Add more literature-based learning to your homeschool curriculum!Do you remember crying as you read Old Yeller as a child? Or cheering as you read the part in Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates where his father finally…oops! I almost gave it away!

One of the easiest things you could do today to make your homeschooling more fun and effective this year is have your children read and/or listen to more high quality literature.

Literature-Based Learning with Living Books

Everybody knows that literature is a key component to education, whether you education using Charlotte Mason methods or not.

Especially “living books” — books written by authors with a passion for their subject, full of ideas ready to capture the imaginations of their readers.

But have you ever thought about why literature is so essential?


  • A great book provides pleasure to listeners and readers, sparks imaginations and develops thinking skills.
  • Literature provides a language model for those who hear and read it, paving the way for better writing in future years.
  • Reading and listening to living books build experiences in young readers.
  • Literature supports all areas of your language arts curriculum.
  • By reading about other’s problems, literature helps children deal with their own.
  • Reading about other races and cultures helps readers value others who are different from them.
  • Living books may easily be used to integrate subjects.
  • Literature helps us see the world more broadly and not just centered on ourselves.
  • Excellent literature will be enjoyed by several ages at the same time, making reading aloud an activity the family can enjoy together.
  • Reading excellent literature can teach many moral lessons and develop the character of readers and listeners.


Homeschool families have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to incorporate more literature into their curriculum, or even better, to use literature alone to educate their children.

Even if you aren’t yet ready to ditch your textbooks in favor of total learning using real books, add more literature into your homeschooling day! Your kids will thank you!

These are some of our favorites:


Literature for all ages

The Bronze Bow is the exciting story of an eighteen year old boy at the time of Christ who burns with hatred after losing his father. As he travels down the road to revenge against the Romans occupying Israel, he comes to learn that death was not his enemy. He begins to see that the exchange of hatred for love can be powerful…



Johnny Tremain is a somewhat arrogant young man who is a highly skilled silversmith in Boston just before the American Revolution. However, one day he has a tragic accident and is unable to continue his work. Finding a new occupation leads Johnny to rub shoulders with the men of the Revolution. As the story unfolds, Johnny becomes a major player in creating a new America, and learns quite a bit about humility in the process.


Amos Fortune is a compelling story of a fifteen year old boy who is captured, transported to America and sold as a slave. He dreams of freedom yet maintains his courage and his integrity. After 45 years of being a slave he finally begins to see his hopes revealed. The character and humility of this great man will inspire your children This is one of our family’s favorites! So inspiring!


Hittite Warrior tells the tale of Uriah, a Hittite boy living during the Old Testament Judges. He is on a mission after his family is killed by the Greeks. This book is full of history, action, war, and suspense. As you read you become immersed in the life of this young warrior as he comes to understand peace and forgiveness.




Literature for high school

Quo Vadis, which translates “Where are you going?” is set after the death of Christ, during the horrific reign of the Roman emperor Nero. Quo Vadis submerges the reader into Roman culture with its politics and intense persecution of the early church. This is a story of redemption and transformation; parts of it are based on the writings of Tacitus, a Roman senator (and therefore primary source) for this time period. don’t miss it!



Although Safely Home is fiction, it realistically portrays the persecution of Christians in China. An American business man travels to China to visit his former Chinese college roommate who is practicing Christianity. The reader comes to understand the heritage of the Chinese and appreciate their strength and courage as they live out their faith. The author forces the reader to know what it means to “take up your cross daily” as the story moves the American to a slow path of returning to his faith. One of my favorites!


Imagine a day without textbooks or workbooks! If YOU and your children are weary of multiple handouts and worksheets, then explore literature-based learning!

Do you have family favorites other than those I have mentioned? Please share in the comments!



What’s Labor Day all About?

