crafts

How to Make a Simple Thanksgiving Wreath

How to make a simple Thanksgiving wreath with materials you find on your next nature walk

A few years ago, my eldest son and I made what we call a Thanksgiving wreath. To me, it also celebrates the changing of the seasons because we got all our materials from nature.

All you need to do is wander around outside and pick up whatever you think might look pretty on your wreath. What a great excuse to get the kids out into nature! You can wander around your yard, a park, or multiple places.

As you can see from ours, we used raw cotton that we got at a nearby homestead, acorns, pinecones, leaves, twigs and sweet gum balls. I bet you can find all sorts of other things in your backyard as well.

To make it, I cut out the shape of a wreath in a piece of heavy cardboard for our backing, and then I helped my son glue his decorations wherever he wanted them to go. You’ll need to use a strong glue such as a hot glue gun or tacky glue.

I think even my non-crafty crew could pull off this simple Thanksgiving wreath — love that it incorporates nature walk findings.

If you make a Thanksgiving wreath, please share a link to a photo of it. I’d love to see what you come up with!



Easy, Thoughtful Holiday Gifts to Make with the Kids

Easy, Thoughtful Holiday Gifts to Make with the Kids

I like my friends, so I want to make them something awesome—but my time and budget are always limited. Maybe you’re in the same boat? We’ve rounded up a bunch of easy DIY gifts that are simple enough to make with your kids (obviously you know their abilities best) but nice enough to make your friends feel like they ended up on your family’s NICE list this year.

Monday Pep Talk No. 16

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

It’s a brand-new week, so fill it up with fun. Here’s a little jump-start to get you going.

3 fun things to do this week

Practice your U.S. geography with a Tetris-style online game that uses states and a map instead of just colored blocks.

It’s time to start planning your holiday gifts, and these three-ingredient lemon bar soaps would make a perfect rainy day project.

Make a cloud in your living room.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Potato hash with spinach and eggs is as easy as breakfast-for-dinner but looks like you made an effort.

Carnitas tacos are always a hit at our house, and you can whip up this version in the crockpot.

The perfect fall pizza: butternut squash topped with broccolini, chickpeas, and red onion.

 

one great readaloud

Annotated Treasure Island, The
By Robert Louis Stevenson
 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s birthday (on the 13th) makes this a great week to put Treasure Island on your readaloud list. There's a reason this action-packed tale is considered a classic adventure story. (This annotated version is the one to get—the extra historical research and technical details really bring the story to life.)

 

one thought to ponder

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration)

apple cider gin fizz


Stuff We Like :: 7.31.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Our month-long web extravaganza is ending, but we’d love to know what you’ve enjoyed reading on the site and what you’d like to see more of in the coming months. (Really! Pipe up!) And don’t worry, we’ve still got plenty of good stuff in the queue, including an awesome giveaway that we’ll tell you more about next week.

around the web

So I love Rebecca, which I read at exactly the right time to fall in love with its Gothic charms, but I do frequently find myself saying “What the heck is wrong with you, Max de Winter?” So this imagined conversation between Max and the second Mrs. de Winter made my day.

I still reread my favorite books every year. (I have reread Little Women every fall since I was 7 years old.) But apparently rereading is something we do less and less as we get older, and that’s a shame.

Great read for helping kids (and parents) recognize problematic statistics in news reporting.

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: We’re trying out the Monday pep talk as a little kickstart to your week. What do you think?

on pinterest: This wall-mounted kraft paper rollis so clever — I’m thinking we need one in the kitchen as a doodle station, and we’ll use the resulting artwork to wrap holiday presents.

in the magazine: You know your homeschool group wants our best subscription deal.

 

reading list

I already have a copy of Goodbye Stranger on order to give my daughter as soon as it comes out next week. I think this is THE book to give a middle school girl. (Despite the cover, it has nothing to do with boyfriends.)

We’re reading The Island of Dr. Libris as our morning readaloud, and it’s been a lot of fun. (I caught my 7-year-old trying to read ahead, which is high praise indeed.)

I just finished Silver in the Blood, which I wanted to love (shape-shifting! mysterious family origins! best-friend cousins! Jessica Day George!) but which was ultimately just okay.

 

in the kitchen

I love watermelon pickles. And now I have a bunch.

I am totally hooked on this quick skillet granola because I want to be the kind of person who has healthy homemade granola on hand but am more frequently the kind of person who needs a breakfast that comes together in under 15 minutes. (I add Trader Joe’s dried blueberries.)

Does anybody have a great tomato sauce recipe? I am at the stage where the tomatoes are outpacing our eating ability. (Luxury problems!)

