What I’m Reading – June, 2016

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I love reading and always used to have a book in my hand, but for a few years, reading took a back seat to writing and parenting and homeschooling. Even in my downtime, I wasn’t reading because my brain was too tired and TV took less effort. Recently, I rediscovered my love of books. I also joined a Book Club for the first time which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Here are my June reads:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I’ve been reading this aloud to the kids for a few months. It is taking awhile to get through as it is leading to such profound discussions. This morning, it led to a science lesson on how genetic diseases are passed down. Mostly, the discussions are about feelings, bullying, jealousy, choices, and our treatment of others.

Wonder is about a boy with facial deformities as well as medical issues. What I love about reading this book to the kids is that it is told from the perspective of many of the characters including the boy, his older sister, friends, a bully, and the sister’s friend. Since many of our kids have special needs and are also all the sibling of a special needs child, it has led to a lot of discussion and even some breakthroughs and healing. If you are parenting special needs kids (or even if you aren’t but want your kids to better understand what it would be like to be in their shoes), I highly recommend this as family reading.

The Stand by Stephen King

Stephen King is one of my favourite authors even though I can’t read his super scary stuff. One of my all-time favourite books is his The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. My friend Christie has been telling me to read The Stand for years. It’s her favourite book of all time. It’s a really long book (1,200 pages) and it’s one of those books that once you get into it, you can’t put it down. It was because of this book that I created this image to put on my Facebook page!

The house will have to fend for itself. I've got a book to finish reading!I’ve heard that when it comes to The Stand, you either love it or you hate it. I’m only a quarter of the way through it, but I can pretty much tell that I’m going to fall in that first camp. Stephen King is a master of character development.

The book begins with a plague and becomes about a battle between good and evil. I’m still in the early plague stages of the read and already, I’ve wondered if I’m coming down with a case of Blue myself as I got the sniffles within hours of starting to read it. Christie says that happens to her every time she reads it too!

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

This is the book my Book Club has chosen for this month. Mine hasn’t yet arrived but from reading the reviews, I know this is going to be a book I love. Many of the reviews reference To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my all-time favourite books and the story sounds like the type of book that I gravitate towards. I don’t know if I would have discovered it without it being selection in my Book Club, so I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity to read it.

I’ll let you know in July what I thought of it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish these this month as we have a lot going on (Jonah’s graduation, a niece’s wedding, Father’s Day, homeschool wrap-up, in addition to the usual chaos) but I hope to finish so that I can start on some new books for the summer.

What are you reading right now?

7 Tips for Reading to Older Children

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One of the things I’m enjoying most about homeschooling right now is the time the kids and I spend together reading. Sometimes we relax on the couches in the living room while I read to them and other times it’s at the kitchen table or while they are in their desks in the homeschool room.

Reading to your kids doesn't have to end when they are old enough to read on their own. Reading to older kids strengthens bonds, increases curiosity, improves communication, and creates a lifelong love of learning.Last week, I made little tea sandwiches and I read at the table while they ate their sandwiches and sipped tea. I’ve found that the best way to make these read aloud sessions successful is to allow the kids to do other things quietly while I read.

tea sandwiches

My girls often knit, crochet or colour while I read and the boys usually colour or play with Lego. These quiet activities allow them to still listen to the story without getting restless.

Some people believe that reading aloud to their kids ends when their child starts reading on their own, but reading to my older kids has been a wonderful way to learn together, spend time together, facilitate discussions, and introduce them to some of my favourite childhood books. Reading to older children strengthens bonds, increases curiosity, improves communication, and creates a lifelong love of learning.

Tips for reading to older children:

  1. Let them have some say in the books you read. You may have an agenda for what books you want read in a month or a year, but allowing your child to have some input as to the order you read them in or to choose an additional book to add to the list will help them to feel involved and be more attentive.
  2. Use the books as conversation starters. Reading aloud is a wonderful way to bridge discussions on topics that you may not know how to bring up. As kids get older, you can choose material that leads into conversations about relationships, choices, religion, intimacy, addictions, abuse, and other relevant subjects.
  3. Allow the books to lead to other learning. If my kids have questions about something in a book we are reading, I will often set the book down and we will go to the computer and research the answer together. This helps bring alive what we are reading. Two recent examples: In Secrets in the Woods, we were immersed in a chapter about kingfishers, but the kids had never seen one and wondered what they looked like. Once we had seen several pictures of the birds online, they were much more engaged in the story. In The Saturdays, there was a reference to a painting done in the 1800s. We were not able to find such a painting or the artist, but it led to a lively debate about whether the painting was fictitious or not.
  4. Ensure that the reading time is a positive one. If you are demanding that your child sit up straight, pay perfect attention, not ask questions, and do long reports on each book read, your child is not likely to look forward to your reading time. If you are relaxed and the experience is positive, it will only further your child’s interest in books. Though we often read chapter books, we also read a few short picture books every week
  5. Create a relaxing environment. Sit under a tree on a blanket on a warm day, cuddle up in bed under the covers, pile on the couch, sip tea and eat scones, let your kids play quietly. When the weather is nice, we often read on the trampoline outside. I let them bring blankets and we all pile on and relax while we read. They also like sitting on the bean bag chair in the homeschool room while I read. I often let the kids quietly flip through picture books, draw, colour, or play with Lego while I read to them. This helps them to relax further.
  6. Use audio books some of the time. Audio books are a nice change. Once your kids are used to listening, they will enjoy the odd audio book and you will enjoy the break for your vocal cords! When you find a well done audio book, the listener is truly transported into the story. If they get used to being read to aloud, they will have more of an attention span for audiobooks which comes in especially handy on long road trips. We’ve listened to many good ones. The Ramona Quimby audio collection is great. So is The Silver Chair, the BBC version of the Wind in the Willows and so many others.
  7. Let them see your enthusiasm! Choose books that you love. Talk about the magic of being swept away to a distant land or time in history. Let your love of books shine through. It’s contagious!

reading tea partyBonus tip: Once in awhile, throw in a book that has a movie version or one that will soon be coming to the theatre or even one that a high school in your community is doing a live play version of. Watching the movie or going to see the play after you have finished watching the book is a great treat and it allows for further discussions on ways that the book differed from the movie or performance. We are reading The Jungle Book right now with plans to make a special day of going to see the new Disney movie when it opens in theatres in the Spring.

I also often plan an entire unit around a book including crafts, food, activities and sometimes, even a field trip. Here are some of the book activities that we have done:

The Secret Garden

The Black Book of Colours

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

The Kissing Hand

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Today, I Feel Silly


A Bad Case of Stripes

Fancy Nancy

Click, Clack Moo. Cows That Type

The read-alouds we’ve used lately:

If you are looking for fun or interesting activities to accompany your books, you may want to follow my Book Activities board on Pinterest.

Books About Flight

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When it came to planning our Flight unit for homeschooling, I couldn’t believe how much information was available. We made 3 separate trips to the library and took out many books on all types of topics related to flight including the history of flight, types of airplanes, the anatomy of plane crashes (a special topic request made by our son Einstein), how to fly a plane, pioneers of air travel, and even paper airplanes.

Books About Flight including the history of flight, pioneers in air travel, types of aircraft and more

There were so many resources that it would be too long a list to include them all, but I hope this gives you a bit of a starting point for planning your own Flight unit or just for kids who express an interest in learning more about air travel.

General Books about Flight:

We spent more time on some aspects that were of particular interest to the kids. One of those was learning about Amelia Earhart. We began by them listening to an audio story that we have had for a long time called Chris and Amy Meet Aviation Pioneer Amelia Earhart. This brought about many questions and led to one of our library trips to find books specific to learning about this female groundbreaking pilot.

Books About Amelia Earhart:


Books About the Wright Brothers:

Homeschooling Made Simple

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I am about to embark on my 15th year of this incredibly difficult and rewarding journey called homeschooling. Even though I am what many would consider a veteran homeschooler, it seems that the longer I do this, the more I realize there is for me to learn.

But homeschooling doesn’t have to be complicated and one of the best ways to simplify it is to ask others who have walked this same road to share their experience. Another way is to find the best resources you can to help you in your journey.

Have you ever wanted to get answers from other homeschoolers to your burning questions? Here's your chance!Over the years, I’ve found that our homeschooling journey has morphed and changed as our family situation has changed, as I have learned new methods that worked better for us, as I have gained confidence in the fact that my kids are learning “enough”, and as I have had the opportunity to talk to and learn from other homeschool moms.

I know what a treasure it has been for me to be able to talk to other homeschool moms and hear about what has worked for them and what hasn’t. It’ s also just nice to talk to other moms and know that I’m not alone. With that in mind, I gathered some wisdom to share with you.

I asked other homeschool moms, some just starting out and some with decades of experience to share a piece of homeschool advice with you.