August 25th, 2014


Child labor

“Addie Card, 12 years. Spinner in North Pormal [i.e., Pownal] Cotton Mill. Vt.” by Lewis Hine, 1912 – 1913

Picnics and barbecues. Parades. Weekend beach getaways. Last days by the pool. These are what most people think of when the words “Labor Day” come to mind. We enjoy time with friends and family as most people have that day off from work. However, Labor Day has a greater and richer meaning than that!



More than 100 years ago the labor force was completely different than it is today. Men, women, and even children of five and six labored ten to twelve hours a day for little pay, seven days a week. There were no weekends. No sick leave days. No vacation days. No over-time pay. Working conditions were often dangerous and unsanitary.

In 1872, a New York City carpenter by the name of Peter McGuire rallied over 100,000 workers to go on strike and march through the streets of the city. Many people have credited McGuire for the idea of Labor Day. McGuire fought for a decade to earn rights for workers.

Workers began organizing into labor unions to fight for higher pay, shorter days, and rights for children. They fought to set an age limit on the children who worked to prevent them from injuries. Finally, in 1882, McGuire had the idea to designate one day as a special holiday for workers.

On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, ten thousand workers once again joined together in the streets of New York City. However, this time it was for the first Labor Day parade. The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York by also celebrating a “workingman’s holiday.”

Labor Days in the late 1800s typically consisted of street parades followed by festivals for workers and their families. Elected officials used the opportunity to speak, and picnics and celebrations abounded. Then, in 1894 Congress passed a federal law declaring the first Monday every September as Labor Day.

Labor Day is the day we are thankful for our country’s productivity and strength, and pay tribute to past and current American workers who are largely responsible.


Labor Day Ideas for Children


  • Have children create an “Occupation Collage.” Provide magazines and newspapers for children to look through and find workers. Cut out pictures of various workers in our country. Glue and display the pictures onto colorful, patriotic paper.
  •  Thank You Cards. Show your children how to write/stamp the words “Thank You.” Allow them to stamp the words onto paper. The children can decorate cards then deliver them to community helpers (Library, Fire station, Bakery, Post Office, etc.).


  • Have children choose an occupation. They can draw a picture of the specific worker then together brainstorm a list of the responsibilities or things a person must do for the job. See the link for a helpful worksheet.
  • Thank you cards are perfect for elementary students! Also consider the folks that pick up the trash and deliver the mail (but nothing inside the mailbox, please!)
  •  Interview. Children can select a few jobs that interest them or that they want to know more about. Schedule interviews with people in the community and allow the children to conduct the interview after first working together on listing appropriate questions.

 Middle School

  • Build a Resume.  Middle school students can research what skills and education are necessary to obtain  jobs they might be interested in. Have them create a “future” resume of what they would need to accomplish in order to be chosen for a job in that specific field.


  • Volunteer. Have your high school students choose a job that they would like to pursue. Have them arrange a day where they can volunteer or shadow someone in that profession to experience the responsibilities and commitments that are necessary for success.


Note: The little girl pictured above worked in a mill. She told the photographer she was twelve, although her coworkers all said she was ten. 


Mission - business sign - art design

Do your kids know why you homeschool?

At some point, every family who homeschools makes a methodical decision to pursue this route. Homeschooling is not something one switches to overnight or on a whim. For each one of us, we have a reason or purpose for taking this path.

Not only discussing these reasons as a family, but taking the time to put them down on paper in the form of a family mission statement can help everyone get on the same page.

And when things get hard, as they sometimes do, a family mission statement reminds everyone why they are doing what they are doing.

What are your reasons?

Your reason for homeschooling might be because your children were falling behind or zooming ahead of their public school peers. You decided it made sense to teach your children at their own level, rather than having them taught where the “statistical average student” is performing.

Or maybe you are on this homeschooling journey because of your child’s health. Perhaps there are restrictions preventing him or her from successfully attending public school.

Or maybe you don’t believe in the method, schedule, or approach that the school systems offer….

