To celebrate Independence Day, The Inspired Scholar is offering 2 FREE subscriptions to "American Spirit" magazine published by the DAR. This is a wonderful resource on American history. To enter this drawing, you must sign up for my email list on the homepage where it says, "Yes, I want to be inspired." ALL of my email subscribers are eligible for this. If you are already an email subscriber you will be automatically entered. I will draw two names on July 31, 2020.
The Inspired Scholar supports our military, and my own father is a Navy veteran of Vietnam. To support active-duty military families who make so many sacrifices on our behalf, the Inspired Scholar is offering a significant discount for online classes for 2020-2021 for the first 10 military families that contact me and sign up by July 31, 2020. You can help support this effort simply by sharing this information. They should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am surprised and saddened to hear how many homeschoolers do not have a basic home reference library. On the other hand, I know that materials are expensive and not everyone has a lavish budget or abundant space. But if you are going to be homeschooling, especially for the long-term, you need to start building one a little at a time. Here are my suggestions for what to include and where to look for resources. Many of them are free online, however, I think the print versions are far superior. I also include links for some of my favorites, but other good ones exist, too. If you run across ones you like...please send me an email and I will share: email@example.com
1. All-purpose modern dictionary
Many dictionaries are free online.
New World College Dictionary
2. An older dictionary
This one is free online. It also has fuller and richer definitions with Christian/Biblical definitions. As an example, find "education" in a modern dictionary and compare it with "education" in this dictionary.
1828 Dictionary of the American Language by Noah Webster
Kids learn alphabetical order when they look words up in a dictionary. Also, when I look up words, my eyes naturally stray to nearby words and I often pick up a new word or two that way as well. This does not happen with online searches.
Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus
There are so many good ones out there and there are free ones online as well.
4. Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to Books You've Always Wanted to Read
5. Handbook for Writer's by Janice Campbell
I have seen a lot of English handbooks and I think this is one of the very best. Worth the money.
6. MLA Writing Handbook
Can also be found for free online at Purdue Online Writing Lab
7. APA Writing Handbook
Can also be found for free online at Purdue Online Writing Lab
8. Chicago Manual of Style
Can also be found for free online at Purdue Online Writing Lab
9. Children's Illustrated Encyclopedia
Many, many of these can be found, too.
10. A globe
There are tons more great references and resources, but this is a good, basic, start.
I chuckled when I thought of the title for this post, but it is apt. This is a keeper book in my personal library and it is a classic reference on classic literature. It gives excellent, but brief, info. on authors of classic works, important historical background, and a short look at one of their most-known works. It begins with Homer and ends with Solzhenitsyn. If you are a serious homeschooler, you really should be building a library of reference books. It will save you time going out to the library or worse...doing without!
Sometimes I am a bit embarrassed about my ignorance of modern literature until I remember the classics. I have read a lot of them, but not all of them. There is just no end of them and I cannot pull myself away from the best to read only the good.
In case you don't know what the big deal is about classics, consider the following:
"We should be custodians of culture."
Anyone who knows me knows I love art of all kinds and I love pictures and illustrations. Nevertheless, we should not replace images with reading. Words are important for both the mind and the spirit. Charlotte Mason was such an advocate of this idea, that the mind needs food every bit as much as our physical bodies. We don't want to feed our bodies junk; why would we do that with our minds?
Reading should not be a race. It is one reason I have never been fond of encouraging kids to read "X" number of books. Why? There is no value to having read like a speed demon. It is much better to have read two classics and have contemplated and absorbed them. How many books have you read and forgotten because it was consumed and discarded? Again, Charlotte Mason advocates the oral or written re-telling of one short passage at a time. Why? Because we can only remember and digest a small bite at a time. The younger the child, the shorter the selection. For older children or adults, a chapter might be fine. The more challenging the work, the smaller the bites. It is better to ask: What do you remember? What did you learn? It's also great training for pulling one's thoughts together and articulating them.
The classics are often entertaining, but they offer more than a good story. They present themes important to all of us: the meaning of life and death and how they should be approached; right and wrong; triumph and tragedy. They make you think.
It is surely not the last you will hear from me on the value of the classics.
This why my online literature classes uses classic works rather than textbooks. You can see my literature and writing classes for 2020-2021.
We are in the midst of a societal shut-down because of a virus. Ok, so that's it in a nutshell and that's all I want to say about it because that is not the focus of this post and if you want to hear about it ad nauseum, you can find those places.
Instead of playing the "what if" game and "maybe" game, let's play the "how to" game.
