Category Archives: Books

library and garden

Using the Library to Greatest Advantage

I am so pleased with myself that I really should be ashamed. But, I’m not – because I just figured out a way to keep on track with our history readings this year.

Each year we have literature and historical fiction books that we read to go along with our history studies, but every year, you can count on us having to pause and wait because we don’t have the library book that we need yet. Or, worse – just having to skip a book altogether!

Source: via shelia on Pinterest

This year, I am going to take advantage of a little feature in our library loan options that I have all but ignored up until now. I have the option to suspend a hold and set a specific day to set it in motion. I was hit with a lightning bolt of inspiration – what if I go ahead and set up the books to “drop” a couple of weeks before I need them so that we are always ready to move forward?!?

If it works, this is going to streamline my scheduling by leaps and bounds! Of course, now my only concern is that the books are going to get ahead of us – yikes!

Source: via Serena on Pinterest

What about you – how do you make sure that you have all the books and supplies you need?  Please share your tips in the comments!


Julie Anne Lindsey

Teaching Kids to Write {Guest Post}

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Julie Anne Lindsey as my very first guest poster. I met Julie through Twitter and after discovering a mutual love of the movie The Princess Bride – especially the quotes – and starting quite the impromptu twitter party to boot, we’ve been friends ever since. I’m happy to introduce her to you, my wonderful readers. And, a big welcome to anyone visiting for the first time, too!

This is my first year not homeschooling. It’s been a tough transition for us all, but I stay involved in school more than the average bear, I think, much to the dismay of the school faculty at times. LOL But, our little country school provides plenty of opportunity for me to volunteer including reading at their library and having lunch with the kids. It’s a nice middle grounds for us.

I’m stopping here today as part of my first blog tour. I am finally officially an author. My debut novella, Bloom, has kicked off the new line of books called Honey Creek and I am honored to be here to talk about writing. Getting my oldest son to want to write is almost impossible. He loves books, as long as someone reads TO him. He’s a mechanical/hands-on thinker and in his mind, words are less than worth his time. He was a special joy to homeschool. The two littler ones like writing and creating and crafts and all the things my oldest detests. He refused to color all through kindergarten (which is mostly coloring, let’s face it) because “Coloring is for girls.” What was I supposed to do with THAT? LOL I learned to think outside the box, which it the biggest tool in every home school mom’s toolbox.


I developed story boards as a way to show him what a difference words make. I started basic, with one poster board folded in half and half again, leaving 4 large squares. We started with a stick figure dog. Then he told me it was a big dog. How big? HUGE/ He put his arms up in the sky. SO I added tiny houses to show the dog was HUGE. He was also red I learned.  LOL. With each passing block we added more details until the first pic showed one sad little stick dog and the last showed a giant red dog, nose against a roof, creating a slide for people to slide down to safety. I’m still not sure how they got stuck on the roof, but it was a lesson he could get behind. Words told the story.

We do the same thing now with my 3 year old daughter. Her stories revolve around faeries and unicorns, but she and her brothers can really get a good story going on their boards. (They do them for fun now). They understand the power words have in a way their public school counterparts don’t and I like that I gave them this gift. As a nice side effect, they call names a lot less and show more self-control over their mouths than many of their little friends. I like to think this comes from the same concept. Words are powerful.

If you’re teaching a stubborn little one who thinks words are a snore-bore, I hope you’ll find strength in the fact you aren’t alone. Even if they never become avid readers, the stories you make together will become memories to last a lifetime.

I also hope you’ll visit Honey Creek if you have time for a mommy break. It’s a beautiful place where anything can happen. Kick off your shoes, relax into that porch swing and cuddle up to a steamy mug of cider. Taking a trip to Honey Creek is as easy as Amazon : ) See you there!

Bloom by Julie Anne Lindsey

In a town filled with her past, she never expected to find her future…

Seven years ago Cynthia left Honey Creek with a broken heart. Three years ago Mitchell arrived with one.  Now Cynthia’s come home, and these two hardened hearts can’t stop arguing. If they’d only take a break long enough to find some common ground, they might be surprised to find love can grow anywhere.

If they’ll let it, love will find a way to Bloom.

*Bloom is book one in my new Seeds of Love series.  I’ll be planting those seeds all year.