You are on this homeschool journey because you want so much more than what the public schools can offer. You want your children to learn about the world from a Biblical perspective. So you intertwine God’s Word through every lesson you teach. You are preparing your children for more than just college, you are preparing them for life everlasting. You are mentoring and discipling your children in the Truth of God’s Word. You are equipping them with God’s suit of armor that will lead them to a bold, effective life in Christ.

Each one of us has chosen homeschooling for one or many reasons. We’ve stepped up and said, I can and will do school differently.

Your “reason” for homeschooling is essentially your mission.

Creating a Mission Statement

Creating a mission statement gives you purpose, meaning, and a goal. Stephen Covey states:

“A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.”

Success does not just happen, it requires intentionality. So, how do we go about this whole mission statement? Simple steps:

  1. Gather the family. All family members need to be present, no matter what age. All family members need to provide input. Take notes. Listen to each member with sincerity and openness.
  2. Lead your family in brainstorming your family’s core values. This will be different for each family. Examples could relate to God, Faith, Service, Discipline, Education, Adventure, Creativity, Integrity, Health, etc.
  3. Discuss who you want your family to be and what your homeschooling will be about. Parents, share your vision of homeschooling with your children. Communicate the purpose of your homeschooling, the roles you each have, the traditions you aspire to create, what kind of service projects you will be involved in or how you will give back.
  4. As a family, write out your mission statement. Make sure everyone takes part in this. The family should agree and understand all aspects of your mission statement.
  5. Display your mission statement. This is the time to display your family’s individuality! You can choose to print this and hang it in a centralized location of your home. You may have each child take part in writing and/or drawing pictures. Enjoy making this something your family will take pride in and remember.

Let it help you stay the course

Last, but not least, refer to your mission statement on a regular basis. You may have to make changes down the road as your family matures or enters a new phase of life, but having a written mission statement will help your family to live with purpose and intention!

It will also give you a written standard to fall back on when things become difficult, and help everyone “realign themselves” to what you as a family have agreed upon.


Have you taken the time to create a family mission statement? How has it helped you homeschool?


Five Steps to Start School with a Bang! Slow, lazy mornings. Days full of sun, fun and laughter. Visiting friends and family. Trips nearby or far away, seeing and doing new things. Freedom from the usual routines and responsibilities. If you and yours enjoy summer as much as we do, it is impossible to just jump back into school mode without some kind of transition. After all, grumpy kids are no fun! Here are five ways to help turn your summer-loving children back into excited, optimistic students.

1. Be enthusiastic.

This seems obvious, but the wistful, melancholy comment about summer being almost over will come back to haunt you.  YOU set the emotional tone in your home. Your excitement for the upcoming school year will be contagious. 

2. Show your children the new curriculum in advance.

Discuss the plan of what you will be covering this year. Share the book list and show any crafts or projects you will be making. Let them browse through the upcoming materials and get a sneak peak of what is to come. Talk about how awesome the upcoming year will be!

3. Gear up together!

Everyone enjoys new school supplies. I love walking into Target this time of year and seeing all the new notebooks, folders, and pens, don’t you? It gets my blood flowing! Take your kids to your favorite school supply store and allow them to help select the new supplies. Who doesn’t enjoy new highlighters or pencil boxes? There is just something exciting about opening a clean, brand-spanking new notebook. If you sometimes do ‘school on the go’, thrill your kids with new lunch boxes or backpacks.

4. Create a Routine or Schedule.

Kids thrive with daily, weekly and monthly routines. Discuss the school day and how it will look this fall. Display a daily schedule for the whole family. For your littles, this is quite simple. You can draw pictures on a chart that lays out their day for them. This can include learning time, snack time, nap time and play time. Talk about the different activities or the structure of their day. For your older kids, buy or make a planner. Your high school students should learn to schedule their own work within your parameters. Hang a monthly calendar as well so Dad will know when and where you will be once school starts. Make sure to plug in all your regular activities and any outside classes or co-ops as well as field trips, church events, and service projects.