My number one recommendation is to keep it simple. Plan a simple schedule, for example 9:00 until noon. Basics: English (reading, writing, grammar, spelling), Math. If that is ALL you do, you'll be doing great! Begin with that. Then, when you are ready, add history and science. Plan time for art and music, too. (I know...I can hear some saying that you are not artistic or musical. So what? Is that going to keep you from trying and learning yourself? And THAT is how you help your children. They will see you being a model of how to learn.)
Now, what do you do when you have kids that span the age spectrum: 3 year-olds, 5 year-olds, 10, and 15, for example? Start with a read-aloud for the middle-aged child. The little ones will absorb what they can and the older child[ren] will still enjoy it, too. The 3 year-olds can play with some quiet toys or enjoy snuggle time. The 5 year-olds can do the same or color.
Find some apps or online sources where your older children can do some math review on their own, while you help the younger ones with phonics or writing or whatever. In the public schools in Arizona, they have Moby Max which is an online program free to students for all subjects. But the key word is "while". While the older ones are working independently on typing or reading, you work with the younger ones. While you are working one-on-one with the older ones, the younger ones are coloring, playing, or napping (hopefully). Include them as you can.
Lessons need not be long and should not be long for the younger ones.
One of the funniest things I have gotten asked by non-homeschoolers is, "Where do you get your curriculum?" as if it's a big mystery or must be really difficult to find. No! The problem is making a selection out of the abundance of superior curriculums. Below are some of my favorite resources.
Draw Write Now - This link is a sample lesson you can try. I love this program! It teaches kids how to draw and how to write neatly. It's art and handwriting in one! That's another secret to homeschooling. Combine as many things as you can. They have several books that focus on different topics.
Books for the 10-12 year old crowd: Stick with classics. Yes, seriously. You cannot compete with the classics for stories that build character and also provide elevated sentence structure and vocabulary. When you run out of classics to read, then you can read modern drivel. LOL.
Historical fiction: Books by G.A. Henty
Horse lovers: Books by Marguerite Henry
Series: Books by James Herriot, veterinarian. Hilarious, real-life stories. My kids and I never laughed so hard. A new series on Masterpiece Theatre is coming out in June 2020 based on his books. We are offering a free webinar on it the end of May 2020!
Science: Books by John Hudson Tiner
Geography: The best thing you can do is to just have a globe and look at it with your kids. Tell them about places you have been or things you know. Then search online for more information on a place of your interest. Truly, much learning occurs in an informal setting and self-directed. We learn when we care.
Music: If your kids already take music lessons, keep them practicing their instrument. If not, a recorder is an inexpensive and easy instrument to learn and will teach you how to read music. I recommend Sweet Pipes for recorders and music books. You can play simple duets with your kids!
Art: There is a wealth of instructional material online, but one of my favorite books is Artistic Pursuits.
Well, there you go...that's for starters.
For those of you who've gotten a taste of the homeschool lifestyle and like it and find that you could do this...we have additional help for you! Check out my literature and writing classes for the 2020-2021 school year. I also offer one-on-one tutoring!
We are enjoying Spring Break for another week yet. I always thoroughly enjoy this little time of refreshment that gives me a little boost in my pep. Yesterday, my husband and I went on a short, local hike, as you see here. You'd never know I live in the heart of Phoenix to look at this picture, would you?
This is spring in the desert and we have to enjoy it while we can as it is a short and fleeting season. Right after spring, BOOM! it will be SUMMER. Colors in the desert are subtle and to those who don't know, things can look dead, but they are not. When the cactus and shrubs bloom, their vibrant colors draw people out.
I love Christmas traditions and learning about them from around the world is great fun! Did you know it was the Germans who are responsible for many of the things we do today, such as decorate Christmas trees. They also make edible decorations to hang on the tree, such as cinnamon stars. These are also enjoyed in Switzerland. (See recipe below.)
I was thinking about my childhood Christmas and one of my fondest memories includes some elderly neighbors who lived down the street. They are long since passed away, I am sure. They were like second grandparents to me; a kind elderly woman and her elderly son. Nowadays, sadly, you would be hesitant to let your children befriend adult neighbors, but that was a different time. These people invited me and my friend into their home and shared Christmas treats and conversation with us. One of the things I have always remembered is how uniquely their Christmas tree was decorated. They adorned them with little red mushroom ornaments and explained that this was one of their German Christmas traditions.
I am also reminded of another dear elderly friend, Wes, who has also passed away a few years back, who was enamored of all things German. He spoke German fluently and taught it as a university professor. To celebrate these dear ones in my life, I share this in their memory... an article about a German Christmas in Heidelberg.
(Be sure to enjoy some and save some to decorate your tree.)
3 t. butter or margarine
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 whole eggs
1 egg, separated
1 t. lemon juice
2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1-1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix butter, sugar, 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and lemon juice until fluffy.