About Julie:

I am a mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus. Most days you’ll find me online, amped up on caffeine & wielding a book.

You can find my blogging about the writer life at Musings from the Slush Pile

Tweeting my crazy at @JulieALindsey

Reading to soothe my obsession on GoodReads

And other books by me on Amazon

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Visit Pre-WW1 Vienna through The Star of Kazan

Recently the kids and I finished the book The Star of Kazan, and this book definitely swept us away to a different world. It is definitely a Living Book in the truest sense of the word!

The story takes place in pre-World War I Vienna and Germany, and I was really pleased with the level of story telling weaved with historical and geographical information.  I was also struck at how this book could easily be a jumping off point for a good unit study. We did this book as a read aloud at bedtime, so while we talked about some of the different aspects of the book, we didn’t really dig into it.  However, you still luck out because I decided to create a LiveBinder with lots of ideas to further delve into the story.

In addition to the ideas in the binder, there were also LOTS of great words to define.  Just some of the words that we experienced were: facade, coppice, ennobled, and bereft.  So, don’t let the age 8 and up scare you away for older kids – because there is definitely enough in here to entertain ALL ages!

I’ve gathered links for you on subjects from the geography of the area to music and science – as well as lots of great handicraft links like flower arranging, scrapbooking, letter writing, and how to build a fire in the wilderness.  Have fun exploring the world of Annika and the Star of Kazan.

Geography Stop: France

As you may remember, we’re doing Geography a bit different this year.  For the next two weeks, the spotlight is on France.  We ordered the books through our inter-library loan program.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Leigh

The first stop is supposed to be Operation World, but I had a “mommy moment” and completely forgot, so we’ll go there today. It’s interesting to note that the percentage of Christians in France is going down 0.6% each year, BUT Evangelicals are going up by 2.4% a year. Also, 33% of the people of France are unreached with the Gospel.

Insight Guide: France: I have to tell you that this book has just been fabulous! We love the pictures too, but the writing is just so vivid and clear.  These are by far my favorite series to read for Geography. It’s amazing how much more real a travel guide can make the country than most of the children’s books we’ve been able to find.  Just one of the great tidbits that we learned referred to the shape of France. If you take into account the natural boundaries of mountains and rivers, France is almost a hexagon in shape. They view their shape and their geographic location as being central to their uniting Europe.  This is something that the French people take great pride in according to the Insight Guide.

We also were lucky enough to happen across Mr. Bean’s Definitive and Extremely Marvelous Guide to France, and since it was in the non-fiction section, I’m hoping that everything in it is accurate.  The kids think that this book is hilarious which always helps to encourage learning.  It is a very busy book with lots of pictures and text written in different directions (kind of like the DK books.)  I may have to buy this one – right now it’s under $3 on Amazon for the hardback version. If you’re thinking about it, make sure you do the “Look Inside” because it really is a different kind of book.

And, to round it out, we got Favorite Fairy Tales Told in France.  I was a little disappointed, because out of the 5 fairy tales, we’re already familiar with 4 of them.  I am however looking forward to reading “Drakestail” because I’ve never even heard of it before. You can read it for free at the Baldwin Project. The other 4 stories that are found in French manuscripts from as early as 1697 (follow links for free reading).

And, just because I’m sure that you’re dying to know, “Drakestail” is found in a book from 1888.

What are some of your favorite ways to study geography?


Note: Some of the links are affiliate links, but I always recommend checking with your library first.

Linking up with

Geography Stop: Portugal

We use our libraries interlibrary loan system to get the books and make our own country study.  Here are the books that we found useful to study Portugal.

                                                                         Source: via Gidget on Pinterest

  •  Insight Guide to Western Europe (or other Travel Guide)
  • Joanjo : a Portuguese tale
  • Peppy of Portugal
  • The Secret of the Minstrel’s Guitar (Novel)
  • Spice and the Devil’s Cave (Novel – Historical Fiction)
  • Christian Outreach: 
  • Terms (great geography glossary:Enchanted Learning)


    Favorite Math Resource – EVER!

    There are two main things that were holding my kids back with math. It was taking too long to do the problems – they could do it but it was so time intensive that they hated it. And, they were making “simple” mistakes. Both of them are great about being able to grasp complex concepts but when it came to simple multiplication they had up a mental block….mostly because they didn’t want to learn their tables.

