Book Suggestion – Logic / Rhetoric Stage

I recently finished reading – no, devoured – Candice Millard’s Hero of the Empire 

It is an account of the early life of Winston Churchill and a favor you must do yourself. I read it in two sittings and would have finished it in one if it wasn’t for the need for sleep.

A book of history for the Logic stage

If you have read my book The Classical Unschooleryou know that I follow the classical system of grammar, logic and rhetoric rather than grade levels in our homeschool.

Hero of the Empire is everything I love about history and an excellent addition to the logic stage. Especially if your child is (or you are!) into war history. It follows the trajectory of the Boer wars and Churchill’s role in it and is chock full of various connections in otherwise discrete (but important!) names.

We meet, within the length of this book, Churchill as a boy and later as a young man, Gandhi, Rudyard Kipling and also Arthur Conan Doyle. We also learn a little bit about the Burberry coat and how it was made especially for the African weather. Yes, that same Burberry that is now ridiculously expensive.

Isn’t this fascinating?

Not Hero Worship

As I’ve mentioned before, one thing I sincerely hate about books of history is hero worship. I also do not like books that attempt to make up facts based on limited information. Thankfully, this book does not have those two problems.

It makes no attempt to hide Churchill’s arrogance, his father’s badly timed reports about the Boers or his mother’s affairs. But we still come away entranced by the events that followed because of the central character. This is the stuff of the best literature and here it is – all true!

Assign it to your children in the logic or rhetoric stage – or better yet – read it yourself. Your world will be richer for it.

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Books for Budding Architects

As I’ve mentioned before, I love looking through my children’s books. Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed at the book store or at the library, I will steal away into the children’s section. I always come away with renewed joy.

These books make me especially happy. If you have a budding architect in the family, I highly recommend them. You don’t have to hand them out or add them to the curriculum. Just strew them.

Iggy Peck, Architect

This is a fun story with great illustrations for the youngest. Little Iggy Peck just can’t stop building. You’ll love reading it aloud: it rhymes and the book is just a joy. And who can forget the tower of diapers?

For the Artist Architects

If your child likes to draw buildings, The Future Architect’s Handbook and Draw 50 Buildings and Other Structures: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Castles and Cathedrals, Skyscrapers and Bridges, and So Much More… are excellent book choices.

Both focus on drawing buildings in a step by step fashion that children ages 9 and beyond will find helpful and fun.

The LEGO Architect

If your child likes building but prefers to use LEGO for it, this is an excellent accompaniment to grow his talents. The LEGO Architect will give him inspiration for different styles and then use LEGO to build the structures.

Connecting history & architecture / for the fact fiend

If you have a trivia or history buff like my child, (he adores the Guinness Book of World Records) The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond is a don’t miss! It is a narrative history of various buildings with some fascinating details and lovely illustrations.

Also, Houses and Homes (from the See Through History series) is another excellent addition to your little architect’s library. Chock full of illustrations and trivia, it includes details about places like a Mayan home, an Assyrian palace and a French chateau.

Everything by David Macaulay

Okay, so not everything-everything, as my daughter likes to clarify, but all he has written about buildings. Macaulay is my favorite writer for architecture. His books are just beautiful – even the simple black and white ones. And imagine my thrill when I recently discovered they are now in color and revised! You must check him out.

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If you’ve read my review of Zak Slayback’s The End of School, (or better yet, read the book) you know that he is a big supporter of entrepreneurship. Which is why I was very excited to get hear of this grant.

If you have a child (homeschooled or not!) between the ages of 16 and 22 with an entrepreneurial mindset, you should pay attention.

Zak says:

It’s one thing to talk about the importance of entrepreneurship among young people. It’s another thing to actually tangibly support entrepreneurship among young people.

So today I am putting my money where my mouth is.

What you need to know

The person applying must be between 16 and 22, in the US, and must have a product or business that has proof-of-concept.

Zak is awarding awarding $2,000 to young entrepreneurs in Spring 2018. The awards will be split into 1 $1,000 grant and 2 $500 grants.

How to apply

The application and details can be found here.  Zak mentions that the focus of this grant is on young entrepreneurs in the Western Pennsylvania region (incl. northern West Virginia & eastern Ohio) – so if you happen to be in those regions, good for you!

But don’t get disheartened if you live elsewhere because applications from outside of the region will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Good luck!

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“Give Your Child the World” by Jamie C. Martin

I recently picked up Jamie C. Martin’s book Give Your Child The World. And I decided I simply had to write about it here.

First, a little about Jamie

As you probably know, Jamie is the owner of the most well known homeschooling website on the internet Simple Homeschool

This blog has been around for a long time and just keeps getting better. It has become a resource for homeschoolers from around the world. It is one of those blogs people mention immediately as a recommendation for someone beginning homeschooling.