5. Adjust your sleep schedule.

This is usually the hardest battle. I recommend starting the sleep routine at least a week before you intend to start school. Have your kids begin the school bedtime and wake times in advance. This goes for you as well. When you wait to change bedtimes until the night before you intend to start school, it will make for a rough start to your day. Ease back into it! Just remember, if the new school year excites you, it will excite them, too! Do you have any particular things your family does to hit the ground running every year? Tell me in the comments!

Wake up those Brain Cells with Geography Activities












Are you still enjoying a relaxing summer? Or with August just around the corner, are you already in the throes of preparing for the next school year?

Whether you are in relaxation mode or actively working on school prep, it doesn’t hurt to take advantage of learning opportunities to start waking up those sleepy brain cells!

Here are several easy-to-implement ideas to add geography study into your day from the comfort of your own home, or as you hit the road, board a plane or sail by sea:


  • Start with the basic map facts like the title, compass rose and legend/key of a map.
  • Have your kids create a local map as you teach mapping basics. You can drive around your neighborhood or town as you teach. Kids can draw the streets and landmarks as you go.
  • Younger children can start with drawing a map of your home.
  • If traveling, have your students draw a map of your destination. Allow older kids to be the navigators.


State Studies

  • Check out some books from your local library on your state and create a state notebook.
  • Spend some time learning the state flag, flower, motto, and capital. Incorporate art into the lesson and allow the kids to draw or paint these items for your notebooks.
  • Spend some time researching your state’s history. Have your students dictate or write about what they have learned (and provide illustrations, of course).
  • Take a small road trip and visit your capital if you live close enough. Otherwise, find a local historical landmark to visit.


U.S. Geography

  • Simple and engaging for young elementary students, try the iTunes 99 cent app called “Stack the States,” available for iPhones and iPads.
  •  Allow your kids to familiarize themselves with the shape of each state and learn the capitals. Tracing and drawing states are especially great for young learners who need to work on fine motor skills.
  • Another hands on option is using the free online geography (and other) games at  In fact, you can learn world geography at this site as well!
  • Create your own United States puzzle by printing the map on cardstock. The kids can cut out the states, mix them up, and then put them back together again.


World Geography

  • For kids that love the movie Cars 2, take a large world map and lay it across the floor. Talk about the different countries each car is from and have the kids place the cars on the right spot on the map.
  • Kids can learn the continents and perhaps several different countries by just discussing your family tree. Do you have branches from England? Scotland? South Africa? China? Label them on a map: “Uncle George Born in Germany”
  • For the Lego lovers, build different monuments from around the world such as Stonehenge, Great Wall of China, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, or the Great Pyramid of Giza.
  • You can also visit restaurants from around the world in your home city then have your children find the country on the map.


Living Books

 You know this post would not be complete without a list of fantastic finds from the library or to resource your geographic explorations:

  • Children Just Like Me, Kindersley. With this book you can read each day about a new child then place a pin or thumb tack on the map where that child lives. This book is a great way to view what other children eat, what their homes look like, what types of toys they enjoy, and a little bit about their surroundings.
  • Maps and Globes. One of my favorite map/globe books for young children, this is a must-have. Enchantingly appealing illustrations show where to find the tallest mountain and the deepest ocean,  and covers the countries of the world as well as how to find your way around your own neighborhood.
  • DK First Atlas. Magnificent pictures entrance elementary readers while chock full of information about continents, countries, oceans, topography and more.
  • Geography Songs. This is out of print so check out your public library or grab this used on Amazon if you can. This is a fabulous memory aid to learning states and countries!
  • Ultimate Sticker Book: Flags of the World Especially helpful for your hands on learners, this is packed with 300 reusable stickers and has been updated as of 2012.

So are what are you up to at this point in your summer? Do you have everything together for the fall or are you lying on a beach? Or somewhere in between the two?  Tell me in the comments!