Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Who was......a biography book review

Today's book highlight is not just one book but a series of books, the Who Was? series.  These are by far, in my opinion, the best biography series out there right now.  When a biography can engage all 6 of my children ages 6 to 18, you are a winner in my book.  

So, what will you find when reading one of these?  Just the covers alone are fun to look at with their caricature type of drawings.  The chapters are thorough without being overly dry.  The illustrations are all done in black and white ink drawings which enhances what the story is about and draws them in further.  Each book is about 100 pages in length, just right to read a few chapters a day and be done with in about a week of school.  It makes us be able to get a biography about a certain person we are talking about get done and we can move on quickly.  We have read a few this year alone and enjoyed each one. 

Not only does this series cover people, there is also the What Was? series and the Where is? series.  The What Was? series covers in detail important events in history.  The Where is? series covers famous locations and various landmarks around the world.   You can get a better look at these series of books at their website  On the website, you will be able to see all the books so far (they are steadily making more), play a game, and see a link for an apple app to furthur engage your kids.  I don't have an apple product, but the app looks really good.  There is also an educators link at the top of the website which provides lots of additional stuff you could add if you choose.  

I can't recommend these great books enough.  Yes, a child about 3rd grade on up could read these alone as well.  But, we enjoy reading them together.  I find my kids respond better to a biography if we are all reading it together.  

Have you read any of these books?  What do you think of them?  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare! (plus the big list of Shakespeare goodness)

Tradition says that Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, and he died on his birthday in 1616.   So this year marks the 400th anniversary of his death.   Tradition also states that homeschoolers typically are a bit intimidated by Shakespeare.  Let's face it.  The language is tough, the plays are long, and some are a bit dry for some audiences.  And, some parts are not appropriate for all.  However, it can be done!  And it can be great!  And, it can be a tremendous learning experience!  I wrote here in my first post on Shakespeare and how I teach it to my children.  Now, not all love every Shakespeare play, but all love some Shakespeare.

I thought I would gather together in one place some of my favorite podcasts and bloggers that have talked about Shakespeare and how they taught it.  I have learned much from these ladies and a gentleman and have begun to implement them in our home.  So, for your further studying pleasure and if you would like to get ready to study him more in your homeschool, allow me to present


Here is a great podcast from Ken Ludwig on his great book How to Teach your Children Shakespeare.  He wrote this book after teaching his children successfully about Shakespeare and the importance of memorizing parts of the plays.  A must listen.  You can also visit his website

And, how about one more podcast.  This is by far the easiest method I have run across for teaching older children about Shakespeare and about his plays.  I plan to do a bit more of this method myself. Included is a suite of information from good audiobooks and a link to Mystie Winkler's blog posts on Shakespeare and his part in her home.

Here is a fun little post including some great titles for teaching younger children Shakespeare

Two other how to's on studying Shakespeare can be found here and here.  The first one is especially helpful for those who learn classically.

If you like to learn the Charlotte Mason way, may I recommend the various Simply Charlotte Mason posts here.  She even has a breakdown of plays recommended by age.  I love this list.  Its been very helpful.

Sarah MacKenzie just released at her Read Aloud Revival a beginner's guide to Shakespeare.  You can check that out here.

Here is a link to my pinterest board with more ideas and infographics.  I am always adding to it.

Would you like to throw Shakespeare a party for his birthday?  Look no further than here for some inspiration.  Or, if you live in the DC area, as we do, you could attend Folger Shakespeare's annual birthday bash for the bard.  It will be taking place this Sunday.  You can click here for more information.

And, last but not least, in honor of Shakespeare's 400th anniversary, the First Folio is on tour in the United States.  I am looking forward to when it arrives near me.  You can go here for more information on when it will be in your area.  This is a tremendous opportunity for your family.

I hope these things and my first post inspire you to try your hand at teaching your children about this tremendous playwright, the bard, William Shakespeare.  And, happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Beverly Cleary turns 100 on April 12.  And, what a fun bunch of books she has written.  Our world wouldn't be the same without Ramona Quimby or Henry Huggins.  And, how about Socks or Ribsy or Ralph, the motorcycle riding mouse, or any of the other fun characters she created through fiction.  I grew up reading the Cleary books and have several in our collection.  My kids have read them as well (or will when they get a bit better readers).  They are classic tales that repeat reading over and over.  And, kids can relate to the characters she has written about.  They do things and experience feelings that are true to what kids feel and experience.  I love them.

The Washington Post recently published an article about her and her upcoming birthday.  She said she remembered her mother reading aloud to her, and she struggled to learn to read nearly failing first grade.  She wasn't even reading on her own till 3rd.  I, as a mother of children who struggled to read, find that encouraging.  She went on to college, got married, had kids, became a librarian, all while writing.  She grew up in a different era where mothers stayed home and kids played freely, very different from what children do today, which is reflected in her stories.  If you have a moment, click on the link and read the article.  And, if you want to know more, Wikipedia is always there to lend you information (we love wikipedia).

On April 12, everyone is encouraged to D.E.A.R., drop everything and read.  No matter what might be going on, forget about it and read a good book.  This is in honor of Beverly Cleary who first introduced D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8.  Don't remember it?  Get a copy of the book and find out.  We will be doing just that on April 12.  Sarah Mackenzie from Amongst Lovely Things is hosting a D.E.A.R. celebration.  At 3 PM EST (change that to whatever time zone you need), she in encouraging you to drop all you are doing and read to your children and post to social media with a picture.  She has put together a packet of fun things which you can find if you click here.  It promises to be a fun celebration.  If you want to know more about D.E.A.R. itself, click here.  

There are lots of fun ideas in the free packet from Amongst Lovely Things which we will do.  In addition, I purposely went to 2 libraries to get a stack of her books for my kids to enjoy this month.  Plus, we checked out Ramona and Beezus, a movie done about Ramona and her sister, played by Selena Gomez and Joel King.  We have never seen it before so it will be a fun conclusion to our Beverly Cleary month!

So, happy birthday, Beverly Cleary.  You really don't look a day over 80!  May you have many more lovely birthdays!  And, thank you for Ramona, Ellen, Henry, Maggie, Ribsy, Socks, Beezus, Ralph and all the other lovely characters you created!  And, enjoy your piece of carrot cake!