A Literary Education

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Future Read-Aloud Ideas

I love reading aloud to my kids and have been reading to them since they were babies, however it recently hit me:  I only have another 3, maybe 4 years before they’re grown.  Our read aloud time will come to an end.  Maybe I don’t even have that long.  Jobs and other commitments may shorten the time I have left to share stories with them.  I need to make the most of the time we have left and that means having a plan of what books I want to read to them before it’s too late.  I started making a list the other day.  These are not set in stone, some I may change my mind about and of course I will add to it, but here is what I have so far:


The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (We are currently reading The Fellowship of the Ring and want to finish the trilogy)

Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Shakespeare (not sure which yet, but we will be doing a study on him in the next year or so)

Want to Read or Maybe’s

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (Their dad’s favorite growing up)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Books we will read aloud this year with our homeschool curriculum

Watership Down by Richard Adams

The Hitchhhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

The Well of Sacrifice by Chris Eboch

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

360 Degrees Latitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World by John Higham

That’s what I have so far.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important ones. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.


Resources for finding good books for your children

Many homeschool moms have asked me over the years how I find good books for my kids.  There are many places I go to find books to check into:  Book review websites, Amazon recommendations, homeschool forums, lists on blogs, homeschool catalogs, podcasts (you must check out Read Aloud Revival) AND my favorite…books about books!

Some of my favorite resources for finding books for my children

Some of my favorite resources for finding books for my children

When I come across a book that sounds interesting, I always look it up either on GoodReads or Amazon to read reviews and excerpts to see if it’s something my kids might enjoy.  Over the course of homeschooling for 15 years I have accumulated a large home library so my book hunt has slowed down, but only a little.  Not having a great library system where we currently live has also made it a necessity to buy instead of being able to borrow most of what I need from the library like we were able to do in Connecticut. I want to make sure what I buy will be a good, quality, interesting book so I’m careful about researching the books before I buy them.

A great place to find book suggestions are literature-based homeschool companies.  Sonlight, Veritas Press, Beautiful Feet and Build Your Library, just to name a few, have done a wonderful job of going through many children’s books and offer the best of the best in their catalogs and on their websites.

Now that my kids are in high school I’ve pulled out Honey for a Teen’s Heart and am looking through it once again for ideas.  I only have a few years left and there are SO many amazing books out there that I want my kids to read.  Because of our limited time it’s even more important to find the very best for them for these next 3 – 4 years.

If you have a favorite resource for finding books, please let me know in the comments!

Journeying into Middle Earth

lotrToday we started reading The Fellowship of the Ring.  We read The Hobbit a few years ago and really enjoyed it and we all enjoy the LOTR movies, but I never had an interest in trying to read the books.  I’ve always thought they would be difficult and complicated and just…not my thing.  Recently I’ve been reading more about reading aloud to our children, even older children and I’m a HUGE believer in that, but I don’t think we’ve been reading enough challenging books and when I saw someone say this was an enjoyable read aloud with their older kids I thought I would give it a try and I’m actually pretty excited about it.

One of the best things about reading a novel aloud that I’ve never read to myself is that we all get to discover it together.  Today we got through the Prologue (whew!) and a few pages of the first chapter. The Prologue was a lot of information about Hobbits and it was a bit difficult to read aloud, but the first chapter started off wonderfully…LOVE the first sentence:

When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.  

I mean, if that doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will.  I found it much easier reading from then on and hopefully it stays that way.  However, difficult or no, I am determined to read this book aloud to Caitlyn and Brett and hopefully we all fall in love with the story and make some wonderful memories to share.

Come on, spring

We’ve been trying to get outside more on the days it’s warmer out.  The funny thing about Florida is that as soon as it drops below 70 it seems cold.  And 50’s?  Really cold.  Like stay in and get under some blankets cold.  Anytime we have a warm, sunny day I’ve been making sure we get out and enjoy it.

Two weeks ago we went to our local start park and fort with some friends.  We toured the fort, the kids played hide and seek forever, we had a picnic and then took a hike.


           Fort Clinch on Amelia Island

This last Sunday we took a beach walk but it ended up being much colder than we thought.  We had a pretty short walk but it was still nice to get outside for a while.

beachcollageThe beach is so beautiful and I always feel refreshed after spending time there.

This week in school we’ve gotten up to the 80’s and Reagan, AIDS, the Berlin Wall coming down and more.  I’m loving this because it’s history that I experienced and can add in my own memories.

We are reading Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang for our read-aloud and we’re really enjoying it. It’s about Mao’s Cultural Revolution, something I didn’t know anything about.  It’s so scary to think your own friends, neighbors and even family can turn against you because of your leader.

We are also reading aloud How to Read Literature Like a Professor for Kids by Thomas C. Foster and it’s very interesting.  I think it will help the kids analyze the books they read.  It’s presented in such a fun, interesting way.  I highly recommend it.

We have two weeks left of our current curriculum and then we’ll take a week off.  I think we are all looking forward to a break.  I’m so excited to start our year of World Geography.  I just did another book order today and in doing that I now have all the spines for the year and the literature for the first 8 weeks.

