Friday, March 29, 2019

Week 28 ~ Our Favorite Books and Resources this Year

I thought I would share the books and resources that we have found to be most useful this year.  I have never been a "curriculum in a box" person and have mostly built my own lessons based on living books for the past 20 years. I generally follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy with a bit of dabbling in unit studies. However, I have used workbooks during crisis years and months and some classical education curriculum. I guess we are pretty eclectic with a strong emphasis on Charlotte Mason philosophy. I have had to streamline our books this year. I am famous in my family for using more than a hundred books a year and several dozen per subject. Not this year. Anne's dance and work life takes a tremendous amount of her time, and she needs her education clear and direct without fluff and extras. I mourned this for a while and then got with the program. The blessing of homeschooling is meeting your children's needs. Anne's life is taking off, and it is my challenge to give her an excellent quality education without suppressing her opportunities. On the other hand, Dean needs a very hands-on education with a strong emphasis on life skills because of his special needs. For these reasons, our high school years are looking much more book poor than their early education. Regardless, I make sure that every book is high quality so it can have maximum value to their education.

Our Favorites this Year ~

Memoria Press Geography Vol. 1 and 2
This program really has been useful to Dean. He likes that each country only has one or two pages of reading and a map in the student text. Then he answers the questions and does the map work in the workbook. The information is clear and interesting without lots of extraneous material. As he has grown older, he has made it more and more clear that too many words really overwhelm him.

To Kill a Mockingbird and 24 More Videos 
I wish this book had an updated version with more recent movies because some of them are really hard to find. Luckily, we have a video rental store that has lots of rare films. We have enjoyed many of the movies over the years. Each movie has several worksheets, discussion questions and a general summary of the story and characters.

Living Mathematically: Living Within Your Means
We have two books  in the Living Mathematically series. This book takes the student through the life skills of getting a job, picking out an apartment, furnishing the apartment and having lots of unexpected expenses. I like that each lesson has a hands-on activity. In this Lesson, Dean enjoyed placing his furniture in the floor plan of his selected apartment. We plan to collect all of the books in this series.

The Who Was Series 
I challenged Dean at the beginning of the school year to read one of these books a week. He has maintained that challenge and has completed 28 books in the series so far. I place sticky notes at the end of each chapter with questions that he answers about each chapter. I love that these books are loaded with information and are larger print so that they are very easy to follow and read quickly. They are interesting and well written. They have done a world of good in building Dean's reading comprehension. He has always been a good reader in the respects of being able to read any word quickly but has struggled with recall and comprehension of deeper meaning in the text for most of his life. Anne has also used a few of these books when I felt that she needed a quick overview or review of a subject. She can read one of these books in about two hours which is good since she has mild dyslexia.

Survival Math Skills 
Dean and Anne used this workbook this year. It does an excellent job of covering the math we all have to cope with every day including purchasing a car, affording vacations, reading your pay stub, paying taxes, paying bills and so much more.

Learn Math Fast System 
Dean and Anne used different volumes of this series this year. Anne really likes this series and Dean thought it was "okay for a math program".  It does move at a very fast pace and Anne needed a break from the intensity after three volumes. For example, Volume Three goes from "What I X?" to "All Things Slopes" and covers pretty much all of Pre-Algebra and a good start in Algebra (at least according to what is called Algebra in two other curriculum books we have used) in 25 lessons.

The Story of the World 
I read the first two books in this series to my crew when they were in elementary school, while I was in my all things classical phase. I loved it as well as the accompanying activity book. I am sure they only got a little bit of knowledge from each book since these are incredibly rich with information.  However, they did enjoy listening, narrating and doing their map work pages. We used the third volume together in middle school when they were much more ready to store away the huge amount of information. This year Anne did Volume 4 on her own and narrated to me after each chapter. I love this program and have found that, with tweaking, it is useful for many grade levels.

Story Starters by Karen Andreola
We have just begun our enjoyment of this wonderful book. It comes with nearly 70 beautifully written and illustrated beginnings to stories that the student can then complete. There is also a section on polishing your writing and a section just of illustrations to encourage one's imagination into writing a story. Anne has taken nicely to this program and prefers it to my standard writing prompts. Dean struggles with using his imagination so doesn't care for this program as much as my "real world or everyday" writing prompts, but he will be doing a few each school year for the rest of his high school career. 

Poetry for Young People Series 
We have only pulled off a few poetry teas so far this year, but they are always a hit. I have about ten books from this series and we always enjoy them. They have a nice biography of the poet and many of the poet's most famous poems. We often read the poems and then listen to them a second time on YouTube.

National Geographic Documentaries
Dean just loves National Geographic and wants to be assigned at least one show a week if not more. He especially likes ones that are about nature, geography and foreign places.

We also enjoyed many classics this year. I think Anne ended up enjoying Jane Eye, Pride and Prejudice and The Midwife's Apprentice most. Dean really liked Treasure Island  and A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musahi. We have a few more books to cover before the end of the year. I look forward to seeing which one's capture their interest.

I am sure I am missing something that we loved, and there were several other workbooks for math and language arts which we did not love, but did complete. I didn't cover the books we used for our introduction to physics, because that course never really got off the ground for us. I have put it away for the year. There was nothing wrong with what we were using, but our lives were just too crazy to give that course the attention and time it needed to be solid in my kids. We will revisit it next year and I may be changing it to Physical Science which is all that the local high school provides to the typical student. Since my crew is not bound for science careers, Physical Science would be enough science and allow for more Chemistry, which they love.

Blessings, Dawn


  1. I'll have to check out the Learn Math Fast books! Great resources.f
    We haven't been doing tea time at all this year, and I miss it.

  2. Those are some of our favorite poetry books too! Most of the others I've never used before, other than the Who Was books and a short stint with Story Starters. We've done the first Story of the World book, but not the rest.

  3. We read the Langston Hughes poetry book this year, too! I love gathering all of these interesting math resources from you. Thanks! I wish I'd known about them when Rose Red was still doing school with me. And I have a passel of kid who agree with Dean that fewer words and clean pages make all the difference in the world!

  4. We have Who Was Helen Keller? I remember once referring to Mother Theresa and having my son respond, "Who's that??" I bought 2 biographies of her and made sure he read them.