 

at home

Mystery Show is my new podcast.

I am still chugging along on my Beekeeper’s Quilt. I keep trying to justify buying the big KnitPicks palette sampler to help motivate me over the last hill (or three), but my stash is already beyond reasonable life expectancy.

Do you play Ticket to Ride? It’s had a featured role at our table this summer. I like that it’s fast-paced so we can finish a game in an hour or so and challenging enough that it’s fun to play over (and over).


Monday Pep Talk No. 2

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Our little dose of homeschool inspiration will help you start this week off with a little more oomph.

3 fun things to do this week

Give some of your beat-up but beloved readalouds a makeover by making custom hardback covers for them.

Encourage your young authors and artists to submit their work to Launch Pad for consideration. (Because getting published feels kind of awesome.)

Start stocking your medicine cabinet for fall and winter with DIY syrups, salves, teas, and other herbal remedies. This book of DIY natural remedies from Frugal Granolawill get you started.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Pretty (with purple cabbage, green beans, and golden peaches) and unusual, this salad is a perfect unexpected side for grilled fish or chicken.

This vegetarian zucchini, rice, and onion gratin would be a good thing to master now, before your neighbors start sneaking zucchini into your mailbox.

Frittatas are the ultimate easy dinner — and this squash, tomato, and basil versionis packed with summer flavors.

 

one thought to ponder

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration} 

magic espresso brownies


Monday Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Because sometimes you need more than a cup of coffee to dive into the coming week, we’re kicking off this little series to help inspire you over some of the week’s potential bumps.  

3 fun things to do this week

Relive your childhood with your own kids when Pixels opens on Friday, starring homicidal versions of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, and more arcade favorites bent on taking over the planet.

Tie-dye some t-shirts or a summer tablecloth in the backyard. (I love how this abstract watercolor version looks so much more interesting than the typical tie-dye, but I wonder how hard it actually is to pull off.)

Make Seven-Day Magic your morning readaloud. I always forget how much I love this book until I read it again, and then I want to tell everybody I know that they should read it, too.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

You don’t even have to turn on the oven to make this chickpea salad, and you can pile it on some arugula, eat it with a quick tomato salad, or just stuff it in a pita.

In summer, all I want to do is get back out of the kitchen. This quinoa topped with spinach and a fried egg lets me do just that.

My farmers market haul seems to be all about tomatoes and peaches right now, so this tomato-peach salad with tofu cream seems like the perfect side for the inevitable grilled chicken.

 

one thought to ponder

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration} 

arnold palmer sangria


Stuff We Like: Spring Edition

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Shelli and I have been hard at work planning the summer issue (lots of good stuff coming up!) and some exciting changes to the website, but we’ve also been enjoying the pleasures of springtime life. Here are some of the things making us smile this spring.

:: I have been reading so much for our summer reading report in the next issue that I feel like I haven’t cracked a book for my personal reading list in ages. (Though I did reread The Boarded-Up House mystery with my daughter.) My 1st grader is reading (with lots of help) The Burgess Bird Book for Children and listening to Will in Scarlet as an audiobook. My 7th grader is reading nothing but manga and listening to the Beatles' Hard Day’s Night pretty much on repeat in her room. I think we may have a case of spring fever. (But I do have Station Eleven on my night table based on Suzanne’s recommendation!) —Amy

:: Am I the only person obsessed with Foyle’s War? I am a sucker for a period mystery, and it’s the perfect background for knitting. —Amy

:: I got sucked into the Pinterest vortex last year and made a quilt out of pillows, but oh, wow, am I glad I did. We have been dragging it into the backyard every day for school time, hang out time, and (not infrequently) dinner. It’s actually very easy to make but not so easy to store. And making it did help me stick to my personal Pinterest rule of one pin in, one pin done. —Amy

:: We have been having so much fun playing with The Kids’ Book of Weather Forecasting: Build a Weather Station, Read the Sky, and Make Predictions (one of the books from our spring issue’s nature resources roundup). There’s nothing like making your own barometer to appreciate the changeable nature of our springtime weather. —Amy

:: With spring’s arrival, we have been enjoying watching many songbirds move into our wooded yard to make nests and find food. My boys frequently refer to the iBird South app on our family's iPad to identify the birds and hear what sounds they make. (There’s an app for each region, so click on the link.) My boys have also enjoyed the Audubon Plush Birds they received at Easter, and I love them because they play real bird sounds, which are provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Seriously, I have yet to separate my 5-year-old from his wood duck, which he had been asking for for a long time! —Shelli