3. Measure flour. Stir dry ingredients together; blend into sugar mixture. Stir in nuts.
4. Divide dough into thirds. Roll out dough on a lightly floured board to 1/8" thickness.
5. Cut out with a 3 inch star cutter.
6. Brush tops of cookies with beaten egg white.
7. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet 6 to 8 minutes.
Makes 6 dozen.
Do you feel that Thanksgiving is brushed aside in our hurry to get to Christmas? I do. I like Christmas as much as the next person, but my family celebrates Thanksgiving for the whole week. We decorate in fall colors and fake leaves (you have to use fake in Phoenix). We burn spiced pumpkin candles, and eagerly wear our tan and orange sweaters and scarves the moment the temperature drops below 100 degrees!
In the frenzy to watch football and eat turkey, do we remember to be truly thankful for our blessings? Every day should be filled with Thanksgiving. It’s a sure anti-depressant. The Bible commands us to be thankful. “O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the people.” Psalm 105:1. Before you can thank the Lord for his blessings, you have to remember what they are and in our busy world, we can easily forget. To help you remember, I recommend making a blessing jar or bucket or some kind of container to store them in. For crafty types, this can be decorated and placed in a visible spot in your household. I would use small 3x5 index cards to write one blessing per card. A blessing could be an answered prayer as well. What size container should you use? How much do you expect the Lord to bless you? You might need a 33 gallon garbage can!
Check out this cute blessing jar.
Thanksgiving is a great time to take out these cards and read them aloud. On other days when you feel particularly discouraged or forgotten about (and we all have days like that), take them out and read them again. We all need reminders. While you’re at it, ask the Lord to show you more ways he has blessed you to add to your jar.
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” Psalm 116:12
Epiphany - an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
I am an early riser. If you or your children have ever noticed the time I submit feedback on assignments, you will often notice that it was submitted at 5:30 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. Not only am I an early riser, but my mind is on overdrive the moment I am conscious. This morning’s topic on my mind was an epiphany...that feeling that you truly “get” something.
Charlotte Mason has long been my educational mentor and I have studied her ideas at great length. I have also adapted her approach in homeschooling my own children. Basically, she advocates a literary education. But what does this mean, exactly? I know she condemns “twaddle” her word for inferior literature and I condemn it as well. Why waste precious time on reading that is useless when there is so much loftier and uplifting material at hand?
So this morning, my 5:00 a.m. epiphany centered on science. I still own some excellent science textbooks, however, that is just the point. They are textbooks, and no matter how good they are, they are not particularly inspiring. A literary science book, on the other hand is!!! I know this in the depths of my soul, but could never quite articulate it. When was the last time you heard someone say they were inspired by their textbook reading? This applies to other subjects as well of course. It is why my literature courses use classics, not literature textbooks. We read the whole book, not just a snippet or chapter and explore it in depth.
Some examples of literary science books I have read and been inspired by are below. I have learned so much from them and far more than I would have learned by reading a textbook.
But the most important thing is that I care!
Charlotte Mason says...
“The question is not, -- how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education-- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set?and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?" Charlotte Mason - 19th century educator
[This post contains affiliate links for products I love. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.]
I read Moths of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter out of curiosity, not because I was particularly interested in moths. How did I come to read this book? Through literature! First, I read Porter’s book, Laddie, which I liked so much that I then read, Girl of the Limberlost.
A biology textbook would tell me that moths are insects in the animal kingdom. Big deal. Who cares? But after reading Porter’s book on moths, I have gained knowledge and a real appreciation for these insects.
Starlight in Time by Dr. Humphreys explains how light-years figure into a young Earth creation timeline. He also discusses black holes, white holes, and the expanding universe.
These are just a small sample of literary science books. I have learned so much from them and far more than I would have learned by reading a textbook.
You can learn most anything through the avenue of literature.
Literature isn’t just novels.
Few people write thank-you notes these days, and fewer still give a verbal thank-you or even an acknowledgment. Nevertheless, we owe people that much if they do anything at all for us. It's part of a skill-set called, "good manners." What are manners, anyway? Simply, using good manners shows consideration for other people.
Those people who would like to write a thank you note are often at a loss as to what to say, so let me help you out. Think about what is in your heart and let that spill out. It doesn't have to be long.
Here's a basic format:
Now...you write a thank-you because you are grateful for something, but there are benefits for you as well. First, you will have made someone else feel special, and they will think well of you. Secondly, you will have followed the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) Third, you set a good example. Fourth, if you like to do crafts such as rubber stamping or painting, you can apply those skills to the making of "Thank You" cards. Lastly, for your children, it teaches them all those things, plus it is good handwriting practice.
Writing isn't only about writing essays. It's about communicating! So now...go teach this to your children.
Where will you find me when I am not teaching?
For your reading pleasure!