cloud types you see every day, use a compass to identify the direction clouds are moving, learn about water vapour,  identify shapes in clouds, observe and journal about colours found in clouds, write Haiku, sculpt clouds using clay, learn the five main cloud components, learn about condensation, evaporation, and precipitation, make 'fruit in a cloud' for a snack, and so much more! 

For writing ideas, suggestions include: make a chart showing cloud levels and altitudes, create an accordion book about fog types,  research, illustrate, and write a paragraph about Interesting Cloud Names, and several more engaging writing topics.

Multiple biblical references and readings are provided along with poetry suggestions.  Art and Picture Study includes Van Gogh, Monet and Norman Rockwell, among others.  Also has composer suggestions and numerous suggested fiction and non-fiction titles to work with the study of clouds.

Incredible Creeks

We used this unit over the Summer last year and still have TONS left that we can do.  It is full of great ideas for studying not only creeks, but streams, rivers, lakes, you name it.  This would work well in the Autumn, as it is often recommended to study creeks and watershed areas in Autumn!

Incredible Creeks includes: looking at the Water Cycle, completing detailed observations on both a large and small scale plus accompanying Notebooking pages, Wading Scavenger Hunt, observing rocks and collecting pebbles, finding and exploring waterfalls, discussing the various parts of watershed areas, looking at tree roots, identifying and journaling about Wild Flowers, looking for signs of a Healthy Creek, looking at amphibians, monitoring and charting creek temperatures, and tons more.

There are also ideas for making a model of a creek, drawing a cross-section mural of a creek,  and several really interesting science experience to help understand watersheds, erosion, and creek habitats.  Writing ideas include things like creating lyric poems, researching and writing about a famous gold rush, and learning and writing about dams.

There are multiple scriptures included in the unit that relate to life, water, and God's care and provision for His children as well as songs

Peaceful Ponds

Some of the hands-on ideas in the Peaceful Ponds unit include: Creating an underwater sampler, using a strainer to find live creatures in a pond, identifying specific pond plants and sketching and labelling parts in your Nature Journal, identifying and note booking the four main zones where pond plants grow, creating a map of your pond and surrounding areas, watching for birds/insects and create stories about their adventures, dissecting a pond plant, looking at pond water under a microscope, and looking at various pond animals.  

There are scriptures tied into baptism, creation, and God's hand in nature.    Poetry includes poems from Matsuo Basho, Alfred Noyes, and Eleanor Ferjeon and suggests a beautiful poetry book that specifically covers Pond Poems.  Picture Study includes Claude Monet, Cezanne, and Rousseau, and Renoir!

There are over 25 amazing suggested read-alouds to go with this unit as well as numerous note-booking pages to print-out and use along with the hands-on activities and learning.

Creative Nature Walks

This is such a great resource!  Who couldn't use 100+ 'easy and fun' Nature Walk ideas on hand to pull from?  I have used this at the drop of a hat, literally as we're walking out the door.  The ideas a varied in age range, length of time require, prep-time (most require none), and ease.  

Some of the ideas include: ABC's of Nature (I recently posted about our ABC walk here), Adjectives Abound - describing things in nature using adjectives, Below My Knees- noticing and journal things found below 'knee' level, Collect and Create - collect things that are no longer living on your walk, bring them home, and get creative, Fly By- noticing and identifying things found in air, and on and on it goes!  Honestly, this is an amazing Nature Study resource for any family to have on hand!  

I highly recommend it! 

I hope this is helpful as you embrace Nature Study this Spring!

Our Journey Westward

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A Review of Simply Charlotte Mason's Visits To... Geography Series (Curriculum)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I'm happy to give my full review of the "Visits To..." Geography Series.

I'm on a bit of a Simply Charlotte Mason run, I know, but that's because I really do love their resources and I'ver been meaning to g et these reviews up for months!!!

So...  Geography has always been a bit of a mish-mash for our family.  When the kids were younger we covered most of our geography through Five in a Row.  Now we read books that are specific to certain geographic areas and have basic discussions about them and find them on a map.  Geography is also naturally covered in History read-alouds and discussions.  We've also done Map-Drill, which I highly recommend for memorizing maps.

