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!






The only thing worse than writing a research paper yourself is the thought of teaching your high school student to write one.


let someone else teach itI know! Been there, done that.

Here is your chance  to have someone else take this off your plate.

For TEN DAYS ONLY, you can enter to win one of three free courses for your high school student in writing a research paper using  our curriculum - The Steps to Writing a Research Paper.

To enter the drawing once,  sign up for the Classes by Beth mailing list. That’s it!

For a second chance at this $194 value, register your student for a class at CBB by July 31st.

All the details are here.

Don’t forget though — you only have 10 days to enter.


Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing



P. S. Your high school student should write two research papers during high school — you will have one of those out of the way after the fall semester if you should win!




School Books and How to Use Them: Train up a Child Publishing Blog











This blog carnival edition is prompted by Volume 3, chapter 16 of the Charlotte Mason series posted on Ambleside Online, entitled How to Use School-Books. If you missed chapter 15, School-books and How they Make for Education,  you might want to take a peek at that chapter before reading this one.

Living Books and How to Use Them

According to chapter 15 and 16, the books we  choose for school should be books that “sustain the thought-life of a child”, have an “upheaving effect on the mind,” and are “teeming with fresh ideas from the minds of thinkers.” They may be literature books, history books or books about anything, really… just as long as they are living books (i.e., books with “living ideas”) that inspire our children’s minds.

And how best do we know that children have gleaned ideas from the books they are reading?  Ms. Mason’s favorite method for helping children assimilate what they have heard is narration.

The simplest way of dealing with a paragraph or a chapter is to require the child to narrate its contents after a single attentive reading…     –Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, Chapter 16

Here is a post about basic narration from the Train up a Child Publishing/Epi Kardia blog. Along with narration, Ms. Mason suggests there are other uses for school books other than reading and narration:

But this is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.                          —Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, Chapter 16

For other methods to use as alternatives or along with narration, see 15 Creative Language Arts Lessons Using Living Books, also on this blog.

Art, Music and Poetry Appreciation

Jim Erskine of Homeschool Freebie of the Day  offers us a vintage pdf reprint of a classic book about the value of developing music appreciate with young children.  Although there may be a sign up form or two here, it is not necessary to sign up to receive the ebook, Music Talks with Children. Look for the link about half way down the page. Thank you for the freebie, Jim!

Including music as well as art and poetry, Patti from the scrumptious  All Things Bright and Beautiful blog provides information for several lesson plans on her June 12th post concerning the artist, Robert Bateman, composer Franz Joseph Hayden, and the American poet Phillis Wheatley.

Carol from the journey-and-destination blog posted some helpful science videos & a plan for reading through A Child’s Geography, by Ann Voskamp. 

Literature Study

In a second post, Carol offers up her nine week schedule for studying Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (or What You Will). This is especially suited for those of us who have high school students.


This carnival is short, but sweet!  June is a month to kick back and REST for most of us, but hopefully you will find something here to inspire you. Thank you to the authors who participated!



Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

15 Language Arts LessonsIf you homeschool the Charlotte Mason way, you have often heard that narration is “the” activity to do after reading living books. This is certainly the easiest for you and one of the most profitable activities for your student, but did you know that in Volume 3 of the Charlotte Mason series, Charlotte offered us several other things we can do with books other than narration?

But this [narration] is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.                      –Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, Chapter 16


 15 Non-narration Ideas for Living BooksYou Can Use Today!

If your kids balk at narration, or even if they don’t, here are fifteen creative ideas to change things up a bit and learn or review language arts concepts at the same time.

  1.  Have your student take reading notes over a passage (length of the passage is determined by the age of your student and the complication of the passage), writing down the important statements in the passage.  (Example: each step in the lifecycle of a butterfly or frog)
  2. Choose a well-developed paragraph with a clear topic sentence. Type the passage in a large point size, one sentence at a time with a few lines in between. Print and cut out each sentence.  Mix up the order of the sentences and have your student choose the topic sentence of the paragraph and put the sentences in order. Compare with original and discuss. Use the paragraph for copy work.
  3.  Choose a sentence with many adjectives and prepare two versions for copy work:  the first as it is in print and the second leaving out the adjectives. Ask your student to describe the differences in the two sentences. Talk about describing words, or adjectives, and discuss different examples.  Have her use the sentence for copy work with the adjectives. Another day have her circle the adjectives in the initial sentence, and then copy the sentence inserting her own (different) adjectives.
  4. Choose simple sentences of text  and write/type each sentence on its own line with spaces in between.  Leave out either the subject or the predicate of several sentences.  Examine the original complete sentences in print with your student, and after a short verbal lesson (an example of this lesson is here)  on  subjects/predicates, have your child tell which part is missing and create an appropriate subject or predicate.
  5. For your kindergarten student: Prepare a sentence of text for copy work.  Point out capitalization and end punctuation. Have your student copy the sentence. Another day have student create her own sentence using the original sentence(s) as a guide.
  6. Choose and prepare sentence(s) from your science or history books  for copy work to reinforce a history/science concept. Have your student use the sentence for copy work.  Later, use the same text  for dictation. A few days after, check to see if your student remembers the concept without looking at his copy work/dictation.
  7. Choose a punctuation skill that you would like to reinforce, such as commas in a series, quotation marks, apostrophe usage, past or future tense, etc. Find a short passage in one of your literature, history or science books that exemplifies that skill.  Use the passage for copy work one day and dictation later.
  8. Choose a paragraph that includes a part of speech that you are teaching, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, prepositional phrases, etc.  Using a colored pencil, have your child circle all the <nouns, for example.>.  For older children or for review, have your student use different colors to mark different parts of speech and circle some, put a box around others, etc. Make sure to give clear instructions and have your student create a “key” at the bottom of the page.
  9. For extra practice, use the copy work above but have your student use different nouns, etc. Discuss how this changes the sentence(s). For older students, discuss the ‘mood’ of a piece and have him create a different mood than the original by his choice of adjectives.
  10. Have your student find ten interesting adjectives in the newspaper or a magazine and cut them out. Have her write additional sentences using those adjectives.
  11. Type a paragraph of text, joining some of the sentences to make run-on sentences. After a short verbal lesson on run-on sentences, have your student identify them and write correct sentences. Use the corrected piece for copy work.
  12. Using a literature book, choose a passage with examples of several precise verbs. Use this passage for copy work. Another day, use a previously written passage of your student’s. Have him circle the verbs used and discuss ideas for improvement with more precise verbs. Have him rewrite the passage.
  13. Using a well-written book, have your middle or high school level student take a chapter or more and create an outline of the chapter.
  14. Copy a paragraph/passage of text. Change it: misspell words, make the punctuation incorrect or leave it out, make capitalization errors, etc.  Have your student correct.  Then have your student do the same thing above for you to correct.
  15. Copy or create a passage of text with “tired” words such as good, nice, bad, really, said, big, small. Have your student rewrite the passage, using “wow” words. (Example: tiny vs. small) Use a thesaurus to find more words as necessary.


Here’s to variety!  Can you think of any more?