:: Since my boys (including the adult one) are total Star Wars geeks (and, frustratingly, two dvds checked out from two different libraries had too many scratches on them for us to watch), my husband recently purchased all the Star Wars episodes on iTunes. (It’s the first time they have been released in digital format — get all the details here.) Not only are we watching all six episodes, we are also watching all the “extras” that comes with it, and for us, that’s what makes this purchase worth it. The “making of” documentaries, deleted scenes, and other interviews with people who have worked behind the scenes are making this a fun, educational experience. Since we are watching only about 30 minutes a day, this is going to stretch out for weeks too! —Shelli

We picked it up at a library book sale thinking it looked fun, and sure enough my 8-year-old loved The Mad Scientists Club. Though this collection of stories is pretty old — it was written in the 1960s — it was still a fun, clever read. It’s about a group of boys who call themselves the Mad Scientists and get in all kinds of mischief as they outsmart the adults in their small town. My son is eager for me to get the next book in the series. —Shelli

What's your family loving this spring?


At Home with the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool (7th grade)

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 7th Grade Homeschool

Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!

Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 7th grader. (You can see what 1st grade looked like for us here.)

Seventh grade is very different from 1st grade. In some ways, it’s easier — after years of learning together, I know my daughter’s strengths well. I know how she learns best. I know what’s likely to frustrate her. In some ways, though, it’s harder. This is new territory for us. I’ve never homeschooled a college-bound (at least that’s her plan right now) teenager, and I spent a lot of last summer worried that I was going to mess up something important. Honestly, I still worry about that. But ultimately, this is my daughter’s education, not mine, and letting my worries get in the way of her learning — well, that’s pretty silly. So we’re sticking with what works.

And what works for us is a pretty collaborative process. Every summer, my daughter and I have a little “planning retreat.” (Ice cream and My Little Pony movies are usually involved.) We talk about what she’d like to focus on in the coming year — usually her list is way too long, and we have to pare it down. I also bring a couple of lists — usually one of books I’d like her to take a look at and one of those “What your X-grader should know” lists so that she can see what other kids at her grade level are working on. (Next year, I’ll add a list of college entrance requirements because we’ll be doing short- and long-term planning for high school.) Together, we come up with a plan for the coming year. Here’s what we ended up doing for 7th grade:

Latin

My daughter started Latin in 3rd grade, and at this point, we have a good rhythm down. We use Ecce Romani as our Latin textbook. It’s unorthodox, but we’ve been using the first two books since 3rd grade — every year, we just start over at the beginning and work our way through again, getting a little further each time. We’ve gotten to the point where we just breeze through the first book, but I feel like it ends up being a good review and a confidence-booster. Ecce Romani has you working on translations from the very first chapter, which I know goes against the methodology of some Latin purists. For us, it works. We start each chapter by making cards for all the new vocabulary words and doing an oral translation of the new passage. The next day, we do a review of all the vocabulary cards in our stack, and my daughter copies out the Latin passage in her notebook, leaving space under each line for the translation, which she does the following day. We spend the rest of the week (and the following week, if we need it) doing the exercises in the book for that particular passage, and finish up with another oral reading and translation of the passage.

 

Literature/Grammar

We don’t do grammar as a separate subject anymore because, honestly, I think studying Latin is one of the best ways to learn English grammar.

This year, my daughter wanted to focus on poetry for literature. She’s been writing a lot of poetry and was curious about what made something a great poem rather than just a good poem. I rooted out my old high school copy of Perrine’s Sound and Sense, which I remembered helping make that difference click for me, and we’ve been working through it together. I think the book might be just a little advanced for her, so we’re just taking our time with it, and if something feels frustrating or too difficult, we’re comfortable just moving on to the next topic. She keeps a notebook where she copies down poetry she particularly likes and occasionally answers some of the questions in Perrine. (I don’t assign her questions to answer or anything — she just sometimes likes to answer them in writing.)

She’s an avid reader, and at this point, I let her read what she likes and don’t worry about it. (If we were doing more traditional literature this year, I’d probably assign her a few specific books to read. I let her assign me books, too.) In the past I’ve done things like reading bingo cards or scavenger hunts with book recommendations, but she doesn’t really need me pushing reading these days. I do still keep a notebook for her with a running reading list, and she’ll jot down titles and authors in it as she finishes them.

I also cruelly force my children to memorize and recite poetry every week or so, so my daughter has been choosing a lot of pieces from Perrine and from The Rattle Bag (edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes and probably my all-time favorite poetry anthology) for her recitations this year.