The "Visits To..."  series has 5 book or region options to choose from:  Europe (what we have), North America, South/Central America and Australia, Africa, Asia.  The spines of this program are the workbook/guide (lessons, maps and discussion questions), and two books - Hungry Planet and Material World.

There are suggestions for read-alouds throughout the guide based on the region - some are hard to acquire but some are readily available.  These are suggested readings and do not form the spine of the program.  I didn't acquire any of the suggested titles.

This is a people-focused program where kids are learning very specifically about individual families in various regions of the world.  This makes it quite Charlotte Mason friendly if you consider the idea of biography to express history and geography.

How the Program Works:

The two spine books (Material World and Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel) are used for every single volume in this series.  If you don't own them, the program won't work at all.  Likewise, if you don't love those books - you won't love the program.

The set-up is a series of 'visits' from 1 - 36.  This could be 1 for every week of the school year but doesn't have to be.

The lessons go in rotations or a type of loop.  For example:

Visit 1: Map the countries of Europe- Great Britain and Ireland (students are given a map of Europe and they either write or past the names of Great Britain and Ireland onto the map.  There is also recommended reading - Megan's Year: An Irish Travellers Story for grades 1-3, The British Empire and the Great Division of the Globe for ages 4-12).

Visit 2: Meet the Families - Here you read a part of Material World about the Hodson family who live in Great Britain.  Then there are questions for discussion. An example of question: "Look closely at the picture of the Hodson family's house and belongings on page 210 and 211.  Can you identify all the belongings."  Another question is: "Read the Photographer's Note on page 215.  Based on the description, the photographs, and the clothing the people in the photographs are wearing.  How would you describe the weather in Great Britain?"

Visit 3: Make your own Map - The kids are no tracing their own map of Great Britain using a map that is provided in the guide/student sheets.

Visit 4: Meet the Families - Now we get to know another family from Great Britain in Hungry Planet.  Questions include:  "Read the narrative of the morning the author spent at the Bainton family's house on page 141.  Tell what you learned about their life." and "Look at the photographs and read the captions on page 142 and 143 to find out more about the Bainton family's lifestyle.

The program continues with map work, biographical readings from Hungry Planet and Material World, and with various conversational or written questions the students answer and consider.

There are also a "Detailed Visits Project" idea that suggests older students creating a spreadsheet to express data and stats given on each country.  

Some photos from the spine books -

Thoughts and Recommendations:

Based on my experience teaching my kiddos, I actually think this program is best suited for middle school and beyond.  The questions are fairly simple but the reading and map work is advanced.  The spine books used are geared to older kids, in my opinion.  In fact,  Hungry Planet and Material World are not kids books at all but written to an adult audience.

There were some topics I wasn't really comfortable with for my younger kids and they weren't particularly engaged with the text.  It really is geared to much older students.

The books are written well but they aren't narratives, just non-fiction writing of mostly facts about the given families.  They are written in a conversational tone - but not a living book style.  Hope that makes sense.

The photos and captions, mind you, are quite interesting, especially for people/kids who like stats and information they can compare.  I would say, though, the books don't work that well as read-alouds.  If you are looking for a read-aloud geography book - these are not the books.  These work far better as individual reads.  (Of course, this is just my opinion!)

I think this program would work best done individually by an older student instead of trying to do it as a family read-aloud type program.

For this purpose, it would make a very thorough and engaging geography series in a Charlotte Mason format for a child who loved information and comparing various stats and regions of the world.

Hope this review was helpful for you all.

Much love from our snuggly home to yours (I write this with a baby wrapped to my chest...  *smile*).

A Review of Simply Charlotte Mason's Stories of the Nations and Stories of America

Friday, February 10, 2017

Our family uses many of the resources found over at Simply Charlotte Mason.  

