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Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Book Review: Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine

When the news starting tumbling through the airwaves, the literary homeschool groups on Facebook were flooded with posts from moms asking for picture books to help their kids understand Ukraine. Yet very few were asking for reading material which would help them, as adults, make sense of the news’ garbled deluge of information about Ukraine.

While I understand the immediate desire to help guide kids through the tangled web of current events, the lack of curiosity from adults made me a little bit sad. Maybe this comes from having spent my early childhood in a place no one has ever heard of (“the former Yugo-what?”) Maybe I’m just a Slavic history nerd — after all, I’m of Slavic descent and already had Borderland on my shelves. But wouldn’t it help if we asked more questions? Wouldn’t it go a long way if we, as parents, at least tried to educate ourselves along the way as we educate our kids?

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Homeschooling, Poetry & Words, Theology

Kyrie, eleison.

We start the school year inside one set of walls, and wind it down inside a new set of walls down an old-new highway, further away from the maddening din. We fling open the curtains and let in the newfound light as we hold the books in our hands. Our left hands grow heavier and our right hands grow lighter and lighter as we creep toward the end of the school year, page by page by page.

We rearrange the shelves and fold paint over the walls and fold up sweaters and make the beds and unroll rugs and dream of where we’ll plant sunflowers and cherry tomatoes.

The coffee maker hums and my brain runs back and forth, jumping from track to track: eleven-year-old and two-year-old, eldest and youngest, deodorant and diapers. I swing from Chinese to Greek to toddler English, drawing brackets around grand middle-grade essays and then enunciating consonants and vowels for the smallest little friend. The light rises and falls, rises and falls, rises and falls.

Outside, the news rages. Zealots call for cancellation, call for vengeance, scream at you for the wrong kind of silence or the wrong kind of words, screaming for no reason at all. We all weep. The news cycle drains and spins, drains and spins, drains and spins.

Inside, we sing: Kyrie, eleison.

The marquee at the gas station around the corner winds up. I look away. Someone texts more doom, another soundbite, more fire and ice — another way the world will end.

Music floats in and out and in again. I reach, and grab it.

We press on: dishes and poetry, mopping and tantrums, sunrise and bedtimes.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Easily Teach Kids to Code with STEM Toys for Homeschool

STEM Toys for Your Homeschool: Teach Kids to Code with Code Rocket

If you’re science-or math-averse, don’t let your own limitations keep your kids from delving into STEM projects. Code Rocket lets you teach kids to code, even if you have no idea how. The video lessons — and the interactive circuit board — walk kids through fun C++ programming projects. Because the code kids are compiling operates the physical rocket-shaped circuit board, they’ll get immediately satisfying results, like blinking LEDs and beeping sounds!

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Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzle Review – the Human Abdomen

Tell me you’re a homeschooler without telling me you’re a homeschooler. I’ll go first: we just completed an intestine puzzle. There are some activities which just scream “homeschooler”, you know what I mean? Assembling the internal organs of the human abdomen in jigsaw form is definitely one of those moments.

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary Dr. Livingston’s Anatomy Jigsaw Puzzle – the Human Abdomen from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

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Book Reviews, Homeschooling

10 Diverse Picture Books for Every Child’s Library

Usborne and Kane Miller books are well-known for their encyclopedic non-fiction. But did you know about the gorgeous picture books? Here are ten lovely and vibrant picture books featuring diverse characters in everyday situations, doing everyday things.

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Book Reviews, Homeschooling

These Two Questions Will Transform Your Homeschool Library

I’ve been thinking a lot about the books we homeschoolers choose to highlight in our individual homeschools. Classical Great Books? Vintage readers? Diverse own-voices novels? Non-fiction memoirs? Re-written edited morality tales? (Please, just say no to that last option.)

Why do homeschoolers choose the books they do?

It’s a question worth asking, and worth examining our own choices. As Christian homeschoolers, we want our children to know about God,  and grow up to love Jesus. Certainly we also want to nurture the gifts God has given our children, and not bury our kids’ talents in the ground like the servants in Matthew 25  did with the talents the master had given. If we have a math-minded child, for instance, we want to allow that child to excel and soar in mathematics. And we may make it a priority to raise culturally literate children, who have at least heard of Mother Goose, Winnie the Pooh, and Shakespeare (although they don’t need to love them.)

But beyond the basics of reading and writing, and the basics of spiritual catechesis, why do we choose the books we do? What sorts of books are filling our shelves — and our kids’ minds?

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Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Take the Diverse Summer Reading Challenge (FREE printable)!

Expand your horizons with this FREE diverse summer reading challenge (includes a printable tracker)

Are you looking for global and culturally diverse summer reading ideas for your kids? Do you want your kids to…

  • …stretch their reading legs outside of their usual North American comfort zone,
  • …tackle topics they haven’t before,
  • …open their eyes to the marvelous diversity found everywhere around us,
  • …turn their attention to countries and cultures with which they aren’t super familiar,
  • …celebrate this great big global world God created,
  • …learn about non-European food, music, art, inventions, and holidays,
  • …enrich their perspectives with culturally diverse reads

…and ultimately, grow closer to Jesus and better learn to love their neighbor?

You need to download our FREE global reading challenge!

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Homeschooling, Theology

The Problem with Cultivating Good Taste in our Students

The Problem with Cultivating Good Taste in our Students - Classical Education, Classical Christian Homeschooling, What is Beauty?Among certain thinkers in classical education, there exists the idea that one must strive to cultivate good taste in children, to the betterment of their eternal soul. Here’s the problem: good taste is often confused with parental preference. Poor taste is elevated to a place reserved for actual sin.

Lest you think I have imagined this — lest you think I have imagined the pedestal Christian classicists have given to taste — consider this from a prominent writer in classical education:

“One of the most important things we can offer students is good taste, by which I mean learning to love beautiful things that have lasted. Bad taste is not a personality quirk, but a significant moral problem. If our students don’t love beautiful things, we have failed them. If we are graduating students who love shallow things, they might as well go to public school.”

Bad taste is a significant moral problem? Sin is a significant moral problem. Taste is not. We cannot, and must not, equate taste with worth.

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