I’ve been a contributor for Simple Homeschool for almost a year now and I can tell you that all those accolades are well deserved. Jamie is truly one of those genuine people you hear about.

She works hard and she’s got a heart of gold. When she says she cares, she does. Jamie is as real as they come.

About Give Your Child The World

So when I saw that she had a new book out, I had to pick it up. And I was not disappointed. This book was in the works for five years! And it shows.

Meticulously researched and cross referenced by place, date, child’s age, title and authors, this is the perfect resource if you’re looking for something more than just a book list.

The book is divided according to region and the child’s age, so you can quickly choose the right book for the right time. The selections are mostly fiction but there are some nonfiction books as well.

Mostly, it’s about immersing the child in the universe – literally – of stories around the world, which is a great way to learn about a place.

Use it!

The thing I loved about it was that Jamie didn’t just write the book. She also wrote some of her story. And it is incredible. If there was anyone “qualified” to write this book, it was her, with a truly international family.

She also includes tips in Give Your Child the World about how to go about learning about other cultures and countries, how to include learning as part of living in your home and shares some of my ambivalence about bedtime reading.

She believes in the power of the story, but not for its own sake. Rather, Jamie allows these stories to move her to action in her own life. If you want to introduce your kids to different countries, don’t just stop at maps and geography, introduce literature as well! Stories are where the heart is.

Get the book! You’ll be glad you did. And here’s the best part: from now until Sunday April 9th., the ebook is just $1.99 on Amazon!

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Reading Slayback’s “The End of School”

School took me away from the learning I wanted to engage in and made me focus on things I didn’t want. I loved learning; I just hated school. – Zachary Slayback

I came across a delightful book a few months ago. I think every homeschooler / unschooler ought to read it, especially if you have older children.

Another reason to read it even if you have little children and are perhaps only taking the first few steps toward homeschooling? To form a conviction about college and be able to guide your kids appropriately right from the start.

Now, before you form any opinions for or against college, let me say the book is not an argument against college as much as it is a plea to do something better or at least go there knowing what you want.

Slayback makes two great points:

  1. A college education was never the panacea to poverty and helplessness as preached by most today. It was simply a correlation of the prosperity that occurred post World War II and not a causation of it.
  2. Even if you are in favor of a college education, there is no reason separate it from work in the real world. When we create and enforce this artificial barrier between the two, it makes us think that work is just a necessity and not essential. Education and work are both important and when we don’t compartmentalize the two, they have a much greater impact on our lives. In his Slayback’s own words, “Studying Bertrand Russell’s philosophy of work can be great when you aren’t working, but it can have life-altering impacts when you are working. Getting a good grasp of economics can appear valuable in the abstract, but it can mean the difference between staying in your current job and launching your startup when you are working.”

An excellent book well worth your time. Get it here.

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Teach Kids to Cook: Indispensable Tools

A few months ago, I wrote about a blog post focusing on food and teaching kids to cook. Considering we all love a good meal, our family takes training in such matters very seriously.

Since that blog post was received so well, I thought I would write another one about it. This time I thought I would focus especially on the tools needed to teach kids to cook.

Teach kids to cook: the only 3 things you need

I am not a fan of Master Chef when it comes to cooking although I like watching it for occasional inspiration. Why, you may ask? For the simple fact that it turns what should be fun and experimental into something professionals do. Our everyday food is not gourmet. I seek to teach my children to feed themselves and their families, not enter competitions.


With that said, I consider a good apron a necessity. And not just because I wear one. I see aprons as important because when they entered the kitchen first, my children were clearly very bothered by the fact that it was very hands-on. Never mind that they were just playing in the dirt outside. Aprons gave them the freedom to work without worrying about “getting dirty.”


A good junior knife set is also a great idea when it comes to kids. Although my daughter is extremely proficient with an adult chef’s knife, when it comes to teaching my two sons, I get nervous. There’s just something about the way they hold it that does not inspire confidence. So for kids like them, a junior knife set, either nylon or steel works great.

If you want to get into it, there are all kinds of other fun things like kitchen measures for kids and cookie making tools, but we tend to be minimalist in the kitchen. We don’t like clutter and we like to leave our counters clean, so we steer away from excess.

Recipe books

However, the third thing you should probably get are some great inspiring recipe books they can cook from. When we start out teaching, I have the kids help me make dinner or lunch – one by one, of course, not all at the same time in the kitchen. That’s a recipe for a disaster, pun intended.

But eventually, if they don’t do something on their own, they tend to lose interest. Having them create something from start to finish keeps them interested and learning. (A crockpot meal is usually the easiest first meal for kids to cook because there is no open flame.)

The most important thing while teaching kids to cook is to make it part of the everyday work / play routine and not treat it as something special. We cook, we clean, we read, we play, we sleep. Teach them with that in mind and make them self-reliant.

