Tag Archives: homeschool

The Phantom Tollbooth

Recently we started a parent/child book club based on the format in Deconstructing Penguins mentioned in the previous post. Towards the end of Deconstructing Penguins, the Lawrence’s give a list of a few great books to start your book club with. The first one on the list was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.

This lively humorous children’s book was published in 1961.  Now considering I was born in the late 60’s I was amazed that I had never before seen this book, let alone heard of it – so let me start out by saying that this is an amazing piece of children’s literature full of clever puns and idioms that make this children’s book a very entertaining allegory full of witty appeal. Although it can be read at a fourth grade reading level:

  Critics have acknowledged that the book is advanced for most children, who would not understand all the wordplay or the framing metaphor of how to achieve wisdom. Writers like the reviewer in The New York Times have focused on the children and adults able to appreciate it; for them, it has “something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of Alice in Wonderland and the pointed whimsy of The Wizard of Oz”. It is now often acknowledged as a classic of children’s literature. Wikipedia

That being said, all the more reason to explore this book as a family, or even better in a parent/child book club. We had a lot of fun digging deeper together in this book and I have to say, most kids in the group understood most of the underlying wit with just a few probing questions. The little “Ah-ha!” moments of understanding were going off constantly in the circle of kids (and adults too!). Even if you don’t dig deeper with this book, I found that most kids had it read in just a couple of days – and some (including my own) choosing to read it again.

If the title of this book is new to you, consider adding it to your children’s book list. The Phantom Tollbooth is a highly engaging, lively, funny, witty, and thought-provoking read.



Filed under Books, Language Arts, Learning, Reading

How to Deconstruct a Penguin

penguinsI recently came across this book Deconstructing  Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. It’s basically explaining how you can establish a book club for kids and their parents. The Goldstone’s conducted their own parent/child book club for years with such great success, that they decided to put the detais in a book for the rest of us.

Up until recently, I haven’t been a big fan of the novel study curricula available to homeschoolers. These are typically geared towards elementary school kids and are loaded with somewhat predictable questions seeking just as many predictable answers. In short form, if the child has read said book with minimal interest, then it is most likely they will find these types of questions on the fringe of boring. For these reasons I discarded many of these types of novel studies.

Enter Deconstructing Penguins. This book was like a breath of fresh air. It made literary analysis; dare I say…exciting to kids! Not only are kids and their parents encouraged to read the book together, the book created opportunities to get together with other families who have read a particular children’s novel, and dig a little deeper with regards to what the story was really about. I found it almost effortless to introduce the kids to things like protagonist, antagonist, setting, climax, and plot. I also discovered that such an approach to digging deeper into literature really lent itself well to a group setting. The kids fed off each other, brainstormed together, shared different points of view, and…..wait for it…..LEARNED together.

I find as homeschoolers, there are vast amounts of quality time spent in independent learning. Occasionally, I find independent learning can sometimes lack opportunities for our kids to hear others’ points of view. I personally see this as not only beneficial, but also necessary. So, where time allows, I would like to do more of it, and Deconstructing Penguins has provided our homeschool with just such an opportunity.

I highly recommend this book and found it worthy of the valuable real estate in my resource library. Give it a read, and give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised – and my kids can’t wait to do the next book! (oh, and btw – the parents had fun too!)


Filed under Books, Curriculum, Language Arts, Learning

Homeschool Perk #3

Homeschool Perk #3: Family Bonding

top tenI have been writing on a continuing theme over at Heart of the Matter Online for the last few months, with the emphasis being on the many perks of homeschooling. Head on over to Heart of the Matter to read all about it here. While your there, feel free to read through the previous homeschool perks, listed at the bottom of my article on their site. See you there!


Filed under Encouragement, Life, Parenting

Bookworm Bliss

House & HomeschoolA place for everything and everything in it’s place. That’s a very satisfying sentence, don’t you think? For some this comes easier than others.

Managing a household on a single income can be rather challenging these days, at best. Throw in trying to make your house a home, designing  or decorating it accordingly, and establishing organizational flow can be rather difficult on a shoestring budget. Garage sale and thrift store finds work well for the budget or collector enthusiast, who don’t mind refinishing or re-upholstering. There is an art however, to making this work and still be able to maintain style throughout your home. I did this for a long time and happily called it eclectic. Ecclectic did it’s time, until I tired of having to acquire additional finds for extra storage space that my eclectic pieces simply would no longer accommodate.

My husband and I have been renovating our exisiting 1950’s home for the last eight years, and any additional money generally went towards another room that needed fixing up. Finally, the renovations were near complete, and I found myself carefully scrutinizing the present purpose of my once satisfying finds. I was on the hunt for maximum storage and clean lines. Living in a small space made me look at vertical storage. I hunted. I found. I rejoiced. IKEA! (applause)

Being a homeschool family, we naturally had an insane amount of books. When you homeschool, by the way, books become treasures. We like to have our treasures visible and readily available. The mismatched eclectic bookcases went out, the IKEA Billy bookcases went in (more applause). The book cases in the below pics were purchased at IKEA, all for under $500 including taxes. You can mix and match this system for your own room dimensions, adding or subtracting pieces accordingly. You can pick your own finish, and add or subtract as many doors (with their own variety of designs) as you like. You can even do a happy dance.

Below are our books in all their book lover’s bliss. So, where do your books live?