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 1st grade

History

My daughter’s want-to-study list started with the history of fashion this year, so we kind of cobbled together some resources for that, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 100 Dresses (a gorgeous compilation), What People Wore When (a bit dry but informative), lots of Dover fashion coloring books, and some intrepid Google-fu. We’ve had some great conversations about how fashion may have shaped women’s roles at different points in time. She keeps a notebook, where she sketches dresses and makes notes about the time period or construction details. If she’s inspired, my daughter sometimes tries to make a historically accurate-ish dress for her American Girl doll. She’s a decent sewist, but we often work off an existing pattern. Probably our most fun project this year thus far was making gigantic hoop skirts.

This is the last year my kids will be doing the four-year history cycle together. (Next year, my daughter and I will do state history, then start back over with the ancient world for 9th grade.) So we’re all studying medieval/Renaissance history this year. My daughter still likes to sit in on Story of the World readalouds with her little brother. I’m always impressed by how much she remembers! We use Medieval Europe: A Short Sourcebook by C. Warren Hollister as a spine of sorts. I like this book because it includes primary sources but makes them easier to swallow with detailed introductions that give lots of context. (We’ll do medieval history again in high school, and we may well use this book for that, too.) We’ve done history different ways — this year, we take turns “leading the discussion.” One week, I’ll read ahead and do a mini-lecture before we dive into conversation; the next week, she’ll do the reading and the mini-lecture. She keeps a notebook where she takes notes, jots down questions and rabbit trails she wants to come back to, and copies maps. (She loves drawing maps. This is not something she inherited from me.)

 

Math

I did something a little controversial with math and let my daughter take two years off from studying it. I know! But she just hated it so much — it stressed her out way more than any kid should have to be stressed out. So I told her we didn’t have to do any more math until she wanted to. She didn’t live in a math vacuum — she still halved recipes and figured out if she had enough money for new headphones and a Totoro plushie — but we didn’t do any structured math. This year, she said she wanted to try math again, so we eased in with Life of Fred Fractions, and it’s going great. She’s had no problem working on the assignments, and when she has run into problems she couldn’t easily solve, she’s been relaxed enough to try different approaches to solving them. I don’t know that I would say everyone should skip two years of math, but for us, it worked out better than I might have hoped. (I wondered, and you might, too, how skipping math would affect her test scores: It didn't. She scored well in math both of our math-free years. I'm not sure what that says about learning math, math standardized testing, or anything else, but I thought it was worth sharing!)

 

Science

We had a pretty intense chemistry class last year, so this year, we opted for fun science, and we’ve been making our way through Janice VanCleave’s Science Around the Year. My daughter is probably at the tippy-top of the age range I’d recommend this book for, but she’s really enjoyed it. It’s not the most challenging of our classes, but she’s getting good practice writing lab reports, and it’s a lot of fun. She also keeps a daily nature journal (she is our resident cloud-noticer!) and usually participates when we do activities from The Nature Connection workbook.

 

Etc.

My daughter does handwork pretty much every day — she’s a good knitter and enjoys sewing. She’s pretty self-directed with these things now, so I just let her take the reins. (She likes to watch Mythbusters while she’s working.) She likes to cook, and she’s trying to make all the recipes in Nigella’s How to Eat. She enjoys drawing — I’ve mentioned it before, but she has loved the Manga for Beginners series this year.

She also is part of a Destination Imagination team that meets every week (and which I love because all the other parents involved with the team are so fun to hang out with), and she takes a creative writing class at our homeschool group.

One thing that’s important to me is that my daughter not feel like learning happens in some kind of discrete compartment — I want her to feel like it’s just part of life, like making dinner or watching anime. I try to model this by making learning part of my own everyday life (maybe that’s easier when you edit a magazine that forces you to brush up on Napoleon or learn about the history of NASA), but I also try not to get too attached to getting things done at a certain pace (or even at all). I want my daughter to feel like her education is hers to direct, and I’m there to offer support, input, and direction when she needs it. We have monthly check-ins, where we sit down over tea to make sure things are going the way she wants them to and make any changes she thinks we need to make. (This year has gone pretty smoothly, which may be because we’ve started to figure out generally what works or which may just be because of luck.) One thing that’s been a big change this year is her schedule — my daughter has turned into a night owl, so she often doesn’t emerge from her bedroom until almost lunchtime. That’s fine with me, so we adjust accordingly. Like everyone, I worry “Am I doing too much? Am I doing enough?,” but my daughter genuinely likes learning, so I figure I’m at least doing something right.


At Home with the Editors: Shelli’s Project-based Homeschool

At Home with the Editors: How Project-Based Homeschooling Works for Shelli's Family

When Amy approached me about working on home / school / life, we both agreed that we wanted a magazine and website that would welcome all homeschoolers no matter what their style or reasons for homeschooling. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!