Advice from real homeschoolers:

“Keep it Simple, Sister. When you are first starting out, add one thing at a time and work at it until you get your feet under you before adding one more thing. Start with the basics, and don’t add too much too fast. You can do this. When you start to get overwhelmed, take a step back and think about what you can let go or accomplish in a more simple way.” ~ Amy, Homeschool Encouragement

“Don’t compare the way you homeschool with others.” Alecia, Learning 2 Walk

“Do what is right for your family. People will tell new homeschooling families, “Don’t replicate school at home.” I’ve said that to new homeschooling families myself. However, the fact is, you’ve got to do what works best for your family. If that’s a school-at-home environment, so be it. If it’s unschooling – or anywhere between the two – that’s okay, too. Chances are, your homeschool will change and evolve as your family grows and changes and as you get comfortable homeschooling. Different seasons will bring different needs. Embrace what makes your family unique and don’t be afraid to let your homeschool reflect that.” Kris, Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

“If it doesn’t work, change it. So many homeschoolers feel they have to be loyal to a certain company even when their child may not learn well with that curriculum. Or they have spent the money on it, so they feel they need to finish it. Every child learns differently. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to drop it and replace it with something else, until you find what works for your child.” ~ Katie Hornor, Paradise Praises

“I cannot stress enough the importance & the impact that making your children a part of the planning can have. When they feel they have had input in WHAT they are going to learn about – they are more invested. They take ownership of their schooling. It also pulls the family together as a team, planning your next move.” ~ Kelli, Adventure Homeschool

“Expect hard days. Know that there will be days when no one, including you, is in the mood to do school work and everyone is grumpy or whiny. But press on! Because there will also be days where everyone is excited to learn and you are all having so much fun together, you can’t even believe how blessed you are to get to stay home and teach these amazing little people. So be flexible on the hard days, and enjoy every moment of the amazing days, because they all go by so incredibly fast!” ~ Bethany, Math Geek Mama

“In the early years its okay to focus on only one thing at at time. I only focus on reading in kindergarten and first grade. Giving a child the ability to read will unlock the rest of the world to them!” ~ Becky Marie, For This Season

“Make a plan for your days if you must, but also ask your children what they want to learn about. And then set aside time each day for them to explore their interests and passions. This is how you will ignite a love for learning.” ~ Marcy, Ben and Me

“Don’t be afraid to have fun and follow your children’s passions. Children learn the best when they are relaxed, engaged and interested. Having fun with your learning will help trigger better learning and retention of concepts. Plus, it helps develop a life long love of learning.” ~ Shelley, STEAM Powered Family

Ask for advice from others, but ultimately remember that your homeschool does not have to look like anyone else’s. Your homeschool is a reflection of your family and their needs. Trust God’s guidance and have faith that He will lead you to the resources you need when you seek Him.” ~ Vicki, Simply Vicki

“Probably the hardest lesson that I’ve had to learn as a new homeschooler is that my year will never, ever turn out how I think it will. This was a very difficult and painful lesson for this Type-A perfectionist! As a result, I’ve learned to set broad goals for each child and for our homeschool year, but to leave enough room in our homeschool experience for God to come in and change things up as He sees fit. By keeping my goals high (but my expectations open), I have found so much freedom and joy! I encourage every homeschool mom to keep this kind of flexibility (what I talk about in my book “Plan to Be Flexible“) in her daily and weekly homeschool planning. Focus on setting specific pillars in your day (or goals you want to achieve in a certain timeframe) but then give enough room and space for that learning to happen in real and natural ways. This is what I call “rhythm-based homeschooling” and it allows for moms to prioritize growing relationships with their children instead of trying to force-feed knowledge.” ~ Alicia Michelle, Vibrant Homeschooling

“Use the tools and resources that are available to you. Trust me, you’ve already got enough to do. No need to reinvent the wheel!” ~ Kim, Not Consumed

“Never compare what your homeschool looks like or functions like to any other family’s homeschool. Just like each one of our children have different personalities and learning styles – the dynamics of each homeschool family will vary greatly as well. Remember it’s not about what anyone else is or isn’t doing – rather it’s all about teaching our the children to learn in the unique way God created them to. Have fun and enjoy!” ~ Carlie, Today’s Frugal Mom

“Delight-directed homeschooling has taught me to allow my children to be who they are–to cater to their gifts and interests. It has also given me the freedom to be who I am–to capitalize on my own strengths and interests and to stop comparing myself to other homeschooling moms whose gifts and talents are not my own.” ~ Ami, Walking by the Way


My personal homeschool advice:

What I Would Tell a New Homeschool Mom

Reflecting on my biggest homeschool mistake and what I do differently now