Caitlyn’s Current Reads:  Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (not for kids under 15, mentions rape and torture), Divergent by Veronica Roth, Where Have all the Flowers Gone by Ellen Emerson White

Brett’s Current Read:  The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

My Current Reads:  The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields

Chugging along

We are back at school and have been for several weeks now.  We finished our WWII unit and are going through modern history.  We are in the 60’s right now and studying JFK and the Civil Rights Movement, both are very interesting.  Next up is the Vietnam War, which I know pretty much nothing about, so I’m looking forward to it.

Some of the books for our Vietnam study

Some of the books for our Vietnam study

The kids started General Science by Apologia.  I’m not crazy about Apologia, but I have looked high and low and can’t find anything else I like either.  Next year we will be using some spine books and then add in living books for science and I will want them to complete one more Apologia with lab sometime in high school.  This is the first time they’re independent with science and so far, so good.  I did buy the notebooks that go with the course and I love them.

We did some hiking a few weeks ago at our local fort and Brett and I hiked at a state park yesterday we had never been to.  We were in the area because he had been at a sleepover and we took a short hike and we are going back Tuesday with Dad and Caitlyn to hike some more and are meeting friends on Thursday back at the fort to hike and have a picnic.  I love it when the weather is in the high 60’s for hiking in Florida because the snakes and spiders aren’t out much yet.

Brett climbing out on a gorgeous tree during out hike

Brett climbing out on a gorgeous tree during our hike yesterday

Our Current read aloud:  The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Caitlyn’s current read:  Divergent by Veronica Roth

Brett’s current read:  The Maze Runner by James Dashner

My reads:  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Winter Break!

Yay, it’s winter break and Christmas is over.  Time to relax and READ even more.  Caitlyn, Brett and I all received some new books for Christmas.  Caitlyn’s were all manga; Naruto, Bakuman and No.6.  Brett asked for Star Wars books, so I got him some of the older ones.  I was given One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Secret History, The Resurrectionist and Silver Linings Playbook.

Brett is currently read the first Artemis Fowl book, I tried to get him to read it a few years ago but he didn’t like the way it started out.  I gave it to him again before Christmas and he’s almost done with it though I’m not sure if he plans on working through the series.  He has a different taste in books than his older brother did and most books I give him are ones his brother liked.  He usually doesn’t care for them much.

Before our break we watched the movie Patton, which was interesting.  A little too Hollywood for it to feel like a war movie, but we did learn more about General Patton through the movie and reading about him online.  I love the things this man said!  I had a ball going through some of his famous quotes and reading them to the kids.  They got a kick out of his foul mouth and the speech he gave at the beginning of the movie.

We took a quiz I made up based on what we had covered so far in the unit.  I usually don’t give tests but I thought it would be a fun change. They both got all the answers right.  We have another week or two of WWII when we start back to school.  We are still reading Bomb and I have two more documentaries I want them to watch, one on Kamikaze pilots and one on Hiroshima.  Then we will be back into our regular curriculum and finishing up through history.  I’m looking forward to learning about the Cold War, the H-Bomb, the 60’s and up through to current times.

I have been trying to incorporate more current events though CNN Student News, but so many days we forget to watch it.  That’s something I’m going to try to be better about in the next semester.

I found a Japanese course for Caitlyn through Georgia Virtual School, she has wanted to learn Japanese for a while now.  I also found a class on Coursera about Astrobiology and though it might be a fun, interesting course for them to take while also helping them become more independent learners.

I just finished Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery, it’s about a 67 year old woman who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail back in the 50’s and was the first woman to do so.  She became famous, hiked the trail again in it’s entirety and for a 3rd time in parts.  She also walked the Oregon Trail, although she didn’t enjoy that as much.  It was a great book and very inspiring.  We have hiked part of the AT in North Carolina (just a day hike) and my oldest son plans to hike the GA portion with his friends in the next year or two.  Our family as a whole is now planning on a hike somewhere up north in about 5 years.  We want our grandson to be able to hike with us, which is why we are waiting so long.  I’m thinking we will do the New York State or Connecticut portion.  We are all looking forward to it.  I remember reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson years ago and being inspired to want to walk the AT then as well.  We always hiked quite a bit when we lived in CT when the children were younger.  Here in Florida it’s so flat, buggy, hot and lots of spiders and gators that we have all stopped hiking.  I sure do miss New England.  We’ve started a money jar for our planned hike so the kids can contribute and it will be a true family endeavor.

That’s it for now,  I think we will be starting back up on January 5 or 6.


We are currently learning about WWII using a unit study from Build Your Library Curriculum.  We read a wonderful book called Parallel Journeys and we are currently reading The Book Thief and Bomb: The Race to Make – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon.  We have been watching documentaries and are using another book as a spine for our learning, WWII:  The Definitive Visual History.  I don’t care much for it, it’s very boring and the text is so small, but there is a lot of information and of course, great photographs.

wwiibookWe are all learning so much and are enjoying this unit.  The kids have had to make propaganda posters, biography pages for important people,  and currently are writing a diary entry as if they were a sailor on a German U-boat.  We are also learning a lot of vocabulary words and finding out what was going on in different parts of the world during the war.

Caitlyn is currently reading Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Houston

Brett is currently reading Under a War-Torn Sky by L. M. Elliott

Current Read Alouds:  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

I am currently reading:  Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch (a reread) and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

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