This is my second post about our homeschool. In my first one, I listed all the curriculum and resources I use for the more formal part of my sons’ homeschool. Monday-Thursday we spend about two hours on our “lessons,” and on Fridays, we do an art lesson. But after our formal lessons, or on a day that I dedicate to it, I make myself available for what to me is the most important part of my son’s education – his own projects. These are projects that are completely initiated and controlled by him. I consider them important because it’s through these projects (or interests) that he is learning how to learn, how to do research, how to make decisions, what to spend his time on, learning what he’s really passionate about, and he is developing his imagination and problem-solving skills.

robotics-1.jpg

So what is project-based homeschooling, and how do I do it? I wrote the definition that you will find in home/school/life magazine’s Toolkit, the magazine’s guide for beginning homeschoolers (we define eleven of the most popular methods of homeschooling), so I will include that here:

Project-Based homeschooling (PBH) is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, and the term was coined by Lori Pickert. It is a method in which parents become mentors to their children in order to help the child direct and manage his/her own learning. Children may undertake long-term projects and will be given the time and tools that allow them to dig deep into their interests. PBH can be used in conjunction with any curriculum or style of homeschooling, from classical to unschooling.

But it’s much more than that too, and it’s not easy to explain how I do PBH in a blog post, so instead I’ll give you a few snapshots of what my son has accomplished while I have used these techniques. Though, in many ways, I was already following his interests and creating an environment where questions, creating, and discovering were encouraged, I am thankful for the tips I’ve received by following PBH. I’m not sure I would have mentored him as well without them. So I’ll try to explain some of what I’ve learned during this process as well.

i-GFNdxNr-L

When my eight-year-old was five, I learned to take one of his crazy ideas seriously. That is, an idea that didn’t seem educational at first and an idea that was going to be time-consuming, messy, and wasteful too. Instead of giving a quick, “that won’t work,” or “but you’ll need to do this to get to that work,” or “we don’t have time,” or “that would make too much of a mess,” I just let him do what he wanted and see for himself how it would turn out. This was his attempt to a make a Celery Lettuce Cake. (He learned for himself that it didn’t make a very palatable dish, but oh the fun he had! He took it so seriously, and I was happy with his effort.)

z 2011-14-L

When my son was interested in the Titanic, I began to understand how to let him lead a project and how letting him make mistakes was important to this process. It also taught me how a well-placed suggestion can be golden. This project even proved to me that enduring temper tantrums was worth it because in the end he had a product that was completely his own, and he was so proud of it! (Yes, I helped him make it, but he was the designer and director, telling me what to do. I only made suggestions when he was completely stumped and looked at me for help.)

cardboard model Saturn V-L

When my son wanted to make a model of the Apollo Saturn V, I learned more how to balance that “let him lead” with “help him when absolutely necessary.” But more importantly, I was able to see how important it is to show my son examples of other people working on projects, failing, and trying again. (This has helped those temper tantrums!) Watching the documentary When We Left Earth, which is about the NASA missions, was perfect for this.

carnivorous plant project-16-L

When my son was very interested in carnivorous plants, I had the opportunity to model to my son how we could seek out other experts to learn from. I also learned how some projects will peak but then stay in the background over years because my son is still interested in the plants, and he still grows them, although he doesn’t actively seek to learn more about them right now. But whenever we see them in a documentary or find a live one, we get very excited!

Some projects are short, others are long, and others meander like winding rivers, popping up here and there. I have learned to connect the dots in my son’s projects (journaling helps with this), and I’ve learned that his deep interests include nature, science, and building things….

Looking back, I also see how important it has been to create an environment where materials for creating and building were readily available to my son. It’s also been important for me to show him how to use these materials, say “yes” a lot, and not worry about the messes. We began making paper animals together when he was four, and slowly, I have seen that my son is a true builder and maker – someone who likes working with his hands.

pottery-6-L

Because I’ve let him use a variety of mediums, I have been able to see what he has a true interest in because these are things he continues to go back to and ask for more. One of these has been working with clay—to the point where he has taken pottery classes at a nearby studio. And also building lots of structures with cardboard, including a model of the Mayflower, a big robot, and two Star Wars ships.

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Each of these building projects, such as that awesome Mayflower ship, could have been a different kind of project. We did learn about the Mayflower, read a book about it, but it wasn’t the history my son had a deep interest in. As he continued on to make airplanes, boats and other things, I see he’s a builder and a designer. Even his special interest in Star Wars, I think, is largely due to his deeper interest in the models created in making the special effects and the robots used in those movies.