    Speed Mathematics: Secret Skills for Quick Calculation

    We decided to take the first six weeks of school this year and devote it to studying the concepts in this book.  We figured that if they could do the work faster, we will be able to cover more ground in the remaining 30 weeks.  This book has been absolutely amazing (so far….we’ve gotten through the first four chapters in the past week).  The author makes a very compelling case for the fact that the simplest way to do a problem will usually yield the fewest mistakes. 

    So now, my kids don’t grumble when doing their math….I think it gives them a sense of accomplishment that they can do things in their head faster than many adults can do it on paper.  How quickly can you do 97X98?  They can do it in less than 30 seconds. In their head.  (this is a 12yo and a 10yo!)

    The author also has a website with products geared towards teachers with worksheets, etc… but we picked the book up in our local bookstore and I’ve been creating the worksheets by hand.  It looks like there is also have a computer program that generates questions (may not be the same author) – I haven’t used this yet but I did just download the Demo.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments – I’d love to help more people discover this awesome way of doing math!

    Books Your Kids Will Love

    Want to further inspire your kids using subjects they are already interested in?  I happened across a GREAT book at Goodwill called  Great Books About Things Kids Love, and it helped me find some great books for my DS (10yo) that focused in on his interests.  The books that I chose are mostly fiction because he has been able to find plenty of non-fiction on the subjects he enjoys, but the book does list both Fiction and Nonfiction choices.  They have topics such as inventing, aliens, dinosaurs, cooking, math, art, etc…  – you get the idea.  The author also lists the number of pages in the book, the appropriate age range as well as the type of book (Picture book, fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc…)

    Want to know some of the books that I recently chose for my son?  Now keep in mind that all of these were chosen for their length (under 100 pages so designed to be a quick read) and the subject matter.

    Gadget War The Gadget War (Puffin Chapters)
    (Listed under Science Experiments & Inventions)  This story is about an 8 year old little girl who loves inventing and does so with careful note-taking.  Then a new boy arrives and they try to outdo each other.

     Me Tarzan
    Me Tarzan(Listed under Zoo Animals and Others)  This story is about a little girl that auditions for a play in her school, but the only part that she wants is the part of Tarzan.  Luckily she has a yell that lands her the part, but the yell seems to be a magnetic pull to animals in the area.  The night of the play is also the night that a circus is in town, so I’m hoping that my son finds this tale entertaining.

    Troll with No Heart in His Body and Other Tales of Trolls, from Norway
    The Troll With No Heart in His Body(Listed under Folklore & Fantasy) This book was chosen because of the subject of Trolls and also because we are studying the location of the Nordic Countries right now.  There is a warning that the book is not suitable for bedtime reading because trolls are not always the nicest of creatures.

    Aliens for Breakfast
    Aliens for Breakfast(Listed under Ghosts, Aliens, and UFOs)  This story begins with a little boy named Richard who finds a tiny alien in his breakfast cereal.  The alien is trying to warn Richard that there is an evil alien who has come to take over the earth.  According to Books Kids Love, there is some funny dialogue.

    Bad Guys: True Stories of Legendary Gunslingers, Sidewinders, Fourflushers, Drygulchers, Bushwhackers, Freebooters, and Downright Bad Guys and Gals of the Wild West
    Bad Guys: True Stories of Legendary Gunslingers, Sidewinders, Fourflushers, Drygulchers, Bushwhackers, Freebooters, and Downright Bad Guys and Gals of the Wild West(Listed under Cowboys, Cowgirls, and the Wild West)  Well, isn’t that a mouthful?  While my son isn’t normally that interested in cowboys, I thought that the title sounded just interesting enough that it might draw him in. This is also one of the few nonfiction books in this batch.

    Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic
    (Listed under Explorers and Adventurers) This is another Nonfiction, but we love Mr. Popper’s Penguins so this Picture Book Biography seemed a good choice to find out more about the Antarctic.  I do find it interesting that the book is listed as ages 6-10, but Amazon lists it as 4th grade and up.  Hmmm….I suppose that we’ll have to make up our own mind when we read it.  Unfortunately, Amazon isn’t allowing me to share the picture.