Happy cooking!

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Ogden Nash Poetry – When You Crave Whimsy

When we come back from our local public library, I can’t get my children to do anything but read. My daughter, especially, will have her head buried in her new discoveries, oblivious to the world around her. And she’ll be having a rip roaring time with the book, too. Laughing and smiling and thoroughly immersed in it.

I miss that. I miss entering a world of fantasy and whimsy. (and let’s admit it – for children learning something new, the whole world is full of fantasy and whimsy!) Oh, these jaded grown-up eyes.

But wait, as they say in those television commercials, there’s more hope.

Enter Ogden Nash Poetry

If picking up your kids’ fantasy literature and reading it is too much for you to imagine, try this on for size. Find some Ogden Nash poetry.

Ogden Nash was a rather prolific American poet who wrote over 500 pieces of poetry.

Here’s one gem.

Oh some people grieve for New Year’s Eve,

And some for the dog days fiddle;

My moment sublime is the restful time

When the month is at the middle.

I stumbled on Ogden Nash quite accidentally. I was reading The Tale of Custard the Dragon to my youngest child – a treat for your mouth, by the way and so fun! – and I began to wonder if this writer had written anything else. So off I went to Amazon to see what else I could find.

And I came away so much richer.

In the evenings, when I don’t want to commit to reading a big tome of a book, Ogden Nash’s poetry is the perfect antidote to tiredness. It’s possibly the only book of poetry I can say feels refreshing. My husband has often seen my laugh out loud while reading it. And I am not one of those LOL people. I’m more of smile-at-a-joke person.  

Here’s another quote to whet your appetite.

Does anybody mind if I don’t live in a house that is quaint?

Because, for one thing, quaint houses are generally houses where plumbing ain’t,

And while I don’t hold with fanatical steel-and-glass modernistic bigots,

Still, I do think it simplifies life if you live it surrounded by efficient pipes and faucets and spigots.

So if you catch yourself watching your kids gleefully enjoying a book and wish you had some good, light reading, pick up some Ogden Nash poetry. It’s just plain fun. And a lot of his books are now available for just a penny!

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8 Books to Make You Fall In Love With American History

In honor of President’s Day, I thought I’d share with you some of my current favorite books on American history. I absolutely detest textbooks – as some of you might know – but anything that can give me a sense of time and place without idolizing a person in history is my kind of book.

So if you’re jaded about reading history, chances are it’s because you’ve never read it like this.

First up, you have got to read everything by Michael Farquhar – especially Foolishly Forgotten AmericansIf your eyes glaze over at the mention of American history, this book is the perfect antidote. Farquhar makes it interesting and extremely enjoyable – to the point that you can’t but share some interesting trivia with the person next to you. All. The. Time. Just ask my husband.

Another book in a similar vein to the above is That’s Not In My American History Book by Thomas Ayres. This is a fun compilation of little known things about American presidents, wars and, hey – did you know there was actually a fourteenth colony that was not part of the Union? Ayres has also written A Military Miscellany: From Bunker Hill to Baghdad for the military buffs among you.

Daniel O’Brien’s How To Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against The Badasses Who Ran This Country is like watching a stand up comedian (oh, and not someone with clean language, in case you were wondering, talk about presidents. So if you’re not into that, stay away from this one. You’ve been warned. But if language doesn’t bother you, this book is incredibly entertaining. I finished it in one day. And now I’ll always remember the distinguishing characteristics of all the presidents. (He only writes about those that have died, no one alive.)

So far, I’ve mentioned books for you because I truly believe that you should be learning right along with your kids as you homeschool them (and some day I’ll have a curriculum to prove it) but for now, this next suggestion comes for the children. Get your hands on everything by Jean Fritz. So far, my children have read and loved George Washington’s Mother Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? , And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? and Shhh! We’re Writing The Constitution

Happy reading!

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Our Best Loved Books Hand-Picked By My Children

With Valentine’s Day having just passed and the air so full of love, I thought I would have a special treat here. I asked each of my children – ages 8, 7 and 4 – to list their favorite books for me. The only rule was that they had to have read the book and loved it. There was no other criteria.

Here are their personal recommendations.

Sierra’s (age 8) Best Loved Books

Graphic novels – This child loves every graphic novel everywhere. No exaggeration. Every time we go to the library, she heads straight to the area where the comic books are. I don’t mind. The recent explosion in graphic novels means she can read Shakespeare and other classics and also enjoy Asterix and Tintin.

Warrior Cats by Erin Hunter (anything about cats, really!) Because my daughter simply loves cats, I use them as a jumping off point for almost everything, but she picked this book series. It’s about a bunch of – get this – super hero cats. Ah, well. It’s fun, though. She started with the graphic novels and recently read a much larger book in the series.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis – One of our first read alouds and perhaps our best loved, apart from The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein. If you haven’t read this aloud yet, you simply must.