So it was not surprising that as soon as he learned what robots are, he became interested in that, and now he has a robotics kit. He’s teaching himself computer programming too. (I haven’t written about that yet, but you can see the photo at the top.) I have also noticed how he has watched NOVA’s Making Things Wilder at least four times so far. It, coincidentally, combines all his deep interests. (It’s about bioengineering.) The first time he watched it, he leaned forward in his chair, and said loudly, “I want to do that!”

Ben creating-1-L

My five-year-old also has interests, and I’ve been seeing him work through a few projects of his own, though they meander and they aren’t as likely to produce something solid I can show the world like his older brother’s creations. He has been interested in dinosaurs for a very long time, and we have read countless books, watched many documentaries, visited museums, and he plays with his toy dinosaurs frequently, making a sort of “dinosaur land.” (So don't worry if your child isn't into building, art, or tinkering. Projects are simply a long-term investigation into an interest, and what your child produces could take on many forms.)

I also do a lot of modeling for my younger son because it seems to be the best way to encourage him in his interests right now. For example, he loves to draw, so I started my own sketchbook habit, and whenever I pull out my sketchbook, I usually inspire him to do the same.

I have learned with both my boys that the best way to get them to do something is to just start doing it myself! Having my own interests, learning about things that I’ve always wanted to learn about, and casually sharing my own process of exploration with them, is one of the best ways to mentor without pushing an agenda on them. Even if they don't have the same interests, they are learning my behavior and investigation techniques.

I have also learned that it is okay to require certain work from them that I dictate (whether cleaning the house or doing a math lesson), but when it comes to their own projects, I should let them be in charge, and sometimes that means letting them quit before something is completed. I remind them of their work, encourage them, but if I ultimately want them to be in charge of their education, they have to take ownership. So I have learned to take away my own expectations of my children and let them blossom in their own time and through their own discoveries.

Are you interested in learning more about project-based homeschooling? I am always accessible to anyone who would like to discuss homeschooling or who has any questions. Just email me. If you want to talk on the phone, we can set up an appointment. (FYI: My advice is free! I love chatting!) Also, here are a few links for you:

  • You will want to read the book What Is Project-Based Homeschooling? by Lori Pickert, see her fabulous website, and join one of her forums. She is also very accessible through her social media, forums and even email, and she offers classes too.
  • I have written extensively about this journey with PBH on my blog, and I will continue to do so. See my page Project-based Homeschooling. There is also a very good interview with Lori on my site about beginning PBH with younger children. Click here for part 1 of that.

At Home with the Editors: Amy’s Homeschool (1st Grade)

At Home with the Editors: Amy's 1st Grade Homeschool

Shelli and I both passionately believe that our magazine should be inclusive of lots of different homeschool motivations and methods. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!

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Because there’s a pretty significant age gap between my kids (six years), I decided to do two separate posts to make things easy for myself. Today, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my 1st grader.

The spine of our curriculum is Oak Meadow’s first grade program, which we use for language arts, social studies, art, and science. For these early grades, I really wanted something that would encourage him to try different things without worrying about whether there was a right answer. I like the way Oak Meadow emphasizes observation and imagination, and I love flipping back through his main lesson books (we have one for science and one for everything else) as the year progresses.

For history, we use Story of the World, which we do as a readaloud. While I read, he’ll draw a picture in his main lesson book related to the topic at hand — the Vikings and samurai were his favorites this year. We spend a little time discussing previous chapters at the beginning of every lesson, but I don’t expect him to remember everything. At this age, for me, it’s really about introducing him to important names and events. (My daughter often joins us for the readaloud — she still loves Story of the World.)

We use Miquon Math, which my son adores, for his math. We usually do a few pages in his book every day together, and he may keep going and do several more pages on his own. I let him set his own pace, though every once in a while, if I notice that he’s making a lot of simple mistakes, I encourage him to slow down. It took me a little while to get the hang of Miquon’s method — this is definitely a program where you will want to read the teacher’s manual in advance — but it’s proven to be a great fit for us. I wish the program continued through high school!

Oak Meadow’s science emphasizes nature study, but we also use The Nature Connection workbook and keep a daily nature journal. Usually, we stick to our backyard for journaling, but every once in a while, we’ll hike along the river or hit a nature center for a change of pace.

We started the year with BOB books, and now we’re powering through the Magic Treehouse series. My son was a pretty reluctant reader — maybe partly because he has a big sister who will pretty much always read him anything he wants — and it was really hard for me not to push him to read because books have always been such a big part of my own life. But I learned with his sister that pushing anything is the fastest way to make a kid avoid it, so I bit my tongue, and this year, he did start reading on his own. (I think it was mainly because he wanted to be able to play Pokemon without assistance, but I’ll take it!)