Billy Bookcases 2

Billy Bookcases

Billy Bookcases 1

Billy Bookcases


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Filed under House & Homeschool, Organization

Proofread Carefully to See if You Any Words Out.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. – Gene Fowler

The last few weeks of our homeschool have been focused on how to write a formal essay. We follow a loose Classical/Charlotte Mason homeschool philosophy, and are transitioning from copywork and dictation exercises to more formal outlining and essay writing. Though we will be doing much more of this more formal style of writing next year, the opportunity came up to attend a writer’s camp through the DL school we are enrolled with. The camp was conducted in a small group atmosphere, and provided an opportunity for each of the kids to brainstorm their ideas together. 

Writing an Essay

Writing an Essay

I don’t generally insist on formal writing exercises with my kids (they write naturally, why make it feel like drudgery?), but over the years, I have gently introduced them to different styles and methods of writing.  As they get older, there is a need for more intermediate writing skills. One of my children is a natural creative writer, but seems to dislike formal writing for information exercises. My other child seems to be the opposite, being somewhat displeased with having learn the formalities of creative writing, but managed to write longer paragraphs than her older sister when it came to essay writing. This is often the way it goes, no? Sigh….

Gluing it on Poster Board

Gluing it on Poster Board

What I discovered during this little writing camp though, was an essay writing method that was easy for the kids to learn and follow along with. In fact, it is a method that seems to work well with children as young as 4th grade! Because the method was shared at a writing camp, I searched the web to try and find a replication of this method in order to share with you. You can take a look here, and here – they are very similar. I would also recommend conducting a little writing camp of your own. Using the steps in the above mentioned web sites, a small group of 6 kids would probably work really well with ages between 10 & 12, or grades 4-6.  Once set up, try to pick topics the kids are passionate, or somewhat knowledgable about, this kick starts their creativity and can inspire them to dig deeper into their research. Most importantly, don’t forget to communicate to your kids the purpose of a persuasive essay:  to persuade their audience to accept their idea or point of view.

Include Some Pictures!

Include Some Pictures!

The finished essay can then be typed, or handwritten, or if you wish (as my kids did), cut and pasted onto poster board complete with drawings. Schedule the final week of your writing camp to be a presentation week – the kids can present and read aloud their reports, and encourage one another. If time allows provide some snacks and time for play afterwards. Don’t know what to do with a giant poster board when you get home? Before you recycle, take a photo of the project, and either burn it to a disc, or print the photo and keep for your homeschool records. This way, you can keep the project and do away with the clutter!

In the interim, I’ll leave you with this:

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. – Arthur Polotnik


Filed under Charlotte Mason, Classical, Encouragement, Language Arts, Learning, Writing

House & Homeschool

My postings have continued to be sparse at best – so, what’s going on with me? Part of our homeschool journey inevitably involves one’s own individual personal growth, and unfortunately this has taken it’s toll on my blogging. I won’t share any details here, because it’s – well, personal. However, occasionally I ponder the value of sharing personal developments now and then. My main purpose of this blog in the beginning was to encourage those both new and old to homeschooling in their homeschooling journey, and even though one’s own blog is truly their public expression of themselves, I’ve tried to keep this one solely focused on homeschooling. There is; however, part of the word homeschoooling that I sometimes forget about. This would be the home part. So, seeming I have regular readers who quietly follow my blog, I will venture now and then to share some of the home in my homeschooling – entitled House and Homeschool.

House & Homeschool

So, what shall I start with? Well, how about the fact that it is presently an 80% sure thing that we will soon be building a new home! This is big news for me, considering my little family of four has quite happily lived in the upper level of our home, being a cozy 1000 sq ft, and containing only one bathroom. Big news indeed.  In the past, I have occasionally written many posts (on this blog and others) about living and learning together in a small space. Many of you have commented and inquired about some of my creative uses of said small spaces. How do I come up with such ideas? Well, some of you may not know this, but previous to homeschooling, I had a brand new career in interior design. I was just getting my feet wet, so to speak in the interior design world, before I felt led to homeschool my children. I know I’ll return to again, but in the interim, I’m left to redesign my own space and periodically give a friend or two some design tips.

As of yesterday, there is a “For Sale” sign in our front yard, so from here forward, I’ll try and write an occasional post re: the sale of our home and pending build of the new one. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the before and after pics of my existing living room. This is the room where we like to hang out and get cozy with a book or two.

LR before & after2LR before & after

The home is a 1950’s model, with original hardwood floors and cove ceilings. We chose to remove the texture from the walls in the living room to tie in with kitchen. The opening from the living room to the kitchen (on the left of the before pic) was partially removed and restructured in order to create an open concept living area and accommodate two built in eating bars. The fireplace was re-faced with cultured stone, the heatilator was removed and replaced with a gas insert, wall sconces, pendant lights and pot lights were added to the wall and ceiling. There was not a single ceiling bulb in this living room before the renovations! The built in shelves to the right of the fireplace were removed. Blinds that have the ability to be drawn from the top down were chosen for the window – this allows light to flow in the room, while obstructing the view of the road, as we live on a rather busy one. Be sure to tune in next week for more House & Homeschool!  In the interim, feel free to share your own interior face lifts – I will try to add a Mr. Linky, but if that doesn’t work, feel free to link back to your site in the comment box below.


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Filed under House & Homeschool, Interior Design