I honestly love the friendly, easy to use materials and their affordability.  Last year we worked through the Family Guide for Early Modern History and Epistles.  This took us on a living books learning journey from 1550-1850 that centred around family learning and reading.  I'm always adding to and changing the formal plan laid out in the guides but they are so affordable, it's completely fine in my opinion even if you only use them as a springboard for era study.  You can, mind you, use them as a well laid-out curriculum.  This year we've been (slowly, mind you) working through Modern Times.

Stories of the Nations and Stories of America are spine history books to the SCM Family Guides for Early Modern Times History and Modern Times History.

You really need these books to make the program flow.  There are two Volumes for each title.

Volume 1 of each book is used extensively with the Family Guide for Early Modern History.  Stories of America covers 'Columbus through Alamo', Stories of the Nations covers 'Queen Elizabeth the I through Geribaldi'.

Volume 2 of each book is used with the Family Guide for Modern History.  Stories of America covers 'Oregon Trail through the Information Age' and Stories of the Nations covers 'Count Bismarck to Queen Elizabeth the II'.

So, if you are anything like me you want to know - how are these books written?  Will they engage my kids?  Enlighten them?  Express historical fact in a living-book format that our family actually wants to sit down and read...?

My answer to all of these is a resounding, YES!

I absolutely love these volumes and how they are written!

Lorene Lambert writes Stories of the Nations. 

Various authors contribute to Stories of America, based on much of the 'original and revised material from The Child's Story of America and other books by Charles Morris, originally published in the early 1900s'.

Both Volumes, however, read in a similar tone.  They reflect a Charlotte Mason, living-book, let-me-sit-beside-you-and-chat style that is known and loved by so many homeschool families.

To give you an idea of the clever way these books are written to enlighten and engage, I've typed out a few examples of some of my favorite sections/parts from a few volumes -

The beginning of Stories of the World, Volume 1 is so captivating.  I LOVE Chapter 1 'A Bird's-Eye View'.  It invites the readers to come on a journey, here's a piece:

"It is a strange journey we are going to take.  Our route lies not through space, but through time.  Not over land and water, but backward over the years.  We are going to set out on a journey over the Old World....  The Old World is so big and has so many countries that I think one had better go over it by balloon, and look down on it as a bird does when flying through the clouds... But how little we see of the land beneath us.   Clouds spread thickly over it and blot out nearly the whole of Australia and great regions of Africa and Asia.  A dense cloud of ignorance rests upon them and hides from view, for we are sailing in the year 1550, when very little was known about these continents..."

(Stories of the Nations, Volume 1, pgs. 7-8)

Oh my gosh!  Don't you love it?

My kids were hooked.  They love me to read them these stories and this opening was so perfect!

More hints of what to expect:

"...To tell the whole story of our Civil War would take a book five times as large as this, so all I can do is to draw a sort of outline map of it.  A civil war, you should know, means a war within a nation, where part of a people fights against the other part.  A war between two nations is called a foreign war..."  

(Stories of America, Volume 2, page 36)

"All around Boston the farmers and villagers began to collect guns and powder and to drill men into soldiers.  These were called 'minute men' which meant that they would be ready to fight at a minute's notice, if they were asked to.  When people begin to get ready in this way, war is usually not far off..."

Stories of America, Volume 1, page 101)

"I am curious how many of my readers ask questions.  I fancy many of you do.  But I am also curious how many of my readers set out to answer their questions for themselves.  It is much easier to sit and wait for someone else to discover and explain the answers, is it not?  And yet, if every person sat and waited for others to do the work, answers would be few and far between.  The man I want to tell you about now was such a man as asked questions and then set about to find the answers himself.  Like the great Galileo, he carefully observed what was going on around him, then set up experiments to learn more.  His name was Isaac Newton, and he was born in England the same year that Galileo dies in Italy."

Stories of the Nations, Volume 1, page 63)

These books can be used with the Simply Charlotte Mason Family guides or as stand alone history books.  Either would be a huge benefit to any homeschool.

These are narratives that not only the children love, but I love as well.  They are perfect family read-alouds and I highly recommend them for the study of early modern history and modern history!


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