A lot of our literature comes from readalouds still, which we do a chapter or two at a time each day. We usually start the day cuddled up with a book. I keep a little notebook for each kid with a running list of what we read each year. This year, we’ve averaged about two and a half books a month, including Detectives in Togas, Henry Reed, Inc., The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Fablehaven, and The Island of the Aunts.

At Home with the Editors: Inside Amy's 1st grade

We use Oak Meadow’s crafts book and art lessons. I am not a naturally artsy person, so having the projects be both open-ended and spelled-out for me is great. (I highly recommend Oak Meadow's art and craft materials for non-crafty parents.) My son has really enjoyed finger-knitting, sewing, soap-carving, and making pinch pots. We are always done with lessons by lunch, so we take a few hours in the early afternoon for project-making.

On Thursdays, he takes a Philosophy for Kids class at our homeschool group, where he works on logic puzzles and discusses things like “Should you get everything you want?” and “What assumptions do you have about candy?” He really enjoys the class — this is the second year he’s taken it.

We also memorize a poem every week (or two, if it’s a tricky or longish poem) for Friday recitations. My son has been using the 20th Century Children’s Poetry Anthology (edited by Jack Prelutsky) for most of his poems this year. I think memorizing and reciting poetry is a highly underrated activity, and I frequently annoy my children by loudly and dramatically reciting poems when we are stuck in traffic.

We’ve also been cooking and reading our way through Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen. Every chapter has a Jewish folktale and traditional recipe, so we get in a little culture and cooking practice.

Writing it all down, this seems like a lot, but we’re pretty relaxed about all of it. If my son complains that he doesn’t want to do anything school-y one day, I don’t push. He’s always free to take the day off to do something else, but he usually opts to do a little work every day. (In fact, on days when I am running late, he’ll often come into my office with a stack of books, asking me when I will be ready for school.) I don’t want him to feel like learning is something you only do when you’re “doing school.”


Stuff We Like : Late Winter Edition

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

The red-winged blackbirds are back — which means spring is coming, even though our back deck was dusted with snow a couple of days ago. This winter has been cold but not snowy, so we’ve spent a lot of time inside around the fire this year. That means lots of books and artsy-crafts projects in our house.

:: We have a lovely stack of biographies to read for Women’s History Month. (Did you see all the great recommendations we had in the winter issue? I think the Marie Curie biography is one of the best-written biographies I’ve read in a long time, but my daughter is loving Invincible Louisa, which didn’t even end up on our final list for the magazine.)

:: Everybody seems to be having babies this year, and I’ve made Milo and the Puerperium Cardigan (free) so many times I can knit them even when I get caught up in the Buffy musical (which may be the greatest single episode of television ever, no?).

:: My daughter is very into making felt portraits of her favorite anime characters right now, so we have been on the hunt for quality felt. We’re digging the plant-dyed colors from A Child’s Dream, which are richer and more subtle than some of the crayon brights we’ve discovered. Bonus: The pink is apparently just the right shade for Madoka’s hair.

:: Cold weather apparently makes me want comfort books because I have been rereading some of the cheerfully old-fashioned domestic books I loved in my younger days: The Blue Castle (don’t you really want a movie version of this in which Nathan Fillion plays Barney?), A Woman Named Smith,The Grand Sophy,The Rose Revived

:: Winter is my favorite time to make complicated, lots-of-prep-work-required recipes, and Nigella’s Mughlai Chicken is one of our favorites — creamy and not-too-spicy served over mounds of basmati rice with spinach on the side.

:: This is also our season of board game playing. Wildcraft remains our family favorite — we always cheer when we draw the chickweed card because that is one handy plant — but we have also enjoyed Quixx (a dice game that’s like a cooler, more strategic Yahtzee), Quilt Show, Tokaido (which nicely taps into the kids’ passion for all things Japanese), and the Laser Maze logic game.

:: We have had a lot of fun with the How to Make a Coat of Arms tutorial at the The Postman’s Knock. I think we now have coats of arms for ourselves, the Grimm sisters, Ciel Phantomhive, Pigeon (of Mo Willems fame), and the Baudelaire and Snicket families hanging up in our art room.

What's your family enjoying this March?


Our Homeschool Holiday Gift Guide

Homeschool Holiday Gift Guide

** We use some affiliate links on HSL. Learn more here. **

’Tis the season of giving, so we’ve rounded up 
a wishlist of gifts for your homeschooling pleasure,
Some nerdy, some bookish, some just for the geeks—
Unwrap them in haste and enjoy at leisure.