Audiobooks by Jim Weiss – Jim Weiss has recorded so many audio books, it’s hard to listen to them all, but my daughter has almost set out to do so. Her favorites are Animal Tales, Greek Myths and Spooky Classics.

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths – Knowing how much she likes fantasy and fairy tales, I should have known she would take to Greek myths. This book is amazing. I can’t say enough nice things about it. It has illustrations and all the Greek myths in one place. And also a family tree listing all the Greek gods. Indispensable when reading later Greek epics.

Hucksley’s (age 7) Best Loved Books

Minecraft Secrets – My middle son takes a very practical approach to life, as you will see. He likes to find things out if they profit him in some way. So these Minecraft secrets books that teach him how to maneuver and build things in the game were an immediate hit. Not only has he learned to read with these, these books have brought my kids closer together in collaboration. One reads instructions aloud, the other follows by following the directions. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

DK Eyewitness Books – We do love these books fondly and by “we” I mean the entire family. If you have read my blog post on how to use strewing as a technique even in unschooling these books come in very handy for that purpose. Even as an adult, I find myself skimming through these books and picking up a lot of information. They’re colorful, they’re informative and just plain inexpensive. Our favorites.

Atlases – Hucksley loves maps of any kind. Period. My husband found it funny when I bought a globe for the kids but they loved it. And my middle child absolutely loves maps. So I highly recommend these map books and also the app Stack the Stateswhich he plays daily.

Tales from the Odyssey audiobook – While my kids never cared much for the Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales From the Odyssey (the audiobook) read by James Simmons always gets loud cheers. We first listened to it in the car and since then my son will listen to it by himself before going to bed. It’s excellent.

Carver’s (age 4) Best Loved Books

The Early Bird by Richard Scarry – We’ve been reading this book to him since he was – what, 1? Not sure. Anyway, for a looooong time. It’s a fun story about early bird with lovely pictures so characteristic of Richard Scarry. I would recommend anything by him, really, and this book in particular has stood the test of time for us.

How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room? by Jane Yolen – Another one of those inexplicable ones. Oh, but how he loves it! And I bet you $5 I can recite it from memory. It’s a delightful book. One we’ve read over and over and haven’t tired of. Check out the entire series. It’s just fun.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash – You must, must, must read this book! It’s just delightful. It’s possible I enjoy this a tad more than my son. The entire story is written in rhyme and it’s like a party for your mouth to read this aloud. Take my word for it.

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle – I don’t know what it is about this kid, but he loves seeds. Sometimes, when he likes a fruit he is eating, he will take the seed and “plant” it in the backyard. Of course we have no idea where he planted it, so it never gets watered or tended, but he claims he has planted avocado, orange and apple trees in the yard. This book is one he picked out as a prize in the library program for reading. It is wonderfully illustrated and talks about the life cycle of a seed.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson – Another enduring classic. I never tire of reading this one aloud to him. Also, check out other books by Julia Donaldson that are also great read alouds for preschoolers. Not as good as this one, but pretty close.

Happy reading!

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Four Books to Introduce Philosophy

A few years ago, I embarked on a quest. I realized I knew very little about philosophy. I decided to change that immediately.

Philosophy is a subject that is often ignored as unimportant or worse, boring.

While I am not suggesting that you need a four year degree in it to get the full value of it, a basic knowledge of philosophy is essential.

Why? For one, it makes you a better thinker. For another, it is like history – a general knowledge of what came before provides a good guide to the future. And let you think philosophy is just for adults, here’s an article that shows its benefits for children.

But what if you, like me, know nothing about it? Fear not! Here are the choicest books you can pick up to learn more.

(Don’t try to just search Amazon for “philosophy” and buy what comes up because then you’ll be stuck with a line of beauty products.)

So, first off, Richard Osborne’s Philosophy For Beginners is a fun little book to introduce you to the basics. This was given to me by a friend who knew I liked graphic novels. It’s written in comic book format, but that doesn’t mean it is simplistic. Great book for delving into the subject with no background.

If lighthearted introductions to serious subjects are not your style, you might like Bryan Magee’s The Story of Philosophy. This is a beautiful book with full color pictures and great information about how philosophy developed over the years. It gives you a general smattering of each philosopher and how he built on or changed what had gone before him.

My personal favorite is How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer, which is an analysis of western thought down the ages, but it might need one of the other two books mentioned above as companion reads.

And of course Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder is a classic by now that has been recommended to me often. Full disclosure: I haven’t read it, although it’s been sitting on my bookshelves beckoning me for a while now. Someday soon! I just have to get through my Plantagenet history first. 😉

You can find this entire list here:

Happy reading!
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