    Sword of the Samurai: Adventure Stories from Japan
    Sword of the Samurai: Adventure Stories from Japan (Trophy Chapter Books)(Listed under Knights and Castles)  My kids are both fascinated by Japan and of the Samurai soldier, so this seems like a natural book for us.  There are 11 fictional stories that have martial arts woven into the tales.

    Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World

    Stories To Solve: Folktales From Around The World (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

    (Listed under Brain Teasers and Riddles)  This book contains 14 “mini-mysteries” that allows children the opportunity to stretch their brain and see if they can figure out the solution.  The answers are listed on the following page.  This author has at least 2 follow up books that we will look into if we enjoy this one.

    What’s Cooking, Jenny Archer
    What's Cooking, Jenny Archer?: Book 4(Listed under Cooking)  In this book, Jenny Archer decides to start making her own lunch when she decides that she doesn’t care for what the school cafeteria is serving.  Her friends like what she’s preparing so much that when they ask her to prepare theirs too, a business is begun.

    Houdini Box
    The Houdini Box(Listed under Games, Hobbies, Toys, and Magic Tricks)  This is a fictional account of a little boy who loves Houdini and has a chance meeting with him.  Houdini bequeaths a box to the boy that he discovers the meaning of after he is grown up.

    As you can see, there are LOTS of categories hidden within the pages of this fabulous book.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t have this goldmine when the kids were younger as the resources listed are for ages 3 – 14.   I highly recommend this book as an addition to your bookshelf – it makes finding new books that interest them so much easier – even if just used as a jumping off point.  So, Make sure to check out Great Books About Things Kids Love!
    Great Books About Things Kids Love: More Than 750 Recommended Books for Children 3 to 14

    The Great Brain

    DS just finished reading The Great Brain, and according to him – “It was awesome!”

    From Wikipedia: The Great Brain is a series of children’s books by American author John Dennis Fitzgerald (1907-1988). Set in the fictitious small town of Adenville, Utah, at the turn of the last century, between 1896 and 1898, the stories are loosely based on Fitzgerald’s childhood experiences. From Fitzgerald’s description of the town of Adenville as the hub of a cattle and sheep ranching region in Utah, it may be reasonable to infer that it was based on Price, Utah.
    Chronicled by the first-person voice of John Dennis Fitzgerald, the stories mainly center around the escapades of John’s mischievous older brother, Tom Dennis Fitzgerald, whose nickname is “The Great Brain”.

    Guess I need to get him the next in the series now More Adventures of the Great Brain (Great Brain, Book 2) – I just love books that introduce them to the way things used to be in a nice readable format. This one and the Little House books are two of his favorites so far.

    Yet another Audio Book Classic Finished

    Today we finished “Little House in the Big Woods,” and ds especially enjoyed it very much. I had read it out load to dd a few years ago, so he was really the target audience. We also finished “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” before we did “Little House.” Not exactly a classic, but still a nice listen.

    Today we started back on our quest to destroy the ring at Mordor. I’m sure that we will be listening to “The Two Towers” for a while, but that’s ok. The kids and I are really enjoying it. On a side note, I let them watch the first movie on their little DVD players, and they really enjoyed it. They agree with me that it’s really hard to be afraid of orks on a 7″ screen. :)

    Wow, how many times can I use variations of the word “enjoy”. I think I may need a thesaurus – or maybe I just need to rest my tired brain….

    Long time coming….

    We finished “Fellowship of the Ring.” It took a long time, but the kids understood it, and they enjoyed it – which is the most important thing. If you’ve ever hesitated at reading these books, I highly recommend the Recorded Books version. I consider myself a good reader, but for some reason, thi

    s series stalled me out, but I loved listening to the first two books… we take a small break. I think we will do the Two Towers and Return of the King as part of next school year.

    Kids Individual Literature

    These are the books that I have planned for the kids to read for their individual reading time.
    The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories (Junior Library Guild Selection) 
    Dragon Slippers 
    Three Tales of My Father's Dragon 

    Literature books that we have read this year (so far)

    A Cricket in Times Square
    The Hobbit
    Fellowship of the Ring (currently)
    All of a Kind Family
    The Moffats