 

7 Book Lovers' Editions

Who can resist a good book, especially when it’s a great book dressed up in a fancy new cover?

1 :: Virago Modern Classics have covers created by British textile designers like Cath Kidston.

2 :: The sleek, graphic covers of White’s Books Fine Editions add a modern edge to library shelves.

3 :: Illustrator Jessica Hische designed the dramatic capital letters for the covers of Penguin's Drop Caps editions.

4 :: Melville House’s Novella series reimagines some lesser-known literature with bold fonts and Pantone colors.

5 :: Dover Books’ Calla editions are based on classic novels’ original cover designs.

6 :: Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions feature gorgeously illustrated covers.

7 :: Penguin Clothbound Classics look like they belong on old-fashioned library shelves,


4 Journals for Making Memories

What better way to ensure you never forget those backyard volcanoes and home theater productions?

1 :: Bare Books are an ideal way to show off your best stories and poems.

2 :: The perfect antidote to a no good, very bad day, FU: The Journal to Destroy, Rant and Vent Without the Police Becoming Involved makes a handy vent space.

3 :: Poppin’s Soft-Cover Notebooks come in a wide range of colors, so it’s easy to find everybody’s favorite.

4 :: Every Day: A Five Year Memory Book is the perfect way to keep a record of your homeschool life without all the pressure of a serious journal.


5 Cool Building Sets

Think beyond the Lego with these nifty construction sets that will bring out your child's inner architect.

1 :: Uncle Goose's Periodic Table Building Blocks are a silly science addition to the building blocks box.

2 :: Kapla Construction planks look deceptively simple, but once you start building, the construction options are endless.

3 :: Brio Builder Activity Kits come with the usual building blocks, plus wrenches, pliers, and other tools to put them together.

4 :: You don't need to steal a TARDIS when you can build one. Doctor Who fans will appreciate this Character Building Tardis Console, complete with tiny Eleven, Amy, River, and Rory.)

5 :: You have to take shape and weight into account when building cities with Blockitecture's architecturally inspired building blocks.


4 Cool Subscriptions

Subscription boxes are the gifts that keep giving, delivering a regular infusion of fun to your mailbox long after the tinsel's been put away.

1 :: Kiwi Crate‘s monthly project boxes are ideal for younger creators.

2 :: Teens and crafty kids will appreciate the monthly project-making kits from For the Makers.

3 :: Art Snacks delivers shiny new art supplies, plus detailed instructions on how to use them.

4 :: Loot Crate brings you nerdy, geeky goodies inspired by video games and pop culture.


6 Science Stars

You don't have to be planning a career as a scientist to appreciate the creative fun of these science-minded activities.

1 :: With the Bigshot Camera Kit, kids can build their own hand-crank digital cameras.

2 :: Grow your own insect-eating plants with the Carnivorous Creatures LED Light Cube.

3 :: The Periodic Quest board game is as nerdy as it sounds—but it’s also delightfully fun to play.

4 :: A 3-D printer definitely isn’t cheap, but if you’re planning a big splurge, consider this idea-to-reality generator an investment in creative fun.

5 :: Hook the Prank Star Quick-Attach Microscope to your smartphone or tablet, and you've got an instant microscope ready for impromptu science studies.

6 :: The coolest thing about the Roominate build-it-yourself dollhouse construction kit is that it's totally wired—build it right, and all the switches and appliances will actually work.


5 Crafty Ideas

Give a kid a toy, and he's entertained for a day. Give him a project, and he just might discover a lifelong passion.

1 :: Instant Iron-Ons by Julia Rothschild makes it easy to customize your favorite clothes and accessories.

2 :: A Stop-Motion Animation Kit will inspire young filmmakers.

3 :: A Stitch the Stars calendar lets you review your constellations, practice your embroidery, and keep up with what day it is.

4 :: Remember how much fun you used to have making designs with your Spirograph set? Give your kids the same artistic inspiration with a set of their own.

5 :: Small-scale projects like this cute Mermaid Sew Kit by the Beansters are easy for kids (and newbie parents) to finish successfully.


4 Playful Decks

Never underestimate the fun potential of a deck of playing cards.

1 :: Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning playing cards shuffle the perfect mix of stinging satire and witty pop culture jokes.

2 :: MOMA’s Tim Burton playing cards are as delightfully whimsical as you’d expect.

3 :: The rules in EcoFlux change depending on what cards you’re holding and how many you have.

4: $1 from every purchase of these quirky, Theory-designed Animal Kingdom playing cards goes to the World Wildlife Fund, so you can feel like a do-gooder next time you deal a hand of gin rummy.